When holy things, such as icons and the temple, are censed, that censing is directed toward God, giving Him due honor and glory. When the censer is turned toward people, it bears witness to the fact that the Holy Spirit is poured out onto all the faithful, for they have within them the image of God.
It is just to such reflection that the Church calls us during the pre-Lenten period: to take a look at our sins and consider—have they not become the reason we are sad, despondent, bereft of joy, feeling that God is not as near as He had been before?
The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that any human individual, any man - be he sick, poor, a thief, an enemy - is higher in value than an abstract idea of good, an abstract idea of the common, public welfare, an abstract idea of churchliness, generally accepted traditions, regulations and canons.
On this snowy morning at about 6:30 a.m. when we opened the door of our temple and came into the vestibule, the reader and myself were engulfed in the sweet fragrance of roses in the hot summer sun. I questioned the fragrance, which seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Then they decided to have a recess, and to go to the cathedral and pray to St John of Shanghai before his very relics. A draft resolution was placed on his chest, along with a list of names of the delegates of the Council. Fervent prayer then instilled in us the confidence that everything will happen according to God’s will.
The saint loved with intense fervency his native land, its history, and its sacred shrines. He was filled with profound anguish over Russia’s enslavement to antichristian forces and was completely irreconcilable with the godless government. Nevertheless, love for his earthly fatherland did not limit his archpastoral service to care only for his own people.
These, then, are the two different states - on the one hand, there is the prayer beginning with thanksgiving: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are. This is seemingly an invocation of God, but in actual fact it is a confirmation of his "ego", for the core of pride, according to Venerable John Climacus, is "the shameless parade of our labours".
The Holy Gospel reveals a Truth of which many are not aware. In order to be good, one must be with the Source of Good. In order to be strong, one must be with the Source of Strength. In order to be spiritually powerful, one must be with the Source of Spiritual Power. In order to be spiritually beautiful, one must be with the source of Beauty.
So I stood there awkwardly, no young people near, I couldn’t understand the services, in fact I didn’t even speak very good Russian at the time… But then during the services something in my soul changed. It was just one incident, but it turned everything upside down in me.
As longtime friendly colleagues in the pursuit of a faithful Christian public moral witness in America, we are profoundly saddened and shocked at your unfounded, insulting accusations against the moral integrity of the senior leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in February 2014.
The parable of the ten virgins shows that only a man's earthly life in God, in accordance with the testaments of Christ and therefore consonant with the Kingdom of Heaven, will justify him both at the particular judgment (after death) and at the general Dread Judgment. But all "formal" Christians, who live out of contact with God and care not about their salvation, prepare for themselves rejection.
"We magnify Thee, O Christ the Giver of Life, Hosanna in the highest and we cry aloud to Thee, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" With these words, the Holy Orthodox Church invites all of us, on the Feast of the Entry into Jerusalem to also magnify and greet our approaching Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Why did we imagine that without Him, without communing of Him, we could live and accomplish anything? Why did we imagine that without communing of Christ, we could rid ourselves of our sins, of our sorrows and disappointments, of our despondency, our coarseness and despair? Why did we imagine that we could obey His commandment and love one another without communing of His Body, which is also His Church?
Ordinary human consciousness, drawing only on the experience of earthly existence and its physical laws, can no more comprehend Christ’s Ascension than it could His Incarnation or His Glorious Resurrection from the dead. Even the disciples who saw the empty Tomb, who saw the Risen Christ, who witnessed His Ascension, had mixed feelings about everything they had seen. They vacillated between exaltation over the miracles they had witnessed and misunderstanding and doubt.
Anyone who has read A.I Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago or the works of Shalamov, Solonevitch, and other authors who have written about horrible pages from the history of Lenin’s and Stalin’s enslaved Russia can probably call to mind names of gloomy "islands," state concentration camp Gulags, such as Turukhansk, Igarka, Dudinka, and Norilsk...
We are entering into difficult days today: days when we recall the Passion of Christ; days when it will be difficult for us to come to church and endure long services, to pray. Many ask themselves: is there any point in coming to services when we are so physically tired, when our thoughts are flying here and there, when we have no inner concentration and true participation in what is going on? Remember what happened during the days of Christ’s Passion: how many people there were—both good and terrible people, who would have given anything to break away from the horror and exhaustion of those days.
Forgiveness Sunday is a day a day of strict self-examination, a day on which we examine the extent our spiritual maturity: are we capable of following after Christ, of obeying all of His directions? Many of us know well from personal experience that it is far easier to forgive than to ask forgiveness of one whom we have somehow offended, for our pride interferes with our admitting guilt. The Church constantly teaches that it is only through repentance, spiritual struggle, and efforts toward great abstinence that what had been lost through sin may be sought, found and restored.
First of all, for the Orthodox Christian, social service is the fulfillment of God’s commandment, the second part of the one that says “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” When we serve our neighbor, we serve the Lord Himself. You know that the Gospel says “for I was ahungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: naked, and ye clothed me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” So if we serve our neighbor, we fulfill Christ’s main commandment-to love.
And yet, the Bible is not merely a history of the people of Israel. It is also a great chronicle of the soul of mankind, of the souls which would repeatedly fall and stand up again before the face of God, which repeatedly fell into sin and repeatedly repented. If we were to examine the lives of those mentioned in the Bible, we would see that each of them is presented not so much as a historical figure, an individual that did such and such, but as an individual standing before the Living God.
Anyone who has read Alexander Solzhenitsyn's GuLag Archipelago or the works of Shalamov and other authors who have written about horrible pages from the history of Lenin's and Stalin's enslaved Russia, can probably call to mind names of GuLags, state concentration camps, such as Turukhansk, Igarka, Dudinka, and Norilsk. From July 6 to 13 of this year, and with the blessing of the Very Most Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, your author and his matushka visited this part of Eastern Siberia at the invitation of the Very Most Reverend Archbishop Antony of Krasnoyarsk and Yeniseisk; the occasion of this journey was the 20th Anniversary of the rebirth of the enormous Krasnoyarsk Diocese.