Grace, a Gift Divine


Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Grace is not something
Earned or deserved, grace through faith
Is a Divine Gift.

Salvific blessings
Flow through the doors of our hearts
When we let Him in.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: ~ Ephesians 2:8

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7-8

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. ~Revelation 3:20

A Valentine

Image by PhotoMix Company Pixabay

Who is St. Valentine?

I remember my young Baptist mind being astounded there were actually two Saints from “forever ago” with real names! But why only two (St. Valentine and St. Patrick) I wondered, when we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses!?

In secular society, “Valentine’s Day” is given the nod – but mostly to a cupid logo substitution, removal of the saint title, and the “V” changed to small case. Peddling Festivities is not a new thing either. Sales and Marketing in the Retail World quietly sweep holy days under a generic blanket of holiday commercialism.

For Orthodox Christians, St. Valentine’s Day and all the saints’ days every day of the year, are glorious opportunities to learn more of our heavenly friends. By celebrating their summits of virtue, their struggles, courage, and pure love of God… we too, learn how to emulate them.

Children are instinctively drawn to the sweet essence of kindness and love remembering St. Valentine. Like St. Patrick’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day can open a wonderful lead into sharing the lives of other daily saints. God’s Love is true Love. His Perfect Love strengthens and blesses the bonds of spouses, families, friends, and neighbours.

The Saviour knocks on the Door of our Heart. He waits patiently for us to hear Him, to open the door, and to let Him in.

When we give our whole heart to Christ, He in turn refills it with so much Love, that it overflows with Joy!  

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Matthew 6:21

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

With Love in Christ.

Christ is Born!

Beautiful Icon of the Virgin Mary and Christ, shared by Vera

Glorify Him!

Today we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What can we give Him?

What birthday gift would we ourselves most wish for?

Is there a gift that surpasses the abundant blessings already bestowed by the Holy Child born in Bethlehem… Who loosed the bonds of our sins with His swaddling bands?

Like the wise men, who followed the Star, what shall we bring to Him? What is more precious to Christ, than gold, frankincense or myrrh?

Our heart.

But how does one gift wrap sincere intention?

By bowing the knees and neck of our heart. By kneeling before His manger with determined resolve, to share loving kindness with each other and our neighbour… By doing our own small part with good will… for the sake of peace on earth… Even when external circumstances aren’t easy or peaceful.

These are gifts worthy to lay before the King, and Creator to prove We love Him, because He first loved us.

God’s greatest gift of all is eternal life. Let us, despite heartaches, run joyfully to the Holy Child, with the simple faith of a child, for such is the kingdom of heaven.

Let us nourish the Divine Infant within the warm manger of our hearts… For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Christ IS Born.

Today.

Now.

Let us Glorify Him!

by Parish Youth Choir

Today, we receive, a gift we did not ask for, let us bestow alms to those who cry out to us in need! ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the Holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the Holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God? ~ St. Cyril of Alexandria

And since the holy Virgin hath borne after the Flesh God united personally to the Flesh, therefore we do say that she is also Mother of God, not as though the Nature of the Word had the beginning of Its existence from flesh, for It was in the beginning and the Word was God, and the Word was with God (John 1:1), and is Himself the Maker of the ages, Co-eternal with the Father and Creator of all things. ~ St. Cyril of Alexandria

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection for mankind. How many churches there are in the world that are dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God! How many healing springs where people are cured of their ailments have sprung up in places where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared and blessed those springs to heal both the sick and the healthy! She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her. ~ Elder Thaddeus

Pearls of Compunction

Photo Shared by Alec

Let each one of us keep in mind the benefit of fasting… For this healer of our souls is effective, in the case of one to quieten the fevers and impulses of the flesh, in another to assuage bad temper, in yet another to drive away sleep, in another to stir up zeal, and in yet another to restore purity of mind and to set him free from evil thoughts. In one it will control his unbridled tongue and, as it were by a bit, restrain it by the fear of God and prevent it from uttering idle and corrupt words. In another it will invisibly guard his eyes and fix them on high instead of allowing them to roam hither and thither, and thus cause him to look on himself and teach him to be mindful of his own faults and shortcomings. Fasting gradually disperses and drives away spiritual darkness and the veil of sin that lies on the soul, just as the sun dispels the mist. Fasting enables us spiritually to see that spiritual air in which Christ, the Sun who knows no setting, does not rise, but shines without ceasing. Fasting, aided by vigil, penetrates and softens hardness of heart… it causes fountains of compunction to spring forth… it is not possible for these things to come about in one day or one week! They will take much time, labour, and pain, in accordance with each man’s attitude and willingness, according to the measure of faith and one’s contempt for the objects of sight and thought. In addition, it is also in accordance with the fervour of his ceaseless penitence and its constant working in the secret chamber of his heart that this is accomplished more quickly or more slowly by the gift and grace of God. But without fasting no one was ever able to achieve any of these virtues or any others, for fasting is the beginning and foundation of every spiritual activity. ~ St. Symeon the New Theologian

Steep and Thorny

Bristling Scotch Thistles

Steep and thorny is the path that leads to the Heavenly Kingdom… Self-love is the soil upon which grow passions, emptiness of life, and sorrow. ~ Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev

Loving only himself, a man loves neither God nor his fellow-men. He does not even love the man that is in himself; he loves only his thoughts about himself, his illusions about himself. Were he to love the man in himself, he would at the same time love God’s image in him, and would quickly become a lover of God and man, for he would be seeking man and God in other men, as objects of his love. Self-love is not love, but is rejection of God and contempt for men, whether open or concealed. Self-love is not love but sickness, a serious illness that inevitably brings other illnesses in its train. As pox inevitably produces fever throughout the body, so self-love produces the fire of envy and anger in the whole body. A man full of self-love is full of envy of those who are better than he is, or richer, more learned or more respected by men. With envy there always goes anger, like flame with fire; a concealed anger, that flares out at times and, in so doing, reveals all the ugliness of the man’s sick heart, that has been poisoned with the poison of self-love… ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

Take the example of the earth. Even though it is one, nevertheless, some earth is rocky, some quite fertile. And some is good for vines while other ground is suited for raising wheat and barley. So also are different types of human hearts and wills. Likewise also gifts from above are distributed differently. To one is given ministry of preaching, to another that of discernment, to another the gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9). For God knows how a person is able to fulfill his stewardship and so He gives His various gifts accordingly. In a similar way to the interior battles, the enemy power is permitted to attack humans in the certain measure that each person is able to receive and withstand. ~ St. Macarius of Egypt (Fifty Spiritual Homilies)

Happy Ecclesiastical New Year!

Photo of the Altar, in St. Sophia’s original Mission House Church. Services began there in September of 1991 and continued for 10 years, until the parish could purchase a building and move location of worship. Reminiscent of St. Paul’s dear friends and helpers in Christ, Sts. Priscilla and Aquila who had a church in their house our priest and his matushka’s home was used as a church, and the dining room was set aside as a permanent Altar area, and kept completely separate as such, for a decade.

The entire Liturgical Church Year is a treasury of spiritual wisdom and blessings.

In this busy month of September, there are two Great Feasts, the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 21/8) and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 27/14).

There are also other holy days during this month, such as the Beginning of the Church Liturgical New Year on September 14/1.

The first day of the Church’s Liturgical New Year is called the Beginning of the Indiction. It occurs in September for  both Scriptural and historical reasons.

The Scriptural reason is that God, through Moses, ordained the Old Testament Church to celebrate the New Year at the time of the harvest in the seventh month, that is, September – actually the seventh month according to ancient Hebrew reckoning.

Tradition says the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September. The Holy Scriptures (Leviticus 23:24-25 and Numbers 29:1-2) confirm the people of Israel celebrating the feast of the Blowing of Trumpets on this day, with the offering of hymns and thanksgiving.

The historical reason is the Roman-Byzantine Emperors and the Eastern Patriarchs of the New Testament Church also decreed the New Year should be in September. According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1/14 to announce His mission to mankind (St. Luke 4:16-22). He was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read. He opened it and proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” (Isaiah 61:1-2 )

The Church continues to keep the spiritual significance of the Liturgical New Year, with prayers asking God to grant temperate weather, seasonable rains, and abundance of the fruits of the earth. We are reminded that time is a precious gift.

Let us re-examine our priorities and offer unto the Lord, a New Year… in which we put Him first!

Each Dawn, a Blessing

Hawaii 2017

What a wonderful day the Lord has provided!

Yesterday’s gone.

Today is fresh and new.

Each dawn’s a blessing… a herald of this day’s golden opportunities.

The Present, and what we are, is God’s Gift to us… but what we do with ourselves today, is our gift to God.

I remember and sing a sweet and simple folk-hymn from my youth: Thank You for giving me this morning, thank You for everyday that’s new, thank You that I can know my worries can be cast on You!

Let us joyfully gift-wrap ourselves in one of (hopefully many) today’s gifts back to God… at least beginning with thankfulness – for His many blessings!

The day is young. Plain and humble wrapping paper is probably best.

Pass the tape please!

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly the angel who guards you will honour your patience… Nothing equals or excels God’s mercies~ St. John Climacus

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! ~ 1 Chronicles 16:11

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! ~ Psalm 57:8

But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. ~ Psalm 88:13

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. ~ Psalm 119: 147

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God… And when I wake up, you are still with me! ~ Psalm 139:17-18

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