“Thou hast led us to these holy days”

Tonight we hear this prayer for the first time this year at the Presanctified Liturgy:

Prayer before the Ambo

Bishop on an ambo (Elevation of the Precious Cross, Menologion of Basil II c. 1000 A.D.)

Bishop on an ambo – Elevation of the Precious Cross (Menologion of Basil II, c. 1000 A.D.)

O Almighty Master, who in wisdom hast fashioned all creation; who, through thine ineffable providence and great goodness, hast led us to these all-revered days for purification of souls and bodies, for restraint of passions, and for hope of the Resurrection; who, during the forty days, didst put into the hands of thy servitor Moses the tables in letters divinely inscribed: grant unto us also, O Good One, to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the Fast, to preserve the Faith undivided, to crush the heads of invisible serpents, to be shown to be conquerors of sins and, without condemnation, also to attain to and to worship the holy Resurrection. For blessed and glorified is thine all-honorable and majestic name; of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Moses receiving and giving the Law (Illuminated Psalter, Vatopedi MS 761, 1087-88 A.D.)

Moses receiving and giving the Law (Illuminated Psalter, Vatopedi MS 761, 1087-88 A.D.)

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Adam’s Lament

Creation of Adam (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Creation of Adam (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Adam, father of all mankind, in paradise knew the sweetness of the love of God; and so when for his sin he was driven forth from the garden of Eden, and was widowed of the love of God, he suffered grievously and lamented with a mighty moan. And the whole desert rang with his lamentations. His soul was racked as he thought: “I have grieved my beloved Lord.” He sorrowed less after paradise and the beauty thereof – he sorrowed that he was bereft of the love of God, which insatiably, at every instant, draws the soul to Him.

In the same way the soul which has known God through the Holy Spirit but has afterwards lost grace experiences the torment that Adam suffered. There is an aching and a deep regret in the soul that has grieved the beloved Lord.

Adam pined on earth, and wept bitterly, and the earth was not pleasing to him. He was heartsick for God, and this was his cry:

“My soul wearies for the Lord,

and I seek Him in tears.

How should I not seek Him?

When I was with him my soul was glad and at rest,

and the enemy could not come nigh me.

But now the spirit of evil has gained power over me,

harassing and oppressing my soul,

so that I weary for the Lord even unto death,

and my spirit strains to God,

and there is nought on earth can make me glad.

Nor can my soul take comfort in any thing,

but longs once more to see the Lord,

that her hunger may be appeased.

I cannot forget Him for a single moment,

and my soul languishes after Him,

and from the multitude of my afflictions I lift up my voice and cry:

‘Have mercy upon me, O God. Have mercy on Thy fallen creature.‘”

Expulsion from Paradise (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Thus did Adam lament, and tears streamed down his face on to his beard, on to the ground beneath his feet, and the whole desert heard the sound of his moaning. The beasts and the birds were hushed in grief; while Adam wept because peace and love were lost to all men on account of his sin.

Adam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:

Cain and Abel (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Cain and Abel (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

“Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.”

And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.

I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam: “Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.

This text is based on the texts by St. Silouan the Athonite. It has been translated into more than twenty languages. This particular translation, by Rosemary Edmonds, is used in the famous “Adam’s Lament” of Arvo Pärt and was performed as part of St. Vladimir’s Seminary Arvo Pärt Project concert at Carnegie Hall. Emphases added.

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When You Fast: A Reflection Before Great Lent

Rabulla Gospel Illumination (586 A.D.)

Rabulla Gospel Illumination (586 A.D.)

What appears to happen in the Passion of Christ and what actually happens are not at all the same. What appears to happen is not that extraordinary. The Romans crucified a Jewish man in order to keep public order. During their long rule over Judea, the Romans had killed many Jews, making the death of Jesus one among these many. But, only in appearance. The reality was very different. The Paschal homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom emphasizes this difference between appearance and reality. Chrysostom describes Christ’s encounter with Hades as follows:

Chora Church, Constantinople (c. 1320 A.D.)

Chora Church (Constantinople, c. 1320 A.D.)

Hades…was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions… It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. Fooled by what appeared to be just another corpse, Hades was overthrown by an encounter with the Almighty God, as the Passion and Resurrection of Christ shook the foundations of the universe in the final acts of a cosmic drama. As we enter the Lenten season, we are reminded that we have a role in this universal, cosmic drama. Let’s reflect on the proper nature of our role by using the language of appearance and reality. For, it is easy to confuse our role, or to play the wrong role by focusing on our appearance rather than our reality. When Jesus chastises his opponents, he often calls them hypocrites for practicing their piety in public, and for drawing attention to themselves as they pray.

Publican and the Pharisee (Ravenna, 6th c. A.D.)

Publican and the Pharisee (Ravenna, 6th c. A.D.)

The word hypocrite, of course, is the Greek word for “actor.” They are trying to “act” pious and “act” charitable. Their focus is on their appearance in public. Jesus urges them instead “to go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:6). Now, these things are not included in the Gospels so that we can ridicule the Pharisees whom Jesus criticizes. Indeed, they are written, not because we are unlike the Pharisees, but because we have the unfortunate potential to be just like them. The very things that are designed to make us more humble, the very acts of repentance and self-denial that are supposed to make us more open to God and more loving to one another can be used to make us more self-satisfied and more self-centered. But this is to focus on the appearance of holiness, and not its reality.

A wonderful little book called the Way of the Ascetics provides an important image for reflecting on real holiness. For, we may be inclined to think that, if we want to be humble, we must try to appear humble. We might, for instance, wear especially humble clothes or constantly adopt humble postures. But, this, too, can be a way of drawing attention to ourselves. The Way of the Ascetics has a lovely passage about real humility, however, emphasizing that the truly humble person doesn’t stand out as being more humble than others, and, indeed, doesn’t stand out at all. You may not even notice him because the goal of humility is precisely not to stand out. Real holiness has a way of making a person appear relatively normal, just like everyone else. As with the Passion of Christ, of course, this appearance of being usual and everyday is only on the surface.

St Mary of Egypt (Detail from a Russian icon, circa 19th c. A.D.)

St. Mary of Egypt
(Detail from a Russian icon, circa 19th c. A.D.)

A very helpful step in focusing on the inner drama of holiness is to avoid comparing ourselves with others, and the Church reminds us of this fact in various ways. On the 5th Sunday of Lent, for instance, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. She lived alone in the desert until she met St. Zosimas, who tells her story.

St Mary receiving communion from St Zosimus  (detail from the same icon)

St. Zosimus communing St. Mary
(Detail from the same icon)

We wouldn’t know anything about St. Mary, however, if St. Zosimas had not encountered her in the desert. And St. Zosimas would not have been in the desert if his monastery had not observed the Lenten fast in a particular way. To keep the monks of his monastery from competing with one another, the monks retreated individually into the desert, in order to observe the fast separately. Their drama was internal and their only audience was God. This is a helpful model to imitate. A certain silence should accompany our fasting. While it will be helpful to encourage one another and support one another over the next forty days, it is also easy for this need for support to become something else. It’s easy to find ways to drop hints of our fasting regimen into casual conversations. We might even rationalize a good reason for doing so. But this is to risk making the fast into one more opportunity to put ourselves in the limelight and at center stage, and to undermine the real work of fasting, prayer and repentance that lie within the inner heart of Lent.

St Anthony the Great (St Pachomius Brotherhood, Mt Athos) His scroll reads: "I have seen all the snares of the devil spread out on... [earth and I said with a sigh: 'Who can pass these by?' and I heard a voice saying to me: 'Humble-mindedness.'"] Alphabetical Sayings, Saying 7

St. Anthony the Great
(St. Pachomius Brotherhood, Mt Athos)
His scroll reads: “I have seen all the snares of the devil spread out on… [earth and I said with a sigh: ‘Who can pass these by?’ and I heard a voice saying to me: ‘Humble-mindedness.'”]
Alphabetical Sayings (PPS trans.), Saying 7

The great ascetics of the early Church always navigated between the appearance and the reality of holiness. We are regularly told in the stories of the Desert Fathers that the monks of the Egyptian desert would hide their ascetical practices from visitors. They don’t make their guests fast with them, but prefer to show hospitality to whomever comes to see them. They feed them well and make them comfortable. The visitors, of course, are always surprised and suppose that these renowned monks are not really all that strenuous in their spiritual exercises. We are always told in the stories, however, what really happens, and how the ascetic only allows himself to appear unimpressive, because his greater concern is the care and comfort of his guests. Here we see the opposite of the hypocrites whom Christ admonishes. The appearance is allowed to be unspectacular, while the reality of generosity and holiness is profound. Let us, then, observe the fast in reality and not only in appearance, following these models of piety and especially the model of our Lord, whose strength was shown in weakness and whose apparent defeat in death led in reality to the victory of the Resurrection. “For, if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5).

George Parsenios, M.A. Duke University, M.Div. Holy Cross School of Theology, M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. Yale University, Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and Professor of New Testament at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Used with the kind permission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Outreach and Evangelism.

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“The Beginning of the Way of Life” — Read Scripture and Be Patient

As we prepare to enter Great Lent, Synaxis will post a series of passages from the writings of the Church fathers. We begin with St Isaac of Syria.

St Isaac the Syrian  (by Photios Kontoglou)

St Isaac the Syrian
(by Photios Kontoglou)

The beginning of the way of life (Ps 16:11) consists in applying the mind to the words of God and in exercising patience. For the draught which comes from the words of God helps toward the perfection which is in the latter. Likewise, indeed, the increase of growth in the fulfillment of patience gives place to a greater need for the words of God. And the help which is from both of them quickly brings about the elevation of the whole edifice.

…When the impulses of the soul plunge into the pleasure which comes from the wisdom stored in the words of Scripture, vigorously drawing understanding from it, a person will leave his body behind. Such a one will forget the world and all that is in it and will cancel from the soul all the memories which stir up images of the material world. Often the soul in wonder desists in its reflection from the use of habitual thoughts which come naturally to it, in the presence of the novelties which come to it from the sea of the Scriptures’ mysteries.

"Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind." - St John Chrysostom

“Don’t simply dive into the scriptures. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind.” – St John Chrysostom

Even if the mind is floating in its upper waters, not being able to make its impulses probe the whole depth of the sea to discern all the treasures which are in its depths, still meditation is able with its desire to bind firmly the thoughts of the mind with thoughts of wonder, hindering them from thinking and running after the natural body, as a man clothed in God has said (cf. Gal 3:27).

—St Isaac of Syria, First Discourse (§ 3, 17-18)

An introduction to St Isaac's writings

An introduction to St Isaac’s writings

You can read more of St Isaac’s teachings in On Ascetical Life, available in SVS Press’s Popular Patristics Series.

The Popular Patristics series is comprised of more than 40 volumes. The series aims to provide readable and accurate translations of a broad range of early Christian literature to a wide audience–from students of Christian history and theology to lay Christians reading for spiritual benefit. Recognized Patristic scholars provide short but comprehensive and clear introductory essays according to their specializations for each volume. 

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Faith without Works is Dead

A homily delivered in the Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on January 12th, 2015.

We all know the story of Saul of Tarsus.

When he set out on the road to Damascus, Saul knew exactly what he was doing. He was well trained, he was respected by his elders and he was extremely good at what he did. He was so zealous about his cause that he had gone to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any people there who were in error, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem on trial.

But somewhere on that road, Saul heard a word.

The Road to Damascus

The Road to Damascus (by Dmitry Shkolnik)

A word that called him to repentance. A word that pierced his heart and brought him to his knees. The problem was that Saul’s faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not agree with his works.

And how easy is it for us to fall into the same trap?

As St. James says,

Faith without works is dead.

We might confess the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed, we may even sing it in a lovely melody, and we might confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior following every nuanced contour of the Chalcedonian definition. But if God brings someone into our lives that is poor, or angry, or struggling with addiction, and if we ask “Are you Orthodox?” but fail to offer mercy and compassion, or even a decent meal, then what does it profit us?

St James, the brother of the Lord (St Pachomius Brotherhood, Mt Athos)

St. James says, “O foolish man…faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). To believe in God is not enough, for even the demons believe. The test of our faith, is what our faith inspires us to do. How do we treat our neighbor? This is how we are judged. Christ says that if I cause one of the least of our brothers or sisters to stumble, then it would be better for me to have a millstone hung around my neck  and be thrown into the sea.

If my hand causes me to sin, if it does the works of unrighteousness, or if my neighbor is in need, and my hand does nothing then cut it off.

If my foot causes me to sin, if it carries me to do the work of my own selfish ego, or if my neighbor is suffering and my foot is heavy with sloth, then cut it off.

If my eye causes me to sin, if I look upon my neighbor with lust, or greed, or condemnation, or if I look upon a person who is difficult to love, and my eye does not see the image of God, then I should pluck it out.

For, as Christ says, it is better to enter the Kingdom of God, maimed, lame and blind, than to burn in the unquenchable fire.

This is how we are judged.

Because whatever we do to the least of these our brethren we do to Christ himself. “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) This was the blinding word of Christ to Saul that zealous man of faith on the road to Damascus, and it is Christ’s word to us.

Prophet Jonah (by Jonathan Pageau)

Prophet Jonah (by Jonathan Pageau)

Now, there are a number of ways that Saul could have responded, he could have made excuses, “No, that’s not me, I don’t do that, you’ve got the wrong guy.” Or he could have blamed someone else, “No Lord, the woman you gave me, she made me do it.” Or he could have tried to run away, like Jonah who fled to Tarshish.

But Saul did none of these things. He made no excuse, he did not blame someone else, and he didn’t run away. Instead he heard the Word of the Lord, and that changed everything. And today, we who are called to teach and minister and serve in Christ’s Holy Church, we do the same thing.

Like Saul we fall to the ground in the dust of our sin, and weakness and mortality, and God lifts us up, refashions us and strengthens us to do His will. You see, when Christ talks about cutting off hands and feet or plucking out eyes, he’s not talking about self-mutilation, but rather our Lord is talking about putting off the old nature, and putting on the new man created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. For if Christ can cure a man of a withered hand, he can refashion hands that are withered by works of unrighteousness. If Christ can heal a lame man, and make him walk, he can renew and strengthen feet that are crippled by evil. If Christ can grant sight to a man born blind, he can renew the sight of one whose eyes cause him to sin.

The Road to Damascus (by George Kordis)

The Road to Damascus (by George Kordis)

In hearing the Word of God, on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus allowed God to perform radical surgery upon him.

The hands that once held the garments of those who killed St. Stephen, were renewed as hands that healed the downcast and forgotten with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The feet that once traveled the roads of vengeance and anger, were transformed into those that carried an apostle on missionary journeys, preaching the good news of salvation and the love of Jesus Christ.

The eyes that once saw only the unclean, the outsider and the unworthy, were refashioned into the eyes of St. Paul who saw brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God, in need of kindness, mercy and God’s love.

On this day, as we receive the Broken Body and Spilled Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our faith is renewed and our hands, feet and eyes—our whole being is transformed. So that we may do God’s will and become like God, showing mercy to those who are unkind, bringing hope to those in darkness, and offering ourselves even to the point of death.

Today Christ lives within us, and strengthens us to repent, cast off the old man, and be renewed to love God and love our neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. J. Sergius Halvorsen (SVOTS ’96) received his M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Seminary and completed his doctoral dissertation at Drew University in 2002. From 2000 to 2011 he taught at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell Connecticut, where he also served as Director of Distance Learning. He was ordained to the priesthood in February 2004, and currently serves on the faculty of SVOTS as Associate Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric and Director of Field Education.

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The Saints

innocentSome of the most famous members of this community are also perhaps some of its least remembered. Physically, they are silent and unmoving. Spiritually, they active here and throughout the world, and their written words resound like trumpets sounding from heaven, calling us to Jesus. Theirs are the loud voices in hearts, crying out and saying: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15.)

And yet they can be visited in the chapel: John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory the Theologian; Basil Aleksandrovich Martysh; Ignatius of Antioch; the Great Martyr Panteleimon. Fragments of their relics, minute physical reminders of their spiritual presence, tiny conduits of Christ’s grace: every day the seminarian has the opportunity to venerate these small pieces of dead bodies and so encounter, and be confronted by, the life-giving presence of the saints.

Life-giving, indeed, for if Christ is the true Giver of Life, where else can we expect to find that life, apart from in his saints, those in whom he is wonderful, those with whom he shall abide always, even unto the end of the age (cf. Psalm 67:36 and Matthew 28:20)? Yes, as every Christian knows, we are an ecclesial organism, we expect to encounter Christ and serve him in our neighbor, in the community of the Church. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the Church beyond the chapel walls, and of our Christian brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who have gone before us and who now intercede for us, those whose very blood cries out to God on behalf of the whole groaning creation.

innocent relicsFor at least one seminarian, this time at St Vladimir’s has provided an opportunity to remember these forebears in the faith more than ever, both those who are physically present in their relics and those who are not. On the one hand, there are those I have venerated since before I came: Tikhon of Moscow, Seraphim of Vyritsa, Tikhon of Kaluga, Emperor Justinian, Tsar Nicholas, Alexander Nevsky, and of course my patron, John Chrysostom. But here at the seminary, not only have I deepened these relationships with God’s holy ones, but I also have formed new connections as well: some with popular saints like Luke of Simferopol, but others with more controversial saints like Peter Mogila, Cyril Loukaris, and Nicodemus the Hagiorite.

There are some of whom I had never heard before, such as Alexis of Zosima Hermitage, and then there are some to whom I had never paid sufficient attention, such as the Evangelists Matthew and Luke. And then there are the newly canonized saints: Elder Porphyrius is rightly known by all, but what of Bartholomew of Chichirin, canonized one week ago, and of the Righteous Dmitrii Gorskii and the Blessed Parasceva, glorified in October? May we each have their prayers.

innocent relics priestsYes, the saints are there, in the chapel, in their reliquaries, ready to help and guide each of us, ready to be encountered. But they are also there whose relics we don’t have, whose bodies are long gone to dust. Indeed, a multitude of saints are present with us at every place and in every hour, if we open our spiritual eyes and turn to them in prayer. Sometimes they comfort us, and sometimes they confront us with our sins. But there is one constant, and that is he to whom they lead us, he whom they make present for us: none other than our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Savior of us all. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 John Max Mikitish is a second-year M.Div. student at St Vladimir’s Seminary and a member of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in New Haven, CT. Born in Alabama, he graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies. He will be married in January 2015, and his soon-to-be wife is also a Yale graduate and a member of the same parish. This reflection first appeared in the Seminarians Speak section of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary website.

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A Flame of Love

A homily delivered in the Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on the Sunday before Theophany, 2015.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Today is the fourth day of January. We’ve taken the first steps into 2015. This time of year is a season of beginnings. It is the beginning of a new year. Eleven days ago, we celebrated the Nativity of our Lord, the beginning of Christ’s sojourn on the earth, and on this Sunday the Church directs that we hear the first words of the Evangelist Mark: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1).

And in beginning his Gospel, St. Mark starts us off with the fundamentals: Repentance and baptism. God’s messenger, John the Forerunner, appears before our faces, proclaiming “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mk. 1:3). It is the response that God desires of all people when confronted with the Good News: to repent, that is ‘to change one’s mind’, one’s perspective, one’s lifestyle, one’s habits, to change oneself from top to bottom. Repentance is a revolution of heart and a shocking rejection of the world not in a morbid way, but in a way that is centered on love of Christ, who has destroyed the old order of things.

Baptism of Christ (mosaic, 10th c, St. Mark's, Venice, Italy)

Baptism of Christ (mosaic, 10th c, St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy)

We are able to do this by virtue of another fundamental: baptism. We are preparing for the celebration of Theophany in a couple days, the feast of Christ’s baptism at the hands of John. But the feast has another name, less well known now, and for centuries was called “The Feast of the Lights.” What better time for the Feast of the Lights then at a time of year when the sun sets early and the night is long?

The lights refer to a couple things, no doubt. We have lights in the church, candles and such, but more importantly for our consideration today, the lights are the newly-illumined: Christ shining in, and through, those who have just been baptized. It is a light of the soul and it is a light which must be tended as a fire is tended. These days, artificial light allows us to have light without heat but remember that at that time, there was no light without the burning sun or a burning flame.

And those of us whose baptism is old, who may not even remember our baptism, we are not exempt from the joy of the coming Feast of the Lights. Even if we have neglected our Christian calling, or are burnt out from church life, if our energy is spent from keeping faith in a culture that sees us as strange and irrelevant, if our love for our neighbor has been quenched by conflict with friend and family, or if our devotion to God has been smothered by the thousand problems in our lives, even with all this, we are unable to completely extinguish this light which Christ keeps smoldering in our souls, waiting for us to return again to the high calling of our baptism.

To tend that light we are called to “prepare the way of the Lord” by preparing our hearts. The Apostle Paul gives us a few ways to do this in today’s epistle: “Be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5).

Be watchful for all the things which you know will cause you to stumble. If you know that work pulls you away from your family, carve some time in your schedule which is theirs and theirs alone. Be watchful if Facebook tends to make you annoyed, angry, or worst of all, prideful. Put some distance between you and your computer screen and, better yet, pray. Take what is a passion and allow Christ to be victorious in you.

Endure afflictions with patience. When our lives are grim and dark and yet we still manage to let the words of the Righteous Job fall from our lips: “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), then even evil is made good, by His goodness.

Do the work of an evangelist, declaring the news, the news that is truly ‘good,’ through your sacrificial love to family, friends, co-workers at the office, classmates at school, that homeless man you see everyday, love for the acquaintance who lobbies for the opposite political party, for the bully who won’t leave you alone, for the guy who annoys you on the train, love for all whom God puts in our path.

Fulfill your ministry to your husband, wife, children, parents, friends, to your church. Fulfill your ministry out of gratitude for the One who died for you.

Doing all these things, especially when we don’t feel like it, when wrestling with ourselves is the last thing we want to do, stirs up the coals of faith, so when the Holy Spirit gently breathes over those glowing embers, a flame of love erupts to life.

Apostle Paul (mosaic, 14th c, Church of the Chora, Istanbul, Turkey)

Apostle Paul (mosaic, 14th c, Church of the Chora, Istanbul, Turkey)

According to the Apostle today, doing these things shows that we are among those “who have loved his appearing,” (2 Tim. 4:8) that is his epiphany’, yet another name used for the upcoming feast. Being a light in a dark world, the hands and feet of our Lord, is a great reward. But having beheld the resurrection of Christ, we know that there is more to our God’s goodness and St. Paul assures us that there is a greater reward still, a “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8) laid up for us who run the race and keep the faith. Crowns laid up for those who are part of the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9).

As we, the Church, now prepare to call down the Holy Spirit upon us and upon the gifts which we will soon offer, we can do so in full expectation that the flame of love will be stirred in us, so that we may fulfill our baptismal calling, and start the year of the Lord two-thousand fifteen, with another new beginning, greeting the upcoming Theophany committed to the gospel through loving repentance, and becoming lights in a world which is in desperate need. Amen.

The Rev. Kyle Parrott (SVOTS ’13) received his M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Seminary and is currently completing a Masters of Theology at St. Vladimir’s. Father Kyle spent his early years in the Anglican church before becoming active in several Evangelical churches. His interest in missions led him to participate in short–term outreach in Grenada (in the Caribbean) and in Uruguay. The Parrotts’ daughter Sophia was born in 2011 at the beginning of Fr. Kyle’s studies. Matushka Leanne is a gifted photographer and has chronicled many events for the St. Vladimir’s Website.

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