Saturday, November 21, 2009


When Jesus cast the demons into the herd of swine and they plunged over a cliff and drowned, the Gadarenes were neither joyful nor astonished at this manifestation of God's power, but rather they were afraid, and they begged our Lord to depart from their region. Like many people today, they preferred God a safe distance away, not actively involved in their affairs. As the English saying goes, "God is in His heaven, and all's well on earth."

Like the Pharisees, the Gadarenes preferred the status quo, business as usual. They had no desire to "cast out into the deep" and perchance risk a first hand encounter with God. They were like the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoyevsky's tale, who demanded to know why Christ had to return to earth: the Church, after all, was doing perfectly well without Him.

Truly, "Our God is a consuming fire," and "It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God." To be sure, God is love. Thus, St. Paul shows us "a more excellent way." For even the greatest of spiritual gifts will eventually pass away, while of all things love alone is eternal. Indeed, apart from love, nothing we accomplish in the spiritual live has any value.

Nevertheless, God's love is a two edged sword: for the demons and sinners, it is a tormenting fire, while for the righteous, it is illumination and heavenly joy. The wicked fear God because His light reveals their works of darkness and brings down judgment upon their superficial, worldly and self-centered lives.

The truth is, Christ came to cast fire upon the earth; not to bring peace, but to initiate the final war between the forces of darkness and light. The question is, when push comes to shove, what side are we on? It is impossible to hide from God or to straddle the fence. If we are not for Him, then it stands to reason we are against him.

For truly, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! And only those who sincerely repent, turning from the darkness of this world to the light of the living God, will be saved. Moreover, the sign of this Kingdom is the gift of healing given to His disciples--especially to the Holy Unmercenaries--the power to cast out demons and to cure every manner of disease.

For Christ did not come to condemn the world, but "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Our Lord assures us, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you....If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." This is another one of those "hard sayings" of the Gospel which so many would be Christians choose to ignore. Rather than courageously bearing witness to Christ before the powers of this world, these lukewarm Christians instead take the easier path, making friends with this world and accomodating their faith to worldly standards.

After all, we certainly do not wish to step on anyone's toes or to "offend" those who may feel uncomfortable with our convictions. In this relativistic society of ours, one of the gravest sins is to speak the truth as we see it, whatever the consequences. So what we are left with in the end is a watered down faith that is powerless to save ourselves or anyone else.

We would all prefer to have our cake and to eat it too. Why not enjoy all the benefits of a worldly life while still retaining the image of a "good Christian?" So it is we can faithfully attend church and go through all the motions of a pious life, all the while lacking the courage of our convictions.

The fact is, though, our faith is not meant to be a crutch to help us "get through" life, but rather a weapon to be used against the principalities and powers that rule this world. St. Dimitrios is an example for us all of what it means to bear witness to Christ in this fallen world. As the military governor of Thessalonica, he had attained a position of authority and power that most men would envy. Yet when the emperor ordered him to exterminate all the Christians in the city, he refused point blank. Instead, he chose the much harder path of obeying the King of Heaven. For this, he was stripped of his military rank, cast into prison and subjected to the most brutal torture. In the end, he was run through with spears and breathed his last as a true and faithful witness. Yet for this witness, he received the incomparable riches of eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom.

It is true that we in this country no longer face literal martyrdom, though our turn may well be coming. As Blessed Seraphim Rose of Platina once stated, "What began in Russia will end in America." And for that matter, there are places in this world today where literal martyrdom is still a real and present danger. In any case, whatever the circumstances, a genuine Christian life must in some sense be martyric.

Self denial, accepting ridicule and abuse from those who hate us, striving to put Christ at the center of our lives--all of this and more is true martyrdom. But how is it possible for us fallen and sinful creatures to live such a life? St. Paul gives the answer: we must "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," all the while enduring "hardness, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." This was the path chosen by St. Dimitrios. May we all, through his holy prayers, do likewise.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Christ explains the Parable of the Seed thus: a Sower goes out to sow his seed. Some falls by the wayside and never takes root. Some falls among weeds and brambles and at first grows nicely, but is soon smothered by the weeds. A third part of the seed falls on rocky soil: it springs up fast, but soon withers away in the noonday sun. Finally, there is the seed that falls on good fertile soil and ultimately produces a good harvest. Now the seed is the Word of God, while the Sower is Christ. The soils represent the souls of vari0us types of people, depending on how receptive they are to the Word of God.

Now this, of course, is a very instructive parable, one that we should all ponder on deeply. However, there is another way to look at this parable (surely not a better way, for our Lord Himself gives the explanation) but a different perspective that might allow us to consider this parable in a new light. Let us say simply that the seed represents our own good deeds and works, while the soil represents how we employ these good deeds and works for the greatest possible good. There is a saying, "Good intentions pave the way to hell." What this means is that our desire to do good is never enough. In fact, do our actions really make this world a better place, or are we in the long run doing more harm than good?

God has given to every person alive unique gifts and talents: we should ask ourselves, are we
truly using them in a way that best serves God and our neighbor? Are we truly striving at all times to do God's will, or are we in fact following our own self-willed desires?

Today we commemorate the life our our Father among the saints John of Kronstadt. Now St. John was a human dynamo, constantly busy serving the Church and his fellow man in general. Nor did he work and strive in vain. His life and witness left an enormous impact on the Russian people in the critical period before the Revolution.

Having a heart purified by prayer and prompted every moment by the Holy Spirit, he always gave generously to those in need, not counting the cost. But realizing that simply handing out to the poor is not enough, he was the founder of the famous House of Industry, which gave to the poor needed skills and dignity. More than this, St. John personally saw to the spiritual needs of all who lived there.

Contrast this personal and spiritual approach to poverty with the charitable work (however well intended) done by impersonal institutions and government agencies. These seeds very often fall on the trodden path or stony soil, while St. John's efforts--because they were blessed by God--mostly fell on fertile soil and bore much fruit. St. John taught that our whole life must be lived in Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit, otherwise our best efforts may be futile and of no lasting value.

Let us follow this holy saint's example and never forget that no matter how seemingly insignificant our gifts and talents, they can be of immeasurable value to the Church of God and all those in need whom we may encounter--so long as we are striving at all times to fulfill the will of God and not our own.