Weekly Bulletin

September 10, 2017

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Afterfeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

Sunday before the Elevation of the Cross

Martyrs Menodora, Metrodora and Nymphadora

FEAST OF THE ELEVATION OF THE HOLY CROSS (Sept. 14) – We will celebrate Vespers for the feast on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

CLASS ON THE FAITH THIS WEEK on Tuesday evening at 7:00, on the Church.

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Don’t Trade Christ for “Likes”

In spiritual life, in order to attain a goal, you first need to want to attain this goal. There are excellent words belonging to St. Ignatius: “He who wants to do something can do it.” In other words, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But the wandering thoughts of modern people, including ourselves—Orthodox Christians of the 21st century, are often a result of our unwillingness to seriously live in Christ. We tend to readily accept modern standards of conduct that are being imposed on us by the modern world. And, as we know, the whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19) and it ever induces people striving for righteous life to go astray.

I would call one of these temptations ‘virtual exhibitionism’: wanting to expose all of your private life, when you voluntarily (with no coercion by secret services or anybody else) provide information about yourself, your nearest and dearest, your views and impressions on social media instead of concealing these concerns in your heart.

Meanwhile, the Church Fathers said that we mustn’t squander the grace of God that we acquire during our lives by words. The more you tell how the Lord touched your heart or what miracle occurred to you, the more you drift away from all this and it becomes humdrum. Yes, you can share a spiritual story with someone, provided it may help him spiritually. But if your account of events is just self-advertisement and ostentation, then soon you will be left only with a lot of ‘likes’ and a publication on the internet. Personally, I would recommend quitting social media, or using them only insofar as it is necessary for your professional activity. – Archpriest Maxim Kozlov

On Bearing Our Cross

A Spiritual Instruction from St. Innocent of Alaska (+1879)

Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The first duty of a Christian, of a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, is to deny oneself. To deny oneself means: to give up one’s bad habits, to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world . . . to be dead to sin and the world, but alive to God.

A Christian’s second duty is to take up his cross. The word “cross” means sufferings, sorrows and adversities. To “take up one’s cross” means to accept without complaint everything unpleasant, painful, sad, difficult and oppressive that may happen to us in life.

In other words, to bear all laughter, scorn, weariness, sorrow and annoyance from others; to bear all poverty, misfortune, illness, without regarding yourself as offended. And if, when you are bearing your cross according to the will of God, a proud thought suggests to you that you are not weak like others, but that you are firm, pious and better, root out such thoughts as far as you can for they ruin all your virtues.

Now there are “external” crosses and “interior” crosses. All the above mentioned “crosses” are external But whoever wants to follow Jesus must bear interior crosses as well. Interior crosses can be found at all times, and more easily than exterior ones. Direct your attention to yourself with a sense of repentance, and a thousand interior crosses will present themselves to you!

For instance, consider: You are the creation and work of God, and you exist solely in order to glorify Him with all your acts, your life, your whole being. But not only do you not glorify Him, but you anger and dishonor Him by your sinful life! Then consider: What awaits you on the other side of your grave? On which side will you stand at the time of Christ’s judgment, on the left or the right? Have you even thought of the eternal separation from God that is Hell? Have you scarcely given one thought to Paradise which the Lord has prepared for you? Have you ever thought that you are depriving yourself of its eternal blessings through carelessness and stupidity? If you begin to reflect in this way, you will undoubtedly begin to be alarmed and disquieted. Don’t try to drive away such thoughts through empty worldly diversions and entertainments, for they are profitable for you. In fact, you will find still more crosses!

We can never see the state of our souls in all its nakedness without the special help and grace of God because the interior of our souls is always hidden from us by our own self-love, passions, worldly cares, delusions. What little we see is only superficial and no more that what reason and conscience can show us. The enemy, Satan, tries to keep us blind to ourselves so that we will be prevented from running to God and seeking salvation. But if he cannot discourage us from seeking God, the devil tries another trick. He tries to show us our soul in all its weakness and sin in order to tempt us to despair, for he knows that few of us would stand firm if we saw the extremely dangerous condition of our souls.

Now when the Lord leads us to knowledge of ourselves, we will certainly be filled with fear and sorrow because we have for so long stubbornly closed our ears to His gentle voice calling us to the Kingdom of God. But the Lord will not tempt us with despair, for any sin can be erased through repentance. But as the Lord reveals to us the state of our souls, what interior crosses we must bear! Just as not all people have the same virtues and the same sins, so interior crosses are not the same for all. For some they are more oppressive, and for others less: for some they come in one way, and for others quite differently. Everything depends on the person’s state of soul, just as the length and method of curing a physical illness depends on the patient’s condition. It is not a doctor’s fault if he must sometimes use very powerful medicine for a prolonged period to cure an illness which the patient himself may have irritated and increased! Whoever wants to be well will consent to bear everything!

Such interior crosses sometimes seem so heavy that no consolation can be found anywhere. But God will never allow you to be tempted more than He sees fit. Don’t be afraid, but with full submission surrender to Him, have patience and pray. For He is always our Father, and a very loving Father, who would purify our heart, so that it will be a fit dwelling for the Holy Spirit.

The third duty of a Christian is to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus means to obey the word of Jesus Christ. We must listen to, believe and practice what we hear in the Gospel without pretense and in simplicity of heart. Only if we listen intently to His word and struggle to carry its directives in our lives will we become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

And so this is what it means to deny oneself, to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus Christ. This is the true straight way into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the way by which Jesus Himself went while He lived on earth, and by which we Christians must go. There never was and never will be another way. Certainly this way is rough, narrow and thorny, and seems especially so at the beginning. But on the other hand, it leads straight to Paradise, to the Heavenly Kingdom, to God Who is the Source of all true life.

And so, do not be afraid to follow Jesus Christ. Follow Him, hasten and do not delay! Go while the doors of the heavenly Kingdom remain open to you. And even while you are still a long way off our heavenly Father will come to meet you on the way, will kiss you, will put on you the best garment, and will lead you into His Bridal Chamber where He Himself dwells with all the holy Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and all the Saints, where you will rejoice with true and eternal joy. Amen!

Wisdom from St. Paisios of Mt. Athos (+1994)

St. Paisios responds to the question: “Elder, is it possible for one to be meek and not react when offended, yet not have humility?”

The humble person is also meek. But this does not mean that the meek person is also humble. Meekness must also contain humility, otherwise, if it does not, one may appear to be meek, but be full of pride within, causing him to think: ‘Those people are such fools. Let them go on saying bad things about me!” This reminds me of the monk who would never react in the least when other fathers made remarks about him, or offended him in some way. Since they could not detect his inner behavior, they once asked him: ‘Tell us, since you do not speak out when we scold you, what are you thinking?’ And he replied: ‘ I think to myself: They are complete morons. Let them say whatever they like!’ In other words, he simply scorned them.”

St. Paisios responds to the comment: “Elder, I am in need of humility.”

You must go and buy some. There are many people who give out humility for free — as long as you want it… ‘Who are these people, Elder?’ They are the ones who, when they are not in a good spiritual state, behave indiscreetly and humiliate us with their bad behavior.

Humility, of course, cannot be purchased at the grocery store, like produce. When we pray: ‘Lord give me humility,’ God does not take up a measuring cup, saying: ‘One kilo of humility for you; half a kilo for you.’ Instead, He will allow for some indiscreet person to behave badly towards us, or He will remove His Grace from another who will curse us. This is how we are tested and work towards acquiring humility.

But often, we do not realize that it is for our benefit that God allows our Brother or Sister to act badly towards us, and so we become angry with them. And although we ask God for humility, we do not accept the opportunities He sends our way to become humble; and we fret and fume. Normally, we should be grateful to the one who humiliates us; for he is our great benefactor.

Whoever prays for humility from God, but does not accept the person God has sent to humble him, does not know what he is asking for.”