“her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (What Mary of Egypt can teach us about sin and repentance)

Icon of Mary of Egypt, by the hand of Hiromonk Vladimir  http://iconsbyfathervladimir.com/
Icon of Mary of Egypt, by the hand of Hiromonk Vladimir
http://iconsbyfathervladimir.com/

Of the issues and challenges facing all Christians, especially the ancient Orthodox Church, none is greater than understanding the nature of sin.

Because issues like physician-assisted suicide, same sex marriage, gender equality, abortion, nationalism, present seemingly insurmountable challenges to how Christians bear witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are left as mute as fish when asked the hard questions about what it is to be human in a world ravaged by violence, poverty, injustice, war, pornography and exploitation. It is our inability to deal with the issue of sin (the underlying element in the above-mentioned concerns) and to repent properly, that paralyze us.

Sin. This is the one issue that pastors, priests, and faithful alike either talk about all the time, or never mention. This was highlighted to me recently when a young man related to me that he has been bouncing around between Churches, only ever hearing about either the burning judgement of sinners, or that everything is happy and sin doesn’t matter at all.

Although one might not find such extremes in the Orthodox Church, to one degree or another, we as Christians vacillate between both. Regardless if it is burning hellfire, or fluffy clouds, our reaction to sin tends to be more about an external choice, than the inclination of the heart.

The problem is that both perspectives are different sides of the same coin, where sin is seen more as an exclusive legal definition or status, the result of breaking divine canons, and choosing the laws of man over the laws of God. Although there is some merit to this point of view, it is only an aspect of understanding the nature of sin. This approach was not a factor shaping the Orthodox teaching of salvation and the work of God in humanity. In short, it is incompatible with the whole Christian experience.

The verb for sin comes from the Greek word “hamartia” which simply means straying off the path, or missing the mark. And whether it is intentional or unintentional, it has more to do with the disposition and inclination of one’s heart to God, and neighbour, and ourselves. Instead of following the path of righteousness towards our Creator, and serving our brothers and sisters,  in  the excellent way of humility which the Lord showed us,, we follow our own path, skewing the aim of glory and everlasting life by our own targets, desires and passions.

To be fair, some sin carries with it greater consequences and legal ramifications, but no matter how great that sin might be, such as those of the prostitute who came to Christ at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Lk. 7) or how innocent it might be (such as a white lie), it is the perversion of our will, that seeks its own end (no matter how futile it might be) at the expense of God, neighbour, and especially our health and wellbeing.

We are given the life of St. Mary of Egypt on this last Sunday of Great Lent in order, to consider not only what sin is and how it affects our lives, but to consider the abounding forgiveness that Christ to offers all humanity. We, like St. Mary and the prostitute in the Gospel of St. Luke (read in honour of St. Mary), are to one degree or another are broken and storm-tossed by urges, desires, passions and anxieties. We struggle to do what is right, to rise above our mistakes, shortcomings, and sin. And like St. Mary we find ourselves stuck on the threshold of something great and profound, spiritually barred from entering and encountering the life-saving wood of the Cross (her conversion happened at the feast of the Exaltaion of the Cross, Sept. 14th); barred from encountering a God who offers Himself for the life of the world in His passion, death and Resurrection.

And like her, we, no matter how hard we might try, find ourselves spiritually blocked, and exhausted. We find ourselves looking to do what is right, but unwilling to accept the reasons for why it is right; wanting to be loved, without being willing to surrender to that love, and offer our love back.  It is in the reflecting upon her life that we see her comprehension of what sin is, its causes and effects, but more importantly we see the love needed in order  to effect profound change in her repenting heart.

St. Mary’s conversion was not simply a status, from bad to good, or an acceptance of a legal formula and principle, motivated by the fear of eternal punishment, nor was it a realization that her sins didn’t really matter. It was the profound change of her heart, a true repentance inspired by her love of Christ who loved her first (1Jn 4:19).  For like the prostitute at Simon’s house she loved much, and much was forgiven.

We can explain away sin as antiquated or unjust legal principles; we can make sin a legal principle, defining and condemning those whom we consider “bad”. But only love can change our heart, showing sin to be what it is: missing of the mark of a life in Christ Jesus.

Only the love of God and neighbour can kindle the fire that burns up the thorns of those transgressions that choke our hearts. Only love can heal and bring resolution, breaking down the wall of enmity that separates humanity from God.  Only love can strengthen us to walk with Christ to His life-giving passion, and only love can help us look beyond the despair of the pierced and broken body of our Lord laid in a new tomb.  And only love can reveal the miracle of the empty tomb on the third day.

Only love can enable us to receive the free gift of life and the forgiveness of sins. Those who come to the Lord in confession, receive forgiveness that at the hands of the priest who offering the prayer of absolution says:

“May God who forgave David through Nathan the prophet when he confessed his sins and Peter weeping bitterly for His denial, the sinful women weeping at His feet, the tax collector and the prodigal; may that same God forgive you all things through me a sinner both in this age and the in the age to come, and set you uncondemned before His dread judgment seat. And now having no further cares for the sins which you have confessed, go in peace.”

Understanding the nature of sin and explaining it in this broken world, might be the biggest challenge facing Christianity. But it is the change of our heart, our repentance cultivated by love that leaves sin empty, and death its most terrible expression, mute, as the proclamation that “Christ is Risen” is shouted from the roof tops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are nothing without the Cross.

cross

The whole of our life, is to actualize the image of God, and achieving the divine likeness that humanity was created in. Every day should be a movement towards this; yet we find that the cares of our daily lives, and the concerns for this and that, slowly mask and cover who we are in the eyes of God.

The Church gives us the tools of increased fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and good works during this season of Great Lent, to help peel away those masks of security and comfort from our lives, revealing our blessed nature. Yet these elements are not automatic guarantees of this happening. We don’t engage in these struggles to gain favor by checking off one task or the other; we engage in these struggles to identify with a God who identifies with our broken humanity.

He is a God who empties Himself “and being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross”. (Phil 2:7-9). And this is the point: that by the Cross, the Lord breaks down the division between humanity and God, not as some act of payment or punishment on our behalf, but out of love. The Lord perfects our nature, and shares it with us in His Resurrection.

As we enter into the middle of the fast, the Church presents for consideration this Cross of Christ, to remind us of the centrality of the Cross in our life. This must be the beginning of our journey and the destination of our journey-to be truly alive. This Cross of our Lord reminds us that our fasting is not simply a labour independent of God, but a labour that shows the love of Jesus Christ who out of love surrender even His will to the Father, for our sake.

We can go through our whole life fasting, serving, reading, working for the good of others. But unless we, like our gracious Lord, surrender our will, our passions, our security, our life on the Cross out of love for God and neighbour, nothing we could ever do (however good it might be) would help us see that it is God upon the Cross, and not some mortal victim. And sadly we would not see the love poured out for us, and live the life offered to us.

St. Seraphim and Theophany.

St. Seraphim and the bear.

On the Saturday before Theophany (Jan. 2nd) the Church remembers the repose of one of the greatest Russian saints of the 19th century, St. Seraphim of Sarov.

There are so many remarkable stories about the life of St. Seraphim that reveal not only the mercy of God, but more profoundly humanity`s  vocation of being created in the image of God, according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26). St. Seraphim’s encounter with the bear is one that resonates at this time of year when we consider the wonder of the Theophany of our Lord in the waters of the Jordan River.

When humanity turned its back on God by refusing to trust their Creator, and chose the perishable and temporary over the everlasting and eternal , all creation was dragged  from the free gift of life, down  into a life lived in necessity. Whereas before the fall of humanity everything was offered in love, the fall stained creation with the necessity of survival, and of only the fittest. As a result, humanity was pitted against creation, and creation against humanity, in a endless cycle of fight or flight.

But our Lord and Creator, not willing to let humanity and all creation suffer eternally from this endless cycle, acted to save us. Taking the form of a servant, becoming a man like us, He entered the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John. This was not out of necessity, because He had to, but out of love, because He desired to.

With the Lord’s descent into the waters of the Jordan, the relationship between humanity and  all creation was changed, sanctified, given the potential of being holy, and bearing witness of the harmony, peace and joy that our communion with God can provide, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

St. Seraphim’s life is a witness to this. His life of prayer, humility, and constant supplication manifested the fruit of peace, joy and mercy. As St. Seraphim’s life was totally identified with Christ, the Lords sanctification of creation came to be identified with St. Seraphim.

The encounter of St. Seraphim and the bear whom he fed, and kept company with, illustrates this so beautifuly. Although we see this kind of relationship as unnatural, in the eyes of God, it was what the relationship between humanity and creation was suppose to be. St. Seraphim sat down unafraid of the bear, and maybe more importantly, the bear unafraid of St. Seraphim.

Like St. Paul who proclaimed “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), St. Seraphim’s life of repentance, love and prayer, also manifested the saving work of a God who reconciled all things in Himself, including the natural world, including a bear.

It isn’t that St. Seraphim, or any other saint, is somewhat different than you or me, or that he had a special relationship or connection with that bear, or the natural world. Rather he shows us humanity’s vocation as it was meant to be: a foretaste of a new creation, of the Kingdom.

As we prepare ourselves for the blessed Theophany of our Lord, let us meet the feast with the desire and thirst for a life beyond necessity and need, beyond fear of the passions and sin,  even beyond the fear of a bear; a life that shows forth a life in Christ where all creation sings a new song.

St. Seraphim of Sarov. (Fr. Krug)

 

Mama Baba.

MotherDorofeaMirochnitchenkoIt is so fitting that the day after we remembered all the Saints that shone in North America, we remembered the life of the Nun Dorofea (Mirochnitchenko) who fell asleep in the Lord ten years ago (23/06/04).

Growing up with Mama Baba (what we all called her) in my life, I often caught glimpses of her storm-tossed past, as an orphan from war torn Europe, a displaced person fleeing Communism, a  refugee, and struggling mother and wife in a new world, but never could reconcile how ‘that person’ could turn out to be such a peaceful and loving influence in my life, and the lives of so many others. But ‘That person’ who saw more grief, violence, poverty, and uncertainty then I could ever imagine, was the same person who strove to love the Lord  with all her heart, soul, strength, and with all her mind; and she loved neighbours as herself. (Lk 10:27). That made all the difference.

For Mama Baba every day was an opportunity to offer the world something beautiful and kind, no matter what it was, or what challenges she faced. She never did anything monumental like write books, set up hospitals or even lead great movements for the betterment of humanity, rather she cooked, cleaned, knit, and knit some more. She prayed constantly, without fan fare or attention (Mt. 6:6) and repented always with the assurance that the Lord forgave and healed.

Although her gifts of food, and knitting, of prayer and conversation seem like nothing at the time, they turned out to be like those the bricks of faith that built a house founded upon the rock of Christ, that could withstand the hurricane that was her life (Mt. 7:24) . Always with thanksgiving, and always with joy, even if both were mixed with tears.

Her life of thanksgiving and service remains a profound witness of what can happen when even the most menial tasks are offered on to the Lord, and on behalf of the Lord. That no work is so unimportant that it cannot reveal the quiet voice of the Lord telling us that we are loved beyond anything we could ever know, bestowing the gifts of healing and peace. May we be inspired to follow her example of faithfulness, and love.

Memory eternal!

The Igumen John (Scratch) serving the funeral for the Nun Dorofea.

All Saints of North America and pray to God for us!

All saints of North AmericaHaving celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, many Orthodox Churches now turn to remember the Saints that have shone forth from their region. In Ukraine (and parts of Canada) they will remember all the Saints that shone there, the same in Russia and Belarus etc.

But for us in North America we have a chance to offer thanksgiving for the Saints who ministered in the Old world, as well as  in our midst.

The men and women who settled this continent, country, and province, who literally build our church a hundred years ago, sought to  guarantee a future of peace and mercy, by making real the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Some have been revealed by the Lord as Saints and intercessors (like St. Herman of Alaska, Alexis Toth, and Patriarch Tikhon) , some have yet to be formally glorified (like Metropolitan Leonty, Archbishop Arseny, and Matushka Olga) and some are unknown. But all of them, (from the greatest to the least, the famous to the unidentified) have given us something profound. Regardless if we are third generation Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian etc. Orthodox Canadians, or we are converts to Orthodoxy, we share the same faith, the same witness, and love of the Lord, and as “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”, (Heb. 13:8)  so is our faith in his saving grace revealed in our own homes.

Rejoice, O mountains of Pennsylvania; leap for joy, O waters of the Great Lakes; rise up, O fertile plains of Canada; for the elect of Christ who dwelt in you are glorified, men and women who left their homes for a new land! 

With faith, hope and patience as their armor, they courageously fought the good fight. Comforted by the beauty of the Orthodox Faith, they labored in mines and mills, they tilled the land, they braved the challenges of the great cities, enduring many hardships and sufferings. 

Never failing to worship God in spirit and truth and unyielding in devotion to His most pure Mother, they erected many temples to His glory. Come, O assembly of the Orthodox, and with love let us praise the holy women, men and children, those known to us and those known only to God, and let us cry out to them: “Rejoice, All Saints of North America and pray to God for us!”   (Great Vespers for All Saints of North America)

St. Herman of Alaska, and the Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field;  it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Icon by Fr. Vladimir
Icon by Fr. Vladimir

Our blessed St. Herman, whom we remember today, stands as a witness to the truth of this parable.

We don’t know for sure when he was born, or even what his baptismal name was. He wasn’t a bishop, priest or deacon, and he didn’t establish great programs, or build big Churches like many others. Indeed by the world’s standards he was as tiny and seemingly insignificant as a mustard seed.

But we do know that as a missionary in Alaska in the late 1700’s, he prayed, he loved and cared for anyone and everyone. Always blessing, and extolling the mercy of God for man and beast, from his tiny dug out cell on Spruce Island. And it is in these actions, that his life grew like the mustard seed to shelter not only the first peoples of Alaska from this age which is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31), not only the faithful Orthodox Christians of America, but the whole of our continent.

photobyroshakIt is providential that on this day the Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann pass away thirty years ago.

It is not an overstatement to say that Fr. Alexander (along with few others) was a profound Christian witness here in North America. Bringing the rich world of Orthodoxy theology, liturgy and life, to the Western man and woman longing for substance and not just “religion” in their faith. When he started his work in North America (St. Vladimir’s Seminary) the thought that Orthodoxy could be anything more then a “cultural characteristic” for new Canadians and Americans from Eastern Europe was unheard of. Yet with determination, he  cultivated a perspective that saw Orthodoxy becoming as organic and natural in North America as  baseball/hockey and apple pie, and poutine. In the thrity years since his repose, so much has changed, in our Church, our diocese, even our little St. Nicholas. And much of that change bears his marks.

Both St. Herman, Fr. Alexander offered to God the seemingly impossible, their lives. That beyond their own culture, context and generations, they could  make visible the saving love of the Lord for all . For this we thank the Lord with our whole heart.

 
Pray to God for us Holy Father Herman. 

The blessing of St. Demetrios.

One of the most important characteristics of our faith, is the relationship we are called to have with those who have died. Whether it be our family, friends or complete strangers, we are given every opportunity to pray and intercede for their souls.  Our services, our memorials, and our prayers for them, commend them to the timeless love and mercy of the Lord who is the “God of the Living” (Mt. 22:33).

And it is through these  relationships with the departed, that the Lord  reveals to  us, certain men and women as Saints. Whose lives bare witness to the love of God for humanity, in His incarnate Son Jesus Christ, through their life of ministering to every man, woman and child, as if too the Lord Himself, and suffering unto death, for He who is the “Way the Truth and the Life” (Jn. 14:6). These same saints continue their mercy and work for humanity, unhindered by death. Not as intermediaries between us and the Lord,  but rather as intercessors with us, helping us, strengthening us, supporting us, consoling us, as we carry our cross.

We have this with our blessed patron, St. Demetrios.St. Demetrios blessing St. Nestor

With St. Demetrios having being imprisoned for his confession as a Christian,  the Emperor Maximian set up a circus in which to watch  the death of  Christians at the hands of his champion, a Vandal giant named Lyaeos. Setting up a stage surrounded by sharpened stakes and spears, many were beaten and thrown to their death. A young man named Nestor cut to the heart by this evil came to St. Demetrios, his father in the faith, and asked for a blessing to challenge Lyaeos. With the sign of the cross, St. Demitirous blessed him for victory and martyrdom.

Although, we no longer live in a world where it is a national sport and spectacle to kill Christians (at least in this part of the world), we do live in a world, where being a Christian is a spectacle, elevated as if on a stage where mercy, peace, love, generosity, charity, abstinence, and restraint are too be beaten out of us. Where are children are made numb to violence and intolerance, our marriages are sullied and twisted by an over stimulated and sexualized culture, and our lives are reduced to 140 character tweets and selfies. It is a world that if we have half a conscience and soul, revolts us, and cuts us to the heart. That compels us to combat and fight our passions, and sin.

But how ever noble the fight might be, if we do not have Christ in us, and the communion of the saints with us, we are doomed to failure. If we do not have the sign of the cross on us, our effort is in vain and we are thrown to our spiritual death.

Victory over sin and evil can only be had in Christ, and the intercession of the Saints, who rally to our defence and fight against the prince of this world. Each of us is blessed by St. Demetrios as he blessed St. Nestor, for victory. The victory of life over death, the eternal Victory of Christ.

But we are also blessed for the crown of martyrdom. Not a crown that fades, and rots away with the passing glory of this age, but for eternal and everlasting life.

Great Vespers for the altar feast of St. Demetrious Greek Orthodox Church 2255 Grant Ave. will be served at 7:00 pm tomorrow, followed by refreshments, and a talk. Matins and Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning 9:00 am

Pray to God for us Holy martyr Demetrios as we fight against our passions, and sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metropolitan Leonty and Archbishop Sylvester.

As we prepare to receive Bishop Irenee at St. Nicholas, we are given a chance to also reflect on the lives of two very important bishops who helped establish our current Church life and administration. This week we remember the repose of both Metropolitan Leonty (Turkevitch)  May 14th 1965, and Archbishop Sylvester (Hannus)  May 19th 2000.

Metropolitan Leonty.

It could be said that after Sts. Innocent and Tikhon, Metropolitan Leonty is the most important Church leader in the over two hundred year life of the Russian Mission, Metropolia, and Orthodox Church in America.495px-Leonty

Leonid Ieronimovich Turkevich was born in 1876 in Kremenets, Volhynia. In 1905, he married Anna Chervinsky and was ordained a deacon and priest at the  Pochaiv  monastery.  In 1906, Bishop Tikhon (latter Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus) of the North American diocese found him a suitable candidate for the rector of the new seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, later becoming the dean of  St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York where he was the main advisor of the ruling bishops. Fr. Leonid was widowed in 1925, and in 1933 took the name Leonty in monasticism, being elected and consecrated bishop of Chicago.  In 1950 Bishop Leonty was elected unanimously as Metropolitan by delegates of the Eighth All American Sobor.

Metropolitan Leonty assumed leadership of a rudderless Church. Years of administrative neglect (and at times ineptitude) brought on by the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, and rising nationalism, made the once visionary Russian Mission, into a loose collection of independent congregations. Little by little metropolitan Leonty organized and established administrative norms, such as working Church offices (Chancellor, Secretary, Treasurer etc.) as well as  statues for the Church. He also brought with him many of the ideals of the All Russian  Council of 1917- 1918. Chiefly the ideal of Sobornost (Собо́рность “Spiritual community of many jointly living people”). That both the laity and clergy of the Church had a responsibility in the direction of its life, as guided by the Holy Spirit, and blessed by its hierarchs. We see this lived out in our Church today, whether it be in the Metropolitan or Archdiocesan councils or our local parish councils. By the time of his death, Metropolitan Leonty had left the Metropolia a stable enough foundation in which to continue, but also grow into an autocephalous  Church. The Orthodox Church in America (1970). The life of Metropolitan Leonty, like our beloved Archbishop Arseny, is currently being reviewed by the Holy Synod to be included in our list of North American saints.

Archbishop Sylvester

Archbishop Sylvester is probably the most important Canadian hierarch since Archbishop Arseny.sylvester

Vladyka Sylvester was born of Latvian-Russian parents in 1914 in Dvinsk, Latvia, and named Ivan Antonovich Haruns.   By the early 30’s his life was entirely dedicated to serving the Church.  At this time, he also met, and was a devoted disciple of Archbishop John (Pommer) of Riga, until the archbishop became a martyr in 1934.  During these days also, the future archbishop became acutely aware of the persecutions in the USSR, because Dvinsk was very near the border.  Then, despite the early opposition of his parents, which later changed, he went away to study at the Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge in Paris, France. The future archbishop was tonsured a monk with the name Sylvester at the Institute, and then he was ordained in 1938 to the diaconate and priesthood by Metropolitan Evlogy of Paris.

Archbishop Sylvester spent his early priesthood serving many of the refugees of the Bolshevik revolution, and then Russian POW’s who came to France as forced labourers for the Nazis. It could be said that this work among the broken, starving, abused and dying would leave a lasting impression on his ministry as priest and then as bishop. He was ordained to the episcopate by Metropolitan Vladimir of Paris (Ecumenical Patriarchate) in 1952, and he was assigned first to those administrative duties connected with missionary work and publications, first in Paris and then Nice France. In 1963 Bishop Sylvester moved to Canada to become the bishop of Montreal. He was elevated to Archbishop in 1966. Like Metropolitan Leonty, He inherited a diocese, that had not had an active, and stable Episcopal life in over 40 years.

like many others in the Metropolia, he considered that autocephaly was necessary and correct for the North American Church under the conditions existing at that time.  He managed to calm the fears of some, and to pacify the inflamed passions of others about this matter.  In 1974, he was appointed Temporary Administrator of The Orthodox Church in America to assist the ailing Primate, Metropolitan Ireney.  In this position of great responsibility, he ably fulfilled many functions of the Primate until October 1977, when Metropolitan Ireney retired and Metropolitan Theodosius was elected to succeed him.

Like St. Tikhon, Archbishop Arseny,  Metropolitain Leonty, and countless other bishops, priests, and laymen, Vladika Sylvester understood the importance of cultivating Orthodoxy beyond its traditional centers. With foresight and charity, the blessing of English and French language missions in Canada started with him. Changing the face, and context of over a hundred years of Orthodoxy in Canada, without dismissing its historical and cultural foundations. If Vladyka Sylvester had not done what he did, and been who he was, there would very likely have been nothing for any of us, from Archbishop Seraphim  (his successor) to my children’s children, to inherit.

Archbishop Sylvester retired in 1981 and although the diocese was by no means structurally able to manage itself at that time, it was able to spiritually manage its life, following his example of meekness and humility. in May 2000, he received Holy Unction and also the Holy Mysteries before his repose. This was through the hands of the then Hieromonk Irénée (Rochon), who would later become our current Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada. It is of note that Vladika Sylvester requested to be buried as a monastic, and not a bishop. Bishops do not usually request this, but in this their is  both an indication of his humility, and a constant awareness of the primacy of his monastic life of repentance.  This says more than words can convey.

Legacy

So much has been written about both these bishops, and their blessed work. But  for all their administrative and visionary accomplishments (which are far-reaching in themselves), they are truly remembered, (even venerated for) their profound love and humility. They were able to see the presence of the Kingdom in the life and liturgy of the Church, through all the disfunction and disarray of life, and as such, bore witness to it until the end. This  is the foundation we continue to build upon and the examples we try to follow.

As our Saviour said we should, both bishops had done their duties as faithful servants, and will surely have been greeted with the words “‘Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:23)

Pray to God for us holy Metropolitan Leonty, and Archbishop Sylvester.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Priest Gregory Scratch

 

Saint Xenia of Petersburg

It could be said that Xenia Grigorievna Petrova went crazy after  the death of her husband.

St. Xenia of Petersburg

She walked away from a privileged life, willingly loosing everything, her home, income, property, clothing, and even identity (she went around in her departed husband uniform only responding to his name, Andrew Feodorovich).
And lived as a homeless women on the streets of Petersburg refusing alms, and bearing ridicule and insults.

But her actions, motivated by the sudden death of her husband, revealed the total emptiness of what the world around her considered “normal”. And as such lived out the words of Saint Paul.

“For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”
(1 Cor. 1:26-31)

To the world, St. Xenia’s life was really crazy. But in the presence of a loving Lord who came to save and heal humanity, it revealed a profound sanity.

By the prayers of St. Xenia, may we strive to have even the smallest portion of this mindset.

Many years to all who have her as a patron saint.

Moliben to St. Xenia Thursday 11:00am

The Holy Apostle Timothy January 22nd

St Timothy

On the 22nd we remember the blessed Apostle Timothy.

What is wonderful to consider about this blessed Apostle is his youthful love and zeal for the Lord, and how it was cultivated by a faithful household. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are noted for their piety and faith by the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 1:5 commemorated on Aug. 19th).

Indeed there is no greater blessing for children then a family that prays together, offers thanksgiving together, asks the Lord for his mercy together, even if in simple prayers before a meal or at bedtime.

In living this kind of life, we are better able to see the Love of the Lord around our families, friends and communities, and not just the darkness that threatens any aspect of family life (and there is a lot of that!).

St. Timothy served as a bishop in Ephesus after the Apostle John was exiled, and offered himself up to the Lord as a martyr around the year 93

By the prayers of the Holy Apostle Timothy, may we always encourage and bless that youthful zeal and love of the Lord in our children, and like him “be an example to the believers in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).