The Harrowing of Hades

resurrection2There is an ancient Christian account from the Gospel of Nicodemus that describes what happened between the time that Jesus died on the cross and his resurrection.  It is the account in which our Lord descends into Hades and empties it of its prisoners. 

While the Gospel of Nicodemus (or Acts of Pilate) is not considered “scripture,” it was used to create the Resurrection Icon and was also utilized for writing church hymns, particularly for Holy Saturday.  With that being the case, I believe it is a beneficial read for Christians.  It was probably written in the mid 200′s, though it likely existed in verbal form long before that.  I have cut out the first half of the gospel, which as far as I know, is not used for teaching or hymns in the Church.  The latter portion is more theologically authentic though. Continue reading

The Parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents

in the cell - Valaam Monastery, RussiaThere is a parable of Jesus that always puzzled me in my pre-Orthodox days.  It is the one of the ten maidens (virgins) with lamps who await the bridegroom.  In it, we see that all ten “fall asleep” and are awakened at the call that the Bridegroom is approaching.

Five of them are called “wise” and they have enough oil for their lamps; the other five “foolish” ones do not.  The five that are lacking attempt to borrow oil from the others, but they are refused.  The five foolish ones then attempt to rush to the market to purchase oil, but it is too late, the bridegroom comes when they are away and they are locked outside of his doors.  They request he open the doors to them, but he says, “Truly, truly, I do not know you.”

This parable confused me for many years because it seemed to oppose sharing with others. Continue reading

Moving like a glacier

 

Grand Canyon National ParkGlaciers have been known to very slowly carve valleys in between mountains.

A steady, but tiny drop is capable of burrowing through solid rock and create underground caverns, given enough time.

Last year, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon National Park.  As anyone knows who has been there, pictures can’t even begin to display its vastness.  At the park, an exhibit was set up that shows the entire canyon was formed by the Colorado River at the bottom.  That comparatively little river was once much higher, but as time passes, it continues to work itself down deeper into the rock. Continue reading

The Life of St Mary of Egypt

The Life of St Mary of Egypt

st-mary-of-egypt-julia-bridget-hayes

This beautiful Orthodox classic truly needs no introduction.  It is a very worthwhile read.  The text is from The Great Canon, the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, USA.  You can download a PDF copy here: The Life of St Mary of Egypt

INTRODUCTION

“It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God” (Tobit 12:7)  So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness. Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul. And I (says St. Saphronius), in writing the life of St. Mary of Egypt, am afraid to hide the works of God by silence. Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth (Mat. 25:18-25), I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me. And let no one think (continues St. Saphronius) that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel –may I never lie about holy things! If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people. But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story, which has taken place in our generation. Continue reading

Of God, Beauty, Mystery, and Heaven

barred-spiral-galaxy-messier-83-1920Lately my wife and I have been discussing the depth and mystery of space.  The majority of the universe (85%) is composed of matter/energy that we cannot place in a test tube; that we cannot touch, taste, see, smell, or hear.  We can see its effects on objects around it, but we cannot examine it.  It’s not even made of atoms.

This “stuff” is called dark matter; not because it is dark in color, but because our understanding of it is in the dark.  It exists even here on earth and is currently moving through your body, yet scientists have no way of reaching out to grasp it. Continue reading

On difficult people and suffering

of_human_suffering__by_abanna-d4uaqk3My priest made me copy of an essay entitled “Dealing with Difficult People” using some paper he had in his office.  When thinking I would pick up a few tips on how to deal with some difficult people, I ran across a prayer typed on the back of one sheet:

“Save, O Lord, those who have died in severe sufferings, those who were murdered, those buried alive, those tortured beyond imagination…

“O Lord, soften the grief of parents over the loss of children; O Lord, give rest to all who have no family, those who are alone, who have no one to pray for them, that their sins may vanish in the rays of the eternal unfading light that bring Your all-forgiveness…O Lord of unutterable love…” Continue reading

My Raggle Taggle Gypsy-oh

Such_a_dream_by_attlidThe Raggle Taggle Gypsy is my favorite Celtic folk song.

It parallels the relationship between the bridegroom Christ and our sinful tendency to frequently leave him. We leave the blessings of the Kingdom to pursue a “Raggle Taggle Gypsy;” and so often we would “rather have a kiss on the yellow gypsy’s lips” then pursue the higher calling of theosis and union with God himself.

In the song we see the Lord’s love for his bride. He immediately leaves home to pursue her on his white horse, riding all night. The white symbolizes Continue reading

A morning prayer by St Patrick

Lorica – St Patrick
(Lorica was a mystical garment or breastplate that protected the wearer from danger and illness)

st patrickI arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim, Continue reading

St Patrick – Equal to the Apostles

St Patrick of IrelandPATRICK’S EARLY LIFE

St Patrick lived somewhere around the years of 390-460.  He was not Irish, but was taken as a slave to Ireland from Britain when he was about sixteen.  Recounting his capture, he considers it a just punishment from God for his immoral lifestyle.  As a slave, he shepherded a flock, and during that time, he began to pray and found God.

In fact, his prayer life is rather infrequently mentioned, but was quite amazing.  It reads much like the eastern mystics.  His life was a very fascinating hybrid of missionary and desert father.  He prayed hundreds of times in the day and night, meaning that he truly understood what it means to “pray without ceasing.”  He was a man of gentleness, steadfast conviction, and prayer. Continue reading

Great Lent is not about food

coptic_icon_mosaic_moses__by_minanashed-d5yjxl8The time is now at hand for us to start upon the spiritual contest and to gain the victory over the demonic powers.  Let us put on the armor of abstinence and clothe ourselves in the glory of the angels.  With boldness Moses spoke to the Creator, and he heard the voice of the invisible God.  In Thy love for man, O Lord, grant us with the same boldness to venerate Thy Passion and Thy Holy Resurrection. (Canticle 9 Tone 6 of Matins, Sunday of Forgiveness)

WHY FASTING ISN’T THE POINT

Great Lent officially begins tomorrow, which is the greatest fast of the year that culminates in the explosive joy of Pascha (Easter).

Most frequently, food is the focus of Lent.  Traditionally, the Orthodox abstain from meat, dairy, and eggs; so the diet is essentially vegan during this time.

More than anything though, I believe that Great Lent is meant to call us to repentance, which thereby draws us closer to God in a very real way.  Fasting is a tool that aids in our repentance.  Any sort of fixation upon food is unhealthy, whether it is in the forms of anorexia, bulimia, gluttony (eating more than necessary), or a food-focused fast.

When we make Great Lent about food and abstaining from food, and we focus all of our energy on the fast, then we have truly missed the purpose and even the joy of Lent. Continue reading

Heaven and Hell – A Different Perspective

gustave_dore_dante_the_empyreanIf you are new to Orthodox theology, buckle your seat belt and ready yourself for something quite different. This is a controversial topic in the Christian world, and I’m not wanting to start any fights, but rather offer my understanding of the truth regarding Heaven and Hell. Continue reading

Children at the Lake

Fun_Under_an_African_Sun_by_somesoulAt noon the children gather at the lake, to bathe in the sun and the water.

O Lord, how the whole of nature marvels at innocence!  Strained and pained laborers in the presence of sinners — the lake and the sun are transfigured in the presence of children.  What a magnificent temple of the Lord the lake becomes, when children are in it, and what an inspired high priest the sun becomes, when its rays cross the rays of children’s souls. Continue reading