Mother of God

Since early days the Church has given to the Mother of God titles of holiness greater than those which are given to any saint. She is called the All-holy, Panagia. We venerate Her as One who is greater and holier than the Cherubim and the Seraphim, greater than the angels of God who, endowed with vision, can see, contemplate and adore, greater than the angels of God who are, as it were, the throne of the Most High. Because the ones as the others see, worship, serve God as their Lord, as their Master, and yet somehow they remain farther from Him than She, who in Her exceeding holiness has become the kin of God, has become the Mother of the Incarnate Word, who is the Bride, the perfect revelation of what the whole creation is called to be and to become.                            

– Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

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Troparion – Entrance of the Theotokos

Today is the prelude of God’s goodwill and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: Rejoice, O thou fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.   

Kontakion– Entrance of the Theotokos

The most pure temple of the Saviour, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasury of the glory of God, is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. And the angels of God chant praise unto her: she is the heavenly tabernacle.

The Temple of God

The temple of God is a foundry, where rusty, sinful natures are melted down. It is a bath-house where filthiness of the flesh and spirit is washed away. It is a school for teaching crude and wandering souls. It is a sun that enlightens and vivifies those in darkness and deadens sins. The temple of God is a hospital in which spiritual wounds are healed. The temple of God is a sanctuary in which the uncleanliness of sin is taken away and our souls and bodies are sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit and Sacramental services. The temple of God is a paradise on earth in which we are fed with immortal, incorruptible food- the Body and Blood of Christ. The temple of God is a mystical Mountain of Sinai from which the true Lawgiver, Christ our God, constantly announces to us His will. In the Church of God and the Heavenly Kingdom are mysteriously mingled all the members of the Body of Christ, the heavenly, earthly, and those from the underworld. Here is the full Church of the first-born, for here are the forefathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, the choir of monk-saints and all the righteous ones who sing and together with us glorify the only God, our Savior and Life-Giver.                    

– St. John of Kronstadt

Sea of Life

The Sea of Life Swelling, to the Quiet Harbor I Come, Calling Unto Thee

Like Peter, I am sinking, falling

In waves of life’s tumultuous sea,

As he did, so to Thee I’m calling:

“Oh Teacher, save me, rescue me!”

All-powerful! A single motion,

A word from Thee can calm the storm;

It’s possible to tread the ocean,

The wind and thunder to transform.

Upon my heart’s waves, I implore Thee,

With sacred feet do Thou now tread-

My heart will quiet down before Thee

And taste the peace that Thou will shed.

Stretch out Thy hand, my faith redouble, 

And, as to Peter, say “O ye

Of little faith, what is thy trouble?…

Take manly courage, come to Me!…”

– Abbess Thaisia

Closeness of God in Daily Cares

Abbess Thaisia: ‘Since becoming an abbess, I don’t pray much Batiushka. During the day I get exhausted from my daily work and cares, and I can barely crawl to my pillow at night. Before I can even get up in the morning, all the cares rise up again. The moment I open the door, I am overwhelmed; I can hardly return to prayer.’

Father John: ‘Salvation and prayer don’t consist in many words, but in understanding and warmth of heart. The most important thing to remember during the day is to have constant thought of God, that is, to have secret inward prayer. I myself don’t have time to stand through long monastic services, but everywhere I go, whether I walk, am driven, ride, sit or lie, the thought of God never abandons me. I beheld the Lord ever before me that I might not be shaken (Ps. 15:18). The thought of His closeness never abandons me. You, too, must strive to do the same.’

Abbess Thaisia: ‘Batiushka, do you sense Him close to you?’

Father John: ‘Yes, my dear, as one close, very close to me. He is always with me, according to His word: I will dwell in them… and I will be their God (II Cor. 6:16). Otherwise, how would I act the whole day, if it were not for the grace of God?

– From Abbess Thaisia an autobiography (spiritual daughter of St. John of Kronstadt) 

The Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem

Mother Melania, Holy Assumption Monastery

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Be glad today! Be glad and sing
The glories of our wondrous King,
And with the children let us bring
Pure hearts to Him in offering.

Yes! Join the faithful as they raise
Their voices to the Lord in praise
For Christ has shown Himself to be
The God of grace and majesty.

For Lazarus, the four-days dead,
Received from Him new life instead
Of death, and all the mourners saw
Christ’s power and were filled with awe.

Then all the people rushed with joy
To see the One whose Word destroys
The gates of hell and sting of death
And to the dead man gives new breath.

But look! He comes so humbly now—
Our God to whom the angels bow—
Yet now a donkey’s foal He rides,
And soon a spear shall pierce His side.

For from the Cross the Lord shall reign
And through His death, His Kingdom gain,
But now He comes before He dies
To show His glory to all eyes.

And seeing this, the children wave
Their branches, begging Him to save,
While evil men who love Him not
Go off in rage His death to plot.

Their wickedness the Savior knows,
But still upon His path He goes—
Our loving King who comes to die,
His Father’s Name to glorify.

And so it is that Christ our Lord
Begins His reign not with a sword,
But with divine humility
That only childlike hearts can see.

Be glad then! Yes, be glad and sing
For Jesus comes as Lord and King
Before His Passion, so that we
May share His humble royalty.

Words from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill on Holy Lent:

We are passing through the field of Great Lent
to purify our souls, to sanctify ourselves by the
grace of God, to root ourselves in the truth of
God, and to learn how to withstand sin, evil,
and unrighteousness, first of all in our own

Fasting and prayer are great means of elevating
the soul, overcoming sins, and transforming
the inner state of a man. It especially belongs to
us in Great Lent to use these means to help
ourselves, to change our inner world, and to be
closer to God.

We are given the saving days of Great Lent to
contemplate the mystery of salvation, which
God opened to us in Christ, and contemplating
salvation, of which each of us can become an
inheritor, we try, relying on the help of God, to
conquer our feeble but real attraction to sin,
overcoming vice and renewing our connection
with God, which is our sole means of attaining

The whole point of Lent is to allow God into
our lives, that the Lord would not be on the
periphery of our lives, that we would remember
Him not just once in a week as Sunday draws
near, but to learn to walk before God, as did
walk the Old Testament prophets, as did walk
holy men.

Be joyous and bright. Don’t say anything to
others about how you’ve taken these burdens
upon yourself and then the fast will become
pleasing to God.

Our Lenten Journey

Dear Faithful in the Lord,

We begin our Lenten journey very possibly in the same way that we may begin any other
journey in our lives. We begin with some sort of expectations of what the journey will require and the effort it will take to complete it until the end. We also have a sense of what we want to get out of the journey and our hopes and desires for what the experience may bring to us. Along with these, there is typically a perception of the largeness of the task and trepidation at the thought of what we are soon to embark upon. Whether we are beginning on an actual trip somewhere or simply undertaking a larger task, we typically begin in this way with these internal musings. The beginning of Lent can carry with it all of these thoughts and feelings as well. Those who have many Lents behind them can attest to the experience that this season, as with many seasons within the life of the Church, typically brings to us something beyond what was expected.

Bishop Irenei (Steenberg) gave a talk a few years ago on the Great Canon of St. Andrew. We begin
Lent with the words of this canon laying out the path that is before us. It encourages us, as Bp. Irenei says, to lean into the task of real repentance and seeking at the outset to make a first fruit offering in this way. Beginning with these words it marks out this path:
Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first fruits shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls. Come, my wretched soul, and with your flesh confess to the Creator of all. In future refrain from your former brutishness, and offer to God tears in repentance.

Moving on we are moved with the cries of a repentant heart and the opportunity to examine our lives through the lessons related to us throughout the accounts of Scripture. Yet towards the end of the canon we are met with this stirring verse:
Do not require of me fruits worthy of repentance, for my strength is spent in me. Grant me ever a contrite heart in spiritual poverty that I may offer these gifts to Thee as an acceptable sacrifice, O my only Savior.

Bp. Irenei goes on to explain that at the outset we are confronted with the expectation and the
intention of offering our first fruits of repentance. In the end, we are left with the conclusion that the only acceptable sacrifice; brokenness and spiritual poverty can be offered by the heart and genuinely brought to its creator.

We may begin with a plan and expectation that we will endeavor on this road of repentance making an offering of our Lenten sacrifices and penitential strivings only to find that we can only truly offer God our brokenness and our spiritual poverty. “A broken and contrite heart, God will not despise.” We make our plan and set out upon our path. We take on the work and put effort towards what the Church offers us. In the end we come before our good God with our hope placed only in His goodness, with our trust steadfast only in His great mercy, and with our eyes fixed upon a loving God Who, in return of our broken offering, grants us His Resurrected Life. May God grant us a blessed journey to His bright and glorious Pascha!

With love in Christ,

Fr. Benjamin

Elder John Krestiankin

Bits of instruction and encouragement from Elder John Krestiankin

— Lord! You know all things; do with me as You will. Amen.

— My child, learn one very important lesson, and learn it for your whole life. Do not rush forward into tomorrow, but live in the present day, learn today to see God’s will for yourself in the present moment, and not only to see it, but to have the unwavering resolve to fulfill it.

— There are no forgotten people in God, and God’s Providence watches over everyone. God rules the world—only God, and no one else.

— O wondrous path of manifest works, I sing a hymn to thee! People, surround yourselves, gird yourselves with small good works—a chain of small, simple, easy—costing you nothing—kind feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds.

— Only in works of love toward our neighbor must we see and feel the possibility of transforming our love, the possibility of salvation. For only through mercy and love can we acquire the Holy Spirit of God, which alone can enable us to resist the terrible evil spirits that have possessed people and the world.

— So let us not pass by hands stretched out to us, the suffering, whose eyes are filled with pain and woe; let us not pass by our neighbor.

— Your job is only to ask, cry out, and knock at the door of God’s mercy. Thus it should be to the final hour: “Lord, help me. Lord, save me.” Your guardian angel will help you.

— The Lord and the Mother of God will strengthen you in faith, hope, and love for God, your neighbor, and for yourself. Never, not even to yourself, count where, what and how you have done good. My dear, it is all from God and for God. Remember this. He only needs your heart—loving and faithful to Him, our Lord, Creator, and Redeemer.

— The main thing is to live for God, for His sake, and do everything to the glory of God. Remember that everywhere and always the most important thing for us is to be Christians in our lives.

May God give you wisdom!

The Meeting of Our Lord

When the righteous Simeon took the child into His arms and declared that this indeed was Salvation Incarnate, the “Light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Israel,” a new era began; the era of God’s presence among His children.

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To this day, all of the Church’s celebrations, no matter what the event commemorated may be, whether in the life of Christ, of the Theotokos, or of the saints, all are celebrations of Christ and the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of His presence. He initiated this Kingdom and promised its

ultimate realization. And now, just as the Old Israel had awaited the beginning of God’s Kingdom, the New Israel (the Church) awaits the Second and Glorious Coming of Christ and the fullness of His Kingdom, revealed.

Although all of our celebrations are intimately rooted in the knowledge that we have been called for complete communion with Christ and to live in function of His Kingdom to which we already belong, we still live in a world that has for the most part rejected what Christ gave it, that is, authentic life “in abundance,” life with real purpose and meaning. We Christians, in spite of having accepted what God’s intervention in human affairs gave us, slip repeatedly and fall into the great temptation to convert the things of this world into gods. We are constantly attracted by ways of seeking happiness and fulfillment that exclude God. This, of course, always proves to be vain and futile.

So our lives vacillate, back and forth, between the assurance of salvation and indifference, between moments of real joy because we know that God is with us, and moments of boredom because we cannot give ourselves totally over to Him.

Every Christian celebration reaches its climax in the Divine Liturgy for the feast. In this sacred work, when God’s people assemble in His name, we actually become participants in the Heavenly Kingdom to come. We are as literally present with Christ in His future Kingdom as the Apostles were with Him at the Last Supper. So the Kingdom is initiated among us and we enjoy it before our time, by anticipation. This is what every Eucharist is; this is what our feasts and celebrations are all about, and that is why the Eucharist is the very center of all of them.

— Archbishop Dmitri (Royster)

A portion of a homily given on the Feast of the meeting of our Lord

Christ’s Presentation in the Temple

What a tender scene the Meeting of the Lord shows us! The venerable elder Simeon, holding the infant God in his hands, on either side of him are the righteous Joseph and the Most Holy Mother of God. Not far away is the Prophetess Anna, an eighty-year-old faster and woman of prayer. Their eyes are all directed toward the Savior. Their attention is absorbed by Him and they drink in spiritual sweetness from Him, which feeds their souls. You can judge for yourself how blessed was the state of these souls! — St. Theophan the Recluse