Love Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou – I see Your Bridal Chamber

I see Your Bridal Chamber

 

“I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter in; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me.”

Exaposteilarion of the Orthros Service of the Bridegroom

Holy Monday – Holy Wednesday

 

               We have now passed the mid-point of our annual Great Lenten journey. Holy Week is just around the corner. The Exaposteilarion hymn above highlights a central theme of the first days of our Lord’s week of Passion. Our Lord is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are His bride. The iconographic image utilized in this service portrays our Lord, the Bridegroom “decked out” not in fine linens and clothing usually associated with a wedding feast. Rather, He is clothed in the “purple of mockery”, with a crown of thorns serving to begin the flow of the blood He spilled for His “bride”. It is an Icon of Extreme Humility. It is within this Humility that our Suitor approaches us. His Love is an agape of self-sacrifice radically different than that of typical relationships. To be worthy of His bridal chamber, our love must be a reflection of His. The “vesture of our soul” is made radiant by His Grace in forgiveness. Unworthy though we be, He loves and forgives us. Forgiveness then of others, provides us with the proper “wedding garment”. Please read the following written by Fr. Thomas Hopko, from his book, The Lenten Spring:

“Love between sinners is essentially expressed in forgiveness.  There is no other way. It cannot be otherwise. Forgiveness is the singular expression of love in this fallen world. If, therefore, we desire to be loved and forgiven by God – and even more, if we know that as a matter fact we are so loved and forgiven – then we must love and forgive each other. The Lenten Season exists for this purpose; to express the Love of God for one another through mutual forgiveness. This is the teaching of Jesus Himself.” (pg. 36)

It is in the context of the Love lived out in forgiveness that our Lenten Journey annually begins with Great Vespers on Clean Monday eve and a “kiss of forgiveness”. As we, then near the end of Great Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, let us do our very best to live this love out as a reflection of Christ’s great Agape Love in forgiveness, by forgiving one another. Examine your conscious and let go of grudges, hurts and pains caused by others. Seek forgiveness from wrongs intentional or otherwise that you may have caused. Participate in the Holy Sacrament of Repentance (Confession) whereby in humility you acknowledge your imperfections and seek forgiveness. It is then that the original beauty of God’s Grace in our lives is revealed…It is then that we may be properly adorned to enter into His Bridal Chamber of Grace and Love. Have a blessed conclusion of Great Lent, Holy Week and remembrance of our Lord’s Passion and salvific crucifixion and a glorious celebration of His Life Giving Resurrection.

With our Lord’s Blessings,
Fr. Lou

 

 

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A Message From Fr. Lou A New Year – A New Beginning

A NEW YEAR – A New Beginning

“As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner; we add malice by our anger, we oppose pride to pride. Thus, evil grows within us, and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” (St. John of Kronstadt.)
“If we have true love with sympathy and patient labor, we shall not go about scrutinizing our neighbor’s shortcomings. As it is said, ‘Love shall cover the multitude of sins,’ (I Peter 4:8)…True love screens anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of men. Were they blind? Not at all! But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins.” (St. Dorotheos of Gaza).
With our entry into another New Year, we prepare for the celebration yet again of the Feast of Theophany or Epiphany, literally, “the manifestation of God,” or simply, “the manifestation.” On January 6th, our focus is upon the baptism of Jesus and the manifestation of God in Trinity, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, ”…when He had been baptized… behold the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” (3:16-17). Historically, immediately following His baptism, our Lord went into the wilderness, fasted for forty days and was tempted there by the devil. Conquering these temptations He returned to Galilee and began His three year public ministry with the words, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt.4:17)
As we begin this New Year in preparation for God’s Manifestation (Theophany) it is in the context of these words from our Lord, that I share with you the quotations from above. We understand “repentance” as a change in mind, a return if you will, to God. The outcome of that re-focus on God, is a different perspective towards our fellow humans. It involves a perspective of humility, compassion and love – emanating from God’s Grace. Humility allows us, when we see another’s sins to recognize that we too, are sinners. We have that malady as well with a constant need for soul healing from our Lord. The temptation to scrutinize another’s shortcomings will, through humility turn back to our own need for forgiveness from God. This leads to compassion. Because of our own sin – by propensity and choice – we are one with other sinners – co-sufferers if you will – “sympathoi” – in need of God. This takes us to a call from the depths of our being upon Him for help, for forgiveness, for love. And then our Lord delivers. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:16).
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Mt.1:23)
It is the Love of God towards us that allows us to abide in the security of it’s comforting embrace – even in the midst of our shortcomings. Then we desire to love God from the depth of our being. As this love goes out from us towards God: it naturally embraces those around us; it naturally casts out the evil one who hates love; it naturally is patient; is kind; is not jealous or boastful; is not envious or rude; it naturally believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13).
A new beginning. As we begin this year of 2014, may it be a year of our Lord. In His Grace and Love may we in humility and with compassion, love Him and our neighbor as our self.
Have a most blessed and Godly New Year,
Fr. Lou

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A Message From Fr. Lou – He Came to me…

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU
He Came To Me

Boris Pasternak poured out his blood in his novel “Dr. Zhivago.” As a Jew in Russia who converted to the Orthodox Christian faith, he knew a great deal of personal suffering. What sustained him is summarized in these words: “I could not have endured it without my discovery of Jesus Christ. He came to me!
Jesus comes to us today. If we need greater light, He comes to dispel our darkness. If we need peace, He comes – He who is our peace. If we need strength, power to forgive, power to love the unlovely, He comes – He who is the Pantocrator – the Almighty. He comes to enable us, to empower us, to uplift us, to save us. He came. He comes. “And His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us. “ (Mt 1:23). (From Daily Vitamins for Spiritual Growth, Fr. Anthony Coniaris, pg. 372.)
The great miracle of Christmas is revealed in the remarkable fact that God comes to us. This is at the same time a universal and cosmic reality and a very personal event, the context of which is agape love. “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “ (John 3:16). The great proof of His love for us begins with the incarnation – God’s humble taking on of flesh – our Lord Jesus’ Nativity – and ends with His passion, death on the cross and glorious Resurrection. These events are life changing for the entire human race and for you and me, personally. However, they become healing, transforming and salvific for us ONLY when we accept our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as our God. As Boris Pasternak affirmed, he could not have endured life without the discovery of Jesus Christ. He came to him. He comes to us also. Let us therefore discover Him and His love for us in our daily lives. And let us come to Him and accept Him as our loving, saving and merciful God.
This Christmas, may we find room in the inn of our heart for our loving Lord! Have a blessed and Merry Christmas and a healthy and spirit filled New Year.

With our Lord’s blessings,
Fr. Lou

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A Message From Fr. Lou – “Thanksgiving” …

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

Thanksgiving

 

With the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year 2013-2014, we enter into the 30th year of the existence of our Saint Catherine Parish. Many who were baptized at Slaven’s Elementary School and some who were baptized after our Saint Catherine’s Temple was completed, have now baptized their own children under the protection of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr. The faithful of this Parish have accepted into the “communion of saints” faithful from various Orthodox backgrounds and pilgrims from a variety of Christian traditions and ancient faiths who have chosen to call Orthodoxy their home. We glorify our Lord for His Divine Presence, love and grace. We thank our Lady the Theotokos, and the Great Martyr Catherine for their intercessory prayers and protection. Finally, we thank our founding fathers and mothers and you the faithful who have accepted their leadership mantle to live eucharistically – in thanksgiving.

Evharisto – the root of Eucharist, which means “thank you”, is such a powerful word. Its core “charis” means “grace”. It’s prefix “Ev” means bless. When we therefore thank God – first and foremost – we “bless” our Loving Lord for the grace given to us. Now grace by definition is a free gift, undeserved, if you will. That free gift begins with our life itself and continues with everything that is in us and that we have. Of course, the Eucharist refers to Holy Communion as well. We therefore live in perpetual thanksgiving, in communion with God and one another. This state of being and the attitude of thanksgiving associated with it has at its core our healing from the fall of original sin – through God’s love and grace .

In this 30th Ecclesiastical year of our Saint Catherine Parish, we again offer ministry and participation opportunities for all our parishioners – young and old alike. These are outlined later in this publication. Please take a moment to see where there are ministries to serve your needs and areas where you might serve in thanksgiving to our Lord for the spiritual gifts you have received. If you have any questions about any ministry please refer them to the Ministry Leader, or Alina Buzdugan, our Ministry Teams Coordinator.

May we all have a most blessed and beautiful 2013-2014  Church Year celebrating 30 years of communion in Thanksgiving to our merciful and Loving Lord and God – Father Son and Holy Spirit.

This is the year of the Lord!

With His blessings, Fr. Lou

 

 

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An Attitude of Gratitude

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU

An Attitude of Gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was “thank you” that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart

The daily doxology whether read or chanted in our Orthodox Christian tradition begins, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to all people.” This glory is an offering of thanksgiving to our God for His abundant blessings, for His Love, for His creation, for us. This doxology begins our day and sets the tone not only for each day, but for our life. The beautiful quotation above by Meister Eckhart serves to invite us to have an attitude of gratitude.
The Greek word for gratitude or Thanksgiving is “eucharistia”, or translated literally into English, “Eucharist.” The Eucharist or Holy Communion then denotes a special relationship based upon God’s agape love for us and our love offered back to God in deep appreciation. There is then a continuous and unbroken circle of love between God and us which serves to provide for us the foundation for our life. Living then in gratitude with thanks given to God and others – we live. We inhale of God’s blessings and exhale in grati- tude… and thus we live. This Eucharistic living is not only between God and us but then becomes Eucharistic living from one to another and then we are one in God.
An Attitude of Gratitude…
“Give thanks unto the Lord for He is Good and His Mercy endures forever.”
(Psalm 135/136).
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)
“The man who knows the delight of the love of God – when the soul, warmed by grace, loves both God and her brother – knows in part, that the Kingdom of God is within us.” (Staretz Silouan)
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” (Thich nhat Hanh)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.
Have you used one to say thank you? ” (William Arthur Ward)
February 2, forty days after the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity – Christmas, we annually celebrate Jesus’ En- trance into the Temple. Historically, the Righteous Simeon took our Lord into his hands and entered into the Holy of Ho- lies within the Temple, signifying that Jesus was and is the New High Priest. The New Covenant has dawned and our Lord has entered into our presence.
May we praise Him. May we glorify Him. May we thank Him for His Divine Love and life giving presence. May we live eucharistically with a daily attitude of gratitude. Have a beautiful, blessed and Grace filled year in thanksgiving to our Lord.
With our Lord’s blessings, Fr. Lou

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“…AND THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE”

The above quotation is from 1st Corinthians, chapter 13, the beautiful chapter on agape love. The last two days of June and the first day of July, we commemorate in order, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles and the healing unmercenary saints, Cosmas and Damian. These saints are amongst the greatest examples in Christianity, for all times, of love. Two of my personal favorite saints are Sts. Cosmas and Damian. There were two and maybe three sets of saints who were brothers with the names Cosmas and Damian, all of whom were physicians from wealthy families, who healed, receiving no pay. The main reason that they are amongst my favorite saints is because they are the Patron Saints of the Athenagoras National Retreat Center near Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Center is presently in the process of closing. However, when it opened in the summer of 1978, I was a camp counselor in the first summer camp. Fr. Dean Talagan and others began the Center that year and he ran the first camp, only weeks after Presbytera Marsha and I were married. I had just completed my first year at seminary and Marsha worked as the church secretary in Cheyenne that summer. We had nearly 100 campers from throughout the Diocese and the country that year. Our arts and crafts project was to make an icon of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, which I still have.

The epistle reading on their feast days (July 1 and November 1) is from 1st Corinthians chapter 12 and 13, focusing on agape or unconditional love. Do you realize that there are four words for love in Greek? They are: ‘eros”; “storgefilia”; and “agape”. Now, the English word, ‘love’, can be applied to almost anything. In English, one can ‘love’ a house, a car, a hairstyle, a good juicy steak, a piece of cheesecake or baklava, and one’s spouse. The same word can be used for all. It is not so, however with the language of the New Testament. In fact, one would not use any of the four Greek words for love for anything inanimate. They are words of interpersonal relationship appropriate for God, human relationships and perhaps, our pets. ‘Eros’ is often associated with a sexual attraction love. It is a love whereby one’s loved one becomes the object of focus. ‘Storge’ is a natural love, say between a parent and their child. ‘Filia” is a friendship love where the sharing of common interests and focuses bring people together. ‘Agape’ is an unconditional love, where one gives freely without expecting anything in return. It is referred to by the famous English author of blessed memory, C.S. Lewis as the ‘Queen of loves’, a divine gift love. It is divine as it is from God and concerned with giving rather than with receiving. This is the love of 1st Corinthians and the main love focused upon throughout the New Testament. This is the love expressed by the incarnation, as, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, God becomes a man. This is the love of the Trinity, at once interpersonal amongst the three Persons of the Godhead, and between Creator and creature. This is the love of the greatest of commandments: “… You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (MT 22:37-40).

As we remember the great saints, Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles and Cosmas and Damian, let us honor them by loving our Lord and one another with the agape love of our Lord Jesus. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (JN 3:16).

With our Lord’s blessings,
Fr. Lou

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Humility and Childlikeness

What does it mean to be a devout and committed Christian?  What is at the very core of our approach to and relationship with God?  Allow me to answer these questions with a quotation from our Lord.  “ At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’  Then Jesus called a child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, ‘Assuredly I say to you unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mt.18:1-5).

Who do we honor in this life?  Typically we honor entertainers, athletes, the wealthy, politicians, CEO’s of corporations, successful, accomplished men and women.  They are often motivated, hard working, self-sufficient, and articulate.

Who do we honor in our Orthodox faith?  We hold up as examples and honor after our Lord, the saints.  Without a doubt, many of the saints were gifted with similar qualities as those possessed by the “idols” of our times.  However, the saints accomplished something that few have.  They were “converted” and became as little children.  Now, that does not mean that they were childish, with the immaturities of childhood.  What it does mean is that they were childlike, with a purity of faith, trust and love for God.  It means that they were humble and always ready to learn, never looking at themselves as better than another, seeing that anything good that they did was as a result of God’s Grace and not their own.  This childlikeness was something that they, through humility had to re-learn.  They were “converted” to this attitude of life.  Since after the Fall of humankind our tendency is to rely on our self and not God.  Most of the “great ones” honored in our world, with our fallen tendencies focus on their accomplishments and possessions.  A “converted one” learns to direct any good away from self and towards God.  The truth is that in my experience, even within the Church this is not easily accomplished.  More times than not our attitudes are not “converted”.  This is the main reason why petty differences and power struggles occur everywhere.  Our own egos keep us from this childlikeness and humility.  In our circles, this applies to clergy and laity a like.

Our Lord tells us, “…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mt. 19:24).  This reference specifically is towards wealthy people.  However in principle “wealth” can refer to anyone who thinks of him or herself as great or at least greater than another, when essentially we are nothing without God.  Tito Colliander in his book, Way of the Ascetics, says, “The holy Fathers say with one voice: the first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself…This decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset…For how can a human being receive advice, instruction and help if he believes that he knows and can do anything and needs no directions?” (pg. 4).

How then can we “convert” to this childlikeness?  Step I is to, in humility recognize in our heart’s depths God’s incredible love for us.  “ God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16).  He loved and loves us even though we are not perfect.  Step II is to strive to love God as first and foremost in our lives—above self, parents, spouse, children—everyone.  We have a challenge in our maturation process to learn to depend on God attitudinally as a child depends upon a parent.  I emphasize maturation because this assumes adult responsibility to do things that we ourselves can do and to not wait on our parent (God) to do them for us.  When we do them, however we do them for His Glory and not for our own satisfaction and glory.  Step III is to love others and learn to not focus on their limitations but rather to focus on God’s grace within them.  After all, if God loves us in our imperfection, it stands to reason He loves others as well.   Step IV is to be ever vigilant and not let one’s guard down.  Our fallen tendency is always there until our final breath with temptation lurking in the shadows wanting us to rely on self, thus judging others and even God as inadequate to direct or guide us.

In Humility and like a little child, let us submit to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus our whole life so that through God’s Grace and Strength we may live in His Presence and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

In Christ,

Fr. Lou