The Sunday of the Blind Man

Christ is Risen!!!

This week from the Gospel reading we hear how the Lord healed a man blind from his birth. We also hear how the Pharisees, out of envy, tried to convince him, who received healing, that the Lord, Who healed him, was not the Christ, not even a righteous man, but a sinner.

Yet from the words of the used-to-be blind, we see that he received not only the sight of the bodily eyes, but of spiritual ones as well. Being asked, whom he thinks his Healer to be, he boldly answers: He is a Prophet! To the statements of the Pharisees that He can be neither a prophet nor a righteous man because He healed him on a Sabbath day, as if He were breaking the law, the one who received his sight boldly replies that no one, since the creation of the world, ever saw such a miracle, which only a righteous man could work, for God does not hear sinners, but rather those, who honor Him.

Thus, he, who received the gift of sight from the Lord, comes to know Him by His works, and boldly confesses Him before the people. In this there is a most important lesson for us, for so often we deceive ourselves in obtaining knowledge. How often do we form judgments of others based solely on their image or place in society? How often do we hope to beguile others by our outward appearance and words?

But, alas, from the Gospel narrative one can clearly see that we are known truly by our deeds. If at times it seems to us that the Lord does not hear, does not receive our prayers, is it not for the fact that our sins do allow them – our prayers – to rise to Him?

Let us keep in our hearts the words of the one who once was blind: “…God hears those who honor Him, and does their will.” Let us offer the Lord sincere repentance for our sins. So that in the day of our trial the Lord may hear us also. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

The Sunday of the Paralytic

Christ is Risen!!!

This Sunday the Holy Church celebrates the healing of the paralytic by the Lord. Today, the Holy Gospel tells us how the Lord came to the sheep’s pool, the place where a multitude of the sick awaited the descent of the angel and the stirring of waters in order to be healed, being the first to enter the waters at the time of their moving.

Having come to the pool, the Lord sees there a man who lay there for thirty-eight years, being paralyzed and having no man to help him be first to enter the waters. Having asked him whether he desires to be whole, the Lord tells him to stand up, take his bed, go and sin no more.

It is imperative that we pay attention to the fact that the Lord, before healing him, asks the paralytic whether he wants, whether he desires to be healed, to be whole. From this is clearly seen that He will neither heal, nor save anyone against his will or – if you will permit – without his participation. All of the holy fathers teach us that the Lord, alone, without us, will not save us. They teach us that even if the great saints, even the most pure Mother of God herself, will pray for us, and yet we, in repentance, will not ask the Lord to save us, He will not. That is why we ourselves must learn, and teach our children, always to seek the kingdom of God, with our whole soul to thirst for righteousness and salvation.

The reply of the paralytic – Lord, I have no man to help me enter the waters and be healed – helps us fathom the meaning of the incarnation of God the Word much more profoundly. The Son of God, the pre-eternal God, becomes a Man and comes to the paralytic, He Himself becomes his Helper. How great is the love of the Lord toward mankind! How great is His humility! Unlike His angel, the Lord does not stir the waters, but revealing His divinity, heals the unfortunate man by His word.

Every one of us is in need of healing from the terrible paralysis: the paralysis of the soul. But alas, by far, not everyone desires such healing, and many altogether refuse to admit that they are sick in soul. At the same time, which one of us always loves to pray? Which one of us always prays with attention? Which one of us always loves his enemies and his neighbors as himself? Which one of us always loves the truth and always keeps the Lord’s commandments? …The answer is apparent: all of us are sick, all of us need healing!

Let us, therefore, brothers and sisters, desire true healing and salvation! Let us cry out to the Lord from the depths of our souls! May the Lord, Who for our sake became incarnate, suffered, and rose from the dead, come to us as He did to the paralytic, and by His word, save us. Amen!

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women

Christ is Risen!!!

Today, on the third Sunday after Pascha, we commemorate the holy Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodimus – the secret disciple of the Lord – and the myrrh-bearing women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Cleopas, Salome, Joanna, Martha and Mary – the sisters of Lazarus – and Suzanna, along with others who came with them to the tomb of the Lord. The myrrh-bearing women are specifically remembered on this Sunday because they were the first to see the risen Lord, and Joseph and Nicodemus because they were the ones who buried Him.

The great mercy of God reveals itself in the narration of today’s gospel: the frail women, bravely carrying the sweet spices to the Lord’s tomb, become the first witnesses of His resurrection from the dead. The frail women, desiring faithfully to serve the Lord, Who has fallen asleep, are the first to see the empty tomb. Faithful to the Lord even after His death, they are the first to learn that He is alive.

How harmonious is this narrative with the words of the Lord: “They that are faithful to the end, shall be saved!” How often, in our times, the faithful behold and come to know the great mercy of God! Thus, some, at the time of attentive prayer, unexpectedly behold the grace of the Holy Spirit, descending upon the holy gifts during the Divine Liturgy. Others see different mysteries of God, not asking Him for visions, but only having a desire to serve Him faithfully.

Let us remember the words of the Lord to Thomas, words which we heard last Sunday: “Blessed are they, who have not seen, and yet believed,” and let us not seek visions, lest we fall into beguilement and the deception of the devil. Let us ask help of the Lord, that we may keep the faith to the end, and together with the myrrh-bearing women, may obtain salvation. Amen.

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together…

These words of the stichiron from the service of the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem are very important to us. At a quick glance, they contain simply a narrative meaning, but after a prayerful consideration, one can see in them a profound spiritual meaning.

In honor of the feast, we bless pussy willows and palms and, at the end of the service, take them with us for the blessing and sanctification of our homes. But can we apply the words of the stichiron to ourselves based solely on that?

When the Lord entered Jerusalem, He was met by a multitude of people. Many cried: “Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But, alas, after a few days the same people shouted: “Take Him, crucify Him!” That makes it obvious that it was not the grace of the Holy Spirit that gathered many that day. More likely, they were gathered by their personal interests, political or economical, interests, which were not satisfied with the coming of the Lord.

Wherefore, we too must ask ourselves: “what is motivating us, bringing us to church?” Is it our love of honor, or desire to be known as – not at all to be – pious? Or is it a hope of satisfaction of selfish desires, when the Church is only a firing range for the achieving of selfish goals, be they financial, political, or psychological?

God grant that for every one of us the reason will be the same: the salvation of the soul. For if we came to the Church for salvation, then truly “…the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought us together!”

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Behold the handmaid of the Lord…

“…be it unto me according to thy word…”

These words of the Most Holy Theotokos should be precious and close to the heart of every orthodox Christian. The Most Holy Theotokos said them on the day of the Annunciation, when Holy Archangel Gabriel addressed Her with the news of the incarnation of the Son of God in Her womb. The meaning of these words is simple enough, however, it is impossible to overstate their significance.

In essence, She, who was about to become the Mother of God, expressed her supreme humility and consent to her extremely difficult vocation by these words. Perhaps, some would be surprised, but Her consent to participate in the economy of our salvation was essential. News from the Archangel about the incarnation of the Son of God within Her womb should have caused many questions and possibly even doubts on Her part, yet She, showing self-control worthy of imitation, asks only one thing: how can She, not knowing Her husband, conceive and bear a Son? Learning, in response, about the decent of the Holy Spirit upon Her and about Her being overshadowed by the power of the Most High, She humbly bows before the will of God and gives Her consent.

This consent is necessary because God never violates the freedom He gave men. God doesn’t save anyone against his will. Today, the Church celebrates the coming of God the Word into the world and glorifies the Mother of God, Who became a temple not made with hands by submitting Her will to the will of the One Who sent the Archangel to visit Her.

Thus, the Most Holy Theotokos becomes the very first Christian because She is the first to know about the coming of the Son of God into the world and because She received Him not only into Her heart, but also into Her womb. She is the first to believe in Him and is His first servant in His earthly life.

Let the great humility of the Mother of God that exalted Her to such heights be an example for all of us. How often do we complain that God doesn’t help us, or doesn’t answer our prayers, yet we do not think whether our plans and desires align with the Divine providence for our salvation? How often are we dismayed and are faint of spirit when the Lord doesn’t come to our aid in obvious need, yet we do not realize that of our own will we do not allow Him to help us? Our stiff-necked wilfulness, our pride, our attachment to sin, our remembrance of wrongs, our greed, and all our other passions, all of it doesn’t allow us to follow the example of the Theotokos and to say: “Here I am, O Lord, I am Thy servant, be it done unto me according to Thy word!”

The Lord is always near and by all means desires our salvation. His Most Pure Mother also always prays for us. Let us also pray that God would give us the strength at all times and in all things to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let us follow the example of the Most Holy Theotokos and at all times and in all things let us seek God’s holy will. We know that then the Lord will always be with us even as He descended into the womb of His Most Pure Mother. Amen.

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Transfiguration of the Lord

Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could bear it; so that when they should see Thee crucified, they would know that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father.
Kondakion of the feast, tone 7

On this radiant day, when the Church of Christ celebrates the wondrous transfiguration of the Lord on mount Tabor, it is appropriate to pay attention not so much to the miracle itself, but rather to its meaning for the disciples and apostles, and for us as well.

For what reason was the Lord transfigured before His disciples and why did He reveal His glory to them?

From the kondakion of the feast it is apparent that He did that in order for them to understand that His suffering will be voluntary and not a terrible twist of fate. The Lord foresaw His sufferings and accepted them without murmuring for the sake of our salvation. The Lord, Whose face and even garments, were radiant like lightning, radiant with otherworldly light, was silent before Pilate and did nothing to avoid a terrible and agonizing death. He, Who created heaven and earth, Who was transfigured on Tabor and Who revealed His divine glory, humbly stretched out the very hands, that were radiant like lighting, upon the cross.

Having pondered on so great a Divine condescension, let us hasten, brothers and sisters, to the light of Tabor. Let us cleanse our hearts from the darkness of fleshly and spiritual passions that blind us and prevent us from seeing the pure and joyous light of the Lord. If our hearts are heavy with grief and the sorrows of this life, let us call to mind the Lord’s sufferings. Let us remember that the Lord, Who was transfigured on Tabor, humbly endured betrayal, blasphemy, beating and death upon the cross. Then, we shall understand that sorrows and sufferings cannot separate us from the Lord, Who endured all. Then, illumined by the light of the grace of God, each of us will bear his cross with peace and thanksgiving.

May the Lord illumine us with His light and fill our hearts with joy. Amen.

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm (in Russia – Pussy Willow) Sunday.  People come to church with small bunches of pussy willows in their hands.  Everyone is in a festive mood.  Only one week, filled with wondrous divine services, is left until Pascha.

It would be nice to go back in time in order to draw a small lesson about the meaning of these pussy willows that everyone finds so cute.  This feast, according to the church ustav (rubrics) is called The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem.  Almost two thousand years ago, the Lord, in His humility, came to Jerusalem; to be exact:  He rode in on a donkey.  The day before His coming to Jerusalem, He worked a great miracle:  He raised His friend Lazarus, who was dead four days and already began to decompose and stink in the tomb, from the dead.  The news of such a great and until that time unheard of miracle spread quickly and reached Jerusalem.  For that reason, the people in great multitudes gathered at the entrance to the city in order to look upon this great Wonderworker, the Lord, Who raises from the dead.

The roads in those days were unpaved and, in the hot and dry climate of the Holy Land, very dusty.  That was the very reason why the people put their garments and wide palm branches on the road, making a sort of a carpet, so that when the Saviour were to come there would not be any dust in the air and it would be possible to see Him.  Palms do not grow in Russia, that is the reason why from ancient times there this feast among the people is referred to not as Palm (as it is in the warm countries), but rather as the Pussy Willow Sunday.

The action of the people offers us the following lesson:  the Lord often passes by us, very close to us, but we do not see Him.  In order to see the Lord noetically, we must undertake some labour, offer at least a small sacrifice to God.  People put their garments and palm branches on the road.  Both things are obtained with labour; even if they were to be bought with money, because that has to be earned first as well.  Similarly, in the spiritual life our labours according to our strength: prayer, fasting, and helping our neighbor cover the dust of the passions and cares of the daily life, giving us the possibility to see the Lord spiritually.

Alas, often we wish that others should labour instead of us:  let the father (the priest) pray in the altar, let the candle burn before the icon.  As for ourselves, we do not want to work and that is why we do not receive the grace of God and His consolation.

Standing in the church of God, holding pussy willows (palms) in our hands, let us remember how the people met the Lord during His entry into Jerusalem.  Let us cover the dusty road of earthy trials and sorrows with the possible labours unto the glory of God, with the keeping of His commandments.  Then we will see that this road, on the way to the death on the Cross, was travelled by the King of Glory Himself:  by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Having seen Him, we also will not be afraid of following Him and go to our cross.  Walking after Him, seeing His sufferings, His patience and absence of murmuring, we sinners also will be consoled, for how can one complain about our small trials, when looking upon the passion of the Lord, the passion that He endured for us and for our sake.