Beloved in the Lord,
"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Once again we are grappling with the news of another tragic school shooting, claiming the lives of 17 innocent victims in Florida, and leaving a community shocked and in mourning. Parents are struggling to explain the ongoing violence to their children, many of whom are now expressing a fear of going to school. These are difficult and frightening times no matter what your age. We must, however, not let fear control our lives, but rather live in faith and walk by faith.
The lives of the high school students who witnessed this horror are changed forever. All of our lives should be changed forever! We should not tolerate this rampant violence which has spread to elementary and high schools, churches, businesses, movie theaters, colleges and more. We need to protect our children and provide for them the future they deserve!
Where can one turn for safety? God. He is with us at every moment, seeing us through every joy and every struggle. His mercy sustains us in our weakness. His compassion comforts us in our sadness. His peace calms our hearts.
We have the strongest weapon of all in our faith. The Church is here as our fortress. The depth of God's love is beyond our comprehension, but it is real, it is tangible, and it is unconditional. Let love guide our lives and guide our actions with others.
Please keep in prayer the souls of all those who perished in this tragic shooting that God may grant them everlasting rest. Remember also the families who are grieving, the teachers who have lost students, and the teens who have lost friends, that the Lord may carry them through these sad and dark days, leading them ultimately to His Light and Love.
With Love in Christ,
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
February 16, 2018
Pamphilus the Martyr
"Where shall I begin the work of my salvation?" cries out a hymn of Clean Monday.
The Lenten Season, now upon us, calls us into a time of reflection on the state of our lives and our souls. We are invited by the Church to observe the Great Fast, to devote more time to prayer and worship, to engage in study, and to offer charity and serve the world around us. The hymns of the next forty days will instruct us in the fast, will encourage us in philanthropy, and will call us to renew our souls and lives through repentance. Your parish will offer many opportunities for you to participate in worship, in opportunities for study, and in philanthropic acts, and many other activities with your fellow parishioners and to carry the lessons into your homes and families.
These Lenten practices are not ends unto themselves. Rather, these disciplines serve as potent correctives to the way the world tells us we are to live all the days of our lives and not just for the next forty days. They are meant to focus our energies on improving the condition of our souls. The world says to be happy we must follow paths that lead to the accumulation of wealth, power, and status. And when we achieve all these, we are not satisfied. We become anxious, desiring to keep them, and then acquire even more.
Our Lenten disciplines remind us that we do not need all these "things" and, in fact, we can live quite well without them. The Lord says, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions"(Luke 12:15). Our Lenten disciplines challenge us to break the cycle of acquisition and anxiety and to be free of "things" that instead burden us and our souls. The Great Fast teaches us that we can live simply and with less. Our time in prayer and worship of God teaches that power belongs to Him. Our charity and study teaches us that status is fleeting.
The work of our Lenten journey is an accumulation of the fruits of the Spirit. For the next forty days we will be challenged to put aside what the world values and acquire something greater. What we are to accumulate during Great Lent is a spirit of "love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control" (Galatians 5:22). These next weeks are a time for cultivating these virtues in our lives and souls so, as a hymn states, "may be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His Holy Pascha."
Beloved brothers and sisters, the work of salvation begins very soon. Do not despair at the task at hand. Rather, as the hymn of Clean Monday states, "Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the Holy Commandments of Christ our God".
May this spirit of the anticipated joy of Holy Pascha at the end of our Lenten journey, be your guide during this most Holy Season of the Great Fast.
With Love in Christ,
@ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
We all know that we are called to love one another with all of our minds, souls, bodies and hearts (cf. Luke 10:27). We also know that when we are in relationships love is the binding force that brings us closer and closer together.
In Christ, we find that this love takes on a new character, and a new effect. Saint Maximos the Confessor explains these two aspects in this way: “The Lord says, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you” (Saint Maximos the Confessor, 400 chapters on love, Chapter 61 of 400).
This simple exhortation from Saint Maximos is so striking because it cuts to the core of spiritual difficulties, the most daunting being loving those whom we hate, or who are our enemies, or those who persecute us. It is when we purposefully turn our love towards the most difficult people or situations that a whole new level of growth happens in our spiritual lives. The effect of this type of love is “so that he might [be] free…from hate, sadness, anger, and grudges.” (Ibid)
A perfect love, a love that extends to those whom we have the most difficult time relating to, is a love that leads to freedom. When faced with difficult relationships, we are called by Christ to turn to love, through doing good and praying for those who we may be in adversity to.
Interestingly, when love is approached this way, by extending it to those who bother us, we gain the “greatest possession of all, perfect love” (Ibid). To possess a perfect love would be the greatest possession of our lives. To be able to extend love through good deeds and prayer to those with whom we are in confrontation would be the greatest display of Christ-like love. It would be akin to what Christ did on the Cross, extending His hands to take on the sins of the world.
As we face difficulties, trials, and tribulations, we have love in our corner. A love that is beyond describing. A perfect love that faces the tumult of this world and embraces it with perfect self-denial…rather, an other-accepting. Through accepting the other, embracing the other, we find ourselves in true freedom. A freedom full of love, where no evil or negativity can penetrate. A realization of heaven, of the embrace of God, the bosom of Abraham.
May He who loved His enemies so much so as to give up His Body for their salvation, Christ our True God, enlighten our hearts and minds to show love to all of those that we encounter, and thereby find the purest of loves, and the purest of freedoms from the travails of life. Glory to Your Forbearance O Lord! Glory to You!
~ Rev. Father Nebojsa Pantic, Proistamenos
Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church - Vallejo, California
You can check out the Metropolis Monthly Meditations HERE