Christmas Reflection From His Eminence

Below is the Christmas message from Metropolitan Methodios.  You can find the original – in both languages – here.

We live in a world of constant turmoil, of financial crisis, of poverty and unemployment, of disillusionment and uncertainty, of confusion and unrest, of pain and suffering. War rages in that part of the world where Christianity flourished for centuries but now is inhabited by only a handful of faithful. Thousands of refugees continue to flee their homelands for far-away countries that are not always welcoming. On a daily basis, we are inundated with news of one crisis after another, of one suicide bomber after another. It is to such a world that the newborn Savior comes this Christmas to bring “Peace on Earth and goodwill among men.”

Christ comes into the world to reconcile man with his Creator, “to lead us up to heaven and grant us his Kingdom which is to come” (Prayer of the Anaphora). He comes in an age of unbridled consumerism — in an age of plenty — where poor and abandoned brethren suffer and die of hunger and thirst, victimized by our indifference. He comes this Christmas to free those enslaved by tyrants. He comes to console those exploited and stripped of their dignity. He comes to heal the wounds of victims of racial and religious hatred and those victimized by all forms of intolerance and discrimination.

It is to such a world that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes. The Son of God lowers himself – He stoops down to our limitations, to our weak and sinful states. St. Paul writes, “though he was in the form of God he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7.) He lays in a manger so that we may understand that the power of God appears in our midst without any of the trappings of what we define as power and might.

The infant Savior comes this Christmas to re-ignite our souls. To instill in our hearts the same joy and hope felt by the Magi and the Shepherds that “Silent and Holy Night” in Bethlehem. He invites us to cultivate the virtues of humility and simplicity, of self-sacrifice and love. He comes to encourage us to be more aware of, and sensitive to, our neighbors. Not just those who live in our neighborhoods. Not just Christians of Orthodox faith, but men and women of ALL faiths. Not just those whom we know, but especially those whom we know as “NONES.”

Brethren,

The feast of the Nativity of the Lord who “emptied Himself taking the form of a servant” is an opportunity for us to be more humble. To be more sensitive to the needs of the poor and of the sick, of orphans and of strangers, of the homeless and hungry. The Son of Almighty God chose humility to reveal to us who He is. He was born in humility. He lived in humility. He humbled Himself even unto death. It is only in humility that we can comprehend the meaning of His Birth.

I pray that our hearts be transfigured into mangers of humility worthy to become the birthplace of the Incarnate Lord. May His presence radiate in our lives every day of the New Year 2017.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston

December 2016

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January 3rd, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Day 23: Christmas Trees

I am catching up on my blogging topics this evening – it has been that kind of weekend.  I was happy to see Christmas trees as a topic because I mentioned them as part of my intro story during my sermon today.  While the Christmas tree became popular in America for several reasons, the single biggest factor was the publication of the below engraving, featuring Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their tree, in 1850.  Once the image started making the rounds, people wanted trees and decorations.  At one point, Woolworth was selling $25 million a year worth of imported German Christmas ornaments.

And again the same problem.  Hmmm.  Well, you can check out the illustration here.
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December 8th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Rod Serling, Canned Food, And The Eighth Day

When you read Rod Serling’s wiki bio one of the first sections is on his military service.  This makes sense not just because it came chronologically right after his early life but also because of an incident that he experienced in the Pacific Theater of the war that helped inform his offbeat sense of creativity which shaped his best-known creation The Twilight Zone.

I have heard variations of the story (and used it as a lead-off in a sermon), but basically what happened – and you can read about it in the article – Serling and his fellow soldiers were on an island in the Pacific and, while maybe not starving, they certainly weren’t feasting (my current background photo on Facebook reflects something similar – British and Sikh soldiers operating a radio while in the process of destroying the Japanese army at the Battle of Imphal during the war).  While out in the field a package containing food (k-rations, which included canned food, our assigned topic on this eighth day of the 40 Day Blogging exercise) was dropped from a plane and ended up killing his friend.  Serling saw the irony in the whole situation – the package that was to save or sustain them ended up killing one of them.  After hearing this story everything about The Twilight Zone made sense to me.

Here is a picture of Serling in uniform next to his dad:

1944-rod-serling-dad

 

40DAYSBLOG

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November 22nd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Paschal Message Of His Eminence

Paschal Message
Of His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios
May 5, 2013

This past year, the Pew Research Center and the Gallup poll reported that a small percentage of Americans are active in their religious communities, and few are attending worship services. But, why is it that on Easter night our churches are filled with hundreds of brethren, even those who attend rarely, if at all? I’m convinced it is a flickering light that draws us to the empty tomb to be engulfed by its unwaning light, to partake of the joy and hope of Easter. Perhaps we do not know why, but, nevertheless, something draws us to church tonight to accept the gift of Life victorious over death. What draws all of us to church is a faith inculcated to the depths of our hearts-one often unconscious and inactive, but very much present. What draws us to church tonight resembles what attracted the Myrrh bearing women whose secret hope was surely not to find and anoint a dead corpse, but to see their Savior alive, risen from the dead.

 

We sinners come to the tomb with our doubts and our failures hoping that we may be exalted in the light of a resurrected faith. We come to have our doubts consumed by the flame which flashes from the tomb. We come hoping our hearts may be filled with divine gladness, that our eyes may glow with the light which radiates from an empty grave. We come that our souls may be filled with joy, and our voices with the victory hymn which echoes to the ends of the earth.

 

Momentarily, we will hear the Gospel of St. Mark informing us that the myrrh bearing women fled from the empty grave bewildered and trembling. In another Gospel we read that on the same day, two disciples, Luke and Cleopas made their journey to Emmaus in sad disappointment because their great hope in Jesus had apparently died with His death and burial. They didn’t recognize the Risen Lord.

 

Sadly, and all too often, we do not recognize the Risen Lord on our life’s journey either. The Gospel of John records Thomas’ doubt in the Resurrection. Like us tonight, those closest to Jesus were blinded by their fears, their doubts, and their fallen expectations. Not unlike the Myrrh-bearing women, we find the tomb a fearsome place.

 

The powerful imagery (which we heard in last night’s service) of the Prophet Ezekiel walking through a valley filled with dead men’s bones is an apt description of so much that is happening in our world. The signs of sin and death devastate us. The moral decay and violence which mark our society-as they did recently in Boston, Cambridge and Watertown-can so overwhelm us, that the hope present in our Lord’s Resurrection eludes us.

 

Like the disciples on their way from the Easter event of Resurrection, we can turn so in on our self-interests-our plans and dreams, our shattered hopes and moral shortcomings-that we fail to recognize the Risen Lord in our midst. And, like Thomas, we can set the narrow limits of human knowledge as the boundaries of our undertaking, rather than grasp the limitless horizons of faith.

 

As have Christians for 2,000 years, let us overcome our fears and our doubts to proclaim that, indeed, Christ is Risen. Easter is the new Passover. It is the Resurrection of Christ which leads us from spiritual slavery to freedom, from sin to righteousness, from sadness to joy, from darkness to light, from death to life, from a culture of cruelty to a community of compassion, from this world to the kingdom to come.

 

My brothers and sisters, on His cross Christ bore our individual sins and shortcomings, our weaknesses, our spiritual sickness and death. Rising from the tomb, He raises Adam and Eve and every one of us to newness of life in Him. It is this message that we are called to share (the message of faith and love) to a world that knows too much pain and division. Let us proclaim to all the world, “Come, receive the light from the unwaning light and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead”.

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May 13th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Menstruation And Holy Communion

Metropolitan Methodios distributed the writing below to us at our monthly clergy brotherhood meeting this morning.  It is from St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury and is the last word on the “issue” of women receiving communion while menstruating.  Some of his language reflects the time in which this was written (6th century) but the bottom line is that a woman’s period should not keep her from receiving communion (no matter what Yiayia may say about it : ).

A WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE FORBIDDEN to enter the Church during the times of her monthly period; for the workings of nature cannot be considered sinful, and it is not right that she should be refused admittance since her condition is beyond her control. We know that the woman who suffered an issue of blood, humbly approaching behind our Lord, touched the hem of his robe and was at once healed of her sickness. If, therefore, the woman was right to touch our Lord’s robe, why may one who endures the workings of nature not be permitted to enter the church of God? And if it is objected that the woman in the Gospels was compelled by disease while these latter are bound by custom, then remember, my brother, that everything that we endure in this mortal body through the infirmity of its nature is justly ordained by God since the fall of man. For hunger, thirst, heat, cold and weariness originate in this infirmity of our nature; and our search for food against hunger, drink against thirst, coolness against heat, clothing against cold, and rest against weariness is only our attempt to obtain some remedy in our weakness. In this sense the menstrual flow in the woman is an illness. So if it was a laudable presumption of the woman who, in her disease, touched our Lord’s robe, why may not the same concession be granted to all women who endure the weakness of their nature?

A woman, therefore, should not be forbidden to receive the Mystery of Communion at these times. If any, out of a deep sense of reverence, do not presume to do so, this is commendable. But if they do so, they do nothing blameworthy. Sincere people often acknowledge their faults even when there is no actual fault, because a blameless action may often spring from a fault. For instance, eating when we are hungry is no fault, yet being hungry (in our present way) originates in Adam’s sin. Similarly, the monthly courses of women are no fault. They are caused by nature. But the defilement of our nature is apparent even when we have no deliberate intention to do evil, and this defilement springs from sin. So may we recognize the judgment which our sin brings upon us. And so may people who sinned willingly bear the punishment of their sin unwillingly.

Therefore when women, after due consideration, do not presume to approach the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord during their monthly period, they are to be commended. But if they are moved by devout love of this Holy Mystery to receive it as pious practice suggests that they do, they are not to be discouraged. For while the Old Testament makes outward observances important, the New Testament does not regard these things as highly as the inward disposition, which is the sole criterion for allotting punishment. For instance, the Law forbids the eating of many things as unclean, but in the Gospel the Lord says: “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a person, but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” He also said, “Out of the mouth proceed evil thoughts” (See Mark 7:18-20). Here Almighty God shows clearly that evil actions spring from the root of evil thoughts. Similarly the apostle Paul says: “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. And later he indicates the cause of their corruption, adding, “For their very minds and consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15). If, therefore, no food is unclean to one of a pure mind, how can a woman who endures the laws of nature with a pure mind be considered impure?

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November 20th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Benediction At RNC

Last night His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios gave the benediction at the Republican National Convention.  You can watch it here.  The text is below:

Let us pray,

“O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth Who is ever present and fills all things, the Treasure of all blessings and source of life, we beseech you to dwell in our hearts” (1) as we hold in prayer our brethren who suffer the ravages of Hurricane Isaac. Embrace them in your love and keep them safe. Enable us to reach out to them in acts of philanthropy and generosity.

As we close this evening’s program, we pray that You bless and inspire the delegates of this Republican Convention to be your devoted servants and dedicated citizens of our great country. They have nominated two of your faithful sons, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, to serve the highest offices of this beloved land, a nation which has always opened its embrace to welcome “the tired, the poor and the huddled masses, all the tempest tossed to breathe free” (2) a nation that has always been a model of peace, justice and the rule of law. Shine in the hearts of the nominees of this convention the radiant light of Your divine will.  Imbue them and Chairman Reince Priebus, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with insight, wisdom, and boldness, with courage, compassion and competence.

Tonight, we remember the intrepid members of our armed forces who place themselves in harm’s way in defense of our freedom, and like our Founding Fathers, are steadfast in keeping America the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

May every American be more sensitive:

To the neglected and forgotten
To those who have been victims of discrimination and crime
To those who are hungry and homeless
To those with no jobs and little hope

Help us, Lord, to break down the walls of enmity and distrust, and show us the way to a new era of peace, equality and opportunity. Strengthen the hand of America as it reaches out to clasp the hands of our brethren throughout the world to build bridges of understanding. May we rediscover the path that leads one to another, and all to You. Amen.

 

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August 30th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Imagine

Below is the latest archpastoral reflection from Metropolitan Methodios:

A few weeks ago we closed our personal Book of 2011 and placed it in the library of eternity. Rather than make resolutions for the New Year – resolutions which more than likely I would not keep – I decided instead to reflect upon the past, observe more carefully the present, and try to envision the future, as these aspects of time bear upon the life of the Church and of her members.

I said to myself: Imagine how different the world would be if we lived each day as if it would be our last, as if at any given moment we would face Almighty God to give an accounting. After all, the Scriptures have warned us of the unpredictability of life, “The Master of the servant may come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know” (Mt. 25:50).

Imagine how different things would have been last year – how many mistakes we would have avoided – had we cherished every day as a God-given gift to make our world a better place. I bet our priorities would have changed dramatically, thereby altering both the course of our personal life and our role in the life of the Church.

I said to myself, “Imagine if in 2012 we would all learn to bridle our egos and “not be desirous of vain glory” (Gal. 5:26). If we would learn from Him who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11: 29). Imagine if in the New Year we were to set aside time each day to pray and to read the Holy Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers. Imagine if we lived each day according to the tenets of our Orthodox faith.

Imagine if we lived each day by the truth. If we had the courage to drop the masks of hypocrisy—to look straight into the mirror of reality to see ourselves as we really are—and then muster the courage and strength to change. To become more wholesome and less shallow. To become more self-effacing and less narcissistic. To become what God has willed us to be and be happy with what we achieve by the grace of God.

Imagine if we could replicate in our own lives the example of the tenth leper (Lk. 17:12) who returned to the One who healed him to express his gratitude. Imagine if we were able to shun the example of the nine lepers whose ingratitude and thoughtlessness easily turns them into poster children of what has come to be known as “the age of entitlement.”

I also thought to myself, “Imagine what our Church would be like if we bishops, priests and deacons lived up to the expectations of our high calling.” Imagine if we clergy and laity were imbued with a vibrant missionary spirit and worked diligently in response to the command of the Lord to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19), starting right here at home in America!

Imagine if we clergy were ever-mindful of the fact that the Priesthood is a precious gift, a vocation and not a job. The Priesthood, its dignity and honor, cannot be bought.  It cannot be sold for “a plate of lentils” (Gen. 25: 29-34).

Imagine for a moment if our liturgical services were as uplifting as those which long ago inspired the words of the Russian emissaries of Prince Vladimir who described their experience of the liturgy in the great cathedral church of St. Sophia in Constantinople in their initial encounter with Orthodoxy: “And the Greeks led us to the edifice where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty…We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.”

Imagine if everyone who is privileged to serve on the Parish Councils of our communities did so for unselfish reasons and not for self-projection or to satisfy some self-perceived importance and indispensability. Imagine if all Parish Council members were men and women of deep and abiding faith who live the sacramental life of the Church.  People who are drawn to and love the beauty of the Lord’s house wherein they experience Christ’s transforming power and sanctifying presence.  People who do not pride themselves in proclaiming that they “meditated on God when they walked by the ocean”!

Imagine how powerful the witness of our Church would be if we would invest more in things eternal and less in things transient. If we would devote as much time to our spiritual edification as we do to our business commitments and social calendars. Imagine if everyone, according to his/her means, was a cheerful giver providing the Church with the necessary financial resources to continue, improve and expand her ministries and services in fulfillment of her saving mission to the world.  Imagine if some of us realized that we contribute less to the Church than it costs us daily to enjoy a fancy cup of coffee or to pay for our cable or satellite T.V. service

Imagine if the criticisms we sometimes hear or make on aspects of church life were less strident. Constructive and not destructive. Mean-spirited attacks are hurtful and divisive. We have been enjoined by the Lord to notice first the log in our own eye before we see the speck in our brother’s eye (Mt. 7:3), and admonished by St. Paul “You have no excuses, O Man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment on him, you condemn yourself because you, the judge, are doing the very same things” (Rom. 2.1). Indeed, in imitation of God we are instructed to be “slow to anger and abounding in mercy” (Ps. 103:8).

Imagine if we parents and grandparents who fault the Church when our children are “not involved” exercised greater discernment, and realized that children learn more by example than by words. That we had to provide a loving environment that nurtures faith and the values of the Gospel. That children emulate the example provided by parents every day of the week, including the seventh.  Staying home Sunday after Sunday for chores, recreation or rest is not what parents should do if we really want to inculcate the Orthodox ethos in our children to produce a living faith and a true Greek Orthodox identity.

Imagine, finally, if everyone – clergy and laity – worked together in harmony by sharing talents, bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), exchanging views, seeking advice, forgiving offences and overcoming misunderstandings (Mt. 6: 14-15), inspiring and supporting one another in the love of Christ.  If we did, surely we would be successful in building stronger Greek Orthodox homes and vibrant communities of faith.

Just IMAGINE!

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February 20th, 2012 by Fr. Greg