Future plans.

Building Permit.

Parish prayer helps everybody.

It is always about morality.

If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind.

Romans 12:4-5, 15-21

06/23 – 07/06 2009. 5th Monday after Pentecost.



Tomorrow is the Nativity of St John the Baptist. Unfortunately, our parish is still in such a condition that I need to work at least a little every week, and Monday and Tuesday are my nursing days. Someday, God willing, I will stop working regularly (I may work once a month only to keep up my nursing license), and we will have many more regular services. If I could, I would serve liturgy for this happy day tomorrow, but, “if wishes were holiness, sinners would be saints” (or so the saying goes!).


We will be a much stronger community when the temple is built. We are getting the permit today. I think I will take a picture of it and post it! We have been waiting a long time. It is my prayer and hope that our little community will maintain its warm, family character, and also expand a little, so we can do more things. I have all kinds of plans, and it remains to be seen which ones are also in God’s plans. I feel confident that a more robust liturgical cycle is among them.


We can do nothing without prayer, and regular services not only benefit those who are present, but also help the entire community. I firmly believe that we would not be building if we had not instituted weekly Thursday liturgies. We also pray before the cross on the land every Thursday evening, and this is also crucial.


We currently serve at least 5 services a week, on four days, with two liturgies. It would be tremendous if, in addition to our regular Thursday Liturgy, where all the faithful of my little flock are commemorated by name in the Fervent Ectenia[1], we had liturgies for very festive days, such as the Nativity of St John the Baptist, St John of Kronstadt, St Seraphim of Sarov and other saints, the beheading of the Baptist (well, not so festal in some senses of the word), and the names day of any parishioner who wants a liturgy to be served (AND ATTENDS).


The health of a parish can be measured in many ways. First and foremost, it should be Christian in word and deed. This is not a “gimme”. I am proud of our little parish, because its people are good, and I am privileged to be their poor shepherd.


Other measurements include the liturgical cycle, the involvement of the flock in services and activities, education, parish growth, and a bunch of intangibles that a pastor looks for and rejoices to see, but does not talk about publicly.


Another important measurement is income. I am not afraid to mention this anymore, because I heave learned that we need to talk about the elephant in the living room. If we had not asked for pledges about two years ago, we would not be building now.



Today we read the “regular” readings for Monday and Tuesday. This is normal practice when a festal service the next day, supplants the regular readings. By “regular”, I mean the readings prescribed for each day, which depend on the time of year. Most readings are dependent on which week after Pentecost it is, and on all days except during Great Lent, we read an Epistle and Gospel selection. During Great Lent, readings are much different, and during the week we read from the Old Testament, and only read the Epistle and Gospel on Saturday and Sunday, with a few exceptions. The readings from Pascha until and including Pentecost are dependent on the liturgical book the “Pentecostarion”. They also include and Epistle and Gospel each day.


You can find the “regular” readings and festal ones in many places. We publish most of them on our calendar (https://www.orthodox.net//calendar). I recommend that Windows users install the Menologion  (http://saintjohnwonderworker.org/menologion.htm). I use it every day. It has the readings, lives of saints and Troparia and Kontakia for each day. You can also edit it and take notes. There are also many places on the web to get the text of the readings, whether in English (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/daily-reading/) or Russian. (http://www.pomog.org/scripture_russian.shtml) If somebody wants to find more places, I will post links.




Monday’s Epistle reads like a check list of the ways a Christian should act. It is quite illuminating that the Apostle Paul, who goes to great lengths to explain the law and how we are NOT saved by doing the works of the law, in the same Epistle stresses living a moral life. This is well understood in the mind of the church. We will not be saved because of doing any good work, but we also will not be saved if we do not do good works. The Christian understanding of grace is that God enables us to become what we are “predestined” (another important topic of Romans) to become: holy and perfected, and able to see God as He is because of our experience. We cannot attain to this calling without living a moral life.


15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.


16 Be of the same mind one toward another.


Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.


17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.


18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.


19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.


20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head[2].


21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:15-21)



All of these instructions refer to our neighbor directly, with only two exceptions (the last part of vs. 16, and vs. 21). If you are a sinner and want to be saved, strive to, as the Apostle tells us, to “overcome evil with good” in all your personal conduct, but especially focus on how you relate to other people.


I have a pet saying (in my crowded kennel): “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind.”  We must take note of how many times the Scripture instructs us in how to deal with our fellow man. This is the key to becoming holy. Although the Greatest commandment[3] is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor, we do not love God if we do not love our neighbor, and cannot grow to love Him if we do not love those whom He loves. Therefore, the greatest measure of whether we fulfill the Greatest commandment is how we fulfill the second, “which is like it”.


Make no mistake! Although these commands are not from the Ten, nor directly from the mouth of Christ, they are directly from God. They are the application of the two greatest commandments.


All these commands are connected by a common thread: humility and knowledge of self, which naturally leads to empathy. With empathy, we not only do not directly sin against our neighbor, but also actively attempt to help in every way, because we feel acutely his condition:


    15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.





Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas






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[1] The “Fervent Ectenia” (litany of fervent supplication) is a two part series of petitions right after the Gospel reading in Liturgy. Various additional prayers of supplication can be inserted here, such as for the sick, or travelers, or the “Petitions for Various Needs”, in which anyone the celebrant desires is commemorated by name. In our parish, these latter petitions are added to the Ectenia, and the names of all those in the parish are mentioned aloud two times.

[2] “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink;  (22)  for so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee with good.” (Proverbs 25:21-22 Brenton  Sept. )

[3] “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  (37)  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  (38)  This is the first and great commandment.  (39)  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  (40)  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:36-40).

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas