Sunday, December 30, 2012

Questions and Answers

On occasion, we take the opportunity for questions and answers. Topics included in this special edition of Be Transfigured! include fasting and confession.


Why do we need to fast for Christmas?

Do pregnant women have to fast?

Is it required to fast on Saturday before receiving Holy Communion?

When do we need to begin fasting for an evening Liturgy?

Do we need Holy Confession before receiving Holy Communion?



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Suffering of Innocents Needs to End

Each year on the Sunday following Christmas, the Orthodox Church commemorates the killing by King Herod of the innocent children while he searched for the new-born Christ. It is a pain we know too well lately with the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School. But it is also a pain most Americans choose to ignore as millions of unborn infants are aborted each year.


The Gospel tells, “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2.18) And yet today, there is little or no wailing for the innocents that continue to suffer in our society at the hands of others. While many are in fact killed, others go without proper food and clothing, others go without a roof over their heads, and still others go without proper medication for illnesses otherwise easily cured.


As we celebrate the health and good fortune of our families this year during Christmas and look forward to the coming year, I pray we can commit to work toward the end of such innocent suffering in our society. It begins when our hearts are burning with pain for these suffering children. It will continue when our pain causes us to act for the good of the innocent children of our society.


There was no comfort for the mothers when thousands of innocent children were killed in search of Christ. We must not allow any more innocent children to suffer just because we are no longer in search of Christ to transform our hearts. Together we can dedicate the coming New Year as the year to inviting Christ to burn in our hearts and cause us to act to save the innocents. Their suffering will only end when our hearts burn.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Light in the Midst of Darkness; Christ is Born!

The coming of The Light into the world as a newborn baby brings hope for a better future. In the midst of the darkness of our daily struggles, we look to the Light of Christ to shine our path easing our pain.


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Problem is Sin

With the recent tragic school shooting last week in Connecticut, the national conversation is again turned to the violence imposed by others upon “the innocent” and what can be done to stop such violent events. I’ve been struggling with what to offer the followers of Be Transfigured! but I keep coming up with “The Problem is Sin.”

You might be saying, “Of course, why state the obvious?” but I’m not sure we really know what these simple four words mean. Maybe I should say the problem is “How we talk about sin.” I think that better characterizes what I’m feeling in past few days since the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The fact that we all feel the need to declare it a tragedy in the first place I think expresses what I mean about “how we talk about sin.” When can a shooting, school or otherwise, ever not be tragedy?

Saint Paul said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3.23) and yet we are constantly attempting to characterize one sin as greater than another. If all fall short, then all sin falls short, shooting or otherwise. All sin becomes a tragedy that must be overcome by spiritual warfare. War on guns, war on drugs, war on poverty….what we need is a war on sin.

Again Saint Paul says,
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7.19-25

If we can embrace this understanding of sin, then we see that the school shooting is no more a tragedy than the countless abortions in the world, or domestic violence, or starving children, or hefty bank accounts, or oversized houses, or divorce, or sexual promiscuity, or jealousy, greed, anger, lust…Saint Paul says it better than I can…
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1.20-32

But thanks be to God! Christmas is not simply a fun-filled, tree-decorated, present-wrapping, snow-covered (except in the South) holiday. Saint John Chrysostom characterized Christmas as the capital of feasts. All other Feasts of the Lord – Epiphany, Transfiguration, Passion, the Resurrection, and Ascension – all follow Christmas. Without Christmas there would have been no resurrection. And as Saint Paul says, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” 1 Corinthians 15.14

This year at Christmas, I invite you to reflect upon the tragedies around you, and don’t stop at the obvious ones, and turn your hearts toward God and have faith in Him. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5.1-5

You see, until we can see sin for what it is, we will never succeed in eliminating tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting from our nightly news casts. Until we can see that our hearts must turn toward God, we will never succeed in realizing that there were actually 28 who lost their lives in the tragedy. Unless we turn our hearts toward God, we will never realize that we are no lesser sinner than any murder. Either all fall for short or not. Either all need the reality of Christmas or not. If not all…..who?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don’t Stop Now….You’re in the Home Stretch

Toward the end of any race we can become fatigued both physically and mentally, and many experience this fatigue with the finish line in sight. It is just then that we must focus our attention on the goal and put everything we have into finishing the race with zeal and a certain level of accomplishment. The same holds true to the spiritual race of fasting for Christmas.

The Church has been encouraging us to fast, at least from meat, since November 15th and Christmas is just days away. We are in the home stretch, and may feel a bit fatigued. But DON’T GIVE UP NOW. The race is almost finished and you can cross the finish line Monday evening during the Divine Liturgy with zeal and feeling a bit of accomplishment, especially if you have never fasted for Christmas before. It just requires a bit of spiritual focus.

The hectic shopping frenzy, the constant news updates about the fiscal cliff, and what seemed like non-stop holidays parties is coming to an end….but we STILL NEED TO CELEBRATE Christmas. While our friends and neighbors are experiencing “burn out” from the holiday craze, we will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy Monday evening.

Keep your focus just a bit more, and spend Christmas Eve in prayer and fasting as “that last push” toward the finish line. Christmas services ACTUALLY BEGIN Monday morning at 8:30am with Royal Hours and Vespers. Then we CONTINUE in worship with Orthros Monday evening at 8pm followed by Divine Liturgy and a community celebration in the Fellowship Hall. See you in Church!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Free Will to Choose God

At no time is it more difficult to understand God’s gift of free will for humans than during a tragedy. The recent shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school challenges each of us to come to terms with His gift of free will for each person, not only those who “follow His rules” and behave as we would expect. God never forces anyone to choose to accept His invitation for a better life, and we shouldn’t try. God has invited each of us to join Him in a heavenly banquet, but if we continue to make excuses, He won’t force us; He will merely allow us to reject His invitation and He will move on to invite others who choose to join Him.



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Shopping During a Down Economy

I’ve been reflecting upon Christmas shopping this year and found myself remembering gifts such as shoes, sweaters, socks, shirts etc from my parents for Christmas along with a few toys and gadgets any boy would love. As a boy I remember not caring much for the clothing, but as I grew older I looked forward to my annual Christmas sweater and socks. Then……I realized what was going on.

What as a little boy I saw as boring presents that NO KID EVER WANTED, I now realize were the clothes I NEEDED that were turned into presents I could unwrap and open. Now as a parent I find myself wondering what my son “will open” on Christmas morning knowing that he already has too many toys, but still needs new clothes and school supplies. I ALWAYS LOVED school supplies in my Christmas stocking…

With the economy still struggling to recover and so many families wondering what to wrap and place under the Christmas Tree, I offer this brief post as encouragement. Identify the things your children NEED for school and clothes etc, and wrap them for Christmas in as many packages as possible. The more packages, the more your children can open. Thankfully Christmas wrapping paper can be found pretty cheap. New pencils, markers, water bottles for lunch, socks, and even underwear make great stocking stuffers. Of course a trip to the dollar store for fun little toys and sweets added to the “mix” will sweeten the morning’s fun of opening Christmas presents.

You don’t need Wii, iPads, and laptops in order to have joy on Christmas morning. The real joy comes when your family attends Church together to give thanks to God for saving us from death, and then returning home to enjoy spending time AS A FAMILY.

Have a blessed Christmas

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Invitation from God is Freely Given and Should be Freely Accepted

Most if not all of us have hosted dinner parties where certain guests that were invited did not attend, and most if not all of us have been invited to dinner parties we have chosen not to attend. I’m sure none of us enjoy attending a dinner party out of obligation and guilt when we would rather be doing something else, and I’m sure none of us would prefer having guests attend our dinner party when they didn’t really want to be there in the first place.


The same is true when it comes to the Heavenly Banquet. The Lord has invited each of us to join Him at the Heavenly Banquet and is waiting for our response. It is a simple invitation: “Come, for all things are now ready.” (Luke 14.17) The rest is up to us…will we accept the Lord’s invitation?


As we hear in the Gospel, not everyone accepts His invitation. When the servants had called all those invited, “They all with one accord began to make excuses.” (Luke 14.18) In response, the Lord didn’t try to guilt them into accepting, nor did He force them to attend. Rather, He went out and invited others to attend so His “House may be filled.” (Luke 14.23)


Only one question remains; will we accept His invitation or make excuses? He won’t force us to accept and He doesn’t want us to come out of fear or guilt. The invitation is freely given to us and He desires us to freely accept it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


You may be suffering with a physical or emotional pain, but hope in the Lord’s deliverance you can endure. The Gospel and the history of the Church brings many examples of faithful men and women with deep faith and patience and devotion to God, and they were all delivered from their suffering. You can also be delivered from suffering with patience and faith in God. Don’t give up hope. Deliverance is giving by all those who seek the Lord.

This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Three Examples of God’s Grace

Saint Anna – mother of the Theotokos

  1.  lived life barren without children into her old age
  2.  in old age prayed to God that she and her husband (Joachim) would dedicate their child to God
  3. in old age, God blessed her with the natural conception of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Nikiforos the Righteous orphaned as a young child
  1. developed leprosy at the age of thirteen
  2. exiled at the age of sixteen to Egypt because of his disease
  3. relocated to Chios at the age of twenty-four to live in a home for lepers
  4. relocated to Athens at the age of 67 when home for lepers closed to live in another leper home
  5. died of leprosy at the age of 74 – never ceasing his praise God, his relics were fragrant with myrrh when they were uncovered. Many miracles have been attributed to St Nikiforos the Righteous. He was canonized on December 2, 2012, by the Holy and Great Synod in Constantinople.

Woman in today’s Gospel (Luke 13.10-17)

  1.  bent over for eighteen years not being able to stand up straight
  2. on “a Sabbath” she was in the Synagogue praying
  3.  God healed her with a mere touch
  4.  she stood up and “glorified God”

Do you still think you’re suffering unfairly?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holy Nikeforos intercede for us

On December 1, 2012, the Holy and Great Synod of Constantinople announced the Canonization of Saint Nikiforos the Leper who fell asleep in the Lord in 1964. You can read some information about our "newest" Saint below...

Holy Nikiforos, interceded for us!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Life is Full of Choices; Choose Christ!

Do you feel like you have lost control of the choices in your life? Are you in a dark period of your life? Many of us are blind to Jesus Christ and His life free from darkness until we call out to Him for mercy. Many will attempt to stop us from calling to Him, but it is our choice whether or not we sit quietly or call to Him even louder, “Lord, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Don’t allow the crowd to make your choices for you any longer. Choose Christ today, and live a life of blessing and light.



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Friday, November 30, 2012

What do property rights have to do with God?

Property rights are at the very foundation of our nation. Wars have been fought over who has them and who has the right take them away. In our American society we acknowledge two types of property rights: real (land) and personal (stuff we own) and there is a very intricate system of laws protecting our property rights as United States Citizens. With the looming fiscal cliff, we are frightened, at least we are supposed to be, by the possibility of our home or our retirement program losing value. But our society has it all wrong….


The reality is that God owns everything. We are only stewards of the gifts He has given us. If you doubt this reality, drive by any cemetery; you will not see any banks, real estate agencies, electronics stores etc. We can’t take anything with us that does not truly belong to us. The only thing that has been given to us, the only thing that is genuinely ours, is our eternal soul…the rest we leave behind.


Please consider this truth of life this Christmas season and find time to reconnect with God in Church. As for the coming fiscal cliff…..human beings have lived many centuries without housing markets and stock portfolios or pension plans, but WE ALL NEED OUR SOULS.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Simple Multiple Choice Life

You are sitting by the side of the road selling boiled peanuts when suddenly Jesus Christ comes walking by surrounded by a crowd of followers. Do you…

A.      Keep selling your boiled peanuts as if nothing special is happening?

B.      Stop selling your boiled peanuts and sit perfectly still so you don’t disturb Him?

C.      Try to sell boiled peanuts to the crowd?

D.      Drop your boiled peanuts, cry out “Lord, Have mercy?” and then follow Him wherever He goes?


Sometimes life is just a simple multiple choice question.


We may not be selling boiled peanuts on the side of the road, but Jesus Christ IS approaching. With Christmas just around the corner, we will be continuously reminded by radio, television, the internet and our friends that Christmas needs our attention. Will we…

A.      Keep shopping at all hours spending more money than we can afford?

B.      Stop shopping and spend a quiet evening at home alone watching television?

C.      Try to get our friends to go out shopping with us?

D.      Forget about all the shopping, come to Church and rededicate our lives to follow Jesus Christ?


Sometimes life is just a simple multiple choice question.

What do YOU say?

If your neighbor says he’s always right, he’s arrogant….
If your neighbor says it always has to be his way, he’s selfish….
If your neighbor says you should do everything he says, he’s a dictator….


If God says He’s always right, HE is….
If God says it should always be His way, He knows better than we do…
If God says we should do everything He says, we should…

What do YOU say?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How Should We Prepare for Christmas?

The arrival of December and the passing of Thanksgiving traditionally usher in the “official” Christmas Season with decorations, Christmas carols and holiday shopping, all supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too often these days, we expend so much energy in our decorations and shopping that we forget the holiday is about our eternal salvation rather than Black-Friday or Cyber-Monday. In fact, for most Christians today, the only preparation for Christmas is just that, decorations and shopping and maybe a little cooking. And to make things worse, with the numerous holiday parties that crowd our calendar beginning sometimes even before Thanksgiving, most of us are too exhausted to truly celebrate Christmas when the day finally arrives.


This is NOT the Orthodox way to prepare for Christmas. We prepare for so many events in our lives; anniversaries, birthdays, namedays, weddings, baptisms, graduations, it would seem appropriate that we prepare for Christmas with greater importance than these other celebrations. The proper way to prepare for Christmas is with prayer and fasting. Beginning with November 15th and lasting until the Divine Liturgy for Christmas, we are invited by the Church to fast AT LEAST from meat, in preparation to receive the gift of Christmas.


As Orthodox Christians, we should delay the celebration of Christmas until we have completed the Divine Liturgy for Christmas, after we have fasted and reflected upon our spiritual readiness for Christ in our hearts. We go to exhausting steps to ensure our homes are prepared to receive our dinner guests, but we forget to prepare our hearts to receive Christ. We clean our silver and china for our holiday meal, but we neglect to clean our hearts for the Divine Meal which is Holy Communion.


I urge you this year to reorient your life into a proper focus for the Christmas Season. I invite you to embrace the fast of the Church as a time to reflect and cleanse your souls and hearts to receive the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ on December 25th. I encourage you to plan to fully engage in the worship and divine services of the Church for Christmas this year.


And then we will celebrate with family, friends, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will feast for two entire weeks until Epiphany in January in honor of the birth of our Lord, God, Savior Jesus Christ. But first…..WE PREPARE!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We are Our Worst Enemies

You’ve heard it said before that we can be our own worst enemies, and nothing can be truer when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ and our journey to heaven. Jesus was met by a certain rich man (Luke 18.18-27) asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Unfortunately for this man, and too often for us as well, he allowed self-righteousness and self-pity to stop him on his journey to eternal life. Our need to continuously place our ego and self-will ahead of the will of God will ultimately draw us away from God full. Thankfully the Church offers a variety of tools such as fasting to assist us in keeping our ego and self-righteousness in check so we can see more clearly the love, mercy and grace of God.


iTunes Audio Subscribe!/id483295178?mt=2


This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Consider Supporting Orthodox Charities with Your Online Shopping

Most of my readers know that Presvytera has an online business at selling Orthodox Christian greeting cards. She has just released a new line of Christmas Cards WITH ICONS. 10% of all sales benefit Orthodox Christian Charities.

Here are the new Christmas Cards...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How Shall We Give Thanks to God?

It’s a typical question around Thanksgiving. “How should we thank God?” God who needs nothing has given us everything as we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “You have brought all things out of nothing into being.” How can we possibly give thanks to God, presuming of course, that we want to give thanks to Him in the first place?

Our ancient Holy Tradition has given us a clear understanding of how we should give thanks to God. We thank Him by making an offering to Him in worship. Cain & Abel, Noah after the Flood, Abraham after He rescued Lot and again after He promised life; these are all ancient examples of how, long before God established the Law with Moses, human beings expressed their gratitude to God. In fact the Thanksgiving Offering, which for us Christians is the Eucharist, is considered a communal experience between the he who offers and He who receives. It was believed in the ancient times that when offering a burnt offering to God on the Altar, God received the “burnt parts” while sharing the “cooked parts” with the person making the offering. This is why we say in the Divine Liturgy, “For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed.”

In the ancient world offerings were of many sorts; wine, oil, bread, wheat, animals, incense, and even money. These each represented an offering equal to our labor. For instance, Cain “brought a sacrifice to the Lord from the fruits of the ground,” (Genesis 4.3) representing the fruit of his labor. His brother Abel did the same, but from his flock of sheep. What represents the fruit of our labor? For most of us today, our money represents the fruits of our labor, but offering money is also nothing new. When Abraham wanted to thank God for saving his nephew Lot, he, “gave him a tithe of all.” (Genesis 14.20)

As Greek Orthodox Christians and especially as Americans, we have much to give thanks to God. We begin by coming to worship, most especially the Sunday Divine Liturgy ON TIME, and participating fully in the service by preparing for and receiving Holy Communion. Then we make our offering to God, which should represent not only our labor but the level of our thanks. The more we have to be thankful for, the more we should thank God. And when the offering is from our heart, as it was from Abel, the Lord will respect it. (Genesis 4.4)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff is Nothing to Fear

NO MORE TWINKIES! That was this week’s top selling “bad news” among business closings and economic downsizing. The coming “Fiscal Cliff” seems to be all consuming these days and most Americans watch the daily news with fear and anxiety for an unknown economic future. But as Christians we do not need to fear the economic future, cliff or no cliff. So long as we keep our hearts focused upon Jesus Christ, we will safely pass over the fiscal cliff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.




This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So, What's the Big Deal about Fasting Anyway?

Today is the first day of the Nativity Fast so I thought I would share some thoughts about fasting in general and why the Orthodox Church considers the discipline beneficial. We are being asked by the Church to fast from AT LEAST MEAT until we celebrate the Nativity of Christ on December 25th. It HAS to be more than just about the food right?

Right! First, we must acknowledge that it is in fact a spiritual discipline and not a diet. The fast is not merely abstaining from meat as much as it is being conscious of our spiritual season. I think more than ever our society has lost sight of the 40 days leading up to Christmas. It has become barely more than an extended shopping season when stores “make it or break it” in their profit margins for the year. When we, as Orthodox Christians, FAST by altering our daily diet, we are making a conscious effort to remain focused upon the spiritual season in which we find ourselves. The same holds true for the weekly fast on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. The very fact that we have to be AWARE what day of the week it is JUST SO THAT we can fast helps us maintain our focus upon the Lord.

Second, we must come to the understanding that our ancient human fallen condition is selfish by default. Ever since Adam and Eve struggle with their will vs. the Will of God in the Garden, human beings have been engaged in a war between our flesh and our soul. St Paul characterizes this well when he says, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; and the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” (Romans 7.19) When we fast in general, but especially when we ALLOW the Church to guide our fasting, we are forcibly placing our will as below the Will of the Church, the Body of Christ. For example, when I tell my body, “There will be no meat for you for the next forty days because I’m offering our time to God EVEN though big juicy beef hamburgers are your favorite food,” we are taking control over our flesh in favor of our relationship with the Lord. It sometimes helps to consider fasting as “self-control training” and “giving up my will for God’s Will” rather than self-denial.  This is also why I don’t advise the “what shall I give up for Lent,” custom popular these days because when WE choose how WE shall fast, then it remains all about OUR will rather than God’s. It might seem trivial, but trust me on this one…..our will is VERY strong which probably explains the whole, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” thing. Fasting helps us focus on God’s Will rather than our own.

Finally, when we fast, we are making an offering of our selves directly to God as Saint Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is you reasonable service.” (Romans 12.1) If we are seeking to unite our bodies with the Lord’s in Holy Communion, which we SHOULD seek, then the least we could do as a beginning is to make an offering to Him of our own flesh, not on the Cross as He did, but in fasting. It is important to remember that “sacrifice” in this context doesn’t mean “slaughter” but “sanctify.” Too often we envision sacrifice as killing rather than the actual “to make holy” which is true meaning in Latin of the word.

So this year for the Nativity Fast (also known as Advent) I invite you to embrace the Fast of the Orthodox Church and make an offering of yourself to God while training your will to be less focused upon your own desires by remaining conscious of the season ahead. Then Christmas will be a glorious celebration.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Good Teacher Requires a Dedicated Student

A teacher is only as good as the student is willing to learn. Not student can learn without a dedicated relationship with a good teacher. Jesus often plays the role as our Good Teacher offering us guidance for our journey to heaven. Our role is to be dedicated students willing to put into action the knowledge that God brings to us. What does the Teacher offer? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then commands “Go and do likewise.”



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Go and do likewise…

We’ve all been there before. We all remember in school how our teacher would help us remember that we already knew the answer to a question. With the wise guidance of our teacher, we all know how to search our minds and our hearts to find the right answer for a variety of questions. But no question is as important as, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10.25)


The Gospel tells us a story of a certain lawyer who wanted to test Jesus by asking a question for which he already knew the answer. Jesus responded to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10.26) After the lawyer precisely quoted from the Law, Jesus said, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” Yet, the lawyer wasn’t satisfied with his attempt to challenge Christ as he pressed on “wanting to justify himself.” (Luke 10.28)


We all know how God wants us to live. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10.27) But are we satisfied or do we want to press Jesus further? The lawyer didn’t really desire to have eternal life. Why else would he press further once the Lord approved of his answer? The Gospel says, “wanting to justify himself,” because his heart was not pure.


It wasn’t enough for the lawyer to know the answer; he need to justify his own actions. The same is true for us. We already know how God wants us to live. The real question is, “Are we living how He desires or are we seeking to justify our own actions that fall short of God’s will in our lives?” God knows the condition of our heart, and when He says, “Go and do likewise,” He means it. The rest is up to us.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tales from L.A. - "It Really Hurts"

I don't normally do this, but I thought this article by Fr John Bakas in Los Angeles was SO good that I asked his permission to repost it here. This article was published in the Orthodox Observer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Here is the full text of the article...




“It Really Hurts”

By Fr. John S. Bakas



From time to time, I get an email or letter that breaks my heart. I’m sure every one of our priests have had their hearts broken in similar fashion. It really hurts.


A few weeks ago, I received an email which read as follows: “My name is Dorothea. I was wondering if you may be able to give me some advice regarding my upcoming wedding ceremony.  My finance Paul and I are getting married early next year.  He was baptized Russian Orthodox and I, Greek Orthodox.  However, we are having a secular ceremony as we consider ourselves Agnostic, while relating to and living by Yogic and Buddhist philosophy. However, I have a deep desire to incorporate some of my Greek heritage into our wedding ceremony. My wish is to honor this part of my Greek culture and bring some of the tradition and ritual to the ceremony. Of course, I understand this is a very tricky thing to do, as the beautiful Greek rituals signify a sacrament that doesn’t quite fit our personal feelings and beliefs.”


I thought a great deal about this email and re-read it several times to get its full impact. I told Dorothea that it would be improper to make up your own spirituality as you please. It is syncretism at its worst. My words didn’t really matter to her. She was polite but very unbending. We rightly send Orthodox missionaries around the world, attempting to evangelize non-Christians in Africa, Southeast Asia, building churches and bringing the Orthodox Faith to them, yet right here in our own back yard we are losing so many of our own.  Just look around in any of our parishes and you will find the lost, the prodigals, the disconnected who have gone off as scripture says “to a far off land” far from Christ and His Church.


I’m afraid so many of us are conflicted about the role and purpose of our Orthodox Faith when it comes down to the parish level. Ask any three people what the role of the church is and you will probably get three different answers. I wonder if Dorothea and fiancé Paul in their spiritually formative years were truly exposed to our real faith, the faith of the Bible, the Fathers and the deep Christ centered worship services of our Holy Tradition. I wonder if their spiritual quest was drowned out by cultural and ethnic pressures and priorities. I wonder if they saw their priest as a true spiritual father, leading them on the road of salvation or a religious “country club” director dressed in black and wearing a cross directing traffic in the diverse expectations and demands of parishioners. Was their sacramental and prayer life more important than the social, athletic and cultural activities that often overwhelm the attention of our focus to our Triune God?  Have we lost the balance?  Do we offer programs just to keep our people involved to show numbers or do we encourage activities as “ministries” of the church leading people to Christ through social, athletic and cultural programs.


I suspect that the overwhelming majority of our people have never read the Archdiocesan Uniform Parish Regulations.  In the Mission statement for each parish in the Archdiocese the following is made abundantly clear. “The diakonia (ministry) of the Parish will include proclaiming and teaching the Gospel in accordance with the Orthodox Faith; sanctifying the faithful through God’s grace in worship, the Divine Liturgy and the other sacraments; enhancing its parishioners’ spiritual life; and adding to the numbers of the faithful by receiving persons into the Church through instruction, baptism and/or chrismation.  In addition, the Parish shall establish educational and philanthropic activities to foster the aims and mission of the Parish and to edify its parishioners in the Faith and ethos of the Church.”


Many well-meaning parishioners and even some parish councils do not fully understand the role of the priest.  Their clichéd role is not just “hatch” (baptism) “match” (weddings) “patch” (counsel) and “dispatch” (funerals). The U.P.R.s clearly states the fundamental role of the priest at the parish level.

“The Priest by virtue of his canonical ordination and assignment heads and administers the parish and exercise on its behalf the priestly duties, which consist in shepherding the Parish entrusted to his care, directing its orderly life, preserving its unity and keeping it faithful to its divine purpose.  He shall sanctify his parishioners through the administration of the sacraments and the performance of all other prescribed services of worship.  He shall also proclaim the Gospel and impart knowledge of the doctrines, traditions, canons and disciplines of the Church.  Further, he shall guide the growth and progress of the Parish in the Christian life through the performance of his pastoral duties.”


It seems so many have different expectations of the Church and Her clergy. What are yours? Are they in accordance with scripture and our Holy Tradition as taught unadulterated since Pentecost? Do we understand the Apostolic succession of the priesthood going back all the way to the High Priest, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ who established the priesthood?


Our Lord’s final command to His priests, His Apostles, was the Great Commission. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo I am with you always even to the end of the age.” MT.28:16-20


I wish someone would have shared the Gospel (Good News) with Dorothea and Paul in their formative years. Perhaps, there would now be an Orthodox priest performing their upcoming wedding. Even though it really hurts,  it’s still not too late. The prodigal son came to his senses and returned to his Father’s house. I pray for the return one day of Dorothea and Paul and so many countless other prodigals to their Heavenly Father’s house, our Orthodox Church.



Fr. Bakas is Dean of Saint Sophia Cathedral, Los Angeles and a faculty member of Loyola Marymount University, School of Theology.


Election Day, Christian Morals, and Political Compromise

In a free society it is understood that we live under a set of “agreed-to rules” and common morals that guide our daily interaction. These rules and morals are established, in our American context, through the election process wherein each citizen is granted an equal voice through the ballot box. The American political system, while many will agree has become corrupt and tainted, has been carefully crafted to protect against oppression and favor freedom. Our electoral system, especially our Presidential electoral system, was crafted to not only grant each citizen an equal voice, but to equalize political power across several sectors. We know this as checks and balances. The Electoral College for example allows for each State to determine, within certain guidelines, how that particular State will cast its electoral votes for President and Vice President. For example, the State of California, based upon population, has been granted 55 electoral votes out of a total 538 in the entire nation. So in California, after all the polling stations have closed and have reported their vote totals, the “winner takes all” system is used and the States casts its 55 electoral votes for a single candidate. There are I believe 2 States and currently split their electoral college votes, but most use the “winner takes all” method.


Why do I go through this? Because after watching and reading so many posts in the recent weeks about this election and how divided our nation is politically, I think it is important to outline what I believe “Political Compromise” really means….


Whether we are using our voice to vote for President of the United States or whether building codes should be rewritten, after the votes are tallied, we agree to live by a “majority rules” method of government. That means, as in the case of California, if the majority votes for President Obama, which it is suggested they will today, then those who cast their vote for Governor Romney, agree to allow the entire State to cast its 55 electoral votes for President Obama. That is political compromise.


Political compromise doesn’t mean compromising your values and convictions and changing your vote. Political compromise means, maintaining your values and convictions, WHILE allowing the majority to rule. And if your values and convictions are not in the majority, then there are built-in systems to change the policies through future elections.


How does this affect our morals? Morals are a system of beliefs and behaviors SHARED by a common group. For Greek Orthodox Christians, our morals are established by God and His Church. For others in America, their morals are guided by other sources. So as Greek Orthodox Christians living in America, we live by two sets of morals, our Greek Orthodox Christian morals and American morals PROVIDED that the American morals don’t conflict. As Greek Orthodox Christians, we embrace political compromise and allow the majority to govern, but that does NOT mean that we change our values and convictions, merely that we allow others their freedom to live their lives, sometimes even choosing to depart from God’s Church.


So when you enter the voting booth today, remember your Orthodox Christian values and convictions and cast your vote. But remember, even when your vote is not in the majority, you never have to compromise your values, just which values become law. That is true freedom which God intended. If we find ourselves as Orthodox Christians in the legal minority, which wouldn’t be the first time in history, that only means we remain a minority, not that have to stop living as Orthodox Christians – loving God with all our heart, mind, body and soul and our neighbor as ourselves.


Have a blessed election day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Which Side are You On?

Throughout life we are faced with a deep chasm in our heart between the pleasures of life and a life dedicated to God. The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) expresses what will happen if we spend too much time digging a canyon so deep we refuse to cross over to be with God. Fortunately for us, God has given us a chance to wash clear the chasm in our heart and cross to the other side in time to spend eternity blessed by God rather than remaining in torment. The choice is ours to make, but it must be now…before we die.


This week’s sermon (November 4, 2012) will air DAILY at 12NOON on Transfiguration Radio or you may download it directly following the links below. We also invite you to subscribe to our VIDEO or AUDIO Podcast via iTunes also using the links below.



Tune in to Transfiguration Radio at -

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Line in the Sand

It is an old expression, “To draw a line in the sand,” which means to set a limit across which you refuse to cross or which you refuse to allow others (or even dare others) to cross. And it is something most of us do every day…normally regretting the outcome. When we draw a line in the sand we tell those around us that we are not willing to listen or negotiate our position. It is a statement of barriers rather than bridges, and it tends to limit progress rather than extend it, which is why most of us regret drawing them to begin with.

But there can be a good line to draw when it comes to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact the line has been draw for us by Jesus Christ and His Church. “And besides all this, between you and us there is great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” (Luke 16.26) This is the line between heaven and hell; a line between loving God and hating Him.

About this gulf, Saint Gregory of Nyssa says, “This, in my opinion, is the gulf, which is not an earthly abyss, that the judgment between the two opposite choices of life creates. Once one has chosen the pleasure of this life and has not remedied this bad choice by a change of heart, he produces for himself a place of empty hereafter. He digs this unavoidable necessity for himself like some deep and trackless pit.” He has “drawn a line in the sand” across which he cannot pass, even he wanted to, after death.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ has drawn a line in the sand and He expects us to choose sides…NOW before we die. Do you choose the pleasure of this life and an eternity of torment, or a life of service to others and the comfort of heaven? You must choose and you must choose soon before it’s too late.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Papou was a Freedom Fighter

With the celebration of Greek “OXI Day” coming on October 28th, I am moved to tell a story about my papou (that’s Greek for grandfather) and his story as a Greek immigrant. This story is a compilation of stories my father shared with me and my own research in 2007 and 2008 while living in Boston, MA. I decided one weekend during my years at Seminary that I would take some time to investigate my papou’s immigration story. Using the valuable resources at, I was able to discover the date my papou arrived in America and the location of his first address. Here is his story…

Angelo Haros (Ευἀγγελος Χαριλάου), my papou, was born in 1900 in the city of Constantinople (today knows as Istanbul, Turkey) and moved early as a child where he grew up living with his family in the city of Argyrokastro in what Greeks know as “Northern Epirus” (today Gjirokastër, Albania), also the birthplace of Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha in 1908.

According to shipping manifests I was able to view at, he arrived in America  in 1923, at the age of 23, (which is how he always gave dates when speaking of his own life history) and went to live in Waterville, ME. While in Waterville he worked, as most immigrants did, in the textile mills along the river, even living in a mill-owned boarding house with several other men. In 2008 I was blessed to travel to Waterville in search of his first American address. I found no building at that location, but after inquiring at the town Assessor’s Office, I was given a copy of the property tax files WITH A PICTURE from, if you can believe it 1922. Though the boarding house was gone, I was able to somehow connect to my papou’s first home thanks to the Assessor’s meticulous files. (As an aside, while investigating Waterville, ME, I can across the name of a “famous” Greek who went to Colby College in Waterville, the current Metropolitan of Pittsburgh, His Eminence Metropolitan SAVAS.)

After living is Waterville for only a few years, my papou returned to Argyrokastron. According to my father, Waterville was too cold. After being married to my yiayia (that’s Greek for grandmother) and having two children, my two aunts, the family returned again to America, this time settling in Chicago where my father was born in 1939. I laughed when my father said Waterville was too cold, because I couldn’t imagine Chicago was any warmer. I don’t suspect, though, that cold was the only reason he settled in Chicago.

There were two things about my papou my father has shared with me that helped fill in the blanks. When my papou arrived in Maine he was told they didn’t “like Greeks” so he changed his name from Harilou to Haros, also a common habit of Greek immigrants. While back home in Argyrokastron, war was rampaging the region among Greeks, Albanians, Germans, and Italians. When he arrived back in America, I imagine living among the large Greek population of Chicago was comforting to him and the family. My father also shared memories of his father hosting several men in secret in their home in Chicago. These men were discussing how they could assist the freedom efforts of the Greeks in Northern Epirus. For his efforts to assist the Greeks in Albania, he was honored by Patriarch Athenagoras, but was also not “free” to return to his homeland.

He spent the remainder of his life dedicated to his family and his Church making Chicago and America his home. He had a deep love for his homeland, but he never returned as the Communist Party held tight control over the only officially declared atheist nation in the world. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1984, at the age of 84, only 7 years before the fall of communism and the restoration of freedom and the Orthodox Church to his homeland.

When I read stories of the restoration and expansion of the Church in Albania I am comforted and smile when I think of how proud my papou would be to hear of the heroism of today’s freedom fighters such as Archbishop Anastasios of Albania who has led the Orthodox Church’s revival throughout Albania following the collapse of Communism.

Freedom is a gift from God and must be defended at all times. Learning my papou’s story helps me understand this. When I celebrate “OXI Day” this Sunday, the day the Greeks refused  to “hand Greece over to the Axis Forces” of Hilter’s Nazi Party, I will fondly think of my papou, the first freedom fighter I ever knew.