Thursday, March 31, 2016

We Need the Church

As human beings we sometimes feel paralyzed without help. We
sometimes feel we can’t possibly reach Christ. At that moment it helps to
always remember we have the Church to help us. Just as the paralytic whose
friends lifted him over the wall so he could reach Christ (Mark 2.1-12), the
members of the Church have been given to us to help us in those moments we can’t
do it alone. If the paralytic had been alone, he would have remained outside
the house and never reached Christ. We can’t reach Christ without the Church,
as we profess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. We believe in One Holy
Catholic and Apostolic CHURCH, and just as the paralytic needed his friends, we
need the Church.

Hello. My name is Father Athanasios Haros. I'm the pastor here at the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and I'm your host for Be Transfigured Ministries. Here at Be Transfigured, as we say, "We invite you to live a new life in Christ." We feature our sermons, and our Bible studies, and other special events in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to join us living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll join us. I'll be back in a moment after this video to share some information about our ministry.

When I was in eighth grade my Sunday school teacher asked me a question, asked all of us there in the class. She said, if you were on an airplane and the pilot was on the recording there saying that you were about to crash, what would you be thinking about? We were in eighth grade. We're going to miss our mom, we're going to do this, we're going to do that. She said, I want you to always know, if you're in any situation like that, that somewhere in the world, there is an Orthodox Christian praying for you. I have never forgotten that because as I grew older and understood time zones, and realizing just for very practical things, there is at least one Church or monastery in every time zone of the world.

Which means we're celebrating the Liturgy, we just read the Gospel. Now, in an hour, there's a whole other series of Churches in the entire world that will begin the Divine Liturgy and read the Gospel, the same Gospel that we just read. Will pray for travelers. It was a comfort to me, even though I was only in eighth grade, to know that because I was part of this global Church, untied in some mystical way ... I have to admit as an eighth grader, I had no clue how we were connected. I'm still not quite sure I understand it. I was comforted knowing that I had someone praying for me somewhere in the world at that moment. That is the incredible benefit that God has given us in His Church.

In this morning’s Gospel, we hear a perfect example of it. Here is this paralytic. Christ is teaching in this house, and it is so filled with people listening, you can't even get in the door. This paralytic is being brought by his friends and they can't get in. If it wasn't for his friends, first of all, he wouldn't have been there to begin with. Second of all, if it wasn't for his friends, and he had arrived at the house whether he had dragged himself or however he would have gotten there, he would have been stuck remaining outside the door. His friends didn't give up hope in him. His friends climbed up on to the roof. Tore a hole in the roof, lifted him up over the walls, down through the hole, and placed him right in front of God.

What did the Lord say? It says in the Gospel, "Seeing their faith." Christ knew that he wouldn't have been there if it were not for those four friends. He says, "Your faith has made you well." We need the Church. We can't do it alone, or we're going to be stuck outside the doors. When you need it, when you need that extra boost, you're not going to call the friends you go to the bars with, you're going to call your friends from Church. "Listen, I'm really having a tough time today. I'm really finding it difficult to be motivated, to live like God wants me to live." Or the practical things. "John, it's Lent, but I've got nothing to eat but hamburgers." "Okay, I'll be right over, I got some soup, my mom just made it."

This is true. This is the great benefit that God has given us in His Church. Where we are paralyzed in our weakness like this paralytic. Our friends are strong enough to lift us up, and the serious things too. Sitting in your dorm room, it's finals, it's been a long semester. You're not quite sure if you can really make it to the end. Mentally your spent. Emotionally, you haven't slept in four days. Not only are you panicking about the exam, but Yiayia calls and says, "Don't forget to go to Church on Sunday." How am I going to get to Church? I have all this stuff to do. Thank God for OCF. Thank God that you have a group of people on your campus, at least most of you do, who you can call and say, "I can't do it, I need help." "I'll come pick you up, we'll go to Church."Don't ever sell each other short.

When we say in the Nicene Creed that we believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we believe very specifically that the Church helps us be saved. Not the brick and mortar Church, although that has blessings too. But the people of God, that my Sunday school teacher way back when tried to help me understand. Some Matushka, somewhere some Staretz, somewhere some Geronda to somewhere praying for me because I have maybe no one to pray for me. I might feel I'm all alone. You may feel sometimes you have no one. I want you to remember in those moments, you have me, and you have the Bishop, and you have each other praying for you so you don't get left outside the door in your paralysis, in your sins, in your struggles. Then Christ will say, "Get up. Rise and take up your bed and walk." We'll know that it was because of our friends at Church, not on the football team that helped get us there.

We have been mystically in our baptism united to each other. One to each other, and to Christ. Christ lifts us up, He gives us the Church, and sometimes our friends have to put us up over the wall inside the house. Don't ever forget that in your lives. I have never forgotten and I promise you, that in those moments when I didn't think it was going to make any sense, I remembered the words of my Sunday school teacher. I have thanked her multiple times since then. She said to me, "I said that, really?" A very holy woman. She's still alive. A very holy woman. You're not alone. We have Christ in each other and the Church. Glory to God for all things.

Well I'm back and I hope this video was an inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please share our message of hope with your friends and family, and invite others to live a new life in Christ. Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries by joining us on our website at You can also find many of our videos on the Orthodox Christian Network, our partners at As we say at Be Transfigured, until next week, God bless you, and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Be Transfigured is a production of the Transfiguration of Our Savior, Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions and support of this ministry may be sent to, Be Transfigured, 2990 South Cashua Drive, Florence, South Carolina, 29501, or online at our website at

The Lord God is my Strength and my Song

You will say in that day: "I will give thanks to thee, O LORD, for though thou wast angry with me, thy anger turned away, and thou didst comfort me. "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." Isaiah 12.1-2

Words of comfort can come from God at any moment, and in any form. Today’s words from the Prophet Isaiah finish with these words of hope and gratitude that God has not held our sins against us. As we approach the end of our third week of Great Lent, it is good to remind us that our sins have not been held against us.  God has come to save us. His Cross, which we will celebrate this coming Sunday, has brought life to the world. We can trust God and know that He will save us.

I can’t help but share my thoughts about how we share our gratitude to God for not holding our sins against us. Too many in our modern world understand God’s mercy as free license to continue a life of sin, not even attempting a life of holiness. Too many in our modern world understand God’s unfailing love as license to ignore repentance. “If God is going to love me no matter what, why should I change? God made me this way, and He loves me.”

If we were genuinely thankful for God’s mercy, then we should live a life of continual repentance. While it might be impossible for us to live without sin, that should not be considered permission to stop trying. We owe our dedication to God as thanks for His Cross. “The LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Ark of Salvation is the Church

Today’s Reading from Genesis 7.6-9 - Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

Just when you think you are about to drown in the struggles of life, remember these few verses from today’s reading in Genesis. At the old age of six hundred, Noah and his family were taken into the Ark and saved from the flood. You may not be six hundred, but you WILL be taken into the Ark of Salvation and saved when you join yourself to Christ.

As we read the stories of the Old Testament, we must remember that God, since that moment when Eve ate the fruit, was been preparing the world to receive the Savior Christ. Stories such as the Great Flood remind us that as human beings we tend toward sin and death, but God never forgets us.

The Church is the Ark of Salvation and when we join the Church, we join Christ and enter into His Ark to be saved from the flood of death that surrounds us. Noah and his family floated for many days on the waters until they subsided. Likewise we will float for many days until the waters subside and we enter into God’s Kingdom.

This is an appropriate image to hold during Great Lent, when our fasting and increased prayer, worship, and almsgiving attract the attention of the devil who continually sends waves of struggle against our life. The waves won’t last forever. Noah eventually set his feet on dry ground, and you will eventually set your feet in heaven.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Great Lent is about Wisdom

Today’s Reading from Proverbs 8.32-9.11 - And now, my sons, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death." Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who is without sense she says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight." He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

When we hear the teachings of God we might be taken by the boldness of His words. We are happy only when we keep His ways and listen to Him. When we watch for Him we find life. As we approach the half-way point of Great Lent, it is good to be reminded that there are two ways of life, one of God and the other of death. Christ said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8.35)

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Veneration of the Holy Cross, a symbol of death that represents life. Great Lent is about dying to the world so we can life in Christ. It is about increasing in the wisdom of God. But don’t give up now; you’re almost halfway through the fast. This is week three of our annual growth in the wisdom of God.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Grace in Orthodox Worship

While at a retreat for college students this past weekend, I witnessed the power and grace of Orthodox Worship. Following the service of the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (sung the first five Fridays in Great Lent) a young woman approached to receive Holy Confession. She had an urgent look on her face, but we couldn’t go just then as the next activity for the retreat was about to begin. Calmly (she REALLY wanted to confess right then!) I told her we could go as soon as this activity was completed. She agreed.

As promised, as soon as the activity was completed, we went into the Chapel for her confession. Of course I can’t and won’t tell you what she confessed, but that isn’t really what is important for this particular blog post. You see the woman isn’t even Orthodox. In fact she hasn’t been to Church ANYWHERE for more than three years. Her friend, who is Orthodox, invited her to attend this weekend retreat for college students, so she came not know what to expect.

Anyone who has been Orthodox Christian since birth cannot truly appreciate what this young woman experienced. Orthodox worship can be overwhelming even for members of the Church. Incense, standing a long time (especially for the Akathist Hymn – the service is actually named “Non-Seated” for goodness sake), strange melodies, pictures of unknown people on the wall, people kissing this strange pictures; you get the picture. Nothing about this young woman’s first Orthodox worship experience was familiar to her.

But there she was, face to face with Orthodox Christian worship and the Holy Icon of the All Holy Mother of God, and she was moved (I suspect) forever, at least enough that she felt the need to confess right then and there. Looking back, I think it must have been similar to the stories in the Holy Scriptures. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2.37, 41)

This young woman didn’t ask for Holy Baptism. I doubt I would have consented if she did, at these in the middle of a retreat, but I am confident the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart. For that I am thankful and personally strengthened. The power of our worship is something we should never ignore. Do you have a friend like this young woman who hasn’t been to Church in years? Invite her to Church the next chance you get. The Holy Spirit might speak to her too, because there is grace in Orthodox worship.

By the way, since the young woman is not Orthodox Christian,  I listened to her confess to God, but was unable to offer the prayer of forgiveness as I am limited to only offering the prayer for Orthodox Christians.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Benefit of Church

In the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Great Lent, the Church draws our attention to the benefit of Church in our struggle to reach Christ. Contrary to what we might think, we need the Church in order to reach Christ, just as the paralytic man needed his friends in order to reach Christ. Then he could be healed, and so can we.

According to the Gospel (Mark 2.1-12) Christ was surrounded by a large crowd who had gathered to hear His teaching. The crowd was so large, a paralytic being carried by his four friends couldn’t fit in the house. If not for his friends, the paralytic would have been left outside while the rest of the crowd was blessed by God. But when his friends helped him by climbing up and tearing a hole in the roof, then he was able to reach Christ and be healed.

During our Great Lenten journey, the Church is here to help us, just as the friends of the paralytic, reach Christ. We don’t have to sit outside the gates of His House, while others are blessed on the inside. With the help of our fellow Church members, we reach Christ. We fast together. We pray together. We learn together. We worship together. We help others together. We laugh and cry together. We reach Christ together.

Spend the remaining weeks of Great Lent carrying each other as a Church so we can reach Christ and His Resurrection together. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What is a Synaxis?

Today is the Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, and I’m guessing most don’t know that that means. In Orthodox circles lately we’ve been hearing the word “synaxis” a lot in reference to the recent gathering of the heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church as they prepare for the coming Great Synod in June. We might be able to put two and two together that synaxis refers to bring (at least) two things (or in the case of the Church, people) together in one place, and we would be correct. What in the context of today’s calendar even known as the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, it only mentions one angel, name Gabriel. How can that be a synaxis?

Sometimes you just have to take a step back to see more clearly. The Church as brought together two celebrations on the calendar, namely yesterday’s Feast of the Annunciation and today’s honoring of Gabriel as he was a ‘main player’ in the Feast. This is quite typical in the Church to honor a ‘main player’ in a Feast the day after.

Other examples include:
Feast of Christmas on December 25 – Synaxis of the Theotokos on December 26
Feast of Theophany on January 6 – Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist on January 7
Feast of Pentecost (this year) June 19 – Monday of the Holy Spirit (this year) on June 20
Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos on September 8 – Synaxis of Joachim and Anna on September 9

Just another blessed opportunity to learn from the Calendar. Just as you can tell the important people in someone’s life by looking at their day timer, you can better understand the important people in the life of the Church by paying careful attention to the Church calendar.

Remember today oil and wine are allowed because it is Saturday.

Have a blessed Lent,

Father Athanasios

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Lost Opportunity to Celebrate

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the commemoration of when Archangel Gabriel told the Panagia (All Holly Mother of God) that she was going to bear a son, and He would save the world. The Greek word of the Feast is Ευαγγελισμός which translates to “Good News” from which ultimately we receive the word Gospel. The Feast is always during Great Lent and is celebrated by easing the fast, and fish is allowed.

For many American Orthodox Christians for whom the Great Lent fast is limited only to meat, today’s sense of celebration is lost. “Why do we eat fish? I thought we were supposed to be celebrating?” are the two common questions I hear. It wasn’t until recently (past twenty years or so) Greek Orthodox parishes in America stopped hosting steak dinners for Greek Independence Day, also celebrated today. Many still can be heard complaining the Church is forcing them to fast when they should be celebrating.

This is one prime example of how the understanding and appreciation of the Orthodox Christian Faith can be lost if the Faith is not being fully practiced. For those attempting the strict fast during Great Lent, the offering of fish today is a delight to the stomach and tongue. It becomes a genuine celebration. When we embrace the idea of feasts AND fasts on the Church calendar, then we appreciate both. You cannot feast unless you fast, just as you can’t have joy without sorrow. Today is a feast, so express with joy and celebrate with a fish sandwich at the very least. The fast will continue again tomorrow, though as with last weekend, oil will be allowed. Until then....enjoy the feast.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Don’t Wait Until You Retire

There is a story about an American cabbie on vacation in Greece. The cabbie has worked many hours for many weeks earning his vacation and is very much looking forward to spending a couple weeks relaxing in the Greek splendor he has heard so much about. Upon arriving in Greece he finds himself on a street corner in Athens surrounded by dozens of cafes filled with cabbies, their cabs all parked along the sidewalk. The American cabbie walks around asking to hire a cab, and is greeted continually with, “I’m sorry I’m done for the day.” Finally he asks one driver why he is finished driving for the day since it is only NOON. The driver says, “I’ve made enough money for today and I am enjoying the rest of day in the cafe with my friends.” The American cabbie is shocked and asks, “But why not keep working to earn more money? In America we work long days so we can eventually retire and enjoy vacations.” “And what would I do on vacation?” asks the Greek cabbie. “You could sit and enjoy the cafe with your friends.” Laughing, the Greek cabbie says, “I’M ALREADY DOING THAT!”

In America we tend to focus so completely on building wealth, we are blind to what is available to us in the present. Of course, since this is a Daily Lenten Journey post, you can imagine I’m not going to speak about sitting in the cafe in Greece. What is right in front of you today is your salvation. You don’t have to wait until you are elderly and approaching death to work on your soul’s relationship with God. Great Lent offers a prime opportunity to dedicate extra time in your building your soul.
Proverbs 6:3-20 - Then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into your neighbor's power: go, hasten, and importune your neighbor.  Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer or ruler, she prepares her food in summer, and gathers her sustenance in harvest.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a vagabond, and want like an armed man.  A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, scrapes with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing. There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.  My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.
In today’s readings from Proverbs we see what the Lord has to say about spiritual laziness. There is plenty of inspiration to get off the couch and “find a job” in our society, but hardly any effort to encourage you to wake your soul from sleep and build up your relationship with God. The American cabbie could just have encountered a Church filled with drivers rather than a cafe during Great Lent. Don’t wait until you retire to spend time with God. Take advantage of Great Lent NOW and “save yourself” and follow the Lord.

Get up from your spiritual couch and go to Church.  Tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, when the Church commemorates the Archangel Gabriel’s Good News to the Panagia that she would bear God. Make plans TODAY to spend some time in Church tomorrow. Don’t wait until you retire. It may be too late!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Soul of Man Yearns for God

In today’s reading from Genesis we heard, “At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 4.26) As you read Genesis over and over (I suggest reading as often as you can) you will begin to see the story flow. The daily readings break the story up in ‘easy-to-read’ segments which sometimes make it difficult to appreciate the flow of the story. Today’s reading (read Genesis 4.16-26) includes the departure of Cain with his lineage, and then the story returns to Adam and Eve with the birth of Seth. The reading concludes with a hint at our soul’s yearning...but you have to step back to really see it.

As you step back and look again at the creation story you will remember that man is created in the Image of God. In the dialogue following the Fall, we see clues that the Image has been clouded. “Now he has become like one of Us,” (Genesis 3.22) are the final words before we were expelled from the Garden. Now today we see immediately that “men began to call upon the Lord.” Don’t let anyone fool you. Religion is not man-made, but a result of our soul’s attempt to return to God.

Our Great Lenten Journey allows our soul the opportunity to spend more time with God, rather than the hectic temptations the world has to offer. But we must make the effort to set aside time for our soul to commune with God. What a perfect opportunity this evening by attending the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts in your Church? Give your soul what it yearns, give it Holy Communion.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Fight Against Greed

Today’s Reading from Old Testament: Isaiah 5:7-16 - Thus says the Lord: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!  Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.  The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: "Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.  For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah."  Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them!  They have lyre and harp, timbrel and flute and wine at their feasts; but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.  Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst.  Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who exults in her.  Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.  But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
It was just Friday evening during the first Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, that we heard Jesus say, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” (John 15.5) If we combine the reading from Akathist and today’s reading from Isaiah, we can understand that we (Orthodox Christians) are not a new established Church, but a continuation of the ancient people of God, the House of Israel that is referenced in today’s reading from Isaiah.

Look again at the state of the vineyard as described today by the Prophet Isaiah. The Lord saw bloodshed, selfishness, people who cared more about parties than the Word of God. We also read of the murder of Abel by Cain in today’s reading from Genesis, the first bloodshed in the Lord’s vineyard. Greed is the root of every human sin. We either want something we don’t have, or we have something we don’t want others to have.

Our Great Lenten journey is about defeating our passions by increased prayer, increased fasting, and increased almsgiving. As you continue through your second week of Great Lent this week, consider how you might show signs of greed in your interactions with others. We ALL have these tendencies as an inheritance from Adam and Eve. But God is righteous and has put in motion a plan to save us from ourselves....if only we allow Him.

Have a blessed Lent,

Father Athanasios

Monday, March 21, 2016

A New Week; A not-so-new Journey

As we begin the second week of Great Lent, the readings from the Old Testament continue with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, something the Church just one week ago highlighted on Forgiveness Sunday. Here is the blog I wrote about Forgiveness Sunday and the importance of seeking forgiveness during Great Lent. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, this would be a good time to make an appointment with your spiritual father for Holy Confession.

Today Readings from Genesis 3:21-4:7 -  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.  Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever"- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.  Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."  And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.  In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.  The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
As our readings continue in Genesis, I invite you first to consider the journey you are on this year. Have you sinned? We all have. It is because of sin that humanity now must struggle to stay alive outside the Garden. Do you struggle to keep the fast? We all struggle. It will be the struggle that helps you see your sin and urges you to repentance.

Secondly, I invite you to consider your fasting as an offering to God. Is your offering out of love or obligation? Cain made an offering to God out of obligation, while his brother Abel offered the best he had to God out of love. The Lord accepted the offering of Abel rather than Cain, which cause great anger in Cain. If you are fasting out of obligation, without love for God, then as the Lord warned Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

This week, you are bound to encounter more emotion in regard to the fast. You will begin to ask yourself why those around you are not fasting, but they don’t seem any less blessed AND they get to enjoy their steak sandwich. You may find yourself getting angry that YOU are being obedient and YOU should be rewarded. Why are YOU struggling? Is it worth it? That will be the moment you need to re-read our Genesis lesson today, and pray you don’t fall victim to the anger as did Cain. Ask the Lord to take away your anger, and replace it with His peace. Fortunate for you, you are on the same journey as millions of other Orthodox Christians this year, and hundreds of millions over the centuries.

Don’t give up! It is only a new week; it is a not-so-new journey.

Have a blessed Lent,

Father Athanasios

You Don’t Have to Make it Up

It has become very popular to make up your own religion by
accepting one belief and rejecting another, or following one practice but
inventing a new individual custom to follow. There is a better way. For
centuries holy men and women, righteous figures of the Old and New Testament,
have been following a way of life established by God, and they “were well
attested for their faith.” (Hebrews 11.39) The way of life Christ has given His
Church, the Orthodox Way of Life, has been tried and tested, defended and
perfected, for centuries, so we could receive this Holy Tradition today. This
is the faith of the Orthodox that is celebrated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. God
became man, so that man could be united to God. This is the truth the Church
has defended in Holy Icons and our way of life. And that belief has
consequences. Do you believe? Then follow the Church. Do you want to follow
Christ? Then follow the way of life He has already given to us in His Church.
You don’t have to make it up.

Hello. My name is Father Athanasios Haros and I'm the pastor here at The Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and I'm your host for Be Transfigured Ministries.

Here at Be Transfigured, as we say, we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We feature our sermons, our Bible studies, and other special events in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to join us in living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll join us.

I'll be back in a moment after this video to share some information about our ministry.

It never ceases to surprise me just how many people prefer making up their own religion. A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone and we were talking about the human body. We were talking about how in Orthodox Christianity we consider the body to be a sacred vessel of the Holy Trinity. Part of our conversation was that I was sharing with this person that we as Orthodox Christians believe that because God came and became a human being, and because in our baptism we are united to Jesus Christ, and because in receiving Holy Communion we are in physical union with God, that we believe the human body to be a sacred thing. As St. Paul teaches in the Scriptures that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and part of this conversation, I was sharing that this is why in the Orthodox Church, we do not allow cremation because cremation is an intentional destruction of the human body. It is done with compete disrespect. Hosing things down into the sewers. It is absolutely desecrating to the human body and therefore not respectful of the temple of the Holy Spirit because God came into the world as a real human being and sanctified human flesh. This person said to me, "Well, that's very interesting how you respect the human body but that really has nothing to do with salvation."

That's exactly what I said. "What?" I said, "But for us Orthodox it has everything to do with salvation." This is why today we are celebrating the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We have just completed the first week of our Great Lenten journey and today we are commemorating a historical event in the Church that held up and defended the truth, not simply of a piece of wood, but the truth of Jesus Christ incarnate, becoming a human being.

You see, in the ancient Church, my brothers and sisters, there were many who believed that Holy Icons were idolatry. If you look into your history books it isn't because of Christian teaching, it was actually because of the Islamic influence over the world at the time. We're talking around the 700s. There was a big movement in the Church to remove Holy Icons and in 787 AD the Church gathered what we today call the Seventh Ecumenical Council and once and for all defended the truth of Christ. That he came in human flesh and because he came in human flesh, we ought to depict him, we ought to paint him, in Holy Icons.

Icons are not merely a decoration in our Church. They are a declaration of the truth of Christ. The God of the Universe. The God who created everything with just the spoken word came and became one of us. Human flesh and blood. He was hungry. He was tired.  That truth, my brothers and sisters, has consequences.

As I was trying to share with this gentleman when we were having this conversation, if we really believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and united humanity to Him, then that belief must have consequences. The consequences are that we must treat each other as if, according to St. Paul, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. With dignity, with love, with respect. Not just when we're living but also when we're dead. This is why in the Orthodox tradition we treat the human body, even after death, with prayer. We respectfully, and prayerfully put the body into the grave.

Why do I bring that up today? Because people around us are always making up their own religion my brothers and sisters. Even some of us try to make up our own individual practices of Orthodox Christianity. It's Great Lent and many of us will sit in our comfort of our living room and think to ourselves, "Hmm, what shall I fast from this year? Maybe I'll give up chocolate, or maybe I'll do this, or maybe I'll do that." We have forgotten that the Church already has a way that has been tried, and tested, and laid out, and prepared for us called Holy and Great Lent. The Church has already answered the question, "How should we fast during Great Lent?" The Church has already answered the question, I received this question just yesterday, about a special book that we should read during Great Lent. The Church has already answered that question. It has very specific scripture readings for the days assigned to Great and Holy Lent. Why not begin with the Church my brothers and sisters? Why do we always think that we have to reinvent the wheel? Why do we always think we have to recreate our own religion?

I suspect it has something to do with our individualism that has been so enshrined in our American system. We believe what we want to believe. We are individual. We take care of ourselves. We pull up ourselves from our bootstraps. All of these individualism ideals, but when it comes to our faith it has been given to us by God.

Listen to what St. Paul said. We heard it just a few minutes ago but I'm going to read it again. He was referring to the Holy men and women of the Old Testament and he said, "Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scouragings, yes, and of chains and imprisonments. They were stoned. They were sawn in two. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, tormented."

My brothers and sisters, these righteous men and women of the Old Testament endured these sufferings for the faith that we have received. St. Paul goes on, "Of whom the world was not worthy." He goes again, "They wandered in deserts, and mountains, and dens, and caves of the earth." He says, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise God had provided. Something better for us." He says that, "They should not be made apart perfect from us." In other words, all of these Holy men and women were loyal to the faith and the religion that God had established in the Old Testament but God did not want them to receive any greater blessing than we. Nor did he want us to receive a greater blessing than them. The Old Testament did not receive the full promise. The full promise comes when Christ returns and ushers in His final Kingdom.

Why is this important to remember on the Sunday of Orthodoxy? Because we, my brothers and sisters, are engaged in a spiritual battle for all eternity. How we spend these next few weeks in our Great Lenten journey ... If we choose to embrace the journey that Christ has given us in His Church, we will follow voluntarily, the same path that the Old Testament prophets, and Holy men and women did. We will follow voluntarily, the same path that these Holy men and women did who are depicted on the walls of our Church.

It's a life of struggle. It's a life of suffering because the world will reject our way of life, but it's a life following the truth of Christ. Because as when we process this afternoon and we carry our Icons out of the Church for everyone to see, we are reminding the world that the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, became a human being so that we might be united to God forever.

If we really believe that, my brothers and sisters, let's trust the Church. Trust the thousands of years of experience of Holy men and women who have already learned how to live their faithful lives in a world that wasn't so friendly to their faith. If you really want to follow Christ in these few weeks of Great Lent, follow the Church. Fast as much as you are able within the guidelines of the Church. Don't worry about making up your own rules. The Church has already figured that out for us. If you really want to follow Christ during this Great Lent, pick up your Holy Scriptures and read the readings assigned for the day. I'll give you a hint. Tomorrow, if you open up your Scriptures and read the readings for the day tomorrow, you're going to read in Genesis how Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden as a reminder of why we're involved in this Great Lenten journey to begin with.

Christ came to restore what was broken, to recreate humanity from within. He could have called down from Heaven and said, "Hey, you guys down there! You're forgiven." Instead, he came and he made us part of Him. He became one of us. That truth, my brothers and sisters, is what this beautiful thing that we call Orthodoxy is all about. Living a life trying to wrap our minds around that truth of God being made man so that we could be united to Him forever. All we have to do is live the life of the Church. Trust the Church. We don't have to make up our own rules. It's already been tested and perfected by the Holy righteous men and women of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, and our Church history. Our job is to follow them. Glory to God in all things.

Well, I'm back. I hope this video was an inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please share our message of hope with your friends and family and invite others to live a new life in Christ.

Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries by joining us on our website at You can also find many of our videos on the Orthodox Christian Network, our partners, at As we say at Be Transfigured. Until next week, God bless you and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Be Transfigured is a production of the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions in support of this ministry may be sent to Be Transfigured, 2990 South Cashua Drive, Florence, South Carolina 29501 or online at our website

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Faith that has Established the Universe

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday of Great Lent, and the day on which the Church celebrates both a historical and theological victory. After centuries of debate on the practice and appropriateness of Holy Icons in Christianity, the Church still suffered the influence of Iconoclasts (those who fought to destroy Holy Icons) even after the Seventh Ecumenical Council declared them appropriate and good for worship. It wasn’t until the Empress Theodora in 843 CE (56 years AFTER the Seventh Ecumenical Council which took place in 787 CE) finally and forever restored Holy Icons into the Great Church along with a procession of the Patriarch and the Clergy. The event took place on the first Sunday of Great Lent. After more than one hundred years of debate and violence, the Church finally had be properly restored to her glory with Holy Icons.

For more than a thousand years on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Church has commemorated this historical event with a procession of Holy Icons in our Church. Unfortunately, most Churches limit this procession to a quaint procession often including children holding their favorite Icons from home walking around the interior of the Church. The “outside world” never has a clue as to what is taking place inside the walls of our Church. Empress Theodora PUBLICLY restored the Holy Icons with a grand procession, yet we quietly and in private declare the truth of the faith. Thankfully there is a growing number of Churches that are restoring the custom of a public procession similar to the Holy Friday procession with the Epitaphios of Christ.

Here is video of our procession held in Florence, SC a few years ago.

If we are going to take seriously our Great Lenten journey, today we have another example of the truth of the Church that has been promoted for nearly two thousand years. We can trust that the Church, which has remained vigilant about the unchanging truth, has also guided us along our Great Lenten journey. Today, as we process around the Church, either inside or outside, holding our favorite Icon from home, we can be comforted knowing we are walking in the footsteps of the thousands of holy men and women who over the centuries publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ and His Church. In every Orthodox Christian Church throughout the world today, the following proclamation:

From the proceedings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy
All As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as grace has illumined, as truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dispelled, as wisdom has presented, as Christ has triumphed; this we believe, this we declare, this we preach: Christ our true God, and His saints we honor in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in temples, in icons, on the one hand bowing down and worshiping Christ as God and Master, on the other hand honoring the saints as true servants of the Master of all, and offering to them due veneration.
This is the faith of the Apostles!
This is the faith of the Fathers!
This is the faith of the Orthodox!
This is the faith which has established the Universe!
Therefore with fraternal and filial love we praise the heralds of the faith, those who with glory and honor have struggled for the faith, and we say: for the champions of Orthodoxy, faithful emperors, most-holy patriarchs, hierarchs, teachers, martyrs and confessors: may their memory be eternal.
(Sing) Everlasting be their memory; • Everlasting be their memory; • Everlasting be their memory.

Let us beseech God that we may be instructed and strengthened by the trials and struggles of these saints, which they endured for the Faith even unto death, and by their teachings, entreating that we may to the end imitate their godly life. May we be deemed worthy of obtaining our requests through the mercy and grace of the great and First Hierarch, Christ our God, through the intercessions of our glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, the divine Angels and all the saints. Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What Does Kolyva (Boiled Wheat) have to do with Great Lent?

On the first Saturday of Great Lent, the Church offers a memorial service using the traditional boiled wheat mixed with sugar and spices and decorated in many beautiful ways. This special wheat is known as Kolyva. Unfortunately many people do not know why the Church celebrates a memorial service on the first Saturday of Great Lent, because it is commonly MISnamed a Saturday of Souls. In ignorance the Church uses the terms first, second and third Saturday of Souls for the three Saturdays ending with the first Saturday of Great Lent, but in actuality only the first of these is a Saturday of Souls. You may not think the terms is important, but for a Saturday of Souls (there are only two in the year) the Church commemorates the ENTIRE life of the Church through the centuries. On the other two Saturdays, including today’s Saturday, a “normal” memorial service is offered and the Church commemorates the names of those family members and community members whose families have brought a Kolyva. But the question still exists, “Why a memorial service on the first Saturday of Lent? What does kolyva have to do with Great Lent?”

In the year 362, during the first week of Great Lent, the Emperor Julian the Apostate (the word apostate means he left the Church rejecting her teachings) attempted to poison the Christian faithful. Knowing they were fasting for the first week of Great Lent, he gave orders to poison the food sources with blood that had been offered to idols, knowing the Christians wouldn’t eat the food and be forced either to starve or eat the blood from idols. Saint Theodore the Recruit (also known as Tyre or Tyron) visited the Archbishop in the dream warning the people not to purchase or eat the food from the market. Instead they should eat only kolyva. Known now as the miracle of the kolyva, the Church commemorates this historical event with a memorial service using kolyva.

We can learn two things (if not more) from this annual commemoration. First that God will protect us when we are living the Faith dedicated to His glory and seeking salvation. Second, and just as important, this historical event reminds us that for more than 1700 years the Church has experiencing the Great Lenten Journey much the same as we do today with prayer, fasting, increased Church services, and almsgiving. If you are taking your journey seriously this year, remember you are joining along with the historical saints, known and unknown, that have been experiencing this journey centuries. It is something that you can trust will bring you closer to Christ if you desire it. It has been tried and tested, and as the miracle of the kolyva proves, endorsed by God.

As a reminder today, the fast is “eased” since Saturdays (except Holy Saturday) are not strict fast days. Oil is permitted on Saturdays and Sundays during Great Lent. If you have been wondering what difference a few drops of oil would make in your soup, try adding a teaspoon of oil to your bean soup today. You will then understand the difference in richness the oil provides.

Friday, March 18, 2016

God Knows What He is Doing

Today’s reading from Proverbs begins, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew.” (Proverbs 3.19) As the first week of Great Lent draws to a close, this wisdom from the Holy Scriptures should comfort us that God knows what He is doing.

Allow me to explain....

This week Scripture readings reminded us of the story of Creation, the Fall of humanity, and God’s plan for salvation. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."  (Genesis 3.15) Since Great Lent is a time for us to dedicate effort to restoring our relationship with God, our part at least, it is always good to know where it all started. God created, our ancestors fell, God saved.

God saved? YES! The Old Testament readings this weekend concluded with God’s promise to save us from our predicament. Once we had sinned and death had entered into our existence, God immediately enacted a plan to defeat death. When the Old Testament readings continue on Monday (during Great Lent we read Old Testament Monday-Friday and New Testament Saturday and Sunday) the story will switch to the first phase of God’s plan. (I’ll talk more about Monday)

In the meantime, Proverbs encourages us to have faith that God knows what He is doing. It was by WISDOM He founded the earth. It was by UNDERSTANDING He established the heavens. It was by His KNOWLEDGE the deeps broke forth. All these are important to remember. God knew what He was doing when He created, and He knows what He is doing to save us.

Our part in His plan is to desire to follow Him into heaven. It is during Great Lent when we are able to focus our attention on defeating our passions since it was our passions that tempted us to sin in the first place. It is during Great Lent when we are able to use food (or lack of it) to repair the sin that eating the forbidden fruit which brought death into existence in the first place. It is during Great Lent that our increased prayer allows us to communicate with God since we had ignored His advice in the Garden.

We’ve come a long way this week in our understanding of the great journey that is ahead of us. You’ve gotten through the first week, and you should offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God that He allowed you this opportunity. The weekend changes emphasis. We will still be fasting, but our fasting will not be as strict. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

UGH! This Fast is Killing Me!

Today’s Reading is from Proverbs 3:1-18 - My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare will they give you. Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
It has ONLY been three days and I’m pretty sure you’re already feeling the burden of fasting. You’re hungry and bored of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches already. You may even be wondering if the fast is worth your time. Don’t worry. We ALL feel this way just as the fast is starting out.  It may not happen today, but it WILL happen sometime during Great Lent. Even the most experienced will suffer a bit of fatigue during Great Lent.

That is why I thought the reading from Proverbs was so helpful. “For length of days and years of life and abundant welfare will they give you.” Fasting if done with prayer and attention to the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged WILL give you great benefit. All you have to do is remain committed and “let not your loyalty and faithfulness forsake you.” Great Lent is a spiritual war, and like with all wars there will be successful days and not-so-successful days. The point is to push ahead for the victory at Pascha.

Today might be a good day to evaluate your menu choices for the fast. If you are feeling tired and cranky, you might need to make some adjustments for nutrition. Remember fasting is NOT supposed to get you sick, but there are alternatives to your menu choices that will provide for proper nutrition AND still maintain the fast. You just may need to put in a little extra effort. Speak with your Spiritual Father and other experienced “fasters” and seek their advice. One of the great benefits to fasting AS A CHURCH is to benefit from centuries of experience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What is the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts?

Each Wednesday (and sometimes on Friday) during Great Lent the Church prescribes a special sort of Liturgy known as the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. This special Liturgy technically “began” this past Sunday when the Priest consecrated an “extra” Lamb before Holy Communion. During Great Lent, since it is a time the Church refers to penitence, the full Divine Liturgy with it celebratory character and consecration of the Holy Eucharist is considered out of character with the weekdays of Great Lent. Saturdays and Sundays during Great Lent are the days when a full Divine Liturgy can be celebrated. There is just one exception allowed for the Feast of Annunciation which is always celebrated with a full Divine Liturgy.

Although the celebration of a full Divine Liturgy is not in the character of the weekdays, the Church also knows (better than we do if we accept it) that we NEED the Eucharist more during Great Lent than during other times of the year since we are engaged in an intense spiritual warfare during Great Lent. Therefore the Church anticipates our need for Holy Communion and actually prepares Holy Communion in advance during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. This “Presanctified” Holy Communion is placed in a special and dedicated container or covered paten, and reserved for Wednesday.

The Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is mostly the Lenten Vespers with the “core” elements of Holy Communion inserted into the service. The Church is normally dark and the music and prayers are soft and subdued to encourage the penitent character of the service. It is a very moving Liturgy that I would encourage all faithful to attend, whether or not you plan to receive Holy Communion. The more time you spend in Church during Great Lent, the more spiritual growth you will experience.

If you plan to receive Holy Communion during the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, you should consult your spiritual father about establishing a fasting rule for you to be properly prepared. For those who do not have a spiritual father, I have outlined what I suggest, and offer here if it is a blessing to you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Clue is in the Scripture Lesson

Each day of the year the Church has prescribed certain readings from the Holy Scriptures to be read. This is called the Lectionary and hasn’t changed much in many centuries. As it currently is, if an Orthodox Christian is careful to read the assigned readings for each day, he will read the entire New Testament (excluding Revelation) as well as the Old Testament Books of Isaiah, Genesis, Psalms and Proverbs. In addition to those, an Orthodox Christian who faithfully attends the holy services of the Church through the year, but most especially on the eve and day of Great Feasts and Holy Week, she will also be inspired by readings from various prophets and the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament. If you are paying attention to any of these readings you will quickly realize the Church hasn’t assigned readings without consideration, AND that in most cases the readings are continuous from one day to another. Oftentimes, but especially for Feasts and Fasts of the Church, the readings also direct attention toward a truth that is integral to the Feast or season of the Church.

For example, today’s readings pick up where yesterday left off. During Great Lent the Church is readings from Isaiah, Genesis, Psalms and Proverbs during the weekdays. Since this is the first week of the Great Fast the Church has just begun these books, so today we are reminded of the Story of Creation, specifically days four and five. Tomorrow we will hear about day 6 and the creation of humanity.

This is important because we are reminded, if we are paying attention, that Great Lent is a journey to restore our humanity to its original purpose of being in Communion with God. What better to make this point than to remind the faithful of Creation? By the end of this week, the first week of Great Lent we will hear the entire story of Creation AND the fall of humanity to temptation.

Take a few extra minutes today when you are reading your Holy Scriptures for the day and reflect upon what the Church might be emphasizing. The clue is in the Scripture Lesson.

You can find the readings of the day at the Online Chapel. You can also download a FREE smart phone app and have the readings at your finger tips. There are many venues to hear and read the Scriptures WITHIN the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. But you can only be guided by the Church if you read along with the Church.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It Finally Starts!

If you’re like me, you were looking forward to the beginning of Great Lent as an opportunity to regain some control in your life both physically and spiritually. With all life’s obligations and spiritual road bumps, it is comforting (to me at least) that today is Clean Monday, a day of strict fasting and prayer as the first day of Great Lent. It isn’t as if I can’t do these things other days, but I need all the help I can get so I am thankful for this season.

God has guided His Church into all truth through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. More and more I realize just much the Holy Spirit has helped humanity over the centuries. Doctors ‘now’ tell new mothers they should stay low with their newborns for six weeks (about 40 days). Doctors ‘now’ tell us that an occasional cleansing diet (strict fast) is good for our bodies. These are just two examples of how the Holy Spirit guided the Church to establish practices that also happened to be good for our bodies.

It shouldn’t surprise us since our bodies and our souls are intimately connected. We are neither ‘just’ a body, nor ‘just’ a soul within a ‘shell’ we call the body. The body participates in our entire spiritual journey, from the moment we are baptized into Christ until the moment we are buried. Without our bodies we would have no way to repent from the sins that our bodies helped to act out in the first place.

So consider the next seven weeks as an intense trip to the gym, a body/soul gym, and allow the life of the Church to improve your physical health AND help your soul grow closer to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Have a blessed Great Lent!

To help you along the way, I suggest a daily visit to

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Forgiveness is Central

Tomorrow is Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church. It is the last day before the Great Fast, a period of intense prayer and fasting in preparation for the Passion of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. On Forgiveness Sunday, the Church commemorates the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve. You may wonder why the Church focuses our attention on Adam and Eve when the Gospel lesson for the day teaches about prayer and fasting.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:14-21 - The Lord said, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
For us to properly understand the importance of forgiveness in our Great Lenten journey, consider what actually took place when Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise.
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" -- therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3.22-23)
If only Adam and Eve had asked God for forgiveness, things may have ended up differently. Being expelled from Paradise allowed Adam and Eve to be saved by God. If they had remained in the Garden in their fallen state, and then had eaten from the Tree of Life, they (WE) would have been eternally condemned. So God SAVED us from ourselves when He expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. Without forgiveness we remain outside the Gates of Paradise as Adam and Eve.

One basic core of Forgiveness Sunday is to ask forgiveness from everyone as you prepare to begin Great Lent. In many Churches, a special Forgiveness Vespers is celebrated giving ever member of the Community the opportunity to ask others for forgiveness, all to remind us of the alternative which is expulsion from Paradise. Something to consider as we prepare for our Great Lenten journey. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Meat....Meat....Everywhere I Look I See Meat!

By the end of yesterday I think I had seen every possible advertisement or commercial for meat in existence. Even watching a program about sensory perception, I found bacon sizzling and hamburgers falling from the sky. I think I was surrounded by meat yesterday. I think most people who fast were; it’s just part of the process.

Of course there is no anti-Orthodox Christian conspiracy that places more meat advertising in front of our faces during the Fast, but it is interesting how much our attention is drawn to the meat. It REALLY IS A GIFT when we fast. When we are making a conscious decision to avoid a particular behavior, in this case eating meat, we tend to be more aware of the temptation that surrounds us. The blessing from fasting comes not in the improved cholesterol, though it is a side benefit, but in the increased awareness of our surroundings.  Even throughout the year with the Wednesday/Friday fast, we must first remain aware of what day it is before we can keep the fast.

When we practice this awareness of our surroundings, THEN we can focus on the other sins and temptations that also surround us. You could say that fasting is like turning off the TV when we hear a noise in the night. It allows our attention to focus better. And for that I’m willing to go without bacon until May 1st.

Don’t worry, soon you will forget about meat and start seeing the other sins and temptations that were always surrounding you. You just couldn’t see them before. THIS YEAR you can focus on fighting some of those in your life.....your soul will thank you.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Great Lent is a marathon, not a sprint.

And they’re is the first day of our fast from meat. Although Great Lent doesn’t begin until next week, the Church slowly ramps up our bodies to accept the strict fast which will last until we celebrate Holy and Great Pascha on May 1st. In the meantime, here at Be Transfigured life goes on with blogging and video production and LIVE STREAM Bible Studies. I thought it would be wise to remind you the fast is not a sprint but a long distance marathon. When a runner sprints all available energy is thrust out at the starting line. Runners can do this because sprints are very short. But our Lenten Fast is long distance running which requires constant monitoring of energy levels and making adjustments along the way based upon conditions along the route. As with any long distance race, a successful runner conserves energy for the long haul, sometimes even allowing other runners to push ahead, but experience teaches even the best runners that races are not won at the starting line, but the finish line.

This year, allow the Church’s two thousand year record, guided by your Spiritual Father, to set your path for the fast. If you have never fasted the entire 65 days until Pascha, please do not attempt to sprint off the starting line without consulting with a long distance running coach, also known as your Spiritual Father. Hopefully, with prayer and personal experience, he can prepare you for the race course and all its obstacles. Unlike a running marathon, the fasting marathon is also an obstacle course with sin and temptation wreaking havoc along the way. Please don’t make the mistake of going out on the course and spending all your energy right off the starting line. You may look like you’re winning at first, but you will quickly be left behind.

Do You See God?

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will judge not
your actions, but whether or not see God in the least of His brothers. (Matthew
25.31-46) Our Lord makes it clear that when we are able to see God in every
human being including the lowest of the low will be welcomed into Heaven. Every
human being in created in the Image of God, even if it has been clouded by sin.
Our responsibility as faithful Christians is to be able and willing to see
through sin and seek out the Image of God, and look past the sins of others.
With the coming of Great Lent in just a few days, the Church offers us an
opportunity to repent from our own sin through prayer and fasting, so that we
can feed the lowest of the low who hunger for God. Judgment is coming, and the
question God will ask is, “Do you See God?” What will your answer be?


Hello, my name is Father Athanasios Haros and I'm the pastor here at the Transfiguration of our Savior, Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina. I'm your host for Be Transfigured Ministries. Here at Be Transfigured, as we say we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We feature our sermons and our Bible studies and other special events in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to join us in living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll join us. I'll be back in a moment after this video, to share some information about our ministry.

Today is the third Sunday of the Triodion. Just to remind you of the past two Sundays, the first Sunday of the Triodion, the Publican and the Pharisee, God reminded us of pride and reminded us that each one of us is a sinner, reminded us that we had to look at our sins and realize the need for repentance. Then last week, again the Lord directed our attention at our sinfulness. In the story of the Prodigal Son, reminds us that sometimes until we get to the lowest of the low, we can't realize just how much we need God's help. The moment we return to him He's waiting to restore us as if we've never left.

This week, the Church draws our attention in the other direction, not on our hearts necessarily but on how we treat others. The story is very common, it is the story of the Final Judgment. Unlike the last two weeks where it's a parable, in this case the Lord says, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory," this event my brothers and sisters will for sure take place in the future. This is to inspire us to have this on our minds this final week now as we prepare for great lent. Great lent is only one week away.

Now the Lord and the Church turns our attention toward other people. He says the very familiar tune, he says, "I was hungry and you fed Me, I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink, I was a stranger you took Me in." We know the story. My brothers and sister, this morning's Gospel isn't really about actions. It's not really about what we do to other people. If you really pay attention to the story in this morning's Gospel, neither those who were sheep nor those who were goats, neither the blessed nor the condemned understood that they were not doing the right thing.

Even the ones who were blessed said to Jesus, what do You mean, when did we see You hungry and feed You and thirsty and give You a drink. He says, "when you did it to the least of these, My brethren you did it unto Me." That's where I want to rest this morning, my brothers and sisters. How do we see the least of the people in the earth? The Gospel's pretty clear, even the goats, even those who were condemned said, "Lord when did we ever see You hungry and not give You something to eat." He says, "whenever you did not do it unto the least, you did not do it unto Me."

Where the Lord is calling us, my brothers and sisters is for us to see God in each other. Not just our friends and family, the real challenge in life is for us to see God in the lowest of the low. God wants us to see that we are each created in the Image of God, in his divine Image that means you and me and everybody outside this Church has the Image of God still in them. Our job is to see it. Not just in the people we like, not just in our family but in the lowest of the low. That's why this morning's Gospel, my brothers and sisters, really isn't about doing things. It's about seeing God.

If we cannot see God in the lowest of the low then we will be the goats. This event is taking place my brothers and sisters. The Lord will come. If all we have to say to God is well, I fed my family, I fed my brother, I fed the neighbor next door because he's really nice and he's really a hard worker. The Lord is going to say, "well what about those who didn't have friends, what about the rest of Me." You see, my brothers and sisters, we tend to look at the lowest of the low and we tend to cast them aside, we tend often times to not consider them of any value. Oh, I have too many things to do. Then when they get to really low status, Jesus included those in prison.

When they get to the really low status and then they have committed some of the most heinous crimes in our society, our job as Christians is still to see God in them. Because God saw our fallen humanity, my brothers and sisters, He saw a people worth saving. None of us deserves God's salvation. Not a single one of us did anything to deserve God to come and take on our humanity and to restore us into the kingdom but in each and every one of us, He saw something of value. That value was His own Image. Each and every human being bears the Image of God. Our salvation, my brothers and sisters, rests solidly on whether or not we can see the Image of God in other people but most especially in the lowest of the low.

The people who we might consider the lazy ones who don't work and therefore well, of course they're hungry. They're not doing anything, they're lazy. They might be lazy. They might not be working. Our job as Christians is to see the Image of God in them and to realize that even the poorest of the poor, even the most despicable criminal, deep down in their hearts, they don't want to live the life they're living. I was speaking with someone who spends much of their time ministering to the poorer neighborhoods of our cities. He was sharing with me that by the time a child gets to ten, 11 years old in these very high crime neighborhoods, they've already learned that their life is destined for crime, their life is destined to be one of the lowest of the low.

They've already been taught that in the way they've been treated, the way they've been raised, many times with not two parents. We know the story. Not a single poor person prefers being poor. Even the person begging under the bridge, I promise you in his heart, he would really rather not be begging. Can we see God in him? The person who might be addicted to drugs or alcohol or addicted to many of the other things that our society's addicted to, all of the crazy immoral behaviors that people are addicted to. Can we see God in them, the Image of God in them? It might be covered in mud. It might be so hidden by the sinful life they have surrounded themselves in but at that moment is when we have to remember the Publican and the Pharisee.

At that moment when we are looking at someone who has totally clouded the Image of God in their own life, before we cast them aside, sometimes even just to inspire us to search for the Image of God in them, we have to first remember the Publican and the Pharisee and realize that we too our sinners. That sometimes when people look at our lives, do they see the Image of God? Sometimes we need a little inspiration to be able to look past people's faults and realize that the lowest of the low in our society, including our brothers and our neighbors and the rest of our friends, all deserve that opportunity of being saved by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are they hungering for God? Then let us feed them. Are they thirsting for the Lord in their life, for peace? We should be able to give them the peace. So many times we can't even find it in our own hearts. We struggle to find the peace. We struggle to even hunger for God. That's why, my brothers and sisters, if we're really paying attention to the life of the Church, this is why the Church offers us these different readings week after week after week, not in isolation but as a whole picture. Tomorrow we're going to begin fasting. We're going to begin taking our bodies and offering them to God because whether we like to admit it or not, our bodies participate in sin and so therefore our bodies also participate in repentance.

Our bodies participate in our leaving the Father as we spoke about last week, going off and living a far off land away from God. Our bodies have a role to play in that because we're pleasing our bodies, we're pleasing our own selves. Tomorrow we're going to begin fasting from meat this week and then the rest of the fast begins next week as a way to say, well our body participates in our sin, lets also allow our body to participate in our repentance. Sometimes we need a little bit of inspiration for us to hunger for God. We fast. The little bit of physical hunger we might feel during the fast is supposed to remind us that what we're really hungry for is God, then to share with those others who are hungry and then we feed them.

You see it isn't necessarily about a can of soup although we should be doing that too. The basket in the narthex should be overflowing every single week with cans of food that we can bring to the shelter. My brothers and sisters, the basket will never be full so long as we are not able to see the Image of God in the people who need that food. We're too busy only feeding our loved ones. We're too busy only visiting our friends. The judgment is coming. There's no need for us to think of the judgment and run away with fear. Let’s see the coming judgment and use it as inspiration to open our eyes to others.

Even our friends, our neighbors, our family members who we might be estranged from because of one argument or another, they did this, I said this, they said this. This is our opportunity to see God in every one of the people we interact with and then offer them that bit of hospitality that comes from our hearts. Then God will say to us, "come blessed, enter into your kingdom which I have prepared for all time because you fed Me, you clothed Me." We will say, "really?" We remember doing it to all those other people God, that must've been You that whole time. One final bit of inspiration I offer this morning, is our tradition that we have to think that sometimes we are offering hospitality to an angel. Sometimes to give us that chance to see the Image of God in other people, sometimes God sends us an angel in the form of a beggar, in the form of a stranger. Don't pass the opportunity up. Learn to see God in all people and then God will welcome us into his kingdom. Glory to God for all things.

Well I'm back and I hope this video was an inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please share our message of hope with your friends and family and invite others to live a new life in Christ. Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries by joining us on our website at You can also find many of our videos at the Orthodox Christian network, our partners at As we say at Be Transfigured, until next week, God bless you and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Be Transfigured is a production of the transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions in support of this ministry, may be sent to:  Be Transfigured, 2990 S Cashua Dr, Florence, South Carolina 29501 or online at our website