Saturday, April 30, 2016

Arise O God and Judge the Earth

On Holy and Great Saturday we gather in the early morning for what is known as the First, or Small, Resurrection. The Great Vespers of Pascha includes prophecies from Jonah in which we witness the resurrection of Christ foretold to us centuries before it ever took place. Then something glorious takes place after the Old Testament Readings and Epistle.

Instead of the normal Alleluia verses, the Church rings out with bells and singing. “Arise O God and judge the Earth, for You shall rule all nations through Your inheritance.” Bay leaves fly through the Church as even the Earth celebrates the announcement that Christ is no longer in the Tomb.

The Church celebrates Christ’s journey to Hades and His raising of Adam and Eve, John the Baptist and the rest of the righteous men and women of the Old Testament. The Church celebrates Christ rescuing us from death.

Today is the ONLY Saturday of the entire year when strict fasting is practiced to commemorate Christ’s time in Hades. We will celebrate with Him again when He is resurrected. Until tonight, we celebrate in anticipation of His victory. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

We Worship Your Passion, O Christ; Show us also Your Holy Resurrection

For me today tends to be the highlight of intensity as the Church sets our gaze upon the Lord on the Cross. Beginning with the Royal Hours this morning, during which the Gospel story of Christ on the Cross is read, and ending with the faithful singing hymns surrounding the Tomb of Christ, our spiritual emotions run the gamut from deep sorrow to tingly hope.

We arrive this morning in a darkened Church to see Christ hanging on the Cross, left alone last night in the Church. During the service of the Royal Hours, our heart will burn with love for God as we hear many of the stories from last night repeated. The service is a compilation of the Hours into a special service including the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours. These are not the hours Christ spent on the Cross, but a combining of the Hours normally prayed throughout the day.

Once the Royal Hours concludes, the Church is “a buzz” with preparations. The Koukouklion (the wooden sepulcher) is decorated to receive the Epitaphios Icon of Christ’s the burial. In many Church, while woman decorate the Tomb, hymns are sung and faithful are free to enter into the Church and spend time in prayer at the foot of the Cross.

In the afternoon, normally around 3pm to coincide with the Ninth Hour accounting of the death of Christ on the Cross, the Vespers is offered. During this service the body of Christ is removed from the Cross and the Epitaphios Icon is placed in the Sepulcher. As the service concludes faithful again have the opportunity to venerate the Tomb of Christ and prepare for the evening.

With the evening hours comes the Matins along with the singing of the Lamentations at the Tomb. This particular service, begins the resurrection tone for the Feast. It is a service during which the clergy vest in bright colors and the hymns include reference to the coming Resurrection.

From morning through the night, Holy Friday seems to drag our soul from sorrow to joy. We began gazing upon the Crucified Lord, and ended the day singing about His coming resurrection. It is quite a day. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Judas Kiss

Today the Church commemorates the first Eucharist Jesus Christ celebrated with His Disciples prior to going to the Cross. As we’ve discussing this week, our Holy Week journey has been about the choice between living a life in communion with God, and living a life focused upon our desires and wants. One leads to life; the other does not.

During every Divine Liturgy we pray:
When He had come and fulfilled for our sake the entire plan of salvation, on the night in which He was delivered up, or rather when He delivered Himself up for the life of the world, He took bread in His holy, pure, and blameless hands, and, giving thanks and blessing, He hallowed and broke it, and gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying: Take, eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins. Likewise, after partaking of the supper, He took the cup, saying, Drink of this, all of you; this is My Blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.
With these words our Lord established what we now call Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist. With these words our Lord calls us to take action to join Him in Holy Communion, but that call comes with a price. He also called His Disciples to join Him, but one of the Twelve betrayed Him. One of the Twelve chose His agenda rather than follow Christ. The betrayal of Judas was not just that he sold Jesus to the Jewish elite leaders, but that he was unable to see past his agenda to see that Christ had a different plan of salvation.

The Fathers teach that even if Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God and brought sin, and therefore death, into the world, Jesus still would have become incarnate to join humanity to the divinity of God. That much of God’s plan has always been in play. The clues to understanding this are in this prayer from the Liturgy. “Plan of salvation” “He delivered Himself up” “Giving thanks” “for the remission of sins” are all terms that reveal what God had always intended to do for humanity. So what changed?

When Adam and Eve broke the initial communion we enjoyed with God, death entered into our existence. At that point, Jesus would have to die in order to be fully human. There was only one problem; sin is the wages of death. Since Jesus never sinned, He would never have died of natural causes. He had to be killed. And that brings us to Judas.

During what is known as the Last Supper, Jesus told Judas “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13.27) Jesus allowed Judas to misunderstand the plan. When Judas betrayed Jesus to the leaders, he thought he was helping begin the revolution to defeat the Romans. Judas believed he was helping Jesus’ plan, which he was. But Jesus’ plan was not Judas’ plan.

When Judas finally realized he had the plan all wrong, he couldn’t handle his failure and killed himself. We often get God’s plan wrong too, but we are blessed that God has given us the Church and Holy Week to bring us back to Him through Holy Confession and the various ancient services of the Church. Thankfully, today we can enter the Church with faith and receive the most precious Body and Blood of Christ, and live forever. We don’t have to make the same mistakes as Judas. We don’t have to betray God with a kiss to initiate His plan. We only need to go to Church.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Healing Body AND Soul

On Holy and Great Wednesday, it has become part of our Orthodox Tradition to offer the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Unction, also known as Healing Oil. Although this is not original to the Holy Week Journey, it has become somewhat of a “centerpiece” to every personal Holy Week experience, and for good reason.

Let’s take a quick look back at the creation of humanity for a better picture. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.7) From that very moment humanity existed as a bond between body and soul, and when Adam and Eve fell to temptation, it was not just their bodies that became victims, but their souls as well.

Throughout Great Lent the theme has been about restoring ourselves, through prayer and fasting, to a proper relationship with God. It has been about healing our souls and bodies from the sins and abuses of the world. It has been about become truly human, body AND soul in communion with God. What was broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden, has been restored by God in His Passion which we commemorate during Holy Week.

So it seems natural for the Church to eventually include the Mystery of Healing Oil, for the healing of soul and body, into our Holy Week Journey. In fact during the actual anointing, the Priest offers this prayer:
O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who sent Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal every infirmity and deliver from death, heal these Your servants from their ailments of body and soul, and endow them with life by the grace of Your Christ, through the intercessions our all-holy Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honored bodiless Powers in Heaven; by the supplications of the honored, glorious Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious and alllaudable Apostles; the holy, glorious and victorious Martyrs; our saintly and Godbearing Fathers; the holy Unmercenaries and Healers, Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Samson and Diomedes, Mokias and Aniketos, Panteleimon and Hermolaos, Thalelaios and Tryphon; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God Joachim and Anna, and of all the Saints. For You, our God, are the source of healing, and to You we ascribe glory; to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.
This prayer reflects not only the purpose of the anointing, namely the healing of body and soul, but invokes the entire Church in the process. It is through the Grace which God has bestowed to His Church that we are healed and restored to full communion with God. What can be a better reason to include the service in Holy Week?

On a final note, as we draw closer to His Passion, consider the benefit to soul AND body of prayer and fasting. Even medical doctors are “now” telling patients about the benefits of an occasional fast to cleanse the body of toxins, something the Holy Spirit knew when the Church was guided to establish Great Lent. Just as a doctor instructs his patients to fast before any major medical procedure, the Church has asked us to fast before any major spiritual procedure. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Our Christian life is about healing soul AND body.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hypocrites and Lazy Virgins

On Holy Tuesday we hear two great Gospel lessons. The first warns us against hypocrisy while the other warns us against not being prepared for Christ’s return. Both are great lessons for us to embrace during Holy Week.

Here is an excerpt from the reading for Matins (actually celebrated last night in anticipation), but you can read the entire selection at Matthew 22:15-46; 23:1-39.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build  the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to Gehenna? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Zacharias the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.

When we refuse to even attempt the Christian life, we are bound to called out as hypocrites by Our Lord. The Christian life isn’t about always getting it right, but working at it. In the Gospel Christ directs our attention toward the danger of outwardly reflecting something different from what is in our hearts.

The other benefit from today’s readings is from the Vesper Liturgy (celebrated this morning in some Churches) in which we hear the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-46; 26:1-2.

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man shall come.

These first days of Holy Week the Church has been preparing us to greet the Lord. Yesterday we heard Jesus wither a fruitless fig tree, and today we are warned against hypocrisy and laziness. Thankfully God has given us another chance to repent. We have another opportunity to live prepared to greet our Lord and to live an authentic Christian life, in AND out. If we just spend the next few days going about our business, we will miss the chance to be welcomed into the Kingdom by God. We are also fortunate that the Church offers us the opportunity for Holy Confession so that we can have a fresh start.

By the grace of God, through the authority He has given His Church with Holy Confession, we will have another chance. Don’t waste it with hypocrisy or laziness.

Monday, April 25, 2016

If He is Our King

The story of Palm Sunday reveals how easy it is to struggle between declaring Jesus Christ as our King or to betray Him and crucify Him. It is very easy to get wrapped up into calling Him our King and showing Him our devotion, but with just a little pressure from the secular world, we crucify Him. If we really mean that He is our King, then we will choose to stay with Him during Holy Week, and walk along with Him during His final days before His Crucifixion. Ever since the first days of the Church, people who declare Jesus their King would dedicate the days before Pascha with prayer and fasting and devotion. How you spend this week will reveal which side of the wire you choose. Is Jesus your King, or is the world your King?

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 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.

"Hosanna! Blessed it is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" What does this mean for us? In this morning's Gospel this glorious day of Palm Sunday, the Gospel brings us to several understandings of what it means to have a relationship with God. On the one hand we desire to be crowd. We desire to be the crowd that cries out to God, "Hosanna in the highest!" We desire to be the crowd that calls Him our King. On the other hand we many times find ourselves like the elite of those days, who were conflicted because they enjoyed the relationship they had with the political rulers, and their conflict was that if they acknowledged God as King, they may lose some privileges with the government. We find ourselves just as the people in this morning's Gospel, riding the fence sometimes. We desire to call God our King, but when we receive a little pressure from the society, we're not so sure how much of our kind He really is.

Another example. A woman came and poured such a blessed and fragrant oil on His feet it says it filled the entire house with the fragrance. Mary did this because she loved Him and she wanted to show the absolute devotion and commitment to Him as her Lord. The ointment was so powerful it filled the house with the beautiful fragrance. We find ourselves wanting to be Mary. We find ourselves wanting to love God so much that when we bring our offering to Him, it is an expression that fills not only our hearts, but fills our homes with the reality of our love for God. We want to be Mary, but then there's Judas. “Why wasn't this sold and the money given to the poor?” We find ourselves many times listening to the advice of Judas, that it is not okay for us to have an abundant love for God. We find ourselves listening to the words of Judas, that it is better to keep something in our pockets than to give it to God.

Remember the Gospel said that Judas didn't do this because he cared about the poor, but he was a thief. We find ourselves playing that role often times as well. We find ourselves rationalizing in our minds, "I've given too much to the Church this year. I want to save some for my vacation. I want to save some to do a little something nice for my family." And we rob the poor from the opportunity of being blessed by the Church. You see this morning, my brothers and sisters, this Gospel, although it is proclaiming God as King, Jesus Christ as the King of Kings, entering into the city as the victor, ready to claim His Kingdom, we are conflicted. We're not quite sure just how loyal we are to God, just as the people in this morning's Gospel, so we shouldn't feel so bad, so down on ourselves. Then the last words of the Gospel kind of putting the nail in the coffin as it were.

Saint John says that, "They went out to see him" because he had done these things. They wanted to see Lazarus. They wanted to see the proof of everything they had heard. They didn't go out to see Jesus. They didn't go out to love Jesus. They didn't go out to express Him as King. They showed up to see Lazarus. While they were there, there were a few people that loved God and who were waving palm branches. Many of you have received palm branches when you walked into the Church today and you're going to have the palm branches when we have the procession with the Icon this afternoon. Those many people were waving the palm branches because many people did believe in Jesus Christ. As we said yesterday, they knew that only God could create with His voice, life and with just His voice he brought life to Lazarus, and many people believed that Jesus Christ was in fact God, so there was people there.

There was a crowd there, wishing him, "Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." Like many of us would do, we get wrapped up into the crowd. That's something very easy, that mob mentality. When you're in a large group you kind of get sucked into that energy. That can be a good thing as it was in this morning's story where the crowd was cheering on God. Later this week, that same energy that can be consuming, that same energy that can drag us in, sometimes not even realizing it, is going to cause the people to shout out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" You see, my brothers and sisters, we are riding on a very thin wire. On the one hand we really want to love God and on the other hand we struggle every single day with wanting to love ourselves. We struggle every day with whether or not to put God first or to put ourselves first.

This morning's Gospel, my brothers and sisters, is a moment for us to arouse our senses and to wake up to the reality that we have a choice to make. We can either declare Jesus Christ as our King or we can crucify Him. You cannot ride the wire. You must ride one side or the other. We have a choice to make this morning, my brothers and sisters. Either God is our King or the worldly pleasures are our king. Either we work to please God in our lives and we, like Mary, bring to Him our love and our devotion and our dedication and even our offerings into His Church to show our love for Him, or we can be Judas, where we can pretend that we care about other people, but we really want to just keep the money in our own pocket. That's the beautiful opportunity we have in this morning's Gospel. That has been the message of Great Lent these seven weeks now. Do we want to follow God?

We've heard the message throughout these weeks, way back when if you remember the Publican and then the Pharisee. It was the sinner who acknowledged he had sinned that was justified by God. The message of the Cross, the message of Saint Mary of Egypt which we heard last week. The willingness to give everything up for God and so now we're on the threshold of the most amazing ministry God ever accomplished on the face of the earth, was to unite our humanity to the Throne of God. Beginning today when we declare Him our King, if we really mean it in our hearts, we will be with Him each night this week. If we really mean that He is our King, then we will rearrange our schedules to be with Him tonight and tomorrow and Tuesday and throughout the entire week.

That is the choice that lays in front of us today or we could just be another member of the crowd, going along with the crowd. So long as the crowd is happy, we're happy. If the crowd is unhappy, we're unhappy. We really don't make up our own decision. Whatever is easiest at the moment, we will follow, but following our King is never the easy route. Ever since the first days of Christianity, the followers of Jesus Christ, like you and me, were called to spend time putting everything else in their life on hold. Nothing else is important this week except for coming to Church and spending time with our King, unless we choose to be the crowd that throughout the week will call out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" We may not say it with our words, but we may say it with our actions. We may say it with our absence.

Orthodoxy, my brothers and sisters, is not a religion merely to say that we are members of. It is a way of life and now, this evening, we are beginning the holiest week of our year, the only time where the Church asks us to come together as a family every single night into the darkness of the night so that we can be prepared in our fasting. That we can be prepared in our prayers, that we can be prepared in our offerings to walk with our King every step of the way the next six days. So that when we gather in this dark Church Saturday night we will already know the message that is going to be proclaimed. We will be the ones who proclaim His message of hope and life to the world, if He is our King. 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 in support of this ministry may be sent to Be Transfigured, 2990 South Cashua Drive, Florence, South Carolina, 29501, or online at our website at

Why Does the Church Have Holy Week?

As part of our continuing series of answering why we “do” certain things as Orthodox Christians, this month I will discuss Holy Week and why the Church has developed such an intense and beautiful week leading up to Holy and Great Pascha.

The first thing we need to understand about Holy Week is that in the earliest days of the Church, the faithful attended Church services EVERY DAY. Life revolved around the Church with morning and evening prayers functioning almost like “bookends” to the day. Christians would begin their day in the Church, go about their daily work, and then return to the Church to finish their day in prayer and fellowship. This wasn’t only for prayer, but mutual support of their Christian journey. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for the early Christians to gather for support and protection. They were living in a world that wasn’t Christian. Many were killed “just because” they were Christians. Gathering daily not only gave them the sense of prayer, it provided the practical benefit of encouraging each other to remain faithful. We must also remember the earliest Christians expected Jesus Christ to return at any moment in their life time.

As the early Church approached the anniversary of Pascha, the day they (and we) commemorate the Passion of Christ (His death, burial AND Resurrection), the daily services in the Church included Scripture Readings from the Old Testament Prophecies about the Messiah and stories (now Scriptures) about the Passion events. Eventually hymns and dedicated prayers were written to teach the faithful the truth of Christ’s Saving Passion, and the ‘first’ Holy Week was formed.

Originally just a couple days, the Church spent these days in prayer and fasting as the faithful commemorated the last days and events of the Passion. Using today’s terms, they would have fasted Holy Friday and Holy Saturday which were the days Christ was crucified and in the tomb. The fast was a COMPLETE fast, similar to what we could call a medical fast today. As the years went on, and as the faithful switched to preparing for an immediate return of Christ to an expected return at an unknown time in the future, Holy Week began to expand into the week-long season it is today. And as the number of days of fasting increased, so did the prayer and hymns. By the late Third Century Holy Week pretty much looked as it does today with minor adjustments over the centuries with influences by monastic traditions and world events.

As Holy Week has been handed down through the centuries, as we have received it today, it is a full week that begins AFTER the Feast of Palm Sunday and continues through to the last moments before Pascha. Palm Sunday, while part of the final days of Christ’s earthly mission, is not a part of Holy Week. Instead, Palm Sunday is a celebration of God’s Coming Kingdom. The themes of Holly Week are as follows:
v  Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday – Being prepared and expecting the Lord’s return
v  Holy Wednesday is a day of transition – The Church remembers the events immediately prior to Christ’s Passion including the betrayal by Judas and anointing of Christ by the sinful woman.
v  Holy Thursday – The Mystical Supper and the begin of the Holy Eucharist
v  Holy Friday – The trial, sentencing, crucifixion, and burial of Christ
v  Holy Saturday – Christ is the tomb rescuing our forefathers from Hades

For us Orthodox Christians living in 2016 we still benefit from the ancient custom of dedicating a few days in prayer and fasting to prepare for the Feast of Pascha. Pascha is and was a life-changing event. We should set aside the time and energy to take full advantage of the experience of the Church. Think of it as a gift for your soul. I hope to see you in Church for Holy Week. A schedule is in this newsletter.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Final Countdown

Before a rocket is launched into outer space, the command center’s main responsibility is to ensure that absolutely everything is in proper order before takeoff. If just one screw is out of place, it could result in total disaster. Once the inspection is complete and the Launch Director has determined the rocket “Go for Launch” then final liftoff sequence may begin. The same can be said about the Passion of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

With the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which we commemorated yesterday, the stage was set for Christ to complete what He had come to accomplish. Up until this point, Jesus always rejected the public praises of the crowd, even disappearing without notice to avoid arriving at His Passion too quickly. The Gospel’s teach of Christ’ birth, Baptism, temptation, recruiting His disciples, His teaching, His miracles, His public and private debates with members of the religious elite, and the numerous prophecies He fulfilled. Once everything had been set in order, then Jesus authorized the final countdown sequence.

Saint Athanasios teaches us that Christ waited for the most public day, in the most public city, during the most public feast, for the most public death, in order that when He is Raised from the Dead the joyous truth of His saving mission for us will be believed by as many as were witnesses to His death. On that first Palm Sunday, five days before Passover, Christ no longer stopped the crowd from proclaiming His authority. He no longer slipped away quietly to avoid being discovered by the elites. He was prepared to begin the final countdown to His Glorious Passion. Today the Church looks joyously ahead at the result of Pascha, but understands there are still a few last minute details to work through before Christ is lifted upon the Cross.

Just as it can be exciting to be a witness of the launch of the rocket into outer space from distance, it is even more rewarding to be a part of the launch team and be present first hand for the event. Holy Week is your chance to be present first hand with Christ and His launch team (the Church) to witness the final launch of His plan to save us from death. I hope you’re ready. T-6 DAYS.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Because God Said

There is something that is special and unique in the final miracle of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. On the day before Palm Sunday the Church commemorates the Feast of the Raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus. Jesus had performed many other miracles before including bringing dead people back to life, but the raising of Lazarus was different. This miracle required only Jesus speaking for life to return to a man who had been dead for four days. The Jews standing by remembered where they had seen life created just be the spoken word. They remembered how in Genesis it was explained that God is the ONLY one who can create simply because He speaks. This is why the Church prepares us for Palm Sunday and Holy Week by showing us the power of the God of Creation Who came to united us to Himself.

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 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.

I just wanted to share a few words this morning about this great miracle that God has done for us today. Before I get to the miracle, I want to remind everyone of the story in Genesis, all the way back to the beginning, the beginning, beginning, the very first chapter of the book of Genesis. It says, "And God said, let there be light, and there was light." Later it says, "And God said let the earth bring forth life, and the earth brought life." Simply because God said it, the world was created, the entire universe was created simply because God said the words and life came.

I want you to have that in your mind because this morning's miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the final public miracle of Jesus Christ before His crucifixion. He had performed other miracles before, He had healed people of their sickness, He had as the Gospel even said this morning, He had healed the blind, He had even brought back the dead to life, but in every one of those cases, He used His hands. Like in the story that the Gospel mentions with the healing of the blind man, He made the mud and He placed it on his eyes, or in the case of Jairus' daughter, He went and He placed His hand on the tomb, or in the case of Peter's mother-in-law, He went and He touched her.

In every one of those cases, Jesus Christ in his miracle used His hands except this one. This is the greatest of all miracles of God because Jesus didn't go inside the tomb, Jesus didn't touch Lazarus. He stood outside the tomb and He gives the instructions, He tells the people, roll away the stone. It said something very important in the Gospel that we have to remember, it says that Mary said, "Lord by now there's going to be an odor because he's been dead for four days." How many of you have gone down the street and seen a opossum dead on the side of the road hit by a car or something, any of you ever seen that? It stinks, doesn't it? You can smell it as you're driving by, and that's only the day it dies. Imagine what Lazarus must have smelled like. That's what Mary was trying to tell Him, Lord really, are You sure You want to open the tomb, it's going to really be stinky. He says, "Open it up," and He calls out, He says, "Lazarus come out."

Just as He had done when He created the universe, He spoke the words and life came. This is where the Gospel says, that many of the Jews who had come with Mary when they saw this, they all believed because they remembered the stories of Genesis. They knew only God can create by just saying a word. Even all the other miracles that Jesus had done: the blind, the crippled, even the earlier ones who had been dead, anyone could have done those miracles in those days. Believe it or not, there were other miracle workers, but only God can bring life by saying the words. Today my brothers and sisters when we are remembering the raising of Lazarus from the dead the final public miracle of Jesus Christ before His crucifixion, the greatest miracle He ever performed prior to His own resurrection, we'll talk about that at the end of next week.

Our God the God who with just the spoken word can bring the dead back to life, He's our God, but as we are going to experience next week during Holy Week, He's not just a distant God looking down from heaven, "Hello over there down there," but He came and became one of us. There's something very important for us as Orthodox Christians to understand, that God could have given us eternal life simply by speaking the words. That's what this morning's Gospel teaches us, but what we're going to celebrate in the coming days is not just eternal life. God could have done that with the spoken word but even greater than that, that God the Creator, became a human being so that we could forever be united to Him in a real physical union with God. That's what makes this week so special coming up next week.

This morning we see the God the Creator, tomorrow we're going to celebrate the King of Kings. And then beginning tomorrow night, we're going to see that God loved us so much that He did everything to connect us, to unite us, to bring us completely into unity with Him. We stay into communion with God, and not just any God, but the God who can create life simply by saying the word. If we are ever struggling, if we are wondering how in the world we're going to make it through another day, we remember that we are united to the God who can speak life into the world, and He's got our back, He has got us in the palm of His hands. Nothing can hurt us even if we get cut, even if we feel the pain, it can't hurt us because our God creates life with just the spoken word. Glory to God for 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 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 South Cashua Drive, Florence, South Carolina, 29501, or online at our website at

Life with just a Word

Remember way back to the first day of Great Lent? For the entire first week of Great Lent we read the Creation stories in Genesis. Each day of Creation included the phrase, “Then God said...” and whatever He spoke came to be. Today heard something similar.

Here is the entire reading for today:
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. "But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him." Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, "The Teacher has come and is calling for you." As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there." Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. "And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. (John 11.1-45)

It was by the spoken word that life first came into God’s Creation, so we should be surprised that it was through His spoken Word that life would re-enter into Lazarus. Jesus had performed many miracles in His three year public ministry, but it was the raising of Lazarus that revealed His true divinity to the witnesses. This is why the Church sets this miracle on the day after Great Lent and before the Feast of Palm Sunday.

Just as witnessing the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days and was already decomposing in the grave, brought many to believe in Him, it can do the same for us. Tomorrow we will hear just how many heard about the news, but for in the knowledge that Our God brings life through His spoken word. When you join yourself to Him, you join yourself to life and NOTHING can bring the return of death expect if you separate yourself from Him.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day Forty....You Made it!

Today is the last day of Great Lent. If you have even tried, you have succeeded. Great Lent has been about making an effort to offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice. It has been about dedicating real time and energy to making a change in your life. It hasn’t really been about food, but you have fasted. Congratulations!

Over the past forty days I have attempted to offer you words that would both encourage you and inspire you to work harder. I pray these Daily Lenten Journey posts have been a blessing, but I that blessing would mean nothing if I didn’t remind you, even if you were incredibly successful during the past forty days, if you turn away now you will regret it. You will lose everything you have gained in the past forty days it somehow does not change the way you live tomorrow and the days that will follow.

I pray our Daily Lenten Journey together has helped you to Live A New Life In Christ. Have a blessed Holy Week Journey next week. Stay tuned for more.....

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Just as the end is approaching, look again...

Have you ever been a long trip, only to find out that once you arrived at your location, you were required to clean the bathroom and do the dishes? If your long trip wasn’t long enough, just as you were supposed to begin enjoying your trip, you’re stuck being a member of the cleaning crew. As we approach the end of Great Lent tomorrow, I am reminded of today’s reading from Genesis. We all know the Jews ended up as slaves in Egypt, so what about today’s reading got me thinking?

Genesis 46:1-7 -  So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.  And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here am I."  Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes."  Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.  They also took their cattle and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Great Lent has been a long journey, and tomorrow we will arrive at the end of Great Lent. But just as arriving in Egypt wasn’t the end of the story for the Jews, tomorrow won’t be the end of our story. After a brief weekend of lessened fasting for the Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, Holy Week will demand another level of dedication. I hope you’re ready, but don’t panic. Years of slavery in Egypt ended as a blessing for Israel, and Holy Week will be a blessing for you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Proof is not in eating, but in living

Are you proud of the fast you have kept this year for Great Lent? You may want to take a step back and ask yourself if you have truly fasted, or was it just a diet. Many Orthodox Christians proudly boast of their ability to keep the strict fast, some even reading lengthy ingredients lists on package label. CLICK HERE for a sermon about the Publican and the Pharisee to hear about the danger of being proud during the Fast. But what about the rest of your life? Did you really fast? In today’s reading from Isaiah we are warned, quite harshly in fact, that the fast desired by God has nothing to do with eating and everything to do with living.

Isaiah 58:1-11 - Thus says the LORD: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.  Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.  'Why have we fasted, and thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.  Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?  "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am." "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

With just a few days left of the fast, here are few questions to ask yourself...
  • Have I fasted, but walked with pride?
  • Have I fasted, but worked to choose my own path and agenda?
  • Have I fasted, but refused to help others get set free from selfishness?
  • Have I fasted, but pointed my finger at the sin of others?

Great Lent can be a time for salvation or condemnation. The proof is not in the eating but the living. Thankfully it isn’t too late. You still have time.
  • Without giving up the fast, live a life worthy of the fast.
  • Without giving up the fast, help the poor.
  • Without giving up the fast, help a friend in need find hope in Christ.
  • Without giving up the fast, confess your own sin without considering the sin of others.
  • Without giving up the fast, spend the next week working for someone else’s agenda.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two Seasons; One Fast

Today is day 37 of Great Lent which means Friday is the final day of Great Lent. But that does NOT mean the fast is over. Situated comfortably between Great Lent and Holy Week which begins on Monday, are two feasts. The Feast of the Raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday form a buffer between Great Lent and Holy Week. They are days during which we still fast, but as with other Saturdays and Sundays of the Great Fast, the fast is “lessened”. WE EVEN EAT FISH for Palm Sunday. I’ll say more about those days when they arrive.

So why the difference? Why not call the entire time Great Lent? In common practice we actually do lump them together for calendar purposes, but in reality they are completely different seasons. One noticeable difference will be the Scripture readings for each day. We will no longer be reading from Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs and will again read from the Holy Gospels. Another difference will be the fasting regiment. For those who are not able to keep the entire Great Fast, we are encouraged to keep Holy Week (just like the first week of Great Lent) with extra strictness as we prepare for Pascha.

By now some who have been more or less successful with the fast may even be a bit saddened that it is coming to an end. Others are worried they won’t be able to focus an entire other week. There are others who haven’t started yet. But as Saint Paul says, “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” (Romans 14.2-3)

For those who are able and desire to fast, don’t focus on the end of Great Lent, since it will come soon enough. Focus on being a living sacrifice to God as Saint Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12.1) Look at the coming days as your chance to make an offering to God. I’ll talk more about Holy Week next week. Until then....keep the fast.....keep praying.....and help the poor.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Last Lap

Today we begin the last week of Great Lent and it will take as much focus this week as it did the first week. You can see Holy Week ahead of the final lap, and you may be tempted to rationalize to yourself that since you will be fasting next week, you can go easy this week. Fight the temptation. Every day of fasting you offer to God is a blessing. Next week will come with its own blessings, so you don’t want to give up this week’s blessings too soon.

Great Lent ends on Friday night, so spend this week evaluating how successful you were during this year’s Great Lenten Journey. Did you fast as you and your spiritual father had agreed? Did you pray as you and your spiritual father had agreed? Have you done anything to care for the poor? Just like any race, and Great Lent is most definitely a race of endurance, you have a pit crew that is dedicated to helping you win the race. Touch base with your spiritual father this week and make plans to finish the race on a good note.

It isn’t a coincidence that Saint Paul compares the spiritual life to a race. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4.7) You are in the final lap of Great Lent. Keep the faith and you will cross the finish line prepared for Holy Week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What does it mean to be great?

When Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles of Christ, ask Jesus to honor their commitment with special seats in heaven Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10.33-34) He said this to show the difference between how the world acts toward others as opposed to how God wants us to act toward others. We Christians are not supposed to desire seats of honor. We Christians are not supposed to want to be served by others. We Christians are supposed to serve others.

In the world, greatness is recognized with plagues, banners, and special seats. But in heaven greatness is recognized with service. What does it mean to serve? A servant places the needs and desires of his master as more important than his own desires and needs. A servant works to lift up his master rather than his own image among the people. For a Christian to be great, means the needs and desires of others are more important than our own needs and desires. It means we serve each other, not ourselves.

What does it mean to serve? For a Christian, serving others begins first and foremost with the desire to assist others to reach heaven. That is one reason the Church, together AS a Church, spends Great Lent assisting each other grow closer to God through increased prayer, fasting and caring for the poor. When we work together to reach heaven, it becomes easier to fight temptations. It becomes easier to patiently endure suffering. It becomes possible to carry our cross when others are helping. If we serve ourselves first, we are left to fight, suffer and struggle alone. You can’t be great and be alone. You can only be great when you serve others.

The Greater the Sin, the Greater the Repentance

On the fifth and final Sunday of Great Lent the Church commemorates Saint Mary of Egypt as a joyous example of repentance. At the threshold of our final week of Great Lent, the Church urges us to consider our need for repentance. Maybe the story of a woman stuck in her sin might be encouragement enough for us to consider our repentance. We all sin, but is the Church telling us we all need to move to the desert like Saint Mary of Egypt?

In the Orthodox Christian understanding of sin, all sin is sin, but not all sin is equally dangerous. If we consider that sin is like a wound, all wounds require healing, but not all wounds require the same level of treatment. Some wounds, like paper cuts and rug burns, while uncomfortable will heal with a bit of TLC. Other wounds, like knife cuts may require stitches. They are more painful and require a slightly more painful treatment. Still other wounds, like cancer require chemotherapy and radiation treatment. These types of wounds are so severe, if we endure no treatment we will most surely die, while the severe treatments will allow us time, even if we are not cured, to gather our life into order and prepare for our eventual death.

Sin is treated in much the same way. Certain sins require a brief confession and are conquered with maturity and proper attention. Other sins require a longer confession and a regiment of repentance with prayer and fasting. Still other sins are so dangerous that after a lengthy confession an intense detailed period of repentance with prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and maybe even a period without permission for Holy Communion leads us to purity.

What the story of Saint Mary of Egypt can offer us this final week of Great Lent is the courage to repent. We might not all be called to live in a desert for forty-seven years like Saint Mary of Egypt, but we still must repent. As we draw closer to our Holy Week Journey and the Passion of Christ and the Feast of Holy and Great Pascha, allow repentance to be a real part of your journey. Whether your sins are “paper cuts” or if you have been in a “spiritual knife fight” repentance is always part of your healing.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Gift of Priesthood

In the Old Testament, God established His priesthood in order to lead the people in their worship and offerings to God. It was the responsibility of the priests to know the particular service and accompanying prayer to bless the life cycle of the people of God. God even established a special area in His House which was reserved for the priests to carry out their religious functions. In response, God would bless His priests by allowing for their support by the Temple.

In today’s reading from Hebrews, Saint Paul reminds us of God’s original purpose of His Priesthood. “BRETHREN, the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.” (Hebrews 9.1-7)

The Temple Priests of the Old Testament were a foreshadowing of Christ Himself. What they worked to accomplish in the Temple symbolically, Christ accomplished in Himself. Since Christ has come and accomplished everything He intended, the Priesthood changed. We priests no longer are limited to offering sacrifices to God, although we still are blessed to serve as Priests of God who have been appointed to lead the people to God. The Old Testament Priesthood was a foreshadowing of the current priesthood, because when we celebrate the mysteries of the Church, we offer the precious Body and Blood of Christ in truth, not symbol.

Speaking as a priest, I am incredibly blessed each day not only to offer prayers on behalf of the people of God, but to be allowed to share in the blessings and struggles of His people. The life of a priest includes happy moments and stressful moments shared in the life of our parishioners. One element of the Old Testament Priesthood has not changed. We are still blessed by God when He allows us this privilege. Celebrating the many services of Great Lent, sometimes alone in the Church on behalf of many who are busy at work, is a constant reminder that God has blessed me to be a priest. Thank you.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hail, O Bride Unwedded

On the fifth Friday of Great Lent the Greek Orthodox Church, and some other Orthodox Churches, celebrate the service known as the Akathist to the Theotokos. The service, built upon the service of Compline (the service I wrote about yesterday), includes a complete acrostic canon in honor of the Theotokos. According to Church Tradition, the hymn was originally written as a prayer to honor the protection of the Theotokos after the City of Constantinople was spared from being destroyed by invaders after the city processed in prayer around the city walls with the Holy Icon of the Theotokos.

An acrostic poem is a poem (prayer, etc) in which the first letter of each verse combines to spell a particular word. In the case of the Akathist to the Theotokos, each verse begins with the next letter in the Greek alphabet. Thus, there are 24 verses in the entire canon. The canon is divided into four stanzas, each sung separately the first four Fridays of Great Lent. On the fifth, the entire canon is sung. Each alternating verse ends with the praise, “Rejoice, O unwedded Bride” and “Alleluia”. Between each stanza is sung the hymn, “O Champion General” the Kontakion which commemorates the victory of Constantinople.

“O Champion General, I your City now inscribe to you Triumphant anthems as the tokens of my gratitude, Being rescued from the terrors, O Theotokos. Inasmuch as you have power unassailable, From all kinds of perils free me, so that unto you I may cry aloud: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.”

While we might now have stone walls that protect our souls from evil invaders, we can still be protected by the prayers of the Theotokos. As you stand (Akathist means “not seated”) tonight during Church, remember to ask the All Holy Theotokos to protect your soul so you can honor her and her Son, our God with prayer and fasting the rest of the Great Lent.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Devil Never Stops

The other day I invited you to let me know how your Great Lenten Journey was going by using the “Tell us what you think” form on my website. Today’s Daily Lenten Journey post is a response to a comment I received yesterday....“Once I set foot out of the church it seems the devil is always trying to trip me up. More so during lent than not.”

One of the allures of a monastery is that many people think monastics don’t have temptations like those of us in the world. This is especially true when we visit a monastery for a few hours and return home filled with peace and looking forward to growing closer to God once we return to our routine. Then suddenly, once we step across the property line (it seems) the devil begins with a vengeance trying to beat us down. The same thing can, and often does, happen when we attend Lenten services in the Church. Once we leave the Church, the temptations start all over again. When this happens to you, first you must understand YOU ARE NOT IMAGINING THINGS. The devil is indeed trying harder to trip you up.

Great Lent, if we are taking it seriously as our Daily Lenten Journey has been urging us, is a period of INCREASED spiritual intensity, similar to a visit to a monastery. First we shouldn’t be surprised that while in the Church for Lenten services (or any services for that matter) we feel closer to God. We are in His physical presence. Secondly, we should not be surprised that we notice the real difference between the temptations inside the Church (there are ALWAYS temptations) and temptations outside the Church. As the Church teaches, and we sing in the Cherubic Hymn, “Let us lay aside all earthly cares that we may receive the King of All,” when we enter the Church (Heaven on Earth) we change our focus, or at least we should.

Everything seems fine so long as we are inside the Church, smelling the incense, hearing the bells, singing with the chanters or choir, venerating the Holy Icons and Relics, and feeling the hard marble floor on our knees as we do our prostrations as we worship God. This will in fact lift our spirit closer to God. Then we leave the Church and return to the world. Remember our Daily Lenten Journey post from earlier about Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden. Once they left the comfort of the Garden they (we) had to suffer the reality of a world without God’s protection.

In a similar way, though God DOES protect us, when we leave the Church after services and return to the world, we are entering a world that is not focused on God. Just as Adam and Eve had to focus attention on survival, so do we have to survive. Our attention outside the Church is suddenly returned to “How am I going to pay the bills this week?” And once we begin to turn our attention away from God, as Eve turned her attention toward the Tree in the Garden, the devil has an open window through which to attack. And attack he does.

So why does he try more during Great Lent than at other times? There are two reasons. First, he isn’t actually trying harder. We might just be more aware of his temptations because we are working harder to remain focused on God. Imagine Eve in the Garden for a moment. Imagine she has her back to the Tree and staring constantly at God. The devil might be jumping up and down behind her, but she never realizes. This is like us being in Church during Great Lent. Then she turns and sees the Tree and seeing its beauty and imagining how tasty is must be (See the story in Genesis 3), she also sees the devil jumping up and down next to the Tree trying to get her attention. NOW, she has to work harder at ignoring the devil’s temptation along with the Tree and turn her eyes back toward God. The more she contemplates the Tree, the harder it gets to turn her eyes away.

The second reason is seems like the devil is trying harder during Great Lent is because he is trying harder. Once Eve turned her attention completely toward the Tree the devil had to work much less to convince her to eat the fruit. The truth is, the more the devil has our attention the less he has to work for it.

So during Great Lent, when we are working more intensely to focus our attention on God, the devil has to work harder to compete for our attention, and the more we focus on God the more we are aware the devil is behind us jumping up and down. So it isn’t surprising that you feel greater temptations during Great Lent once you leave the Church, but that doesn’t mean you give up the fight. It just means you are making progress. The more you work to keep your attention on God, the more the devil has to work to get your attention away from Him. Whatever you do, don’t give up because the devil never stops!

Using the link to the left, “Tell us know what you think” and let us know about your Lenten Journey, and we can share your story with others. Together we can help each other Live A New Life In Christ.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Why we use prayer books

During Great Lent the Church offers a special service known as Great Compline. There is also a Small Compline which is part of the daily services offered mostly in monastic communities and in the private home. The service receives its name from the Greek word, Αποδείπνον, which is translated as “after supper” indicating when the prayers are offered. You could say the Compline is the service we pray not immediately before we go to bed, but between supper and bed. While normally the Small Compline is a personal prayer offered in front of our icons throughout the year, the Great Compline is offered as a community in the Church.

As I mentioned during the first week of Great Lent, we should look at the services and readings prescribed by the Church to better understand the emphasis the Church desire for us in our life. One such opportunity it the PRAYER OF MANASSES, KING OF JUDA offered ONLY during the Great Compline. Here is the text of that prayer.

O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous seed; who created the heaven and the earth with all their adornment; who bound the sea by the word of your command; who shut up the abyss and scaled it with your awesome and glorious name; whom all things dread and before whose power they tremble, because the majesty of your glory is unbearable and the threat of your anger against the sinners unendurable; yet the mercy of your promise is both, immeasurable and unfathomable, for you are the Lord most high, compassionate, long-suffering and all merciful, and relent on the wickedness of man.

You, Lord, in the multitude of your goodness promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against you, and in your infinite compassion appointed repentance for sinners that they may be saved. Therefore, Lord, the God of the powers, you have not appointed repentance for the righteous, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who have not sinned against you, but you appointed repentance for me the sinner, for I have committed more sins than the grains of the sand of the sea.

My transgressions have multiplied, Lord; my transgressions have multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of the sky from the multitude of my iniquities, being weighted down by many iron  chains, so that I cannot raise my head; there is no respite left for me because I provoked your anger and committed evil before you not having done your will and not having kept your commandments. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching your goodness.

I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned and I acknowledge my transgressions; but I beg and ask of you: Forgive me, Lord, forgive me and do not destroy me with my transgressions; do not be angry with me forever and keep my evils in me, and do not condemn me to the depths of the earth; for you are God, the God of those who repent, and in me you shall show all your goodness; for even though I am unworthy, you shall save me according to the multitude of your mercy, and I shall praise you without ceasing all the days of my life. For every heavenly power sings your praises, and yours is the glory unto the ages of ages.

If we allow the words of Manasses to become our words, this prayer will most definitely launch you into the last two weeks of Great Lent. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Make a Change

There have always been two ways, one of life and the other of death. Since the earliest days of the Church the Holy Apostles confirmed this truth in “The Teaching of the Apostles to the Nations” which was written around 70AD. This teaching of the Apostles was not created by them as we can see from today’s reading in Proverbs 15:7-19.

The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the minds of fools.  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.  The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.  There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die.  Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD, how much more the hearts of men!  A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.  A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.  The mind of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.  All the days of the afflicted are evil, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.  Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.  A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.  The way of a sluggard is overgrown with thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.

The way of life described in Proverbs and in “The Teachings” might seem unachievable by today’s standards. It might seem like the Church is expecting an unreasonable level of dedication from members in the 21st Century. It might seem like the Church is out of town and “old fashioned” in her teachings and laws. It might be, but it isn’t.

The Church’s way of life has been given to us by God incarnate, and guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth through the Holy Apostles. This way of life, as I have said already in our Daily Lenten Journey, can be trusted. It is the worldly life that needs to be reevaluated, not the Church. Continuing with our theme this week of renouncing the world, I invite you to consider your decisions from yesterday, and make your own judgment based upon today’s’ reading in Proverbs. I invite you to evaluate your options today and ask yourself if you could have lived a life more in line with the Church. And then.....make a change.

Let me know how it goes....Using the “Tell us what you think” link on my blog, let me know how your decisions are going. I would love to hear (and share with others) how your Daily Lenten Journey is going.

Monday, April 11, 2016

You Can't Climb to Heaven until You Renounce the World


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 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.

As we are celebrating today the memory of a holy man in our Church history, St. John of the Ladder, we call him, St. John the Climacus, because he wrote a book called On the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Today, the Church commemorates this holy saint.

This book that he wrote, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, I put these different steps in your Church bulletins but I want to begin this morning by drawing your attention to the first step. If you have your bulletins, look at your bulletin. Step number one on the divine ascent, how to get to heaven, step number one, it says on the renunciation of the world.

We are in the middle of our Great Lenten journey, a period of increased fasting, a period of increased Church attendance, a period of increased prayer, a period of increased scripture reading, a period of increased helping of the poor. All of this, my brothers and sisters, if we are living the life of the Church, all of this has been given to us this many weeks and we still have a couple of weeks left so we can focus on this first step that St. John is reminding us of. Until we can renounce the world, we cannot climb to heaven. I'm going to say that again because it's incredibly important. Until we are able to renounce the world, we cannot climb to heaven. We cannot, my brothers and sisters, hold on to the earthly things to our comforts, to our wealth, to the ways of life of the world, and still try and reach heaven. It is not possible.

That's what our Great Lenten journey is about: understanding, accepting, embracing, and practicing renouncing the world. That was the message last week when we talked about the holy cross. We talked about our suffering. This week, we're going to look further now with the understanding that we want to get to heaven and that we have chosen to let go of the worldly things. It's a big presumption because it holds us so strongly.

We are so bound to our worldly things. We are so bound to the way we want to do things in life. We live in a culture, as we know, that reinforces this mentality. We live in a culture that reinforces the idea that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it, as much as we want it. Anyone that we see that doesn't agree with us, we find ways to get them out of our way so we can have and we can collect and we can gather all of these worldly realities to our life. That includes sometimes even in the face of sickness.

As I mentioned last week, the Cross is an understanding of suffering. In this morning's Gospel, you see a man whose son was suffering and it says that he bought his son to the apostles and the apostles couldn't save his son so he comes to Christ and he says, "If you can do anything, your apostles couldn't do anything," as if to tell God, "Why is it not happening like I want, God?"

If we're honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have been in the same place as this father many times in our life. It may not necessarily be with physical illness but if we are honest with ourselves, just how many times have we placed ourselves in the position of saying, "God, it hasn't happened yet like I want it to. Come on, God. Can't you do something for me?" It could be a job, it could be a relationship, it could even be something as simple as building a new home for our family. We find ourselves constantly impatient with what God has to offer us because we want it now on our terms. We want health, we want wealth, we want comforts now. We don't want to wait.

Our Lord, being the complete loving and patient God, says, "Oh, you faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." God is ever so patient with us, my brothers and sisters. Even in those moments of complete selfish begging that we do in front of our icons, we want it now, we want it on our terms, even at those moments when we're completely ignoring what God has asked us to do in life, He turns to us and says, "How long am I going to be with you until you realize that these worldly things are not what's going to bring us happiness?" These comforts in life are not going to be what sets us on a firm foundation for the future. In the patience of God, He's going to say to us, "How long am I going to bear with you, my children, until you realize that you have to be willing to let go of all these things if you want to join Me in heaven," the Lord is saying.

He says, "Bring him here to Me." There's the center, middle section of the Gospel, which is the dialogue between Him and the boy and the demon and the fathers. The demons throw the boy into the fire and he's suffering and the boy is healed. God was going to heal him but He wanted the people to understand that we have to have patience in life when it comes to the things that we are asking from God. The apostles pull him privately and they say, "Excuse me, God, Lord. Don't you remember you told ..." This isn't how it's written in here but you can imagine how the apostles are thinking now. "Remember, Lord, you told us that we had the power to cast out demons. How come we couldn't cast out this demon?" Our Lord says, "This particular kind of demon can only go out through prayer and fasting."

It is only when we have the patience to put our complete faith in God, it is only when we're willing through fasting to let go of all of the worldly pressures in our life, all of the worldly desires in our life, only then will this demon be able to come out of us. That's what Great Lent is all about, renouncing the world, patiently praying to our Lord. What did the father say? "I believe. Help my unbelief." That should be our call, my brothers and sisters. You wouldn't be here this morning if you didn't somewhat believe. You wouldn't be here this morning sitting in this Church if there wasn't some kernel of faith in your heart.

You know, as a parenthesis, I love the way the modern Greek translates this particular verse. The modern Greek says, "I believe. Help me, however." [GREEK] "Help me, however, because my faith is weak." It is in prayer and fasting in this wonderful Great Lenten journey that the Church gives us that we are going to strengthen our faith, my brothers and sisters. It is in this prayer and fasting of this Great Lenten season that we're going to learn that we don't always have to follow the ways of the world to put our children and our families on a sure foundation for the future. God is our foundation.

Just as one final reminder, St. Paul reminding us that God in his ultimate patience came and set up a covenant for us. He made an oath because he knew that we were weak. St. Paul says, "Thus, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise," that's us, "the immutability of his council, confirmed by an oath that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope," St. Paul says, "we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, in which enters the presence behind the veil where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus having become high priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord has given us a promise, my brothers and sisters, and He doesn't go back on His promises. The promise is that He is going to bring us with Him to heaven. That is our hope. Our hope is not in a college education or in a good job or a sizable estate to hand down to our children. That is not our hope. That is the hope of the world. As St. John of the Ladder writes, In just step one, on the renunciation of the world. We cannot climb up to heaven until we're willing to leave all of these things beside.  Through prayer and fasting, we can accomplish just that and we can cast that demon out of our life and be raised with Christ into heaven.

That's our call this week, my brothers and sisters. In your daily prayers, throughout the day at noon every moment on your lips should be the words, this week, "I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief." God has already promised to strengthen that belief through prayer and fasting, which is our Great Lenten journey. 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 in support of this ministry may be sent to Be Transfigured, 2990 S Cashua Dr, Florence, South Carolina 29501 or online at our website at