Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wounds


As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” … “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.” There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:10-18)

I don’t usually comment on all current events—there are plenty of opinionators out there who think they have something to say about every issue. Often they are just interested in keeping people aflame about issues important to them, so they appeal to the passions and rarely offer well thought out solutions.


The recent murders of the children and their teachers in Texas and the grocery shoppers in New York fills my heart with pain and sorrow, and I know my emotional response is shared by many in this country, but it does little for solving the problems that lead to these gun murders. I don’t have a practical or easy solution to this either. Yet, I do think Americans and Christian Americans ought to think about the issue and support ideas that might help prevent such murders in the future. The passage above from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans ought to raise some concerns for us. The issue is not the sins of ‘others’—the mentally ill or ideologues, extremists and terrorists—but our own sins. As St Paul says we have “feet swift to shed blooddestruction and misery are in OUR ways.  Gun owners seem to assume more guns are the answer which only contributes all the more to the sin of having “feet swift to shed blood.” The gun deaths of innocent children and shoppers which happens way too often in America are self-inflicted gunshot wounds because we refuse to come up with solutions to the problems. We seem to have accepted that our ‘right to bear arms’ means a certain number of our children and citizens will have to be murdered by guns each year. The price of our freedom is the murder of our children. It is a price too high to pay for such a freedom in my mind. But, as I already confessed, I don’t have the solution, which should cause me to repent of my failures. It is what America needs to do –repent of our inability and unwillingness to do what it takes to protect our children. All the sorrow and handwringing we do won’t change what is happening daily in our country.


In 860AD the head bishop of the Christians in Constantinople, Photios, had to address his congregants after the city had been besieged by the marauding Rus who mercilessly attacked the city’s outskirts slaughtering the inhabitants. There were plenty of tears and lamentations in Constantinople by the residents who lived in dread behind the impenetrable walls of the city. But Photios notes all their tears cannot change what happened and do nothing for the victims of the slaughter. Photios preached:

52105673231_25a7091fe3_wI do not see now any benefit even in the shedding of tears. For when before our eyes the enemy’s swords are drenched in the blood of our fellow-countrymen, and we, as we behold this, do not take it upon ourselves to help, as we ought to, being at a loss what to do, but instead collapse in tears, — what kind of consolation is this for the victims? Even more copious streams than the tears welling from our eyelids might the blood of the severed bodies have prompted, but since the gory flood that flows therefrom cannot wipe off the pollution of our transgressions, how can the rivers of our eyes wash it clean? It is not now, my beloved ones, that we ought to weep, but we should have hated sin from the start; not mourn now, but have formerly avoided the pleasures which have caused us this sorrow. It is as though we had delivered ourselves into bondage to cruel masters and were unwilling to bear the torture of the whip, if, having given ourselves over to the wicked deeds, we were to beg off the punishment which God’s righteous judgment inflicts on us. . . . Not to attend vigils, now, and run to litanies, and beat the breast, and sigh deeply, and raise the arms, and bend the knees, and weep mournfully, and looked dejected, when the pricks of death are sharpened against us: we should have done these things long ago, we should have long ago devoted ourselves to good works, we should have long ago repented over our evil ones.” (THE HOMILIES OF PHOTIUS PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, pp 85-86)


Yes, Photios says people are flocking to Church and offering prayers and appeals to God for mercy, which is appropriate, but it changes nothing.  The OCA’s Metropolitan and the company which manufactured the guns which killed the school children and teachers in Texas, both have posted sentiments to pray for the victims and their families.  None of those prayers can undo the evil already done and none will change the direction of our country.  Photios in the 9th Century tells the people the problem is they should have long before the current events occurred turned to God in repentance and thought about their own sins and faults and how that contributes to the problems of their society. Lamenting over the deaths of the victims and the suffering of their families cannot change what happened and brings no comfort to the victims of violence or their families. However, they can begin to look at themselves and make the changes necessary to prevent these events from happening in the future. Now is the time to do the hard work to make the necessary and even painful changes so we don’t invite more vileness and violence on ourselves.


Photios doesn’t fault the Rus for attacking – he faults the Chrisitan population for not taking their own failures seriously and making the changes needed to assure themselves a more peaceful existence and to prevent more violence from ripping their lives apart. There are changes we need to make in America regarding guns and violence. Are we now willing to do the hard work to make those changes or will the two major political parties simply retreat into their corners and snipe at each other trying to put blame on the ‘other side’ rather than doing the hard work of finding and supporting changes in law and policy that can change our culture?  Maybe the time comes to vote out of office any politician who says they will not listen to ideas of the “other” political party because our politicians are supposed to represent not just those who voted for them but all the people who live in their districts. We need politicians who are willing to work together to solve problems, not become problems by being entrenched in their own ideas.

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Blaming the ‘mentally ill’ for gun violence may make sense to some, but mental illness exists in every human population and yet it takes a particularly violent form in America. Maybe we need to look at why this is so—what is it about our culture and our sense of ‘freedom’ that yields gun violence and gun murders. It seems to be a particularly American problem. My thoughts are only that the politicians of this country need to lay down their own differences and work hard to find some solution to these particularly American issues of violence. Because of the 2nd Amendment it will require American ingenuity and a particularly American solution.


And for Christians who mistakenly believe that more gun ownership is a godly solution, I would say read St Paul’s words:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put on the complete armor of God, so that you may be able to resist the devil’s tactics. Truly, our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness and against the evil spiritual forces of the supernatural realms. Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to resist when the evil day comes. Having accomplished all things, may you stand your ground! Yes, stand [firm], having the belt of truth around your waist, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having fitted shoes on your feet so as to be ready in the Good News of peace. Above all, take up the shield of faith which will enable you to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. Take also the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word [spoken] by God. (Ephesians 5:10-17)

St Paul’s words about the armor of God is all about spiritual warfare; it is not about using guns or weapons of death and destruction. The battle he sees Christians waging is against spiritual powers. The only weapon he advocates is “the sword of the Spirit which is the word spoken by God.” The above words really are St Paul’s ‘stand your ground’ speech but he only refers to a spiritual battle, not the storing up of guns, ammunition and weapons in the face of a hostile world (and his world was very hostile to Christians). We are to be people who look for the way of peace and to endeavor to fight the spiritual warfare that might change our hearts and minds. Again, St Paul writes: “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)


Some might object, but are we therefore to sit around and let people shoot and murder us while not defending ourselves and our families and loved ones? I think we do have very difficult choices to make including violating God’s command that we not kill. I just don’t think we ought to consider killing our only or first way to deal with violence. St Paul identified Death as God’s final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). We shouldn’t be relying on death, God’s enemy, to solve our problems. We need to be working now on other societal changes and solutions that might prevent future murders or future reliance on death to solve problems. I don’t know what those changes are, but let’s return to American ingenuity to find some. I’m hopeful that the issue isn’t that we tried and failed. I think the issue is we haven’t even begun to do the hard work to find the changes and solutions that can make a difference. If there were easy solutions, I’m sure they would have been found and implemented already. Now we have to roll up our sleeves and labor together to uncover possible solutions to these terrible problems. And we have to repent of our failures up to this point to find solutions because we allowed ourselves to become entrenched in and blinded by our favored ideologies. Our enemies are not those with whom we politically disagree, but rather any who refuse to work together for a solution to our shared American problems.


Although this post is already too long, I saw the following comments about guns in America from NPR:

“Children are more likely to die from gun violence in the United States than in any other rich nation. Consider these two facts alone:

  • study of 29 countries found that the U.S. accounted for almost 97% of all firearm deaths among kids 4 years old or younger — and 92% among those ages 5 to 14.
  • In 2020, gun violence overtook car accidents as the No. 1 cause of death for American kids and adolescents. And while overall firearm-related deaths increased 13.5% between 2019 and 2020, they surged a staggering 30% among children.

One of the main contributing factors in that astounding toll lies in another figure: the sheer amount of guns in the country. While the U.S. makes up just 4% of the global population, Americans own nearly 46% of the world’s estimated 857 million civilian-held firearms.”

Personally, I don’t see the ever-increasing number of guns in  America as making people feel more secure.  Just the contrary, I see paranoia and anxiety increasing in our country – two factors which take away from our sense of freedom, security and safety and add to the mental problems of our society. We need to consider St Paul’s words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That is the daunting task we face as Christians in our society.

The Suffering Messiah 

Christ is risen! 


Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3)

Biblical scholar Michael Gorman comments on how St Paul not only believed the suffering Messiah was God’s plan, but that he also believed he himself was supposed to participate in the Christ’s suffering—it is in fact the way to glory for all Christians.  Paul said, “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13)


… it reveals his [Paul’s] deep conviction that Christ’s suffering and death constituted a revelation of divine love for the world, a love into which he and his churches were now caught up; they were called to narrate to the world, in word and deed, the suffering and reconciling love of God in Christ. To suffer for others is to absorb evil and pain rather than inflict them; that was God’s way in Christ, and it became Paul’s way, too, the natural consequence of his conversion from violence as his means to justification before God . . .  Indeed, for Paul suffering is also a prelude to glory, as crucifixion is to resurrection; shame gives way to honor in the economy of God. Just as Christ was humiliated and then exalted, in the pattern of the suffering servant of Isa 52:13-53:12, so also those who suffer with him as God’s servants will be glorified with him (Rom 8:17; Phil 3:10-11). Paul even employs unusual terms to designate this overarching pattern of participation in Christ: to co-suffer and be co-glorified (Rom 8:17; Greek sympaschomen  and syndoxasthomen). (READING PAUL, pp 150-151)


As Gorman notes, “To suffer for others is to absorb evil and pain rather than inflict them, that was God’s way in Christ.” Applying that thought to the current situation in Ukraine, we should expect to see Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the man he is supposed to shepherd, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, willing to suffer for their fellow Orthodox in Ukraine rather than to inflict suffering and violence on them.  Even more dismally shocking is that one claims Ukrainians are part of his flock and the other claims they are his fellow countrymen –and yet they wage war on Ukrainians.  By choosing the way of violence and war in inflicting suffering on millions, they reveal that they do not follow Christ. Rather they seem to be descendants of the fratricide Cain.  They are advocating a violence which led God to say to Noah: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).  If they followed Christ they would know what St Paul commands: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).


In the U.S., we too have to apply Scriptures as well as Gorman’s comment to our own situation in which gun violence continues to murder innocent children.  How can we absorb this evil and pain without inflicting more evil and pain?  That is a question for us Christians in America to think about.  Why is our country’s culture so violent as compared to all other civilized nations on earth?  What do we need to do to change this or what can we do?  I don’t have any easy solutions, but do believe we need to actively wrestle with this and not just accept this as part of our form of freedom. The murders of our nation’s children by gun violence are self-inflicted gun shot wounds. We are responsible for this because we claim everyone has a right to bear arms and we don’t want background check for every gun purchase and we don’t want registries for guns and gun owners.  We act as if gun ownership makes us free, while we become increasingly paranoid of gun violence and try to create a fortress America in which everyone must be willing to kill to maintain their right to bear arms.  Freedom is being taken away by fear.  For people who want to blame mental illness for all the gun violence, they might look at their own attitudes towards guns as part of that illness.  The more guns there are, the more gun deaths there will be.  Apparently Americans think MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction – in which everyone owns a gun and is willing to kill anyone who threatens them is not madness.  Thou shall not kill, God said, apparently not thinking about the 2nd Amendment.


If all we can come up with is kill those who are or would be violent, then we are simply responding to evil with more evil while relying on God’s final enemy, Death (1 Corinthians 15:26), to solve our problems. We need to work on changing hearts and minds – repentance, not just in some petty moralistic or ritualistic sense, but as a project to deeply alter the course of our country’s mindset.

Truly, He is risen! 

What It Means to Be a Person of Faith 

Christ is risen! 


Then the jail keeper called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And the keeper of the prison brought Paul and Silas out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. (Acts 16:29-33)


Sts Paul and Silas tell the jail keeper that to be saved he must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He must have faith, faith in Christ. What does this mean?  Orthodox abbess, Mother Raphaela, offers some insight into what having faith means.

We know that the answer for any Christian is not to abandon what God calls them to, however. We struggle to cease to be ‘functional atheists’: we struggle not only to believe in God with our minds, but also to accept in our daily lives that He is in control of everything, even our own sins and the hard times around us and in the Church. None of us in today’s world can see the future, but we can trust that whatever it holds is meant for our salvation.   (LIVING IN CHRIST, p 61)


One aspect of faith is trusting God – believing that God is Lord over the entire universe, including our personal lives.  It is believing with hope that life has meaning and that God is working out His plan for the salvation of the world, even though we might only be experiencing in the world frustration, confusion, doubt and anger over what is unfolding in our lives and/or in the world. God’s role or help or salvation in the world might not be visible or obvious to us.  Faith tells us to hope in and trust God’s love and plan despite what we might fear or what we are experiencing.

The Coptic Orthodox monk known as Matthew the Poor points to Moses as an example of a man of faith in a world which was hostile to him, and in which the Israelites were powerless and subservient to their Egyptian overlords.


Had it not been for Moses, Israel would not have journeyed for a single day in the desert. Yet Moses journeyed forty years in the hope of reaching the promised land. His only resource throughout this long struggle was faith. By means of his towering faith, he managed to lead an obstinate people forty years in a most arid wilderness. We need the leadership of Moses for ourselves so that we can walk by faith. By faith we can push ourselves to go on even though we can see nothing. However long our struggle may last, we should keep on going along the way of God, for we are certain that at the end of the trail lies the Heavenly Jerusalem prepared like a bride for her bridegroom. But so long as the journey goes on, we should be satisfied with God’s faithfulness to his promises, the secret encouragements that he gives us, and his voice speaking to us out of eternity.  (ORTHODOX PRAYER LIFE, p 177)


Faith encourages us to keep going, to keep seeking God and sojourning to God’s Kingdom no matter what we might be experiencing in the world, no matter whether we see any sign of God’s activity in our lives or not. Faith is trusting in God even through the worst of times believing that in the end (but not necessarily right now) God will triumph.  This type of faith is very much a part of Winston Churchill’s thinking in a quote I’ve mentioned in other posts: “When going through hell, keep going.”  Trust and believe that whether in hell itself or whether in a hell on earth, God will be on the other side of the cross and grave for God’s will really does govern the universe.

My heart is broken by yet another mass murder carried out by a gun owner in America.  While I encourage all of us to pray both for the victims of these gun murders and their surviving family members, I realize that prayers must seem almost powerless to the family members of the victims.  Their lives too stopped at that moment and some part of them was murdered as well.  No other nation on earth seems to have the gun murders that America has – whether counted as individual deaths or mass shootings.  We seem to have accepted that the price of the 2nd Amendment is that some of our children must die to gun fire.  It strikes me that it is the gun owners in this country who have to come up with solutions to this.  If law abiding citizens want the right to bear arms, they are the ones who have to come up with solutions for how to prevent other gun owners from massacring children and other citizens. Can believers in America really expect God to bless a country that won’t do everything possible to make its children safe? Faith requires us to weep before God for our failures and to seek solutions to end the gun violence of this country.

Indeed, He is risen! 

God Called Us Gods! 

Christ is risen! 


The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”?’ If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”  (John 10:33-36) 

St Mark the Ascetic living in the 5th Century (perhaps my favorite author in THE PHILOKALIA) comments on our salvation –God became human (incarnation) in order that humans might be fully united to God (deification). Even God’s idea for salvation is not to Lord it over us but to unite us to Himself, to share the divine life with us, which is what God intended from the beginning when He created us in His image and likeness.


…think to what depth of human humiliation He descended in His ineffable goodness, becoming in all respects like us who were dwelling in darkness in the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16), captives through the transgression of Adam and dominated by the enemy through the activity of the passions. When we were in this harsh captivity, ruled by invisible and bitter death, the Master of all visible and invisible creation was not ashamed to humble Himself and to take upon Himself our human nature, subject as it was to the passions of shame and desire and condemned by divine judgment; and He became like us in all things except that He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), that is, without ignoble passions. All the penalties imposed by divine judgment upon man for the sin of the first transgression—death, toil, hunger, thirst and the like—He took upon Himself, becoming what we are, so that we might become what He is. The Logos became man, so that man might become Logos. Being rich, He became poor for our sakes, so that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). In his great love for man He became like us, so that through every virtue we might become like Him. 


From the time that Christ came to dwell with us, man created according to God’s image and likeness is truly renewed through the grace and power of the Spirit, attaining to the perfect love which ‘casts out fear‘ (1 John 4:18) — the love, which is no longer able to fail, for ‘love never fails‘ (1 Corinthians 13:8).   (Vol 1, p 155) 

 Truly, He is risen! 

The Spiritual Heart of the Matter

Christ is risen! 


So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9)

Orthodox scholar John McGuckin comments on the human heart as a spiritual organ rather than as a physical one:

8509411508_217f469a6f_wA significant aspect of the biblical, and patristic doctrine, however, is that the heart is not alone in its seeking, or even taking the initiative; for God has elected the human heart as the preferred holy ground of the encounter. As with Christ, the Logos Incarnate, so now in the spiritual life of the disciple the heart is destined to become the new temple of an indwelling holy presence. The heart is not a part of the human creature in the biblical understanding, but connotes the whole creature understood as having a capacity for a higher life, and ultimately a capacity for God who has given his church the instinct for his presence. The heart, therefore, is the person understood as a creature under the eye of God, a mysterious and holy reality even though creaturely and limited.   (STANDING IN GOD’S HOLY FIRE, p 58)

St Isaac of Nineveh offers two thoughts on the spirituality of the heart as the place where God’s law and Spirit dwell:

“One who has God’s laws in his heart will find the Lord within them.”

“But when the power of the Spirit enters and dwells in the intelligible powers of the pious soul, then instead of laws that are [written] in ink, the commands of the Spirit are fixed in the heart. Which the heart learns secretly from the Spirit (cf. Jeremiah 31: 33-34; 1 John 2:27) without having need of the help of sensible materials mediated by the senses.”   (ON ASCETICAL LIFE, pp 82, 110)


You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

It is up to each of us to transfer the word of God from the biblical text and to write it on our hearts.  Love for one another is not an idea to be entertained in the mind, but a word to be written on our hearts which we live in our daily lives, thoughts, behaviors.

But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. (Romans 10:8-10)  

 Indeed, He is risen!

Following Christ Through the World to the Kingdom

Christ is risen! 


But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  (John 10:2-4)


The Lord Jesus gives us a very pastoral image of Himself being the good shepherd who leads us out to pasture.  He knows each of us by name and we willingly follow Him.  It is wonderful imagery and yet Christ does warn us that to follow Him means accepting the way of the Cross. He leads us, but the world in which we live can be hostile to us as it was to Him.  His voice leads us to the eternal Kingdom of God, but the way there is not through paradise but rather the way of the cross.  There is no way around this, though we today like the Apostles in the Gospel would like to avoid that way. We are not yet in the Kingdom nor in Paradise, and so we face many trials in this world.  “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

Following Christ is not without risk and when we imagine that life in this world can be Paradise, we are deceiving ourselves or even falling into a delusion which has inspired many ideologues and demagogues to wrongfully believe they can create a paradise on earth.  We are better prepared for life when we realize this world is still the way of the cross and not yet the Kingdom.  It is for good reason that often in icons of Christ the Good Shepherd a large cross is very visible. That cross, the sign of Christ’s triumphant victory over death, also follows Christ and so is in our midst when we follow Him.


It is said in the Gospels: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me‘ (Matthew. 16: 24). When we pray, then, we must first give up our own will and our own ideas, and then take up our cross, which is the labor of body and soul that is unavoidable in this spiritual quest. Having surrendered ourselves entirely to the never-sleeping care of God, we should joyfully and humbly endure the sweat and labor, for the sake of the true reward God will grant to the zealous when the right time comes. Then God, imparting his grace to us, will put an end to the wanderings of our mind and will place it—together with the remembrance of Himself—immovably within the heart.   (Monk Agapii, THE ART OF PRAYER, p 276)


To follow Christ is to give up the delusion that any ideology or politician can create paradise on earth. They and we can make things better or worse, but to believe that any politician or ideology can perfect the world or save the world is to fail to take Christ’s words seriously.  “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Psalms 146:3).  Politicians and ideologies have only worldly (i.e., “fallen”) solutions to problems, so none of them can offer eternal values. They may make life better or worse for us in our earthly sojourn but godly people would be wise not to believe in them with all their soul, heart, mind and strength, something they should reserve for God alone. Serving God and mammon is impossible (Matthew 6:24). Believing that politicians or ideologies can establish a perfect world is a delusion.  Which is not to say that politics are unimportant, only that their solutions are of limited value and we should not treat politicians or their ideologies as infallible or inerrant, eternal or divine.


Jesus told us, “in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  There is no doubt that we do have tribulation in this world.  What it means that Christ has overcome the world is far less certain as the world seems to go on as before. To find Christ’s peace and cheer is what can help us deal with life in faith and hope. I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “If you are going through hell, keep going!” Don’t stop, but move ahead, continue to be a sojourner realizing that God’s Kingdom awaits us at the end of time.  Until then, we have to carry our crosses in this world.

For all the people of the world who have been affected by war or mass shootings, you know what it is to be in hell.  While many of us weep with you, our inability to stop war or the use of guns for murder means there will be more weeping in this world. I don’t see our politicians as willing to work together to solve these problems.  They prefer to snipe at each other and become entrenched in their own opinions rather than to actively work for solutions or ways to improve life.  They want to score points for themselves and against their opponents rather than do the hard work of finding solutions that might require them to acknowledge that their ideological position is part of the problem.

Truly, He is risen! 

The Symbolism of Exodus 

4148612504_5e21e356c0_wChrist is risen! 

Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. (Acts 13:16-17) 

The great 3rd Century biblical exegete Origen comments on the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and its relevance to Christians today: 

50650284943_3197683994_wThe symbolism of the escape from Egypt is of two kinds, as our predecessors have said, and as we ourselves have often repeated. When one is led from the darkness of error into the light of knowledge, one quits Egypt and goes into the desert.  … But the escape from Egypt also signifies… the souls abandoning the darkness of this world and taking its journey toward another world, sometimes referred to as ‘Abraham’s bosom’, sometimes as Paradise, sometimes by names known only to God, all of which, however, denote places or dwellings which give passage to the soul which believes in God to enable it to reach the river which makes glad the city of God and to enter into possession of the inheritance promised to the fathers.”   (GOSPEL MESSAGE AND HELLENISTIC CULTURE, p 467) 


It is the day of resurrection! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead! (First Ode of the Easter Canon).

Indeed, He is risen! 


You Shall Not See Death 

Christ is risen! 

50282919228_613f69853d_w“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (John 8:24)

When the Lord Jesus claimed that those who keep His word shall never see death, He was proclaiming a spiritual truth which cannot be understood only in a literal way. For Christ Himself will die as do all of His disciples and followers.  What I think He means is that we will not see death because Christ Himself has filled Hades/Sheol with Himself.   When we die, we won’t see [the face of] death because Christ now fills all things causing death to vanish. When we die, we shall see the face of our Savior.

As God, you arose from the tomb in glory, raising the world with yourself. Human nature praises you as God, for death has vanished; Adam exults, O Master; Eve rejoices, for she is freed from bondage, and cries to you: ‘You are the giver of resurrection to all, O Christ!’ (Tone 1, Kontakion)

As the Psalmist says there is no place we can go where God is not:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

(Psalm 139:7-8)


And, as we sing at Pascha:

Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions. So let all creation celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, whereby it is established. (Paschal Canon Ode 3)

Christ has filled everything including the nethermost regions of the cosmos- Hades/hell/Sheol- with Light, namely with Himself.  Now even when we go to the place of the dead we see the Light of Christ as death has vanished. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We do not need to fear death. In the Lamentations service of Holy Friday, we chant these words:

 To earth have you come down, O Master to save Adam,  

And not finding him on Earth  

You descended into hell, seeking him there. 


Of old the lamb was sacrificed in secret;

But You, longsuffering Lord, were sacrificed beneath the open sky

And have cleansed the whole creation.

Adam was afraid when God walked in Paradise,

But now he rejoices when God descends to hell.

Then he fell, now he is raised up.


God is not absent from the place of the dead, but is everywhere present and fills all things including Hades. As the above hymn envisions it, while Adam was afraid to see God in Paradise (Genesis 3:10), Adam rejoiced to see God in Hell for now it meant his salvation. For us who still face death, we won’t see death as long as we are looking for Christ. In the book of Revelation Death is permanently thrown into the lake of fire and eliminated from the cosmos:

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. . . . Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 20:14-21:4; emphases added)


[It is very clear that Death is God’s enemy; God’s last enemy according to St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:26. The fact that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Synod have blessed the killing of Russians and Ukrainians in Putin’s war shows us in the spiritual realm whose side they are on. Not only have they blessed the murders of innocent people, but they would claim many of these people belong to ‘their’ flock so they are guilty like Cain of fratricide. They bring disgrace on all of Christianity because they choose to be nationalists rather than Christian.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd distinguishes Himself from the bad shepherds who are nothing but thieves:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Patriarch Kirill and his synod (like thieves) are blessing killing and destruction in opposition to Christ who gives life in abundance.   Two thoughts from the Word of God for Kirill and the Russian bishops:

For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:11-12)

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

While Orthodox are rejoicing in Pascha that Christ is trampling down death, sadly Kirill and his synod are guilty of blessing and advocating death.]

Truly, He is risen!

Three Poetic Thoughts

Christ is risen! 

Today I offer three poems of which it can be said, he is a poet, but didn’t show it. 



Prayer takes many forms 

Mine are postcards to God. 

Snapshots of where I am: 

Wish You were here! 



God’s Ever-Presence

One can’t enter into God’s presence- 

There’s no other place to be. 

All ways there 

Not always aware.  



A Photo: Presenting the Past

A photo – something frozen in time 


Not what is,

Only what was

The present

But no more.


Is it real? 

Now it is 

A (fleeting) memory,

A biblical flower. 

Unlike eternity  

Which is neither frozen 

Nor in time. 


Eternity never is 

On time, or 

In time 

Bent by gravity 

Or by the gravity of  

The times. 


Indeed, He is risen!

Christ Stirring the Waters

Christ is risen! 

8186047331_e19fe9005e_wThen the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:9-15)


Jacob of Sarug (d. 521AD) offers a poetic commentary on the Gospel lesson. He creatively contrasts the thirst for water and a thirst for spiritual truth as well as contrasting the water in the pitcher with the great sea of water which turns out to be the Messiah that she encounters in Jesus. Jesus is giving Himself as the spiritual drink to the Woman, who is given the name Photini in traditional Christian literature. Jacob’s poetry causes us to also think about the creation of the world in Genesis 1:6-8 in which God separates the waters from the waters. Jacob hints that the separation of waters in the beginning was actually a spiritual parting with the waters on earth becoming H2O and the waters of the heavens being divine wisdom, love, life. It is these divine waters which Christ makes present on earth again.


“The Weary One sat himself upon the well because He willed [it],

and His sign drew the Samaritan Woman to come to his side.

The Woman came out to draw water and she did not perceive,

that a Great Sea of new life met her in Him.

But when she sought to fill her pitcher a flood poured forth,

and the Abyss that came out to water the entire world encircled her.

50282948603_0989b01ac0_wShe began to draw from that well which was deep,

but the Sea, the Messiah, poured forth Himself to her that she might drink from Him.

When she considered the water so as to bring it up from below,

the heavenly waters descended and surrounded her from all sides.

The heavenly flood conquered the waters from below,

and it drew the Woman that she might draw from it and leave the other.

Our Lord began to speak to her: ‘Give me to drink;’

this was the pretext opening the gate for teaching.

Because of water, our Lord opened the gates for discourse,

but not to order to drink did He ask her if He might drink.



Phontini comes to the well with an empty pitcher to draw some water.  She will leave her empty pitcher behind as she drinks her fill of the water of life from the Savior.  She came seeking earthly water (the waters under the heaven as in Genesis 1) and departs having received the divine (the waters above the heaven).  “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17).

Truly, He is risen!