New Year Blessings

The Year of our Lord, 2019. 

May God bless you throughout the New Year!


From the 4th Century comes this prayer of blessing:

Now, God who alone is unbegotten, and the Maker of the whole world, unite you all through His peace, in the Holy Spirit; perfect you unto every good work, immoveable, unblameable, and unreprovable; and vouchsafe to you eternal life with us, through the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ our God and Saviour; with whom glory be to You, the God over all, and the Father, in the Holy Spirit the Comforter, now and always, and for ever and ever.  Amen.    (The Apostolic Constitutions, Kindle Loc. 4903-6)


The Christian biblical commentator Origen, writing in the early 3rd Century, offered some explanation about what “blessing” means.

“’Bless and do not curse‘ (Romans 12:14).

The word “blessing” is used in different ways in the Scriptures.  God is said to bless humans or the other created things, while humans and other creatures are commanded to bless God. God’s blessing always bestows some gift on those whom God blesses. When humans are said to bless God, it means to give God praise and thanksgiving. When the Apostle says here, bless and do not curse, he is warning that when we are provoked by enemies or upset by insults, we should not return curses for curses but do what he writes about himself, when reviled, we bless (1 Cor 4:12).”  (Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators, Kindle Location 6068-71)


May the blessing of the Lord be with you always.  Remember the wisdom: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

The Blessing of Wind

In January, we bless water in the Church as part of our celebration of the Theophany of the Lord.   All of creation was given to us by God to be a blessing for us.  We acknowledge those blessings in the many & varied prayer services of the ChurchSt. John Chrysostom  reminds us that the wind is also a blessing from God.

“Truly the winds are also for you–for we are going back again to the beginning of our discourse–to fan worn-out bodies, to purge away the defilement from mud and the heaviness caused by smoke and furnaces and other exhalations,

to attenuate the heat of the sun’s rays, to relieve the stifling heat, to make seeds grow, to strengthen plants, to travel together with you at sea and to be servants of agriculture for you on land–in the first place, conveying ships more swiftly than arrows and making the voyage easy and convenient,

and in the second place, clearing off the threshing floor with you, separating the chaff from the grain, and lightening the hardship of the work–to make the air light and gentle for you, to give you delight in different ways–first whistling pleasantly and gently, and then softly striking the plants and shaking the leaves of the trees–to make your sleep in spring and in summer more pleasant and more delightful than honey.

They also act on the surface of the sea and on the waters of the rivers, and lift up their surface in the same way as with the trees, thus providing you with a great deal of enjoyment from seeing it and, more importantly, also rendering you a great service.

And in fact, the winds are useful to waters in another way: not allowing them to stagnate and go bad, but rather, continually setting them in motion and stirring them up, rendering them fresh and at their best and more suitable as sustenance for creatures that swim in them.” 

(On the Providence of God, pp. 65-66)

O Give Thanks to the Lord


“… we are led to give thanks to our Benefactor through the good things of this world, by which I mean







                            spiritual knowledge,


                    progress in all things,

                a peaceful life,

            the enjoyment of honors,


   abundance and

all the other supposed blessings of this life.


We are led to love Him and to do what good we can, because we feel we have a natural obligation to repay God for His gifts to us by performing good works. It is of course impossible to repay Him, for our debt always grows larger. On the other hand, through what are regarded as hardships we attain a state of patience, humility and hope of blessings in the age to be; and by these so-called hardships I mean such things as





          unsought distress,  




                               general misfortune,

                                            the fear of loss,




and so on. Indeed, not only in the age to be, but even in this present age these things are a source of great blessing to us.”  (St Peter of Damaskos, THE PHILOKALIA ,   Kindle Loc. 28948-67)

In the quote above, St. Peter of Damascus (whose Namesday it is today, February 9) gives us a long list of blessings which lead us to God.  These are blessings in this world and in this life – blessings even monastics, who are not supposed to live for this world alone, recognize and appreciate.  Even hardships (of which he also makes a long list, and monastics and non-monastics alike can agree they are things we want to avoid) become a blessing because they can increase certain virtues in us as we deal with them in faith, hope and love.

All of the above  was simply an introduction to the good news I can share about my own health.  First, let me thank all of your for your continued prayers as indeed the last 4 years have been difficult with 4 major surgeries plus chemotherapy for cancer.  This week I had both an oncology appointment and a 3-month post operative appointment with my neurosurgeon.    The good news in oncology is no news – labs continue to show no change (I continue to be anemic but that seems expected due to the surgeries and the on-going chemo).  I will have my next CT scan in about a month as they keep vigilant watch for any new tumors.  There have been none since the lung resection surgery in May of 2015.

The neurosurgeon is totally happy with the spinal fusion which seems to be holding in place.  I can walk without a cane and have none of the crippling back pain that led me to accept surgery.  I will have to live with a number of physical limits, but I no longer need the back brace (pictured above, in case you can’t recognize what it is).  That back brace first hugged me on November 8  and embraced me like a python 23.5/7 ever since.   My cane (pictured here) – I was able to lay aside immediately after surgery.   It now stands in a corner awaiting a new walking partner.  The good news is for the time being I need neither of those devices, though I have a handful of other tools and devices which help me pick up things, reach things, get my socks and shoes on and the like.   My back will never be what it was years ago, and will never be “normal” (though it is now a “new normal”) but I am able to continue to function, for which I am grateful daily.

I have learned to rejoice in the blessings of life and to see blessings in the hardships as well.   I have learned to admire those who cope with and even overcome disabilities.  I am ever thankful for those who have invented the medical devices that made my surgeries possible as well as those who improved them through engineering.  I am grateful for all of those who have learned to use technology in the medical sciences – doctors, nurses and technicians.

I give thanks to God that God has entrusted such wisdom in the sciences to help us all.  God has made it possible for us humans to remove all obstacles to our being healed by God.  Medical science removes the physical obstacles to our healing, and repentance removes the spiritual obstacles to our becoming whole and human.  Medicine and confession are thus both gifts from God which make healing possible.  Both require human help and intervention.

I have accepted that in this life there are trials and illness.  A few have asked me as to why instead of healing us, God doesn’t just prevent disease and injuries in the first place.  I can only speak about reality – in this world, we have sickness, sorrow and suffering.  Perhaps in some other world it doesn’t exist, but in our world it does, and it can serve a purpose, even be beneficial to us, though it doesn’t always seem so.    I can ask why is grass green instead of being orange or purple?  Maybe in some other world it is, but in this world, the only reality I know, it is green and must be so of necessity.  Photosynthesis requires it, we and animals depend on it for food and oxygen.  I also am reminded of a quote from St. John Cassian:

“Do not pray for the fulfillment of your wishes, for they may not accord with the will of God. But pray as you have been taught, saying: Thy will be done in me (cf. Luke 22:42). Always entreat Him in this way – that His will be done. For He desires what is good and profitable for you, whereas you do not always ask for this.”  ( THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 1326-29)

Thanksgiving (2014)

“When you sit down for a meal, pray.

 As you take bread, thank the Giver.

When you are strengthening your weakened body by drinking wine, thank him who bestowed on you such a gift to cheer your heart and fortify your infirmities.

As you get dressed, thank him for what he has given you. When you wrap your cloak around your shoulders, so increase your love for God, who has provided us with clothing suitable for winter and summer, to maintain our life and cover us modestly.

Is the day at an end? So thank him who gave us the sun by which we can perform our daily work,

and fire to enlighten the night, and who has bestowed on us all the rest of life’s needs.

The night gives us other opportunities for prayer. Look up to the heavens and consider the beauty of the stars, and so give prayer to the Lord of visible things, and worship the Creator of all, who has made all by his wisdom.

When you see living creatures dropping off to sleep, so again worship him, who cuts short our labors by forcing us into sleep, thus providing us with new strength through a brief rest.”

(Saint Basil the Great, On Fasting and Feasts, pp 112-113)

You can find all of my photos at Fr. Ted’ Photos.

You can find links to all of the photoblogs I’ve posted at Fr. Ted’s Photoblogs.


Thanksgiving (2013)

Wishing all my American family friends a Happy THANKSGIVING.  And to all the rest of the world, may God bless you today with peace and joy.   If we can join one another in offering thanks to our Creator for blessings received and then share those blessings with those less fortunate, perhaps we would bring peace to earth as well.

A poem of thanks from the 5th Century Syrian John of Apamea .

“All praise to your knowledge,

all praise to your greatness;

thanksgiving be to you, O Lord of all,

who established your wisdom for us in wonder.

All this does your love bring about,

transporting us from this world to another world

in order to perfect us fully there,

allowing us to grasp there

things of which we are unaware here;

for many are the things which you have in store for us,


things of which we do not yet even know

so as to ask for them.

Just as there are many things

of which a child is unaware in this world

and so does not know to seek for them,

similarly your grace

has prepared for us in the New World

things for which our minds have not yet conceived

of seeking from you or asking,

but which are hidden away in readiness

for that day when they shall be revealed

to everyone according to his capability:

the more a person has loved you,

the more you will manifest yourself here…”

(The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, pp. 346-347)

See also my blog Thanksgiving Grace for Vegetarians.

St. Nikolai & Thankless Prosperity

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us often not through direct commandments but in parables.  Parables are stories which have one or more lessons which are derived from the story.  In Luke 12:16-21, Christ

“… spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'”

But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.'” 

The Holy Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic comments on the parable:

Jesus spake a parable unto them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought within himself, saying: ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’

He was not just rich; he had such a yield from his harvest that he did not know where to store it. Looking at his wheat-covered fields, and his orchards and vineyard whose branches were weighed down by fruit, his gardens over flowing with all kinds of vegetables and his hives full of honey, this rich man did not look towards heaven and cry out with joy: ‘Glory and praise to Thee, O most high and most merciful God! How great an abundance Thou hast, in Thy power and wisdom, brought forth from the black earth! Thou hast, through the sun’s rays, poured sweetness into all the fruits of the earth! Thou hast given every fruit a wonderful form and particular flavor! Thou hast rewarded me a hundredfold for my small labors! Thou hast had mercy on Thy servant, and hast poured such gifts from Thy full hands into his lap! O my most wondrous Lord, teach me to give joy to my brethren and neighbors with these Thy gifts. May they, together with me, rejoice and thankfully glorify and praise Thy holy name and Thine inexpressible goodness.’ ” (Homilies, pgs. 270-271)

Feast of the Transfiguration (2011)

“Salvation is God acting from ‘within’ the human being through the incarnation of the Son who by his perfect life and sacrifice cures humankind of sin and death so that they may participate in the divine life…The spiritual nature of man does not merely demand pardon for sin, but rather its final defeat and extermination, that is to say, the transfiguration of human nature.” (Nicholas Berdyaev in The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature Vol. 1, pg.585)

 His divine power has granted to us

all things that pertain to life and godliness,

through the knowledge of him

who called us to his own glory and excellence,

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises,

that through these you may escape from the corruption

that is in the world because of passion, and

become partakers of the divine nature.

(2 Peter 1:3-4)

 Wishing everyone a blessed Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.

Love of Neighbor

“Thou shalt love Thy neighbor as thyself.”  

We ought to have all things in common. As the sun, the air, fire, water, and earth are common to us all, so ought also (in part) food and drink, money, books, and (in general) all the Lord’s gifts to be shared in common; for they are given in common to all, and yet are easily divisible for distribution amongst many.  For we have nothing of our own, but everything belongs to God. And it is not just for the rich to keep their superfluity in their treasuries when there are so many poor people in need of the means of existence, of necessary clothing and dwellings. However, it is just that the laborious should enjoy abundance, and that the idle should endure poverty and misery. Therefore, if we know that some are poor only through their own idleness and laziness, with such we are not obliged to share the abundance earned by our labour. “If any man will not work,” says the Apostle Paul, “neither let him eat.” But the crying poverty arising from old age, exhaustion, from sickness, from fruitless and badly paid labour, from really difficult conditions of life, from a numerous family, from bad harvests, we must always hasten to help, especially those of us who are rich. We must be guided by the history of the times of the Apostles, by the example of the early church…Lord! Teach me to bestow charity willingly, kindly, joyfully, and to believe that by bestowing it I do not lose, but gain, infinitely more than that which I give. Turn my eyes away from hard-hearted people who do not sympathize with the poor, who meet poverty with indifference, who judge, reproach, brand it with shameful names, and weaken my heart, so that I may not do good, so that I, too, may harden my heart against  poverty. O my Lord, how many such people we meet with! Lord, amend works of charity! Lord, grant that every charity I bestow may be profitable, and may not do harm! Lord, accept Thyself charity in the person of Thy poor. Lord, deign to help me to build a house for the poor in this town, concerning which I have already many times prayed to Thee, the all-merciful, almighty, most wise, wonderful!         (John of Cronstadt, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, G.P. Fedetov, pgs. 403-405)

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: B

In the years before blogging, I inconsistently hand wrote or typed on a computer my sermon notes. I used notes to preach from and didn’t fully write out the sermons – the notes were enough to remind me of the points I wanted to make. Looking back at those notes I realize I made cryptic reference to stories or scripture verses which were on my mind for the moment, but sometimes did not record the verses or write out what use I intended to make of them.  I never thought much about wanting to read these sermons again. In fact I didn’t even record many of my sermons – sometimes tossing away the notes after delivering the sermon, deleting them from my computer, or giving away the printed version to whomever asked for them from the congregation.

nativityIn Nativity Lent of 1995 I gave a series of sermons entitled, THE ABC’S OF WHY WE NEED CHRISTMAS (I only know this from the sermon notes I found on my computer – I don’t remember the series).   You can read the notes from first sermon in that series from 19 November 1995 (The ‘A’ of the ‘ABC’s). I will offer in the next couple of blogs the notes I did record on my computer which were the basis of my sermons (which themselves were not recorded). The sermon from 26 November 1995:


In Genesis 3:15, The Lord God to the serpent/tempter: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” This is part of God’s Berith (covenant) with humanity. God intended to give to woman an offspring who would do battle with the serpent/evil and would defeat Satan. This verse is considered to be the Proto-evangel – the first promise in the bible of the Good News of the birth of a child who would be involved in our salvation.

The Lord to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3) A promise of universal salvation through the seed of Abraham – all families on earth will be blessed through Abrahams line.

God’s Berith (covenant) is given as a blessing for all mankind: “These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make….. Moses said, ‘See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.‘” (Deut 30:15-20)

The Isaiah birth prophecy: For unto a child is born, unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6). The prophecy fulfilled, the Berith accomplished by God, the blessing for all the world.

Baptism – the sign of the New Berith (covenant), the blessing from God – a birth to new life.

Next The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: C     Creation and Covenant

Why do we “Bless” things?

 I would say that Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s attitude seemed to be this:  every created thing in its original state was made beautiful by God, but sin has obscured that beauty – both affecting our ability to see (our own eyes) and tarnishing the thing itself.   “Blessing things” mostly consists of revealing or trying to reveal that God given beauty hidden beneath the surface of anything which exists.  In blessing something, even if we can’t see this original beauty, we are reminded by the blessing that it is supposed to be there.  It is not that the blessing transforms anything, but it reveals the goodness innate in the things of the universe – so ultimately a blessing causes us to see everything in the world in a new way – a way of potential and anticipation.  We begin to look for God’s Kingdom and the revelation of God in everything that exists, which was no doubt what Paradise would have been.

 It makes the entire world so much more exciting, because beneath the surface of everything – things we value, cherish and love as well as things that are commonplace and mundane – there is something greater waiting to be revealed – the aspect of God which that thing was capable of revealing.  Thus everything in the universe reflects in some way the glory of God, and is capable of revealing something about God to us.  We bless things in order to help us see that same goodness that God saw in each thing He created in the beginning (Genesis 1).