St. Theodore of Canterbury Orthodox Mission

1223 Dovercourt Rd. Toronto

The Fifth Sunday in Lent: St. Mary of Egypt — April 5, 2020

The Fifth Sunday in Lent: St. Mary of Egypt

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent – St. Mary of Egypt  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem..” (Mark 10:33)
Today, brothers and sisters, we keep the last Sunday in Lent. Next Sunday, Palm Sunday, is a joyous interlude between Lent and Holy Week.”Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem..” (Mark 10:33)
In today’s gospel, Jesus takes the apostles aside, and tells them that He will be betrayed, condemned and put to death, and that He will rise again from the dead.
At this most holy time of the whole year, Jesus takes His disciples aside. Have we allowed Our Saviour to take us aside? Do we ask Our Lord to explain to us what is about to happen for our salvation, or does everything proceed as usual? Do we make it possible for Jesus to meet with us in secret? Do we seize opportunities to be alone and quiet with the Lord?
“And taking the twelve He began to tell them what things should happen unto him.” (Mark 10:32) And what was their response? “Grant us to sit on your right and the other on your left in your glory.” It’s apparent that everything Our Saviour said to them went right over their heads!
After taking them aside, making time for them (because they, like us, would not make time for Him), everything He says about His passion, His suffering and death, goes right over their heads! They respond with a foolish and selfish request: “Grant us to sit one on your right hand and the other on your left in your glory.” They want to share in His glory, but they don’t want to hear about His suffering: that part goes right over their heads!
Doesn’t the same thing happen to us every Lent? Instead of allowing the Lord to take us aside and spending some time with Him; the devil works on us, and we see our brother’s and sister’s faults grown out of all proportion! What should be insignificant becomes mammoth – we know that we are allowing the devil to have his way with us and instead of growing together in love we are growing farther and farther apart!  Then I realize that I have not allowed the Lord to take me aside and talk to me, and that I have not spent time with Him. My response to hearing Him describe His forthcoming suffering and His invitation to share in them has been spurned by me. Instead, I put myself forward;:  I want to be recognized; I want to be the highest; I want to be proven right and I want to prove my brother or sister wrong.
I wonder how Our Lord felt when the two disciples closest to Him, James and John, who had just come down from the mount of Transfiguration, completely missed His invitation to join Him in His suffering and instead, ask Him for a special favor that will give them pre-eminence over everyone else?
What did Our Lord feel when He heard their request? Blessed Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky says that this was the beginning of His passion. The Cross was the end, but this was the beginning and that He could have saved us by this alone… indeed, he says, He could have saved us  by one drop of blood shed at His circumcision…but St. Paul says: “He became obedient unto death, even unto death upon a cross.”
Now, we’ve come to the last week in Lent, brothers and sisters, and if we have the ears to hear with, we are going to hear the same invitation that Our Lord gave to His disciples: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem…” Will we not, at the eleventh hour, allow Our Lord to take us aside also? Remember, it is never too late!
Today, we remember someone, who, after many years of sin, came to God at the eleventh hour of her life, St. Mary of Egypt. In some icons she is depicted holding a scroll which says: “God desires not the death of a sinner, but that he may turn from his wickedness and live.” Let’s follow her example even if it is the eleventh hour. Let’s accept Our Lord’s invitation to go up to Jerusalem with Him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” (Mark 10:33)
Fr. David
The Fourth Sunday in Lent: St. John Climacus — March 28, 2020

The Fourth Sunday in Lent: St. John Climacus

Dear Friends and Parishioners of St. Theodore of Canterbury Orthodox Mission, Toronto!

During this trying time for all of us, I hope we may remain together as St. Theodore’s family by exchanging greetings and messages by ‘phone and email. I will attempt to send out a sermon every week. We buried three of our parishioners in the past two weeks: Antonia Karaganis, Nicholas Galimanis and Antony Grushenko. I was able to bring each of them Holy Communion within a day or two of their passing; and Nicholas Galimanis had Communion within two hours of his repose. Thank God this was possible before any quarantine was placed on us!

Presbytera Justine and I have been doing the moleben (service) “In Times of Epidemic and Pestilence” in our house chapel, “Holy Russian Royal Martyrs”.

May God hear our humble prayers so that we may all soon be reunited at St. Theodore’s and St. Raphael. Nicholas and Irene.

Love in Our Lord,

Fr. David
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23)

Last week’s gospel, brothers and sisters, hints at the Transfiguration of Our Lord: (Mark 9:1) “Verily, I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”

St. Theophylact the Bulgarian commenting on today’s gospel says that Jesus took the three up the mountain, and when He returned he saw the nine who remained behind being questioned by the Pharisees. They took advantage of Jesus’ absence to try to turn His disciples away from him. St. Gregory Palamas says that they made a few blasphemous comments when they saw that the disciples had no power to cast out the deaf and dumb demon. He says that the Jews never needed an excuse to blaspheme…why, if they blasphemed when miracles were performed before their very eyes, imagine what the had to say if Jesus’ disciples couldn’t perform them!

St. Theophylact says that the deaf and dumb demons are the worst, because they are deaf to Our Lord’s commands, and pretend to be dumb, unable to comprehend His will.

St. Gregory says that the boy’s father didn’t ask Jesus to cast out the demon, because he didn’t have faith that He could do so. He had not fallen down at Jesus’ feet, nor did he beseech the Lord. “If Thou canst”, “If you can”, he said. See how lacking in faith, St. Gregory says.

Jesus replies in kind to the boy’s father: “If thou canst believe”..if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes. The boy’s father replies with tears, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!”

Now notice that the presence of doubt does not imply the absence of faith.

St. Theophylact agrees with St. Gregory that this demon was extraordinarily defiant as proved by the Lord’s rebuke: “…and enter no more into him!” If it had not been for this command, St. Gregory says, the demon might have returned after being cast out.

St. Gregory says that taking the boy by the hand shows the Lord’s human nature, and raising him up unharmed shows His divine nature.

When the disciples asked why they could not cast out the demons, Jesus told them that this particular demon is cast out only by prayer and fasting, not on the part of the possessed for he is unable to help himself, but on the part of those who would cast out the demons.

It is not necessary for us to drive out demons! It would be of no advantage if we live carelessly. St. Gregory quotes Matt. 7:22: “Lord, have we not cast out devils in your Name?” What is Jesus’ response? “Depart from me ye that work iniquity.” It is much more profitable for us to banish our passions than to cast out demons.

“This kind is cast out only by prayer and fasting.” The apostles were almost always fasting. St. John Chrysostom says that these are the two wings that lift us up to heaven. But if your body is too weak to fast continually, he says, at least avoid luxurious living.

The gospel says that the father of the child cried out with tears. This is what moved our Saviour to compassion. Do we have tears?

Jesus didn’t say “IF you fast”, but “WHEN you fast”. Fasting is not optional for Orthodox Christians!

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Fr. David

Fr. David’s sermon for the Sunday of the Cross — March 26, 2020

Fr. David’s sermon for the Sunday of the Cross

Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall find it.”  (Mark 8:34)
All three of the synoptic gospels repeat this verse, so you can see how important it is.  St.
Luke adds: “daily”.  Let him take up his cross DAILY and follow me.”
Last Sunday we said a man can be a walking corpse .. alive in the body, but dead in the soul. The converse is also true. Conversely, the “Good News” of the Gospel is that a man can be dead in the body, but alive in the soul. Today we hear: “Whosoever saves his life shall lose it; and whosoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will find it.”
The priest says these words every time he puts on his priestly cross and God forbid if they become trite!
The Cross is placed in the middle of the church on this Mid-Lent Sunday to inspire us to keep up the struggle – as the beautiful prayer at the Pre-sanctified Liturgy puts it: “Enable us to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to preserve the Faith undivided, to crush the heads of invisible serpents, to be shown to be conquerors of sin and without condemnation also to attain to the Holy Resurrection.”
You will notice that in the Orthodox Church, the Cross cannot be separated from the Resurrection.
“Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection do we glorify.”
The Cross is placed before us in the middle of the church on this Mid-Lent Sunday to show us that not only is the Cross at the center of Lent, it must also be at the center of our lives as it is at the center of history.
Those of us who have been in church on this Sunday notice that at the Great Doxology the Cross does not appear in triumph at the Royal Doors, but humbly descends to the middle of the church through the north door of the iconostas. “Behold thy king cometh unto thee meek”, he humbled himself unto death…even unto death upon a cross.” And, on Palm Sunday: “Thy King cometh unto thee meek, riding upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Matt. 21:5).
On Holy Friday, we think of the Cross with mourning, but today: with joy! “Behold! Through the Cross joy hath come unto the world!”
The Lord fell three times beneath the cross to encourage us that when we fall we should pick ourselves up and go on. St. John Maximovitch says that we shall not be judged so much for our falls especially when we are caught off guard and taken by surprise but for our refusal to pick ourselves up and go on. We shall be judged for wallowing in the mire.
The Cross is set up in the middle of the church brothers and sisters, not only to encourage us who have made a beginning, but to inspire those of us who have not. It is never too late even for those who have come at the eleventh hour!
When I kiss the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, will it be the “kiss of Judas”? As long as I firmly intend not to sin again then it will not be.
Will I accept the cross that the Saviour gives me and not the one I choose for myself whatever that might be… poor health, financial difficulties, stressful relationships? I will only be saved by accepting the cross that God gives me…not the one of my own choosing.
Remember what St. Irene the abbess told her nuns: “If you have the courage, ask for suffering. Nothing brings us closer to God than suffering.”  “If!” “If!”  “If you have the courage..”  Brothers and sisters, not only do we NOT have the courage; we cannot even accept what God allows, what He permits without complaining!
The Holy Fathers say: “Sickness is better than fasting!”..if I can only accept it without complaint.
Something to keep in mind during this pandemic.
Am I ashamed of making the sign of the cross in public?
“Whomsoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he shall come in his own glory.” (Luke 9:26)
“Through the Cross, Joy hath come into the world!”
Holy Communion was administered with prayers in our house chapel of the Russian Holy Martyrs this morning, on Mid-Lent Sunday, the Sunday of the Cross; and will be each Sunday for the duration of the pandemic.  We look forward to being restored to both St. Theodore and Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene. In the meantime may God give us all patience and health.
In Our Lord,
Fr. David
Test – main — February 22, 2016