The Old Man is Ready

Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Luke 2.22-32

The old man was not dying. But he was old. And he was realistic. And so he lived as St Benedict described: Simeon desired eternal life with all spiritual longing, and so he kept death daily before his eyes. Not because he was morbid or depressed, but because he longed to see God. And how else does one see God, how else does one partake fully of the Divine Nature, how else do we attain the joy of our salvation unless we take the passageway through the grave? For it has been converted by Our Lord Himself from the gateway to Hades into the gateway to Heaven. In fact, by His resurrection Christ refashioned the tomb to be the gate of the Lord through which the righteous ascend to be seated in heavenly places.

Don’t be surprised, then, if old St Simeon had this prayer always on his lips and in his heart:

I shall not die but live / and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord hath chastened and corrected me / but he hath not given me over unto death.

At least, not the death that is hopeless. Not the death that goes nowhere, or that drives us further from our Father. Rather, the Lord gives us over to abundant life, which is obtained after death.

Where do you go, then; where do you live, when all you want to do is see God? And where do you go, where do you live, while you’re waiting in hope, in anticipation, in expectation, in pious and heart-felt longing to attain the fullness of your humanity; the reason you were made—to have intimate communion with God, to see God?

Listen to the Psalmist: “We wait for thy loving-kindness, O God / in the midst of thy temple.”

That’s where Simeon is. In the midst of the Lord’s temple. Waiting for His loving-kindness. Waiting in hope while he prays, “I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him / in His word is my trust.” And so trusting, with godly faith, confident that the Lord will make good on His word, Simeon sits in the temple day by day, expecting the consolation of Israel, because he was promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

The old man waits. And yet the old man also does not turn over a thousand rocks, or look into a thousand eyes, or check out a thousand signs and omens, trying to figure out if this one is the one; or if that event or this moment announces the end of his waiting. The old man waits patiently; and so he waits knowing that when the Lord appears, it will be clear. Crystal clear. Because an inner-light, not the light of intuition but the light of life, will enlighten his mind and strengthen his conviction. And so Simeon dutifully waits, not wasting his time trying to figure out when or how; and not caught up in things that don’t edify, or things that distract, or things that he can’t take with him. Simeon passes his time in prayer, and in storing up heavenly treasures by practicing joyfulness, kindness, and love which refused to control another.

The old man waits patiently, faithfully, trustingly for the Lord, who is going to come suddenly into His temple. Suddenly, not like in a rush, with a flourish, out of breath. But suddenly, as in unexpectedly, at a time you least expect and in a manner that seems unlikely. “The one whom you seek, whom you delight in—behold, He shall come, says the Lord of hosts.”

Simeon does not wait in vain. And as soon as he sees the young woman, the one whom he saw grow from a child into a Bride, from faith to faith, into a Lady, into a Queen—when Simeon sees this woman whom he has loved like a father; when he sees her with her husband, and the radiant Child in her arms—then he knows that his wait is over; that he is now looking at and holding in his arms, the Lord’s salvation, the Lord’s grace, the Lord God Himself.

And now Simeon is ready to die. For to live is Christ, but to die is gain. And Simeon wishes to gain all that he’s awaited; all that he’s now seen. It’s not a death wish. It is rather the realization that nothing else in this life compares with the “light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of the Lord’s people, Israel.”

For Simeon reasons, quite rightly, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And he asks you, “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” In fact, “who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?”

Having seen the Lord’s Christ, then, what is there worth seeing? And why not spend time in joyous conversation to His Father, to whom His Spirit leads you?

And so, the old man is ready to die. Or to be precise, Simeon is ready to depart in peace. He’s ready to go through that passageway of death and the grave in order to enter the realm where peace is palpable, where joy is intensely tangible, and where you can talk to Love Himself.


I’ve described Simeon and his waiting and his reward because he shows us how we can respond every time we behold the Lord’s Christ on the altar, every time we get to carry Him not in our arms but in our heart, every time we get to taste the Lord Himself—His flesh mingled with our flesh, His blood mixed with our blood—every time we get to taste and see that the Lord is what goodness is. With the old man, we can say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

For that salvation, that seeing the Lord with other eyes—that is why we come into this temple. We wait in the midst of this temple, just like Simeon, waiting faithfully for the Lord’s loving-kindness, waiting to move forward from the darkening shadows, from the shade this life casts, into the calming brightness and radiance of the Lord’s glory.

St Michael Orthodox Christian Church, Whittier CA
2 February 2023

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When the Good Do Nothing

Matthew 8.1-13
Epiphany IV

Jesus’ words to the disciples seem rather harsh. They’ve just had a harrowing experience, their life has been in jeopardy, they’ve tried to manage things without bothering Jesus. And He calls them, “men of little faith.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if some took offense at these words. For “little faith” doesn’t sound kind or nice. It sounds like they failed.

If they failed, it was because they were trying to shoulder too much. Because they saw another man instead of their Savior. Because they were so wrapped up in their fear, in their anxiety, that they forgot that God Himself was actually in the boat with them.

The disciples were so wrapped up in their anxiety that they forgot that God Himself was actually in the boat with them.

Our anxiety level ramps up when we feel we’ve lost control. And we can’t see what will happen next. And things are not going as they should or as we expect. And those in charge are losing their heads. And nothing we do seems to work. And we know who to blame when things go wrong. And we’re sure there’s nothing left to do except leave; or yell; or hide; or get ready for the worst.

The breaking point is when we feel threatened: our life, our way of living, our view of the world; our understanding of God.

What can calm us and dial down our anxiety, fears, and tension is remembering that God is in the boat with us. And He always gets His way; His will is done even when it doesn’t look like it; and, most of all, Our Lord arranges everything—even the worst, the uncomfortable, and the storms—all of this He arranges, in some way, for our salvation. And what do you know: He never consults us, asking our thoughts about what to do or how things should go. Our Lord simply knows best and does best.

That’s what the disciples in today’s Gospel forgot. The gentle, scenic boat ride across the lake that they planned—that fell apart and caused great anxiety when a storm arose. They focused on the waves, the wind, the storm. Like so many of us, they were anxious about what they could not at all control. And they forgot that the Lord was with them, that He wasn’t ignoring them, and that He would deliver them. And when they finally remembered the Lord, they did not calm down or pray to Him or trust that He knew what was going on. Instead, they frantically yelled at Him, certain that He was deliberately uncaring.

Notice what the disciples say: “Save us, because we are dying!” What a contradiction. On the one hand, they believe that only Christ can save them. On the other hand, they are sure that they will die. It’s as if they are using more extreme words in order to get His attention. Because He isn’t acting quickly enough. But instead, they are showing the weakness of their faith; that they’re not really sure that He will save them from death.

What should they have said? “Lord, Thou rulest the raging of the sea; thou stillest the waves thereof when they arise. Even there also shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Then shall my night be turned to day. Indeed, my darkness is not darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day. Therefore, I should fear no evil. For thou, Lord, holdest me in the hollow of thy hand, and will deliver us from every evil past, present, and to come.”

Easy words to think. Hard words to say, especially when we’re imprisoned in our anxiety. But necessary words to pray, if we wish Our Lord Jesus truly to calm, establish, strengthen, and settle us.

The holy fathers consistently teach that this storm on the lake is a true metaphor for all the things that make us anxious. Rarely are we anxious because things go as we think and in the way we plan. Most often we’re anxious about things we can’t control—events half a continent away; things we see on social media; breathless news reports; algorithms designed to incite our passions; and people who irritate or are mean-spirited. When that is our focus, we can’t see what is right in front of us: the persons who love us, the kindness given to us, the daily things that we have that we take for granted.

When we’re anxious and afraid, we are convinced the Lord has forgotten us or left us to shoulder the worst. So easily do we forget God. So easily do we think He’s part of the problem by not taking action. So easily do we believe that evil men are triumphing because the Good One is doing nothing.

So easily do we believe that evil men are triumphing because the Good One is doing nothing.

Our Lord is good even when He looks like He’s doing nothing. For even asleep Our Lord works for our good. And urges us to look beyond what frightens to see what is real. And what is real? Consider these words from our holy father John Chrysostom:

What are we to fear? Death? To live is Christ, and to die is gain. Should I fear exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord.’ What about the confiscation of what I have? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it.

I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

For Our Lord has placed in us a hope that exceeds our fears, an expectation that dissipates our worries, an aspiration for the life to come which surpasses everything, good and bad, that we experience in this life. He places into our mouths His own flesh and blood, which has already taken down the worst we could know; and which converts the evil we endure into a love and kindness that sustains us. But above all, like the scared disciples in the boat and by their prayers, may we learn to know that Our Lord is always present, never absent; and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. To whom, with His Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, belongs all glory, honor, and worship: world without end.

31 January 2021

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May 8 – The Apparition of St Michael

For a parish that is under the patronage, and exults in the merits, of so great an Archangel, it is most fitting that we learn of his appearances in other times and places. Here is the description of one such feast that we celebrate this month.

That the blessed Archangel Michael, whose name means Who is like unto God?, is the prince of the faithful Angels who opposed Lucifer and his followers in their revolt against God. Since the devil is the sworn enemy of God’s holy Church, Saint Michael is given to it by God as its special protector against the demon’s assaults and stratagems.

Various apparitions of this powerful Angel have proved the protection of Saint Michael over the Church. We may mention his apparition in Rome, where Saint Gregory the Great saw him in the air sheathing his sword, to signal the cessation of a pestilence and the appeasement of God’s wrath. Another apparition to Saint Ausbert, bishop of Avranches in France, led to the construction of Mont-Saint-Michel in the sea, a famous pilgrimage site. May 8th, however, is destined to recall another no less marvelous apparition, occurring near Monte Gargano in the Kingdom of Naples.

In the year 492 a man named Gargan was pasturing his large herds in the countryside. One day a bull fled to the mountain, where at first it could not be found. When its hiding place in a cave was discovered, an arrow was shot into the cave, but the arrow returned to wound the one who had sent it. Faced with so mysterious an occurrence, the persons concerned decided to consult the bishop of the region. He ordered three days of fasting and prayers. After three days, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the bishop and declared that the cavern where the bull had taken refuge was under his protection, and that God wanted it to be consecrated under his name and in honor of all the Holy Angels.

Accompanied by his clergy and people, the bishop went to that cavern, which he found already designed in the form of a church. The divine mysteries were celebrated there, and there arose in this same place a magnificent temple where the divine Power has wrought great miracles. To thank God’s adorable goodness for the protection of the holy Archangel, the effect of His merciful Providence, this feast day was instituted by the Church in his honor.

It is said of this special guardian and protector of the Church that, during the final persecution of Antichrist, he will powerfully defend her: At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince who protects the children of thy people. (Dan. 12:1) (Source)

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7th Home

After many years of toil, the parish finally founded their present home in 1990, and His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba consecrated the new building to the glory of God.

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The Chancel Arch Mural depicting Jesus Christ as Savior and Judge accompanied by the angels of the last judgment was completed and dedicated on March 3, 2002.

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Second Home

June 5 – July 3, 1977

Second temporary home of St. Michael’s Mission was the Mr. & Mrs. Frank Cunard Sr. residence, 13461 Downey Ave, Downey, California. Services were held here June 5, 1977 through July 3, 1977. We also enjoyed a potluck dinner here during June.

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