fr james c meena


May 9, 2012 + Spiritual Bums

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, May 1981

I would like to share with you some reminiscences of the past. When I was a child, my parents would always admonish me when I would leave home for some social occasion, “Remember who you are and always make us proud of you.” Whenever I would forget that admonition one or the other of them would say to me, usually in anger, “We are not raising bums in this family. We are raising decent people.” I remember some of the movies and radio stories of those days where parents who were raising children who were lazy and did not want to go out and get a job or who felt that the world owed them a living saying to them, “I didn’t raise you to be a bum, I raised you to be a good person, get out and get a job, take care of yourself.”

For some reason or the other during the course of this past month, that word “bum” kept going through my mind in recollection. Maybe God was trying to inspire me to say something about it in relationship to the sad reality that on the Sunday after a major Feast, whether it’s one day or three or four days following, the Church is almost always half empty. Yet after the climax of the Holy season, when the Church was filled with people and the communion lines extended to the doors of the Church and beyond and when the liturgy was extended in time because there were so many people coming to the chalice and when we were concerned about hearing all the confessions before Liturgy and having enough time to do this and then to come to Church the following Sunday and witness all of those good people who came to the chalice absenting themselves from the same Eucharist and the same celebration, I wonder if God does not want me to say; “We are not raising spiritual bums in this Godly household.” God does not punish us immediately for our indolence but I think somehow he keeps a record of those items when we put “me” first and Him second.

March 28, 2012 + Turn On the Stove

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, January 1983

One of the things that housewives experience, to their utter frustration, is to make preparations for the biggest meal of the day, take the food out of the freezer and refrigerator, clean the vegetables, get everything ready and put it into the necessary pots and pans, place it on the stove and then remember an errand that needed to be run. Leaving the food to prepare itself on the stove top or in the oven, they run their errand and return to discover that, after taking all the pains of preparation, they forgot to turn on the stove. The food did not cook, so the family had to wait for supper. This has happened at my house and it has probably happened at yours. So I would like to discuss with you the need to turn on our stoves.

I recently had a very pleasant experience in demonstrating to the younger classes of our Church School the meaning of the preparation for the Divine Liturgy. One of the things I said to these children is that these gifts which are brought to the Church, bread and wine, which are prepared on the Altar of Oblation, are still very common gifts, things of the earth. They are changed into spiritual things by the energy of our prayers, yours and mine, and by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. But, unless we exert the energy to turn on the flame of the Holy Spirit, then that which we are cooking up just stays uncooked.

March 21, 2012 + Renewal and Asceticism

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, March 1985

First I think it is necessary for us to understand what renewal really means before we go on to talk about asceticism. You have heard it said that Jesus Christ makes all things news. According to St. Paul “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is passed away, behold, the new has come,” (II Cor. Chapter 5 Vs. 18).

Renewal is not simply making something appear as new. We take an old piece of silver, for example, and we polish it up until it shines and we say it is like new. That is not renewal in the Christian sense. Renewal is to take something old and worn and weighted down by sin and corruptibility and by the exerting of the Divine Will to recreate it anew so that that which had made it old no longer exists in its character. The word, “renewal,” does not apply to material things. Anything that has existed for any length of time cannot be renewed in the Christian sense but the human being who is committed to Christ Who, by His Divine Will makes all things new, that creature becomes a new recreated person. That newness in Christ means the total expunging of all that was the old so that one may start again as a new person. Our record is washed clean. All of our sins are wiped away from the slate of our life and we are given a new start.

January 25, 2012 + No One Knows Everything

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, January 1986

I am frequently asked, “Why?” Why does the Church believe in the intercession of Saints? Why does the Church have confession? Why this and why that.  Of course, while we always try to provide reasonable and intelligent answers, I am impressed by the need of certain individuals to know everything by their tendency toward a Roman jurisprudence mentality that needs to put every theological concept into a capsule, identify it and put neat little tags on it so that whenever they needed an explanation they could go right to the proper file box, take it out and use it as desired.

Such a concept is foreign to those of us of the East. We who come from the Holy Lands on which Christ set foot, have a concept of mysticism that is foreign to the Occident. It has never been necessary for us to reduce God to our size and it has never been necessary for us to reduce Truth to the level of our own intellectual capacity to understand. This is not a new concept (lest anyone believe that it is, so I would like my message to be essentially a meditation on the passage of Ecclesiastes 1:4-9).

December 14, 2011 + Strangers to the Past

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, December 1978

Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jefta, David, Samuel, Isaac, Jacob, Zerah, Tamar, Amminadab, Boaz, Obed, Jessica —Who are all these people? I am sure that when we read the 1st chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which begins with the genealogy of Christ, most of us skip over it and don’t bother to read it. That is so sad. That’s like a person who looks at the leaves on a tree but doesn’t appreciate its roots and trunk. And so it is with us. Our lives in Christ are not just now, today, but have been in the past and shall be for all eternity and unless we understand that we are rooted in the past, our present and our future cannot have the fullness of meaning that God intends for them to have. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going?

Each of us has an identity that extends itself to all those around us, our father, our mother, brothers, sisters, wife, husband, sons, daughters, our past, our present and our future. And those who have no such extension of themselves suffer from such a depth of loneliness that their lives are difficult for them. I am who I am, because I can identify with people who love me and who shared with me the highest values of life that they understood, my father and mother, our parents, our grandparents. All of those with whom we had the good fortune to come into contact from our past tried to contribute to us those good things of life which they knew were essential to our understanding of how to live and get along with God and with our neighbors. Those people of our present, our brothers and our sisters, strive to relate to us lovingly and with compassion in order that our lives might be enriched as well, and we strive to relate to them in the same way. Our children symbolize for us our future and we strive to pass on to them those ennobling characteristics which were preserved also for us as members of the Body of Christ, that we understand that our present and our future are somehow dependent upon our past.

December 7, 2011 + Merry Christmas - Later Not Sooner

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, December 1976

When I was a little boy, as with all children, I used to anticipate the coming of Christmas weeks in advance. I’d get excited and start thinking about the good food that was going to be shared and the gifts that would be forth­coming, decorating the Christmas tree, putting lights in the window, presents under the tree, waiting for Santa. I used to wonder for weeks what I was going to get for Christmas and I would go scrounging around the house in all of the cupboards and the closets looking for anything that looked like a Christmas present and surreptitiously I would find these gifts and I would play with the toys that had been purchased explicitly for gift-giving at Christmas time. Then when Christmas day actually came and the gifts were given to me and I had to open them, I had to pretend to be so excited and surprised because I didn’t want anybody to know that I had been celebrating Christmas before Christmas came.

November 23, 2011 + "Say Thanks"

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, November 1980

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians, 5:20-21)

Thanksgiving is so deeply embedded in the spirit of the Christian faith that it would be impossible to excise it without destroying the faith. While we understand that faith, hope and love are essentials of our belief, there are other essentials, components and characteristics which are also important in making up the totality of the Christian faith. Thanksgiving is one of these key essentials. We hear about the need to repent, to reach out to others to help them, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to fast, to pray, but the quality of all of these things is enriched by a sense of gratitude, an understanding that all good things come from above, “From Thee, the Father of Lights”; that everything which is creative, constructive and positive comes from Him.

October 19, 2011 + Form Without Substance

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, November 1986

If one wishes to join a private club or an athletic association one must submit an application, be approved by the membership committee and, in most cases, by the membership at large. St. Paul may have had these things in mind two thousand years ago, when he said:  “Thank the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light,” (Colossians 1:12).

If belonging to organizations is so important to us, how much more urgent is it that we may be joined unto the saints? Being aware that it is possible to be part of an eternal order, joined by the love, the compassion, the sacrifice and the Resurrection of Christ, we should strive always to become part of this union. Our club membership can be rescinded if we do not pay our dues. We might even be so busy that we can’t attend and take advantage of the facilities. But when we join the Saints, somehow, by God’s Grace, a transformation occurs within us that makes it very difficult to separate ourselves from Him.

The Kingdom of God is not like a country club with limited membership, but it is so widespread that if the chosen do not respond to the Divine invitation, God will reach out into the world and elect the seemingly unelectable, and still there will be room. How immeasurable the Kingdom of God! (St. Luke 14:16-24).

October 5, 2011 + Good Leaders Are Good Followers

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, October 1984

Leadership is an elusive quality and like so many characteristics of the outstanding human being, very difficult to describe. I think each of us has his own definition of leadership and what makes a good leader. In my opinion, a good leader is one who, first of all, has been a good follower, one who has proven oneself able to take instructions, able to subordinate one’s will to the will of others who have assumed the responsibility of leadership, able to make constructive comments and debate issues when necessary and able to stand up for the principles in which one believes. Having done this one can be called a good follower and begins to qualify for leadership although, I must say, not all good followers make good leaders. There are some people who are marvelous as choir singers but terrible as choir directors. Many of us are excellent followers but not all of us are good leaders.

To be a good leader, I believe one has to know where he is going, needs to understand what purposes and objectives are to be reached, needs to cling to those purposes and objectives and never compromise with the truth. Now there are times when he may have to bend a little, yield a little, but he always keeps a clear vision of the ultimate goal that he and his group wish to attain, and he dedicates himself totally and completely to achieving that goal ethically.

September 7, 2011 + My Bible, My Friend

by V. Rev. Fr. James Meena
from The Word, September 1987

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we hear Jesus quote the ancient scripture from the prophesies of Isaiah and from that moment on, He began to preach this message: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand,” (4:12-17). Those particular words have stirred up some anxiety and fear in the hearts of people without warrant for many years. Jesus was not threatening us, nor should we interpret this statement, as do some of our fellow Christians, as being just a precautionary admonition, “repent or else,” because the scriptures are filled with “or elses.” It was not necessary for Jesus to come and to utter another one. What He was saying is, in effect, prepare yourself for it because there is no way that you can enter into that kingdom so long as you bear in your conscience the brands of sin and guilt for having transgressed the commandments of God.

Now Jesus, though He is the Son of God, was steeped in scripture. All throughout the testaments of the four evangelists, we find Jesus quoting the scriptures and it is necessary for us to learn from His example that it is necessary for us to be able to understand scripture, not merely to memorize chapter and verse, for Jesus simply stated: “The prophet Isaiah said,” and He knew that the people to whom He was speaking understood because they knew the scriptures. It is necessary however for us to know the spirit of scripture, its teachings, its intent.

April 6, 2011 + It Makes a Difference

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1983

On the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church honors the memory of Our Righteous Mother, St. Mary of Egypt, the prototype of St. Mary Magdalena who repented of her sins and became a deeply dedicated ascetic, going into the Egyptian desert and living there the rest of her life in piety and in prayer, offering prayers of repentance to Christ and of intercession for the people of the world. She is commemorated by the Church as an example for all of us. The life that is exemplified by people like St. Mary of Egypt, while carried to the ultimate of asceticism and almost a super monasticism, should be kind of a pace setter for those of us of the Orthodox Faith who usually make exceptions of things.

For example, this morning I was admonishing a young man who was talking in Church, and he asked, “What’s the difference! It isn’t important!” This seems to permeate our attitude until finally nothing seems to make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference if we fast, if we pray, if we go to Church regularly; and what’s the difference if we go to the hospital to visit the sick or simply send a fifty cent get well card or ask the relatives of the sick person, how that person is getting along. What’s the difference? The life of St. Mary of Egypt as the lives of all the great ascetics say there is a difference because these people have been glorified by God. Their memories live. Mary of Egypt lived centuries ago. The events of her life have long since been absorbed into history and yet here we are hundreds of years later talking about her because the virtue of her asceticism, the beauty of her understanding that it does make a difference in our commitment and devotion to Christ that her memory has indeed become eternal.

December 8, 2010 + Write It On Your Hearts

by V. Rev. James C. Meena
from The Word, December 1992

“The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength, let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or, walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising; you shall fasten them on your hands as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart.” (Deut. 6:6-9)

This commandment from among the many Mosaic commandments is what Jesus called the greatest of all Commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” Nothing shall take priority over your love for God. This Commandment is necessarily repeated in your ears today because we are about to celebrate that festal day in which God manifested His love for us in such a way that it shattered history.  For God came into the world as a human child, took on humanity without divesting Himself of His Divinity.  God became man so that you and I, man, might become God. It is essential for us to understand as we have been inundated with the commercialism of this great feast, of the secularization of this great holy day that it is necessary for us to repeat in the ears of our children, the truth about the significance of this Great Feast.

September 29, 2010 + The Script Writers

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1978

I want to start an argument. However, if we are going to argue we must do so on my terms only. I must write both sides of the script. Not only must I know what I want to say but you must respond precisely the way I expect you to. Does that sound unreasonable? Of course it does. Yet there are many people who insist that they write both sides of the dialogue, and who are upset when others won’t follow their script.

Some people really think they have the right to decide how others should respond to them. A wise person once said that your feelings are hurt not because of what people say but because of what you hear. That makes a lot of sense to me. If we are in a disturbed frame of mind and emotionally upset, we hear things that other people really did not say. They may have said the words, but their intent was very different from the meaning which we received. We must be extremely careful that we not try to write both sides of the dialogue. We cannot control the scripts of life. Life’s scenario can be filled with love or with bitterness, with forgiveness or with grudge bearing.

Jesus said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:20) He also said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (St. Luke 17:21) It’s not beyond the clouds, it is among you. You can be together in this group, in the same congregation and some of you are already in the kingdom and some of you are not because there are those among you whose virtue goes no deeper than the virtue of the scribes and the Pharisees.