fr stephen rogers


The Living Waters of Mid-Pentecost

by Fr. Stephen Rogers

Nothing is more elemental to life than water. Water sustains life; all the processes of our bodies are dependent on it. In fact, more than anything else, our bodies are composed of water. To thirst is to desire that which sustains us on the most basic level.

On May 9 of this year [2012], the Church celebrates the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, that Wednesday marking the mid-point between Pascha and Pentecost. On that day the Church continues to celebrate what has already come – the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity – while looking forward to what is to come – the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.

On this day we celebrate both the establishment and the experience of our salvation, our union with God. For it is the Cross and Resurrection that establishes the means of that salvation and it is in the Church, established on the Day of Pentecost, where we experience that salvation.

At Mid-Pentecost we celebrate the enormity of God’s love for us, the full revelation of the means established for our salvation. On the Cross, Christ conquers sin and death, the empty tomb proclaims the fruit of that victory and the Church is the kingdom established by the Holy Spirit and headed by Jesus Christ – the One who conquers.

April 4, 2012 + Clothes Make the Man

by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, April 2000

“Clothes make the man.” 

That old adage aptly states that what we wear goes a long way towards determining how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others. Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year in this country on the garments we wear. From formal wear to beach wear, shopping for clothes has become the national religion, with the shopping mall serving as the cathedral.  We use our clothing to cover up our imperfections and to draw attention to our finer points. We wear clothing to identify with a sports team, a culture, a lifestyle or an economic class. What we wear says who we are, or more honestly, who we would like to be. 

On the Sunday preceding Holy Week, the Glorious and Brilliant Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), we read in the Gospel of Matthew of a different use of clothing. “At that time, when Jesus drew nigh unto Jerusalem and was come to Bethpage unto the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples saying unto them, ‘Go into the village and you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me’.” And further in the Gospel, as Jesus entered Jerusalem we read, “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way and others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them along the way.”

February 1, 2012 + Embracing Our Salvation

by Archpriest Steven Rogers
from The Word, February 1999

On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This great feast, which commemorates that event at which Mary presents herself and her child in the temple for purification prayers forty days after the birth of her Son, is the culmination of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Once again, this feast reminds us of the Incarnation of God. As a man, Christ is submitting Himself to the Law that all might be fulfilled. We are confronted again with the amazing truth of the Incarnation —that God lowered Himself to become a man so that man might be lifted up out of his sin. Christ was truly a man, “like us in all respects save sin,” says St. Paul.

While remaining fully God, He submits Himself to the Jewish law as a man, “For I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” Upon their arrival at the temple, Mary presents the Christ Child to the Elder Simeon. It is this “meeting” that the feast celebrates. The second person of the Trinity “meets” his people as represented by Simeon, allowing mankind to embrace its creator and the author of its salvation.

Simeon knew it was his salvation he embraced and for him, life was now complete. “Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared before the face of Thy people; a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

October 26, 2011 + Fearing True Freedom

by Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, October 2000

During the month of October this year, we hear the Gospel account of the Gadarene demoniac (Luke 8:26-39). The story is familiar to us for it is read twice each year (cf. also Matthew 8:28-34). Upon arriving in the country of the Gadarenes, a Gentile country opposite Galilee, Jesus encounters a demon-possessed man who is terrorizing the people of the area. The Scriptures tell us that so violent was the man that he was kept in shackles; but in a demon-possessed fit of rage he broke the chains and went into the wilderness.

Jesus commanded the demons to come out of the man. As the Gospel account relates, the demons fled into a herd of swine, Upon entering the swine, the herd “ran violently down the steep place into the lake and were drowned” (Luke 8:33).

The Gospel account concludes with a group of witnesses reporting to the surrounding community what had happened. Upon hearing the report, “the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them for they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:3 7). In Matthew we are told the people begged Jesus to leave.

September 14, 2011 + The Liberating Cross

by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, September 2000

On the Sunday following the Exaltation of the Cross we hear Christ say: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”

On the face of it, this seems a hard statement, this demand to deny ourselves and take up a cross. After all, I already have so many demands and responsibilities placed on my shoulders. I have to pay the bills, raise the kids, clean the house, go to work, go to school, please my spouse, take care of my failing health. . . how can I place a cross on my shoulders when I’m already carrying so much?

I’ll go to church, pay my assessment, pray before dinner — that’s about all I can handle.  We read these words of Christ and they sound like a demand, a requirement. It sounds burdensome to carry a cross, to deny myself, to lose my life in order to find it. It almost sounds like a form of slavery, this demand to deny myself.

Just the opposite is true. Christ promised us that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Christ came into the world not to bring slavery, but to bring liberation — liberation from sin and death. It is sin and death to which we are enslaved. The way of the cross is the way to freedom.

March 30, 2011 + Judge Not Lest You Be Judged

by Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, March 2000

In the Prologue from Ochrid, that wonderful collection of the lives of the saints compiled by St. Nicholai Velimirovich, we hear a marvelous account on the thirtieth day of this month.  On this day, an unnamed monk is commemorated who is described as “lazy, careless, disinclined to prayer . . .”  Hardly the description we would expect of a monk commemorated by the Church!

We are told that, when this monk lay dying, he was full of joy. His fellow monks, who knew well the lack­luster efforts of their brother, were confused how one so seemingly negligent could be facing death so joyfully.  They asked him how this could be and he responded:  “I have seen the angels, and they showed me a page with all my many sins.  I said to them:  The Lord said, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’  I have never judged anyone and I hope in the mercy of God, that He will not judge me.”

The dying monk ended the account by telling his brothers that the angels, upon hearing that the monk had never judged anyone, immediately tore up the long list of his sins.

The story ends by telling us that all the monks marveled at this and learned from it.

There is probably nothing to which our Lord attached a greater warning than judging our brother.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

January 26, 2011 + Three Guiding Lights of True Faith

by Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, January 2001

As the month of January draws to a close, the Church calls us on the 30th to celebrate the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom.

In celebrating these three great teachers of the Church, the Church in its hymnody refers to them as “harps of the Spirit,” “rays of light,” “scented flowers of Paradise,” “instruments of grace.” The Gospel read at Divine Liturgy is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:9-16). This gospel, always appointed to be read on feast days of canonized bishops, speaks to us of the God-given role of the episcopacy to watch over our souls.

In these three great shepherds of the Church, we see both a commonality and differences that can enlighten us in how we lead our lives as Christians. Honored as supreme representatives of both the Church’s doctrinal and pastoral ministries, these men give us true examples of what it means to be Orthodox.

St. Basil the Great (330-379), though known throughout Orthodoxy because of the Divine Liturgy that bears his name, was perhaps first and foremost a man of charity and compassion. Known as a protector of the weak and defender of the poor, St. Basil built hospitals, organized charities, cared for orphans and widows and emphasized acts of mercy on the part of all Christians.

A great defender of the faith in powerful writings and homilies, and known as an organizer and reformer of monasteries, St. Basil more than anything else burned with a heart of compassion, living out the words of Christ, “Inasmuch as you do it unto one of these little ones, you do it unto me.”