The Ecstasy of Self-forgetfulness

john_everett_millais_peace_concludedNeither do walls or rich furniture make a home.  Millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home.  But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found.  For good relationships are heaven anywhere.  Monotony and misery cannot exist where there is love.  But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice.  In teaching us to cross the “I” out of life, our Lord tells us the secret of happiness; what the Saints call the ecstasy of self-forgetfulness.  For divine love is always self-effacing, seeks to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than be served, to love rather than to be loved, and will sacrifice anything for the beloved.  Only then does love become a clean and holy fire in the heart, and not an ugly flare of lust.

— Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833)


Ask and Receive

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Saint John’s Church/Newtonville
July 24, 2016
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12C

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

My Friends:

Arab Souk, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel.During my first of many trips to the Land of the Holy One, our guides gave us pilgrims a very welcome orientation to the unique customs and practices of the Middle East.  To alleviate our fears and to reduce our “culture shock,” they introduced us to the practices and protocols of the bazaar known as the suq in the Old City of Jerusalem.  And it was only then that I really grasped—for the first time—something of the meaning of this morning’s reading from the Hebrew Bible, together with a much deeper understanding of the whole life of prayer.

Our guides informed us that negotiation and bargaining are an integral part of doing business in the Middle East.  Shopkeepers and merchants of the bazaar expect you to bargain with them for a price lower than the one first quoted; in fact, they are deeply insulted if you don’t negotiate with them for that better price.  The price, we were told, is never the real issue.  In the Middle East, still a deeply traditional culture, bargaining establishes a personal relationship between the buyer and the seller in a society where relationships are everything. Continue reading

Relating to God as a Friend

Sermon for Sunday, October 12, 2014
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 22:1-14


Russian Bride's Attire by Konstantin Makovsky

Russian Bride’s Attire by Konstantin Makovsky

In the parable we’ve just heard, we may be wondering – as Christians have wondered for centuries – “What is the wedding robe?”  We want to know, because whatever the wedding robe is, we want to be wearing it lest we be thrown into the outer darkness and weep and gnash our teeth.  Shortly, I will “answer” that question – “answer” in quotes because who really knows what is the wedding robe?   But first I want to move beyond the “answer” to the question and get to what is going on inside of us when we ask the question. Continue reading