Saturday, December 29, 2012


Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Here are a couple of wonderful and unexpected emails that were sent to me.
Beautiful! I hope you think so too.

Christmas Eve....
written by Fr. Richard Wurmbrand, who witnessed these events, 

    When I was in jail I fell very, very ill.  I had tuberculosis of the whole surface of both lungs, diabetes, heart failure, and other sicknesses I can't even remember.  I was near to death.  At my right had was a priest who was the abbot of a monastery.  He had been so tortured that death was knocking at his door.  But his face was serene.  He spoke about his hope of heaven, about  his love of Christ, about his faith. 
He radiated joy.
     On my left side was the Communist torturer who happened to be the one who had tortured this priest almost to death.  Some time later, he had been arrested by his own comrades.  As you  can see,
atheists don't hate, only Christians or Jews they hate everyone and everything.  They hate each other.  And so it happened to this Communist torturer, who was was beaten and tortured by his comrades
and was now dying beside me.  His soul was in agony.  During the night he would awaken me, saying, "Father, please pray for me.  I can't die, I have committed such terrible crimes."
     Then I saw a miracle.  I saw the agonized priest calling two other prisoners.  And leaning on their shoulders, slowly, slowly he walked past my bed, sat on the bedside of the murderer, and caressed his head - I will never forget such a scene.  I watched a murdered man taking care of his murderer!  The priest said to the man, "You are young, you did not know what you were doing.  "I love you with all my heart."  However, he didn't just say the words, I love you, he truly loved him.  "I love you with all my heart."
     Then he went on...."If I who am a sinner can love you so much, imagine Christ, who is 'Love Incarnate', how much He loves you!  And all the followers of Christ, whom you have treated unjustly, know that 
they love you and they forgive you.  And Christ loves you.  He wishes you to be saved much more than you wish to be saved.  You wonder if your sins can be forgiven.  Know that He wishes to forgive you more
than you wish to be forgiven.  He desires for you to be with Him in heaven much more than you wish to be in heaven with Him.  Because He is Love.  You only need to turn to Him and repent."
     In this prison cell, you could now hear the confession of the murderer to the murdered.  It happens that in life, some events that are so powerful occur which could sound like they came out of a novel. 
The victim giving absolution to his torturer.  Then they prayed together, embraced each other and the priest dragged himself back to his bed.  Both men fell asleep in the Lord that night, Christ called them to be
close to Him.  It was Christmas Eve, but it was not a Christmas Eve in which we simply remember that two thousand years ago Christ was born in Bethlehem.  It was a Chrismas Eve during which Christ was born in the heart of a Communist murderer.
     These are the things, which I witnessed with my own eyes.

 In the early 1970’s I was a student (and a Greek teaching fellow) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.  The seminary brought in the eyewitness author of this story, Richard Wurmbrand, to give a remarkable series of public lectures, unlike any I have heard before or since.  While there, he and his wife Sabina stayed in a dormitory room virtually adjacent to the room I shared with my best friend, Vance Drum (now a prison chaplain in Huntsville,TX), so Vance and I were privileged to have some private chats with the Wurmbrands over those days.  Both of them were full of peace and joy and radiated Christian faith, hope, and love to a degree we had never encountered.

Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Lutheran pastor (of Jewish descent) during the dark period of Communist rule in Romania.  He was arrested for preaching Christ, and spent many years in the unspeakably cruel prisons devised by the Communists for torturing Christians into renouncing Christ.  He was finally ransomed out, and the Wurmbrands became refugees in America until the fall of Communism in 1990, when they returned to Romania.  He died in 2001 at the age of 91.

You can read the Wikipedia article on his life here:

I had read his famous book Tortured for Christ in my teens, so I was very excited to get to meet him.  His body was obviously mangled from torture, and he suffered pain and disability from it the rest of his life.  When he gave testimony before the US Congress, he was asked to remove his shirt so that his scars and disfigurement could be seen.

Though Pastor Wurmbrand never entered the Orthodox Church (at least in this life), he was very sympathetic to the Orthodox because most of his fellow prisoners were Orthodox Christians, including many priests and monks (among them Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory).   He maintained close friendships with some of them who had also escaped to America, and became a friend to the monks of St. Herman’s Monastery in Platina, CA.

Fr. George Calciu was the spiritual father of my godson James, who introduced me to him on a visit to Washington, DC.  I won’t be surprised if Fr. George is added to the calendar some day.  Fr. George spoke to me warmly about his friend Pastor Wurmbrand.

Though I knew nothing of Orthodoxy when I met Pastor Wurmbrand, later it became clear to me that his heart and his thinking had been strongly influenced by Orthodoxy.

There are numerous books in English by and about both Pastor Wurmbrand and Fr. George, and I commend them to you for your spiritual nourishment.

This Christmas Eve, I am looking forward to sharing with you our first Orthodox Nativity services, and our first services in Midland with our new iconostasis.

May the newborn Christ bring us the gift of deep forgiveness He gave to those Romanian sufferers.  Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Reader Mark

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Katherine Bolger Hyde has multiplied the  capability of her very sweet book of 'Lucia Saint of Light' by creating a video using the lovely illustrations of the book along with a lively and excellent narration of the story to give it an enlarged dimension. This is a great buy as a Christmas Gift for the children on your list at $4.99 and a wonderfully entertaining production that includes the life of the Saint as well as the traditions surrounding the celebration of Saint Lucia of the Light. I recommend it highly! From Conciliar Press