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ewriggs 08-08-2004 11:58 AM

Eastern Orthodox (Christian) Thoughts
 
I'm starting this Thread to post some of the classics of Orthodox Christian Spirituality - not only from centuries past, but from this century.

Elizabeth

ewriggs 08-08-2004 12:02 PM

Bless My Enemies O Lord
 
St. Nikolai Velimirovich was a Serbian bishop in the last century who spoke out courageously against Nazism until he was arrested and taken to Dachau where he underwent torture and starvation for several years. After WWII was over, Saint Nikolai came to the US and taught at St. Tikon's Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He died there, and recently was Glorified (recognized as a Saint) by the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Bless My Enemies O Lord
St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

= = = = =
From Prayers by the Lake by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, published by the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of New Gracanica, 1999.

ewriggs 08-09-2004 12:06 PM

The Dormition Fast
 
The Dormition Fast

The Dormition Fast begins on August 14 and continues until the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, August 28. The Dormition Fast is one of four major fast periods in the Orthodox Church. Great Lent, the Nativity Fast, and the Apostles Fast are the other three major periods of fasting.

Serious Orthodox believers fast with joyful anticipation. Serious Orthodox Christians firmly believe in the value of fasting. Serious Orthodox Christians consider fast periods as times to redirect life toward the Kingdom of God.

The Dormition Fast concerns itself with the Mother of God. The Mother of God is near and dear to Orthodox Christians. The Mother of God is unique among women in salvation history. Out of all women, in all centuries, Mary was chosen to give birth to Jesus Christ. She has an unprecedented and unduplicated relationship with Jesus Christ.

Prayers are offered to the Mother of God with regularity. Orthodox Christians beseech the Mother of God to intercede with her Son. Miracles are attributed to the Mother of God. Books have been written about the Mother of God. Churches have been named after the Mother of God. People and communities have been named after the Mother of God.

A person could spend a lifetime researching everything written about and attributed to the Mother of God. The Dormition Fast is an opportunity for Orthodox Christians to seriously contemplate the Mother of God.

The Dormition Fast is an opportunity for Orthodox Christians to reflect upon the Annunciation of Jesus Christís birth. The Dormition Fast is an opportunity to think about the Nativity of Jesus Christ. The Dormition Fast is an opportunity to remember Jesus Christís first miracle at the wedding of Cana.

The Mother of God holds a prominent position on the iconostasis of each Orthodox Church. The Mother of God is referred to with great consistency in the services of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Mother of God is held carefully in the heart of each Orthodox Christian.

The Dormition Fast invites us to reach deep within our hearts and minds to consider the purity of the Mother of God. The Dormition Fast invites us to reach deep within our hearts and minds to reverence the Mother of God. The Dormition Fast invites us to reach deep within our hearts and minds to consider the obedience of the Mother of God.

The Holy Apostle Paul told the Romans: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."(Rom.12:2)

The Dormition Fast provides us with a great period for renewal. The value of the Dormition Fast increases for each person when he or she uses the time seriously for spiritual wellness.

The Dormition Fast has a direct benefit for the world. By the action of the Church, by the actions of Orthodox Christians in the Dormition Fast, life improves. Enough attention is not given to the value of the Fasts of the Church in the betterment of communities.

Periods of fasting, the Dormition Fast included, are times for increased prayer. Everyone is to pray. Orthodox Christians are familiar with certain prescribed prayers and times for prayer. The Holy Apostle Paul set the lasting standard of prayer for all believers. He told the Thessalonians: Rejoice always and pray without ceasing."(I Thessalonians 5:17)

The goal for each Orthodox Christians is the goal of praying without ceasing. Fast periods increase attention to prayer and give impetus to strive toward the goal of unceasing prayer.

The Mother of God lived on earth. She was born to earthly parents.

Her earthly existence is recorded in Holy Scripture. She was chosen by God from among all women to give birth to Jesus Christ.

The world is different due to the birth of Christ. The world is different to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Mary is a constant figure in the life of Christ. She was cared for by Him when He hung upon the Cross.

Centuries have passed. Interest in the Mother of God continues.

Orthodox believers speak of the Mother of God in the present tense. Though she gave birth to Jesus Christ centuries and centuries ago, time is transcended when one talks about the Mother of God.

Distance is transcended when Orthodox Christians speak of the Mother of God. She is considered near to Orthodox believers regardless of their geographic location.

The earthly life of the Mother of God came to an end. This end is given great attention on the Feast of the Dormition. The end of the Mother of Godís earthly life in no way ended her being venerated by Orthodox Christians. The end of the earthly life of the Mother of God in no way ended her ability to intercede with her Son.

The value of intercessory prayer is known among Orthodox believers. It is common for Orthodox Christians to pray for each other and to ask for the prayers of others particularly in times of illness.

A person does not have to spend much time in an Orthodox environment before realizing prayers are offered to the Mother of God that she may intercede with her Son.

Akathist services to the Mother of God are served in Orthodox Churches around the world. Miraculous icons of the Mother of God draw large crowds of believers coming to venerate them.

The Dormition to the Mother of God Fast is time limited. The Fast is a two week period of time. A believer can find many ways to benefit from the Dormition Fast and many ways to observe the Fast.

While fasting is an expectation for Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Christians exercise the choice to fast freely. Each person knows him or herself the best. Each person knows when he or she is honoring the fast.

God is not to be fooled. God will not be fooled. God knows when a person is fasting in the intended spirit of the fast. Fasting to win earthly accolades from others has no lasting benefit.

The Dormition Fast affords the believer the opportunity to reach beyond the self to God. The Dormiton Fast affords the believer the opportunity to act in faith.

The goal of each fast period is to arrive at the feast as a better person.

During the fast, believers are to set aside ways of life which hinder the life in Christ.

St.Paul gives us much to think about in his words to the Corinthians when he says: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."(II Cor.3:18)

The Dormition Fast brings us directly to our relationship with God. The Dormition Fast brings us directly to our relationship with the Mother of God. The Dormition Fast calls us to examine ourselves carefully and seriously as Orthodox believers.

We have a great responsibility as Orthodox Christians. We are expected to live our lives as Orthodox Christians. When our burden is heavy, Jesus is present to help us find rest for our souls(Mt.11:29)

The Dormition Fast draws us toward the joy of Jesus Christ. The Dormition Fast draws us toward the Mother of God. The Dormition Fast is a daily reminder of the presence of the Mother of God.

The love of Jesus Christ showed forth from the Cross. He showed love for His Mother. He showed love for all humanity in all centuries. Mary has been a witness to and for Jesus Christ unlike any other.

We do well when we invest our time in studying the life of the Mother of God and in respecting the fast bearing her name. The investment we make in honoring the Dormition Fast will be known to God. It is an investment in our life for God and an expression of our love for God.

When we honor the Mother of God, we honor her Son. When we think about the Mother of God, we come to think more about the Son of God, about her being chosen by God and about the action of the Holy Spirit.

God honored Mary by choosing her from among all women. We do well when we treat the Dormition Fast with great seriousness, that we may come to know Christ more, that we renew our hearts and minds, and live more consistently with the teachings of our Lord and Savior.

St.George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. Originally given July 29/August ll, 2002.

Re-issued July 26/August 8, 2004. Father .Rodney Torbic

ewriggs 08-13-2004 03:59 PM

13 August 2004
 
A few quotes from the Philokalia - a collection of the writings of revered Holy Saints:

Beyond human knowledge and understanding
(Quotations from The Philokalia)

Evagrios the Solitary, in On Prayer:
If the intellect has not risen above the contemplation of the created world, it has not yet beheld the realm of God perfectly. For it may be occupied with the knowledge of intelligible things and so involved in their mulitplicity.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 62, text 58)

St. Mark the Ascetic, in No Righteousness by Works:
Knowledge of created beings is one thing, and knowledge of the divine truth is another. The second surpasses the first just as the sun outshines the moon.
Knowledge of created beings increases the more we observe the commandments actively; but knowledge of the truth grows the more we hope in Christ.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 137, text 144-145)


St. Theodoros, the Great Ascetic in Theoretikon:
Natural knowledge is that which the soul can acquire through the use of its natural faculties and powers when investigating creation and the cause of creation -- in so far, of course, as this is possible for a soul bound to matter... Supranatural knowledge, on the other hand, is that which enters the intellect in a manner transcending its own means and power; that is to say, the intelligible objects that constitute such knowledge surpass the capacity of an intellect joined to a body, so that a knowledge of them pertains naturally only to an intellect which is free from the body. Such knowledge is infused by God alone when He finds an intellect purified of all material attachment and inspired by divine love.
("Philokalia (Vol. 2)", pp. 39-40)

St. Theognostos in On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood
By spiritual knowledge, I do not mean wisdom, but that unerring apperception of God and of divine realities through which the devout, no longer dragged down by the passions, are raised to a divine state by the grace of the Spirit.
("Philokalia (Vol. 2)", p. 365)

ewriggs 08-15-2004 11:06 AM

St. John of Damaskos in On the Virtues and the Vices:

For desire is drawn towards three things: the pleasure of the flesh, vain self-glory, and the acquisition of material wealth. As a result of this senseless appetite it scorns God and His commandments, and forgets His generosity; it turns like a savage beast against its neighbour; it plunges the intelligence into darkness and prevents it from looking towards the truth. He who has acquired a spiritual understanding of this truth will share, even here on earth, in the kingdom of heaven and will live a blessed life in expectation of the blessedness that awaits those who love God.
("The Philokalia (Vol. 2)", p. 339)

ewriggs 08-15-2004 02:12 PM

What Is the Orthodox Church?
 
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What is the Orthodox Church?


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Close to two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church through His Apostles and disciples for the salvation of men. The teachings of the Apostles and the Church spread far in the years which followed; many Churches were founded, but all were united in faith, worship and the partaking of the sacraments.

To the group of Churches founded by the Apostles themselves belong the five Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. The Church of Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew, the Church of Alexandria by St. Mark, the Church of Antioch by St. Paul, the Church of Jerusalem by St. Peter and St. James, and the Church of Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul. Those founded in later years through missionary activity of the first Churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Roumania and many more.

All of these churches are independent in their administration, yet they are in full communion with one another with the exception of the Church of Rome which separated in the year 1054. In faith, doctrine, Apostolic tradition, sacraments, liturgies and services they are exactly alike. Regardless of the language of each, they exist in fellowship and together constitute and call themselves the Orthodox Church.

The teachings of the Church are derived from two sources: Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which complement each other. As written in the Gospel of St. John, "and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written." These unwritten teachings were transmitted orally by the Apostles and come down to us in Sacred Tradition.

The faith and doctrines of the Church can be found in the Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers and in the canons and decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, the Saviour, and the Son begotten of the same substance of the Father before all ages. He is also true man, like us in all respects except sin. We believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, this being confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council in the words used in the Symbol of Faith, "And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father..."

The Orthodox worship God in Trinity, and honor and venerate the Saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the Saints, the Mother of God holds a special place because of the supreme grace and call she received from God. According to the canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, we venerate the sacred icons and relics not in themselves, but as representations of God and the Saints.

We recognize seven Sacraments: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage and Holy Unction. Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation) are the means of entrance for the Christian into the Church. For without dying to the old man and putting on the new in Baptism, we cannot receive the inheritance of the Kingdom which Christ restored to us. With Chrismation, we receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God in the form of a Dove alighted on Christ, we receive Him in the Holy Chrism, becoming partakers in the fulness of Christ. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, for the remission of sins and for life eternal. As it is written, Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood ye have no life in you. In confession we receive forgiveness of the sins we commit after Baptism if we truly repent of them. The foregoing three sacraments are essential for the life of all Christians.

By the laying-on of hands of a canonical Bishop, divine grace descends on him who is being ordained. This basic sacrament has provided uninterrupted succession to Orthodox clergy from the Holy Apostles and the establishment of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Divine grace sanctifies the union of two people in Matrimony as Christ blessed the wedding at Cana by His presence and the performance of His first miracle. Infirmities of the body and soul are healed through the sacrament of Holy Unction.

These, briefly, are some characteristics of the Orthodox Church. The Church is one because our Lord Jesus Christ founded only one Church. It is holy through the sanctification of its Founder and Head, Jesus Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is catholic because it is universal, and knows no limitations of place or time. It is apostolic because it was founded by the Holy Apostles. This is the Orthodox Church-the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

( Reprinted from "A Short History of the Holy Trinity Monastery", Jordanville, N.Y. 1972.)

(1980)
Used with permission

ewriggs 08-16-2004 05:14 AM

Venerables Isaac, Calmatus, and Faust; Venerable Cosmas, the eunuch; Venerable Anthony, the Roman; St. Salome, the myrrh-bearer.

REFLECTION
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
Holy souls read Holy Scripture with great diligence concentrating on every word and placing themselves before the mirror of the Word of God as before the Dread Judgment. Their diligence was so great in this that some of the ascetics undertook distant journeys in order to come to a spiritual sage who would interpret for them a word or a saying from Holy Scripture. Whenever it was possible, this was accomplished through correspondence. It is from this that a complete collection of the letters of the saints remained [survived] such as those of Saints Basil, Gregory, Chrysostom, Isidore of Pelusium, Nilus of Sinai and many others. One day St. Cosmas pondered on the words of the Lord Christ when He, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked His disciples whether they had a sword. When His disciples said to Him: "Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said to them, it is enough" (St. Luke 22:38). Being unable to explain these words himself, St. Cosmas decided to cross over the wilderness to the distant Lavra called Pirga to the illustrious Abba Theophilus to inquire of him. With great difficulty did St. Cosmas succeed to reach his goal. Theophilus explained to him: "The two swords signify the two-fold order of a god-pleasing life: deeds and visions, i.e., labor and awakening of the mind to godly thoughts and prayer. Whoever has both of these, he is perfect."

HOMILY
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
About human ingratitude unseen even among the animals

"The ox knoweth hisowner and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider" (Isaiah 1:3).

The ingratitude of man is most strongly exposed by the gratitude of animals. When the irrational ox knows who his master is and when the ass knows from whose crib it is fed, how then can rational man not know about God, His Creator and Nourisher? The word Israel means "one who sees God." And every rational man should by his rationality be "one who sees God", to know God, to feel the presence of God and to serve God as once did the meek and wonderful Jacob. But when rational man, whose entire dignity is in the knowledge of God, does not know God, i.e., when the "one who sees God" becomes blind toward God, then the dignity of the ox and the ass is raised in dignity above such a man. For an ox, without exception, recognizes his master and the ass, without exception, recognizes the one who feeds him while among men there exists exceptions, i.e., there exist men and, very often leaders of men, who do not recognize their Lord nor their Nourisher. In all of created nature, godlessness is a disease only among men for godliness is the condition of normality and health only for men and not for animals. Thus, godlessness is not the disease of animals but of men; alas, only of men, only they who are destined to be "ones who see God" and who, when they lose their godliness, become poorer than the ox and the ass.

This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the Prophet of God.

O God of meek Jacob, of Israel, enlightened one "who sees God", help us to maintain our human dignity, the dignity of one "who sees God" and that in every day and every hour, we may know and recognize You with gratitude, as our Lord and Nourisher.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

[from: The Prologue From Ochrid]

ewriggs 08-18-2004 03:17 PM

The Sacrament (Mystery) of Christian Baptism
St Cyprian of Carthage
From a Letter written to a new convert, 246 A.D.

I promise to share with you the grace God in His great mercy has shown me, and to tell you as simply as I can what I have experienced since I was baptized.

Until that time, I was still living in the dark, knowing nothing of my true life. I was completely involved in this world's affairs, influenced by all its changing moods and troubles, and exiled from the light of truth.

I had indeed been told that God offered men and women a second birth, by which we could be saved, but I very much doubted that I could change the kind of life I was then living.

Frankly, I could not see how a person could cast off his fallen nature, and be changed in heart and soul while he still lived in the same body as before. How was it possible, I asked myself, to change the habits of a lifetime instantaneously.

How can one suddenly rid oneself of accumulated guilt and break with sin that has become so deeply rooted in one's life? Can a man whose life has been characterized by feasting and luxury, learn frugality and simplicity in a single moment? A person who craves public distinction and honor cannot bear to be passed over and unnoticed.

Another who is accustomed to throngs of flattering attendance, takes it a terrible penance to be left alone. Is every species of temptation suddenly to lose its force? Should we no longer feel the enticement of wine and good living, where pride no longer swells our heads or anger blazen our breasts? Shall we no longer be troubled by covetousness or cruelty or ambition or lust?

These were my thoughts. My past life was so burdened with so many sins, that I saw no way ever to be rid of, that I had grown accustomed to giving way to my weakness.

I despaired of ever being any better.

Consequently, I simply humored my evil inclinations, and made no attempt to combat them.

But at last I made up my mind to ask for Baptism. I went down into those life-giving waters, and all the stains of my past were washed away.

I committed my life to the Lord. He cleansed my heart and filled me with His Holy Spirit. I was born again, a new man.

And then in a most marvelous way, all my doubts cleared up, I could now see what had been hidden from me before. I found that I could do things that had previously been impossible.

I saw that as long as I had been living according to my lower nature, I was at the mercy of sin, and my course was set for death. But that by living according to my new birth in the Holy Spirit, I had already begun to share God's eternal life. You know, as well as I do, what sins I died to at that moment, just as you know the gifts the Holy Spirit gave me with my new life. I have no desire to boast, but it is surely right to thank God for His free gift. It was through faith in Him, that I received the power to break with the sins into which my own folly had led me.

We have received the seal of the Holy Spirit. Our task now is to preserve the integrity of what we have received by living a truly Christian life. We must give time to prayer, and to the study of scripture. Now speaking to God; now listening to His word to us, and letting His teaching mold us. He has enriched us with a treasure no one can take away.

We have eaten and drunk at His heavenly banquet, and can never again know the pinch of poverty.

ewriggs 08-19-2004 01:51 AM

6 / 19 August 2004
Today is Holy Transfiguration - the Feast celebrating the Transfiguration of Christ on Mt. Tabor.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Matthew 17:1-9

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid." When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."

Christ offers each person the opportunity to be transfigured, to share in the light of Christ. Christ offers each person the opportunity to be united with Him as we partake of His precious Body and Blood.

The Holy Liturgy summons believers to draw near in the fear of God and with faith. The Holy Liturgy is where believers partake of Christís precious Body and Blood.

The mountains of God summon the believer. The mountains of God challenge the believer. The mountains of God inspire the believer.

Each year the Feast of Transfiguration is celebrated. Each year believers must come to terms with the Transfigured Christ. Each year the lives of believers change due to the Transfiguration of Christ.

The Holy Gospel tells us about Christ upon Mt.Tabor. The Holy Gospel tells us of the presence of Peter, James and John. The Holy Gospel depicts the presence of Moses and Elijah.

The minds of believers are transformed by the Transfiguration. The minds of believers cannot fully comprehend the Transfiguration. The minds of believers are never the same after learning of the Transfiguration.

The loving God enables believers to learn of the Transfiguration. The forgiving God enables sinners to draw near to the Transfigured Christ. The charitable God offers His Son.

At the Transfiguration Peter said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." At each Feast of the Transfiguration, we can say to the Lord God, it is good for us to be here.

Wherever we are located on the Feast of the Transfiguration, we can give thanks to God. We can pray to God. We can think about God.

Some years ago, two travelling Orthodox clergymen used an airport chapel for simple prayer on the Feast of Transfiguration. Time and distance prevented access to an Orthodox Church. The lives of these clergymen were affected as were the lives of other travelers coming to use the chapel.

Believers near to Orthodox churches have a responsibility to attend the Divine Liturgy on the Feast if they can. Men and women and children travellingÖ men, women and children far from Orthodox Churches benefit by taking time to pray to God on the Feast of Transfiguration..

The goodness of God exceeds our ability to comprehend. We express our appreciation for the goodness of God by loving God and loving our neighbor. May the Transfigured Lord transform our hearts that we may always live in His light.

(Father Rodney Torbic, St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels PA)

ewriggs 08-20-2004 01:49 AM

The one who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of detachment knows no distinction between one's own and another's, between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, or indeed between male and female. But having risen
above the tyranny of the passions and looking to the one nature of men he regards all equally and is equally disposed toward all. For in him there is neither Greek no Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman, but Christ is everything and in everything. .............

St Maximus the Confessor

ewriggs 08-23-2004 01:40 AM

Monday, 10 / 23 August 2004
 
Sacrifice to God

A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit.
~*~Psalm 50:19~*~

Do not regard the external, but concentrate your gaze on the internal, gather up the entire world into the noetic cell of the soul, prepare for the Lord a temple which does not contain any idols.
~*~Venerable Nilus of Sinai~*~

God smells not matter or sensory aroma, but the noetic and spiritual. The most pleasant incense is the soul of the one who offers it. Through spiritual sacrifices we recognize not only the stifling of passions but also the dedication of all our natural powers to God, bringing them as a whole burnt offering to God in the fire of grace.
~*~Venerable Maximos the Confessor~*~

If you wish to offer gifts to God, emulate the widow and from your soul bring two mites - humility and love.

~*~Venerable Theognist~*~

ewriggs 08-23-2004 02:06 AM

Explanation of the Creed
 
The Principles of the Orthodox Faith

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran

(Part I)

What is the Creed?

The word creed comes from the Latin credo, which means "I believe." In the Orthodox Church the Creed is usually called the Symbol of Faith, which means the "expression" or "confession" of the faith.

A person without faith is like a blind man. Faith gives man spiritual vision by which he can see and understand the essence of all that surrounds him: how and why everything was created, what is the goal of life, what is right and what is not, and ultimately what one must strive towards.

From earliest times, the Apostolic-period Christians have used the Creed to remind themselves of the principles of the Orthodox Faith. In the ancient church there existed various short creeds. But in the 4th century there appeared false teachings about the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Thus it became necessary to complete these short creeds and more accurately define the Church's teaching.

A Historical Survey

The Nicean Creed was composed by the Fathers of the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The first seven articles of the Creed were drawn up at the 1st Ecumenical Council, and the last five were drawn up at the 2nd Ecumenical Council. The 1st Council met in Nicea in 325 A.D. to confirm the true teachings about the Son of God and to oppose the false teachings of Arius. Arius believed that the Son of God was created by God the Father. The 2nd Council met in Constantinople in 381 A.D. to confirm the true teaching on the Holy Spirit and to oppose the false teachings of Macedonius. He rejected the divine origin of the Holy Spirit. The Creed is named the "Nicean-Constantinopolitan" after the two cities in which the Fathers gathered for the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The Creed consists of twelve articles. In the 1st article we speak of God the Father; from the 2nd though 7th articles we speak of God the Son; in the 8th article about God the Holy Spirit; in the 9th about the Church; in the 10th about Baptism; and in the 11th and 12th about the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.

The Creed

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.

We begin the Creed with "I believe." This is because the essence of our religious convictions depends not on external experiences but on our acceptance of God-given truths. Surely one cannot prove truths of the spiritual world by any laboratory experiments. These truths belong to the sphere of personal religious experience. The more a person grows in the spiritual life - the more one prays, thinks about God, does good - the more his inner spiritual experience develops, the clearer the religious truths become to him. In this fashion, faith becomes for him a subject of personal experience.

(Part II to follow)


Father (now Bishop) Alexander Mileant has written or compiled hundreds of leaflets, brochures and booklets on various aspects of the Orthodox Faith. They may be found at: Orthodox Christian Booklets and are available in several languages.

ewriggs 08-23-2004 02:09 AM

Explanation of The Creed (II)
 
The Principles of the Orthodox Faith

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran

(Part II)

What do we believe in according to the Creed?

We believe that God is one fullness of perfection; we believe that He is a perfect spirit, timeless, without beginning, all-powerful and all-wise. God is everywhere, sees all, and knows beforehand when something will happen. He is good beyond measure, just and all-holy. He needs nothing and is the reason for everything that exists.

We believe that God is one in Essence and Trinity in Persons (i.e., the one true God has appeared to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Trinity, one in Essence and indivisible. The Father is not born and does not proceed from the others. The Son pre-eternally was born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father.

We believe that all the Persons of the Holy Trinity are equaly in divine perfection, greatness, power, and glory. That is, we believe that the Father is true and perfect God, the Son is true and perfect God, and, the Holy Spirit is true and perfect God. Therefore, in prayers, we simultaneously glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one God.

We believe that the entire visible and invisible world was created by God. In the beginning God created the invisible, great angelic world, otherwise known as Heaven. As stated in the Bible, God created our material or physical world from nothing. This was not done at once, but gradually during periods of time which in the Bible are called "days." God created the world not out of necessity or need but out of His all-good desire to do so in order that His other creations might enjoy life. Being Himself endlessly good, God created all things good. Evil appeared in the world from the misuse of free will, with which God has endowed both angels and people. For example, the Devil (Satan) and his demons were at one time angels of God. But they rebelled against their Creator and became demons. They were cast out of Heaven and formed their own kingdom called "hell." From that moment on, they tempted people to sin and became our enemies and the enemies of our salvation.

We believe that all things are under God's control; that is, he provides for every creature and guides everything to a good goal. God loves and looks after us as a mother looks after her child. For this reason nothing bad can befall a person who trusts in God.

We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father's Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ's teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.

We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.

We believe that in the sacrament of Baptism the believer is forgiven all sins. The believer becomes a member of the Church. Access to the other sacraments of salvation becomes available to him at this time. In the sacrament of Chrismation the believer receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Confession or Repentance, sins are forgiven. In Holy Communion, offered at the Divine Liturgy, the believer receives the very Body and Blood of Christ. In the sacrament of Matrimony, an inseparable union is created between a man and a woman. In the sacrament of Ordination Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are ordained to serve the Church. In Holy Unction, the healing of physical and spiritual illness is offered.

We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.

With the one word "Amen" we witness to the fact that we accept and acknowledge with our whole heart this Creed which we confess to be true.

The Creed is read by a Catechumen (one about to receive Baptism) during the sacrament of Baptism. During the Baptism of an infant, the Creed is read by the Sponsor. The Creed is sung at the Liturgy and should be read daily at Morning Prayers. An attentive reading of the Creed greatly strengthens our faith. This happens because the Creed is not just a formal statement of belief but a prayer. When we say "I believe" in a spirit of prayer, along with the other words of the Creed, we enliven and strengthen our Faith in God and in all those truths which are contained in the Creed. This is why it is so important for the Orthodox Christian to recite the Creed daily or at least regularly.

Father (now Bishop) Alexander Mileant has written or compiled hundreds of leaflets, brochures and booklets on various aspects of the Orthodox Faith. They may be found at: Orthodox Christian Booklets and are available in several languages.

ewriggs 08-25-2004 02:04 PM

Wednesday, August 25 / August 12 (Church Calendar)
 
Afterfeast of the Transfiguration. Martyrs Anicletus and Photius (Photinus) of Nicomedia

Remembering the One Who Loved Us

The outstanding nature of God is Love (1 John 4:8). God is a limitless, all-encompassing and life-giving sea of love. From the largest to the smallest, everything in existence - visible and invisible, including every molecule in our being - is the work of His incomprehensible love and wisdom. Consequently, it is natural to expect that our daily need must be a ceaseless thanksgiving to our Creator - and not only for evoking us from non-existence by giving us life, but for His continuous fatherly caring for our welfare.

In need of no one, through His surfeit of goodness, God created us so that we could be in communion with Him in eternal life and ecstasy. His fatherly love unfolds with particular distinctiveness in the concern shown in establishing our human nature and the surroundings in which He intended us to settle. It would appear that mankind requires very little to survive and could have been limited to the bare daily essentials. However, through His generosity, God created this immense universe, containing countless galaxies and star systems in all their vastness and splendor that fascinates the mind and delights the heart. Who is worthy enough to competently describe the beauty of God's creation and do justice to it - the azure of the sky and the invigorating warmth of the sun, the immensity of the seas and grandeur of the mountain ranges, the vastness of the plains and the whiteness of the snow, the fragrance of grasses and flowers, the singing of birds, the bubbling of a brook?!

Just like a benevolent mother who is concerned for her children, our Creator has enriched our world with countless varieties of sustenance that strengthen and give us satisfaction, and with a diversity of plants to treat illnesses and fortify our health. In a word, all that is around us, right down to an insignificant blade of grass, is witness to the generosity and fatherly care of our Creator!

That is why learned thinkers and philosophers derived their brightest ideas in contemplating nature, while sensitive poets, composers, and writers, inspired by its beauty, created their works of genius, as exemplified by some of Lermontov's poetry:

When the yellowing wheat field ripples,
And the fresh forest rustles before the sound of the Breeze,
And a raspberry-colored plum hides
Under the shade of a delightful green leaf.
When, sprinkled with fragrant dew,
In the glowing evening or in the golden hour of morning
From under a shrub the silvery lily of the valley
Affably nods its head to me.
When a very cold stream plays along the ravine,
And, a thought, submerging in some vague dream or Other,
Babbles to me a mysterious saga
About a peaceful land from where it is rushing.
Then the uneasiness of my soul is subdued,
Then the wrinkles on my brow scatter,
And I perceive happiness on Earth,
And in Heaven I see God.
M. Lermontov (1814 - 1841).
Translated by Dimitry J. Hicks Hloboschin 8/XII/1999


From: "Remembering the One Who Loved Us," Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
http://www.fatheralexander.org/bookl...ish/love_e.htm

ewriggs 08-27-2004 01:36 PM

Friday, 14 / 27 August 2004
 
Forefeast of the Dormition. Prophet Micah

St. John of Karpathos, in Texts for the Monks in India:
If we truly wish to please God and to enjoy the grace of His friendship, we should present to Him an intellect that is stripped bare -- not weighed down with anything that belongs to this present life...
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", pp. 309-310, text 49)

St. Hesychios the Priest, in On Watchfulness and Holiness:
... When there are no fantasies or mental images in the heart, the intellect is established in its true nature, ready to contemplate whatever is full of delight, spiritual and close to God.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 178, text 93)

We should strive to preserve the precious gifts which preserve us from all evil... These gifts are the guarding of the intellect with the invocation of Jesus Christ, continuous insight into the heart's depths, stillness of mind unbroken even by thoughts which appear to be good, and the capacity to be empty of all thought.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 180, text 103)

Because every thought enters the heart in the form of a mental image of some sensible object, the blessed light of the Divinity will illumine the heart only when the heart is completely empty of everything and so free from all form. Indeed, this light reveals itself to the pure intellect in the measure to which the intellect is purged of all concepts.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 177, text 89)

To human beings it seems hard and difficult to still the mind so that it rests from all thoughts. Indeed, to enclose what is bodiless within the limits of the body does demand toil and struggle, not only from the uninitiated but also from those experienced in inner immaterial warfare. But he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him, as the Prophet says (cf. Jer. 17:16.LXX). Because of Jesus' beauty and sweetness he will not desire what is merely mortal...
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 188, text 148)

... the delighted intellect delights in the light of the Lord when, free from concepts, it enters into the dawn of spiritual knowledge. By continually denying itself, it advances from the wisdom necessary for the practice of the virtues to an ineffable vision in which it contemplates holy and ineffable things. Then the heart is filled with perceptions of infinite and divine realities and sees the God of gods in its own depths, so far as this is possible. Astounded, the intellect lovingly glorifies God, the Seer and the Seen, and the Saviour of those who contemplate Him in this way.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 185, text 131)


Evagrios the Solitary, in On Prayer:
When your intellect in its great longing for God gradually withdraws from the flesh and turns away from all thoughts that have their source in your sense-perception, memory or soul-body temperament, and when it becomes full of reverence and joy, then you may conclude that you are close to the frontiers of prayer.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", pp. 62-63, text 62)

Stand on guard and protect your intellect from thoughts while you pray. Then your intellect will complete its prayer and continue in the tranquility that is natural to it. In this way He who has compassion on the ignorant will come to you, and you will receive the blessed gift of prayer.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 63, text 70)

You cannot attain pure prayer while entangled in material things and agitated by constant cares. For prayer means the shedding of thoughts.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", pp. 62-63, text 71)


St. Mark the Ascetic, in Letter to Nicolas the Solitary:
... for the soul is carried away captive through its inward assent to the thoughts with which it is constantly and sinfully occupied.
("Philokalia (Vol. 1)", p. 147)

St. Thalassios, in On Love, Self-control and Life in accordance with the Intellect:
The intellect cannot dally with any sensible object unless it entertains at least some kind of passionate feeling for it.
("Philokalia (Vol. 2)", p. 316)

ewriggs 08-28-2004 10:11 AM

A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
by St. Gregory Palamas

Part I
--------------------------------------------------
Both love and duty today fashion my homily for your charity. It is not only that I wish, because of my love for you, and because I am obliged by the sacred canons, to bring to your God-loving ears a saving word and thus to nourish your souls, but if there be any among those things that bind by obligation and love and can be narrated with praise for the Church, it is the great deed of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. The desire is double, not single, since it induces me, entreats and persuades me, whereas the inexorable duty constrains me, though speech cannot attain to what surpasses it, just as the eye is unable to look fixedly upon the sun. One cannot utter things which surpass speech, yet it is within our power by the love for mankind of those hymned, to compose a song of praise and all at once both to leave untouched intangible things, to satisfy the debt with words and to offer up the first fruits of our love for the Mother of God in hymns composed according to our abilities.

If, then, "death of the righteous man is honorable" (cf. Ps. 115:6) and the "memory of the just man is celebrated with songs of praise" (Prov. 10:7). How much more ought we to honor with great praises the memory of the holiest of the saints, she by whom all holiness is afforded to the saints, I mean the Ever-Virgin. Mother of God! Even so we celebrate today her holy dormition or translation to another life, whereby, while being "a little lower than angels" (Ps. 8:6), by her proximity to the God of all, and in the wondrous deeds which from the beginning of time were written down and accomplished with respect to her, she has ascended incomparably higher than the angels and the archangels and all the super-celestial hosts that are found beyond them. For her sake the God-possessed prophets pronounce prophecies, miracles are wrought to foreshow that future Marvel of the whole world, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. The flow of generations and circumstances journeys to the destination of that new mystery wrought in her; the statutes of the Spirit provide beforehand types of the future truth. The end, or rather the beginning and root, of those divine wonders and deeds is the annunciation to the supremely virtuous Joachim and Anna of what was to be accomplished: namely, that they who were barren from youth would beget in deep old age her that would bring forth without seed Him that was timelessly begotten of God the Father before the ages. A vow was given by those who marvelously begot her to return her that was given to the Giver; so accordingly the Mother of God strangely changed her dwelling from the house of her father to the house of God while still an infant . She passed not a few years in the Holy of Holies itself, wherein under the care of an angel she enjoyed ineffable nourishment such as even Adam did not succeed in tasting; for indeed if he had, like this immaculate one, he would not have fallen away from life, even though it was because of Adam and so that she might prove to be his daughter, that she yielded a little to nature, as did her Son, Who has now ascended from earth into heaven.

But after that unutterable nourishment, a most mystical economy of courtship came to pass as regards the Virgin, a strange greeting surpassing speech which the Archangel, descended from above, addressed to her, and disclosures and salutations from God which overturn the condemnation of Eve and Adam and remedy the curse laid on them, transforming it into a blessing. The King of all "hath desired a mystic beauty" of the Ever-Virgin, as David foretold (Ps. 44:11) and, "He bowed the heavens and came down" (Ps. 17:9) and overshadowed her, or rather, the enhypostatic Power of the Most High dwelt in her. Not through darkness and fire, as with Moses the God-seer, nor through tempest and cloud, as with Elias the prophet, did He manifest His presence, but without mediation, without a veil, the Power of the Most High overshadowed the sublimely chaste and virginal womb, separated by nothing, neither air nor aether nor anything sensible, nor anything supra-sensible: this was not an overshadowing but a complete union. Since what overshadows is always wont to produce its own form and figure in whatever is overshadowed, there came to pass in the womb not a union only, but further, a formation, and that thing formed from the Power of the Most High and the all-holy virginal womb was the incarnate Word of God. Thus the Word of God took up His dwelling in the Theotokos in an inexpressible manner and proceeded from her, bearing flesh . He appeared upon the earth and lived among men, deifying our nature and granting us, after the words of the divine Apostle, "things which angels desire to look into" (1 Pet. 1:12). This is the encomium which transcends nature and the surpassingly glorious glory of the Ever-Virgin, glory for which all mind and word suffice not, though they be angelic. But who can relate those things which came to pass after His ineffable birth? For, as she co-operated and suffered with that exalting condescension (kenosis) of the Word of God, she was also rightly glorified and exalted together with Him, ever adding thereto the supernatural increase of mighty deeds. And after the ascent into the heavens of Him that was incarnate of her, she rivaled, as it were, those great works, surpassing mind and speech, which through Him were her own, with a most valiant and diverse asceticism, and with her prayers and care for the entire world, her precepts and encouragements which she gave to God's heralds sent throughout the whole world; thus she was herself both a support and a comfort while she was both heard and seen, and while she labored with the rest in every way for the preaching of the Gospel. In such wise she led a most strenuous manner of life proclaimed in mind and speech.

Therefore, the death of the Theotokos was also life-bearing, translating her into a celestial and immortal life and its commemoration is a joyful event and festivity for the entire world. It not merely renews the memory of the wondrous deeds of the Mother of God, but also adds thereto the strange gathering at her all-sacred burial of all the sacred apostles conveyed from every nation, the God-revealing hymns of these God-possessed ones, and the solicitous presence of the angels, and their choir, and liturgy round about her, going on before, following after, assisting, opposing, defending, being defended. They labored and chanted together to their uttermost with those who venerated that life- originating and God-receiving body, the saving balsam for our race and the boast of all creation; but they strove against and opposed with a secret hand the Jews who rose up against and attacked that body with hand and will set upon theomachy. All the while the Lord Sabaoth Himself, the Son of the Ever-Virgin, was present, into Whose hands she rendered her divinely-minded spirit, through which and with which its companion, her body, was translated into the domain of celestial and endless life, even as was and is fitting. In truth, many have been allotted divine favor and glory and power, as David says, "But to me exceedingly honorable are Thy friends, O Lord, their principalities are made exceeding strong. I will count them and they shall be multiplied more than the sand" (Ps. 138:17). And according to Solomon, "many daughters have attained wealth, many have wrought valiantly; but she doth exceed, she hath surpassed all, both men and women" (cf. Prov. 31:29). For while she alone stood between God and the whole human race, God became the Son of Man and made men sons of God; she made earth heavenly, she deified the human race, and she alone of all women was shown forth to be a mother by nature and the Mother of God transcending every law of nature, and by her ineffable childbirth-the Queen of all creation, both terrestial and celestial. Thus she exalted those under her through herself, and, showing while on earth an obedience to things heavenly rather than things earthly, she partook of more excellent deserts and of superior power, and from the ordination which she received from heaven by the Divine Spirit, she became the most sublime of the sublime and the supremely blest Queen of a blessed race.


(Continued Below)

ewriggs 08-28-2004 10:14 AM

A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
by St. Gregory Palamas

Part II
--------------------------------------------------

But now the Mother of God has her dwelling in Heaven whither she was today translated, for this is meet, Heaven being a suitable place for her. She "stands at the right of the King of all clothed in a vesture wrought with gold and arrayed with divers colors" (cf. Ps. 44:9), as the psalmic prophecy says con- cerning her. By "vesture wrought with gold" understand her divinely radiant body arrayed with divers colors of every virtue. She alone in her body, glorified by God, now enjoys the celestial realm together with her Son. For, earth and grave and death did not hold forever her life-originating and God-receiving body -the dwelling more favored than Heaven and the Heaven of heavens. If, therefore, her soul, which was an abode of God's grace, ascended into Heaven when bereaved of things here below, a thing which is abundantly evident, how could it be that the body which not only received in itself the pre-eternal and only-begotten Son of God, the ever-flowing Wellspring of grace, but also manifested His Body by way of birth, should not have also been taken up into Heaven? Or, if while yet three years of age and not yet possessing that super- celestial in-dwelling, she seemed not to bear our flesh as she abode in the Holy of Holies, and after she became supremely perfect even as regards her body by such great marvels, how indeed could that body suffer corruption and turn to earth? How could such a thing be conceivable for anyone who thinks reasonably'? Hence, the body which gave birth is glorified together with what was born of it with God-befitting glory, and the "ark of holiness" (Ps. 131:8) is resurrected, after the prophetic ode, together with Christ Who formerly arose from the dead on the third day. The strips of linen and the burial clothes afford the apostles a demonstration of the Theotokos' resurrection from the dead, since they remained alone in the tomb and at the apostles' scrutiny they were found there, even as it had been with the Master. There was no necessity for her body to delay yet a little while in the earth, as was the case with her Son and God, and so it was taken up straightway from the tomb to a super-celestial realm, from whence she flashes forth most brilliant and divine illuminations and graces, irradiating earth's region; thus she is worshipped and marvelled at and hymned by all the faithful . Willing to set up an image of all goodness and beauty and to make clearly manifest His own therein to both angels and men, God fashioned a being supremely good and beautiful, uniting in her all good, seen and unseen, which when He made the world He distributed to each thing and thereby adorned all; or rather one might say, He showed her forth as a universal mixing bowl of all divine, angelic and human things good and beautiful and the supreme beauty which embellished both worlds. By her ascension now from the tomb, she is taken from the earth and attains to Heaven and this also she surpasses, uniting those on high with those below, and encompassing all with the wondrous deed wrought in her. In this manner she was in the beginning "a little lower than the angels" (Ps. 8:6), as it is said, referring to her mortality, yet this only served to magnify her pre-eminence as regards all creatures. Thus all things today fittingly gather and commune for the festival.

It was meet that she who contained Him that fills all things and who surpasses all should outstrip all and become by her virtue superior to them in the eminence of her dignity. Those things which sufficed the most excellent among men that have lived throughout the ages in order to reach such excellency, and that which all those graced of God have separately, both angels and men, she combines, and these she alone brings to fulfillment and surpasses. And this she now has beyond all: That she has become immortal after death and alone dwells together with her Son and God in her body. For this reason she pours forth from thence abundant grace upon those who honor her-for she is a receptacle of great graces-and she grants us even our ability to look towards her. Because of her goodness she lavishes sublime gifts upon us and never ceases to provide a profitable and abundant tribute in our behalf. If a man looks towards this concurrence and dispensing of every good, he will say that the Virgin is for virtue and those who live virtuously, what the sun is for perceptible light and those who live in it. But if he raises the eye of his mind to the Sun which rose for men from this Virgin in a wondrous manner, the Sun which by nature possesses all those (lualities which were added to her nature by grace, he shall straightaway call the Virgin a heaven. The excellent inheritance of every good which she has been allotted so m uch exceeds in holiness the portion of those who are divinely graced both under and above heaven as the heaven is greater than the sun and the sun is more radiant than heaven.

Who can describe in words thy divinely resplendent beauty, O Virgin Mother of God? Thoughts and words are inadequate to define thine attributes, since they surpass mind and speech. Yet it is meet to chant hymns of praise to thee, for thou art a vessel containing every grace, the fulness of all things good and beautiful, the tablet and living icon of every good and all uprightness, since thou alone hast been deemed worthy to receive the fulness of every gift of the Spirit. Thou alone didst bear in thy womb Him in Whom are found the treasuries of all these gifts and didst become a wondrous tabernacle for Him; hence thou didst depart by way of death to immortality and art translated from earth to Heaven, as is proper, so that thou mightest dwell with Him eternally in a super-celestial abode. From thence thou ever carest diligently for thine inheritance and by thine unsleeping intercessions with Him, thou showest mercy to all.

(Continued Below)

ewriggs 08-28-2004 10:15 AM

A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
by St. Gregory Palamas

Part III
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To the degree that she is closer to God than all those who have drawn nigh unto Him, by so much has the Theotokos been deemed worthy of greater audience. I do not speak of rnen alone, but also of the angelic hierarchies themselves. Isaiah writes with regard to the supreme commanders of the heavenly hosts: "And the seraphim stood round about Him" (Isaiah 6:2); but David says concerning her, "at Thy right hand stood the queen" (Ps. 44:8). Do you see the difference in position? From this comprehend also the difference in the dignity of their station. The seraphim are round about God, but the only Queen of all is near beside Him. She is both wondered at and praised by God Himself, proclaiming her, as it were, by the mighty deeds enacted with respect to Him, and saying, as it is recorded in the Song of Songs, "How fair is my companion" (cf. Song of Songs 6:4), she is more radiant than light, more arrayed with flowers than the divine gardens, more adorned than the whole world, visible and invisible. She is not merely a companion but she also stands at Cod's right hand, for where Christ sat in the heavens, that is, at the "right hand of majesty" (Heb. 1:3), there too she also takes her stand, having ascended now from earth into the heavens. Not merely does she love and is loved in return more than every other, according to the very laws of nature, but she is truly His Throne, and wherever the King sits, there His Throne is set also. And Isaiah beheld this throne amidst the choir of cherubim and called it "high" and "exalted" (Isaiah 6:1), wishing to make explicit how the station of the Mother of God far trancer Is that of the celestial hosts.

For this reason the Prophet introduces the angels themselves as glorifying the God come from her, saying, "Blessed be the glory of the L,ord from His Place" (Ezek. 3:12). Jacob the patriarch, beholding this throne by way of types (enigmata), said, "How dreadful is this Place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven" (Gen. 28:17). But David, joining himself to the multitude of the saved, who are like the strings of a musical instrument or like differing voices from different generations made harmonious in one faith through the Ever-Virgin, sounds a most melodic strain in praise of her, saying: "I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages." Do you see how the entire creation praises the Virgin Mother, and not only in times past, but "for ever, and unto the ages of ages"? Thus it is evident that throughout the whole course of the ages, she shall never cease from benefacting all creation, and I mean not only created nature seen round about us, but also the very supreme commanders of the heavenly hosts, whose nature is immaterial and transcendent. Isaiah shows us clearly that it is only through her that they together with us both partake of and touch God, that Nature which defies touch, for he did not see the seraphim take the coal from the altar without mediation, but with tongs, by means of which the coal touched the prophetic lips and purified them (cf. Isaiah 6:6-7). Moses beheld the tongs of that great vision of Isaiah when he saw the bush aflame with fire, yet unconsumed. And who does not know that the Virgin Mother is that very bush and those very tongs, she who herself (though an archangel also assisted at the conception) conceived the Divine Fire without being consumed, Him that taketh away the sins of the world, Who through her touched mankind and by that ineffable touch and union cleansed us entirely. Therefore, she only is the frontier between created and uncreated nature, and there is no man that shall come to God except he be truly illumined through her, that Lamp truly radiant with divinity, even as the Prophet says, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be shaken'(Ps. 45:5).

If recompense is bestowed according to the measure of love for God, and if the man who loves the Son is loved of Him and of His Father and becomes the dwelling place of Both, and They mystically abide and walk in him, as it is recorded in the Master's Gospel, who, then, will love Him more than His Mother? For, He was her only-begotten Son, and moreover she alone among women gave birth knowing no spouse, so that the love of Him that had partaken of her flesh might be shared with her twofold. And who will the only-begotten Son love more than His Mother, He that came forth from Her ineffably without a father in this last age even as He came forth from the Father without a mother before the ages'? How indeed could He that descended to fulfill the Law not multiply that honor due to His Mother over and above the ordinances of the Law?

Hence, as it was through the Theotokos alone that the Lord came to us, appeared upon earth and lived among men, being invisible to all before this time, so likewise in the endless age to come, without her mediation, every emanation of illuminating divine light, every revelation of the mysteries of the Godhead, every form of spiritual gift, will exceed the capacity of every created being. She alone has received the all-pervading fulness of Him that filleth all things, and through her all may now contain it, for she dispenses it according to the power of each, in proportion and to the degree of the purity of each. Hence she is the treasury and overseer of the riches of the Godhead. For it is an everlasting ordinance in the heavens that the inferior partake of what lies beyond being, by the mediation of the superior, and the Virgin Mother is incomparably superior to all. It is through her that as many as partake of God do partake, and as many as know God understand her to be the enclosure of the Uncontainable One, and as many as hymn God praise her together with Him. She is the cause of what came before her, the champion of what came after her and the agent of things eternal. She is the substance of the prophets, the principle of the apostles, the firm foundation of the martyrs and the premise of the teachers of the Church . She is the glory of those upon earth, the joy of celestial beings, the adornment of all creation. She is the beginning and the source and root of unutterable good things; she is the summit and consummation of everything holy.

O divine, and now heavenly, Virgin, how can I express all things which pertain to thee? How can I glorify the treasury of all glory? Merely thy memory sanctifies whoever keeps it, and a mere movement towards thee makes the mind more translucent, and thou dost exalt it straightway to the Divine. The eye of the intelfect is through thee made limpid, and through thee the spirit of a man is illumined by the sojourning of the Spirit of God, since thou hast become the steward of the treasury of divine gifts and their vault, and this, not in order to keep them for thyself, but so that thou mightest make created nature replete with grace. Indeed, the steward of those inexhaustible treasuries watches over them so that the riches may be dispensed; and what could confine that wealth which wanes not? Richly, therefore, bestow thy mercy and thy graces upon all thy people, this thine inheritance, O Lady! Dispel the perils which menace us. See how greatly we are expended by our own and by aliens, by those without and by those within. Uplift all by thy might: mollify our fellow citizens one with another and scatter those who assault us from without-like savage beasts. Measure out thy succor and healing in proportion to our passions, apportioning abundant grace to our souls and bodies, s fficient for every necessity. And although we may prove incapable of containing thy bounties, augment our capacity and in this manner bestow them upon us, so that being both saved and fortified by thy grace, we may glorify the pre-eternal Word Who was incarnate of thee for our sakes, together with His unoriginate Father and the life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the endless ages. Amen.

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The End and Glory Be to God

ewriggs 08-30-2004 09:58 AM

Monday, August 30 / August 17 (Church Calendar)
 
Afterfeast of the Dormition. Martyr Myron of Cyzicus. Martyrs Straton, Philip, Eutychian and Cyprian of Nicomedia. Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius and Coronatus, with others at Caesarea in Bithynia. Martyrs Paul and his sister Juliana of Syria. Martyr Patroclus of Troyes. St. Alypius the Iconographer of the Kiev Caves. St. Philip, monk of Yankov (Vologda). New-Martyr Demetrius of Samarina in Epirus. Blessed Theodoretus, Enlightener of the Laps (Solovki). Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of "Armatia". Repose of Schemamonk Onuphrius of Valaam (1912).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

People account it a great thing to have friendship and fellowship with an earthly king; how incomparably greater is the privilege of having fellowship and friendship with God, Who is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords and abides in light unapproachable! O how much have God's goodness and love toward man wrought! Look, O Christian, and you shall see the nobility and merit of Christians. They have communion with the great and incomprehensible God.

-St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

ewriggs 09-01-2004 02:44 AM

Wednesday, September 1 / August 19 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today:
Afterfeast of the Dormition.
Martyr Andrew Stratelates and 2,593 soldiers with him in Cilicia. Martyrs Timothy, Agapius and Thecla of Palestine. St. Pitirim, Bishop of Perm. Opening of the Relics of St. Gennadius, abbot of Kostroma. St. Theophanes, new Wonderworker of Macedonia (Mt. Athos). Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Of the Don".
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

People, until they come to know something greater, are satisfied with the little that they have. Man is like a village rooster who lives in a small enclosure with few people and farm animals about, who knows his ten hens and is content with this life, because he knows no more. But an eagle, who circles high in the clouds, and sees great distances with his sharp eyes, who hears the sounds of the earth and revels in its beauty, who knows many lands, seas and rivers, and sees a multitude of animals and birds, would not be content to live in a small enclosure with a rooster.

It is the same in spiritual life. Whoever has not known the grace of the Holy Spirit is like the rooster who does not know the flight of the eagle; he cannot comprehend the sweetness of tender emotion and love of God. He knows God from nature and from Scripture, he is satisfied with the law and is content with his lot as is the rooster, and does not feel sorrow that he is not an eagle. But he who has experienced the Lord through the Holy Spirit, he prays day and night, because the grace of the Holy Spirit calls him to love the Lord, and the sweetness of the Lord's love gives him the ability to carry the burdens of the world with ease; his soul pines only for the Lord and searches constantly for the grace of the Holy Spirit.

-Staretz Silouan of the Holy Mountain

ewriggs 09-03-2004 07:51 AM

Friday, September 3 / August 21 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy. Martyr Bassa of Edessa and her sons Theogonius, Agapius and Pistus. St. Abramius, archimadrite, Wonderworker of Smolensk, and his disciple St. Ephraim. St. Abramius the Lover-of-labor of the Kiev Caves. St. Theocleta the Wonderworker of Asia Minor. St. Cornelius, abbot of Paleostrov, and his disciple St. Abramius. St. Isaiah of Mt. Athos.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

The Shepherd of Hermas [ca. 150]: Written by Hermas, who is believed to be brother of Pius, the Bishop of Rome. The Shepherd of Hermas is an apocalyptic document (in the sense that it claims to be revealed), modelled after the Book of Revelation. It deals with practical matters of church purity and discipline in second century Rome.

(The Shephard or Hermas had been taken up into Heaven and was in conversation with "a lady.")
Hermas 3:3
After these words of hers had ceased, she saith unto me, "Wilt thou listen to me as I read?" Then say I, "Yes, lady." She saith to me, "Be attentive, and hear the glories of God" I listened with attention and with wonder to that which I had no power to remember; for all the words were terrible, such as man cannot bear. The last words however I remembered, for they were suitable for us and gentle.

Hermas 3:4
"Behold, the God of Hosts, Who by His invisible and mighty power and by His great wisdom created the world, and by His glorious purpose clothed His creation with comeliness, and by His strong word fixed the heaven, and founded the earth upon the waters, and by His own wisdom and providence formed His holy Church, which also He blessed-behold, He removeth the heavens and the mountains and the hills and the seas, and all things are made level for His select, that He may fulfill to them the promise which He promised with great glory and rejoicing, if so be that they shall keep the ordinances of God, which they received, with great faith."

ewriggs 09-04-2004 04:25 PM

Saturday, September 4 / August 22 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Martyr Agathonicus of Nicomedia and his companions: Martyrs Zoticus, Theoprepius, Acindynus, Severian, Zeno and others who suffered under Maximian. Virgin Martyr Eulalia of Barcelona. St. Anthusa. Hieromartyr Athanasius, Bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia, and Martyrs Charesimus and Neophytus. St. Bogolep of St. Paisius of Uglich Monastery. New-Martyrs Bishop Ephraim of Selenginsk and Priest John Vostorgov (1918). (Greek Calendar: Martyrs Irenaeus, Deacon, Or, and Oropsus.)
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

Homily 1: In the Beginning...
By St Basil the Great
(Part 1)

'In the Beginning God Made the Heaven and the Earth...'

1. It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things. I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God. What ear is worthy to hear such a tale? How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons! How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him!

But before weighing the justice of these remarks, before examining all the sense contained in these few words, let us see who addresses them to us. Because, if the weakness of our intelligence does not allow us to penetrate the depth of the thoughts of the writer, yet we shall be involuntarily drawn to give faith to his words by the force of his authority. Now it is Moses who has composed this history; Moses, who, when still at the breast, is described as exceeding fair; Moses, whom the daughter of Pharaoh adopted; who received from her a royal education, and who had for his teachers the wise men of Egypt; Moses, who disdained the pomp of royalty, and, to share the humble condition of his compatriots, preferred to be persecuted with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting delights of sin; Moses, who received from nature such a love of justice that, even before the leadership of the people of God was committed to him, be was impelled, by a natural horror of evil, to pursue malefactors even to the point of punishing them by death; Moses, who, banished by those whose benefactor he had been, hastened to escape from the tumults of Egypt and took refuge in Ethiopia, living there far from former pursuits, and passing forty years in the contemplation of nature; Moses, finally, who, at the age of eighty, saw God, as far as it is possible for man to see Him; or rather as it had not previously been granted to man to see Him, according to the testimony of God Himself, "If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house, with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently and not in dark speeches." It is this man, whom God judged worthy to behold Him, face to face, like the angels, who imparts to us what he has learnt from God. Let us listen then to these words of truth written without the help of the "enticing words of man's wisdom" by the dictation of the Holy Spirit; words destined to produce not the applause of those who hear them, but the salvation of those who are instructed by them.
(to be continued)

ewriggs 09-06-2004 02:44 AM

Monday, September 6 / August 24 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Hieromartyr Eutychius, disciple of St. John the Theologian. Translation of the Relics of St. Peter, Metropolitan of Kiev. St. Arsenius, abbot of Komel (Vologda). St. George Limniotes the Confessor of Mt. Olympus. Martyr Tation (Tatio) at Claudiopolis. Virgin Martyr Cyra of Persia. New Hieromartyr Cosmas of Aetolia, Equal-to-the-Apostles (also entered at August 4). St. Dionysius, Archbishop of Aegina. Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Petrovskaya" ("Of St. Peter of Moscow").
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

Homily 1: In the Beginning...

By St Basil the Great
(Part 2)
'In the Beginning God Made the Heaven and the Earth...'

2. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." I stop struck with admiration at this thought. What shall I first say? Where shall I begin my story? Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles? Shall I exalt the truth of our faith? The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor. It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another. Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of a God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences. Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion: a true spider's web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; "In the beginning God created." What a glorious order! He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning. Then be adds "Created" to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator. In the same way that the potter, after having made with equal pains a great number of vessels, has not exhausted either his art or his talent; thus the Maker of the Universe, whose creative power, far from being bounded by one world, could extend to the infinite, needed only the impulse of His will to bring the immensities of the visible world into being. If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, enquire who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator: or rather, in the fear that human reasonings may make you wander from the truth, Moses has anticipated enquiry by engraving in our hearts, as a seal and a safeguard, the awful name of God: "In the beginning God created"-It is He, beneficent Nature, Goodness without measure, a worthy object of love for all beings endowed with reason, the beauty the most to be desired, the origin of all that exists, the source of life, intellectual light, impenetrable wisdom, it is He who "in the beginning created heaven and earth."
(To be Continued)

ewriggs 09-11-2004 04:58 AM

Saturday, September 11 / August 29 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
The Beheading of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
St. Alexander, abbot of Voche. New-Martyr Anastasius of Bulgaria. New-Martyr Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsa (1936).
(Greek Calendar: St. Theodora of Thessalonica. St. Arcadius of Arsinoe on Cyprus, Bishop of and Wonderworker. Translation of the Relics of St. Joseph the Sanctified of Samaka.)
Repose of Righteous Pachomius the Silent of Valdai Monastery (1886).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

From the Services for The Beheading of St. John the Baptist:

Verses on the Beatitudes:
As mediator standing between the old and the new covenant of the Gospel preachings, thou didst denounce the iniquitous union of the tyrant, and, rejoicing, didst accept a glorious death.

(Repeat) As mediator standing between the old and the new covenant of the Gospel preachings, thou didst denounce the iniquitous union of the tyrant, and, rejoicing, didst accept a glorious death.

Instructed beforehand by her iniquitous mother, the girl said unto Herod, who was befuddled with drunkenness: ‚ÄúGive me the head of John on a platter, that I may present to my mother the gift she desireth!‚ÄĚ

The shameless tyrant, unable to endure the reproof of thy God-bearing tongue, O glorious prophet, gave thy precious martyr’s head to the girl as a reward for her dancing.

Honoring the decapitation of thine honored and most praised head, O forerunner of Christ, we glorify thine ever-laudable and universal memory, O all-blessed one.

O the vile feast! O the bitter birthday! O the drunkenness of the abominable and iniquitous Herod! For he was held fast by iniquity and, reviled, he was persuaded to slay the prophet.

The new Egyptian woman, dancing wantonly in the midst of the feast, asked for the head which had denounced her mother, the paramour of Herod.

The Son of the Virgin is now shown to have first been the Son of the Father, Who is not understood to be different in any fashion from the visible Son; and He hath remained One, perfect in both His natures.

Troparion for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Tone 2: The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be even more venerable than the prophets since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades; that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.

The Epistle
[Acts 13:25-33]

And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

The Gospel
[Mark 6:14-30]

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb. And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.

Kontakion for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Tone 5: The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was part of God’s dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be preached to those in hades. Lament then, Herodias, that thou hast demanded a wicked murder, for thou didst love neither the law of God nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.

= = = = =

The Orthodox Church keeps this day as a strict fast day (i.e. no meat, fish, dairy, wine or olive oil) as a reminder that we are to live a different style of life than Herod. In memory of this event, some Orthodox Christians keep the custom of not using dishes on this day, since John's head was served on a dish/platter. Instead, only bowls are used. Also, the food that is served on this day should not require the use of a knife, since a sharp instrument was used to behead him. Many people do not eat round foods (apples, oranges, cabbage, etc) as they are in the shape of a head.

ewriggs 09-14-2004 02:40 AM

Tuesday, September 14 / September 1 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Church New Year.
St. Symeon Stylites (the Elder) and his mother St. Martha. Martyr Aeithalas of Persia. Holy 40 Women Martyrs and Martyr Ammon the deacon and their teacher, at Heraclea in Thrace. Martyrs Callista and her brothers Evodus and Hermogenes at Nicomedia. Righteous Joshua the Son of Nun. St. Meletius the New of Greece. New-Martyr Angelis of Constantinople. Commemoration of the Great Fire at Constantinople about 470 A.D. Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos in Miasena.
(Greek Calendar: St. Evanthia. St. Nicholas of Crete, monk.)
"Chernigov-Gethsemane" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

The Beginning of the Church's Year.

The First Ecumenical Council decreed that the Church's year should begin on September 1st. The month of September was, for the Jews, the beginning of the civil year (see Exodus 12:2), the month of the gathering of fruits and the bringing to God of sacrifices of thanksgiving. It was at the time of this feast that the Lord Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth, opened the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and read the words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance' (Is. 61:1-2; cf. Luke 4:16-21). This month of September is also noted in the history of Christianity because it was during September that Constantine the Great was victorious over Maxentius, the enemy of the Christian faith, a victory followed by the granting of freedom of confession of the Christian faith throughout the whole Roman Empire. For a long time, the civil year in the Christian world was reckoned in the same way as the Church's year, from September 1st, but it was later changed to January 1st, first in western Europe and then also in Russia in the time of Peter the Great

From Prayers By the Lake, St. Nikolai (Velimirovic)

XVIII

Repent of your ways, inhabitants of the earth. Behold, the eye of the Master of the world is keeping watch deep within you. Do not trust your seducible eyes, let the Eye illumine your way. Your eyes are curtains over the Eye of God.

Repentance is admission of the way of sin. Repentance opens up a new way. The penitent's eyes are open to two ways: to the way which he is going, and to the way he should be going.

There are more who feel repentant than there are who turn their wheels onto a new way. I tell you: the penitent must have two types of courage--he must have the courage to weep over his old way, and he must have the courage to prepare himself for a new way.

What good is it for you to feel repentant and still tread the old way? How do you describe a person who is drowning and shouts for help, but when help arrives will not grab hold of the life line? I liken such a person to you.

Repent of your yearning for this world and all that is in this world. For this world is the graveyard of your ancestors, which is gaping and waiting for you. Just a little longer and you will be ancestors and will yearn to hear the word "repentance," but you will not hear it.

Just as the wind begins blowing and carries off the mist before the sun, so will death carry you off before the face of God.

Repentance rejuvenates the heart and lengthens one's lifetime. The tears of a penitent wash darkness from his eyes, and give his eyes a childlike radiance. The eye of my lake is like the eye of a deer, always moist and radiant as a diamond. In truth, the moisture in the eyes drains the anger in the heart.

The soul in the penitent is like a new moon. A full moon must wane, a new moon must wax.

The penitent clears the weeds from the field of his soul, and the seed of goodness begins to grow.

Truly, the penitent is not one who laments over the evil deed he has committed, but one who laments over all the evil deeds that he is capable of committing. A wise landowner not only cuts the thornbush that has pricked him, but every thornbush on the field that is waiting to prick him.

O my Lord, make haste to show a new way to every penitent, after he scorns his old way.

O heavenly Mother, Bride of the All-Holy Spirit, bow down toward our heart, when we repent. Open the fountain of tears within us, that we may wash away the heavy clay, that saddens our eyes.

O All-Holy Spirit, blow and disperse the unclean stench from the soul of the penitent that has been choking him and lead him to repentance.

We bow down and beseech You, O Life-giving and Mighty Spirit!

ewriggs 09-14-2004 03:24 AM

It sould be noted that to the present day, the Church has always celebrated the beginning of the New Year on September 1. This was the custom in Constantinople until its fall in 1453 and in Russia until the reign of Peter I. September 1 is still festively celebrated as the New Year at the Patriarchate in Constantinople; among the Jews also the New Year, although reckoned according to a moveable calendar, usually falls in September.

The Great Horologion (Book of Services of the Orthodox Church)

NOTE: The majority of the Orthodox Churches use the "Old" Calendar, the Julian Calendar for calculating the dates of the feasts and fasts of the Church. The dates currently fall 13 days following the same dates on the "Civil" or Gregorian Calendar used by the "world." Thus, September 1 on the Church Calendar falls on September 14 on the Civil Calendar.

The "Old Calendar" is followed by the Russian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the Alexandrian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Georgian (Eastern Europe) Orthodox Church, the traditionalist Greek Orthodox Churches, and many others.

HUMOR: How can you tell an Old Calendar Orthodox Christian?
He can automatically add 13 days to any date.

ewriggs 09-16-2004 02:25 AM

The Sacraments

St. Nicholai, Bishop of Ochrida
Part I

There are seven Sacraments in the Church militant on earth: Baptism, Confirmation (NB: called Chrismation), Eucharist, Penance, Ordination (Cheirotonia), Marriage and Extreme Unction. In the East the Sacraments are still called Mysteries. Why? Because each one of them hides in itself a mysterious and miraculous action of God the Holy Spirit. The very kernel of each of them consists of this mysterious and miraculous divine action. In the Christian Mysteries we do not know HOW but we know THAT, i.e., we do not know how the Holy Spirit works in a Mystery but we know that He works in and through it.

In the Mystery of Baptism God the Holy Spirit cleanses the soul from sin, so that the soul receives God's sonship by grace and is recruited into the army of Christ the Saviour. Baptism effectuates such a tremendous change in a man that is called the new birth (John iii, 5). Baptism was ordered by the Lord (Matt xxviii, 19). "Whosoever is unbaptised cannot be saved, except the martyrs, who even without the water (but by the blood) receive the Kingdom of God" (Cyril of Alexandria).

In the Mystery of Confirmation, God the Holy Spirit fills the soul previously cleansed and emptied from sin by Baptism, with positive powers or gifts. And the gifts are different. Confirmation was ordained and instituted through the practice of the Apostles (Acts viii, 15-17; xix, 1-6; 2 Cor i, 20-22).

In the Mystery of the Eucharist and at the moment of the priest's invocation, God the Holy Spirit descends on the bread and wine which have been set forth and sanctified, and transubstantiates them into Christ's body and blood (not transforms them but transubstantiates them; for the substance is changed while the form of bread and wine remain to our eyes unchanged).

This Mystery of the perpetual love of God through sacrifice was ordered and instituted by the Lord (Matt xxvi, 26-28; John vi, 53-57; I Cor. x, 16-17; xi, 23-26). So Christ Himself is our real food; He communicates Himself to us, that He may make us true men, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, the very members of His immortal body. So great is the love of God that in this Mystery the Lord gives us not only His gifts, as in other Mysteries, but Himself. Greater love than this does not exist either in heaven or on earth.

In the Mystery of Penance, or rather of Absolution, God the Holy Spirit forgives man his new sins done after Baptism. Thereby the man becomes again clean before his God. A sinner travels away from his God into a foreign land and becomes a companion of swine, throwing his pearl - his soul - to the swine. Sin being repented of, confessed and forgiven, man gets the liberty to enter again the house of his Father. The parable of the Prodigal Son explains clearly the origin and nature of sin, of true repentance, of confession and absolution (Luke xv, 11ff). The Lord Jesus ordered and instituted this Mystery through His words and actions (Luke vii, 47; Matt xviii, 18). The Apostles understood their Master and followed faithfully His example and His commandment (I John i, 8-10; Acts iii, 19; xix, 18).

In the Mystery of the Ordination of priests, God the Holy Spirit gives the special grace of Orders to the priest, the minister of the mysteries in the Kingdom of God on earth, i.e. in the Church militant. This grace He gives through the act of the laying-on of the hands of the Apostles and their successors upon the head of those who have been found worthy. In the priestly performance of a Mystery man counts almost for nothing, but the grace of God the Holy Spirit is all-important. The priest, therefore, is not allowed to say, "I baptize thee," or "I forgive thee," or "I unite you" in marriage, etc.; for the real performer of a Mystery is the Lord the Holy Spirit. This Mystery was commanded and instituted by the Lord and His Apostles (John xv, 16; Acts vi, 2-6; xx, 28; 2 Timothy i, 6).

In the Mystery of Marriage, God the Holy Spirit by His grace unites two human beings, man and woman, for the special purpose of the growth of the Church of God according to God's commandment (Gen ix,1) and for the mutual help of husband and wife in the work of their salvation. This Mystery was ratified by the Lord Jesus (Matt xix, 5-6). He Himself sanctified the bond of marriage through His presence at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John ii, 1). The Apostle Paul, seer of the highest Mysteries, declares to us that marriage is a great mystery (Eph v, 22 ff).
(Continued below in Part II)

A paper presented at the Faith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference Lausanne, August 3-21, 1927 George H Dorin Company, New York, 1927 ed. H. N. Bate

TheSacraments / Saturday morning, August 13th

ewriggs 09-16-2004 02:29 AM

The Sacraments

St. Nicholai, Bishop of Ochrida
Part II

In the Mystery of Extreme Unction, God the Holy Spirit comes to man's life in its last emergency and heals the sick. The purpose of the Mystery thus performed is described by St James (v, 14-15) as the restoration of health and the remission of sins. This Mystery was practiced and ordered by the Apostles from the very beginning (Mark vi, 13).

And thus we have seven divine Mysteries as the seven different workings of God the Holy Spirit, who is the true Dispenser, the Lifegiver, the Mover and the Treasurer of all divine gifts in the Church of Christ on earth. Five of these Mysteries are related rather to the personal life and personal salvation of each member of the Church, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, and Unction; and two of them are related to the good of the whole Church, namely, Orders and Marriage. The first five mean: emptying (Baptism), filling (Confirmation), feeding (Eucharist), freeing (Penance) and healing in the last emergency (Unction). The last two mean: the increase of the Church (Marriage) and the ministration of the Mysteries in the Church under the all-powerful God the Holy Spirit (Orders).

Now when the question is raised as to which of these seven Mysteries is more and which is less important, the question inflicts a wound upon the conscience of a believer. It seems almost an offense to the Holy Spirit. Throughout its whole past, down to our own times, the Church has gathered a rich experience of the effective workings of God the Holy Spirit in all these seven Mysteries. One chariot might look more sumptuous and another less sumptuous, but it is not the chariot that matters but the charioteer. Whenever the Holy Spirit descends upon men through His grace, is it not indifferent how He arrives, sumptuously or simply? It is He that matters. And since we know even from the present experience of the Church as well as from Holy Scripture that His grace descends and works in the Mystery of Extreme Unction, why then ask whether Confirmation, or Penance, or Marriage is something greater than Extreme Unction?

The greatness of all the Mysteries, their brilliancy, their beauty and their miraculous character come from Him --- God the Holy Spirit. Ask a doctor which is more important for a person in bodily sickness, that he should be cleansed from impurities, or that he should be filled with fresh vitality; that he should be fed or healed or helped in his last agony; what would he say? He would be bewildered. Or ask a householder which is more necessary for a house, that it should be cleaned or filled with fresh air and light; that it should be maintained or or kept in repair, or saved when in danger of falling; he, too, would be bewildered. We empty our soul from the impurity of sin through Baptism; we fill it with fresh powers in the form of God's gifts through Confirmation; we feed it by Christ the living Lord through the Eucharist; we free it from new impurities of sin through Penance; we heal it and save it in a great emergency through Unction; and since we are many and not one, we need the growth of our sacred society, i.e. of the Church, and we get this growth through Marriage; and again, since we are many and not one, we need a divinely ordered dispensation to prepare the soul for immortal life in the eternal Kingdom of God. Thus the seven Mysteries represent the sevenfold drama of the Christian soul's ascent from the dark pit of sin to the height and glory of the Kingdom of God.

And if anyone should think that perhaps Baptism and the Eucharist (or other two or three of the seven Mysteries) are the only Mysteries, the only Sacraments, well --- let him ask God about it; by fasting and praying tears let him ask God, and He will reveal to him the truth as He has always revealed it to the saints. As to us of the East, we are afraid to depreciate any of the seven marvellous Mysteries, we are afraid of God the Holy Spirit. For He whispered to the Apostles and to the saints the truth about everything necessary to man's salvation. Therefore all that we have said about the great Christian Mysteries is not an opinion of our own (if it were an opinion of our own, it would be worth nothing), but it is the repeated experience of the Apostles in the ancient days and of the saints up to our own days. For the Church of God lives not on opinion, but on the experience of the saints, as in the beginning so in our days. The opinions of intellectual persons may be wonderfully clever and yet be false, whereas the experience of the saints is always true. It is God the Lord who is true to Himself in His saints.

May the Lord God the Holy Spirit, with the Father and with the Son, give to all those who tearfully pray to Him the grace of wisdom and the power to see and recognize the whole truth, necessary for the salvation of all of us, the baptized and the never sufficiently penitent children of God.

A paper presented at the Faith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference Lausanne, August 3-21, 1927 George H Dorin Company, New York, 1927 ed. H. N. Bate

TheSacraments / Saturday morning, August 13th

ewriggs 09-17-2004 07:06 AM

Friday, September 17 / September 4 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Hieromartyr Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, and with him Martyrs Urban, Prilidian, and Epolonius and their mother Christodula. Holy Prophet and God-seer Moses. Opening of the Relics of St. Ioasaph, Bishop of Belgorod (also December 10). Martyr Babylas of Nicomedia, and with him 84 children. Martyrs Theodore, Mianus (Ammianus), Julian, Kion (Oceanus), and Centurionus of Nicomedia. Martyr Hermione, daughter of St. Philip the Deacon. St. Petronius of Egypt, disciple of St. Pachomius the Great. (Greek Calendar: Martyrs Theotimus and Theodulus the executioners. Martyr Charitina of Amisus. Martyrs Thathuil and Bebaia of Edessa.) Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "The Unburnt Bush".
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!


Thought for Today
Just as a child does not permanently remain a child, but grows daily according to nature’s laws until he reaches adulthood, so does a Christian, born from above through water and Spirit, should not remain in spiritual infancy. However, consigned to a spiritual life of ordeal, labors and much patience, he must continually progress and grow to the full spiritual stature, like the Apostle teaches: "...to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
(St. Ephraim of Syria)

ewriggs 09-18-2004 02:44 AM

Saturday, September 18 / September 5 (Church Calendar)
 
Holy Prophet Zacharias and Righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Forerunner

Commemorated Today
Holy Prophet Zacharias and Righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Forerunner. Martyrs Urban, Theodore, Medimnus, and 77 Companions at Nicomedia. Martyr Abdias (Abidas) of Persia. Martyr Sarbelus of Edessa. Martyrs Ththuil (Thithail) and his sister Bebaia. Virgin Martyr Rhais (Raisa) of Alexandria. Martyrs Juventius and Maximus at Antioch. Appearance of the Holy Apostle Peter to Emperor Justinian at Athira near Constantinople. Martyrdom of HolyPassion-bearer Gleb, in holy baptism David. Martyrdom of St. Athanasius, abbot of Brest, by the Latins.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

(From the Prologue from Ochrid)

The Holy Prophet Zacharias, father of St. John the Forerunner, was the son of Barachias, of the tribe of Aaron, a high priest in descent from Abia, and held the eighth degree of service in the Temple in Jerusalem.

His wife, Elisabeth was sister to St. Anna, the mother of the holy Mother of God. In the reign of King Herod, the child-slayer, Zacharias was serving one day in his turn in the Temple in Jerusalem. An angel of God appeared to him in the altar, and Zacharias was afraid. But the angel said to him: "Fear not, Zacharias," and informed him that his wife Elisabeth would bear a son in answer to their prayers, for Zacharias and Elisabeth were both old. When Zacharias doubted the words of the heavenly messenger, the angel told him: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God," And Zacharias was made dumb from that moment, and did not speak until his son was born and he had written on a tablet: "His name is John." Then his mouth was opened, and he glorified God.

Later, when the Lord Christ was born and Herod began killing the children in Bethlehem, he sent men to find Zacharias's son and kill him, for he had heard of all that had happened to Zacharias and how John was born. Seeing the soldiers, Elisabeth took John in her arms -- he was eighteen months old at that time -- and fled from the house with him to a rocky and desert region. When she saw where the soldiers had driven them, she cried out to the mountain "O mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!" and the rock opened and hid the mother and child inside itself. Herod, furious that John had not been killed, ordered that Zacharias be cut down before the altar. Zacharias's blood spilled over the marble and became as hard as stone, remaining thus as a witness to Herod's wickedness. At the place where Elisabeth hid with John, a cave opened and a spring flowed forth, and a fruit-bearing palm grew up by God's power. Forty days after Zacharias's death, blessed Elisabeth also entered into rest. The child John stayed in the wilderness, fed by an angel and guarded by God's providence, until that day when he appeared by the Jordan.

Troparion of Righteous Elizabeth
(Tone 8)
The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears; and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundredfold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O righteous Mother Elizabeth, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

[/i]Kontakion of Righteous Elizabeth[i]
(Tone 4)
Like the full moon, thou didst receive the light of righteousness from the Messiah, the noetic Sun, O Elizabeth beloved of God, and with Zacharias didst walk in all the commandments of the Lord. Wherefore, blessing thee with worthy hymns, we magnify the Lord, the most compassionate Light, Who illumineth all.

Righteous Elizabeth is my Patron Saint. On this day I am mindful of the example of obedience to God that she sets me.

ewriggs 09-20-2004 04:40 AM

Monday, September 20 / September 7 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Martyr Sozon of Cilicia St. John, Archbishop and Wonderworker of Novgorod. Martyr Eupsychius of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Apostles Evodus (Euodias) and Onesiphorus of the Seventy. St. Luke, abbot near Constantinople. Martyrdom of St. Macarius, archimandrite of Kanev. St. Cloud (Clodoald), abbot-founder of Nogent-sur-Seine near Paris. New-Martyr priest John Maslovsky. Repose of Elder Macarius of Optina (1860).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

Preface to Orthodox Prayers
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of the Publican
O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Thrice

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother and all the saints, have mercy on us. Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King Tone 6
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Trisagion
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Thrice

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins; O Master, pardon our iniquities; O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name's sake.

Lord, have mercy. Thrice

Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Lord's Prayer
Our Father, Who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

= = = = =

All Orthodox prayers and services begin with these prayers. Some people have difficulty with using written prayers or a prayerbook. They complain that spontaneity is lost. Orthodoxy wisely responds that
"The use of a particular format or of printed prayers does not limit the free expression in one's prayer life of one's soul to God, to the Most-holy Theotokos or to the Saints. Rather, such format and printed prayers give a pattern for individual prayers and assist when spiritually "dry" times occur. By reading these prayers, we learn models for our personal prayers. When distracted by the cares of the world around us, when troubled, when in fear, or when grieving, we sometimes do not know how to start. In these circumstances, we can begin with a Prayerbook. When doing this, we often find that what we wanted to say has been included in prayers by those who have gone before us - Fathers, Mothers, Patriarchs, Monks, and Nuns - who have endured the same or similar tribulations as we.
"Another advantage of a Prayerbook is the unity of prayer it provides with other Orthodox Christians. We express and take part in the oneness of the services of the Church (especially in the Vigil service and in the Divine Liturgy) and a Prayerbook brings that same oneness into our home or any other place we may read it.
"Rules of Prayer. Many rules of prayer have been developed within the historical Orthodox Church. There has never been a uniform rule, however. Such a term, "Rule of Prayer," therefore should not be perceived as a straight jacket, to regulate or limit communication with God, but rather as a starting point, and as a source of regularity. The early Church Fathers emphasized that it is better to say a few prayers every day without fail than to say a great number of prayers on a variable and unpredictable basis."

(From "Prayers for Orthodox Christians," Antiochian Diocese)

ewriggs 09-21-2004 02:00 AM

Tuesday, September 21 / September 8 (Church Calendar)
 
1 Attachment(s)
Commemorated Today
THE NATIVITY OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THE THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY.
St. Serapion, monk of Spaso-Eleazar Monastery (Pskov). St. Lucian, abbot of Alexandrov. St. Arsenius, abbot of Konevits. New-Martyr Athanasius of Thessalonica. New-Martyr Alexander (Jacobson) (1930). (Greek Calendar: Martyrs Rufus and Rufianus. Martyrs Severus and Artemidorus. St. Sophronius of Iberia, Bishop) Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos: "Kursk-Root" Icon of the sign"; "Pochaev"; "Kholmsk"; and others. Repose of Elder Daniel of Katounakia, Mt. Athos (1929).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

The story of Mary's birth is not found in the New Testament, but in the writings which are not part of the [canonical] scriptures. The tradition of this feast teaches that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant - "the poor and needy" - awaiting the promised messiah. The couple was old and childless, and had prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews, barrenness was a sign of God's disfavor. In answer to their prayer, and as a reward for their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah - Christ.

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of Mary's birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from a historical point of view, the divine meaning of it "for us men and for our salvation" is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Theotokos, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore is a glorification of the miracle of Mary's birth, of Mary herself, and of her righteous parents. It is the celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world.

ewriggs 09-23-2004 01:46 AM

Thursday, September 23 / September 10 (Church Calendar)
Commemorated Today
Afterfeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.
Martyrs Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora at Nicomedia. Martyr Barypsabas in Dalmatia. Saints Peter and Paul, Bishops of Nicaea. St. Pulcherius the Empress. Synaxis of the Holy Apostles Apelles, Lucius and Clement of the Seventy. St. Ioasaph, monk of Kubensk (Vologda). St. Paul the Obedient of the Kiev Caves. St. Cassian, abbot of Spaso-Kamenny and Cyril of White Lake Monasteries. St. Salvius, Bishop of Albi (Gaul).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!


-- There are five occupations which help to gain God's benevolence. The first is pure prayer; the second, psalmody; the third, reading the Holy Scriptures; the fourth, contrite remembrance of one's sins, of death and the terrible judgment; the fifth, work with one's hands.
-- If while still in your body you wish to serve God like the incorporeal beings, strive to have in your heart a secret unceasing prayer. For in this way your soul will come near to resembling the angels even before death.
From: Abba Evagrius on Prayer

ewriggs 09-27-2004 02:49 AM

Monday, September 27 / September 14 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
THE UNIVERSAL EXALTATION OF THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS.
Repose of St. John Chrysostom. Martyr Papas of Lycaonia. St. Placilla the Empress, wife of Theodosius the Great. New-Martyr Macarius of Thessalonica.
(Greek Calendar: Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Martyr Theocles and Child-martyr Valerian.)
"Lesna" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

St John Maximovitch on The Exaltation of the Precious Cross:
Before the time of Christ, the cross was an instrument of punishment; it evoked fear and aversion. But after Christ's death on the Cross it became the instrument of our salvation. Through the Cross, Christ destroyed the devil; from the Cross He descended into hades and, having liberated those languishing there, led them into the Kingdom of Heaven. The sign of the Cross is terrifying to demons and, as the sign of Christ, it is honored by Christians.
"O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory unto Orthodox Christians over their adversaries, and by the virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy community."
The beginning of this prayer is taken from the twenty-seventh Psalm. In the Old Testament the word "people" designated only those who confessed the true faith, people faithful to God. "Inheritance" referred to everything which properly belonged to God, God's property, which in the New Testament is the Church of Christ. In praying for the salvation of God's people (the Christians), both from eternal torments and from earthly calamities, we beseech the Lord to bless, to send down grace, His good gifts upon the whole Church as well, and inwardly strengthen her.
The petition for granting "victory to kings" (Grant victory to Orthodox Christians over their adversaries) (ie: to the bearers of Supreme authority), has its basis in Psalm 143, verse 10, and recalls the victories of King David achieved by God's power, and likewise the victories granted Emperor Constantine through the Cross of the Lord.
This appearance of the Cross made emperors who had formerly persecuted Christians into defenders of the Church from her external enemies, into "external bishops," to use the expression of the holy Emperor Constantine. The Church, inwardly strong by God's grace and protected outwardly, is, for Orthodox Christians, "the city of God." Heavenly Jerusalem has its beginning. Various calamities have shaken the world, entire peoples have disappeared, cities and states have perished, but the Church, in spite of persecutions and even internal conflicts, stands invincible; for the gates of hell shall not prevail against her (Matt. 16:18).
Today, when world leaders try in vain to establish order on earth, the only dependable instrument of peace is that about which the Church sings:
"The Cross is the guardian of the whole world; the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings; the Cross is the confirmation of the faithful, the Cross is the glory of angels and the wounding of demons." (Exapostilarion of the Exaltation of the Cross)
(From a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco)

ewriggs 09-28-2004 11:50 AM

Tuesday, September 28 / September 15 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Great-Martyr Nicetas the Goth. St. Philotheus the presbyter. Martyr Porphyrius the actor. Opening of the Relics of St. Acacius, Bishop of Melitene. Opening of the Relics of Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen. Martyrs Theodotus, Asclepiodotus, and Maximus of Adrianopolis. Saints Bessarion I and Bessarion II, Archbishops. Larissa. St. Gerasimus, abbot of Mysia. St. Joseph, abbot of Alaverd in Georgia. New-Martyr John of Crete.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

St. John Chrysostom goes so far as to say that a Christian who doesn't read spiritual books can't be saved. Why? Because the world, whose spirit we absorb unconsciously many hours a day, is so strong that we will almost automatically follow its ways unless we are consciously filling our minds and hearts with Christian impressions.
- taken from the lectures of Righteous Father Seraphim Rose

O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again, but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us, that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship of His pain He vouchsafed salvation.
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments.

ewriggs 09-29-2004 05:50 AM

Wednesday, September 29 / September 16 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Great-Martyr Euphemia the All-praised. Martyrs Victor and Sosthenes at Chalcedon. St. Sebastiana, disciple of St. Paul the Apostle, martyred at Heraclea. Martyr Melitina of Marcianopolis. St. Dorotheus, hermit of Egypt. Martyr Ludmilla, grandmother of St. Wenceslaus, prince of the Czechs. Repose of St. Cyprian, Metropolitan of Kiev. St. Procopius, abbot of Sazava in Bohemia. New-Martyrs Isaac and Joseph of Georgia. St. Cyprian of Serbia.
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!


What is the Creed? - Part I
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
The word creed comes from the Latin credo, which means "I believe." In the Orthodox Church the Creed is usually called the Symbol of Faith, which means the "expression" or "confession" of the faith.

A person without faith is like a blind man. Faith gives man spiritual vision by which he can see and understand the essence of all that surrounds him: how and why everything was created, what is the goal of life, what is right and what is not, and ultimately what one must strive towards.

From earliest times, the Apostolic-period Christians have used the Creed to remind themselves of the principles of the Orthodox Faith. In the ancient church there existed various short creeds. But in the 4th century there appeared false teachings about the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Thus it became necessary to complete these short creeds and more accurately define the Church's teaching.

A Historical Survey

The Nicean Creed was composed by the Fathers of the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The first seven articles of the Creed were drawn up at the 1st Ecumenical Council, and the last five were drawn up at the 2nd Ecumenical Council. The 1st Council met in Nicea in 325 A.D. to confirm the true teachings about the Son of God and to oppose the false teachings of Arius. Arius believed that the Son of God was created by God the Father. The 2nd Council met in Constantinople in 381 A.D. to confirm the true teaching on the Holy Spirit and to oppose the false teachings of Macedonius. He rejected the divine origin of the Holy Spirit. The Creed is named the "Nicean-Constantinopolitan" after the two cities in which the Fathers gathered for the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The Creed consists of twelve articles. In the 1st article we speak of God the Father; from the 2nd though 7th articles we speak of God the Son; in the 8th article about God the Holy Spirit; in the 9th about the Church; in the 10th about Baptism; and in the 11th and 12th about the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.



The Creed

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.

We begin the Creed with "I believe." This is because the essence of our religious convictions depends not on external experiences but on our acceptance of God-given truths. Surely one cannot prove truths of the spiritual world by any laboratory experiments. These truths belong to the sphere of personal religious experience. The more a person grows in the spiritual life - the more one prays, thinks about God, does good - the more his inner spiritual experience develops, the clearer the religious truths become to him. In this fashion, faith becomes for him a subject of personal experience.
(To be continued . . .)

ewriggs 10-01-2004 03:04 AM

Friday, October 1 / September 18 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
St. Eumenes, Bishop of Gortyna. Martyr Ariadne of Phrygia. Martyrs Sophia and Irene of Egypt. Martyr Castor of Alexandria. St. Arcadius, Bishop of Novgorod. Great-Martyr Prince Bidzini and Martyrs Prince Elizbar and Prince Shalva of Georgia. Repose of Blessed Irene of the Green Hill Monastery (18th century) and Elder Hilarion of Optina (1873).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

What is the Creed? - Part II
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

WHAT do we believe in according to the Creed?

We believe that God is one fullness of perfection; we believe that He is a perfect spirit, timeless, without beginning, all-powerful and all-wise. God is everywhere, sees all, and knows beforehand when something will happen. He is good beyond measure, just and all-holy. He needs nothing and is the reason for everything that exists.

We believe that God is one in Essence and Trinity in Persons (i.e., the one true God has appeared to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Trinity, one in Essence and indivisible. The Father is not born and does not proceed from the others. The Son pre-eternally was born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father.

We believe that all the Persons of the Holy Trinity are equaly in divine perfection, greatness, power, and glory. That is, we believe that the Father is true and perfect God, the Son is true and perfect God, and, the Holy Spirit is true and perfect God. Therefore, in prayers, we simultaneously glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one God.

We believe that the entire visible and invisible world was created by God. In the beginning God created the invisible, great angelic world, otherwise known as Heaven. As stated in the Bible, God created our material or physical world from nothing. This was not done at once, but gradually during periods of time which in the Bible are called "days." God created the world not out of necessity or need but out of His all-good desire to do so in order that His other creations might enjoy life. Being Himself endlessly good, God created all things good. Evil appeared in the world from the misuse of free will, with which God has endowed both angels and people. For example, the Devil (Satan) and his demons were at one time angels of God. But they rebelled against their Creator and became demons. They were cast out of Heaven and formed their own kingdom called "hell." From that moment on, they tempted people to sin and became our enemies and the enemies of our salvation.

We believe that all things are under God's control; that is, he provides for every creature and guides everything to a good goal. God loves and looks after us as a mother looks after her child. For this reason nothing bad can befall a person who trusts in God.

We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.
To be concluded

ewriggs 10-03-2004 05:08 AM

Sunday, October 3 / September 20 (Church Calendar) 18th Sunday after Pentecost
 
Commemorated Today
Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross
Great-Martyr Eustathius (Eustace) Placidas, his wife Mary Theopistes, and their children Martyrs Agapius and Theopistus, of Rome Holy Martyr and Confessor Michael and his councillor Theodore, Wonderworkers of Chernigov. St. Oleg, prince of Briansk. Martyr John the Confessor of Egypt, beheaded in Palestine, and with him 40 Martyrs. Saints Theodore and Euprepius and two named Anastasius, confessors and disciples of St. Maximus the Confessor. New-Martyr Hilarion of Crete (Mt. Athos). (Greek Calendar: Martyrs Artemidorus and Thallos. St. Meletius of Cyprus, Bishop of St. Kyr John of Crete, monk.)
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

What is the Creed? - Part III (conclusion)
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father's Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ's teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.

We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.

We believe that in the sacrament of Baptism the believer is forgiven all sins. The believer becomes a member of the Church. Access to the other sacraments of salvation becomes available to him at this time. In the sacrament of Chrismation the believer receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Confession or Repentance, sins are forgiven. In Holy Communion, offered at the Divine Liturgy, the believer receives the very Body and Blood of Christ. In the sacrament of Matrimony, an inseparable union is created between a man and a woman. In the sacrament of Ordination Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are ordained to serve the Church. In Holy Unction, the healing of physical and spiritual illness is offered.

We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.

With the one word "Amen" we witness to the fact that we accept and acknowledge with our whole heart this Creed which we confess to be true.

The Creed is read by a Catechumen (one about to receive Baptism) during the sacrament of Baptism. During the Baptism of an infant, the Creed is read by the Sponsor. The Creed is sung at the Liturgy and should be read daily at Morning Prayers. An attentive reading of the Creed greatly strengthens our faith. This happens because the Creed is not just a formal statement of belief but a prayer. When we say "I believe" in a spirit of prayer, along with the other words of the Creed, we enliven and strengthen our Faith in God and in all those truths which are contained in the Creed. This is why it is so important for the Orthodox Christian to recite the Creed daily or at least regularly.
http://www.fatheralexander.org/bookl...lish/creed.htm

ewriggs 10-04-2004 02:35 AM

Monday, October 4 / September 21 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Apodosis (end of the feast or the leave-taking) of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Apostle Quadratus of the Seventy (service transferred to 22 September). Opening of the Relics of St. Demetrius, Metropolitan of Rostov. Hieromartyr Hypatius, Bishop of Ephesus, and his presbyter Andrew. Martyr Eusebius of Phoenicia. Martyr Priscus of Phrygia. Martyrs Eusebius, Nestabus and Zeno of Gaza. Saints Isaacius and Meletius, Bishops of Cyprus. St. Joseph of Zaonikiev Monastery (Vologda). St. Daniel, abbot of Shuzhgorsk (Novgorod).
(Greek Calendar: St. Jonah the Sabbaite.)
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

St. Gregory of Sinai
ON PRAYER
-- Sometimes, and most often, you should sit on a stool, because it is more arduous; but sometimes, for a break, you should sit for a while on a mattress. As you sit be patient and assiduous, in accordance with St. Paul's precept, "Cleave patiently to prayer" (Colossians 4:2). Do not grow discouraged and quickly rise up again because of the strain and effort needed to keep your intellect concentrated on its inner invocation. It is as the prophet says: "The birth-pangs are upon me, like those of a woman in travail" (Isaiah 21:3). You must bend down and gather your intellect into your heart -- provided it has been opened -- and call on the Lord Jesus to help you. Should you feel pain in your shoulders or in your head -- as you often will -- endure it patiently and fervently, seeking the Lord in your heart. For "the kingdom of God is entered forcibly, and those who force themselves take possession of it" (Matthew 11:12). With these words the Lord truly indicated the persistence and labor needed in this task. Patience and endurance in all things involve hardship in both body and soul.
-- Some of the fathers advise us to say the whole prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy," while others specify that we say it in two parts -- "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy," and then "Son of God, help me" -- because this is easier, given the immaturity and feebleness of our intellect. For no one on his own account and without the help of the Spirit can mystically invoke the Lord Jesus, for this can be done with purity and in its fullness only with the help of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:3). Like children who can still speak only falteringly, we are unable by ourselves to articulate the prayer properly. Yet we must not out of laziness frequently change the words of the invocation, but only do this rarely, so as to ensure continuity. Again, some fathers teach that the prayer should be said aloud; others, that it should be said silently with the intellect. On the basis of my personal experience I recommend both ways. For at times the intellect grows listless and cannot repeat the prayer, while at other times the same thing happens to the voice. Thus we should pray both vocally and in the intellect. But when we pray vocally we should speak quietly and calmly and not loudly, so that the voice does not disturb and hinder the intellect's consciousness and concentration. This is always a danger until the intellect grows accustomed to its work, makes progress and receives power from the Spirit to pray firmly and with complete attention. Then there will be no need to pray aloud -- indeed, it will be impossible, for we shall be content to carry out the whole work with the intellect alone.

from "The Philokalia: Volume IV," edited and translated by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), pp. 275 - 276.

ewriggs 10-05-2004 07:59 AM

Tuesday, October 5 / September 22 (Church Calendar)
 
Commemorated Today
Hieromartyr Phocas, Bishop of Sinope Prophet Jonah. Martyr Phocas the Gardener of Sinope. St. Jonah the Presbyter, father of St. Theophanes the Hymnographer and St. Theodore Graptus. St. Peter the Tax-collector. St. Jonah, abbot of Yashezersk. The 26 Martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos, martyred by the Latins (see October 10). St. Cosmas of Zographou. Martyrs Isaac and Martin. St. Macarius, abbot of Zhabyn. St. Theophanes the Silent, recluse of the Kiev Caves. Repose of Abbot Innocent of Valaam (1828) and Blessed Parasceva "Pasha of Sarov", fool-for-Christ of Diveyevo Convent (1915).
O Holy God-Pleasers, Pray to God for Us!

THE SPIRIT OF ANGER
(St. John Cassian, "The Institutes" )
-- We have heard that some people try to excuse this most destructive disease of the soul by attempting to extenuate it by a rather detestable interpretation of Scripture. They say that it is not harmful if we are angry with wrongdoing brothers, because God Himself is said to be enraged and angered with those who do not want to know Him or who, knowing Him, disdain Him. For example: "The Lord was angry and enraged against His people" (Psalms 106:40). And when the prophet prays and says: "Lord, do not rebuke me in your fury, nor in your anger correct me" (Psalms 6:1). They do not understand that, in their eagerness to concede human beings the opportunity for pernicious vice, they are mixing the injustice of fleshly passion into the divine limitlessness and the source of all purity.
-- And so the monk who is on the way to perfection and who wishes to engage lawfully in the spiritual struggle must in every respect be free of the vice of anger and wrath. He should listen to what the vessel of election (Acts 9:15) commands of him: "All anger and indignation and uproar and blasphemy should be removed from you, as well as all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). When he says: "All anger should be removed from you," he makes no exception at all for us as to necessity and utility. He should strive to cure a wrongdoing brother, if need be, in such a way that, while bringing relief to one who is perhaps laboring under a rather slight fever, he does not get angry and bring upon himself the more baleful malady of blindness, so that as he sees the speck in his brother's eye he does not see the beam in his own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). For it behooves the one who wishes to heal someone else's wound to be healthy and untouched by any disease or illness, lest the gospel saying be applied to him: "Physician, heal yourself first" (Luke 4:23). And how will a person see to remove the speck from his brother's eye if he carries about a beam of wrath in his own eye?
To be continues


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