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Nurturing Children for Service

by His Grace Bishop John, from The Word Magazine, September 2016

Metropolitan Joseph strolled into the meeting of the North American Board of the Antiochian Women after spending over an hour with the archdiocese teen leadership. With what at least one of our women described as "a heavy heart," Metropolitan Joseph shared with the women that the Archdiocese will need more clergy to serve when our aging clergy retire, and we need monastics, people to build and maintain homes for the aged, people to take care of the unborn and their mothers, Christian educators for the young, as well as people to do all kinds of other ministries.

Learning About the Saints: St. Phanourios

(Commemorated on August 27/September 9)

This morning when I checked my plans for what I would be writing about for this blog post, I immediately got goosebumps. Months ago I had planned that today I would write about St. Phanourios, but I had forgotten that plan until I was ready to begin. Mind you, St. Phanourios is one of my favorite saints, and I frequently request his prayers for myself and for my family. I am indebted to this saint for his multiple intercessions on our behalf. Time after time, his prayers have worked miracles for us, and we are grateful. But the reason for my goosebumps was because St. Phanourios' prayers just worked a miracle for our family yesterday, so the timing is impeccable. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about this wonderful saint!

Very little has been passed down about the life of St. Phanourios. Around 1500, a previously-forgotten chapel was unearthed in a building project in Rhodes. All the icons in the chapel were disfigured or crumbling, but one was still intact. In fact, it almost looked freshly-painted, it was in such good shape. It features a young man named as "St. Phanourios," holding a candle-topped cross. Surrounding the central icon are a series of twelve smaller icons depicting the saint's refusal to give up his faith and the tortures that he endured in the process.

August 31, 2016 + The Way of a Christian

by St. Herman of Alaska

Without exalting myself to the rank of teacher, nonetheless, fulfilling my duty and obligation as an obedient servant for the benefit of my neighbor, I will speak my mind, founded on the commandments of Holy Scripture, to those who thirst and seek for their eternal heavenly homeland.

A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Saviour Himself. He deigned to say: not the rigteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents then over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgements a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.

August 24, 2016 + On the Two Characteristics of Love

by St. Cosmas of Aitolia

If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.

Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to decieve you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them. Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has?

August 17, 2016 + Committing Ourselves to the Lord's Will

by St. Silouan the Athonite

Father Lazarus, who had been a captain in the army, used to tell the story of how a certain peasant went to fetch wood for the furnace. Exhausted by his labors, he lay down to rest under a giant oak-tree, and looking up at the branches of the oak and seeing the masses of fat acorns growing on them, thought to himself, '"It would have been better had pumpkins grown on the oak-tree." With this thought he shut his eyes, and suddenly an acorn fell and hit him hard on the lip. Whereupon the peasant said, "I was wrong: God is smarter than I am, and did well to make acorns and not pumpkins grow on oak-trees. If that had been a pumpkin, it could have killed me with its weight!"

August 3, 2016 + The Expulsion of Sorrow

by St. John of Kronstadt

Wherever I am, as soon as I raise the eyes of my heart in my affliction to God, the Lover of men immediately answers my faith and prayer, and the sorrow immediately departs. He is at every time and every hour near me, only I do not see it, but I feel it vividly in my heart. Sorrow is the death of the heart, and it is a falling away from God. The expansion, the peace of heart through lively faith in Him, prove more clearly than the day, that God is constantly present near me, and that He dwells within me. What intercessor or angel can set us free from our sins or sorrows? None, but God alone. This is from experience.

July 27, 2016 + Faith in God's Existence

by St. John of Kronstadt

Faith in God's existence is closely connected with faith in the existence of our own souls, as a part of the spiritual world. God's existence is as evident to the pious mind as its own being, because every thought, good or bad, every desire, every intention, word or act of such a mind is followed by a corresponding change in the state of the heart, peace or trouble, joy or grief, and this is the result of the action upon it of the God of spirits and bodies, Who is reflected in the pious mind as the sun is reflected in a drop of water; the purer the drop is, the better, the clearer will be the reflection; the more turbid the drop, the dimmer will be the reflection; so that in the soul's state of extreme impurity or darkness, the reflection entirely ceases and the soul is left in a state of spiritual darkness, in a state of insensibility. In this state the man having eyes, sees not, and having ears, hears not. Again, in relation to our souls, God may be likened to the outer air in relation to the mercury of the thermometer--with this difference, that the expansion and rest, rise and fall of the mercury proceed from the change in the state of the atmosphere; whilst, in the first case, God remains unchangeable, everlasting and eternally good and just. Whilst the soul, changeable in its relation to God, suffers changes in itself, thus it unavoidably expands and obtains peace of heart when it draws nearer to God by faith and good works, and unavoidably contracts, becomes restless and wearied, when it withdraws itself from God by unlawful acts, want of faith, and unbelief in God's Truth.

July 20, 2016 + On Living in the Spirit

St. Philaret of Moscow, 1782-1867

There are some even among Christians, to whom the gifts of the Holy Ghost seem so strange, that although they dare not entirely reject them, they nevertheless refer them to other persons and to other times, and without acknowledging the necessity of being "born again," content themselves either with a vain hope in the merits of the Mediator, or even with their own righteousness. Let us not be deceived by the tempting aspect which worldly honesty generally bears. To be no enemy to faith, to do no crying injustice, to make an occasional display of charity, to avoid pernicious excesses, in short, to fulfil merely the most indispensable and outward duties of a man and of a member of society, is but to whiten one's sepulchre, which nevertheless remains "within full of dead men's bones" ;" it is to pluck the "leaves of the tree of life", given for the "healing of the nations", but not to "eat its fruit", which should feed the Christian; it is to have "the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees", which does not lead into the Kingdom of God. But to penetrate into the recesses of one's own heart, from which "proceed evil thoughts" and there to establish purity and holiness, "to keep the whole law "and not to "offend in one point" in order not to be "guilty of all"; who is the man, that left to his own understanding and powers, will boast of being able to do this? It is God alone Who "creates in man a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within him."

July 13, 2016 + On Icons of the Holy Angels

by St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

For instance, then, the images of our kings here, even though they be not formed of the more precious materials— gold or silver— are honoured by all. For men do not, while they treat with respect those of the far more precious material, slight those of a less valuable, but honour every image in the world, even though it be of chalk or bronze. And one who speaks against either of them, is not acquitted as if he had only spoken against clay, nor condemned for having despised gold, but for having been disrespectful towards the King and Lord Himself. The images of God's angels, which are fashioned of gold, the principalities and powers, we make to His honor and glory.

July 6, 2016 + On Our Champion Leader

by St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[T]he holy Theotokos was always a participant and a leader in every good thing. After the Ascension of Christ, she, the treasure house of all good things, being thus in her own country, took charge of every good thing, and while she was dwelling in the land, she was herself the model and leader of all good things. Thus, after his Ascension, the holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious King and Son. And that is why she then instructed the holy Apostles in fasting and prayer, and they were devoted to fasting and prayer and supplication until the fiftieth day was completed, and they were filled with the grace of the comforting Holy Spirit. And from there the worthy Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel, and they spread the word of life in Jerusalem and all Judea, and after a little while they went forth to the ends of the earth, wherever the Holy Spirit ordered them. And they made disciples of all nations and baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, according to the command of the Lord...

June 29, 2016 + About How the Slothful Man Excuses Himself

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The slothful man says: A lion is outside; in the streets I might be slain! (Proverbs 22:13)

In order to justify his slothfulness, the slothful man emphasizes the difficulties and obstacles of a certain task and magnifies them beyond measure. If a man annoys him, he will say that the entire village annoys him; if the leaves rustle, he will justify that he is unable to go to work because of a storm; if a rabbit is in front of his house, he will say it is a lion! He says this in order not to leave the house and to delay his work.

June 22, 2016 + Why Does the Good Lord Permit Assaults on the Orthodox Church?

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Why does the good Lord permit assaults and sufferings on the True Faith while He permits the pleasure of tranquility to heresies and paganism? Why? Even St. John Chrysostom asks and immediately replies: "So that you would recognize their weakness (the weakness of the heresies and paganism) when you see that they disintegrate on their own without any disturbance and also to be convinced in the power of faith which endures misfortunes and even multiplies through its adversaries." "Therefore, if we quarrel with the pagans or with the wretched Jews, it is sufficient to emphasize as evidence of divine power that the Faith (Christianity) which was subjected to countless struggles maintained victory" even when the entire world stood against her [the Church]. St. Isaac the Syrian says: "The wondrous love of God toward man is recognized when man is in misfortunes that are destroying his hope. Here, God manifests His power for his [man's] salvation. For man never recognizes the power of God in tranquility and freedom." 

The Prologue of Ohrid: Lives of the Saints, All Sebastian Press Publications

+++

Hieromartyr Eusebias of Samosata

Troparion — Tone 4

By sharing in the ways of the Apostles, you became you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation,  O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith,  even to the shedding of your blood. Hieromartyr Eusebius, entreat Christ God to save our souls. 

June 15, 2016 + On How the Holy Spirit Is Sent

by St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

A short while ago, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be His eye-witnesses. Nor are we less favored than they. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", says the Lord (Jn. 20:29), referring to those who've found assurance through hearing, and see by faith. Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1:9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us. Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He Who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28), and to Him David addressed the words, "Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit; they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth" (Ps. 104:30). It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father's glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from Heaven. But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in Their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

June 8, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 5

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 4)

Indeed, if there is one fact with which one could summarize all of the events in the life of Christ and of the Apostles, and more generally in all of Christianity, that event would be the Resurrection of Christ. Moreover, if there is a reality which summarizes all of the realities of the New Testament, that reality would be the Resurrection of Christ. And finally, if there is one miracle in the Gospels which can be said to summarize all of the miracles reported in the New Testament, that miracle would be the Resurrection of Christ. For only within the light of the Resurrection are the person of Jesus Christ and His work made miraculously known. Only within the light of the Resurrection are the miracles of Christ, all of His truths, all of His words, and all of the events of the New Testament fully explained.

Up to the time of His Resurrection, the Lord taught about eternal life; but in the Resurrection, He shows us that He Himself is Eternal Life. Up to the time of His Resurrection, He taught about the Resurrection from the dead; but in the Resurrection, He showed that He Himself was indeed the resurrection of the dead. Up to the time of His Resurrection, He taught that belief in Him took one from death to life; but in His Resurrection, He showed that He Himself had conquered death and had thus assured those afflicted by death of passage from death to resurrection. Yes, O indeed, yes: the God-Man Jesus Christ, by His Resurrection, showed and demonstrated that He is the only true God, the only God-Man among all humankind.

June 1, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 4

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 3)

In our mundane world, death is the greatest torment and the most hideously cruel thing. Freedom from this torment and cruelty is precisely what salvation is. Such salvation was given to the generation of man only by the Conqueror of Death, the Resurrected God-Man. Through His Resurrection, He revealed to us the whole mystery of our salvation. Salvation means to be guaranteed immortality and eternal life for the body and for the soul. But how do we succeed in this? Only in the life of the God-Man, in the life of the Resurrection, through the Resurrected Christ.

For us Christians, life on this earth is a school in which we learn how to secure for ourselves immortality and eternal life. For of what benefit is this life, if we cannot attain to eternity within it? But for a man to be resurrected with Christ, a man must first die with Him and live the life of Christ as his own. If he does this, then on the Day of Resurrection he may say, along with St. Gregory the Theologian: "Yesterday I was crucified with Christ, today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him, today I am given life with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him, today I rise with Him."

May 25, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 3

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 2)

By conquering the sin within him through Christ, a man conquers death. If a single day passes and you have not yet conquered at least one of your sins, realize that you have become all the more mortal. If, however, you have overcome one, two, or three of your sins, you have become more greatly renewed in that newness that does not age: immortality and eternity. Let us never forget that, for one to believe in Christ, this means that he must struggle ceaselessly against sin, evil, and death.

A man demonstrates that he truly believes in the Resurrected Lord by his struggle against the passions and against sin; and if he so struggles, he must know that he struggles for immortality and for eternal life. If he does not struggle, then his faith is in vain. For, if a man's faith is not a struggle for immortality and eternity, then what is it? If by faith in Christ one does not attain to immortality and victory over death, then to what end our faith? If Christ is not resurrected, this means that sin and death have not been conquered. And if these two things have not been overcome, then why should anyone believe in Christ? He who, through faith in the Resurrection of Christ, struggles against his every sin, however, has profound reinforcement within himself of a sense that Christ is in fact resurrected, that He has in fact removed the sting of death, that He has in fact conquered death on all fronts of battle.

May 18, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 2

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 1)

By the grace of the resurrection of Christ, by the grace of His conquest over death, men became, are now becoming, and will in the future become Christians. All of Christian history is nothing other than that of one singular miracle, the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ, which is eternally contained within the hearts of Christians from day to day, from year to year, and from age to age, until the Second Coming.

Man is truly born, not when he is brought into the world by his mother, but when he comes to believe in the Resurrected Savior, Christ; for then he is born into immortality and eternal life, while the mother brings a child only into death, to the grave. The Resurrection of Christ is the mother of all of us, all of us Christians — the mother of all who are deathless. By his faith in the Resurrection of Christ, man is born anew, born into eternity.

May 11, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 1

by St. Justin Popovich

Men have condemned God to death; God, however, has by His Resurrection "sentenced" men to immortality. In return for their buffets, He offers embraces; for their insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never have men shown such enmity for God as when they crucified Him; and never has God shown such love for men as He did in resurrecting. Men wish to render God mortal, but God by His Resurrection designed to make men immortal. The crucified God resurrected and overcame death. Death is no more. Immortality has overtaken man and the whole of his world.

Through the Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man has been led irrevocably to the path of immortality, and death has thus become fearful. For, before the Resurrection of Christ, death was something feared by man; but after the Resurrection of the Lord, man has become something fearful for death. If a man lives in Faith within the Resurrected God-Man, he lives above death. He stands impregnable by death. Death is transformed into a "footstool beneath his feet": "O death, where is thy victory? O Hades, where is thy sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55). Therefore, when a man in Christ breathes his last, he sheds only the shell of his body, to be clothed with it once again on the day of the Second Coming.

May 4, 2016 + On Obedience for Our Sakes

by St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For even though He was God, yet He fulfilled obedience in the flesh and according to the flesh and prevailed over the will of the flesh by the will of the Godhead, as He had said beforehand, 'I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me, calling that of the flesh His own will, since the flesh had become His own.

It was necessary for the will of the flesh to be moved and yet subjected to the divine will, and so human disobedience is forgiven as a result of this extraordinary obedience, that of Christ for our sake.

The 2016 Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church: Implications for Unity

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Spring 20161

There are many serious challenges to the unity of the Churches, ecclesial communities and confessions and religious groups in today's world. Among these are: secularization, religious pluralism, fundamentalism and ethnophyletism. If the Orthodox Churches one of the Apostolic Churches tracing their succession to Christ Himself, in agreement on faith and morals can achieve agreement on approaching these issues confronting her today, God willing, this will be a witness and model for other Churches and religious communities to do the same. This would be a step toward healing the division among the Churches and communities.

Just such a witness was described in the document issued in January 2016 in Chambésy , Switzerland, by the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in preparation for the Holy and Great Council that is to be held on the Greek island of Crete during June 2016 - Pentecost as celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This had been preceded by a draft document adopted by the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council in October 2015, also in Chambésy. Many ecumenical encounters between Eastern and Western Churches have occurred leading to these events.

April 27, 2016 + Christ Was Never Forsaken by the Godhead in His Passion

by Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

… [W]e bade the simple and unthinking hearer not take the words My God, etc., in a sense as if, when Jesus was fixed upon the wood of the cross, the Omnipotence of the Father’s Deity had gone away from Him; seeing that God’s and Man’s Nature were so completely joined in Him that the union could not be destroyed by punishment nor by death. For while each substance retained its own properties, God neither held aloof from the suffering of His body nor was made passible by the flesh, because the Godhead which was in the Sufferer did not actually suffer. And hence, in accordance with the Nature of the Word made Man, He Who was made in the midst of all is the same as He through Whom all things were made. He Who is arrested by the hands of wicked men is the same as He Who is bound by no limits. He Who is pierced with nails is the same as He Whom no wound can affect. Finally, He Who underwent death is the same as He Who never ceased to be eternal, so that both facts are established by indubitable signs, namely, the truth of the humiliation in Christ and the truth of the majesty; because Divine power joined itself to human frailty to this end, that God, while making what was ours His, might at the same time make what was His ours. The Son, therefore, was not separated from the Father, nor the Father from the Son; and the unchangeable Godhead and the inseparable Trinity did not admit of any division. For although the task of undergoing Incarnation belonged peculiarly to the Only-begotten Son of God, yet the Father was not separated from the Son any more than the flesh was separated from the Word.

April 20, 2016 + Remedies for Senseless Anger, Part 2

by St. Mark the Ascetic

From the time that Christ came to dwell with us, man created according to God's image and likeness is truly renewed through the grace and power of the Spirit, attaining to the perfect love which 'casts out fear' (1 John 4:18) - the love which is no longer able to fail, for 'love never fails' (1 Cor. 13:8). Love, says John, is God; and 'he who dwells in love dwells in God' (1 John 4:16). The apostles were granted this love, and so were those who practiced virtue as they did, offering themselves completely to the Lord, and following Christ with all their heart throughout their lifetime.

April 13, 2016 + Remedies for Senseless Anger, Part 1

by St. Mark the Ascetic

Now let us say something about the senseless passion of anger, which ravages, confuses and darkens every soul and, when it is active, makes those in whom it is easily and quickly aroused behave like beasts. This passion is strengthened particularly by pride, and so long as it is so strengthened it cannot be destroyed. While the diabolical tree of bitterness, anger and wrath has its roots kept moist by the foul water of pride, it blossoms and thrives and produces quantities of rotten fruit. Thus the structure of evil in the soul is impossible to destroy so long as it is rooted firmly in pride.

Do you want this tree of disorder - I mean the passion of bitterness, anger and wrath - to dry up within you and become barren, so that with the axe of the Spirit it may be 'hewn down and cast into the fire' together with every other vice (Matt. 3 :10)? Do you want the destruction of this house of evil which the devil builds in your soul by continually using as stones various plausible or senseless pretexts, whether material or mental, and by constructing its foundations out of thoughts of pride ? If this is what you really want, keep the humility of the Lord in your heart and never forget it.

April 6, 2016 + Prayer at Daybreak

Prayer at Daybreak from Elder Sophrony to be said on rising from sleep

Elder Sophrony (+1993) of Essex, spiritual child of St Silouan the Athonite, gave this prayer to his own spiritual children, to be said 'on rising from sleep.' This version of the prayer is adapted from Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who writes, 'If someone reads this prayer in the morning with contrition and attention, the whole day will be blessed.' (www.abbamoses.com/daybreak.html)

Eternal King without beginning, You who are before all worlds, my Maker, Who have summoned all things from non-being into this life: bless this day that You, in Your inscrutable goodness, give to me. By the power of Your blessing enable me at all times in this coming day to speak and act for You, to Your glory, in Your fear, according to Your will, with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage, wisdom and prayer, aware everywhere of Your presence.

Gleanings From a Book: Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle

by Kristina Wenger

This book made me cry. Loud, soggy gasps accompanied my declaration, "I didn't see THAT coming!" My husband came running, thinking something was horribly wrong. "I... love... this book!" I assured him between sobs, and then I showed him the cause of my tears. We'll get to that in just a little bit..

From the moment I cracked it open, this book appealed to me on so many levels. The story is genuine. The illustrations are eye‐catching and detailed. The unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is clearly emphasized. The joy of Pascha is palpable. This book is a delightful celebration of Pascha! 

Catherine's Pascha is written in a realistic, believable way. As I read, it was like I could hear my own children being Catherine's age again, from the "Why do I have to go to bed at regular time, tonight, when I'm getting up again in a few hours to go to church? You KNOW I won't sleep!;" through the delight of shouting "Indeed He is risen!" in multiple languages throughout the Divine Liturgy in the wee hours of the morning; all the way to the gleeful "I'm not a bit sleepy!" while trying to win at the egg‐cracking game and then eating all those things we haven't eaten in weeks. The story itself is a gentle walk through what happens at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, accentuated with the pure delight that children regularly experience and share. The way the story is written fills me with anticipation for the Pascha celebration that lies ahead! Reading the book gave me excited goosebumps.

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