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July 8, 2015 + Earthly and Heavenly Beatitude

by St. John of Kronstadt

... There is no other path to beatitude, as Christ says Himself: I am the way the truth and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by Me (Jn. 14:6). I am the door: by me if any one enter in, he shall be saved (Jn. 10:9).

How each of us thirsts for beatitude! How everyone fears and fleas sorrows and sicknesses! Unfortunately, however, we want and seek beatitude on earth, where it cannot be found, and not in heaven, where it abides unto the ages. We fear and flee sorrows and sicknesses, but they are, if not actually necessary, then at least useful for us, because they heal the immortal soul which is ailing from many various passions. What beatitude can there be in exile or in prison? After all, this is our state. All of us have been exiled from paradise for our sins into this world as if into a prison.

... Yes, God did leave us some innocent comforts in this world to relieve our wanderer's path and our sorrows. But we must use these consolations in great moderation and not cleave unto them in any way. Instead, we must strive all the harder to attain the beatitude promised us through the narrow path of toil, vigil, prayers, restraint, purity, and every virtue, which is impossible to pursue successfully without great sorrows and temptations. Our true, full, and everlasting beatitude is in Heaven, where the all-blessed God dwells in unapproachable lights, where dwells Hierarchs, Martyrs, Monastics, Righteous, and all the Saints, where the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Most Holy Mother of God, rules together with Her Son. The beatitude we can find here is earthly, fleshly, ephemeral, fleeting as a dream; it is often coarse and impure as well. Only true virtue can be a foretaste of heavenly beatitude here on earth.

Chaplain's Corner + Healthy Dependence

by Fr. George Morelli

An irrational belief: that is what cognitive clinical psychologists consider an attitude of desperate need to depend on others (Ellis, 1962). However, they distinguish between unhealthy dependence and psychologically and spiritually healthy dependence. The characteristic signs of unhealthy dependence are the high intensity of the emotional need, a sense of self worthlessness, and a lack of confidence and ensuing helplessness and hopelessness when not dependent on others. To discern between them in and for oneself, a good beginning would be a realistic assessment of one's strengths (talents) and weaknesses. It is important to know one's God-given strengths in the various domains of life, academic, cognitive, creative, social skill and sport. Then one can build on those gifts of strength, often by enhancing them with the aid of others who can guide because of their more advanced skills. If our weaknesses can be compensated for, then others may help us in this regard as well. Another way of looking at this is to say that we attain independence by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses while remaining open to guidance from others to attain even greater competence. Thus, we develop a healthy dependence. Many of those engaged in the most demanding professions, who demonstrate what we consider great personal acts of bravery and skill, may initially appear 'independent.' However, such individuals would be first to acknowledge their reliance on others around them. Frequently heard among those in the military and among emergency first-responders are: "I got your back," and "it was a team effort."

July 1, 2015 + Good and Bad Thoughts from the Heart

by St. Diadochos of Photiki

83. It is true that the heart produces good and bad thoughts from itself (cf. Luke 6:45). But it does this not because it is the heart's nature to produce evil ideas, but because as a result of the primal deception the remembrance of evil has become as it were a habit. It conceives most of its evil thoughts, however, as a result of the attacks of the demons. But we feel that all these evil thoughts arise from the heart, and for this reason some people have inferred that sin dwells in the intellect along with grace. That is why, in their view, the Lord said: 'But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries', and so on (Matt. 15:18-19). They do not realize, however, that the intellect, being highly responsive, makes its own the thoughts suggested to it by the demons through the activity of the flesh; and, in a way we do not understand, the proclivity of the body accentuates this weakness of the soul because of the union between the two. The flesh delights endlessly in being flattered by deception, and it is because of this that the thoughts sown by the demons in the soul appear to come from the heart; and we do indeed make them our own when we consent to indulge in them. This was what the Lord was censuring in the text quoted above, as the words themselves make evident. Is it not clear that whoever indulges in the thoughts suggested to him by Satan's cunning and engraves them in his heart, produces them thereafter as the result of his own mental activity?

June 24, 2015 + Ethics and Technology – Part 3

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"And you O Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades." This prophecy of Christ, in the days when Capernaum shined with glory, like a fairytale city beside a lake, was fulfilled. It was so dreadfully fulfilled, that when a traveler finds himself among the thorns and snakes, where once the rich and proud city of Capernaum exalted itself, frightfully asks," Is it possible that this loathsome place was once a dwelling place of men?"

Ethics are long-lasting and unchanging, that is, evangelic ethics, but technology is always changing. Ethics are likened to a lady, and technology like her handmaiden. That is why ethics have to control technology. Eternal values are the territory of ethics and not technology. It is devastating for an entire people to put the purpose of their lives in technology, and all of their labor and sweat they sacrifice to the advancement of technology, dragging behind them ethics, like Achilles dragged the dead Hector tied to a chariot. A people like that can succeed to build all of their cities from ivory and gold, but if people like Ahab and Jezebel live in them, dogs will have the last word and not people. Between honor and skill it is easy to choose. An honest man even without skill is more respected in our time than a skillful man without honesty.

Technology changes man's relation towards nature, but not towards man and God.

Whoever thinks otherwise values things more than people, and dust more than the spirit. A horrible tragedy of our time is the war between men and God.

An Introduction to Becoming Truly Human from Metropolitan Joseph

April 30, 2015

Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!

For us, Orthodox Christians, this joyful proclamation of Pascha both gives meaning to our present lives and points us to the eternal joy of our own resurrection.

In our exuberance, it is easy to forget that most of our neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens have no idea that this joy is even a possibility for them. While a great majority of Americans state their religion as Christian, only a small percentage of these self-proclaimed Christians attend a church on a regular basis. Our parish and mission cities are filled with both lapsed Christians and those who don't believe in Christ.

You have heard me, as your Metropolitan, state on many occasions that we must work together to spread the beautiful faith that is Orthodoxy. Can we truly say we are fi lled with the joy of the Resurrection, but find a way to keep it to ourselves? By no means!

For this reason, I have directed the program "Becoming Truly Human" be established, so that our churches would be equipped to share the Orthodox faith effectively. Already, over forty of our parishes are in the process of running it. We want people who otherwise might have no meaningful contact with our Church to be given the opportunity to "Come and see," as the earliest Christians said to their neighbors, inviting them to know Christ. 

It is my hope that all of our communities would participate in this effort. You can begin by contacting the "Becoming Truly Human" program coordinator, Adam Roberts, adamr@antiochian.org (615-971-0000) or the program consultant, Fr. Michael Nasser, frmichaeln@gmail.com (270-823-3371).

How Do We Define Success?

by His Grace Bishop John, from the June 2015 issue of The Word

How do we define success? How do we know when our parish is succeeding? How do we evaluate the ministry of your parish? How do we know we are doing what God wants us to be doing?

For answers to these and similar questions, stay tuned to this edition of The WORD, where I hope to offer some articles, solutions, and even more questions!

Who are we? What is our mission? What are our values? What are we doing with what we know?

We are God's own people, His holy nation, ordained in our baptism to bring the world to God and God to His world. Our mission is to love the Lord our God with our whole mind, being and soul, to share His love, taking care of His people, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we value is sharing in God's life, free of temptation, bad choices and sin. What we are doing is gathering together in God's name, preparing and fortifying each other to be successful in our mission. We are opening God's house to all the people whom God calls our neighbor.

June 17, 2015 + Ethics and Technology – Part 2

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Completely conscious of the presence of God and without any pride, Noah built a wondrous ship that was for his salvation and of the new mankind's that was to be born.

In a darkened consciousness regarding God's presence, people filled with pride agreed among themselves, "Let us build a city and a tower whose top shall reach heaven, and make a name for ourselves." That was the building of the tower of Babel.

When King Solomon finished building the glorious Temple of God, he lifted up his hands to heaven, and in humbleness cried out, " Behold, heaven and the heavens above the heavens I cannot comprehend you, let alone this Temple I have built."

This wondrous Temple lasted for eleven generations. It was destroyed to dust and ashes when the godless descendants of King Solomon in deed, turned it from a "house of prayer, into a house of trade."

Not to the credit of technology did the Temple remain standing for centuries, nor to the blame of technology did it vanish from the face of the earth.

June 10, 2015 + Ethics and Technology – Part 1

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Originally, religion was the mother of ethics and technology. First of all, religion was a torrential spring flowing from hidden depths, ethic a life carrying river, and technology with the help of artistic channels, carried the water from this river into all the arteries of man's life.

God announced to man the law of faith, the law of behavior, and the knowledge of technology.

By the directions of God, Noah built a boat that traveled one of the longest journeys in the history of navigation.

By God's inspiration Bezalel was filled with wisdom in understanding, in knowledge, and all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. (Exodus 31:1-11)

In the same way, the Temple of Solomon, one of the greatest architectural wonders of the old world, was built by people taught by the Spirit of God and directed by the hand of the Lord. This is the witness of the Holy Scriptures.

The Beauty of the Church: Its Place and Purpose

by His Grace Bishop Anthony, The Word, June 2015

When you have your wedding photo framed and hung in your home, you probably put that picture in the most expensive and stylish frame you can afford. You do not think of the cost, so much as the memory of the event it preserves and the feelings experienced. In this way, and with all family pictures, something more than paper and ink and color are present for us. It is the sacrament of the moment that counts. Material things become the conveyor or vehicle for an invisible and spiritual reality that is far more precious to us than the expense demanded to express it. Yet, if these special times in our lives are not adorned with the beauty and expense of frames and colors, we might cheapen them, and turn something that was wonderful into a common, forgettable and ordinary thing. The beauty of the material attracts us to the lasting value of the experience which that package re-presents.

June 3, 2015 + The Attributes of the Church – Part 4

by St. Justin Popovich

The Apostolicity and Tradition of the Church

The holy Tradition is wholly of the God-man, wholly of the holy apostles, wholly of the holy fathers, wholly of the Church, in the Church, and by the Church. The holy fathers are nothing other than the "guardians of the apostolic tradition. " All of them, like the holy apostles themselves, are but "witnesses" of a single and unique Truth: the transcendent Truth of Christ, the God-man. They preach and confess it without rest, they, the "golden mouths of the Word." The God-man, the Lord Christ is one, unique, and indivisible. So also is the Church unique and indivisible, for she is the incarnation of the Theanthropos Christ, continuing through the ages and through all eternity. Being such by her nature and in her earthly history, the Church may not be divided. It is only possible to fall away from her. That unity and uniqueness of the Church is theanthropic [i.e. of the God-Man] from the very beginning and through all the ages and all eternity.

Apostolic succession, the apostolic heritage, is theanthropic from first to last. What is it that the holy apostles are transmitting to their successors as their heritage? The Lord Christ, the God-man Himself, with all the imperishable riches of His wondrous theanthropic Personality, Christ—the Head of the Church, her sole Head. If it does not transmit that, apostolic succession ceases to be apostolic, and the apostolic Tradition is lost, for there is no longer an apostolic hierarchy and an apostolic Church.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 7

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Chaplain's Corner + Overcoming the Avoidance of Responsibilities

by Fr. George Morelli

Basically, people prefer not to face discomfort. The consequence of their feeling anxious about possible impending discomfort is that they avoid "life's difficulties and self responsibilities." (Ellis, 1962)1. The comfortable route is to do what is easy, natural or intrinsically enjoyable. Avoiding responsibilities, and their ensuing untoward consequences, can be exacerbated by the imagery we create of scenarios, that is to say, the imagined sequence of possible efforts in actually doing these tasks. Often we create an image of how awful we would feel doing the most difficult part of the task. A cognitive therapeutic alternative is to transform the image into an affirmative one. Imagine yourself performing the simplest part of the task and then re-evaluating how uncomfortable it would be to do that. Then imagine yourself starting at that simple point.

May 27, 2015 + The Attributes of the Church – Part 3

by St. Justin Popovich

The Apostolicity of the Church

The holy apostles were the first god-men by grace. Like the Apostle Paul each of them, by his integral life, could have said of himself: "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). Each of them is a Christ repeated; or, to be more exact, a continuation of Christ. Everything in them is theanthropic [i.e. of the God-Man] because everything was received from the God-man. Apostolicity is nothing other than the God-manhood of the Lord Christ, freely assimilated through the holy struggles of the holy virtues: faith, love, hope, prayer, fasting, etc. This means that everything that is of man lives in them freely through the God-man, thinks through the God-man, feels through the God-man, acts through the God-man and wills through the God-man. For them, the historical God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the supreme value and the supreme criterion. Everything in them is of the God-man, for the sake of the God-man, and in the God-man. And it is always and everywhere thus. That for them is immortality in the time and space of this world. Thereby are they even on this earth partakers of the theanthropic eternity of Christ.

May 20, 2015 + The Attributes of the Church – Part 2

by St. Justin Popovich

The Holiness of the Church

... The flow of history confirms the reality of the Gospel: the Church is filled to overflowing with sinners. Does their presence in the Church reduce, violate, or destroy her sanctity? Not in the least! For her Head—the Lord Christ, and her Soul —the Holy Spirit, and her divine teaching, her mysteries, and her virtues, are indissolubly and immutably holy. The Church tolerates sinners, shelters them, and instructs them, that they may be awakened and roused to repentance and spiritual recovery and transfiguration; but they do not hinder the Church from being holy. Only unrepentant sinners, persistent in evil and godless malice, are cut off from the Church either by the visible action of the theanthropic [i.e. of the God-Man] authority of the Church or by the invisible action of divine judgment, so that thus also the holiness of the Church may be preserved. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (I Cor. 5:13).

In their writings and at the Councils, the holy fathers confessed the holiness of the church as her essential and immutable quality. The fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council defined it dogmatically in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith. And the succeeding ecumenical councils confirmed it by the seal of their assent.

May 13, 2015 + The Attributes of the Church – Part 1

by St. Justin Popovich

The Unity and Uniqueness of the Church

The attributes of the Church are innumerable because her attributes are actually the attributes of the Lord Christ, the Godman, and, through Him, those of the Triune Godhead. However, the holy and divinely wise fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit, reduced them in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith to four—I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. These attributes of the Church—unity, holiness, catholicity (sobornost), and apostolicity—are derived from the very nature of the Church and of her purpose. They clearly and accurately define the character of the Orthodox Church of Christ whereby, as a theanthropic institution and community, she is distinguishable from any institution or community of the human sort.

Just as the Person of Christ the God-man is one and unique, so is the Church founded by Him, in Him, and upon Him. The unity of the Church follows necessarily from the unity of the Person of the Lord Christ, the God-man. Being an organically integral and theanthropic organism unique in all the worlds, the Church, according to all the laws of Heaven and earth, is indivisible. Any division would signify her death. Immersed in the God-man, she is first and foremost a theanthropic organism, and only then a theanthropic organization. In her, everything is theanthropic: nature, faith, love, baptism, the Eucharist, all the holy mysteries and all the holy virtues, her teaching, her entire life, her immortality, her eternity, and her structure. Yes, yes, yes; in her, everything is theanthropically integral and indivisible Christification, sanctification, deification, Trinitarianism, salvation. In her everything is fused organically and by grace into a single theanthropic body, under a single Head—the God-man, the Lord Christ. All her members, though as persons always whole and inviolate, yet united by the same grace of the Holy Spirit through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues into an organic unity, comprise one body and confess the one faith, which unites them to each other and to the Lord Christ.

Chaplain's Corner + Persevering in Fearsome Situations

by Fr. George Morelli

When encountering fearsome situations some people have an automatic appraisal that they must flee from them at all costs and that they should continue to keep such dangers in mind - and even "keep dwelling on the possibility of such events occurring" again. This is described by clinical cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis, (1962)1 as being "terribly concerned about" them. Another possible common reaction is to 'freeze in place.' Granted, there are some dangerous events in which it may, in fact, be appropriate to flee or freeze. To run and call attention from someone threatening harm would be functional in some situations; naturalists, however, would advise that when coming upon a harmful animal in the wild many times it is best to immediately stop, and not move to prevent calling attention to yourself. Most common everyday situations are not this extreme, and for our well-being it behooves us to deal with them.

When I was in post-graduate clinical training under Ellis, I was instructed in the technique of performing a public "shame exercise' and then teaching the technique and encourage its use by patients who were adversely affected with fear in their daily lives. One example suggested (and that I practiced) was to go into a large department store and shout out the time of day every 10 seconds while riding up and down the escalator for a few minutes. I quickly learned that I could get through such shameful and potentially fearsome situations. The "shame exercises" given to patients as psychotherapy 'homework' are related to their particular feared circumstances. To this day, I tell patients that they are capable of carrying fears with them as they journey through their various life activities.

May 6, 2015 + Reflections on Mid-Pentecost

The feast of Mid-Pentecost, and indeed the whole season of the Pentecostarion, is a period of joy and brightness, and yet the Pentecostarion is not without hymns of compunction. Just as the period of Great Lent is not void of the light of the Resurrection, so too the period of Pascha is not void of the theme of repentance. The light of Pascha and Pentecost compels us to recognize the darkness within us and to seek purity and renewal that we may be able to fully share in the joy and holiness of the Spirit:

As we come together on the mid-feast between Your Resurrection and the divine descent of Your Holy Spirit, O Christ, we praise the mysteries of Your wonders. Wherefore, on this day send down upon us Your great mercy.
(Vespers for the Wednesday of Mid-Pentecost, doxastikon of the stichera)

Mid-Pentecost strengthens our preparation for Pentecost— a preparation which requires a renewal of faith and an intensified effort to ascend the heights of righteousness and purity to which we were called when we became members of Christ's Body. The joy of Pascha lies in a vigorous response to the Resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us and around us. The more sensitive to His presence we become, the more aware we become of our own sins. And our response to this sinfulness is not a paralyzing despair, but a renewed hope and desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit:

Serving Christ Our God and Our Church

Icon by the hand of Janet JaimeIcon by the hand of Janet Jaimeby Violet K. Robbat, The Word, May 2015

When the Angel Gabriel informed Mary that she had been chosen to be the Mother of Christ, Mary, because of her faith and obedience to God, responded with, "Behold the Maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to visit His friends Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. He stayed and had supper with them. Martha prepared the meal and served Jesus, while her sister "took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair" (John 12:3). With their many gifts, Martha and Mary served Christ, each in her own way.

After Jesus was crucified and was buried, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb of Christ with spices to anoint His body, as was the Jewish custom of that time. They found that Christ's body was no longer in the tomb. Instead, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe. He told them to go to Jesus's disciples and tell them that He had risen. The women were frightened and quickly left the tomb, telling no one. "Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept" (Mark 16:9–10).

On Celebrating New Life in Springtime

by Kristina Garrett Wenger

It is springtime in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a tangible way in which we see how our lives are changed by God's grace. All around us, the "dead" is "coming back to life" and growing, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is the perfect time for us to talk with our children about the new life that Christ brings to us through His death and resurrection, as we see the miracle of new life all around us in this season!

We have just come through Great Lent, a spiritual "season" that is a flowering springtime for our souls and should bring us new hope. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware once spoke of the words of the Lenten Triodion in an interview, "Lent is spiritual springtime. Not winter, but spring. The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime... It goes on to speak of repentance as a flower that is opening. We shouldn't just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God's grace, be changed." (myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-memorizing-scripture) That change is a continual process, and God continues to offer other reminders of His work in our lives.

Gleanings from a Book: “The Sign of the Cross” by Andreas Andreopoulos

A few weeks ago in this blog1 we discussed the Cross of Christ. Now we have just come through Holy Week and Pascha. As a result, the Cross is in the forefront of our thoughts. We at the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education decided that this would be an appropriate time to take a look at this book. The Sign of the Cross talks about the sign which we use every day. The sign of the cross is a very practical way in which the Cross is present in our daily lives as Orthodox Christians.

Dr. Andreas Andreopoulos' book The Sign of the Cross is an excellent read for any Orthodox Christian. There are so many reasons the cross is significant to our faith, so many grounds for making the sign of the cross, and so many things we are saying by making that sign. Parents and teachers who have children asking questions about the sign of the cross will especially benefit from reading this book, as it will give them a myriad of answers to those questions!

Dr. Andreopoulos addresses the sign of the cross from many different angles in his book. He looks first at experiencing the sign of the cross; then at the history of the sign; he then addresses why we as people even need symbols and signs; he touches on how the sign of the cross is a prayer; and he finishes with the cosmic significance of the cross. Although the book is only five chapters long, each chapter is full of information and causes the reader to think deeply about the sign of the cross. The reader comes away from the book with a deeper appreciation for this sign.

April 29, 2015 + On Prayer, Joy, and Anger

from Evagrius the Solitary

14. Prayer is the flower of gentleness and of freedom from anger.

15. Prayer is the fruit of joy and thankfulness.

16. Prayer is the remedy for gloom and despondency.

17. 'Go and sell all you have and give to the poor' (Matt. 19:21); and 'deny yourself, taking up your cross' (Matt. 16: 24). You will then be free from distraction when you pray.

18. If you wish to pray as you should, deny yourself all the time, and when any kind of affliction troubles you, meditate on prayer.

19. If you endure something painful out of love for wisdom, you will find the fruit of this during prayer.

20. If you desire to pray as you ought, do not grieve anyone; otherwise you 'run in vain' (Phil. 2:16).

April 22, 2015 + About Seeking the Living among the Dead

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Why do you seek the living One among the dead? (St. Luke 24:5)

The angel of God asks the Myrrh-bearing women as though in astonishment: "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" As though the perceiver of the mystery of God and God's power wanted to say: "How could you have thought for a moment that He is the hostage of death? Do you not know that He is the principal source of life? Do you not know that all life is through Him and that not one living thing can borrow not even a drop of life from any other source? Did He not fully reveal to you His authority over life and death on earth? Who gave life to the lifeless Lazarus? Who took away the life of the barren fig tree?

O my brethren, let us also cease to look for the living among the dead. If there are some of us who are still seeking Christ among the dead, let them desist from this soul-destroying effort. This is the vain effort of the Jews, pagans and non-Christians. We know that the Lord and Giver of life is not in the tomb but on the Throne of Glory in the heavens. The spirit, not darkened by sin, looks up into heaven and does not see the tomb; and the spirit, darkened by sin, looks into the tomb and does not see heaven. Sin and virtue govern the spiritual vision of man and reveals to each man its own world at cross-purposes with one another. Sin overthrows the vision of the spirit to the earth and reveals to it the corruption of the world. Virtue uplifts the spirit to heaven and reveals to it the eternal world and the resurrected Christ as the King in that world.

Mother of God of the "Life-Giving Spring"

Mother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXMother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXThe Feast of the Life-giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century.  It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-giving Spring outside of Constantinople.

The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring was built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople.  Emperor Leo was a pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water.  Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water, but found none.  As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby.  He looked again, and found none.  Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it.  When he had done this, the blind man received his sight.

After Leo became Emperor, as the Most Holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church temple over the spring, whose waters worked many healings, as well as resurrections from the dead, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. From this, it came to be called the "Life-giving Spring."

April 15, 2015 + A Paschal Homily

by St. Epiphanius of Cyprus

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.

God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, 'My Lord be with you all.' Christ answered him: 'And with your spirit.' He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

April 8, 2015 + A Paschal Homily

by Melito of Sardis

[Christ] rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: "Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed. Who is my opponent?"

"I," He says, "am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven."

"I," he says, "am the Christ."

"Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness. I am the passover of your salvation. I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you. I am your ransom. I am your light. I am your saviour. I am your resurrection. I am your king. I am leading you up to the heights of heaven. I will show you the eternal Father. I will raise you up by my right hand."

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