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March 4, 2015 + Become as Lightning

FIRST WEEK OF LENT, THURSDAY MATINS, CANTICLE FOUR: FIRST CANON, TONE 2 (By Joseph the Hymnographer)

Become as lightning, my soul,
receiving the flashing rays of abstinence,
and flee from the obscurity of sin:
that through the divine Spirit
the light of forgiveness may enlighten you as the rising sun.

The deceiver enticed and captured me with the hook of pleasure.
But, apostles, as by your preaching
you have caught the whole world in your net
deliver me from his malice.

Healing Society: Understanding True Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Spring 2015) originally entitled PERSONHOOD: DISUNION AND UNION.[i] This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and non-persons worthy of marginalization, murder and torturous execution, and recognizing that all of mankind, in fact are made up of ‘persons,’ and are of worth. Furthermore all Christians should join in prayer, witness and action to cure the increasing societal illness of depersonalization.

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Gn 1: 27)

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. (Gn 2:7)

One would hope that the basis of union among those who acknowledge the transcendent personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be that of the worth and sanctity of personhood. It would appear, however, that rather than a reestablishment of cordial relations among those who acknowledge the sacredness of Scripture, and the Book of Genesis in particular, there is an ever growing divide.  Understanding how the differing religious traditions view the genesis and development of the concept of personhood gives an insight of what fuels this ‘great divide.’ Spiritual and moral values differ among those who all consider themselves followers of Christ, and the difference in the understanding of personhood is not only a good reflection of the chasm, but may be in part what is fueling the widening of it. The Apostolic Churches view is that persons are known by God outside of created space and time. The Prophet Jeremiah (1: 5) tells us: “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” The traditional Christian Churches understand that God created body and soul, fused together at the moment of conception. This is based on the Virgin Mary’s response to the invitation from God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.” (Lk 1: 35) The ‘to be’ Mother of God (Theotokos) responded her fiat (“let it be done”): “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1:38).

Living the Christian Life in a Secular Age

by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph

The following remarks were given by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph at the Ss. Athanasius and Cyril Symposium held at St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Riverside, CA on February 7, 2015. The Theme of the Symposium was "The City, a Desert – Living the Life of the Desert in the Midst of the World". Other speakers included Archimandrite Irenei, founder and director of the Institute, Archimandrite Gerasim, rector of St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas, TX and former abbot of St. Herman Monastery in Platina, CA, Fr. Andrew Cuneo, rector of St. Katherine Mission (OCA) in Carlsbad, CA and V. Rev. Josiah Trenham, pastor of the host parish.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Reverend fathers and deacons, beloved faithful, and you who seek for the refreshing waters in the oasis of the Church, I extend the blessing to you in the name of the Lord. We take up a powerful theme in this conference, a theme which brings us to reflect upon the relationship of our Christian faith and life in this tempestuous and dynamic world around us with the simple quiet and solitude of the desert wilderness.

Chaplain's Corner + What We Do Is Not Who We Are

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the more unfortunate irrational beliefs held by many is that some individuals are intrinsically evil or good. The assumption prompting this deleterious attitude is that the actions that people do define their 'personhood. In practical terms this means that if a person does good, prosocial, kindly and moral things they are a good person. On the other hand, if a person does evil, villainous, immoral and/or wicked things they not only are bad persons but are considered by many to be non-human. Biologically, humans are of the animal kingdom, but people who engage in especially nefarious acts are pejoratively referred to as "animals," - implying they are subhuman and, frequently, not even worthy of life. The implication of this, as cognitive-behavioral clinical psychologist Albert Ellis[1] (1964) puts it, is that, "They did this 'wrong' act, therefore they are perfectly worthless beings who deserve to be severely punished or killed." (p. 66).

Philosophers and philosophical psychologists have considered the basis of humanness to be "a personhood nested within physical, biological, and sociocultural reality, both historically and ontogenetically[ii]." The distinctiveness and worth of the human person, in contrast to others in the animal kingdom, even extends to those spiritual traditions who do not affirm a personal God. For example, The Council for Secular Humanism affirms: "We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings."[iii]

February 11, 2015 + Never Pray for Revenge on Your Enemies

by St. John Chrysostom

If you pray for revenge on your enemies your prayers are sins...if you pray against your enemies you insult God who told you to pray for them...in the court of the emperor one is not allowed to strike any enemy or in presence of emperor himself or else one is immediately executed...you are worse than the man who was forgiven and choked his friend for 10 pence because you do it in the presence of the king!... remember hell and punishment and vengeance in your prayers and you will not pray against your enemies...we pray against enemies because we scrutinize others sins but not our own when we ought to do the opposite.

The Meaning of Fasting in the Orthodox Church

by Fr. Milan Savich

Fasting is as old as the human race. Fasting was practiced by pagan religions, Judaism and Christianity, and it was generally considered an important element of religious life, although with different practices and understanding. In the ancient religions of the East fasting meant a complete abstention from food for a certain period of time — one day or more. The origin of fasting as a moral discipline, especially among the old pagan religions is very obscure, just as their understanding of God was inadequate and vague.

The monotheistic, God revealed religion of the "Chosen People" knew about fasting. From the Old Testament we learn that God instituted fasting in Paradise when He said: "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17) From this is clear that fasting existed before the "original sin" of Adam and Eve, and it was not ordered as a cure for their sin. The fasting in Paradise consisted of abstaining of certain food — namely of "the fruit of the tree." The tree of knowledge of good and evil was created by God as well as all other trees in Paradise and, as such, preceded the Satan and his sinful machinations. God's commandment to Adam and Even not to eat of the particular fruit was issued as a method of man's discipline of self-control and spiritual growth. This means that the first man in Paradise was not perfect, but was good and capable to improve and develop his spiritual and moral personality.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 5

[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]

Considerations in the Psychotherapy for Orthodox Christians

Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Emotion and Neural Processes

There are currently various psychological models to explain this interaction. One model, based on Darwinian evolutionary theory, is that emotion develops as an adaptive value to a stimulus. From the different laboratories of Izard (1993, 2001, 2002), Plutchik (1984) and Tomkins (1991) come remarkably similar findings on the presence of primary emotions shortly after birth. 

Chaplain's Corner + Perfectionism vs. Diligence

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the major irrational beliefs that cause and sustain disturbing emotions and unproductive behavior is a perfectionistic personal rule that “one should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in all possible respects if one is to be considered worthwhile.” (Ellis, 1962, p. 63) [1].  The inherent irrationality of perfectionism can be seen by considering that no one can be masterful in all things, and that it is often accompanied by undue anxiety, stress and physical disorders. Focusing on trying to excel over others, or considering perfection as the measure of our personal worth by demanding perfection of oneself, distracts us from task-attention and from making the appropriate choices to achieve success.

Such perfectionistic standards are opposed to diligence. A sense of diligence guides us to be conscientious in appropriately paying attention to a specific task and giving it the actions necessary to carry it out to a successful conclusion.

February 4, 2015 + The Effect of Divine Love

from Ode 9 at Matins for the feast of The Translation of the Relics of St. Ignatius the God-Bearer

Divine love, taking hold on thy soul, burned up all the material cares of the world with immaterial fire, O blessed Ignatius and it set thee crowned at the pinnacle of all that can be desired.

from The Menaion vol 5 for January

January 28, 2015 + New Year’s Resolutions by the Desert Fathers

Collected by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Casper, WY

1. Never stop starting over: "Abba Poeman said regarding Abba Prin that every day he made a new beginning." "My God, do not abandon me. I have done nothing good before Thee, but grant me, in Thy compassion, the power to make a start" (Arsenios, 5th century).

2. Live intentionally, not aimlessly: "Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort" (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th century). "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

3. Never, ever despair, no matter what: "Let us eagerly draw near to Christ, and let us not despair of our salvation. For it is a trick of the devil to lead us to despair by reminding us of our past sins" (St. Makarios of Egypt, 5th century). "When someone is defeated after offering stiff resistance, he should not give up in despair. Let him take heart, encouraged by the words. . . . God raises up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:14). Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times. . . . rise up again each time" (St. John of Karpathos, date unknown).

4. Pray simply, not stupidly: "Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to Him to arrange things as He knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought" (Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century). Abba Macarius said, "It is enough to say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer, say: 'Lord, help!'"

January 21, 2015 + The Children, Their Joys and Their Difficulties

from St. Paisios the Athonite (July 14th), newly Canonized

Q.: I've noticed, Elder, that sometimes babies smile at the time of Divine Liturgy.
A.: They don't do that only at the Divine Liturgy. Babies are in constant contact with God, because they've got nothing to worry about. What did Christ say about little children? 'Their angels in heaven continually gaze upon the face of my Father who is in heaven'. They're in touch with God and with their guardian angel, who's with them all the time. They smile in their sleep sometimes, and at other times cry, because they see all sorts of things. Sometimes they see their guardian angels and play with them- the angels stroke them, tease them, shake their fists and they laugh. On other occasions they see some kind of temptation and cry.

Q.: Why does temptation come to babies?
A.: It helps them to feel the need to seek their mothers. If there wasn't this fear, they wouldn't need to seek the comfort of being cuddled by their mothers. God allows everything so that it'll turn out well.

Q.: Do they remember what they see as babies when they grow up?
A.: No, they forget. If a little child remembered the number of times it had seen its guardian angel, it might fall into pride. That's why, when it grows up, it forgets. God's wise in His doings.

What Our Children are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 3

3 On Entering into the Divine Liturgy With Prayers and Song
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

Part 1: On the Divine Liturgy
Part 2: On Preparing for the Divine Liturgy

This is the third in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into "the offering of the people for the whole world!" (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics.)

In a prior blog, we studied the first part of the Divine Liturgy: the Preparation. The second part of the Divine Liturgy is The Liturgy of the Word. It "is much like the Jewish synagogue service, which consists of prayers, psalms and hymns, scripture readings, and a sermon. Catechumens [those preparing to enter the Body of Christ, the Church] were allowed to attend the Liturgy of the Word." (OFL, 27)

What Our Children are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 2

2 On Preparing for the Divine Liturgy
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

Part 1: On the Divine Liturgy

This is the second in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!”

Some days I arrive at church and enter the Divine Liturgy with great determination to participate. Unfortunately, on other days, I simply walk in and hope for the best. I know how I should be entering into the liturgy: with a steadfast heart and focused mind; ready to actively participate in the communal work of offering up prayers, tithes, and my very time for the people of the whole world. After all, I should be already ready to jump in, on arrival: our family has a 30 minute drive to church, during which time we say our morning prayers and read the daily epistle, gospel, and saint-of-the-day reading. My heart should be ready: but some days, I struggle to jump right in and singlemindedly participate. Making that happen is not easy, even though I know that is exactly what I am supposed to do!

January 14, 2015 + Moral Law and an Unmistakeable Standard

by St. Barsanuphius of Optina

He Who transcends all understanding, and so remains unintelligible, is nonetheless believed to exist among things intelligible. Now, because He, the pre-eternal and supra-essential Being, is by nature the author of all good things (having created the universe out of nothingness, and bringing it into completion through reason and perfecting it through His life-giving Spirit), He has willed to set boundaries by means of certain limits and laws ...

In man, He has planted the seeds of a rational faculty which is inherently critical, and as a further aid He has bestowed upon him, as it were, a command which is called moral law. Consequently, man, being directed by such law toward an unmistakable standard, vigorously sets himself apart from all evil – since evil is a deviated from the rectitude of moral law – and rationally pursues every good and every virtue; for this, indeed, is the object of moral philosophy: namely, the good.

January 7, 2015 + Homily on the New Year

by St. Barsanuphius of Optina

I greet all of you gathered here with the New Year. I congratulate you with the joys that I hope the Lord might send you in the coming year. I congratulate you also with the sorrows that will inevitably visit you this year: perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, or in the near future. Incidentally, do not be confused by sorrows or fear them. Sorrows and joys are closely bound up with each other. This may seem strange to you, but remember the words of the Savior: A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world (Jn. 16:21).Day turns to night, and night turns to day, bad weather turns to good; so also does sorrow turn into joy, and joy into sorrow.

The Apostle Paul pronounced threatening words against those who do not endure any punishment that comes from God: If you are left without punishment, you are illegitimate children. Do not be depressed; let those be depressed who do not believe in God. For them, of course, sorrow is onerous, because they know only earthly pleasures. But people who believe in God should not despond, because through sorrows they receive the rights of sons, without which one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

What Our Children are Learning about the Divine Liturgy + Part 1

1 On the Divine Liturgy
By Kristina Wenger, Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry

This is the first in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy from the Orthodox Christian Parenting Facebook page and blog. Consider following these to learn from the articles and the daily posts that feature related quotes, ideas and resources. The intent of the series is to remind us parents of what our children are learning about the service. That way we can all better understand what is happening around us during the service, and then together as a family we can more fully enter into "the offering of the people for the whole world!"

The Divine Liturgy, the work of the people, is indeed work. I don't know about you, but during the Liturgy, I often struggle. My eyes look all around me, my ears pick up all kinds of sounds unrelated to worship, my mind wanders, my feet complain, and I could go on and on about how poorly I attend to this work. In light of my own struggle, I will spend the next weeks focusing on the Divine Liturgy and sharing my learnings in this blog. Our children are learning about the Liturgy through their own experiences and observations in the context of Sunday Church School, and (if they are blessed to attend) at church camp as well. It is important that we as parents learn along with them, and add to that learning in whatever ways we can. It is my hope that whatever I encounter and share here will be helpful to all of us as we lead our families towards Christ and His Church.

Personhood and an Aging Mind and Body

A paper delivered by Peter A. Kavanaugh on November 8 at a conference of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion, entitled, "Exploring the Mind-Body-Soul Connection: Spirituality in Illness and Healing", at Holy Cross Seminary, Boston, Massachusetts, November 6-8, 2014.

I will never forget Susan. She was sitting in her wheelchair when I first met her. Her hair was disheveled. The expression on her face indicated incoherence and confusion. She looked into the distance with a vacant stare and waved her hand to and fro, senselessly. She did not recognize her family when they came to visit her. She did not remember the parents that raised her, the meal on which she dined that morning, nor the words spoken to her by the nurse only minutes before. Here, in the assisted living home, Susan spent the last several years of her life a frail, quiet, and for the most part, forgotten person.

The final season in life is full of profound changes. In some instances, this is a time of joy, forgiveness, revelation, and wisdom. When given the opportunity to reflect, and share one's legacy with younger generations, some discover new perspectives on life, and may become, for the first time, concerned with the eternal and lasting. Unfortunately, old age can also be fraught with losses and diminutions. Many suffer terribly when their bodies stop working, and they are afflicted by multiple disorders and chronic pain. Old age may involve a loss of autonomy, self-respect, or even purpose. Susan's situation is in no way unusual. Alzheimer's and memory-loss often give rise to the most challenging situations in aging.

All Power Belongs to God

Bishop John addressed the 2014 One Conference, a Pan-Orthodox Youth Gathering in New Jersey, on November 29, 2014.Bishop John addressed the 2014 One Conference, a Pan-Orthodox Youth Gathering in New Jersey, on November 29, 2014.By Bishop John, The Word, January 2015

When someone my age addresses a group of folks your age, you usually hear about how difficult your generation has it: too much technology, too much information, too much change; technology is to be your cross. In return, some of your generation find it difficult to imagine how dinosaurs like me have been able to survive without instant information and constant communication. In some ways, we belong to different worlds, and dinosaurs ought not try to break into an age that has passed them by. For example, each of my three children, independently of each other, told me my smart phone was way too sophisticated for me and that I couldn't learn how to use it. I was proud that I went to the phone store to pick it out by myself! Little did I know how to deal with something that came without instructions. Intuitive, they said at the store. It is user-friendly and you don't need instructions. Intuitive for someone of a different world!

All this is to say that folks of my generation imagine your life to be more challenging and difficult than that of any generation before you. While some speakers will lament how difficult your lives are and will be, and your ministry to witness to a post-modern and post-Christian world is and will be, I stand before you with great hope and trust. I would go so far as to say, encouraged. I am impressed and blessed to be with you today. You warm my heart.

December 31, 2014 + Converting a Psychological State into a Spiritual State

Converting a Psychological State into a Spiritual State:
According to Archimandrite Sophrony & Archimandrite Zacharias

By Rev. Father Timothy Pavlatos, Published digitally by the Greek Metropolis of San Francisco

Earlier this summer, I took a one-week trip to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England, founded by Archimandrite Sophrony, a disciple of St. Silouan the Athonite, in 1959. This was my second trip in the last five years and it was very memorable. One of the highlights of this pilgrimage was the opportunity I had sit down with one elder, Fr. Zacharias, who spoke on a variety of topics concerning the spiritual life. In this article, I want to share with you briefly; one of the themes he shared with a few others and me. I would like to start with a quote from one of his books, The Hidden Man of the Heart (pp. 145-146).

We frequently suffer pain and hurt on the psychological level when we encounter events that crush our heart. But we must rise about the negative experiences and we do so by exploiting the heart-felt pain of a particular incident and convert it into spiritual energy. Fr. Sophrony often stressed that we must learn to transfer every psychological state – whether due to illness, the scorn of other people, persecution, or the incapacity of our nature – onto a spiritual level by means of a positive thought. And we do this simply by keeping our mind in the place where the Son of God is. We think on those things that are on high, as St. Paul advised the Philippians (cf. Phil. 4:8).

Chaplain's Corner + Overcoming the Need for Approval

by Fr. George Morelli

In clinical psychology there is a well-known irrational cognition that prompts dysfunctional emotions such as anxiety and depression and ensuing maladaptive behaviors. The impaired belief or cognition is that: "I must [emphasis mine] be loved or approved by practically every significant person in my life---and if I am not, it's awful [emphasis mine].i It can be noted that must, implies a personal rule or demand. Awful implies that the result is the 'end of the world' 'more than 100% bad. The dire need for approval, as in the case of other irrational beliefs, dis-affirmative emotions and faulty behaviors, lead to a cascading domino of untoward problems. Such need for approval undermines being able to overcome obstacles to attain desirable goals and very often leads individuals to set high standards that are so perfectionistic as to be practically unattainable all with accompanying increasing dysfunctional emotions mentioned above.

Allied Against Criminalizing Christ and His Church

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Winter 2014-2015) originally entitled ALLIES IN THE BATTLE AGAINST THE CRIMINALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY.i This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and that all Christians should ally to cure this increasing societal illness.

The work of Satan, the great divider, or separator, is not new, It goes back to Christ, Himself, His Apostles and Disciples and many early Christians. They were criminals in the eyes of the law, the state. We know from the Holy Gospels and historical accounts that real possession by Satan can occur. However as one Christian author C.S. Lewisii, has pointed out most of the work of Satan is not done by him or his demons, but by us, that is to say, people like you and I. Lewis writes a fictional account of an experienced devil or demon named Screwtape who teaching a novice devil, his nephew called Wormwood to adopt a "war aim," that would entail a, "world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings to himself...." (p. 38). The moral of the story boils down to this: 'you don't have to do much, you can more or less stand back and people will do the Devil's work for you.' This is due to the brokenness, weaknesses, biases, foibles, prejudices and passions we all have, which of course we have inherited from our ancestral parents. (Gn 3)

December 24, 2014 + Selection from St. Romanos Kontakia on the Nativity

The Virgin today gives birth to the superessential One,
And the earth proffers the cave to the unapproachable One.
Angles with the shepherds sing songs of praise;
The Magi, with the star to guide pursue their way. For us there has been born,
A newborn babe, the God before time.

Bethlehem opened Eden, come let us behold;
We have found joy in this hidden place; come let us seize
The pleasures of Paradise within the cave;
There appeared an unwatered root which sprouted forgiveness;
There was found an undug well
From which David once yearned to drink;
And there the Virgin brought forth an infant
Who at once quenched their thirst, that of Adam and of David.
Come, then, let us hasten to this place where there has been born
A newborn babe, the God before time.

December 17, 2014 + The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Children: Ananias, Azarias and Misael

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

All four were of the royal tribe of Judah. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed and plundered Jerusalem, Daniel, as a boy, was carried away into slavery together with the Jewish King Jehoiachim and countless other Israelites. An account of his life, sufferings and prophecies can be found in detail in his book. Completely devoted to God, St. Daniel from his early youth received from God the gift of great discernment. His fame among the Jews in Babylon began when he denounced two lecherous and unrighteous elders, Jewish judges, and saved the chaste Susanna from an unjust death. But his fame among the Babylonians began from the day he deciphered and interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. For this, the king made him a prince at his court. When the king made a golden idol on the Plain of Dura, the Three Children refused to worship it, and for this they were cast into a fiery furnace. But an angel of God appeared in the furnace and cooled the fire so that the children walked around the furnace unharmed by the fire, singing: Blessed art Thou, Lord God of our fathers (Daniel 3:26). The king saw this miracle and was amazed. He then brought the children out of the furnace and bestowed upon them great honors.

Christmas Traditions and Our Time of Glad Tidings and Joy

When people ask me what my family Christmas traditions are, and how we are supposed to feel during this season, I take pause. Are we supposed to have some special family traditions? If I don't, am I somehow deficient or wanting? What are we supposed to feel, and what if I don't feel that way? Our family kept the fast; my wife read the children the Gospel nativity accounts; she made a calendar with daily messages for the forty days before the feast; we went with the parish teens to carol for the shut-ins and nursing homes; she made or bought each child a special Christmas tree ornament; and we always went to Church for the festal liturgy (pretty important for the priest). Those asking, however, must be looking for a more special family tradition. The most memorable tradition for me was setting up the video-camera to catch the excitement of the children as they opened their gifts. Waiting for the camera was painful for the children who had been anticipating their gifts for months.

Christmastime is supposed to be a time of joy, yet, because it reminds us of days gone by, it can also be accompanied by some unfinished grieving for loved ones. We all remember past Christmases, when loved ones now asleep in the Lord were still with us. We remember what they did to add to the holidays. Remembering such times leaves us with mixed emotions. We can hardly expect to feel joyous all the time, yet we can take consolation in what this season brings to us. It brings the Resurrected Lord in the infant Jesus. We celebrate Christ's Nativity, knowing that Christ is risen from the dead. By His death is death destroyed, and we are restored to life. Symeon, the righteous old priest, saw the salvation of mankind in the infant Jesus. We can too, even if the representation of Jesus is a plastic figure in a crowded department store.

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