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May 20, 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."

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 6

[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

Factors Affecting Human Behavior

Icon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderIcon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderSuch Church Fathers as St. John of the Ladder and St. Gregory Palamas indicate that continual sin becomes habitual. [Thereby making behavioral patterns less voluntary.] Habits can make the spirit dark. They work by blackening our minds, which guides and inclines people to do things they would not normally think of. (Palmer, 1984-93) The Church Fathers suggest reducing the strength of habits by removing sensory factors and stopping memories [thoughts] as they begin. With repetition, these new techniques become stronger. This is not unlike the 'thought stopping' techniques proposed by Cognitive-behavioral therapists. For the Christian, putting these techniques in a spiritual perspective, as suggested by the Church Fathers, provides added motivation and rationale for the treatment.

April 1, 2015 + The Love a Husband and Wife Owe Each Other

by St. Paisios the Athonite

Each loves the other for what he offers [to that person]. The wife gives her husband confidence, dedication and obedience. The husband gives his wife assurance that he can protect her. The wife is the ruler of the house, but also the chief maid. The husband is the governor of the house, but also the servant. The husband and wife must share a purifying love, in order to have mutual consolation and to be able to perform their spiritual responsibilities. In order to live in harmony, they need to establish love as the foundation of their lives together – precious love – which is found in spiritual nobility, in sacrifice and not in falsity, worldiness and carnality. If there is love and sacrifice, everything that effects one also effects the other, and can be understood and suffered. And when we sees that his beloved suffers some heartache, he takes them to Christ, who fills them with inexpressible joy ...

Chaplain's Corner + True Happiness

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a tendency in our society to point to outside events in and of themselves as the cause of our happiness or unhappiness. This is followed by the idea that individuals have limited power to control their emotional responses to such happenings. While it is true that physical assaults, depending on their gravity, could certainly harm us, psychological assaults are a different matter. Emotional responses, such as demanding expectations and overevaluations are often triggered by irrational beliefs specific to each individual. These irrational beliefs have been noted by the observations of clinical cognitive psychologists, such as Albert Ellis (1962, p.72)1 and others.  Especially in this day of instantaneous social media, I want to make clear that in no way am I condoning or excusing the proliferation of socially deviant egregious behaviors, such as bullying, harassment or sexting. However, understanding that we can develop control over our emotional reactions to such untoward events can aid us in walking a path leading to true happiness. Failure to do so leads to a cascading scenario of untoward events. A particularly nasty situation may in reality be quite unpleasant. However, a strong emotional reaction to it, which is also unpleasant, just adds to the problem. Furthermore, the more strongly emotionally reactive we are to such events, the less effectively competent we are at coping with them or in solving unpleasant events that can be changed.2 Thus, though we are now undergoing another bitter event, it is one which we can do something about.

March 25, 2015 + The Christian's Road

St. Macarius the Great, Homily 15 from Spiritual Homilies

12. The men of God, then, ought to prepare themselves for conflict and combat. As a brave young man bears the blows that fall on him, and the wrestling match, and hits back, so Christians ought to put up with afflictions without and wars within, in order that, though belabored, they may conquer by endurance. That is the Christian's road. Where the Holy Spirit is, there follow, like a shadow, persecution and wrestling. You see the prophets, how they were persecuted by their countrymen from first to last, while the Holy Spirit worked upon them. You see how the Lord, who is the Way and the Truth, was persecuted, not by another nation, but by His own. By His own race of Israel He was persecuted and crucified. So was it with the apostles. The Paraclete Spirit removed from the quarter whence the cross came, and passed to the Christians. No Jew was persecuted; Christians were the only martyrs. For this reason they ought not to be surprised. The truth must needs be persecuted.

March 18, 2015 + Cleaving to the Lord Firstly

St. Macarius the Great, Homily 9 from Spiritual Homilies

12. Lovely it is, when the soul, devoting herself wholly to the Lord, and cleaving to Him only, and dwelling mindfully in His commandments, and worthily honoring the Spirit of Christ which has come upon her and overshadowed her, is permitted to be one Spirit and one composition with Him, as the apostle says, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.13 But if a man gives himself away to cares, or glory, or power, or human honors, and seeks after these things, and his soul is mixed up and enters into composition with earthly considerations, or is bound and held by anything belonging to this age, and if such a soul longs to transfer itself and escape and get away from the darkness of passions, in which it is held by the evil powers, it cannot do so, because it loves and does the will of darkness, and does not perfectly hate the practices of wickedness.

The Great Lent: Message From Patriarch John X

By God's mercy
John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all East
Brethren, Pastors of the Holy Church of Antioch;
Beloved children in all dioceses in this apostolic see

Brethren and dearest spiritual children,
whose strength and anticipation in God, strengthen ours;

Entering this redemptive period which leads us to the Cross (of Christ) and the dawn of His and thus our resurrection, these days bring to us the anticipation to Jesus and His divine consolation for His beloved humans; for whom He descended from His highest, incarnated in the Virgin, submitting Himself to the human law, willingly walking the path of the Cross, in order to rise from the dead, becoming the first fruit for our resurrection from our earthly misery and tribulation.

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply www.uncutmountainsupply.com“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply www.uncutmountainsupply.comby His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D., The Word, May 2015

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

We ask God, "Why?" We ask each other, "What can be done?" We wonder what kind of response there can be to this horrifying new reality, the spirit of takfirism, the mindset that makes religious accusation of others into a way of life, enforced by death and suffering for those who do not measure up to the ideology of these armies that sweep across that ancient, sanctified land.

How are we to understand what is happening? There is no shortage of analysis in the news and debate among our political leaders. But their answers do not satisfy, do they?

Christians who belong to the Orthodox Church are well acquainted with martyrdom, even if we ourselves do not live in places where our family and friends are being killed for Christ. Martyrdom forms the whole narrative shape of our history. Our calendar of saints is filled with thousands of martyrs' names, and there are millions more whose names we do not know. It was martyrdom itself which gave rise to our whole concept of having publicly venerated saints.

On the First Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of Metropolitan Philip

by Fr. Joseph Antypas

March 19 marks the first anniversary of the falling asleep of the thrice-blessed and our Father in Christ of the late Metropolitan Philip. There is not a single day that passes without remembering the life and the contributions of this giant of a man, who has endeared himself to the cause of spreading Antiochian Orthodoxy in North America, and who has left a tremendous impact on the institutions that belong to the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. People continue to remember and sometimes are visited in dreams, recalling Metropolitan Philip and his dynamic ministry in the life of American Orthodoxy in general and Antiochian Orthodoxy in particular.

On the occasion of his anniversary I want to focus on three areas that characterized this 'world historical individual', to use the expression of the German philosopher George Hegel.

First, Metropolitan Philip believed in the value of the human person. He provided to the ministries of the Antiochian Archdiocese an army of men and women. Some went to seminaries so they became priests and deacons, and some were promoted into the office of the bishop. Others took leading positions in the various institutions and church organizations. He established a great rapport with all those who worked with him, promoting the goals and aspirations of the Holy Church.

March 11, 2015 + Grace and Works

"No good works are accomplished by our efforts alone but by the power and will of God. Nevertheless, God demands effort on our part in conforming to His will." These are the words of Saints Barsanuphius and John. Few words but much said. We are obliged to labor, to cultivate and to prepare every good thing, and if some good will take root, grow and bring forth fruit, that is up to the power and will of God. We plow the furrows and God sows, if He wills it. We cleanse the vessels of the Spirit and God pours the Spirit into these vessels, if He wills it. He can do anything if He wills it. And He will do everything that responds to the highest wisdom and suitability, that is, to His plan of man's salvation. In interpreting the words of our Lord, "So be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (St. Matthew 10:16), St. John Chrysostom writes that our Lord gave this commandment to His disciples that "they themselves should cooperate in some way, so that it will not to appear that all effort is of Grace alone and for them not to think that they received the wreaths of glory for nothing." And so, both of them are indispensable for our salvation: our effort and the power of God's Grace.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid: Lives of the Saints, March 11th

Panegyric for St. Raphael

by Fr. John W. Fenton, The Word, April 2015

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).

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