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October 7, 2015 + Prayer at Daybreak: To Be Said Each Day on Rising from Sleep

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

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

Yes, Lord, in Your immense mercy, lead me by Your Holy Spirit into every good work and word, and grant me to walk all my life long in Your sight without stumbling, according to Your righteousness that You have revealed to us, that I may not add to my transgressions.

O Lord, great in mercy, spare me who am perishing in wickedness; do not hide Your face from me. And when my perverted will would lead me down other paths, do not forsake me, my Savior, but force me back to Your holy path.

The Many Priestly Roles, and Confession

by His Grace Bishop John, The Word, October 2015

Bishop Thomas, Fr. Fred Pfeil, Fr. Joshua Makoul and I spent almost four days at the end of August with all of our seminarians at the Antiochian Village before the seminarians went back to school. This annual program of the Antiochian House of Studies brings together seminarians from three seminaries for fellowship, community-building and a better understanding of Antiochian traditions and practice. The seminarians meet three times during their seminary training to discuss priestly identity, missions and education, and, this year, confession and pastoral counseling. This group of seminarians is bright, dedicated, stable and cooperative.

The bishops and priests leading the retreat reflected on their parish experiences as they shared stories. After some brief priority-setting exercises and discussion, the seminarians used "role-play" to understand better the practice of counseling and confession from the perspectives of the priest and penitent. I will share some of what we discussed to offer some insights into confession, this sometimes underutilized gift of God. We looked at our sacrament from the perspective of "boundaries" or relationships, and discussed how the many roles of the priest affect the praxis, or practice, of this sacrament.

Chaplain's Corner + Courageous Engagement

by Fr. George Morelli

The issue of bystander intervention in crisis situations became a major media and social frenzy as well as a topic of extensive behavioral science investigation after the early morning stabbing murder of a 28 year old woman, Catherine Susan ("Kitty") Genovese, in Queens, NY, on March 13th, 1964. Typical of Initial media reports of the incident was a New York Times front page headline on March 27:: "37 WHO SAW MURDER DIDN'T CALL THE POLICE- Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector." Subsequent investigations did reveal that a couple of individuals did respond, albeit ineffectually.1 However, this incident and reports about it did highlight the general apathy among individuals when confronted with critical incident events. This is what makes those who do act courageously in moments of danger more heroically notable.

Recently, news media worldwide told of the Moroccan alleged terrorist with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on a high speed train. After hearing the first shot he fired, USAF Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (receiving a severe hand wound in the engagement), Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard specialist, accompanied by their friend Anthony Sadler, and joined by British citizen Chris Norman, tackled and subdued the gunman. It was reported that a couple of others also were involved in overcoming the gunman. As the encounter happened on French soil, they were awarded the French Legion of Honor. In giving the award, President François Hollande said, "Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration. . . .Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that."2

September 30, 2015 + The Church of Christ is Alive and Free

A word to Orthodox Christians from Fr. George Calciu (+2006), offered by Fr. Seraphim Rose (+1982) is his lecture entitled "The Orthodox World-View"

The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you cry out: "Lord, help me." You are in Christ's Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail....Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ....Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.'

September 23, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 6

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Father Paisios always insisted by saying:

"When one of our brothers has a negative thought, we must try to kindly and humbly correct it. It is our duty to do so. Today many people, unfortunately including some of our spiritual fathers, instead of trying to correct falsified thoughts, they either consent to them, or even distort the positive ones. I will give you an example so you can understand the way they function:

Suppose a young man says to his spiritual father:
- A friend of mine did this and that to me.
And thus, he starts telling him his negative thoughts about his friend. His spiritual father, instead of trying to change his thoughts and make him love his friend again, views his problem from a social point of view, and wishing to be nice, says to him:

- Since you know what kind of person your friend is, do not pay attention to him. Just ignore him.
The young man may superficially feel better after listening to the words of his spiritual father, but his negative predisposition towards his friend is still inside him. Now, when his friend goes to the same spiritual father to tell him the same things, the spiritual father faces the problem in the same way. He once again regards the problem from a social point of view and calms him down. He lets him, however, keep inside him the negative thoughts he has for his friend.

September 16, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 5

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

The Elder started telling us:

- I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt." There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good. 

Saving God's Creation: Another East-West Alliance

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Summer 2015

Patriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumPatriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumAn exciting convergence of agreement between major Eastern and Western Churches has recently taken place on a critical contemporary moral issue: care for the environment. Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamum has labeled the issue in question existential ecumenism,i because it deals with the problem of living out our lives on earth and cosmos, the creation God has given us dominion over. (Gn 1: 28)

September 9, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 4

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

- When laymen listen to and believe in their own thoughts, they lose their minds, whereas monks are filled with illusions. A monk should not take tranquillizers; his medication is humbleness and repentance. This monk lacks both of these virtues. When these will fill his soul again, all his problems will be solved. Sometimes, he went on, when children behave badly towards their parents or insult them, they immediately start to be receptive to the devil's energies and become confused. By cursing or slandering their parents, they give the devil the right to interfere in their lives and control their actions. The same thing happens to monks, when they accept negative thoughts about their elder or the rest of the monks; this way, they give the right to the devil to fight them. When someone trusts his negative thoughts, he tends to disregard other people's advice. He can only listen to someone whom he absolutely trusts- after his own thoughts. For this reason, when he needs help, he can only accept it from the person he trusts the most. Concerning medication, that is tranquillizers, they may be of some assistance to people in serious conditions, that is, those who are filled with illusions, or are on the verge of losing their minds. If, for example, our fellow man's mental condition is seriously deteriorating, we should give him a certain dose of medication to stabilize it. At the same time, we must show him love and try to correct his negative thinking and persuade him not to listen to his own thoughts. As his condition is improving, the dose of his medication should also be reduced. This should last for a while.

Chaplain's Corner + Undue Concern over Others' Problems

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others problems is that we are not able focus on fostering our own healthy physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."1

Sometimes there are situations in which others' problems do affect us. We may personalize the idea that others are not acting the way we want, taking it as a personal insult or slight. However, as cognitive clinical psychologist, Albert Ellis (1962)2 points out, it is our own "injustice-collecting ideas," or what I would label as our demanding expectations that we be 'justly treated,' that inflates our own feelings of annoyance. For example, if someone acts ill-manneredly towards us, it is our own 'self talk' about it that triggers our untoward feelings: "What rudeness he/she has! How dare he/she do that to me." We insist that others follow our own set of rules. We fail to perceive the reality that people are going to act the way they want, not the way we want them too. A psychological alternative is to stop focusing on our own irrational reaction to what others are doing or not doing so that we are able to focus on calmly and caringly help others in overcoming their impediments and challenges.

September 2, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 3

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

One afternoon, I went to visit the Elder. At the fence of his cell stood a man about thirty years old, waiting for him to open the door. When I arrived, Father Paisios opened his window and asked who it is. I replied:

- It's me, Father, and one layman, I said (and I told him his name).

- Tell the layman to leave, he replied.

Then, the layman said beggingly:
- Father, I really wish to see you.

The Elder answered reproachfully:
- Go, because you upset me as you only trust your own way of thinking and do not listen to what I tell you. Why are you coming here wasting your time?

And he told him to go away. Then, he came and opened the door for me to come in.
- He is a real burden, Father Paisios told me. He does not listen to my words. He comes, ask questions and leaves; after a short while, he comes back and asks me the same things over and over again. This happens because he always listens to his own thoughts; therefore, he forgets what I tell him or does not understand a word.

There was another young man who relied completely on his own thoughts and was led astray. One day, he visited Father Paisios, who told him:
- Do not listen to your thoughts, because you will end up losing your mind. Be careful, you have a very good machine, but its wheel faces the wrong direction. You have to turn it to the right direction, where the good thoughts are. Only you, yourself, can do this along with the help of God. Nobody else can do it for you, as you are free and self-dependent. You turn the wheel and your spiritual father will show you the direction.

August 26, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 2

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Looking at this subject from a different point of view, Elder Paisios stressed and greatly emphasised the specific characteristic of love, that is, that “love is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:4). He used to say that “we should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul." The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on his positive thinking. Our acts depend on and are determined by the “machine” we have inside us, and not by the “material” we digest, or the environment we live in. I will give you an example, so you can better understand what I am trying to say:

If one has a machine that produces bullets and feeds it with the highest quality material, let’s say gold, the machine will still convert gold into bullets, golden but destructive bullets; if he feeds it with silver, then it will produce silver bullets; if he feeds it with iron, it will produce iron bullets, or if he feeds it with clay, it will produce clay bullets. In other words, no matter what material he feeds his machine, it still produces bullets, because it was made to manufacture these destructive products. If someone converts the machine into one that produces holy chalices instead of bullets, then whatever material he feeds it, it will always produces holy chalices. If he puts in the machine clay or iron, it will manufacture clay or iron chalices respectively.

Coming Soon: Focus on the Nicene Creed


A series of bite-sized blogs focusing on the Nicene Creed, beginning September 2015.

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August 19, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 1

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Elder Paisios always urged us to think positively. Our positive thinking, however, should not be our ultimate aim; eventually our soul must be cleansed from our positive thoughts as well, and be left bare having as its sole vestment divine grace granted to us through Holy Baptism. "This is our aim," he used to say, "to totally submit our mind to the grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His grace. In the beginning, we should willingly try to develop positive thoughts, which will gradually lead us to the perfect good, God, to whom belongs every glory, honor and worship; on the contrary, to us belongs only the humility of our conceited attitude."

"We must always be careful and constantly question the nature of our thoughts. When someone is preoccupied and trusts his own way of thinking, he becomes vulnerable to the devil, who is capable of transforming us into sly persons, even when we are honest by nature. The older fathers never trusted their own thoughts. Even for minor problems to which they had to give answers, they prayed to God, or fasted, as a way to "force" divine grace to reveal the answer according to God's will; and after they got the "information", they gave the answer. In our days, when someone has a serious problem and asks for advice, we tend to interrupt him and provide an answer without letting him finish his question first. In this case, we do not only seek the assistance of divine grace, but we also misuse our logic, which was granted to us by God. We are ruled by our own thoughts and unhesitatingly rely on them, very often having to face the disastrous results of our acts."

August 12, 2015 + For a Harmonious Family: A Good Start to Family Life

by St. Paisios the Athonite

—Geronta, a certain young man who has chosen the married life asked me how one properly begins this?

—From the beginning, he should seek to find a good girl who will comfort him, as people are relaxed and find comfort differently with different people. He should not seek to find someone who is rich or beautiful, but above all simple and humble. In other words, he should give more attention to interior rather than exterior beauty. When a girl is a positive person and capable of dealing with men, without having more womanly character than is necessary, this greatly helps the man to find immediate understanding and not a lot of headaches. If she also has fear of God and humility then they are able to join hands and pass the evil current of the world.

If the young man is seriously considering a certain girl for a spouse, I think it is better that he first makes his intentions known to her parents through one of his relatives and afterwards he can discuss it himself with the young lady and her parents. Later, if they give their approval and the two are engaged—and it is better that the engagement not carry on too long—he should strive, throughout the passing time until marriage, to view her as his sister and respect her. If both of them struggle with philotimo and keep their virginity, then in the Mystery of marriage, when the priest crowns them, they will richly take of the Grace of God. For, as St. John Chrysostom says, the crowns are symbols of victory against pleasure.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 8

[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

August 5, 2015 + About How God Whitens the Repentant Sinners

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).

O, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people "laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4), as "princes [rulers] of Sodom" (Isaiah 1:10) and upon the people who have become as the "people of Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:10) - in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance. Just as after terrible lightnings, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord long-suffering [patient] and full of mercy and "neither will He keep His anger forever" (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become "white as snow." The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it.

St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle

His Grace Bishop Anthony has initiated a series of spiritual meditations on the Holy Apostles. The reflection by Fr. Andrew Kishler of St. George Orthodox Church, Spring Valley, IL, is the second in the series.

Few saints are as prominent in our Eastern Orthodox tradition as St. Andrew the Apostle. Various early traditions recount his missionary travels throughout Eastern Europe: what is now Greece, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Our "first among equals," the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, is known as the successor of St. Andrew. Indeed, St. Andrew is dear to the hearts and minds of many Orthodox Christians worldwide.

But before he became the patron saint of some of the most prominent Orthodox nations and sees, who was he? He appears in all four Gospels as one of the Twelve Disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Gospel of St. John informs us that he was the first of the Lord's disciples, hence St. Andrew's title in Greek, "Protokletos" (First-Called). He is not as prominent a personality in the Gospels as some of the others, particularly his more boisterous brother Simon Peter. But St. Andrew is always there, just below the surface. And by observing the few times he rises to the surface of the Gospels, we can discern something about his personality, his close relationship with his Master, and his role as a guide and intercessor for the Holy Church today.

Chaplain's Corner + Fixation on Past History

by Fr. George Morelli

Sometimes we carry around the idea that what we have done in the past is a determiner of what we will do now and in the future. We become, so to speak, captives, prisoners or slaves of our past. A variation of this attitude is that if we have felt strongly about something that has occurred to us in the past, then we are bound to feel the same in the future. Cognitive clinical psychologist Albert Ellis (1962)1 considers such attitudes 'irrational beliefs.' Such attitudes can be subset under a superordinate automatic thought of generalization. (Burns, 19802, Morelli, 20063). That is to say, the thought that events and the way I respond to them will always be the same way and never change. Such attitudes propel a cascade of thought-behavioral scenarios that lead to inaction. For example, a person may focus on failing or performing poorly at a past endeavor, think that they will fail on a new task, and never even try to begin the new task. A functional approach to the difficulty would be to attempt to find a new, that is to say, alternate solution toward accomplishing the task or solving the problem. Many times individuals will simply repeat ineffectual ways of approaching the problem that have proved inadequate in the past and have led to failure. Previous failure becomes a vicious excuse to avoid real, effective problem solving.

July 29, 2015 + On an Orthodox Education

by St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

A thoughtless faith in the omnipotence of humanistic science and education, of culture and the applied arts, as well as in the omnipotence of humanistic civilization, borders on insanity. Through the tragic influence of this thoughtless faith, European education has also created among us the confrontation between the Church and the School, or rather has exceedingly applied its principles in Orthodox countries having officially expelled God from School. This has been disastrous for our Orthodox people. Our intellectuals who have been cut off from their roots are already carrying from these centuries "the lights" of this humanism in order to "rehabilitate" the Orthodox people. The result has been to transform Orthodox countries into slaughter-houses of souls.

...There is only one way to escape final destruction. What is this way? To accept theanthropic education and to apply it completely in all schools, from the greatest to the smallest, and in all state and national institutions. Theanthropic education radiates, illuminates, enlightens with the only inextinguishable and true Light in the entire world, namely with the God-man Christ. Darkness cannot extinguish or hide this Light, not even the darkness of Europe. Only this is capable of expelling all darkness from man, from society, from the people, and from the state. This, the only true Light, illuminates every man in the nucleus of his being and reveals to each one of us our immortality, our own divine and eternal brother. It teaches us that only then can the problems of man and the problems of society, the problems of the nation and the problems of humanity, be easily understood and solved when they are examined through the God-man Christ.

July 22, 2015 + On Grace: Part 2

A Homily by St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea

Is it sufficient for us to receive grace once from God, which sanctifies us in the great Sacrament of Baptism? No, it is not sufficient, not at all, we need much, much more. Know that for a virtuous life, to gain Christian virtues, to follow the thorny path of Christ, one must constantly receive God's grace. Only sanctified by grace can we traverse the hard, thorny path, full of suffering, after Christ. We must learn to trust God, love Christ, and remember always His holy words: I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit ... Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (Jn. 15:1-2; 4-5).

Remember these words well: without me ye can do nothing. If you do not abide in the love of Christ, if you are not fed by the juices from the root of the Divine Vine, then you cannot perform any good, and you shall remain alone in your feebleness, in your wretchedness. Everything that is done in you by the grace of God is done by the Father Himself through Jesus Christ: He alone will confirm you in all your good deeds, and without Him you can do nothing.

July 15, 2015 + On Grace: Part 1

A Homily by St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Great Apostle Paul says of himself: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

See how the greatest of the Apostles speaks of himself, that it was not he that had labored, it was not he that had done the great works, enlightened the whole world, but the grace of God which was with him. He does not ascribe anything to himself although great were his works, his sufferings for Christ were innumerable, but he attributes nothing to himself, only to God's grace. Is it for us the weak, for us negligent Christians to ascribe to ourselves the good which we had performed once or will perform? Is it for us not to notice the source of all good—the grace of God?

The word "grace" you hear often, very often, at every divine service. The word "grace" may be found on almost every page of the New Testament, but in the Old Testament this word is rarely mentioned, very rarely, indeed. Why is it so: why is grace so often spoken of in the New Testament? Because the source of grace is in our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). This is the greatest grace, this is the source and beginning of all grace—the redemption of mankind through the Most Pure Blood of Christ: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

Smart Parenting XXV: "Yes, Virginia, Second and Third Hand Smoking is Child Abuse"

by Fr. George Morelli

A recent Google Alert on Psychology referenced an article addressing the effects of exposure to tobacco smoke titled - I pray facetiously as a question - "Is Secondhand Smoke Child Abuse?"1 The answer is obviously: "Yes!" Even those who would argue contra-wise would at the very least maintain that exposing children to secondhand smoke is a "moral failure" that needs addressing by mental health practitioners. I would be remiss if I did not add a couple of increasingly occurring unhealthy, and thus abusive, habits related to smoking: vaping, a recently emerging health hazard, and even some culturally sanctioned perilous practices such as 'hookah' smoking.

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?

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