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Who Is Our Peace? + A Reflection on the State of the World Now

by Fr. George Shalhoub of the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan
A sermon delivered Sunday, November 15, 2015, in the wake of the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris


In the light of the constant atrocities, murder, suicide bombings, the war ravaging the world today, I wish to share with you the following:

As we enter the Holy Advent Season, we shall also gather, as families, to celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of a world gone mad. We need to keep our eyes open through prayer to Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the world.

November 25, 2015 + Rejoice, Christ Draweth Nigh

ODE 8 – Tone 2

At one time in Babylon by a commandment divine, the fiery furnace operated in a contrary way: the Chaldeans it consumed by fire, but it refreshed the faithful, bedewing them, as they chanted: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord.

Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.

Seeing the height of the mystery beyond words which covered over the heavens with knowledge, the Lady, the blameless one, was struck with amazement, and she said: "The throne of heaven, holding thee, is aflame; O my Son, how is it then that I may carry thee?"

Chaplain's Corner + The Best Thanksgiving is Giving

by Fr. George Morelli

All have heard the popular aphorism 'it is more blessed to give than to receive.' Well, it turns out that the blessing received by giving may be more extensive than previously imagined. For example, a recent survey indicated that those who had a practice of giving reported greater physical health, an elevated level of happiness and well-being as well as a substantial attenuation of feelings of stress.1 Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings? On the value of putting the 'social´ in prosocial spending, the answer is definitively yes.2 Other studies indicate that giving thoughtful, empathic (giving something meaningful to the recipient) gifts brings the gifts gives the gift giver the greatest overall satisfaction.3 This implies that seeing the person you are giving to as a unique person is more efficacious in bringing about the 'blessings' in giving, versus contributing to the masses. As St. (Mother) Theresa of Calcutta put it: "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one [the single individual], I will."4

As any individual in mankind is a unity of body, mind and spirit, a spiritual connection to giving can aid in our understanding of generosity, and even prompt us to be giving thanks by giving. One recent study on philanthropy (gift giving) concluded: "The more important religion is to a person, the more likely that person is to give to a charity of any kind, according to new research released today."5

Spiritual Nuggets + November 22, 2015

9th Sunday of Luke

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

Blessed Fast!

This Sunday we read Luke 12:16-21, Christ's parable of the Plentiful Harvest. St Theophylact of Ochrid (The Explanation of St. Luke, page 148, tr. Fr. Christopher Stade, Chrysostom Press, House Springs, MO, 1997, pg 148) explains the disturbing phrase that your soul will be required of you that we'll read this Sunday.

May God bless us as we draw near to God in the Nativity Fast and also in the joy of the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God.

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

Notice the words 'they will require.' Like some stern imperial officers demanding tribute, the fearsome angels will ask for your soul, and your will not want to give it because you love this life and claim the things of this life as your own. But they do not demand the soul of a righteous man, because he himself commits his soul into the hands of the God and Father of spirits, and he does so with joy and gladness, not in the least bit grieved that he is handing over his soul to God.
- Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Spiritual Nuggets + November 15, 2015

8th Sunday of Luke - The Good Samaritan

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

This Sunday we read the Parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. The following brief excerpt from St. Nicholai's homily this on (Homilies, Vol. 2, 266) reminds us of the simplicity of our life in Christ.

I hope this propels us into the coming Nativity Fast with zeal and joy in service and self-sacrifice.

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

See how, by this parable, the Lord brings both commandments about love together in one, Loving Him as our closest Neighbor, we thus love both God and man, and so fulfill at one stroke both commandments on love.
- St. Nicholai of South Canaan

November 18, 2015 + Reflection on Giving Alms to the Poor

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The Lord said: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40).

Similar things happen in almsgiving and in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we receive the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of bread and wine; in almsgiving we give to the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of the poor and needy. A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: "Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn't believe it, for I thought, 'How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?' However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ's face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can."

Spiritual Nuggets + November 8, 2015

Holy Archangels

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

As we celebrate the feast of the great Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the Heavenly Hosts this Lord's Day, I hope that you are edified by the following teaching from St. Maximos the Confessor.

There are three things that impel us towards what is holy: natural instincts, angelic powers and probity of intention. Natural instincts impel us when, for example, we do to others what we would wish them to do to us (cf. Luke 6:31), or when we see someone suffering deprivation or in need and naturally feel compassion. Angelic powers impel us when, being ourselves impelled to something worthwhile, we find we are providentially helped and guided. We are impelled by probity of intention when, discriminating between good and evil, we choose the good.
- St. Maximos the Confessor (Second Century on Love no. 32)

May they not depart from us despite our stubbornness in sin!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

PS - I also encourage everyone to read the following treatises on the Angelic Hosts:

November 11, 2015 + Akathist to the Mother of God: Nurturer of Children

Victorious Leader and Good Nurturer of the Christian race, we Thy servants, delivered from evil, sing out grateful thanks to Thee. But as Thou hast invincible might deliver my children from all dangers that with tears I may cry to Thee: Raise my children (names), to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and make them heirs of eternal blessings.

Ikos 1
Intercede with Thy Son and God, O most Holy One, that an angel from heaven be sent to my children, just as to Thee was sent a most mighty protector, the Archangel Gabriel; and vouchsafe me to cry to Thee thus:
Raise my children to be earthly angels.
Raise my children to be heavenly men.
Raise my children to be Thy servants.
Raise my children to cry out to Thee:
"Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord with Thee!"
Raise my children (names), O Lady, to be made
worthy of the Kingdom Of Heaven and make
them heirs of eternal blessings.

Spiritual Nuggets + November 1, 2015

5th Sunday of Luke

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

This Sunday we are reading our Lord's Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. I'd like to share this true and terrible corollary from St. Ephrem the Syrian (Commentary of Tatian's Diatessarion 15:12-13) to help us broaden our Lord's teaching to encompass more than than just physical alms.

"We can not hope for pardon at the end unless the fruit of pardon can be seen in us."
- St. Ephrem the Syrian

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

November 4, 2015 + The Cross as a Means of Sanctification and Transformation of the World

by Protopresbyter Dumitru Staniloae

...The Cross is the cleansing force of the universe. And when we make the sign with faith and determination, for a pure life in the world, the power of the Spirit of Christ comes, of Him Who was pure in the world. And we avoid sin and await death. The Cross gives us this power of Christ because, bearing it in mind, we want to imitate its example and behave in the world without selfish passions, in a spirit of mature restraint, peace and concord with others.

"The Cross is a weapon against the devil," sings the Orthodox Church. It's a weapon against all those temptations and machinations of the devil, against the passions which cause altercations, against intractability. The Cross is a weapon against the devil insofar as it reinforces within us the spirit of sacrifice, of communion with God and each other.

Only the Cross, by taming our selfish passions and loosening our excessive attachment to the world, which is held to be the only reality, can bring lasting peace among people and nations.

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph's Address to St. Vladimir's Seminary

Crestwood, New York – Sept 14, 2015

Your Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Your Eminences, Your Graces, Father John, Father Chad, reverend fathers, and beloved faculty and students of Saint Vladimir's seminary,

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 

It is my joy to be present with you as you begin your new academic year, with your classes having already begun, and your studies as students, and burdens as professors, already well underway!

St. Vladmir's Seminary has a long history of educating leaders and theologians, and many of our clergy and hierarchs have come to us with the firm foundation that has been imparted to them through their education at St. Valdimir's Seminary.  This legacy is greatly appreciated by all of us. St. Vladimir's Seminary and the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese have a rich, positive and fruitful history, and I pledge to do all that I can during my tenure as Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of North America to maintain and enhance this relationship.

Allow me to make some points in this short talk, using St. Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn, as an example to illustrate what is important.

Have the Antiochians Changed Their Minds?

5th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Photo: GANP/Dimitrios Panagos5th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Photo: GANP/Dimitrios Panagosby His Grace Bishop John, The Word, November 2015

Many are asking if the Antiochians have changed their minds about Orthodox unity in America. Our response to the Proposal of the Canonical Regional Planning Committee printed in The WORD deserves some clarication. After all, Patriarch Ignatius IV, Metropolitan Antony and Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory, as well as the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America have been calling for administrative unity for almost a century. We must have a detailed understanding of the terms under which this unity will be achieved, however. There are many questions which still remain unanswered, and until we have detailed answers it is entirely possible that the proposed unity will not uplift the Church in America, but may very well cause harm, which can never be allowed.

Metropolitan Joseph has reassured us that he remains committed to the process of bringing administrative unity to the new world, and more. "More" means a united outreach to the unchurched Orthodox and non-Orthodox in the neighborhoods of our churches. "More" means mutual respect and cooperation of all people. "More" means meeting the real needs of the faithful in all of our Churches. "More" means that Orthodox churches in the new world take care of everybody, regardless of ethnic identity. To do this we need to be creative, cooperative, open to God and willing to work with each other. In Metropolitan Joseph's words, "While the idea of the Assembly is noble, we need to address many concerns."

October 28, 2015 + The Path to Salvation

by St. Ambrose of Optina

Our salvation, according to St. Peter Damascene, is located between fear and hope, so that we do not have self-confidence and do not despair, but with blessed hope in the mercy and help of God, we strive to conduct a life in fulfillment of the Divine commandments.

According to human reasoning, the path of salvation, it would seem, should be a smooth path, quiet and peaceful; but according to the words of the Gospel, this path is sorrowful, difficult, and narrow. The Lord said, I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).

What does a person need in order to learn the ways of the Lord? A person needs to be meek and humble, and then the Lord Himself will teach him how to walk the way of the Lord.

Spiritual Nuggets + October 18, 2015

The Holy Apostle Luke

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

Blessed Fast!

The following is from the life of St. Luke (The Great Synaxaristes: October; Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, CO, 2002. page 357):

Saint Luke was a painter.... acceding to the pious desire of the early Christians, was the first to paint the image of the all-holy Theotokos.... On seeing the icons, she said: "May the grace of Him Who was born of me, through me, be imparted to them."

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

October 21, 2015 + On the Benefits of Knowing Holy Scripture

by St. Theophan the Recluse ca. 1815-1894

Psalm 118:16 - On Thy statutes will I meditate; I will not forget Thy words.

St. Basil the Great bears witness that in his time children were made to memorize some psalms and parables. Do we do anything like that now? Is anything like that done by those who have taken up the yoke of asceticism? Yes, in many ways we have fallen behind the salutary practices of old. This, however, does not diminish the value of what is described in this verse. It means the following: Memorize verses of Scripture considered in the preceding text, and repeat what was memorized whenever the mind and speech are free. The Hebrew word corresponding to will meditate means "to turn over with delight in the mind and on the tongue" — as one might a piece of candy, for instance. Such an occupation could be offered to all who sincerely seek to please God in all.

Among us, amy of those living ascetic lives read the Psalter at home in their cells. This partly fulfills the lesson of our verse. And perhaps home prayers, personal and monastic, could be regarded as this type of activity. But more directly it means: to intentionally choose passages of the Holy Scriptures for memorizing and then repeating them in our minds.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 9

[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

Spiritual Nuggets + October 11, 2015

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

The following from St. Cyril of Alexandria's "Sermon on the Parable of the Sower" (quoted in The Bible and the Holy Fathers ed. Johanna Manley, Monastery Books, Menlo Park, CA, 1990; page 220) is an invitation for us to have beautiful and productive.

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

Good and Beautiful are the souls who take deeply into themselves the seeds of the Word, and keep them and tend them with care.
- St. Cyril of Alexandria


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

October 14, 2015 + On How the Angels Do Battle for the Righteous

Homily by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them (Psalm 34:7).

The angel of the Lord will do battle for those who fear God. This has been clearly shown many times, as has been recorded; and it has occurred numberless times that have not been recorded. The Archangel Michael took up arms for Joshua, the Son of Nun. An angel did battle for the righteous King Hezekiah and, in one night, destroyed the army of the Chaldeans. How many times have angels visited the Christian apostles and martyrs of in prison, strengthened them, and caused them to rejoice? The consolation of the righteous one comes from knowing that God is All-seeing, and sees his misfortune; that God is Omnipotent, and has power to save him from misfortune; that God is All-merciful, and will save him from misfortune. God will send His radiant angel to the aid of the righteous. The righteous one will not have to struggle against his tyrant, for the angel of God will do battle in his place. When God's angel takes up arms, what army dares confront him? What empire will wage war against him? In an earlier Psalm, the Prophet David says: No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety (Psalm 33:16-17).

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)

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