Even a casual look at the world today would reveal an abundance of self-centeredness and fixation on ideologies. Compassion is well hidden. This despite many of the world religions and the findings of psychologists teaching that mercy and compassion lead to favorable personal and social outcomes. The Hebrew prophet Ezra tells us,” For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him." (2Chr 30: 9). Buddha taught that, "Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." [http://www.compassion.ancientfountainofyouth.com/about.html].
Our Eastern Church Father St. Isaac of Syria links compassion to an essential characteristic of God Himself: "God's holy nature is so good and compassionate that it is always seeking to find some small means of setting us right." St. Isaac also points out that, "Among all God's actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." (Brock, 1997).
...but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through... kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love.... (2 Cor 6:4,6)
In a recent Smart Parenting essay on the spiritual and practical aspects of love (Morelli, 2011), I start out simply with St. John's most profound yet un-complex understanding of God: "God is love." (1 Jn 4:16). This love is shown in the relation of the persons of the Holy Trinity amongst themselves, God's creation and continuing care for His people, and the self-emptying (kenotic) love Christ has for us by His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection for our salvation. I then go on to point out that we must understand the meaning and application of Divine Love in our families and to the world. We have to emulate in our own lives this same love and model this to our children and others by our behaviors, which should be:
a set of actions that are aimed at the good and welfare of the other. Love means having truly beneficent care for the welfare of others in thought word and deed.
In a follow-up essay, (Morelli, 2011b) I point out that if love is understood in this way, we would be given one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace. And in turn, children disposed to peace in working through their relationships with others.
by Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
from The Word, October 1958
“And God spoke all these words, saying,
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.
- “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.
- “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- “Honor thy father and thy mother.
- “Thou shalt not kill.
- “Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- “Thou shalt not steal.
- “Thou shalt not bear false witness.
- “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:1-17)
In the Ten Words, or the Ten Commandments, which God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai we find the foundation upon which rests the structure of our civilization. The Ten Commandments are timeless and ageless. There will never be an age or a civilization when it will be right to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, or to lie. The Ten Commandments are a moral conviction which binds mankind together. They echo in all the Churches of Christendom. They constitute the most ancient of all creeds, to which men of good will everywhere give assent. They strike a universal chord and sound the music of that eternity which God hath set in the heart of man.
“For all of us who doubt the strength of our faith; for all of us who are not called to be eaten by lions, or thrown into a fiery furnace; for all of us who are not called to die for our faith; those holy apostles, those twelve men, they knew the one thing we would need most, our life-preserver in a sea of trouble, our sanctuary from those who tempt us, our teacher to help guide our course: those amazing, gifted men of the priestly ranks.”
I am so grateful that I was born into the Orthodox faith. There are so many people who wander about in this world with no sense of purpose or belonging, but never an Orthodox Christian. Every Orthodox Christian knows exactly why they are here. In God’s plan, He made all of us, male and female, in His image. And the purpose of our life is to see the image of God in ourselves and in everyone around us. In my most recent understanding, I am not merely an Orthodox Christian because my parents thought I should be baptized. I am not merely an Orthodox Christian because my family goes to church on Sunday mornings and other holidays. I am an Orthodox Christian because of the choices I make every single day. I didn’t get here by accident and I didn’t get here simply because I was born into a certain ethnicity. But I got here, at this point in my life, because of the people in my life. And while I will forever be grateful for my grandparents, and parents, and aunts, and uncles, and even my cousins, I am personally humbled by the relationships I have had with the men who have dared to wear that distinctive collar, who drop to their knees, and fight for me, like a man after God’s own heart.
by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, May 1967
“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with... ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciple saw it, (they said) “Why this waste? This ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. Jesus said... ‘She has done a beautiful thing to me. For the poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.’” (Matt. 26:6)
Generally, there are two types of critics of the Church, both of whom see the Church imperfectly.
On the one side, there are the activists, whose idea of Christianity is almost exclusively that of social welfare. They see the need for action and reform at every level of society. Salvation as a goal is replaced by human improvement. Christianity is to witness to the world its concern for humanity.
The Church for the activists fails because it concerns itself with dogmatic Truths that are not “relevant” for “modern man.” The Church as an institution no longer “relates” to society; therefore, it must redeem itself.
At the other extreme are the contemplatives, who see everything in the light of eternity. This world is sinful and corrupt; it has always been so, and will be this way until the Second Coming. All this will pass, so there is no need to be concerned about world conditions… “God will provide” is their motto, so we waste our time getting involved in the world.
by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, September 2000
On the Sunday following the Exaltation of the Cross we hear Christ say: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”
On the face of it, this seems a hard statement, this demand to deny ourselves and take up a cross. After all, I already have so many demands and responsibilities placed on my shoulders. I have to pay the bills, raise the kids, clean the house, go to work, go to school, please my spouse, take care of my failing health. . . how can I place a cross on my shoulders when I’m already carrying so much?
I’ll go to church, pay my assessment, pray before dinner — that’s about all I can handle. We read these words of Christ and they sound like a demand, a requirement. It sounds burdensome to carry a cross, to deny myself, to lose my life in order to find it. It almost sounds like a form of slavery, this demand to deny myself.
Just the opposite is true. Christ promised us that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Christ came into the world not to bring slavery, but to bring liberation — liberation from sin and death. It is sin and death to which we are enslaved. The way of the cross is the way to freedom.
by V. Rev. Fr. James Meena
from The Word, September 1987
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we hear Jesus quote the ancient scripture from the prophesies of Isaiah and from that moment on, He began to preach this message: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand,” (4:12-17). Those particular words have stirred up some anxiety and fear in the hearts of people without warrant for many years. Jesus was not threatening us, nor should we interpret this statement, as do some of our fellow Christians, as being just a precautionary admonition, “repent or else,” because the scriptures are filled with “or elses.” It was not necessary for Jesus to come and to utter another one. What He was saying is, in effect, prepare yourself for it because there is no way that you can enter into that kingdom so long as you bear in your conscience the brands of sin and guilt for having transgressed the commandments of God.
Now Jesus, though He is the Son of God, was steeped in scripture. All throughout the testaments of the four evangelists, we find Jesus quoting the scriptures and it is necessary for us to learn from His example that it is necessary for us to be able to understand scripture, not merely to memorize chapter and verse, for Jesus simply stated: “The prophet Isaiah said,” and He knew that the people to whom He was speaking understood because they knew the scriptures. It is necessary however for us to know the spirit of scripture, its teachings, its intent.
Part 3: Where Does It Take Place?
In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye discusses the beginnings of the Sunday School, and the reasons it became relegated to formal Sunday morning classes exclusively. In this section, she encourages us to expand our vision of Christian Education beyond the traditional Sunday morning box, to examine the one-room schoolhouse model , and the homeschooling concept of education.
The one-room school model is firmly fixed in American history, as it was the way early small communities collaborated to educate their children. This form of education is certainly custom made for the small church school, which must of necessity have groups with a range of ages, as did the one-room schoolhouse. In this sort of setting, older children learn while helping younger ones, and younger children have the older students as ready-made role models. Each student learns at his own pace, and receives individual attention from the teacher, and there is very little presented in the group lesson format.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel According to St. Matthew
". . . But when the young man heard it, he went away sorrowful" (Matthew 19:22)
After this the evangelist, as it were to show that he hath not felt anything it was unlikely he should feel, saith, "For he had great possessions." For they that have little are not equally held in subjection, as they that are overflowed with great affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical. Which thing I cease not always saying, that the increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders the getters poorer, inasmuch as it puts them in greater desire, and makes them have more feeling of their want.
See, for example, even here what strength did this passion exhibit. Him that had come to Him with joy and forwardness, when Christ commanded him to cast away his riches, it so overwhelmed and weighed down, as not to suffer him so much as to answer touching these things, but silenced and become dejected and sullen to go away.
What then saith Christ? "How hardly shall the rich enter into the kingdom of Heaven!" blaming not riches but them that are held in subjection by them. But if the rich man "hardly," much more the covetous man. For if not to give one's own be an hindrance to entering the kingdom, even to take of other men's goods, think how much fire it heapeth up.
Why can it have been, however, that He said to His disciples, that "hardly shall a rich man enter in," they being poor men, and having no possessions? Instructing them not to be ashamed of their poverty, and, as it were, excusing Himself to them for suffering them to have nothing.
The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings (Ps 144: 17)
Even a casual reader of the articles I write cannot help but notice the spiritual emphasis, based on the example of Christ Himself, that I place on kindliness, forgiveness and Godliness. (Morelli, 2006b, 2007a, 2007b) Therefore, it should come as no surprise how spiritually upsetting a recent opinion piece by a Russian journalist which was forwarded to me:
One value that the . . . Orthodox Church does not have enough of is kindness and compassion. The upholding of ritual and rules often supplants genuine feeling and compassion. Among Orthodox priests there are many who would sternly tell a woman, “cover your head” in church, oblivious to the fact that the woman is trying to calm down her crying child and has no time to find or readjust her headscarf. A sad young woman who comes to a church to seek solace may hear: “You can’t wear trousers here.” I have witnessed such scenes myself and I can imagine how many souls have been turned away by such uncharitable severity. As long as the . . . Orthodox priest does not become a shepherd first and an administrator second, the faith of many . . . will remain a dream and not a source of spiritual fortitude.i
What a sad account about some who are supposed to pastor the people of God! Now I would like to dismiss such stories as isolated incidents or mere accidents. Unfortunately, I myself have been subjected to similar treatment by hierarchs and priests, and I have witnessed laity being similarly treated. Regrettably, I have also heard numerous complaints from pious individuals visiting parishes and monasteries describing very similar situations.
The display of anger is so common that it frequently goes unnoticed. Rather, it has become the expected response to any slight, no matter how trivial or harsh, given to someone by someone else in society. Some "getting back at" or "vengeance" is the norm. No one is exempt, parents, coaches, athletes, referees, police officers, teachers or those acquitted of a criminal offense. Interestingly, a recent news report noted that displaying anger at subordinates, especially combined with the use of scatological words, has also become the required norm to be an effective leader. [http://www.blogging4jobs.com/business/swearing-makes-you-a-better-leader/]
Psychologically, anger occurs because we perceive ourselves to be "intruded on" to the extent that it justifies aggression, vengeance, and retaliation. To display this level of anger we have to have to see ourselves as very 'important.' St. Basil tells us "Anger nurses a grievance. The soul, itching for vengeance, constantly tempts us to repay those who have offended" [St Basil the Great, Homily 10]. I am so important, so above others that I have the "right" to act uncharitably toward others. Note that I am making an important distinction between annoyance, which in fact could motivate a useful adaptive response such as being more focused or trying harder, with real anger.
There may be some who would perceive angry individuals as effective leaders, but, in general, psychologists have found damaging boomerang effects for anger displays: relationships are fermented, people will tend to retaliate; it cognitively distracts from solving problems, and even if what I am angry about has some truth to it, my over-reaction lessens my credibility.
by Seminarian Joshua Makoul
from The Word, September 1999
In a world so consumed and fixated with worldly pleasures and riddled with secularism, it has become dangerously easy for the Christian to lose touch with his identity as a child of God and to forget who he is and why he lives. Each day we are bombarded by forces that smother the Spirit in us and attempt to strangle the life of Christ in us. This is a process that happens very subtly, without us hardly even noticing it. We are reminded of the parable of the sower who went out to sow his seeds, and “some of the seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked the seed so that it became unfruitful” (Matthew 13:7). Perhaps the greatest danger to the Christian living in the world today is to allow that gradual process to take hold in his or her life, in which we gradually become less mindful of the things of the Spirit: prayer, confession, scripture reading; less sensitive to sin, more mindful of material pleasures, and increasingly attached to life in this world. It is a subtle process through which, without us hardly noticing it, our life, our inner life, fades away and becomes hardly distinguishable from the life or existence of the non-believer. Before we realize it we have become the prodigal son who, this time unknowingly, wanders away from the Father and finds himself far away and almost unrecognizable to himself. It seems that we are in need of reminders and examples to help us remain vigilant to who we are and why we are here.
Part 2: It's all About People!
In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reminds us that Christian education, like so many other things in life, is not primarily about programs or curriculum, it is about people. When you are talking about a smaller church and its educational program, this is even more the case. In a smaller church, you do not have the large numbers to draw from for participation, everyone knows everyone else, and in general, healthy interaction with the people involved becomes even more crucial. The history of the parish comes into play, and so do the personalities of the parishioners. Positively, in smaller programs, the talents and good will of the people are often the greatest assets of the church school.
Tye feels, along with most educators and psychologists, that there are three aspects of the human being that must be taken into account when teaching them- especially children:
by Fr. Theodore Ziton
from The Word, April 1968
The candle is one of the oldest and the most widely used sacramentals in the Church. It is one of the richest religious symbols or instruments used to express spiritual ideas. It is seen glowing throughout the entire Church and is used in every Sacrament except that of Confession.
Two things are needed for the illumination of the Church. They are oil and wax. The oil which comes from the fruit of the olive tree is symbolic of the grace of God. It is an indication that the Lord sheds His grace upon men, while men on their sides are ready to offer Him in sacrifice deeds of mercy. Pure wax which is collected by bees from the flowers of the field, is used as a token that the prayers of men offered from a pure heart are acceptable to God. And, too, the pure wax, produced by virgin worker bees, is a beautiful figure of the pure body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.
Thus, we see that the Church used and uses visible things of God’s creation to lead man to the invisible majesty of God’s Kingdom.
The candle is lit to illumine God’s home, the Church, but it is also a confession that He is the Light of the World, and that we attest to that light by our belief through prayers to Him. The lighted candle reminds us, too, of Christ’s gospel, the Holy Bible, which dispels the darkness of sin and ignorance; the lighted candle also stands for the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. For the individual Christian the candle’s flame means the faith that makes us “children of the light.”
Part 1: Who Are We?
In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reviews the tendency of churches in America to want to “Super Size” their churches, much as we do our burger meals. She emphasizes however, that small churches are not just smaller, but also, different from their larger counterparts, and that we must realize this as we plan any programs in our churches, perhaps especially Christian Education programs. Smaller is not only different, but in some respects, better for the purposes of educating our children. While there are certainly differences between our Orthodox Churches and the Protestant ones she focuses on, most of the generalities she discusses run true for us also.
The first step in planning Christian Education programs in the smaller church, Tye says, is to evaluate what you have in your particular church. There are certain characteristics of all small churches:
- There’s a strong sense of community
- It’s like a family
- It has deep traditions
- There is a high percentage of participation
- The organizational structure tends to be simple in nature
- Worship is the prime activity
While some of these characteristics may show up very strongly in one church, another may find different characteristics more true for them. Deciding what your church “is,” involves evaluating the degree to which each is applicable in your case.
by Fr. John Abdalah
from The Word, June 1990
If we consult a Bible concordance for the words “belief” and “faith”, we find many pages of Biblical references. So very much has been said in the Scriptures and by the Fathers, yet these words are still misused and misunderstood. In the Western Churches, debates on “faith alone”, or “faith and works”, have caused division and strife. Today, in our consumer-oriented society, as we look at the Scriptures, we tend to want to know what is promised, what we deserve, and what we can get from our faith and belief. Certainly, “all things are possible to him who believes”; but only from searching the whole of the Scriptures and the mind of the Church, can we come to understand what is revealed to us by God. Our understanding of faith cannot be limited to a belief in the existence of God. Satan knows that God is God, the demons recognized and knew Jesus Christ, and many devil-worshippers recognize, yet wish to deny, what God reveals to us.
One aspect of faith is trust: to trust that God will take care of all that we can not; to trust that God in His Wisdom will bring us all to salvation. Nevertheless, knowing about God and trusting in His might is still not enough. We are called to believe and to trust, and this belief leads us to experience God in the Church that He established, guides, and lives within. Our God “rests in His Saints”, and abides in His Church.
Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Acts of the Apostles
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven." (Acts 2:1-2)
DOST thou perceive the type? What is this Pentecost? The time when the sickle was to be put to the harvest, and the ingathering was made. See now the reality, when the time was come to put in the sickle of the word: for here, as the sickle, keen-edged, came the Spirit down. For hear the words of Christ: "Lift up your eyes," He said, "and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." (John iv. 35.) And again, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few." (Matt. ix. 38.) But as the first-fruits of this harvest, He himself took [our nature], and bore it up on high. Himself first put in the sickle. Therefore also He calls the Word the Seed. "When," it says, "the day of Pentecost was fully come" (Luke viii. 5, 11): that is, when at the Pentecost, while about it, in short. For it was essential that the present events likewise should take place during the feast, that those who had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, might also behold these.
"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven." (v. 2.) Why did this not come to pass without sensible tokens? For this reason. If even when the fact was such, men said, "They are full of new wine," what would they not have said, had it been otherwise? And it is not merely, "there came a sound," but, "from heaven." And the suddenness also startled them, and brought all together to the spot. "As of a rushing mighty wind:" this betokens the exceeding vehemence of the Spirit. "And it filled all the house:" insomuch that those present both believed, and in this manner were shown to be worthy.
by Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, May 1969
“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll. . . And between the throne and the four living creatures I saw a Lamb, standing, as if it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:2)
The very fact of our Lord’s ascension into Heaven, and His “sitting at the right hand of the Father,” is the source of great joy and profound optimism to the faithful believers. What happened when our Lord returned to Heaven? Revelation gives us some insight.
St. John, the spiritual leader of the churches of Asia Minor had been taken from his churches and exiled to the tiny island of Patmos, in the Mediterranean Sea. Sunday morning comes a time when he is normally preparing himself to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with his faithful gathering. Closed around by his own gloom, he is startled by a voice as loud as a trumpet, behind him. It is the Lord Himself, radiant and transformed in appearance, who takes him to an open door in Heaven for a view of the Heavenly Court.
After he does his best to adequately describe the scene before him: the Throne of the Father, the twenty-four presbyters, the four living creatures and the host of angels, he hears a challenge by a mighty angel: “Who is worthy to open the seals of the scroll?” (Upon which is written the prophecy of the destiny of the universe.)
Nobody in Heaven or on earth was worthy to reveal the future, and John wept, for not even one person had been found worthy. Except, in the center of the Heavenly court, a Lamb was standing as though it had been slain.
by His Grace Bishop Thomas, Ed.D.
In "the founding of explicitly Orthodox Christian schools of higher education...we must seek out men and women who are willing to offer up their academic learning and other educational talents to God for His Eucharistic sanctification for the salvation of the world."
by the Right Reverend Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.
If we were to survey the Orthodox Christian private grammar schools that currently exist in our country, we would discover that they exist for one of two reasons. The first, and probably the more common, is that parents want a place for their children that is safe from the evil influences found in the secular schools that will also give to them an adequate academic education. Such schools do not particularly exist as Orthodox schools for the sake of Orthodoxy, but rather as safe havens, sheltering students reassuringly under the preferred religious branding.
By contrast, the other kind of Orthodox Christian school that exists in our country is dedicated to immersion in the Kingdom of God. Their purpose is not to provide a shelter from the world that happens to give a decent education, but rather it is to use education sacramentally to unite students mystically with Jesus Christ. Indeed, far from providing a shelter, we may think of such places as a barracks or as a training camp, raising up soldiers for Christ’s mystical army. Such schools have one purpose: the salvation of students and of the world. For them, education can become a mystery of the Church.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel According to St. John
And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:1-3)
Lo, here again is another difficulty, if without this man's punishment, it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown. Certainly it is not said that it was impossible, for it was possible, but, "that it might be manifested even in this man." "What," saith some one, "did he suffer wrong for the glory of God?" What wrong, tell me? For what if God had never willed to produce him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And He who had brought this man from not being into being, had also power to leave him as he was.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel According to St. John
The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?" (John 4: 28-29)
We require much fervor and uproused zeal, for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us. And to show this, Christ at one time saith, "Except a man take up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me" (Matt. x. 38); at another, "I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?" (Luke xii. 49); by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire, and prepared for every danger. Such an one was this woman. For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and the purpose for which she came, ran into the city, and drew all the people to Jesus. "Come," she saith, "see a Man which told me all things that ever I did."
Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also. They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We come to the Holy Gospel at last and to the Christian way of life! The fullness of time has come and God has sent forth His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. How everything has changed! No aspect of life remains as it was before Christ came. Everything has died with Him, and everything has been raised and transfigured in Him. All for us has been redeemed, transformed, deified, elevated, and, in a word, made Christian.
When Jesus came to earth He found us with lame limbs, weak and failing, and He perfected our bodies and restored them to health, just as He corrected, molded, improved, and fulfilled the Old Law. St. Ephrem the Syrian describes some of the healing effects of the Incarnation on human nature in his Hymn 37, On Virginity:
His body was newly mixed with our bodies, and His pure blood has been poured out into our veins, and His voice into our ears, and His brightness into our eyes. All of Him has been mixed into all of us by His compassion, and since He loves his church very much, he did not give her the manna of her rival. He had living bread for her to eat. Wheat, the olive and grapes, created for our use – the three of them serve You symbolically in three ways. With three medicines You healed our disease. Humankind had become weak and sorrowful and was failing. You strengthened her with Your blessed bread, and You consoled her with Your sober wine, and You made her joyful with Your holy chrism (K. McVey, Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns, Classics of Western Spirituality, New York: Mahwah, 1989, p. 425).
For the Lord is a great God, and a great king over all the earth.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Ps. 95: 3-7)
There is nothing that our great God has created in heaven and earth that does not have its purpose. He gave us the four seasons; one for planting; one for growing; a season to reap the harvest and a season for the earth to rest and be ready for renewal.
He gave us the sun to warm us and light for the labor of our day. He gave us the moon and the stars in the evening to soften the darkness we need to rest from our labors.
He gave us the animals to help us in our labors. He gave us the plants for food and to bring beauty to our lives.
We are the breath of God, created in His image.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel According to St. John
"Now there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool, called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of halt, blind, withered, waiting for the moving of the water." (John 5:2-3)
What manner of cure is this? What mystery doth it signify to us? For these things are not written carelessly, or without a purpose, but as by a figure and type they show in outline things to come, in order that what was exceedingly strange might not by coming unexpectedly harm among the many the power of faith. What then is it that they show in outline? A Baptism was about to be given, possessing much power, and the greatest of gifts, a Baptism purging all sins, and making men alive instead of dead. These things then are foreshown as in a picture by the pool, and by many other circumstances. And first is given a water which purges the stains of our bodies, and those defilements which are not, but seem to be, as those from touching the dead, those from leprosy, and other similar causes; under the old covenant one may see many things done by water on this account. However let us now proceed to the matter in hand.