By Father Joseph Allen
The key to “keeping the Faith in the Holidays (holy days)” is in the understanding of “time.” In the Orthodox East, where we call such days “Feasts” or “Feastdays,” this especially means both the place of time in our lives and our use of time.
First, regarding the place of time, the religious anthropologists have shown us in many ways that the human being, from the beginning, understood that the feastdays and celebrations were an organic and essential component in his whole world-view, in his way of life. They discovered that the homo religiosus, the religious man, lived in the “rhythm of time” — where beginnings and endings, youth and aging, birth and death, were truly acknowledged as real. Thus the feastday was not something extraneous or accidental to his life; his observation of what was happening in the cosmic occurrences all around him kept this rhythm of time central. Neither was the feast a simple “break” from his usual life of hard work. Far more important to his very being, the feast was — as it should be for us today — a “marker” of such times of change and transformation. Indeed, each celebration was its own “rite of passage,” from this point to that point, from this time to that time. And the religious man lived within that cycle, quite naturally.
by Fr. Alister Anderson
In this holy season you could have a child ask you, “why was Jesus born as a boy? Why couldn’t St. Mary have had a baby girl to be our saviour?” How would you answer these questions? I would say this because the Bible says it: God wanted to be born of St. Mary as a baby boy because it was His intention to be a perfect man. God made that choice. God can do and will do what He wants to do.
Now suppose a little later an adult person asked you, “Why don’t the Orthodox Christian Churches allow women to be ordained as deacons, priests or bishops?” The Church of England just voted to permit women to be ordained to the sacred ministry. Many other Christian denominations have been ordaining women to the ministry for many years. The question is answered in the Christmas story recorded in the Bible. God took the form of a man when by the power of His Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. That provides our Orthodox Christian Churches’ answer. Only a man can be ordained as a deacon, priest or bishop because Jesus the perfect Man chose only men to be His disciples and apostles. God made that choice. God can do and will do what He wants to do.
In this article, we will look at why the Orthodox Church has taken such a stand, how the Church has always stood uncompromisingly for the personhood of the human embryo, and what moral alternatives exist for stem cell research.
Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research
By Father Mark Hodges
THE STEM CELL DEBATE IS about the value of human life at its beginning. Stem cells are “blank” cells which can become all 210 different kinds of human tissue. Researchers hope that someday these cells could provide cures for all kinds of serious diseases, even repairing vital organs. We have stem cells throughout our bodies, but they are most abundant in human embryos. Retrieving embryonic stem cells, however, requires killing those human beings. A raging debate is going on in our nation now, over whether or not taxes should support killing human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells for experimentation.
by Very Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
From the very dawn of history, when man was created thousands of years ago, we note man’s restlessness in trying to solve the mystery of life and the supreme purpose of living. Accordingly, the search went on throughout all the stages of history, and that probably accounts for the great progress and the scientific discoveries man has achieved. But with all the great and stupendous achievements of men, the search for more knowledge goes on day and night. There is no satisfaction insofar as man’s restless spirit is concerned. We feel that there are still great regions to be explored, fields unclaimed, resources untapped. We are surrounded by mysteries and question marks. We are ever asking questions because the desire to know more is unquenchable. There isn’t any harm in asking questions, in trying to explore life’s great possibilities, for each of us wishes to better himself, to fulfill his destiny and the purpose of which he is created. Not only is there no harm in searching out for more knowledge, but to do so is commendable and praiseworthy.
By Carole Buleza
In late summer and early autumn we see the land resting after having yielded the grain and fruit of the season, if we live close enough to farmland. In our developed societies we are not as tied to the land as those in agrarian societies. We do not suffer for lack of food at the grocery store, and perhaps are not as apt to pray in thanksgiving to God for the bounty just harvested.
Our ancestors in the Bible knew that all they had came from God. What they had they held not as owners, but as stewards. Just as Adam was made steward, or caretaker, of creation, so they were merely stewards of their holdings. They also knew that God had decreed that a “tithe,” or 1/10, of all they harvested was to be returned to Him in thanksgiving and as appropriate worship.
“All tithes of the land, whether in grain from the fields or in fruit from the trees, belong to the Lord, as sacred to him. . . The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal . . . (Leviticus: 27: 30, 32)
What were God’s people thankful for? Not only for the harvest, but primarily for the fact that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and was leading them to the Promised Land. They owed God their life.
Here we are a few thousand years later. Has anything changed? We are now God’s people. Jesus, our Lord, has rescued us from slavery, to sin and eternal death. He has opened to us the Gates of Heaven. We owe Him our life. Do we tithe? Did Jesus tell us to? If you answered “yes,” you have a very good memory. There is a passage in which Jesus uses the word “tithe.” In the passage He is calling the Pharisees to task. They have focused on keeping the law to the smallest detail, while missing the spirit they should be cultivating within.
Ever since the Archangel Gabriel first said, "you are blessed among women," to the Virgin Mary, these words of praise have inspired the faithful of the Christian Church. Their love for Christ, and desire to honor all that He honored has led them to also praise His glorious Mother. Thus they continue to fulfill the words of the Holy Spirit spoken through her, "behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (Lk. 1:45). The Church has honored the Most Holy Lady in many ways. Theologians have defended her doctrinally and theologically. Authors have composed hymns dedicated to her. The faithful have sought her intercession in their prayers. Finally, the entire Church has celebrated feast days commemorating certain events in her life or miracles performed through her mediation. After the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), however, the number of hymns and services to the Theotokos increased and flourished. All feast days seem to have their historical foundations during or after this great Council, which defended the doctrine of the Person of Christ and the dignity of the Mother of God.
During and after the establishment of the feast days of the Theotokos clergy and laity emphasized her praise through hymns written in her honor. The most famous work of this kind is the Akathist Hymn, a Kontakion written by the 6th century deacon, St. Romanos the Melodist. The Paraclesis is another poetic work dealing with another aspect of veneration of the Virgin, her role as Protectress of Christians. Orthodox use this service, instituted almost 1000 years after Romanos wrote his Kontakion in times of trouble and temptation. Both services are in general use in Orthodox churches today. It is then the purpose of this presentation to deal with these forms of piety which have taken deep root in the Orthodox Catholic conscience, to trace their beginnings where possible, and to demonstrate their relevance for us today.
By Father Joseph Huneycutt
I’m a Southerner. I was born and reared a Southern Baptist; educated as an Episcopalian, and converted to Orthodox Christianity a decade ago. Since then, I’ve been struggling to be Orthodox. As a missionary priest, I’ve also struggled to bring others to Orthodoxy in the South. More than anything, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn. I’ve also concluded that Orthodoxy, in its plethora of jurisdictions, will have to learn some things, appreciate some things, about Southern Culture before ever being truly successful in bringing Southerners to the Faith.
I was reared in a small town near Charlotte, North Carolina. Growing up, I never met a Jew, much less a Muslim. Lutherans were rare enough in my hometown, much less Roman Catholics. Basically, we were Baptists and Methodists, blacks and whites. I’d never even heard of Orthodox Christianity until I was on my way to the Episcopal seminary in the 1980’s. Come to think of it, I’ll bet most folks in my hometown still have never heard of Orthodoxy.
by Fr. Jon E. Braun
When it comes to good coffee, caffeine lovers may be familiar with the “House Blend”—each restaurant’s or coffee roaster’s recipe for brewing the “perfect cup” that appeals to the greatest number of people. Not some exotic specialty roast like Mocha Java, Sumatra, or Jamaican, the house blend is designed to be a happy meeting ground, something that will accommodate the widest variety of tastes and appetites.
Mind you, not everyone who loves coffee likes the house blend. That’s all right; it is not necessary, or even desirable, that they should. But on the other hand, there is surely nothing wrong with the way it tastes, and for those who understand why and how the house blend is best used, it makes very good sense.
In terms of the Orthodox Church and its establishment here in North America, I believe there is a growing need for what might be called the “Orthodox House Blend.” I am talking about a “house blend” in churches, if you will—a mixture that accommodates the many and varied backgrounds of people coming into Orthodox parishes.