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December 15, 2010 + Christmas Is Man's Greatest Gift from God

by Archimandrite Michael Shaheen
from The Word, December 1957

At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, our church bells will peel out their cheerful tidings that recall the most unique event in history; for on that night almost 2000 years ago in the East, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.

Christmas (Christ-Mass), the Birthday of Jesus, ranks supreme among all the fixed feasts of our Eastern Orthodox Church. Without Christmas, as was stated by St. John Chrysostom, we could not have Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost. Therefore, our Church acts wisely in ushering in this Holy Day with elaborate religious services befitting the One whose birthday it is.

December 25 is only the traditional date of Christ’s birth: the exact time is not really known. In the early Church the Birth of Christ was remembered along with His Baptism (Epiphany) on the 6th of January. However, in the 4th century, when Christianity took over many heathen festivals in order to facilitate their conversion, December 25 was selected for commemorating the Birth of Christ. This was originally a festival of gaiety that honored the unconquered sun. It was first celebrated in Rome around 380 A.D. and is known to have been celebrated in Antioch around 380 A.D. This explains many of the customs that prevail today, which are not in harmony with the true spirit of Christmas. Since then, December 25 became accepted everywhere as the customary time to recall the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

December 8, 2010 + Write It On Your Hearts

by V. Rev. James C. Meena
from The Word, December 1992

“The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength, let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or, walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising; you shall fasten them on your hands as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart.” (Deut. 6:6-9)

This commandment from among the many Mosaic commandments is what Jesus called the greatest of all Commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” Nothing shall take priority over your love for God. This Commandment is necessarily repeated in your ears today because we are about to celebrate that festal day in which God manifested His love for us in such a way that it shattered history.  For God came into the world as a human child, took on humanity without divesting Himself of His Divinity.  God became man so that you and I, man, might become God. It is essential for us to understand as we have been inundated with the commercialism of this great feast, of the secularization of this great holy day that it is necessary for us to repeat in the ears of our children, the truth about the significance of this Great Feast.

December 1, 2010 + The Saint Who Was Santa Claus

by V. Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, December1971

Dominating our Christmas, rather “holiday” season, (we do not want to be offensive to our non-Christian and non-believing friends), is the Santa Claus legend. The Santa figure and the gift giving displays find their source not in Jesus Christ as much as in the story by Clement Moore, “The Night Before Christmas,” which is itself a distorted derivative of the actual life of the great Orthodox bishop Nicholas who lived in the small coastal town of Myra in what is today Turkey.

In the Moore poem, a modern family is invaded by a well-meaning old man who leaves gifts nobody seems to have asked for or even want. This is the first distortion of the real situation. May we all live our lives and lack nothing! Yet if we can penetrate the stories told of the actual fourth century bishop, under the layers of legend that cover St. Nicholas throughout the centuries, we find one feature common to each tale, no matter how distorted: Bishop Nicholas always aids those in dire need. Despite the myths surrounding the event, the extreme circumstances of those in the tales of St. Nicholas are much more like the life we know than the family in the Moore story.

November 24, 2010 + A Meal of Unity

by Fr. Mark Beshara
from The Word, November 1970

Families like to meet together for a meal. When the family is large and particularly close to one another, it usually develops this family meal into a kind of ritual. Most Americans find this most clearly expressed in the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, held every year. The time and place are important for Thanksgiving Dinner, so too is the menu which must be built around certain meats—usually a big turkey—and certain other traditional dishes, such as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Other ritualistic elements are usually developed when a family meets over a number of years for this traditional meal: certain persons have certain functions, definite places to sit, preparation rites are evolved into a strict custom, certain routines become traditional after the meal is finished. And when the afternoon is finished, everyone goes away back to his own daily round of living strengthened once more in the sense of oneness with this family. This conviction of unity and mutual support will bolster each person often in times of frustration or loneliness which come into all our lives. No family should be without a traditional meal. All of us, even those who cannot have such a gathering at Thanksgiving, know that this is true. Some families find that many more than one family meal each year is needed. And these families usually enjoy a unity and strength among themselves that is envied by others.

November 10, 2010 + The Church

by Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
from The Word, October 1967

There are some questions relative to the church to which we want to give proper answers. The first is, how important is the church to the life of the community.

The importance of the church to the life of the community cannot be measured in dollars and cents, because the church is an institution that concerns itself with life’s higher values, deals in matters that are sacred. The primary purpose in building an edifice we call “church” is to express our heartfelt devotion, loyalty and love to a God of love, who made the world and everything in it for the good and the benefit of man. It is important because it represents the highest, holiest and best in life. It is important because it points out to us the proper direction, molds our thoughts in such a manner that we become God-conscious, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, whose primal purpose is to make the will of God the will of men.

We would be in a better position to know the importance of the church to the life of the community if each of us asks himself, “How much does it mean to me? Do we feel a sense of loss if we happen to miss coming to the services? Does it influence me to do good and to shun evil? Do we realize that the church’s first business is to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth, an institution that treasures the truth of God, a ship whose pilot is the Lord Jesus Christ and whose banner is love?” If we can only give affirmative answers, a ringing yes to these questions, then do we actually understand and appreciate the church’s value to our lives and that of the community.

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church (Part 6)

By Fr. George Morelli

The New Covenant

Prophet JeremiahProphet JeremiahThe New Covenant was actually foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah (31: 30-34) in the Old Testament:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

In the book of Psalms, David writing of the priesthood of the New  and Eternal Covenant tells us:

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church (Part 5)

By Fr. George Morelli

The People of the Old Covenant

Abraham about to Sacrifice IsaacAbraham about to Sacrifice IsaacThe people of the Old Covenant, the Hebrews,  from the time of Abraham up to the present day, take very seriously that they are the "Chosen People". God's words to Abraham were quite specific:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly." Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. (Gen.17: 1-7)

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church (Part 4)

By Fr. George Morelli

Noah's ArkNoah's Ark

Connections: The Church and the Temple (The Building-Structure)

The Church, the Body of Christ, is related to the Temple (church building). The Temple is a vessel carrying the body of Christ to union with God, that is to say salvation, deification, to becoming partakers of the Divine Nature (2Pt 1:4).

The central part of the Temple is called the nave [Latin: nāvis, ship: from its rectangular appearance], a reference to Noah's Ark which, as recounted in Genesis (6-9), was built by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the earth's animals from devastation.

Noah's ArkNoah's Ark

Also, the temple building is related to St. John's description of the "New Jerusalem," The Kingdom of God, in the Book of Revelation (21: 14-27). The mission of the Church, the Assembly, is to be the ship of our salvation.

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church (Part 3)

By Fr. George Morelli

Suggestions and Resources for an Interconnected Curriculum Based On 'Connections'

The Four Evangelists: Ss. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on a Russian Gospel BookThe Four Evangelists: Ss. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on a Russian Gospel Book

Some of the material below repeats a few of the points made above. This model catechetical lesson on "The Church" material is meant as a guide and illustration of how the topic can be approached.

The Church

Linking Scripture and the Church Fathers

In Sacred Scripture, (Old and New Testament), reference to: Ekklesia (assembly). In the Old Testament we read of the creation of the assembly of angels. The writer of the book of Job speaks of the creation of the angels: "when the stars were born all the angels in a loud voice sang in praise of me" (Job 38, 7).

Prophet JobProphet Job

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church (Part 2)

By Fr. George Morelli

Orthodox Church founded by Christ

Christ who is begotten and sent from the Father and sanctified by the Holy Spirit -- can only be known by acquiring and living one's life according to The Mind of the Church. As St. Paul tells us: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2. 5). The Mind of Christ and His Church was sealed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and has passed down to the Church to the present day.

The Mind of Christ and His Church expressed in Sacred Tradition

Let me recount St. Paul’s words: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2). St Paul told the Ephesians "you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone . . . “ (2:19,30).

The Ministry of the ApostlesThe Ministry of the Apostles

Must be in continuity with the Apostles and union with their bishop successors

The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church

THE ETHOS OF ORTHODOX CATECHESIS: THE MIND OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

by V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli, Ph.D.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . ." (Mt 28:19)

Chaplain's Corner: "Money Talks and Everything Else Walks" or "Giving" at Thanksgiving

By Fr. George Morelli

Although Christmas is a national holiday by act of Congress (5 U.S.C. 6103),all in Western countries know Christmas is under attack and that any religious significance is being marginalized from its celebration. Unfortunately, many Americans, and others throughout the world, hold to the value system summarized by the well-known adage: 'money talks but everything else walks.'  Our only hope for retaining some sense of a transcendent God, and the recognition due Him for the blessings we receive throughout the year, may be Thanksgiving Day. In 1863, following the irregular local, regional and national recognition of this feast since its first celebration by the Puritan-Protestant Pilgrims and indigenous Native Americans in 1621, President Abraham Lincoln made an official  proclamation: "I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

November 3, 2010 + A Christian View Of the Body and Health - Part 2

by Fr. Paul O'Callaghan
from The Word, April 1989
Click here to read Part 1

Now let me ask you, if our bodies are members of Christ, can it be right to abuse them by smoking and overeating? Think about it. If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, can it be right to let our hearts, lungs, and muscles grow weak and sickly through lack of exercise and self-control? Think about it!

I believe that the proper care of our bodies is a divine responsibility given to us by God. This is one reason (apart from staying clean from sin), that Scripture tells us to “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

But here is a curious fact. At the same time as we Americans foster an obsession with beautiful bodies on T.V., we are also notorious around the world for being out-of-shape and overweight. We had a visitor from Sweden staying with our family recently, and one of the first things she remarked about Americans was how heavy we appeared to her. And the reason for it, I believe, is that we lead an unnatural lifestyle. Her mother rode her bike to work every day, even in the Swedish winter! But what do we Americans do? If we have to go half a block down to the store, what do we do? You know as well as I — we get into the car and drive! Is it then surprising we’re in the kind of shape we’re in? This is why we had to invent artificial exercise — we don’t get the normal exercise that used to be just a part of living.

October 27, 2010 + A Christian View Of the Body and Health - Part 1

by Fr. Paul O'Callaghan
from The Word, April 1989

Obsession with the body and health are undoubtedly outstanding characteristics of modern American life. Commercials sing to us, “You work hard for your body, so you better treat it right.” Health spa chains tell us, “I want your body!” Body-oriented commercials try to sell us everything from milk to deodorant, usually accompanied by visual images of so-called perfect bodies in athletic gear. And this kind of imagery is all around us in a way that gets into our minds without our even being aware of it.

Let me give you an example. The other day my son Sean came to me in the kitchen and asked for a glass of milk. After he finished, he said, “Dad, does milk make your body good?” Where do you think he got that question?!! So you can see how much this body-awareness, this body-obsession, has become a part of American life. Even our kids are picking up on it without being aware of it.

Because of this influence, I want to give what I believe are some basic guidelines for a Christian view of the body and health.

The first point I want to make is this:

October 13, 2010 + I'm Sorry... But

by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, November 1968

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee:. . .  From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 4:12, 17)

The chief problem in communicating today is that people do not always say what they mean. Just notice how often people begin a sentence with, “I’m sorry, but ... I was here first;” or, “I’m sorry, but . . . you’re in my way.” What they mean is that they are not sorry at all. They use the word to pretend they are sympathetic to your plight, but in fact they take the opportunity, while they are still speaking, to argue in behalf of their own personal interests.

Sorry does not mean just sorrowful. One who is truly sorry for his acts recognizes that his behavior is wrong and regrets his actions. In no way does he justify his deeds. On the contrary, he repents, seeking a new course of action.

The very first words spoken by our Lord at the beginning of His ministry were, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17). Those to whom he spoke knew what He meant. He was demanding a total conversion of the inner self, which includes: (a) recognizing that one’s way of life is contrary to God’s plan for man: (b) giving up all self-reliance and surrendering unconditionally to our Creator: (c) converting one’s whole being to the Will of God.

Chaplains's Corner: Forgiveness, the Core of Godliness

By Fr. George Morelli

One interesting thing about people: we have a tendency to want others to treat us with understanding and compassion. The cry for mercy can be heard everywhere around the globe. Unfortunately, this cry is often one-sided. We want what we consider fairness, mercy and forgiveness for ourselves, but are reluctant to apply the same to others.

October 6, 2010 + Commentary on Galatians

from The Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on The Epistle of St. Paul to The Galatians

"For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the Gospel which was preached by me that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ."  (Galatians 1:11-12)

You observe how sedulously he affirms that he was taught of Christ, who Himself, without human intervention, condescended to reveal to him all knowledge. And if he were asked for his proof that God Himself thus immediately revealed to him these ineffable mysteries, he would instance his former manner of life, arguing that his conversion would not have been so sudden, had it not been by Divine revelation. For when men have been vehement and eager on the contrary side, their conviction, if it is effected by human means, requires much time and ingenuity. It is clear therefore that he, whose conversion is sudden, and who has been sobered in the very height of his madness, must have been vouchsafed a Divine revelation and teaching, and so have at once arrived at complete sanity. On this account he is obliged to relate his former life, and to call the Galatians as witnesses of past events. That the Only-Begotten Son of God had Himself from heaven vouchsafed to call me, says he, you who were not present, could not know, but that I was a persecutor you do know. For my violence even reached your ears, and the distance between Palestine and Galatia is so great, that the report would not have extended thither, had not my acts exceeded all bounds and endurance. Wherefore he says,

Old Testament Women at the Annunciation: Gleanings from the Western Rite Lectionary

by Lynette A. Smith

Not All By Herself

Orthodox believers of both the Eastern and Western Rites celebrate major feast days in honor of the events of the Theotokos’ life. St. Luke records three of these important occurrences: the Annunciation, March 25 (1:26-38), the Visitation, July 2 (1:39-56), and the Presentation, February 2 (2:21-39). One of the features these three stories have in common is that our Lady is never alone; rather, other people share in the events of her life.

We know that Mary deliberately goes to be with her cousin Elizabeth after Mary’s annunciation. Nor is Mary is alone at the Temple when she presents the infant Jesus, because the Gospel tells us that at least her husband, Joseph, the priest, and Saints Simon and Anna are there for the occasion. Mary’s annunciation itself, however, seems a little different. Yes, the archangel Gabriel comes to her, but he leaves after delivering his message, and we do not read that she has anyone else with her. Or, does she?

In fact, those who attend Orthodox Western Rite parishes discover in the lectionary readings for the Feast of the Annunciation that five women from the Old Testament spiritually join with the Blessed Virgin Mary.[1] These women, in order of their liturgical appearance, are Eve, Sarah, the Psalmist’s royal Queen, the conceiving Virgin in Isaiah, and Hannah.

September 29, 2010 + The Script Writers

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1978

I want to start an argument. However, if we are going to argue we must do so on my terms only. I must write both sides of the script. Not only must I know what I want to say but you must respond precisely the way I expect you to. Does that sound unreasonable? Of course it does. Yet there are many people who insist that they write both sides of the dialogue, and who are upset when others won’t follow their script.

Some people really think they have the right to decide how others should respond to them. A wise person once said that your feelings are hurt not because of what people say but because of what you hear. That makes a lot of sense to me. If we are in a disturbed frame of mind and emotionally upset, we hear things that other people really did not say. They may have said the words, but their intent was very different from the meaning which we received. We must be extremely careful that we not try to write both sides of the dialogue. We cannot control the scripts of life. Life’s scenario can be filled with love or with bitterness, with forgiveness or with grudge bearing.

Jesus said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:20) He also said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (St. Luke 17:21) It’s not beyond the clouds, it is among you. You can be together in this group, in the same congregation and some of you are already in the kingdom and some of you are not because there are those among you whose virtue goes no deeper than the virtue of the scribes and the Pharisees.

"I Love God!" + The Legacy of Deacon Philip Gilbert

by Fr. Gregory Rogers
from Again Magazine, Summer 1997

The core of Deacon Philip's service to everyone, whether as paramedic, husband, father, or deacon in the church, was his love for God. And that love has touched hundreds, even thousands, with God's mercy.

I cannot remember a time in my ministry when Deacon Philip Gilbert (also known as Frank Delano Gilbert, or affectionately as “Lane") wasn't somewhere around, helping, strengthening, and encouraging me. He was one of the most remarkable young men I have ever known.

We began working together when Lane was quite young. Even as a teenager, Lane was special. He was one of those who was always involved in church services, in special programs, in Bible study groups. At school, he was an outspoken witness for Christ. He was quite talented - an athlete, intelligent, musical. He devoted his summers to teaching children about Christ, working as a counselor at the Lake Region Christian Assembly in Crown Point, Indiana. His enthusiasm was contagious; he could be entertaining and still bring young people to see that loving Christ was what life is all about. And his sincerity made the music and teaching all the more special.

When l served as youth minister at the Deep River Church of Christ in Hobart, Indiana, Lane was in my youth group, as was his wife-to-be, Kimberly. God had his reasons for bringing us all together, for as future events would reveal, we would all make the journey to Orthodoxy at Holy Resurrection Church - first in Gary, then in Hobart. l would one day watch with joy as these two fine Christians were married, and celebrate with them the birth of their three children, David (now 13), Christine (11), and Emily (8).

September 15, 2010 + Orthodoxy And The Church Fathers

from The Word, October 1961

The Fathers of our Church derived all of their teachings from Orthodoxy. However, they gave everything they possessed for the triumph of the Orthodox Faith, which is the priceless treasure of Christian truth. Nowadays, when we speak about Orthodoxy, we immediately think of all the great figures of the Church, who were the pillars of Orthodoxy. The life, work and spiritual struggles of the Church Fathers are organically and inextricably interwoven with Orthodoxy.

There is a common characteristic among the great figures of Orthodoxy, the guardians of our Faith. That is, they did not only speak and write or struggle against heresy, but they also lived and radiated the spirit of Orthodoxy through the example of their holy lives. This is their great secret. To this they owe their eternal spiritual greatness and also their triumph against all those, who with such madness sought to counterfeit and falsify the truth of Christ. For this reason, they are not simply called Teachers, but Fathers of the Orthodox Church. They had lived a life “in Christ’’ before they began to struggle against those who fought the deity of our Lord. Saint Paul’s “in Christ” which we find in all his Epistles was a blessed reality for the Fathers.

The spiritual struggles of the Fathers against those who fought the Holy Spirit do not derive only from a theological knowledge concerning the Holy Spirit. The Fathers lived in the Holy Spirit. For this reason, they became the spiritual Heralds of Orthodoxy. They had personally lived every Christian truth, for the sake of which they entered fearless and unyielding into the arena of the spiritual struggle.

September 8, 2010 + From Homily VII

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians

"And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  (Philippians 2:11)

That is, that all should say so; and this is glory to the Father. Seest thou how wherever the Son is glorified, the Father is also glorified? Thus too when the Son is dishonored, the Father is dishonored also. If this be so with us, where the difference is great between fathers and sons, much more in respect of God, where there is no difference, doth honor and insult pass on to Him. If the world be subjected to the Son, this is glory to the Father. And so when we say that He is perfect, wanting nothing, and not inferior to the Father, this is glory to the Father, that he begat such a one. This is a great proof of His power also, and goodness, and wisdom, that He begat one no whit inferior, neither in wisdom nor in goodness. When I say that He is wise as the Father, and no whit inferior, this is a proof of the great wisdom of the Father; when I say that He is powerful as the Father, this is a proof of the Father's power. When I say that He is good as the Father, this is the greatest evidence of His goodness, that He begat such (a Son), in no whit less or inferior to Himself. When I say that He begat Him not inferior in substance but equal, and not of another substance, in this I again wonder at God, His power, and goodness, and wisdom, that He hath manifested to us another, of Himself, such as Himself, except in His not being the Father. Thus whatsoever great things I say of the Son, pass on to the Father. Now if this small and light matter (for it is but a light thing to God's glory that the world should worship Him) is to the glory of God, how much more so are all those other things?

Good Marriage XXI: Forfending Disclosure Demand and Disclosure Phobia

By Fr. George Morelli

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. (1Cor 4:5) 

Even a casual reading of Jesus’ encounters with others in the Scriptures shows that He did not demand anyone disclose their thoughts and feelings to Him. We could say that He had respect for mankind's free will, for those creatures which He made in His image and called to be like Him. He would ask a question, but never demand an answer. He counseled, but never forced compliance. He read the hearts and minds of many, but never coerced anyone to tell Him what came from their heart, against their will.

Consider the record of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man told to us by St. Matthew (19: 16-22):

And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

September 1, 2010 + From Homily VIII

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

For seeing he had spoken many and great things of the unspeakable glory, lest any should say, 'And how enjoying so great a glory remain we in a mortal body?' he saith, that this very thing is indeed the chiefest marvel and a very great example of the power of God, that an earthen vessel hath been enabled to bear so great a brightness and to keep so high a treasure. And therefore as admiring this, he said, "That the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves;" again alluding to those who gloried in themselves. For both the greatness of the things given and the weakness of them that receive show His power; in that He not only gave great things, but also to those who are little. For he used the term "earthen" in allusion to the frailty of our mortal nature, and to declare the weakness of our flesh. For it is nothing better constituted than earthenware; so is it soon damaged, and by death and disease and variations of temperature and ten thousand other things easily dissolved. And he said these things both to take down their inflation, and to show to all that none of the things we hold is human. For then is the power of God chiefly conspicuous, when by vile it worketh mighty things. Wherefore also in another place He said, "For My power is made perfect in weakness."(2 Cor. xii. 9.) And indeed in the Old [Testament] whole hosts of barbarians were turned to flight by gnats and flies, wherefore also He calleth the caterpillar His mighty forces; (Joel ii. 25.) and in the beginning, by only confounding tongues, He put a stop to that great tower in Babylon. And in their wars too, at one time, He routed innumerable hosts by three hundred men; at another He overthrew cities by trumpets; and afterwards by a little and poor stripling, David, He turned to flight the whole army of barbarians. So then here also, sending forth twelve only He overcame the world; twelve, and those, persecuted, warred against.

August 18, 2010 + First Things First (Part 1)

by Fr. Richard L. Tinker
from The Word, November 1966

A short time ago I was discussing religious education with a Roman Catholic priest. I have always felt that it is a good idea to shop around for ideas, moving on the assumption that someone else may have solved or at least learned to live with a problem that is currently troubling you.

The priest described himself to me as one who was “up to his neck” in religious education. His parish is a large one: over six thousand parishioners attend Sunday Masses, the earliest of which begins at 5: 30 am. His parochial school, a huge complex of three buildings, educate nearly five thousand students, many of whom are not even members of his parish. The priest also directly supervises the Released Time Religious Education Program. Under provisions of the program, hundreds of students are released from the Public Schools in the neighborhood an hour early on a specified day each week in order to attend special religious instruction classes in his school. When they arrive, they are taught by dedicated nuns especially trained for that work. The classes are conducted in modern classrooms, furnished with beautifully illustrated textbooks, and crammed with the latest audio-visual aids. I remarked that he was working under near perfect circumstances, and that his program must be succeeding rather well.

He nodded, sat back, and with a wry smile, said: “I wish it were, Father. The plain fact is that we are not. Oh, the kids come, all right. They learn a lot about the Church, but I’m pretty sure that we are going to lose most of them.”