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October 23, 2013 + “Let him beg, however, in faith, in no way hesitating" [James 1:6]

from The Venerable Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Cistercian Publications, p. 10.

That is, let him, by living well, show himself to be worthy of being heard when he begs. For anyone who remembers that he has not obeyed the Lord's commands rightly loses hope that the Lord pays attention to his prayers. For it has been written, "The prayer of one who closes his ear that he may not hear the law will be detestable" [Pr. 21:13; 28:9].

For he who hesitates is like a wave of the sea which is tossed and carried about by the wind. Anyone who hesitates about attaining heavenly rewards because his consciousness of sin pricks him, at the onslaught of temptations easily abandons the position of faith by which in peace and quiet he appeared to serve God and he is carried away at the will of the invisible enemy as if by a blast of wind through different kinds of errors of vices.

Chaplain's Corner + Social Media: The Two-Edged Sword

by Fr. George Morelli

Most readers are familiar with the metaphor "a double-edged sword," - a blade that cuts both ways, idiomatic for a liability that can also be a benefit. The current state of social media certainly lives up to this expression.

The beneficial, favorable aspects of social media are many. Information on diseases, health, spiritual issues, charities, economic issues, current events, science, history and travel can be found and discussed online. It can also be a medium to bring people together, including family and friends. Unfortunately, the unfavorable aspects of social media are also quite apparent and often have grave consequences.

A prime example is the suicide of a 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick, in Lakeland FL. After being taunted, vilified, by cyber-bullying via social media by some of her female classmates, she jumped off a nearby nearly 60 foot cement tower in September 2013. "You should die," someone told the 12-year-old. "Why don't you go kill yourself?" She was so emotionally distraught that she sent a social media message to a friend, texting: "I'm jumping, I can't take it anymore." A message that he received on Monday morning, shortly before her suicide, authorities said. It was reported that her mother spoke to school authorities and closed and re-closed Rebecca's Facebook account. However, unbeknown to her mother, the cyber-bullying continued on less familiar social media sites like Kik Messenger, ask.fm and Voxer.

October 16, 2013 + “Truly this was the Son of God”

from St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, October 16th

The divine Matthew the Evangelist, in describing the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, says: Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54). That centurion was this blessed Longinus, who with two other of his soldiers came to believe in Jesus, the Son of God. Longinus was chief of the soldiers who were present at the Crucifixion of the Lord on Golgotha, and was also the chief of the watch that guarded the tomb. When the Jewish elders learned of the Resurrection of Christ, they bribed the soldiers to spread the false news that Christ did not resurrect, but rather that His disciples stole His body. The Jews also tried to bribe Longinus, but he did not allow himself to be bribed. Then the Jews resorted to their usual strategy: they decided to kill Longinus. Learning of this, Longinus removed his military belt, was baptized with his two companions by an apostle, secretly left Jerusalem and moved to Cappadocia with his companions. There, he devoted himself to fasting and prayer and, as a living witness of Christ's Resurrection, converted many pagans to the true Faith by his witness.

October 9, 2013 + Two Great Gifts from God

by Saint and Emperor Justinian the Great

There are two greatest gifts which God, in His love for man, has granted from on high: the priesthood and the imperial dignity. The first serves divine things, while the latter directs and administers human affairs: both, however, proceed from the same origin and adorn the life of mankind. Hence, nothing should be such a source of care to the emperors as the dignity of the priests, since it is for their imperial welfare that they constantly implore God. For if the priesthood is in every way free from blame and possessed access to God, and if the emperors administer equitably and judiciously the State entrusted to their care, general harmony will result, and whatever is beneficial will be bestowed upon the human race.

Smart Parenting XXIII: Living as an Orthodox Christian in a Non-Orthodox World

by Fr. George Morelli

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mk 16: 16)

One of the teaching challenges of those committed to the Mind of Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Orthodox Church is the homogenization of Christianity by those who have been ensnared by the spiritual cancer of religious relativism that has permeated the Western world. Political, religious and social correctness is the mantra of the 3rd Millennium. It is also the great scourge of our modern world. It is the duty of all true and committed Christians, especially those charged with the guiding others in Orthodoxy, to be steadfast to the mind of Christ and His Church (Morelli, 2010). It must begin in the little church in the home the 'domestic church,' then be connected to the local parish and its clergy and then on to the Church universal.

Chaplain's Corner + Supporting Others

by Fr. George Morelli

Recently I happened to see an episode of a reality TV series that centered on the learning and personal conflicts of a group of students at a well-known high-end United States culinary school. The struggles of two female students were particularly noteworthy and point out the important need for the support of others for achieving our aspirations in life.

The older of the two students was married to a husband who not only did not encourage her but actively denigrated and tried to sabotage anything she did to achieve her goal of becoming a chef. The other, a very attractive young unmarried mother of a toddler, held on to a job in a 'gentlemen's club' - distasteful to her, but a financial necessity. She frankly admitted being ashamed of her work, and that her family would be also. However, her family, especially her aloof mother, disapproved of any endeavor she might engage in.

October 2, 2013 + "Thou shalt enter the tomb in abundance" [Job 5:26]

by St. Gregory the Great, Commentary on Job, from The Early Church Fathers Series, edited by John Morrehead, Routledge Taylor & Franscis Group: London and New York, p. 130.

Those who are striving to gain the highest point of perfection, when they yearn to take hold of the stronghold of contemplation, should first test themselves through exercise in the field of work, so that with the necessary care they might come to know whether they are doing anything wrong to their neighbours, whether they are bearing with calmness of mind what their neighbours are doing to them, and whether their mind is neither set free so as to be joyous when temporal goods are placed before it nor wounded with great sorrow when they are taken away; after this, they should consider carefully whether, when they return to themselves inwardly for a thorough investigation of spiritual things, they are not drawing with them the slightest shadows of bodily things; or whether, if it turns out that they have been drawn, they are able to drive them away with the hand of discretion; whether, in their yearning to see the infinite light, they repress all images of what is finite and whether, given that they are striving to attain something that is above themselves, they overcome that which they are. And so it is now said rightly "Thou shalt enter the tomb in abundance" [Job 5:26]. Yes, a perfect man enters the tomb in abundance because he first gathers together the works of an active life and then conceals completely from the world the capacity for feeling belonging to his flesh, which has died through contemplation. And so it fittingly goes on: Like as a sheaf of grain cometh in his season [Job 5:26]. For action comes at the beginning, and contemplation at the end. So it is necessary that whoever is perfect should first exercise the mind with virtues and then put it away in the barn of quiet.

September 25, 2013 + On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

by St. Gregory Palamas, The Saving Work of Christ: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, edited by Christopher Veniamin, Mount Tabor Publishing

The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, to the death of the soul, its separation from God. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8).

As the apostle says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). God, however, is Spirit, absolute Goodness and Virtue, and our own spirit is after His image and likeness, although sin has made it good for nothing. So how could anyone at all be spiritually renewed and reconciled with God, unless sin and life according to the flesh had been abolished? The Cross of Christ is this abolition of sin.

September 18, 2013 + On Repentance

by St. Silouan the Athonite

Glory be to the Lord that He gave us repentance. Through repentance we shall all, every one of us, be saved. Only those who refuse to repent will not find salvation, and therein I see their despair, and shed abundant tears of pity for them. They have not known through the Holy Spirit how great is God's mercy. But if every soul knew the Lord, knew how deeply He loves us, no one would despair, or murmur against his lot...

September 11, 2013 + The Creator's Great Care for Man from the Beginning

by St. Theodoret of Cyrus, quoted in Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision, by Fr. Seraphim Rose, edited by the Hieromonk Damascene, p. 212.

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7)

When we hear in the account of Moses that God took dust from the earth and formed man, and we seek out the meaning of this utterance, we discover in it the special good disposition of God towards the human race. For the great Prophet notes, in his description of the creation, that God created all the other creatures by His word, while man He created with His own hands ... We do not say that the Divinity has hands ... but we affirm that every one of these expressions indicates a greater care of God's part for man than for the other creatures.

September 4, 2013 + Why Are Vigil Lamps Lit before Icons?

by St. Nikolai Velimirovic

First - because our faith is light. Christ said "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.

Second - in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called "sons of light" (John 12:26, Luke 16:8).

Third - in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Savior: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16).

Fourth - so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation, and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.

Fifth - so that terror would strike the evil powers that sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and those who please Him.

Sixth - so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God's will.

August 28, 2013 + “If one provide not for one's own”

St. John Chrysostom, The Orthodox New Testament: Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, Vol. 2, Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8, p. 360.

1 Timothy 5:8: "But if one provide not for one's own, and most of all for those of one's own house, such a one hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

The provision of which the blessed Paul speaks is universal and relates to the soul as well as the body, since both are to be provided for ... Isaiah says, 'Thou shalt not disregard the relations of thine own seed' [Is. 58:7]. If a man deserts those who are united by ties of kindred and affinity, how shall he be affectionate towards others? Will it not have the appearance of vainglory, when benefiting others he slights his own relations, and does not provide for them? ... What is meant is that the law of God and of nature is violated by him who provides not for his own family. But how has such a one denied the faith? Even as it is said, 'They confess to know God, but in works deny Him' [cf. Tit. 1:16] ...

Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course Part 4

by Fr. George Morelli

4.0 Clinical Vignettes

4.1 Clinical Vignette - Laying Down the Structural Foundation

Imagine a 31 year-old unmarried female, currently living with her parents and suffering financial difficulty. She relates her presenting complaint to the clinician as follows: "I am miserable. My living situation is becoming totally unbearable. There is constant turmoil between my parents and I usually end up being put in the middle of it. I have so many troubles of my own that I can't deal with life. I don't handle stress well anyway, and I have plenty of that with school and my "toxic" family. I have no money and no income, and therefore no way of moving out. I'm in school trying to create a career that will fit with my physical capacity. I just can't seem to find a job I'm qualified for that doesn't involve lifting, prolonged standing, or prolonged sitting. I have pinched nerves in my lower back as well as spinal arthritis. I just feel completely overwhelmed because I have no escape from either school stress or turmoil at home. To top it off, I'm having some trouble with my relationship with God."

Where would a clinician begin? First, the clinician would perform psychometric assessment such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Suicidal Ideation Scale (SIS), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Novaco Anger Scale NAS to establish a baseline current and future reference. For this patient, her scores for the BDI are in the clinical depression range and clinical anxiety range of the BAI.

Chaplain's Corner + Self Honesty

by Fr. George Morelli

If I were to write a Chaplain's Corner article on humility, I would think that it would not be well received by some. Humility is not exactly a virtue held in high esteem by secular society. Sometimes however an article with a different title but with similar content might capture the interest of the reader. Some months ago I wrote a Chaplain's Corner article with a catchy title: The Arrogance of Power, The Power of Humility, that was well received. Self Honesty, the title of this article, might induce the reader to consider another aspect of humility, self honesty, more thoroughly understand what humility is and be able to apply it to their lives as well.

Humility has not gone unrecognized by contemporary psychological research which findings suggest that humility is multidimensional. The critical factors making up humility include, self understanding, awareness, openness and the ability to see things from different perspectivesi. Thus the title of this short reflection, Self Honesty, is a good summary of these dimensions. Various religious and philosophical traditions have described these elements as well. From the Hindu tradition Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: "It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." Elsewhere he pointed out, "To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest."ii

August 21, 2013 + A Description of the Theotokos

St. Maximus the Confessor, The Life of the Virgin, translated by Stephen H. Shoemaker, Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2012, p. 149.

She is the ardent intercessor of her Son, Christ God, for all those who entreat her.
She is the calm harbor of all those buffeted by waves, who rescues them from spiritual and fleshly waves.
She is the guide on the way of life for all who have gone astray.
She is the one who seeks converts those who are lost.
She is the help and support of those who are afflicted.
She is the intercessor and mediator of those who are penitent.
And I will say even more than the above:
She is the resurrection of the fallen Adam.
She is the destruction of Eve's tears.
She is the comforter of those who mourn.
She is the throne of the king, who bears the One who bears all.
She is the one who renews the old world.

August 14, 2013 + On the Dormition of the Theotokos

St. John of Damascus, Homily 1 on the Dormition

O wonder truly above nature! O amazing event! Death, long seen as revolting and hateful, is now praised and called blessed. Long known as the bearer of sadness and depression, of tears and melancholy, it is now revealed as the cause of joy and celebration. So it is, if for all God's servants, who death is now called blessed, the ends if their lives give sure proof that they have found God's favor – if death is called blessed for this reason! Death brings them to fulfillment and shows them to be blessed by making their goodness unchanging; as the proverb puts it, "Do not call a person blessed before his death" (Sir. 11:28).

But we do not understand this as applying to you. Blessedness was yours-not death. Your passing was not your arrival at perfection, nor did your departure bestow security on you. For to you the beginning, the middle and end of all the good things that are beyond minds, their security and true confirmation, was your conceiving without male seed, God's dwelling in you, your childbearing without damage [to your virginity] So you truly predicted that you would be called blessed by all generations, bot from the moment of death but from the very moment of that conception (Lk. 1:48). Therefore death has not made you blessed, but you have yourself made death glorious; you have destroyed its horror and shown death to be a joy.

August 7, 2013 + The Spiritual Director is to be Discerning in Silence and Profitable in Speech

St. Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, pp. 54-55

For just as reckless speaking leads someone into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often, reckless directors, who fear to lose human favor, are afraid to speak freely about what is right. And, according to the voice of the Truth, they fail to attend to the care of their flock as shepherds and act instead as mercenaries [John 10:12]. This is because they flee and hide themselves in silence whenever a wolf approaches. Thus, the Lord scolds them through the prophet, saying: "Dumb dogs, who cannot bark" [Is. 56:10]. Again he complains, saying: "You have not gone up against the enemy nor have you built a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle of the day of the Lord" [Ez. 13:5]. Indeed, to "go up against the enemy" is to oppose worldly powers with a free voice in the defense of the flock. And to "stand in battle on the day of the Lord" is to resist, our of love of justice, evil persons who oppose us. For if a shepherd fears to say what is right, what else is it but to turn his back in silence? But certainly, if he puts himself before the flock [so as to protect them], he "builds a wall for the house of Israel" against its enemies.

 

 

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Afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord

Troparion, Tone 7

July 31, 2013 + About the Last Awaiting

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, July 31st

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:14).

Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In the night we await the day and in the day we await the night and again the day and again the night. But this awaiting is not our last awaiting. Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In joy we tremble waiting for sorrow and in sorrow we wait with hope for joy and again sorrow, and again joy. But not even these awaitings are our last awaitings. Brethren, our last awaiting is the awaiting of the Judgment of God. When the judgment of God comes, the Dreadful Day "which burns like a furnace" (Malachi 4:1), then we welcome all that we deserve; a day for some, without change into night, and night for others, without change into day; joy for some without change to sorrow and sorrow for others without change to joy. Brethren, that is the last awaiting of the human race, whether he knows it or does not know it, whether he thinks about it or does not think about it.

Works of the Order in Action: Project Mexico

A ministry supported by The Order of St. Ignatius and many individual Antiochian parishes, Project Mexico is in the midst of its busy summer in Tijuana, Mexico. Home building crews have been working each week since May.

Two types of homebuilding groups participate each summer: small groups, and Orthodox Basic Training (OBT) groups. During small group weeks, teams from one, two, or three parishes construct a single home for a needy family and spend the afternoons interacting with the boys of St. Innocent Orphanage. During OBT weeks, larger groups travel to Tijuana to construct between four to seven homes in one week, and evening speakers each evening discuss a variety of Orthodox Christian topics. Two of this year's presenters are Antiochian priests Fr. Michael Nasser from Bowling Green, KY and Fr. John Bethancourt from Santa Fe, NM.

July 24, 2013 + Love is a Holy State of the Soul

St. Maximus the Confessor, First Century on Love

1. Love is a holy state of the soul, disposing it to value knowledge of God above all created things. We cannot attain lasting possession of such love while we are still attached to anything worldly.
2. Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion, and patience and forbearance engender hope in God; these in turn are the product of complete self-control, which itself springs from fear of God. Fear of God is the result of faith in God.
3. If you have faith in the Lord you will fear punishment, and this fear will lead you to control the passions. Once you control the passions you will accept affliction patiently, and through such acceptance you will acquire hope in God. Hope in God separates the intellect from every worldly attachment, and when the intellect is detached in this way it will acquire love for God.
4. The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.

Renewed Possibilities for the Apostolic Churches

SSJC-WRi President's Message 2013 Spring
by Fr. George Morelli

RENEWED POSSIBILITIES FOR THE APOSTOLIC CHURCHES

Archpriest George Morelli, PhD

A number of historically momentous events among the Apostolic Churches have occurred since the last Light of the East President's message. First and foremost were the papal resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign since Pope Gregory XII during the Middle Ages (1415 AD, to put an end the Great Western Schism), and the election of his successor Pope Francis I. The words of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the papal resignation echo the feelings of the many I have talked to about this event, that it is "another sign of his great care for the Church." The cardinal went on to say, "Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity,"ii This bespeaks the rampant de-Christianization of society.

Smart Parenting XXII + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are They That Suffer Persecution for Justice' Sake

by Fr. George Morelli

And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. (2Tm 3:12)

Persecution has existed since the origin of the disorder, the brokenness, now so evident in the world. God created the world good, and man was made for paradise. We know this from God's inspired revelation to Moses: "And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed." (Gen 2: 8) It must be realized that disorder is not intrinsic to creation; the world can be seen as good despite the brokenness that exists within it.

July 17, 2013 + Why We Search for the Meaning of Hymns

St. John Chrysostom 

O Lord, I have cried to thee; hear me: attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry to thee (Ps. 140:1).

While everybody, you might say, knows the words of this psalm (sung almost everyday at Vespers) and continues singing it at every age, they are ignorant of the sense of the expressions. What is no slight grounds for accusation, those singing it daily and uttering the words by mouth do not inquire about the force of the ideas underlying the words. By contrast, someone who espies clear and pure water could not bear not to approach it and touch and drink it, and someone who frequently enters a meadow would not allow themselves not to pick some flowers before leaving, whereas we on the other hand from earliest years to extreme old age continue meditating on this psalm while knowing only the words…

… many psalms [are] suited to evening time. It was not for this reason at any rate that the fathers singled out this psalm; rather, they prescribed its recital as a kind of saving medicine and cleansing of sins so that whatever stain we incur throughout the course of the day – abroad, at home, wherever we pass the time – we might on coming to the evening expunge through this spiritual air. It is, you see, a medicine that removes all these stains.”

St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Psalm 140 from Vespers

July 10, 2013 + "We Forgive Them that Trespass Against Us"

St. John of Kronstadt, from My Life in Christ 

"We forgive them that trespass against us." This means not to feel against our neighbour who has been guilty towards us (intentionally, obstinately, or unintentionally) any vexation, enmity, or malice, but to forgive him his fault in all simplicity of heart, vividly representing to ourselves our own infirmities and falling into sin, and maintaining towards our guilty neighbour the same love and the same feelings of kindness which we felt towards him before his fault. What would it be if the Lord were to notice our iniquities as we do the faults of our neighbour? Who could withstand? But as the Lord is long-suffering and merciful, be also long-suffering and merciful (not strictly exacting, but compassionate). "Charity suffereth long, and is kind." [1 Corinthian 13:4] Do not reckon the faults of your neighbour, consider them as though they were not; as nothing! We are one body, and his body is a sinful one. What is more common and easier to us than sins? We breathe them like air. But the Lord, the Head of the body of the Church, is the cleansing of them. Leave everything to the Head, Who worketh all things in all; and hold fast to love alone, for it is the only infallible thing in our life (pure love). Do not serve the Devil by the spirit of enmity, malice, hatred; do not increase evil by evil, and do not spread the kingdom of the enemy in the kingdom of Christ." Overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:21] For you cannot conquer evil with evil, just as you cannot put out fire by fire, but only by water. Malice is always an imagination of the Devil. Love is always God's truth and God's child.

Arab Spring or Tornado?

Editorial by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, from the June 2013 issue of The Word:

Since the so-called Arab Spring began in Libya in 2011, we have seen the devastation and destruction of that Arab country by Libyan and NATO forces. This Arab Spring has since spread to Tunisia and Egypt, the most populated Arab country. This fire has burned relentlessly in Gaza and all of Palestine since 1948. It is spreading into Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq and has caused the most devastation in Syria, where many of us have ancestral roots. Unfortunately, the American and European news outlets are not reporting such stories to the world, neither through the written word nor graphic photographs like the ones you see in this sad issue of The WORD magazine. The WORD has been able to obtain these pictures and information from reliable sources. Syria has been most victimized and experienced the most devastation by this seemingly endless war. The WORD believes that the only country that can bring peace to this most explosive region of the world is the United States of America, because America has leverage over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Europe.