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December 16, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 1

The following account is of a spiritual instruction offered by an outstanding contemporary hesychast, Elder Cleopa (Ilie) (1912-1998) of Sihastria Monastery in Romania. What follows is an excerpt from an article written by His Grace, Atanasije (Jevtic), Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina (Serbian Orthodox Church), entitled "Teachings of the Blessed Elder Cleopa." In it, Bishop Atanasije describes a pilgrimage he undertook in 1976 with a fellow disciple of St. Justin Popovich, Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic) of Montenegro and the Littoral – both bishops were then hieromonks – to visit Elder Cleopa. Following a detailed history of the practice of hesychasm in Romania, His Grace relates how, sitting on a hill overlooking the fruit orchard, with Elder Cleopa kneeling before them, he asked the Elder how to live in this world while struggling with one's passions and the temptations of the world. This is the reply the Elder offered him, as related by Bishop Atanasije:

Spiritual Nuggets + December 13, 2015

11th Sunday of Luke

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

This Sunday, the 2nd before Nativity, commemorating the Ancestors of Christ, we read the parable of the Great Banquet inLuke 14:16-24. St. Cyril of Alexandria (Homily 104) sees the excuse of the "five yoke of oxen" as the fives senses tying us to worldly cares.

"It would be far better to gain the joys of paradise instead of earthly fields and temporary furrows." - St. Cyril of Alexandria

May our efforts during the fast to transcend the five senses in pursuit of God's generosity be blessed by His Grace!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Learning About a Saint: St. Seraphim of Sarov

(Commemorated on January 2)

On January 2, we commemorate the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov. This beloved saint's humility and kindness to both people and animals provide an excellent example for all of us. His name day falls right after the beginning of the new calendar year. We are writing this blog post a whole month before his commemoration, in order to allow time for us to learn about him and teach our children about his life before any of us make our New Year's resolutions. Emulating his life – even just one aspect of his holy way of living – would be an excellent New Year's resolution for any Orthodox Christian.

St. Seraphim, first named Prochor Moshnin, was born in in Kursk, Russia, in 1759, to devout parents who took him to church and taught him the things of God. At an early age, miracles began to happen in Prochor's life. For example, when he was only 7 years old, he once fell from the bell tower (which was 3 or 4 stories tall) of the Kursk Cathedral. He should have been seriously injured, but God worked a miracle, and he was unharmed. When he was 10, he became very ill. One night, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him that he would soon be healed. A few days later, a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos was processing through Kursk when rain suddenly began to pour down from the clouds. The procession took a shortcut through Prochor's family's yard. His mother carried her sick boy outside to venerate the icon as it passed, and he recovered from his illness that very day.

The Spirituality of Moral Unity: Standing Together

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Winter 20151

To borrow the opening lines of the famous 19th English novelist Charles Dickens in his A Tale of Two Cities (1859): "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." Though Dickens was referencing the pre and post-French Revolution state of political, social and spiritual affairs in London and Paris, we can well apply these words to the state of the contemporary world as we enter the 21st Century.

December 9, 2015 + On Intelligent Men

from St. Anthony the Great

"Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who are erudite in the sayings and books of the wise men of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God they resolutely adhere by dint of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These men alone should truly be called intelligent."

December 2, 2015 + On Giving Thanks to the Creator

from St. Basil the Great

As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer."

Spiritual Nuggets + December 6, 2015

St. Nicholas

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas this Lord's day, please enjoy and be edified by the this little glimpse into the saint's early life (from OCA.ORG - oca.org/saints/lives/2007/12/06/103484-st-nicholas-the-wonderworker-and-archbishop-of-myra-in-lycia). It was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, that he heard his call.

Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.

May we also be inspired to serve God and His people with a devout family life and holy pilgrimages. May we have his prayers!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Models of Parenting for Clergy and Parents

by His Grace Bishop John, The Word, December 2015

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:31–33

St. Paul uses the family relationship of a husband and wife to describe the relationship of Christ and His Church. We also use our relationships in the Church to understand better our family relationships. This is legitimate, because both family and Church are gifts from God and present models of reasonable and holy behavior. Further, Christ uses the metaphor of a good father to describe how God as Father relates to us. The purpose of parent-child relationships, as well as pastor-parishioner relationships, is for us to respond to the incarnate God who, by His Spirit, lives with us now. In these holy relationships our primary relationship is with our God, and this relationship is realized in our families and parish life, and nurtured by them. I would like to explore how models of good parenting can build holy and productive relationships between a pastor and parishioner. (A model relationship of a healthy pastor and parishioner can build healthier family relationships, too.) I apologize from the start that my study "paints with a wide brush" or is simplistic. I also write knowing that every parent uses many styles of parenting, depending on what is appropriate to the situation. Each style has positive and negative aspects, depending on a number of circumstances. I also confess, up front, that my bias is for the authoritative parenting style.

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

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

Beloved,

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

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

November 25, 2015 + Rejoice, Christ Draweth Nigh

ODE 8 – Tone 2

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

Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.

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

Chaplain's Corner + The Best Thanksgiving is Giving

by Fr. George Morelli

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

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

Spiritual Nuggets + November 22, 2015

9th Sunday of Luke

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

Blessed Fast!

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

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

 


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Spiritual Nuggets + November 15, 2015

8th Sunday of Luke - The Good Samaritan

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

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

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

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

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

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

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

Spiritual Nuggets + November 8, 2015

Holy Archangels

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Nuggets + November 1, 2015

5th Sunday of Luke

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

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

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

by Protopresbyter Dumitru Staniloae

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

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

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

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

Crestwood, New York – Sept 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Have the Antiochians Changed Their Minds?

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

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

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

October 28, 2015 + The Path to Salvation

by St. Ambrose of Optina

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

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

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

Spiritual Nuggets + October 18, 2015

The Holy Apostle Luke

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

Blessed Fast!

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

 


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

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

by St. Theophan the Recluse ca. 1815-1894

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

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

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

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 9

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Spiritual Nuggets + October 11, 2015

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

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

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

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

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

 


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

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