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Spiritual Nuggets + January 22, 2016

Commemoration of America's Sanctioning Abortion

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

With heavy hearts we remember the legality of abortion and the injustice and devastation of it brings down on our beloved country. With this in mind, ask you to pray and work towards ending abortion and supporting women to choose life. Pray for the law-makers, physicians, and young parents, to wake up from this nightmare of genocide and infanticide. This quote below was copied from the content-rich website: https://sites.google.com/site/abortioninformationfororthodox/

The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed.
- St. Basil the Great

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

January 20, 2016 + On Repulsing Provocations

By St Hesychios the Priest, from "On Watchfulness and Holiness: Written for Theodoulos," Philoklia vol. 1

42. Those who lack experience should know that it is only through the unceasing watchfulness of our intellect and the constant invocation of Jesus Christ, our Creator and God, that we, coarse and cloddish in mind and body as we are, can overcome our bodiless and invisible enemies; for not only are they subtle, swift, malevolent and skilled in malice, but they have an experience in warfare gained over all the years since Adam. The inexperienced have as weapons the Jesus Prayer and the impulse to test and discern what is from God. The experienced have the best method and teacher of all: the activity, discernment and peace of God Himself.

43. Just as a child, young and guileless, delights in seeing a conjuror and in his innocence follows him about, so our soul, simple and good because created thus by its Master, delights in the delusive provocations of the devil. Once deceived it pursues something sinister as though it were good, just as a dove is lured away by the enemy of her children. In this way its thoughts become entwined in the fantasy provoked by the devil, whether this happens to be the face of a beautiful woman or some other thing forbidden by the commandments of Christ. Then, seeking to contrive some means through which it can actually attain what attracts it, the soul assents to the provocation and, to its own condemnation, turns this unlawful mental fantasy into a concrete, action by means of the body.

Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed?

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

Spiritual Nuggets + January 3, 2016

Sunday before Theophany

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

Christ is illumined! Let us shine forth with Him!

This Sunday after Theophany we hear our Lord's first public message: "repent". Here is a beautiful image of that from St. John of Karpathos. (One Hundred Texts verse 4 - available online at http://jbburnett.com/resources/john_karpathos.pdf)

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life. The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light. Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light. If a man believes in Christ, 'even though he dies, he shall live' (John 11:25); he shall know that 'I the Lord have spoken, and will do it' (Ezek.17:24 LXX).
- St. John of Karpathos


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

January 13, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 5

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

8.) Finally, the eighth door to demonic temptation is opened from the outside, through external things and occasions, that is, through everything that enters from outside through one's senses, which are the soul's windows. These external things are not evil in and of themselves, but by means of them one's feelings can be tempted and induced to evil and sin.

These, then, are the eight means by which everyone is tempted, regardless of whether one is in the world or in seclusion.

(Having completed listing all eight means by which one is tempted, Elder Cleopa briefly repeated them and then added the ways and means with which to combat each of these temptations.)

January 6, 2016 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 4

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

7.) One is tempted from within by that which one has in one's heart and by that which proceeds from the heart. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly stated that it is from within, from one's heart, that sinful and impure thoughts, desires, and lusts proceed (cf. Matthew 15:19) and tempt one. Temptations come not only from the devil, but also humanly, from the evil intentions and skills, lusts, evil desires, and inner love of sin that proceed from an unclean heart.

Spiritual Nuggets + January 3, 2016

Sunday before Theophany

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

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

St. Nicholai, in his Homily on the Sunday before Theophany (Homilies, vol I, page 71), speaks of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist as examples of humility and obedience and then leaves us with this simple spiritual algorithm.

In Christ,
+ Fr Noah

Men who have no humility or obedience, have no wisdom or love. And he who does not have these does not have God. And he who does not have God does not have himself, but is as if he did not exist, being in darkness and the shadow of death.
-St Nicholai of South Canaan


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Spiritual Nuggets + December 27, 2015

Sunday after Nativity

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

On the Sunday after Nativity, we read Matthew 2:13-23 which recounts the Flight into Egypt. Saint Nicholai of Zicha (Homilies, volume I, pages 51, 53, 54. Tr. Mother Maria, Lazarica Press, Birmingham, England, 1996.) explains why our Lord went to distant Egypt.

Chaplain's Corner + What the World Needs Now is Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli, published in The Word Magazine, September 2016

A song that was popular from the start of the Vietnam War in the mid 1960's and re-recorded in ensuing years, up to the present time, by over a hundred artists was titled: "What the World Needs Now Is Love." A nutshell of the song's theme is in the lyrics: "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it's the only thing that there's just too little of...." In some renditions of the song the lyrics are interspersed with sound bites of bigotry, hatred, prejudice, segregation, gunfire and references to the assassination of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King.1 That the world needs love is a truism. The question arises though, how do we bring love about? Setting aside the legal, political and scientific aspects of personhood, we can discern an answer by focusing on the individuality of each person.

Applying understanding and love to groups is more difficult than to individuals. Research psychology gives some insight as to why this is so. Individuals in groups are often de-individuated.2 That is to say, we do not see them as individuals but as group members. They are without individual personhood. By definition, 'groups' are an abstraction. Violent, destructive acts, and surely a lack of love toward them, are, therefore, more easily applied to groups, and by members of groups to each other.

December 30, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 3

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

6. Temptations from below (Elder Cleopa, in order better to explain this to us, demonstrated with his hands the direction from which one or another temptation came; he then briefly repeated what the direction of the temptation he had just described was) also come about in two ways. The first is when one takes upon oneself ascetic struggles that exceed one's strength, thereby recklessly straining oneself. This happens, for instance, when one is sick but imposes a fast on oneself that is beyond one's strength; or generally when one overdoes any ascetic struggle that is beyond one's spiritual and physical capacity. Such obstinacy lacks humility and is unreasonably presumptuous.

December 23, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 2

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

4. There are two ways in which the devil tempts from the right. The first is when one performs good deeds and actions, but with a bad or malicious intent and purpose. For example, if one does good or acts well out of vainglory, to receive praise, to obtain a position, to acquire fame, or in order to attain some benefit for oneself – it follows that one is doing such good out of vanity, avarice, and greed. The performance of good deeds for bad purposes is sinful and vain. The Holy Fathers liken such a performance of good deeds (such as fasting and almsgiving) to a body without a soul, inasmuch as the purpose for which a deed is accomplished is its soul, while the deed itself is its body. Therefore, the performance of good deeds with an ungodly purpose is essentially a temptation coming from the right, that is, coming under the guise of good. The second demonic temptation from the right comes through various apparitions and visions, when one receives visions of the devil in the form of God or an Angel of God. The Holy Fathers call trusting these specters from the devil, or accepting these demonic phenomena, delusion or deception [prelest].

Spiritual Nuggets + December 20, 2015

Sunday before Nativity

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

This Sunday, the Sunday before the Nativity, we read St. Matthew's Genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-25). Below is the allegorical interpretation of Saint Theophylact of Ochrid regarding Rahab (Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, page 16). May we respond generously with any opportunity for repentance and service as Rahab did.

May you have a blessed and merry Christmas!

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

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