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Spiritual Nuggets + February 28, 2016

Prodigal Son Sunday

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

This coming Sunday we are reading and celebrating our Lord's parable of the Prodigal Son. St. Nicholai of South Canaan (Homilies I, pg 104) speaks of the perennial value of this clear look into human nature and God's love.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lord Jesus has given us a picture of real, divine love, painted in such clear colours that it pulsates with life before our eyes, as this world does when, after the darkness of night, the sun shines forth. Two thousand years have not dulled the colours of this picture, and they will never be dulled as long as there are mend on earth, and God's love for them. On the contrary, the more sinful men become, the more vivid is this picture.
- St. Nicholai of South Canaan

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

March 2, 2016 + From St. John of Kronstadt

from St. John of Kronstadt

"The Lord turned and looked upon Peter . . . and Peter went out, and wept bitterly" (Luke xxii. 61, 62). And even now, when the Lord looks upon us we weep bitterly over our sins. Yes, our tears during prayer mean that the Lord has looked upon us with His gaze, that gives life to everything and trieth the hearts and reins. Ah! the soul is sometimes entangled and ensnared by sins, like a bird in the net! We do not sometimes see any outlet from our sins, and they torment us; the heart sometimes feels terribly anxious and sorrowful on account of them; but "Jesus looks upon us, and streams of tears flow from our eyes, and with the tears all the tissue of evil in our soul vanishes; we weep and rejoice that such mercy has been suddenly and unexpectedly sent to us; what warmth we then feel in our heart, and what lightness, as though we could fly up to the Lord God Himself! I thank the Lord with all my heart for freely forgiving all my sin (cf. Psalm ciii. 3)!

February 24, 2016 + Prayer Before Receiving Holy Communion

from St. Basil the Great

O Lord, I know that I am unworthy to receive thy Holy Body and Precious Blood; I know that I am guilty, and that I eat and drink condemnation to myself, not discerning the Body and Blood of Christ my God. But trusting in thy loving-kindness I come unto thee who has said: He that eateth my Body and drinketh my Blood shall dwell in me and I in him. Therefore, O Lord, have compassion on me and make not an example of me, thy sinful servant. But do unto me according to thy great mercy, and grant that these Holy Gifts may be for me unto the healing, purification, enlightenment, protection, salvation and sanctification of my soul and body, and to the expulsion of every evil imagination, sinful deed or work of the Devil. May they move me to reliance on thee and to love thee always, to amend and keep firm my life; and be ever in me to the increase of virtue, to the keeping of thy Commandments, to the communion of the Holy Spirit, and as a good defense before thy dread Judgment Seat, and for Life Eternal. Amen.

Spiritual Nuggets + February 21, 2016

Publican and Pharisee

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

This Sunday we commemorate and read our Lord's Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). St. Nicholai (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies, volume 1, tr. Mother Maria, Lazarica Press, Birmingham, England, 1996. p 95.) opens his wonderful homily on this pericope with this beautiful image/story:

A man went into the forest to choose a tree from which to make roof-beams. And he saw two trees, one beside the other. One was smooth and tall, but had rotted away inside, and the other was rough on the outside and ugly, but its core was healthy. The man sighed, and said to himself: "What use is this smooth, tall tree to me if it is rotten inside and useless for beams? The other one, even if it is rough and ugly, is at least healthy on the inside and so, if I put a bit more effort into it, I can use it for roof-beams for my house." And, without thinking any more about it, he chose that tree.
- St. Nicholai

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Lest We Forget: The Legacy of Metropolitan Antony Bashir

by Fr. Antony Gabriel, first published in The Word Magazine, February 1998

"Orthodoxy is a freedom-loving, democratic faith it is at its best in our free America. Our people are part and parcel of America, gladly giving their treasure and the blood of their sons to safeguard its free institutions which are the reflection of the freedom they find in their faith. If the best of Byzantium has survived, it is in the United States, and if there is an Orthodox political ideal, it is enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

"Thus, while we must still minister to many who remember the ways and customs of another land, it is our policy to make our Church in the United States, an American Church. In my own archdiocese, under my administration, we have pioneered in the introduction of English in our Services and sermons. From the beginning of my ministry, I began the printing of English service books, and the training of English-speaking priests. We are tied to no sacred language; we recognize all tongues as the creation of God, and employ them in His worship. We have no desire to perpetuate anything but the Gospel of Christ, and that we can do as effectively in English as in any other tongue."

February 17, 2016 + On Church Attendance and Anxieties

by St. Macarius of Optina

Since your desire to attend church services is good, this overpowering anxiety about what may happen to your children while you are away from home can be nothing but a subtle temptation.

A father's presence in the home is naturally a great help to all; but since David the Prophet says, The Lord preserveth the simple (Ps. 116:6), can you think that your presence alone, without His help, is worth anything to them? On the other hand, surely His care is sufficient without your presence. And if God should allow some accident to befall one of them, could you prevent it, even if you were on the spot at the time? When you leave home to go to church, commit your children to the care of our Lady and their guardian angels. In church, pray for them. But do not put off going there because of unreasonable scruples, anxieties and fears. [203]

Spiritual Nuggets + February 14, 2016

The Caananite Woman

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

I'd like to send the following from St. Nikolai (Homilies, vol. II, page 175) as he explains why Christ called the Canaanite woman a dog.

The Lord deliberately spoke like this, as all the Jews had spoken, in order that the disciples should reflect and themselves come to the conviction that the understanding held by their nation was mistaken, and that this understanding was as much mistaken as was their nation's degeneration, its apostasy from God and its rejection and despising of Christ the Lord.
- St. Nicholai of South Canaan

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

February 10, 2016 + The Fathers of the Church Have Not Grown Old

from Elder Moses the Hagiorite

The great Fathers of the Church are her great theologians. They are the God-bearers, the God-inspired, the God-moved, the Enlightened, those who rightly administer the word of truth in their life, their teaching and their works. The strain of their theological ascent is what it is, not only because of their constant study of Holy Scripture, but also because of their experiences, since the Word of Scripture became the earnest acceptance of their heart. All the Fathers of the Church are characterized by the holiness of their lives and orthodox doctrine.

There is a great need today to return again to the sacred patristic sources, which are always inexhaustible and life-giving. Great Fathers are not only the ancient ones but also the newer ones, who continue on the path of those who have greater experience from the useful past of the Church. Contemporary theologians need to study faithfully the works of our holy Fathers. Distortion or ignorance of the sacred tradition and the creation of a new Theology, which bypasses the Fathers, who are considered obsolete, with a language which is culturally fashionable, more complex terminology, incomprehensible sometimes even to themselves, neotheological, anti-ascetical, uncut, unattested, easy-going, joyful and very happy, but also as shallow, lukewarm and perfunctory.

Spiritual Nuggets + February 7, 2016

The Parable of the Talents

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

St. Theohylact (Explanation of St. Matthew, pg 216) gives us a plain explanation of what the talents are and why some were initially entrusted with more and some with less.

Into the vessel I offer to God, He places His gift to me. If it is a small vessel, a small gift; if it is a large vessel, a larger gift. For whether a man be gifted in speech, wealth, the authority of kingship, or any other power or skill, if he desires to benefit not only himself but others as well, he doubles what has been given to him. But he who buries the talent is he who cares only for his own benefit and not for that others, and he is condemned.
- St. Theophylact

May God bless us in multiplying our talents for His glory!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Our Vision of Leadership is Service

by His Grace Bishop John, The Word, February 2016

Without vision, the people shall perish, but he that keeps the law is blessed.
Proverbs 29:18

VISION IS AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP. CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IS LEADERSHIP BY THOSE WHO PUT ON CHRIST, AND WHO GATHER AS THE CHURCH TO UNDERSTAND AND TO DO GOD'S WILL. THIS UNDERSTANDING COMES FROM GOD'S PROMISE THAT "WHERE TWO OR THREE GATHER IN MY NAME, THERE AM I WITH THEM" (MATTHEW 18:20). TOGETHER, WITH LOVE AND MUTUAL SUBMISSION AND RESPECT, CHRISTIANS DISCERN GOD'S WILL, "SUBMITTING TO ONE ANOTHER OUT OF REVERENCE FOR CHRIST" (EPHESIANS 5:21).

Christian leadership is always a leadership of service. "After that, he put water into a basin, and began to washthefeetof the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John13:5). We lead by being true servants of each other and servants of God. Vision is the discernment and articulation of our goals, and of the pathways that take us there.

This leads me to ask, how is it, then, that we discover God's vision for us – God's vision for us as the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, as dioceses throughout North America, as parishes, committees and mission or work teams, and even as Christian families and individuals?

Spiritual Nuggets + January 31, 2016

Zacchaeus Sunday

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

The shadow of Zacchaeus in his tree looms large on us on as we begin to prepare for our Lenten journey to Pascha. The following from St. Augustine (Sermon 174.3, in ACCS, Luke, pg 290) is a keen etymological insight (sycamore meaning "silly fig" from the Greek Syca and Moron] into the foolishness of the cross.

Zacchaeus climbed away from the crowd and saw Jesus without the crowd getting in his way. The crowd laughs at the lowly, at people walking the way of humility, who leave the wrongs they suffer in God's hands and do not insist on getting back at their enemies. The crows laughs at the lowly and says, "you helpless, miserable clod, you cannot even stick up for yourself and back what is your own." ...He ignored the crowd that was getting in his way. Instead, he climbed a sycamore tree, a tree of silly fruit. As the apostle says, "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block indeed to the Jews [now notice the sycamore] but folly to the Gentiles."
- St. Augustine

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

February 3, 2016 + About Understanding through Doing

"Whoever chooses to do His will [God's Will] shall know whether my teaching is from God" (St. John 7:17).

It benefits little to prove by human logic and words that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God. The fastest and most reliable way to know this is truth is to do the will of God in the same way that Christ proclaimed it and testified to it. Whosoever would do this, that one will know that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God.

If you cry for the sake of God, you will know what kind of comfort He is. If you are merciful, you know the mercy of God. If you build peace, you will know how it becomes you to be called the Son of God. If you forgive men, you will know God forgives you.

Never can anyone be able to know that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God, except he who does the Will of God. For only doing the Will of God, fulfilling the commandments of God, that is the key for unlocking Paradise in which God is seen. That is the key for understanding Holy Scripture and all the mysteries of revelation.

Chaplain's Corner + Being True to Our Purpose

by Fr. George Morelli

"Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw into your work such strength of mind and muscle as God has given you," wrote1 Scottish essayist, historian, teacher and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). This highlights the importance of keeping focus on the goal to be attained. Canadian educator and writer Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), author of The Peter Principle (1968), put it this way: "If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else."2 As the Book of Leviticus encourages us, we can have God at our side in our journey of life. "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (Leviticus 26:12).

The Buddhist tradition, while eschewing a personal God, nevertheless holds to the view of individual and group responsibility, so much so that one Buddhist scholar wrote: "Thus we are capable of changing ourselves, even to the extent of changing the world.... If we start toward the direction performing wholesome acts from this very moment, then our future will be full of brightness."3

Purpose in life is more complex in Hindu teaching. It involves four features: dharma (paying debts (thanks) for being born, cared for by parents and teachers, respect for guests and other living things; artha, (prosperity) guided by dharma; kama (desire) as is appropriate in terms of dharma and artha, and moksha (enlightenment) self realization, that is to say, liberation and attaining a sense of being one with God and the universe.4

January 27, 2016 + On the Necessity of Reciting the Psalms

by St. Athanasius the Great

Let each one, therefore, who recites the Psalms have a sure hope that through them God will speedily give ear to those who are in need. For if a man be in trouble when he says them, great comfort will he find in them; if he be tempted or persecuted, he will find himself abler to stand the test and will experience the protection of the Lord, Who always defends those who say these words. By them too a man will overthrow the devil and put the fiends to flight. If he have sinned, when he uses them he will repent; if he have not sinned, he will find himself rejoicing that he is stretching out towards the things that are before [Phil 3:16] and, so wrestling, in the power of the Psalms he will prevail. Never will such a man be shaken from the truth, but those who try to trick and lead him into error he will refute; and it is no human teacher who promises us this, but the Divine Scripture itself. For God commanded Moses to write the great song [Deut 31:19] and to teach the people, and him whom He had appointed leader He bade also to write Deuteronomy, to have it ever in his hand and to meditate unceasingly upon its words [Deut. 17:18-19]; because these are sufficient in themselves both to call men's minds to virtue and to bring help to any who ponder them sincerely.

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].

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