THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 2)
You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all. Of the coming of the Saviour and how, althought He is God, He yet should dwell among us, Psalm 50 says, God shall come openly, even our God, and He shall not keep silence; and in Psalm 118 we read, Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the House of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light. That He Who comes is Himself the Father's Word, Psalm 107 thus sings, He sent His Word and healed them, and rescued them out of all their distresses. For the God Who comes is this self-same Word Whom the Father sends, and of this Word Who is the Father's Voice, Whom well he knows to be the Son of God, the Psalmist sings again in 45, My heart is inditing of a good Word; and also in 110, Out of the womb, before the down, have I begotten Thee. Whom else, indeed, should any call God's very Offspring, save His own Word and Wisdom? And he, who knows full well that it was through the Word that God said, Let there be light, Let there be a firmament. Let there be all things, [Gen 1:3 ff] says again in Psalm 33, By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth.
THE LETTER OF ST. ATHANASIUS TO MARCELLINUS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PSALMS (Part 1)
My dear Marcellinus, YOUR steadfastness in Christ fills me with admiration. Not only are you bearing well your present trial, with its attendant suffering; you are even living under rule and, so the bearer of your letter tells me, using the leisure necessitated by your recent illness to study the whole body of the Holy Scriptures and especially the Psalms. Of every one of those, he says, you are trying to grasp the inner force and sense. Splendid! I myself am devoted to the Psalms, as indeed to the whole Bible; and I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labour on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke. So I am going to write down for you the things he said.
SON, all the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction [2 Tim 3:16], as it is written; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure. Each book of the Bible has, of course, its own particular message: the Pentateuch, for example, tells of the beginning of the world, the doings of the patriarchs, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the ordering of the tabernacle and the priesthood; The Triteuch [Joshua, Judges, and Ruth] describes the division of the inheritance, the acts of the judges, and the ancestry of David; Kings and Chronicles record the doings of the kings, Esdras [Ezra] the deliverance from exile, the return of the people, and the building of the temple and the city; the Prophets foretell the coming of the Saviour, put us in mind of the commandments, reprove transgressorts, and for the Gentiles also have a special word. Each of these books, you see, is like a garden which grows one special kind of fruit; by contrast, the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some of all the rest.
A recent report issued by the American Psychiatric Association pointed out the importance of family in healing.i Specifically cited were findings released by for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center regarding factors in healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors of all religious traditions are in a unique position to aid in such treatment, as stated in the chaplain resource material: "chaplain's strengths have been in the offering of care to patients, families and staff, and in building an intuitive sense of the importance of the care they provide.”ii
Care to individuals in the context of their families is central to religious traditions. Speaking in the Buddhist tradition, the Dali Lama has said: “The ultimate source of peace in the family, the country, and the world is altruism.”iii The Bhagavad-Gita (68: 8-9) points out: “They are completely fulfilled by spiritual wisdom and Self-realization . . . . They are equally disposed to family, enemies, and friends, to those who support them and those who are hostile, to the good and the evil alike. Because they are impartial, they rise to great heights.”
by St. Diadochos of Photike, Gnostic Chapters, 17, from Repentance and Confession, by John Chrysavgis
Just as bodily wounds that are not cared for are hardened and do not feel the bitterness of the medicine used by doctors, yet when they are cleansed they begin to feel the effect of the medicine and consequently are healed rapidly, so also with the soul . . . when it begins to be purified with great care, then it feels the fear of God burning it like a lifegiving medicine and it is judged while its [the soul's] passions are burned.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid: Lives of the Saints, February 5
"Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him" (St. John 11:11).
The Lord of life calls death "sleeping." O what an inexpressible comfort that is for us! O what sweet news for the world! Physical death, therefore, does not mean the annihilation of man rather only sleeping from which only He can awaken; He Who awakened the first dust to life by His word.
When the Lord cried out: "Lazarus!" (St. John 11:43), the man awoke and lived. The Lord knows the name of each of us. When Adam knew the names of every creature of God, why would not the Lord know each one of us by name? Not only does He know but He also calls us by name. O, the sweet and life-creating voice of the only Lover of mankind! This voice can create sons of God from stones. Why, then, can He not awaken us out of our sinful sleep?
DEALING WITH THE ASSAULT ON CHRIST’S CHURCH - OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIALi
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. (Ps 132: 1)
Who of us has not become keenly aware by now of the assault on Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by those under the un-Godly spell of political and social correctness, either those officially in power or those in society who are simply opposed to the teachings of Christ and His Church? Such attacks on our Apostolic Church teachings should be opposed by all orthodox Christians, and, of course, especially by those who are members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom.
At first glance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, seems Christ-like and in conformity with Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 33). After all, the possibility of caring for the physical health of all is certainly demanded by the Corporal Works of Mercy. However, on closer inspection this official legislation is at the expense of the care of the soul, the Spiritual Works of Mercy. For example, a recent analysis of the implementation of the ACA reveals “. . .that many health insurance plans will subsidize abortion-on-demand.”ii
In my Chaplain’s Corner column last month I wrote about the question: “Where has all the trust gone?” This month I want to focus on one powerful weapon in re-establishing trust: integrity. Now integrity implies “an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. . . . moral soundness.”i Two types of integrity come to mind: Physical integrity, for example a sound body or structure, like an airplane or building, and spiritual-moral integrity, making the right decisions and actions as we traverse the vicissitudes of life.
Thus, integrity is a process under continual construction, repeated in test mode as new situations are encountered over time. A quite notable example of physical integrity failing is the booster rocket “O-ring” problem that tragically brought down the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Examples in the spiritual-moral domain abound. In dealing with the vicissitudes of life, let us consider the warning words of Benjamin Franklin, "Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas."ii Integrity may be considered a spiritual virtue, an internal consistency of heart and mind that leads to honest and truthful words and actions.
by Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
... Saint Maximus writes in the preface to his "400 Chapters on Love", which he addressed to "Elpidius the Presbyter", who, as it appears, asked him for this discourse: "I request that you not be annoyed by anything that is said; I have simply fulfilled an obligation."
At first he clarifies that everything mentioned in this text are not reflections of his intellect, but selections from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, whose words he investigated, and then tells the recipient of this discourse the way it should be studied to be benefited spiritually. While studying it, he will need to look for the benefit which comes from the words, overlooking the style which lacks charm, and to pray for the author. Out of humility he adds that the author of this essay is bereft of spiritual profit. Further, he emphasizes that the study of this essay must not be out of curiosity, but with the fear of God and love, because without the Grace of God one cannot see the depth of what is read to benefit from it.
"Perhaps it might happen that something useful to the soul will be revealed out of them. This will happen completely by the Grace of God to the one who reads with an uncomplicated mind, with the fear of God and with love. But if someone reads this or any other book whatever not for the spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than he, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind."
A truck driver had been driving quite a few hours straight, and was tired and hungry, so he pulled into a truck stop and went into the restaurant to eat. While he was eating, a group of local Hell's Angels motorcyclists came into the restaurant to eat. While waiting for their food to be prepared, the Hell's Angels got bored. They began to harass the truck driver just for entertainment. They called him names, yelled at him, and so on. Then they started throwing rolled-up napkins at him. He just sat and ate quietly and totally ignored them. This upset them – they just couldn't get a rise out of him. So, finally, one of them walked over and dumped a plate of food over the truck driver's head. He still didn't react, other than to take some napkins and clean himself up as well as possible – while the Hell's Angels laughed at him. He paid his bill and quietly left to go back to his truck. The thugs joked around with the waitress after he left, saying, "You know, that fella sure was a wimp. He wasn't much of a man!" The waitress, looking out the window at the parking lot, said, "You know, he's not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over a bunch of motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot!"
(from Our Daily Bread, February 28, 1990)
We chuckle at how the trucker handled the situation and probably can't help but admire him some, but.... that is not Jesus' way to handle enemies! How did our Lord say to respond to situations where enemies confront us? In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ told us, "Love your enemies." It's natural for us to seek revenge, like the truck driver did – but "natural" isn't always good! As Christians we are called to a higher way of life. The Lord Himself told us about this. As He said in Luke 6: 32–35:
by St. John Chrysostom, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, vol. 5, Letter to the Fallen Theodore, 1.14
For the blessed David also had a fall like that which has now happened to you; and not this only but another also that followed it. I mean that of murder. What then? Did he remain prostrate? Did he not immediately rise up again with energy and place himself in position to fight the enemy? In fact, he wrestled with him so bravely that even after his death he was the protector of his offspring. For when Solomon had perpetrated great iniquity and had deserved countless deaths, God said that he would leave him the kingdom intact, thus speaking: "I will surely rend the kingdom out of your hand and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless, I will not do this in your days." Wherefore? "For David your father's sake, I will take it out of the hand of your son" [I Kings 11:11]. And again when Hezekiah was about to run the greatest possible risk, although he was a righteous man, God said that he would aid him for the sake of this saint, "For I will cast my shield," he says, "over this city to save it for my own sake and for my servant David's sake" [II Kings 19].
Current behavioral research literature has found support for a clinical tool called mindfulness that can be used to break bad habits and troubling emotions. One psychologist, Kabat-Zinn (2003), defined mindfulness as "the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment." The 'patient' can focus on the sensory and physical aspects of the present moment, recognize thought patterns, feelings and physical sensations that are occurring and learn to tell the difference between sensations, thoughts and feelings. The 'patient' then practices making decisions based on the choices they really want and feel right.
From The Prologue from Ohrid by St. Nikolaj Velimirovic
Paul was born of wealthy parents in Lower Thebes in Egypt during the reign of Emperor Decius. Paul, along with his sister, inherited all the property of their parents. But his brother-in-law, an idolater, wanted to confiscate Paul's share of the property and threatened to betray Paul before the judge as a Christian if he did not cede his property to him. On one hand, that misfortune and on the other hand those heroic examples of selfsacrifices of Christian martyrs which Paul saw with his own eyes motivated him to give his share of the property to his sister and he, as a pauper, withdrew into the desert where he lived an ascetical life until his death. To what spiritual heights this ascetical giant reached is witnessed by no less a person than St. Anthony the Great who, at one time, visited Paul and saw how the wild beasts and birds of heaven ministered to him. Returning from this visit, Anthony said to his monks, "Woe is me, my children! A sinful and false monk that I am, a monk only in name. I saw Elijah, I saw John in the wilderness and, in truth, I saw Paul in Paradise!" St. Paul lived one-hundred thirteen years and peacefully died in the Lord in the year 342 A.D.
by St. Romanos the Melodist, Kontakia I, On the Epiphany, Strophe 3-4.
Adam, sing praise, sing praise to Him; fall down before Him who comes to you;
For He has appeared for you as you come forward to see Him, to grope after Him, and to greet Him.
He who you feared when you were deceived, for your sake has been made like you.
He descended to earth in order that He might take you up on high.
He became mortal that you might be divine, and that you might put on the first beauty.
Wishing to reopen Eden, He dwelt in Nazareth. For this, then, sing, O man, and singing, charm the One
Who has appeared and illumined all things.
When God was seen by Abraham as he sat beneath the oak tree in Mamre
He was seen as a man, but Abraham did not recognize Him for what He was,
for he could not have endured it.
Today He has not appeared in this way to us, but in His own person, for the Word was made flesh.
For this, the enigma is clear: To our ancestors, darkness; to patriarchs, images;
But to the children, Truth itself.
For God appeared to Abraham, but he did not know Him as God.
But we behold Him because He wills it, and we hold fast to Him Who has appeared and illumined all things.
by St. Gregory the Theologian, excerpted from a homily (Festal Oration 38) given by St. Gregory while Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Feast of the Nativity in the year 380.
Christ is born, give glory; Christ is from the heavens, go to meet Him; Christ is on earth, be lifted up. "Sing to the Lord, all the earth," and, to say both together, "Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice," for the Heavenly One is now earthly. Christ is in the flesh, exult with trembling and joy; trembling because of sin, joy because of hope. Christ comes from a Virgin; women, practice virginity, that you may become mothers of Christ. Who would not worship the One "from the beginning"? Who would not glorify "the Last"?
Again the darkness is dissolved, again the light is established, again Egypt is punished by darkness. Again Israel is illumined by a pillar. Let the people siting in the darkness of ignorance see a great light of knowledge. "The old things have passed; behold, all things have become new." The letter withdraws, the spirit advances; the shadows have been surpassed, the truth has entered after them. Melchizedek is completed, the motherless One becomes fatherless; He was motherless first, fatherless second. The laws of nature are dissolved. The world above must be filled. Christ commands, let us not resist. "All nations, clap your hands," "for to us a Child is born, and to us a Son is given, the power is on His shoulder," for He is lifted up along with the cross, and He is called by the name "Angel of great counsel," that of the Father. Let John proclaim, "Prepare the way of the Lord." I myself will proclaim the power of this day. The fleshless One takes flesh, the Word is made coarse, the invisible One seen, the impalpable One is touched, the timeless One makes a beginning, the Son of God becomes a Son of Man, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and for the ages." Let Jews be scandalized, let Greeks mock, let heretics talk till their tongues ache. They will believe when they see Him ascend into heaven, and if not then, at least when they see Him coming from heaven and sitting as Judge.
by St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 56 and 57
What, then, is the divine commandment now laid upon us? It is repentance, the essence of which is never again to touch forbidden things. We were expelled from the land of divine delight, we were justly shut out from God's paradise, and we have fallen into this pit where we are condemned to dwell together with dumb creatures without hope of returning - in so far as it depends on us - to the paradise we have lost. But He who initially passed a just sentence of punishment or, rather, justly permitted punishment to come upon us, has now in His great goodness, compassion and mercy descended for our sake to us. And He became a human being like us in all things except sin so that by His likeness to us He might teach us anew and rescue us; and He gave us the saving counsel and commandment of repentance, saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near" (Matt. 3:2). Prior to the incarnation of the Logos of God the kingdom of heaven was as far from us as the sky is from the earth; but when the King of heaven came to dwell amongst us and chose to unite Himself with us, the kingdom of heaven drew near to us all.
In 1972, at the Archdiocese Convention in Los Angeles, California, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip stated, "We must realize once and for all that women have a definite ministry in the life of the Church. Very often we have the tendency to confine women's role to the kitchen. Both the Old and New Testaments testify beyond doubt to the important role which women played in the history of salvation. Time does not permit me to speak in detail about Ruth, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, the Virgin Mary, the Ointment-Bearers, the Deaconesses and many others who ministered to the church and Christ. I propose, therefore, that a NATIONAL SISTERHOOD OF CHARITY be organized in the Archdiocese."
I recently heard an interesting commentary on a local radio station on the erosion oftrust in today’s society. It raised the question in my mind: Where has all the trust gone? I immediately made the connection to a folk song popular in the mid 20th Century, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone.” The lyrics refer in part to the horrors and loss of life experienced by the Cossacks living in the River Don region of Russia during the period of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. While not on the same level as the loss of life, we now, in the beginning of the 21st Century, can lament the widespread loss of trust in society.
This was all personally meaningful to me. A child of the mid 20th century, I grew up in a very small upstate New York village. Not only did we all know each other, but doors were always unlocked, a sure indication of trust. I remember being able to walk into a friend's house and make myself at home. We would depend on each other and come to each other's aid. Our word was our bond. Trustworthiness was a common virtue. Now, a generation later, I employ every security measure I know for personal and home protection.
ODE 1 – Tone 2
A force overwhelming in its might at one time laid low the host of all the army of Pharaoh within the deeps; even so, the Word made flesh, yea, the Lord who is glorified, hath utterly destroyed sin in all its wretchedness: for gloriously is he glorified.
Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.
Under Caesar's law wast thou enrolled in thy wish to register man in the Book of Life, O thou the King of all. As a stranger hast thou come to thine own, unto those who were estranged in suffering outside Paradise, so that to heaven thou mightest call them back.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Receive Christ, O town of Bethlehem; for he cometh bodily to dwell in thee, opening Eden unto me. Prepare to behold, O cave, wondrously contained in thee the One who cannot be contained, who in the wealth of his loving kindness is become a beggar now.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Lo, Christ cometh that he may be born, granting in his goodness that those sprung from Adam may strangely be born anew. Make thou glad, O barren one; be thou merry, all mortal nature which beareth not. For the Master cometh to grant birth of many children unto thee.
37 years ago, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip created The Order of St. Ignatius to enable the laity of our Archdiocese to organize and raise funds for various philanthropic endeavors that would make a difference in the lives of many. As you probably know, there is nothing more humbling in life than to learn that one’s act of charity or philanthropy has made a difference in the life of another person.
Over the past several months, you have had the opportunity to read articles prepared by some of those who have received grants from the Order. This year alone, the Order has given $267,340 towards these four specific projects. From its inception in 1975 to the present, the Order has given $260,000 to International Orthodox Christian Charities; $34,600 in scholarships for Orthodox college students to attend Orthodox conferences; $350,000 to enable our clergy to attend parish life conferences, our Archdiocese conventions and clergy symposiums; and over $2 million in scholarships for our children to attend camping programs. These Orthodox organizations and departments are a mere fraction of those that receive funds from the Order.
By Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, translated by Theodosia Tomkinson, p. 24.
But those who are of God keep Faith and therefore cannot suffer from the moth which divides the garment. For everything which is divided within itself, like the kingdom of Satan, cannot be everlasting [cf. Mt. 11:25] Moreover, it is rust of the spirit when the keenness of religious intention is dulled by the defilement of worldly desires or the purity of faith is stained by a cloud of unbelief. Rust of the moth is desire for the familiar; rust of the mind is carelessness; rust of the mind is longing for honours, if the greatest hope of the present life is set thereon. And, therefore, let us run toward the Divine and let us sharpen our character; let us drill our disposition, so that we may have that sword which the Lord bade us sell our garment and buy [cf. Lk. 22:36], always ready and shining, as if sheathed in the scabbard of our mind. For the soldiers of Christ must always have strong spiritual weapons for the destruction of fortifications against God [cf. II Cor. 10:4], lest when He come, the Leader of the Heavenly Host [cf. Lk. 2:13], offended by the dullness of our weapons, separate us from the company of His legions.
Commentary on Proverbs 14:16, by St. Clement of Alexandria, from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture,Old Testament IX, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, p. 100.
Awe is a fear of the divine. But if fear is a passion, as some insist that fear is a passion, not every fear is a passion. Superstition is a passion, being the fear of spiritual powers which are themselves agitated by different passions. On the other side, the fear of the God who is free from passions is itself free from passions. It is really not a fear of God but a fear of losing him. This fear is a fear of falling into evil; it is a fear of evil. Fear of falling is a desire for incorruptibility and for freedom from the passions.
Toward Healing Apostolic Church Disunity: Speaking with One Voicei
My Fall 2013 Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR)ii newsletter Light of the East President's message should be understood in the context of St. Paul's instruction to the Romans (12: 4-6). "For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us." These comments should also be looked at in terms of the petitions in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, as said in the Eastern Churches: "Be mindful, O Lord, of the Priesthood, the Deaconate in Christ and every priestly rank, [and by implied extension to the laity as well] and put not to confusion any one of us who stand about thy holy Altar." The proper teaching role of the Churches is for those specifically ordained to teach, the bishops and the priests in union with them and the laity, as Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998, p. 226)iii writes, do so as "defenders of the Faith." We each have our own part to play.
Many are familiar with the famous ancient Greek adage: "Know thyself." Countless philosophers and spiritual teachers as well have used this theme. To my best recollection, I first came across this aphorism while reading Plato in a philosophy course my first year in college. Interestingly, this aphorism was also used by the ancient Egyptians, who gave it a religious connection. In the temple of Luxor (1400 BC) is the inscription: "Man, know thyself ... and thou shalt know the gods."
The importance of self-awareness and self-control also can be found in other religious systems. In the Buddhist tradition one reads: "Though one should conquer a million men on the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself." (Dhammapada 103) In the Taoist scripture are the following words: "He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened. He who conquers others has physical strength; He who conquers himself is strong." (Tao Te Ching 33) In Hinduism we find: ". . . when a man has discrimination and his mind is controlled, his senses, like the well-broken horses of a charioteer, lightly obey the rein." (Katha Upanishad 1.3.3-6)
by St. John of Kronstadt, from My Life in Christ
Fasting is a good teacher: (1) It soon makes everybody who fasts understand that a man requires very little food and drink, and that in general we are greedy and eat a great deal more than is necessary—that is, than our nature requires. (2) Fasting clearly shows or discloses all the infirmities of our soul, all its weaknesses, deficiencies, sins, and passions; just as when muddy, standing water is beginning to be cleaned it shows what reptiles and what sort of dirt it contains. (3) It shows us all the necessity of turning to God with the whole heart, and of seeking His mercy, help, and salvation. (4) Fasting shows all the craftiness, cunning, and malice of the bodiless spirits, whom we have hitherto unwittingly served, and whose cunning, now that we are enlightened by the light of God's grace, becomes clear, and who now maliciously persecute us for having left their ways.
by St. John Chrysostom
Do not say to me, I fasted for so many days. I did not eat this or I did not eat that. I did not drink wine, that I endured want. Instead, show me if thou, from an angry man, has become instead gentle. If from a cruel man, thou hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water instead of wine? Do not show forth a useless fast, for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven.