St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, July 31st
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:14).
Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In the night we await the day and in the day we await the night and again the day and again the night. But this awaiting is not our last awaiting. Brethren, what is our last awaiting? In joy we tremble waiting for sorrow and in sorrow we wait with hope for joy and again sorrow, and again joy. But not even these awaitings are our last awaitings. Brethren, our last awaiting is the awaiting of the Judgment of God. When the judgment of God comes, the Dreadful Day "which burns like a furnace" (Malachi 4:1), then we welcome all that we deserve; a day for some, without change into night, and night for others, without change into day; joy for some without change to sorrow and sorrow for others without change to joy. Brethren, that is the last awaiting of the human race, whether he knows it or does not know it, whether he thinks about it or does not think about it.
A ministry supported by The Order of St. Ignatius and many individual Antiochian parishes, Project Mexico is in the midst of its busy summer in Tijuana, Mexico. Home building crews have been working each week since May.
Two types of homebuilding groups participate each summer: small groups, and Orthodox Basic Training (OBT) groups. During small group weeks, teams from one, two, or three parishes construct a single home for a needy family and spend the afternoons interacting with the boys of St. Innocent Orphanage. During OBT weeks, larger groups travel to Tijuana to construct between four to seven homes in one week, and evening speakers each evening discuss a variety of Orthodox Christian topics. Two of this year's presenters are Antiochian priests Fr. Michael Nasser from Bowling Green, KY and Fr. John Bethancourt from Santa Fe, NM.
St. Maximus the Confessor, First Century on Love
1. Love is a holy state of the soul, disposing it to value knowledge of God above all created things. We cannot attain lasting possession of such love while we are still attached to anything worldly.
2. Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion, and patience and forbearance engender hope in God; these in turn are the product of complete self-control, which itself springs from fear of God. Fear of God is the result of faith in God.
3. If you have faith in the Lord you will fear punishment, and this fear will lead you to control the passions. Once you control the passions you will accept affliction patiently, and through such acceptance you will acquire hope in God. Hope in God separates the intellect from every worldly attachment, and when the intellect is detached in this way it will acquire love for God.
4. The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.
RENEWED POSSIBILITIES FOR THE APOSTOLIC CHURCHES
Archpriest George Morelli, PhD
A number of historically momentous events among the Apostolic Churches have occurred since the last Light of the East President's message. First and foremost were the papal resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign since Pope Gregory XII during the Middle Ages (1415 AD, to put an end the Great Western Schism), and the election of his successor Pope Francis I. The words of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the papal resignation echo the feelings of the many I have talked to about this event, that it is "another sign of his great care for the Church." The cardinal went on to say, "Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity,"ii This bespeaks the rampant de-Christianization of society.
Smart Parenting XXII + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are They That Suffer Persecution for Justice' Sake
And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. (2Tm 3:12)
Persecution has existed since the origin of the disorder, the brokenness, now so evident in the world. God created the world good, and man was made for paradise. We know this from God's inspired revelation to Moses: "And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed." (Gen 2: 8) It must be realized that disorder is not intrinsic to creation; the world can be seen as good despite the brokenness that exists within it.
St. John Chrysostom
O Lord, I have cried to thee; hear me: attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry to thee (Ps. 140:1).
While everybody, you might say, knows the words of this psalm (sung almost everyday at Vespers) and continues singing it at every age, they are ignorant of the sense of the expressions. What is no slight grounds for accusation, those singing it daily and uttering the words by mouth do not inquire about the force of the ideas underlying the words. By contrast, someone who espies clear and pure water could not bear not to approach it and touch and drink it, and someone who frequently enters a meadow would not allow themselves not to pick some flowers before leaving, whereas we on the other hand from earliest years to extreme old age continue meditating on this psalm while knowing only the words…
… many psalms [are] suited to evening time. It was not for this reason at any rate that the fathers singled out this psalm; rather, they prescribed its recital as a kind of saving medicine and cleansing of sins so that whatever stain we incur throughout the course of the day – abroad, at home, wherever we pass the time – we might on coming to the evening expunge through this spiritual air. It is, you see, a medicine that removes all these stains.”
St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Psalm 140 from Vespers
St. John of Kronstadt, from My Life in Christ
"We forgive them that trespass against us." This means not to feel against our neighbour who has been guilty towards us (intentionally, obstinately, or unintentionally) any vexation, enmity, or malice, but to forgive him his fault in all simplicity of heart, vividly representing to ourselves our own infirmities and falling into sin, and maintaining towards our guilty neighbour the same love and the same feelings of kindness which we felt towards him before his fault. What would it be if the Lord were to notice our iniquities as we do the faults of our neighbour? Who could withstand? But as the Lord is long-suffering and merciful, be also long-suffering and merciful (not strictly exacting, but compassionate). "Charity suffereth long, and is kind." [1 Corinthian 13:4] Do not reckon the faults of your neighbour, consider them as though they were not; as nothing! We are one body, and his body is a sinful one. What is more common and easier to us than sins? We breathe them like air. But the Lord, the Head of the body of the Church, is the cleansing of them. Leave everything to the Head, Who worketh all things in all; and hold fast to love alone, for it is the only infallible thing in our life (pure love). Do not serve the Devil by the spirit of enmity, malice, hatred; do not increase evil by evil, and do not spread the kingdom of the enemy in the kingdom of Christ." Overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:21] For you cannot conquer evil with evil, just as you cannot put out fire by fire, but only by water. Malice is always an imagination of the Devil. Love is always God's truth and God's child.
Since the so-called Arab Spring began in Libya in 2011, we have seen the devastation and destruction of that Arab country by Libyan and NATO forces. This Arab Spring has since spread to Tunisia and Egypt, the most populated Arab country. This fire has burned relentlessly in Gaza and all of Palestine since 1948. It is spreading into Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq and has caused the most devastation in Syria, where many of us have ancestral roots. Unfortunately, the American and European news outlets are not reporting such stories to the world, neither through the written word nor graphic photographs like the ones you see in this sad issue of The WORD magazine. The WORD has been able to obtain these pictures and information from reliable sources. Syria has been most victimized and experienced the most devastation by this seemingly endless war. The WORD believes that the only country that can bring peace to this most explosive region of the world is the United States of America, because America has leverage over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Europe.
3.0 Psychological-Spiritual Interventions
3.1 Christian-Based Clinical Interventions
The power of the scriptures and the spiritual tradition of the Church conjunctively with cognitive therapy are crucial in the treatment plan for the committed Christian patient or counselee. Since earliest Christian times, the Holy Fathers have written on and studied the passions, [strong emotions] (italics mine). For example in the presentation of the treatment rationale, the patient can be given readings from St. Dorotheus of Gaza: "Disturbance is the movement and stirring of thoughts, which arouse and irritate the heart" (Philokalia, 1984-93)(italics mine).
What the fathers of he church call "movement and stirring of thoughts which arouse the heart" can be easily understood by the clinician to be very related to the automatic thoughts and the triggering of emotions discussed by cognitive-behavioral clinicians. Thus as the Christian patient goes through the "Cognitive treatment" identifying distorted cognitions and restructuring them, they are at the same time performing a "spiritual act." This process would be likely motivational for the Christian patient.
In the 8th Century B.C., King Solomon, the author of the book of Proverbs, wrote: "A mild answer breaketh wrath: but a harsh word stirreth up fury. The tongue of the wise adorneth knowledge: but the mouth of fools bubbleth out folly." (Proverbs 15:1-2). Since first penned, this wisdom has been confirmed by thousands of years of human experience. This is no truer than in today's world in which we encounter a proliferation of crudeness, harshness, rudeness, lack of respect of the person and attempts to control others. The use of four letter and scatological words in dealing with others is found everywhere. No segment of the media is exempt. The explosive worldwide multiplication of social media use has made such discordant behavior almost unavoidable.
It is important to realize that a crude, rude and harshly toned reactive response by us often creates a pattern of escalation of incivility between all involved. We may not be able to change the uncivil behavior of others, but we can change our response to such rudeness when it is directed to us. This was recognized by Confucius in 4th Century B.C. China who wrote: "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps."i In the Jewish Talmud we read: ""The highest form of wisdom is kindness."ii After being confronted by unseemly words and actions it might be a stretch for some to respond with kindness, but a good first step would be to act in wisdom according to the advice of Molière (1622-1673 A.D.): "A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him, and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation."iii
St. Leo the Great (taken from Sermon 73 – First Sermon On the Lord's Ascension)
I. The events recorded as happening after the Resurrection were intended to convince us of its truth. Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved, are today ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might be fortified by needful proofs. For Christ's Death had much disturbed the disciples' hearts, and a kind of torpor of distrust had crept over their grief-laden minds at His torture on the cross, at His giving up the ghost, at His lifeless body's burial. For, when the holy women, as the Gospel-story has revealed, brought word of the stone rolled away from the tomb, the sepulchre emptied of the body, and the angels bearing witness to the living Lord, their words seemed like ravings to the Apostles and other disciples. Which doubtfulness, the result of human weakness, the Spirit of Truth would most assuredly not have permitted to exist in His own preacher's breasts, had not their trembling anxiety and careful hesitation laid the foundations of our faith. It was our perplexities and our dangers that were provided for in the Apostles: it was ourselves who in these men were taught how to meet the cavillings of the ungodly and the arguments of earthly wisdom. We are instructed by their lookings, we are taught by their hearings, we are convinced by their handlings. Let us give thanks to the Divine management and the holy Father who allowed the necessary slowness of belief. Others doubted, that we might not doubt.
An interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios by Pavel Chirila, Professor and Doctor at St. Irene’s Hospital in Bucharest (Romania)
Question: Tell us something about sudden death.
Answer: The assessment of sudden death depends on each one’s viewpoint. For secular people, sudden death is good, accepted and desirable, because they will not suffer and they will not be tormented by illnesses and old age. For believing Christians, though, sudden death is bad, because they are not given the possibility to prepare better for their encounter with Christ and the heavenly Church. When someone visits a high-ranking official, he prepares accordingly. We should do the same with respect to our encounter with Christ.
Preparation, by repentance, is essential. This is why Father Paisios of everlasting memory used to say that cancer is a saintly illness because it has filled Paradise with saints, meaning that a long illness prepares people with prayer and repentance. According to the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, pain cures pleasure. In any case, death is the most certain event. We see it around us, everything dies, all living creatures, our friends, our relatives. What is not certain and is unknown to us is the hour of death, when death will come. It may happen while sleeping, while walking, while traveling, while working, while entertaining ourselves, etc. This is why we should pray to God daily, as the Church does: “For the completion of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord” and “For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord”.
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it" (Proverbs 3:27).
The Lord does not deny you that which you need, neither should you deny the man whom the Lord has sent to encounter you in order to test your heart. If a beggar extends his hand to you for help once in your life, give to him and do not refuse. Remember how many years there are in your life and how many are the hours in a day and how many are the minutes in an hour-every minute of so many, many thousands of days you extend your hand to the Lord and the Lord gives and does not refuse. Remember the mercy of God and your lack of mercy will burn you as a live coal and it will never give you any peace until you repent and soften your heart.
by St. Theophan the Recluse
On Mid-Pentecost we hear the call of the Lord: "Whosoever thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37). If this is so, then let us all run to Him. Whatever you thirst for - so long as it is not contrary to the spirit of the Lord - you will find relief in Him. If you thirst for knowledge, run to the Lord, for He is the one and only light, enlightening every man. If you thirst for cleansing from sin and quenching of the flames of your conscience, run to the Lord, for He tore asunder the handwriting of our sins upon the Cross. If you thirst for peace in your heart, run to the Lord, for He is the treasury of all good, Whose abundance will teach you to forget all deprivations and despise all earthly good, so as to be filled with Him alone. If you need strength, He is almighty. If you need glory, His glory surpasses the world. If you desire freedom, He gives true freedom. He will resolve all of our doubts, loose the bonds of our passions, dispel all our troubles and difficulties, will enable us to overcome all obstacles, temptations and intrigues of the enemy, and will make smooth the path of our spiritual life. Let us all run to the Lord!
It was Patriot's Day 2013 in Massachusetts. Few around the world are now unaware that the Boston Marathon was run that day. Few are also now unaware that the new Boston Massacre occurred on that day as well. On April 15, 2013 (Patriot's Day), I was writing on my computer at the time and getting 'pop-up' Breaking News alerts of 'an explosion in Boston.' As an example of how common, and thus de-sensitized, I think many of us, including myself, have become to such news alerts, I paid it little attention. As per my work routine, at 4:00 PM CA time I turned on TV News while sorting my email. I immediately saw, once again, that the world as many of us have come to know it was, once again, radically changed.
I want to take the lead from a seminarian who was interviewed by one of the national networks, (I do not recall which network as I was constantly flipping news channels), whose witness reminded that any experience can be made a Godly one if it is tied to prayer. The seminarian and his wife were actually caught in the cross-fire that killed one of the alleged perpetrators: the older brother. Bullets were flying around them. They used the time to pray to God for deliverance during this "nightmare."
We can think of all the responders who came to the aid of the many injured. If their service was done with a pure heart and Godly spirit, then it became a channel of spiritual and psychological healing for all involved. We can also reflect on the great endurance of the victims, their family and friends, the heroic law enforcement officers [let me mention the many from far away states] and the people of Boston, who were on lockdown and living in a state of fear. I believe the apt slogan that has emerged from those affected is "Boston Strong."
The following interview was conducted by George Vassiliou with His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. It was originally published in Επίκαιρα της Αιτωλοακαρνανίας, then republished in Paremvasis (April 1998).
Do you believe the contemporary world can attain the realization of the Resurrection? What is the message you would like to send, as a Hierarch, to young people?
What we have said so far shows the position of the spirit I want to get through in this interview. What I would like to emphasize at this point is that there exists a revolution occurring with hatred and the energies of the Beast of Revelation, and there is a resurrection occurring with love and the energies of the Lamb of Revelation. Christ by His Resurrection made the greatest revolution in history. Not every revolution is or leads to Resurrection, but the Resurrection in Christ Jesus is the true revolution, in the sense that the word "revolution" (επανάσταση) comes from the verb επανίστημι and shows the return (επάνοδο) of humanity to their first-created beauty, the restoration of humanity to our previous glory, and our resurrection from the Fall.
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. John by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria
It is fitting that He grants joy to the women, condemned to bear children in pain and suffering; and peace to the men, on account of the warfare that would engulf them for preaching the Gospel. At the same time He reveals that the cross has ushered in peace: “The cross has brought peace: now I send you forth to proclaim it.” To strengthen and embolden the disciples, He declares, “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. It is My work you have undertaken, so do it boldly: I will be with you.” Behold the authority of his command: “It is I Who sends you (̓Εγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς).” No longer does He condescend to the limitations of their understanding, saying as He often did before the resurrection, “I will ask My Father and He will send you.” Now He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit—but not the entirety of the gift He would bestow at Pentecost. Receive ye the Holy Spirit, means, “Let this partial bestowal of grace make you ready to receive later the fullness of the Holy Spirit.” The words, Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, indicate the particular gift He gives the disciples now: power to forgive sins. Later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit Himself would descend in all His might, lavishing upon the apostles every spiritual gift and power to work wondrous deeds, such as raising the dead.
The Apostle now points out to us the hidden man of the heart (I Peter 3:4) as the object of our most painstaking concern and care. We are to adorn ourselves through the formation of this man within ourselves. What is the meaning of the hidden man of the heart? It is that man which forms in the heart when only good dispositions and feelings come to dwell therein. Examine these dispositions and feelings, and you will see the face of the man hidden in the heart. Here are these dispositions: His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3), and on your part, giving all diligence, writes St. Peter, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love (II Peter 1:5-7). In a similar fashion St. Paul lists the inner good dispositions of the Christian heart: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Also: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts (Col. 3:12-15). Bring together all of these good things into one spiritual body with its various members, and you will see the divinely beautiful Face of the hidden man of the heart. You must fervently establish the same in your own heart.
Only God knows what the state of the world will be by the time this "Chaplain's Corner" is published. So, my spiritual reflection is really dated as of the state of the world at the writing of this article (the second week of April, 2013). News sources report an unusually high awareness among Americans of the current threat of a nuclear war crisis incited by the extreme bellicose threats and actions of North Korean leaders. Words such as "represents threat," "public pessimism" and that "Americans are listening are now being heard worldwide." Such reports also indicate that a poll across all demographic groups in the United States, is that if the North's neighbor, South Korea, is attacked, the United States should respond militarily. How close is the nuclear annihilation clock to ticking to '0?' As of this writing, very close.
All this brings to my mind the words of the psalmist: "All too long have I dwelt with those who hate peace. When I speak of peace, they are ready for war." In other words, peace is precious; it is a treasure. This reflection bespeaks the necessity for all of us at all times to preserve peace and to work and hope to bring about peace. Peace is one of the fundamental teachings of most of the world's religious traditions. An example is Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, who, since the Vietnam War, has worked tirelessly for peace. He pointed out that “Many people think excitement is happiness. . . . But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace. Mahatma Gandhi points out that “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Christ told his followers: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God." (Mt 5: 9).
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue, April 1st
“Penitent wonderful, self-tormentor,
Mary hid herself from the face of men.
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion, darkened.
Passions are beasts which eat at our heart,
In us as serpents, secretly they weave a nest,
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion consumed!
In order to save sinners, You suffered O Christ,
Now, do not loathe impure me!
Hearken to the cry of Mary,
Of all, the most-sinful!
The Lord showed compassion, Mary He healed,
Her darkened soul, He whitened as snow.
by St. Philaret of Moscow
To suffer in the presence of Christ, and in like manner as He suffered, is to have a foretaste of Paradise. Like as the visible material Cross is the royal standard of the visible kingdom of Christ, so is our secret cross the seal and distinguishing mark of the true and chosen servants of the invisible kingdom of God. It is a precious pledge of the love of God – it is the rod of the Father, not so much chastening and breaking the spirit, as “restoring” and “comforting” it [Ps. 2:9; 23:3- 4]; it is the purifying fire of faith, companion of hope, the mortifier of sensuality, the conqueror of passion, the inciter to prayer, the protector of chastity, the parent of humility the teacher of wisdom, the guardian of the sons of the kingdom. Where were all the great angels, the guides and guardians of the Church, the Josephs, the Moses’s, the Daniels, the Pauls, brought up? In the school of the Cross.
by St. Dorotheos of Gaza
In the Law, God laid down that the sons of Israel should each year give tithes of all they possessed, and if they did so they were blessed in all their works. The holy Apostles, knowing this to be for the help and advancement of our souls, resolved to fulfil it in a better and higher way, namely, for us to deliver up a tithe of the very days of our lives as if to consecrate them to God, so that we may be blessed in all our works, and each year to be unburdened of the whole year’s sins. They elected to consecrate out of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, seven weeks of fasting, and so they ordained; but our Fathers, in their time, thought it advisable to add another week, both to train and better prepare themselves to enter on the labor of fasting and to honor with their fasting the holy number of forty days which our Lord fasted. The eight weeks, subtracting Saturdays and Sundays, makes forty days, but we honor Holy Saturday with a fast because it is a very holy day and the only Saturday fast of the year.
Ten short years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a group of Orthodox Christians wanted to reach out to struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live. In addition to praying for them, we wanted to provide tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction. The Treehouse was born.
Today, we have celebrated 15,755 birthdays and helped change over a quarter million diapers! Our goal is to practice our Orthodox faith daily in everything we do at The Treehouse, teaching moms that they are not alone in their struggles. We want them to know that, when their world seems like a very dark place, they have somewhere to turn for hope. We provide them and their babies with positive Christian role models and basic necessities, such as diapers, formula and an inexpensive thrift store. We offer, too, educational classes to nurture our moms so that their babies can flourish.
by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos
“Nobody would dispute that the most important day in a person’s life, after his birth and baptism, is that of his marriage. It is no surprise, then, that the aim of contemporary worldly and institutional upheavals is precisely to crush the most honorable and sacred mystery of marriage. For many people, marriage is an opportunity for pleasures and amusements. Life, however, is a serious affair. It is a spiritual struggle, a progression toward a goal—heaven. The most crucial juncture, and the most important means, of this progression is marriage. It is not permissible for anyone to avoid the bonds of marriage, whether he concludes a mystical marriage by devoting himself to God, or whether he concludes a sacramental one with a spouse.”