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Chaplain's Corner + Blessed Christmas: On the Use of the Wealth of Our Bounty

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a well known phrase in the Christian Gospels, the saying of Christ that "…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Lk 18: 25). A superficial understanding of this teaching would have it that to be rich, in and of itself, bars one from God's kingdom. But a deeper spiritual perception would indicate the fallacy in this apprehension.

We might first consider what various religious traditions say about wealth or bounty. In Hebrew tradition, it is the misuse of wealth - a failure to help others that is sinful. The Prophet Amos points out: "Hear this word, ye fat kine [bovine] that are in the mountains of Samaria: you that oppress the needy, and crush the poor: that say to your masters: Bring, and we will drink." In Islamic tradition, Allah blesses the rich who "…feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive" (Koran 79:8). Buddhist writer Ven. Jotika of Parng Loung states, "From [the] Buddhist point of view, good and praiseworthy is one who accumulates holdings in rightful ways and utilizes it for the good and happiness of both oneself and others."i Swami Narasimhananda describes the Hindu teachings on wealth, telling us: "…wealthy people need to share their wealth with the less fortunate."

November 21, 2012 + Akathist of Thanksgiving

An excerpt from Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) +1934

Ikos 4

When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendour of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Thy dwelling place: fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Thy presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father.

Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall
Glory to Thee, covering the earth with peace
Glory to Thee for the last ray of the sun as it sets
Glory to Thee for sleep's repose that restores us
Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the time of darkness
When all the world is hidden from our eyes
Glory to Thee for the prayers offered by a trembling soul
Glory to Thee for the pledge of our reawakening
On that glorious last day, that day which has no evening
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

November 14, 2012 + The Peace of Christ

by St. Gregory Palamas
from The Homilies, Mount Tabor Publishing, 2009, Homily 1, p. 4

Brethren, obey me as I come to you now and preach peace above all and towards all, according to the Lord's commandments. Share in this work by forgiving one another, if anyone has cause for complaint again another, as Christ forgave us, that you may become sons of peace, sons of God. He is your peace “who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14), abolishing enmity by His Cross. He said to His disciples, and through them to us, “into whatever town or house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house” (Lk. 10:5). The whole work of His coming is peace, for this He bowed the heavens and came down. David foretold of Him, “In his days shall righteousness flourish and abundance of peace” (Ps. 72:7). Again in another Psalm he said of Him, “For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, and to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps. 85.8).

Works of the Order in Action: Married Seminarians Assistance

Seminarian, Burke Vair and his wife Vasi Jankovich Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church; Linthicum, MDSeminarian, Burke Vair and his wife Vasi Jankovich Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church; Linthicum, MDWhen Metropolitan Philip was an impoverished seminarian at the Balamand in the 1940s, he vowed that, one day, if it were up to him, seminarians who were willing to devote their life to service in the Orthodox Church would have the financial support from the Church that they need to complete their studies. By the will of God, he became Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and he has followed through on that vow. The Archdiocese supports seminarians in the Master of Divinity programs at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts who are discerning the call to ordination by providing scholarships for their tuition and a stipend to defray the costs of housing and other costs of living. According to the Annual Financial Report for 2011, 11.3% of the Archdiocese’s expenditures that year were for the education of those discerning a call to ordination. No other Orthodox jurisdiction in America supports its seminarians in this way. What a blessing!

November 7, 2012 + Out of My Way, Satan!

by St. Ignatius Briachaninov
From The Arena, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus, Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Jordanville, N.Y., pp. 58-59.

It needs to be known that every thought in the nature of contradiction and resistance to the judgments of God comes from Satan and is his offspring. Such a thought, since it is opposed to God, must be rejected at its very inception. An example of this has been given us by our Lord. When He told the disciples about His impending sufferings and violent death, then the Apostle Peter, moved by the natural compassion of the old man, “began to rebuke Him saying, ' Mercy on Thee O Lord! This shall never happen to Thee'.” The Lord answered Peter by exposing the origin of the through that he had expressed: “Out of My way satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are thinking not the thoughts of God but the thoughts of men” [Mt. 16:21-23].

Why is our spirit troubled by the judgments and providence of God? Because we do not honour God as God; because we do not surrender ourselves to God as God; because we do not give ourselves to our proper place before God; because of our pride, our blindness; because our fallen, spoilt, perverse will is not mortified and renounced by us.

Then I shall not be ashamed,
when I regard all Thy commandments.
I will praise and thank Thee with an upright heart,
as I learn the justice of Thy judgments [Ps. 118:6-7].

Thou, O God art my Saviour,
and on Thee do I wait all day [Ps. 24:5],

by bearing generously and good-naturedly throughout my life on earth all the troubles and sufferings which it please Thee to allow me to have for my salvation.

+++

October 31, 2012 + Forgiving the Neighbor That Harms Us

We must love our neighbour still more when he sins against God, or against ourselves, because then he is sick, because then he is in spiritual misfortune, in danger; then, especially, we must have compassion upon him, pray for him, and apply to his heart a healing plaster--a word of kindness, instruction, reproval, consolation, forgiveness, love. "Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." [546] All sins and passions, quarrels and disputes, are truly spiritual diseases; that is how we must look upon them. Or, all passions are a fire of the soul, a great fire, raging inwardly; a fire proceeding from the abyss of hell. It must be extinguished by the water of love, which is strong enough to extinguish every infernal flame of malice and of other passions. But woe and misfortune to us, to our self-love, if we increase this flame by a fresh infernal flame, by our own malice and irritability, and thus make ourselves the assistants of the spirits of evil, ever endeavouring to inflame the souls of men by means of many and various passions. If we do so, we ourselves shall deserve the fire of Gehenna; and if we do not repent, and do not become in future wise unto good and simple unto evil, then we shall be condemned, together with the Devil and his angels, to torments in the lake of fire. Therefore, do not let us be overcome of evil, but let us overcome evil with good. How accursed are we men! How is it that we have not yet learned to consider every sin as a great misfortune for our soul, and not to pity, heartily, sincerely, lovingly, those who fall into such a misfortune. Why do we not flee from it as from poison, as from a serpent? Why do we linger in it? Why have we no pity upon ourselves, too, when we are subjected to any sin?

Smart Parenting XIX + Halloween: A Few Spiritual Pointers for Orthodox Parents

by Fr. George Morelli

“But whosoever shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be to his advantage that a millstone turned by an ass were hung upon his neck, and he were drowned in the deep of the sea."   (Mt. 18:6)

SamhainSamhainIn the United States and many European countries as well, we are coming up to the annual festival of the celebration of "All Hallows' Evening." Its roots go back to ancient pagan Celtic tradition Samhain (pronounced: Sah-ween) when villagers would light large outdoor fires and put on costumes to hide from and ward off roaming ghosts of spirits and the dead. The Research Center of the Library of Congress reports: "It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living."[i]

The Celtic region included the area that is now modern Great Britain, France and Ireland. Also part of the pagan banquet was that animals andFeralia FeastFeralia Feastcrops were placed in the bonfires as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. The conquest of the majority of Celtic lands by the Romans in 43 AD added additional pagan elements to the feast. One was Feralia, a late October festival wherein the Romans memorialized their dead. Second, was a day to sacrifice to the Roman goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees.

Pomona's symbol is the apple. To this day, apples are common in modern celebrations of this festival. The name of this festival has also been changed. It is no longer referred to as "All Hallows’ Evening." All know it by the name "Halloween."

Chaplain's Corner + Wisdom, Age and Belief in God

by Fr. George Morelli

In this day and age it is so easy to dismiss God from our lives. Jesus gives us an insight into the cause of this abandonment of God in society. St. Matthew records Jesus’ words on His Sermon on the Mount: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt. 6:21) A contemporary Eastern Church holy father, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), gives a very perspicacious insight as to how this occurs: "If you want to take someone away from God, give [them] plenty of material goods . . . [they] will instantly forget Him forever." (Ageloglou, 1998) In past times one could look around at the beauty of the world and echo the words of King David in the Old Testament scripture: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge." (Ps 18: 1-2) Today we have material goods around us that were completely unheard of a generation ago - dazzling high-definition LED displays, even on smart phones and tablets, and television that intrinsically mesmerizes us. Even the recent Olympics, which in times past focused on sports, now, in 2012, are overshadowed by ceremonies that are extravaganza-style spectacles of laser strobe lights and bombastic sound. Is there any thought or remembrance of God, the creator of Light?

October 24, 2012 + “The Paths of Their Way Are Turned Aside" (Job 6:18)

A reflection on the passage: “The paths of their way are turned aside [Job 6:18].”
by St. Gregory the Great

from Gregory the Great, by John Morrhead, from “The Early Church Fathers” series. Routledge, 2005, pp. 89-91.

Everything which is turned aside is twisted back on itself. Now, there are some who undertake to withstand the sins which draw them astray with their whole strength, but when the critical moment of temptation arrives they do not remain firm in their purpose. For one person, puffed up with the perverse insolence of pride, when he considers that the rewards of humility are great, rises up against himself and, as it were, lays aside his inflated, swollen arrogance, and promises to display humility in the face of all insults. But on being suddenly struck by just one insulting word, he straightaway returns to his old pride, and he is brought back to his swollen headedness to such an extent that he completely forgets having aspired to the virtue of humility. Someone else, stirred by avarice, is panting to increase his possessions...

Someone else is kindled by flames of anger and is so headstrong that he hurls insults at his enemies... And so, when he is just able to exercise restraint after his abusive language, it is too late...

What Can We Do for God's Youth Today?

Metropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersMetropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersBy Bishop John Abdalah

Metropolitan Philip has designated October Youth Month in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Each October we highlight the contributions, activities, and needs of our youth. This year I would like to highlight their needs.

Our youth need Jesus Christ. The need: a real relationship with Christ that will sustain them when their faith is challenged by peers, academics, change, loss and fear. Our youth need pious and holy adults willing to share honestly. Our youth need mentors who will share boldly and unashamedly the Orthodox faith delivered to us from the Apostles and preserved in the Church without alteration or adulteration. Orthodox adults, our youth need you.

Our youth need liturgy. Liturgy is the cooperative work of God and His people. It is here that we join the angelic world at God’s throne to praise Him and interact with His Word, and to be fed in the Eucharist. Liturgy by its very nature can only happen as we gather as the Church. This Church prayer does not happen at the hockey rink or golf course. It doesn’t happen watching sit-coms on television or mowing the lawn. It only happens when we gather as the Church to be the Church. It only happens around the Eucharist and around the bishop or his designee. It is essential to knowing God in the biblical sense of sharing God’s Oneness and living in Him. We who are made one with God in baptism are nurtured by God through His Church in Sunday and festal worship.

October 17, 2012 + An Explanation of the Offering at the Proskomedia Service

An Explanation of the Bread, Wine, and Water Offering at the Proskomedia Service Before the Divine Liturgy
by St. Germanus of Constantinople
from his commentary
On the Divine Liturgy, translated by Paul Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984, p. 71.

The bread of offering [offered by our prosfora bakers], which is purified, signifies the superabundant riches of the goodness of our God, because the Son of God became man and gave Himself as an offering and oblation in ransom and atonement for the life and salvation of the world He assumed the entirety of human nature, except for sin. He offered Himself as first-fruits and chosen whole burnt-offering to the God and Father on behalf of the human race, as is written: 'I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and 'He who eats this bread will live for ever' (Jn. 6:51). About this the Prophet Jeremiah says: 'Come, let us place a stake in his bread' (11:19 LXX), point to the wood of the cross nailed to His body.

The piece which is cut out [of the loaf] with the lance [by the priest] signifies that 'Like a sheep He is led to the slaughter, and like a lamb that before its shearer is dumb' (cf. Is. 54:7).

Antiochian Village: Its Influence on A Seminarian, A Parish, and the Youth of Our Archdiocese

by Christopher Shadid

It’s a place we call home, a place where our youth gather every summer, a place where relationships are formed and strengthened, a place that is so difficult to leave, and a place where Christ is truly present. This special place is the Antiochian Village Camp, a family that has influenced our Archdiocese for many years in inexplicable ways. I have been involved with the Village for the past fifteen summers— nine as a camper and CIT, and the past six as a staff member. Every year I fall more in love with the Village, the ministry, and the Orthodox Church.

The influence the Camp has had on our youth is incredible! I have grown up at St. Mary’s Church in Johnstown, a small town in Western Pennsylvania. I have seen the effect the Village has had on our youth in my home parish, our diocese, as well as the youth from around the country.

October 10, 2012 + Living is Christ's Truth with the Saints

by St. Justin Popovich
from his
The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, p. 27-28

He who believes in the Lord Christ continually grows by His Truth into its divine infinity; grows with all his being, his mind, heart and soul. Thus he lives constantly by Christ's Truth, as it constitutes life itself in Christ. Life in Christ is life in truth (Eph. 4:15), a constant abiding with all our being in the truth of Christ. A Christian's life in truth stems from his love for the Lord Christ. He is constantly growing and developing in that love, for love never faileth (II Cor. 13:8). This love for the Lord Christ is the motive for our life in His Truth and maintains us in it. It allows a Christian constantly to grow in Christ, into all His height, breadth and depth (cf. Eph. 3:17-19). We are never alone, but are with all the saints, in the Church and with the Church, as it is impossible otherwise to grow into Him which is the Head of the Body of the Church, even Christ (Eph. 4:15). When we live in the truth, we do so with all the saints, and when we love, we love with all the saints, for all is conciliar in the Church; all that happens is with all the saints because all constitute one spiritual Body, in which all live one conciliar life, by one Spirit and one Truth. Only by living in truth and love with all the saints can we grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ. The Church receives the infinite powers required of all Christians for growth in the theanthropic Body directly from its Head, the Lord Christ. For only He, God and Lord, has these innumerable and infinite powers, and discloses them with supreme wisdom.

October 3, 2012 + The Efficacy of the Touch of the Holy Flesh of our Lord

by St. Cyril of Alexandria
from his Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, ch. 4, vv. 38-39

But observe again, I pray, how great is the efficacy of the touch of His holy flesh. For It both drives away diseases of various kinds, and a crowd of demons, and overthrows the power of the devil, and heals a very great multitude of people in one moment in time. And though able to perform these miracles by a word and the inclination of His will, yet to teach us something useful for us, He also lays His hands upon the sick. For it was necessary, most necessary, for us to learn that the holy flesh which He had made His own was endowed with the activity of the power of the Word by His having implanted in It a godlike might. Let It then take hold of us, or rather let us take hold of It by the mystical 'Giving of thanks' [the Eucharist], that It may free us also from the sicknesses of the soul, and from the assault and violence of demons.

Smart Parenting XVIII + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Merciful for They Shall Obtain Mercy

Praying for God's MercyPraying for God's Mercyby Fr. George Morelli

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy." (Mt. 5:7)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (1954), the Church Father who has written such extensive Homilies on Christ's Beatitudes, instructs us that this Beatitude on mercy, among all of them, points us in a singular way to the core of who God is. He emphasizes that this "Beatitude is the property of God par excellence."

The saint then tells us of the challenge to us that is inherent in this spiritual perception. He asks:

If, therefore, the term "merciful" is suited to God, what else does the Word invite you to become but God, since you ought to model yourself on the property of the Godhead?

Once we have attained being merciful, then we are deemed worthy of Beatitude, because we have attained that which is characteristic of the Divine Nature. Mercy is one of God’s Divine characteristics that He has revealed to mankind. As the prophet David tells us: "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to them that seek after his covenant and his testimonies." (Ps 24: 10). And in another psalm David cries out: "O Lord, thy mercy is in heaven, and thy truth reacheth, even to the clouds." (Ps 35: 6). This is beautifully described by St. Isaac of Syria, who in his 1st Ascetical Homily (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011) tells us:

Do you wish to commune with God in your mind by receiving a perception of that delight . . .? Pursue mercy; for when something that is like unto God is found in you, then that holy beauty is depicted by Him. For the whole sum of the deeds of mercy immediately brings the soul into communion with the unity of the glory of the Godhead's splendor.

Book Review: Tending the Heart of Virtue by Dr. Vigen Guroian

So much of our current society has given way to the modern notions of tolerance and values, instead of instilling and nurturing concrete virtues in our children, a moral road map to guide them through life’s mysterious and sometimes dangerous adventure that will ultimately lead to their becoming the beloved creatures that God intended.

Dr. Vigen Guroian, in Tending the Heart of Virtue ~ How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1998, shares his knowledge “in order to be of some assistance to parents or teachers who desire to learn, as we did, what books and stories to read with children in the midst of a busy life in which time is limited and making the right choices is important.” His goal was to fill a void he found in instructional material for parents to introduce and discuss the moral fabric of some of the best loved children’s literature, particularly stories and fairy tales.

Guroian asserts that while fairy tales are not a substitute for life lessons, they do have the ability to shape our moral imagination without dogmatic lessons or settling for values-clarification education. Fairy tales remind adults and teach children that virtue and vice are opposites. In Tending the Heart of Virtue, Guroian walks us through the moral lessons and Biblical references that can be found in some of the most popular children’s stories. He also compares and contrasts modern interpretations to the classic tales from which they are derived. Reading and sharing these insights with children will help grow morally responsible and virtuous adults, and isn’t that our goal?

Chaplain's Corner + Resilience: The Key to Catastrophe Management

by Fr. George Morelli

There are many unexpected and sudden difficult challenges that individuals have to face in modern life Many of these may be considered life-changing experiences. Such events may include, for example, abrupt acute-chronic illness, accidental injury, serious financial adversity, sudden unemployment and/or loss of home, severe family-marriage difficulties. Strong dysfunctional emotions such as anger, anxiety depression and a profound sense of dread are often common reactions.

Developing a healthy psycho-spiritual management resilience and hardiness strategies are helpful when coping with such catastrophes. Resilience is a psychological process of adaptation in the face of obstacles, trauma, tragedy and stress that is related to good emotional, physical and spiritual health. One of the resilience strategies favored by scientific cognitive clinical psychologists is the unconditional acceptance of self, others, and the vicissitudes of life. Two essential cognitive shifts are involved in this process. First, framing choices as preferences by using phrases such as "would like,” rather than considering choices as demands by using words that imply “must,” and second, evaluating realistically, that is, seeing the untoward events as less than 100% bad, instead of consistently over-evaluating by labeling them "terrible, awful or the end of the world, more than 100%." Nothing, after all, can be more than 100%.

Looking at Old Testament Sacred Scripture, Esta Mirani asks: "could we understand Exodus as God taking the Jewish People on a journey from weak to strong, from downtrodden to resilient?" She goes on to conclude: "a deeper reading of Exodus is that God guides us on developing personal strength and resiliency. We can persist and overcome adversity and oppression, and achieve security and a sense of well-being.

Are Your Ears Burning?

Monday mornings have a bad reputation. Many priests find it that way, too. On a typical Monday morning, we preachers go to our studies and look up in the lectionary book which epistle reading and gospel reading are assigned for the liturgy on the next Sunday. Then we preachers take our Bibles and look up those passages. All very easy so far! Now comes the hardest part of preaching: figuring out what to say in the sermon about one of those passages for next Sunday! Some Monday mornings, that is easy. Some Monday mornings, it is tough.

I had a tough Monday morning one week back in May. I knew that I wanted to preach on the gospel reading from John 17 for that Sunday. I’ll have to admit, however, that when I read it over again that Monday, my reaction was a bit of “ho-hum.” It comes up each year on the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost. And it gets read in Holy Week, too – it’s part of that longest of all gospel readings, the first one on Holy Thursday evening. And so I’ve preached on it quite a few times before. So “hohum” was my reaction – what to say about this passage when I preach on it one more time? And then something in the passage jumped out at me, something I knew was in John 17 all along, but it hit me differently somehow that Monday morning, so let me tell you about it.

John 17 is part of Jesus’ long talk with the apostles, and long prayer to the Father, on Holy Thursday evening, the night before He was crucified. In this part of John there is quite a bit about the Holy Trinity.

September 26, 2012 + Condemned to Immortality - A Meditation on the Resurrection

by St. Justin Popovic

People condemned God to death; with His Resurrection He condemned them to immortality. For striking Him, God returned embraces; for insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never did men show more hate towards God than when they crucified Him; and God never showed His love towards people more than when He was resurrected. Mankind wanted to make God dead, but God, with His Resurrection, made people alive, the crucified God resurrected on the third day and thereby killed death! There is no more death. Immortality is surrounding man and his entire world.

With the Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man is irreversibly led toward the road of immortality and man's nature becomes destructive to death itself. For until the Resurrection of Christ, death was destructive for man; from the Resurrection of Christ, man's nature becomes destructive in death. If man lives in the faith of the Resurrected God Man, he lives above death, he is unreachable for her; death is under man's feet. Death where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? And when a man who believes in Christ dies, he only leaves his body as his clothes, in which he will be dressed again on the Day of Last Judgment.

Before the Resurrection of the God-Man, death was the second nature of man; life was first and death was second. Man became accustomed to death as something natural. But after His Resurrection the Lord changed everything: and it was only natural until Christ's Resurrection, that the people became mortal, so after Christ's Resurrection it was natural that the people became immortal.

Will We Be Ready for the "Coming Evangelical Collapse"?

A recent opinion article in The Christian Science Monitor, titled, “The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism,” by the late blogger and evangelical pastor Michael Spencer (also known as “The Internet Monk”), created quite a stir with its publication in May 2012. (It was originally written in 2009). His apocalyptic opening lines were: “Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants.” His prediction is that the evangelical movement in its varied forms is collapsing for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • too close an identification with social and political conservatism and the so-called “culture wars”;
  • failure to pass on to evangelical young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive;
  • Christian education not having produced a people who can withstand the rising tide of secularism;
  • Christian ministries increasingly coming into conflict with a secular society that sees its “good works” as “bad”;
  • an inability to pass on to their children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith; and
  • the sources of money will dry up.

Eastern Orthodox Churches will be shortterm beneficiaries

Works of the Order in Action: Working Together - Teen SOYO and the Order of St. Ignatius

2012 Teen Leadership Training, with Metropolitan Philip, Metropolitan Silouan, Archbishop Joseph, Bishop Antoun, Bishop Thomas, Bishop John and Bishop Nicholas2012 Teen Leadership Training, with Metropolitan Philip, Metropolitan Silouan, Archbishop Joseph, Bishop Antoun, Bishop Thomas, Bishop John and Bishop Nicholas

Spiritual retreats, summer camps, and involvement in local Teen SOYO activities are among the many opportunities for teens to learn, grow, and become leaders in our Orthodox Christian Faith. For over 43 years, members of Teen SOYO have ministered to the youth across our Archdiocese. Every year, The Order of St. Ignatius funds Teen SOYO programs, such as Teen SOYO Leadership Training, and Special Olympics Sports Camp. With generous annual funding from the Order of St. Ignatius, Teen SOYO is blessed with many opportunities for development and expansion. Through the gifts and faith of members of the Order of St. Ignatius, Teen SOYO is able to elect new leaders annually and train them, and fulfill its mission of training and empowering youth.

September 19, 2012 + What Is Prayer?

by St. Theophan the Recluse
taken from The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, p. 51

What is prayer? What is its essence? How can we learn to pray? What does the spirit of the Christian experiences as he prayers in humility in his heart?

All such questions should constantly occupy the mind and heart of the believer, for in prayer man converses with God, he enters, through grace, into communion with Him, and lives in God. And the Holy Father and teachers of the Church gives answers to all these questions, based on the grace-given enlightenment which is acquired through the experience of practicing prayer – experience equally accessible to the simple and to the wise.

Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the drive force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong.

Moral Courage

A message from the President of SSJC-Western Region (www.lightoftheeast.org)
by Fr. George Morelli

Members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom, in fact those baptized into any of the Apostolic Churches, have a very important responsibility this Fall 2012 season. American citizens will have the opportunity to vote for the President of the United States as well as for any number of other national, state andlocal offices. The mix of religion and politics in issues in this electoral season has made the usual politicking even more contentious and challenging than in past years.

In no manner shape or form is this message meant to support any particular candidate or political party. The only purpose of this message is to serve as a reminder for all to carefully discern the Mind of Christ and His Church on the critical moral issues raised in this election and to let Christ and the teachings of His Apostolic Churches be our guide in our witness by our political words, deeds and votes.

Unfortunately, some candidates want to usurp our right speak up for ourselves on issues. A particularly egregious statement I constantly hear from candidates for office from all political parties in the United States is, "What the American people want is. . . ." To have some modicum of honesty, politicians could at the very least somewhat qualify such arrogant rhetoric by saying: "Some American people want . . . ." I, for example, am one of these "American people." For a candidate to imply that I want something against the teachings of Christ and His Church is to take away the freedom of speech and religion granted to me – and all - by the constitution and, more importantly, granted by God to all to mankind by His making us in His image and giving us free will.

September 12, 2012 + The Nativity of the Theotokos

by St. Gregory Palamas
from The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, written and compiled by Holy Apostles Convent, p. 13.

'For her [the Theotokos'] sake, the God-possessed prophets pronounced prophecies, and miracles are wrought to foretell that future great miracle of the world, the Ever-Virgin mother of God. Generation after generation of vicissitudes and historical events, make a path to their ultimate destination, to the new mystery that will be a type of the future truth of the Spirit. The end, or rather the beginning and root of those earlier events and wonders accomplished in the virtues, of what was to be accomplished (in their daughter).' In another homily, he comments, 'all divinely-inspired Scripture was written for the sake of the Virgin who begat God.'

September 5, 2012 + On Cain's and Abel's Offerings

by St. Macarius the Great
From Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision, by Fr. Seraphim Rose, edited by Hieromonk Damascene, 2nd ed., p. 292.

I always remember that it was Abel who offered a sacrifice to God of the fat and firstlings of his flock, while Cain offered gifts of the fruits of the earth, but not of the firstfruits. It is said: 'And God looked upon Abel and his gifts, but Cain and his sacrifices He regarded not' (Gen. 4:4-5). This teaches us that everything that is done in fear and in faith is pleasing to God, and not that which is done for display and without love.