In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.
Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.
by St. John of Kronstadt
From My Life in Christ
When you walk in a forest, garden, or meadow, and see the young shoots of the plants, the fruits on the trees, and the variety of the flowers of the field, learn a lesson from God’s plants--namely, the lesson that every tree each summer unfailingly puts forth at least one shoot of considerable size, and unfailingly grows in height and dimensions. It seems as though every tree endeavors each year to advance by the strength that God has given it; therefore, say to yourself, I, too, must each day, each year, absolutely grow higher and higher morally, better and better, more and more perfect; must advance on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, or to the Father which is in Heaven, through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit dwelling and working within me. As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works.
by St. Macarius the Great
From St. Macarius the Egyptian, Word 7, Ch. 18
He who wishes to be an imitator of Christ, so as to become a son of God born of the Spirit, must first of all bear generously and patiently all the troubles that befall him, such as bodily illnesses, offenses, wrongs, and insults from men, and the attacks of invisible enemies; because it is by the permission of God that various temptations are allowed to holy souls, so that it may become clear which souls sincerely love God. It has ever been the mark of the Saints and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles and Martyrs that they went by the narrow way of trials and troubles, and so pleased God.
The soul that desires to please God needs first of all patience and hope, because one of the tricks of the devil is, in time of trouble, to make us despondent and divert us from hope and trust in God. God never allows those who trust in Him to be overwhelmed by temptations so as to reach utter exhaustion; for says the Apostle, God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation, He will also dispose the issue of it, and enable you to bear it [I Cor. 10:13]. The devil does not worry a soul as much as he would like, but as much as he is permitted by God. If men know what weight can be borne by a horse, a donkey, or a camel, and load them accordingly; if a potter knows how long vessels must be kept in the fire so as not to be cracked by being baked longer than necessary and so as not to be unfit for use through being taken out of the fire too soon – if in a man their so much knowledge, then how much more and incomparable more does the wisdom of God know the amount of temptation each soul must bear so that, by being tested by it, it may become capable of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.
This course has recently been updated and soon to be published in a chapter in an American Psychological Association book. The updated reference for the upcoming book is: Morelli G. (in press). Eastern Orthodox Churches. In Scott Richards, (Ed.), "Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity" (2nd edition). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
2.0 Bio-Cultural Elements
2.1 Emotion and Neural Processes
Studies from various areas in psychology, suggest cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways (Weitan 1995). There are currently various psychological models to explain this interaction. One model based on Darwinian evolutionary theory is that emotion develops as an adaptive value to a stimulus. The different laboratories of Izard (1984), Tomkins (1991) and Plutchik (1984) come remarkably similar findings on the presence of primary emotions shortly after birth. These researchers agree on six emotions (fear, anger, joy, disgust, interest and surprise) out of about eight or ten primary emotions. Phylogenetically these emotions occur before the brain structures supporting cognition initiate development. That is, subcortical brain areas such as the hypothalamus and the limbic system develop before the cerebral cortex.
How many of us when we first meet some new person immediately find something about them to be critical about? Alternatively, we can look at the major news stories in the media over the last few months of 2012 and focus on the overwhelming brokenness graphically depicted: war, super-storms, school massacres and mass killings, to say the least. However, we do have an alternative. We could try to see the good that is imbedded within the bad. We can see that through all this tragedy some have been encouraging others to remain affirming of hope, fostering optimism and healing, and, most importantly, inspiring others by their own good actions. We have to see that inspiring others is one of the greatest good deeds we can do for those around us.
Doing good for others is certainly not unknown among the world's religions. Buddhist tradition teaches, "Therefore, do thy duty as prescribed; for duty-bound action is superior to inaction . . . .Actions normally fetter the human being but not when they are performed as acts of sacrifice." (Bhagavadgita, 3: 8-9). The words of Gandhi are very meaningful on helping us to focus on the good: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always."i
by St. Simeon the New Theologian
From One Hundred & Twenty Wise Sayings from The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church
The roof of any house stands upon the foundations and the rest of the structure. The foundations themselves are laid in order to carry the roof. This is both useful and necessary, for the roof cannot stand without the foundations and the foundations are absolutely useless without the roof - no help to any living creature. In the same way the grace of God is preserved by the practice of the commandments, and the observance of these commandments is laid down like foundations through the gift of God. The grace of the Spirit cannot remain with us without the practice of the commandments, but the practice of the commandments is of no help or advantage to us without the grace of God.
Patriarch Ignatius was born in Mouharde, Syria, a village in the Middle East similar to Bethlehem and Nazareth. This is why, when talking about Jesus, he often said, “Jesus was one of us. He talked our language (Aramaic-Syriac); He ate our food, and practiced our traditions.”
What follows is to be considered a diary/stream-of consciousness and not an objective report. I have included thoughts, opinions and, from time to time, what might be considered a value judgment. It was written mostly on the return trip from Beirut so that there might be a record of fresh memories concerning a milestone event in the continuing life of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Upon hearing that Patriarch Ignatius IV had passed into eternity, I called Metropolitan Philip who agreed that I attend the funeral. That same day, Thursday December 6, 2012, passport and Lebanese Visa in hand, I left for Beirut.
Since 1979, Ignatius IV achieved many milestones during his tenure as Patriarch and earlier as a Patriarchal Vicar. The revival of St. John of Damascus School of Theology at Balamand and the building of the University of Balamand have impacted many beyond the borders of the local Church in the Middle East.
by St. Basil the Great
From The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Vol. 13, p. 19
“...When you became a mother, and seeing your son gave thanks to God, you realized fully that you, a mortal mother, had given birth to a mortal child. What wonder, then, if this mortal son, subject to death, has died. But the untimeliness of his death grieves us. Yet, that this is not a timely death is not certain, since we ourselves do not know how to choose most advantageously for our souls nor how to determine the limits appointed for the life of men. Consider the whole universe in which you live, where all things visible are mortal, and all are subject to annihilation. Look up toward the heavens which also will some day be destroyed. At the sun not even it will remain. The stars, each and every one; living creatures on land and in the sea; the beauties of earth; the earth itself all are perishable, all in a short time will have ceased to exist. Let this thought be a consolation in your misfortune. Do not measure your suffering in itself alone, for in this way it will appear unbearable to you, but compare it with all human happenings, and therein you will find consolation. Above all, I have this to say most forcibly: 'Have consideration for your husband; be a comfort one to the other; do not make the affliction harder for him to bear by wearing yourself out with grief.' On the whole, I do not think that words alone suffice for consolation, but I believe that there is need of prayer under the present circumstances. Therefore, I pray the Lord Himself, by touching your heart with His ineffable power, to enlighten your soul through the good use of reason, so that you may have from within yourself the sources of consolation.”
by St. Basil the Great
From The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Vol. 13, p. 231
Although we must thank the Lord for many things of which he has considered us worthy in our travels, we judge that the acquaintance with your Honor which was granted to us by our good Master is our greatest blessing. For, we have come to know a man who makes clear that It is possible even in the military life to maintain a perfect love toward God, and that it behooves the Christian to be distinguished not by the style of his dress, but by the disposition of his soul.
Even at that time, therefore, we were most desirous of meeting you, and now, as often as we call you to mind, we enjoy the happiest thoughts. Accordingly, act the man, and be strong, and always strive to nourish and augment your love of God, in order that the abundance of His blessings to you may continue to increase. Moreover, we need no other proof that you remember us, since we have the testimony of your deeds.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, January 2nd
Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner? Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard? The wise apostle says, "For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it" (I Timothy 6:7). And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say, "Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee" (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). For nothing that we have in this world is ours: not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God. In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity, the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.
Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate. Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride. When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power? And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!
This Christmas night [Christ] bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One -
Let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Humble One -
Let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy -
Let us not revenge;
Now is the day of Good Will -
Let us not be mean.
In this Day of Peace -
Let us not be conquered by anger.
by Fr. George Morelli
Originally published in July 2006
Does any one need any more evidence that brokenness exists in the world? We see it everywhere: in business, government, education; even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Brokenness also exists among individuals called to noble conduct: judges, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, medical practitioners, military leaders, religious personages, teachers and more. No level of society or occupation is exempt.
What is brokenness? Where does it come from? Brokenness is the term that describes the fundamental disorder that exists in creation that affects a person's relationships and creative activity. We experience it inwardly in a way that St. Paul described as that pull between right and wrong where we know what is good but choose the opposite. Outwardly it is expressed by the scandals of greed, sexual abuse, and other crimes that seem ever more prevalent year by year.
Where does brokenness come from? The Church tells us to look to Scripture, particularly the narrative of creation in the book of Genesis. The source of brokenness does not begin with Adam and Eve, or even with God speaking the world into existence. Rather, brokenness has its source in another creature of God: the angel who at one time was chief of the angelic hosts - Satan and his cohorts.
One does not need to believe in a personal God to hold to this precept. Human beings are constituted toward order, and function with a presumption of an ordered universe whether or not they believe in God. How they perceive that the world is ordered is at question here, and their presuppositions are unavoidably religious even if they eschew any faith in God.
Smart Parenting XX + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Pure of Heart for They Shall See God
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
In a previous article (Morelli, 2012) I discussed the importance of Christ delivering the Beatitudes while on the summit of the mount. My commentary was based on Forest's (1999) insight that the 'mount" as an object that is high and points to heaven, and was, as such, purposely chosen by Christ. Forest writes: "Mountains are images of earth reaching toward heaven, thus places of encounter between Creator and creature." This is most fitting because it relates to the spiritual preparation needed to "see God."
St. Gregory of Nyssa (1954) refers to this symbolism of the mount in his Homily VI on this Beatitude. First, St. Gregory takes the perspective of God's vision, from above, of His creation beneath Him:
When from the sublime words of the Lord resembling the summit of a mountain I looked down into the ineffable depths of His thoughts, my mind had the experience of a man who gazes from a high ridge into the immense sea below him.
by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsels, The Classics of Western Spirituality, p. 190.
If you love to enjoy true and complete delight from the Scriptures, seek to read them not merely with simple understanding, but with deeds and practical realities. Moreover, seek to read them not merely for the mere love of learning but also for the sake of ascetic endeavors and discipline, as St. Mark wrote: "Read the words of Holy Scripture with an eye to practical applications and not merely to he puffed up by any fine thought that you may receive from Another Father said: "This is why the lover of knowledge must also be a lover of discipline and practical application. For knowledge alone does not give light to the lamp." You will receive this light if you contemplate on the content of Scripture and realize that it was written to correct you and not the others, as again St. Mark said: "The humble person who has a spiritual life reads the Holy Scripture and understands everything to refer to him and not to others.” For this is true wisdom, fear of God, and avoidance of evil: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). St. Gregory the Theologian also wrote: “The first wisdom is a praiseworthy life purified by God.”
In previous Chaplain's Corner articles I have pointed out the futility of making so called "New Year's Resolutions." The are vague, abstract and lack the specific steps to bring resolutions into effect.i Now what is not futile is to cultivating the cure for the illness that inflicts so many of us, that in part make such resolutions useless. This psycho-spiritual disease is called listlessness. It is the inactivity stemming from lassitude, lack of vigor and energy. Its cure is to develop self-discipline.
Self-discipline is an orderly way of life. In contemporary smartphone or tablet terminology it becomes a step by step psycho-spiritual and behavioral 'To-Do' list. As is common among various religious traditions, they focus on similar counsels to attain perfection. Self discipline is one such path. In Hinduism points out: "Turbulent by nature, the senses even of a wise man, who is practicing self-control, forcibly carry away his mind, Arjuna.ii In the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the last three, focus on the components of self-Discipline: right effort, mindfulness and concentration.iii Islam teaches that to effect such change individuals must take on responsibility for action. "Surely Allah changes not the condition of a people, until they change their own condition."iv
from St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments, Translations of Christian Liturature, Series III. Translated by T. Thompson, B.D., 1919, pp. 120-121.
Illustrations of the Blessings of Communion from Psalm 23 and from the Canticles
Therefore thou hast come to the altar, thou has received the body of Christ. Hear again what sacraments thou hast obtained. Hear holy David speaking. He too foresaw these mysteries in the spirit and rejoiced and said that he lacked nothing* Why? Because he that hath received the body of Christ shall never hunger.1
How often hast thou heard the twenty-second Psalm2 and not understood ? See how it is suited to the heavenly sacraments. The Lord is my shepherd; and I shall not want. In a green pasture, there hath he made me to lie down. He hath tended me by the water of comfort, he converteth my soul. He hath led me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.3 Rod is rule, staff is passion ; that is the eternal Divinity of Christ, but also his passion in the body. The one created, the other redeemed. Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my inebriating cup how glorious it is.4
On Tuesday October 16th, 2012, His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all The East, arrived in the United States for a short stay which included several official functions. He was met at the airport by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and a contingent of over 30 clergy and laity. His motorcade was escorted by officers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department to the Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey where His Beatitude resided during his stay in this area.
On Thursday October 18th, 2012, an Historic meeting of educators from Lebanon and the United States was held under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Ignatius IV at the Antiochian Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey. The following people attended and participated in this meeting:
I have been so lucky to have served on the Governing Council of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch for approximately ten years. The Council is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order. They are hard-working and dedicated parishioners from all of our dioceses across North America. I have had the pleasure to meet and work with these wonderful people, and the more I got to know them, the more I admired and loved them. They travel all over the U.S.A. and Canada (at their own expense) to attend meetings and to accompany our diocesan bishops during their visits to the various parishes. As an east coast U.S.A. parishioner, I probably would have not had the chance to meet such wonderful people from various parts of North America had I not joined the Order. I am blessed to have had this opportunity.
As Very Rev. Joseph Antypas wrote recently in The Word, “Orthodoxy is not a denomination.” “It is a way of life characterized by discipline, good character and a willingness to reach out to others.” This, in fact, is a great description of the members of the Governing Council of the Order. You can see the influence of the Order in many areas. Parishes are very aware of the Antiochian Village Camp scholarships that the Order gives to our youngsters. There are, however, many other projects the Order supports financially: for example, the annual contribution of $270,000 to the Retired Clergy Housing Allowance; $130,000 for Missions and Evangelism; $100,000 for Internet Ministry; the Married Seminarian Assistance; the Youth Ministry; Christian Education Fund; and many other worthwhile projects.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
From The Prologue from Ohrid, Homily for December 5th
On the absence of evil in God's works: “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1)
Brethren, the first revelation about this world that Holy Scripture communicates to us is that the world proceeded from good and not from evil, from God and not from some power contrary to God and not from some imagined primordial mixture of good and evil. The second revelation, brethren, about this world is that everything that the good God created is good. The light is good; the firmament of heaven is good; the land is good; the sea is good; the grass, the vegetation and the fruitful trees are good; the heavenly lights- the sun, moon and stars-are good; the living creatures in the water and the birds in the air are good; all living beings according to their kind are good; the cattle, the small animals and the beasts of the earth are good. Finally, man-the master, under the lordship of God, over all created things-is also good. And God saw that it was good. The appraiser of the value of this world is not and cannot be someone who views this world superficially and partially, but can only be He who views all of creation together and each part individually, He who knows their number, name, composition and essence incomparably better than all men on earth. And God saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
by St. Nicholas Cabasilas
from The Life in Christ, translated by Carmino J. deCatanzaro, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974, pp. 57-58.
It is not possible for those who have not died to sin to live for God. So it is of God alone to be able to slay sin. For men it was necessary, for had we been defeated against our will we should have been worthy of retrieving our defeat; but for those who had become slaves of sin it was in no way possible. How should we have been able to prevail over that to which we had become slaves? Even had we been more powerful, yet "the slave is not greater than the master" (Mt. 10:24).
It was man, then, who by rights should have attained this end and for whom it was fit to win the victory; but he had become enslaved by those whom he should have conquered in battle. God, however, who was indebted to no one, had the power to do these things. Therefore, as long as neither God nor man undertook the battle, sin lived on. It was impossible for the sun of the true life to rise on us, since it was man who should wrest the victory for himself but only God who was able to do so. It was necessary, therefore, for manhood to be joined to Deity, and for one and the same to possess the nature of both him to whom the warfare pertained and of Him who was able to prevail in it.
1.1 Historical Christian Spiritual Foundations of Counseling.
Christians trace their founding to Jesus Christ, by His sending (decent) of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on His apostles and disciples. Following St. Paul, we know that the teachings of Jesus were understood by Christians by them being sanctified by this same Holy Spirit. St. Paul did much to spread the teachings of Jesus throughout the Roman world. To one group he wrote: “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” [2 Thessalonians 2: 13-15] These teachings of Jesus passed in tradition to His Church: “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” [1 Corinthians 11:2] St Paul told the Ephesians “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…” (2: 19, 30) St Luke told his readers: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. [Acts 20:28] Following St. Paul, these traditions, oral first and then written, were passed from the apostles to their successors, the bishops and priests.
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."
An excerpt from Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) +1934
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
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).