fr george morelli


Smart Parenting XXV + Applying Christ’s Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are They Who Mourn

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Mt. 5:4)

In the first article I wrote (Morelli, 2012) on applying the Beatitudes to Orthodox Christian parenting I pointed out that it is also no accident that after Christ's time in the wilderness confronting and overcoming the temptations of Satan, the evil one, He was prepared for His public life of teaching. The first of Jesus’ teachings is the Sermon on the Mount, in which He gave us the well known Beatitudes (Mt 5: 1-12).i

Such a period of spiritual preparation for being aware of the enticements of the world, its adversities and how to confront them is not the usual practice of Eastern Christians awaiting Holy Matrimony. Rather, is not uncommon that in preparing for a holy and blessed marriage, the male and female shortly to become one flesh focus their attention on the worldly joy of marriage and relegate the spiritual factors to second place. An emphasis on the worldly aspects of marriage is certainly the main focus of secular society, in which a wedding is, for many, part of an elaborate booming and costly industry.ii Unfortunately, the focus is on merely worldly joy rather than spiritual joy In fact, however, there is an important aspect of spiritual joy that can and should be stressed in a true Orthodox Wedding. A passage in our Orthodox Marriage Service emphasizes such happiness. This is no better expressed than in the prayer sung by the choir after the sharing of The Common Cup:

Healing Society: Revisiting Witnessing Christ in a Secular Age

by Fr. George Morelli

And whenever thou art praying, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, in order that they might be made manifest to men. Verily I say to you, they have received their reward.  But thou whenever thou art praying, enter into thy chamber, and after thou shuttest thy door, pray to thy Father Who is in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret, shall render what is due to thee openly. (Mt 6: 5-6)

From the times of my earliest memory these words of Christ were implanted on my mind.  A simple practical example of putting this into practice was the proper way of saying the Prayers at the Table,  popularly known as 'grace' before and after meals, while in public. It meant making a silent and mental Sign of the Cross and saying the appropriate prayer mentally as well.  Any public display of one's commitment to Christ, would, at that time and locale, have been considered hypocrisy.

However, the world of my early years was spiritually and culturally very different from the world that has ushered us into the second decade of the 21st Century.  Practically everyone in my hometown was a practicing Christian. There was one devout Jewish family that had a small grocery store and a travel truck to service remote areas. On any  given Sunday morning most people went to the church of their choice.  It might be said that there was a shared culture of the value of religion in daily life. If someone ostentatiously displayed some overt religiosity, in all likelihood such a display would have been considered hypocritical.

Chaplain's Corner + Silence is Golden

by Fr. George Morelli

In the mid 1960’s there was a popular folk song that played the airwaves: The Sounds of Silence. It was originally written in the wave of national grief that followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However, this song actually reaches far beyond the historical event and touches a fountain of great spiritual depth. Consider a couple lines from the song: "Hello darkness, my old friend I've come to talk with you again . . .The words of the prophets are written. . .And whispered in the sounds of silence." A very appropriate reflection for the start of Spring comes from the saintly Mother Teresa of Calcutta:  “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

The value of silence cuts across so many religious traditions. The prophet Habakkuk (2: 20) instructed the Jews: "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." Buddhists find in silence the meaning of the universe: "When a man knows the solitude of silence, and feels the joy of quietness, he is then free from fear and he feels the joy of the dharma [basic principles of the cosmos].i In the Islamic tradition Rumi notes: "I implored the sage in earnest last night to unveil the mysteries of the universe. He whispered softly in my ear, "Silence! It is something to perceive but never to say."ii

Our Prayerful Thanks to God for All Who Uphold Christian Moral Principles

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
Light of the East Newsletter - Winter, 2012
by Fr. George Morelli

In past President's messages I have not focused on the non-Apostolic Churches and their ecumenical situation, as that might seem irrelevant to our SSJC-WR concerns. However, in my past President's messages I have talked about moral alliances that both Catholics and Orthodox can form. Such alliances have been proposed by Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev for example. Whether formally established, or just expressed informally, such alliances assume a set of common principles or moral viewpoint, easily possible between Catholics and Orthodox, but not necessarily between “Christian” groups. An example of this came to my attention recently in an Australian news source report on a disturbing statement issued by an Australian ecumenical council of churches: "The community needs to know that there is a range of views held on many topics in the Christian tradition. . . ."

Chaplain's Corner + Heroism Revisited

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the most revered contemporary Spiritual Fathers of the Eastern Church, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (1924-1994), gives an insight that can be applied to a tragic event that is fresh in the minds of many around world today. The Elder counseled us to have well-disposed thinking toward those around us. He told his spiritual disciples to see the "good things" around them and not focus on the evil people do.

In the spirit of the counsel of Elder Paisios I want to focus on the report of the good done by one of the Chaplains on board the severely damaged cruise-liner that went aground and partially sank off the coast of Italian Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy in January 2012. The horror of the plight of those passengers who were trapped was well documented by the media in text and video. As the ship was sinking the Chaplain radioed his headquarters, the Apostleship of the Sea, whose function in part is “to promote the spiritual, moral and social development" to those at sea, that it was his intention to "stay close to the crew and the passengers to comfort them at this moment of great confusion." The Chaplain also shared his thoughts at the very beginning of the disaster "There were so many children, I took a little girl in my arms. I asked that she be sent first with her mother and her evacuation took precedence." [http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/chaplain-costa-concordia-crew-showed-personal-sacrifice/]

Surpassing Human Justice: Enthroning Divine Justice

SURPASSING HUMAN JUSTICE: ENTHRONING DIVINE JUSTICE.

IN CHRISTIANITY, MERCY TRUMPS JUSTICE.

by Fr. George Morelli

"Compassion and justice in one soul are as a man adoring God and idols in one house." -St. Isaac of Syriai

The cry for "justice" is heard around the world. But what "justice" is cried out for? A casual overview of the media clearly indicates that the cry for worldly justice is very often accompanied by cries for retaliation, retribution and vengeance. Such 'justice' is often attributed to third world nations or countries that have been in constant conflict. For example, a British newspaper article headline about a recent Libyan incident read, "The car was armoured like a tank. But that wasn't enough to save Gaddafi's son Khamis when the rebels took their vengeance."ii History books recount incidents of murderous atrocities against individuals, nations and entire peoples, committed in the name of revenge, since the dawn of recorded time.

Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)

INTRODUCTION

In previous articles on parenting I have emphasized the importance of making connections between Christ, His Church and the issues and problems that make up modern life (Morelli, 2010). Jesus entry into his public life is recorded by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. It was at His baptism in the River Jordan by St. John who is called the Baptist. This event is called the Theophany in which Christ's Divinity was proclaimed by His Father as told to us by St. Matthew: "And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt 3: 16-17) The spiritual-theological significance of the Theophany is noted in the beautiful Apolytikion of the Feast:

Holy TheophanyHoly TheophanyWhen Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity wast made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hath appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

Chaplain's Corner + Even the Thought is an Affront to God and Country

by Fr. George Morelli

In mid-September 2011, various news outlets reported a ban on relatives and friends of wounded service personnel bringing bibles and other religious reading materials into Water Reed military hospital. The offensive statement reads: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” [i] Due to an outcry from various religious groups, this egregious policy was rescinded by December 2011. Thank God for that! But the fact that such a policy was even thought of, let alone promulgated, is an affront to God and Country.

Religious freedom is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of the United States itself.  The first amendment of the Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The operative term in the amendment regarding religion is making no law "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In thinking up and initiating the now rescinded hospital policy, someone took it upon themselves to unilaterally interpret the words of the Constitution to impose on all 'freedom from religion' - which actually amounts to a prohibition of religion. An affront to our country and its religious tradition.

Chaplain's Corner + Commitment for a New Year: Overcoming Rudeness

by Fr. George Morelli

My January Chaplain's Corner article last year called New Year resolutions a “useless waste of mental and spiritual energy." More than ever, I want to make the same point. However, I want to substitute a more functional alternative: making a commitment. The word ‘commitment’ brings up notions such as a ‘binding’ course of action, allegiance, dedication and loyalty. What better way to start the new year than by re-committing ourselves to respecting the personhood of others by overcoming any ways we have slipped into unthinking habits of rudeness. The word respect derives from the Latin word rēspicere, which means, “to look back, pay attention to.” In this case, to pay attention in a Godly way to the person with whom you are interacting.

The highest value of what it means to be a person is told to us in Sacred Scripture in the Book of Genesis (1: 26), a book that is sacred to Christians, Hebrews and Moslems alike.  We read,  "Then God said, "Let us make man according to our image and according to our likeness."" The person, therefore, is an icon of God, a consequence of His creative act in making us a finite mirror of His Divinity. Our Eastern Church Fathers would consider the meaning of personhood to be in our relationship with both God and mankind. To make this practical, the more we become committed to respecting others, to really paying attention to them as persons, the more we become like God.

Understanding Counseling in a Pastoral Setting

The presentation below was given to the Clergy Retreat of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, November 08-11, 2011, in Scottsdale, AZ. An in depth discussion of many of the Retreat topics can be found in the articles I have written, which are posted on: Orthodoxy Today [www.orthodoxytoday.org/archive/morelli] and the Antiochian Archdiocese [www.antiochian.org/author/morelli] website. The high technology, secularist society we live in today poses many challenges to living Christ's teachings, being committed to His Church, and living a Christ-like life family life. Even greater challenges are faced by the successors of the Apostles, the bishops and priests who are called to shepherd Christ’s Church in the modern world. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, may this resource be of some assistance to all called to minister to our communities in Christ.

Good Marriage XXIV: Trust - A Cornerstone of a Godly Marriage

by Fr. George Morelli

"Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." (1Cor 4: 2)

"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (Pv 31: 11)

Developmental psychologist Eric Erickson (1964a) conjectures that during infancy the continuity of comforting sensory experiences with adults promotes a sense of trust that serves as  a root for the resolution of the successive challenges the individual will confront over a lifespan.  Erickson goes on to suggest that the appropriate proportion of trust over mistrust produces hope. He states, "Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensible virtue inherent in the state of being alive." (Erickson, 1964b).

Erickson's understanding  is also very descriptive of a functional marriage. Beck (1988), for example, considers trust one of the three major components of a functional relationship - commitment and loyalty being the others.  Beck considers them "a force for stability" that, once developed, "protect[s] the closeness, intimacy, and security of the loving bond."

Beck (1988) goes on to give examples of attitudes or beliefs that indicate basic trust:

  • "I can depend on my spouse to guard my best interests."
  • "I know that my spouse would not intentionally hurt me."
  • "I know that I can depend on my spouse for help in ordinary situations or in an emergency."
  • "I know my spouse will be available when I need him or her."
  • I can assume good will on the part of my spouse."

COMMITMENT AND LOYALTY: THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF TRUST

The Wounds in the Body of Christ

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Winter 2009

If you turn on any news-program or look at the front page of almost any newspaper no one living in today’s world can miss the egregious personal, social, political and religious brokenness surrounding us. It is also so easy to perceive this brokenness as being the problem and responsibility of others. However, in the Eastern Church there is no such thing as a solitary sin. Even an infraction done in total privacy is a wound to the totality of mankind created by God. Just as an injury to any part of our body actually affects the entire body, so too, all of us are affected by the sins of even the ‘least’ one who makes up God’s human creation.

Because the Church is mystically “Christ’s Body,” how much greater are sins that injure the Church? The sinfulness of separation, the brokenness of those who make up the Body of Christ is a glaring violation of Our Lord’s priestly prayer at the last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Separation is a wound, scandal, illness, infirmity, and thus a dreadful sin. All of us are affected by this wound and all of us are called upon to heal this wound. A theme of one of the great feasts of the beginning of the civil calendar year is the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (4:17) read on the Sunday after the Theophany: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The first step in healing any sin is repentance. Repentance means a change of mind and heart. But there is prior step we have to do that enables us to repent.

On the Blood of the Martyrs

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Fall 2009

Are we on the cusp of the fullness of time in which a confluence of forces, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will bring down the wall of separation between the Eastern, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Churches under the omophorion of the Bishop of Rome? Why pose the question in this way? In the past many international theological consultations have taken place. These consultations involve theologians from the Churches. The Bishop of Rome has also met with individual Orthodox patriarchs and bishops. The wall of separation remains. However, as noted by a ‘monk of the Eastern Church’: “human barriers do not reach up to heaven.”

Now it seems a next step has been suggested following a meeting, described as “remarkably harmonious,” between Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate. (See page 3 for details. http://lightoftheeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ssjcnewsfall09-11.pdf) Both men are described as scholars, theologians, liturgists, and lovers of music. In addition, Archbishop Hilarion is a world famous gifted composer. Also, following a meeting between the Archbishop and Cardinal Kasper, the Cardinal suggested that a conference of Orthodox European bishops could possibly form a partnership in dialogue between the Churches in the future. A conference of Orthodox bishops would elevate succeeding talks from one on one encounters of individual Patriarchs to a more unified Orthodox witness, voice and consensus.

The Society of St. John Chrysostom as Witness

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Summer, 2009

In a recent interview Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, new head of the Department of External Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted an ongoing problem that the church lacks a bridge to the outside world. He notes: “A person will have to surmount his own numerous barriers separating him from the church world – barriers psychological, cultural and linguistic.“ To accomplish this task he perspicaciously notes that the church has to break down the “… mechanism of alienating people … expecting indifferently that they will come and surmount all the barriers on their own.” Archbishop Hilarion notes that accomplishing this task will involve both clergy and active lay people.

Promoting dialogue between Eastern and Western Christian, making known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of the apostolic churches, is the stated goal of the Society of St. John Chrysostom (SSJC). The Society is one part of the body of Christ, as in the words of St. Paul: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Cor 12:20), which acts to work and pray that the Apostolic Churches will seek the unity Christ desired. We know this from His prayer for His Body, the Church at the Last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11). Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Church does not use “aggressive and importune methods of mission,” as do some Protestants, but we are to announce Christ to the world by the witness of our example. We can become missionaries in the sphere of our own personal life.

Relativism: The Enemy of All Apostolic Churches

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Spring 2009

A recent report released by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that Americans are more ready than ever to change or drop their religious traditions and that many are unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions. Particularly disturbing in this report is that Catholics and Orthodox, the Churches founded by Christ Himself, tracing in unbroken succession from the Apostolic tradition, are among the groups with a low percentage of respondents who hold that they are the one true faith leading to eternal life.

However, did not Jesus Himself say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me?" (Jn 14:14) Did not St. Paul tell the first Christians: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it?” (1 Cor 12:27) Did not St. Paul tell the Hebrews (10: 23-25): “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some...?” Did not Christ Himself warn us of the dire consequences of wasting Godly gifts when He said: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required?” (Lk 12:48) This is especially true for the apostolic churches who have the greatest gift of all, the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord God and Savior Himself passed down to us from Christ to the apostles in an unbroken succession to our bishops. Christ did this when He ordained His apostles by saying: “Do this in remembrance of me." (Lk 22: 19). These are not relativistic statements; they are the cornerstone of the Body of Christ - the Church.

Chaplain's Corner: Compassion - The Forgotten Virtue

by Fr. George Morelli

Even a casual look at the world today would reveal an abundance of self-centeredness and fixation on ideologies. Compassion is well hidden. This despite many of the world religions and the findings of psychologists teaching that mercy and compassion lead to favorable personal and social outcomes. The Hebrew prophet Ezra tells us,” For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him." (2Chr 30: 9).  Buddha taught that, "Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." [http://www.compassion.ancientfountainofyouth.com/about.html].

Our Eastern Church Father St. Isaac of Syria links compassion to an essential characteristic of God Himself: "God's holy nature is so good and compassionate that it is always seeking to find some small means of setting us right." St. Isaac also points out that, "Among all God's actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." (Brock, 1997).

Smart Parenting XXIII: Coping with Bullying

by Fr. George Morelli

...but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through... kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love.... (2 Cor 6:4,6)

In a recent Smart Parenting essay on the spiritual and practical aspects of love (Morelli, 2011), I start out simply with  St. John's most profound yet un-complex understanding of God: "God is love." (1 Jn 4:16). This love is shown in the relation of the persons of the Holy Trinity amongst themselves, God's creation and continuing care for His people, and the self-emptying (kenotic) love Christ has for us by His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection for our salvation.  I then go on to point out that we must understand  the meaning and application of Divine Love in our families and to the world. We have to emulate in our own lives this same love and model this to our children and others by our behaviors, which should be:

a set of actions that are aimed at the good and welfare of the other. Love means having truly beneficent care for the welfare of others in thought word and deed.

In a follow-up essay, (Morelli, 2011b) I point out that if love is understood in this way, we would be given one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace. And in turn, children disposed to peace in working through their relationships with others.

Revisiting that Kindness and Forgiveness Are Next to Godliness: Even in Church

by Fr. George Morelli

The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings (Ps 144: 17)

Even a casual reader of the articles I write cannot help but notice the spiritual emphasis, based on the example of Christ Himself, that I place on kindliness, forgiveness and Godliness. (Morelli, 2006b, 2007a, 2007b) Therefore, it should come as no surprise how spiritually upsetting a recent opinion piece by a Russian journalist which was forwarded to me:  

One value that the . . . Orthodox Church does not have enough of is kindness and compassion. The upholding of ritual and rules often supplants genuine feeling and compassion. Among Orthodox priests there are many who would sternly tell a woman, “cover your head” in church, oblivious to the fact that the woman is trying to calm down her crying child and has no time to find or readjust her headscarf. A sad young woman who comes to a church to seek solace may hear: “You can’t wear trousers here.” I have witnessed such scenes myself and I can imagine how many souls have been turned away by such uncharitable severity. As long as the . . . Orthodox priest does not become a shepherd first and an administrator second, the faith of many . . . will remain a dream and not a source of spiritual fortitude.i

What a sad account about some who are supposed to pastor the people of God! Now I would like to dismiss such stories as isolated incidents or mere accidents. Unfortunately, I myself have been subjected to similar treatment by hierarchs and priests, and I have witnessed laity being similarly treated. Regrettably, I have also heard numerous complaints from pious individuals visiting parishes and monasteries describing very similar situations.

Chaplain's Corner: Anger - The Boomerang Emotion

by Fr. George Morelli

The display of anger is so common that it frequently goes unnoticed. Rather, it has become  the  expected response to any slight, no matter how trivial or harsh, given to someone by someone else in society.  Some "getting back at" or  "vengeance" is the norm. No one is exempt, parents, coaches, athletes, referees, police officers, teachers or those acquitted of a criminal offense. Interestingly, a recent news report noted that displaying anger at subordinates, especially combined with the use of scatological words, has also become the required norm to be an effective leader.  [http://www.blogging4jobs.com/business/swearing-makes-you-a-better-leader/]

Psychologically, anger occurs because we perceive ourselves to be "intruded on" to the extent that it justifies aggression, vengeance, and retaliation.  To display this level of anger we have to have to see ourselves as very 'important.' St. Basil tells us "Anger nurses a grievance. The soul, itching for vengeance, constantly tempts us to repay those who have offended" [St Basil the Great, Homily 10]. I am so important, so above others that I have the "right" to act uncharitably toward others. Note that I am making an important distinction between annoyance, which in fact could motivate a useful adaptive response such as being more focused or trying harder, with real anger.

There may be some who would perceive angry individuals as effective leaders, but, in general, psychologists have found damaging boomerang effects for anger displays: relationships are fermented, people will tend to retaliate; it cognitively distracts from solving problems, and even if what I am angry about has some truth to it, my over-reaction lessens my credibility.

Good Marriage XXII + A Marriage Breaker: Obnoxiously Insisting on Your Point of View

by Fr. George Morelli

"... learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11: 29)

There is so much in the teachings of Christ and His Church, that if one is committed to be a follower of Christ that one of the major virtues that would be nurtured would be a firm commitment to truth. Consider the approbative words Jesus told the Samaritan woman: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him." (Jn 4: 23) St. John (8: 22) records Jesus very strong assertion: "...you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." During the Divine Liturgy, after reception of the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, the choir (congregation) chants: "We have seen the true light ...found the true faith..."  It would appear, Christians should not get away from what is the truth. (Morelli, 2010a)  Of course this focus on truth would certainly  extend to how the husband-wife--father-mother relate to each other in a blessed marriage when they create a domestic church, a little church in their home, and this extends to their children as well. 

Chaplain's Corner + Pride: The Source of All Evil

by Fr. George Morelli

There is no doubt that most readers have heard the aphorism: 'money is the root of all evils.’ This apothegm is actually a popularization of St. Paul's instruction to St. Timothy (1Tim 6: 10): “For the love of money is a root of all of evils. . . .” Of course, there is much wisdom in this teaching. However, we must consider that there is a vice that precedes and nourishes this 'root' of money, and all the other vices as well.  St. Hesychios the Priest writes: ". . . the crown of all these, pride." (Philokalia I). St. John Cassian (Philokalia I) suggests the reason. He says “. . . it acts like some harsh tyrant who has gained control of a great city . . . . as a result regard[s] himself as equal to God."  Such people, says the prophet Isaiah (14: 14), say to themselves "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High."

There is agreement among world religions on the deleterious nature of pride. The Hindu scripture states: "Those who know truly are free from pride and deceit (Bhagavad-Gita 13:7)." In the Koran it is written (Surah 96: 6-8): "Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds, In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient. Verily, to thy Lord is the return (of all)." In the Buddhist tradition we read: "Free from . . . overbearing pride, principled, trained, a 'last-body': he's what I call a Brahmin [the elite]. (Dhammapada, 26).”

Out of the Fountain that is Christ: Free Will, Tolerance and Forgiveness

By Fr. George Morelli

I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. (Phlm 1: 14)

In today's secular society there are two extreme views of those serious followers of Christ who apply Christ's teachings on tolerance and forgiveness in their lives. One view is that such Christians are wanting in courage by failing to call for retribution and vengeance for crimes  society may rightly find abhorrent. On the other hand, committed Christians are viewed as intolerant if they choose to reject values and practices that are un-Christ like. The Christian response can only be understood by deepening our understanding of the Holy Trinity and the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity among themselves.

What we know of the essence of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, is magnificently summarized by St. John Chrysostom in his Divine Liturgy: "for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same."  The Holy Spirit-inspired Church and its early Councils undertook the task of trying to understand and express the relationship between the veiled prototype of the Holy Trinity contained in the Old Testament Scriptures and God as One-in-Three as revealed by Christ Himself.  McGuckin summarizes that it consisted of a "theology of three perfectly coequal divine persons (hypostases), all sharing the selfsame divine nature (ousia). . . more succinctly . . .a vision of God where the Son and Holy Spirit were homoousion with the Father though hypostatically distinct."

God's Essence

Chaplain's Corner: Worthy Work

by Fr. George Morelli

A common human experience is that when one is absorbed in work or activity that one deems worthwhile, time seems to fly;  one is often so deep in concentrated focus as to 'forget about self;' the opposite of this is the experience of listlessness. On a purely human level we could consider the words of Hindu teacher Gandhi regarding such absorbing work: ".. .  finding satisfaction in work is our best hope for happiness in life."i However, there is a higher matter to be considered, a Divine element to 'worthy work.' King David links the work we do to our purpose in life: "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; thy steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of thy hands." (Ps 137: 8). So, what is ultimately meaningful will be that which we do that carries out our purpose in life; and at the same time it will be a Godly act. In his Epistle to the Corinthians (1Cor 3: 9,13-14) St. Paul tells us: "For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building … each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward."

Chaplain's Corner: Every Good and Perfect Gift is from Above

By Fr. George Morelli

The title of this Chaplain's Corner is a verse from one of the last prayers said during the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (the Mass) in the Eastern Church. Many will recognize it is an almost verbatim quote from St. James’ Epistle (1:17). Among these “good and perfect” gifts is heroism. This brings up the issue of who is a true hero. Few in the United States, as well as the wider world, are not aware of the shooting which took place at the School Board Meeting in Panama City, Florida on 14 December, 2010. While not as dramatic as the crash water landing of a disabled A320 Airbus in the Hudson River,i nevertheless the actions by some that day were heroic in their own way. A reportedly mentally ill individual, whose wife had been fired from her position as a teacher, entered the school board meeting room with a loaded gun, and painted a large letter V on the wall (for Vengeance). He then let the female school board members go and started shooting at the male members.

The board Superintendent, Bill Husfelt, called out to the shooter and said “Take me.” [The firing] had been his decision, and he had had to sign the termination papers. He even started to rise from behind the Board desk to make himself a target, hoping the others would be let go. At one point, one of the female board members re-entered the room and tried to hit the shooter from behind with her over-size pocketbook. In the meantime, a retired police officer and Chief of Security for the School District, Mike Jones, entered the meeting room, crouched below the rear spectator seats, but still in the line of fire, and, in order to try to save the life of the school board members still in the room, opened fire on the perpetrator, hitting him several times.

Pastoral Pointer: It's the Spirit Behind the Letter

by Fr. George Morelli

"...for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor 3:6)

Up front I want to make clear that in no manner, shape or form is anything that I am writing meant to abrogate or ameliorate the commandments of God. In fact, just the opposite, my intent is to suggest a pastoral practice which would enhance keeping Christ's commandments. After all, we have it from Christ Himself: ". . . If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn 14: 15).

What I am suggesting is that the best way to keep the commandments is to first focus on understanding their spirit, their meaning, and then make connections to the letter, that is to say, the written code. This approach is both psychologically and spiritually sound (Morelli, 2005).  I am making the suggestion that this is an effective way to approach the commandments in workshops, catechesis and especially in pastoral aid given to penitents in the Holy Mystery of Confession.