fr george morelli
One interesting thing about people: we have a tendency to want others to treat us with understanding and compassion. The cry for mercy can be heard everywhere around the globe. Unfortunately, this cry is often one-sided. We want what we consider fairness, mercy and forgiveness for ourselves, but are reluctant to apply the same to others.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. (1Cor 4:5)
Even a casual reading of Jesus’ encounters with others in the Scriptures shows that He did not demand anyone disclose their thoughts and feelings to Him. We could say that He had respect for mankind's free will, for those creatures which He made in His image and called to be like Him. He would ask a question, but never demand an answer. He counseled, but never forced compliance. He read the hearts and minds of many, but never coerced anyone to tell Him what came from their heart, against their will.
Consider the record of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man told to us by St. Matthew (19: 16-22):
And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
But the soul falls ill when its right judgment is impaired and it is overcome by the passions which cause disease (St. Neilos the Ascetic, Philokalia I).
Those of the Fathers of the Church who wrote about the spiritual life were keen observers of human behavior and because of that emphasized the need for “right judgment,” as in St. Neilos’s words, to control and direct human “passions,” or what we now call emotions.
Our understanding of man created by God is that he is composed of body, mind and soul-spirit. While not apprehending the complexity and nuances of brain-behavior relationships, our Church Fathers spoke about the different types of knowledge that was related to each component of mankind. St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia II) notes: “Since man is constituted of soul and sentient body, he is limited and defined and he himself imposes limits and makes definitions by virtue of the natural and distinctive reciprocity that exists between himself and these two aspects of creation.” The saint goes on to say: “As a compound of soul and body he is limited essentially by intelligible and sensible realities, while at the same time he himself defines these realities through the capacity to apprehend intellectually and to perceive with his senses.” In achieving our end to become “partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Pt 1:4) it behooves us to use all the gifts, natural and spiritual that God has granted to us.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2: 28
These words by the prophet Joel (whose name means Yahweh is God) were spoken during the reign of King Uzziah (800 BC). Uzziah's reign was focused on achieving success in external and internal policies, including extending economic and military resources.
Joel prophesized during a time of great calamity, most often plague and pestilence. He considered these upheavals not only as natural disasters, but also an indication of an impending judgment by God when the people broke His law, a presage of God’s convulsing of the earth, known in scriptural terminology the "day of the Lord."
The notion of an Old Testament God raining judgment on the earth strikes modern ears as a quaint relic of the past (but not one that has been drained of all fear). But is this accurate? Or is our modern perception more the detritus of sated hearts and distracted minds; the result of the surfeit of material goods we consume beyond our immediate needs?
If the question appears too strong, consider the words of Christ: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:19-24). What is our treasure? The treasures of many Westerners are material goods, comfort, wealth, luxury, power, sensual gratification, and technological escape. When any of these elements become an end in themselves, when they distract us from God and the commandment to love Him and our neighbor; they become idols - false gods which substitute for the light and life that has its source and origin only in the true God.
BOOK REVIEW: Surviving the Folded Flag
Book Author: Deborah H. Tainsh
Book Review Author: V. Rev. Archpriest Fr. George Morelli, Ph.D.
Most of those who make a decision to serve our country in the armed forces take the military oath, receive training and then many are sent into harm’s way. Some will make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Their loved ones, family and friends become members of the military family much less formally, but certainly as deeply. They do not take the oath of office and receive no training for what they may encounter. The “insignia” of informal members of the military family for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is the “Gold Star” flag. As explained by Mrs. Tainsh, this flag started in World War I. For a family with two sons serving in the U.S. armed forces the flag originally had two blue stars. After one was killed in action the color of one of the stars was changed to gold. A congressman read into the Congressional Record the significance of the flag: "The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother — their children."
“…and grant that this Thy handmaid may, in all things, be pleasing to her husband; and that this Thy servant may love and cherish his wife; that they may live according to Thy Will.” (from the Marriage Service Prayers of the Orthodox Church)
The ideal of Christian marriage is well known: “that they may abound in every work that is good and acceptable unto thee.”[i] A marriage that is blessed by God is one that interiorizes the Love the Persons of the Holy Trinity have for each other, as well as the Love they have for their creation. Thus a husband and wife’s relationship will manifest Christ’s instruction to his Apostles: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn 13: 34). It will also demonstrate the words of the Father, said of our ancestral parents, “ . . . male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it . . . .” (Gen 1: 27-28). In other words, they will produce, and will love their offspring in emulation of the creative loving act of God Himself. (Morelli, 2008). At times, faulty cognitions and the ensuing dysfunctional and behavioral barriers get in the way of actualizing Divinely enlivened spousal love. Ultimatum is one such roadblock.
Have you noticed that someone you have once done a favor for sometime in the past now, seemingly out of the middle of nowhere the person now expects a favor back in return. It is not that they are asking you, rather their tone of voice and words indicate it is not a request rather it is an expectation. Where does this demanding expectation come from?
It actually comes from the faulty mindset of the individual who originally did the favor for you. The favor doer was saying mentally in his own mind, but did not communicate to you: "Ok I will do this favor for you, now you owe me one in the future." If the favor is not returned when I want it and in the way they want I have the right to be angry and resentful.” Cognitive-Behavioral psychologists call this distorted irrational cognition: Reciprocity. (Morelli, 2007). Reciprocity is a one way, that is to say, unilateral contract that if I do something for you I can expect that you will do something for me.
On close examination, such contracts are inherently dishonest and unfair because most often the other person did not know about the contents of the contract. No matter how realistic, valid, and fair the contract may seem to the person who made it up, the other may be following a completely different mental interpretation of the favor.
TOWARD HEALING CHURCH SCHISM: OVERVIEW AND PSYCHOTHEOLOGICAL REFLECTION - WHAT CAN WE DO TO ACHIEVE UNITY BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX
“And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. 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)
“When Christ asked the one who was to become the first among the apostle, then called Simon Bar-Jona, “. . . who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). Simon answered: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16: 16-18). The Eastern Orthodox Church has always considered this “profession” of the Divinity of Jesus[i] to be the ‘rock,’ the foundation, of all who are members of His Church. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not speak of plural Churches, i.e., that He would found many Churches, but my Church, singular. He would found one Church. The Church is one.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Lk 12:48).
What makes for a happy child? According to some recent behavioral research, (Holder, Coleman & Wallace, 2008)[i] it is a child who is also ‘spiritual.’ The authors define spiritual in a different way than most Orthodox Christians would comprehend. This article will attempt to outline the core of Orthodox spirituality and see if this understanding can be integrated with these researchers’ findings.
We know that the Body of Christ which is His Church is the most sublime gift given to us by God. This includes, of course, the Divinity emptying itself. The Father sending, that is to say, giving us His Only Begotten Son, to assume human flesh and, as St. Paul has told us, He, “…Christ is the head of the church, his [B]ody, and is [H]imself its Savior.” From the Anaphora prayer of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom we pray (and learn): “[Christ] gave Himself up for the life of the world, ….Take eat: this is my Body which is broken for you….Drink ye all of this: this is my Blood … which is shed for you ….Having in remembrance, therefore this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Grave, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Session at the right hand, and the second and glorious Advent…”
Parents and Pastors as head of their church family
The Domestic Church
In 1965 Roger Brown made perhaps the most important discovery of modern linguistic theory. He reported that whenever we speak, the tone of voice and the manner in which words are spoken (technically called the pragmatics of communication or onomatopoeic analysis) do more to determine meaning of words than the definitions of the words themselves.
Brown concluded that if something is said in an angry or mean tone, the tone is communicated rather than the words. For example, if someone came into the room and the host said softly, "sit down," the words would be heard as an invitation. The guest would feel welcomed and perhaps appreciated and certainly open to listening to his host.
On the other hand, if the host barked out, "sit down!" in a harsh and inconsiderate manner, the guest would most likely respond emotionally, perhaps experience some hurt or confusion, and would likely infer the host was mean-spirited. The guest will close himself off to any forthcoming messages. Psychological research confirms this conclusion (Morelli, 2006).
How we preach the Gospel influences how it is heard
Brown's discovery has important implications including how we hear the Gospel. Take the title of the fiery sermon preached by the early American preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God for example. Consider too the tone of Edward's message illustrated in this brief quotation:
The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.
In the first chapter of Genesis we read that man is made in God's image and called to be like Him. The image, the Church Fathers say, is mainly our intelligence and free will. God so loved us, He sent His only begotten Son for our salvation (John 3:16).
If we put on Christ at baptism and continue to wash ourselves through repentance, then we are able to reflect the light of Christ. Our constant prayer is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner." We are creatures. We have no independent existence. We depend on God for all and by his mercy we can have the light of Christ indwell in us. This is a spiritual reality revealed by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The value of this is unfathomable.
Bishop Hierotheos Vlachos (1994, 1998) refers to the worth human beings can have:
It is said that God has essence and energy and that this distinction does not destroy the divine simplicity. We confess and believe that 'uncreated and natural grace and illumination and energy always proceed inseparably from this divine energy' And since, according to the saints, created energy means created essence as well . . . God's energy is uncreated. Indeed the name of divinity is placed not only upon the divine essence, but 'also on thee divine energy no less'. This means that in the teachings of the holy Fathers, 'this (the essence) is completely incapable of being shared, but by divine grace the energy can be shared.
This is a reality and truth. Based on the illuminative teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, Bishop Hierotheos tells us this is available to us "through God's benevolence towards those who have purified their nous." Bishop Hierotheos (1994) calls the Church a hospital that can cure our infirmities so our nous can be purified and this life in Christ can take place in us.