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Discerning the Goal from the Process

by Bishop John, The Word, March 2015

Let's not get so caught up in the Lenten journey that we forget our goal. Lent is a time of preparation. It is a preparation for our Holy Week celebration, which is a preparation for our Paschal celebration, which is ultimately a preparation for our unity with God and Eternity. Lent cannot be an end unto itself. God did not send His only begotten Son to us for us to crucify Him, so that we could fast, do good, and have a new worldview or religion. God took on flesh to join Himself to us and allow us to join ourselves to Him. Fasting, worship, and almsgiving are the process of our union with God, not our goal. Knowing the truth about God, man and the world is not the goal, but part of the process of learning to commune with the living God. He gave us a way through the Church to receive Him and share in His life. Orthodoxy is not the goal, but the way. Christ is the way and the Orthodox way is the God-given way to worship, live and share in His life.

We are given choices and opportunities, but there is right and wrong. The relationships that God gives us allow us to enter a process that leads to unity with Him and each other. Our God-given relationships with Church and family let us stretch and grow. They allow us to understand better. They allow us to desire God, to humble ourselves and to come to encounter Him, to forgive each other, and finally to accept that God accepts us. Because He loves us first, we come to love Him and do His will. Doing His will is our true nature, because, like God, we love and we give. It is only fear of not having enough love and being vulnerable to each other that prevent us from loving and giving as God lives and gives. Loving God and each other is what brings us into the union with God and each other which is ultimately our goal.

December 10, 2014 + The Inward Mission of Our Church: Bringing About Orthodoxy

by St. Justin Popovich

This mission of the Church is facilitated by God Himself because among our people there exists an ascetic spirit as created by Orthodoxy through the centuries. The Orthodox soul of our people leans towards the Holy Fathers and the Orthodox ascetics. Ascetic exertion, at the personal, family, and parish level, particularly of prayer and fasting, is the characteristic of Orthodoxy. Our people is a people of Christ, an Orthodox people, because—as Christ did—it sums up the Gospel in these two virtues: prayer and fasting. And it is a people convinced that all defilement, all foul thoughts, can be driven out of man by these alone (Matt. 17:21). In its heart of hearts our people know Christ and Orthodoxy, they know just what it is that makes an Orthodox person Orthodox. Orthodoxy will always generate ascetic rebirth. She recognizes no other.

November 26, 2014 + Against the False Doctrine of Appeasement

by St. Gregory the Theologian, 2nd Easter Oration, 45.22
www.newadvent.org/fathers/310245.htm

XXII. Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth inquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim?

Return from Exile (The Sunday of the Prodigal Son)

The Following is an excerpt from Great Lent, by Alexander Schmemann
From Chapter 2: Preparation for Lent

Sunday of the Prodigal SonOn the third Sunday of preparation for Lent, we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son (LK. 15:11-32). Together with the hymns on this day, the parable reveals to us the time of repentance as man's return from exile. The prodigal son, we are told, went to a far country and there spent all that he had. A far country! It is this unique definition of our human condition that we must assume and make ours as we begin our approach to God. A man who has never had that experience, be it only very briefly, who has never felt that he is exiled from God and from real life, will never understand what Christianity is about. And the one who is perfectly "at home" in this world and its life, who has never been wounded by the nostalgic desire for another Reality, will not understand what is repentance.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry or a Gentle God?

by Fr. George Morelli

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.

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