Wednesday, December 4, 2019

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra ( December 6 )

Reading:

This Saint lived during the reign of Saint Constantine the Great, and reposed in 330, As a young man, he desired to espouse the solitary life. He made a pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem, where he found a place to withdraw to devote himself to prayer. It was made known to him, however, that this was not the will of God for him, but that he should return to his homeland to be a cause of salvation for many. He returned to Myra, and was ordained bishop. He became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused. No less was he known for his zeal for the truth. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of the 318 Fathers at Nicaea in 325; upon hearing the blasphemies that Arius brazenly uttered against the Son of God, Saint Nicholas struck him on the face. Since the canons of the Church forbid the clergy to strike any man at all, his fellow bishops were in perplexity what disciplinary action was to be taken against this hierarch whom all revered. In the night our Lord Jesus Christ and our Lady Theotokos appeared to certain of the bishops, informing them that no action was to be taken against him, since he had acted not out of passion, but extreme love and piety. The Dismissal Hymn for holy hierarchs, The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock ... was written originally for Saint Nicholas. He is the patron of all travellers, and of sea-farers in particular; he is one of the best known and best loved Saints of all time.

Apolytikion of Nicholas the Wonderworker in the Fourth Tone

A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Nicholas, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

Kontakion of Nicholas the Wonderworker in the Third Tone

Saintly One, (St. Nicholas) in Myra you proved yourself a priest; for in fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, venerable One, you laid down your life for your people and saved the innocent from death. For this you were sanctified as One learned in divine grace.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An exegesis on women's head coverings ( Deacon Joseph Gleason )

 

For two thousand years in the Orthodox Church, the tradition has been for women and girls to veil their heads during worship, whether at Church for the Divine Liturgy, or at home for family prayer time. What is the Scriptural and Patristic evidence for this tradition, and why is it important? In this article, we will take a look at head coverings in the Old Testament, head coverings in the New Testament, head coverings according to the early Church, head coverings in icons, and head coverings today.


Head coverings in the Old Testament

Centuries before the birth of Christ, women’s head coverings were an accepted practice for God’s people. It was not merely an option for those who wished to be holy. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact expectation that all women would cover their heads. When the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pen the first five books of Scripture, women’s head coverings were simply assumed to be the normal practice. In the Book of Numbers, when a unique ceremony is performed that requires an uncovered head, Scripture makes a point to say that the woman’s head covering needs to be removed: “the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands.” (Numbers 5:18) Of course, such a requirement would make little sense, if women did not normally keep their head covered. Even earlier than this, in the Book of Genesis, we read about Rebecca, on a journey to meet her future husband Isaac: “Then Rebecca lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to their servant, ‘who is this man walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant, ‘it is my master.’ So she took a veil and covered herself.” (Genesis 24:64-65).

Her godly discretion is a model for women today. She did not flaunt her physical beauty. Rather, she veiled herself, increasing her allure through an outward display of modesty. Women’s head coverings can also be found in the story of Susanna. It is the captivating story of a beautiful, virtuous woman who was falsely accused, and later vindicated by the wisdom of young Daniel. Susanna wore a veil that covered not only her head, but her face as well. Scripture looks disapprovingly upon the removal of her veil. “Now Susanna was exceedingly delicate and beautiful to behold but those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty. Therefore her friends and all her acquaintances wept. (The story of Susanna/Daniel 13:31-33). In this passage of Scripture, virtuous people approve of women head coverings and veils, while ungodly men seek their removal.


Head coverings in the New Testament

Women’s head coverings are one of the many points of similarity between Israel and the Church. Godly women had covered their head for thousands of years prior to the advent of Christ. And when the New Testament Church was born, godly women continued the practice. In St. Paul’s first epistle to the Church in Corinth, he instructs everyone to follow the holy traditions which have been received: “Now, I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. 11:2). Women’s head coverings are one of the holy traditions which the Church had received, and St. Paul spends the next several paragraphs discussing them. He says that head coverings manifest honor, in the context of worship:


1. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. (1 Cor. 11:4).
2. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. (1 Cor. 11:5).
The message is pretty clear: It is honorable for a woman to wear head coverings during worship, but it is dishonorable for men to wear them. This is why men remove their hats for prayer, even to this day. Not content to make his point only once, St. Paul reiterates himself a few verses later. Women are to cover their heads, and men are not to do so:


1. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of god; but woman is the glory of man.
(1 Cor. 11:7).
2. The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor. 11:10).
The Old Testament reveals that this holy tradition is ancient, but it only begins to hint at the reasons.


Here in the New Testament, we are given some reasons for the practice. According to 1 Corinthians 11, head coverings manifest woman’s honor. They also are important because of the angels. Angels are present with us when we pray, and when we worship. While we may not fully understand why head coverings are important to the angels, it is sufficient for us to know that this reason is given in Scripture. If Scripture says that women’s head coverings are important to the angels, then it is something we should take seriously.


Head coverings according to the Early Church Father
St. John Chrysostom (407 A.D), in a sermon at the Feast of the Ascension, spoke both of angels and the veiling of women: “The angels are present here. Open the eyes of faith and look upon this sight. For if the very air is filled with angels, how much more so in the Church! Hear the Apostle teaching this, when he bids the women to cover their heads with a veil because of the presence of the angels.”


Origen, another prominent teacher of the early Church said: “There are angels in the midst of our assembly. We have here a twofold Church, one of men, the other of angels. And since there are angels present, women, when they pray, are ordered to have a covering upon their head because of those angels. They assist the saints and rejoice in the Church.” The Apostolic Tradition was written in the second century, and the author is believed to be St. Hippo of Rome. This book has instructions for catechumens, including this: “And let all women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth.”
And St. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on First Corinthians says: “The angels find it extremely hard to bear if this law that women cover their heads is disregarded.”


Head coverings in the Icons

Icons in the Orthodox Church are a visual guide to the Faith, a short picture book of Christianity. Icons teach us about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and about the lives of many Christians who have gone before us. Icons also teach us about head coverings. Virtually every icon of an Orthodox woman displays her wearing a head covering. As far as I know, the only exception is St. Mary of Egypt, and she was a solitary saint who lived alone in the desert, far away from any people. Among the female saints who participated in society, all of them wore head coverings, and their head coverings are shown in the icons. Even Mary the Mother of God, the most blessed woman in the entire universe is shown in icons wearing a head covering. Can you think of a better role-model for women?

Head covering Today
In our Church, all women and girls are asked to wear head coverings, in obedience to God’s command in Scripture, and out of respect for the holy traditions of the Orthodox Church. Just inside the front door of the Church, we keep a basket of head coverings, just in case a woman forgets hers at home and needs to borrow one for the day. Head coverings are also worn at home during family prayer time. While honoring God’s direction is a reward unto itself, there are many other benefits as well. For example: Head coverings manifest a woman’s honor. As St. Paul points out in Scripture, a woman brings honor to herself by covering her head during prayer.


Head coverings encourage humility.
Godly women come to church to focus on worship, not to draw attention to themselves. A girl may be tempted to show off an attractive hairdo. When a woman wears a head covering, this temptation is removed. She can focus on prayer, instead of on hair.

Head coverings save time. 
 In today’s culture, it can be tempting to spend a lot of time and energy on hairstyles. But head coverings are quick and easy. It takes a lot less time to put on a head covering that it does to prepare a hairdo for display.


Head coverings help us show love and consideration for our brothers. Godly men come to Church to focus on worship. But the flowing locks of beautiful women can be distracting. By veiling her hair, a woman can display her modesty, and remove an unnecessary distraction. A mainstream theological journal recently published an article about women’s’ head coverings. Soon after, the author of the article became a member of the Orthodox Church in the article; she beautifully illustrates the iconic purpose of head coverings:

“My wearing a head covering is not only a symbol or sign that I am in agreement with His order, but that I visibly, willingly submit to it. With submission comes blessing.” Christa Conrad.


In an issue of The Handmaiden, a lady name Elizabeth gives her testimony about wearing head coverings: 
“For twelve years I have worn a scarf at all times. I now perceive that it has been and continues to be essential for the pilgrim journey and salvation of my soul. The bottom line for me and a growing number of my sisters remains obedience. And with it comes a sense of being in our rightful place in God’s ordered universe, rejoicing with the angels. Now I gratefully say, I am in the presence of the great I AM, at prayer and in Church, surrounded by the angelic host, worshipping our Lord and King. To God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


Fr. Thomas Moore, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, Columbia, SC.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

We have an obligation to advise others ( St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite )

There are people who make excuses and utter the following cold and indifferent words: 
“Why should I be concerned with what other people do? ...
 Why should I advise and correct another person?
 I am not responsible for him!” Such people must realize that they are obliged by the natural law, the ethical law, the Gospel, and the invisible warfare (which their fellow brothers in Christ are experiencing) to be concerned for others.
 
Let us listen to the divine St. John Chrysostom who reproves such people with his golden and sweet words. He says that no one should speak in this manner because such statements are demonic and characteristic of the callousness of the devil; and Christians have no ties and nothing in common with the devil, whereas they have numerous things in common with their brothers in Christ.“Do not utter this chilling phrase, ‘What concern is it to me? I have nothing to do with him’ ... for this is a satanic saying. It is diabolical cruelty. It is only with the devil that we have nothing in common, whereas with all human beings we have much in common.”
 
Furthermore, he advises us to be concerned for the salvation of our brothers because when we look after the salvation of others we simultaneously attend to what is beneficial for us.
“Do not utter that phrase replete with gross insensitivity, ‘What concern is it to me? I have my own affairs to worry about.’ For it is precisely then that you care about your own affairs, when you seek the advantage of your neighbor. This is why St. Paul said, ‘Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’swell being’ (Cor.10:24).”
 
Elsewhere, he censures them who make excuses by pointing out that the statement many people make, “It’s none of my business,” was first voiced by Cain who murdered his own brother.
 He continues to say that such remarks give rise to all the evils, and he posses the following question: If the salvation of your fellow Christian is of no concern to you, to whom is it a concern? 
To them who do not believe in God?
To the idolaters who rejoice when they see Christians sinning?
 Or to the devil who struggles to destroy and throw Christians into sin?
 
“Do not say to me, ‘What do I care? 
Fear him who first uttered these words. The statement ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (Gen. 4:9)expressesthe same meaning. This is from where all the evils sprout forth; for we consider the wounds of our body to be something foreign. 
 
What are you saying? 
You do not care about your brother? 
Who will care about him? 
The unbeliever, who gloats over him, upbraids him, and insults him? 
The devil, who impels him to sin and trips him up?”
St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
https://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/en/index.php 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The healing of St. Iakovos Tsalikis by St. Charalambos


"Once," as St. Iakovos Tsalikis related: "When I was a small child, I suffered a severe cold, as I was struck bed-bound with great shortness of breath and terrible pain in the left side of my chest.

There was no doctor in the village, and our only refuge was God and His Saints. We had in our home a small silver icon of St. Charalambos--it was wonderworking--over 600 years old, and we had brought it from Asia Minor as a family heirloom.

My mother therefore, offered much prayer and prostrations, entreating the Saint. Then, I saw the hand of a Priest, from the wrist down, pass over my head, and descend to my chest where I was having pain, and make the sign of the cross over my and pat my head. Immediately, the pain passed along with the shortness of breath, and I became well. I told me mother:

"Mother, I saw the hand of a Priest cross me and pat me on the head, and now I'm fine. It all passed." I even told her with such detail, even about the hair on the wrist, as I saw it.

"My child," my mother said, "it was St. Charalambos, who came to heal you. You should remember this day forever (it was the feast of the Holy Apostle Thomas) when the miracle happened, because you were dead, and resurrected."

Friday, November 8, 2019

The true Christian... ( Saint John Chrysostom )

The true Christian, moving his tongue to praise God, leans on his knees and raises his hands and mind to plead with God, pours out tears of repentance and pity before God.

The true Christian never swears, always speaks the truth ... according to the Lord's command, yes and no in his answers.

Saint John Chrysostom