Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Great Holy Thursday

"Do this in remembrance of Me..."

Great Holy Thursday Morning

(The service is the Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Thursday evening which is sung in the morning by anticipation.)

Jesus drew His last breath of freedom on this Thursday night. Christ knew all the incidents which were about to take place and called to Him His Apostles in order to institute the Holy Eucharist for them and for the Church forever. At the end of March, with the full moon as a brilliant lantern in the sky and the weather mild, the people in Jerusalem enjoyed the beginning of spring. In this atmosphere, Christ presented Bread and Wine as the Elements of His Very Body and His Very Blood; they are the Precious Gifts which have been left as His perpetual Presence in the Church. The institution of the Holy Eucharist and its re-enactment through the centuries, both as a sacrifice and sacred ceremony (Mysterion), is the life-giving remembrance which, along with the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, constitutes the basis of salvation for the Christian.

Then followed the incidents of the dramatic closing moments of Christ's life. After the washing of His Apostles' feet, He pointed out the betrayer, inaugurated the Eucharist, and pronounced the new commandment of love for one another. He spoke to them words of comfort, promising the descent of the Holy Spirit to complete man's union with Christ. His departure, Christ said, would bring to them and the world joy. Christ took His Apostles out in the mild night where He could see face-to-face His co-workers in the bright light of the full moon. In this spiritual mood and physical setting, Jesus withdrew to pray. After this agony of the "bloody sweat" came the kiss of Judas and His arrest. He thus became the source of spiritual and physical freedom for mankind.

The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated on this day. The readings are: 2 Cor. 11:23-32; Matt. 26:2-28; John 13:3-17; Matt. 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44; Matt. 26:40-75; Matt. 27:1-2. During this Liturgy, the priest prepares the "Amnos," the Holy Communion, which is kept throughout the whole year to be given the faithful in times of sickness. The Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Church during the entire year and throughout the ages. On this day, with greater feeling than ever, Christians come for Holy Communion singing: "Receive me Today, O Son of God, as a partaker of Thy Mystic Feast; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies, I will not kiss Thee as did Judas, but as the thief I will confess Thee. Lord, remember me when I comest to Thy Kingdom." "We worship Thy passion, O Christ..."
Great Holy Thursday Evening

(The service of the HOLY PASSION of our Lord Jesus Christ. The service is Matins of Friday morning sung by anticipation, on Thursday evening.)

Good Friday celebrates the holy, saving, and awesome Passion of Christ. To take away our sins, Christ willingly endured spitting, scourging, buffeting, scorn, mocking, and purple robe; the reed, sponge, vinegar, nails, spear, and above all, the Cross and Death. The confession from the cross of the penitent thief, crucified with Christ, is celebrated. This service is long, but its content is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian. Participation in the prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in the Gospels and hymns, provides a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come. Following are the references of the "Twelve Gospel" readings of this service:

1. St. John 13:31 thru Ch. 18:1
2. St. John 18:1-29
3. St. Matthew 26:57-75
4. St. John 18:28 thru Ch. 19:16
5. St. Matthew 27:3-32
6. St. Mark 15:16-32
7. St. Matthew 27:33-54
8. St. Luke 23:32-49
9. St. John 19:38-42
10. St. Mark 15:43-47
11. St. John 19:38-42
12. St. Matthew 27:62-66

These readings relate the last instructions of Christ to His disciples, the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, the dramatic prayer of Christ and His new commandment. The day should be devoted to reading the "Gospel of the Testament" of Christ which He left for all men. The Church services during Holy Week re-enact the events of this Gospel.

After the reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church, while the priest chants the 15th antiphon: "Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection."

During the Procession, the faithful Christian kneels and prays for his spiritual welfare, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. He then approaches and reverently kisses the Crucifix.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kathisma from the Matins of Holy Monday

Kathisma from the Matins of Holy Monday
Tone 8. The Wisdom and Word.

The present day is resplendent with the first fruits of the Lord’s sufferings. Come then, lovers of feasts, let us meet it with songs; for the Creator is coming to accept Cross, afflictions and scourges, as he is judged by Pilate; therefore too, struck on the face by a slave, he endures all that he may save humankind. And so let us cry aloud to him: Lover of humankind, Christ our God, grant forgiveness of offences to those who with faith worship your most pure sufferings.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Comforting the Lord as He Weeps: On Palm Sunday

The Holy Gospel, my beloved brethren, says this in its account of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem: And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it (Luke 19:41).

People’s hearts are all the same. If someone is weeping, what do we do? We approach him, ask him what he is weeping about, and try to comfort him in some way. Sometimes one becomes so sorry for the person in distress that one feels ready to give up one’s soul, if only his grief would be made lighter. Let us now approach the Lord, too, and ask: “Lord, about what are You weeping?”

About what, in fact, was the Lord weeping on the great day of His Entry into Jerusalem? The Lord is everywhere present. Not only the human heart, but even his hidden thoughts, cannot be hidden from His omniscient eyes. And looking upon the people with His eyes – which are said in Scripture to be one hundred times brighter than the sun, foreknowing all the ends of the universe – He foresaw the end of Jerusalem. He knew what was in store for this venerable and ancient city. He knew the inconstancy of the people and crowds that would meet Him rapturously, but soon demand His crucifixion. He saw with His eyes the many crosses around Jerusalem, upon which His crucifiers would be crucified. He saw the horrors awaiting the city during the invasion of the Emperor Titus in 70 A.D. This is why He wept for Jerusalem, foreseeing the horrors and destruction of the city as He gazed upon it.

But the Gospel tells us that today, too, the Lord is weeping. Why, then, is the Lord now weeping? For now He is not on earth, but in the Heavenly Jerusalem. Instead of a donkey, He sits upon the flaming Cherubim; instead of the earthly Jerusalem, He abides in ineffable glory at the right hand of God; and instead of the modest suite of the Apostles, He is surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless spirits and heavenly beings. Then about what is the Lord now weeping?

He is weeping over how we grieve Him; over how we frequently renounce Him by our terrible deeds; over how thousands of unfaithful people are now shamefully denying Him and mocking Him. He is weeping, too, over how our hearts have become hardened, over how we are losing the truth and cruelly offending Him Who by His Divine Blood redeemed the entire human race.

When the Lord entered Jerusalem, the multitude spread their garments and cut down branches from trees, waving them as the children cried out: Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:8-9). What can we now do for the Lord, when He is in Heaven, to comfort Him? Now we, too, can spread our garments under the feet of Christ. Upon reaching home, let us open our wretched storehouses and offer at least some spare pay to a needy person. This pay will be our garment cast before the Lord, upon which He will tread when He comes in glory – for, according to His words, that which we do for one of the least of the brethren, we do for Him.

We can also take palm branches into our hands, waving them to greet the Lord. We all see that martyrs are depicted on icons with palm branches. This is a symbol of the victory over the passions and the flesh, a symbol with which the Lord has crowned them. Let us try to defeat something ugly in ourselves. Our age is one of resentment and extreme self-love. Therefore, if we now feel offended by anyone, let us forgive him. Let us restrain ourselves, compelling the passion of self-love to subside. Now a wide wave of fleshly passions has overflowed into the world, and nearly seven-tenths of the world is under the power of Satan and has been seized by the sin of fornication. We need to defeat these passions; we need to refrain from them; we need to overcome the callousness that accompanies them with at least small good deeds. And if we will defeat these evil habits, replacing them with good deeds, we will raise a palm branch to Christ. The Gospel says that the multitude cried out: “Hosanna!” And we, too, can cry out to the Lord “Hosanna!” – but not with our mouths, but with our hearts and our entire lives. What does “Hosanna” mean? It is a praise glorifying God, as the Apostle Paul says: And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him (Colossians 3:17). Let us do the same, crying out “Hosanna!” with our entire lives.

In order to do this we must have two vigilant guardians: the memory of death and the continual remembrance of God, for it is written in Scripture: Seek ye Me, and ye shall live; Remember thy end, and thou shalt never do amiss (Amos 5:4; Ecclesiasticus 7:36).

Thus, let us offer our pay as garments to the Lord and our victory over the passions as palm branches, keeping hold of the memory of death and the memory of God, and crying out to Him with our entire lives: “Hosanna!” And then we will comfort the Lord and our souls shall live unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fasting Therapy and Energy Diets : The Fasting of the New Age

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”.

(I Timothy 4:1-3)

The secret recipe of “New Age” philosophy is the reversal of Christian teachings and its false imitation. Within the frames of its “ecological” mask we are being taught vegetarianism (Vegan) as a salvaging nutrition method with soteriological implications.
Man, according to the “New Age Bible”, is a small God, capable to do anything, through knowledge offered to him by the “Great Teachers”. So he is capable of doing everything the teacher Jesus did, and more! The man of the “New Age” can self-heal from any disease, bodily or mental, as long as he follows the primordial laws of…fasting. By avoiding the consumption of food, the body will dedicate every amount of energy available to self-heal even from an incurable disease as cancer.
In the first phase of “Fasting Therapy”: “…we force our body, with positive thought and patient absence from any food, to bypass the stomach and seek the fat which is stored in each and every one of us, for such circumstances. We all posses it even the thinnest among us”*.
In the second phase: “Our wise body, will enter the “general cleaning” process, after consuming the main quantity of fat, it targets to other unnecessary things created by the chronic intoxication, or other un-harmonic manifestations such as, stains, moles freckles, lipomas, cysts, fibroids, benign or malignant tumors etc.
The detoxification of the body, through fasting, affects beneficially and successfully against: rheumatism, arthritis, asthma, uremia, stomach ailments, ulcer, chronic indigestion, conditions of the liver, intestinal disorders, heart disease, anemia, many forms of cancer, conditions of the blood, hormonic disorders, sexual incapability and sterility, stress, depression, mental illness even to its most severe form which is schizophrenia. According to them, there are also some indications that “Fasting Therapy” has beneficial results even against AIDS!”*.
Essential supplement to this “fasting therapy” is: “Daily exercise, fresh air, swimming, daily long baths, massage, protected exposure to the sun, and especially good mood, mental rest and the avoidance of negative emotions. Sexual intercourse must be replaced by tenderly caresses or mild lovemaking, without ejaculation for the men (!).*
Most important however is that: “once we enter this process, we realize the power of resistance and the self-healing mechanisms of our body. The admiration is converted into trust, and that’s the first step towards getting our lives in our hands! In our own strong hands that know how to sow, to reap, to create, but also how to caress…”*.
The prospect of this Self-Theosis through a nutritious technique is a fact, for the followers of the “Fasting Therapy” movement. Positive thought, avoiding negative emotions and sex without ejaculation, refer directly to Hinduistic methods of meditation and “Tantric Sex”. The separation of foods in good and bad, not only does not exist in the Church and has been condemned, but in The Holy Bible is described as teachings of demons (I Timothy 4:1-3).
The Christian is called to reach “Theosis” and not to evolve, through various techniques, the (imaginary) God inside him. Christian fasting is the mean by which the faithful will be released from the passions that deprive him the grasp of Paradise and not some self-healing method…Besides disease in Orthodoxy is evaluated positively towards the goal of “Theosis”.
The “Energy Diet” promises to put an end to food intolerance, with a simple test. This test: “Is based on the measurement, through electrodes, of the bioelectric condition of the various points of acupuncture, according to the “distribution of the 12 meridians of the body” which were discovered and described by the Chinese, and some extra points discovered by Dr. Reinhold Voll .
The purpose of this test is to assess the energetic and functional organs and tissues by measuring the points of acupuncture so that any damage and malfunction can be located through these points. The conductivity of an organ or a tissue is being measured, so that anomalies can be located in the specific parts that reflect on the function of the body.
The energy balance of the organism can present disorders and be affected by medicine, poisons, conservatives, viruses, bacteria, foods, electromagnetic waves etc. The body operates as a transmitter and receiver of various electromagnetic messages. The whole human body is a circuit of vibrations which is capable, if submitted to electromagnetic stimulation, to respond with an echo which corresponds to one of those waves. This particular wave is the one corresponding to the frequency of the circuit”. **
We observe the total absence of scientific terminology and an effort to present the occult technique of acupuncture behind a scientific mask. “For acupuncture, the key of diagnosis lies in the examination of the various nuances of the face as well as the hearts pulse. The acupuncturist must be well aware that the internal organs are projected in specific and predefined positions of the facial midline and, and that in the middle of this line respond the lungs, under that the heart, ever lower the liver and even lower the spleen. At both sides of the facial midline, the bowels are being projected, with each having its own specific position. The acupuncturist, according to them, can by examining the nuance of each organ predict not only the development but also the final outcome of the disease.
The examination of the pulse and the facial nuance, is related to the rules of the “five elements” (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) of the “four seasons” (autumn, winter, spring, summer), of the “eight winds” and the “six pairs” of the “twelve meridians”.
Mans disease, according to them, originates from the imbalance of the “five energies”, and it gets deteriorated if the energy of the sky is not to his favor. These, they say, are “the most hidden secrets of mans destiny”. The most favorable moment to observe the sky’s energy status, in order to perform a correct diagnosis, is during dawn…of New Year’s Day. The five energies of the sky, good or bad, enter man “through the nose” and remain in the heart and the lungs, from where they spread their effect on the body, as the acupuncturists believe.
It’s not easy of course to make a minimum reference on the various diagnoses, and based on which facts they were established, so that they could be the foundation of acupuncture, which can cure, according to them, almost anything!
It still worth mentioning though, on how acupuncture was spread in China starting from the “mythological era”.***
Where is “Energy Diet” based on? The theory of the “Energy Diet” “…is based on the season of the birth, which gives us the biochemical composition of the organism, based on climatological conditions…So people depending on the season of their birth, have a unique chemical composition. Each of us is different”.**
“Energy Diet” is the application of the occult principles of Acupuncture, Alchemy and Astrology for the creation of the “Super Human” through the selective use of certain foods. Besides according to this methods slogan: "What is food to one, is to others bitter poison" (Titus Lucretius 75 B.C.).**
The “Holy Bible” says: “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them” (Hebrews 13:9).
The teaching of the “New Age” wants us autonomous and entirely cut off from our Lords grace. It wants us to believe with all our soul (positive thought) not to Jesus Christ, but the small “God” hidden inside us, who can come forward by using various techniques. For that reason disease is evaluated negatively and it relies on our own will and the use of various techniques to self-heal. The people of the “New Age” don’t need salvation, don’t need a Savior. The “New Age” can teach them how to be salvaged on their own…

Man is endowed with free will ( Part 2 ) - St. Nektarios of Pentapolis

On account of our ethical freedom,we are obligated to concern ourselves with our salvation; otherwise, we will perish. 
The Savior’s formal acknowledgment of our ethical freedom teaches us that our salvation is not achieved solely through the action of God’s grace alone, but simultaneously through man’s consent and action. Behold what the wise Holy Fathers of the Church say concerning this necessity. St. John Chrysostom states, “Even though the Grace [of salvation] is a gift, it saves them who want to be saved.”
St. Gregory the Theologian says, “
Salvation requires both us and God.”
Furthermore, the blessed Augustine says, “God Who created man without man [being involved], cannot save man if he does not want [to be saved].” Hence, we are explicitly and clearly taught that there are two factors that are
instrumental to salvation: i) man’s free will; and ii) God’s grace.
Indeed! God’s grace takes precedence in the work of salvation because the Savior came as a light to them in darkness.
He emitted the light of grace to them who were sitting in the darkness and shadow of death, He
sought the lost sheep, He recalled man who had gone astray by mystically speaking to his heart,
and He revealed to all the path to salvation. It is
Divine Grace that ultimately perfects and saves man. 
Even so, man’s will must be seen as the preceding
component in the chapter of salvation, because his free will is the principle lever that sets into motion the spirit which has been deactivated by sin. This is what propels man’s steps to follow the Savior. This is what provides the heart with the strength of self-denial. This is what lifts and carries the cross. Grace invites, disperses the darkness, and casts light upon every gloomy corner. 
It is still possible, however, for man’s free will, on account of negligence, foolishness, slothfulness and carelessness, and on account of the desire of the flesh, to disobey and to decide to close its eyes and remain in the darkness, to walk the exact-
opposite path leading to perdition, and to choose
to carry out the contrary.
Therefore, it is necessary for us to desire our salvation in order for us to seek it. It is necessary for us to want to hear in order to listen to the voice of Him Who calls us. It is necessary for us to want to see in order to open our eyes and allow them to be filled with immense light. It is necessary for us to take action in order to follow the Savior. It is necessary for us to want to deny the old man, along with the passions and desires, in order to lift the cross on our shoulders. It is necessary for us to want to walk along the narrow and sorrowful path
in order to enter through the narrow gate of Paradise.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Kiss (Don't Shake) the Priest’s Hand ( Church Etiquette )

The traditional way to greet a bishop or priest is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand. How do you do this? Approach the bishop or priest with your right hand over your left and say “Father (“Master,” in the case of a bishop), bless.” When the faithful receive such a blessing it is understood that Christ Himself offers the blessing through the hand of the priest or bishop. That being said, it is not "offensive" to reach out to shake their hand, thus not "expected" nor assumed from those who are not of the tradition of the Church.

Saints and Their Intercessions ( St. Silouan the Athonite )

To many people the Saints seem far removed from us. But the Saints are far only from people who have distanced themselves – they are very close to them that keep Christ’s commandments and possess the grace of the Holy Spirit. In heaven all things live and move in the Holy Spirit. But this same Holy Spirit is on earth too. The Holy Spirit dwells in our Church; in the sacraments; in the Holy Scriptures; in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit unites all men, and so the Saints are close to us; and when we pray to them they hear our prayers in the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.
The Saints live in another world, and there through the Holy Spirit they behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord’s countenance. But in the same Holy Spirit they see our lives, too, and our deeds. They know our sorrows and hear our ardent prayers. In their lives they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where love grows and becomes perfect. And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more do the Saints remember and pray for us!
The holy Saints have attained the Kingdom of Heaven, and there they look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but by the Holy Spirit they see, too, the sufferings of men on earth. The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love. They see and know how we languish in affliction, how are hearts have withered within us, how despondency has fettered our souls; and they never cease to intercede for us with God.
The Saints rejoice when we repent, and grieve when men forsake God and become like brute beasts. They grieve to see people living on earth and not realizing that if they were to love one another, the world would know freedom from sin; and where sin is absent there is joy and gladness from the Holy Spirit, in such wise that on all sides everything looks pleasing, and the soul marvels that all is so well with her, and praises God.
Call with faith upon the Mother of God and the Saints, and pray to them. They hear our prayers and know even our inmost thoughts. And marvel not at this. Heaven and all the saints live by the Holy Spirit and in all the world there is naught hidden by the Holy Spirit. Once upon a time I did not understand how it was that the holy inhabitants of heaven could see our lives. But when the Mother of God brought my sins home to me I realized that they see us in the Holy Spirit, and know our entire lives.
The Saints hear our prayers and are possessed from God of the strength to help us. The whole Christian race knows this. Father Roman told me that when he was a boy he had to cross the river Don in the winter, and his horse fell through the ice and was just about to go under, dragging the sledge with it. He was a little boy at the time, and he cried at the top of his voice: ‘St.Nicholas, help me pull the horse out!’ And he tugged at the bridle and pulled the horse and sledge out from under the ice. And when Father Matthew, who came from my village, was a little boy he used to graze his father’s sheep, like the prophet David. He was no bigger than a sheep himself. His elder brother was working on the other side of a large field, and suddenly he saw a pack of wolves rushing at Misha – Father Matthew’s name in the world – and little Misha cried out, ‘St. Nicholas, help!’ and no sooner had the words left his lips than the wolves turned back and did no harm either to him or his flock. And for a long time after that the people of the village would smile and say, ‘Our Misha was terribly frightened by a pack of wolves but St. Nicholas rescued him!’
And we know of many an instance where the Saints come to our help the moment we call upon them. Thus it is evident that all heaven hears our prayers.

(St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony Chap. XII On the Saints pp. 395-397)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Angel Did not Write down the Names of Those Who Took Communion with Unconfessed Sins

Rufinus the Presbyter. "Living of Desert Fathers."
(translated from Russian)
We cannot pass over in silence the inhabitants of the desert adjoining the Porfenian sea and bordering the area of the city Diolk. There we saw one wonderful priest, named Piammon, who was notable for the absolute humility and meek indulgence. He was given the grace of revelation. Once bringing the Bloodless Sacrifice to the Lord, he saw an Angel of the Lord near the Altar: he was holding a book in which he wrote down the names of the monks who approached to the Holy Altar. The elder carefully noticed whose names the Angel missed. After the end of the liturgy, he summoned separately each one of the missed by the Angel and asked him whether he had some secretly committed sin in the conscience. At this confession, he revealed that each of them was guilty of a mortal sin ... Then he persuaded them to bring repentance, and casting himself down before the Lord along with them, prayed with tears day and night, as if he was involved in their sins. And he was in repentance and tears until he saw the Angel again, standing before the Altar and writing down the names of those who were taking the Holy Mysteries. Having written down the names of everyone, the Angel even started to call each one by name, inviting to come to the Altar for reconciliation with God. And the elder, seeing this, understood that their repentance was accepted and happily admitted everyone to the Altar.

Role of Family in Salvation

The issue of salvation is the main issue in the history of humankind as well as in the life of each individual. Salvation is true happiness. Everything else is based on our salvation. In this sense, our happiness is in our own hands. It is achieved by defeating sin. The immediate environment for struggle against sin is the family as well as all those living around us. We look at the environment and situation of our life as if it was something accidental, and we don’t view our family as the path given to us by God for our salvation. Life in a family seems to be something that happened by chance, and the most important aspect of family life evades our attention. According to the Apostle, family is a small church. It can especially help an individual in achieving the main goal of life. In family people look for happiness. But what do we mean by happiness? People usually give unclear answers to this question. This means that we don’t take from this God-given state that which is the most essential.

Both sinful and spiritually right life takes place inside a person, and the environment is a means by which the person must look inside. We already mentioned that sin is a separating force. I will explain it with an example from everyday life. Let’s say two people offended and insulted one another; they did not want to make concessions and went their separate ways. That’s an unhappy situation. This tells us that we must fight against sin for the sake of our own happiness, because anger is an unhappy part of our life. A human being is created with a desire for happiness and must and can learn to fight for his happiness against unhappiness, i.e. against sin in the environment that is especially close to him, close to him in the flesh. Powers of sin and holiness are in a person as if it were in a state of equilibrium. Depending on how we touch a person, the power of good or the power of evil begin to act in him and in the world around him. We always need an environment that would cleanse our inner world and would enable us indeed to come to know ourselves.

Environment outside home, being a chance interaction of people, does not server this purpose. When faced with strangers, a person hides his unrighteousness, drives it inside and tries to look good. A person is ashamed of what others might think of him, ashamed of the opinion of society and therefore does not show his true self. It is only in the family environment, to which we are accustomed, that the source of evil lurking in us begins to show up. In this respect a family environment is a necessary tool for self-understanding. No wonder that we are often afraid of this family atmosphere. Running away from it, we are interested in many things and entertain ourselves in various ways, just to escape from the environment that helps us to learn more about ourselves.

Why does the family appear to be the environment most conducive to salvation? Because in the family a person directly opens up his feelings, but when outsiders are present he hides his inner world. In society a person controls himself, he hides his irritation, tries to show himself other than he really is. He shows his outward, not his inner character. But in the family he is not trying to hide his condition, he will show it, won’t be ashamed to display his sinfulness by word or deed. And his hidden sinful world is open before the family, before his relatives and before the person himself. Thus, in a family environment, a person who pays attention to his own salvation can easier understand his sins and what separates him from others. It is important, however, that this realization of one’s inner world should lead one to fight against sin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

St. Paisios on the Arena of Great Lent

Elder, how can I struggle more with abstinence during Lent?

Now during Lent those in the world in some way take greater care to show abstinence, but we monks must always be careful. Above all one must be careful, however, of the passions of the soul and then the body. Because if one prioritizes bodily asceticism and does not struggle to eradicate the passions of the soul, he will do nothing.

A layman once went to a monastery in the beginning of Lent and there a certain monk appeared to him to be abrupt and rough. However the poor man had good thoughts and justified him. He later came to me and said:

"I do not blame him, Father. After all, he just completed the Three Day Fast!"

If he had done the Three Day Fast in a spiritual way he would have had a spiritual sweetness and would have spoken to him with goodness. But he pushed himself egotistically to do the Three Day Fast, and so he placed blame everywhere.

Elder, what should I think about during Lent?

You should think of the Passion, the sacrifice of Christ. We monks must continuously live the Passion of Christ, and we are helped in this daily through the various troparia hymns – all the Services.

We are given the greatest opportunity during Great Lent to struggle and participate more in the saving Passion of Christ, with repentance and prostrations, with the cutting off of the passions and the decreased food, for the love of Christ.

We must utilize, as much as we can, this spiritual arena, with the many opportunities and preconditions it gives us to approach closer to the Crucified Christ, to be helped by Him and rejoice in His Holy Resurrection spiritually changed, since we would have lived Great Lent more spiritually.

I pray you good strength during Great Lent, that you may climb Golgotha to be near Christ, together with the Panagia and your Patron St. John the Theologian, and that you may participate in the fearsome Passion of our Lord. Amen.

Man is endowed with free will ( Part 1 ) - St. Nektarios of Pentapolis

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mt. 16:24) Man’s free will is inviolable.
The exact magnitude of man’s ethical freedom
becomes clearly evident in the above verse. Our Savior invites man to follow Him; however, He gives man the freedom to decide on his own about
this most-significant matter: whether he will
follow Him or turn away from Him and take his own path. 

Christ came to save man, and yet He does not
forcefully impose on man’s free will. Christ invites man to take an active part in his salvation, but He does not at all affect his free will. If man was not a free and independent being, he would never have been treated with such respect and never have been granted the great honor of
collaborating with the Savior for his own salvation.
In such an instance, man would not have been
permitted to make his own decisions; rather, as a passive and inert body, he would be pulled toward salvation and would accept [without a choice] the action of Divine Grace as it carried out his salvation. Truly! How honorable and inviolable
man’s ethical freedom is!
What an autocratic free will he possesses!
If we study the history of redemption, we will see the Son of God becoming man in order to save man. We will see Him voluntarily journeying toward the Passion in order to take away the sin of the world, to bear our bruises, to fulfill the great mystery of dispensation, and to reconcile man with God; nevertheless, never in the least forcing Himself upon man’s free will.
Behold, the closed gate of Paradise was opened, and the fiery sword that guarded its entrance was
removed, and the voice of the Lord calls and invites man (who had been previously shut out)
to enter through this gate into the place of rest; man, however, is left free to decide if he will enter or not. This freedom that permits man to act as he desires, to follow his own principles, and to
remain unaffected by even God Himself testifies to the absolute character of man’s ethical free will (which emanates from his ethical composition), and to man’s extraordinary value and the exalted position that he received within the creation. What a great honor, indeed, has been imparted to man on account of his inviolable ethical free will!
Simultaneously, however, how clearly are we
reminded of our obligations. How clearly are we informed that we are also obliged to value and
zealously covet [this ethical freedom], without at all permitting our ethical free will to be subjugated
to or our ethical freedom to become dependent
on the various shameful passions and sinful desires.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Talking during Church ( Church Etiquette )


Besides being disrespectful toward God Who is present, it is distracting for others who are striving to pray. This rule includes all services of the Church, whether it be the Hours read prior to Divine Liturgy, or the priest hearing Confessions after Vespers. It is best to save conversation for the fellowship hall, inviting guests to the hall for a visit.

Crossing One’s Legs in Church.....( Church Etiquette )

In many cultures throughout the world, crossing one's legs is taboo and considered very disrespectful. In North America there are no real taboos against such action, rather, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable. Should we do so in church? No. Not because it is “wrong” for us ever to cross our legs, but because it is deemed too casual—too relaxed—for being in the presence of God. When we get settled in our favorite chair at home, we lean back, kick up our legs, and allow our minds to wander. Remember, sitting in church is a concession, not the norm of prayer. We strive to remain attentive (i.e.: “Let us attend”) at all times as a soldier prepared for (spiritual) battle before his commander. Should we sit, we do so attentively, that our minds not wander from the “one thing necessary.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Saint Porphyrios on Cancer

The wondrous icon of Panagia Pantanassa from Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos. Many cancer patients have been healed through this icon

“Do you know that cancer* is the greatest sickness? Because with the other sicknesses, you don't take the issue seriously, because you hope that you will get better and usually you don't change. With cancer, however, you say 'Here it was, it's over, the lie is finished, now I'm leaving.' Men can't help you, and you find yourself alone before God. Only hope in God remains, and you cling to this hope and are saved.”

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia

*St. Porphyrios of course is referring to serious forms of cancer (though this also could apply to other serious and incurable diseases). He of course is not saying that miracles don't happen, nor that we should not seek medical treatment and that some people improve and survive. He is saying that our disease is a blessing when it brings us humility and makes us to hope in God.

On wearing lipstick ( Church Etiquette )

Lipstick looks terrible smeared on icons, crosses, the communion spoon, and the priest’s or bishop’s hand. Hand-written icons have been ruined by lipstick; and even though the cross or spoon can usually be cleaned after everyone venerates, it’s not very considerate to those who follow. What is the answer? If one insists on wearing lipstick to church, blot your lips well before venerating... Point of consideration: God, Whom we alone come before in Liturgy, is not impressed with our external attractiveness, but with the adorning of our souls in humility, good works, and piety.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Handling the Holy Bread / “Antidoron” ( Church Etiquette )

After taking Communion, at the end of the Divine Liturgy, and at Vespers with a “Litya” or “Blessing of Bread", it is traditional to eat a piece of holy bread or antidoron—the left-over bread from which Holy Communion was prepared and various commemorations made. While antidoron is not the Body and Blood of Christ, it is blessed bread, and as such, we should take precaution to eat it carefully so that crumbs don’t fall to be trampled underfoot. Monitor the children as they take the antidoron, teaching them to eat respectfully.

Church Etiquette

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Lighting Candles ( Church Etiquette )

Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship. We light them as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles upon entering the church, after venerating the icons. If a service is already in progress, and the candle stands are up front, it is a good idea to wait until after the service to light candles so as to not distract others from prayer, nor draw undue attention to oneself.

Standing vs.Sitting ( Church Etiquette )

The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand. In “Orthodox countries” there are usually no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are reserved for those who need them, i.e. the elderly, infirm, “with child”, etc. In North America, some Orthodox faithful have introduced pews into their churches thus creating the artificial “need” to figure out when to sit and when to stand. Whether a church has few chairs or many, there are times when one should definitely stand:

The beginning of the service: “Blessed is the Kingdom...”

All Litanies—The Entrances: with the Gospel and later, the Chalice

Gospel Reading

The Creed, the Lord's Prayer

The Anaphora beginning with “Let us stand aright” through the Hymn to the Theotokos

The distribution of Holy Communion,
i.e. the Body and Blood of Christ in our midst, through the end of the dismissal

As you can see, this leaves little time for sitting. Whatever parish you are in, when in doubt, stand in prayer—yet remaining sensitive to not drawing attention to oneself, or blocking other's participation in the service.