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Spiritual Nuggets + January 31, 2016

Zacchaeus Sunday

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, bless.

The shadow of Zacchaeus in his tree looms large on us on as we begin to prepare for our Lenten journey to Pascha. The following from St. Augustine (Sermon 174.3, in ACCS, Luke, pg 290) is a keen etymological insight (sycamore meaning "silly fig" from the Greek Syca and Moron] into the foolishness of the cross.

Zacchaeus climbed away from the crowd and saw Jesus without the crowd getting in his way. The crowd laughs at the lowly, at people walking the way of humility, who leave the wrongs they suffer in God's hands and do not insist on getting back at their enemies. The crows laughs at the lowly and says, "you helpless, miserable clod, you cannot even stick up for yourself and back what is your own." ...He ignored the crowd that was getting in his way. Instead, he climbed a sycamore tree, a tree of silly fruit. As the apostle says, "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block indeed to the Jews [now notice the sycamore] but folly to the Gentiles."
- St. Augustine

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

February 3, 2016 + About Understanding through Doing

"Whoever chooses to do His will [God's Will] shall know whether my teaching is from God" (St. John 7:17).

It benefits little to prove by human logic and words that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God. The fastest and most reliable way to know this is truth is to do the will of God in the same way that Christ proclaimed it and testified to it. Whosoever would do this, that one will know that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God.

If you cry for the sake of God, you will know what kind of comfort He is. If you are merciful, you know the mercy of God. If you build peace, you will know how it becomes you to be called the Son of God. If you forgive men, you will know God forgives you.

Never can anyone be able to know that the teaching of Christ is the teaching from God, except he who does the Will of God. For only doing the Will of God, fulfilling the commandments of God, that is the key for unlocking Paradise in which God is seen. That is the key for understanding Holy Scripture and all the mysteries of revelation.

Chaplain's Corner + Being True to Our Purpose

by Fr. George Morelli

"Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw into your work such strength of mind and muscle as God has given you," wrote1 Scottish essayist, historian, teacher and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). This highlights the importance of keeping focus on the goal to be attained. Canadian educator and writer Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), author of The Peter Principle (1968), put it this way: "If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else."2 As the Book of Leviticus encourages us, we can have God at our side in our journey of life. "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (Leviticus 26:12).

The Buddhist tradition, while eschewing a personal God, nevertheless holds to the view of individual and group responsibility, so much so that one Buddhist scholar wrote: "Thus we are capable of changing ourselves, even to the extent of changing the world.... If we start toward the direction performing wholesome acts from this very moment, then our future will be full of brightness."3

Purpose in life is more complex in Hindu teaching. It involves four features: dharma (paying debts (thanks) for being born, cared for by parents and teachers, respect for guests and other living things; artha, (prosperity) guided by dharma; kama (desire) as is appropriate in terms of dharma and artha, and moksha (enlightenment) self realization, that is to say, liberation and attaining a sense of being one with God and the universe.4

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + January 27, 2016

Hebrews 7:26-8:2
John 10:9-16

Hebrews 7:26-8:2 (NKJV)
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

January 27, 2016 + On the Necessity of Reciting the Psalms

by St. Athanasius the Great

Let each one, therefore, who recites the Psalms have a sure hope that through them God will speedily give ear to those who are in need. For if a man be in trouble when he says them, great comfort will he find in them; if he be tempted or persecuted, he will find himself abler to stand the test and will experience the protection of the Lord, Who always defends those who say these words. By them too a man will overthrow the devil and put the fiends to flight. If he have sinned, when he uses them he will repent; if he have not sinned, he will find himself rejoicing that he is stretching out towards the things that are before [Phil 3:16] and, so wrestling, in the power of the Psalms he will prevail. Never will such a man be shaken from the truth, but those who try to trick and lead him into error he will refute; and it is no human teacher who promises us this, but the Divine Scripture itself. For God commanded Moses to write the great song [Deut 31:19] and to teach the people, and him whom He had appointed leader He bade also to write Deuteronomy, to have it ever in his hand and to meditate unceasingly upon its words [Deut. 17:18-19]; because these are sufficient in themselves both to call men's minds to virtue and to bring help to any who ponder them sincerely.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + January 20, 2016

II Corinthians 4:6-15
Luke 6:17-23

II Corinthians 4:6-15 (NKJV) 
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.

Spiritual Nuggets + January 22, 2016

Commemoration of America's Sanctioning Abortion

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

With heavy hearts we remember the legality of abortion and the injustice and devastation of it brings down on our beloved country. With this in mind, ask you to pray and work towards ending abortion and supporting women to choose life. Pray for the law-makers, physicians, and young parents, to wake up from this nightmare of genocide and infanticide. This quote below was copied from the content-rich website: https://sites.google.com/site/abortioninformationfororthodox/

The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed.
- St. Basil the Great

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

January 20, 2016 + On Repulsing Provocations

By St Hesychios the Priest, from "On Watchfulness and Holiness: Written for Theodoulos," Philoklia vol. 1

42. Those who lack experience should know that it is only through the unceasing watchfulness of our intellect and the constant invocation of Jesus Christ, our Creator and God, that we, coarse and cloddish in mind and body as we are, can overcome our bodiless and invisible enemies; for not only are they subtle, swift, malevolent and skilled in malice, but they have an experience in warfare gained over all the years since Adam. The inexperienced have as weapons the Jesus Prayer and the impulse to test and discern what is from God. The experienced have the best method and teacher of all: the activity, discernment and peace of God Himself.

43. Just as a child, young and guileless, delights in seeing a conjuror and in his innocence follows him about, so our soul, simple and good because created thus by its Master, delights in the delusive provocations of the devil. Once deceived it pursues something sinister as though it were good, just as a dove is lured away by the enemy of her children. In this way its thoughts become entwined in the fantasy provoked by the devil, whether this happens to be the face of a beautiful woman or some other thing forbidden by the commandments of Christ. Then, seeking to contrive some means through which it can actually attain what attracts it, the soul assents to the provocation and, to its own condemnation, turns this unlawful mental fantasy into a concrete, action by means of the body.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + January 13, 2016

I Peter 4:1-11
Luke 20:1-8

I Peter 4:1-11 (NKJV)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 

Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed?

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

January 2016 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

THE ANOINTED ONE – CHRIST, JESUS
CAME TO THE RIVER JORDAN TO BE BAPTIZED

Who is this One Who comes to the River Jordan with John the Baptist? What is known about Him? To most, this One "person" about to enter the water with John, seems to be just like them – no more and no less. He grew up with children of His own age, likely earning a few bruises in need of a mother's comfort.

In Amos, we hear of the Anointed One, but no personal name is given. Moses learns of the "I AM", but no personal name is offered. In Luke 1:31, Archangel Gabriel proclaims Him to be the Son of the Highest, while in Psalm 109 (OSB, p. 757), this divine Person is called our One High Priest forever. In Obadiah 17 (OSB, p. 1018), we hear is deliverance, will come to Mount Zion.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

Spiritual Nuggets + January 3, 2016

Sunday before Theophany

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

Christ is illumined! Let us shine forth with Him!

This Sunday after Theophany we hear our Lord's first public message: "repent". Here is a beautiful image of that from St. John of Karpathos. (One Hundred Texts verse 4 - available online at http://jbburnett.com/resources/john_karpathos.pdf)

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life. The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light. Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light. If a man believes in Christ, 'even though he dies, he shall live' (John 11:25); he shall know that 'I the Lord have spoken, and will do it' (Ezek.17:24 LXX).
- St. John of Karpathos


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + January 6, 2016

Titus 2:11-15; 3:4-7
Matthew 3:13-17

Titus 2:11-15; 3:4-7 (NKJV)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

January 13, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 5

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

8.) Finally, the eighth door to demonic temptation is opened from the outside, through external things and occasions, that is, through everything that enters from outside through one's senses, which are the soul's windows. These external things are not evil in and of themselves, but by means of them one's feelings can be tempted and induced to evil and sin.

These, then, are the eight means by which everyone is tempted, regardless of whether one is in the world or in seclusion.

(Having completed listing all eight means by which one is tempted, Elder Cleopa briefly repeated them and then added the ways and means with which to combat each of these temptations.)

January 6, 2016 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 4

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

7.) One is tempted from within by that which one has in one's heart and by that which proceeds from the heart. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly stated that it is from within, from one's heart, that sinful and impure thoughts, desires, and lusts proceed (cf. Matthew 15:19) and tempt one. Temptations come not only from the devil, but also humanly, from the evil intentions and skills, lusts, evil desires, and inner love of sin that proceed from an unclean heart.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 30, 2015

James 1:1-18
Mark 11:23-26

James 1:1-18 (NKJV)
James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.

Spiritual Nuggets + January 3, 2016

Sunday before Theophany

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

St. Nicholai, in his Homily on the Sunday before Theophany (Homilies, vol I, page 71), speaks of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist as examples of humility and obedience and then leaves us with this simple spiritual algorithm.

In Christ,
+ Fr Noah

Men who have no humility or obedience, have no wisdom or love. And he who does not have these does not have God. And he who does not have God does not have himself, but is as if he did not exist, being in darkness and the shadow of death.
-St Nicholai of South Canaan


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Metropolitan Joseph Celebrates Nativity Liturgy

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph celebrated the Nativity Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. View a gallery of photos from the Nativity service.

Wishing you a Blessed Holy Christmas

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

Christ is Born!! Glorify Him!!!

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:24

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

I wish you a blessed Holy Christmas celebration! 

I sat in front of my computer screen many times to come up with something inspirational to share but I am not back in the Holy Land where I had hoped to be so that I can say I am in the very spot itself where the angel said "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing to you good news of great joy for all the people...to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord..." (Luke 2:10-12)

Christmas Greetings from Metropolitan Saba of Bosra-Hauran

His Eminence Metropolitan Saba of the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran in Syria writes:

Dearest Brother: I am sending to you to share with your Diocese several photos from the children's Christmas pageant at our Church of the Annunciation in Dara'a. Thanks be to God we could give them some joy during these most difficult days in which they are living. I send the photos to you because I know that your love and that of your flock for me and my Archdiocese is great. Many things we can do only because of that love. Please keep us in your prayers and accept my best Christmas wishes.

+Metropolitan Saba of Bosra-Hauran

Nativity Letter from the Department of Sacred Music

Nativity Message from Paul Jabara, Chairman, Department of Sacred Music

December 23, 2015

Your Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, beloved Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ Is in Our Midst!

I pray that everyone is well and is as excited as I am to celebrate the blessed nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As we approach one of the most glorious feast days of our liturgical year, we reflect on the magnitude of this day and how it has changed our lives forever. Without birth there is no death, and without death there is no resurrection. This is the time of year when we are reminded of all the beauty and wonder in this world, and that every gift we have comes from above.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 23, 2015

Hebrews 10:1-18
Mark 10:11-16

Hebrews 10:1-18 (NKJV)
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come —in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God.'"

Spiritual Nuggets + December 27, 2015

Sunday after Nativity

Masters, Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters, Bless!

On the Sunday after Nativity, we read Matthew 2:13-23 which recounts the Flight into Egypt. Saint Nicholai of Zicha (Homilies, volume I, pages 51, 53, 54. Tr. Mother Maria, Lazarica Press, Birmingham, England, 1996.) explains why our Lord went to distant Egypt.

2015 Nativity Letter from Bishop Anthony

Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
December 25, 2015

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! ! المسيحُ وُلِد!َ فمجدوه

Love swings back and forth between hope and hurt. The Father in heaven had high hopes for His son on earth to rescue His creation for Him, returning it to its original meaning and destiny. The Little One who lay in a manger outside the comfort and crowd of the Inn, as baby and from then on to the Cross, from cradle to Cross, would, in the deepest sense, always be alone, on His own, and never at home anywhere. This prophet was not welcome in the town He grew up in. So He wandered as a homeless person. The Father would feel the hurt of this homelessness and hear the Blessed One say He had nowhere to lay His head.

December 30, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 3

The Holy Fathers say (this is how Fr. Cleopa began to express concisely his spiritual experience to us, inherited from the Holy Fathers and personally experienced by him, as every one of his words clearly confirms) that on the path of salvation one is tempted by the devil from eight sides: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right, from above, from below, from inside, and from the outside.

6. Temptations from below (Elder Cleopa, in order better to explain this to us, demonstrated with his hands the direction from which one or another temptation came; he then briefly repeated what the direction of the temptation he had just described was) also come about in two ways. The first is when one takes upon oneself ascetic struggles that exceed one's strength, thereby recklessly straining oneself. This happens, for instance, when one is sick but imposes a fast on oneself that is beyond one's strength; or generally when one overdoes any ascetic struggle that is beyond one's spiritual and physical capacity. Such obstinacy lacks humility and is unreasonably presumptuous.

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