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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.

December 23, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 2

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.

4. There are two ways in which the devil tempts from the right. The first is when one performs good deeds and actions, but with a bad or malicious intent and purpose. For example, if one does good or acts well out of vainglory, to receive praise, to obtain a position, to acquire fame, or in order to attain some benefit for oneself – it follows that one is doing such good out of vanity, avarice, and greed. The performance of good deeds for bad purposes is sinful and vain. The Holy Fathers liken such a performance of good deeds (such as fasting and almsgiving) to a body without a soul, inasmuch as the purpose for which a deed is accomplished is its soul, while the deed itself is its body. Therefore, the performance of good deeds with an ungodly purpose is essentially a temptation coming from the right, that is, coming under the guise of good. The second demonic temptation from the right comes through various apparitions and visions, when one receives visions of the devil in the form of God or an Angel of God. The Holy Fathers call trusting these specters from the devil, or accepting these demonic phenomena, delusion or deception [prelest].

Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium Announced for June 2016

Registration now open for Minneapolis event

Minneapolis, MN – The International Society for Orthodox Church Music (www.isocm.com) will host a pan-Orthodox music symposium at St Mary's Orthodox Cathedral from Wednesday, June 22 through Sunday, June 26, 2016. The event will include presentations and workshops, music reading sessions, rehearsals, and will culminate in a festive hierarchical All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy. The event will also feature a special concert by the critically-acclaimed vocal ensemble Cappella Romana.

According to Archpriest Ivan Moody, ISOCM's board chairman, the aim of this symposium is to bring together people involved in all aspects of music-making in the Orthodox Church - chanters, choir singers, composers, conductors and musicologists. Father Ivan said, "An event like this reinforces the idea that we can all learn from each other and together enrich the worship of the Church."

Spiritual Nuggets + December 20, 2015

Sunday before Nativity

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

This Sunday, the Sunday before the Nativity, we read St. Matthew's Genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-25). Below is the allegorical interpretation of Saint Theophylact of Ochrid regarding Rahab (Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, page 16). May we respond generously with any opportunity for repentance and service as Rahab did.

May you have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 16, 2015

Hebrews 5:11-6:8
Mark 8:30-34

Galatians 4:22-31 (NKJV) 
Of whom, brethren, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

December 16, 2015 + Teaching on the 8 Means of Temptation and the Struggle Against Them, Part 1

The following account is of a spiritual instruction offered by an outstanding contemporary hesychast, Elder Cleopa (Ilie) (1912-1998) of Sihastria Monastery in Romania. What follows is an excerpt from an article written by His Grace, Atanasije (Jevtic), Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina (Serbian Orthodox Church), entitled "Teachings of the Blessed Elder Cleopa." In it, Bishop Atanasije describes a pilgrimage he undertook in 1976 with a fellow disciple of St. Justin Popovich, Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic) of Montenegro and the Littoral – both bishops were then hieromonks – to visit Elder Cleopa. Following a detailed history of the practice of hesychasm in Romania, His Grace relates how, sitting on a hill overlooking the fruit orchard, with Elder Cleopa kneeling before them, he asked the Elder how to live in this world while struggling with one's passions and the temptations of the world. This is the reply the Elder offered him, as related by Bishop Atanasije:

Memory Eternal! + Archdeacon Russell George Hodge

Memory eternal! Archdeacon Russell George Hodge, 89, of St. George Church in West St. Paul, Minnesota, peacefully feel asleep in Christ last evening at his home in South St. Paul. He is survived by his wife Shamassy Phyllis and their son Father Paul Hodge and his family.

 

Spiritual Nuggets + December 13, 2015

11th Sunday of Luke

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

This Sunday, the 2nd before Nativity, commemorating the Ancestors of Christ, we read the parable of the Great Banquet inLuke 14:16-24. St. Cyril of Alexandria (Homily 104) sees the excuse of the "five yoke of oxen" as the fives senses tying us to worldly cares.

"It would be far better to gain the joys of paradise instead of earthly fields and temporary furrows." - St. Cyril of Alexandria

May our efforts during the fast to transcend the five senses in pursuit of God's generosity be blessed by His Grace!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 9, 2015

Galatians 4:22-31
Luke 8:16-21

Galatians 4:22-31 (NKJV)
For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband." Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Learning About a Saint: St. Seraphim of Sarov

(Commemorated on January 2)

On January 2, we commemorate the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov. This beloved saint's humility and kindness to both people and animals provide an excellent example for all of us. His name day falls right after the beginning of the new calendar year. We are writing this blog post a whole month before his commemoration, in order to allow time for us to learn about him and teach our children about his life before any of us make our New Year's resolutions. Emulating his life – even just one aspect of his holy way of living – would be an excellent New Year's resolution for any Orthodox Christian.

St. Seraphim, first named Prochor Moshnin, was born in in Kursk, Russia, in 1759, to devout parents who took him to church and taught him the things of God. At an early age, miracles began to happen in Prochor's life. For example, when he was only 7 years old, he once fell from the bell tower (which was 3 or 4 stories tall) of the Kursk Cathedral. He should have been seriously injured, but God worked a miracle, and he was unharmed. When he was 10, he became very ill. One night, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him that he would soon be healed. A few days later, a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos was processing through Kursk when rain suddenly began to pour down from the clouds. The procession took a shortcut through Prochor's family's yard. His mother carried her sick boy outside to venerate the icon as it passed, and he recovered from his illness that very day.

Report from the 2015 Orthodox Institute for Continuing Education

The 2015 Orthodox Institute for Continuing Education in the Faith hosted its 14th Annual Conference November 5-8 at Antiochian Village. This year's theme, "Adult Education: Building on the Foundation of Faith" attracted more than ninety participants - both clergy and laity. Together we explored the necessary and sometimes challenging need for adult education in the parish.

Kevin Allen opened the Institute with the keynote address: "Adult Education is Crucial to the Parish." He convincingly made his point with statistics, quotations and personal experience. "Why does the Orthodox Church need continuing adult education ministries across our pan-Orthodox landscape?" he began.

GOA Zines

Did you know?? The Greek Orthodox Department of Religious Education has a line of resources for teaching junior high and high school students. Called "zines" (from magazine), each one explores one topic of the Orthodox Christian Faith in easy-to-read bites of information and accompanying images, with many interactive elements, such as questions for reflection or things to look up in the Bible. The zines are not grade-specific, but work at a middle school / junior high (grades 5–9) or senior high (grades 10–12) level.

One of the newest Zine's The Church: we are one in Christ, is a colorful and energetic exploration of the Church, the Body of Christ, a community united in Him, which we enter into through Baptism. It outlines its formation and development from Apostolic times to the present day, explores its worship and describes its various manifestations in our world.

You can find the GOA Dept. of Religious Education catalog at www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/drecatalog2015-16. You can find the Zine's on page 5 of the catalog. An order form can be found at that link as well.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 2, 2015

I Timothy 5:22-6:11
Luke 20:1-8

I Timothy 5:22-6:11 (NKJV)
Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities. Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden. Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved.

The Spirituality of Moral Unity: Standing Together

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Winter 20151

To borrow the opening lines of the famous 19th English novelist Charles Dickens in his A Tale of Two Cities (1859): "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." Though Dickens was referencing the pre and post-French Revolution state of political, social and spiritual affairs in London and Paris, we can well apply these words to the state of the contemporary world as we enter the 21st Century.

December 9, 2015 + On Intelligent Men

from St. Anthony the Great

"Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who are erudite in the sayings and books of the wise men of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God they resolutely adhere by dint of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These men alone should truly be called intelligent."

December 2, 2015 + On Giving Thanks to the Creator

from St. Basil the Great

As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer."

Spiritual Nuggets + December 6, 2015

St. Nicholas

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas this Lord's day, please enjoy and be edified by the this little glimpse into the saint's early life (from OCA.ORG - oca.org/saints/lives/2007/12/06/103484-st-nicholas-the-wonderworker-and-archbishop-of-myra-in-lycia). It was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, that he heard his call.

Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.

May we also be inspired to serve God and His people with a devout family life and holy pilgrimages. May we have his prayers!

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

December 2015 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

IN CELEBRATION OF THE JOY OF HIS NATIVITY
Please remember our prisoner-students this Christmas.

They struggle with us – as we work closely with them – to achieve our mission of reaching out to prisoners, everywhere and of any faith. We pray the Light of the Lord – His Grace and Truth – continues to shine through our study program. But we need your help.

Please consider a special donation as gift of hope, for our prisoner students. Let us share the spirit of His Nativity and the joy of Christmas giving with them, in the name of the Lord. Such kindness is a first fruit of fasting (Isaiah 58, Mat. 25:34-40).

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

Statement on the Reception of Refugees in the United States

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word MagazineSyrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word MagazineStatement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on the Reception of Refugees in the United States in Light of Recent Terrorist Actions around the World

Since the tragic terrorist actions in Paris, Beirut, Mali and elsewhere in the past two weeks, there have been polarized reactions to the reception of refugees, mainly of Syrian nationality, worldwide: an understandable reaction of concern on the one hand, but a sad overreaction of fear on the other. We are all concerned first and foremost for the safety of the citizens of the United States which must be continually addressed and assessed. At the same time, the humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria to which the U.S. government has contributed by calling for the removal of the established Syrian leadership – as it did in Egypt, Iraq and Libya – requires a moral response from the people and government of our great country. Misguided U.S. foreign policy helped create the so-called "Arab Spring" which has been a "tornado" that has destroyed Arab countries, leaving power vacuums that have fostered the soaring, vicious activity of terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Nusra, and others in the Middle East and around the world. All of this has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths of innocent people and lack of basic services like healthcare and sanitation, healthy food and drinking water, safe and dignified housing, and so forth.

We must us not be guided by fear or bigotry, but rather let us work to heal the wounds of the injured, clothing the naked and feeding the poor as our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us (Matthew 25:35-36).

Who Is Our Peace? + A Reflection on the State of the World Now

by Fr. George Shalhoub of the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan
A sermon delivered Sunday, November 15, 2015, in the wake of the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris

Beloved,

In the light of the constant atrocities, murder, suicide bombings, the war ravaging the world today, I wish to share with you the following:

As we enter the Holy Advent Season, we shall also gather, as families, to celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of a world gone mad. We need to keep our eyes open through prayer to Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the world.

November 25, 2015 + Rejoice, Christ Draweth Nigh

ODE 8 – Tone 2

At one time in Babylon by a commandment divine, the fiery furnace operated in a contrary way: the Chaldeans it consumed by fire, but it refreshed the faithful, bedewing them, as they chanted: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord.

Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.

Seeing the height of the mystery beyond words which covered over the heavens with knowledge, the Lady, the blameless one, was struck with amazement, and she said: "The throne of heaven, holding thee, is aflame; O my Son, how is it then that I may carry thee?"

Metropolitan Joseph's Pastoral Message for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

Pastoral Message for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
November 21, 2015

"The all-pure temple of the Savior, the most precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the treasure house of the glory of God, today enters the Temple of the Lord, bringing with her the grace which is in the divine Spirit: whom also the angels of God do celebrate in song; for she is the heavenly tabernacle".

(The Kontakion of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Tone Four)

We greet you with love and joy on this Feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. The Kontakion of the feast which is quoted above transmits to us the essence of this feast. She who has become the Living Temple of the Lord, enters the Temple of the Lord and ascends into the "Holy of Holies" in order to assure us of her status as the most blessed bridal chamber of the Lord, and treasure house of the glory of God. She brings with her the grace which is the divine Spirit, and that very Spirit is poured out upon all of us who are so greatly loved and protected by the Mother of God. The angels of God stand in awe, and celebrate in song this awesome action which is granted by our compassionate and loving God.

Chaplain's Corner + The Best Thanksgiving is Giving

by Fr. George Morelli

All have heard the popular aphorism 'it is more blessed to give than to receive.' Well, it turns out that the blessing received by giving may be more extensive than previously imagined. For example, a recent survey indicated that those who had a practice of giving reported greater physical health, an elevated level of happiness and well-being as well as a substantial attenuation of feelings of stress.1 Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings? On the value of putting the 'social´ in prosocial spending, the answer is definitively yes.2 Other studies indicate that giving thoughtful, empathic (giving something meaningful to the recipient) gifts brings the gifts gives the gift giver the greatest overall satisfaction.3 This implies that seeing the person you are giving to as a unique person is more efficacious in bringing about the 'blessings' in giving, versus contributing to the masses. As St. (Mother) Theresa of Calcutta put it: "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one [the single individual], I will."4

As any individual in mankind is a unity of body, mind and spirit, a spiritual connection to giving can aid in our understanding of generosity, and even prompt us to be giving thanks by giving. One recent study on philanthropy (gift giving) concluded: "The more important religion is to a person, the more likely that person is to give to a charity of any kind, according to new research released today."5

Fall 2015 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Fall 2015 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights the newly-elected North American Board Officers and Coordinators! The issue contains:

  • A message from His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph
  • A profile of Antiochian Women spiritual advisor, His Grace Bishop John
  • Biographies of the officers of the 2015-2017 Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America North American Board

...and more! Download (PDF) here.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 18, 2015

II Thessalonians 2:1-12
Luke 15:1-10

II Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NKJV)
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

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