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November 26, 2014 + Against the False Doctrine of Appeasement

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

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

Missing Out on God

by Kristina Wenger

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal (Mt. 6:19)

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of "stuff" is what many people embrace as their goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or the children in our care (such as our Church School students) need?

Materialism: Stealing Our Children?

by Kristina Wenger

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal (Mt. 6:19)

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of "stuff" is what society embraces as the goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, in particular, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or our children need?

Chaplain's Corner + People Are Going to Act the Way They Want To, Not the Way I Want

by Fr. George Morelli

The reason that many of the conflicts we have with others can disturb us is that we have in our minds sets of guiding rules, or cognitive ‘sets’, about what the behaviors of others, or the consequent outcomes of events should be.  Putting it more bluntly: thinking that they should do what we think they should be doing and it is awful and terrible, catastrophic, as it were, if they don’t.  This observation about mankind has been extensively elaborated by pioneer Cognitive-Behavior Therapist Albert Ellis1 who points out that it is “It is simply amazing how many millions of people on this earth are terribly upset and miserable when things are not the way they would like them to be, or when the world is in the way the world is.” (p. 69). Put another way, they are making demands about people and events.

Trust God or Ourselves?

by Fr. Demetrios Makoul

In the Old Testament, in the book of Kings, the prophet Elijah was serving God by fighting against the priests of Baal (Canaanite god). Elijah at some point withdrew to the wilderness and God made sure he was fed by ravens who brought him food and there was even a small brook that provided him with water. Eventually however the brook dried up and God sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. The widow lived with her only son. When Elijah arrived there he asked the widow for help. At this time there was a famine and the widow responded that she could not for fear that she would not have enough food for her and her son. Elijah told her that God would not allow her supply of flour or oil to run out, saying, "Don't be afraid, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land." The widow trusted Elijah and God, she offered what she had and sure enough her jar of oil and flour miraculously never ran out. She had more than enough for her, her son, and Elijah.

The message here is clear. There are times in our life when we are asked to give to God, to give a portion of what we have. However we struggle as the widow did. We worry if I give of what I have, will there be enough for me and my family? We find ourselves confronted with a trust issue. If I do what is right, will God do what is right? If I obey, will God come through and provide for me? We often are afraid to help or to give for fear we won't have enough. We hoard our resources and treasure because we don't trust God will provide for us if we offer some back to God.

November 5, 2014 + Part 2: The Psalter as a Book of Needs

A LIST OF PSALMS FOR USE AS BLESSINGS, ARRANGED BY ORDER IN THE PSALTER

According to the usage of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, as transmitted by the Athonite Elder Paisios. Translated for the St. Pachomius Library by Vassilios Kollias, Edited by Karen Rae Keck. http://modeoflife.org/tag/book-of-psalms/

51 (52) So that the hard-hearted masters repent and become compassionate and do not torment the people.
52 (53) So that God blesses the nets and they get filled with fish.
53 (54) So that God illumines the rich people that have bought slaves so that they free them.
54 (55) So that the name of a family that had been unjustly accused is restored.
55 (56) For sensitive people, whose souls have been wounded by their fellows.
56 (57) For those people who suffer headaches coming from big sorrow.
57 (58) So that things come in a helping way for those who work with good intention, so that God prevents every perverse action of demons or crooked people.
58 (59) For those that cannot speak, that God gives them the ability to speak.
59 (60) So that God reveals the truth when a whole group of people is unjustly accused.
60 (61) For those that have trouble in their work either because of laziness or because of fear.
61 (62) So that God relieves from troubles the person who is weak, so that he is not dominated by the urge to complain.
62 (63) So that fields and trees bring forth fruit when the water is limited.

Smart Parenting XXIV: Spanking - Physical, Psychological and Moral Abuse

Revisiting: "Smart Punishment"
by Fr. George Morelli

It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones (Lk 17:2)

The major goal of good parenting is to provide the milieu and guidance their children need to become the 'most they can be' in all major domains of life. These domains include the dimensions of spirituality, moral character, family and social commitment, personality characteristics, and intellectual and cognitive-behavioral-emotional development. The cornerstone for all development in the orthodox Christian family is Christ and his Church. In this regard we can think of the words said by St. Paul to the Ephesians that we are all part of God's family that is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (2:20). This is especially true for those, male and female, husband and wife, who are "one flesh" in a blessed marriage, as is prayed in the Orthodox Wedding Service, "unite them in one mind and one flesh, and grant unto them fair children for education in thy faith and fear. . . ."

Psychological Principles of Smart Parenting

Morelli (2005, 2006ab) has pointed out that the principles of cognitive-behavioral management are ideally suited for application to good parenting.  All behaviors, whether appropriate or inappropriate, have both cognitive and behavioral factors that can influence their occurrence.

The major psychological principles that influence behavior can be summarized thus:

Behavioral basics:

Chaplain's Corner + Is the Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

by Fr. George Morelli

Some people go through life looking at things around them with cynical glasses. Their outlook can range from being wary or suspicious of others' intentions and motives to perceiving the worst in mankind, sneering at others' beliefs and motives; and even scorning societal moral standards. In popular words, they see the 'cup half empty.' On the other hand, there are those who are hopeful. They look around them, and even if they see someone failing or some event at which they look askance, they, being honest and good of heart, are motivated to see the good that can come out of something inauspicious. They see the 'cup half full.' They are motivated to do what it takes to fill any apparent 'cup' that is less than full. Frequently they accomplish this by patient endurance. By contrast, however, recent behavioral research has indicated that modern society, which is increasingly demanding instantaneous information technology speed, is actually fostering 'impatient un-endurance.' The desire for instant gratification also can be seen in the upsurge of 'same day delivery'1 and recent drone-delivery proposals.

There are health risks linked to cynicism. In studies of middle aged individuals, among them Vietnam veterans, those who impute a hostile motive to others had a greater chance of developing heart disease and possibly diabetes and other diseases. The explanation of the association is that "hostile people are generally cynical and suspicious of other people, traits that lead to conflicts or confrontations."2

October 29, 2014 + Part 1: The Psalter as a Book of Needs

A LIST OF PSALMS FOR USE AS BLESSINGS, ARRANGED BY ORDER IN THE PSALTER

According to the usage of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, as transmitted by the Athonite Elder Paisios. Translated for the St. Pachomius Library by Vassilios Kollias, Edited by Karen Rae Keck. http://modeoflife.org/tag/book-of-psalms/

1 (1) When a tree or a vine is planted, so that it may bring forth fruit.
2 (2) So that God illumines those who go to meetings and councils.
3 (3) So that badness goes away from people, so that they do not torment unjustly their fellows.
4 (4) So that God heals the sensitive people who fell ill from depression because of the behaviour of hard-hearted people.
5 (5) So that God heals the wounded eyes that were bitten by a bad person.
6 (6) So that God frees the person who has been under a spell.
7 (7) For those who got damaged from fear, from the terrors and the intimidations of bad people.
8 (8) For those who are hurt by demons or by perverse people.
9 (9 & 10) So that the demons stop tormenting you in sleep or with fancies during the day.
10 (11) For hard-hearted couples that argue and divorce (when the hardhearted man or woman torments their sensitive wife or husband).

October 22, 2014 + The Necessity for Orthodox Christians to Speak Up for Christ in Politics and the Public Square

from Elder Paisios

Often State policy and legislation undermine the Christian Faith. What should we as Christians do in such situations? Remain silent or speak up? Below is Elder Paisios' advice on the topic.

Today, when one is concerned over the condition of our nation, then that's a confession of faith in itself, because the State is opposing the divine law. It's legislating laws that are contrary to the law of God.

I have heard Spiritual Fathers advising their spiritual children, "Don't get involved in affairs of the State". Now if they had attained such a high level of sanctity through prayer that they didn't care about anything worldly, then I would be the first to kiss their feet. But they're only indifferent, they don't want to rock the boat. Indifference is unacceptable even among worldly people, and even less so among spiritual people. An honourable, spiritual person should do nothing indifferently. The Prophet Jeremiah exhorts us by saying "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness."

Preparing to Do Our Best for the Children We Teach

by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Teachers

As a new school year approaches, it is good for us teachers to think about how to improve our teaching methods so that we can be more effective. One way in which we can become better teachers is to sharpen our preparation for each class that we teach. Thinking through our lessons ahead of time, planning them, writing them out (or at least jotting down notes), and trying out activities or crafts before we do them with students are all ways in which we can improve our preparation and thereby become better teachers.

Let’s Know and Support Those Who Teach

by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Parents

It is the beginning of a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a good time to set goals and also begin good habits for the year. As our children participate in school, homeschool groups, library or park classes, clubs, Sunday Church School, and other such groups, let us as parents be mindful of those who are leading and teaching the children in these groups. This school year, let us set a goal to do a better job of knowing and supporting these teachers, and let us also begin the habits that will help us to meet that goal.

October 15, 2014 + Health, the Belly, and Other Idols

by St. John of Kronstadt

Health and the belly, these are the two idols--especially with men of the present age, of whom I myself, a great sinner, am one--for which we live, and which we continually serve, even to the neglect of the duties of our Christian calling--for instance, to the neglect of the reading of the Word of God, which is sweeter than honey and honey-comb; to the neglect of prayer, that sweetest converse with God, and of the preaching of the Word of God. To walk a great deal for health, and to incite the appetite, to eat with appetite --such are the objects of the desires and aspirations of many of us. But through our frequent walks, through our fondness for food and drink, we shall find that one thing has been neglected, and another irrevocably missed, whilst others have not even entered into our minds; for can the time after a good dinner or supper be really a good time for any serious work! Even if we would like to occupy ourselves with work, the belly, full of food and drink, draws us away from it, and constrains us to rest, so that we begin to slumber over our work. What sort of work can it be? Indeed, there is nothing left, if it is after dinner, but to lie down and rest, and if it is after supper, after having prayed somehow or other (for a satiated man cannot even pray as he should), to go to bed and sleep--the miserable consequence of an overloaded stomach--until the next morning.

October 8, 2014 + He Who Tends to His Own Vices is Incapable of Condemning His Brother

On seeing someone sinning, a holy man wept bitterly and said: "He has fallen today, and I will surely fall tomorrow; he will assuredly repent, but as for myself, I am not sure if I will repent."

The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, Vol. 3, Edited and Translated by Archbp. Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Patapios, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008, p. 12.

Antiochian Unity, the Assembly of Bishops and World Orthodoxy

From the October 2014 edition of The Word

The Conference on Antiochian Unity held at Balamand University, June 25–29, was a source of great joy and pride for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Our Metropolitan Joseph was asked to moderate the wrap-up session, Fr. Michel Najm offered a key paper, and members of our delegation were placed on every workshop of the Conference. In this way, we could dialogue and share with representatives of each of the Antiochian archdioceses throughout the world. It was obvious from the way the conference was structured that the underlying goal was to promote and develop lay and clergy cooperation and leadership at every level of the church. God has blessed His Church with great resources. He has called clergy and lay workers alike to develop skills in every kind of social, medical, educational and ecclesiastical ministry.

While every archdiocese of the Patriarchate has made progress in developing structures for these varied ministries, the North American Archdiocese has been the most deliberate and successful in this area. We were able to share practical experiences to help others reach their goals. We were not there, however, just to give. The American delegation had much to learn about the obstacles and challenges of the other archdioceses as well, and gathered information about global trends that have affected Europe and the Middle East. No doubt, many of these challenges are coming our way, too. In any case, because of global communications, everyone will share the best and the worst of all situations. The collaboration of the Conference on Unity was surely beneficial to all.

The Conference on Antiochian Unity

A PERSONAL REFLECTION

Overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea is the Balamand Abbey, built by Cistercian Monks in 1157 A.D., on the Hill of Balamand in al-Kurah, Lebanon. The monks left the Abbey before the capture of Tripoli and the Crusaders departed.

Three hundred years later, Greek Orthodox monks took over the Abbey, naming it the Balamand Monastery. Initially, ten monks occupied it, but this number increased to twenty-five in a very short period. Their lives were filled with prayer, tending crops, writing and copying manuscripts, as well as hosting visitors. The buildings were built around a square courtyard, representing the four evangelists, which is the center of their monastic life.

From the moment we arrived at the Balamand, our North American delegation, consisting of Fr. Thomas Zain, Vicar General, Fr. Timothy Ferguson, Protosyngelos, Fawaz El-Khoury, Dan Braun, Dan Abraham, Khalil Samara, Jordan Khurzum, Douglas Cramer and myself, were welcomed and made to feel very much at home. Metropolitans, bishops, priests and delegates from Antiochian archdioceses all over the world convened at this historical conference. They came from Brazil, France, England, Mexico, Syria, Lebanon, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, and, of course, North America. We prayed together, ate together, and attended the presentations and workshops together. We were equally blessed to have Archbishop Joseph, soon to be Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Alexander, Bishop John and Bishop Nicholas with us.

Chaplain's Corner + Re-Focusing on One's Meaning in Life

by Fr. George Morelli

The question of life's meaning has been asked by specialists: philosophers, psychologists, scientists, spiritual leaders, artists, writers, and those of the popular mind as well. One way of approaching the question is to consider that a personality disposition or trait can be nurtured to allow us to strive to make sense of the events that are occurring to us and in the world around us. One method for doing this is by way of the three ways to discover life's meaning suggested by German psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl (1959, p. 133)i: "(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."

He (and I agree) state that finding meaning in "work or accomplishment," as in the first way, is, on the face of it, "obvious." Frankl likens the second way to experiencing "goodness, truth and beauty" in nature, culture or in another human being. In this regard, I am reminded of the beautiful verse from Psalm 18:2: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands." Frankl found meaning in the loss of his family and in his personal suffering by choosing to focus on the everyday choices he did have during his internment in a concentration camp, such as being able to see the beauty in a sunrise despite being naked and out in freezing weather. A transition can be made from awareness of beauties in nature such as sunrises, sunsets, or starry nights to the intrinsic beauty that is God, their Creator. Among the Eastern Church Fathers, for example, it is said that "physical beauty is the epiphany of divine beauty."ii

October 1, 2014 + The Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

From time immemorial, the Church has celebrated the Most-holy Theotokos as the patroness and protectress of the Christian people, who, by her intercessory prayers, implores God's mercy for us sinners. The help of the Most-holy Mother of God has been clearly shown numerous times, to individuals and to nations, in peace and in war, in monastic deserts and in densely populated cities. The event that the Church commemorates and celebrates today confirms the Theotokos' consistent protection of Christian people. On October 1, 911, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was standing in the rear of the church with his disciple Epiphanius. At four o'clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: "Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?" Epiphanius replied: "I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!" The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 3

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

The Distinctive Ethos of Orthodox Spirituality and Psychotherapy

Some distinguishing features of Orthodox Spirituality need emphasis. In considering the Church as a hospital, the Orthodox view of sin should be noted; it is considered a disease, illness or infirmity in need of continual healing, in contrast to the West wherein sin is viewed in more of a juridical sense. In addition, a frequent image of sin in the Patristic literature is that of an archer 'missing the mark' (amartia). In regard to marriage and sexuality, as noted above, for Orthodox Christians the "theology of sex" based on Divine Love is at the highest principal, infinitely beyond empathy or ethical standards. It goes to the essence of God Himself, as the Church Fathers emphasized.

September 24, 2014 + True Righteousness, and Pride, are Antithetical

by Abba Arsenius
from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

[Arsenius] saw a temple and two men on horseback, opposite one another, carrying a piece of wood crosswise. They wanted to go in through the door, but could not because they held their piece of wood crosswise. Neither of them would draw back before the other, so as to carry the wood straight; so they remained outside the door. A voice said to the old man, "These men carry the yoke of righteousness with arrogance, and do not humble themselves and walk in the humble way of Christ. So they remain outside the kingdom of God.

September 17, 2014 + Part 2: On the Providence of God

by St. John Chrysostom

That we must not be overly inquisitive, and that we must wait for the final outcome of things.

God's economy is directed toward a single end in each of these lives: our salvation and good repute. Even if it is divided in two with regard to time, it is united with regard to objective. Just as at first it is winter and then it is spring, and the passage of each season has a single goal – the ripening of the fruit – so it is with our affairs.

Therefore, when you see the Church scattered, undergoing the utmost sufferings, its prominent members attacked and flogged, its leader carried afar off, consider not only these things, but also the things that will result from them: the rewards, the compensations, the prizes, the awards. He that endureth to the end shall be saved, says the Lord (Matt. 10:22). In the time of the Old Covenant, when the teaching of the resurrection was not yet well known, both things came to pass in the present life. But in the time of the New Covenant, this is not always so. Rather, there are instances where there are painful things here in this life, and the good things await our departure from here.

The Word Interviews Metropolitan Joseph

Bishop John visited Metropolitan Joseph on July 26, 2014, to receive his blessings and a message for the readers of The Word. Metropolitan Joseph was hospitable, candid and loving. Here is what he had to say. 

We thank God for all of His blessings, wisdom and guidance bestowed upon us. I thank our Father in Christ, Patriarch John X, for his leadership, love and constant prayers for this Archdiocese. We pray to almighty God that He will grant our Father, Patriarch John X, strength and perseverance during this critical time in the life of our Patriarchate, especially the challenges and danger facing the people and land of the Middle East. We thank my brother Metropolitans, the members of the Holy Synod of Antioch, for their confidence, their love and their support. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank my brother hierarchs of this Archdiocese for all of their hard work, godly ministry and efforts to maintain the unity and strength of our Archdiocese. We pray that the merciful God will remember our beloved Metropolitan Philip in His heavenly Kingdom and will reward him richly for all of the accomplishments realized during his half-century ministry. He left for us a big legacy to build upon.

Now we begin a new chapter in the life the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is not one person, but the whole body; metropolitan, hierarchs, clergy, monastics and all the believers.

September 10, 2014 + Part 1: On the Providence of God

by St. John Chrysostom

That we must not be overly inquisitive, and that we must wait for the final outcome of things.

Above all, we must not be overly inquisitive, either at the outset or afterwards. But if you are so curious and inquisitive, wait for the final outcome and see how things turn out. And do not be thrown into confusion, do not be troubled at the start. When an inexperienced man at first sees a goldsmith melting the gold and mixing it with ashes and chaff – if he does not wait till the end – he will think the gold is ruined. And if a man who has been born and raised on the sea and is completely ignorant of how to care for the land is suddenly moved to the interior of the country, when he sees the wheat that has been stored away and protected behind doors and bars, and kept free from moisture, suddenly brought out by the farmer, scattered, thrown about, lying on the ground before all passersby, and not only not kept free from moisture, but given over to mire and mud without any protection, will he not consider the wheat to be ruined and pass judgment on the farmer who did these things? But this condemnation does not come from the nature of what is done, but from the inexperience and folly of him who is not judging well, casting his ballot immediately at the outset. If he waited for the summer and saw the fields waving, the sickle sharpened, and the wheat that has remained scattered unprotected and rotted and ruined and given over to the mire now raised up and multiplied, appearing in full bloom, having put away that which is obsolete, set upright with great strength, as though having guards and a watch, raising its stalk up high, delighting the beholder, as well as providing nourishment and great benefit – then he would be highly amazed that, by way of such conditions, the fruit had been brought to such abundance and splendor.

New Martyrs Everywhere

by Fr. George Morelli

This article is an updating and reworking of the ‘Light of the East’ Summer 2014   SSJC-WR President’s Message.i

The Light of the East President’s Message just two  years ago was entitled The New Martyrs in Syria.iiSad to say, two years later the geographic area and ferocity of Christian Martyrdom has greatly expanded. Martyrdom is especially prevalent throughout the Middle East, in Syria, of course, but in Iraq, Gaza, and Palestine and in adjacent areas in Africa, such as Egypt and other Arabic countries, as well. We can look at the violence around the world, and which is now so prevalently raging throughout the Middle East. We hear cries of vengeance on all sides. It is lamentable that scores are being massacred, youngsters being killed or beaten.iii Unfortunately, many consider that such acts of vengeance, retribution and terror are blessed by God.

Sad also is that political differences have led to further divisions among Apostolic Christians such as between the various Catholic and Orthodox jurisdictions in the Ukrainian conflict. We can see increasing divisiveness even within jurisdictions themselves.  

September 3, 2014 + The Tilling First Given by God to Adam

by St. John Chrysostom

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and to keep it (Gen. 2:15).

'To till.' What was lacking in Paradise? And even if a tiller was needed, where was the plow? Where were the other implements of agriculture? The "tilling" [or "working"] of God consisted in tilling and keeping the commandment of God, remaining faithful to the commandment... Just as to believe in Christ is the work of God (John 6:29), so also it was a work to believe the commandment that if he touched (the forbidden tree) he would die, and if he did not touch it, he would live. The work was the keeping of the spiritual words ... "To till and to keep it," it is said. To keep it from whom? There were no thieves, no passersby, no one of evil intent. To keep from whom? To keep it for oneself; not to lose it by transgressing the commandment; to keep Paradise for oneself, observing the commandment.