From The Prologue from Ohrid by St. Nikolaj Velimirovic
Paul was born of wealthy parents in Lower Thebes in Egypt during the reign of Emperor Decius. Paul, along with his sister, inherited all the property of their parents. But his brother-in-law, an idolater, wanted to confiscate Paul's share of the property and threatened to betray Paul before the judge as a Christian if he did not cede his property to him. On one hand, that misfortune and on the other hand those heroic examples of selfsacrifices of Christian martyrs which Paul saw with his own eyes motivated him to give his share of the property to his sister and he, as a pauper, withdrew into the desert where he lived an ascetical life until his death. To what spiritual heights this ascetical giant reached is witnessed by no less a person than St. Anthony the Great who, at one time, visited Paul and saw how the wild beasts and birds of heaven ministered to him. Returning from this visit, Anthony said to his monks, "Woe is me, my children! A sinful and false monk that I am, a monk only in name. I saw Elijah, I saw John in the wilderness and, in truth, I saw Paul in Paradise!" St. Paul lived one-hundred thirteen years and peacefully died in the Lord in the year 342 A.D.
by St. Romanos the Melodist, Kontakia I, On the Epiphany, Strophe 3-4.
Adam, sing praise, sing praise to Him; fall down before Him who comes to you;
For He has appeared for you as you come forward to see Him, to grope after Him, and to greet Him.
He who you feared when you were deceived, for your sake has been made like you.
He descended to earth in order that He might take you up on high.
He became mortal that you might be divine, and that you might put on the first beauty.
Wishing to reopen Eden, He dwelt in Nazareth. For this, then, sing, O man, and singing, charm the One
Who has appeared and illumined all things.
When God was seen by Abraham as he sat beneath the oak tree in Mamre
He was seen as a man, but Abraham did not recognize Him for what He was,
for he could not have endured it.
Today He has not appeared in this way to us, but in His own person, for the Word was made flesh.
For this, the enigma is clear: To our ancestors, darkness; to patriarchs, images;
But to the children, Truth itself.
For God appeared to Abraham, but he did not know Him as God.
But we behold Him because He wills it, and we hold fast to Him Who has appeared and illumined all things.
by St. Gregory the Theologian, excerpted from a homily (Festal Oration 38) given by St. Gregory while Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Feast of the Nativity in the year 380.
Christ is born, give glory; Christ is from the heavens, go to meet Him; Christ is on earth, be lifted up. "Sing to the Lord, all the earth," and, to say both together, "Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice," for the Heavenly One is now earthly. Christ is in the flesh, exult with trembling and joy; trembling because of sin, joy because of hope. Christ comes from a Virgin; women, practice virginity, that you may become mothers of Christ. Who would not worship the One "from the beginning"? Who would not glorify "the Last"?
Again the darkness is dissolved, again the light is established, again Egypt is punished by darkness. Again Israel is illumined by a pillar. Let the people siting in the darkness of ignorance see a great light of knowledge. "The old things have passed; behold, all things have become new." The letter withdraws, the spirit advances; the shadows have been surpassed, the truth has entered after them. Melchizedek is completed, the motherless One becomes fatherless; He was motherless first, fatherless second. The laws of nature are dissolved. The world above must be filled. Christ commands, let us not resist. "All nations, clap your hands," "for to us a Child is born, and to us a Son is given, the power is on His shoulder," for He is lifted up along with the cross, and He is called by the name "Angel of great counsel," that of the Father. Let John proclaim, "Prepare the way of the Lord." I myself will proclaim the power of this day. The fleshless One takes flesh, the Word is made coarse, the invisible One seen, the impalpable One is touched, the timeless One makes a beginning, the Son of God becomes a Son of Man, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and for the ages." Let Jews be scandalized, let Greeks mock, let heretics talk till their tongues ache. They will believe when they see Him ascend into heaven, and if not then, at least when they see Him coming from heaven and sitting as Judge.
by St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 56 and 57
What, then, is the divine commandment now laid upon us? It is repentance, the essence of which is never again to touch forbidden things. We were expelled from the land of divine delight, we were justly shut out from God's paradise, and we have fallen into this pit where we are condemned to dwell together with dumb creatures without hope of returning - in so far as it depends on us - to the paradise we have lost. But He who initially passed a just sentence of punishment or, rather, justly permitted punishment to come upon us, has now in His great goodness, compassion and mercy descended for our sake to us. And He became a human being like us in all things except sin so that by His likeness to us He might teach us anew and rescue us; and He gave us the saving counsel and commandment of repentance, saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near" (Matt. 3:2). Prior to the incarnation of the Logos of God the kingdom of heaven was as far from us as the sky is from the earth; but when the King of heaven came to dwell amongst us and chose to unite Himself with us, the kingdom of heaven drew near to us all.
In 1972, at the Archdiocese Convention in Los Angeles, California, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip stated, "We must realize once and for all that women have a definite ministry in the life of the Church. Very often we have the tendency to confine women's role to the kitchen. Both the Old and New Testaments testify beyond doubt to the important role which women played in the history of salvation. Time does not permit me to speak in detail about Ruth, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, the Virgin Mary, the Ointment-Bearers, the Deaconesses and many others who ministered to the church and Christ. I propose, therefore, that a NATIONAL SISTERHOOD OF CHARITY be organized in the Archdiocese."
I recently heard an interesting commentary on a local radio station on the erosion oftrust in today’s society. It raised the question in my mind: Where has all the trust gone? I immediately made the connection to a folk song popular in the mid 20th Century, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone.” The lyrics refer in part to the horrors and loss of life experienced by the Cossacks living in the River Don region of Russia during the period of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. While not on the same level as the loss of life, we now, in the beginning of the 21st Century, can lament the widespread loss of trust in society.
This was all personally meaningful to me. A child of the mid 20th century, I grew up in a very small upstate New York village. Not only did we all know each other, but doors were always unlocked, a sure indication of trust. I remember being able to walk into a friend's house and make myself at home. We would depend on each other and come to each other's aid. Our word was our bond. Trustworthiness was a common virtue. Now, a generation later, I employ every security measure I know for personal and home protection.
ODE 1 – Tone 2
A force overwhelming in its might at one time laid low the host of all the army of Pharaoh within the deeps; even so, the Word made flesh, yea, the Lord who is glorified, hath utterly destroyed sin in all its wretchedness: for gloriously is he glorified.
Glory to thee, O Lord, glory to thee.
Under Caesar's law wast thou enrolled in thy wish to register man in the Book of Life, O thou the King of all. As a stranger hast thou come to thine own, unto those who were estranged in suffering outside Paradise, so that to heaven thou mightest call them back.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Receive Christ, O town of Bethlehem; for he cometh bodily to dwell in thee, opening Eden unto me. Prepare to behold, O cave, wondrously contained in thee the One who cannot be contained, who in the wealth of his loving kindness is become a beggar now.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Lo, Christ cometh that he may be born, granting in his goodness that those sprung from Adam may strangely be born anew. Make thou glad, O barren one; be thou merry, all mortal nature which beareth not. For the Master cometh to grant birth of many children unto thee.
37 years ago, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip created The Order of St. Ignatius to enable the laity of our Archdiocese to organize and raise funds for various philanthropic endeavors that would make a difference in the lives of many. As you probably know, there is nothing more humbling in life than to learn that one’s act of charity or philanthropy has made a difference in the life of another person.
Over the past several months, you have had the opportunity to read articles prepared by some of those who have received grants from the Order. This year alone, the Order has given $267,340 towards these four specific projects. From its inception in 1975 to the present, the Order has given $260,000 to International Orthodox Christian Charities; $34,600 in scholarships for Orthodox college students to attend Orthodox conferences; $350,000 to enable our clergy to attend parish life conferences, our Archdiocese conventions and clergy symposiums; and over $2 million in scholarships for our children to attend camping programs. These Orthodox organizations and departments are a mere fraction of those that receive funds from the Order.
By Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, translated by Theodosia Tomkinson, p. 24.
But those who are of God keep Faith and therefore cannot suffer from the moth which divides the garment. For everything which is divided within itself, like the kingdom of Satan, cannot be everlasting [cf. Mt. 11:25] Moreover, it is rust of the spirit when the keenness of religious intention is dulled by the defilement of worldly desires or the purity of faith is stained by a cloud of unbelief. Rust of the moth is desire for the familiar; rust of the mind is carelessness; rust of the mind is longing for honours, if the greatest hope of the present life is set thereon. And, therefore, let us run toward the Divine and let us sharpen our character; let us drill our disposition, so that we may have that sword which the Lord bade us sell our garment and buy [cf. Lk. 22:36], always ready and shining, as if sheathed in the scabbard of our mind. For the soldiers of Christ must always have strong spiritual weapons for the destruction of fortifications against God [cf. II Cor. 10:4], lest when He come, the Leader of the Heavenly Host [cf. Lk. 2:13], offended by the dullness of our weapons, separate us from the company of His legions.
Commentary on Proverbs 14:16, by St. Clement of Alexandria, from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture,Old Testament IX, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, p. 100.
Awe is a fear of the divine. But if fear is a passion, as some insist that fear is a passion, not every fear is a passion. Superstition is a passion, being the fear of spiritual powers which are themselves agitated by different passions. On the other side, the fear of the God who is free from passions is itself free from passions. It is really not a fear of God but a fear of losing him. This fear is a fear of falling into evil; it is a fear of evil. Fear of falling is a desire for incorruptibility and for freedom from the passions.
Toward Healing Apostolic Church Disunity: Speaking with One Voicei
My Fall 2013 Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR)ii newsletter Light of the East President's message should be understood in the context of St. Paul's instruction to the Romans (12: 4-6). "For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us." These comments should also be looked at in terms of the petitions in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, as said in the Eastern Churches: "Be mindful, O Lord, of the Priesthood, the Deaconate in Christ and every priestly rank, [and by implied extension to the laity as well] and put not to confusion any one of us who stand about thy holy Altar." The proper teaching role of the Churches is for those specifically ordained to teach, the bishops and the priests in union with them and the laity, as Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998, p. 226)iii writes, do so as "defenders of the Faith." We each have our own part to play.
Many are familiar with the famous ancient Greek adage: "Know thyself." Countless philosophers and spiritual teachers as well have used this theme. To my best recollection, I first came across this aphorism while reading Plato in a philosophy course my first year in college. Interestingly, this aphorism was also used by the ancient Egyptians, who gave it a religious connection. In the temple of Luxor (1400 BC) is the inscription: "Man, know thyself ... and thou shalt know the gods."
The importance of self-awareness and self-control also can be found in other religious systems. In the Buddhist tradition one reads: "Though one should conquer a million men on the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself." (Dhammapada 103) In the Taoist scripture are the following words: "He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened. He who conquers others has physical strength; He who conquers himself is strong." (Tao Te Ching 33) In Hinduism we find: ". . . when a man has discrimination and his mind is controlled, his senses, like the well-broken horses of a charioteer, lightly obey the rein." (Katha Upanishad 1.3.3-6)
by St. John of Kronstadt, from My Life in Christ
Fasting is a good teacher: (1) It soon makes everybody who fasts understand that a man requires very little food and drink, and that in general we are greedy and eat a great deal more than is necessary—that is, than our nature requires. (2) Fasting clearly shows or discloses all the infirmities of our soul, all its weaknesses, deficiencies, sins, and passions; just as when muddy, standing water is beginning to be cleaned it shows what reptiles and what sort of dirt it contains. (3) It shows us all the necessity of turning to God with the whole heart, and of seeking His mercy, help, and salvation. (4) Fasting shows all the craftiness, cunning, and malice of the bodiless spirits, whom we have hitherto unwittingly served, and whose cunning, now that we are enlightened by the light of God's grace, becomes clear, and who now maliciously persecute us for having left their ways.
by St. John Chrysostom
Do not say to me, I fasted for so many days. I did not eat this or I did not eat that. I did not drink wine, that I endured want. Instead, show me if thou, from an angry man, has become instead gentle. If from a cruel man, thou hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water instead of wine? Do not show forth a useless fast, for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven.
by St. Ambrose, Elder of Optina, translated from Optinskii Tsvetnik: Izrecheniia prepodobnykh starttsev Optinskikh (Moscow: St. Tikhon's Orthodox University, 2008), 221-228, www.pravmir.com/on-relations-with-ones-neighbors/.
10. Just as one pot bumps up against another pot, how much more does it happen that people living together bump up against one another. This comes about especially when people have different viewpoints about things: one thinks about one thing one way, while another thinks another way; one is convinced in his own ideas, which seem solid and fundamental to him, while another believes in his own understandings.
11. People look at the visible, but the Lord sees the inner arrangement of man and the actions of his conscience, both in relation to others and in relation to himself. When we cannot bring benefit to others for some reason, then let us at least work for our own spiritual benefit.
12. Although it is difficult and very insulting to suffer unfair opposition from people who should be defending the truth – not little people, but great and elevated ones – we will take comfort in the unprejudiced judgment of the One Judge of the living and the dead.
13. He who gives way receives three ounces and a half , but he who insists on his rights receives only one ounce, and sometimes not even one, when he gets upset and upsets another.
by St. Ambrose, Elder of Optina, translated from Optinskii Tsvetnik: Izrecheniia prepodobnykh starttsev Optinskikh (Moscow: St. Tikhon's Orthodox University, 2008), 221-228, www.pravmir.com/on-relations-with-ones-neighbors/.
1. The Lord nowhere wishes to compel man against his will, but everywhere makes use of our good will; it is through their own will that people are either good or evil. Therefore it is in vain that we accuse those living with us and surrounding us of hindering and impeding, as it were, our salvation or our spiritual perfection.
2. We receive profit from people only when we do not condemn them.
3. You complain about people's unfairness in relation to you. But if you are striving to reign with Christ the Lord, then have a look at Him, how He acted towards the enemies surrounding Him who were demanding His death. It appears that He never complained about how His enemies behaved unfairly towards Him but, in all the horrible afflictions brought upon Him by His enemies, He saw only the will of His Heavenly Father.
from The Venerable Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Cistercian Publications, p. 38
"So also the tongue is indeed a small member and exalts great things" (James 3:5)
Certainly it exalts great rewards if the action of the mind at the helm directs it well, according to that saying of Solomon that, The understanding person shall take the rudder [Pr. 1:5]; but if the mind directs the tongue badly on the other hand, it exalts great evils of destruction for itself and its connections. So Solomon also says, Death and life are in the hands of the tongue [Pr. 18:21]. It exalts life, therefore, if it teaches the church well, death on the contrary if it behaves perversely, for it is opposed to those who, destitute of both life and knowledge, presumed to teach and thereby did greater harm to the church. But if, as is found in certain manuscripts, it be read, 'it boasts of great things', that boasting certainly ought here to be understood concerning which in what follows, after he had listed very many vices of the tongue, he added, "But now you boast in your proud deeds; all such boasting is evil" [James 4:16]. From this, too the mother of blessed Samuel restrains us by a devote admonition, saying, "Do not continue to speak of lofty matters, boasting" [I Sam. 2:3]. The tongue, therefore, boasts of great things; looking down on the interpretations and words of others, it holds itself up as extraordinarily wise and eloquent.
from The Venerable Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Cistercian Publications, p. 10.
That is, let him, by living well, show himself to be worthy of being heard when he begs. For anyone who remembers that he has not obeyed the Lord's commands rightly loses hope that the Lord pays attention to his prayers. For it has been written, "The prayer of one who closes his ear that he may not hear the law will be detestable" [Pr. 21:13; 28:9].
For he who hesitates is like a wave of the sea which is tossed and carried about by the wind. Anyone who hesitates about attaining heavenly rewards because his consciousness of sin pricks him, at the onslaught of temptations easily abandons the position of faith by which in peace and quiet he appeared to serve God and he is carried away at the will of the invisible enemy as if by a blast of wind through different kinds of errors of vices.
Most readers are familiar with the metaphor "a double-edged sword," - a blade that cuts both ways, idiomatic for a liability that can also be a benefit. The current state of social media certainly lives up to this expression.
The beneficial, favorable aspects of social media are many. Information on diseases, health, spiritual issues, charities, economic issues, current events, science, history and travel can be found and discussed online. It can also be a medium to bring people together, including family and friends. Unfortunately, the unfavorable aspects of social media are also quite apparent and often have grave consequences.
A prime example is the suicide of a 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick, in Lakeland FL. After being taunted, vilified, by cyber-bullying via social media by some of her female classmates, she jumped off a nearby nearly 60 foot cement tower in September 2013. "You should die," someone told the 12-year-old. "Why don't you go kill yourself?" She was so emotionally distraught that she sent a social media message to a friend, texting: "I'm jumping, I can't take it anymore." A message that he received on Monday morning, shortly before her suicide, authorities said. It was reported that her mother spoke to school authorities and closed and re-closed Rebecca's Facebook account. However, unbeknown to her mother, the cyber-bullying continued on less familiar social media sites like Kik Messenger, ask.fm and Voxer.
from St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, October 16th
The divine Matthew the Evangelist, in describing the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, says: Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54). That centurion was this blessed Longinus, who with two other of his soldiers came to believe in Jesus, the Son of God. Longinus was chief of the soldiers who were present at the Crucifixion of the Lord on Golgotha, and was also the chief of the watch that guarded the tomb. When the Jewish elders learned of the Resurrection of Christ, they bribed the soldiers to spread the false news that Christ did not resurrect, but rather that His disciples stole His body. The Jews also tried to bribe Longinus, but he did not allow himself to be bribed. Then the Jews resorted to their usual strategy: they decided to kill Longinus. Learning of this, Longinus removed his military belt, was baptized with his two companions by an apostle, secretly left Jerusalem and moved to Cappadocia with his companions. There, he devoted himself to fasting and prayer and, as a living witness of Christ's Resurrection, converted many pagans to the true Faith by his witness.
by Saint and Emperor Justinian the Great
There are two greatest gifts which God, in His love for man, has granted from on high: the priesthood and the imperial dignity. The first serves divine things, while the latter directs and administers human affairs: both, however, proceed from the same origin and adorn the life of mankind. Hence, nothing should be such a source of care to the emperors as the dignity of the priests, since it is for their imperial welfare that they constantly implore God. For if the priesthood is in every way free from blame and possessed access to God, and if the emperors administer equitably and judiciously the State entrusted to their care, general harmony will result, and whatever is beneficial will be bestowed upon the human race.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mk 16: 16)
One of the teaching challenges of those committed to the Mind of Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Orthodox Church is the homogenization of Christianity by those who have been ensnared by the spiritual cancer of religious relativism that has permeated the Western world. Political, religious and social correctness is the mantra of the 3rd Millennium. It is also the great scourge of our modern world. It is the duty of all true and committed Christians, especially those charged with the guiding others in Orthodoxy, to be steadfast to the mind of Christ and His Church (Morelli, 2010). It must begin in the little church in the home the 'domestic church,' then be connected to the local parish and its clergy and then on to the Church universal.
Recently I happened to see an episode of a reality TV series that centered on the learning and personal conflicts of a group of students at a well-known high-end United States culinary school. The struggles of two female students were particularly noteworthy and point out the important need for the support of others for achieving our aspirations in life.
The older of the two students was married to a husband who not only did not encourage her but actively denigrated and tried to sabotage anything she did to achieve her goal of becoming a chef. The other, a very attractive young unmarried mother of a toddler, held on to a job in a 'gentlemen's club' - distasteful to her, but a financial necessity. She frankly admitted being ashamed of her work, and that her family would be also. However, her family, especially her aloof mother, disapproved of any endeavor she might engage in.
by St. Gregory the Great, Commentary on Job, from The Early Church Fathers Series, edited by John Morrehead, Routledge Taylor & Franscis Group: London and New York, p. 130.
Those who are striving to gain the highest point of perfection, when they yearn to take hold of the stronghold of contemplation, should first test themselves through exercise in the field of work, so that with the necessary care they might come to know whether they are doing anything wrong to their neighbours, whether they are bearing with calmness of mind what their neighbours are doing to them, and whether their mind is neither set free so as to be joyous when temporal goods are placed before it nor wounded with great sorrow when they are taken away; after this, they should consider carefully whether, when they return to themselves inwardly for a thorough investigation of spiritual things, they are not drawing with them the slightest shadows of bodily things; or whether, if it turns out that they have been drawn, they are able to drive them away with the hand of discretion; whether, in their yearning to see the infinite light, they repress all images of what is finite and whether, given that they are striving to attain something that is above themselves, they overcome that which they are. And so it is now said rightly "Thou shalt enter the tomb in abundance" [Job 5:26]. Yes, a perfect man enters the tomb in abundance because he first gathers together the works of an active life and then conceals completely from the world the capacity for feeling belonging to his flesh, which has died through contemplation. And so it fittingly goes on: Like as a sheaf of grain cometh in his season [Job 5:26]. For action comes at the beginning, and contemplation at the end. So it is necessary that whoever is perfect should first exercise the mind with virtues and then put it away in the barn of quiet.
by St. Gregory Palamas, The Saving Work of Christ: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, edited by Christopher Veniamin, Mount Tabor Publishing
The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, to the death of the soul, its separation from God. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8).
As the apostle says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). God, however, is Spirit, absolute Goodness and Virtue, and our own spirit is after His image and likeness, although sin has made it good for nothing. So how could anyone at all be spiritually renewed and reconciled with God, unless sin and life according to the flesh had been abolished? The Cross of Christ is this abolition of sin.