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June 18, 2014 + I Myself am a Miracle of God's Goodness, Wisdom, and Omnipotence

by St. John of Kronstadt

You wish to comprehend the incomprehensible; but can you understand how the inward sorrows with which your heart is overwhelmed overtake you, and can you find, except in the Lord, the means to drive them away? Learn at first, with your heart, how to free yourself from sorrows, how to ensure peace in your heart, and then, if necessary, philosophize on the incomprehensible, for "if ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest'' (St. Luke xii. 26)?

June 11, 2014 + On the Importance of Bringing Your Children to Church and Teaching Them the Gospel

by St. John Chrysostom

"For let no one tell me that our children ought not to be occupied with these things; they ought not only to be occupied with them, but to be zealous about them only. And although on account of your infirmity I do not assert this, nor take them away from their worldly learning, just as I do not draw you either from your civil business; yet of these seven days I claim that you dedicate one to the common Lord of us all... And yet when you take your children into the theaters, you allege neither their mathematical lessons, nor anything of the kind; but if it be required to gain or collect anything spiritual, you call the matter a waste of time. And how shall you not anger God, if you find leisure and assign a season for everything else, and yet think it a troublesome and unseasonable thing for your children to take in hand what relates to Him?

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 1

[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

Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me. Jn 14:6

June 4, 2014 + About the Appearance of the Prophet Jeremiah from the Other World

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prays much for the people and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremiah the prophet of God (2 Maccabees 15:13-14).

This was the vision which was seen by the courageous Judas Maccabees. The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah. Just as Moses and Elijah were seen in glory by the apostles on Mt. Tabor, thus, at one time Judas Maccabees saw the Prophet Jeremiah in glory. Not even before the resurrected Christ did God the Merciful leave men without proof of life after death. In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end. Whoever, even after all of this, doubts in life after death, that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone. As inanimate things cannot see the light of day, so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.

Chaplain's Corner + Silence is Golden

by Fr. George Morelli

A number of aphorisms inspired by popular wisdom are especially applicable to this age of instant global communication. I immediately think of one of my father’s favorite instructional sayings: “The wisest word is the word unspoken.” What brings this to my mind are recent media accounts of some notable individuals making some quite unwise statements that they think are private comments, but which later end up being publically broadcasted. Often the individuals themselves are adversely affected, and when they are associated with others, be they corporations, governments or sport teams, the untoward effects extend to many.

Would it not be ideal if “the word unspoken” were not just motivated by desire to avoid the inauspicious consequences of making unwise statements, but, rather, sprang from the habits of a truly virtuous mind and heart? Buddhist wisdom is particularly apt in this understanding: “Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”[i] When one has acquired such virtue, then wise silence should follow because it is built on a solid foundation.

May 28, 2014 + No One Can Harm the Man Who Does Not Harm Himself

by St. John Chrysostom

... And, tell me, what was the case of the blessed Paul? For there is nothing to prevent my making mention of him again. Did he not experience innumerable storms of trial? And in what respect was he injured by them? Was he not crowned with victory all the more in consequence—because he suffered hunger, because he was consumed with cold and nakedness, because he was often tortured with the scourge, because he was stoned, because he was cast into the sea? But then some one says he was Paul, and called by Christ. Yet Judas also was one of the twelve, and he too was called of Christ; but neither his being of the twelve nor his call profited him, because he had not a mind disposed to virtue. But Paul although struggling with hunger, and at a loss to procure necessary food, and daily undergoing such great sufferings, pursued with great zeal the road which leads to heaven: whereas Judas although he had been called before him, and enjoyed the same advantages as he did, and was initiated in the highest form of Christian life, and partook of the holy table and that most awful of sacred feasts, and received such grace as to be able to raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils, and often heard discourses concerning poverty, and spent so long a time in the company of Christ Himself, and was entrusted with the money of the poor, so that his passion might be soothed thereby (for he was a thief) even then did not become any better, although he had been favoured with such great condescension.

May 21, 2014 + On the Name of Jesus

by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov

Elder Sophrony Sakharov, a true Father in Christ for our times, having immersed himself in the practice of pure prayer from the heart, explains that:

"the Name Jesus as His proper Name is ontologically connected with Him. For us it is the bridge between ourselves and Him [cf. Jn. 20:29]. It is the channel through which divine strength comes to us. Proceeding from the All-Holy, it [His Name] is holy and we are sanctified by invoking it. With this Name and through this Name our prayer acquires a certain objective form or significance: It unites us with God."

May 14, 2014 + On the Delayed Coming of the Holy Spirit

by St. John Chrysostom

But why did the Holy Ghost come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after his departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended "when the day of Pentecost," that is, the fiftieth, "was fully come?" (Acts ii. 1.) And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet come, that He said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost?" (John xx. 22.) In order to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. For if Daniel fainted at the sight of an Angel (Dan. viii. 17), much more would these when about to receive so great a grace. Either this then is to be said, or else that Christ spoke of what was to come, as if come already; as when He said, "Tread ye upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the devil." (Luke x. 19.) But why had the Holy Ghost not yet come? It was fit that they should first be brought to have a longing desire for that event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ Himself departed, and then the Spirit descended. For had He Himself been there, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. On this account neither did He come immediately after Christ's Ascension, but after eight or nine days. It is the same with us also; for our desires towards God are then most raised, when we stand in need.

Staying Connected To Our Spiritual Family: Our Parish Church

by Fr. George Morelli

This article is an adaptation and revision of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR)i President’s Message 2014 04.  I would pray that all readers who are not Society members would be “friends” of the Society because we are commanded by Christ as is mentioned below that we “all may be one.”

All the members, associate members and friends of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) know the great importance of assiduously praying and working to conform ourselves - and all of our Apostolic Churches and Christian ecclesial communities as well - to Christ’s priestly prayer to His Father at the Last Supper: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (Jn 17: 21).ii Though St. John records Our Lord using the phrase “may be one” three times in His discourse (in verses 11,1, and 22), I have chosen verse 21 because in this prayer Christ tells the ill consequences of separation and the blessings of unity: “. . .that the world may believe.” Separation is a scandal that disparages Christ and His Church. It sows the evil seed of mockery of His message. It is as if onlookers could say: “If those who call themselves Christians cannot get along, how credible are any of Christ’s teachings?”

May 7, 2014 + On Sacred Tradition, Part 2

by Fr. Michael Pomazansky

We find this sacred ancient Tradition

  • in the most ancient record of the Church, the Canons of the Holy Apostles;
  • in the Symbols of Faith of the ancient local churches;
  • in the ancient Liturgies, in the rite of Baptism, and in other ancient prayers;
  • in the ancient Acts of the Christian martyrs. The Acts of the martyrs did not enter into use by the faithful until they had been examined and approved by the local bishops; and they were read at the public gatherings of Christians under the supervision of the leaders of the churches. In them we see the confession of the Most Holy Trinity, the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, examples of the invocation of the saints, of belief in the conscious life of those who had reposed in Christ, and much else;
  • in the ancient records of the history of the Church, especially in the book of Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea, where there are gathered many ancient traditions of rite and dogma-in particular, there is given the canon of the sacred books of the Old and New Testaments;
  • in the works of the ancient Fathers and teachers of the Church;
  • and, finally, in the very spirit of the Church's life, in the preservation of faithfulness to all her foundations which come from the Holy Apostles.

The Apostolic Tradition which has been preserved and guarded by the Church, by the very fact that it has been kept by the Church, becomes the Tradition of the Church herself, it "belongs" to her, it testifies to her; and, in parallel to Sacred Scripture it is called by her, "Sacred Tradition."

April 30, 2014 + On Sacred Tradition, Part 1

by Fr. Michael Pomazansky

IN THE ORIGINAL PRECISE meaning of the word, Sacred Tradition is the tradition which comes from the ancient Church of Apostolic times. In the second to the fourth centuries this was called "the Apostolic Tradition."

... In the following words St. Basil the Great gives us a clear understanding of the Sacred Apostolic Tradition: "Of the dogmas and sermons preserved in the Church, certain ones we have from written instruction, and certain ones we have received from the Apostolic Tradition, handed down in secret. Both the one and the other have one and the same authority for piety, and no one who is even the least informed in the decrees of the Church will contradict this. For if we dare to overthrow the unwritten customs as if they did not have great importance, we shall thereby imperceptively do harm to the Gospel in its most important points. And even more, we shall be left with the empty name of the Apostolic preaching without content. For example, let us especially make note of the first and commonest thing, that those who hope in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ should sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Who taught this in Scripture? Which Scripture instructed us that we should turn to the east in prayer? Which of the saints left us in written form the words of invocation during the transformation of the bread of the Eucharist and the Chalice of blessing? For we are not satisfied with the words which are mentioned in the Epistles or the Gospels, but both before them and after them we pronounce others also as having great authority for the Mystery, having received them from the unwritten teaching.

Chaplain's Corner + Spiritual Neglect

by Fr. George Morelli

Some years ago there was a fast food chain advertisement tagline: “Where’s the beef?” As we look around modern society we can easily modify the tagline as a description of the current ‘state of the world’: ‘Where is the spiritual’? The dictionary word that best fits this description is sloth. Sloth is typically defined as “apathy” and inactivity in the practice of virtue.” It can also be enumerated as one of the “deadly sins,” and be considered as a neglect of God and His word.

In the book of Proverbs (19: 23-24) we read: “The fear of the Lord is unto life: and he shall abide in fullness without being visited with evil. The slothful hideth his hand under his armpit, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth.” Many of the world’s religious traditions warn of the neglect of the spiritual. Hindu writings inform us: “"When a man, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction, and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point."i In Islamic tradition we read: “"O Allah! I seek refuge in You from worry and sorrow. I seek refuge in You from incapacity and sloth.”ii Buddhism lists a number of hindrances or obstructions to attaining a spiritual life. Among the five important ones listed are ‘sloth - torpor (thina-middha). It has its deleterious effect by interfering with tranquility and blocking insight.iii

April 23, 2014 + About Stirring up Pure Minds

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; through them by way of reminder I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition" (2 St. Peter 3:1).

Do you see brethren, the goal with which the Apostle Peter writes in his epistle? To stir up in people their pure minds! The apostle considers this as the main thing. And truly, it is the main thing. For if in every man the dormant pure mind would be awakened, there would not be a single human soul left on earth who would not have believed in Christ the Lord; who would not have confessed Him as the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world; and who would not have contritely turned to repentance for sins committed by the inducement of an impure mind.

April 16, 2014 + Catachesis 73

by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Good Friday

Catechesis 73: On the saving passion of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ

Brethren and Fathers, while the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ when they are recalled are always able to pierce the soul, they do so especially in these present days, on which each of them reached its end. What then are they? The murderous council against him, the Jewish arrest, his being led away to death, his arraignment before Pilate's tribunal, the interrogation, the scourging, the blows, the spittings, the insults, the mockeries, the ascent of the Cross, the nailing of his hands and feet, the tasting of gall, the piercing of his side and all the other things which blazed forth [This word is not in the lexica, but the meaning is clear.] with them, which the world cannot contain, nor can anyone worthily proclaim, not human tongue, nor even all the tongues of angels together. For let us consider, brethren, this great and ineffable mystery. The Lord who reveals the counsels of hearts [1 Cor. 4:5] and knows every human desire is the one who is taken before a council of death; the Lord who bears all things by the word of his power [Hebrews 1:3.] is the one who is handed over to sinners; the Lord who binds the water in the clouds [Job 26:8.] and sows in the earth in due season and uniformly is the one who is led away prisoner; the Lord who measures the heavens with the span of his hand and the earth in a handful and weighed all the mountains in the balance [Isaias 40:12.] is the one who is struck by the hand of a servant; the Lord who adorned the boundaries of the earth with flowers is the one who is dishonourably crowned with thorns; the Lord who planted the tree of life in Paradise is the one who is hanged upon an accursed tree.

Chaplain's Corner + Harmony: What the World Needs Now

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the best ways to reflect on the meaning of harmony is in relationship to music. Historically, the word harmony was derived from the Greek word ἁρμονία (harmonía), which the Oxford English Dictionaryi defines as: "Joint, agreement, concord; the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.", the verb form, can also be considered: "To fit together, to join.” Interestingly, the great composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, connects harmony and Godliness: “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”ii

Ancient Chinese philosophical tradition points out that harmony must start with what I describe as ‘self-concord’ – in the sense of an inner integration of our ethical and moral principles and actions into a “consistent whole.” From ourselves, this inner harmony can radiate out to all. As the Chinese aphorism states: “If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”iii

From the Hindu tradition, but speaking for all mankind, Mahatma Gandhi advises that we should “. . .always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”iv

King David the psalmist tells us: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” (Ps 132:1). The Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton pinpoints the fruit of harmony: “ . . .happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”

April 9, 2014 + Catachesis 68

by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Friday of the 5th Sunday of the Great Fast

Catechesis 68: That we must be renewed for what is ahead through endurance of the trials that fall upon us, both visible and invisible.

Brethren and fathers, because winter has passed and spring has arrived, we see creation flourishing again; the plants are flowering, the earth is growing green, the birds are singing and everything else is being renewed; and we take pleasure in all this and we glorify God the master craftsman who transforms and changes creation year by year, and it is reasonable to do so. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made [Rom. 1:20]. It is our duty not just to stay where we are, but to advance further and to examine carefully for ourselves the logic of creation. How? Because this renewal has winter as its cause. It would not have reached its prime had it not first undergone snows and rains and winds. And so it is with the soul; unless it is first snowed on by afflictions, troubles and difficulties, it will not flower, it will not fruit; but by enduring, it bears fruit and partakes in a blessing from God, as it is written: Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, partakes in a blessing from God [Heb. 6:7].

April 2, 2014 + Catachesis 61

by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Friday of the 3rd Week of the Great Fast

Catechesis 61: That we must not submit ourselves in temptations,
and about fasting.

Brethren and fathers, yesterday a tempest and to-day calm; yesterday a <disturbance> [1] and today quiet; but blessed is God, who has also dispelled the trial and given you power to remain unmoved in the expectation of threats. This is the way of true Christians, this is the way of authentic monks, to hold themselves always in readiness in the face of dangers on behalf of virtue and to consider nothing more precious that the commandment of God. Those who came said what they said, and they left not so much amazed as ashamed; while to you may the Lord grant the perfect reward in return for your having chosen to be persecuted for his sake; and being rich in mercy he knows how to crown from the intention alone the one who chooses the good. But in fact the trial has not been dispelled, but again and again it continues, and particularly because everywhere there are edicts of the rulers that no one is to lag behind from having a share in heretical fellowship. And so let us hear the Apostle when he says, Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

Interiorized Spirituality (Monasticism) and the Domestic Church

Interiorized Spirituality (Monasticism) and the Domestic Church

by Fr. George Morelli

The PowerPoint presentation linked above was given at the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) 2014 03 15 General Meeting, held at Prince of Peace Benedictine Monastery, Oceanside, CA. The society's apostolate is to "work to make known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of Eastern Christianity, and for the fullness of unity desired by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." I have consistently written on the need of the healing the sin (illness) of disunity among the Apostolic Churches [Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic; as well as other Christian ecclesial communites) as taught to us by Christ Himself (as we hear in His priestly discourse to His Apostles at the Mystical Supper, read in Orthodox Churches throughout the world on Holy Thursday Evening of Holy Week) to Christ's prayer to His Father:

March 26, 2014 + Catachesis 66

by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on the Fourth Wednesday of the Great Fast

Catechesis 66: That This Pascha Is a Type of the Future and Eternal Pascha; and About Endurance and Courage.

Brethren and fathers, Lent is already galloping past and the soul rejoices at the imminence of Pascha, because by it it finds rest and is relieved of many toils. Why did this thought sound for me in advance? Because it is as if our whole life directs its reason contemplating the eternal Pascha. For this present Pascha, even though it is great and revered, is nevertheless, as our fathers explain, only a type of that Pascha to come. For this Pascha is for one day and it passes, while that Pascha has no successor. From it "pain, grief and sighing have fled away" [1]; there everlasting joy, gladness and rejoicing; there the sound of those who feast [2], a choir of those who keep festival and contemplation of eternal light; where there is the blessed breakfast[3] of Christ and the new [4] drink of which Christ spoke, "I shall not drink of the fruit of this vine, until I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father". [5] Of this He spoke to his disciples when He was about to ascend to heaven, "I am going to prepare a place for you and, if I go, I will prepare a place for you. I am coming again and I will take you to myself, so that where I am you maybe also. And where I am going you know, and the way you know." [6] And a little further on, "On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you." [7] And elsewhere, "Father, I wish that where I am they may be with Me also, so that they may see My glory, which You gave Me, because You loved from before the foundation of the world." [8] But because this concerns not only the Apostles, but also ourselves, He also said, "I do not ask this only for them, but also for those who through their word believe in Me, so that all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, that they may also be one in Us." [9] What could be more comforting than these words? What could be more appealing? What soul can they not soften? What heart not prick with compunction, even should someone say that the human heart is a nature of stone? With thoughts like these the saints bore all that they bore, considering afflictions as joys, constraints as freedoms [10], struggles as delights, harsh training as relaxation, deaths as lives.

The Story

by Fr. John Oliver
from
Touching Heaven

The curtains fill with faint breeze and tease away from the open window, then hang still again. I cannot sleep. In several minutes the clock beside my bed will ring as I have programmed it to do. I hear no sound but the soft rustle of swaying leaves. Time has passed unnoticed. It is night-one hour before the Easter Pascha Liturgy.

I dress, then move quietly through the house. There is nothing to take to the temple but the usual-joy from the astonishing events that will unfold this night, guilt from another Lent of scattered effort, and hope of meeting Christ, who welcomes the eleventh-hour people. Somehow, though, feelings are irrelevant. Indeed, something infinitely more interesting is moving toward center stage. The dark corners in every fold of the universe rumble in anticipation as the priest readies his vestments and the choir arranges the hymns.

I pat my pockets, listening for the familiar jingle of coins and car keys. The money is needed for a meal at an all-night restaurant; the keys for transporting my hungry body there after the Liturgy. I walk through the living room, brushing with my fingertips the wall holding the icon of the Mother of God. Traveling light, I open the front door and step into a humid Florida night. Faint blue-and-white shades of television screens flicker from nearby homes. It is the only evidence of life I can see, and I imagine that they shine upon the bodies of sleeping men and women.

The Paschal Service of the Eastern Orthodox Church

by Fr. Paul Lazor

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. (Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. St. Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which the Gospel of John describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the risen Christ, the doors being shut (John 20: 19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): ". . . for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39).

The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth as not only the expected Messiah of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . the holy city, new Jerusalem. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-4).

In His death and resurrection, Christ defeats the last enemy, death, and thereby fulfills the mandate of His Father to subject all things under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-26).

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5: 12)

Easter in the Liturgical Year

by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

In the center of our liturgical life, in the very center of that time which we measure as year, we find the feast of Christ’s Resurrection. What is Resurrection? Resurrection is the appearance in this world, completely dominated by time and therefore by death, of a life that will have no end. The one who rose again from the dead does not die anymore. In this world of ours, not somewhere else, not in a world that we do not know at all, but in our world, there appeared one morning Someone who is beyond death and yet in our time. This meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, this great joy, is the central theme of Christianity and it has been preserved in its purity by the Orthodox Church. There is much truth expressed by those who say that the real central theme of Orthodoxy, the center of all its experience, the frame of reference of everything else, is the Resurrection of Christ.

The center, the day, that gives meaning to all days and therefore to all time, is that yearly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. This is always the end and the beginning. We are always living after Easter, and we are always going toward Easter.

Waiting for the Miracle

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
from the Holy Land

Every year during Holy Saturday, for many centuries, there is a most magnificent miracle that continues to take place in Jerusalem since the time we were allowed as Christians to celebrate ceremonies in public.

Pilgrims from all over the world gather in Jerusalem to witness the greatest of all miracles--the Miracle of the Holy Fire.  The miracle has turned into a glorious cultural event, but many simply cannot get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre Church.  The soldiers, the police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ, is a day long adventure. But it always happens at approximately 2 pm on Holy Saturday.

One year, it was a miracle in itself that finally after twenty years waiting, because of the Second Uprising and the height of the violence there was a lack of pilgrims in the Holy Land, I got inside the church myself.

It is an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time. Representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land and beyond, come to receive the Holy Fire and carry the flame back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service.  Special permits must be issued for Christians from Gaza and the West Bank to enter Jerusalem. Furthermore, as an added bureaucracy, you need another ticket/pass to enter the Holy Sepulchre.

Behind Closed Doors

by Fr. Stephen Freeman

The phrase, “behind closed doors,” has become synonymous in English with things being done in secret – generally of an unsavory or nefarious sort. Institutions speak of an “open door policy,” and promise “transparency” to those from the outside. Closed doors have always had a sense of secrecy about them. Sometimes the secrecy hides the darkness of evil, other times it protects us from the wonder of the holy.

The stories of Christ’s resurrection are filled with closed doors. It is a common phrase in the resurrection narratives: “the doors being shut for fear of the Jews.” The disciples had lost their leader and teacher and they feared that they themselves would become victims. That fear led them to flee. It led St. Peter to deny that he even knew Christ. It led them all to hide behind closed doors.

Closed doors occur even earlier. The first doors known in the stories of Scripture are the gates of Paradise. Adam and Eve, having broken God’s only commandment to them, are forced to leave Paradise. The gates of the garden are shut and an angel is set at the gate to guard against their re-entry. More than the story of our first parents – it is the story of man.

The gates represent the brokenness of our communion with God. We exist – we have life – but our life is somehow cut off, “shut out” of its right and proper communion: we stand outside the Garden.

Later mystagogical teaching about the use of doors during an Orthodox service echo this estrangement. The priest praying before the closed doors at Vespers is sometimes said to represent Adam weeping before the closed gates of Paradise.

Our own lives are filled with closed doors – places from which we have been evicted – places into which we may not enter – places that represent secrets and broken relationships. Closed doors have gained an infamous character for good reason.

On Death and Resurrection in Christ

-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Easter Orations

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.

Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.

Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.

Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us ... ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.

Let us become Divine for His sake, since for us He became Man.

He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.

He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.

Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.

We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.

A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!