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Good Marriage XXIV: Trust - A Cornerstone of a Godly Marriage

by Fr. George Morelli

"Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." (1Cor 4: 2)

"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (Pv 31: 11)

Developmental psychologist Eric Erickson (1964a) conjectures that during infancy the continuity of comforting sensory experiences with adults promotes a sense of trust that serves as  a root for the resolution of the successive challenges the individual will confront over a lifespan.  Erickson goes on to suggest that the appropriate proportion of trust over mistrust produces hope. He states, "Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensible virtue inherent in the state of being alive." (Erickson, 1964b).

Erickson's understanding  is also very descriptive of a functional marriage. Beck (1988), for example, considers trust one of the three major components of a functional relationship - commitment and loyalty being the others.  Beck considers them "a force for stability" that, once developed, "protect[s] the closeness, intimacy, and security of the loving bond."

Beck (1988) goes on to give examples of attitudes or beliefs that indicate basic trust:

  • "I can depend on my spouse to guard my best interests."
  • "I know that my spouse would not intentionally hurt me."
  • "I know that I can depend on my spouse for help in ordinary situations or in an emergency."
  • "I know my spouse will be available when I need him or her."
  • I can assume good will on the part of my spouse."

COMMITMENT AND LOYALTY: THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF TRUST

November 23, 2011 + "Say Thanks"

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, November 1980

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians, 5:20-21)

Thanksgiving is so deeply embedded in the spirit of the Christian faith that it would be impossible to excise it without destroying the faith. While we understand that faith, hope and love are essentials of our belief, there are other essentials, components and characteristics which are also important in making up the totality of the Christian faith. Thanksgiving is one of these key essentials. We hear about the need to repent, to reach out to others to help them, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to fast, to pray, but the quality of all of these things is enriched by a sense of gratitude, an understanding that all good things come from above, “From Thee, the Father of Lights”; that everything which is creative, constructive and positive comes from Him.

What is the Difference between a Cradle Orthodox Person and a Convert?

by Fr. Stephen Powley

By these terms, cradle Orthodox and convert, we mean, on the one hand, someone who is born into an Orthodox family and is baptized as an infant, and on the other hand, someone who converts to the Orthodox Faith from some other religion or from none. As far as the Orthodox Church is concerned, the answer to the question is that there is no difference. They are both members of the Holy Orthodox Faith and have the opportunity to grow toward theosis and salvation through a sacramental life of faith. Each of these individuals has positive and negative possibilities for their spiritual lives, arising from their life situations.

On the positive side, cradle Orthodox have the wonderful opportunity of growing up in the Orthodox life and faith from their earliest years. They have the oppor- tunity to partake in the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ Himself, each week throughout their lives. They can also be blessed with other sacraments of the faith, such as Holy Confession and Holy Unction, regularly. They live in a community of Faith where t h e y may find a spouse one day and participate in the Sacrament toof Holy Matrimony. They also can wit- n e s s some of the community being ordained to the Holy Priesthood or tonsured as Monastics. They can also experience the support of the entire Orthodox family when a loved one falls asleep in the Lord and is provided an Orthodox funeral. Throughout their lives they are in an environment where they can learn and grow spiritually to become mature Orthodox Christians.

Delegation to Syria

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic- speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Huneycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; and two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson. An expert in international law, James Perry, came with us, too, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its Executive Director.

The following is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned.

Let me begin by expressing a deep, sincere gratitude to Metropolitan PHILIP, both for the golden opportunity to visit Syria and for the confidence he placed in myself and the others he sent.

Most of this trip was devoted to matters not directly related to its purpose – namely, visits to shrines and other places of cultural interest. We began, in fact, by first paying our respects at the house of St. Ananias, the first bishop of Damascus, who baptized Saul of Tarsus. We also saw the window in the city wall, through which the Apostle was lowered in a basket. We walked many blocks along and around the “street called Straight,” passing through the Christian and Jewish sections of the city. (There are still three thousand Jews in Syria, by the way, another of the minorities who find a secure home in that country.)

November 16, 2011 + from Hidden Hunger

by Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
from The Word, April 1960

Consider if you will and visualize the people who are most unhappy, the dejected, dispirited, disheartened are not the poor in material matters, but those whose whole being vibrate to the tune of the dollar’s ring, those whose sole purpose is the accumulation of wealth. The reason for our unhappiness and misery is not wealth itself, but rather the love of it which the Bible characterizes as the “root of all evil”. In other words, the root of all evil springs from ungodly, unnatural, inordinate love for money or its equivalent. The reason is obvious. One would then have driven a wedge, created a barrier between himself and God on the one hand, and between himself and his fellow human beings on the other. Why? Because he had parted company with God. God to him is a partner and deserves recognition only as He dishes out more wealth, but he is willing and ready to deny God if he thinks God has gone back on him. The same thing is true relative to man, he is one’s friend as long as he is useful and profitable in material matters, but once that has been removed, there won’t be any more friendship.

The Wounds in the Body of Christ

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Winter 2009

If you turn on any news-program or look at the front page of almost any newspaper no one living in today’s world can miss the egregious personal, social, political and religious brokenness surrounding us. It is also so easy to perceive this brokenness as being the problem and responsibility of others. However, in the Eastern Church there is no such thing as a solitary sin. Even an infraction done in total privacy is a wound to the totality of mankind created by God. Just as an injury to any part of our body actually affects the entire body, so too, all of us are affected by the sins of even the ‘least’ one who makes up God’s human creation.

Because the Church is mystically “Christ’s Body,” how much greater are sins that injure the Church? The sinfulness of separation, the brokenness of those who make up the Body of Christ is a glaring violation of Our Lord’s priestly prayer at the last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Separation is a wound, scandal, illness, infirmity, and thus a dreadful sin. All of us are affected by this wound and all of us are called upon to heal this wound. A theme of one of the great feasts of the beginning of the civil calendar year is the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (4:17) read on the Sunday after the Theophany: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The first step in healing any sin is repentance. Repentance means a change of mind and heart. But there is prior step we have to do that enables us to repent.

November 9, 2011 + from The Sacrament of Love

by Rev. Robert E. Lucas
from The Word, October 1963

At the holy supper, the Redeemer’s voice reverberated throughout the room in significant tones, “Do this is commemoration of Me.” Thus Holy Mother Church has since that day celebrated on myriad altars throughout time this great mystery and has united its faithful to Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Our altars remain the centers of Christian life—the center for the priests who there go to offer the sacrifice and there make known the word of God. The Eucharist reposes on the altar and the altar must NEVER be regarded as a sacred shrine to be looked upon with reverence. But the Eucharist is a food to be received, it is food for life, for the proper living of the Christian life.

The greatest gift which the merciful God ever bestowed upon mankind is Jesus Christ. His delight was to be with the children of men. That He might be with them always as their changeless Friend, their inspiring Counselor, and their great High Priest, He instituted the sacrament of the real presence.

November 2, 2011 + Ask A Busy Person

by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, November 1969

The master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master . . . For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ (Matt. 25:21, 29)

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a saint in our icons? They are always direct, responsive, piercing. Never are the saints portrayed in profile. A saint is one who responds to God’s demands on him, accepting the challenge to be a responsible being.

In a parish, the responsibility for getting things done always falls on the shoulders of just a few people. Periodically, we look around for talent, hoping to get others, as many as possible, involved in planning and carrying out decisions.

What happens is that several projects won’t be accomplished, or else just half finished, thrown together at the last minute. The end result is giving the duties back to the old reliables, all of them having five or six activities going on simultaneously, proving once more the old maxim:  “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

The Pursuit of God's Peace in an Anxious World

By Fr. Joshua Makoul

The world in which we live is an anxious one, rife with fear and doubt. Economic markets rise and fall, employment fluctuates, conflicts erupt in unexpected places, and each year seems to bring a threat of some new virus that threatens mankind.

On the Blood of the Martyrs

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Fall 2009

Are we on the cusp of the fullness of time in which a confluence of forces, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will bring down the wall of separation between the Eastern, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Churches under the omophorion of the Bishop of Rome? Why pose the question in this way? In the past many international theological consultations have taken place. These consultations involve theologians from the Churches. The Bishop of Rome has also met with individual Orthodox patriarchs and bishops. The wall of separation remains. However, as noted by a ‘monk of the Eastern Church’: “human barriers do not reach up to heaven.”

Now it seems a next step has been suggested following a meeting, described as “remarkably harmonious,” between Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate. (See page 3 for details. http://lightoftheeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ssjcnewsfall09-11.pdf) Both men are described as scholars, theologians, liturgists, and lovers of music. In addition, Archbishop Hilarion is a world famous gifted composer. Also, following a meeting between the Archbishop and Cardinal Kasper, the Cardinal suggested that a conference of Orthodox European bishops could possibly form a partnership in dialogue between the Churches in the future. A conference of Orthodox bishops would elevate succeeding talks from one on one encounters of individual Patriarchs to a more unified Orthodox witness, voice and consensus.

October 26, 2011 + Fearing True Freedom

by Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, October 2000

During the month of October this year, we hear the Gospel account of the Gadarene demoniac (Luke 8:26-39). The story is familiar to us for it is read twice each year (cf. also Matthew 8:28-34). Upon arriving in the country of the Gadarenes, a Gentile country opposite Galilee, Jesus encounters a demon-possessed man who is terrorizing the people of the area. The Scriptures tell us that so violent was the man that he was kept in shackles; but in a demon-possessed fit of rage he broke the chains and went into the wilderness.

Jesus commanded the demons to come out of the man. As the Gospel account relates, the demons fled into a herd of swine, Upon entering the swine, the herd “ran violently down the steep place into the lake and were drowned” (Luke 8:33).

The Gospel account concludes with a group of witnesses reporting to the surrounding community what had happened. Upon hearing the report, “the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them for they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:3 7). In Matthew we are told the people begged Jesus to leave.

Two Articles on Orthodox Education: Public School and Home School

The following articles are archived selections from Orthodox Family Life. The first deals with secular education in the public school setting. The second article pertains to Orthodox Home School, which is becoming increasingly popular and more common. Whether your children are part of the public school system or receiving their instruction at home, there are specific challenges unique to each setting. 


 

Making the Most of Your Children's Public School Education

by Ann Marie Gidus-Mecera

While the trend of many Christians today, including a growing number of Orthodox Christians, is to home school their children, many have chosen (or do so out of necessity) to educate their children through the public school systems.

Any concerned Orthodox parent is aware of the negatives attached to a public school education, and very often struggle with this on an on-going basis. While the purpose of this article is not to defend the benefits of a public school education, it will attempt to help Orthodox parents turn those negative factors into positive learning experiences.

October 19, 2011 + Form Without Substance

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, November 1986

If one wishes to join a private club or an athletic association one must submit an application, be approved by the membership committee and, in most cases, by the membership at large. St. Paul may have had these things in mind two thousand years ago, when he said:  “Thank the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light,” (Colossians 1:12).

If belonging to organizations is so important to us, how much more urgent is it that we may be joined unto the saints? Being aware that it is possible to be part of an eternal order, joined by the love, the compassion, the sacrifice and the Resurrection of Christ, we should strive always to become part of this union. Our club membership can be rescinded if we do not pay our dues. We might even be so busy that we can’t attend and take advantage of the facilities. But when we join the Saints, somehow, by God’s Grace, a transformation occurs within us that makes it very difficult to separate ourselves from Him.

The Kingdom of God is not like a country club with limited membership, but it is so widespread that if the chosen do not respond to the Divine invitation, God will reach out into the world and elect the seemingly unelectable, and still there will be room. How immeasurable the Kingdom of God! (St. Luke 14:16-24).

The Society of St. John Chrysostom as Witness

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Summer, 2009

In a recent interview Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, new head of the Department of External Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted an ongoing problem that the church lacks a bridge to the outside world. He notes: “A person will have to surmount his own numerous barriers separating him from the church world – barriers psychological, cultural and linguistic.“ To accomplish this task he perspicaciously notes that the church has to break down the “… mechanism of alienating people … expecting indifferently that they will come and surmount all the barriers on their own.” Archbishop Hilarion notes that accomplishing this task will involve both clergy and active lay people.

Promoting dialogue between Eastern and Western Christian, making known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of the apostolic churches, is the stated goal of the Society of St. John Chrysostom (SSJC). The Society is one part of the body of Christ, as in the words of St. Paul: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Cor 12:20), which acts to work and pray that the Apostolic Churches will seek the unity Christ desired. We know this from His prayer for His Body, the Church at the Last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11). Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Church does not use “aggressive and importune methods of mission,” as do some Protestants, but we are to announce Christ to the world by the witness of our example. We can become missionaries in the sphere of our own personal life.

October 12, 2011 + from Homily XIX

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the 2nd Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians

"Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart."  (2 Corinthians 9:7) 

For a man when left to himself, does a thing more readily than when compelled. Wherefore also he dwells upon this:  for having said, "according as he is disposed," he added, "Not grudgingly, nor of necessity." And neither was he content with this, but he adds a testimony from Scripture also, saying,

"For God loveth a cheerful giver."

Seest thou how frequently he lays this down? "I speak not by commandment:" and, "Herein I give my advice:" and, "as a matter of bounty, and not as of extortion," and again, "not grudgingly, nor of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver."  In this passage I am of opinion that a large [giver] is intended; the Apostle however has taken it as giving with readiness.  For because the example of the Macedonians and all those other things were enough to produce sumptuousness, he does not say many things on that head, but upon giving without reluctance. For if it is a work of virtue, and yet all that is done of necessity is shorn of its reward, with reason also he labors at this point. And he does not advise merely, but also adds a prayer, as his wont is to do, saying, 

(Verse 8) "And may God, that is able, fulfill all grace towards you."

Finding Refreshment at the Annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage

From September 23-25, faithful traveled to the St Thekla Pilgrimage for the Patronal Feast of the St Thekla Monastery at the Antiochian Village for a weekend of prayer, refreshment, focus and fellowship. As pilgrims trickled in on Friday evening after busy weeks of work and the demands of daily life, they were offered hospitality and a time to unwind and transition in prayer at Vespers and then in fellowship and discussion following a movie. Saturday was a full day that began with Orthros and the Divine Liturgy, followed by brunch and workshops on Orthodox Family Life, Living Faithfully Though Crisis, the Sacraments, and a discussion of the book Miles to Go. After a break, we convened at the Shrine of St Thekla, located at the Village Camp and prayed the Supplication to St Thekla and were anointed with the miraculous oil from the lampada that burns in the Shrine of St Thekla in Ma’aloula, Syria.

October 5, 2011 + Good Leaders Are Good Followers

by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, October 1984

Leadership is an elusive quality and like so many characteristics of the outstanding human being, very difficult to describe. I think each of us has his own definition of leadership and what makes a good leader. In my opinion, a good leader is one who, first of all, has been a good follower, one who has proven oneself able to take instructions, able to subordinate one’s will to the will of others who have assumed the responsibility of leadership, able to make constructive comments and debate issues when necessary and able to stand up for the principles in which one believes. Having done this one can be called a good follower and begins to qualify for leadership although, I must say, not all good followers make good leaders. There are some people who are marvelous as choir singers but terrible as choir directors. Many of us are excellent followers but not all of us are good leaders.

To be a good leader, I believe one has to know where he is going, needs to understand what purposes and objectives are to be reached, needs to cling to those purposes and objectives and never compromise with the truth. Now there are times when he may have to bend a little, yield a little, but he always keeps a clear vision of the ultimate goal that he and his group wish to attain, and he dedicates himself totally and completely to achieving that goal ethically.

Relativism: The Enemy of All Apostolic Churches

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Spring 2009

A recent report released by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that Americans are more ready than ever to change or drop their religious traditions and that many are unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions. Particularly disturbing in this report is that Catholics and Orthodox, the Churches founded by Christ Himself, tracing in unbroken succession from the Apostolic tradition, are among the groups with a low percentage of respondents who hold that they are the one true faith leading to eternal life.

However, did not Jesus Himself say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me?" (Jn 14:14) Did not St. Paul tell the first Christians: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it?” (1 Cor 12:27) Did not St. Paul tell the Hebrews (10: 23-25): “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some...?” Did not Christ Himself warn us of the dire consequences of wasting Godly gifts when He said: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required?” (Lk 12:48) This is especially true for the apostolic churches who have the greatest gift of all, the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord God and Savior Himself passed down to us from Christ to the apostles in an unbroken succession to our bishops. Christ did this when He ordained His apostles by saying: “Do this in remembrance of me." (Lk 22: 19). These are not relativistic statements; they are the cornerstone of the Body of Christ - the Church.

Chaplain's Corner: Compassion - The Forgotten Virtue

by Fr. George Morelli

Even a casual look at the world today would reveal an abundance of self-centeredness and fixation on ideologies. Compassion is well hidden. This despite many of the world religions and the findings of psychologists teaching that mercy and compassion lead to favorable personal and social outcomes. The Hebrew prophet Ezra tells us,” For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him." (2Chr 30: 9).  Buddha taught that, "Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." [http://www.compassion.ancientfountainofyouth.com/about.html].

Our Eastern Church Father St. Isaac of Syria links compassion to an essential characteristic of God Himself: "God's holy nature is so good and compassionate that it is always seeking to find some small means of setting us right." St. Isaac also points out that, "Among all God's actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." (Brock, 1997).

Smart Parenting XXIII: Coping with Bullying

by Fr. George Morelli

...but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through... kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love.... (2 Cor 6:4,6)

In a recent Smart Parenting essay on the spiritual and practical aspects of love (Morelli, 2011), I start out simply with  St. John's most profound yet un-complex understanding of God: "God is love." (1 Jn 4:16). This love is shown in the relation of the persons of the Holy Trinity amongst themselves, God's creation and continuing care for His people, and the self-emptying (kenotic) love Christ has for us by His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection for our salvation.  I then go on to point out that we must understand  the meaning and application of Divine Love in our families and to the world. We have to emulate in our own lives this same love and model this to our children and others by our behaviors, which should be:

a set of actions that are aimed at the good and welfare of the other. Love means having truly beneficent care for the welfare of others in thought word and deed.

In a follow-up essay, (Morelli, 2011b) I point out that if love is understood in this way, we would be given one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace. And in turn, children disposed to peace in working through their relationships with others.

September 28, 2011 + The Ten Commandments

by Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
from The Word, October 1958

“And God spoke all these words, saying,

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.   You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.
  3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. “Honor thy father and thy mother.
  6. “Thou shalt not kill.
  7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. “Thou shalt not steal.
  9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.
  10. “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

In the Ten Words, or the Ten Commandments, which God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai we find the foundation upon which rests the structure of our civilization. The Ten Commandments are timeless and ageless. There will never be an age or a civilization when it will be right to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, or to lie. The Ten Commandments are a moral conviction which binds mankind together. They echo in all the Churches of Christendom. They constitute the most ancient of all creeds, to which men of good will everywhere give assent. They strike a universal chord and sound the music of that eternity which God hath set in the heart of man.

Winner of the 2011 Oratorical Contest: Madeleine Lengyel-Leahu

“For all of us who doubt the strength of our faith; for all of us who are not called to be eaten by lions, or thrown into a fiery furnace; for all of us who are not called to die for our faith; those holy apostles, those twelve men, they knew the one thing we would need most, our life-preserver in a sea of trouble, our sanctuary from those who tempt us, our teacher to help guide our course: those amazing, gifted men of the priestly ranks.”

I am so grateful that I was born into the Orthodox faith. There are so many people who wander about in this world with no sense of purpose or belonging, but never an Orthodox Christian. Every Orthodox Christian knows exactly why they are here. In God’s plan, He made all of us, male and female, in His image. And the purpose of our life is to see the image of God in ourselves and in everyone around us. In my most recent understanding, I am not merely an Orthodox Christian because my parents thought I should be baptized. I am not merely an Orthodox Christian because my family goes to church on Sunday mornings and other holidays. I am an Orthodox Christian because of the choices I make every single day. I didn’t get here by accident and I didn’t get here simply because I was born into a certain ethnicity. But I got here, at this point in my life, because of the people in my life. And while I will forever be grateful for my grandparents, and parents, and aunts, and uncles, and even my cousins, I am personally humbled by the relationships I have had with the men who have dared to wear that distinctive collar, who drop to their knees, and fight for me, like a man after God’s own heart.

September 21, 2011 + The Church, Vertical and Horizontal

by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, May 1967

“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with... ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciple saw it, (they said) “Why this waste? This ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. Jesus said... ‘She has done a beautiful thing to me. For the poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.’” (Matt. 26:6)

Generally, there are two types of critics of the Church, both of whom see the Church imperfectly.

On the one side, there are the activists, whose idea of Christianity is almost exclusively that of social welfare. They see the need for action and reform at every level of society. Salvation as a goal is replaced by human improvement. Christianity is to witness to the world its concern for humanity.

The Church for the activists fails because it concerns itself with dogmatic Truths that are not “relevant” for “modern man.” The Church as an institution no longer “relates” to society; therefore, it must redeem itself.

At the other extreme are the contemplatives, who see everything in the light of eternity. This world is sinful and corrupt; it has always been so, and will be this way until the Second Coming. All this will pass, so there is no need to be concerned about world conditions… “God will provide” is their motto, so we waste our time getting involved in the world.

September 14, 2011 + The Liberating Cross

by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, September 2000

On the Sunday following the Exaltation of the Cross we hear Christ say: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”

On the face of it, this seems a hard statement, this demand to deny ourselves and take up a cross. After all, I already have so many demands and responsibilities placed on my shoulders. I have to pay the bills, raise the kids, clean the house, go to work, go to school, please my spouse, take care of my failing health. . . how can I place a cross on my shoulders when I’m already carrying so much?

I’ll go to church, pay my assessment, pray before dinner — that’s about all I can handle.  We read these words of Christ and they sound like a demand, a requirement. It sounds burdensome to carry a cross, to deny myself, to lose my life in order to find it. It almost sounds like a form of slavery, this demand to deny myself.

Just the opposite is true. Christ promised us that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Christ came into the world not to bring slavery, but to bring liberation — liberation from sin and death. It is sin and death to which we are enslaved. The way of the cross is the way to freedom.

September 7, 2011 + My Bible, My Friend

by V. Rev. Fr. James Meena
from The Word, September 1987

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we hear Jesus quote the ancient scripture from the prophesies of Isaiah and from that moment on, He began to preach this message: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand,” (4:12-17). Those particular words have stirred up some anxiety and fear in the hearts of people without warrant for many years. Jesus was not threatening us, nor should we interpret this statement, as do some of our fellow Christians, as being just a precautionary admonition, “repent or else,” because the scriptures are filled with “or elses.” It was not necessary for Jesus to come and to utter another one. What He was saying is, in effect, prepare yourself for it because there is no way that you can enter into that kingdom so long as you bear in your conscience the brands of sin and guilt for having transgressed the commandments of God.

Now Jesus, though He is the Son of God, was steeped in scripture. All throughout the testaments of the four evangelists, we find Jesus quoting the scriptures and it is necessary for us to learn from His example that it is necessary for us to be able to understand scripture, not merely to memorize chapter and verse, for Jesus simply stated: “The prophet Isaiah said,” and He knew that the people to whom He was speaking understood because they knew the scriptures. It is necessary however for us to know the spirit of scripture, its teachings, its intent.