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His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph's Address to St. Vladimir's Seminary

Crestwood, New York – Sept 14, 2015

Your Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Your Eminences, Your Graces, Father John, Father Chad, reverend fathers, and beloved faculty and students of Saint Vladimir's seminary,

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 

It is my joy to be present with you as you begin your new academic year, with your classes having already begun, and your studies as students, and burdens as professors, already well underway!

St. Vladmir's Seminary has a long history of educating leaders and theologians, and many of our clergy and hierarchs have come to us with the firm foundation that has been imparted to them through their education at St. Valdimir's Seminary.  This legacy is greatly appreciated by all of us. St. Vladimir's Seminary and the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese have a rich, positive and fruitful history, and I pledge to do all that I can during my tenure as Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of North America to maintain and enhance this relationship.

Allow me to make some points in this short talk, using St. Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn, as an example to illustrate what is important.

Have the Antiochians Changed Their Minds?

5th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Photo: GANP/Dimitrios Panagos5th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Photo: GANP/Dimitrios Panagosby His Grace Bishop John, The Word, November 2015

Many are asking if the Antiochians have changed their minds about Orthodox unity in America. Our response to the Proposal of the Canonical Regional Planning Committee printed in The WORD deserves some clarication. After all, Patriarch Ignatius IV, Metropolitan Antony and Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory, as well as the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America have been calling for administrative unity for almost a century. We must have a detailed understanding of the terms under which this unity will be achieved, however. There are many questions which still remain unanswered, and until we have detailed answers it is entirely possible that the proposed unity will not uplift the Church in America, but may very well cause harm, which can never be allowed.

Metropolitan Joseph has reassured us that he remains committed to the process of bringing administrative unity to the new world, and more. "More" means a united outreach to the unchurched Orthodox and non-Orthodox in the neighborhoods of our churches. "More" means mutual respect and cooperation of all people. "More" means meeting the real needs of the faithful in all of our Churches. "More" means that Orthodox churches in the new world take care of everybody, regardless of ethnic identity. To do this we need to be creative, cooperative, open to God and willing to work with each other. In Metropolitan Joseph's words, "While the idea of the Assembly is noble, we need to address many concerns."

October 28, 2015 + The Path to Salvation

by St. Ambrose of Optina

Our salvation, according to St. Peter Damascene, is located between fear and hope, so that we do not have self-confidence and do not despair, but with blessed hope in the mercy and help of God, we strive to conduct a life in fulfillment of the Divine commandments.

According to human reasoning, the path of salvation, it would seem, should be a smooth path, quiet and peaceful; but according to the words of the Gospel, this path is sorrowful, difficult, and narrow. The Lord said, I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).

What does a person need in order to learn the ways of the Lord? A person needs to be meek and humble, and then the Lord Himself will teach him how to walk the way of the Lord.

Spiritual Nuggets + October 18, 2015

The Holy Apostle Luke

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

Blessed Fast!

The following is from the life of St. Luke (The Great Synaxaristes: October; Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, CO, 2002. page 357):

Saint Luke was a painter.... acceding to the pious desire of the early Christians, was the first to paint the image of the all-holy Theotokos.... On seeing the icons, she said: "May the grace of Him Who was born of me, through me, be imparted to them."

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

 


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

October 21, 2015 + On the Benefits of Knowing Holy Scripture

by St. Theophan the Recluse ca. 1815-1894

Psalm 118:16 - On Thy statutes will I meditate; I will not forget Thy words.

St. Basil the Great bears witness that in his time children were made to memorize some psalms and parables. Do we do anything like that now? Is anything like that done by those who have taken up the yoke of asceticism? Yes, in many ways we have fallen behind the salutary practices of old. This, however, does not diminish the value of what is described in this verse. It means the following: Memorize verses of Scripture considered in the preceding text, and repeat what was memorized whenever the mind and speech are free. The Hebrew word corresponding to will meditate means "to turn over with delight in the mind and on the tongue" — as one might a piece of candy, for instance. Such an occupation could be offered to all who sincerely seek to please God in all.

Among us, amy of those living ascetic lives read the Psalter at home in their cells. This partly fulfills the lesson of our verse. And perhaps home prayers, personal and monastic, could be regarded as this type of activity. But more directly it means: to intentionally choose passages of the Holy Scriptures for memorizing and then repeating them in our minds.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 9

[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

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Spiritual Nuggets + October 11, 2015

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

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

The following from St. Cyril of Alexandria's "Sermon on the Parable of the Sower" (quoted in The Bible and the Holy Fathers ed. Johanna Manley, Monastery Books, Menlo Park, CA, 1990; page 220) is an invitation for us to have beautiful and productive.

In Christ,
+ Fr. Noah

Good and Beautiful are the souls who take deeply into themselves the seeds of the Word, and keep them and tend them with care.
- St. Cyril of Alexandria

 


Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage

October 14, 2015 + On How the Angels Do Battle for the Righteous

Homily by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them (Psalm 34:7).

The angel of the Lord will do battle for those who fear God. This has been clearly shown many times, as has been recorded; and it has occurred numberless times that have not been recorded. The Archangel Michael took up arms for Joshua, the Son of Nun. An angel did battle for the righteous King Hezekiah and, in one night, destroyed the army of the Chaldeans. How many times have angels visited the Christian apostles and martyrs of in prison, strengthened them, and caused them to rejoice? The consolation of the righteous one comes from knowing that God is All-seeing, and sees his misfortune; that God is Omnipotent, and has power to save him from misfortune; that God is All-merciful, and will save him from misfortune. God will send His radiant angel to the aid of the righteous. The righteous one will not have to struggle against his tyrant, for the angel of God will do battle in his place. When God's angel takes up arms, what army dares confront him? What empire will wage war against him? In an earlier Psalm, the Prophet David says: No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety (Psalm 33:16-17).

October 7, 2015 + Prayer at Daybreak: To Be Said Each Day on Rising from Sleep

Elder Sophrony (+1993) of Essex, spiritual child of St Silouan the Athonite, gave this prayer to his own spiritual children, to be said 'on rising from sleep.' This version of the prayer is adapted from Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who writes, 'If someone reads this prayer in the morning with contrition and attention, the whole day will be blessed.'

Eternal King without beginning, You who are before all worlds, my Maker, Who have summoned all things from non-being into this life: bless this day that You, in Your inscrutable goodness, give to me. By the power of Your blessing enable me at all times in this coming day to speak and act for You, to Your glory, in Your fear, according to Your will, with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage, wisdom and prayer, aware everywhere of Your presence.

Yes, Lord, in Your immense mercy, lead me by Your Holy Spirit into every good work and word, and grant me to walk all my life long in Your sight without stumbling, according to Your righteousness that You have revealed to us, that I may not add to my transgressions.

O Lord, great in mercy, spare me who am perishing in wickedness; do not hide Your face from me. And when my perverted will would lead me down other paths, do not forsake me, my Savior, but force me back to Your holy path.

The Many Priestly Roles, and Confession

by His Grace Bishop John, The Word, October 2015

Bishop Thomas, Fr. Fred Pfeil, Fr. Joshua Makoul and I spent almost four days at the end of August with all of our seminarians at the Antiochian Village before the seminarians went back to school. This annual program of the Antiochian House of Studies brings together seminarians from three seminaries for fellowship, community-building and a better understanding of Antiochian traditions and practice. The seminarians meet three times during their seminary training to discuss priestly identity, missions and education, and, this year, confession and pastoral counseling. This group of seminarians is bright, dedicated, stable and cooperative.

The bishops and priests leading the retreat reflected on their parish experiences as they shared stories. After some brief priority-setting exercises and discussion, the seminarians used "role-play" to understand better the practice of counseling and confession from the perspectives of the priest and penitent. I will share some of what we discussed to offer some insights into confession, this sometimes underutilized gift of God. We looked at our sacrament from the perspective of "boundaries" or relationships, and discussed how the many roles of the priest affect the praxis, or practice, of this sacrament.

Chaplain's Corner + Courageous Engagement

by Fr. George Morelli

The issue of bystander intervention in crisis situations became a major media and social frenzy as well as a topic of extensive behavioral science investigation after the early morning stabbing murder of a 28 year old woman, Catherine Susan ("Kitty") Genovese, in Queens, NY, on March 13th, 1964. Typical of Initial media reports of the incident was a New York Times front page headline on March 27:: "37 WHO SAW MURDER DIDN'T CALL THE POLICE- Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector." Subsequent investigations did reveal that a couple of individuals did respond, albeit ineffectually.1 However, this incident and reports about it did highlight the general apathy among individuals when confronted with critical incident events. This is what makes those who do act courageously in moments of danger more heroically notable.

Recently, news media worldwide told of the Moroccan alleged terrorist with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on a high speed train. After hearing the first shot he fired, USAF Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone (receiving a severe hand wound in the engagement), Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard specialist, accompanied by their friend Anthony Sadler, and joined by British citizen Chris Norman, tackled and subdued the gunman. It was reported that a couple of others also were involved in overcoming the gunman. As the encounter happened on French soil, they were awarded the French Legion of Honor. In giving the award, President François Hollande said, "Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration. . . .Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that."2

September 30, 2015 + The Church of Christ is Alive and Free

A word to Orthodox Christians from Fr. George Calciu (+2006), offered by Fr. Seraphim Rose (+1982) is his lecture entitled "The Orthodox World-View"

The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you cry out: "Lord, help me." You are in Christ's Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail....Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ....Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.'

September 23, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 6

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Father Paisios always insisted by saying:

"When one of our brothers has a negative thought, we must try to kindly and humbly correct it. It is our duty to do so. Today many people, unfortunately including some of our spiritual fathers, instead of trying to correct falsified thoughts, they either consent to them, or even distort the positive ones. I will give you an example so you can understand the way they function:

Suppose a young man says to his spiritual father:
- A friend of mine did this and that to me.
And thus, he starts telling him his negative thoughts about his friend. His spiritual father, instead of trying to change his thoughts and make him love his friend again, views his problem from a social point of view, and wishing to be nice, says to him:

- Since you know what kind of person your friend is, do not pay attention to him. Just ignore him.
The young man may superficially feel better after listening to the words of his spiritual father, but his negative predisposition towards his friend is still inside him. Now, when his friend goes to the same spiritual father to tell him the same things, the spiritual father faces the problem in the same way. He once again regards the problem from a social point of view and calms him down. He lets him, however, keep inside him the negative thoughts he has for his friend.

September 16, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 5

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

The Elder started telling us:

- I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt." There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good. 

Saving God's Creation: Another East-West Alliance

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Summer 2015

Patriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumPatriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumAn exciting convergence of agreement between major Eastern and Western Churches has recently taken place on a critical contemporary moral issue: care for the environment. Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamum has labeled the issue in question existential ecumenism,i because it deals with the problem of living out our lives on earth and cosmos, the creation God has given us dominion over. (Gn 1: 28)

September 9, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 4

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

- When laymen listen to and believe in their own thoughts, they lose their minds, whereas monks are filled with illusions. A monk should not take tranquillizers; his medication is humbleness and repentance. This monk lacks both of these virtues. When these will fill his soul again, all his problems will be solved. Sometimes, he went on, when children behave badly towards their parents or insult them, they immediately start to be receptive to the devil's energies and become confused. By cursing or slandering their parents, they give the devil the right to interfere in their lives and control their actions. The same thing happens to monks, when they accept negative thoughts about their elder or the rest of the monks; this way, they give the right to the devil to fight them. When someone trusts his negative thoughts, he tends to disregard other people's advice. He can only listen to someone whom he absolutely trusts- after his own thoughts. For this reason, when he needs help, he can only accept it from the person he trusts the most. Concerning medication, that is tranquillizers, they may be of some assistance to people in serious conditions, that is, those who are filled with illusions, or are on the verge of losing their minds. If, for example, our fellow man's mental condition is seriously deteriorating, we should give him a certain dose of medication to stabilize it. At the same time, we must show him love and try to correct his negative thinking and persuade him not to listen to his own thoughts. As his condition is improving, the dose of his medication should also be reduced. This should last for a while.

Chaplain's Corner + Undue Concern over Others' Problems

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others problems is that we are not able focus on fostering our own healthy physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."1

Sometimes there are situations in which others' problems do affect us. We may personalize the idea that others are not acting the way we want, taking it as a personal insult or slight. However, as cognitive clinical psychologist, Albert Ellis (1962)2 points out, it is our own "injustice-collecting ideas," or what I would label as our demanding expectations that we be 'justly treated,' that inflates our own feelings of annoyance. For example, if someone acts ill-manneredly towards us, it is our own 'self talk' about it that triggers our untoward feelings: "What rudeness he/she has! How dare he/she do that to me." We insist that others follow our own set of rules. We fail to perceive the reality that people are going to act the way they want, not the way we want them too. A psychological alternative is to stop focusing on our own irrational reaction to what others are doing or not doing so that we are able to focus on calmly and caringly help others in overcoming their impediments and challenges.

September 2, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 3

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

One afternoon, I went to visit the Elder. At the fence of his cell stood a man about thirty years old, waiting for him to open the door. When I arrived, Father Paisios opened his window and asked who it is. I replied:

- It's me, Father, and one layman, I said (and I told him his name).

- Tell the layman to leave, he replied.

Then, the layman said beggingly:
- Father, I really wish to see you.

The Elder answered reproachfully:
- Go, because you upset me as you only trust your own way of thinking and do not listen to what I tell you. Why are you coming here wasting your time?

And he told him to go away. Then, he came and opened the door for me to come in.
- He is a real burden, Father Paisios told me. He does not listen to my words. He comes, ask questions and leaves; after a short while, he comes back and asks me the same things over and over again. This happens because he always listens to his own thoughts; therefore, he forgets what I tell him or does not understand a word.

There was another young man who relied completely on his own thoughts and was led astray. One day, he visited Father Paisios, who told him:
- Do not listen to your thoughts, because you will end up losing your mind. Be careful, you have a very good machine, but its wheel faces the wrong direction. You have to turn it to the right direction, where the good thoughts are. Only you, yourself, can do this along with the help of God. Nobody else can do it for you, as you are free and self-dependent. You turn the wheel and your spiritual father will show you the direction.

August 26, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 2

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Looking at this subject from a different point of view, Elder Paisios stressed and greatly emphasised the specific characteristic of love, that is, that “love is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:4). He used to say that “we should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul." The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on his positive thinking. Our acts depend on and are determined by the “machine” we have inside us, and not by the “material” we digest, or the environment we live in. I will give you an example, so you can better understand what I am trying to say:

If one has a machine that produces bullets and feeds it with the highest quality material, let’s say gold, the machine will still convert gold into bullets, golden but destructive bullets; if he feeds it with silver, then it will produce silver bullets; if he feeds it with iron, it will produce iron bullets, or if he feeds it with clay, it will produce clay bullets. In other words, no matter what material he feeds his machine, it still produces bullets, because it was made to manufacture these destructive products. If someone converts the machine into one that produces holy chalices instead of bullets, then whatever material he feeds it, it will always produces holy chalices. If he puts in the machine clay or iron, it will manufacture clay or iron chalices respectively.

Coming Soon: Focus on the Nicene Creed

COMING SOON!

A series of bite-sized blogs focusing on the Nicene Creed, beginning September 2015.

Follow us at: orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com

 

August 19, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 1

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Elder Paisios always urged us to think positively. Our positive thinking, however, should not be our ultimate aim; eventually our soul must be cleansed from our positive thoughts as well, and be left bare having as its sole vestment divine grace granted to us through Holy Baptism. "This is our aim," he used to say, "to totally submit our mind to the grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His grace. In the beginning, we should willingly try to develop positive thoughts, which will gradually lead us to the perfect good, God, to whom belongs every glory, honor and worship; on the contrary, to us belongs only the humility of our conceited attitude."

"We must always be careful and constantly question the nature of our thoughts. When someone is preoccupied and trusts his own way of thinking, he becomes vulnerable to the devil, who is capable of transforming us into sly persons, even when we are honest by nature. The older fathers never trusted their own thoughts. Even for minor problems to which they had to give answers, they prayed to God, or fasted, as a way to "force" divine grace to reveal the answer according to God's will; and after they got the "information", they gave the answer. In our days, when someone has a serious problem and asks for advice, we tend to interrupt him and provide an answer without letting him finish his question first. In this case, we do not only seek the assistance of divine grace, but we also misuse our logic, which was granted to us by God. We are ruled by our own thoughts and unhesitatingly rely on them, very often having to face the disastrous results of our acts."

August 12, 2015 + For a Harmonious Family: A Good Start to Family Life

by St. Paisios the Athonite

—Geronta, a certain young man who has chosen the married life asked me how one properly begins this?

—From the beginning, he should seek to find a good girl who will comfort him, as people are relaxed and find comfort differently with different people. He should not seek to find someone who is rich or beautiful, but above all simple and humble. In other words, he should give more attention to interior rather than exterior beauty. When a girl is a positive person and capable of dealing with men, without having more womanly character than is necessary, this greatly helps the man to find immediate understanding and not a lot of headaches. If she also has fear of God and humility then they are able to join hands and pass the evil current of the world.

If the young man is seriously considering a certain girl for a spouse, I think it is better that he first makes his intentions known to her parents through one of his relatives and afterwards he can discuss it himself with the young lady and her parents. Later, if they give their approval and the two are engaged—and it is better that the engagement not carry on too long—he should strive, throughout the passing time until marriage, to view her as his sister and respect her. If both of them struggle with philotimo and keep their virginity, then in the Mystery of marriage, when the priest crowns them, they will richly take of the Grace of God. For, as St. John Chrysostom says, the crowns are symbols of victory against pleasure.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 8

[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

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

August 5, 2015 + About How God Whitens the Repentant Sinners

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).

O, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people "laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4), as "princes [rulers] of Sodom" (Isaiah 1:10) and upon the people who have become as the "people of Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:10) - in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance. Just as after terrible lightnings, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord long-suffering [patient] and full of mercy and "neither will He keep His anger forever" (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become "white as snow." The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it.

St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle

His Grace Bishop Anthony has initiated a series of spiritual meditations on the Holy Apostles. The reflection by Fr. Andrew Kishler of St. George Orthodox Church, Spring Valley, IL, is the second in the series.

Few saints are as prominent in our Eastern Orthodox tradition as St. Andrew the Apostle. Various early traditions recount his missionary travels throughout Eastern Europe: what is now Greece, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Our "first among equals," the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, is known as the successor of St. Andrew. Indeed, St. Andrew is dear to the hearts and minds of many Orthodox Christians worldwide.

But before he became the patron saint of some of the most prominent Orthodox nations and sees, who was he? He appears in all four Gospels as one of the Twelve Disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Gospel of St. John informs us that he was the first of the Lord's disciples, hence St. Andrew's title in Greek, "Protokletos" (First-Called). He is not as prominent a personality in the Gospels as some of the others, particularly his more boisterous brother Simon Peter. But St. Andrew is always there, just below the surface. And by observing the few times he rises to the surface of the Gospels, we can discern something about his personality, his close relationship with his Master, and his role as a guide and intercessor for the Holy Church today.

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