St. Leo the Great (taken from Sermon 73 – First Sermon On the Lord's Ascension)
I. The events recorded as happening after the Resurrection were intended to convince us of its truth. Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved, are today ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might be fortified by needful proofs. For Christ's Death had much disturbed the disciples' hearts, and a kind of torpor of distrust had crept over their grief-laden minds at His torture on the cross, at His giving up the ghost, at His lifeless body's burial. For, when the holy women, as the Gospel-story has revealed, brought word of the stone rolled away from the tomb, the sepulchre emptied of the body, and the angels bearing witness to the living Lord, their words seemed like ravings to the Apostles and other disciples. Which doubtfulness, the result of human weakness, the Spirit of Truth would most assuredly not have permitted to exist in His own preacher's breasts, had not their trembling anxiety and careful hesitation laid the foundations of our faith. It was our perplexities and our dangers that were provided for in the Apostles: it was ourselves who in these men were taught how to meet the cavillings of the ungodly and the arguments of earthly wisdom. We are instructed by their lookings, we are taught by their hearings, we are convinced by their handlings. Let us give thanks to the Divine management and the holy Father who allowed the necessary slowness of belief. Others doubted, that we might not doubt.
An interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios by Pavel Chirila, Professor and Doctor at St. Irene’s Hospital in Bucharest (Romania)
Question: Tell us something about sudden death.
Answer: The assessment of sudden death depends on each one’s viewpoint. For secular people, sudden death is good, accepted and desirable, because they will not suffer and they will not be tormented by illnesses and old age. For believing Christians, though, sudden death is bad, because they are not given the possibility to prepare better for their encounter with Christ and the heavenly Church. When someone visits a high-ranking official, he prepares accordingly. We should do the same with respect to our encounter with Christ.
Preparation, by repentance, is essential. This is why Father Paisios of everlasting memory used to say that cancer is a saintly illness because it has filled Paradise with saints, meaning that a long illness prepares people with prayer and repentance. According to the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, pain cures pleasure. In any case, death is the most certain event. We see it around us, everything dies, all living creatures, our friends, our relatives. What is not certain and is unknown to us is the hour of death, when death will come. It may happen while sleeping, while walking, while traveling, while working, while entertaining ourselves, etc. This is why we should pray to God daily, as the Church does: “For the completion of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord” and “For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord”.
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The Prologue from Ohrid
"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it" (Proverbs 3:27).
The Lord does not deny you that which you need, neither should you deny the man whom the Lord has sent to encounter you in order to test your heart. If a beggar extends his hand to you for help once in your life, give to him and do not refuse. Remember how many years there are in your life and how many are the hours in a day and how many are the minutes in an hour-every minute of so many, many thousands of days you extend your hand to the Lord and the Lord gives and does not refuse. Remember the mercy of God and your lack of mercy will burn you as a live coal and it will never give you any peace until you repent and soften your heart.
by St. Theophan the Recluse
On Mid-Pentecost we hear the call of the Lord: "Whosoever thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37). If this is so, then let us all run to Him. Whatever you thirst for - so long as it is not contrary to the spirit of the Lord - you will find relief in Him. If you thirst for knowledge, run to the Lord, for He is the one and only light, enlightening every man. If you thirst for cleansing from sin and quenching of the flames of your conscience, run to the Lord, for He tore asunder the handwriting of our sins upon the Cross. If you thirst for peace in your heart, run to the Lord, for He is the treasury of all good, Whose abundance will teach you to forget all deprivations and despise all earthly good, so as to be filled with Him alone. If you need strength, He is almighty. If you need glory, His glory surpasses the world. If you desire freedom, He gives true freedom. He will resolve all of our doubts, loose the bonds of our passions, dispel all our troubles and difficulties, will enable us to overcome all obstacles, temptations and intrigues of the enemy, and will make smooth the path of our spiritual life. Let us all run to the Lord!
It was Patriot's Day 2013 in Massachusetts. Few around the world are now unaware that the Boston Marathon was run that day. Few are also now unaware that the new Boston Massacre occurred on that day as well. On April 15, 2013 (Patriot's Day), I was writing on my computer at the time and getting 'pop-up' Breaking News alerts of 'an explosion in Boston.' As an example of how common, and thus de-sensitized, I think many of us, including myself, have become to such news alerts, I paid it little attention. As per my work routine, at 4:00 PM CA time I turned on TV News while sorting my email. I immediately saw, once again, that the world as many of us have come to know it was, once again, radically changed.
I want to take the lead from a seminarian who was interviewed by one of the national networks, (I do not recall which network as I was constantly flipping news channels), whose witness reminded that any experience can be made a Godly one if it is tied to prayer. The seminarian and his wife were actually caught in the cross-fire that killed one of the alleged perpetrators: the older brother. Bullets were flying around them. They used the time to pray to God for deliverance during this "nightmare."
We can think of all the responders who came to the aid of the many injured. If their service was done with a pure heart and Godly spirit, then it became a channel of spiritual and psychological healing for all involved. We can also reflect on the great endurance of the victims, their family and friends, the heroic law enforcement officers [let me mention the many from far away states] and the people of Boston, who were on lockdown and living in a state of fear. I believe the apt slogan that has emerged from those affected is "Boston Strong."
The following interview was conducted by George Vassiliou with His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. It was originally published in Επίκαιρα της Αιτωλοακαρνανίας, then republished in Paremvasis (April 1998).
Do you believe the contemporary world can attain the realization of the Resurrection? What is the message you would like to send, as a Hierarch, to young people?
What we have said so far shows the position of the spirit I want to get through in this interview. What I would like to emphasize at this point is that there exists a revolution occurring with hatred and the energies of the Beast of Revelation, and there is a resurrection occurring with love and the energies of the Lamb of Revelation. Christ by His Resurrection made the greatest revolution in history. Not every revolution is or leads to Resurrection, but the Resurrection in Christ Jesus is the true revolution, in the sense that the word "revolution" (επανάσταση) comes from the verb επανίστημι and shows the return (επάνοδο) of humanity to their first-created beauty, the restoration of humanity to our previous glory, and our resurrection from the Fall.
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. John by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria
It is fitting that He grants joy to the women, condemned to bear children in pain and suffering; and peace to the men, on account of the warfare that would engulf them for preaching the Gospel. At the same time He reveals that the cross has ushered in peace: “The cross has brought peace: now I send you forth to proclaim it.” To strengthen and embolden the disciples, He declares, “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. It is My work you have undertaken, so do it boldly: I will be with you.” Behold the authority of his command: “It is I Who sends you (̓Εγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς).” No longer does He condescend to the limitations of their understanding, saying as He often did before the resurrection, “I will ask My Father and He will send you.” Now He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit—but not the entirety of the gift He would bestow at Pentecost. Receive ye the Holy Spirit, means, “Let this partial bestowal of grace make you ready to receive later the fullness of the Holy Spirit.” The words, Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, indicate the particular gift He gives the disciples now: power to forgive sins. Later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit Himself would descend in all His might, lavishing upon the apostles every spiritual gift and power to work wondrous deeds, such as raising the dead.
The Apostle now points out to us the hidden man of the heart (I Peter 3:4) as the object of our most painstaking concern and care. We are to adorn ourselves through the formation of this man within ourselves. What is the meaning of the hidden man of the heart? It is that man which forms in the heart when only good dispositions and feelings come to dwell therein. Examine these dispositions and feelings, and you will see the face of the man hidden in the heart. Here are these dispositions: His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3), and on your part, giving all diligence, writes St. Peter, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love (II Peter 1:5-7). In a similar fashion St. Paul lists the inner good dispositions of the Christian heart: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Also: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts (Col. 3:12-15). Bring together all of these good things into one spiritual body with its various members, and you will see the divinely beautiful Face of the hidden man of the heart. You must fervently establish the same in your own heart.
Only God knows what the state of the world will be by the time this "Chaplain's Corner" is published. So, my spiritual reflection is really dated as of the state of the world at the writing of this article (the second week of April, 2013). News sources report an unusually high awareness among Americans of the current threat of a nuclear war crisis incited by the extreme bellicose threats and actions of North Korean leaders. Words such as "represents threat," "public pessimism" and that "Americans are listening are now being heard worldwide." Such reports also indicate that a poll across all demographic groups in the United States, is that if the North's neighbor, South Korea, is attacked, the United States should respond militarily. How close is the nuclear annihilation clock to ticking to '0?' As of this writing, very close.
All this brings to my mind the words of the psalmist: "All too long have I dwelt with those who hate peace. When I speak of peace, they are ready for war." In other words, peace is precious; it is a treasure. This reflection bespeaks the necessity for all of us at all times to preserve peace and to work and hope to bring about peace. Peace is one of the fundamental teachings of most of the world's religious traditions. An example is Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, who, since the Vietnam War, has worked tirelessly for peace. He pointed out that “Many people think excitement is happiness. . . . But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace. Mahatma Gandhi points out that “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Christ told his followers: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God." (Mt 5: 9).
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue, April 1st
“Penitent wonderful, self-tormentor,
Mary hid herself from the face of men.
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion, darkened.
Passions are beasts which eat at our heart,
In us as serpents, secretly they weave a nest,
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion consumed!
In order to save sinners, You suffered O Christ,
Now, do not loathe impure me!
Hearken to the cry of Mary,
Of all, the most-sinful!
The Lord showed compassion, Mary He healed,
Her darkened soul, He whitened as snow.
by St. Philaret of Moscow
To suffer in the presence of Christ, and in like manner as He suffered, is to have a foretaste of Paradise. Like as the visible material Cross is the royal standard of the visible kingdom of Christ, so is our secret cross the seal and distinguishing mark of the true and chosen servants of the invisible kingdom of God. It is a precious pledge of the love of God – it is the rod of the Father, not so much chastening and breaking the spirit, as “restoring” and “comforting” it [Ps. 2:9; 23:3- 4]; it is the purifying fire of faith, companion of hope, the mortifier of sensuality, the conqueror of passion, the inciter to prayer, the protector of chastity, the parent of humility the teacher of wisdom, the guardian of the sons of the kingdom. Where were all the great angels, the guides and guardians of the Church, the Josephs, the Moses’s, the Daniels, the Pauls, brought up? In the school of the Cross.
by St. Dorotheos of Gaza
In the Law, God laid down that the sons of Israel should each year give tithes of all they possessed, and if they did so they were blessed in all their works. The holy Apostles, knowing this to be for the help and advancement of our souls, resolved to fulfil it in a better and higher way, namely, for us to deliver up a tithe of the very days of our lives as if to consecrate them to God, so that we may be blessed in all our works, and each year to be unburdened of the whole year’s sins. They elected to consecrate out of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, seven weeks of fasting, and so they ordained; but our Fathers, in their time, thought it advisable to add another week, both to train and better prepare themselves to enter on the labor of fasting and to honor with their fasting the holy number of forty days which our Lord fasted. The eight weeks, subtracting Saturdays and Sundays, makes forty days, but we honor Holy Saturday with a fast because it is a very holy day and the only Saturday fast of the year.
Ten short years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a group of Orthodox Christians wanted to reach out to struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live. In addition to praying for them, we wanted to provide tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction. The Treehouse was born.
Today, we have celebrated 15,755 birthdays and helped change over a quarter million diapers! Our goal is to practice our Orthodox faith daily in everything we do at The Treehouse, teaching moms that they are not alone in their struggles. We want them to know that, when their world seems like a very dark place, they have somewhere to turn for hope. We provide them and their babies with positive Christian role models and basic necessities, such as diapers, formula and an inexpensive thrift store. We offer, too, educational classes to nurture our moms so that their babies can flourish.
by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos
“Nobody would dispute that the most important day in a person’s life, after his birth and baptism, is that of his marriage. It is no surprise, then, that the aim of contemporary worldly and institutional upheavals is precisely to crush the most honorable and sacred mystery of marriage. For many people, marriage is an opportunity for pleasures and amusements. Life, however, is a serious affair. It is a spiritual struggle, a progression toward a goal—heaven. The most crucial juncture, and the most important means, of this progression is marriage. It is not permissible for anyone to avoid the bonds of marriage, whether he concludes a mystical marriage by devoting himself to God, or whether he concludes a sacramental one with a spouse.”
From the March 2013 issue of The Word
Eight years ago, David DeJonge came to St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids to photograph the wedding of Jamie Abraham, a parishioner of St. Nicholas. David is a very well-known photographer, having completed portraits of many notable Americans (including President Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, John McCain, Antony Scalia, Newt Gingrich, Jesse Jackson). Being keenly aware of images, David was struck by the icons recently painted by iconographer, Fr. Theodore Koufos. This first encounter with Orthodox icons was the beginning of a spiritual journey that led to his chrismation in the Holy Orthodox Church. David was again engaged to return to St. Nicholas several times to photograph the installation of other icons with the intent of producing a historical picture-book for the parish. It was through his labor and the icons that David discovered the saints who lived from apostolic times down into the twentieth century.
by Judy Terry
St. John Church + Memphis, TN
Download complete PDF document
You have found this link because you have volunteered or been asked to organize your church’s library. Get ready for a fun job! I say fun, because you get to wear many hats: storyteller, public relations specialist, creative director, detective, CEO, and data-entry clerk!
The bad news is that the job is time-consuming on the front end and the pay is low, or probably non-existent. But the good news is that you are bringing the life of the Church and the lives of holy men and women to adults and children seeking the Kingdom of God. And there’s even more good news! You don’t have to do this alone, and you are probably the only person who will know if you make a mistake.
This article will take you step-by-step through setting up your library. Some of you are starting from scratch with a box full of books in the parish hall. Some of you have a room with a bunch of old books that have been gathering dust for ten years. Some have inherited a functioning library from someone who has moved out of town. Managing a library can be very intimidating. Most of you are volunteers, perhaps former or active school teachers or just folks who like to read. Notice, I did not say you need to be a professional librarian!
The following article was taken from the “Orthodox Family Life” archives. May it provide motivation, encouragement, and direction in your journey through Great Lent.
by Matushka Nadia Koblosh
When asked to write an article about what we do in my family to prepare for Pascha, my initial reaction was to decline for I felt vaguely uncomfortable writing on such a subject. It is my feeling that Lent is, be definition, more a time of doing than of talking.
But on second thought, I decided to go ahead. I think there are legitimate questions and problems all Orthodox parents have who sincerely desire to keep Lent and instruct their children in its meaning. And this includes priestly families as well as lay, for there is no special Lent for rectories as opposed to "normal" families! I think that these common questions naturally call for a common discussion and sharing and it is in this vein that I share my thoughts.
First is the whole reality of Lent as such. I think it is very important to approach Lent not as some period of "religious intensity" as opposed to some other period that is not so "religious." In a real sense, the whole Christian life at all times is naturally "Lenten" because the whole Christian life is a preparation for death, resurrection, and judgment. In a way, all Christians are monks and pilgrims. Lent only serves to focus and intensify this basic element of Christian life. I think that if we really experience Lent in all its beauty and power, its spirit always remains with us - even sitting on a beach during a July vacation! This is one goal our family strives for and what we try to cultivate in our children.
by St. Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonderworker
Homily 1: On the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary
“Today are strains of praise sung joyfully by the choir of angels, and the light of the advent of Christ shines brightly upon the faithful. Today is the glad spring-time to us, and Christ the Sun of righteousness has beamed with clear light around us, and has illumined the minds of the faithful. Today is Adam made anew, and moves in the choir of angels, having winged his way to heaven. Today is the whole circle of the earth filled with joy, since the sojourn of the Holy Spirit has been realized to men. Today the grace of God and the hope of the unseen shine through all wonders transcending imagination, and make the mystery that was kept hidden from eternity plainly discernible to us. Today are woven the chaplets of never-fading virtue. Today, God, willing to crown the sacred heads of those whose pleasure is to hearken to Him, and who delight in His festivals, invites the lovers of unswerving faith as His called and His heirs; and the heavenly kingdom is urgent to summon those who mind celestial things to join the divine service of the incorporeal choirs. Today is fulfilled the word of David, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. The fields shall be joyful, and all the trees of the wood before the Lord, because He comes. David thus made mention of the trees; and the Lord's forerunner also spoke of them as trees that should bring forth fruits meet for repentance, or rather for the coming of the Lord. But our Lord Jesus Christ promises perpetual gladness to all those who believe in Him. For He says, I will see you, and you shall rejoice; and your joy no man takes from you. Today is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us. Today did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation ...”
How many of us really take the time to reflect on the things we do to others and do to ourselves in our daily lives? There are some good reasons for doing such a self- analysis. Not the least of which is that by thinking over how we may have hurt others and ourselves we may foster compassion for others in terms of the misdeeds they may have done and this in turn may lead to more civility in our evaluations of others and also in our dealings with them. It is so easy for us to justify our own aberrations while seeing the immoral, improper or wicked behavior of others. In ancient Chinese tradition Confucius (551-479 BC) sadly comments: "I have not yet seen one who could perceive his faults and inwardly accuse himself." (Analects, bk. v., c. xxvi.). On the other hand, Mencius (372 – 289 BC), the disciple and commentator of Confucius, speaks about the joys of true self-reflection: "There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity upon self-examination." (Bk. vii., pt. i., c. iv., v. 2.). It is only in such sincere understanding of self that true virtue can be practiced. This helps in comprehending the meaning of Confucius' statement: "To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue: Gravity, magnanimity, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness." (Analects, bk. xvii., c. vi.)
Psychologists would label such a process of reflection a self-inventory. For example, Robert Enright, PhD, (2012), notes the need for an “ uncovering phase” in which an individual lists their own faults and the consequences of them. This self-understanding promotes understanding of the factors that may have influenced others’ untoward behaviors. Such understanding nurtures compassion, and compassion fosters civility.
by St. Simeon The New Theologian
… If you ignore these things, my beloved one, don’t put yourself in despair, saying, ‘I have not seen these things, nor can I ever know them; I will never have the power to reach and rise up to the height of this knowledge, contemplation and cleanness’. Don’t you say, again, ‘Because, if someone won’t become like this, to ware in himself the Christ as God in this life already, and see the Christ himself and whole, and take Him to dwell in himself, one won’t enter in His Kingdom, of what use is it to me to fight, even a little, or even to lose the current pleasures?’ Don’t say this; don't even think about it, but if you wish, listen to my advice and I will announce you the way of salvation, with the help of the Grace of the all-holy Spirit.
First of all, believe with all your soul that whatever we said according to the divine and god-inspired Scriptures, are all true, and that whoever believes in the Son of God has to become this, because He granted us power to become sons of God, and if we want it, nothing can stop us. (...)
For it is certain, that if you won’t believe in these, that they happen indeed this way, you won’t ask for them to happen at all, and if you won’t ask you won’t receive. Because He says, "Seek, and ye shall find, ask, and it shall be given you" (Matt. 7.7). If you believe, follow the divine Scriptures and do what they say and you will find everything without exception as it is written - rather, you will find much more than what is in the godly Scriptures. And what are these? ‘What eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man’, the gifts ‘which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Cor. 2.9). These gifts, if you believe with certainty, as we said, you will see, without any doubt at all, just as Paul, so you too - and not only this, but you will also hear ineffable words, since, as you understood, you will be seized to Paradise, even now. Which Paradise? Where the thief entered together with the Christ, and there now remains.
from the "Moral Speeches"—Excerpts from Speech 3
The Orthodox Church proclaims equality between men and women. They have, however, different roles to perform within the context of the Church. Women, as the Church emphasizes, are the backbone of the Church in that they are the backbone in their respective parishes and homes. It is well known that churches cannot continue to be strong units in the Church unless their families and children, the nucleus of any given parish, are raised and cared for in a Christian manner and according to Christ’s teachings. Chrysostom asserts that “the home is the little church” (Homilies on Ephesians, Homily XX), where all Christian education starts and ends. Nowadays, more than ever, women play an essential and indispensable role in the family. They are caring wives, nurturing mothers, valuable parish leaders and workers, and productive contributors in the workplace of our modern society. One might note that men play very similar roles in all mentioned segments! That would be absolutely true. Nevertheless, roles vary in different fields according to the gifts granted by God to each sex.
by the late Archpriest Peter E. Gillquist
Originally from The WORD magazine, February 1990, reprinted in DIAKONIA Spring 2013
Shortly after we moved to Santa Barbara, California, we re-decorated the house, painting the living room and papering the dining room. As we moved the table and chairs back into the dining area, along with the antique hutch that lined up against the west wall, I began to ponder what should go on the wall opposite the hutch. The space was somewhat limited.
Wait a minute, I thought to myself That’s the east wall. Let me find an icon of Christ and another of Mary for either side of the window.
From early times Christians would establish an “icon corner” in their homes, preferably using a corner on the east wall — east being the traditionally biblical direction from which the Son of Righteousness would appear at His second advent. Though this would technically not be an icon corner, I did want to establish the Lord’s presence in our dining room.
by St. Seraphim of Sarov, The Reasons Why Jesus Christ Came into the World
The reasons why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world are these:
- The love of God for the human race: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).
- The restoration in fallen humanity of the image and likeness of God, as the holy Church celebrates it: "Man who, being made in the image of God, had become corrupt through sin, and was full of vileness, and had fallen away from the better life Divine, doth the wise Creator restore anew" (First Canon of Matins for the Nativity of Christ).
- The salvation of men’s souls: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).
And so we, in conformance with the purposes of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, should spend our life in accordance with this Divine teaching, so that through it we may obtain the salvation of our souls.