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Great Lent and Holy Week

by Maureen Massiwer Gurghigian
from The Word, March 1993

Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the Icons to the Churches in the year 843 A.D., after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome.

The second Sunday of Great Lent is the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas. It was St. Gregory who died in 1359, who bore living witness that men can become divine through the Grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated Light of God’s Divine Glory.

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross, a day marked by its beauty and pageantry. The Cross stands in the midst of the Church at the midpoint of the Lenten season to remind us of Christ’s redemption and to keep before us the goal of our efforts .   But even more importantly to be revered and venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:38). In the Cross of Christ Crucified, lies both “the power of God and the Wisdom of God” for those being saved, (I Corinthians 1:2 4).

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St. John Climacus (St. John of the Ladder), the author of the work The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John was an abbot at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in the sixth century His work encourages the faithful to persevere in their efforts; for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved;” (Matthew 24:13).

A Lenten Journey to Love

by Matthew Gallatin

As a young child, Nick Damascus loved watching priests deliver their homilies from the pulpit. His little heart would stir, and he would say to himself, I want to do that! I want to stand up there and say, "Hey, you people! Wake up!  God loves you!" Fifty years later, Nick is indeed a zealous messenger of God. Oh, he's never preached a homily. But he does share his Orthodox faith in an uncommonly vibrant way with anyone who will give him half a chance.

What many of those to whom he ministers may not know, however, is that the genuine sincerity, peace, and spiritual insight he exudes are relatively new to Nick. For much of the half-century since his days of childhood fervor, Nick wandered without purpose, searching for a sense of meaning. He could not find it in the Church. Neither did he discover it in worldly success and affluence.

But one year ago, during the holy season of Lent, God worked a miracle in the life of Nick Damascus. It was a quiet and gentle miracle, without lightning or fanfare. Yet by the Holy Spirit, through the divine power of the sacraments and the Lenten services, God transformed this man. Journeying through the weeks and liturgical beauty of the Great Fast, Nick joyously discovered the life of divine love that "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).

An Orthodox Child of the 50s and 60s

Nick was born into a Greek home, and raised in an ethnic Greek Orthodox parish. But unlike some his age, Nick did not rebel against his ethnic identity and its traditions. He fully embraced them.

The Orthodox Celebration of Great and Holy Saturday

by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. . . . (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

THE TRANSITION

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day - Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another - Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.

TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH

Holy Saturday: The Blessed Sabbath

by Fr. Thomas Hopko
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume II, Worship"

The first service belonging to Holy Saturday -- called in the Church the Blessed Sabbath -- is the Vespers of Good Friday. It is usually celebrated in the mid-afternoon to commemorate the burial of Jesus.

Before the service begins, a "tomb" is erected in the middle of the church building and is decorated with flowers. Also a special icon which is painted on cloth (in Greek, epitaphios; in Slavonic, plaschanitsa) depicting the dead Saviour is placed on the altar table. In English this icon is often called the winding-sheet.

Vespers begin as usual with hymns about the suffering and death of Christ. After the entrance with the Gospel Book and the singing of Gladsome Light, selections from Exodus, Job, and Isaiah 52 are read. An epistle reading from First Corinthians (1:18-31) is added, and the Gospel is read once more with selections from each of the four accounts of Christ's crucifixion and burial. The prokeimena and alleluia verses are psalm lines, heard often already in the Good Friday services, prophetic in their meaning:

They divided my garments among them and for my raiment they cast lots (Psalm 22:18).
My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me (Ps 22:1).
Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep (Ps 88:6).

A Journey through Holy Week

by Fr. Nicholas Magoulias
from The Word Magazine, April 1976

On Good Friday afternoon, the touching service of the Burial of our Lord takes place. This rite is especially loved by children because of its dramatic solemnity. A specially constructed sepulchre of four pillars surmounted by a dome on which stands a cross is stationed in the center of the Nave. The symbolic tomb of our Saviour is completely covered by beautifully arranged floral decorations. During the afternoon service the Body of the Crucified Christ is taken down from the Cross. And a beautifully embroidered cloth bearing the representation of the Sacred Corpse of our Lord is placed in the center of the flower-adorned sepulchre. To commemorate the Burial the following words are recited:

"When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the Life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen; and He yearned with desire, in his heart and on His lips, that Thy pure Body might be enshrouded; wherefore, hiding he cried to Thee, rejoicing, Glory to Thy humiliation, O Merciful Master." In a moving apostrophe to Christ in the tomb, the hymn is chanted:

Joining the Whole Church at the Tomb: The Experience of Holy Week

by Fr. John Hainsworth

Every year during Holy Week I read to my congregation an eyewitness account of a certain Pascha night on Solovki Island in 1925. For centuries, this island in the White Sea had been the home of a venerable and remote monastery. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the monks were replaced by political and religious prisoners. The once-beautiful monastery became a concentration camp. The climate of that region was especially harsh and the island well out of sight, and the newly formed gulag became a place of unspeakable horror for its inhabitants.

Among the few who survived was a prisoner who worked in the camp's archives, and he left us the description of an extraordinary occurrence. Through some favor-gained by one of the prisoners, Bishop Illarion-all the prisoners were allowed by the communist authorities to celebrate Pascha in the camp. But only that one night and never again. Preparations were made, vestments were secretly liberated from the vaults of the former monastery, and on Pascha night the whole camp gathered together. Here is the prisoner's description of that evening:

February 27, 2013 + If You Fall.... Rise Again

by John of Karpathos
 

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a righteous man falls down seven times' - that is, repeatedly throughout his life - 'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov. 24:16].

Apostolic Church Unity: Hope, Prayer and Work

SSJC-WR President's Message 2013 Winter
by Fr. George Morelli

Some recent developments in the world of inter-Apostolic Church relations are encouraging. It should be pointed out that the thaw in the frozen tundra of emotional frigidity among the Churches could be traced back to the lifting of the anathemas between Rome and Constantinople in December 1965 by His Holiness Pope Paul VI of Rome and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. This event, although symbolic, initiated a series of exchanges between the Eastern and Western Churches culminating recently in a statement of Holy Spirit-filled hope by the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who said: "The uniqueness of the founders of our Churches, of Elder Rome and of New Rome, the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew, as brothers according to the flesh, constitutes a motivation for both of our Churches to move toward the genuine experience of spiritual brotherhood and the restoration of communion in this same spirit, in truth and in love."i Also on the Orthodox side is the announcement that, under the aegis of the Department External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, a theological commission approved a document on 08 November 2012, entitled The position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of primacy in the Universal Church. It is now submitted to the Russian Orthodox synod for approval.ii

Chaplain's Corner + The Arrogance of Power, The Power of Humility

by Fr. George Morelli

In today's world who has not confronted the 'arrogance of power?' At first it might be easy to think that only those who hold positions of wealth or authority would be candidates to wield power. While it is true that such individuals may be in an opportune setting to display self-serving, controlling actions, even individuals who are not high on the economic, political or social status scales can exert unwarranted, overbearing power. I am reminded of an example discussed in a graduate psychology course in New York City. A well-dressed, stockbroker-looking executive, somewhat rushed, has put a bill in a subway token window booth just as a subway train on its way to the Wall Street Station has opened its doors merely a few feet away, opposite, and in sight of the booth and the entry turn-style. Objectively there is more than enough time for the token clerk to give the passenger the token and change so that he would be able to catch the train. The clerk stalls, moves his hands appearing to sort change in front of him, and just as the subway doors are closing hands over token and change, with an obvious smirk on his face implying: "I got you."

This may remind readers of the ancient Greek notion of pride (hubris). Hubris motivates someone to use, intentionally, any means, even aggression, to degrade or humiliate others. In this case, the action of the subway clerk was not outright violence but what would be termed in psychology, passive aggression. None the less, it can easily be seen as a display of arrogant power. The Bhagavad-Gita (16: 18) describes pride this way: "Egotistical, violent, arrogant, lustful, angry, envious of everyone, they abuse my presence within their own bodies and in the bodies of others."

February 20, 2013 + On Knowledge of God

by St. John of Damascus
From
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 1.

. . . God has not gone so far as to leave us in complete ignorance, for through nature the knowledge of the existence of God has been revealed by Him to all men. The very creation of its harmony and ordering proclaims the majesty of the divine nature. Indeed, He has given us knowledge of Himself in accordance with our capacity, at first through the Law and the Prophets and then afterwards through His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we accept all those things that have been handed down by the Law and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Evangelists, and we know and revere them, and over and above these things we seek nothing else. For, since God is good, He is the author of all good and is not subject to malice or to any affection. For malice is far removed from the divine nature, which is the unaffected and only good. Since, therefore, He knows all things and provides for each in accordance with his needs, He has revealed to us what it was expedient for us to know, whereas that which we were unable to bear He has withheld. With these things let us be content and in them let us abide and let us not step over the ancient bounds or pass beyond the divine tradition.

Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed?

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

February 13, 2013 + For We Are Laborers Together with God

by St. Justin Popovich
From
Man and God-man: Studies about Orthodox Theology, Athens, 1974.

“For we are laborers together with God” (I Cor. 3:9). The ideal of the true and perfect man was realized in the person of the God-man with the God-human synergy. This God-human cooperation, taking place through the God-human body of the Church, becomes a common property of man and a common way of life, thought, action, and their existence. In the Church, men are incorporated with the God-man, Christ, namely are born with Him and by Him, are transformed with Him and by Him, are crucified with Him and by Him, are resurrected with Him and by Him, partake of His Ascension and by Him, are living eternally in Him and by Him, are feeling in Him and by Him, are acting with Him and by Him. In this catholic God-humanization of man lies his exact salvation and sanctification. The human race was created for this reason, and paradisiacal life of our forefathers was created in this joyful synergy with God. The fall occurred when we rejected this synergy and began to work through sin and cooperation with the Devil. The God Logos became man in order to restore the life of Paradise and the order of life within it, namely the cooperation with God.

Works of the Order in Action: Department of Missions and Evangelism

This photo was taken in Orem, Utah, at our Holy Apostles Mission in Utah County, near Brigham Young University and the Mormon International Missionary Training Center, and where Mormons are 90% of the population.This photo was taken in Orem, Utah, at our Holy Apostles Mission in Utah County, near Brigham Young University and the Mormon International Missionary Training Center, and where Mormons are 90% of the population.In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.

Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.

February 6, 2013 + Prayerfulness at the Sight of Nature

by St. John of Kronstadt
From
My Life in Christ

When you walk in a forest, garden, or meadow, and see the young shoots of the plants, the fruits on the trees, and the variety of the flowers of the field, learn a lesson from God’s plants--namely, the lesson that every tree each summer unfailingly puts forth at least one shoot of considerable size, and unfailingly grows in height and dimensions. It seems as though every tree endeavors each year to advance by the strength that God has given it; therefore, say to yourself, I, too, must each day, each year, absolutely grow higher and higher morally, better and better, more and more perfect; must advance on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, or to the Father which is in Heaven, through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit dwelling and working within me. As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works.

January 30, 2013 + Bearing all Troubles Patiently

by St. Macarius the Great
From St. Macarius the Egyptian, Word 7, Ch. 18

He who wishes to be an imitator of Christ, so as to become a son of God born of the Spirit, must first of all bear generously and patiently all the troubles that befall him, such as bodily illnesses, offenses, wrongs, and insults from men, and the attacks of invisible enemies; because it is by the permission of God that various temptations are allowed to holy souls, so that it may become clear which souls sincerely love God. It has ever been the mark of the Saints and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles and Martyrs that they went by the narrow way of trials and troubles, and so pleased God.

The soul that desires to please God needs first of all patience and hope, because one of the tricks of the devil is, in time of trouble, to make us despondent and divert us from hope and trust in God. God never allows those who trust in Him to be overwhelmed by temptations so as to reach utter exhaustion; for says the Apostle, God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation, He will also dispose the issue of it, and enable you to bear it [I Cor. 10:13]. The devil does not worry a soul as much as he would like, but as much as he is permitted by God. If men know what weight can be borne by a horse, a donkey, or a camel, and load them accordingly; if a potter knows how long vessels must be kept in the fire so as not to be cracked by being baked longer than necessary and so as not to be unfit for use through being taken out of the fire too soon – if in a man their so much knowledge, then how much more and incomparable more does the wisdom of God know the amount of temptation each soul must bear so that, by being tested by it, it may become capable of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.

Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course Part 2

by Fr. George Morelli

This course has recently been updated and soon to be published in a chapter in an American Psychological Association book. The updated reference for the upcoming book is: Morelli G. (in press). Eastern Orthodox Churches. In Scott Richards, (Ed.), "Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity" (2nd edition). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2.0 Bio-Cultural Elements

2.1 Emotion and Neural Processes

Studies from various areas in psychology, suggest cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways (Weitan 1995). There are currently various psychological models to explain this interaction. One model based on Darwinian evolutionary theory is that emotion develops as an adaptive value to a stimulus. The different laboratories of Izard (1984), Tomkins (1991) and Plutchik (1984) come remarkably similar findings on the presence of primary emotions shortly after birth. These researchers agree on six emotions (fear, anger, joy, disgust, interest and surprise) out of about eight or ten primary emotions. Phylogenetically these emotions occur before the brain structures supporting cognition initiate development. That is, subcortical brain areas such as the hypothalamus and the limbic system develop before the cerebral cortex.

Chaplain's Corner + Seeing the Good in Others

by Fr. George Morelli

How many of us when we first meet some new person immediately find something about them to be critical about? Alternatively, we can look at the major news stories in the media over the last few months of 2012 and focus on the overwhelming brokenness graphically depicted: war, super-storms, school massacres and mass killings, to say the least. However, we do have an alternative. We could try to see the good that is imbedded within the bad. We can see that through all this tragedy some have been encouraging others to remain affirming of hope, fostering optimism and healing, and, most importantly, inspiring others by their own good actions. We have to see that inspiring others is one of the greatest good deeds we can do for those around us.

Doing good for others is certainly not unknown among the world's religions. Buddhist tradition teaches, "Therefore, do thy duty as prescribed; for duty-bound action is superior to inaction . . . .Actions normally fetter the human being but not when they are performed as acts of sacrifice." (Bhagavadgita, 3: 8-9). The words of Gandhi are very meaningful on helping us to focus on the good: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always."i

January 23, 2013 + The Grace of God and Practicing the Commandments

by St. Simeon the New Theologian
From
One Hundred & Twenty Wise Sayings from The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church

The roof of any house stands upon the foundations and the rest of the structure. The foundations themselves are laid in order to carry the roof. This is both useful and necessary, for the roof cannot stand without the foundations and the foundations are absolutely useless without the roof - no help to any living creature. In the same way the grace of God is preserved by the practice of the commandments, and the observance of these commandments is laid down like foundations through the gift of God. The grace of the Spirit cannot remain with us without the practice of the commandments, but the practice of the commandments is of no help or advantage to us without the grace of God.

Patriarch Ignatius IV: An Incarnational Theologian

“ I learn my theology from looking at the faces of people.”“ I learn my theology from looking at the faces of people.”Delivered at the official memorial for the Patriarch held at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY on December 16, 2012.

Patriarch Ignatius was born in Mouharde, Syria, a village in the Middle East similar to Bethlehem and Nazareth. This is why, when talking about Jesus, he often said, “Jesus was one of us. He talked our language (Aramaic-Syriac); He ate our food, and practiced our traditions.”

A Farewell to Patriarch Ignatius IV: A Personal View

What follows is to be considered a diary/stream-of consciousness and not an objective report. I have included thoughts, opinions and, from time to time, what might be considered a value judgment. It was written mostly on the return trip from Beirut so that there might be a record of fresh memories concerning a milestone event in the continuing life of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Upon hearing that Patriarch Ignatius IV had passed into eternity, I called Metropolitan Philip who agreed that I attend the funeral. That same day, Thursday December 6, 2012, passport and Lebanese Visa in hand, I left for Beirut.

Since 1979, Ignatius IV achieved many milestones during his tenure as Patriarch and earlier as a Patriarchal Vicar. The revival of St. John of Damascus School of Theology at Balamand and the building of the University of Balamand have impacted many beyond the borders of the local Church in the Middle East.

January 16, 2013 + A Letter of Condolence to the Wife of Nectarius

by St. Basil the Great
From
The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Vol. 13, p. 19

“...When you became a mother, and seeing your son gave thanks to God, you realized fully that you, a mortal mother, had given birth to a mortal child. What wonder, then, if this mortal son, subject to death, has died. But the untimeliness of his death grieves us. Yet, that this is not a timely death is not certain, since we ourselves do not know how to choose most advantageously for our souls nor how to determine the limits appointed for the life of men. Consider the whole universe in which you live, where all things visible are mortal, and all are subject to annihilation. Look up toward the heavens which also will some day be destroyed. At the sun not even it will remain. The stars, each and every one; living creatures on land and in the sea; the beauties of earth; the earth itself all are perishable, all in a short time will have ceased to exist. Let this thought be a consolation in your misfortune. Do not measure your suffering in itself alone, for in this way it will appear unbearable to you, but compare it with all human happenings, and therein you will find consolation. Above all, I have this to say most forcibly: 'Have consideration for your husband; be a comfort one to the other; do not make the affliction harder for him to bear by wearing yourself out with grief.' On the whole, I do not think that words alone suffice for consolation, but I believe that there is need of prayer under the present circumstances. Therefore, I pray the Lord Himself, by touching your heart with His ineffable power, to enlighten your soul through the good use of reason, so that you may have from within yourself the sources of consolation.”

January 9, 2013 + A Letter to a Soldier

by St. Basil the Great
From
The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Vol. 13, p. 231

Although we must thank the Lord for many things of which he has considered us worthy in our travels, we judge that the acquaintance with your Honor which was granted to us by our good Master is our greatest blessing. For, we have come to know a man who makes clear that It is possible even in the military life to maintain a perfect love toward God, and that it behooves the Christian to be distinguished not by the style of his dress, but by the disposition of his soul.

Even at that time, therefore, we were most desirous of meeting you, and now, as often as we call you to mind, we enjoy the happiest thoughts. Accordingly, act the man, and be strong, and always strive to nourish and augment your love of God, in order that the abundance of His blessings to you may continue to increase. Moreover, we need no other proof that you remember us, since we have the testimony of your deeds.

January 2, 2013 + "Pride goes before disaster,and a haughty spirit before a fall"

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid, January 2nd

Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner? Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard? The wise apostle says, "For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it" (I Timothy 6:7). And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say, "Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee" (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). For nothing that we have in this world is ours: not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God. In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity, the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.

Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate. Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride. When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power? And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!

December 26, 2012 + Nativity Homily from St. Isaac the Syrian

This Christmas night [Christ] bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One -
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One -
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy -
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will -
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace -
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Dealing with Brokenness in the World

by Fr. George Morelli
Originally published in July 2006

Does any one need any more evidence that brokenness exists in the world? We see it everywhere: in business, government, education; even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Brokenness also exists among individuals called to noble conduct: judges, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, medical practitioners, military leaders, religious personages, teachers and more. No level of society or occupation is exempt.

What is brokenness? Where does it come from? Brokenness is the term that describes the fundamental disorder that exists in creation that affects a person's relationships and creative activity. We experience it inwardly in a way that St. Paul described as that pull between right and wrong where we know what is good but choose the opposite. Outwardly it is expressed by the scandals of greed, sexual abuse, and other crimes that seem ever more prevalent year by year.

Where does brokenness come from? The Church tells us to look to Scripture, particularly the narrative of creation in the book of Genesis. The source of brokenness does not begin with Adam and Eve, or even with God speaking the world into existence. Rather, brokenness has its source in another creature of God: the angel who at one time was chief of the angelic hosts - Satan and his cohorts.

One does not need to believe in a personal God to hold to this precept. Human beings are constituted toward order, and function with a presumption of an ordered universe whether or not they believe in God. How they perceive that the world is ordered is at question here, and their presuppositions are unavoidably religious even if they eschew any faith in God.