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Smart Parenting XX + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Pure of Heart for They Shall See God

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)

In a previous article (Morelli, 2012) I discussed the importance of Christ delivering the Beatitudes while on the summit of the mount. My commentary was based on Forest's (1999) insight that the 'mount" as an object that is high and points to heaven, and was, as such, purposely chosen by Christ. Forest writes: "Mountains are images of earth reaching toward heaven, thus places of encounter between Creator and creature." This is most fitting because it relates to the spiritual preparation needed to "see God."

St. Gregory of Nyssa (1954) refers to this symbolism of the mount in his Homily VI on this Beatitude. First, St. Gregory takes the perspective of God's vision, from above, of His creation beneath Him:

When from the sublime words of the Lord resembling the summit of a mountain I looked down into the ineffable depths of His thoughts, my mind had the experience of a man who gazes from a high ridge into the immense sea below him.

December 19, 2012 + The Practical Reading of the Scriptures Delights the Soul

by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsels, The Classics of Western Spirituality, p. 190.

If you love to enjoy true and complete delight from the Scriptures, seek to read them not merely with simple understanding, but with deeds and practical realities. Moreover, seek to read them not merely for the mere love of learning but also for the sake of ascetic endeavors and discipline, as St. Mark wrote: "Read the words of Holy Scripture with an eye to practical applications and not merely to he puffed up by any fine thought that you may receive from Another Father said: "This is why the lover of knowledge must also be a lover of discipline and practical application. For knowledge alone does not give light to the lamp." You will receive this light if you contemplate on the content of Scripture and realize that it was written to correct you and not the others, as again St. Mark said: "The humble person who has a spiritual life reads the Holy Scripture and understands everything to refer to him and not to others.” For this is true wisdom, fear of God, and avoidance of evil: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). St. Gregory the Theologian also wrote: “The first wisdom is a praiseworthy life purified by God.”

Chaplain's Corner + Discipline: Our Commitment For Next Year and All Our Lives

by Fr. George Morelli

In previous Chaplain's Corner articles I have pointed out the futility of making so called "New Year's Resolutions." The are vague, abstract and lack the specific steps to bring resolutions into effect.i Now what is not futile is to cultivating the cure for the illness that inflicts so many of us, that in part make such resolutions useless. This psycho-spiritual disease is called listlessness. It is the inactivity stemming from lassitude, lack of vigor and energy. Its cure is to develop self-discipline.

Self-discipline is an orderly way of life. In contemporary smartphone or tablet terminology it becomes a step by step psycho-spiritual and behavioral 'To-Do' list. As is common among various religious traditions, they focus on similar counsels to attain perfection. Self discipline is one such path. In Hinduism points out: "Turbulent by nature, the senses even of a wise man, who is practicing self-control, forcibly carry away his mind, Arjuna.ii In the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the last three, focus on the components of self-Discipline: right effort, mindfulness and concentration.iii Islam teaches that to effect such change individuals must take on responsibility for action. "Surely Allah changes not the condition of a people, until they change their own condition."iv

December 12, 2012 + Illustrations of the Blessings of Communion

from St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments, Translations of Christian Liturature, Series III. Translated by T. Thompson, B.D., 1919, pp. 120-121.

Illustrations of the Blessings of Communion from Psalm 23 and from the Canticles

Therefore thou hast come to the altar, thou has received the body of Christ. Hear again what sacraments thou hast obtained. Hear holy David speaking. He too foresaw these mysteries in the spirit and rejoiced and said that he lacked nothing* Why? Because he that hath received the body of Christ shall never hunger.1

How often hast thou heard the twenty-second Psalm2 and not understood ? See how it is suited to the heavenly sacraments. The Lord is my shepherd; and I shall not want. In a green pasture, there hath he made me to lie down. He hath tended me by the water of comfort, he converteth my soul. He hath led me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.3 Rod is rule, staff is passion ; that is the eternal Divinity of Christ, but also his passion in the body. The one created, the other redeemed. Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my inebriating cup how glorious it is.4

The 2012 Visit of Patriarch Ignatius IV to the United States

Prayers in the Chapel of St. John Chrysostom upon arrival in Englewood.Prayers in the Chapel of St. John Chrysostom upon arrival in Englewood.On Tuesday October 16th, 2012, His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all The East, arrived in the United States for a short stay which included several official functions. He was met at the airport by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and a contingent of over 30 clergy and laity. His motorcade was escorted by officers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department to the Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey where His Beatitude resided during his stay in this area.

On Thursday October 18th, 2012, an Historic meeting of educators from Lebanon and the United States was held under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Ignatius IV at the Antiochian Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey. The following people attended and participated in this meeting:

Works of the Order in Action: The More You Know Them, The More You Love Them

I have been so lucky to have served on the Governing Council of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch for approximately ten years. The Council is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order. They are hard-working and dedicated parishioners from all of our dioceses across North America. I have had the pleasure to meet and work with these wonderful people, and the more I got to know them, the more I admired and loved them. They travel all over the U.S.A. and Canada (at their own expense) to attend meetings and to accompany our diocesan bishops during their visits to the various parishes. As an east coast U.S.A. parishioner, I probably would have not had the chance to meet such wonderful people from various parts of North America had I not joined the Order. I am blessed to have had this opportunity.

As Very Rev. Joseph Antypas wrote recently in The Word, “Orthodoxy is not a denomination.” “It is a way of life characterized by discipline, good character and a willingness to reach out to others.” This, in fact, is a great description of the members of the Governing Council of the Order. You can see the influence of the Order in many areas. Parishes are very aware of the Antiochian Village Camp scholarships that the Order gives to our youngsters. There are, however, many other projects the Order supports financially: for example, the annual contribution of $270,000 to the Retired Clergy Housing Allowance; $130,000 for Missions and Evangelism; $100,000 for Internet Ministry; the Married Seminarian Assistance; the Youth Ministry; Christian Education Fund; and many other worthwhile projects.

December 5, 2012 + On the Absence of Evil in God's Works

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
From The Prologue from Ohrid, Homily for December 5th

On the absence of evil in God's works: “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1)

Brethren, the first revelation about this world that Holy Scripture communicates to us is that the world proceeded from good and not from evil, from God and not from some power contrary to God and not from some imagined primordial mixture of good and evil. The second revelation, brethren, about this world is that everything that the good God created is good. The light is good; the firmament of heaven is good; the land is good; the sea is good; the grass, the vegetation and the fruitful trees are good; the heavenly lights- the sun, moon and stars-are good; the living creatures in the water and the birds in the air are good; all living beings according to their kind are good; the cattle, the small animals and the beasts of the earth are good. Finally, man-the master, under the lordship of God, over all created things-is also good. And God saw that it was good. The appraiser of the value of this world is not and cannot be someone who views this world superficially and partially, but can only be He who views all of creation together and each part individually, He who knows their number, name, composition and essence incomparably better than all men on earth. And God saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

November 28, 2012 + Triumph Bestowed through the Incarnation of the Word of God

by St. Nicholas Cabasilas
from The Life in Christ, translated by Carmino J. deCatanzaro, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974, pp. 57-58.

It is not possible for those who have not died to sin to live for God. So it is of God alone to be able to slay sin. For men it was necessary, for had we been defeated against our will we should have been worthy of retrieving our defeat; but for those who had become slaves of sin it was in no way possible. How should we have been able to prevail over that to which we had become slaves? Even had we been more powerful, yet "the slave is not greater than the master" (Mt. 10:24).

It was man, then, who by rights should have attained this end and for whom it was fit to win the victory; but he had become enslaved by those whom he should have conquered in battle. God, however, who was indebted to no one, had the power to do these things. Therefore, as long as neither God nor man undertook the battle, sin lived on. It was impossible for the sun of the true life to rise on us, since it was man who should wrest the victory for himself but only God who was able to do so. It was necessary, therefore, for manhood to be joined to Deity, and for one and the same to possess the nature of both him to whom the warfare pertained and of Him who was able to prevail in it.

Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course Part 1

by Fr. George Morelli

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Historical Christian Spiritual Foundations of Counseling.

Christians trace their founding to Jesus Christ, by His sending (decent) of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on His apostles and disciples. Following St. Paul, we know that the teachings of Jesus were understood by Christians by them being sanctified by this same Holy Spirit. St. Paul did much to spread the teachings of Jesus throughout the Roman world. To one group he wrote: “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” [2 Thessalonians 2: 13-15] These teachings of Jesus passed in tradition to His Church: “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” [1 Corinthians 11:2] St Paul told the Ephesians “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…” (2: 19, 30) St Luke told his readers: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. [Acts 20:28] Following St. Paul, these traditions, oral first and then written, were passed from the apostles to their successors, the bishops and priests.

Chaplain's Corner + Blessed Christmas: On the Use of the Wealth of Our Bounty

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a well known phrase in the Christian Gospels, the saying of Christ that "…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Lk 18: 25). A superficial understanding of this teaching would have it that to be rich, in and of itself, bars one from God's kingdom. But a deeper spiritual perception would indicate the fallacy in this apprehension.

We might first consider what various religious traditions say about wealth or bounty. In Hebrew tradition, it is the misuse of wealth - a failure to help others that is sinful. The Prophet Amos points out: "Hear this word, ye fat kine [bovine] that are in the mountains of Samaria: you that oppress the needy, and crush the poor: that say to your masters: Bring, and we will drink." In Islamic tradition, Allah blesses the rich who "…feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive" (Koran 79:8). Buddhist writer Ven. Jotika of Parng Loung states, "From [the] Buddhist point of view, good and praiseworthy is one who accumulates holdings in rightful ways and utilizes it for the good and happiness of both oneself and others."i Swami Narasimhananda describes the Hindu teachings on wealth, telling us: "…wealthy people need to share their wealth with the less fortunate."

November 21, 2012 + Akathist of Thanksgiving

An excerpt from Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) +1934

Ikos 4

When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendour of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Thy dwelling place: fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Thy presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father.

Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall
Glory to Thee, covering the earth with peace
Glory to Thee for the last ray of the sun as it sets
Glory to Thee for sleep's repose that restores us
Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the time of darkness
When all the world is hidden from our eyes
Glory to Thee for the prayers offered by a trembling soul
Glory to Thee for the pledge of our reawakening
On that glorious last day, that day which has no evening
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

November 14, 2012 + The Peace of Christ

by St. Gregory Palamas
from The Homilies, Mount Tabor Publishing, 2009, Homily 1, p. 4

Brethren, obey me as I come to you now and preach peace above all and towards all, according to the Lord's commandments. Share in this work by forgiving one another, if anyone has cause for complaint again another, as Christ forgave us, that you may become sons of peace, sons of God. He is your peace “who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14), abolishing enmity by His Cross. He said to His disciples, and through them to us, “into whatever town or house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house” (Lk. 10:5). The whole work of His coming is peace, for this He bowed the heavens and came down. David foretold of Him, “In his days shall righteousness flourish and abundance of peace” (Ps. 72:7). Again in another Psalm he said of Him, “For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, and to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps. 85.8).

Works of the Order in Action: Married Seminarians Assistance

Seminarian, Burke Vair and his wife Vasi Jankovich Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church; Linthicum, MDSeminarian, Burke Vair and his wife Vasi Jankovich Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church; Linthicum, MDWhen Metropolitan Philip was an impoverished seminarian at the Balamand in the 1940s, he vowed that, one day, if it were up to him, seminarians who were willing to devote their life to service in the Orthodox Church would have the financial support from the Church that they need to complete their studies. By the will of God, he became Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and he has followed through on that vow. The Archdiocese supports seminarians in the Master of Divinity programs at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts who are discerning the call to ordination by providing scholarships for their tuition and a stipend to defray the costs of housing and other costs of living. According to the Annual Financial Report for 2011, 11.3% of the Archdiocese’s expenditures that year were for the education of those discerning a call to ordination. No other Orthodox jurisdiction in America supports its seminarians in this way. What a blessing!

November 7, 2012 + Out of My Way, Satan!

by St. Ignatius Briachaninov
From The Arena, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus, Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Jordanville, N.Y., pp. 58-59.

It needs to be known that every thought in the nature of contradiction and resistance to the judgments of God comes from Satan and is his offspring. Such a thought, since it is opposed to God, must be rejected at its very inception. An example of this has been given us by our Lord. When He told the disciples about His impending sufferings and violent death, then the Apostle Peter, moved by the natural compassion of the old man, “began to rebuke Him saying, ' Mercy on Thee O Lord! This shall never happen to Thee'.” The Lord answered Peter by exposing the origin of the through that he had expressed: “Out of My way satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are thinking not the thoughts of God but the thoughts of men” [Mt. 16:21-23].

Why is our spirit troubled by the judgments and providence of God? Because we do not honour God as God; because we do not surrender ourselves to God as God; because we do not give ourselves to our proper place before God; because of our pride, our blindness; because our fallen, spoilt, perverse will is not mortified and renounced by us.

Then I shall not be ashamed,
when I regard all Thy commandments.
I will praise and thank Thee with an upright heart,
as I learn the justice of Thy judgments [Ps. 118:6-7].

Thou, O God art my Saviour,
and on Thee do I wait all day [Ps. 24:5],

by bearing generously and good-naturedly throughout my life on earth all the troubles and sufferings which it please Thee to allow me to have for my salvation.

+++

October 31, 2012 + Forgiving the Neighbor That Harms Us

We must love our neighbour still more when he sins against God, or against ourselves, because then he is sick, because then he is in spiritual misfortune, in danger; then, especially, we must have compassion upon him, pray for him, and apply to his heart a healing plaster--a word of kindness, instruction, reproval, consolation, forgiveness, love. "Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." [546] All sins and passions, quarrels and disputes, are truly spiritual diseases; that is how we must look upon them. Or, all passions are a fire of the soul, a great fire, raging inwardly; a fire proceeding from the abyss of hell. It must be extinguished by the water of love, which is strong enough to extinguish every infernal flame of malice and of other passions. But woe and misfortune to us, to our self-love, if we increase this flame by a fresh infernal flame, by our own malice and irritability, and thus make ourselves the assistants of the spirits of evil, ever endeavouring to inflame the souls of men by means of many and various passions. If we do so, we ourselves shall deserve the fire of Gehenna; and if we do not repent, and do not become in future wise unto good and simple unto evil, then we shall be condemned, together with the Devil and his angels, to torments in the lake of fire. Therefore, do not let us be overcome of evil, but let us overcome evil with good. How accursed are we men! How is it that we have not yet learned to consider every sin as a great misfortune for our soul, and not to pity, heartily, sincerely, lovingly, those who fall into such a misfortune. Why do we not flee from it as from poison, as from a serpent? Why do we linger in it? Why have we no pity upon ourselves, too, when we are subjected to any sin?

Smart Parenting XIX + Halloween: A Few Spiritual Pointers for Orthodox Parents

by Fr. George Morelli

“But whosoever shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be to his advantage that a millstone turned by an ass were hung upon his neck, and he were drowned in the deep of the sea."   (Mt. 18:6)

SamhainSamhainIn the United States and many European countries as well, we are coming up to the annual festival of the celebration of "All Hallows' Evening." Its roots go back to ancient pagan Celtic tradition Samhain (pronounced: Sah-ween) when villagers would light large outdoor fires and put on costumes to hide from and ward off roaming ghosts of spirits and the dead. The Research Center of the Library of Congress reports: "It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living."[i]

The Celtic region included the area that is now modern Great Britain, France and Ireland. Also part of the pagan banquet was that animals andFeralia FeastFeralia Feastcrops were placed in the bonfires as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. The conquest of the majority of Celtic lands by the Romans in 43 AD added additional pagan elements to the feast. One was Feralia, a late October festival wherein the Romans memorialized their dead. Second, was a day to sacrifice to the Roman goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees.

Pomona's symbol is the apple. To this day, apples are common in modern celebrations of this festival. The name of this festival has also been changed. It is no longer referred to as "All Hallows’ Evening." All know it by the name "Halloween."

Chaplain's Corner + Wisdom, Age and Belief in God

by Fr. George Morelli

In this day and age it is so easy to dismiss God from our lives. Jesus gives us an insight into the cause of this abandonment of God in society. St. Matthew records Jesus’ words on His Sermon on the Mount: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt. 6:21) A contemporary Eastern Church holy father, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), gives a very perspicacious insight as to how this occurs: "If you want to take someone away from God, give [them] plenty of material goods . . . [they] will instantly forget Him forever." (Ageloglou, 1998) In past times one could look around at the beauty of the world and echo the words of King David in the Old Testament scripture: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge." (Ps 18: 1-2) Today we have material goods around us that were completely unheard of a generation ago - dazzling high-definition LED displays, even on smart phones and tablets, and television that intrinsically mesmerizes us. Even the recent Olympics, which in times past focused on sports, now, in 2012, are overshadowed by ceremonies that are extravaganza-style spectacles of laser strobe lights and bombastic sound. Is there any thought or remembrance of God, the creator of Light?

October 24, 2012 + “The Paths of Their Way Are Turned Aside" (Job 6:18)

A reflection on the passage: “The paths of their way are turned aside [Job 6:18].”
by St. Gregory the Great

from Gregory the Great, by John Morrhead, from “The Early Church Fathers” series. Routledge, 2005, pp. 89-91.

Everything which is turned aside is twisted back on itself. Now, there are some who undertake to withstand the sins which draw them astray with their whole strength, but when the critical moment of temptation arrives they do not remain firm in their purpose. For one person, puffed up with the perverse insolence of pride, when he considers that the rewards of humility are great, rises up against himself and, as it were, lays aside his inflated, swollen arrogance, and promises to display humility in the face of all insults. But on being suddenly struck by just one insulting word, he straightaway returns to his old pride, and he is brought back to his swollen headedness to such an extent that he completely forgets having aspired to the virtue of humility. Someone else, stirred by avarice, is panting to increase his possessions...

Someone else is kindled by flames of anger and is so headstrong that he hurls insults at his enemies... And so, when he is just able to exercise restraint after his abusive language, it is too late...

What Can We Do for God's Youth Today?

Metropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersMetropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersBy Bishop John Abdalah

From the October 2012 edition of The Word magazine

Metropolitan Philip has designated October Youth Month in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Each October we highlight the contributions, activities, and needs of our youth. This year I would like to highlight their needs.

Our youth need Jesus Christ. The need: a real relationship with Christ that will sustain them when their faith is challenged by peers, academics, change, loss and fear. Our youth need pious and holy adults willing to share honestly. Our youth need mentors who will share boldly and unashamedly the Orthodox faith delivered to us from the Apostles and preserved in the Church without alteration or adulteration. Orthodox adults, our youth need you.

Our youth need liturgy. Liturgy is the cooperative work of God and His people. It is here that we join the angelic world at God’s throne to praise Him and interact with His Word, and to be fed in the Eucharist. Liturgy by its very nature can only happen as we gather as the Church. This Church prayer does not happen at the hockey rink or golf course. It doesn’t happen watching sit-coms on television or mowing the lawn. It only happens when we gather as the Church to be the Church. It only happens around the Eucharist and around the bishop or his designee. It is essential to knowing God in the biblical sense of sharing God’s Oneness and living in Him. We who are made one with God in baptism are nurtured by God through His Church in Sunday and festal worship.

October 17, 2012 + An Explanation of the Offering at the Proskomedia Service

An Explanation of the Bread, Wine, and Water Offering at the Proskomedia Service Before the Divine Liturgy
by St. Germanus of Constantinople
from his commentary
On the Divine Liturgy, translated by Paul Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984, p. 71.

The bread of offering [offered by our prosfora bakers], which is purified, signifies the superabundant riches of the goodness of our God, because the Son of God became man and gave Himself as an offering and oblation in ransom and atonement for the life and salvation of the world He assumed the entirety of human nature, except for sin. He offered Himself as first-fruits and chosen whole burnt-offering to the God and Father on behalf of the human race, as is written: 'I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and 'He who eats this bread will live for ever' (Jn. 6:51). About this the Prophet Jeremiah says: 'Come, let us place a stake in his bread' (11:19 LXX), point to the wood of the cross nailed to His body.

The piece which is cut out [of the loaf] with the lance [by the priest] signifies that 'Like a sheep He is led to the slaughter, and like a lamb that before its shearer is dumb' (cf. Is. 54:7).

Antiochian Village: Its Influence on A Seminarian, A Parish, and the Youth of Our Archdiocese

by Christopher Shadid

It’s a place we call home, a place where our youth gather every summer, a place where relationships are formed and strengthened, a place that is so difficult to leave, and a place where Christ is truly present. This special place is the Antiochian Village Camp, a family that has influenced our Archdiocese for many years in inexplicable ways. I have been involved with the Village for the past fifteen summers— nine as a camper and CIT, and the past six as a staff member. Every year I fall more in love with the Village, the ministry, and the Orthodox Church.

The influence the Camp has had on our youth is incredible! I have grown up at St. Mary’s Church in Johnstown, a small town in Western Pennsylvania. I have seen the effect the Village has had on our youth in my home parish, our diocese, as well as the youth from around the country.

October 10, 2012 + Living is Christ's Truth with the Saints

by St. Justin Popovich
from his
The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, p. 27-28

He who believes in the Lord Christ continually grows by His Truth into its divine infinity; grows with all his being, his mind, heart and soul. Thus he lives constantly by Christ's Truth, as it constitutes life itself in Christ. Life in Christ is life in truth (Eph. 4:15), a constant abiding with all our being in the truth of Christ. A Christian's life in truth stems from his love for the Lord Christ. He is constantly growing and developing in that love, for love never faileth (II Cor. 13:8). This love for the Lord Christ is the motive for our life in His Truth and maintains us in it. It allows a Christian constantly to grow in Christ, into all His height, breadth and depth (cf. Eph. 3:17-19). We are never alone, but are with all the saints, in the Church and with the Church, as it is impossible otherwise to grow into Him which is the Head of the Body of the Church, even Christ (Eph. 4:15). When we live in the truth, we do so with all the saints, and when we love, we love with all the saints, for all is conciliar in the Church; all that happens is with all the saints because all constitute one spiritual Body, in which all live one conciliar life, by one Spirit and one Truth. Only by living in truth and love with all the saints can we grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ. The Church receives the infinite powers required of all Christians for growth in the theanthropic Body directly from its Head, the Lord Christ. For only He, God and Lord, has these innumerable and infinite powers, and discloses them with supreme wisdom.

October 3, 2012 + The Efficacy of the Touch of the Holy Flesh of our Lord

by St. Cyril of Alexandria
from his Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, ch. 4, vv. 38-39

But observe again, I pray, how great is the efficacy of the touch of His holy flesh. For It both drives away diseases of various kinds, and a crowd of demons, and overthrows the power of the devil, and heals a very great multitude of people in one moment in time. And though able to perform these miracles by a word and the inclination of His will, yet to teach us something useful for us, He also lays His hands upon the sick. For it was necessary, most necessary, for us to learn that the holy flesh which He had made His own was endowed with the activity of the power of the Word by His having implanted in It a godlike might. Let It then take hold of us, or rather let us take hold of It by the mystical 'Giving of thanks' [the Eucharist], that It may free us also from the sicknesses of the soul, and from the assault and violence of demons.

Smart Parenting XVIII + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Merciful for They Shall Obtain Mercy

Praying for God's MercyPraying for God's Mercyby Fr. George Morelli

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy." (Mt. 5:7)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (1954), the Church Father who has written such extensive Homilies on Christ's Beatitudes, instructs us that this Beatitude on mercy, among all of them, points us in a singular way to the core of who God is. He emphasizes that this "Beatitude is the property of God par excellence."

The saint then tells us of the challenge to us that is inherent in this spiritual perception. He asks:

If, therefore, the term "merciful" is suited to God, what else does the Word invite you to become but God, since you ought to model yourself on the property of the Godhead?

Once we have attained being merciful, then we are deemed worthy of Beatitude, because we have attained that which is characteristic of the Divine Nature. Mercy is one of God’s Divine characteristics that He has revealed to mankind. As the prophet David tells us: "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to them that seek after his covenant and his testimonies." (Ps 24: 10). And in another psalm David cries out: "O Lord, thy mercy is in heaven, and thy truth reacheth, even to the clouds." (Ps 35: 6). This is beautifully described by St. Isaac of Syria, who in his 1st Ascetical Homily (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011) tells us:

Do you wish to commune with God in your mind by receiving a perception of that delight . . .? Pursue mercy; for when something that is like unto God is found in you, then that holy beauty is depicted by Him. For the whole sum of the deeds of mercy immediately brings the soul into communion with the unity of the glory of the Godhead's splendor.

Book Review: Tending the Heart of Virtue by Dr. Vigen Guroian

So much of our current society has given way to the modern notions of tolerance and values, instead of instilling and nurturing concrete virtues in our children, a moral road map to guide them through life’s mysterious and sometimes dangerous adventure that will ultimately lead to their becoming the beloved creatures that God intended.

Dr. Vigen Guroian, in Tending the Heart of Virtue ~ How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1998, shares his knowledge “in order to be of some assistance to parents or teachers who desire to learn, as we did, what books and stories to read with children in the midst of a busy life in which time is limited and making the right choices is important.” His goal was to fill a void he found in instructional material for parents to introduce and discuss the moral fabric of some of the best loved children’s literature, particularly stories and fairy tales.

Guroian asserts that while fairy tales are not a substitute for life lessons, they do have the ability to shape our moral imagination without dogmatic lessons or settling for values-clarification education. Fairy tales remind adults and teach children that virtue and vice are opposites. In Tending the Heart of Virtue, Guroian walks us through the moral lessons and Biblical references that can be found in some of the most popular children’s stories. He also compares and contrasts modern interpretations to the classic tales from which they are derived. Reading and sharing these insights with children will help grow morally responsible and virtuous adults, and isn’t that our goal?