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Works of the Order in Action: OCF Conferences

College students at 2011 OCF conference, CaliforniaCollege students at 2011 OCF conference, CaliforniaBy Jennifer Nahas, OCF Executive Director

The 9th Annual Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) College Conferences concluded as they always do – with college students longing for more spiritual nourishment and opportunities to be part of an Orthodox community. Thanks to the generous scholarships provided by The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, over one hundred Antiochian Orthodox college students attended College Conference, along with their peers from other jurisdictions. One student explained, “I go to school in Arkansas and cannot tell you how grateful I am, both for College Conference, and for the scholarship The Order provided. There are not many Orthodox students at my school, and being here helps me to remember who I am and why my faith is so important to me.”

OCF is host to three separate conferences. One is held in the south at the Diakonia Center, one in the west at St. Nicholas Ranch, and the largest and most established is held in the east at the Antiochian Village.

Lent Is a Time For Parish Renewal and Growth

Photo by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyPhoto by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyLent is not only a time for personal renewal; it is a time for parish renewal as well. The Church is reborn every time someone enters the community. This is true even when the new member comes from another Orthodox parish, or a Christian communion outside the Orthodox Church, or is baptized as an infant or adult. The community is changed to make room for the new member who will build relationships, assume responsibilities, and even need to find a place to stand and sit in the worship.

To be deliberate about our parish renewal through this transition, the Church has appointed this Lenten time of fasting and intense prayers. We rediscover our roots with our new members as we read during the weeks of Lent from the Old Testament. We rediscover our innocence as the catechumens ask questions and express delight at the Orthodox perspectives. We regain our fervor as see the community grow and see how God is active in the lives of the catechumens and in our own.

We can not take this process for granted. Not every Lent sees catechumens in every parish. Not every parishioner is even aware that the Church is growing and that God is calling people to Himself. Perhaps at some places and at some times, communities don’t grow simply because the community is on “vacation” or asleep when people come knocking on our doors, or even when they sit in our pews. This is a great tragedy and we will be held accountable for this on Judgment Day. We really need to be deliberate about being ready to witness and care for those whom God is calling. Some prospective members are walking into our Churches unnoticed; others are working and playing with us all day long, waiting for our invitation to share in the life God has prepared for all. If this is too abstract, let me be more concrete:

Friends with Holiness: My St. Stephen’s Residency

Fall 2011

As we pulled up in the shuttle bus from Jacksonville Airport in Pennsylvania, the evening mist was rolling in to nest in the green grounds of soccer fields and meditation walks. Being from Los Angeles, I found that the air was remarkably clear, and the sky gray but peaceful – the traffic, blessedly non-existent.

We drove past Pittsburgh, in its modern glory of geometric glass and metal, through the quiet suburbs and semi-rural neighborhoods featured so lovingly in M. Night Shamalan’s movies like The Village, and finally through the lovely little town of Ligonier towards the Antiochian Village.

The St. Stephen’s Course of Studies is a three-year correspondence program designed for those who want to study Orthodox theology but cannot attend an Orthodox seminary. St. Stephen’s students do one residency week each August for three years. Most people stay one week per year, but students from other countries sometimes do two weeks in one summer to save money on travel. I did two weeks because, well, Los Angeles virtually qualifies as another planet.

The Cedars of Lebanon and Our New Bishops

More than sixty Antiochian Orthodox Christians travelled to Lebanon from December 7 through December 14, 2011, and three of them returned as newly consecrated auxiliary bishops Bishop John (Abdalah), Bishop Anthony (Michaels) and Bishop Nicholas (Ozone). The Vice Chairman of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, Mr. Fawaz El Khoury, and Archpriest Thomas Zain together planned and directed an extraordinary itinerary for the North American pilgrims which provided an opportunity to witness the glories of Lebanon in addition to the overwhelmingly joyful consecrations themselves.

While others have chronicled both the details of the December trip greater detail, it occurred to me that at least one stop on our extensive travels provided an excellent metaphor both for the consecration of the new bishops and for the function of bishops in our Holy Tradition. Toward the end of the trip we were able to venture into the mountains to behold the glory of the famous Cedars of Lebanon.

This leg of the trip began from our hotel literally at sea level where it was warm and sunny and took us along winding highways to reach the snow covered mountains of northern Lebanon. Although the temperature was just above freezing, the sun was brilliant and the cedars soared majestically. The local guides and souvenir vendors provided fascinating details about their precious cedar forest. One guide claimed he could point to the very trees which adorned the Lebanese flag, the national coinage, and the airplanes of Middle East Airlines.

February 29, 2012 + Homily on the Paralytic Let Down through the Roof

by St. John Chrysostom

There are indeed some who say that this man was healed merely because they who brought him believed; but this is not the fact. For "when He saw their faith" refers not merely to those who brought the man but also to the man who was brought. Why so? "Is not one man healed," you say, "because another has believed?" For my part I do not think so unless owing to immaturity of age or excessive infirmity he is in some way incapable of believing. How then was it you say that in the case of the woman of Canaan the mother believed but the daughter was cured? And how was it that the servant of the centurion who believed rose from the bed of sickness and was preserved? Because the sick persons themselves were not able to believe.

Hear then what the woman of Canaan says: "My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil and sometimes she falleth into the water and sometimes into the fire:" now how could she believe whose mind was darkened and possessed by a devil, and was never able to control herself, not in her sound senses? As then in the case of the woman of Canaan so also in the case of the centurion; his servant lay ill in the house, not knowing Christ, himself, nor who He was. How then was he to believe in one who was unknown to him, and of whom he had never yet obtained any experience?

Orthodox Ash Wednesday

by Fr. John W Fenton, Assistant to the Vicar General

For all Orthodox Christians, the Holy Season of Lent begins on the First Sunday in Lent (4 March in 2012), and the Lenten fast begins a few days prior. For Byzantine Orthodox Christians, the First Day of the Great Fast is on the Monday before the First Sunday in Lent; and for Western Orthodox Christians the Lenten fast begins on the Wednesday before, commonly known as Ash Wednesday.

While both traditions observe a 40 day fast, the different starting dates for the fast are related to how the fast is calculated. Early on in the West, the Lenten included every day including Saturdays but never included Sundays. Therefore, in order to achieve 40 days, since the 7th century the Western Orthodox have fast not only for six fully weeks (i.e., 36 days) but also four additional days. Hence, for about 1400 years the Lenten fast in the West has begun on the Wednesday before the First Sunday in Lent.

It is not clear when the Wednesday beginning the Lenten fast began to include the imposition of ashes. Originally, the imposition of ashes was one of several public rites required of those penitents who wished to be restored to the church. As early as the 4th century, these rites were associated with a 40 day fast. Most likely this fast was the Lenten fast, but the evidence is too thin to be conclusive. What does seem clear is that, by the end of the 10th century, it was customary in Western Europe (but not yet in Rome) for all the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lenten fast. In 1091, this custom was then ordered by Pope Urban II at the council of Benevento to be extended to the church in Rome. Not long after that, the name of the day was referred to in the liturgical books as “Feria Quarta Cinerum” (i.e., Ash Wednesday).

February 29, 2012 + Orthodoxy Sunday

by Fr. Paul N. Tarazi
from The Word, April 1983

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a gathering of commemoration, a commemoration of a bright victory, the victory of the Orthodox Faith at the 7th Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea in 787. Yes! A festivity of victory! This is after all what Orthodoxy Sunday is all about. However, it is to my eyes highly symbolical that, already since its inception in 843, this festivity has taken place on the 1st Sunday of the Great Lent.

In the eyes of the world any feast without meat, eggs and dairy products cannot be a full scale festivity; it is indeed puzzling — if not insane — to celebrate a great victory in such a meager way. But for us, this celebration is held at the beginning of Lent as an ever reminder that it is Pascha (Easter) —the Feast of Feasts, our only ultimate Feast — which is the fulfillment of Orthodoxy. Any other festivity or celebration is by the same token wanting and incomplete until our eyes have seen Jesus Christ, the Joy of our hearts, risen from the dead, smashing down forever sin, sickness and death, and bestowing His Life upon all those who have lost life.

February 22, 2012 + Great Lent is Coming!

by Fr. David Barr
from The Word, February 1991

Once again we will enter into Great Lent, the season of fasting and preparation for the Feast of Feasts, our Lord's Resurrection from the dead. As Orthodox Christians, Great Lent is an important time of the year, for this is when we make an even greater effort to pursue the spiritual life. It is the time when our attention returns to repentance and self-denial. We have additional Church services, and they tend to be longer than normal. Kneeling and prostrations become a greater part of our liturgical worship. In order for you to participate in this important time of the year, perhaps it is good to look at the origins of Great Lent and how it developed into what we experience today. Knowing why we do things is often helpful in participating in the life of the Church.

Chaplain's Corner + Heroism Revisited

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the most revered contemporary Spiritual Fathers of the Eastern Church, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (1924-1994), gives an insight that can be applied to a tragic event that is fresh in the minds of many around world today. The Elder counseled us to have well-disposed thinking toward those around us. He told his spiritual disciples to see the "good things" around them and not focus on the evil people do.

In the spirit of the counsel of Elder Paisios I want to focus on the report of the good done by one of the Chaplains on board the severely damaged cruise-liner that went aground and partially sank off the coast of Italian Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy in January 2012. The horror of the plight of those passengers who were trapped was well documented by the media in text and video. As the ship was sinking the Chaplain radioed his headquarters, the Apostleship of the Sea, whose function in part is “to promote the spiritual, moral and social development" to those at sea, that it was his intention to "stay close to the crew and the passengers to comfort them at this moment of great confusion." The Chaplain also shared his thoughts at the very beginning of the disaster "There were so many children, I took a little girl in my arms. I asked that she be sent first with her mother and her evacuation took precedence." [http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/chaplain-costa-concordia-crew-showed-personal-sacrifice/]

Works of the Order in Action!

The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)

Ehmej School (near Byblos, Lebanon) before and afterEhmej School (near Byblos, Lebanon) before and after

In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples:

Surpassing Human Justice: Enthroning Divine Justice

SURPASSING HUMAN JUSTICE: ENTHRONING DIVINE JUSTICE.

IN CHRISTIANITY, MERCY TRUMPS JUSTICE.

by Fr. George Morelli

"Compassion and justice in one soul are as a man adoring God and idols in one house." -St. Isaac of Syriai

The cry for "justice" is heard around the world. But what "justice" is cried out for? A casual overview of the media clearly indicates that the cry for worldly justice is very often accompanied by cries for retaliation, retribution and vengeance. Such 'justice' is often attributed to third world nations or countries that have been in constant conflict. For example, a British newspaper article headline about a recent Libyan incident read, "The car was armoured like a tank. But that wasn't enough to save Gaddafi's son Khamis when the rebels took their vengeance."ii History books recount incidents of murderous atrocities against individuals, nations and entire peoples, committed in the name of revenge, since the dawn of recorded time.

February 15, 2012 + Fasting - A Means to an End

by Judy Yentzen
from The Word, March 1993

I would like to quote from THE SPIRITUAL COUNSELS OF FATHER JOHN OF KRONSTADT, Select Passages from MY LIFE IN CHRIST, edited and introduced by W. Jardine Grisbrooke. “The Christian has great, spiritual, divine enjoyments. Carnal delights must always be subjected to these higher delights; and when they hinder the latter they must be checked or suppressed. It is not to afflict man that food and drink are at certain times and seasons forbidden him by the Church, not to limit his freedom, as worldly people say; it is done in order to afford him true, lasting and eternal delights;. . . “. The Gospel reminds us how we are to fast, “. . . when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

I have only been in the Orthodox Church a short time — two years now and this will be my second Lenten season as an Orthodox. Because of that, I would like to share with you my first real introduction to fasting, the preparation, and how it affected my life.

I grew up in a protestant faith and, therefore, knew nothing about fasting. In my late thirties, I started going to the Episcopal church where I first read and heard a little about fasting — but only for the Lenten season, There was little said about it and even less importance placed upon it.

February 8, 2012 + from St. John Chrysostom’s Exhortation to Theodore after His Fall: Letter 1

. . . For as the best physicians bring back those who are far gone in sickness with careful treatment to a state of health, not only treating them according to the laws of the medical art, but sometimes also giving them gratification: even so God conducts to virtue those who are much depraved, not with great severity, but gently and gradually, and supporting them on every side, so that the separation may not become greater, nor the error more prolonged.

And the same truth is implied in the parable of the prodigal son as well as in this.  For he also was no stranger, but a son, and a brother of the child who had been well pleasing to the father, and he plunged into no ordinary vice, but went to the very extremity, so to say, of evil, he the rich and free and well-bred son being reduced to a more miserable condition than that of household slaves, strangers, and hirelings.  Nevertheless he returned again to his original condition, and had his former honour restored to him.

February 1, 2012 + Embracing Our Salvation

by Archpriest Steven Rogers
from The Word, February 1999

On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This great feast, which commemorates that event at which Mary presents herself and her child in the temple for purification prayers forty days after the birth of her Son, is the culmination of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Once again, this feast reminds us of the Incarnation of God. As a man, Christ is submitting Himself to the Law that all might be fulfilled. We are confronted again with the amazing truth of the Incarnation —that God lowered Himself to become a man so that man might be lifted up out of his sin. Christ was truly a man, “like us in all respects save sin,” says St. Paul.

While remaining fully God, He submits Himself to the Jewish law as a man, “For I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” Upon their arrival at the temple, Mary presents the Christ Child to the Elder Simeon. It is this “meeting” that the feast celebrates. The second person of the Trinity “meets” his people as represented by Simeon, allowing mankind to embrace its creator and the author of its salvation.

Simeon knew it was his salvation he embraced and for him, life was now complete. “Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared before the face of Thy people; a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

A Second Round of Soul Searching

by Carole A. Buleza

This article is the second in a series based on Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford University Press, 2005. The book received the 2006 Christianity and Culture Book Award.  The first article, “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Word.

I knew that I would be writing more articles based on this book, which I consider exceptionally insightful and valuable. Soul Searching is the project report of professors at the University of North Carolina who received a grant to investigate how important faith is to American teenagers, why, and in what ways. The book received Christianity Today's 2006 Christianity and Culture book award.

The data for the report was gathered from 3,290 teenagers in the United States. The majority of the teenagers categorized themselves as Christian (82%); Protestants comprised the majority (52%) and Catholics were second (23%). The third largest category, those who considered themselves not religious, accounted for 16% of the respondents (31).

The book offers not only statistics but excerpts from the many interviews that were conducted, and the reflections of the authors. From my experience of working with teens and having two of my own, their analyses are correct, and their reflections are extremely valuable. Furthermore, they believe the beliefs held by the teenagers reflect those of the baby boomer generation, making the book valuable not only for youth ministers but also for pastors.

Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)

INTRODUCTION

In previous articles on parenting I have emphasized the importance of making connections between Christ, His Church and the issues and problems that make up modern life (Morelli, 2010). Jesus entry into his public life is recorded by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. It was at His baptism in the River Jordan by St. John who is called the Baptist. This event is called the Theophany in which Christ's Divinity was proclaimed by His Father as told to us by St. Matthew: "And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt 3: 16-17) The spiritual-theological significance of the Theophany is noted in the beautiful Apolytikion of the Feast:

Holy TheophanyHoly TheophanyWhen Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity wast made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hath appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

Chaplain's Corner + Even the Thought is an Affront to God and Country

by Fr. George Morelli

In mid-September 2011, various news outlets reported a ban on relatives and friends of wounded service personnel bringing bibles and other religious reading materials into Water Reed military hospital. The offensive statement reads: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” [i] Due to an outcry from various religious groups, this egregious policy was rescinded by December 2011. Thank God for that! But the fact that such a policy was even thought of, let alone promulgated, is an affront to God and Country.

Religious freedom is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of the United States itself.  The first amendment of the Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The operative term in the amendment regarding religion is making no law "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In thinking up and initiating the now rescinded hospital policy, someone took it upon themselves to unilaterally interpret the words of the Constitution to impose on all 'freedom from religion' - which actually amounts to a prohibition of religion. An affront to our country and its religious tradition.

January 25, 2012 + No One Knows Everything

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

I am frequently asked, “Why?” Why does the Church believe in the intercession of Saints? Why does the Church have confession? Why this and why that.  Of course, while we always try to provide reasonable and intelligent answers, I am impressed by the need of certain individuals to know everything by their tendency toward a Roman jurisprudence mentality that needs to put every theological concept into a capsule, identify it and put neat little tags on it so that whenever they needed an explanation they could go right to the proper file box, take it out and use it as desired.

Such a concept is foreign to those of us of the East. We who come from the Holy Lands on which Christ set foot, have a concept of mysticism that is foreign to the Occident. It has never been necessary for us to reduce God to our size and it has never been necessary for us to reduce Truth to the level of our own intellectual capacity to understand. This is not a new concept (lest anyone believe that it is, so I would like my message to be essentially a meditation on the passage of Ecclesiastes 1:4-9).

January 18, 2012 + Let God Be God

by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, February 1967

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (St. Matthew 6:34)

How many of us spend precious time on this earth inside a dark cloud of anxiety, worrying about things over which we have no control? Do we really believe in God?

If we say we believe that God exists, we should know that He is in command of our destiny. True believers live with an inner peace, because they know that God is the Ultimate Lord of history. If we doubt God’s Plan, we begin relying on our own scheme for the future.

Too many of the brief days of our lives we spend in worrying and planning. It is enough to be afraid of what we have really to fear. Anxiety is a nebulous fear, an irrational state of mind, leading to more serious mental breakdown.

If it were told us that we are trying to be little gods, doing what only God can do, we would deny it. Yet, that is what we do when we put our trust in our own ideas. Even more, when what we had desired doesn’t come about, when we have to abandon our own ideas, we blame God for rejecting us, or else we deny His Omnipotence.

Our age is an age of anxiety, because nearly all people in our world are agnostics. We cannot see God at work in our world, so we do God’s worrying and planning for Him. Only because we have no faith, can we ask all the fruitless “What if” questions that lead eventually to alcoholism, depression, or worse. Such questions are:

“What will happen if I should become ill for a long time?”

Translation as a Means of Grace

I taught medieval history at Wichita State University, Kansas, and I am a translator. When I get stuck in a stubborn paragraph, I say a short Latin prayer to the Holy Spirit: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus; et emitte coelitus lucis tuae radium. Veni, pater pauperum; veni, dator munerum; veni, lumen cordium." “Come, Holy Spirit, and send a ray of your heavenly light. Come, Father of the poor. Come, Giver of gifts, Come, Light of the hearts.”

In this article, I will first deal briefly with my own life, and then with one key aspect of patristic theology that continues to attract me. After discussing the practice of translation, I will answer questions that may arise.

I was a tenured member of the faculty, but my life lacked a sense of direction. And then, mindful of the words of Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.E.) in Plato’s Apology that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” I concluded that I had not really used the gift God had given me, that of languages. I had studied ten. Instead of going to church on Sundays, I listened to classical music, or read poetry by the German poets Rilke or Hölderlin. Then, unexpectedly, a former student invited me to Pascha at St. George Orthodox Church. I converted to Orthodoxy in 1981.

I translate books out of a deep respect for Tradition. I know that various definitions may be given for that venerable word Tradition, but the one I like best is offered by the fifth-century French monk Vincent of Lérins in his renowned Commonitorium (c. 434). Using Latin, the language of his day, Vincent writes: “Id teneamus quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.” In translation, “We use the greatest care to hold what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” (Documents of the Christian Church, ed. by H. Bettenson [1963], 84).

Postmodern Young People and the Liturgy

By V. Rev. Fr. David J. Randolph

From the Word magazine, January, 2012

The term postmodern culture is used in many different ways, and cannot be grasped except in contrast to its predecessor, modernism, to which it is in reaction. Modernism displayed a high level of confidence in the abilities of humanity. Rooted in the Enlightenment, modernists attempted to rid themselves of the mystery of religion and things spiritual so as to focus purely on the empirical facts of science. Some believed that humanity could build a perfect society founded on human principles and structures. The movement was idealistic, and its breakdown was painful to the generation that experienced it.

This reaction took different forms. For many people of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, pop culture became a kind of rebellious religiosity. Many were from broken families, and they concluded that all commitments are fragile. Some also experimented with different “spiritualities,” having a distinct distaste for “institutional religion.” Theirs was a time of political turmoil, growing up amid the anxiety of the cold war, and through the period of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the war in Iraq. The results for many were confusion, depression, and loneliness.

Postmodernism is the cultural reaction to the perceived failures of modernism. Youth ministers today face five challenges related to the postmodern stance.

First, postmodern young people give primacy to personal experience.

The Consecrations of Our New Hierarchs, Bishops John, Anthony and Nicholas

From The Word, January 2012:

On Sunday, December 11, 2011, three new auxiliary bishops were consecrated for the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, in Balamand, Lebanon. Their Graces John (Abdalah), Anthony (Michaels) and Nicholas (Ozone) were consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop for Worcester and New England, Auxiliary Bishop for Toledo and the Midwest, and Auxiliary Bishop for Brooklyn and Assistant to the Metropolitan in Englewood, New Jersey, respectively.

January 11, 2012 + from Homily IV

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting."  1 Timothy 1:15-16

The favors of God so far exceed human hope and expectation, that often they are not believed. For God has bestowed upon us such things as the mind of man never looked for, never thought of. It is for this reason that the Apostles spend much discourse in securing a belief of the gifts that are granted us of God. For as men, upon receiving some great good, ask themselves if it is not a dream, as not believing it; so it is with respect to the gifts of God. What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. "This is a faithful saying," he says, "and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

January 4, 2012 + Set Time Aside

by Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
from The Word, June 1960

TIME, that precious gift of God . . . how wisely do we use it?  How well do we apportion it? How much do we appreciate it?

Time is so precious a gift that God dispenses it but sparingly as if He were fearful that we waste it or hoard an excessive supply of it. Only the time present belongs to us along with its reserves of potential happiness and joy. We would prove ourselves guilty of ingratitude were we to ignore the value of time and put an ever unrequited hope in the future over which we have little or no power.

Set time aside . . . to enjoy the gift of life. Because so many people fail to appraise the time present, they complicate their lives and deprive it of its natural spontaneity in trying to pry into the future. Do you suppose that He Who gives us our daily bread is at the mercy of the weather or of man’s malice? Should we learn to tread the path of life with our eyes focused on Him, never would our soul age; our eyes would meet incessant marvels upon witnessing His evident solicitude on our behalf. Indeed, life would prove a thrilling spiritual adventure if only we took time out to truly enjoy it.

December 28, 2011 + A Word on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ

by Eleutherious Vorontsov, Late Metropolitan of Leningrad
from The Word, December 1960

Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

I salute you, dear brothers and sisters, with the great feast of the Birth of Christ—with this radiant, joyous, and solemn day! This day is truly a day of especial joy: it was called this, as you have heard, by the Heavenly Angel who appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. And it is such in actual fact. How can not that day in which the Lord Himself descended from Heaven to earth but be radiant and joyful?

Who of the Orthodox Christians can greet this day with a feeling of coldness? Who will not rejoice in his soul, hearing that “a Saviour is born today, who is Christ the Lord?”  It is for this reason that one of the Church hymns sung so joyously today, says: “Let Heaven and earth rejoice today in prophecy: let Angels and men exult . . . the whole of creation danceth because of the Saviour and Lord being born in Bethlehem.