fr george morelli


The New Martyrs In Syria

A message from the President of SSJC-Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Even a cursory reading or exposure to the current news media has made the world aware of the new martyrs among the Christians of the Apostolic Churches in Syria. Christians make up merely 10% of the 22 million inhabitants of Syria, with most belonging to the Greek Orthodox, Melkite-Greek Catholic and Syrian Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch. A recent Eurasia Review article reported that, "The areas controlled by the opposition are witnessing the rise of radical forms of Sunni Islam with the extremists not willing to live in peace with the Christians. Many of these gangs and armed groups operate independently of the Free Syrian Army, which rejects such kinds of discrimination against minorities." What was once a peaceful country has become a battleground of destruction, devastation and death. It is feared that a continuation of armed hostilities will result in the mass exodus of Christians similar to what has happened in the ethnic cleansing of the Christians of Iraq and Palestine. Another Eurasia Review article comments: "The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude."

Smart Parenting XXVII + Applying Christ's Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are They Who Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness

by Fr. George Morelli

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."  (Mt. 5:6)

The terms righteousness or the righteous that we read often in Sacred Scripture and spiritual reading are frequently ill-understood. This fourth beatitude from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5: 6) can help us understand the depth of spiritual meaning of righteousness.

Firstly, it is not something merely external or superficial or as defined in the dictionary as simply being "morally upright." Our Lord starts out this beatitude by connecting righteousness with hungering and thirsting for it. This means that righteousness must come from the depths of our spirit, that is to say the center of our minds and the depths of our hearts.

Chaplain's Corner + Selective Focusing

by Fr. George Morelli

Cognitive psychologists call it mental filter or selective focusing. (Beck, 1995). Basically, this thinking distortion and, most importantly, spiritual error is that one pays attention to one detail in a situation (usually an inauspicious factor) and fails to focus on all the details, especially factors that may be favorable. One contemporary elder of the Eastern Church, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, (Angeloglou, 1998) describes it this way. People can be divided into two categories. "The first resembles the fly. . . it is attracted by dirt." He goes on to whimsically note that if the fly that was in a garden could talk it might say: "I don't even know what a rose looks like." People who resemble
the fly "always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of the good." Other people are like the bee that can be found in a garden "always looking for something sweet and nice to sit on."

A brief psychological self-test may help us to see what kind of outlook we take. In uncertain times, do I expect the worst or the best? Will something go wrong for me if it could go wrong? Do I see the future as bleak or bright? Do I think that good things happening to me are rare or common?

Ministry to Those with Alternative Lifestyles

by Fr. George Morelli

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (Jn 8:7)

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (Jn 14:6)

A question has arisen among some ordained into the Apostolic priesthood of Christ as to how those who are living an alternative lifestyle, that is to say, outside of the teachings of Christ, should be ministered to? This question is especially relevant, but not limited to, clergy who serve in military and/or government chaplaincies. The ascendency of post-modernism, relativism and secularism, have politically legitimized lifestyles under the guise of "human rights" that were previously the domain of Judeo-Christian teaching. (Morelli 2006d, 2009) The pendulum of political correctness has swung from merely tolerating non-Christian teachings to forcing on a nation a worldwide religious correctness that some argue has the apparent goal of imposing secularist values and principles on all.i  As in the early days of Christianity, being a committed Christian, especially for clergy, will be a criminal act, subject to censure and punishment. I will point out in this essay that an Orthodox understanding of true priestly pastoring would ameliorate this concern.

Chaplain's Corner + The Need of Prayer in Our Lives

by Fr. George Morelli

Prayer makes up a significant part in every major religious tradition. Thus, if a cross-section of Chaplain Corner readers were asked, “What is prayer,” a variety of definitions would likely emerge. Many would possibly resemble the one I remember from my childhood catechism: “Prayer is the lifting of our minds and hearts to God.” Prayer can be active or passive, individual or communal. Many of the different forms of prayer may contain aspects of worship, petition and thanksgiving.  Our Eastern Church Spiritual Father St. Mark the Ascetic tells us: "There are many different methods of prayer. . . . No method is harmful. . . .” (Philokalia I). St. Dorotheos of Gaza (Wheeler, 1977) reflects the common teaching of the Eastern Fathers that for prayer to be effective it has to be done with a pure heart. 

+ His Holiness Pope Shenouda III - May His Memory Be Eternal!

A message from the President of SSJC-Western Region
(Light of the East Newsletter, 2012, Springi)

by Fr. George Morelli

It is not often that we are blessed to live in the same lifetime with one who is certainly saintly due to his ever-zealous witness to Christ during a time of unceasing and escalating attacks by Islamists, a time during which he provided loving Christ-like service to his people. Thus, it is with profound human sadness but great spiritual joy that we call to our hearts and minds His Holiness Thrice-Blessed Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church that traces back to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, who passed into Eternal Life in Our Lord on March17, 2012.

To “fall asleep in the Lord” in the hope of the Resurrection is a great grace, prayed for by all committed Christians. A witness to the Godly passing of His Holiness recounts that on his last day “…he could not sleep and was seeing holy visions of multitudes waiting for him (the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12: 1).”ii May God now seat him at the front of His banquet table in His Eternal Feast of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Ardent followers of Christ know the soul of His Holiness remains alive in the Eternal Mind of God. His spirit can also remain alive in us, who can emulate his desire for the unity of the Apostolic Churches. The unity of the Apostolic Churches is the primary hope, goal, prayer and service of us who are members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom; furthermore, we pray all Christians be devoted to this unity. Christ Himself prayed for the unity of us all when He cried out to His Heavenly Father: "Holy Father, keep in Thy name those whom Thou hast given Me, in order that they may be one, even as We." (Jn. 17:11)

Smart Parenting XXVI + Applying Christ’s Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are The Meek

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  (Mt. 5:5)

Meekness is not a personality characteristic or, in fact, a virtue valued in modern society. If anything, it would be an attribute to be avoided.  Surely, in the common secular understanding of this term, parents would mostly likely want to avoid raising children to be "meek." A glance at a typical dictionaryi definition of this word indicates that meekness is associated with being cowed, submissive, spiritless and tame. Worldly success, on the other hand, would be enhanced by traits just the opposite of meekness: being aggressive, spirited and/or exciting.

St. Gregory of NyssaSt. Gregory of NyssaWhat Spiritual Meekness is not

The Holy Spirit-inspired spiritual perception of St. Gregory of Nyssa, however, gives an entirely different meaning to the teaching on meekness that Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ gave to His Disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. .

Mount of the Beatitudes ChurchMount of the Beatitudes ChurchSt. Gregory certainly does not mean meekness in the modern societal sense I mentioned above. In fact, he specifically dismisses the spiritual meaning of meekness as that which "is done quietly and slowly." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, 1954) Just the opposite, St. Gregory in his homily on meekness goes on to reference St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians (1Cor 9: 24), saying "he advises us to increase our speed; So run, he says, that you may obtain."

Honing in on the meaning of Spiritual Meekness

Chaplain's Corner + Everything in Moderation

by Fr. George Morelli

The 19th Century British statesman Benjamin Disraeli was quoted as saying: "Moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet."i Certainly, in the Hebrew and Christian tradition we see moderation lauded. In the Proverbs of Solomon (25:27) we read: "As it is not good for a man to eat much honey, so he that is a searcher of majesty, shall be overwhelmed by glory." Other religious traditions also praise moderation. Buddha, for example, describes the middle way as a path of moderation between the poles of extreme indulgence and deprivation.ii To accomplish this one would also have to follow the path of wisdom.iii

Cognitive psychotherapist Albert Ellis (1962) notes that "there is something about the nature of human beings more than others . . .which makes it horribly difficult for them to take the middle ground . . .instead of having moderating behavior." The beneficent effects of moderation in the areas of health, such as eating, drinking, exercise and various psychological domains are well known. In dieting, for example, "the goal is to obtain balance, variety, and moderation. People sometimes do not realize that they can eat the foods they enjoy, but the intent is to do it in moderation."iv

Chaplain's Corner + God: The Source of Life's Ultimate Meaning

by Fr. George Morelli

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1975) puts forth the idea that religion can be defined "as man's search for ultimate meaning."  This implies a spiritual vision of the universe. A science without God would posit that the cosmos is nothing but something that exists in space or space-time. However, as Eastern Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (2001) notes, such a position "offers no constructive explanation to deal with existence." To put it another way, it begins and ends with the question: Is this all there is?

Spiritual perception, however, would begin the search for meaning by looking at the universe and seeing that the meaning of life permeates, from within, the cosmos that we inhabit. In the words of the Psalmist: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands." (Ps 18: 2). But there is another way of knowing God that is beyond any glory possible to be conceived by man, because God is so much greater than the limits of man's perception. The other path for intuiting God is the path of negation. Unknowingly, this is the path many who deny God have stumbled upon. For those with spiritual perception, such knowledge could be described as a mystical path, an antinomy that is knowledge-beyond-knowledge. The Hebrews had a sense that no word can capture God. They referred to Him as Adonai (Lord) rather than a word they would not speak, YHWH (Yahweh). St. Gregory of Nyssa (1978), describing Moses, said that when "he grew in knowledge, he declared  that he had seen God in the darkness, that is, . . . he had come to know that what is Divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension." The Book of Exodus (20: 21) tells us, "But Moses went to the dark cloud wherein God was." And David the King and Prophet writes of God: "He made darkness His hiding place; as His canopy around Him." (Ps 17: 12).

Smart Parenting XXV + Applying Christ’s Beatitudes to Parenting: Blessed Are They Who Mourn

by Fr. George Morelli

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Mt. 5:4)

In the first article I wrote (Morelli, 2012) on applying the Beatitudes to Orthodox Christian parenting I pointed out that it is also no accident that after Christ's time in the wilderness confronting and overcoming the temptations of Satan, the evil one, He was prepared for His public life of teaching. The first of Jesus’ teachings is the Sermon on the Mount, in which He gave us the well known Beatitudes (Mt 5: 1-12).i

Such a period of spiritual preparation for being aware of the enticements of the world, its adversities and how to confront them is not the usual practice of Eastern Christians awaiting Holy Matrimony. Rather, is not uncommon that in preparing for a holy and blessed marriage, the male and female shortly to become one flesh focus their attention on the worldly joy of marriage and relegate the spiritual factors to second place. An emphasis on the worldly aspects of marriage is certainly the main focus of secular society, in which a wedding is, for many, part of an elaborate booming and costly industry.ii Unfortunately, the focus is on merely worldly joy rather than spiritual joy In fact, however, there is an important aspect of spiritual joy that can and should be stressed in a true Orthodox Wedding. A passage in our Orthodox Marriage Service emphasizes such happiness. This is no better expressed than in the prayer sung by the choir after the sharing of The Common Cup:

Healing Society: Revisiting Witnessing Christ in a Secular Age

by Fr. George Morelli

And whenever thou art praying, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, in order that they might be made manifest to men. Verily I say to you, they have received their reward.  But thou whenever thou art praying, enter into thy chamber, and after thou shuttest thy door, pray to thy Father Who is in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret, shall render what is due to thee openly. (Mt 6: 5-6)

From the times of my earliest memory these words of Christ were implanted on my mind.  A simple practical example of putting this into practice was the proper way of saying the Prayers at the Table,  popularly known as 'grace' before and after meals, while in public. It meant making a silent and mental Sign of the Cross and saying the appropriate prayer mentally as well.  Any public display of one's commitment to Christ, would, at that time and locale, have been considered hypocrisy.

However, the world of my early years was spiritually and culturally very different from the world that has ushered us into the second decade of the 21st Century.  Practically everyone in my hometown was a practicing Christian. There was one devout Jewish family that had a small grocery store and a travel truck to service remote areas. On any  given Sunday morning most people went to the church of their choice.  It might be said that there was a shared culture of the value of religion in daily life. If someone ostentatiously displayed some overt religiosity, in all likelihood such a display would have been considered hypocritical.

Chaplain's Corner + Silence is Golden

by Fr. George Morelli

In the mid 1960’s there was a popular folk song that played the airwaves: The Sounds of Silence. It was originally written in the wave of national grief that followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However, this song actually reaches far beyond the historical event and touches a fountain of great spiritual depth. Consider a couple lines from the song: "Hello darkness, my old friend I've come to talk with you again . . .The words of the prophets are written. . .And whispered in the sounds of silence." A very appropriate reflection for the start of Spring comes from the saintly Mother Teresa of Calcutta:  “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

The value of silence cuts across so many religious traditions. The prophet Habakkuk (2: 20) instructed the Jews: "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." Buddhists find in silence the meaning of the universe: "When a man knows the solitude of silence, and feels the joy of quietness, he is then free from fear and he feels the joy of the dharma [basic principles of the cosmos].i In the Islamic tradition Rumi notes: "I implored the sage in earnest last night to unveil the mysteries of the universe. He whispered softly in my ear, "Silence! It is something to perceive but never to say."ii

Our Prayerful Thanks to God for All Who Uphold Christian Moral Principles

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
Light of the East Newsletter - Winter, 2012
by Fr. George Morelli

In past President's messages I have not focused on the non-Apostolic Churches and their ecumenical situation, as that might seem irrelevant to our SSJC-WR concerns. However, in my past President's messages I have talked about moral alliances that both Catholics and Orthodox can form. Such alliances have been proposed by Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev for example. Whether formally established, or just expressed informally, such alliances assume a set of common principles or moral viewpoint, easily possible between Catholics and Orthodox, but not necessarily between “Christian” groups. An example of this came to my attention recently in an Australian news source report on a disturbing statement issued by an Australian ecumenical council of churches: "The community needs to know that there is a range of views held on many topics in the Christian tradition. . . ."

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/]

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.

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.

Chaplain's Corner + Commitment for a New Year: Overcoming Rudeness

by Fr. George Morelli

My January Chaplain's Corner article last year called New Year resolutions a “useless waste of mental and spiritual energy." More than ever, I want to make the same point. However, I want to substitute a more functional alternative: making a commitment. The word ‘commitment’ brings up notions such as a ‘binding’ course of action, allegiance, dedication and loyalty. What better way to start the new year than by re-committing ourselves to respecting the personhood of others by overcoming any ways we have slipped into unthinking habits of rudeness. The word respect derives from the Latin word rēspicere, which means, “to look back, pay attention to.” In this case, to pay attention in a Godly way to the person with whom you are interacting.

The highest value of what it means to be a person is told to us in Sacred Scripture in the Book of Genesis (1: 26), a book that is sacred to Christians, Hebrews and Moslems alike.  We read,  "Then God said, "Let us make man according to our image and according to our likeness."" The person, therefore, is an icon of God, a consequence of His creative act in making us a finite mirror of His Divinity. Our Eastern Church Fathers would consider the meaning of personhood to be in our relationship with both God and mankind. To make this practical, the more we become committed to respecting others, to really paying attention to them as persons, the more we become like God.

Understanding Counseling in a Pastoral Setting

The presentation below was given to the Clergy Retreat of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, November 08-11, 2011, in Scottsdale, AZ. An in depth discussion of many of the Retreat topics can be found in the articles I have written, which are posted on: Orthodoxy Today [www.orthodoxytoday.org/archive/morelli] and the Antiochian Archdiocese [www.antiochian.org/author/morelli] website. The high technology, secularist society we live in today poses many challenges to living Christ's teachings, being committed to His Church, and living a Christ-like life family life. Even greater challenges are faced by the successors of the Apostles, the bishops and priests who are called to shepherd Christ’s Church in the modern world. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, may this resource be of some assistance to all called to minister to our communities in Christ.

Good Marriage XXIV: Trust - A Cornerstone of a Godly Marriage

by Fr. George Morelli

"Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." (1Cor 4: 2)

"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (Pv 31: 11)

Developmental psychologist Eric Erickson (1964a) conjectures that during infancy the continuity of comforting sensory experiences with adults promotes a sense of trust that serves as  a root for the resolution of the successive challenges the individual will confront over a lifespan.  Erickson goes on to suggest that the appropriate proportion of trust over mistrust produces hope. He states, "Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensible virtue inherent in the state of being alive." (Erickson, 1964b).

Erickson's understanding  is also very descriptive of a functional marriage. Beck (1988), for example, considers trust one of the three major components of a functional relationship - commitment and loyalty being the others.  Beck considers them "a force for stability" that, once developed, "protect[s] the closeness, intimacy, and security of the loving bond."

Beck (1988) goes on to give examples of attitudes or beliefs that indicate basic trust:

  • "I can depend on my spouse to guard my best interests."
  • "I know that my spouse would not intentionally hurt me."
  • "I know that I can depend on my spouse for help in ordinary situations or in an emergency."
  • "I know my spouse will be available when I need him or her."
  • I can assume good will on the part of my spouse."

COMMITMENT AND LOYALTY: THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF TRUST

The Wounds in the Body of Christ

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Winter 2009

If you turn on any news-program or look at the front page of almost any newspaper no one living in today’s world can miss the egregious personal, social, political and religious brokenness surrounding us. It is also so easy to perceive this brokenness as being the problem and responsibility of others. However, in the Eastern Church there is no such thing as a solitary sin. Even an infraction done in total privacy is a wound to the totality of mankind created by God. Just as an injury to any part of our body actually affects the entire body, so too, all of us are affected by the sins of even the ‘least’ one who makes up God’s human creation.

Because the Church is mystically “Christ’s Body,” how much greater are sins that injure the Church? The sinfulness of separation, the brokenness of those who make up the Body of Christ is a glaring violation of Our Lord’s priestly prayer at the last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Separation is a wound, scandal, illness, infirmity, and thus a dreadful sin. All of us are affected by this wound and all of us are called upon to heal this wound. A theme of one of the great feasts of the beginning of the civil calendar year is the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (4:17) read on the Sunday after the Theophany: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The first step in healing any sin is repentance. Repentance means a change of mind and heart. But there is prior step we have to do that enables us to repent.

On the Blood of the Martyrs

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Fall 2009

Are we on the cusp of the fullness of time in which a confluence of forces, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will bring down the wall of separation between the Eastern, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Churches under the omophorion of the Bishop of Rome? Why pose the question in this way? In the past many international theological consultations have taken place. These consultations involve theologians from the Churches. The Bishop of Rome has also met with individual Orthodox patriarchs and bishops. The wall of separation remains. However, as noted by a ‘monk of the Eastern Church’: “human barriers do not reach up to heaven.”

Now it seems a next step has been suggested following a meeting, described as “remarkably harmonious,” between Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate. (See page 3 for details. http://lightoftheeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ssjcnewsfall09-11.pdf) Both men are described as scholars, theologians, liturgists, and lovers of music. In addition, Archbishop Hilarion is a world famous gifted composer. Also, following a meeting between the Archbishop and Cardinal Kasper, the Cardinal suggested that a conference of Orthodox European bishops could possibly form a partnership in dialogue between the Churches in the future. A conference of Orthodox bishops would elevate succeeding talks from one on one encounters of individual Patriarchs to a more unified Orthodox witness, voice and consensus.

The Society of St. John Chrysostom as Witness

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Summer, 2009

In a recent interview Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, new head of the Department of External Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted an ongoing problem that the church lacks a bridge to the outside world. He notes: “A person will have to surmount his own numerous barriers separating him from the church world – barriers psychological, cultural and linguistic.“ To accomplish this task he perspicaciously notes that the church has to break down the “… mechanism of alienating people … expecting indifferently that they will come and surmount all the barriers on their own.” Archbishop Hilarion notes that accomplishing this task will involve both clergy and active lay people.

Promoting dialogue between Eastern and Western Christian, making known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of the apostolic churches, is the stated goal of the Society of St. John Chrysostom (SSJC). The Society is one part of the body of Christ, as in the words of St. Paul: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Cor 12:20), which acts to work and pray that the Apostolic Churches will seek the unity Christ desired. We know this from His prayer for His Body, the Church at the Last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11). Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Church does not use “aggressive and importune methods of mission,” as do some Protestants, but we are to announce Christ to the world by the witness of our example. We can become missionaries in the sphere of our own personal life.

Relativism: The Enemy of All Apostolic Churches

President's Message: Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
by Fr. George Morelli

Spring 2009

A recent report released by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that Americans are more ready than ever to change or drop their religious traditions and that many are unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions. Particularly disturbing in this report is that Catholics and Orthodox, the Churches founded by Christ Himself, tracing in unbroken succession from the Apostolic tradition, are among the groups with a low percentage of respondents who hold that they are the one true faith leading to eternal life.

However, did not Jesus Himself say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me?" (Jn 14:14) Did not St. Paul tell the first Christians: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it?” (1 Cor 12:27) Did not St. Paul tell the Hebrews (10: 23-25): “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some...?” Did not Christ Himself warn us of the dire consequences of wasting Godly gifts when He said: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required?” (Lk 12:48) This is especially true for the apostolic churches who have the greatest gift of all, the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord God and Savior Himself passed down to us from Christ to the apostles in an unbroken succession to our bishops. Christ did this when He ordained His apostles by saying: “Do this in remembrance of me." (Lk 22: 19). These are not relativistic statements; they are the cornerstone of the Body of Christ - the Church.

Chaplain's Corner: Compassion - The Forgotten Virtue

by Fr. George Morelli

Even a casual look at the world today would reveal an abundance of self-centeredness and fixation on ideologies. Compassion is well hidden. This despite many of the world religions and the findings of psychologists teaching that mercy and compassion lead to favorable personal and social outcomes. The Hebrew prophet Ezra tells us,” For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will find compassion with their captors, and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him." (2Chr 30: 9).  Buddha taught that, "Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others. It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion. It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed." [http://www.compassion.ancientfountainofyouth.com/about.html].

Our Eastern Church Father St. Isaac of Syria links compassion to an essential characteristic of God Himself: "God's holy nature is so good and compassionate that it is always seeking to find some small means of setting us right." St. Isaac also points out that, "Among all God's actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." (Brock, 1997).