by St. Nikolai Velimirovic
First - because our faith is light. Christ said "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.
Second - in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called "sons of light" (John 12:26, Luke 16:8).
Third - in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Savior: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16).
Fourth - so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation, and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.
Fifth - so that terror would strike the evil powers that sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and those who please Him.
Sixth - so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God's will.
by Ss. Barsanuphius and John
from Guidance Towards Spiritual Life, pg. 106
Question #416 to Ss. Barsanuphius and John:
Sometimes I see in my heart that evil thoughts surround my mind like wild beasts, but cannot at all harm me. What does this mean?
Answer from Ss. Barsanuphius and John:
This is a deception of the enemy, in which is concealed high-mindedness, with the aim of convincing you that evil thoughts cannot harm you in the least, so that thereby your heart might become exalted. But be not deceived by this, but rather remember your [spiritual] infirmity and sins, and call on the Holy Name of God for aid against the enemy.
Dr. Bradley Nassif is a scholar and author known especially for his ecumenical involvement and active role in Orthodox evangelism. Raised within the Orthodox Church as a Lebanese-American, Dr. Nassif is currently Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University in Chicago. He has served as a teacher for the Antiochian House of Studies and is a member of Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois.
This spring, Dr. Nassif released two new books with broad appeal to both Orthodox and Christians from other traditions. Antiochian.org asked him about these titles and how they came about.
1. You have just released two new books with Zondervan. Tell us the back story for each one--what were your objectives in becoming involved in each project?
Bringing Jesus to the Desert is a book about the desert fathers and mothers of Egypt, Palestine and Syria from the 3rd to 6th centuries. Dr. Gary Burge from Wheaton College invited me to write this book as part of a series he's editing titled "Ancient Context, Ancient Faith." Each book, including mine, can stand on its own. But together, they focus on the theme of the desert as it appears in the Bible and early Christian literature.
by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, May 1981
I would like to share with you some reminiscences of the past. When I was a child, my parents would always admonish me when I would leave home for some social occasion, “Remember who you are and always make us proud of you.” Whenever I would forget that admonition one or the other of them would say to me, usually in anger, “We are not raising bums in this family. We are raising decent people.” I remember some of the movies and radio stories of those days where parents who were raising children who were lazy and did not want to go out and get a job or who felt that the world owed them a living saying to them, “I didn’t raise you to be a bum, I raised you to be a good person, get out and get a job, take care of yourself.”
For some reason or the other during the course of this past month, that word “bum” kept going through my mind in recollection. Maybe God was trying to inspire me to say something about it in relationship to the sad reality that on the Sunday after a major Feast, whether it’s one day or three or four days following, the Church is almost always half empty. Yet after the climax of the Holy season, when the Church was filled with people and the communion lines extended to the doors of the Church and beyond and when the liturgy was extended in time because there were so many people coming to the chalice and when we were concerned about hearing all the confessions before Liturgy and having enough time to do this and then to come to Church the following Sunday and witness all of those good people who came to the chalice absenting themselves from the same Eucharist and the same celebration, I wonder if God does not want me to say; “We are not raising spiritual bums in this Godly household.” God does not punish us immediately for our indolence but I think somehow he keeps a record of those items when we put “me” first and Him second.
By Fr. Joshua Makoul
The world in which we live is an anxious one, rife with fear and doubt. Economic markets rise and fall, employment fluctuates, conflicts erupt in unexpected places, and each year seems to bring a threat of some new virus that threatens mankind.
by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1983
On the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church honors the memory of Our Righteous Mother, St. Mary of Egypt, the prototype of St. Mary Magdalena who repented of her sins and became a deeply dedicated ascetic, going into the Egyptian desert and living there the rest of her life in piety and in prayer, offering prayers of repentance to Christ and of intercession for the people of the world. She is commemorated by the Church as an example for all of us. The life that is exemplified by people like St. Mary of Egypt, while carried to the ultimate of asceticism and almost a super monasticism, should be kind of a pace setter for those of us of the Orthodox Faith who usually make exceptions of things.
For example, this morning I was admonishing a young man who was talking in Church, and he asked, “What’s the difference! It isn’t important!” This seems to permeate our attitude until finally nothing seems to make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference if we fast, if we pray, if we go to Church regularly; and what’s the difference if we go to the hospital to visit the sick or simply send a fifty cent get well card or ask the relatives of the sick person, how that person is getting along. What’s the difference? The life of St. Mary of Egypt as the lives of all the great ascetics say there is a difference because these people have been glorified by God. Their memories live. Mary of Egypt lived centuries ago. The events of her life have long since been absorbed into history and yet here we are hundreds of years later talking about her because the virtue of her asceticism, the beauty of her understanding that it does make a difference in our commitment and devotion to Christ that her memory has indeed become eternal.