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society of st john chrysostom wr presidents message

Healing Society: Understanding True Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Spring 2015) originally entitled PERSONHOOD: DISUNION AND UNION.[i] This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and non-persons worthy of marginalization, murder and torturous execution, and recognizing that all of mankind, in fact are made up of ‘persons,’ and are of worth. Furthermore all Christians should join in prayer, witness and action to cure the increasing societal illness of depersonalization.

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Gn 1: 27)

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. (Gn 2:7)

One would hope that the basis of union among those who acknowledge the transcendent personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be that of the worth and sanctity of personhood. It would appear, however, that rather than a reestablishment of cordial relations among those who acknowledge the sacredness of Scripture, and the Book of Genesis in particular, there is an ever growing divide.  Understanding how the differing religious traditions view the genesis and development of the concept of personhood gives an insight of what fuels this ‘great divide.’ Spiritual and moral values differ among those who all consider themselves followers of Christ, and the difference in the understanding of personhood is not only a good reflection of the chasm, but may be in part what is fueling the widening of it. The Apostolic Churches view is that persons are known by God outside of created space and time. The Prophet Jeremiah (1: 5) tells us: “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” The traditional Christian Churches understand that God created body and soul, fused together at the moment of conception. This is based on the Virgin Mary’s response to the invitation from God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.” (Lk 1: 35) The ‘to be’ Mother of God (Theotokos) responded her fiat (“let it be done”): “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1:38).

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. . . ."

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. 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.

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