Thursday, November 22, 2007

...The first characteristic of the Protestant Worldview is that it is Humanistic.

Now for conservative Protestants this statement will come as quite a shock, and no doubt they would hotly dispute it -- but the statement is an historic truth as well as an observable fact. Protestantism was birthed out of and became the religious expression of the humanism of the Renaissance, and as Frank Schaeffer has put it: it has been the engine of the Secularization of Western Culture. Humanism is characterized by its idealization of individual autonomy and it promulgation of secularization. Church authority was rejected in favor of the subjective judgment of the individual. The idea of a Christian nation was replaced with the concept of separation of Church and state -- and for those who would argue that this was a later development, while it is true that Luther and Calvin saw no need for the separation of Church and State (because they were in power) the earliest Anabaptists championed this from the beginning.

What is amazing is how conservative Protestants have viewed humanism and secularization as a foreign invader that is completely at odds with their faith -- when in fact it is the fruit of their own intellectual wombs.

For example, every Western Christmas, you can hear Protestants loudly bemoaning the fact that Christ has been taken out of Christmas and replaced with Santa Claus -- but where did that come from? It was the English Puritans who opposed the idea of a religious calendar, and who opposed Christmas and all other holidays as "pagan" and so sought to replace those holidays with secular observances. It was these Puritans who invented Father Frost, and replaced the idea of going to Church on Christmas to celebrate Christ's birth with the family fun, games, gifts, and food observance that characterizes the common Protestant observance of Christmas. So in their quest to get rid of the "pagan" Christian calendar of feasts, it was in fact the Protestants who developed the truly pagan secular calendar that our culture has come to know and love.
Click on title to read more.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

St. Peter The Aleut Of Alaska

A native of Kodiak Island, Cungagnaq had been baptized by the monks of St. Herman's missionary party, receiving the Christian name Peter.
In 1815, a party of 14 Aleut seal and otter hunter, including Peter approached the California shore by ship. The Russian-American Trading Company had in 1812 established Fort Ross (derived from the word "Russia") about 50 miles north of San Francisco as a warm climate trading post and as a place to raise crops and cattle to support the communities in Alaska. At that time, Spain still owned California, and some Spaniards perhaps thought that Russia was planning to attack and take possession of San Francisco.
When, therefore, Peter and his party of young fur trappers approached near Fort Ross, Spanish sailors captured them and took them to San Francisco for a mock trial. Roman Catholic priests in California tried to force the Aleut hunters to embrace Roman Catholicism. The prisoners answered, "We are Christians; we have been baptized," and they showed their baptismal crosses. "No, you are heretics and schismatics," replied one of the priests. "If you do not agree to take the Catholic Faith we will torture you," and they were told to think it over.
Returning a while later, the priests found that the Aleuts again refused to renounce Orthodoxy. They took Peter and cut off a toe from each foot, but Peter simply repeated, "I am a Christian; I will not betray my Faith." The Spanish priest-inquisitor ordered a group of California Indians to cut off each finger of Peter's hands, one joint at a time, eventually cutting off his hands altogether. Finally, he ordered that Peter be disemboweled. Peter quickly died as a result of the tortures, witnessing to his Faith in God to his last breath. Just as they were ready to start on the next Aleut, the Spaniards received an order to stop the proceedings. This eyewitness account of Peter's martyrdom is told by some of his comrades who were eventually released.
When the incident was reported to St. Herman, back on Kodiak Island, the monk turned to his icon, crossed himself and exclaimed, "Holy, new-martyr Peter, pray to God for us!" Peter the Aleut was formally glorified as a saint, as the "Martyr of San Francisco;" in 1980. His feast day is commemorated on September 24.

Today Alaska rejoices and America celebrates, 
For the new world has been sanctified by martyrdom. 
Kodiak echoes with songs of thanksgiving, 
Iliamna and Kenai observe the festival of faith. 
The Apostle and martyr Juvenaly is glorified, 
And Peter the Aleut is exalted by his voluntary sacrifice, 
In their devotion and love for the Lord, 
They willingly endured persecution and death for the Truth, 
Now in the Kingdom of Heaven they intercede for our souls! 

Today Valaam joins Alaska 
In celebrating this joyous feast, 
As her spiritual son Juvenaly 
Embraces the new martyr Peter with love. 
Together they suffered for the Lord in America 
And united the old world with the new by their voluntary sacrifice. 
Now forever they stand before the King of glory and intercede for our souls. 

O Peter, upon the rock of thy faith hath Christ built His Church, 
and in the streams of thy blood hath He hallowed our land. 
In thee thy people hath been sanctified, O Aleut; 
from the farthest islands of the west hath He raised thee, a light unto all. 
Glory to Him that hath glorified thee. 
Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. 
Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

America The Beautiful

America is a rich and powerful nation that assumes this power and wealth was afforded to us by the God of the Bible. Could it be perhaps that this wealth and power came from another benefactor? Is it possible that our forefathers succumbed to temptation as offered by the Great Tempter and that we are now enjoying the short lived pleasures of our choice to follow after him, who has portrayed himself to us as an Angel of Light? Could it be that instead of embracing truth, righteousness and justice, the American people have embraced lies, deceptions and half truths? Could it be that this so-called, "life in Christ" that American Evangelicals and all of American Christendom are living in, is just imagery, distractions, distortions and illusions? What will come of us, if in our secure state of being, we begin to catch glimpses of a wolf's tail, a wolf's snout and wolf tracks beneath the sheep skin? Will it be too late to escape from the wolf's clutches? Who will rescue us, for we sheep are no defense against a wolf, especially one so mighty who takes the name of Satan. Yet,in the midst of such danger, the Great Shepard also is near, ready to rescue with all swiftness, those who call out to Him for salvation.

Heresy can be defined as, "wrong teaching", "that which portrays God incorrectly", or "that which does not hold to the Apostolic Traditions". Through a simple study of church history, one can ascertain particular facts about the roots of our Christian faith. If we follow the genealogy of our Church Fathers back to the times of Christ, we will find landmarks along the way that can enlighten us as to why we are where we are today. Rather than work our way backwards, let's start with Christ who just prior to His ascension into the clouds, commissioned the Apostles to go into all the world preaching the gospel and baptizing all in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These twelve disciples along with the early followers of Christ accomplished an astounding feat in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a significant portion of the world within just the first generation after Christ's ascension into glory and within the first thousand years of church history, most of the world had received news of this Gospel. 

During the first millennium, the church was united and when heresy confronted the church, it was addressed in the Ecumenical Councils of which there were seven, the first being at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15, where the Apostles, upon addressing the acceptance of Gentiles into the church and acting with divine authority, stated, "As seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us". These councils established church rules, canons and decrees which provided a stable foundation and framework in which the church could thrive, blossom and grow. This practice of convening Church councils when the enemy encroached into God's Kingdom on earth continued with great success for many centuries but as prophecy would reveal, the faith of many would eventually begin to grow cold and consequently many would be deceived and deluded. Thus was the demise of the Roman Orthodox Church until in 1054, the final falling away was accomplished with Satan having his victory and for the first time in the history of the church, a major and catastrophic schism occurred and the great Orthodox Church of Rome was excommunicated from rest of Christendom.

As the Apostles and the Church Fathers teach, the seeds of heresy are sowed, watered and fertilized by the Evil One. His diabolical strategy is to sow seeds, be they ever so small that can eventually take root and grow into large trees that spread their branches far and wide for birds of many varieties and species to nestle in. These trees drop their poisonous fruit which is then carried by the birds of the air far and wide, eventually wrecking havoc upon the entire earth. Consistent with this strategy, Satan confuses, deludes and deceives the masses and even the elect by growing trees that bear resemblance in every respect to those of God's Kingdom and only men filled with the Spirit of God having had hands laid on them by the faithful Fathers before them are be able to discern the difference in the origin of the trees. These priests in turn having been ordained by God, teach His elect how to discern and parse truth from falsehood, lies from truth, imagery from reality and this order is consistent with the anointed St. Paul's teaching regarding the preservation of truth by entrusting faithful men through the "laying on of hands" as recorded in the letters to St. Timothy.

The Orthodox Roman Church having fallen from her glorious position in the heavenlies, lost her true beauty and having exchanged divine truth and godliness for power, avarice and pride took on a deceptively beastly character and began to devour the elect and the masses within her realm of dominion. As a wolf devours sheep, Rome devoured the flock of God and having betrayed the innocent and the weak, her appetite was whet with increasing abandon to carnal abuses. Eventually, of her mighty multiple realms, one rebelled and this realm was spewed from her mouth and thus was born the Reformation. Having been far removed from the garden from which all life was brought forth, that is the Church of the East; this small band of seekers of truth and beauty set out on their own to find the Kingdom of God and reclaim it for their own. Sadly, these children turned not to their Mother of the East but were yet again, deceived by the mighty dragon of old, who using his ancient mastery of deception and imagery, portrayed himself as an angel of light, beauty and truth and thus began again to lead this new Adam and Eve astray. 

Satan, in promising great riches, power and pleasure is not lame. He is more than able to provide mankind with all manner of temporal blessings but they are "temporal" and although they satisfy, enrich and bring pleasure, it is short lived. The lake of fire was not created for mankind, it was created for Satan and his demons. Mankind was made to enjoy God forever but to enjoy God, one must freely want to seek Him and God has allowed us the privilege of loving Him and love is not love unless it is freely given of one's own volition. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, it was revealed to us through this experience that Satan has great power and dominion over the earth, yet, it is short lived. Jesus willingly rejected the short lived pleasures of sin for the long term blessings of obeying God, His Father. We must do the same.

Thus this new Adam and Eve of the Reformation grew up and proliferated profusely enjoying a feast of both bitter herbs and sweet delights, of truths and deceptions, of good fruits and poisoned fruits; thus was the way of this new world. And just as weeds when left to grow on their own, grow profusely, so these sincere Protestants grew and spread throughout the West and even began to encroach into the strange and foreign lands of the East. The cunning king of this new world didn't need to intervene with his subjects. He simply sowed bad seed and let nature takes it's course with the birds of the air and the winds of the earth taking this seed far and wide. But the time would come when this King would send his officers out to gather the debts owed to him and those debts would carry a heavy penalty of interest and in lieu of not being able to pay their debt, the consequences would be life imprisonment. But the times were good, the money flowed, the pleasures were many and the food was abundant and no one wanted to think about unpleasantries like debt or penalties or imprisonment.

America, the beautiful, the proud, the blessed, the powerful, the rich. Our poorest are among the richest on the earth. We have spread our wings both far and wide and we have nested in strange lands in every corner of the earth. But where are our roots? From where did we come? Where are our beginnings? Are we really a nation blessed by the Trinitarian God of the Scriptures or is our God of another origin?

Jesus teaches us about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and compares it to a field where wheat grows and tells how Satan by stealth of night sowed tares among the wheat. What happens to the tares? What happens to the wheat? They are both allowed to grow up together until the end of the age when the angels will reap and the tares will be thrown into the fire and the wheat will gathered for the harvest. As we approach the end of the age the harvest is ripening and weeds continue to grow and spread and just as the scriptures teach, the harvest near the end of age will be thin, the love of many will grow cold and the masses will be deceived.

With the reformation well under way, the task of separation was made even more secure and Satan with his demons could continue their work of ushering in the last great rebellion against their Creator. As we enter into yet another chapter in this diabolical scheme of usurpation of God's Holy Kingdom, we see more completely the danger of heresies and their full effect on mankind. Heresy emanates from Satan himself; he is author of every teaching that sets itself against God's Holy throne. The scriptures are replete with admonitions and warnings that we are to have nothing to do with heretics after warning them two, perhaps three times. Why, the admonition to shun them, to separate ourselves from them? Because their bacterium is contagious and deadly and regardless of the strength of your knowledge or your holiness, unless you are armed with the vaccine of truth and are coming into the presence of such an infected environment for the purpose of saving a soul from death, you has no business in such a dangerous place without the anointing and equipping of God's Holy Spirit and His divine protection. 

It is indeed a dangerous place, confirmed by Paul the Apostle of God who warns of our need to be ever so careful lest we be sucked into the dark abyss in our efforts to save that man drowning in heresy. No man can stand against such a deadly disease as heresy without himself becoming infected. This bacterium attacks the immune system, breaking down our defenses, weakening us and opening the way for this leprosy to take up residence. This continuing work of the Evil One persists with wave upon wave of heresies. Lies upon lies upon lies until we are so deep in deceptions, half truths, distractions and distortions that we don't know up from down, or truth from falsehood until we find ourselves in a whirlpool of dark, turgid waters being sucked into the depths of a realm so thick with darkness, so vast with emptiness, that we will never escape, no matter how desirous we are to repent for then it will be too late.

Just as Adam and Eve were tempted and fell; we, their offspring reaping the consequences of their acts, yet not being responsible for their original actions but having inherited the consequences of their deeds, we now finding ourselves having to repent of what we were born into, otherwise we find ourselves continuing to live in this spirit of their deception. In the same way, our ancestors, the Romanists and the Protestants sinned against God by embracing heresies that until this very day keep them separated from the living God and the fullness of His blessings as He has preserved them in His Holy, Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church; the Church of the East. We again find ourselves in similar circumstances as with Adam and Eve, in that we are surrounded by the fallout of the actions of the Romanists and the Protestants and we, though not committing the original act must repent of where we are because of our ancestors and return to our Father God and our Mother church. If we choose not to return after having come into a knowledge of the truth of their actions and deeds, then we stand in danger of eternal separation from our Father God and our Mother church and by doing so, we will find ourselves in the eternal company of the great robber and rebeller, Satan himself along with all his demon companions. Yet, all the while our Father who bore us desires our company, our fellowship, our repentance and that we may enjoy Him forever and that He also may in turn enjoy us forever in the realm of His glorious, eternal and magnificent kingdom.

"And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Matthew 24:10-12

"For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Mat 24:24

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." 2 Cor.11:13-15

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
2 Tim 6:20-21

St. Irenaeus says that heretics do not follow the Apostolic Tradition,

Cyprian compares heretics to "the sons of Aaron, who placed strange fire (heresy) upon the Altar of God," that is, "despising God's Tradition, seek after strange doctrines and bring in teachings of human appointment"

Heretics usually form "sects" which become historically competitive to the Church.

Paul advises us that "a man that is an heretic" we should "reject, after the first and second admonition." Titus 3:8-10

The Church Fathers teach that heresy has its roots, not in incorrect belief and teaching alone, but in a mean spirit and in persistence in one's error, even after repeated entreaties that he repent.

A true Christian seeks to correct those in error, to lead them with love, and to avoid strife and discord.

The Church never issues its condemnations with the intention of destroying souls, but of awakening those in the dark sleep of error and bringing them to repentance.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good Tradition Bad Tradition

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” Mark 7:5

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions (plural) just as I delivered them to you. 1 Cor. 11:2

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” Mark 7:8

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions (plural) which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. 2 Thessalonians 2:15

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. Mark 7:9

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Col 2:8

A Divine Embryo—organically, naturally, and fully developed by the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

Tested by centuries, having evolved into an amazingly consistent form of worship, without Western modernized innovations or influence.

What Apostles lived, saw, witnessed and recorded evolved into the "Apostolic Tradition" and eventually became the New Testament.

"Patristic Tradition", consists of the Apostle's teachings as they are kept, treasured, interpreted, and explained to the Church by the Holy Fathers.

Tradition is a gift of the Holy Spirit, a living experience, which is relived and renewed through time. It is the true faith, which is revealed by the Holy Spirit to the true people of God.

Tradition, cannot be reduced to a mere enumeration of quotations from the Scriptures or from the Fathers. It is the fruit of the incarnation of the Word of God, His crucifixion and resurrection as well as His ascension, all of which took place in space and time. Tradition is an extension of the life of Christ into the life of the Church.

Tradition and traditions are the integral parts of the life of the Church and they express the totality of the Christian way of life which leads to salvation. The doctrine of incarnation, the historical truth of the crucifixion and resurrection, the Eucharist, the sign of the cross, the threefold immersion in the baptismal font, the honor and respect due to the Virgin Mary and to the saints of the Church, are all important for the Christian, who wants to find himself in the "perimeter" of salvation in Christ. This is what the Church has taught through the centuries. "Therefore we must consider the Tradition of the Church trustworthy," St. John Chrysostom writes, "it is Tradition, seek no more".

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Church Is Visible And One

"The question of the Church was certainly the catalyst in my own journey, especially
after reading the Ignatius Press edition of Thomas Howard’s delightful book Evangelical Is Not Enough. In the Postscript he reflects upon the steps that took him from Canterbury to Rome by saying that it was “the same old story which one finds in Newman, Knox, Chesterton, and all others who have made this move. The question, What is the Church? becomes, finally, intractable; and one finds oneself unable to offer any compelling reasons why the phrase one,holy, catholic, and apostolic,’which we all say in the Creed, is to be understood in any way other than the way in which it was understood for 1500 years.” If Howard
introduced the question to me, the hammer that drove home the nails came, ironically, from yet another encounter with a Roman Catholic book. To this day Yves Congar’s monumental Tradition and Traditions remains one of the most important books I have ever read besides the Bible; for it thoroughly convinced me that the Bible, Tradition, and the Church are one majestic tapestry woven and preserved by the Holy Spirit. When I finally became aware of the reality of this undivided, historical and visible Church I knew I could no longer remain separate from Her. I was not in the Church, and I needed to be.
Exerpt from "The Church Is Visible And One" by Patrick Barnes
photo: Monastery in Meteora, Greece

Friday, November 9, 2007

"God Became Man So That Man Might Become A God." St. Athanasius

... when the intellect has been perfected, it unites wholly with God and is illumined by divine light, and the most hidden mysteries are revealed to it. Then it truly learns where wisdom and power lie... While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things... But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts, then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by grace and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities. A person in whom this happens is not attached to the things of this world but has passed from death to life." St. Thalassios, "On Love, Self-control and Life in accordance with the Intellect" Philokalia (Vol. 2)", p. 355)

'Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?' (Prov. 6:27) says the wise Solomon. And I say: can he, who has in his heart the Divine fire of the Holy Spirit burning naked, not be set on fire, not shine and glitter and not take on the radiance of the Deity in the degree of his purification and penetration by fire? For penetration by fire follows upon purification of the heart, and again purification of the heart follows upon penetration by fire, that is, inasmuch as the heart is purified, so it receives Divine grace, and again inasmuch as it receives grace, so it is purified. When this is completed (that is, purification of heart and acquisition of grace have attained their fullness and perfection), through grace a man becomes wholly a god." St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 94, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pgs. 118-199)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Brief History Of Beards

"The simple reason why Orthodox priests wear beards is because, as a Nazarene, Our Lord had a beard, as can be seen from any icon. Since the priest is a dispenser of sacramental grace and an icon of Christ, he should physically resemble Our Lord... 

In the Roman Empire it was the custom for men to shave. Not to shave was to be a 'barbarian', i.e. not be a Roman and therefore be culturally inferior. This custom of shaving was particularly strong in the Western part of the Roman Empire, where Rome was. Even in the Eastern part of the Empire beardless priests were still common up until the fifth century. Here, however, the sense of the physical appearance of Christ and the need for clergy to resemble Him dominated and in the East beardless clergy had disappeared by the eighth century at latest.

In the West hermits and monastics also had long hair and beards, like St Martin of Tours. However, the parish clergy came to a kind of compromise. Although in order to avoid seeming effeminate, Western Orthodox clergy did not shave, they nevertheless trimmed their beards quite closely. This is clear from icons of St Leo the Great or St Gregory the Great. Unfortunately, this tradition of trimmed beards was lost with the tyranny of Charlemagne at the end of the eighth century. With his massive 'barbarian' inferiority complex, it was his desire in all things to imitate pagan classical Rome. It was therefore under him that Western clergy were ordered to shave regularly. For example at the Council of Aachen (816), it was stipulated that priests and monks were to shave every two weeks.

Despite this, until the beginning of the eleventh century most hermits and bishops too were still bearded. Nevertheless, by the end of the eleventh century most priests and monks shaved regularly, at least ten times a year, if not much more frequently. In particular, in 1080 Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII, tried to enforce shaving. All this was in pure imitation of the practices of pagan Rome. In the sixteenth century beardlessness for Roman Catholic clergy was enforced by further canons, which appear to have been dropped since the Second Vatican Council." From:

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Letter of Agatho, Pope of Old Rome - Addressesd To The 6th Ecumenical Council at Constantinople

Exerpt: "For, among men placed amid the Gentiles, and earning their daily bread by bodily labour with considerable distraction, how could a knowledge of the Scriptures, in its fulness, be found unless what has been canonically defined by our holy and apostolic predecessors, and by the venerable five councils, we preserve in simplicity of heart, and without any distorting keep the faith come to us from the Fathers, always desirous and endeavouring to possess that one and chiefest good, viz.: that nothing be diminished from the things canonically defined, and that nothing be changed nor added thereto, but that those same things, both in words and sense, be guarded untouched."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Status Of The Non-Orthodox

Exerpt from, "The Non-Orthodox" by Patrick Barnes
The Spirit of God blows where it chooses and, as Irenaeus said, where the Spirit is, there is the Church. We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not. This means, as Khomiakov insists, that we must refrain from passing judgment on non-
Orthodox Christians: 
"Inasmuch as the earthly and visible [Eastern Orthodox] Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits. . . . She does not judge the rest of humankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of humankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day." Russian lay-theologian and dialectician Alexei Khomiakov

An Ancient View On Heresy and Unity and Those Outside Of the Eastern Orthodox Church

"We hold this forth as a model for all those who seek Christian unity: I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their ill–
treatment—God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For
what is more pleasing to the Faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it misanthropy and a departure from Divine love to lend support to error, that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted." 
Saint Maximus the Confessor +580

Friday, November 2, 2007

Orthodox Teachngs On Christians Outside The Church

"The status of the heterodox; which is defined as, 'at variance with Orthodoxy',is properly seen in two ways. When speaking of their ecclesial status—i.e., their relation to the Orthodox Church—we would say that the heterodox cannot be seen as Her members, because they have not been grafted into the one true Body of Christ through Holy Baptism. On the other hand, when speaking of their eternal status—i.e., the implications of this ecclesial separation—, we leave them to the mercy of God and do not judge them. Affirmation of their separation does not require belief in their damnation." 
Exerpt from the book, "The Non-Orthodox" by Patrick Barnes

"I have come to view my Protestant past in a way similar to the way the Fathers of the Church viewed the history of Israel—as a preparation for the Christian Gospel. Historically, of course, Protestantism represents a movement away from the historical Church rather than a movement toward it. Nonetheless, Christ did not abandon the Christians of the West, in spite of the increase of heresies. If in no other way, He
was and is present in the Holy Scriptures. While Protestantism, in all of its variety, is a heresy, God works in the lives of individuals to bring them to the fulness of the truth." 
Exerpt from the book, "The Way" by Clark Carlton

"Even before he was of our fold, he was ours. His character made him one of us. For, as many of our own are not with us, whose life alienates them from the common body, so, many of those without are on our side, whose character anticipates their faith, and need only the name of that which indeed they possess."
Funeral Oration on his Father, Saint Gregory the Elder (+374)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Beginning Of The End Of The End Of The Age

The following are a few excerpts from prophecies of Righteous Dimitry Tarabicz recorded around the 1850's. He was illiterate Serbian clairvoyant villager who lived in pious eremitic manner in mid 19 century, many of his prophecies were recorded by his Godfather, the priest Father Zacharias. Here are excerpts from part that deals with a GREAT War ahead of us .

"You see my god-father, when the world starts to live in peace and abundance after the Second Big War, all of that will be just a bitter illusion, because many will forget God, and they will worship only their own human intelligence... And do you know my god-father, what is human intelligence compared to God's will and knowledge? Not even a single drop in the ocean.

Men will build a box and within will be some kind of gadget with images, but they will not be able to communicate with me already dead, even though this image gadget will be as close to this other world as hairs on the human scalp are close to each other."

"With the help of this image-gadget man will be able to see everything that is happening all over the world.

People will drill wells deep in the ground and dig out gold [another name for crude oil is "black gold"], which will give them light, speed and power, and the earth will shed tears of sorrow, because there will be much more gold and light on its surface than in its interior. The earth will suffer because of these open wounds. Instead of working in the fields, people will dig everywhere, in right and wrong places, but the real power will be all around them, not being able to tell them: "Come on, take me, don't you see that I am here, all around you." Only after many years, people will remember this real power, and then they will realize how stupid it was to dig all those holes. This power will also be present in people but it will take a long time before they discover it and use it. Thus man will live for a long, long time, not being able to know himself. There will be many learned men who will think through their books that they know and can do everything. They will be the great obstacle for this realization , but once men get this knowledge, then people will see what kind of delusion it was when they listened to their learned men. When that happens, people will be so sorry that they didn't discover it before, because this knowledge is so simple. 

They will believe that their illusion is the real truth, although there will be no truth in their heads. Here at home it will be the same as all over the world. People will start to hate clean air and this divine freshness and all divine beauty and will hide in rankness. Nobody will force them to do that, but they will do it of their own free will. Here in Kremna many a field will become a meadow, and many a home will be abandoned, but then those who have left will come back to heal themselves by breathing fresh air. In Serbia it will not be possible to distinguish a man from a woman. Everybody will dress the same. This calamity will come to us from abroad but it will stay with us the longest. A groom will take a bride, but nobody will know who is who. People will be lost and more and more senseless day by day. Men will be born not knowing who was their grand-father and great grand-father. People will think that they know everything, but not a thing they will know.

The Serbs will separate from each other, and they will say: "I am not a Serb, I am not a Serb." The unholy one will infiltrate this nation and bed with Serbian sisters, mothers and wives. He will sire such children that among the Serbs, since the beginning of the world, these will be the worst of offspring. Only weaklings will be born, and nobody will be strong enough to give a birth to a real hero."

"At one time we shall disappear from this land of ours. We shall go to the north, and then realizing our stupid deed we shall return. When we come back, we shall wise up and chase away the unholy one, not to see him, in God's name, ever again.

The whole world will be plagued by a strange disease and nobody will be able to find a cure; everybody will say I know, I know, because I am learned and smart, but nobody will know anything. People will think and think, but they will not be able to find the right cure, which will be with God's help, all around them and in themselves.

Man will travel to other worlds to find lifeless deserts there, and still, God forgive him, he will think that he knows better than God himself. There, except the eternal peace of God, he will see nothing, but he will sense with his heart and soul all of God's beauty and power. People will drive in rigs upon the moon and stars. They will look for life, but life similar to ours they will not find. It will be there, but they will not be able to understand it and see that it is life.

One who goes there, God forgive him, not believing in God as it is proper for an honorable and decent person, when he comes back he will say: "Oh, you people, who mention God's name with doubt, go there where I was, than you will see what is God's mind and power."

The more people will know, the less they will love and care for each other. Hatred will be so great between them that they will care more for their different gadgets than for their relatives. Man will trust his gadget more than his first neighbor...

Among people of a nation far in the north a little man will appear who will teach men about love and compassion, but there will be many Judas and hypocrites around him so that he will have many ups and downs. Not one of these hypocrites will want to know what is real human grace, but his wise books will remain, and all the words he will say , and then then people will see how self-deceived they were.

Those who will read and write different books with numbers will think that they know the most. These learned men will let their lives be led by their calculations, and they will do and live exactly how these numbers tell them. Among these learned men there will be good and evil men. The evil ones will do evil deeds. They will poison air and water and spread pestilence over the seas, rivers and earth, and people will start to die suddenly of various ailments. Those good and wise will see that all this effort and hard work is not worth a penny and that it leads to the destruction of the world, and instead of looking for wisdom in numbers, they will start to seek it in prayer.


When they start to pray more, they will be closer to God's wisdom, but it will be too late, because the evil ones will already ravage the whole earth and men will start to die in great numbers. Then people will run away from cities to the country and look for the mountains with three crosses, and there, inside, they will be able to breathe and drink water. Those who will escape will save themselves and their families, but not for long, because a great famine will appear. There will be plenty of food in towns and villages, but it will be poisoned. Many will eat because of hunger and die immediately. Those who will fast to the end will survive, because the Holy Ghost will save them and they will be close to God.

"The greatest and the angriest will strike against the mightiest and the most furious! When this horrible war starts, woe to those armies that fly over skies; better off will be those who fight on ground and water.
"People waging this war will have their scientists who will invent different and strange cannonballs. "We will not fight in this war, but others will do battle over our heads. Burning people will fall from the sky over Pozega [a town in Serbia]. Only one country at the end of the world, surrounded by great seas, as big as our Europe , will live in peace, without any troubles... Upon it or over it, not a single cannonball will explode! Those who will run and hide in the mountains with three crosses will find shelter and will be saved, But not for long times since great famine will appear ,Food will be all over the cities and villages ,but all will be poisoned....Many in order to feed themselves will eat everything and will immediately die. Those who will fast and endured fasting, those will survive ,because Holy Spirit will preserve them and those will be closer to God in the time of great famine and perdition.
In that time far away in Russian mountains, young man named Mihail will appear. He will have bright face and his entire appearance will radiate with mercy . .....he will come to nearest Monastery and ring on all monastery bells ,and to people who will gather there around him he will say; You forgot about me(who I am),that I didn't die but am alive ......Mihail will go everywhere but mostly he will dwell in Constantinople.... who have ears let him hear

Sent to me from Father Gregory of the "Holy Myrrhbearing Women" Orthodox Church in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho

Friday, October 26, 2007

'What fear, what trembling, what uneasiness

will there for us when our soul is separated from the body. Then indeed the force and strength of the adverse powers come against us, the rulers of darkness, those who command the world of evil, the principalities, the powers, the spirits of evil. They accuse our souls as in a lawsuit, bringing before it all the sins it has committed, whether deliberately or through ignorance, from its youth until the time when it has been taken away. So they stand accusing it of all it has done. Furthermore, what anxiety do you suppose the soul will have at that hour, until sentence is pronounced and it gains liberty. That is its hour of affliction, until it sees what will happen to it. On the other hand, the divine powers stand on the opposite side, and present the good deeds of the soul. Consider the fear and trembling of the soul standing between them until in judgment it receives the sentence of the righteous judge. If it is judged worthy, the demons will receive their punishment, and it will be carried away by the angels. Then thereafter you will be without disquiet, or rather you will live according to that which is written: "Even the habitation of those who rejoice is in you" Ps.87:7. Then will the scripture be fulfilled: "Sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Is35:10 Then your liberated soul will go on to that joy and ineffable glory in which it will be established. But if it is found to have lived carelessly, it will hear that terrible voice: "Take away the ungodly, that he may not see the glory of the Lord."Is26:10. Then the day of anger, the day of affliction, the day of darkness and shadow seizes upon it. Abandoned to outer darkness and condemned to everlasting fire it will be punished through the ages without end. Where is then the vanity of the world? Where is the vain-glory? Where is the carnal life? Where is enjoyment? Where is imagination? Where is ease? Where is boasting? Riches? Nobility? Father, mother, brother? Who could take the soul out of its pains when it is burning in the fire, and remove it from bitter torments?
'Since it is so, in what manner ought we not to give ourselves to holy and devout works? What love ought we to acquire? What manner of life? What virtues? What speed? What diligence? What prayer? What prudence? Scripture says: "In this waiting, let us make every effort to be found blameless and without reproach in peace."1Cor1:7-8. In this way, we shall be worthy to hear it said: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt.24:34 Amen. Written by Abba Theophilus "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers"

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Second Ecumenical Council - 381 AD

In the whole history of the Church there is no council which bristles with such astonishing facts as the First Council of Constantinople. It is one of the “undisputed General Councils,” one of the four which St. Gregory said he revered as he did the four holy Gospels, and he would be rash indeed who denied its right to the position it has so long occupied; and yet

1. It was not intended to be an Ecumenical Synod at all.

2. It was a local gathering of only one hundred and fifty bishops.

3. It was not summoned by the Pope, nor was he invited to it.

4. No diocese of the West was present either by representation or in the person of its bishop; neither the see of Rome, nor any other see.

5. It was a council of Saints...

Accomplishments of this Council:

1. Established the Unity of the Holy Trinity
2. Confirmed the Complete Manhood in Christ
3. Supplemented the Nicene Creed

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Synod of Loadicea 363-364 AD

Sixty Canons Were Decreed At This Synod Of Which Four Are Published Below 

Canon XXIX.

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

In short: A Christian shall not stop work on the Sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day.

Balsamon comments:

Here the Fathers order that no one of the faithful shall stop work on the Sabbath as do Jews, but that they should honour the Lord’s Day, on account of the Lord’s resurrection, and that on that day they should abstain from manual labour and go to church. But thus abstaining from work on Sunday they do not lay down as a necessity, but they add, “if they can.” For if through need or any other necessity any one worked on the Lord’s day this was not reckoned against him.


They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ.

In Short: Those illuminated should after their baptism be anointed.

Van Espen comments:

That this canon refers to the anointing with chrism on the forehead of the baptized, that is to say of the sacrament of confirmation, is the unanimous opinion of the Greek commentators, and Balsamon notes that this anointing is not simply styled “chrism” but “the heavenly chrism,” viz.: “that which is sanctified by holy prayers and through the invocation of the Holy Spirit; and those who are anointed therewith, it sanctifies and makes partakers of the kingdom of heaven.”

Canon LIII.

Christians, when they attend weddings, must not join in wanton dances, but modestly dine or breakfast, as is becoming to Christians.

In Short: It is unsuitable to dance or leap at weddings.

Van Espen comments:

This canon does not call for explanation but for reflexion, and greatly it is to be desired that it should be observed by Christians, and that through like improprieties, wedding-days, which should be days of holy joy and blessing, be not turned, even to the bride and groom themselves, into days of cursing. Moreover the Synod of Trent admonishes bishops to take care that at weddings there be only that which is modest and proper.

Canon LIV.

Members of the priesthood and of the clergy must not witness the plays at weddings or banquets; but, before the players enter, they must rise and depart.

In Short: Priests and clerics should leave before the play.

Aristenus comments:

Christians are admonished to feast modestly when they go to weddings and not to dance nor βαλλίζειν , that is to clap their hands and make a noise with them. For this is unworthy of the Christian standing. But consecrated persons must not see the play at weddings, but before the thymelici begin, they must go out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Answers to Questions Commonly asked by Protestant Christians about the Orthodox Faith

Why do you pray to saints?

To be accurate, we pray with the saints, not to them. Much the same as you would ask your friends, family or other Christians to pray for you, we ask the saints to intercede on our behalf. It's important to remember that the saints who are in paradise are alive! And as they are alive, they are able to pray for us!

What's with all the icons?

Icons are our family album. In the same way that many people keep photo albums to help them remember people and events, we keep the icons to remind us of people and events. They adorn the walls of our worship spaces so that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" as the author of Hebrews reminds us. Most Orthodox Christians have an icon corner in their home where they display icons of Christ, the Theotokos and the saints.

Icons are not just items made of wood and paint. Human beings are icons of God (that is, we are made in the image and likeness of God). Jesus Christ is called "the exact image (icon)" of God. In the end, icons point only back to God. Reverence which is made through these "windows into heaven" is directed at the image of God found in each of the saints depicted.

Why do you mention Mary so much?

It boils down to this: She's Jesus' mom! The issue really isn't that we show her so much respect, but why other Christians don't!

Why is she so important? 

Mary is the guarantor that Jesus Christ is fully man! The early Christians made a point of inserting into the Creed the statement that Christ was "Born of the Virgin Mary" to ensure there was no confusion on this matter!

Why do you pray to Mary?

As for prayers, we pray with Mary, and ask her to intercede on our behalf. It's no different than asking your mom to pray for you. And in this case, we're asking Jesus' mom to pray for us! The question really is why anyone would pass up that opportunity?

Why do you cross yourselves?

Jesus calls us to "take up our cross" and this is a visible identification with that command of our Lord. We make the sign of the cross to remind us that we were bought and paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the cross, we are freed from bondage to sin and to Satan!

This isn't a new phenomenon — Protestants, including Martin Luther used the sign of the cross, and some continue to do so still today.

Don't you get tired of singing the same hymns every week?

Our hymns change every day. Yes, there are some hymns which we sing regularly, but each day different hymns are sung to celebrate a feast, or the life of a saint or some other event in the life of the Church. If an Orthodox Christian participates in Vespers (evening prayer), Matins (morning prayer) and the Liturgy, at least 15 different hymns will be heard! And even with the ones that are repeated at every service, very often verses appropriate to the day are inserted between the "standard" verses that we sing.

Like most churches, we have a large and varied hymnbook, and some of the hymns are used more than others. Keep track in your church over the course of a year and see!

Why do you repeat the same prayers all the time?

Because they are good ones! Seriously, why is it necessary to rewrite the prayers every week? There is no such call in Scripture. There we are told to refrain from "vain repetition" but that does not mean that all repetition is bad!

That said, listen carefully to the prayers used in your church. Week in and week out, the prayer will be nearly the same in content, if not in words! Try it sometime!

Why do you use incense?

Our worship is not merely mental — we use all our senses, sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Isaiah and the Revelation of Jesus Christ tell us that incense is used in heavenly worship. Incense wafting upwards symbolizes our prayer rising to God in heaven.

Do you have to be Orthodox to be saved?

In a word, no. We believe that Orthodoxy represents the fullness of the faith — that is, the most complete and accurate expression possible by man. God honors truthful belief and proper faith anywhere it is found.

Then why become Orthodox? 

Simply put, the fullness of the faith is found here, the fullness of the truth is found here, and the fullness of worship is found here. Why would anyone want only partial measures?

Why do you fast so much?

Fasting is one of many tools that we use to "buffet our bodies" as St. Paul said, so that we might be pure and holy. Jesus said that when He had gone, his followers would fast. Like the early Christians, we fast so that we may learn to control our appetite for all things that are not good and holy. It is not about earning salvation, it is a tool to help us work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

Specifically, we fast each Wednesday to commemorate the day when Jesus was betrayed and each Friday to commemorate His death on the cross. In addition, we fast during the entire Lenten period and the entire Advent period, as well as during other times during the year.

Orthodox fasting practice, when followed strictly, means that the believer does not partake of any animal products from vertebrates (i.e. no meat, dairy, eggs, etc), nor of olive oil, nor wine. These choices reflect the desire to do no harm on these days, as well as giving up certain staples of life.

Do you believe the Eucharist is REALLY the body and blood of Christ?

What do you mean by "REALLY"? There are several ways to approach this. Although Orthodox Christains certainly recoil at the sacrilige of testing it using the scientific method, there is little doubt that you will find only wine, water and bread with such tests. And to most westerners, this settles the question. But does it really?

We don't think it settles the question at all. In fact, it's not even the right question! The Eucharist is very much really, truly the body and blood of our Lord. But this can be appraised only by our spiritual sight, what the early Christians called the "nous" — the eyes of the soul. Without this spiritual insight, we could not understand the mystery of the Eucharist.

To address a question that often arises, we do not view the Eucharist as a "re-sacrifice" or a "re-presentation" of the Sacrifice of the Cross. Rather, in the Eucharist, the Church is brought up to heaven to participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb — the future communion of all believers with Christ when He comes again.

What do the Orthodox think about the Bible? Do you agree with Sola Scriptura?

Much of the content of Orthodox worship services consists of readings from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. Readings from the Gospel occur at most services, along with regular readings from the Epistles.

There are not now, nor have there ever been, any restrictions on the laity with regard to reading the Scriptures — they are, and always have been, encouraged to read them.

As for Sola Scriptura we believe that the Scriptures are the "canon" — the measuring stick — which must be applied to all doctrine, but it is not the only source doctrine. In other words, not all doctrine is found in the Scriptures, but no Orthodox doctrine contradicts the Scriptures.

Does tradition override the Scriptures?

Some place Scripture and Tradition in opposition to each other, but this is not the Orthodox position. Others place Scripture and Tradition on the same level and set them up as co-equal, but neither is this the Orthodox position. For Orthodoxy, there is but one deposit of faith that contains everything that God has given to the Church via the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are part of this deposit of faith, and thus are part of Holy Tradition.

The Scriptures are not "overridden" or "trumped" by tradition, but are the cornerstone of tradition. They are the "canon" - the measuring stick - by which all doctrine must be judged. No Orthodox teaching is in contradiction to the Scriptures, nor can it be, for if it is, it most certainly could not be part of the deposit of faith. The Holy Scriptures, as interpreted by the Church, have the final say over any and all matters of faith and practice. They do not have the only say. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 3:6-7; 1 Corinthians 11:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 3:14-15).

The Scriptures are themselves a product of the oral tradition of the early Church. The gospels were preached orally, later being written down by the leading of the Holy Spirit. One can also see in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew usage of the Gospel of Mark - the use of prior tradition. The use of oral tradition in the Scriptures has precedents in both the Old and the New Testaments - the authors were simply following accepted practices. Similarly, both Luke and Matthew had access to some collection of sayings that they used in common which do not appear in Mark. This collection could have been oral, written or a combination of both.

Taken from the Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Church website, Warrenville IL
Idealized image of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (Ancient Constantinople) 
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Mt. Athos Is Home To Twenty Monasteries And Is The Oldest Surviving Monastic Community In The World

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sayings Of The Church Fathers

"O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were
not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again,
but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in
reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and
truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us,
that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain
salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ
received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured
anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship
of His pain He vouchsafed salvation."

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments.

"Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following
things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most
despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one,
and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they
are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to
yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are,
or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our
ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust
and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more
despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance
with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my
innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature."

St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV.

"I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to
gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I
shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received
from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule
for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because
not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of
body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal:
to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear
rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop
eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are

St. John Cassian

Boomerangs and Imprecatory Prayers

Exerpt from a homily of St. Chrysosotom: 

"...but to-day I have found also another damage attaching itself to their prayers more destructive than that one. For many, throwing themselves prostrate, and striking the ground with their forehead, and pouring forth hot tears, and groaning bitterly from the heart and stretching out their hands, and displaying much earnestness, employ this warmth and forwardness against their own salvation. 

For it is not on behalf of their own sins that they beseech God; nor are they asking forgiveness of the offences committed by them; but they are exerting this earnestness against their enemies entirely, doing just the same thing as if one, after whetting his sword, were not to use the weapon against his enemies, but to thrust it through his own throat. 

So these also use their prayers not for the remission of their own sins, but about revenge on their enemies; which is to thrust the sword against themselves. This too the wicked one has devised, in order that on all sides we may destroy ourselves, both through slackness and through earnestness. 

For the one class by their carelessness in their prayers exasperate God, by displaying contempt through their slackness; and the others, when they display earnestness, display the earnestness on the other hand against their own salvation. “A certain person,” he (the devil) says, “is slack: that is sufficient for me with a view to his obtaining nothing; this man is earnest and thoroughly aroused; what then must be done to accomplish the same result? 

I cannot slacken his earnestness, nor throw him into carelessness; I will contrive his destruction in the other way. How so? I will manage that he use his earnestness for transgressing the law:” (for the praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law). 

“He shall depart therefore not only having gained nothing by his earnestness, but also having endured the hurt which is greater than that caused through slackness.” Such as these are the injuries of the devil: the one sort he destroys through their remissness; and the other through their earnestness itself, when it is shown not according to God’s laws.

11. But it is also worth hearing the very words of their prayer, and how the words are of a puerile mind; of how infantile a soul. I am ashamed in truth when about to repeat them; but it is absolutely necessary to repeat them, and to imitate that coarse tongue. 

What then are the words? 

“Avenge me of my enemies, show them that I too have God (on my side).” They do not then learn, man, that we have God, when we are indignant and angry and impatient; but when we are gentle and meek and subdued, and practise all love of wisdom. 

So also God said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens. Matt. v. 16. 

Perceivest thou not that it is an insult to God, the making a request to God against thine enemies? And how is it an insult? one will say. Because He Himself said, “pray for your enemies;” and brought in this divine law. When therefore thou claimest that the legislator should relax his own laws; and callest upon him to legislate in opposition to himself; and supplicatest him who had forbidden thee to pray against thine enemies to hear thee praying against thine enemies; thou art not praying in doing this, nor calling upon him; but thou art insulting the lawgiver, and acting with drunken violence towards him, who is sure to give to thee the good things which result from prayer. 

And how is it possible to be heard when praying, tell me, when thou exasperatest him who is sure to hear? For by doing these things thou art pushing thine own salvation into a pit, and art rushing down a precipice, by striking thine enemy before the king’s eyes. 

To strike any one within “the precincts of the court” even has been made a capital offence. For even if thou doest not this with the hands, with thy words thou strikest him, the thing which thou darest not do even in the case of thy fellow-slaves. At least dare to do this in a ruler’s presence, and though thou hast done countless public services, thou wilt straightway surely be led away to execution. 

Then (I ask) in the presence of a ruler dost thou not dare to insult thine equal, but when doing this in God’s presence, tell me, dost thou not shudder, nor fear when in the time of entreaty and prayer being so savage and turning thyself into a wild beast; and displaying greater want of feeling than he who demanded payment of the hundred pence? 

Matt. xviii. 28. For that thou art more insolent than he, listen to the story itself. A certain man owed ten thousand talents to his master; then, not having (wherewith) to pay, he entreated him to be long-suffering, in order that, his wife having been sold and his house and his children, he might settle his master’s claim. And the master seeing him lamenting had compassion on him, and remitted the ten thousand talents. He having gone out and found another servant owing him a hundred pence, seizing his throat demanded them with great cruelty and inhumanity. The Master having heard this threw him into the prison, and laid on him again the debt of the ten thousand talents which he had before remitted; and he paid the penalty of the cruelty shown towards his fellow-servant.

12. Now do thou consider in how much more unfeeling and insensible in a way thou hast acted even than he, praying against thine enemies. He did not beg his master to demand, but he himself demanded, the hundred pence; whereas thou even callest on the Master for this shameless and forbidden demand. And he seized his fellow-servant’s throat not before his lord’s eyes, but outside; while thou in the very moment of prayer, standing in the King’s presence, doest this. 

And if he, for doing this without either having urged his master to the demand, and after going forth, met with no forgiveness; thou, both stirring up the Master to (exacting) this forbidden payment, and doing this before his eyes, what sort of penalty will thou have to pay? tell me. 

But thy mind is inflamed by the memory of the enmity, and swells, and thy heart rises and when recurring in memory to him who has caused pain, thou art unable to reduce the swelling of thy thought. But set against this inflammation the memory resulting from thine own sins committed the fear resulting from the punishment to come. 

Recall to memory for how many things thou art accountable to thy master, and that for all those things thou owest Him satisfaction; and this fear will surely overcome that anger; since indeed this is far more powerful than that passion. 

Recall the memory of hell and punishment and vengeance during the time of thy prayer; and thou wilt not be able even to receive thine enemy into thy mind. Because it is filled with better thoughts. No room for him. Make thy mind contrite, humble thy soul by the memory of the offences committed by thee, and wrath will not be able even to trouble thee. 

But the cause of all these evils is this, that we scrutinise the sins of all others with great exactitude; while we let our own pass with great remissness. Whereas we ought to do the contrary—to keep our own faults unforgotten; but never even to admit a thought of those of others. 

If we do this we shall both have God propitious, and shall cease cherishing immortal anger against our neighbors, and we shall never have any one as an enemy; and even if we should have at any time we shall both quickly put an end to his enmity, and should obtain speedy pardon for our own sins. 

For just as he who treasures up the memory of wrong against his neighbor does not permit the punishment upon his own sins to be done away; so he who is clear of anger will speedily be clear of sins also. 

For if we, wicked as we are and enslaved to passion, on account of the commandment of God overlook all the faults committed against us, much more will He who is a lover of mankind, and good, and free from any passion, overlook our delinquencies, rendering to us the recompense of our kindly spirit towards our neighbour in the forgiveness of our own sins: which God grant that we may attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the dominion, to the ages of the ages. Amen."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Holy Fathers On Illness

Written by Bishop Alexander (see link)

Everyone, whether or not he is a Christian, must expect a certain amount of sickness and discomfort to enter his life. Physical pain is universal; no one escapes it. Therefore, how much we suffer from illness, or how intensely, does not matter so much as how we understand these infirmities. The understanding is all.

If a man supposes that life should be one long, luxurious "vacation," then any amount of suffering that comes to him is unbearable. But if a man views life as a time of sorrows, correction, and purification, then suffering and pain become not only bearable, but even useful.

Saint Ambrose of Milan says of the Christian attitude toward sickness: "If the occasion demands it, a wise man will readily accept bodily infirmity and even offer his whole body up to death for the sake of Christ....This same man is not affected in spirit or broken with bodily pain if his health fails him. He is consoled by his struggle for perfection in the virtues" (Exegetical Works). Hearing this, the man of the world is quite likely to exclaim: "What an idea! How can a man 'readily accept' illness and disease?"

To an unbeliever this is indeed an incomprehensible thing. He cannot reconcile the fact of human suffering with his own idea of God. To him, the very thought that God would allow pain is repugnant; usually he sees every kind of suffering as evil in an absolute sense.

Without the aid of Divine Revelation man cannot understand the origin and cause of pain, nor its purpose. Many people, not having help in understanding, are haunted by fear of pain, terrified at the thought of a lingering illness, and quick to seek medical relief because they believe illness is only the result of "chance."

If it is true that infirmity comes through mere "bad luck" (which even common sense tells us is not so, since much disease is the result of immoderate living), then indeed it is permissible and even desirable to use all means to avoid the pain of illness and even the illness itself. Furthermore, when a disease becomes irreversible and terminal, worldly wisdom teaches that it is acceptable to end the life of the patient — what is called euthanasia, or "mercy killing" — since, according to this view deathbed suffering is useless and cruel, and therefore "evil."

But even in everyday life we know that suffering really isn't "absolutely evil." For example, we submit to the surgeon's knife in order to have a diseased part of the body cut away; the pain of the operation is great, but we know that it is necessary in order to preserve health or even life. Thus, even on a strictly materialistic level, pain can serve a higher good.

Another reason why human suffering is a mystery to an unbeliever is because his very "idea" of God is false. He is shocked when the Holy Fathers speak of God in the following way: "Whether God brings upon us a famine, or a war, or any calamity whatsoever, He does so out of His exceeding great care and kindness" (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7, On the Statues).

The God-bearing Elder Macarius of Optina, in 19th-century Russia, wrote thusly to a friend: "Being weak in health as you yourself are, I cannot fail to feel much sympathy for your plight. But kind Providence is not only more wise than we are; It is also wise in a different way. It is this thought which must sustain us in all our trials, for it is consoling, as no other thought is."

Wise in a different way... Here we can begin to see that the Patristic understanding of God's ways is contrary to the world's view. In fact, it is unique: it is not speculative, scholarly, or "academic." As Bishop Theophan the Recluse has written: "Christian faith is not a doctrinal system but a way of restoration for fallen man." Therefore, the criterion of faith — true knowledge of God — is not intellectual. The measure of truth, as Professor Andreyev wrote, "is life itself ...Christ spoke of this clearly, plainly, and definitely: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). That is, I am the Way of perceiving the Truth; I am Myself the incarnate Truth (everything I say is true)...and I am Life (without Me there cannot be life)" (Orthodox Christian Apologetics). This is very far from the wisdom of this world.

We can either believe or disbelieve Christ's words about Himself. If we believe, and act upon our belief, then we can begin to ascend the ladder of living knowledge, such as no textbook or philosopher can ever give: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (I Cor. 1:20)

One of the difficulties in compiling a handbook of Patristic teaching on illness is that sickness cannot be strictly separated from the general question of pain (e.g., psychological pain and the suffering which results from war, famine, etc.). Some of what the Holy Fathers have to say here about illness also establishes a foundation for their teaching about adversity, which will be the subject of the fourth book in this series.

Another difficulty is that the Orthodox Fathers sometimes use such words as "sin," "punishment," and "reward" without limiting themselves to the meanings our modern society gives them. For instance, "sin" is a transgression of the Divine Law. But in Patristic thought it is also more than this: it is an act of "treachery," a faithlessness to God's love for man and an "arbitrary violation of [man's] sacred union with God" (Andreyev, Ibid.). Sin is not something we should see within a strict legal framework of "crime and punishment"; man's faithlessness is a universal condition, not limited to just this or that transgression. It is always with us, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

God's dealings with man are not limited to our legalistic ideas about reward and punishment. Salvation, which is the ultimate goal of Christian life, is not a "reward," but a gift freely given by God. We cannot "earn" or "merit" it by anything we do, no matter how pious or self-effacing we think ourselves.

In everyday life we naturally think that good deeds should be rewarded and crimes punished. But our God does not "punish" on the basis of human standards. He corrects and chastises us, just as a loving father corrects his erring children in order to show them the way. But this is not the same thing as being "sentenced" to a "term" of pain and suffering for some misdeed. Our God is not vindictive; He is at all times perfectly loving, and His justice has nothing to do with human legal standards.

He knows that we cannot come to Him without purity of heart, and He also knows that we cannot acquire this purity unless we are free from all things: free of attachments to money and property, free of passion and sin, and even detached from bodily health if that stands between us and true freedom before God. He instructs us, through both Revelation and correction, showing us how we may acquire this freedom, for Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). As St. John Cassian teaches:

God "leads you on by a still higher step to that love which is free of fear. Through this you begin effortlessly and naturally to observe all those things you originally observed out of fear of God and punishment, but now you do them no longer from fear of punishment, but from love of Goodness itself, and delight in virtue" (Institutes).

Keeping in mind this deeper spiritual meaning of such words as "sin," "reward," and "punishment," we can proceed to study the divinely-wise discourses of the Holy Fathers on the subject of illness, thanking God that "our Faith has been made secure y wise and learned Saints" (St. Cosmas Aitolas), for "truly, to know oneself is the hardest thing of all," as t. Basil the Great writes. The Holy Fathers point the way. Their lives and writings act, as it were, like a mirr in which we may take the measure of ourselves, weighed down as we are by passions and infirmities. Illss is one of the ways by which we can learn what we really are. (cont. see link)