Thursday, January 28, 2010

US Victory for Home Schoolers - Sort of

The Washington times reports on an immigration case that has allowed a German family to be granted political asylum due to Germany's stringent anti-home-schooling laws. Would that the right to home school a family's children, and other alternative-to-government-enforced-and-programmed schools (i.e., private and parochial schools), were equitably supported by the US, states, and many local governments.

The story may be found here.
Quote of the day: "We know many people, especially other German home-schoolers, have been praying for us. Their prayers and ours have been answered," Mr. Romeike said. "We greatly appreciate the freedom to home-school we now have in America and will be building our new life here."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St Theophan the Recluse on Living the Christian Life

The following is from the Moscow Church of Russia Website. It is a beautiful and fitting reflection on living the Christian life by St Theophan the Recluse, and quite timely reading during this week of the Publican and the Pharisee.


There is a moment, and a very noticeable moment, which is sharply marked out in the course of our life, when a person begins to live in a Christian way. This is the moment when there begins to be present in him the distinctive characteristics of Christian life. Christian life is zeal and strength to remain in communion with God by means of an active fulfillment of His holy will, according to our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the grace of God, to the glory of His most holy name.

The essence of Christian life consists in communion with God, in Christ Jesus our Lord - in a communion with God which in the beginning is usually hidden not only from others, but also from oneself. The testimony of this life that is visible or can be felt within us is the ardor of active zeal to please God alone in a Christian manner, with total self-sacrifice and hatred of everything which is opposed to this. And so, when this ardor of zeal begins, Christian life has its beginning. The person in whom this ardor is constantly active, is one who is living in a Christian way. Here we will have to stop and pay attention to this distinctive characteristic.

I am come to send fire to the earth,the Saviour said, and what will I, if it be already kindled! (Lk. 12:49). He is speaking here of Christian life, and He says this because the visible witness of this is the zeal for the pleasing of God which is in the heart by the Spirit of God. This is like fire because, just as fire devours the material which it takes hold of, so also does zeal for the life in Christ devour the soul which receives it. And just as during a time of fire the flame takes hold of the whole building, so also the fire of zeal, once it is received, embraces and fills the whole being of a man.

In another place the Lord says, For every one shall be salted with fire (Mk.9:14). This is also an indication of the fire of the spirit which in its zeal penetrates our whole being. just as salt, penetrating decomposable matter, preserves it from decomposition, so also the spirit of zeal penetrates our whole being, banishes the sin which corrupts our whole nature both in soul and in body; it banishes it even from the least of the places where it has settled in us, and thus it saves us from moral vice and corruption.

The Apostle Paul commands, Quench not the Spirit (I Thess. 5:19), to be not slothful in business; fervent in the spirit (Rom. 12:11). He commands this to all Christians so that we might remember that the fervor of the spirit, or unslothful striving, is an inseparable attribute of the Christian life. In another place he speaks of himself thus: Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark for the high prize of the calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). And to others he says, So run, that ye may obtain (I Cor. 9:24). This means that in the Christian life the result of fervor of zeal is a certain quickness and liveliness of spirit, with which people undertake God-pleasing works, trampling upon oneself and willingly offering as a sacrifice to God every kind of labor, without sparing oneself.

Having a firm basis in such an understanding, one may easily conclude that a cold fulfilling of the rules of the Church, just like routine in business, which is established by our calculating mind, or like correct and dignified behavior and honesty in conduct, is not a decisive indicator that the true Christian life is present in us. All this is good, but as long as it does not bear in itself the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, it has no value at all before God. Such things would be like souless statues. Good clocks also work correctly; but who will say that there is life in them? It is the same thing here. Often thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead in reality (Apoc. 3:1).

This good order in one's conduct more than anything else can lead one into deception. Its true significance depends on one's inward disposition, where it is possible that there are significant deviations from real righteousness in one's righteous deeds. Thus, while refraining outwardly from sinful deeds, one may have an attraction for them or a delight from them in one's heart; so also, doing righteous deeds outwardly, one's heart may not be in them. Only true zeal wishes to do good in all fullness and purity, and persecutes sin in all its smallest forms. It seeks the good as its daily bread, and with sin it fights as with a mortal enemy.

An enemy hates an enemy not only personally, but he hates also relatives and friends of this enemy, and even his belongings, his favorite color, and in general anything that might remind one of him. So also, true zeal to please God persecutes sin in its smallest reminders or marks, for it is zealous for perfect purity. If this is not present, how much impurity can hide in the heart!

St. Theophan the Recluse. The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual Transformation. Trans. Fr. Seraphim Rose. California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1996.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Prayer of Hieroschemonk Parthenius of Kiev

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, do not permit vanity, self-love, sensuality, carelessness, anger, to rule over me and steal me from Thy love. O my Lord, my Creator, all my hope! Do not leave me without a portion in the blessed eternity; grant that I too may follow Thy holy example, that I may submit to the authorities placed over me; grant me the clean soul, the simplicity of heart, which make us worthy of Thy love.

To Thee, my God, I lift up my soul and my heart; do not allow Thy creation to perish, but free me from the single and greatest evil – sin. Grant, Lord, that I may endure anxiety and sorrows of the soul which the same patience as the joy with which I receive satisfaction of the heart. If Thou desirest, Lord, Thou canst cleanse and sanctify me. Here, I commit myself to Thy mercy, begging to destroy in me all that is offensive to Thee, and to unite me to the assembly of Thy chosen.

O Lord, take from me idleness of spirit, which destroys time; vanity of thoughts, which hinders Thy presence and distracts my attention in prayer; if, while in prayer, I turn away from Thee in my thoughts, help me, so that this distraction may not be willful, and that averting my mind, I may not avert my heart from Thee.

I confess to Thee, my Lord God, all the sins of my wickedness, committed before Thee, now and in the past; forgive me for them, for the sake of Thy holy name, and save my soul, which Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious Blood. I entrust myself to Thy mercy; I submit to Thy will; do with me according to Thy mercy, and not according to my evil and wickedness; teach me, Lord, to dispose my deeds so that they will serve in glorifying Thy holy name.

Take pity, O Lord, on all Christians, hear the wants of all who cry out to Thee; deliver from all evil; save Thy servants NN.; send them comfort, consolation in sorrows, and Thy holy mercy. Lord, I pray to Thee especially in sorrows, and Thy holy mercy. Lord, I pray to Thee especially for those who have in any way insulted, abused, and grieved me; do not punish them for the sake of me, a sinner, but pour Thy mercy upon them…

O Lord! I pray to Thee for all those whom I, a sinner, insulted, or tempted, in word, deed, thought, knowingly and unknowingly. Lord God! Forgive us our sins and mutual offenses; dispel, Lord, from our hearts all indignation, suspicion, anger, remembrance of evil, quarrels, and all that might hinder and lessen brotherly love.

Be merciful, Lord, to those who have entrusted me, an unworthy sinner, to pray for them. Be merciful, Lord, to all who ask Thy help. Lord! Make this day a day of Thy mercy; give to each according to his petition; be the shepherd for the lost, the guide and light of unbelievers, the teacher of the unwise, the father of orphans, the helper of the oppressed, the healer of the sick, the comforter of the dying, and lead us all to the desired end, to Thee, our refuge and blessed repose. Amen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Words of Wisdom

There is an electric generator and in the room there is a lamp. If, however, we don’t flip the switch, we will remain in darkness. Similarly, there is Christ and there is our soul. If, however, we don’t flip the switch of prayer, our soul will not see the light of Christ and will remain in the darkness of the devil.

Elder Porphyrios, +1991

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chrysostom on Scandal - and food for thought before the Great Fast

Accordingly, dearly beloved, let us do everything for the purpose of giving glory to our Lord, and let us not be an occasion of scandal to anybody. This after all, is the unfailing lesson given us by the whole world’s teacher, blessed Paul, as for example when he says, “If food is a source of scandal to my brother, let me never till the end of time touch meat again;” and again, “By sinning against your brothers in this way through bruising your tender conscience, you sin against Christ.” A stern admonition that, entailing a heavy condemnation. In other words, he is saying, don’t think the harm will be inflicted solely on one person: it passes on to Christ himself, who for that person was crucified. So if the Lord was not swayed from being crucified for him, would you not make every effort to avoid giving him any occasion for scandal? You will find Paul giving this advice everywhere to his disciples; it is, after all, the factor that keeps our life together. Hence he uses these words in writing in another letter: “Let each of you consider not your own concerns but the concerns of others;” and again in another place: “Everything is lawful for me, but not everything edifies others.” Do you see the apostolic attitude? Even repercussion for myself on that account, yet to avoid interfering with my neighbor’s spiritual progress I would not presume to behave like that. Do you see the soul full of loving concern - how he has no eye at all for his own interests, but shows us in every way that the greatest virtue consists in taking great care for our neighbor’s spiritual progress.

Taken from the Book: Daily Reading from the Writings of St John Chyrsostom
H/T to Milk & Honey

Friday, January 22, 2010

St John of Kronstadt on the Divine Services

H/T to Milk & Honey

Here in the church there is the one thing needful: Here is a refuge from the vanity and the storms of life. Here is the calm harbor for souls seeking after salvation. Here is incorruptible food and drink for the soul. Here is the light that enlightens all men existing upon earth. Here is the clean air of the spirit. Here is the fountain of living water which flows to life eternal (John 4:14). Here are distributed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and chanting is done in church in a holy language. All Orthodox Christians should learn it, that they might understand the sweet pronouncements of their mother, who educates her children to prepare them for heaven, for life eternal….

Here in the temple, man comprehends the truly noble origin of his soul, the worth of life and its goal and purpose. Here he is torn away from his fascination with earthly vanities and passions. Here he comprehends his temporal and eternal fate. Here the Savior lives – in His Life-giving Mysteries, in His salvation. Here he recognizes his true relationship to God and to his neighbor, to his family and to the society in which he lives.

The temple is heaven on earth, a place where intimate union with the Divine takes place. It is a heavenly school, where Christians are taught to become citizens of heaven, where they are taught heavenly norms, the way of life in heaven. It is the threshold of heaven, a place of communal prayer, thanksgiving, praise of the Triune God, creator and protector of all. It is a place of unification with the angels. What is more honorable and more esteemed than the temple? Nothing. In its Divine Services, as in a blueprint, are severally depicted the fates of all humanity, from beginning to end. The Divine Services are the alpha and omega of the world and of mankind.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wisdom from the Saints

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going to die.

St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Boys to Men or Boys to Killers? A Home School Mom's Take

First Things has a nice little article on the gentle art of rearing boys - realities versus the pseudo/philosophical ideals of the experts of the last generation. It is entitled The Killer Instinct by Sally Thomas, a home school mom from North Carolina. Below are a couple of paragraphs from the article.
Girls may like weapons, but boys like the actions that weapons enable. They like shooting and slashing and stabbing at things, and if they don’t have anything to shoot, slash, or stab with, punching is good, too. Hand a girl a rock, and she will make a pet out of it. Hand a boy a baby doll, and—if no adult is looking—he will point its head at somebody and say, “Pow.”

The default mode of many parents is to be as alarmed by this proclivity in their sons as my friend was by the deer hunters. To be sure, it is wearying, sometimes, to live with a person whose way of greeting you is to line you up in imaginary sights. I can see that, after a while, if you didn’t just become oblivious to it, an obvious fascination with shooting things might come to seem like one of those warning signals we all read about: If Johnny does X, call Dr. Y. It used to be that parents waited for Johnny to start torturing the cat before they worried. My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat.
From my own observation, I was perhaps of the last generation to be raised in the "boys will be boys" climate. The movement to 'equalize' boys and girls that has resulted in the documented stunting of young males' development over recent decades, was the result of a confusion between the materialistic parochialism that had developed in twentieth century Western society and the natural differences between males and females. This confusion influenced many areas of Western culture, particularly in anxiety that boys might actually behave like boys (a sort of 'cultural emasculation') and the consequent deforming of the 'ideal' of what young females should become (an equally healthy 'cultural defininization' of girls). As a former teacher, I have witnessed this unnatural exercise unfold in the classroom and on the playground, wherein boys instincts were stifled as 'aggressive'. To give food for thought, I recall it being raised as a concern when one year's class had only boys and members of the administration were desperate to remedy this potentially dangerous development. Of course, the boys did just fine; in fact, possibly becoming the highest achievers I ever had the privilege to teach.

Faith versus Religiosity

Hat Tip to Salt of the Earth for this all too accurate indictment of what passes for "faith" for too many. To learn more about Fr Alexander Men, check here and here.
Often what passes for Orthodoxy or another Christian confession is simply natural religiosity which, in its own right, is a kind of opium of the people. It functions as a sort of spiritual anesthetic, it helps a person adjust to his surrounding world, over which one can hang the slogan: ‘Blessed is the one who believes that it is cozy in the world.’ This is all wrong! …Your God is a consuming fire and not a warm hearth, and he is calling you to a place where all sorts of cold winds are blowing, so that what you imagine does not exist. You adapted and developed a completely different teaching to suit your own human needs. You transformed Christianity into a mediocre, popular religion. …Christianity can be authentic and it can be false. The false form is always more convenient. It always suits us better, which is why contemporary religious life is often characterized by a churchly falsehood when people prefer that which is convenient, calm and pleasant, conforms to their own ideas, consoles them, and which they enjoy. It is not at all to this that the Lord called us when he said ‘the gate is narrow’ and ‘the way is narrow.’ Again and again we need to understand that this Spirit is not warmth, but a fire. It is a fire.
Would that we all recognized the truth of this quote and took it to heart with seriousness and commitment. No one is immune from such temptations, the laity, the clergy, or the hierarchy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Assisted Suicide? or Coerced Murder?

I know; the title doesn't really make the intended distinction clear. The various "assisted suicide" euphemisms when viewed with absolute objectivity all mean "coerced into letting a medical professional murder under the guise of empathy". MercatorNet features an excellent article on this topic by Michael Cook entitled "Is death better than disability?" In it, he reports on an even more insightful article from an important issue of the journal Disability and Health Journal by Dr Suzanne McDermott. Below are a few paragraphs from Mr Cook's article to whet your whistle. Read it, then read it, and then read it!
Several themes emerge from the articles.

First, the very existence of legalised assisted suicide leads to an expectation that the disabled, elderly and infirm should shuffle off their mortal coil a bit early to relieve the burden on their carers.

This fear has been ridiculed by supporters, who contend that all they want is choice at the end of life and that a lifelong experience of disability is different from the pain of seeing one’s life ebb away. They think that disability advocates are demonising euthanasia lobby groups and exaggerating their own vulnerability

Nonsense, says Diane Coleman, of the lobby group Not Dead Yet. She points out – quite eloquently -- that pity can be more dangerous than a mad doctor in a nursing home. We are, she says, "more frightened by the doctors who are out to help us but who see our lives as burdensome and who know little about options that make life with disability valuable."

Why should valuable resources be wasted on them, anyway? "Every week, I hear another person with a disability recount a disturbing interaction with a physician, nurse, or other health professional who clearly transmitted the view that life with a disability is inherently burdensome," she writes. "It does not feel safe to have one's life in the hands of someone who views that life as unfortunate, maybe even tragic or unfair."
As an aside: Whenever I pass an abortuary or "Planned Parenthood facility", I quietly make the sign of the cross and ask our Lord to close all abortuaries in our country and return our nation to a respect for the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. I encourage you the reader to do so as well.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Movie about [the real] St Nicholas

I came across information about an (apparently) still yet to be released movie about St Nicholas of Myra. I don't know much about it other than the trailers, etc., and the web page doesn't go into too much detail. I would be very interested to know if the First Ecumenical Council features in the movie, how the clergy are dressed, and how they portray St Constantine's participation in the Council. (Also, will it get a rating for violence if we get to see St Nicholas slapping Arios?)

Here's the trailer:

On appropriate Chanters' and Readers' attire

A picture paints a thousand words. The Great Church of Constantinople exemplified simple and demure choir dress for its chanters and readers. See the picture of members of the Romeiko Ensemble above for an image of appropriate chanter- and reader-wear from fourteen hundred years ago.
(And I thought my skouphos looked snazzy!)

Friday, January 08, 2010

What is that? (Τι είναι αυτό;) 2007

Thanks to a poster on one of the many forums I follow....

And a belated "Happy Christmas" to all following the Julian Calendar!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Wisdom from the Desert

Abba Agathon said, “I consider no other labor as difficult as prayer. When we are ready to pray, our spiritual enemies interfere. They understand it is only by making it difficult for us to pray that they can harm us. Other things will meet with success if we keep at it, but laboring at prayer is a war that will continue until we die.”

It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him, having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper, they said to him, “Aren’t you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?” “Yes, it is very true,” he answered. They resumed, “Aren’t you that Agathon who is always talking nonsense?” “I am.” Again they said, “Aren’t you Agathon the heretic?” But at that, he replied, “I am not a heretic.” So they asked him, “Tell us why you accepted everything we cast against you, but repudiated this last insult.” He replied, “The first accusations I take to myself, for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God.” At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.

(The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetic Collection.