Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Interesting Historical Perspective

As an Eastern Christian, I am naturally drawn to writings oriented (no pun intended) towards matters dealing with Eastern Christianity and the Christian East itself. It is in this context that I came across the Foreign Policy website "History Lesson" by military historian Edward N. Luttwak entitled "Take Me Back to Constantinople: How Byzantium, not Rome, can help preserve Pax Americana." Below, I present the first paragraph. The whole piece is fairly short, so don't hesitate to go read it.

Economic crisis, mounting national debt, excessive foreign commitments -- this is no way to run an empire. America needs serious strategic counseling. And fast. It has never been Rome, and to adopt its strategies no -- its ruthless expansion of empire, domination of foreign peoples, and bone-crushing brand of total war -- would only hasten America's decline. Better instead to look to the empire's eastern incarnation: Byzantium, which outlasted its Roman predecessor by eight centuries. It is the lessons of Byzantine grand strategy that America must rediscover today.
Professor Luttak is the author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. Blogger Nicholas D. Rosen has an enticing review of it here. It, too, is well worth reading.

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night - A More Specific View

Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One
– Let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Humble One
– Let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy
– Let us not revenge;
Now is the day of Good Will
– Let us not be mean.
In this Day of Peace
– Let us not be conquered by anger….
This present day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Today the Divine Being took upon Himself
the seal of our humanity,
in order for humanity to be decorated by
the seal of His Divinity.
St. Isaac the Syrian

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Happy Christmas to all those who celebrate it today.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Today Christ is born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today He who knows no beginning now begins to be, and the Word is made flesh. The powers of heaven greatly rejoice, and the earth with mankind makes glad. The Magi offer gifts, the shepherd proclaim the marvel, and we cry aloud without ceasing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.

Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Transcendent in essence; the earth offereth the cave to the unapproachable One; the angels with the shepherds glorify him; and the Magi with the star travel on their way; for a new child hath been born for our sakes, God before the ages.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunday before the Nativity of our Lord

Dogmatikon of the Lamp-lighting Psalms of Great Vespers in Tone Six
O cave of Bethlehem, prepare yourself to receive the Mother who bears Christ within her womb. O manger, receive the Word who destroys the sins of mankind. O shepherds, keep watch and then bear witness to the awesome wonder. O Magi, come from Persia and bring your gifts to the King. For the Lord has appeared from a Virgin Mother; yet she bowed to Him as a servant and spoke to Him within her heart, saying: How were You conceived in me? How did You grow in me, my God and my Savior?

Doxastikon of the Apostika of Great Vespers in Tone Two

Behold, the time of our salvation draws near: let the cave be ready, for the Virgin is about to give birth; and you, O Bethlehem of Judah, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord will soon shine forth from your midst. Listen, all you mountains and you hills, and all you country of Judah: Christ is coming to save the human race, His creatures, for He is the Lover of mankind.

Troparion of the Preparation in Tone Four

Bethlehem, make ready, for Eden has been opened for all: Ephrata, be alert, for the Tree of Life has blossomed forth from the Virgin in the cave. Her womb has become a spiritual Paradise wherein the Divine Fruit was planted - and if we eat of it, we shall live and not die like Adam. Christ is coming forth to bring back to life the likeness that had been lost in the beginning.

Kontakion in Tone One of Orthros of the Sunday before the Nativity
(on 20 December or after)
Rejoice, O Bethlehem, and be ready, O Ephrata! Behold the Virgin is on her way, to give birth to the Great Shepherd she carries in her womb. The God-bearing Forefathers will rejoice at His sight, and together with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.

(on 20 December or after)
O Virgin, contemplating the bright splendor of your conception, Abraham, the friend of God, together with Isaac, and Jacob rejoices with the choir of chosen holy ones. They led the creation to encounter you in these times which cause our joy. For you bring joy to all in conceiving in your womb the One who once manifested Himself in Babylon, preserving from the flames the young men unjustly thrown into the fiery furnace, by a miracle surpassing understanding. Thus they celebrate the Child whom they see carried in your arms and glorify the Virgin nursing Him.

Synaxarion of the Sunday before the Nativity of our Lord
On this day, the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, as our holy and God-bearing Fathers have directed, we commemorate all those who were acceptable to God throughout the ages, from Adam to Joseph, the spouse of the most holy Theotokos.
Through their holy prayers, O our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Agony of Heart? St John Klimakos Responds

Hat Tip to Diakrisis Logismōn for this uplifting quote from St John of the Ladder.

Agony of Heart ?

God does not insist or desire that we should mourn in agony of heart; rather, it is His wish that out of love for Him we should rejoice with laughter in our soul. Take away sin, and tears become superfluous; where there is no bruise, no ointment is required. Before the Fall, Adam shed no tears, and in the same way there will be no more tears after the resurrec tion from the dead, when sin has been destroyed. For pain, sorrow, and lamentation will then have fled away.

~St. John Klimakos
I had missed this when originally posted, but am thankful to our Lord that I read it today. As I have noted before, Diakrisis Logismōn is a nice source of well considered spiritual wisdom, posted in nicely-sized doses, and well worth regular consumption for strengthening spiritual health.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reflections on the murder of Hieromartyr Daniil Sysoyev

The website 'Orthodoxy and the World' has a reflection on the death of Fr Danill Sysoyev. In a few paragraphs the reflection notes the difference between zealotry and inspired faith. It is so worthy of our own reflection that I am reproducing it here complete. For the reflection from its original (English) source, click here.

If one believes the official reports, the murderer of Father Daniel called out, “Who here is Sysoyev?” In these words lies a challenge not only to Father Daniel, but also to everyone who has decided to devote their life to Orthodox witnessing. It seemed to us that the time of martyrdom and costly witness had long passed, but now we are proven wrong. Today, as always, confessing Christ attracts all the spite and hatred of this world.

Evil has a simple logic – if the man is gone, the problem is gone. Polemics is for those who have remained human, but when a person resorts to violence, he becomes dehumanized and unable to be what God called him to be.

It so happened that Father Daniel and I would sometimes disagree and argue. Despite these polemics, one thing was important to me - that we believed in the same God and were children of the same Church. Those disagreements were but trifles, which unfortunately are inevitable in everyday life: we were entirely at one when it came to the principles of our faith.

Death is a watershed that separates the important from the unimportant. Death gives the true measurement of a person, making it possible to put misunderstandings aside and see the person the way he or she is. So now Father Daniel is standing before us in all the simplicity of his smile, and how sad it is that we cannot accept a person as they are while they are still alive.

It is beyond doubt that Father Daniel lived in and for Christ. He and only He was the centre and meaning of his life. His daily confession of the faith and his sincere wish to bring people to the Truth was perceived by many as something foolish, not serious, something inappropriate for reputable people.

We talk a lot about the revival of Orthodoxy and, I hope, we work for it to a certain extent. But are there many among us who have no other interests, or rather, meanings in life but Christ and His Church? We can talk about it, but what do our lives say? Our everyday activities? What is the cornerstone of it all?

Almost all who comment on the terrible tragedy agree that Father Daniel was not indifferent - he was sincere and zealous. The Church Tradition has preserved the words of Christ, “As I find you, so shall I judge you.” Father Daniel became a martyr while performing his priestly service. He was trapped, but not taken unawares; he met his death vested in his priest’s stole and cuffs. We constantly pray at every service that the end of our earthly existence be painless, blameless and peaceful. However, we cannot know what, in fact, it will be; we can only pray and try to live a Christian life. That is how Father Daniel lived, just doing his work and relying on God in everything.

Evil thinks in the categories of earthly history, but we were created for eternity. What we will be in eternity depends on what we become on earth. Father Daniel was a priest of Christ and His Church. All his life was filled with this service, and his death is the confirmation of this. “Death is worth living for, and love is worth waiting for ….”

Please read also about Fr.Daniel:

Fr. Daniel's Autobiography and the Interview with Him on the Occasion of the Opening of the Missionary Centre

On the Murder of Father Daniil Sysoev

Father Daniil Has Gone from us to God as a Confessor
A postscript. We are all called to the Great Commission: The Lord said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mat 28.18-20) While the direct commission was given to the Apostles, and through them the Bishops and priests, every Christian has a role to play in "making disciples", beginning with themselves, and through their own witness bring others to Christ.

In the technologically rich and "civilized" twenty-first century, it is too easy to assume that we can simply sit at our computers blogging (like this present activity) and catechumens will wander across our paths like the Ethiopian eunuch to receive the Gospel at our hands. It is too often the case that our witness fall short through lack of prayer, lack of fasting, and lack of Grace-filled Love. There are thousands upon thousands of catechumens 'out there' - the great majority of them not even knowing that they are listening to hear the words of Faith and thus going about their lives like the eunuch, reading and not understanding.

We need to pray for catechumens daily, those we know and those who do not yet know the Church. We need to fast for our own sins and the sins of the world. We need to beg our Lord for the Gift of life-transforming Faith and the Grace of Divine Light. Only then, whether clergy or laity, will our efforts bear the fruits substantiating our claim to be Christian. And we must be prepared to accept that sometimes these godly efforts may require our blood to prove the Truth of our witness.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holy Land Christians issue their own Manhattan Document - will anyone heed it?

Friday, 11 December 2009, a group of Christian religious leaders of Palestine and Israel met in Bethlehem where they issued The Kairos Palestine Document. In many ways, this document constitutes a kind of Middle Eastern Christian Manhattan Document. Not only arguing for the removal of the many restrictions and human rights violations claimed against the government of Israel, the document also challenges the "Christian Zionism" that is almost a hallmark of many US Protestant groups. Some of these groups support Israel believing that by destroying the Dome of the Rock and building the "Third Temple" the Second Coming of Christ will be brought about. The Kairos Document also frames the situation of Palestinian Christians as apartheid. Thus far, only Speros News has reported on the document.

It is a fact that for many people in the United States, the dispute and ongoing conflict in the Middle East is solely understood as Israel against Muslims. The Palestinians are seen as being a Muslim people. While it is true that the majority of Palestinians are Muslim, a significant - but tragically shrinking - minority of Palestinians are Christians: Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and a sprinkling of Protestant groups. Often Christians are caught in the crossfire between militant Palestinians and Israelis. When Israel imposes curfews, Palestinians Christians suffer along with the many local Palestinian Muslims who have no part in the terrorist acts perpetrated by groups of militants. In recent years, a curfew of Bethlehem during the season around Christmas severely impacted the local Christian community, and other curfews have adversely affected Christians whose businesses rely on pilgrims during the Lenten and Paschal Seasons. (There are increasing reports of young Israelis spitting on Orthodox and Catholic Christian priests and using vulgar language to insult them.)

The cause of peace cannot be forwarded by ignorance of the facts. Acts of terror are not justified by oppression, but neither is oppression against the many justified by atrocities committed by the few. ("The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Ezekiel 18.8 ESV)

I will let The Kairos Palestine Document speak for itself. I anticipate that the site itself will grow over time.
For myself, I reproduce a most important and inspiring talk given by His Eminence Archbishop Elias Chacour at the 2007 Presbyterian Global Fellowship Conference. His message of peace, love and seeking the good of all the people of the region - as well as a kind request for Protestants to roll up their sleeves and help versus rolling up their pamphlets to convert Middle Eastern Christians - is well worth your time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Do you see what I see?

Hat tip to Christopher at Orrologion for connecting us to Dan Mitsui's HORROR VACUI.

The discussion is perspective and the West's love affair with linear perspective. So ingrained in most Westerners is the identification of linear perspective with reality, that all other art tends to be judged on the basis of it. In the case of "modern art" this may be justified; but in the case of Christian art it is most assuredly not justified. Two snippets are reproduced below to arouse your interest.

We are so used to linear perspective that we unthinkingly identify it with realism; to modern eyes, a "realistic" painting is one painted in linear perspective. Some may argue that the resemblance of such a painting to a photograph is proof of its realism. But this begs the question; had we not already been accustomed to consider perspectival painting the standard of realism, we might never have accepted photography as realistic either. I can imagine an ancient Egyptian sage inventing the camera, and upon discovering that it did not always show the human figure in profile concluding that it did not work very well. ...

In the mediaeval mind, hierarchy, rhythm and number are the fundamental laws of the universe. Art was painted and drawn and woven in the same manner that literature was written and the natural world was observed; symbolism was the animating principle. The literal is only one of four senses of reality; the allegorical, tropological and anagogical senses are equally real, and equally necessary to depict....
Check out the full post here!

Then look up "Reverse Perspective" on Google or Yahoo.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Role of Sympathy

Hat Tip to Salt of the Earth for this beatuiful statement from St John Cassian
Learn from your own experience to sympathize with those in trouble, and never to terrify with destructive despair those who are in danger, nor harden them with severe speeches, but rather restore them with gentle and kindly consolations.

This excerpt was taken from the book “The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series Vol. XI

Monday, December 07, 2009

An Argument for Home Schooling...

cut straight from today's headlines....


You have been warned.

Let me preface this by urging us all to recall the Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian: "O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen."

If it weren't for the reliability of the source, I wouldn't believe this. Read this story, and be aware that there is extremely graphic material involved. It is entitled: Breaking: Obama’s “Safe Schools Czar” Is Promoting Child Porn in the Classroom– Kevin Jennings and the GLSEN Reading List

Very seldom will you find me urging you to make a "political" call. But the main number for the White House is (202) 456-1111, and the "Contact Us" page is here.

But before you "make that call" pray the following Psalm, as we are all sinners and in some way must have contributed to this situation.

Psalm 50

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee, that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged. For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me. For behold, Thou hast loved truth; the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest unto me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness; the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice. Turn Thy face away from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and with Thy governing Spirit establish me. I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness. O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I had given it; with whole-burnt offerings Thou shalt not be pleased. A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise. Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Sion, and let the walls of Jerusalem be builded. Then shalt Thou be pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness, with oblation and whole-burnt offerings. Then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Whether a habit is good or bad, time nourishes it, just as wood feeds a fire. Thus, so far as we can, we should cultivate and practise what is good, so that it becomes an established habit operating automatically and effortlessly when required. It was through victories in small things that the fathers won their great battles.

St. Peter of Damaskos

Find peace and thousands around you shall be saved.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wisdom from the Desert and the Fathers

He who asks to receive his daily bread does not automatically receive it in its fullness as it is in itself: he receives it according to his own capacity as recipient.
St. Maximos the Confessor

…alas for the soul that is unaware of its wounds and that in its endless sinfulness and obduracy does not think it has anything evil within it: the good doctor will not visit it or heal it, since it does not seek Him out or have any concern for its wounds, because it thinks it is well and in good health. As the Lord said: 'It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick' (Mt. 9:12).
 St. Makarios of Egypt

…if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, Who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance...
St. Peter of Damaskos

With regard to patience the Lord says, 'You will gain possession of your souls through your patient endurance' (Luke 21:19). He did not say 'through your fasting' or 'through your vigils'. I refer to the patience bestowed by God, which is the queen of virtues, the foundation of courageous actions. It is patience that is peace amid strife, serenity amid distress, and a steadfast base for those who acquire it. Once you have attained it with the help of Christ Jesus, no swords and spears, no attacking armies, not even the ranks of demons, the dark phalanx of hostile powers, will be able to do you any harm.
St. Gregory of Sinai

…from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect, concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself. When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to the soul. Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Mt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect.
St. Diadochos of Photiki

For Holy Communion, the confession of our sins to a father confessor is needed; whereas for our communication with God, the confession of our weaknesses before Him is necessary. When we pray with pain for our fellow men, then our kind God abundantly gives us His grace. When someone celebrates his name day, wish him thus: May you live many years which will be pleasing to God.
 Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Words from Fr Daniil the Martyr

I found the following profound words by "Fr Daniil Sysoyev, rector of the parish of the Holy Apostle Thomas in Kantemirovskaya, Candidate of Theology (a Kandidat (Candidate) degree is equivalent to a PhD, somewhat more rigorous: editor’s note)" reported last year on the Voices from Russia Web Log. The context was a series of quotations by particpants at a Conference in Moscow.

I think that one of the most important problems facing the Orthodox Church in Russia, and even beyond its borders, is the ideological rigor mortis of the Church. The Church is considered as a kind of dead body, it is thought to be frozen. According to some, nothing should be changed in it. It is understandable that we should not change dogmatics and Church Tradition, no one argues with that. However, the problem is that people try to preserve superstitions and false ideology, and, what is worse, they try to hang on to bad remnants of the Soviet period. I have travelled throughout the canonical territory of the MP, and I see one and the same picture everywhere. People do not know God, they think that their salvation is complete; and all of their time is taken with completely-unimportant matters such as the minutiae of this-or-that rite, the details of this-or-that church policy, or one regional view or another.

In my opinion, it is an enormous misfortune that people have lost their consciousness of Christianity. People have forgotten about the fact that we are, first of all, Christians, the children of God the Father, and that we must go to Christ for holiness and salvation. As a part of this, one sees a controversy over the frequent reception of Holy Communion, which connects us with the Lord. Some people do not consider Communion to be as important as it is to act in such a way as to “earn” one’s salvation. However, they do not realise that this is the heresy of Pelagius, that one can earn one’s salvation by one’s own efforts.

In other words, the standard of church life that they expound is sinful, pure and simple; it is a distortion of the real Church Tradition. For instance, one hears that Russians, because they are Russian, are already Orthodox. In one article that I read, I saw the assertion that even atheists are truly Orthodox, if they are a part of the Russian culture. This is nothing less than the displacing of faith with culture. Orthodoxy is God’s revelation, preserved for us in all purity from the times of the Apostles. One now sees efforts by some to replace the New Testament with national myths, including old ones that the Church has always fought against. They propagate heathen fables about the “mothers of the black soil” instead of seeing Christ as the basis of all culture.

Paganism often disguises itself in the Church under the mask of Christianity, and it is hidden under a façade of pietism rather than in overt exterior manifestations. People forget that their goal is to reach sanctity. Some of them believe it is a sin even to think of such a possibility, that they could reach sanctity, even though it is the fulfilment of a direct commandment of the Lord. We should spare no effort to overcome this problem. To overcome this, we must issue a new call for the people to return to holiness. For this, it is necessary for us to revive catechesis throughout the entire Church. Even those who are already baptised should study the faith. People must know in Whom they believe, in what they should do in order to approach Him. People coming to church see it as an assembly-line of spiritual services. They are not offered any spiritual growth; therefore, they go to the sectarians.

People think, in error, that the sects are easier than the Orthodox. Recently, I had a chance to associate with Pentecostals. I learned that it is their practise to pray five hours during the day. What Orthodox Christian prays for five hours a day? Sectarianism is the consequence of the Church not informing people of the commandments of the Lord, commandments that our Lord Christ expects us to fulfil. The Gospel is seen as nothing but a collection of pious sayings; it is not seen as a means of real contact with God. We so fear being seduced by the world that we end by doing nothing. This is a terrible spiritual problem. If we do not overcome it, very many Christians shall be ruined. It is an ideology of rigor mortis. It is not conservatism; rather, it is the murder of the Church.
Voices of Russia also has a biography entry on the martyred priest.

Below is one of several You Tube videos of Batushka Daniil noted from the Moscow Times report of his death.

Here is the You Tube Channel with what is said to be Fr Daniil's final sermon.

May his memory be eternal.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Manhattan Declaration -

You can also read, download it and find out more about it here.

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today my life changed irrevocably.

On 20 November 2008, my wife Presbytera Karen was diagnosed with a tumor. A year earlier she had quit her job to look after her father (in-laws live with us, or we with them; however you wish to cast it) who was suffering the final stages of Alzheimer's Disease. As it turned out, he died within a week of her leaving work, and so she continued to be at home looking after her mother, who is wheel-chair bound due to a stroke and broken hip.

Over the course of the year, Presbytera's mood and character began to change - to deteriorate, one might say. She became easily frustrated, often-distracted, and lost her balance on occasion. Naturally enough, we attributed all of this to the stress of leaving work and the loss of her father, both major stressors in life. She also began to lose weight. We attributed this to her being more active, her job having tied her to a desk for most of the day, and she now being free to move about, take up projects around the house, etc..

However, by the end of the summer things began to become ominous. Her moods were becoming extreme and common tasks that she had performed effortlessly for years now seemed difficult or impossible for her. There were times when she suddenly seemed lost in thought and removed from things going on around her. She also began to complain of headaches. She confided to me that she thought she was developing an early case of Alzheimer's Disease, which thought I attributed to depression. But the moments of confusion and headaches concerned us all.

By late September, early October her loss of balance and continency issues worried us. Presbytera had never been one to easily be convinced to go to the doctor. But we all persisted. The first visit led to the assumption that she had a severe sinus infection - she had focused only on the headaches with the doctor - and the usual prescriptions. However, after a couple of more visits things were only getting worse.

Her depression had become alarming. She spoke occasionally about killing herself. Then one day she walked up to the local grocery (just a block or so) and got lost on the way home. The scary part was that she apparently spent some time wandering along the railroad track that passes near our house. She later told me she remembered losing her balance and lying on the tracks for awhile.

It was now November.

I demanded that she go to the doctor and tell him all of her symptoms. To ensure she did so, I threatened to go along and/or make my own appointment to tell the doctor what we had all observed. She agreed to go.

The first attempt at an appointment went awry when she couldn't find the doctor's office. This office was near us and she was quite familiar with its location. I foolishly thought she was trying to get out of the appointment (sometimes, the human capacity - especially this human - to avoid seeing the obvious is monumental). She found her way home eventually and I had her appointment rescheduled.

That appointment was on 18 November. She made it to the doctor's office without much trouble.

While I was not present at that appointment, her report of it worried me beyond measure. It seemed the doctor couldn't understand what she was talking about and was both startled and extremely concerned. The doctor's office called me and related that Presbytera was very confused and hardly able to make a coherent sentence. The doctor ordered a CAT scan for two days later, Thursday, 20 November. The scan would be performed at an office next door to his office and she would have another appointment with him to review the results the following week. He would be out of town the remainder of that week. I assured Presbytera that I would go with her for the CAT scan as she was now very worried herself.

So it was that 20 November became one of those days the reality of whose impact was nearly incomprehensible for us all. We arrived at the lab facility and she was called for the CAT scan. I went outside and made a few phone calls. When she came out she told me the technicians had asked her to wait a few minutes and returned to tell her she needed to go immediately to the doctor's office.

Thus, we walked next door and were soon admitted to one of our doctor's associates' office. I remember he was compassionate and straightforward. Karen had a tumor in her brain. He strongly guessed that it was a "primary tumor" - it wasn't long before we knew what that then nebulous distinction meant. Just to be certain, because Karen was a smoker, he wanted her to go back next door for a CAT scan of her lungs. This would clarify the likelihood of whether the tumor was primary or secondary.

I remember that while she was having the second CAT scan, I called my spiritual father and a colleague and told them what I knew. I think I also called my father, but I can't really recall that clearly now.

The second CAT scan showed clear lungs; the tumor was of the primary variety. The doctor began to ask us whether we had preference for a neurologist and for the first time mentioned "oncologist". Even though I had heard, understood (at some level) and begun to react to all that was unfolding, the word "oncologist" moved me into a sort of shock. He was telling us my beloved Presbytera had cancer. I stumbled around that I saw a neurologist for my back problems and he was part of a good team. The doctor told us he would call for us to see someone from that team and begin arrangements for her to be admitted to the hospital. When he stated blankly that she would be admitted to the hospital no later than the next day the shock deepened. He told us to go home and await a phone call.

When we got home, I had to tell Mom (Karen's mother) what the news was. I sometimes go into what I call "professional mode" - a kind of state of consciousness in which I disengage from personal feelings to deal with a situation. I suspect all priests, ministers, firefighters, police officers and soldiers all experience similar shifts of consciousness. With Presbytera's halting assistance, I filled Mom in on what we had discovered. I recall urging us all to await the assessment of the neurologist, who could give us better information and detail; and perhaps even counter the generalist's alarmist diagnosis.

A phone call directly from my neurologist was the next shock. My neurologist told me he had reviewed the CAT scan and that Karen definitely needed to be taken to a hospital. His team's brain specialist was out of town and he highly recommended the team at Charleston's MUSC hospital. He had already spoken with the head of the department and they would be calling us shortly.

By now Presbytera was exhausted - for a couple of months periods of exhaustion were common with her - and she went upstairs to take a nap. I noted that our daughter would soon be home from school and realized she had to be told what was going on. In retrospect, I find all my attempted cool, logical reflections that day ironic as I kept thinking both this was horrible and also surely some big mistake.

Someone from MUSC called and in discussing admitting Presbytera I noted that our daughter would soon be home. I thought it would be better to tell her what was happening with her mother there, so she could see her and not imagine worse circumstances than reality. She would see her mother and not panic at the thought of her going to the hospital the next day. The nurse, I presume it was a nurse, now I don't really remember, hesitated but said she'd call me back in an hour or so.

Our daughter came home. By then Presbytera was up from her nap. I told her what we had discovered about her mother's condition, answered as many of her questions as I could and allowed her some time to adjust to the news. She offered to help her mother pack for the hospital, since by this point Karen seemed incapable of judging what would need to be packed. So Presbytera went to take another nap and our daughter began to pack her things.

The second call from the hospital confused me greatly. They asked whether Presbytera wanted something or had experienced something - I don't remember - but when I said she was napping and I would go ask her there was what I can only describe as controlled panic on the other end of the line. They told me they'd call me back in two minutes while I went to ask Karen.

The next call was alarming because of their desperation and because I still didn't comprehend the situation and the danger Presbytera was facing. They wanted us to take her to the emergency room immediately with the understanding that she would be admitted as soon as possible. They repeatedly emphasized that it was urgent that we get her to the emergency room as soon as possible. I didn't understand it; but I told Karen, our daughter and Mom the updated plan.

Our daughter asked if she could come with us to the hospital. Given that Karen was often more confused and moodier in the evening in those days, I agreed to this although I didn't like leaving Mom home alone in these circumstances. We began to put our 'plan' into action.

We arrived at the hospital, managed to get Karen into the emergency room (we had to park in the regular lot and walk - no one had told the ER people there was any special concern, which was probably good for our nerves at that point). After the irritating check in procedure, de rigour in US hospitals, we were ultimately directed to a small area and a bed for her. By now, I was becoming frustrated. I was confused and heading for a testosterone-motivated demand to know what was coming off here! (Funny, how when men desperately need to let out an emotion frustrated anger seems to be the prime choice.)

Then one of the doctors came to us. He was a neurologist and had reviewed the CAT scan. He patiently explained that the growth of the tumor was putting increasing pressure on Karen's brain. Surgery was needed as soon as possible. He had already ordered an MRI (the first of what became many over the last year), and they would operate the next day, probably in the morning. While tests after the surgery would be definitive, he felt certain she had either a Grade III or Grade IV Gioblastoma - another word we would become much familiar with in the weeks ahead.

He suggested that our daughter and I go home and I return the next day. He started to tell me that before the surgery she would be roomed in the Neurological Ward but paused and said, no, she would be in an ICU ward on the same floor as the surgical suite. Of course, this didn't make sense to me one way or the other but I took in the information as I began plan out the next day.

The next day was, obviously, 21 November, and we had planned Orthros and the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos. Somewhere along the way I had made the calls to let everyone know that this had to be cancelled. And so it was that on Friday, 21 November 2008, I hurried to the hospital, spend an exhausting day waiting for them to take her to the operating room, wondering why they seemed to be purposefully dehydrating her - to reduce pressure on the brain? - and reading psalms and prayers to Presbytera along with giving her Holy Anointing.

The rest, as they say, is history. The tumor was determined to be a Gioblastoma IV. There would be recovery from the surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, counseling and a life changed beyond anything Presbytera and I could ever have expected. As readers of this blog know, by 4 July 2009 she was gone.

I'm not sure; no, scratch that - I am quite certain that through the whole ordeal I never fully comprehended the finality of what was happening to Karen. We talked, we cried, we argued, we laughed, we prayed, and throughout it all the "GBM IV" slowly continued its deadly progress. As each day passed she suffered more, we seemed to lose a little bit more of her; and for my part, I was always about two days behind understanding what was happening to her on any given day.

We never get over losing someone we love. At best we become accustomed to that void where our loved one was. My faith is firm that she rests in the bosom of Abraham. Yet I haven't "processed" it all yet; perhaps I never will.

In some ways, she is still with me; she is in my dreams every night, and every day my mind drifts to thoughts of her or curiosity as to how she'd react or what she'd say to some passing facet of the day.

All I can do is await the Day of Resurrection.

She was the love of my life and the Holy Trinity gave us twenty beautiful years and an equally beautiful daughter.

Thanks be to God.

I'm not really one to give advice, but I truly and seriously advise everyone: Love those around you now, and let no moment pass without cherishing those who love you; none of us know how much time together we have.

A Newly Martyred Priest

The Following two reports are from Interfax

First, this report...
2009-11-20 13:41:00

Famous Orthodox priest killed in Moscow

Moscow, November 20, Interfax – The famous priest Daniil Sysoyev, the rector of the St. Thomas Cathedral, has been killed in Moscow, a source in law enforcement agencies told Interfax.

The priest received gunshot wounds to the head and chest, his assistant Vladimir Strelbitsky was wounded in the chest, he said.

"I do not recall a priest being killed in Moscow, let alone shot at by an assault rifle," the source told.

The priest died on the surgical table at 0:15 a.m. Moscow time, a source in medical circles said. His aide is in very critical condition.

A criminal case has been launched over the priest's murder.
And this follow up....

2009-11-20 13:57:00

Moscow priest could have been killed by extremists, pagans – sources

Moscow, November 20, Interfax - Moscow priest Daniil Sysoyev most likely has been killed for his missionary activity among the non-Orthodox Russian population, a source at law enforcement agencies told Interfax.

"He had recently received constant death threats from some extremist organizations. Daniil Sysoyev complained about it several times to the Federal Security Service," the source said.

Fr. Daniil said he received anonymous phone calls and e-mails promising to "have his guts for garters," he said.

"Sysoyev received the last threat in early October. Someone called him and said he had been sentenced to a death penalty," the source said.

Rev. Daniil is known as an experienced theologian who had been in constant dispute with the extremist branches of Islam. He began receiving threats four years ago after holding a public debate with Vyacheslav Polosin, the former Orthodox priest who converted to Islam.

Fr. Daniil might also have been killed by members from the so-called sect of Rodnovers (Slavic Neo-pagans), the source told Interfax.

Investigators are following all lines of inquiry but this theory remains the main one, he said.

This is evidenced by the fact that the perpetrator did not leave the weapon at the crime scene, he said. "Rodnovers are not professional killers, which is why they count every barrel," he said.

The Rodnovers organization mainly consists of young pagans.

Earlier Rodnovers staged an explosion at one of Moscow's churches.
As horrible as this incident is, it causes me to wonder if I have ever proclaimed the Faith so clearly, so powerfully, with such dedication, grace and Love that I even seemed dangerous to the pagans and other non-Christians around me. I fear that the demons have found little of interest in me due to my own sinfulness and self-condemnatory life - they needn't bother.

Shame on me.

And as for Father Daniil, may his memory be eternal!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wisdom from the Desert Fathers

From The Ergetinos: A Complete Text

Hypothesis XXIX
From St Maximos

They say that God allows the demons to make war on us for five reasons: the first, they say, is so that we may distinguish between virtue and vice by making war and being warred against; secondly, so that we may acquire virtue by warfare and toil, and possess it sure and steadfast; thirdly, so that we may not think highly of ourselves when we make progress in virtue, but may learn to be humble; fourthly, so that we may completely hate vice, after we have experienced it; and finally, apart from all of these, the fifth reason is so that we may not forget our frailty or the power of God which helped us to attain to passionlessness.

The First Book, p. 250

Hypothesis XXX
From the Gerontikon

St Synkletike said: "The better athletes become, the stronger are the adversaries against whom they contend."

The First Book, p. 255

Theosis - the Answer to "What is Life?"

Hat Tip to Orrologion for pointing to a true spiritual treasure, the concise and wonderfully precise little book entitled "Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life" by Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios, Mount Athos.

Note that the Orthodox Christian Information Center is a great source for very traditional Orthodox Christian teaching on a variety of subjects. While decidedly anti-Catholic, there is much on the site that is supremely beneficial to all Eastern Christians - witness the very book in question.

Stop reading this and go read what Achrimandrite George has to say; you'll be blessed that you did!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mariza, Zorba and Dad

"A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free."

Friday, November 13, 2009

European Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics Unite ... on Crucifix Ban

This from the BBC. A few snippets follow:

Although the Greek Orthodox Church has been at odds with Roman Catholicism for 1,000 years, the judicial threat to Christian symbols has acted as a unifying force.

The Greek Church has ostensibly [italics added by the Rambler] intervened in this case in response to an appeal by a Greek mother whose son is studying in Italy.

Helsinki Monitor is urging trade unions to challenge the presence of religious symbols in Greek schools.

The socialist government here is also considering imposing new taxes on the Church's vast fortune, but at the same time is urging it to do more to help immigrants and poor Greeks.
Read the entire article here.

Oh, and while you're at it, check out Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments for this note of interest: Lithuania to EU: We Will Not Give Our Minors to Homosexualist Indoctrination.

And then there's this "old news" from Germany as reported over at LifeSiteNews, also covered here at Sign of the Times.

And some quarters wonder why parents might choose to home school their children, and why conversions and membership in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches are on the rise.

(Hint: We don't cater to the current corrupt culture.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Of Coptic Christians in Their Own Land

Is Darwin Compatible with Materialism?

Over at the First Thoughts blog of First Things, Joe Carter has a provocative quote from atheist philosopher Raymond Tallis asserting that in considering the question of consciousness one must either adhere to materialism or Darwinian evolution, but not both. The piece is entitled The Unnatural Selection of Consciousness.

Does the fact of consciousness exclusively drive us either to materialism or the modern interpretation of Darwinian evolution? It's an interesting question which, of course, ignores any place for a theistic position in relation to evolution.

Give it a read. Your comments are welcome here (as well as there).

Does Evil Exist?

From the mouth of babes....

Source: Orthodox Video of the Day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An open question...

"For every argument there is a counter-argument, but who can argue against life?"

a Short Beautiful Prayer for Priests

A Prayer on Behalf of our Priests

O Lord, let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; let them always remember the greatness of their calling; let them not be entangled in the snares of the world and the devil; let them be saved from the cares of the world, the delight in riches, and the desire for other things entering into their hearts.

- St. John of Kronstadt

Monday, November 09, 2009

Feast Day of St Nektarios

Today is the feastday commemorating St Nektarios of Aegina. If you don't know who he was/is, you'll still most likely recognize the below hymn he wrote.

Troparion of St Nektarios in Tone One

Come, O faithful, let us honor Nektarios, the offspring of Selyvria, the guardian of Aegina, the true friend of virtue, who appeared as a holy servant of Christ. For he pours forth healings of every kind upon those who cry aloud to him with faith: Glory to Christ who glorified you! Glory to Him who crowned you! Glory to Him who through you performs healings for all!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Someone Must Have Been Praying to the Softener of Evil Hearts

This from KBTX' Web Page.
(Hat Tip to the Priestly Puglist - quite a srappy guy!)

Planned Parenthood Director Leaves, Has Change of Heart

Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson's life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned. Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure.

"I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Jonhson.

She handed in her resignation October 6. Johnson worked as the Bryan Planned Parenthood Director for two years.

According to Johnson, the non-profit was struggling under the weight of a tough economy, and changing it's business model from one that pushed prevention, to one that focused on abortion.

"It seemed like maybe that's not what a lot of people were believing any more because that's not where the money was. The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that," said Johnson.

Note especially the phrase: the money was in abortion.

Read the entire story here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Elizabeth Bathory must be dancing in her grave

This from yesterday's Washington Times.

Aborted fetus cells used in beauty creams

Valerie Richardson

A San Francisco cosmetics company has ignited an outcry among pro-lifers for including an unexpected ingredient in its anti-aging creams: skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus.

Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that monitors the use of fetal material in medical products, called last week for a boycott of all treatments manufactured by Neocutis Inc., which acknowledges that the key ingredient in its product line was developed from an aborted boy.

"There's just no excuse for using aborted babies in skin-care products," said Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, a 10-year-old organization based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "The reaction, the shock and anger I've seen is incredible."

In a statement released Friday, in response to a wave of condemnation from pro-life and religious blogs, Neocutis defended the use of its trademarked ingredient, Processed Skin Cell Proteins, or PSP, arguing that the fetal cell line was harvested in a responsible, ethical manner for use in treating severe dermatological injuries.

The company compared its situation to that of researchers who used fetal kidney cells to develop the polio vaccine. {BR notes: Of course, kidney cells do not require the death of a child to provide working 'material' for use in pharmacological development.}

"Our view - which is shared by most medical professionals and patients - is that the limited, prudent and responsible use of donated fetal skin tissue can continue to ease suffering, speed healing, save lives and improve the well-being of many patients around the globe," said the statement.

The ingredient was developed at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland from proteins in the skin tissue of a 14-week-old male baby electively aborted at the university's hospital and donated to the Swiss university. The abortion was deemed medically necessary because the baby could not survive to term, according to Neocutis.

The fetal skin cell line was taken from a piece of skin the size of a postage stamp and donated voluntarily by the parents for medical research. The donation was approved by the hospital's medical ethics committee and in accordance with Swiss laws, said the Neocutis statement.
And comments from the Church Fathers?

Charity is no substitute for justice.
Saint Augustine

Unfortunately, in our time, when spheres of knowledge have greatly multiplied, logic has shaken the very foundations of people's faith, and has filled their hearts with questions and doubts. As a consequence, they have been deprived of miracles, for a miracle is something experienced personally, not something than can be logically explained.
Elder Paisios

Theology without action is the theology of demons.
St. Maximos the Confesso

Thou shalt not murder.
Moses the Lawgiver

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rome Finally speaks to the Medjugorje Phenomenon

I just came across a translated interview relating that the Pope has definitively spoken on the question of Medjugorje's legitimacy as a Marian apparition. The whole interview is worth careful and deliberative reading. I will here only quote two exchanges that deal with the often overlooked history of the Medjugorje shrine and its significnce.
9. Based on some talks with some Croats and some reports, it can be concluded that Medjugorje is a mass movement which, on a subconscious level, excuses the bloody things done, mostly, against Serbs, but also against Gypsies and Jews, unfortunately, by certain number of Croats known as Ustashas? What is your opinion about this?

Jones: There are many levels to the Medjugorje phenomenon, and one of them may very well be the collective guilt which the village felt because of its role in the massacre of Surmanci, which took place just on the other side of the apparition hill. There were also numerous links between the Medjugorje branch of the Franciscans and the Ustashe. I personally saw the pictures of Ustashe soldiers on the wall of the monastery at Siroki Brijeg when I visited there. Jozo Zovko deliberately injected a political note into the apparitions when he put the grb on the altar during the early celebrations of Mass at the time of the first apparitions in 1981.

11. What do we do with Medjugorje? What do we do with the fraud lasting for 28 years now?

Jones: All we can do is to continue to tell the truth. My hope is that the recognition of the truth about Medjugorje at the highest level of the Catholic Church will lead to reconciliation — particularly between Catholics and Orthodox in the Balkans — and the healing of the wounds which this hoax has caused
This detail has long been known in the Orthodox world as a central point of scandal and apparent betrayal in Rome's protestations of its desire for reconciliation with the Orthodox Church. Perhaps more forthright actions like this recent one by good Pope Benedict will help restore and build the necessary sense of trust and transparency that will soon (please God!) bring about the true Unity of the Faith.

Read the entire interview here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Faith? Home Schooling? 'Civil' Law?

This is from a report of a court order in September 2009. Forgive the ad that may play before the report and discussion itself.

So much for the First Amendment in the USA.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hot News from Rome Regarding Anglicans

While somewhat off-topic for this blog, the following announcement from the Vatican is interesting on several levels. Firstly, the method and protocols for admission of the 'former' Anglicans (clergy and laity); Secondly, the consideration of several doctrinal and possibly ecclesiological differences between Anglican overall and the Church of Rome. It will also be interesting to consider this situation in comparison and contrast with the history of "uniatism".


VATICAN CITY, 20 OCT 2009 (VIS) - In a meeting with journalists held this morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented a note on a new measure concerning "Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church".

Commenting on the English-language note, which has been published by his dicastery, Cardinal Levada explained how, "with the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

"In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

"The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a worldwide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony".

"The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The initiative has come from a number of different groups of Anglicans" who, said Cardinal Levada, "have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion".

The cardinal further indicated that "it is the hope of the Holy Father Benedict XVI that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism'.

"Our communion", the cardinal added in conclusion, "is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith".

In a joint declaration on the same subject, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury affirm that the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution "brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution", which is a "consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

"The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing co-operation", the declaration adds. "The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.

"With God's grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England's House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission".

Monday, October 19, 2009

Essence and and Imperative that Truly is Altruistic

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae - Essence of Christianity


Pray for your Accusers

October 18, 2009 by fatherstephen

Pray for those who make accusations against you. Say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, not ‘have mercy on him’, and your accuser will be embraced in this prayer. Does someone say something to you that upsets you? God knows it. What you have to do is open your arms and say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, and make your accuser one with yourself. And God knows what is torturing your accuser deep inside of him and, seeing your love, he hastens to help. He searches the desires of hearts. What is it that Saint Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans? He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because in accord with God He makes intercession for the saints.

Pray for the purification of each and every person so that you may imitate the prayer of the angels in your life. Yes, the angels don’t pray for themselves. This is how I pray for people, for the Church and for the body of the Church. The moment you pray for the Church, you are released from your passions. The moment you glorify God, your soul is calmed and sanctified by divine grace. This is the art I want you to learn.

The Elder Porphyrios from Wounded by Love

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Western Pope's thoughts on Eastern Liturgy

11. In the liturgical experience, Christ the Lord is the light which illumines the way and reveals the transparency of the cosmos, precisely as in Scripture. The events of the past find in Christ their meaning and fullness, and creation is revealed for what it is: a complex whole which finds its perfection, its purpose in the liturgy alone. This is why the liturgy is heaven on earth, and in it the Word who became flesh imbues matter with a saving potential which is fully manifest in the sacraments: there, creation communicates to each individual the power conferred on it by Christ. Thus the Lord, immersed in the Jordan, transmits to the waters a power which enables them to become the bath of baptismal rebirth.

Within this framework, liturgical prayer in the East shows a great aptitude for involving the human person in his or her totality: the mystery is sung in the loftiness of its content, but also in the warmth of the sentiments it awakens in the heart of redeemed humanity. In the sacred act, even bodiliness is summoned to praise, and beauty, which in the East is one of the best loved names expressing the divine harmony and the model of humanity transfigured, appears everywhere: in the shape of the church, in the sounds, in the colors, in the lights, in the scents. The lengthy duration of the celebrations, the repeated invocations, everything expresses gradual identification with the mystery celebrated with one's whole person. Thus the prayer of the Church already becomes participation in the heavenly liturgy, an anticipation of the final beatitude.

Apostolic Letter ORIENTALE LUMEN, John Paul the Great

Friday, October 09, 2009

Salvo on Sex - Right and Left and Wrong

Salvo Magazine has produced a provocative and bitingly accurate account of the modern relativistic views of sex and its real consequences. Hunter Baker's Facts Evasion: When It Comes to Sex, the Left Hates Science not only rejects the attempts by some to discredit any role for faith and religion in social discourse, particularly when science is involved, but also specifically notes the irrationality of the 'left' in its distorted understanding of sexuality and the consequences of society's championing this view.

As a sample:

Abortions continue to be performed in huge numbers despite the past assurances of some on the left that modern birth control would eliminate the need for the grisly procedure. And of the children who are born, an alarmingly high number
are born to single mothers. As a group, these children are substantially more likely to do poorly in school, abuse drugs, commit crimes, require governmental assistance, and serve time in jail—and to see the cycle repeated when they have children of their own.
Read the entire piece here.

Eastern Ecclesiology

The Ochlophobist references the translation of an article by Metropolitan Georges Khodr of Mount Lebanon from a recent issue of the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar. The translation is from the very erudite and informative blog Notes on Arab Orthodoxy and entitled Antiochian Ecclesiology. It's worth reading as the basic concepts apply to all Byzantine Christians, Orthodox or Catholic. This become very apparent in the differences in the way laity and priests interact with their bishops in an Eastern Church versus a Western Church.

A snippet to whet your whistle:

... the bishop is not only connected to the whole of the flock with which he is entrusted. He his connected as a member to the other metropolitans who govern the church that we call ‘local’ or ‘regional’ just as he is united to the right-believing bishops of all the world. However, current, day-to-day events determine the actions of the local church...
Insightful and worthy of your consideration, read it here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Melkite Saint Awaiting Recognition

From the Eparchy of Newton website the following on the Servant of God Abouna Beshara Abou Mrad:

The Holy Synod in June 2009 studied the announcement from Pope Benedict XVI of a Year of the Priest 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010. In order to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jean-Marie Vianney (April 25 2009), patron of parish priests throughout the world, the Synod suggested some commemoratory activities: firstly, to address a letter in the name of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to all priests; second, to present the Servant of God Beshara Abou Mrad, Salvatorian Father, as a model for parish priests; thirdly, to prepare a congress for all priests of the Melkite Church; fourthly, to publish some leaflets about the priestly vocation and fifthly, to organize meetings in the various congregations, schools, universities and parish movements so as to invite young people to consider the priesthood as a vocation.

The Eparchal site points to a website devoted to the cause of Abouna's canonization, available in Arabic, English and French (although this page is currently not working). The English material in places seems to have been produced through Google Translator, or some other software, but the main information is still discernible for the English reader.

Abouna Bechara is an outstanding example of humble obedience and ascetic (and ascetically inspired) discipline, whose life of ministry to the Holy Trinity and the Church is inspirational. The inquiry to determine his his sainthood is being handled by the Roman Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Personally, I wonder if the 'requirement' of miraculous cures to vouchsafe one's sainthood is perhaps overemphasized. The witness of a holy life and inspired answers to intercessory prayer might be more understated. Sometimes these answers might not have the witness "power" of a miracle, but yet the softening of a heart, or other spiritual consequence of the holy one's intercessions might prove equally powerful. In this regard, I would also note that many of the Desert Fathers may or may not have the pedigree of miracles attributed to them, but would we deny their sanctity? Nonetheless, all that said, the current procedures followed by the Sacred Congregation are well known and normative.

Ultimately, I am more interested to learn from the witness of this holy man's life and to receive the gift of humility in my own priesthood through that witness. For me, it is sufficient reason to pray for his official canonization, that if for no other reason because of it more will come to know him.

Below, are the prayers from the website for Abouna's canonization.

Prayers for Father Bechara

Our Holy Lord who wanted to join and put Father Bechara our brother in the Order, with Saints in the heavenly paradise after you made him an example of virtue, holiness and zeal for "Christian faith".

Give us to live and die the way he did because it is the nearest way to your glory, keep his soul with us. With your great generosity and mercy give us holy monks and priests like him.

22nd February 1930

+ Athanasios
Archbishop of Saida and Deir El Kamar.

A prayer to Father Bechara to be a Saint

Our generous savior, who gives his priest all the graces, who are his own heritage, for the holiness and goodness of his people, we pray and beg you to glorify your humble servant, Father Bechara Abou Mrad, who walked in your way of perfection all the days of his life. Let your mighty power appear in him, to twinkle like a bright star in the sky of your church which is full of Saints. So everybody know that the spring of your holiness never stops in your holy church. Oh, our Lord, please make him a Saint to be the symbol of perfection, walking on the way of his virtue, to glory your holy name, the Father, the son, and the holy spirit . Amen

Saida 14tr Dec. 1935.

Father Bechara:

You are Priest and monk full of virtue don't forget us, and pray for us when you are between the hands of our Lord. And remember your "Order" and every person you know.

Also we don't forget your innocent face which is full of the light of holy spirit, and your way of life which was full of virtues and prayers.

We never forget your guidance, your words, your prayers and kneeling in front of our holy Lord, and we never forget your life which was full of virtue life the holy Fathers and the Saints .

You were prisoner in your body for 82 years, so fly today to your paradise like a bird flying from his cage, and be with our holy Lord. Taste the sweetness of paradise after tasting all the Sourness of this mortal life. The Lord is calling you and saying:" you made good my servant, you knew how to keep the little things so I'll give you more and more, enter the glory of your Lord" (Mathew 25:23).

Jesus our Lord, the son of our God and his messenger, you came to the world and made us see with your doings and hear with your words the face of our loving Lord your holy father, make us worthy to carry your name and called Christians.

And as you were with father Bechara all through his life, be with us with your holy spirit to carry your name to all who are around us without fear or shyness, and can plant where ever we go your joy, peace and scent, to glorify your holy name with the name of your father and your holy spirit. Amen.

Our Lord, we came to you today, walking as Father Bechara Abou Mrad did, giving you our selves, putting all our life within your hands. Give us to live our Life in church in love and fidelity, to live your holy words.

We thank you for life you gave to us, and for all graces you give us everyday and night. How can we thank you?

We can't except give you our selves, and put with in your hands our heart, mind, and will. Our Lord, every thing we have is from you, and we give it back to you, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Teach us how to think always of you and feel you, like Father bechara, so your holiness be in our lives as you were in him, we glorify you with him, now for every time till all eternity. Amen.

Our Lord, in your church, the church that father Bechara prayed a lot in it we say: how lovely to stay here. We are rejoiced with your presence with us, cause your presence is appearing on our faces. You are very kind and care for us, our Lord, we don't want you to be away from us, please stay with us to pray with you: "one day in your paradise, our Lord, equals thousands in this world". Your presence is around us, and your words are in our hearts: "this is my beloved son, to him you must listen."

Our Lord we have listened to him, and we will witness and testify and tell all the world that you are the saviour and the glory of this world, now, and always, and for all eternity, Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Prayer To Find a Spiritual Father

O Lord, who desirest not the death of a sinner but that he should turn and live, Thou who didst come to earth in order to restore life to those lying dead through sin and in order to make them worthy of seeing Thee the true light as far as that is possible to man, send me a man who knows Thee, so that in serving him and subjecting myself to him with all my strength, as to Thee, and in doing Thy will in his, I may please Thee the only true God, and so that even I, a sinner, may be worthy of Thy Kingdom.

St Symeon the New Theologian