Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St John of Kronstadt on discrimination (the good kind)

Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.

St. John of Kronstadt

From the web blog into the light: Finding Christ in Eastern Orthodoxy

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

News (that will be denied) supporting the humanity of the fetus

The Washington Times and other sources are reporting that studies have revealed/proven that a fetus (READ: "unborn child") has memory from an early state of development. This should have immense implications in the ongoing pro-life versus pro-abortion debate. We'll have to wait a few days to see how the main stream media handles this news.

Do read the whole article but feast your eyes at the following paragraphs about mid-way through the report:

"It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children. We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.

A call to NARAL Pro-Choice America for comment on the implications of the research were not returned.

Sometimes it is amazing how science actually proves what most people would otherwise rationally consider to be commonly sensible.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


An obvious, although often overlooked, aspect of our calling to live out God’s Will is that we must do so in a community. The large selection of “self-help” books available in book shops and libraries offer great assurances of help and cures for the various problems confronting the despondent reader. Yet the reason these all fail – and they always fail – is that their focus is on helping “me” – the individual, on my differences, my uniqueness, my particularity. It is truly a ‘self-ish’ endeavor.

One of the major errors of the modern world, and western Society in particular, is this emphasis on “self”, the individual. Help for the sufferer is thought to be found in isolation from others, from family and friends, from society and humanity itself. I would argue that this tendency is as old as humanity itself. This is humanity in its fallen state seeking solutions to our problems in isolation from interaction with others

However, our own experience and our Lord’s testimony teaches us that we have an inherent need for others. Recall the observation, “How can you remove the mote in your brother’s eye when there is a plank in your own.” This points to the reality that our humanity can only be revealed, the fullness of our personhood can only be discovered and flourish, in community. The extent to which we insist on differentiating ourselves from our shared humanity is the degree to which our lives are diminished and our very personhood impoverished.

The Holy Trinity Himself provides the greatest example of this truth. The Essence of God, that basic Nature that uniquely characterizes Him, is Love. The hypostases (concrete realities that instantiate, or give what we would loosely call “reality” to that Essence) are the Three Divine Persons – Father. Son and Holy Spirit .These three Persons equally possess that Divine Essence by which we affirm that each of the Divine Persons is fully God. At the same time, this hypostatic reality fully embodies (as it were) the Essence of each Divine Person.

Our Faith teaches us that we are created in the Image and Likeness of God. As there is a common Divinity shared by each Person of the Holy Trinity, so also each man or woman shares in a common humanity. While the Divine Essence is at once all love, all knowing, all powerful and eternal, the human essence is limited, capable of love but also subject to experience the absence of love (originating either in ‘me’ or experienced by ‘me’ due to another). Similarly, the immortality of human existence is purely dependent on our willful acceptance of the gift of love and life from God.

Therefore, true “self-help’ comes not through focus on ‘me’ but on God, through Whom we find true peace and harmony with all others. In this encounter with God we find healing in Him. And what’s more, this healing necessarily takes place in the context of a the community, the Church. Here alone we discover the realities of our dignity, our poverty, our need and our sin.

In experiencing these truths selfishness gives way to a selflessness that if filled with the grandeur His Life. The limitations of our broken existence finds healing through sharing our humanity with others in the shared reality of Christ’s self sacrifice for us. Our life becomes one with the Trinity and thus one with everyone of His children. No matter what our earthly circumstances, we are freed and no longer need live as victims. Forgiveness of those who hurt us is easily achieved in the superseding action of Divine Love that allows to see beyond the petty myopia of this broken world to the heavenly perspective where we are all God’s children and worthy of love, forgiveness and life.

In conclusion, let the words of the Prayer Book and Divine Serves bring healing. Spend time before your Icon corner and be open to experience the true Victory that comes from complete submission to the Holy Trinity. Discover the fullness of your personhood in the God who gives us His Divine Body and Precious Blood.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reflections on the Wisdom of Elder Porfyrios

Another day, when I was upset because certain people did not respond to me with love, the Elder said, “Today, people ask to be loved and that is why they are disappointed. The right thing to do is not to care whether they love you or not at all, but rather, whether you love Christ and other people. This is the only way in which the soul is filled.

Elder Porfyrios of Greece

To be a child of God — that is, to accept the Grace of Holy Baptism, Chrismation, and the Life-giving purification of the Holy Eucharist — it is necessary to love. In the above quotation, the Elder rightly notes that we too often confuse the Christian witness to love with a Western, politically correct, emphasis on being a “nice person”. In this confusion, we come to believe that we are living a Christian life when we ’get along’ with everyone and others in return are nice to us. Our idea of the Godly life becomes one of merely finding a social common ground that leads to peace and the absence of conflict with others.

Yet the Divine Love which we are called to live requires much more of us. It requires a higher standard of Love in us that does not turn a blind eye to sin, nor leaves us silent in the presence of evil and temptation. This Love may often bring us into conflict with the world wherein the spirit of the age wishes to incline us to the “easy path” and a tendency to bend all ’rules’ towards a ’common good’ that admits no absolutes.

Therefore, the Christian life is a challenge. We reject the notion that all morality is relative. This may often lead us into conflict with others; indeed, with society itself. In such circumstances we instead commit ourselves to a Love so powerful that it does not shrink from recognizing sin as sin. We sacrifice the ’easy path’ for a love that seeks a better way for others (as well as ourselves); one that wells up to Eternal Life. In this spirit, we can accept the rejection of others, those who have not experienced to true Love and therefore live diminished lives. We accept it because by means of it we offer to others a vision of humanity that is itself divine and able to offer a greater freedom and life that that offered by a sterile and corrupt world.

Finally, in living life as children of God, we can glimpse at the true personhood of those who are spiritually crippled and so unable to love us. We also find our own personhood revealed in the Grace that fills us and enables us to love those whose lives are otherwise unlovable. We experience a fullness of life that the world cannot offer. This live brings healing and renewal. It changes us and provides the invitation to change in others. Life becomes filled with value and purpose; the sufferings of this present world become opportunities to discover that we are more than animals reacting to the passions of the moment. We begin to live the life for which we were created when the Holy Trinity “formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the spirit of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2.7) In short, we experience redemption and salvation.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Personal Update - Memory Eternal

Dear beloved readers of this humble blog:

With deep sorrow I must inform you that my wife, Presbytera Karen, fell asleep in the Lord this morning at about five a.m.. As some of you know, Presbytera had been suffering from a brain tumor (GBM IV), which evolved into several, with one inoperable. After surgery on 1 June and a longer than expected stay at the hospital due to complications, she spent a short time in a rehab hospital, and came home on the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Forerunner for hospice care.

The family and I kept vigil last night with prayers, holy anointing, and reading of the Psalms until her passing. In all, we sought to honor her final hours by expressing our trust in the promises of our Lord and in providing care worthy of the dignity of her personhood. Life is truly a precious gift from God from conception to natural death.

I wish to extend my thanks to each and all of you for your God pleasing prayers for Matushka and our family. We have been deeply touched by the love expressed in those prayers and have treasured them each and all. I humbly ask your continued prayers for our family as we face the difficult days ahead.

Your servant in Christ,

Fr Titus Fulcher
AKA The Byzantine Rambler

Post Script: My sincere thanks to all of you who have offered condolences and prayers. May our Lord the Holy Trinity bless you each and all.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

From Salt of the Earth Words of Wisdom and Life

Hat Tip to Andrew of the Salt of the Earth blog for this wonderful quotation from St John of Kronstadt. Salt of the Earth is a good blog to check daily for many pearls of wisdom and reflections on orthodox life. Whether one is an Orthodox Christian, a Byzantine Catholic, or Roman Catholic - indeed, no matter one's spiritual persuasion - Salt of the Earth will challenge, enlighten and comfort the soul in a most efficacious way.

As for the quotation, it is taken from “My Life in Christ”, a book for which the cliche "a classic" doesn't come close to conveying its richness and spiritual depth.

Saint John of Kronstadt on Peace and Despair
July 2, 2009 by Andrew

St. John of Kronstadt
Sometimes in nature a warm, healthful wind blows, pleasantly and lightly, permeating and coming in contact with the body, and the sky is serene; whilst at other times a cold wind blows, one feels, somehow, distressed and feverish, the wind pierces to the very bones and affects the body unpleasantly, the earth and sky are darkened; or else sometimes the state of the atmosphere is warm and warmth-giving, and at other times cold, benumbing. It is likewise in the spiritual life: sometimes our soul is surrounded and penetrated by a light, pleasant, warmth-giving, vivifying breath, we feel ourselves happy and tranquil; whilst at others our heart is touched by a heavy, deathly breath, accompanied by complete spiritual darkness. The first state proceeds from the Spirit of God, the second from the Devil. It is necessary to accustom ourselves to everything: as in the first case, not to grow self-conceited, so in the last, not to fall into despondency, into despair, but to fervently have recourse to God.

* This excerpt was taken from the book “My Life in Christ” by St. John of Kronstadt

As is sometimes the case, this particular passage speaks closely to me in the present circumstances in which my life currently finds itself.