31th Sunday after Pentecost – Let no man despise thy youth

This is a faithful saying and
worthy of all acceptation.
For therefore we both
labour and suffer reproach,
because we trust in the living God,
Who is the Saviour of all men,
specially of those that believe.
These things command and teach.
Let no man despise thy youth;
but be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy,
with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them;
that thy profiting may appear to all“.
1Tim.4: 9-15

The words you speak today should be soft and tender …..
for tomorrow you may have to eat them

Anonymous

Regardless of how old or young you are physically or spiritually,
soaring high or otherwise in your Christian life and
service is a matter of choice.
Let no man despise your youth.

As we go through life,
I hope many of us believe
we have grown or gained knowledge.
If we talk to a 20 year old,
he will readily admit he knows a lot more as a college student
than he did at 10 when he was in 8th grade.
When one talks to a person in their 40s,
many feel that they know more today
than they did when they were 20 and
if they had to do it over, they would do some things different.
I assume that as one reaches senior citizen age,
they have additional life experiences
that they can share with others.

Because of this the Bible instructs us wisely
to honour the elders.
While our society today teaches to put our older people away, and focus on the fleeting beauty of youth, it is stabbing us in the foot.  The society, advertisers, companies wish us to focus on youth so that the wisdom of the elders is gone and that the media is the one replacing the godly father’s leadership role
with their self for the purpose of influencing us
the way that benefits them.
The lie builds on our pride and
is nothing new.
It goes back to the Garden of Eden when the serpent told Eve, that she would be wiser than God and didn’t have to listen to Him or
respect His commandments.

Many youths through their lack of wisdom believe that they know everything and the adults know nothing, which is not true.
When I was in high school,
I noticed that there were people who applied them self. Some gained wisdom slowly,
some who worked hard to improve had learned more.
Those who didn’t try had less.

Regardless any age,
there are people who have more knowledge
or less knowledge.
A small part of it is genetics.
A big part of it is
what direction one desires to focus.
Whether they desire to grow in knowledge and maturity or
rather spend the time watching mindless entertainment or
playing video games that teach little knowledge to one.
Also, with the wide variety of knowledge out there
one can learn through their life,
everyone will know something a little different and
all can learn from them.
For example one who has a legal degree at 35
probably will know more about law
than an 65 year old physicist, yet
the physicist will know more about science.
Some may have years of experience
drawing closer and closer to God.
Others might have years of experience
being a criminal or a con artist, so
we need to be careful who we have influencing us, and
what knowledge we have entering our minds.

In our society because we have certain things revealed to us,
[ie sciences, technology, etc.] we have many pieces of knowledge
that were not known in the past.
Therefore in these areas of our current society,
we have knowledge which is greater than the past.
TV, computers, space travel are examples of this knowledge
that we have different.
Conversely, the nurturing environment is not as sheltered from sin as
it was 100 years ago in the Europe/ Middle East or the United States.
There are many negative influences on the lives of our society today
training their brains and becoming a part of their formative years.
Therefore, those who grew up in the past, where studying and learning the bible,
morality and other pieces of wisdom
isolated from the influences of our modern decadent culture
in their early schooling, grew much closer to God and
had greater wisdom in those saints than
we do today in our world.
So as I look at the Christian leaders of many denominations,
many appear be a blend of our current decadent/socialist values with Christian principles,
rather than those who were totally separated from that world and
didn’t have to be politically correct to pacify them.
I need to also point out that there were also areas of enlightenment
that they did not have.
Also, so the point being made here, is
that if one does not have spiritual leaders as role models,
one can also learn at the feet of the past saints
in their writings as well as our blessed Lord through the Holy Scriptures.

Because of the lack of wisdom of the elders in our modern environment,
many youths have less exposure to
gaining godly knowledge from the elders.
They are also not stimulated by their parents; many youths without the knowledge come across as
wreck less or carefree.
This may cause parents to think less of them. Yet at the same point, the way we overcome is not to merely brush it off
but to strive to know our weakness and go to improve ourselves.
And those who do, will reach greater heights and wisdom,
growing on the wisdom of the elders which they will appreciate.

Again what’s in a name:
what is the meaning of the name Timothy?
Τιμοθεος  [Timotheos] meaning “honouring God“,
derived from τιμαω [timao] “to honour
and derived from θεος [Theos] “God“.
Timothy had a similar situation and
Paul wrote to him the oft quoted phrase,
let no man despise thy youth“.
And I see so many youth quoting this as if it implied their youthfulness and
immaturity should be appreciated.
But what it is saying is that Paul’s goal was
for Timothy to be a youth that should not be despised.

To gain respect
How quick we forget the second half of the verse
where Paul gives the solution to being despised.
The way he says to gain respect is
to “be thou an example of the believers,
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity
“.
Notice Paul did not tell Timothy, go out and demand respect?
He showed him instead how to earn it.

Let’s go through each part of this verse.
“an example”
►  the Greek word here is toopos which means, a model for imitation, pattern, form.
So what this word is saying that instead of being despised,
we should strive to be the best in these following areas
where we will be one that others desire to copy.
► The word ‘word‘ here [logos] means something said,
by implication of topic, reasoning, computation.

The bible teaches us to beware of idle words.
Too often all of us at all ages speak frivolously, but
rather it is teaching we must strive to watch
what we say, that it is holy, godly and just and
that we are a proper example of the king of kings.
Let us not strive to justify our self,
but rather seek the Truth of God and
be able to have the verbal/logical skills
to communicate it wisely to others.
► Communication is talking and speaking with each other and
not blaming someone and smash another one totally down.
Conversation, the Greek word here is anastrophe
which basically means our behaviour.
We should strive to be a role model of perfect behaviour.
How sad in Christians of all ages
we see behaviour in our professing Christian communities
focused on the things of the world rather than on God.
As we do our tasks, we should ask our self,
is this what Jesus would do?
Is this bringing me or the other closer to Our beloved Lord?
Or is this action causing me to fall farther from Him.
Has my presence in this community been as a healthy development or
am I just a block to their bones.
When they really not accept me
I have to search for another possibility and
stay in my study room and far, far away from them.
Christ did it in the same way,
in these moments He went up to the mountain and
prayed to His Father in Heaven.
►in charity – the Greek word here is agapè,
which means the greatest Love.
The Love of sacrificing one’s self for another.
How true are the words in the Good Message which say,
Without Love I am nothing” and
when Jesus states, the greatest commandment is to
Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength“.
Paul is not saying that we should merely love others.
He is saying that our love should be a role model.
And the greatest source of love is
the One Who loved us the most,
our blessed Lord Jesus.
That when people see us,
– they see Jesus in us and His Love though us,
then we can truly be a Light to His Truth.
How sad when
many professing Christians say
– they do not love their brother or
– they do not love their neighbour.
Is God happy with that?
Is he not grieved like the ruler
who forgave so much to a man yet
the man refused to forgive something small of his neighbour?
As we grow closer to God, we will understand His Love,
the Truest and Greatest Love and
that Love will spread out to others.

►In spirit – this is the spirit or one’s rational soul.
It is our essence.
When people see us,
our essence and our spirit should be in line with God’s Spirit,
facing the same direction, desiring the same things.
As John the Baptist once said, not my will, but thine.
So should we have a heart seeking
the things of God so when people see us,
they know our heart is desiring the Lord.

” In faith – the greek word here is pistis,
which means our beliefs or moral convictions.
When people look at us, what do they say as we believe?
Do we ‘mouth‘ the things of God,
but by our actions we live a different life and
show a different belief system?
Faith in God, our belief in Him should be a centerpiece
in our life where our actions flow.
It is not following laws, but coming from a heart
who truly believes God, trusts God and
cannot be happy in any other path than serving God.
Let us look at our heart, and search out our beliefs truly are, and
then use that knowledge to resist the lies of the devil.

►In purity – the Greek word here is cleanliness specifically chastity. or physical purity.
The culture of our world is to sleep around outside of marriage.
Our society, not only doesn’t find it wrong, it glorifies it.
Many churches don’t desire to address this sin,
because it is so rampant in our society.
Yet God takes a firm stand against it throughout the old and new testaments.
Our youth today, many in our churches unfortunately
are committing fornication and think its fun.
Also we give our virgin children to men/women who have them
as one of many women in their life because they are pleasing to us, or
have things of the world, or are great seducers.
Yet we see here, that it makes the person dirty,
it isn’t pleasing to God yet they don’t care and commit deliberate sin
because they believe it will be forgiven,
yet they forget to realize that
deliberate sin perhaps is a sign of problems with
their relationship with God in the belief area.
How sad it is that we no longer aspire to seek the purity of Body.
The Good Message says that fornication is a sinning against our body, and
describes it as marriage when it says the two become one.
Let us not only remain pure for marriage,
let us also respect purity and not hold it as a nice extra
but rather a value that God desires of us, and
teaches us leads to the best relationships of this earth.

So to summarize, understand those who are older than us,
likely they have more wisdom than us.
That we should seek after godly elders for wisdom.
Whether we are younger, or older,
let us be willing to respect others, learn of others, and
respect the wisdom of those who are older, wiser and godly influenced.
Rather than despise others, let us love them.
Rather than defend ourselves,
let us strive to be more perfect and
pleasing our Master.

31e Sunday after Pentecost – Sunday of Zacchaeus

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus,
which was the chief among the publicans, and
he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and
could not for the press, because
he was little of stature.
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him:
for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and
said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down;
for today I must abide at thy house.

And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying,
that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord:
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and
if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation,
I restore him fourfold.
And Jesus said unto him,
this day is salvation come to this house,
for somuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man is come to seek and
to save that which was lost
“.
Luc.19: 1-10

One of the greatest advantages of our culture is
that its diverseness offers us choices and opportunities that have not existed before.
More and more believers are rejecting convention and finding their own way.

All these opportunities have created so many choices that there is little reliance on convention.
In former times limitations and expectations
generally made decision making rather easy.
But now, it has become more and more difficult to stay focused.
One man who found himself stuck between opportunity and convention found an unconventional way to find his own way to Salvation.
He allowed neither opportunity nor convention to be his flagship.
Rather, he used Christ as his gauge.
His name was Zacchaeus and
he has been immortalized in the Gospel for his efforts.

The story of Zacchaeus has a special appeal
because it describes a man with advantages.
The only difference between his time and ours, is
that we are an entire society or generation of people
living with all kinds of advantages.
Not too long ago, our ancestors were picking olives,
or tending sheep, hoping only to get enough firewood and
food to keep their families safe.
Now we became a community of leaders and opinion makers, and
the financial contributors to various institutions.
Within all this it has become very difficult to stay focused.

There is a phenomenon that the more successful one
becomes the less successful one actually feels.
Big people feel small inside.
Often they feel overwhelmed by their own importance.
Perhaps, they feel like David the Shepherd Boy
who tackled the scary giant, Goliath.
They are afraid that the giant will never really fall, so
they are forced to face him time and time again.

David, in his lifetime, discovered
what Zacchaeus seemed to know intuitively.
That it is really the power of God that slays the giant.
Zacchaeus knew that it was Christ
Who could change his focus and
make his life worthwhile and valuable.

Who was Zacchaeus?
What’s in a name?
The meaning of the name Zacchaeus is ‘untainted’; or
innocent, pure, spotless, unsoiled, undamaged, clean, pure, pristine, virgin, untouched, virginal, untouched, in mint condition.
He was pure, super-intendant of customs;
a chief tax-gather at Jericho as we read this Sunday.
The collection of customs at Jericho, which
at this time produced and exported a considerable quantity of balsam,
was undoubtedly an important post, and
would account for Zacchaeus being a rich man.

Who is Zacchaeus in church?
The pure, super-intendant of customs; the chief tax-gather;
the right hand of the bishop, who is collecting the money of the people?
It is the accomplice of the bishop, who obediently
over 20 years carrying out the bishops orders.
This story is about the rulers of the Church, who are sitting up in nice clothes
and have to come down from the high tree
not because they are ‘untainted‘,
but because they are the same as us,
just ‘sinners‘.
They need to interfere
with the actual needs of the Church.
Christ personally invites them to leave their high trees [ivory towers].
Of course, they immediately begin to explain what good things they have performed.
But Christ, Pantocrator look through them,
– He is not affected by fine clothes,
– He looks to the inside of the person,
– He wants to have meal with them, but how?

Christ , Pantocrator knows immediately how the mind is entirely engrossed by material considerations;
He knows immediately how they are joined the throng
which gathered to see Jesus on His entrance into the Kingdom.
Christ is not playing games, He is looking for the Truth, even when this is in bad circumstances.
He is open about it, He has come to speak about it.

And the people that stands out
[both inside and outside the Church],
these people, they make ‘gossip’.
They know exactly who the sinner,
as outsiders, they are well informed.
– They speak the words of the one who pays the bill.
– They don’t speak the Word of Christ.
– They speak the words of false accusation.

 “There are full many, sweet,
whose tongues are bland,
Who hide a poison phial in the hand”.
–> Vincenzos Kornaros[Sitia and Heraklio, 
† 1677]

– They hear, but are deaf.
– They are alive, but death.
– They are deaf, because
the Son of man has come to seek and
to save that which has lost but
the murmurings of the crowd
marred the happiness of neither.

Orthodoxy & going forth thus we shall have no enemy

If we have first made God propitious by
prayer and supplication,
going forth thus we shall have no enemy.
Or if you should, you will laugh him …..
having God propitious“.
Saint John Chrysostom

A truck driver had been driving quite a few hours straight, and was tired and hungry, so he pulled into a truck stop and went into the restaurant to eat.
While he was eating, a group of local Hell’s Angels motorcyclists came into the restaurant to eat. While waiting for their food to be prepared, the Hell’s Angels got bored.
They began to harass the truck driver just for entertainment.
They called him names, yelled at him, and so on.
Then they started throwing rolled-up napkins at him.
He just sat and ate quietly and totally ignored them.

This upset them – they just couldn’t get a rise out of him.
So, finally, one of them walked over and dumped a plate of food over the truck driver’s head.
He still didn’t react, other than to take some napkins and clean himself up as well as possible
– while the Hell’s Angels laughed at him.
He paid his bill and quietly left to go back to his truck.
The thugs joked around with the waitress after he left, saying, “You know, that fella sure was a wimp. He wasn’t much of a man!
The waitress, looking out the window at the parking lot, said,
You know, he’s not much of a truck driver, either.
He just ran over a bunch of motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot!

Another story [more close]:
A Dutch speaking reader got the duty to introduce Dutch in a Greek church, for the young generation would miss the essence of those lessons which the fathers educate during the Orthodox services.
This reader was during 9 years making progress – knowing that the Greek priest wouldn’t let him alone in this job.
Even the priest didn’t preach anymore after people of the church were talking about this behind his back [to the bishop].
By all kind of ways the reader tried to be friendly to these visitors of the church, who enjoyed going to church just because they were from Greek nationality, meeting their fellow citizens.
After services most of them went home and lived their common western life
without even knowing what was educated during their services.
It’s is common to have church visiting tradition and live your civil life on, only to be baptized, married and buried in the common Greek tradition; it would be all enough to be a good Orthodox Christian.
At the main feasts of the year the church-building is so over-crowded that every fire department chief should worry about the dangerous safety circumstances in this building.

After 9 years an new-born main-bishop made a speech in which he expressed that the communities of the Greek
should keep their original behaviour.  This was the sign for
the community court to make their stripes – they were floating the priest in distress – so that he would drop the reader in a zero position. The Church should give the people hope, love and progress instead of Nationalism and immutability
After 9 years committed to improving this reader couldn’t do otherwise than hang his coat on the coatrack and leave this narrow thinking community.
This group of Greeks who are domiciled in the Netherlands
are leaded by an archaic Greek bishop ordering for more than
20 years a board to arrange money by selling the candles and collecting just to arrange this community. It’s just banking.
People around them, even the priest don’t know the results of the yearly finances; it’s just the secret of Brussels.

We chuckle at how these stakeholders handled their situation and
probably can’t help but admire them some, but …..
that is not Jesus’ way to handle enemies!
How did our Lord say to respond to situations where enemies confront us?
In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ told us, “Love your enemies“.
It’s natural the choise one of these stakeholders did!
But as Christians we are called to a higher way of life.
The Lord Himself told us about this.
As He said in:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High;
for He is kind to the ungrateful and selfish
“.
Luc.6: 32–35

A very radical idea! Loving friends? That’s usually not too hard.
But to love our enemies? Very unusual, very difficult.
And that’s what Christ wants us to do.
You don’t have to quarrel further with these guys; just go your way and
do what you have to do – just turn yourself to the Lord of Hosts;
leave these Greeks in their fat cooked braise.

As always, Jesus Christ practiced what He preached.
Jesus just didn’t say, “Love your enemies“; He really did it!
When He was put on the cross, did He curse out those who id it to Him?
Did He call down lightning or angry angels to “take out” those killing Him?
He certainly could have done that.
But He didn’t.
– Instead, He loved them and prayed for them –
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do“.
And the Lord is still forgiving His enemies today.
For every time we sin, we make ourselves enemies of Christ.
And what does He do? He forgives us and keeps on loving us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be like Him.
We should do the same: love our enemies, and
forgive those who have hurt us and pray for them.
And if we really do that, it will be the case that,
from our side anyway, we won’t have enemies.
They may still see us as enemies,
but we won’t see them as enemies.
If, as Christ commands, we love and forgive our enemies,
they really won’t be our enemies anymore.

Saint Ephraim of Syria wrote about this sixteen hundred years ago:
Do not have any enemies except for Satan himself“.
On Admonition and Repentance

There are different ways of achieving this goal of not having enemies.
Years ago, a mafia boss on the island of Sicily was on his death bed.
He called for the local priest to come see him and hear his confession.
He had decided he wanted to get right with God before he died.
The priest came and, before he began to administer the sacraments, said,
Part of getting ready to die is that you need to forgive all your enemies“.
The mafia boss said,
Father, I don’t have any enemies“.
The priest was surprised and said,
That’s amazing!
After all the years of your violent and criminal life,
you must have enemies!
The mafiosi replied,
No, Father, I really don’t have any enemies.
I killed them all“.

That’s not the right way to end up with no enemies!
We do need to take action, however,
to stop having enemies, even drastic action if necessary.
Saint John of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt,
many centuries ago.
One day he was serving the Divine Liturgy and
as he was lifting up the bread and wine at the altar to God,
he remembered something:
he had had a falling out with a priest in
a nearby parish that week.
Saint John felt that he himself was at least partly to blame for their argument.
He realized, too, that he hadn’t fixed the problem.
So he put the holy gifts down on the altar, bowed to the people saying,
I will return soon” and
walked right out of the church.
He left and found the priest and
talked with him and
apologized to him.
They were reconciled and all was well between them.
Then Saint John returned to his own church and
finished the liturgy.
Whatever it takes – do it.
Love your enemies enough so that
you won’t think of them as your enemies anymore.

The following are some ways to work on this:
Pray for your enemies
Back in the 600’s A.D. there were definitely some people who considered Saint Maximus the Confessor as their enemy.
They hated him because he stuck to the truth about Jesus Christ and
wouldn’t give in to the latest heresy.
They cut out his tongue and cut off his hands.
Saint Maximus’ response was to say this about enemies:
Pray for him sincerely to God“.
Do you, priests and bishops talk with those who you are hurting,
do you apologize yourselves and pray for them?
Or do you keep silence and live on in your nice admospheres.
I hope you realize that you are role models.

That person who is hard to get along with,
who irritates you, who has hurt you,
who you perhaps even think of as an enemy?
Put those persons at the top of your prayer list and
pray for them more than for anyone else.

Thank God for something good about your enemy
It may not be easy to think of something good about some people
if they’ve done bad things to us or talk between each other and said bad things about us.
But you can always think of at least one good thing about that person.
Focus on that one good thing.

Shift your anger
Is there someone who has angered you?
Saint Ambrose of Milan, back about 400 A.D., said that
you should shift that anger at other people to anger at yourself.
Instead of being angry at someone else,
be angry at yourself that you are so spiritually weak
that something about that other person caused you
to fall into the sin of anger.
Being angry at yourself will help
your anger at others to fade away.

Treat them kindly
Saint Barsanuphius lived in the deserts of the Gaza area of Palestine
about fourteen hundred years ago.
A very holy and wise man, he received many letters
seeking spiritual advice and he wrote many letters giving spiritual advice.
We still have some of them today and they are a good read.
One writer explained to the saint about an enemy he had, and
sought advice on how to deal with the hateful person.
Saint Barsanuphius’ advise was simple and brief:
Do good to him“.
Even if someone has hurt you badly and
you don’t feel kindly towards them, you can still act kindly towards them,
even if it’s just a matter of smiling and saying,
Hi, how are you?
As Saint Barsanuphius said,
Do good to them.
Act kindly, and who knows?
Maybe they’ll start to change a bit and
act a little more kindly to you.
If you both keep that up,
pretty soon you won’t be enemies anymore!
Enemies are turned into friends.
Why? Because of simple acts of kindness.

Do the same.
Remember the words we looked at earlier by Saint Ephraim:
Do not have any enemies except for Satan himself“.
Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, instructed us,
Love your enemies“.

It’s all hard, very hard.
We are Christians,
however and so are called by our Lord to do as He did,
even when it is hard.
The Lord said that He will reward us
if we obey Him in this regard.
He tells us that if we love our enemies,
Your reward will be great and
you will be children of the Most High
“.
Luc.6: 35
What a wonderful reward!
To be children of the Most High God!
That’s what He promises us.

They cried to You and
were delivered;
they trusted in You and
were not ashamed
“.
Psalm 22: 5

Pain of Salvation
If you’re tearing down my world
please just try to do it gently…
there is love inside‘.

Thank you Lord for my enemies.

Orthodoxy & Superstition

Superstition has been defined as a belief,
a half belief, or a practice for which there appears to be no rational substance.
The data superstition arises often in remote areas where simple believers are
taught by untrained teachers.
A great deal of Greek Orthodox people [mainly the older folks]
adhere to many cultural superstitions, some of which date as far back as pagan Greece.
An old woman, I know — has some extremely stange beliefs,
[one which being the practice of the “Evil Eye
which was weird indeed]
These things are not a part of Orthodoxy, and
are in fact condemned by the Church.
Those who use the term imply that they have certain knowledge or superior evidence for their own scientific, philosophical, or religious convictions. An ambiguous word, it probably cannot be used except subjectively.
With this qualification in mind,
superstitions may be classified roughly as religious, cultural, and personal.
Superstitions that belong to the cultural tradition [in some cases inseparable from religious superstition] are enormous in their variety.

Many persons, in nearly all times, have held, seriously or half seriously, irrational beliefs concerning methods of warding off ill or bringing good,
foretelling the future, and healing or preventing sickness or accident.
Current behavioural research that suggests
that everyday superstitions are the natural result of
several well understood psychological processes.
Fear of the unknown, especially the desire to avoid misfortune,
illness or accident which lead to paradoxical human behaviours
are being examined through scientific investigation.
Ultimately, science can evaluate these behavioural elements
but only the True God can offer the confidence and
certainty to confront life without phobia.
The Church does not accept superstition.
We invite you to submit any questions you may have to your priest;
a list of the most asked questions will be displayed here
with the appropriate responses.
And of course, all enquires will be treated in confidence with
no personal or national details displayed.
To learn more about Tradition in the Orthodox Church.

Superstition about Marriage and Newlyweds
1.] Two children of the same family should not get married in the same year
because it will cause bad luck.
The Orthodox Church does not accept superstition.
Orthodoxy says that one, two, three or more children can get married in any one year.
Marriage is a Sacrament and therefore blessed by God Himself.
The notion of bad luck is rejected by the Church.

2.] Don’t get married in May. It’s bad luck.
For the Orthodox Church every moment and
every day of every month is blessed by the Holy Spirit.
Many weddings are conducted in May which
is neither less nor more blessed than any other month.

3.] If you’ve been koumbaro [best man or matron of honour] at
someone’s wedding don’t make them koumbaro
at your wedding or something will go wrong.
There is no impediment in the Orthodox Church to
one koumbaro being koumbaro to the other. This is superstition.

4.] It’s a sin for newlyweds to go to Church during the first year of their marriage.
Nonsense. The couple has been blessed by the Grace of God in His Church.
Their relationship at all levels has been sanctified.
If a couple ever needed to attend Church it is precisely in their first year
when they are still discovering each other and are
in need of God’s enlightenment.

5.] Newlyweds should not receive communion in the first year.
Nonsense.
This goes back to the notion that essentially ‘marital love’ is a sin at any time.
The Orthodox Church teaches that newlyweds should receive Holy Communion
regularly, throughout their life, with the appropriate preparation and fasting.
Their physical union is not a sin. It is a blessing.

6.] Newlyweds should not attend a funeral in the first year.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church would encourage them to attend,
especially in the case of a loved one.
Should they not attend the funeral of a parent,
a grandparent or a friend? Of course they should.

7.] Newlyweds should not attend memorial services in the first year.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church would encourage them to attend
because a Memorial Service is prayer.

8.] The bride should not plant a tree in the first year of marriage
because her fertility will be transferred to the tree.
Nonsense. The whole of creation is sanctified by God.
What fault of the poor tree is it if human beings adhere
to such ridiculous superstitions?
If this superstition was to be thought out rationally,
the tree should give birth to babies.

Myths told about Birth and Baptism
1.]
For 40 days after birth the mother should not leave the home.
This is a misrepresentation of a practice in the Old Testament.
The Orthodox Church says the mother can go anywhere she likes
during the 40 day period, apart from the church.

2.] For 40 days after birth a mother [‘lehona’] should not visit anyone else’s home.
For the Orthodox Church this is superstition. Common sense, however, would dictate that the woman should avoid upsetting herself by visiting homes that are superstitious and will be offended by her visit.

3.] During the first 40 days the mother should not walk to a crossroads.
Nonsense. The Orthodox Church has no issue with crossroads.

4.] The new mother should not receive a 40 blessing on the exact day
but should do so a few days before.
Why not? Jesus was blessed on exactly the 40th day.
If it was appropriate for Jesus,
then it is our responsibility to emulate His example.

5.] The new mother should ask the priest for
a “half” blessing so she can go out of the home.
There is no such thing as a ‘half blessing’ in the Orthodox Church.
This is a fallacy created for social reasons e.g. wishing to
attend a wedding or christening of a relative or friend.
What does exist, however, is a blessing for the child,
brought to the church by the father or grandparent on the 8th day,
for the naming of the child.

6.] A pregnant woman should not be a godparent.
It’s not good for the child.
Orthodoxy has no problem with a pregnant woman becoming a godparent.

7.] If someone’s christened your child
don’t christen theirs or else “you’ll take the oil back”.
This is entirely foreign to the teachings of the Orthodox Church.
The ‘annointing oil’ cannot be taken back by anyone.
It is indelibly and permanently ‘sealed’ on
the body of the person who has been baptized.

8.] After a Baptism, the child should not be bathed for three days.
Whilst the number 3 is symbolic of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit),
for the Orthodox Church there is no reason why the newly baptized child
cannot be bathed even on the same evening of the Baptism,
so long as the water from the bath and from
the washing of the baptismal clothes is not poured down a common drain,
but is emptied somewhere where it will not be trodden on
– such as a hole in the yard of the home or down by the sea.

Myths told about Funerals
1.] Cover the mirrors in the house so that
death won’t look at anyone else in the home.
Superstition. Christ has defeated death by His own death.
Covering mirrors won’t protect against the loss of life.

2.] When someone dies,
place a glass of water next to the oil lamp in the home
so that the soul of the departed might drink of it.
One priest reported that a parishioner notified him
that the deceased had consumed all the water in forty days.
Water, as in H2O, is of no use to someone who has died physically.
The soul, which never dies, however,
‘drinks’ of Christ’s ‘living water’ in the Kingdom of God.

3.] At the graveside the priest should break a plate
so as to smash any further visitations of death.
This is a strong superstition on a number of Aegean islands.
Breaking a plate will not stop the visitation of death.
The Orthodox person says with certainty
“I expect the resurrection of the dead and
the life of the age to come. Amen”.

4.] Don’t hold the 40 day memorial service on the day.
Always hold it several days before because the soul will be anxious.
The soul of the deceased is now in the timeless dimension of eternity.
Time counts for us. Not for the deceased.
If we wish to adhere to Orthodox practice,
we should arrange for the priest to conduct a ‘Trisagion’ Memorial Service at
the graveside on exactly the 40th day.
It then does not matter whether the Mnimosino is held at
the church a few days earlier or a few days later.

Myths told about Women
1.] During menstruation, women are not allowed to go to church.
Nonsense. Menstruation is a natural process
established by the perfect wisdom of God.
A woman is not ‘unclean’ during her period.
She certainly can attend Church.

2.] During their period, women must not kiss icons or other sacred objects.
Why not? The woman herself is an icon of God created in His “image and likeness”.
Some Fathers of the Church, however, specify that
during this time the woman should not receive Holy Communion.

Other Myths told
Chain letters should be forwarded according to their contents
in order to win the lotto or for some loved one not to die.
One manifestation of fear is the ambiguity displayed towards chain letters.
Now, if only two of twenty recipients would actually continue a chain letter,
it is estimated that in one year 35,184,372,088,832
(this is thirty five trillion) letters would have been sent across the world.
Obviously, this number far exceeds the population of the planet
(which is approximately 5.3 billion).
The so-called chain letter attributed to Saint Nectarios and
circulated by certain superstitious Christians, is
totally and utterly rejected by the Orthodox Church.

Things like this occur within Orthodoxy quite frequently.
You may be surprised to hear this, but weeping icons, incorrupt saints’ relics,
myrrh streaming from their bodies
[one saint in Greece has this to such a degree
that they had to construct a pipe system underneath his tomb
which ends in a big pool of healing myrrh one floor beneath), and
many other unnatural phenomena are extremely common within Orthodoxy, and
are deffinately no secret.
This, for me, serves as a testiment to God’s Grace within the Orthodox Church,
affirming that we are the Truth.
Did you know that there is a big, supernatural light
that comes out of the tomb of Christ every year on Orthodox Pascha (Easter) at
the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, and
that the flame from this light that they light everyone’s candles
with does not burn anything–including skin, hair and clothing–
for the first thirty-three minutes?
Also, it only appears for us canonical Orthodox Christians.
Latins (Catholics), Protestants, Monophysites, and schismatics
who call themselves “Orthodox” are unable to get
the light to come out for them, no matter how much they envoke it.
Just something for you to chew on.

Scripture is clear about superstitions and wives tales,
but they attack the church for a long time.
Well, they don’t really exist in the Church, per se.
It’s more to do with certain members of the Church
not letting go of these things;
but the Church Herself does not prompt nor inspire
this sort of behaviour from Her children.
Thankfully, it seems that as we grow up into a more civilized world and
become integrated in a modern society.
I hope that as the people from the older generations are dying off,
these superstitions seem to be lessening greatly.
Communities has for this reason be open and not closed [nationalistic]
so that scientific and technological advances
organise an open Orthodox View, which can
teach the humanistic [without God] surroundings.

I hope and pray that a lot of readers join our beautiful Faith.
If that is your intention, then be welcome to Orthodoxy!
If you are still undecided, then continue to pray on it
and I here will pray for you as well and
God will guide us to the Truth.

God is glorious in His Saints

Yes, truly
“Glorious is God in His Saints”
Psalm 67: 35

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation;
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 26:1

The strength of the Lord in us
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Casting down imaginations, and
every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.
2Cor. 10:3,4,5

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight
“.
Hebr. 11:33,34

And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of His Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night
“.
Rev 12: 10

Let us call to mind the Martyrs’ superhuman struggles,
how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength,
disregarding pain and wounds as they struggled bodily against fire, sword,
all different kinds of deadly tortures, patiently resisting while their flesh was cut,
their joints dislocated and their bones crushed,
and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity,
complete, unharmed and unshaken.
As a result there were bestowed on them
the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit
and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women,
how they willingly endured long periods of fasting,
vigil and various other physical hardships
as though they were not in the body,
battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin,
in the invincible inner warfare against principalities,
powers and spiritual wickedness.
Eph. 6: 12

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless,
but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him
from whom they
also received gifts of healing and mighty works.
When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such Grace and Power.
For even if their intentions were good and noble,
without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature
and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.
That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared,
God is glorious in His Saints”, he went on to say,
He gives strength and power unto His people”.
Ps. 67: 35

Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words.
Whereas God, according to the psalmist,
gives all his people strength and power
– for He shows no partiality [cf. Acts 10: 34]
– He is glorified only in His saints.
The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes.
Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun,
not those whose vision is dimmed because illness,
mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes.
In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all,
for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and
saving fount of mercy and goodness.
But not everyone takes advantage of His Grace and Power
to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles,
only those with a good intent,
who demonstrate their love and faith towards God
by good works (cf. Jas. 2: 20– 26),
who turn away completely from everything base,
hold fast to God’s commandments and
lift up the eyes of their understanding to
Christ the Sun of righteousness [Mal. 4: 2].
He not only invisibly holds out a helping hand from above
to those who struggle, but we also hear Him speaking to us
and urging us on in His Gospel.
Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men”,
He says, “him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 32

Notice that we cannot boldly
proclaim our faith in Christ
and confess Him without
His strength and assistance.
Nor will our Lord Jesus Christ speak out on our behalf in the age to come,
recommend us to the heavenly Father and make us His kin,
unless we give Him reason to do so.
To make this clear, He does not say,
Whosoever shall confess Me before men”,
but

Whosoever shall make His confession in Me”, Matth.10: 32
that is to say, whoever is able, in Christ and with His help,
to declare his faith with boldness.
Likewise, again, He does not say,
I will confess Him”, but “I will acknowledge what is in Him”,
meaning that His confession will be in respect of the good fight
and patient endurance which such a person has shown
in the cause of godliness.
Take note, however, of what He goes on to say
about those who are cowardly and betray the faith:
But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”.
Matth.10: 33

Here He does not say, “Whosoever shall deny in Me”,
since the person who denies God does so because
he is bereft of God’s help.
Why has he been abandoned and forsaken by God?
Because he first abandoned God by loving what is transitory and worldly
more than the Heavenly and everlasting good things promised by Him.
In His turn, Christ will not just disown what is in Him, but deny him Himself,
finding in him nothing at all that could be used in his defence.
Whoever loves according to God,
dwelleth in God, and God in him”,
as Christ’s beloved theologian tells us [1John 4: 16].
So he who truly loves God has God dwelling in him,
and naturally confesses his faith in God.
On the other hand, as he dwells in God,
God too will acknowledge him.

The words, “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me, him will I confess also” [cf. Matth. 10: 32],demonstrate the unbroken union between God and
those who acknowledge Him,
from which he who denies Him has distanced himself.
These mutual exchanges between God and man are divinely just,
and fairly reward like with like.
Although the prizes God gives us resemble our offerings to Him,
consider the overwhelming superiority of God’s recompense to those
who, in Him, confessed Him.
Each Saint, as a servant of God, boldly acknowledged Him
in this fleeting life before mortal men,
though actually just for a brief period of this present age
and in front of only a few.
By contrast, our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who is God and Lord of heaven and earth,
will speak openly on their behalf in that eternal,
never-ending world before God the Father,
surrounded by angels, archangels and all the heavenly host,
and in the presence of all mankind from Adam onwards.
For all will rise and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.
Then, before everyone and in the sight of all, He will proclaim,
glorify and crown those who demonstrated their faith in Him to the end.
How can we attempt to tell of those extraordinary crowns and
the excellence of those future rewards,
which eyes like ours cannot see, nor ears hear,
nor hearts understand?
cf. 1 Cor. 2: 9, Isa. 64: 4

Orthodoxy & to be aware of God

From Old times man has found different ways of recognising God.
Human beings of various intellectual levels have found their own ways to God.
Common people have found simple ways; whereas thinkers and philosophers reached the same conclusion on a higher plane of thought.

God has created man as His Image.
He has created His light,
the inner light in each and every human being.
He If we go deep within ourselves and touch our souls,
we recognise the original icon and hear the message of God.
History and anthropology has shown
that if man is left alone and
is not indoctrinated by any school of thought
– then, sooner or later, his inner voice will lead him
to believe in a power as the Creator
and Maintainer of this world.

However, at times this natural feeling has become insensitive by external resources.
But it re-emerges when that person finds himself in difficulties
– he naturally prays to a Power whom he believes to be above all powers.
In the book of Jonah the sailors all prayed
to their own gods and recognized
the Power of the One above all powers for
to Whom Jonah was on the flight.

Even an atheist you are
knowledgeable to ask:
Have you ever been caught in a fierce storm in the middle of nowhere,
your rudder gone, your sails torn away,
trying desperately to keep your boat afloat?
And sometimes perhaps even that leaking boat went down
leaving you exhausted and helpless at the mercy of the raging waves?
Was not there, in all that despair, a glimmer of hope in your heart
that some unnamed and unknown power could still save you?”.

Then the atheist will agree with you:
That’s the Power of God”.

Even a great King recognized Him
when he sung:
In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and I cried out to my God:
He heard my voice from His holy temple.
And my cry shall come before Him,
into His ears
“.
Psalm 17: 7
This “inner way”, in spite of being the natural and closest way of knowing God,
is also a very personal way.
It is only sufficient for the person
who has recognized the light within himself.

The second way of knowing God is
by studying the signs of His presence and power in the world within us and around us.
This method of knowing God is based on the principle of “cause” and “effect”.
The signs of nature are the effects of which the ultimate cause is God.

King David recognized Him when he sung:
O Lord my God,
You are magnified exceedingly;
You clothe Yourself with thanksgiving and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain;
You are He who covers His upper chamebers with waters,
Who makes the clouds His means of approach,
Who walkes on the wings of the winds,
Who makes His Angels spirits
and His ministers a flame of fire.
He established the earth on its stable foundation;
it shall not be moved unto ages of ages
“.
you can read on the whole Psalm 103 and recognise the Power of God.
David ends this song with:
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I exist:
May my words be pleasing to Him,
and I shall be glad in the Lörd.
May sinners cease from the earth,
and the lawless, so as to be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul
“.
Psalm 103 [104]

And when you and your children return to the Lord your God and
obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul
according to everything I command you today,
then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and
have compassion on you and
gather you again from all the nations
where he scattered you.
Even if you have been banished to
the most distant land under the heavens,
from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.
He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and
you will take possession of it.
He will make you more prosperous and
numerous than your fathers.
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and
the hearts of your descendants,
so that you may love Him with all your heart and
with all your soul, and live
“.
Deut.30: 2-6

Believer, here’s your never failing help.
Leave it in your Christian life are known:
This includes a precious truth!
There is no place nor time, nor conditions,
when faith in God the eye can’t rise up,
the ear cannot open and
no change can be brought about,
than that it is realized by
the ever present Lord and Savior.
Friends can always be different,
death can the tightest ties.
But God, Who lives forever, lives always at our side.
The solitary is not so lonely or he is visited by him.
In the morning and evening hours
– the busy day – the silent night –
He will be there.

But you, brothers must continue in the things which you have learned and
be assured of knowing from whom you have learned them, and
that from childhood you have known
the Holy Scriptures, which
are able to make you
wise for Salvation through Faith
Which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness,
that man of God may be complete,
thoroughly equipped for every good work
“.
2Tim.3: 14-17

Orthodoxy & Ambition

The time is now, on everything.
Took my heart away from money.
I ain’t interested in fame.
And I pray that never change.
Ambition is priceless.
It’s something that’s in your veins.
And I put that on my name“.
Wale – Ambition Lyric

Western society has undergone changes within the last 40 years with respect to morality.
Many things that were once viewed as being inherently immoral, such as gambling,
fornication (sex outside of marriage), homosexuality, are now viewed as being acceptable, and in some cases, outright laudable.
Many Christian denominations have followed suit by adopting the attitude
that modern Christians should adopt this “New morality” of secularism
lest we be judged by the world as being culturally backward and irrelevant.
I know you do not save man with advice and exhortations from outside.
Nor do you offer him freedom by telling them, “Do whatever you want“.
Wordlessly, like a sun of tender Love and fresh breeze of Courage,
your Love needs to be able to give them health and arouse
within them their personal appetite for Life.

Ambition
Especially the attitude of modern ambition gives me the impression of playing with fire.
It is not inherently negative, in fact it is good to have goals and
to work for those goals with perseverance.
But ambition uses people, destroys relationships, and muddy the waters of communities.
Ambition is intimately coupled with “envy, pride, and perhaps gluttony“.

In our times we are fully embodied creatures
and ambition feeds on our chemistry and biology
and it shapes our natural responses, it  is addictive.
Ambition, although not always clearly recognized and acknowledged as such, creates ‘Chaos’
[Tohuwabohu hebr. תהו־ובהו, tohu-wa-vohu]
in Communities.
Sexual sin, despite the attention rewarded to it, is of less significance if we consider impact on community and pain caused.
The difference in impact is primarily because we recognize sexual sin as sin
– there are consequences.

In contrast we often value and reward the result of ambition.
We brush under the rug or rationalize away its impetus in envy and pride.
This is a spiritual problem and a physical problem.
Scientific developments have impact
on our understanding of human behavior and human response.

Biochemical background
I have been reading in an article about Seven Deadly Sins, “Why does being bad feel so good?” and it described research being done these days to explore the science of sin.
Scientists are using techniques such as  functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] and PET [Positron-Emission Tomography] to map the active areas of the brain as a subject responds to certain stimuli.
Lust is a big one
– Research into brain response connected with lust indicates that (in males at least)
the response is all-encompassing.
All said, the most notable thing about lust is that it sets nearly the whole brain buzzing“.
The signals are unique, distinctive, unmistakable and uncontrollable.
This isn’t surprising.
We know that lust is a problem, we know that behaviour can shape response, that
there is a biological and chemical aspect that shapes not only the present, but the future.
The biochemical response can be addicting and destructive.
The lure of pornography is an excellent case in point.
We could go on here, but this isn’t really the point of today’s question.

Envy
Envy is interesting
– in a study of envy a number of volunteers were observed using fMRI while they read one of three scenarios
– the key one described a student similar to the volunteer, but better in every respect.
The conflict detecting regions of the brain fired and the response was similar to that for pain.
This leads to the suggestion that envy is a kind of social pain.
Later, when reading about this student’s downfall, the reward and pleasure regions of
the volunteer’s brain fired.
Not only this but the greater the pain in reading about the student’s success,
the greater the reward in reading of the student’s downfall.
The reward response is along the same line as that experienced from food – or sex.
It feels good.

Pride
And now the queen of vices – Pride.
Gregory the Great in commenting on Job noted:
For when pride, the queen of sins, has fully possessed a conquered heart, she surrenders is immediately to seven principal sins, as if to some of her generals, to lay it waste. …
For pride is the root of all evil, of which it is said, as Scripture bears witness;
Pride is the beginning of all sin
“.

Does pride show response in brain scans?
The science here is rather interesting.
For most of us, it takes less mental energy to puff ourselves up than to think critically about our own abilities.
… volunteers who imagined themselves winning a prize
or trouncing an opponent showed less activation in brain regions
associated with introspection and self-conscious thought
than people induced to feel negative emotions such as embarrassment.

We accept positive feelings about
ourselves readily,
Joseph S. Takahashi, a Japanese American neurobiologist and geneticist says:
Compared with guilt and embarrassment,
pride might be processed more automatically
”.
In another experiment a part of the brain
could be stimulated to turn off the protective influence of pride.
When this happened
They saw themselves as they really were, without glossing over negative characteristics“.
Even more interesting, the experiments demonstrate that righteous humility,
deliberate self-downgrading, is but arrogance and pride in cover.
The brain activation is the same.
Both are forms of one-ups-man-ship.
‘They are in the same location and seem to serve the same purpose:
putting oneself ahead in society’
“.

What does this mean?
Self-confidence, ambition, pride, envy – this is a slippery slope.
It is insidious – affecting our very make-up inside out.
We are wrong when we cast it “simply” as a battle of wills.
And our capacity for denial, blame-shifting,
and self-deception is also rooted in our make-up.
It is interesting though, because studies also show
that we can train our brains and influence response
– especially true of sins of envy, wrath, and pride.
Feeding ambition, with its corollaries of envy and pride, is like feeding lust.
It changes our very being, our function, our chemistry, our brain paths.
On the other hand intentional pursuit of virtue is also self-re-in-forcing.

So why is it playing with fire?
This reflection leads me though, to an idea that I would like to pose for consideration.
Within the Church we view ambition as a virtue.
We make allowances for ambition, we reward ambition,
we cultivate ambition, we admire ambition, we feed ambition.
The whole community, especially in the west, is puffing up the value of the ‘blacks’,
the priests, the bishop, the Patriarch [Pope].
And this is a serious problem.
In fact, I think it is one of the biggest
and most destructive temptations active in our Church today.
Ambition, accompanied by, and inseparably knotted with, pride and envy,
is the death of the Church.
The communal People of the Western Church are disordered by it,
because they only see the system instead of the original aim [object].

The original Christian ambition
Orthodox Christians must respond
to the moral confusion of our age
by examining the rich spiritual Tradition bequeathed to us in the Church.
Contrary to what many people might think, the answer to this problem is
not an answer that lies in the uniquely Western irreconcilable difference of conservatism verses liberalism;
rather, it has to do with the Church’s understanding and experience of ‘Theosis’ and Beauty.

Theosis
Theosis is the teaching that as human beings we have been created for a life of perfect and unending communion with God, and that this Divine Life
– revealed to us in Christ – is the very dynamic and substance of Salvation itself.
By uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh, we receive the gift [Grace] of the Holy Spirit,
Who in turn, reconciles us to the Father.
Christ was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification
“.
Rom.4: 25

I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lived in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness come by the Law,
then Christ is dead in vain
“.
Gal.2: 20,21

Here, in his own person, the apostle Paul describes the spiritual or hidden life of a believer.
The old man is crucified” [Rom.6: 6],
but the new man is living;
sin is mortified, and Grace is quickened.
He has the comforts and the triumphs of Grace;
yet that Grace is not from himself, but from another“.
Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence on Christ.
Hence it is, that though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh.
Those who have true faith, live by that faith;
and faith fastens upon Christ’s giving Himself for us.
He loved me, and gave Himself for me.
As if the apostle said, The Lord saw me fleeing from Him more and more.
Such wickedness, error, and ignorance were in my will and understanding,
that it was not possible for me to be ransomed by any other means
than by such a Price.
Consider well this Price.
Here notice the false faith of many.
And their profession is accordingly;
they have the form of godliness without the power of it.
They think they believe the articles of faith aright, but they are deceived.
For to believe in Christ crucified, is not only to believe that He was crucified,
but also to believe that I am crucified with Him.
And this is to know Christ crucified.
Hence we learn what is the nature of Grace.
God’s Grace cannot stand with man’s merit.
Grace is no Grace unless it is freely given every way.
The more simply the believer relies on Christ for everything,
the more devotedly does he walk before Him in all his ordinances and commandments.
Christ lives and reigns in him, and he lives here on earth by faith in the Son of God,
which works by Love, causes obedience, and changes into His Holy Image.
Thus he neither abuses the Grace of God, nor makes it in vain.

Orthodoxy and living the Christian life

For a perfect Bridegroom, He takes
the soul as a perfect bride
into the holy and mystical and immaculate communion of marriage“.
Saint Macarios of Egypt – Homily 47

By living with the Saints Who have gone before and enjoying their support,
you learn how to struggle.
You see how they wrestled;
how they confronted the enemy;
how they dealt with human weaknesses.
How hard they were on themselves:
they shadowed life and qualified success
not to their own labours,
but to the grace of God.

If you follow the life and counsels of the Saints . . . . .
If you are granted inner peace . . . . .
Bear with the others:
Be victimised and do not wrong others“.
Hand-no one-down, but forgive everyone,
find somehow a place for them in your heart.
Pray for them with all what is in your capacity,
unrelatedly of whether they upset you.
Be unable to lay on hurt,
not sufficiently expert of
any such thing.
Follow the Lord of Golgotha
– “A Man wounded, knowing how to bear weakness
Isaiah 53: 3
Be wounded and know how to bear the pain.
The Cross must be familiar and acceptable to you
as a place to be and a mode of existence.

Then the Lord will come
at some time, without fail,
as He knows best.
He will come and find you,
He will touch your head.
He touched the leper . . . . .”[Matth. 8: 3].
He will speak to you.
He will enter into you like Light, Repose, Paradise.
You will be aware of Him, you will feel Him,
you will actually live His Passion and Ressurection.
You will find yourself inside the Icon of Ressurection,
of the Descent into Hell.
This Icon will be an expression of your life.
Christ will constantly leading you by the hand,
bringing you to Light, to freedom,
to an unending journey which is Himself.

Then You will understand the words of the Lord:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things
and to enter into His Glory?

Luc. 24: 26
Christ had to suffer and to come forth as Bridegroom from the tomb.
A great Mystery!
You feel that you had to suffer, to endure pain,
to die in the earth like a seed,
so that there might shoot up from within you
something that does not pass away.

I am created for some specific purpose, a certain Christian used to say
– for something intangible, invisible to the naked eye, and yet incarnate.
I know it, I believe it, I experience it.
◙ When I move away from it, everything goes twisted, in my soul and my body.
◘ When I an within it,
I am firmly grounded and recover everything,
the health of my soul and body.
◘ When I am alone, I am in communion with the Saints.
◘ When I am in a crowd, I am nourished by the pure spring
welling up in the desert within.
Reverence for this least and greatest thing
takes the form of constantly going outdoors without protection;
of asking at every moment only that His will should be done.
Asking not with my mouth and my voice,
but with my whole manner of living all the time.

When you ask that His Will should be done,
when your whole Christian being is one bleeding petition, it happens.
But this “happening” is not something you can determine in advance.
It may happen by happening or by not happening.
It may be that before your petition is finished, the answer comes.
Or you may wait years and wear yourself out,
and be disappointed, and reach utter exhaustion and be destroyed.
And then, when you are no longer expecting anything
– neither you nor anyone else –
He Himself will come to raise you up,
to take you with Him on a new journey,
to the unknown.

Then you understand why
He was slow in coming for you:
He was with you “In another form
even when He had not come and you were waiting for Him.
                                                                                 Marc.16: 12

How everything functions as a whole!
Now nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted!
How blessings go deeper than hoped!
How the afflictions, the pains and perplexities till the field of our souls
like a deep-cutting ploughshare!
How totally and utterly the strange and heaven-sent rest
differs in nature from the rest and satisfaction
afforded by any earthly and temporary success!
How it teaches us humility, how it schools us in Love, How it reconciles us with others!
It strengthens us, it invigorates us,
and in the same time it makes us weaker, without any prickles or sharp corners
which could wound others.

The lives of the Saints have been sanctified,
their minds have been enlightened, the work of their hands and their minds bears the seal of Grace, the beauty of Heaven.
This Beauty is a gift from the Lord Himself,
the Glory of Whose Godhead became the glory of the body,
but remains obscured from those
who cannot see these things
only visible to the Angels
“.
Saint Gregory Palamas – Agioreitikos Tomos

Through sin man loses the comeliness which is from above and begs the Lord:
Make my humble soul bright with the beauty of repentance
Oktoïch tn2 Canon, Monday morning, 4th ode
When the Christian matures in repentance and attains purification and illumination,
he/she receives the most pure embrace of the Lord,
Which fills his whole being with Beauty, Glory and uncreated Light.

Embracing me totally, He caresses me in my entirety,
He gives Himself entirely to me in my unworthiness,
and I take my fill of His Love and His Beauty,
and am filled with Divine pleasure and sweetness.
I partake in the Light, participate in the Glory,
and my face shines like the of the One I long for
and all my members are luminous.
Then am I fairest of the fair
“.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian

When the intellect has been perfected,
it unites wholly with God and
is illumined by Divine Light,
and the most hidden Mysteries
are revealed to it.
Then it truly learns
where wisdom and power lie…
While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things…
But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts,
then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by Grace
and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities.
A person in whom this happens is not attached
to the things of this world but has passed from death to Life
“.
Philokalia

Orthodoxy & Big-heartedly life

the hopeful Tradition of the Church
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and shield.
Yea our hearts are glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy Name.
Let Your steadfast Love,
O Lord be upon us,
even as we hope in You
“.
Psalm 32: 20-22

For in this hope we are saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with Patience
“.
                                                                 Rom.8: 24-25

Hope is the assurance of the good outcome
of our lives lived by faith in God.
Hope is the power of certain conviction
that the life built on faith
will produce its fruits.
Hope is the confidence,
that despite all darkness and sin,
the light of the loving forgiveness of God
is upon us to do with us and for us,
what we ourselves cannot do.

The virtue of hope goes together
with the power of faith.
Patriarch Abraham,
In hope believed against hope
that he should be the father of many nations
”.
Rom. 4: 18
And hope, like faith, is in that which is not seen.

The opposite of hope is
despondency and despair.
According to the spiritual tradition of the Church,
the state of despondency and despair
is the most grievous and horrible condition
that a person can be in.
It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.

The loss of hope is the worst possible state because without hope,
nothing else is possible; certainly not faith.
If a person is faithless, he can be chastised and convinced.
If a person is proud, he can be humbled;
impure, he can be cleansed; weak, he can be strengthened;
wicked, he can be made righteous.
But if a person is despondent and despairing,
the very condition of his sickness is such
that his heart and soul are dead and unresponsive to the grace of God
and the support of family [his brothers].

…the force of despondence…
overwhelms him and oppresses his soul;
and this is a taste of hell because it produces a thousand temptations:
con- fusion, irritation, protesting and bewailing one’s lot, wrong thoughts,
wandering from place to place, and so on.
Saint Isaäc of Syriä, 6th cnt. in “Directions on Spiritual Training

The demon of despondency,
which is called the noon-day demon” [Psalm 90: 6]
is more grievous than all others. […]
It arouses in him vexation against the place
and mode of life itself and his work,
adding that there is no more love among his family [his brethren],
and no one to comfort him. (…)
Then it provokes in him a longing for other places…
Evagrius of Pontus, 4th cnt. in To Anatolius: “On Eight Thoughts

The only remedy for despair is humility and patience,
the steadfast holding to the life of faith,
even without conviction or feeling.
It is the simplification of life by going through each day,
one day at a time, with the continual observances,
however external, of scriptural reading, liturgical worship,
fasting, prayer, and work.
In the advice of Saint Benedict [6th cnt.],
it is to remain stable in one’s place,
and to “to what you are doing” as well as you can,
with all possible attention.

In the advice of
Saint Seraphim of Sarov [19th cnt.]:
It is to visit with spiritual friends,
with those who are hopeful, merciful, joyful and strong.
It is to stand fast to the end
while passing through aridity and darkness,
until the light of blessed hope and comfort are found.
There is no other way,
and “those who find it are few”.
Matth.7: 14

But when one “fights and conquers against despondency and despair,
this struggle is followed by a peaceful state and
the soul becomes filled with ineffable joy“.
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: On Eight Thoughts

When we are attacked by the demon of despondency
– the most grievous of all, but who more than all makes the soul experienced –
let us divide our soul in two, and making one part the comforter
and the other part the comforted,
let us sow seeds of good hope in ourselves,
singing with David the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I will again praise Him,
my help and my God”.
Psalm 41: 5 &
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: “Texts on Active Life

Sometimes people think that a certain “lack of hope” is a Christian virtue.
They think that by proclaiming that “all is lost
they please God by their humility and sorrow over sins,
their own and those of the world.

They think that the more they concentrate on the evils of men,
the more they exalt the strength of the wicked, the more they sigh and say,
There is no help for US In God!”,
the more righteous and pious they become.
But this is all wrong.
It has nothing to do with the patient suffering at the hands of the wicked,
and the patient struggle against the powers of evil that the righteous must endure,
being absolutely certain of their ultimate and total victory in God,
the source of their strength and their hope.

It is no virtue to feel weak and
helpless in the presence of the wicked.
It is no virtue to consider oneself totally
at the mercy of evil and sin.
It is a virtue rather to be always
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation
knowing and believing
that the final Victory is God’s.
Rom.12: 12

 

Orthodoxy & Official relations

The woman answered and said,
“I have no husband”.
Jesus said to her,
“You have well said,
‘I have no husband,’… ;
in that you spoke truly”.
Luc.4:  17, 18

View on sexuality
From the Orthodox churches point of view, humans are not sexual creatures in terms of their essential identity.
To Eastern Orthodoxy, the relationship which people have with God is reflected in the love for one another; the union of two people in marriage is considered to be a reflection of our ultimate union with God.
However, as a result of humanity’s rebellion against God [the Fall], humanity has tended to adopt a more animalistic view of sexual activity which is not true to the ultimate transfigurable nature of the human race, having been made in the Divine image and likeness.

Orthodoxy holds that Adam and Eve
did not have sexual intercourse until after the Fall,
and that sexual sin and the Fall are intimately linked [Reproduction must have happened in some way, however, for God commands Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” before the Fall as is stated in Genesis 1: 28].
The Orthodox churches do not hold that sex is inherently sinful, but rather condemn seeing sex as something which can be divorced from the loving act between a married couple.
As Saint Cesarios said, “copulation and birth of children in accordance with the law is free from any sin and condemnation“.

Marriage
One of the Fathers of the Church,
John Chrysostom, in elaborating on the words of Paul of Tarsus states that
because man is prone to strong lustful feelings, and because all men are not strong enough to be celibate, the Church allows the temporary union of marriage as an alternative to sin“.
This is a commentary on 1Cor. 7, which states “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion“.

To some Orthodox, sex and marriage
are both temporary states experienced in this world only.
In Heaven all are equal and our relationship is with God [Matth.22: 30, Marc.12: 25, Luc.20: 35].
Other Orthodox regard marriage as being eternal, that the crowns used in the Orthodox marriage ceremony are received [as the rite states] into Heaven and therefore signify an eternal reality.
Thus, while sexuality in its physical sense may not be continued in Heaven, the bond between a husband and wife is permanent, and celibacy, while an honourable and holy state if done for the sake of the Kingdom, is not by any means the most common path for all Orthodox Christians.
With virginity, marriage is thus also understood as
an ascetical working out of salvation.
As the Bible says,
the “marriage bed is undefiled” [Hebr. 13: 4].
As is seen in the sacramental rites themselves,
marriage is understood as being forever sanctified by Christ’s presence and first miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. John 2: 1-11

The Orthodox view Christian marriage as a primary image in the New Testament of the union of the Church with Christ.
The eschatological fulfillment of all things is in terms of the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb [Revelation 19: 7-9], i.e., the Church to Christ.
“Thus, marriage is a Mystery — Holy, Blessed, and Everlasting in the sight of God
and His Church” [Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 448].
Or, as Father r. Alciviadis C. Calivas writes:
Orthodox theology has always presented Christian marriage as something absolutely unique, and, indeed eternal.
In marriage, human love “is being projected into the Kingdom of God” [John Meyendorff],
reflecting the intimate union between Christ and the faithful which Saint Paul speaks of [Eph. 5].
Married life is a special vocation which requires the grace of the Holy Spirit; and it is this very grace which is conferred in the Marriage Service.

Father John Meyendorff in Byzantine Theology [pp. 196–197] says:
The Byzantine theological, liturgical, and canonical tradition unanimously stresses the absolute uniqueness of Christian marriage, and bases this emphasis upon the teaching of Ephesians 5.
As a sacrament, or Mysterion, marriage reflects the union between Christ and the Church, between Yahweh and Israel, and as such can be only one — an eternal bond, which death itself does not destroy.

In its sacramental nature, marriage transfigures and transcends both fleshly union and contractual legal association: human love is being projected into the eternal Kingdom of God.

Only this basic understanding of Christian marriage can explain the fact that until the tenth century no second marriage, whether of those widowed or of those divorced, was blessed in church. Referring to the custom of “crowning” the bridal pair – a feature of the Byzantine rite of marriage
— a canon attributed to Nicephorus the Confessor [806-815] specifies:
Those who enter a second marriage are not crowned and are not admitted to receive the most pure mysteries for two years; those who enter a third marriage are excommunicated for five years“.
This text, which merely repeats the earlier prescriptions of the canons of Basil, presupposes that second and third marriages of those widowed or divorced can be concluded as civil contracts only.
Actually, since the marriage blessing was normally given at a Eucharist, where the bridal pair received communion, the required temporary excommunication excluded the Church’s participation or blessing in cases when marriage was repeated.

Later Meyendorff also says:
The most striking difference between the Byzantine theology of marriage and its medieval Latin counterpart is that the Byzantines strongly emphasized the unicity of Christian marriage and the eternity of the marriage bond; they never considered that Christian marriage was a legal contract, automatically dissolved by the death of one of the partners….
Guided in its practice by the legal notion of contract, indissoluble as long as both parties were alive, the West seemed to ignore the idea that marriage, if it is a sacrament,
has to be projected as an eternal bond into the Kingdom of God.
Byzantine Theology, pp. 198-199

Homosexuality
The Orthodox Church has been consistent in condemning acts of homosexuality [but not homosexual persons], despite variations
in the conditions for homosexual activity and responses from
various Church leaders and the State.
Continuing a worldview evident from the Old and New Testaments, the Church Fathers consistently condemned homosexual activity, as did the Byzantine state.

Official statements by the Orthodox hierarchy continue to be consistent in terms of the traditional position that homosexual behaviour is sinful and thus damaging to the human person, and that homosexual temptation is a subject for ascetic struggle.
While some Orthodox theologians and jurisdictions have championed the traditional view, they have also engaged in scientific conversation and in dialogue with the increasing number of societies that view homosexuality far differently than at the time of the Byzantine Empire.
After affirming the import and meaning of the Scriptures that address homosexual activity, calling it sin, the Orthodox Church in America offered the following advice at its 10th All-American Council in 1992:
Men and women with homosexual feelings and emotions are to be treated with the understanding, acceptance, love, justice and mercy due to all human beings…
Persons struggling with homosexuality who accept the Orthodox faith and strive to fulfill the Orthodox way of life may be communicants of the Church with everyone else who believes and struggles.
Those instructed and counselled in Orthodox Christian doctrine and ascetical life who still want to justify their behavior may not participate in the Church’s sacramental mysteries, since to do so would not help, but harm them.

Assistance is to be given to those who deal with persons of homosexual orientation in order to help them with their thoughts, feelings and actions in regard to homosexuality.
Such assistance is especially necessary for parents, relatives and friends of persons with homosexual tendencies and feelings. It is certainly necessary for pastors and church workers.

Within the Orthodox churches, there is a minority advocating a change in the view of homosexuality; one such group is Axios.
However, the work of such groups and any blessings they confer are largely ignored by the Orthodox as a whole.

I have always asked myself
why the world has to confront tradition
in calling to make homosexual relations official by Law
– a ‘Marriage‘, instead of a ‘friendships-commitment’.
By taking this formulation the world denies her relation with God, our Lord.

The Biblical Greek term for sin is αμαρτία [amartia] which means missing the mark,
it means that our aim is out and we have not reached our goal, our fullest potential.
As in Western Christianity, in Orthodoxy, the goal is Union with God.
Orthodoxy also understands sin as
a disease of the soul, a condition where
the soul is lacking in God’s Grace.
Union with God, which is made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine.
In Orthodoxy, the Mysteries of the Church, also known as sacraments in the West,
are vehicles leading towards union with God.

I wish, nobody loses hope,
even if he reaches the limit with his evil…
The power of repentance is so immense,
to turn us into the whiteness of snow, and the purity of wool,
even if the sin reigned over us and tinted us“.
Saint John Chrysostom