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

Pride & humbleness

Humility is in the Middle of the Heavenly Kingdom;
the Glory of God is lost by the one who missed the gain of humility.
You lose the Glory of God by the traps of the Devil, money, reputation etc.
The power and beauty of the people are vain things destroyed because of clothing [dark or shiny uniforms].
Wisdom without God is also vain.
With wisdom the devil even tried to trap Jesus Christ, but caught himself.
And the Jews have suffered the same.
The real pride of man is to know the greatness of God.
Everything is a gift of God.

The main reason underlying a person’s arrogance is unrealistic sense of superiority
or is his erroneous assumption that he has an existence
apart from and independent of God, and that he has acquired his qualities of his own doing.

When you are arrogant you feel superior to everyone else. You are right and everybody else is wrong
–at all times.
You are beyond reproach. Whatever anyone else says, if it disagrees with what you say and believe, then everything you say is gold, and everything they say is garbage.
You tend to think: “I am this powerful; you are less powerful.
I am beautiful; you are less beautiful
”, and so on.
You are amazingly boastful and strongly tend to belittle the efforts of others unless they completely agree with you.
People who lack self-esteem are arrogant because they are not comfortable with themselves.
People who have a healthy self-esteem are humble and comfortable with themselves; therefore, they take pleasure in quietly being who they are.
They don’t need to tell the world about it, and they encourage others to be able to feel the same way about themselves as they do.
Arrogance also comes from you values and beliefs.
[morals that were taught to us as a child on how to act and interact with others and in life]
Some people when growing up are tough that they are better than others and everyone else is below them; while other people are tough that everyone is equal no matter of how they look, color, race etc. and that [amongst other things] humble them.
Humble will be very strong, like grass will not fall at the time of windstorm.
You can see the strength by bending and giving way to others.
At the same time stand on own feet firmly.
Whereas pride attitudes, are like tree look very strong in the time trials and misery
that is to say storm, it will fall within no time.
Understanding the many benefits that Humility brings
should move us to cultivate and maintain this precious quality.

How can we go about gaining
this fine quality of humility?
It does not come automatically.
As with all other fine qualities,
we must work at it.
It will take time, so we must not become discouraged and think, What’s the use?
There is use, even if it does take time and effort and we keep making mistakes.
– First of all, we must have an earnest desire to be humble.
We must keep reminding ourselves that only by being humble can we please our Lord.
This is clearly shown where we read: “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you
”.
1Petr.5: 7

And do we not need God’s undeserved kindness?
Can we afford to have Christ oppose us?
By regularly reading God’s Word
we will gain his mind on Humility.

For Humility to be able to help us in time of adversity, we must exercise it in our everyday lives,
in all we think, say and do.
Humility means lowliness of mind, not having big ideas or ambitions, and not tending to look down on others.
It means thinking like the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself as “a man less than the least of all holy ones”, and as “the least of the apostles”.
Humility should mark our conversation.
Do we always want to talk about ourselves, how we feel about things,
what we have accomplished or plan to do?
Do we often speak critically of others?

Do we often find ourselves monopolizing
the conversation?
Humility moves one to give others
the opportunity to speak.
If others are slow to express themselves, humbly, tactfully and lovingly draw them out, to their own happiness and to your own up-building.
There is more happiness in giving others
the opportunity to talk than in doing all the talking yourself.
Does humility characterize our actions?
Humility keeps one from shoving others
or always wanting to be first if one happens to be standing in line.
Truly, humility has ever so much to recommend it.
It makes for peaceful relations with Christ our Maker.
It makes for peace of mind. It makes for friendly relations with our fellows.
And it is of great help when we most need help – in times of harsh conditions.

Of all that exists on the four corners of the earth, what, O mortal man, can make us proud except stupidities and demonic illusions. Did we not enter into the world naked and wretched and are we not going to depart this world in the same manner?
Everything that we have, did we not borrow it; and by our death, are we not going to return everything? Oh, how many times has this been said and overheard?
The wise apostle says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it”
[ITim.6: 7].
And, when we offer sacrifice to God of ordinary bread and wine, we say,
“Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”
[Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom].
For nothing that we have in this world is ours:
not even a crumb of bread nor a drop of wine; nothing that is not of God.
In truth, pride is the daughter of stupidity,
the daughter of a darkened mind, born of evil ties with the demons.

Pride is a broad window through which all of our merits and good works evaporate.
Nothing makes us so empty before men and so unworthy before God as does pride.
When the Lord is not proud, why should we be proud? Who has more reason to be proud than the Lord, Who created the world and Who sustains it by His power?
And behold, He humbles himself as a servant, a servant to the whole world: a servant even to the death, to the death on the Cross!”

Saint Nicholai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid

God’s realm is totally different
from the world around us.
In fact, Kingdom wisdom seems foolish to the world.
In God’s Heavenly Kingdom
the first shall be the last,
little children are the model citizens,
and people are not regarded according to their ability, income, gender, or race.
We are to put the King and His Kingdom business before the care of our own livelihood.
This Kingdom is truly upside down.

Kingdom laws are summed up in one word: love.
The air we breathe is Grace, and the national characteristic is Holiness.
One of God’s highest goals for His people is freedom
– freedom to love Him and freedom to love each other.

February 1st – Saint Seiriol, Abbot of Penmon [Anglesy 6th cnt]

Seiriol was an early 6th century saint, who created a cell at Penmon Priory
on Anglesey, off the coast of north Wales.
He later moved to Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island).
He was a son of King Owain Danwyn of Rhos.

According to legend, he and Saint Cybi [November 8th] were good friends,
and would meet weekly near Llanerchymedd, at the Clorach wells.
Saint Cybi would walk from Holyhead,
facing the rising sun in the morning and setting sun in the evening.
According to tradition, Seiriol and Cybi used to meet every week to discuss matters of religion at Clorach, near Llanerchymedd, which is about midway from Holyhead to Seiriol’s chapel: and there are to this day two wells, of fine spring water, about ten yards distant, which retain the names of Ffynnon Seiriol, and Ffynnon Gybi, and where a great concourse of people, until of late years, used to resort to wash off their several diseases.

Saint Cybi was known as Cybi Felyn [Cybi, the Tanned], as he was tanned
during his journey.
Seiriol, travelling in the opposite direction, from Penmon, would have his back to the sun.
Thus, he was known as Seiriol Wyn [Seiriol the Fair].
Rhyd-y-Saint railway station [English: Ford of the Saints railway station]
on the Red Wharf Bay branch line near Pentraeth,
was named so as Seiriol and Cybi are said to have met there.

Seiriol was a younger brother of King Cynlas of Rhos and King Einion of Llŷn.
His cell at Penmon is said to have been rebuilt by his brothers,
as they didn’t think his humble residence was good enough.
Saint Seiriol’s Well (Ffynnon Seiriol) lies in a small chamber adjoining its remains.
Both are protected by Cadw,
the publicly funded body responsible for the historic monuments of Wales.
Adjacent to them are the church and ruins of a monastery
also dating back to Seiriol’s day.

In his old age, Seiriol retired to Ynys Lannog
which subsequently became known (in Welsh) as
Ynys Seiriol.
Later it would be known to the Vikings as Priestholm,
and is known as Puffin Island in English
since the 19th century.

February 1st – Saint Tryphon (Trypho) of Campsada near Apamea, in Syria [† 250]

Saint Tryphon is said to have been born at Kampsade (Campsada, in Phrygia, nowadays Turkey, and
as a boy took care of geese.

His name is derived from the Greek τρυφη (tryphe) meaning “softness, delicacy”.
He acquired fame as a healer, especially of animals,
and is considered one of the Holy Unmercenaries, particularly invoked on farms.
During the Decian persecution he was taken to Nicaea about the year 250 and was tortured in a horrible manner. He was beheaded with a sword
after he had converted the heathen prefect Licius.
Fabulous stories are interwoven with his hagiography.
His relics were first buried in his native city of Campsada.
Later on, they were translated to Constantinople, and then [stolen] to Rome.
His feast day is on 1 February in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and
in the Latin Catholic Church.

He is greatly venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church,
in which he is also the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers.