Orthodoxy & the lost possibilities

Our Lord came to fulfil
the Law and the Prophets
and not to destroy them
“.
Matth.5: 17,18

Even the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter, a tittle, will not pass from the law
until all is fulfilled.
Jesus teaches us also that we transgress God’s Word in Spirit and Truth [John 4:24],
because Traditions of men are taught as doctrine [Matth.15: 3-9],
thus making the Word of God ineffective                                                                                          [Marc.7: 13].
Finally, the inspired Word of God through the apostle Paul
instructs us to test all things and to only hold fast to that which is good [1Thess.5: 21].

So when are leaders insist of keeping
Bulgarian, Greec, Romanian, Russian, Serbian
language and culture as a key point to their numerous parishes
they break down the Church of Christ, because they sow discord.
Is this the Gospel Truth – is this the New Revelation for our time?
When they continue to proclaim this,
then I believe our Lord will respond them
with His Words:
“…You are mistaken,
not knowing the Scriptures
nor the Power of God
“.
Matth.22: 2

All over the Benelux there are groups forming that have isolated themselves from the other orthodox churches.
These people long for contacts with their compatriots, the cosiness of home, with their habits and traditional lifestyles.
In return they dissociate themselves from their new environment and remain
a stranger in a strange country.
Moreover, they are in their original country considered as a foreigner for they have been measured in other habits.
So many times in history is asked to not form any other churches.
We are all asked to remain and suffer for all of the souls upon earth
– suffer, even though you know that the Eternal Father watches what is going on.
Our children require no schism in the Church, they do not wish
that new churches are formed.
Though the meaning is well, this can lead to nothing but destruction and schism.
We hear all names coming forward to our ears of churches being born anew,
called the ‘traditional’ Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Russian and Serbian Churches.
We need no more Traditionalists running around and creating new churches.
We have to remain steadfast and firm in our convictions that with
a tight board, enough prayer and also the firm example of holiness
of the leaders this will not happen.
Tight management is possible only when the wind [the Holy Spirit] is blowing on it,
and the leaders indicate a straight direction.
Division, for it is promoted by the opponent, the Satan.
The adage of old remains forever true:
United you will stand but divided you will fall“.

Our time is the time of imposture, of spiritual fraud and counterfeit
taking the form of an “angel of light” [2Cor.11: 14].
And the main danger , the main deficiency of this whole phenomenon is that too many people today – including
the seemingly most traditional “dispatchers[managers] of spirituality
seem to view “spirituality” as a kind of entity in itself,
almost totally disconnected from the entire Christian view and
experience of God, world and man, from the totality of Christian Faith.
Thus when disconnected from the totality of faith, even that “spirituality” which has the most traditional, the most Orthodox appearance is always in danger of becoming one-sided, reductionist and in this sense heretical [from the Greek [αϊρεσις”: choice and, therefore, reduction] – of becoming, in other terms, pseudo-spirituality.
The danger of such pseudo- spirituality has always existed.
It is already denounced by Saint John theologian,
who begs Christians not
to believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are from God” and
establishes the fundament rule for such “trying”: “Every spirit“, he writes, “that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God“[1John 4: 1-2].
This means that the criterion for “spirituality” is to be found in
the central doctrine of the Incarnation – central because it implies and contains
the entire Christian faith, all dimensions of the Christian worldview:
creation, fall, redemption, God, world, man.
But then, where is the true spirituality, this total vision of man, of this nature and his vocation, better revealed than in Mystery [lat.= Sacrament]
whose purpose is precisely to restore man in his true nature,
to bestow on him the new life by regenerating him “by water and the Spirit“?

But to regenerate “water and the Spirit
people have to understand what words are used during a Mystery [lat.= Sacrament].
Even the Apostles were not scientific educated people,
they spoke the words of the people they met
[in those times mostly the Greek, in this time mostly the English language].
Our “dispatchers[managers] of spirituality, and special those who seek a
joint solution for the diversity in Orthodox expressions of faith,
has to make the choice to get involved with the original language of that region.
The choice for different strange languages will destroy the Christian future of our children.
I have visited several 3rd generation members of our differentiated communities/parishes and found that most of them don’t understand what a priest pronounces during the services. They even don’t understand what’s happening, they visit their churches because of the tradition of their parents. It’s just nice and you can speak your native language and you meet persons with the same background.
The differentiated communities/parishes form isles in the world without any Christian message.
Within their selves they are dying and form a preparation for death.
Between each other they try to be the best in number and success, with the most beautiful entourage.
They have to know better and to join their efforts, a Greek person has to feel comfortable in Russian and Serbian circumstances and vice versa,
the different communities have to lose their territoriality.
They are Orthodox Christian and they have a message to their surroundings;
the same as the region in which they live give them comfort.
Orthodox Christians have to teach the Benelux, how Christianity original was.
Before the Organisation of Orthodox people [VvO, most Dutch people] tried to intervene between the differences in several communities,
it was not accepted by the “dispatchers[managers] of Orthodox spirituality.
Similarly, the number of Dutch Orthodox disappear – they dissociate themselves from this nationalism.
They become tired, tired of the incessant just struggle.
When the joint Orthodox bishops do not intend to intervene here,
come down from their thrones time will make clear
that a 6th or 7th generation of will have to re-invent the wheel,
in order to enter an understandable language in Holy Services for their children again.

I shall bow down and worship toward Your Holy Temple
and I will give thanks to Your Name
for Your Mercy and Your Truth;
for You magnified Your teaching
above every name.
On the day I shall call to You,
hear me speedily;
You shall treat my soul
with great care
in Your Power
“.
Psalm 137: 2,3


When someone is in bed
because of an accident or sickness,
his or her condition is often described as
resting relaxed“.
The person has been hurt but is now at rest.
When we look in to check
on our children or grandchildren,
we are glad when they are sleeping
quietly or resting comfortably.

When we are “resting relaxed”:
– our praise has to go towards God [Psalm 137: 1-2].
– our strength we rejoice is from God [Psalm 137: 3-5].
– our obedience is to God [Psalm 137: 6].
– and our security is in God [Psalm 137: 7-8].

As Christians we should be resting
without problems.
Not that we are asleep,
but we are not panicked, troubled or concerned
because our self-assurance is in our God.

In psalm 22 the Church is speaking about the Lord Jesus [1-3] and to the Lord Jesus [4-6], the Church identifies Him as my shepherd [John 10: 14], thus indicating a close relationship with Him.
And because He had nothing, now we have no lack!
One of the last words of David , ,
Although my house be not so with God;
yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant,
He ordered in all things and sure”[2Sam.23: 5].

We are travelers ,
our Shepherd delivered us from all possible strangers and dangers.
In accordance with His own sweet promise when he puts forth his own sheep,
he goes before them and the sheep follow him: for they know His voice
“.
John 10: 4

” ….. the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad,
the desert shall blossom …..
the parched ground shall become a pool,
… will be a highway , called the holy way,
there is no unclean shall not pass,
but it will only be for them.
Not for travellers , nor fools will wander.
There will be no lions , nor any ravenous beast …..
but the redeemed shall walk there ..
the ransomed of the Lord ….. ”
Isaiah 35
Both we, as we may say,
The Lord is my Shepherd.
The Lord who delivered me from the claws lion and bear,
He will also save me from the hand of this Philistine“.
1Sam.17: 37
It will lack nothing to me:
– Because the lack Shepherd had everything;
– Because he had nothing to rest His head;
– Because there was no room in the Inn for Him;
– Because he was thirsty on the Source;
– Because he was taken just as He was in the ship;
– Because He hungered in the wilderness, so will our lack nothing.

Paul asks,
How He who did not spare His own Son,
but delivered Him up for us,
also freely give us all things with Him?
– He gives us His Body,
– He gives us His soul ,
– He gives us holiness,
– He would deny us bread?”

In understandable words:
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall, therefore, not lacks
! ”

The rich and the good-clothed will fall into poverty,
those who put their trust in temporal goods,
possession today, lost tomorrow:
but the simple who entrust themselves to the Lord,
who is Lord of all creation.
Rich men turned poor and went hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing,
in the day when I cried
“.
Psalm 33

Especially in a country as the Netherlands,
where Orthodoxy is made up of a small Dutch count.
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about its own things.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble
“.
Matth.6: 34

Have no anxiety about anything,
but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding
will keep your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus
“.
Phil.4: 6-7

For the word of God is quick and powerful
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit
and of the joints and marrow
and is a discerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart
“.
Hebr.4: 12

You answered me
and strengthened me
with strength in my soul.

Orthodoxy and love-hate relationship

… time is fulfilled, and
the Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent you and
believe the Gospel“.
Marc.1: 15

Repent you therefore
and be converted,
that your sins
may be blotted out…

                                                                                 Acts 3: 19

The memory of the righteous is blessed;
but the name of the wicked will rot
“.
Prov.10: 7

Salvation
Orthodox Christians hold that man was originally created in communion with God,
but through acting in a manner contrary to his own nature
[which is intrinsically ordered to communion with God], man disrupted that communion.
Because of man’s refusal to fulfil the “image and likeness of God” within him,
corruption and the sickness of sin whose consequence is death
entered man’s mode of existence.
But when Jesus came into the world
He Himself was Perfect Man [τέλειος Θεός] and
Perfect God [τέλειος άνθρωπος]
united in the divine Hypostasis of the Logos,
the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Through his assumption of human nature, human existence was restored,
enabling human beings, the fulfilment of creation,
through participation in divinity by incorporation into Jesus Christ.

“The Word of God came in His own Person,
because it was He alone, the Image of the Father,
Who could recreate man made after the Image.
In order to effect this re-creation, however,
He had first to do away with death and corruption.
Therefore He assumed a human body,
in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed and
that men might be renewed according to the Image
[of God]”
Saint Athanasius – “On the Incarnation

Salvation, or “being saved“, therefore,
refers to this process of being saved
from death and corruption and the fate of hell.
The Orthodox Church believes that its teachings and practices represent the true path to participation in the Grace [gifts] of God.
Yet, it should be understood that the
Orthodox do not believe that you ought be Orthodox to participate in Salvation.
God is merciful to all.
The Orthodox believe that there is nothing
that a person (Orthodox or non-Orthodox) can do to earn Salvation.
It is rather Grace [a gift] from God.
However, this gift of relationship has to be accepted by the believer,
since God will not force Salvation on humanity.
Man is free to reject the Grace [gift] of Salvation continually offered by God.
To be saved, man must work together with God in
a synergeia whereby his entire being, including his will, effort and actions,
are perfectly conformed with, and united to the Divine.

God becomes powerless before human freedom;
He cannot violate it since it flows from His own omnipotence.
Certainly man was created by the will of God alone;
but he cannot be deified [made Holy] by it alone.
A single will for creation, but two for deification.
A single will to raise up the image, but
two to make the image into a likeness.
The love of God for man is so great that it cannot constrain;
for there is no love without respect.
Divine will always will submit itself to groupings, to detours,
even to revolts of human will to bring it to a free consent
” .
Vladimir Lossky – “Introduction to Orthodox Theology

The ultimate goal of the Orthodox Christian is to achieve Theosis, or Union with God.
This is sometimes expressed thus:
“God became Man so that Man might become god”.
Some of the greatest Saints have achieved, in this life, a measure of this process.
The individual who achieves Theosis never realizes his accomplishment,
as his perfect humility keeps him blind to pride.
Salvation therefore is not merely
an escape from the eternal bondage of death,
but an entrance to life in Christ
here and now.

It is a signs of the end-time that worldwide Christians suffer for their faith in one way or another; November the 15th is promoted as an international Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in which all Christians participate.
But man and even Church needs to realize its performance in order to preserve their perfect humility what makes them blind to their pride.
It has to be strong legs that are enabled to transfer the wealth.

We see it in history again and again,
when Church is longing for the respect of
the established power
she is always losing her credibility.
Because of that reason alone it is necessary
that there is a separation between the Church and the State.
Money and power are the downfall of her own principles and that’s why Church should be vigilant.
When a community is dependent on other people’s money
she is in great risk and is no longer independent.
We test this in today’s way of doing things in
the Greek and Russian Church
which praise the politics in several meetings with great ceremonies [and gifts].
Political leaders prove at heydays their [feigned?] adherence to the Church,
they are received with great deference to others,
surrounded by surrounded by their peers [most military bobo’s].
Of course Church needs  support to pass the time,
but the support has to come from the simple in heart;
the little money of the widow.
In this way Church keeps her objectives, to stay simple as Christ Himself was.
When a new-chosen bishop is longing for his own new-built cathedral
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When an old bishop needs to keep three shelters to survive
[one in the town, one at the see-site and one in his home-land]
something is totally wrong and he needs to reflect his duty.
When a Patriarchate is longing for more and more influence in the west
by supporting his own total number of communities as a replacement for
longing for the whole Church of Christ something is totally wrong.
Christ is not waiting for great church-buildings and splendour and ostentation.
Church is kept by the will of God alone;
it can be deified [made Holy] by God alone and
we have to pray for it, not to buy or force it.
God have mercy . . . . .?

“…there is one God, and one mediator
between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all,
to be testified in due time
“.
1Tim.2: 5-6

Orthodox church is holding
that man is originally created in communion with God.
Through acting in a manner contrary to
his own human nature
he disrupted that communion
and will even church not be able to
present the Body of Christ.

How much greater is the gladness in God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises
the divine eminence of race is announced!
Saint Cyprianos

Orthodoxy & teach your kids the Truth

 

Teach your kids the truth as
I experienced the Fathers.
Our real Orthodox people know how
to defend the holy and sacred of.
This has been repeatedly demonstrated.
And I will prove it again by
resistance and recovery.
To rediscover what we have lost,
to defend what is in danger“.

Leer uw kinderen de waarheid
zoals ik de vaders heb gerespecteerd.
Onze oprecht Orthodoxe mensen
weten hoe zij het heilige en
de heiligen dienen te verdedigen.
Het is herhaaldelijk aangetoond en ik zal
dit opnieuw met argumenten aantonen,
via weerstand en het oproepen tot herstel.
Te herontdekken wat we verloren hebben,
om te verdedigen wat in gevaar is
“.

Διδάξτε στα παιδιά σας την αλήθεια,
όπως
την σέβομαι οι Πατέρες μας.
Ο
ειλικρινής Ορθόδοξη μας ξέρει να υπερασπίζεται
τα
ιερά και τα όσιά του.
Το
έχει κατ’ επανάληψιν αποδείξει.
Και
θα το αποδείξει και πάλι.
Αντίσταση
και Ανάκαμψη.
Για
να ξαναβρούμε ό,τι έχουμε χάσει,
για
να υπερασπισθούμε ό, τι κινδυνεύει“.

Научите своих детей Правду
как я уважал отцов.
Наши православные люди знают, как священное и
Святые должны защищать.
Было неоднократно демонстрировал и
Я докажу это снова с аргументами,
через сопротивление и призывы к восстановлению.
Откройте для себя то, что мы потеряли,
чтобы защитить то, что находится под угрозой
“.

Învățați-vă copiii Adevărul
așa cum am respectat părinții.
Oamenii noștri sincer ortodocși știu cum
sacru și Sfinții trebuie să apere.
S-a demonstrat în mod repetat și
Voi demonstra acest lucru din nou cu argumente,
prin rezistență și cereri de recuperare.
Redescoperi ceea ce am pierdut,
să-și apere ceea ce este in pericol
“.

Enseignez à vos enfants la Vérité
que je respectais les pères.
Nos gens vrai orthodoxes savent comment le sacré et
les saints doivent défendre.
Il a été démontré de manière répétée et
je le vais prouver à nouveau avec des arguments,
par la résistance et des appels à la reprise.
Redécouvrir ce que nous avons perdu,
à défendre ce qui est à risque
“.

Bringen Sie Ihren Kindern die Wahrheit
wie ich die Väter respektiere.
Unsere ware orthodoxen Menschen wissen, wie
sie das Heilige und die Heiligen müssen verteidigen.
Es ist wiederholt nachgewiesen worden und
Ich werde dies wieder mit Argumenten beweisen,
durch den Widerstand und die Verwertung zu fordern.
Entdecken Sie, was wir verloren haben,
zu verteidigen was in Gefahr ist
“.

Enseñe a sus hijos la verdad
como yo respetaba padres.
Nuestra gente sincero ortodoxos saben lo sagrado y
Los santos deben defender.
Se ha demostrado en varias ocasiones y
Voy a probar esto de nuevo con argumentos,
a través de la resistencia y las convocatorias de recuperación.
Redescubrir lo que hemos perdido,
para defender lo que está en riesgo“.

Beginning of the Triodion – Who do you follow???

But you has fully known
my doctrine, manner of life,

purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured:
but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue you in the things
which you has learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom you has learned them;
And that from a child you has known the Holy Scriptures,  which are able to make you wise unto Salvation
through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
2Tim. 3: 10-15

The doctrine of the Apostle Paul
After describing the false teachers who hold to a form of religion, but deny its power in 2Tim.3: 1-9, Paul again exhorts Timothy to
remain faithful, even through persecution.
He reminds Timothy of his own example, which
Timothy has observed for many years now.
Paul was not boasting in himself, but rather was saying,
Timothy, my life is open to you.
You know my life and my teaching.
You’ve seen me under persecution of the worst sort,
including being stoned and left for dead in your home town of Lystra.
You’ve seen me go through imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, and other hardships.
You know that my life backs up my message, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
So after I’m gone, remember my example and continue in it yourself

In this message the Apostle summed up:
-Spiritual faithfulness is not automatic, but
requires recognizing and following godly examples
who follow the Scriptures.
1.] Spiritual faithfulness in the past is not
an automatic guarantee of faithfulness in the future.

These verses fall into two sections, marked out in the Greek text by
two identical phrases [3:10, 14] that should be translated
identically, “But you“, or, “You, however. . . . . ”
– In 3:10, Paul draws a contrast between the character of the evil men [in 3:1-9] and
Timothy’s faithfulness up to this point.
– In 3:14, the contrast is between the evil men and impostors [in 3:13] and
Timothy’s needed faithfulness in the future.
Even though Timothy had followed Paul’s teaching and example thus far,
Paul felt it necessary to exhort him to continue doing so in the future,
especially when he encountered persecution, as he surely would [3:12].
In other words,
past faithfulness does not automatically guarantee future faithfulness.
The lives of these evil men that Paul has been describing [3:1-9, 13] serve as a warning.
– They were not atheists or outwardly opposed to religion.
– Rather, they made a profession of their faith.
– They had been leaders in the church.
– They held to a form of godliness, but
now their lives denied its power.
– They were impostors, or charlatans.

Proceed” [3: 13] means to make progress.
So Paul is sarcastically saying,
They will make progress all right,
from bad to worse,
deceiving and being deceived
“.

Whenever the Bible warns about deception [dishonesty], be careful,
because deception is always tricky.
It picks your pocket when you think everything is okay.
In the context here, the warning is,
just because you have been a faithful Church member for years or you have served faithfully for years, or you’ve been faithful in your marriage for years,
none of these things guarantee future faithfulness.
Long term spiritual faithfulness does not happen by accident.
You must be deliberate [thoughtful] about it.
So, recognizing the danger,
how can we remain faithful to the Lord in
the face of temptation and trials?

2.] Spiritual faithfulness in the future requires recognizing and
following godly examples who follow the Scriptures.
We all need examples to follow, which is why the
Good Message gives us  the stories of
so many faithful witnesses.
Although we see many that fall into sin,
thankfully there are many others,
such as Paul and Timothy, who finish well.
Next is shown
– both how to recognize and
– follow godly examples.
a.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to recognize godly examples.
Timothy had Paul as his example, but not as his only example.
The word “whom” [3: 14] is a plural [in the best manuscripts].
Beyond Paul were Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who
taught him the Scriptures from infancy [2Tim.1: 5; 3: 15].
It is not clear whether they led Timothy to salvation, or
whether their teaching him the Scriptures prepared him
to respond to the Gospel when he first heard Paul preach
[Paul calls him, “my true child in the faith” in 1Tim.1: 2; also in 2Tim.1: 2].
There were also probably many other godly examples in Timothy’s life.

There is an important lesson here, namely,
that we all need to be exposed to a number of godly examples.
Also, we should pray that our children would come
under the influence of many godly examples!!!
I have known parents that have tried to keep
their children exclusively under parental influence,
not allowing church youth leaders or anyone else
to get close to their children.
Their motive, no doubt, is to protect their children
from harmful influence, which is always a risk.
But it seems to me that it is to our children’s advantage
to be exposed to a number of godly adults
besides that of us as parents.
We needed all the help that we could get in rearing our children, and
if another godly adult could have an impact in their lives, I thanked God for it.

The same is the Truth of pastors.
Some pastors are afraid of having their people
listen to other pastors, perhaps out of fear
that the other pastor will say something
that undermines what the local pastor is saying.
But there is no corner on God’s truth!!!
I encourage you to benefit from other ‘God-fearing’ pastors
who are faithful to Scripture.
But, how do you discern whether or not a man is a godly example?
Let’s face it, there are a lot of religious charlatans out there!!!!!

Paul gives us three solid guidelines:
[-1-]. A godly example is known for his teaching [3: 10].
Paul writes [3: 10], “But you followed my teaching . . . . .“.
In 2Tim.4: 2, The Apostle will give Timothy a strong charge to preach the Word.
Paul put a premium on sound doctrine,
which is a frequent theme in the Pastoral Epistles.
1Tim.1: 3-5,10; 3: 3,15; 4: 6,13,16; 5: 17; 6: 1,3,20-21; 2 Tim.1: 13; 2: 2,15; 4: 3;
Titus 1: 9; 2: 1,10

So listen to what a man teaches.
It won’t take you long to discern whether he is teaching the Bible or
whether he is merely using the Good Message as
an inspirational springboard to launch off into his own ideas.
Some preachers use the Holy Bible like the Reader’s Digest or
like they are a populair teacher in a class-room:
It has some good quotes that support or illustrate their points,
but they don’t teach it as God’s authoritative Word that
we must understand and submit to.
When you listen to a sermon, ask yourself,
Did he explain and apply the text of Scripture so that
I come away understanding what it means and
how it applies to my life?
Also, a godly Good News teacher does not skip the difficult sections and doctrines.
He teaches the whole purpose of God.

Note also [3: 15] that a godly teacher uses the Scriptures to
lead people “to Salvation through Faith which is in Christ Jesus“.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him the “sacred writings
[a Jewish term for the Old Covenant] from infancy.
God’s Word is able to give even a child the wisdom that leads to Salvation,
which means, Salvation from God’s righteous Judgment on our sins.
That Salvation does not come by keeping the moral precepts of the Bible, or
even by believing the Bible.
Rather, Salvation comes through Faith in Christ Jesus alone.

As parents, pray for your children’s Salvation and
use the Good News to explain to them their need for the Saviour and
how to trust in Him to forgive their sins.
The popular idea of having your child
ask Jesus to come into his heart” is probably not the clearest way
to present the gospel [it’s too sweet].
A child needs to come under conviction for his sins, so
that he sees that he is guilty and deserves God’s judgment.
He also needs to know that on the Cross Jesus paid the penalty that he deserves,
if he will trust in Christ.
There should be evident signs of new life
if a child truly has been born of God.
Whether with children or adults,
use the Bible as the main tool
in leading people to Salvation.

[-2-]. A god-fearing preacher’s example is known for his character [3: 10].
He practices what he preaches!!!
So when a priest steals money from
the telephone-money-box or
when he promotes that he will even built a new church from criminal [black/stolen] money, leave him immediately!!!
His life backs up his teaching.
Paul mentions six areas of character:

·         Behaviour –

The word [used only here] means,
his way of life“.
You should be able to look at a person’s way of life and tell whether he or she is a godly example worth following.
This would include how he spends his time,
how he manages money and possessions, what kind of entertainment he enjoys, and
how he relates to his family, friends, fellow workers, and  even to strangers.
Is he rude [bad-mannered] or sensitive?
Is he oblivious to the needs of others or kind and caring?
Christianity is a way of life that affects all of life.
A godly example lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

·         Drive –
Paul was a man of drive.
– His drive was to help bring about God’s purpose [Eph.3: 9-11].
– He did everything for the Glory of God [1Cor.10: 31].
– He related every aspect of his life to
the supreme purpose of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord [Phil. 3:8-10] and
– making Him known to others [1 Cor. 9:23; 10:33].
– He disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness [1 Tim. 4:7].
– He made it his ambition to be pleasing to Christ [2 Cor. 5:9].
– He told the Ephesian elders [Acts 20: 24],
I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself,
so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus,
to testify solemnly of the Gospel of the Grace of God
“.
Godly examples will always be men and women
who live daily in the Light of God’s purpose.

·         Faith –
The word may mean “faithfulness“, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Paul was certainly a faithful man [1 Cor. 4:1].
But it also may refer to trusting God to do what is humanly impossible,
so that God will get the Glory.
Refering to how God delivered him from the brink of death,
Paul said:
Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so
that we would not trust in ourselves,
but in God Who raises the dead
“.
2Cor.1: 9
So a pastor who doesn’t believe in the Resurrection
isn’t a pastor, but a wolf in sheepsclothes.
A man or woman of faith lives in light of eternity,
trusting that God will keep His promises beyond the grave [2Tim. 4:8].
Look for those examples that live by faith.

·         Patience –
This also is a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
It comes from two Greek words that literally mean
to be long before passion or anger.
The patient man doesn’t have a short fuse [temper].
He can bear with difficult people without exploding in anger.
He doesn’t snap at his wife or children with angry words.
The supreme test of patience had not been invented
when Paul wrote, but a truly patient man is patient when he drives!

·         Love –
This leads the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22].
Love, above all other virtues, should mark believers in Jesus Christ.
John 13: 34-35; 1Cor.13
My definition is, “Biblical Love is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in
seeking the highest good of the one loved
“.
Sometimes the highest good requires
confronting someone in sin and
holding him accountable.
The aim is to bring him under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, so that his life brings Glory to God.
Such Love should govern everything that we do.

 

·         Perseverance –
This word has the nuance of enduring difficult circumstances over the long haul.
It means trusting God when things aren’t the way
you want them to be and there is no immediate solution in sight.
Many Christians either imply or directly tell you that if you have enough faith,
God will instantly deliver you from your problems,
whether it is a serious health problem or
a difficult relational situation or whatever.
Just name it and claim it by faith“, they say.

Many years ago,
I was wondering what was wrong with my faith,
because I wasn’t experiencing many instant,
miraculous answers to my prayers.
Then I met the text, where Paul prays that we may be
strengthened with all power, according to His Glorious Might“.
Col.1: 11
I thought,
Yeah, that’s what I want.
Give me that Glorious, Mighty Power of God!“.
But read on:
for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience,
joyously giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us
to share in the inheritance of the Saints in Light
Col.1: 11b-12
Steadfastness and patience” [Επιμονή και υπομονή] are
the same words in Greek
as “Perseverance and patience” in our text.

I thought,
Wait a minute!
If God’s Mighty Power delivers us instantly from our trials,
why would we need Steadfastness and Patience, with joy?“.
The only reason we need steadfastness and patience with joy is
that God has not yet delivered us from our trials.
It takes His Mighty Power to give us joy in the midst of
unanswered prayers and ongoing trials.
That leads to the third mark of a god-fearing example.
A godly example is known for the preacher’s teaching and his character.
Also,

[-3-]. A godly example is known for
his godly demeanour
[appearance] under trials [3: 11-12].
– How does a man respond when trials hit?
– Does he rail at God or submit to God?
– Does he drift into the world or draw near to the Lord?
A godly example trusts God and grows through trials.
Paul mentions the trials that he encountered at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra [Timothy’s city], three cities in the Galatian region of Asia Minor.
During the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas were driven from Antioch
because of intense persecution [Acts 13: 50].
At their next stop in Iconium, they had to flee to avoid being stoned [Acts 14:5-6].
In Lystra, Paul actually was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead.
He was probably unconscious, but God miraculously raised him up [Acts 14:19-20].
Rather than let such awful persecution deter him,
Paul went right on preaching the Gospel in that region [Acts 14:21-22].
Timothy had witnessed Paul’s courage and joy in the face of these terrible trials.
When Paul says that the Lord rescued him out of them,
he means that God brought him through them.
God did not always keep Paul from trials,
although at times He did [Acts 18: 9-10].

Don’t miss verse 12 –
it’s a promise for you to claim!
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted“.
While the type and intensity of the persecution will vary
from ridicule or rejection to physical violence or even death,
every true Christian who lives a godly life in this evil world
will experience persecution.
If you are honest at work,
your honesty will convict those who cheat, and
they will try to get you down again and again until they smile they bejewelled you down.
If you speak out about injustice or evil,
you will be ridiculed and attacked.
Saint Nectarios of Aegina put it plainly:
Those who wish to be exempt from persecutions
must necessarily renounce Christ“.

Thus spiritual faithfulness requires recognizing and following godly examples of those who
follow the Scriptures.
You can recognize them by their teaching, their character, and
their godly demeanour [behaviour] under trials.
But, once you recognize them,
you need to follow them.

b.] To be spiritually faithful,
learn how to follow godly examples.

Three things are involved here:
[-1-]. Follow closely so as to understand and embrace.
That’s the meaning of the Greek word, “followed” [“know all about”].
It means to follow closely in somebody’s footsteps.
Lucas uses [in Luc.1: 3] the word when he tells Theophilus
that he has investigated everything carefully.
He means that he has traced out the history and
carefully checked his sources.
In our text, Paul means that Timothy was thoroughly familiar with Paul’s teaching and
his life because he had spent so much time with him, watching how he lived.
The consequence is that we need examples whose lives are open and transparent.
They are not afraid to let us see how they relate to their families and
to share areas where they struggle.
It implies getting to know someone well enough
that you can tell whether he walks with Christ or is faking it.
If he’s the real deal, then follow his example.

[-2-]. Follow by learning so as to develop strong convictions.
Paul says [in 2Tim.3: 14] that Timothy has learned these things and
become convinced of them.
Christianity involves learning certain doctrinal truths and
developing convictions about them.
Some doctrines are not essential to the faith, and
god-fearing men may differ on them.
We need to hold our views on these matters
with tolerance towards those who differ.
But on core matters, we should not compromise at all.
It requires maturity to discern
where you should draw these lines.

[-3-]. Follow by continuing in your convictions, even when under fire.
Timothy had learned these things and was convinced of them, but Paul tells him to continue in them.
The context makes it clear that he must continue in them even if it means persecution.
With Saint Nectarios, we must say,
even under intense pressure to yield,
Here I stand!
Besides reading about Saint Nectariosof Aegina, St Nectarios Metropolitan of Pentapolis,
who risked his spiritual live to stand for the Gospel against Alexandria,
read the lives of others who stood for the Truth under fire.

I conclude by asking you two questions.
– First, who are the examples that you follow?
To be spiritually faithful, you need godly models who follow the Scriptures.
As I said, if you can’t know them personally,
read about their lives in the Good Message or in Saint biographies.
I have been strengthened greatly by reading
the lives of the God-fearing men who went before me.
Although I do not know them personally,
contemporaries like Saint Nectarios and others
who stand for God’s Truth
encourage me to do the same.

– Second, to whom are you an example?
If you are growing in Christ as you should be,
then you should pray that God will use
your teaching, your conduct, and your godly demeanour under trials
to impact the lives of younger believers.
While none of us may ever be well-known or as strong an example as Paul was,
we all should be faithful enough that our lives are worth imitating.

Beginning of the Triodion – Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee – Come ‘all’ to me

Two men went up into the temple to pray;
the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week,
I give tithes of all that I possess
‘.

And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying,
‘God be merciful to me a sinner‘.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:
for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
“.
Luc.18: 10-14

Notice:
This Bible-story of Lucas follows at
the story of the widow who
is searching for Justice!!!
Why?
Because Christ calls us that we should
always pray and not to faint doing this!!
He will give us Justice speedily!!!
Christ Himself spoke these words with
the view to some, who trusted themselves
that they were righteous and despised others.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes,
shall He find faith on the earth?
Luc.18: 1-9

Jesus Christ shared the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee with us
to warn us of the great spiritual danger of arrogant self-confidence in our own righteousness, coupled with contempt for those whom we consider to be beneath us.
In this way Jesus sought to protect us from the terrible spiritual sickness of Pharissee-ism.

This disease of the soul first manifests itself as
absolute confidence and trust in the rightness of our own point of view and judgement;
it presupposes our personal superiority over others.
And this twisted expression of self-confidence quickly degenerates into
uncritical self-satisfaction and self-righteousness,
into a kind of mindless self-admiration.
It takes endless pleasure in the self, and
in all that it does.

Let us look at the Pharisee in today’s parable.
He goes into the Temple of God
to offer incense to his own self-idol [Gr. eidōλolatreíα].

He proclaims his saintliness and
enumerates his good works.
He admires and praises himself and
is standing before God in his best clothes;
big crown on his head and a
mozes-staff to show his importance.
He, after all, is not like other people
who are up to their necks in immorality and evil.
In the midst of his supposed prayer
he does not hesitate to spill
the poisonous bile of his hatred
for the Publican [sinner]
whom he sees praying off in a distant corner.

With exaggerated self-satisfaction
he refers to his careful fasting and
his generous support of the temple.
He is indeed, a fastidious observer of
the law of the [New] Covenant.

And even though we feel repulsed
by the attitude and behaviour of the Pharisee,
we need to be honest enough to
admit to ourselves
that there are more than a few times
when we astonishingly resemble him.
After all, who among us
does not want others to think
that we are better people than we actually are?
Which one of us does not suffer from some
lack of respect toward others?
Is there even one of us
who is very lenient in his judgement of others , and sterner in his own self-criticism?
I sincerely doubt it.
Every one of us, more or less, has something of that Pharisee inside of us.
Something of that self-adulation and righteousness.
And so to protect ourselves form infection by this disease
requires nothing less than constant struggle [praying] and
vigilant effort [works] on our part.

A truly Christian heart seeks to do what is just and right as
a simple and natural expression of
our responsibility as persons to the flock around us.
But even then we understand that
our good deeds do not reflect perfection and so
should not be the cause of weaning pride on our part.
That is why Saint Basilios,
who devoted his entire life to the loving service of others wrote,
Even if we were somehow able to do absolutely everything that is required of us,
we would still have to conclude that we are unworthy servants of the Lord.
And this is because after having done all this,
we will only have fulfilled our basic duty and
obligation and nothing more
“.
Even when we have to suffer martyrdom [μαρτύριο].

This condemnation of the smug self-satisfaction of the Pharisee, leads us to the justification of the Publican,
who keenly feels and readily acknowledges his personal inadequacies,
Because each of us has to carry his own human, sinners-status.
The Publican is admittedly burdened by a host of sins.
But he is acutely aware of his sinfulness and spiritual poverty.
And so he stands back, in the farthest corner of the temple.
He does not dare to even lift his eyes toward Heaven.
With heavy sighs, he whispers his short prayer,
God, have mercy on me, a sinner“.

His prayer is a request, a plea actually,
that is filled with contrition.
And this contrition, this acknowledgement and confession of personal imperfection,
is nothing less than the very cornerstone of the entire spiritual life.
And this is because it is inseparably bound with humility of the soul; and
it is humility that allows divine grace to transfigure and sanctify our lives.

Perhaps the attitude that we need to acquire if
we wish to offer prayer that is acceptable before God, is
summed up in the words of Jesus himself who said to us,
Come to Me, all you that are weary and
are carrying heavy burdens and
I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and
in Me you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light
“.
Matth.11: 28

May we too approach the altar of God with
that same gentleness of spirit, and
that same humility of heart and soul.
In that case the Son of man when He comes,
shall find real faith on the earth.

The desert of Zin
At the end of Moses’ song,
he reminds Israel
that these are not just idle words
to pass on to their children.
These words are their life!
In keeping with these words
they will live long in the land
that God is giving them.
As we continue with
the narrative of the Old Covenant
we’ll see that they choose not to hold on to life.

Moses is reminded a number of times
that he will die because he did not uphold
God’s holiness in the Desert of Zin.
Despite not getting to reap the reward of a long journey,
Moses concerns himself with the real needs of the people.
He makes sure that when he is gone
that they will continue to follow God.
This has been striking to me over and over again.
I pray that our Church-leaders will be as concerned with the lives of others.

 

Orthodoxy in the Netherlands – effective and credible???

Abba Macarios was asked,
‘How should one pray’?
The old man said,
‘Stretch out one’s hands and say,
“Lord, as you will and as you know, have mercy.”
And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord, help!
He knows very well what we need and
He shows us His mercy’
Saint Macarios the Great

A man’s heart plans his way, but
the Lord directs his steps“.
Proverbs 16: 9

                                                                   Church’s responsibility to the local culture
There is no place in the Church of God for liturgical uniformity , cultural domination, colonialism, brutal conformism or a uniformity,
forcibly imposing worship and theological expressions upon others.
We may envisage this harmonization of different colours as a mosaic.
Equally, it would be absurd to condemn other Christians who prefer this or that liturgical expression, this form of language, this kind of liturgical singing and music.

This is not Orthodoxy.
Spirituality can be expressed in different ways and
must not be taken to mean a stereotyped form of piety,
otherwise the human element is overstated as
a compared with the divine at the expense of unity and
the spreading of the Gospel.
By overstressing marginal secondary elements,
we promote them to absolutes and essentials while
in reality there exists a dialectic synthesis and harmony.

It was precisely this ignoring of cultural aspirations and
the pluralism in humanity that manifested itself in
the monolithic attitude of the Latin church when
it adamantly insisted on Latin remaining to compulsory language
in the worship of newly-converted nations,
such as Bulgaria and elsewhere, creating the consequent split.
Photius protested in an encyclical in 867 and
denounced the anachronistic steps of Rome.
The conflict was seemingly over evangelistic methodology and deontology,
but behind it was the Roman claim to primacy of universal jurisdiction.
It accentuated the conflict between the Roman claim
to be the center of unity for Christendom and
the Eastern Orthodoxy conception of the five patriarchates of almost equal status.

There is a deeper and more objective approach
to theology and culture as a way of life that
owes its origin to the early fathers of the east.
Such a work is both indigenous and fruitful.
Our faith and worship has to be expressed
and reinterpreted through the language and
the gestures, the customs of contemporary peoples scattered throughout the world.
► This was the extraordinary achievement of Patriarch Photius of Constantinople [810-895],
seeking to integrate various Slavonic customs in religion and in liturgical life.
Such an approach to inculturation remains a continuous responsibility.
The church of today, especially that in diaspora and overseas,
is urgently seeking a diachronic and synchronic liturgy,
preaching theology and spirituality
that will embody the best traditions of local culture.

These two brothers, left to our age, called
technological, electronic, nuclear, spatial, revolutionary, an everlasting model of
how preaching and evangelism should be
in every historical period of change.
► While the central message will remain untouched and unchangeable,
its language, form, semantic expression and terminology should always be reviewed,
adapted to new emerging needs.
Human beings, while remaining the same throughout history, from other aspects  – cultural and intellectual – undergo considerable change, inviting appointed pastors to give more attention than they usually do to the methods used, to the language employed and to how they ought to speak
in order to awaken apathy and sleepy consciences.
► Without absolutizing methods and informatique, from this new science,
nevertheless, we are not at all excused, if
we rely exclusively on old outdated patterns of our fathers, irrelevant today.
Certainly they were valid in their time, but not for today.
► We need to become flexible, contemporary.
We must, as an imperative challenge, stand with one leg in the past, in history,
but we have to put the other leg into the present,
with all that that implies and demands, for
a proper articulation of our faith to the people.
Only then will the proclamation of our faith
become effective and credible.

32nd Sunday after Pentecost – there raised another Priest after the similitude of Melchisedec

And without all contradiction
the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes;
but there he received them, of
Whom it is witnessed that He lived.
And as I may so say, Levi also,
who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and
not be called after the order of Aaron?

For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For He of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe, of which
no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe
Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec
there arose another Priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment,
but after the power of an endless Life.
For He testified,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec
“.
Hebr. 7: 7-17

The feast today, the feast of the Meeting ,
surprisingly brings us back to the time of Christmas , the birth of the Lord.
We have the Baptism of the Lord fresh in our memory and it is important to realize that this festival goes back to Christmas,
this is the 40th day after the birth of Christ.
It is the day on which He is charged.
To the Temple as a new-born child , John the Baptist is only a half years old,
Christ Himself is a small baby being brought to the Temple.
Wherein lies the meeting
where this festival is dedicated to?

If we look closely, we see a lot of meetings .
We see the meeting – of course –
between the Old and New Testaments.
But that is an encounter that lasts the whole Gospel,
from the time of Christ’s birth to the moment when
He says, “It is finished” [John.19: 30]
We also see the meeting between
the legislature and the Law.
We see that Christ , the Lawgiver of both
the Old and New Covenant,
obediently adjusts to the Law of the Old Testament.

We see encounters with the Temple .
– the Temple within Himself so that
He would later say,
I will destroy the temple and in three days I will rebuilt it“.
John.2: 19, Marc.13: 1, Luc.21: 6, Marc. 14: 58
the Temple of His Body [John. 2:20]
the Temple in relation to the Holy Trinity
Although the Glory of the Father eternally in the Temple and before. . .,
has been in the Tabernacle  [Ex.40: 34, 2Cron.(O.S.B.)5: 13-14, Ez.9: 3],
although the Spirit of God has always been present
meets the Temple now the incarnate Son of God [John.1: 14].
And as the Trinity in Baptism has become public to all [Apolyticion Theophany],
it is now revealed to the Temple .

The priests of the temple are meeting the new Priesthood,
the Priesthood spoken of in the reading of
the Letter of the Apostle Paulus [Hebr.7: 11-12, 2Petr.2: 9] today.
The people of Israël, represented by Symeon and Anna,
are meeting Him Who is the Bridegroom of the Church of
the New Covenant [Matth.9: 15].

Still not quite explain all these encounters
why we have called today’s festivities “feast of the Meeting“.
After Christ was in the Temple and the sacrifice was made,
bringing him back to his parents Nazareth.
We then read that
He Grows up in Wisdom and
the Grace of God was upon Him
” [Luc.2: 40].
A time of preparation breaks, a time of preparation for several meetings.
Which encounters? With us, you and me.
And if you want a meeting is a meeting,
it must come from both sides .
Not the one who comes to the other more and more [from above] ,
but from two people who are coming together.

And therefore it is important that we are prepared for the meeting with Him .
About that meeting He spoke when He talked about
the foolish and the wise virgins.
Then He said,
What do we do as it sounds in
the middle of the night,
the Bridegroom comes,
Come meet Him . . . . . . ?
“[Matth.25: 1-13].
The biblical word for “meeting” in
Greek is the word “συνάντηση”.
What is our answer
when we are asked the question:
What do you do as the Bridegroom comes!
Is your lamp then ready?

The man-made lights – the candles – are blessed today.
But what about those inner lamp , ‘our eye [Matth.6: 22],
‘our soul, our heart must burn [Luc.24: 32]!!!
Let us, then , now that Lent arrives,
look after the inner lamps and
light the sources of our works,
so we Christians can go with a lighted lamp,
so that we can unite our light with His Light to meet
“.
Sophronios of Jerusalem
and then , as Saint Theophanos the Hermit says:
He will take his residence in us,
just as he took place in the arms of Saint Symeon
“.
homilies at the Meeting of the Lord

32e Sunday after Pentecost – meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished,
they brought Him to Jerusalem, to
present Him to the Lord;
As it is written in the Law of the Lord,
every male that opened the womb
shall be called Holy to the Lord;
and to offer a sacrifice according to
that which is said in the law of the Lord,
a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and
the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and
the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that
he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and
when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to
do for him after the custom of the law,

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now let You your servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen Your Salvation, Which
You have prepared before the face of all people;
a light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Your people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother,
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and
for a sign which shall be spoken against;
[Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also],
that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser:
she was of a great age, and
had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,
which departed not from the temple,
but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and
spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord,
they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and
the Grace of God was upon Him
“.
Luc.2:22-40

The enactment of religious rituals for children in the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time is the background of this only biblical glimpse we have of Jesus’ early infancy.
This luminous text of hope from Lucas’ Gospel is
pictorial in its rendering of Jesus presentation at the temple.
As a new-born, He is brought by His parents to be circumcised and officially named, following the custom of their faith.
This story of a baby’s first religious rituals prompts
the memories of many adults whose own parents involved them at an early age in the practices of their faith.
Lucas paints a touching and very typical picture of just such an occasion.
Today, even though obscured in the unknowingness of early infancy,
how many adults still cherish the pictures and artifacts from their own infancy rituals?
Caregivers of all sorts save a scrapbook of pictures, perhaps a special robe,
a candle, a signed guestbook or maybe a picture of the banquet table of well-wishers.
All of these are reminders which can still bear meaning for adults about the religious and personal commitments caregivers made for them as infants.

The child, Jesus, launched into the world,
through the faithful hopes and practices of his parents and others, prompts the Gospel writer to conclude:
The child grew and became strong …..
Paradoxically this text, while focused on Jesus throughout, also records the responses of the adults around him to the child.
In fact, this text poses a critical set of questions for adults who have anything to do with children, be they parents, members of religious communities or the general public.

What expectations do we have for our children
as they grow towards adulthood?
What are our hopes for them?
How do we utilize the resources of
our faith communities to support children?
What protection and guidance do we offer them so hopes and
expectations can be realized for their flourishing?
What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lucas’ words portray a picture of hope,
innocence and adult concern for the infant Jesus.
His words foster nostalgia and loving sentiments.
This child, Jesus, has received
a strong start in life.
But in juxtaposing this text with some of today’s
facts and realities about children,
the Biblical passage slashes across
our lives with one harsh notice:
“Warning!.               

Lucas’ words have
at their centre a child:
surely a prompt to everyone to consider the treatment of children today.
—> What does it mean to cherish and value children?
Several years ago a proverbial phrase was popularized through a speech; “It takes a village to raise a child”.
How true in the best sense of that phrase.
And yet, there is ready and ugly evidence that communities of varied sorts
are devoted to the destruction of children,
[particularly through sexual trafficking].
One witnesses this in the print and electronic media and in the reports about those who have been caught vandalizing the souls and bodies of children.
Indeed, the incredible commodifying of children’s lives and bodies can be seen on
the streets and hidden rooms of both large urban centres and
smaller towns throughout the western countries.

This destruction of children through sexual trafficking stands in absolute contrast to
the Lucan story of the nourishing and flourishing of children.
Children’s bodies instead of being blessed and protected are bought and sold by adults.
These adults seek only to gain obscure and profit from them.
In the words and acts of the devout adults who bless Jesus,
Lucas offers an unsettling warning of his own about this child, Jesus.
Simeon notes to Mary, his mother, that her child will cause
“the rising and falling” of many.
What will happen to her son will cause her own heart
to be pierced as though by a sword.
Furthermore, Anna’s act of endurance involves fasting.
Fasting does not signify feasting.
To the contrary it signifies that there are things yet
to be accomplished and fulfilled.
Anna was also keenly aware of the need for the coming redemption.
The child, Jesus, exemplified that for her.

How we are caring for our children
Within this text of love and support for a child,
we unmistakably hear the note of justice sounded clearly.
Indeed the rising and falling of many has and
will occur in terms of their treatment of children.
Lucas’ words have set both the model of parental and adult love for children and they also challenge all adults to ask:
How are we caring for
our children today?

Are we educating our children in our communities or do we force them to come to a Church
in which they don’t understand any word and any background?
Are we educating our children in our churches to
Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian nationalists
who are longing for a faraway, strange country?
Are we separating them from the
True Word by keeping them away
from an intelligible [understandable] words, written by the Holy Fathers?
Do we support them by forcing them
to attend hour-long services
in a language they do not understand?
Are we supporting their healthy development in relation to
their environment or
do we condemn them to be a continued stranger and guest-worker and to award themselves to make choices of open and free development.
 What responsibilities do all adults have for children,
regardless of whether or not
they are related to them by blood or marriage?

Lord have mercy“, for
they don’t understand what they are doing
and their leaders are missing any point of view.

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 & 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.