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Poll
Question: Which post is the Post-of-the-Year for 2010?  (Voting closed: May 14, 2011, 01:12:53 PM)
FatherGiryus (Jan) - 2 (10%)
FatherGiryus (Feb) - 4 (20%)
GabrieltheCelt (Mar) - 0 (0%)
FatherGiryus (Apr) - 0 (0%)
Cosmos (May) - 0 (0%)
88Devin12 (June) - 2 (10%)
Thomas (July) - 0 (0%)
Pensateomnia (Aug) - 1 (5%)
Gebre Menfes Kidus (Sep) - 2 (10%)
Fr. Peter Farrington (Oct) - 4 (20%)
Liza Symonenko (Oct) - 4 (20%)
Habte Selassie (Nov) - 0 (0%)
Jnorm888 (Dec) - 1 (5%)
Total Voters: 20

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Fr. George
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Posts: 19,903


May the Lord bless you and keep you always!


« on: April 29, 2011, 01:12:53 PM »

When we started our Post of the Month award in 2008 (well, technically in 2007, but we never publicly announced the winner), the mods also tossed around the idea of selecting one of the Posts of the Month as Post of the Year.  Well, on Orthodox time (3+ years later), we've decided to create this award, and to have it be voted on by you, the users.  So in the next day or so we'll be parading out polls for Post of the Year for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010.  Go ahead and vote for your favorite; there will be 1 vote per user, no changing, and the results will not be visible until the Poll closes 15 days from now.

The nominees for Post of the Year 2010 are:

1 FatherGiryus (January):

I have never visited an Ephraimite monastery, but I do know them by their fruits, and I think I can say that, as with our parishes, the fruits are mixed.

On the one hand, they have helped many folks.  On the other hand, some of the advice they give is not appropriate to the people they give it to.  For example, I know of numerous divorces that have occured because one spouse is given marital advice that bring him/her into conflict with the other.  When you take a person raised as a nominal Orthodox and suddenly, all-at-once, dump a whole lot of discipline on them, they either run or go a bit nuts.

On Mt, Athos, there was a strict, but less severe, attitude.  For example, at one monastery the abbott, seeing that I had a wedding ring, began to berate me for wearing it as a clergyman.  He went on and on, and the poor monk assisting us raced to keep pace with the translation.  In the end, the translating monk looked at me (looking rather bewildered) and said, "Don't worry about it."  It was an opinion, one strongly held, but still only an opinion.  The monk knew about how things are done in America and that my wearing a ring was not impious here.  Essentially, I wasn't considered impious for not following the admonition.  Those who have had monastic experiences here in America have told me that some monastics expect every jot and tittle of their opinions be fulfilled.

In defense of St. Anthony's Monastery, they have taken up the very difficult and much-needed task of building an understanding of Byzantine music in English.  I am very grateful that the monastery has taken a more pro-English appoach which was different from when they were first established as Greek-only institutions.  I have been told the original idea of keeping them all Greek language was to ensure that if the monasteries were driven out by necessity, the monks could be easily assimilated into Mt. Athos or other Greek monasteries.  However, now that they have become well-established and are not going anywhere, they are looking to minister to the Church here in America.

While I have a great deal of respect for monastics and monasticism, I think it is important not to idealize them.  They are imperfect and tempted as we all are.  I would be cautious about taking advice from someone who has no experience in the area in which he speaks.  For example, when I am asked to give marital advice, I always begin with a disclaimer that I am not a couselor and that I can only speak of my own experience in marriage.

And, one must take responsibility for the advice one is given.  Many people want a mind-reading elder who will save them the great hassle of having to peer within themselves and discover, through tears, what it is that ills them.  Clarvoyance is only helpful to kick-start a soddened conscience, but reliance on it is laziness.  We need to discover our inner world for ourselves.

Anyway, that's my 2¢.

2 FatherGiryus (February):


Not every Christian is called to marriage nor is every Christian called to monasticism.  Monastics have no business telling people any differently and/or convincing them otherwise.  People have free will not to accept marriage or to accept monasticism and I surely don't need a marketing pitch from a monastic whether it comes to marriage, monasticism or buying stock in Toyota.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but if monastics are equal to lay people and you ban monastics from giving advice or voicing their opinions, does it necessarily follow that lay people should also refrain from giving advice or voicing their opinions?

If you censor one and not the other, than you are acknowledging that they are not equal, that monastics are more powerful in some way.  To some, this may be their impression.  However, the problem is with the perceiver rather than the perceived.  If you punish the monastic just because someone does not properly understand his role in the Church, where is the justice in that?

The responsibility lies with the laity to not overly-glamorize monasticism.  It is the job of the advice-seeker to find the right person to get advice from and not treat all monks like 'spiritual vending machines.'  The real problem is that those getting advice from monks don't see the monks as people.

The issue here is the education of the laity, which is poorly handled in many ways.  Censoring monks or banning pilgrims does not take care of the real problem, becuase it does not cure the false perception and, in fact, cements it (i.e. "Monks are very powerful, so don't talk to them.")

Blaming the monks as a group is part of the 'victim mentality' that has taken hold of our culture.  It creates a dichotomy of victim and perpetrator, absolving the former of his responsibility.  This is evil.  We must all bear our true responsibility for exercising free-will and weighing advice before taking it.  Like in the medical profession, if I forgo a second opinion and follow a doctor's advice without checking it out, I bear part of the responsibility for the outcome.

As a priest, I know that people can over-value or under-value my advice based on their misguided notions of the priesthood.  However, I do not refrain from doing what I think is right just because someone might misconstrue my advice as coming directlt from God.  I do warn people about this juvenile idealism, but I don't stop everything I am doing because someone might act in a foolish manner.  Neither should monks.

It would be helpful if monks offered disclaimers, and I know those who do.  However, most laypeople offer no disclaimers to their opinions (until after they are called on them).  So, I think that monks should have the same freedom if they are considered full equals to the laity.

For the record, I think it is darn foolish to be asking a monk about buying stock, but who is the bigger fool: the fool or the fool who follows him?

I'm sorry if some people find this offensive, but I think it very funny that here, in a place where advice is routinely offered blindly and received much the same, that we should talk about telling some people not to give advice while we ourselves feel free to offer all manner of advice to those we don't know.

3 GabrieltheCelt (March):

Just as there are many folks who deny God, there are just as many reasons as to why.  Here are a few that come to mind;

 1.  Sometimes people look to Christianity as a talisman or good luck charm and when it doesn't deliver, they lose heart and leave. 

 2.  Sometimes the company we keep can slowly chip away at our faith.  Peer pressure, via our friends and colleagues, really do have an influence over us.

 3.  I've come to suspect that there's a correlation between a person's childhood and their weltanschauung.  As one example, a person who grew up with parents who professed a loving God, but who were ill-tempered and quick to administer punishment, might grow up rebelling Christianity, when in fact, they're actually (and subconsciously) rebelling against their harsh upbringing.  To an extent, this was my particular case when I left Christianity years ago.  Once I discovered the true reason for my rebellion, I was able to work through a lot of problems.  I still have some things to work through (I think my temper probably comes to mind)...

 4.  Pride and other illnesses of the heart.

 5.  Perhaps the most important and overarching reason?  Satan himself.  Let us pray to never forget that he roars like a lion, roaming the earth looking for souls to devour (1 Peter 5:8 ).  Brothers and sisters, truly, though he cannot read our minds (thank God!), he knows our weaknesses and uses them to break us.

4 FatherGiryus (April):

Anyways, back to the flags: they obviously mean something to someone. The question is, what to whom? Given that no one, according to Fr. Arey of SCOBA/GOARCH (someone I also have isssues about, including a conflict of interest here from our vantage point), knows what to expect, and alll the signals sent back and forth this past year and beyond, I wonder what this one is.  Point blank, if this is another assertion of power veiled by "Hellenism isn't ethnic, its universal" as the Chief Secretary went on at length in Met. Methodius' backyard, perpetrated by the archons-the epitomy of what the Chief Secretary claimed to condemn in his speach as the origins of the GOARCH (although he claimed Orthodoxy in North America: I haven't seen evidence that he distinguishes the two)-then we should expect trouble, and lots of it, come the week after Pentacost. I pray not.


Well, I think that is what is at the heart of the matter: what does the flag mean to the Church rather than us as individuals.  We can each assign all sorts of meaning, but in the end it means nothing if there is no common ground.

Historically, it appears to be a Paleologos family crest that came to symbolize the Roman Empire once that dynasty was in control.  As a 'catchy' symbol, it seems to have stuck.

It seems like a convenient symbol for the milet of the Greek Orthodox, which may account for its continued appearance during the turkokratia.  Like so many changes during that period (i.e. the bishop's sakkos, the eagle rugs, etc.) they have taken on a life of their own in the Church and have little of their original meanings.

Where I get really bogged down is "Hellenism isn't ethnic, its universal," of which I heard before but have not heard a plausible explanation.  The reason I say this is that, clearly, Hellenism is not held universal in Turkey, where where the Patriarch of Constantinople resides as being a Turkish citizen over a Greek but not Turkish institution.  When we speak of the Church in Turkey, only 'Greeks' are identified and counted.  I have yet to hear the Patriarchate proclaim that all Turks are part of the 'greater Hellenism.'

I am willing to go so far as to guess that if a Turk strolled into a GOA parish even here in faraway America he would be decidedly unwelcome as someone by definition as a 'non-Hellene.'

As far as I am aware, Hellenism is practiced as Greek nationalism and ethnocentrism.  The reason I say this is because only amongst Greeks, who fly the flag in question, am I ever referred to as a xenos ('foreigner' in Greek) in my own country.

My hunch is that the double-eagle has become something of a 'Santa Claus,' a symbol that has taken on a life separate from its origin, though not necessarily in a nefarious way.

Frankly, I am annoyed by any ethnocentrism that precludes us from preaching the Gospel to any other people group or requires them to 'culturally convert' to 'our flavor' in order to receive salvation.  That includes attempts to make Orthodoxy 'American' in one of its many cultural flavors.  The Church is the Church, and all people are open to it.  We make it as accessible as we can, and don't try to force people to learn new languages or keep cultural traditions that do not effectively bear the Gospel message to them.

5 Cosmos (May):

Greetings to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ ~

Quite frankly, I really don't see any worthwhile point in continuing the discussion on this thread. A clear stalemate was reached long ago. Both sides have repeatedly stated their respective views without any acceptable resolution. This matter is not likely to be satisfactorily resolved as long as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches retain their different theological positions regarding the Immaculate Conception.

In acknowledging this blatant fact, it seems as if this debate continues solely for the sake of non-productive argument, often conducted with a stunning absence of true Christian charity. As such, I find this never ending exchange a very wearisome waste of time and energy that would be better spent in devoutly practicing our own Faith to the best of our ability, rather than in fruitless attempts to convince others that our differing opinions are more valid than theirs. In the end, we won't be held responsible and accountable before God for what others choose to believe, but only for what each of us personally chooses to believe.

That having been said, I now return to my simple life of prayer, wishing all parties in this debate the great gift of abundant spiritual blessings from the Father of Lights!

"Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker. I cannot persuade myself that without offering love to others and peace towards all, I can be called a worthy servant of Jesus Christ." St. Basil the Great

"Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil." St. Seraphim of Sarov

As ever, a humble monk ~

Cosmos

6 88Devin12 (June):

What is so heretical about "ecumenism"?

Christ is in our midst!

Explanation:
I've been pondering this for several weeks now... We all know about the growing controversy about how many Orthodox (as well as former Orthodox in schism) condemn some hierarchs for "ecumenism" and say it's heresy. However, I have yet to read anything "heretical" from any of these "heretical" hierarchs.

Let me clarify something first of all... I believe that the so-called "branch theory" is outright heresy and IMO is what was condemned as "Ecumenism". However, I believe the modern "ecumenical movement" from the Orthodox POV is not heresy.

Examples:
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been repeatedly condemned by many for doing such things as meeting with the Pope, engaging in discussions with Roman Catholics, etc...

We even saw (or read) that Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev was shouted down in Church for being a heretic, but what did he ever say that was so "heretical"? (from what I read, he acknowledged that we aren't in communion w/ RCC and communion should never be administered except in very rare cases)

We know about the controversy of the Esphigmenou monastery, as well as other Old Calendarist Churches and "True Orthodox Churches". who are in schism because of the "ecumenical movement" as well as other controversies, esp. related to the EP.

Even the mere presence of Orthodox clergy/bishops in the WCC has called many to condemn them of heresy.

Soap Box:
So I would like to ask, what is so heretical about "ecumenism"? The heresy that was condemned as heresy was pretty much the modern view of the "branch theory". However, there is no Orthodox Christian that accepts this viewpoint, not His All-Holiness +Bartholomew, not Metropolitan Hilarion, not the Orthodox members of the WCC. So what exactly are they condemning?

In my opinion, the modern "ecumenical movement" is completely Orthodox. We are to seek communion with all Christians. We are the One Church, and it is our job to seek to bring the whole world under our wing. This cannot happen if we are an island unto ourselves.
The only way to bring people to Orthodoxy is through discussion. How can they know the way if we don't talk with them?
None of our Bishops believe that any other Church is also the true Church. None accept the "two lung theory" promoted by Pope John Paul II, and none accept the "branch theory". We recognize that the Roman Catholic Church must return to Orthodoxy and reject it's post-schism heresies and mistakes.

On the issue of ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholics... I read that the EP stated that we are looking for a return of communion between Roman Catholics and Orthodox. Yet he is surprisingly chastised for saying this. What is wrong with this?
We should be seeking the return of full communion between the RCC and our Church. Not for the mere sake of union or the ecumenical movement, but because of our call as the Church. The RCC are our brothers, but they are removed from the family. They have been in schism for over 1000 years, they have fallen into false teachings and heresies, they have lost their Apostolic Succession. So it is only right that us, as the Holy Orthodox Church, seek to lead them back home.
What is so wrong about this? I have yet to see any Orthodox bishop say that we are one in the same Church, and that we are completely equivalent and communion should be immediately restored.

As for relations with other faiths... Peace can only come about through dialogue. How can these other faiths understand us if we isolate ourselves from them? We know that every faith has a grain of the truth. However, we also recognize that we are the only ones with the fullness of the truth.

Question:
I'm sorry for dragging on, and I know I may be preaching to the choir. But I would like to know what is so wrong about all this, that leads many Orthodox, including monastics, to condemn others, and to even enter into schism with the Church that they are trying so hard to defend. Is it a simply misunderstanding, or do they truly believe that these things are heresy?

Forgive me.

Note: I'm not doing this as flamebait, and I'm not looking to start a fight. I honestly am confused about the whole situation. There is so much material out there, much that is bias to one side or the other that it is hard for me to get a good read on the situation.

Also, if this would be better off in the Politics section, please move it there. I put it here because I want the discussion to remain constructive.

7 Thomas (July):

In Eastern Orthodox Churches, we find a difference between the Roman Catholic ideal that Mary was immaculatly concieved (i.e. without sin) as Orthodox Christians reject the western doctrine of original sin, preferring instead to speak of a tendency towards sin. Orthodox Christians believe Mary was born without sin, but so is everyone else. Generally Orthodox Christians believe that due to her faith and action, and the the grace of God, she did not commit an actual sin during her lifetime. She is held as the ideal that mankind can choose not to send and make the right decisions unlike Eve (and ourseleves) who made many wrong decisions and commit sins.

Here are some quotes from the early Church Fathers who attest to this teaching:

"This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." Origen,Homily 1(A.D. 244),in ULL,94

Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin." Saint Ambrose,Sermon 22:30(A.D. 388),in JUR,II:166

"We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." St. Augustine,Nature and Grace,42[36](A.D.415),in NPNF1,V:135

"A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns." Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancrya,Homily VI:11(ante A.D. 446),in THEO,339


“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)

"O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! O glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew." St John of Damascus,Homily I in Nativ.(ante A.D. 749),in THEO,200

Archpriest Thomas Hopko in his OCA  Catechism from the Rainbow Series The Faith notes that:

"We believe that the Virgin Mary is the Mother of God. Through her He Who was God before the ages took on our human nature without relinquishing His divine nature or confusing or "meshing" it with the human nature in any way. The Mother of God is often referred to as the "New Eve," for she said "yes" to God whereas the first Eve said "no." We believe that the Mother of God was sinless of her own free will, that she remains ever-virgin, and that she is the "living tabernacle" of God inasmuch as her womb, as one hymn states, becomes "more spacious than the heavens" by carrying within it the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ."

Bishop KALLISTOS (Ware) in his book The Orthodox Church wites:
"Most orthodox theologians reject the idea of ‘original guilt,’ put forward by Augustine and still accepted (albeit in a mitigated form) by the Roman Catholic Church. Men (Orthodox usually teach) automatically inherit Adam’s corruption and mortality, but not his guilt: they are only guilty in so far as by their own free choice they imitate Adam."

In summary Most Orthodox Christians believe that that due to her faith and action, and the the grace of God, Mary as the Theotokos did not commit an actual sin during her lifetime and was sinless.

Thomas

8 pensateomnia (August):


But people don't naturally know how to pray, fast, be abstinent, or sacrifice to a great extent, because they are fallen.  The Fathers set a firm ideal, and many times you realize by reading between the lines that they are writing a hortatory address (an exhortation) and not describing a situation that actually exists in most places.  Or that even should exist everywhere. But by holding the bar VERY high, the hope is that people will inch a long a bit at a time.
I don't know. Maybe this bar itself is completely wrong? It is, again, obviously Platonian "soma sima," i.e. Pagan. 
It's not "pagan" in some philosophical way; it's merely reality to a pre-modern human being. For you especially, Heorhij, you have to be a bit more of an ethnographer when reading the Fathers, since your background in modern science and your social experience as a middle class person in 21st century America has led you to conceive of "reality" and the "body" in ways that are simply inconceivable to an ancient person. You have to imagine what it was like for them, understand it in that context, and then see how it might apply to you today in a different context.

Consider this: Before the advent of modern medicine and reliable contraceptives, sex and marriage were undeniably linked to (a) childbirth and (b) death. That's not a result of Platonic dualism -- it's reality. Nowadays, we have the option to practice sex as something that is purely enjoyable without concern for its consequences -- that's simple not a physical possibility in pre-modern cultures. In the early Christian period, the average woman would start having children at about age 14 and would give birth between 4 and 8 times in her life. Most of these children would die before reaching puberty. One or two would be stillbirths and several would die as young children. Sociologists and prosopographers have shown that women in this period would need to give birth to a minimum of five children just to keep the population stable. Even if you didn't care about having one or two children survive -- which you would for your own familial, cultural, and financial reasons -- you simply could not avoid the stark reality: If you were married and having sex, that meant you would experience the disease, pain, and death of children and quite possibly your wife. Period. And you would experience the same many times over for your relatives and neighbors.

In other words, one didn't need to be some kind of weird philosopher to think that the body and this world weren't the greatest thing ever. You just had to look around! Death, disease, hardship, decay, and violence surrounded you every day. Disease was common and no one seemed to be able to cure it. Bodies themselves were usually not pleasant things: They smelled, had splotched skin, rashes, pockmarks from childhood diseases, and shocking signs of malnutrition. Corporal punishment was common, so you would often see bodies that were bruised, torn, with an eye poked out or a nose cut off or a missing hand. These kind of punishments and scenes were totally normal in most human societies throughout history (and even continue today in many places). It was not at all uncommon for whole cities to be destroyed by fire, plague, invasion, earthquake, etc. It happened a number of times to Antioch in this period! When armies or pirates came -- an event that was likely to happen at least once in your life -- that meant death or slavery for the majority. That's life -- not beautiful music, literature, or the wonders of the cosmos. The cosmos abuses you and over it you have no control.

And that doesn't touch on issues of social mobility, education, literacy, law, slavery, and, as we've discussed before, what ancient people actually thought about biology and medicine itself. Advocating sex would actually go against the learned scientific/medical consensus of the time! Now, you may scoff at that because you simply dismiss the science, but people then believed it was real. No educated person could legitimately think otherwise. Just think how crazy you think it is for someone nowadays to deny evolution. That's how your understanding of the body and sex would appear to an educated ancient person in the Mediterranean. As for a common person, see above about the realities of the body.

As modern people living in a stable country, we have the luxury of romanticizing "body" and "matter" and life in general (but even that requires ignoring a lot of what goes on). Compared to the early Christians, we live in unimaginable splendor in huge mansions, in which there is neither frost nor humidity nor bugs. We understand the origins of many diseases, and, in those cases where we can't cure disease entirely, we can at least manage some of its symptoms. We can control when and if we get pregnant, etc. These social, political, and technological realities shape our intellectual imagination. We conceive of things like "body" and "matter" in new, unprecedented ways. In our imagined world, we already control the body and thus have no need to attempt to master it through ascetic practice. That doesn't mean our imagined world is superior: It's equally as shaped and, often, revealed as wrong by an in-breaking of sorrow.

That's the important insight: We may think we understand the world. We may think we have mastered the body. But sorrow and death and sin and decay and tragedy far greater than we can comprehend continues, just as it did in the time of the Fathers. Their message, in the midst of that strife, was to cling to the one thing needful. That's the point of the ascetic endeavor: To reshape the realities of our life into the things of the Kingdom. Asceticism is supposed to help you experience your embodied self as something that belongs entirely to Christ. He is the Lord even of your desires and your flesh, just as He is the Lord of this physical world. So, denying is merely a way of giving and receiving back, in that the thing denied -- even the body itself -- becomes transformed and marked as Christ's in the process.

That's the radical "corporeality" of the Fathers: A vision that sees the body, matter, and the cosmos as something that, despite evident ugliness, is being redeemed by Christ's salvific work. But it's not an easy, pie-in-the-sky, snap-your-fingers-and-praise-the-lord kind of redemption. It is brutally honest about the reality in which we find the world and the reality in which we find our embodied self (as described above). Therefore, we must struggle to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). That's just reality. And doing so requires training (the literal meaning of asceticism), practice, and sacrifice. In fact, if it didn't involve sacrifice, it wouldn't follow the example of Christ, who denied himself even to the point of bodily death.

9 Gebre Menfes Kidus (September):

A PORTRAIT OF THE GOSPEL


As I watch my wife breastfeed our infant daughter, I see a beautiful portrait of the Gospel. Our little baby is completely dependent upon my wife to feed and nourish her. My wife has everything our daughter needs for sustenance and growth. If my wife does not feed her, our infant will not survive. Yet our daughter must struggle to receive the milk from her mother's breast. I witness our little girl labor to latch on and nurse. I see her exert tremendous energy and effort to receive the life-giving nourishment she needs. But my wife initiates the feeding, cradling our daughter in her loving arms and coaxing her to drink the vital sustenance from her nurturing bosom. I observe a profound oneness that occurs between mother and child during the nursing process- a mystical cooperation that results in our baby's physical and emotional development and growth.

Similarly, God initiates and provides everything necessary for our salvation; but we must "latch on" and struggle to avail ourselves of the spiritual nourishment we desperately need. Our spiritual efforts do not earn us God's love any more than my infant daughter's efforts to nurse earn her the love of my wife. God loves us unconditionally; and He is ever reaching out to us, coaxing us, cradling us, calling us to exert all of our energy and strength in the effort to receive His divine nourishment. Our Lord never withholds His love, His mercy, or His grace. He offers it freely to all people, unconditionally and unmerited. But divine love is only received with the same faith, effort, and struggle of an infant child who is completely dependent upon its mother's suckling sustenance.

As with mother and nursing child, the Gospel is a synergistic cooperation between God and man. We are completely dependent upon the grace of Christ, His Cross, and His Church. But this spiritual dependence involves striving, effort, cooperation, and struggle on our part. Certainly, when our efforts fail and we grow weak in our striving, the unconditional love and strength of God will preserve us- just as a loving mother preserves and protects her infant child. But although our redemption is freely given to us by God, we must cooperate and struggle to avail ourselves of its salvific grace.

I have never seen my wife happier than during the moments when she has nursed one of our infant children. And I have never seen my children more content than during those moments when they suckled from my wife's breast. In analogous fashion, God is never more glorified than when we cling to Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we are never more at peace than when we strive with all of our being to be at one with our God.

There is profound poignancy in the simple endeavor of a mother nursing her infant child. And through this vital act in the cycle of life, God provides a clear portrait of the mystical work of salvation. We are little children, completely dependent upon our heavenly Father. But we must struggle with the faith, innocence, and effort of a newborn infant who clings with all of its essence to the vitality of its mother's bosom. Certainly, this is what Our Lord meant when He said,

"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter into it." [St. Mark 10:15]

"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven." [St. Matthew 18:3]



Selam,

Gebre Menfes Kidus 

10 Fr. Peter Farrington (October):

Ioannes,

I wonder if you need perhaps to stop trying to save the world for God.

I mean that I also used to have great plans (and good/holy ones too I mean), but I had to learn that God did not work according to my schedule. I had to learn that God did not need my service, and could raise up any number of people who were more faithful than I, more holy than I, more understanding of God's will than I.

I have had to learn to be patient, and prayerful, and seek above all to become more Christian in myself. All of my great ideas have had to be laid at the feet of our Lord. I have had to accept that in my life I might not achieve anything at all of note or importance, and this has been a great liberation.

The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is He who will determine when it will be brought in, not I. It is He who will organise the workers in the fields, not I.

Yet, perhaps, He will use even me in some small way in doing His will. But it will be a small way, a hidden way, a humble way.

Let me counsel you to try a little less hard to do God's will for Him. Learn to wait and wait and persevere in prayer. Prayer changes things. It is not something we do to fill in time. Pray for your priest, pray for each member of your congregation by name, especially those you have problems with, pray that the Lord will open a way to reach the non-Orthodox around you and integrate them into His Church. Seek to become more holy and grace-filled yourself as a matter of the greatest importance and urgency.

I have had to wait many years to start to see a lasting harvest of souls. In the past 6 months I have baptised 3 adult catechumens, which has been a great joy for me. But I have had to abandon all of my own plans before God has begun to work out His own.

May the Lord bless you, you are always prayed for at the altar.

Father Peter

11 Liza Symonenko (October):

You know folks, this is a discussion forum and I was simply trying to express my views concerning my own parish experience.

I seem to have ruffled feathers and most likely said things that have been misconstrued making me look "presumptuous" and "unfair".

That was certainly never my intent, and I am still trying to figure out why we were so greatly mis-communicating.

I am sorry for those of you who have encountered an ethnicity or a nationality to be a wall or a blockage of some sort to your personal journey in growing in your faith.  I completely understand your points of view.  I have little nieces and nephews who don't speak much Ukrainian.  They are "lost" during the Gospel reading, etc.  However, they would be lost at that age, anyway.  They squirm, they fidget, they sit, they stand....no matter the language they are listening to in church.  I don't know one child that doesn't get "bored" during the 2 hour Liturgy, no matter what language is used.  They are simply too young and too unconcerned with their spirituality at that age to focus for that long, or to fully grasp and appreciate what unfolds before them.  It's not the language, it's the age of maturity.

However, to ensure that they aren't completely lost, I a point of having a copy of the our church consistory book "calendar" which contains the menologian in both English and Ukrainian.  On the ride to church (I always have the boys so they get there early to serve), they have been taught to look up what's being read, and then they grab the little Bible in the back pocket and read the Gospel.  We then discuss what was read and it's significance. Therefore, before we get to church, they already know what the "theme" is.  We even go over key words to listen for in the readings, and I know they were listening because when that word gets uttered and they recognize it they inadvertently glance my way from the solea.

I am aware of the language issue.

However, in my parish English is the issue.  The vast majority do not feel comfortable with it.  The older folks came to the US as older adults, and had difficulty picking up the nuances of English.  The new immigrants haven't been here long enough to pick up the language all that well.  For these people English would be the barrier.

However, we seem to dismiss them as simply being ethnically nationalistic, and that kills me.

Why are their spiritual needs less important than the English speaker?  Why would we chance losing the sheep we already have in our flock, in order to try and entice other sheep?  We are completely open to everyone.  We serve in English as well as Ukrainian.  We do charity work.  We are "out" in the community.  We do what we can to spread the Word and teach the Faith.

However, I am not so naive that I think I can change the world, nor am I so assured of myself to even contemplate that I know what is best for other parishes and how to "fix" the language barrier, or to tell someone I know better than they do.

All I can say is that the disciples of Christ did not alienate their flock as they went out to evangelize and baptize all other nations.  They left leaders and bishops behind to tend to the flock they had already gathered.  They did not forget about them and only keep their eyes on the horizon and to see how many more they can "save".  They were still concerned about those they already "saved" - because each soul is important, and each soul is unique with unique requirements and needs. 

Gaining a newcomer is not a "win", if you lose an existing parishioner who feels the need to leave your parish for another.

Yes, by all means use English.  No question.  Yes, the majority of folks in the U.S. would understand English more than any other.  Yes, use English to teach Orthodoxy to the non-Orthodox.  Use English to spread the Word in an English speaking nation.  Don't alienate the English user, however, don't forget about the non-English user.  Tend to the entire flock, because as I mentioned each soul is important, and the non-English speaker is no less important.  Don't throw them to the curb like yesterday's news.  Don't diminish their worth in the Church.  Don't belittle them for not speaking English well.  Don't belittle them for coming to America to escape certain death and torture in their own homelands.  It's easy to sit and judge others when you were born in the States and speak fluent English, and then can look down your nose at the lesser, foreign element gathered around you, like the unwashed masses.

Well, your ancestors came here from somewhere as well.  I'll bet they didn't speak English all that well.  Would you have forbade them from praying in some other language than English, when they were new here?

Things will change, and English WILL take over...and people will not have an issue, because they WILL have forgotten their native tongues.  However, until that happens don't dismiss the generation that still is living and among us and does not speak the language.

That's all I am saying on this subject. I hope I didn't sound pretentious, obnoxious or any other word that has been flung at me for trying to explain why my particular parish serves in both Ukrainian and English....oh, and yes, the sign outside does say Ukrainian Orthodox.  If anyone is too scared to come to the church because there's a nationality attached to it, than they aren't serious about finding Orthodoxy.  The Faith came to these lands through these "foreign" sources, it did not simply materialize on American soil. Any true inquirer would realize that, and knowing it still go and "see".  They might be a bit uncomfortable, but, it shouldn't stop them.  IF that parish does not greet them warmly and try to take them into their flock, than it's a parish issue, a personnel issue, an attitude issue within that church.  As I mentioned we have our non-Ukrainian speakers, and when Father sees they are in church or even when he notices "unknown" faces, the services immediately go from 25% to at least 50% English.  It works for us.

That's all I have to say on this matter.  I apologize to the people who seem to have been offended by my point of view.  I am saying no more on this matter because to be honest, it's a no win situation, and I find myself getting frustrating just trying to express my point of view, which seems to inadvertently clash with everyone's wiser and more correct views.

I have been going on 4 hours sleep for the last few days.  None the less, I have a joyous weekend ahead of me, and I had this smile plastered on my face.  The joy was with me, until I got on this forum yesterday.  My crazy work didn't get me down, my lack of sleep didn't get me down, but this forum managed to rip that smile right off my face and the joy right out of my heart, just because I tried to explain the situation I am familiar with.  When I finally made it to my bed this forum was spinning in my brain, and how was it that I was so misunderstood.

People here are way wiser than I, way more experienced, more titled, way more "learned", way higher in society and knowledge concerning the Church and some days I don't even know why I bother trying to express my simple point of view....and then it bothers me for the rest of the day (and night).  I feel like a nail getting hammered over and over.  Well, this nail just got bent a bit too far out of shape.

Please forgive me for having spoken out of turn and my own expressing my own "rant".

I love you all, I wish you all the best whether English speakers or otherwise!  Please forgive me.

12 Habte Selassie (November):


My general feeling is that we can be saved just as the man on the cross next to Jesus was . He was not at the last supper and did not drink of his blood and body. I do believe in what communion means and partake it and do as my church says , but I also feel that those who do not or believe their way is good It is not for us to judge their way as "Deprived".

Our role is better served as blessed peacemakers and Lord knows I am a hypocrite who fails to do it too.

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Blessings and love, indeed I believe through the Grace and Mystery of God ALL can (and will) be saved, and when I was ministering on skid row with a miraculous Protestant group, I was condemned two-fold, for embracing the Saints and the Virgin, and for quieting fire and brimstone Bible thumpers who loved to revel in saying "Going to Hell" etc etc.  In my heart, I have no right to say ANY person of ANY tradition or of no tradition at all is to be eternally condemned, and when confronted once by a person who asked rather angrily, "So Hitler should go to heaven?" My humble reply in the same sincere sentiments of Saint Francis and said, "Yes, and I would not want to go to a heaven that excluded ANY person for ANY reason."

It is  my own spiritual understanding that the spiritual benefits of Orthodox Sacramental Theology are not necessary for the Grace of Eternal life, as this is a gift out of the gratuity of the love of God in sending us His Son on the Cross (Amen!). It is as you say, the Thief on the Right of the Cross received none of the Divine Mysteries, neither did any of the Prophets or Patriarchs of old, who believe and confess to be Saints! It is not only through our participation in the Divine Mysteries does God grant His Eternal Grace, but truly through His own Will and Grace alone, and nothing more or less.

But I think we all can admit and confess that the Buddha had a rather potent observation in concluding that the real Hell is the suffering we experience here and now on the earth.  I believe that only the Sacramental Theology (ie, Orthodox Baptism/Confirmation, Repentance/Confession, Communion, Ordination, Anointing, Marriage) are part of the Divine economy of the Grace of God to remove the suffering, hurt, baggage, pain, fear, judgment and condemnation which makes life on earth feel as heavy as any Hell.  Sermons, Bible readings, prayers, fellowships and luncheons are not enough, even our fathers the Apostles confessed to our Lord, "How is it that we could not cast those demons out?" To cast out the demons and sins of our lives, we must enter into the Sacramental Time of God, through our active participation in the Divine Mysteries, and this is not of ourselves but only a gift of the Grace of God. 

But Protestantism, and I say this having been raised a stern Baptist (and all that self-incrimination and fire and brimstone it implies) denies such Divine Mysteries as superstition and even blasphemy! The tradition of Protestantism (aside from Anglicanism and Lutherism which remains  faithful in the Sacraments) defines itself precisely in its opposition to the Holy Tradition and the Divine Mysteries, and from my own experience the tradition of Protestantism itself does NOTHING to save the faithful from the suffering and Hell of our lives on earth in the midst of Satan and his evil armies.  Sermons are wonderful, Bible reading is crucial, prayer is a gift, fellowship and luncheons keep our faith reaffirmed and our hearts flowing in joy, but these alone can not save a man from the binding traps of Sin, only the Divine Mysteries can do such! Unfortunately, and this is from my experience and observations, this is ALL the protestant tradition has to offer Sad

 "With man this is impossible, but not with God, for nothing is impossible to God."  (Our Lord and Savior)
This is precisely what led me to conversion, that the Grace of God came into my life and invited me into the Divine Mysteries.  This does not negate the Protestants, the Orthodox have a lot to learn from many Protestant movements and communities about charity and faithful works, but nonetheless I must again confess that the Protestant tradition is deprived in that it deprives itself of the Divine Mysteries! Please do not misunderstand the word deprived and depraved, as deprived means to be missing something crucial or necessary, whereas depraved is immoral and lost, and I do believe you have confused the two terms which are by no means interchangeable and depraved was not my intention. 


It is a difficult task to convince a protestant that their tradition is lacking while at the same time not insulting them or their belief system. Even if we ignore the protestant tradition altogether, and solely affirm our tradition as the most authentic or 'the fullness of faith', we are still asserting ours is superior to the other traditions, thereby seeming arrogant. How can we affirm the truth of Orthodoxy without demeaning others or their faith?

Honestly, the only way that I have gotten around this is to take an ecumenical approach. That is, I say that "it works for me" and not even assert the superiority of such. Of course with this approach, I risk conveying the attitude that any belief system or variant is ok, so long as it 'works for me'. This is a very sticky situation indeed.

agreed. I have found that to simply live the Orthodox life openly and honestly, teaching without preaching, through example and humility and delightful conversation, many folks begin to see Orthodox has something to it.  Evangelism is not to go out in the streets and preach from the soap box (actually that is more like politics  Wink) the true Evangelism of the Apostles is to live in the love and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and share this love with all we meet.  I have learned a great deal myself from many many faithful, wise and good folks of many traditions including Protestants and Jews and Muslims and kindhearted skeptics and agnostics.  We should teach each other what wisdom from experience God has given us, demonstrating effectively the power of God operating in our lives.

In Rastafari we say "this world is like a mirror, reflect upon what you do, for if you face it smiling the whole world will smile with you."

If we spread this love and gladness and smile which God puts in our hearts, the natural curiosity of humanity will attract people to inquire what it is that makes us so content in a frightening and painful Multiverse..

stay blessed,
habte selassie

13 Jnorm888 (December):

Sorry i should have put a source, I thought it was an interesting article.

The Orthodoxy Way is not to speculate. It's to experience. You don't know something by siting around and thinking about it. You know something by experiencing it.

Alot of Christians over the centuries lived and died by the Sermon on the mount. In fact, I wouldn't be allowed to vote if it wasn't for the influence of the sermon on the mount. The nation of India wouldn't be free from Colonialism if it wasn't for the Sermon on the Mount!

South Africa would of never of been able to move forward after apartheid if it wasn't for the Sermon on the Mount.

The Amish who lost their children some years ago from that shooting would of never of been able to forgive the one who killed their kids if it wasn't for the sermon on the mount.

The Sermon on the Mount breaks the chains, it stops the cycle of retaliation. The sermon on the mount helps mankind know reconciliation.


And so there are alot of things to be grateful and thankful for when it comes to the issue of the sermon on the mount!


The Sermon on the Mount is a blessing my friend! But with atheists you can't win! They will be critical if we were warlords like Islam, and they will be critical if we turned the other cheek. It's a catch 22. And it always will be with them.
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2011, 08:09:10 AM »

Go on, there's a week left.
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2011, 11:44:55 AM »

BUMP.
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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 05:44:57 PM »

Get your votes in!  The balloting closes tomorrow around 1pm (Eastern US Daylight Time).
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