Monday, July 25, 2011

Women Being FORCED To Convert To Islam

An article from The Orthodox Church, an Orthodox oriented Media Network, reports on the state of Islamic violence against Christianity in Egypt. What is extra disturbing and outrageous of this Islamic crime is the increased use of sexual abuse and torture against Christian women for the purpose of forced conversion.

The complete outrage of the attacks, which I'm sorry to say aren't isolated, unsubstantial, nor sparse, is a reality of an Islamic country who will additionally not provide any protection, of any kind, under the law from these attacks.

You may say Islam is a peaceful religion. However, I'll call your bluff against the violent, unchanging, historical face, that is present from Islamic thinking and communities.


Jean Maher, president of the France-based Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, said that nearly 800 Coptic Christian women have been kidnapped, raped and forced to convert to Islam since 2009.
That number has only increased since the revolution in February, Maher said.
He said that before the revolution, Muslim kidnappers would have to “seduce” their victims. Now, they “just put them in a taxi and go away with them.”
Christian women are an obvious target because they do not wear a veil, which makes them easily identifiable as Christian, said Clark.
Clark said some women are no longer leaving their homes, for fear of being attacked.
Clark and Maher suggested that one of the greatest contributors to the abductions is the inactivity of police.
“Dozens of family members are reporting this,” he said. “They are very badly treated by police.”
Maher said most families of victims are already reluctant to come forward because taking away a woman’s virginity also strips the family of its honor. He said families of victims can also be accused of neglecting their daughters.
“As these victims recognize their voices aren’t being heard, they will no longer come forward,” Clark said.
Clark suggested this leads to a “cloak of silence, which only exasperates the problem.”
Read More. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why Orthodox Men Love Church

      This very good article from a few years ago, out of the Antiochian magazine "The Word". It describes part of the cultural problem with Western church services, and how these differences are manifest in male attendance and participation within the different traditions. It presents a cultural argument to the Eastern tradition, and I believe to be a strong and accurate argument, especially for men.


"Many men may not love church, but Orthodox men do."

Photo by MPDA.ru
photo by MPDA.ru
     
In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to."

Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the church.


Challenges.
The term most commonly cited by these men was "challenging." Orthodoxy is "active and not passive." "It's the only church where you are required to adapt to it, rather than it adapting to you." "The longer you are in it, the more you realize it demands of you."

The "sheer physicality of Orthodox worship" is part of the appeal. Regular days of fasting from meat and dairy, "standing for hours on end, performing prostrations, going without food and water [before communion]...When you get to the end you feel that you've faced down a challenge." "Orthodoxy appeals to a man's desire for self-mastery through discipline."

"In Orthodoxy, the theme of spiritual warfare is ubiquitous; saints, including female saints, are warriors. Warfare requires courage, fortitude, and heroism. We are called to be 'strugglers' against sin, to be 'athletes' as St. Paul says. And the prize is given to the victor. The fact that you must 'struggle' during worship by standing up throughout long services is itself a challenge men are willing to take up."

A recent convert summed up, "Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it's also about overcoming oneself. I am challenged in a deep way, not to 'feel good about myself' but to become holy. It is rigorous, and in that rigor I find liberation. And you know, so does my wife."

Clear Disciplines. Several mentioned that they really appreciated having clarity about the content of these challenges and what they were supposed to do. "Most guys feel a lot more comfortable when they know what's expected of them." "Orthodoxy presents a reasonable set of boundaries." "It's easier for guys to express themselves in worship if there are guidelines about how it's supposed to work—especially when those guidelines are so simple and down-to-earth that you can just set out and start doing something."

Male choir, seminarians."The prayers the Church provides for us — morning prayers, evening prayers, prayers before and after meals, and so on — give men a way to engage in spirituality without feeling put on the spot, or worrying about looking stupid because they don't know what to say."

They appreciate learning clear-cut physical actions that are expected to form character and understanding. "People begin learning immediately through ritual and symbolism, for example, by making the sign of the cross. This regimen of discipline makes one mindful of one's relation to the Trinity, to the Church, and to everyone he meets."

A Goal. Men also appreciate that this challenge has a goal: union with God. One said that in a previous church "I didn't feel I was getting anywhere in my spiritual life (or that there was anywhere to get to — I was already there, right?) But something, who knew what, was missing. Isn't there SOMETHING I should be doing, Lord?"

Orthodoxy preserves and transmits ancient Christian wisdom about how to progress toward this union, which is called "theosis." Every sacrament or spiritual exercise is designed to bring the person, body and soul, further into continual awareness of the presence of Christ within, and also within every other human being. As a cloth becomes saturated with dye by osmosis, we are saturated with God by theosis.

A catechumen wrote that he was finding icons helpful in resisting unwanted thoughts. "If you just close your eyes to some visual temptation, there are plenty of stored images to cause problems. But if you surround yourself with icons, you have a choice of whether to look at something tempting or something holy."

A priest writes, "Men need a challenge, a goal, perhaps an adventure — in primitive terms, a hunt. Western Christianity has lost the ascetic, that is, the athletic aspect of Christian life. This was the purpose of monasticism, which arose in the East largely as a men's movement. Women entered monastic life as well, and our ancient hymns still speak of women martyrs as showing 'manly courage.'"

"Orthodoxy emphasizes DOING. …. Guys are ACTIVITY oriented."

No Sentimentality. In "The Church Impotent," cited above (and recommended by several of these men), Leon Podles offers a theory about how Western Christian piety became feminized. In the 12th-13th centuries a particularly tender, even erotic, strain of devotion arose, one which invited the individual believer to picture himself or herself (rather than the Church as a whole) as the Bride of Christ. "Bridal Mysticism" was enthusiastically adopted by devout women, and left an enduring stamp on Western Christianity. It understandably had less appeal for guys. For centuries in the West, men who chose the ministry have been stereotyped as effeminate. A life-long Orthodox layman says that, from the outside, Western Christianity strikes him as "a love story written for women by women."

The Eastern Church escaped Bridal Mysticism because the great split between East and West had already taken place. The men who wrote me expressed hearty dislike for what they perceive as a soft Western Jesus. "American Christianity in the last two hundred years has been feminized. It presents Jesus as a friend, a lover, someone who 'walks with me and talks with me.' This is fine rapturous imagery for women who need a social life. Or it depicts Jesus whipped, dead on the cross. Neither is the type of Christ the typical male wants much to do with."

During worship, "men don't want to pray in the Western fashion with hands clasped, lips pressed together, and a facial expression of forced serenity." "It's guys holding hands with other guys and singing campfire songs." "Lines about 'reaching out for His embrace,' 'wanting to touch His face,' while being 'overwhelmed by the power of His love'—those are difficult songs for one man to sing to another Man."

"A friend of mine told me that the first thing he does when he walks into a church is to look at the curtains. That tells him who is making the decisions in that church, and the type of Christian they want to attract."

"Guys either want to be challenged to fight for a glorious and honorable cause, and get filthy dirty in the process, or to loaf in our recliners with plenty of beer, pizza, and football. But most churches want us to behave like orderly gentlemen, keeping our hands and mouths nice and clean."

One man said that worship at his Pentecostal church had been "largely an emotional experience. Feelings. Tears. Repeated rededication of one's life to Christ, in large emotional group settings. Singing emotional songs, swaying hands aloft. Even Scripture reading was supposed to produce an emotional experience. I am basically a do-er, I want to do things, and not talk about or emote my way through them! As a business person I knew that nothing in business comes without effort, energy, and investment. Why would the spiritual life be any different?"

Another, who visited Catholic churches, says, "They were conventional, easy, and modern, when my wife and I were looking for something traditional, hard, and counter-cultural, something ancient and martial." A catechumen says that at his non-denominational church "worship was shallow, haphazard, cobbled together from whatever was most current; sometimes we'd stand, sometimes we'd sit, without much rhyme or reason to it. I got to thinking about how a stronger grounding in tradition would help."

"It infuriated me on my last Ash Wednesday that the priest delivered a homily about how the real meaning of Lent is to learn to love ourselves more. It forced me to realize how completely sick I was of bourgeois, feel-good American Christianity."

A convert priest says that men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves "the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one's enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us. Lose any of those dangerous qualities and we become the 'JoAnn Fabric Store' of churches: nice colors and a very subdued clientele."

"Men get pretty cynical when they sense someone's attempting to manipulate their emotions, especially when it's in the name of religion. They appreciate the objectivity of Orthodox worship. It's not aimed at prompting religious feelings but at performing an objective duty."

Yet there is something in Orthodoxy that offers "a deep masculine romance. Do you understand what I mean by that? Most romance in our age is pink, but this is a romance of swords and gallantry."

From a deacon: "Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice (think 'Mr. Rogers'). Orthodox churches call men to be courageous and act (think 'Braveheart').

Jesus Christ. What draws men to Orthodoxy is not simply that it's challenging or mysterious. What draws them is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the center of everything the Church does or says.

In contrast to some other churches, "Orthodoxy offers a robust Jesus" (and even a robust Virgin Mary, for that matter, hailed in one hymn as "our Captain, Queen of War"). Several used the term "martial" or referred to Orthodoxy as the "Marine Corps" of Christianity. (The warfare is against self-destructive sin and the unseen spiritual powers, not other people, of course.)

One contrasted this "robust" quality with "the feminized pictures of Jesus I grew up with. I've never had a male friend who would not have expended serious effort to avoid meeting someone who looked like that." Though drawn to Jesus Christ as a teen, "I felt ashamed of this attraction, as if it were something a red-blooded American boy shouldn't take that seriously, almost akin to playing with dolls."

A priest writes: "Christ in Orthodoxy is a militant, Jesus takes Hell captive. Orthodox Jesus came to cast fire on the earth. (Males can relate to this.) In Holy Baptism we pray for the newly-enlisted warriors of Christ, male and female, that they may 'be kept ever warriors invincible.'"

After several years in Orthodoxy, one man found a service of Christmas carols in a Protestant church "shocking, even appalling." Compared to the Orthodox hymns of Christ's Nativity, "'the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay' has almost nothing to do with the Eternal Logos entering inexorably, silently yet heroically, into the fabric of created reality."

Photo by Alexander Osokin.

Continuity. Many intellectually-inclined Orthodox converts began by reading Church history and the early Christian writers, and found it increasingly compelling. Eventually they faced the question of which of the two most ancient churches, the Roman Catholic or the Orthodox, makes the most convincing claim of being the original Church of the Apostles.

A lifelong Orthodox says that what men like is "stability: Men find they can trust the Orthodox Church because of the consistent and continuous tradition of faith it has maintained over the centuries." A convert says, "The Orthodox Church offers what others do not: continuity with the first followers of Christ." This is continuity, not archeology; the early church still exists, and you can join it.

"What drew me was Christ's promises to the Church about the gates of hell not prevailing, and the Holy Spirit leading into all truth—and then seeing in Orthodoxy a unity of faith, worship, and doctrine with continuity throughout history."

Another word for continuity is "tradition." A catechumen writes that he had tried to learn everything necessary to interpret Scripture correctly, including ancient languages. "I expected to dig my way down to the foundation and confirm everything I'd been taught. Instead, the further down I went, the weaker everything seemed. I realized I had only acquired the ability to manipulate the Bible to say pretty much anything I wanted it to. The only alternative to cynicism was tradition. If the Bible was meant to say anything, it was meant to say it within a community, with a tradition to guide the reading. In Orthodoxy I found what I was looking for."

Men in Balance. A priest writes: "There are only two models for men: be 'manly' and strong, rude, crude, macho, and probably abusive; or be sensitive, kind, repressed and wimpy. But in Orthodoxy, masculine is held together with feminine; it's real and down to earth, 'neither male nor female,' but Christ who 'unites things in heaven and things on earth.'"

Another priest comments that, if one spouse is originally more insistent about the family converting to Orthodoxy than the other, "when both spouses are making confessions, over time they both become deepened and neither one is as dominant in the spiritual relationship."

Men in Leadership. Like it or not, men simply prefer to be led by men. In Orthodoxy, lay women do everything lay men do, including preach, teach, and chair the parish council. But behind the iconostasis, around the altar, it's all men. One respondent summarized what men like in Orthodoxy this way: "Beards!"

"It's the last place in the world men aren't told they're evil simply for being men." Instead of negativity, they are constantly surrounded by positive role models in the saints, in icons and in the daily round of hymns and stories about saints' lives. This is another concrete element that men appreciate — there are other real human beings to look to, rather than a blur of ethereal terms. "The glory of God is a man fully alive," said St. Irenaeus. One writer adds that "The best way to attract a man to the Orthodox Church is to show him an Orthodox man."

But no secondary thing, no matter how good, can supplant first place. "A dangerous life is not the goal. Christ is the goal. A free spirit is not the goal. Christ is the goal. He is the towering figure of history around whom all men and women will eventually gather, to whom every knee will bow, and whom every tongue will confess."




     December 2007 issue of The Word magazine

HT: Journey to Orthodoxy

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Casualty Report on the Gender War

My emphasis.
My comments. (sarcasm intended)

(Daily Mail) A pre-school in Sweden has decided to stop calling children 'him' or 'her' in a bid to avoid gender stereotypes.

The Egalia preschool, in the Sodermalm district of Stockholm, has made the decision as part of the country efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood.

As well as the decision to stop using the words, the taxpayer-funded school also carefully plans the colour and placement of toys and the choice of books to assure they do not fall into stereotypes.

The school opened last year and is on a mission to break down gender roles - a core mission in the national curriculum for Swedish pre-schools.

The option to implement the rules is underpinned by a theory that society gives boys an unfair edge.

'Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,' says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. (You're right. That is odd...)

'Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.' (No, it gives you the chance to warp innocent children to your perversion.)

At the school, boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole.

Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction. (Have you ever seen a kid's room that's been played in? Toy placement is meaningless.)

Meanwhile, nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no 'Snow White,' 'Cinderella' or other fairy tales. (Allowing the kid's to be who they want to be, I see.)

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Rajalin says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play. 

'A concrete example could be when they're playing 'house' and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble,' she says. 'Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on.' (Because a natural family, the building block of society, is unnatural and destructive...)

Egalia's methods are controversial, with Rajalin claiming the staff have received threats from racists apparently upset about the preschool's use of black dolls.

But she says that there's a long waiting list for admission, and that only one couple has pulled a child out of the school. (If she's telling the truth, this is sad. Either only one family is paying attention, or everyone else is too warped to care.)

Jukka Korpi, 44, says he and his wife chose Egalia 'to give our children all the possibilities based on who they are and not on their gender.' (That's called higher education! Not subjecting your kids to experimentation.)

Staff at the school try to shed masculine and feminine references from their speech, including the pronouns him or her – 'han' or 'hon' in Swedish. Instead, they've have adopted the genderless 'hen'.

'We use the word "Hen" for example when a doctor, police, electrician or plumber or such is coming to the kindergarten,' Rajalin says. (Orwell just cried.)

'We don't know if it's a he or a she so we just say "Hen is coming around 2pm"; then the children can imagine both a man or a woman. This widens their view.' (Or confuses the daylights out of them.)

Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis, said he's not aware of any other school like Egalia, and he questioned whether it was the right way to go. (Understatement of the year...)

{'The kind of things that boys like to do - run around and turn sticks into swords - will soon be disapproved of,' he said.

'So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.'}  (Exactly)


That last sentence says it all. The efforts of this "school" are an attempt by overzealous feminist ideals to remove the 'strong man' from society. Don't forget, this is also one of the most de-Christianised countries in the world.


You might be be tempted to call this femi-nazi propaganda and experimentation. You'd be right. This stems from the idea that all boys get an unfair advantage from society for being boys. Therefore, the correction is to transform a boy into a girl, and of course, vice versa. This a perverted ideology with mass human experiments and relentless child indoctrination!


Gender stereotypes like calling a child HIM and HER, are no longer acceptable. After all, this will empower the kids to become gay normal. Even"dis-educational, proto-Fascist, chauvinistic literature aimed at consolidating the male supremacy like 'Cinderella' or 'Snow White'" are unacceptable and a 'hindrence' to their 'natural' development. 


Don't be fooled by the change of face, this is still the symptom of an ideology that  Lenin and Hitler used to strike such evil on humanity.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fr. Michael Rodriguez defends Catholic Teaching in El Paso



Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Michael Rodriguez, defends the Christian faith and position on homosexuality at an El Paso City Council vote to repeal medical benefits from 'unmarried partners'. He maintains that homosexual behavior is unnatural, and not a valid basis for an identity that opposes the Christian faith handed down from God. We should all desire the care for all people, however, sinful behavior is not a basis of that love.


There is a deep rooted belief that implies and instructs that separation of church and state means completely ignoring any reasoning that is religiously derived. This, however, is not the purpose of a separation of Church and State. The Church cannot control the State, but out well-founded and true beliefs are still the valid source of our earthly reasoning.


For the full video, go to the link below, and select under City Council Meetings "6/14/2011".
http://www.elpasotexas.gov/realplayer.asp

Wages of Sin: Are Sexual Sins the Worst Sins?

by Fr. Ted

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).

There is no doubt since Christianity began it taught its members to be holy as God is holy.  This has sometimes been reduced in people’s minds to referring only to morality, but holiness is not just proper external behavior, it also has to do with the state of a person’s heart, and in fact their very being including their relationship with God.  Sometimes Christians reduce the sense of holiness to sexual activity, something which was influenced by ideas presented early on in Christianity by dualists who despised the body and marriage, treating any sexual desire as a disease (St. John Cassian calls it such in his Institutes, though admittedly he is writing for monks not to all Christians).  This abhorrence of anything sexual ultimate denies the goodness of creation and is at odds with the Genesis story of God creating humans male and female as well as with the Gospel truth of the incarnation where Jesus is a male not an androgynous being).  Today, as in every generation of Christianity, we see these ideas manifesting themselves, in our times especially in claims which make homosexuality to be veritably THE unforgivable sin.   In the book IN THE WORLD, OF THE CHURCH, Paul Evdokimov notes:

Berdiaev [Nikolai Berdiaev, a 19th century Russian religious and political philosopher] stressed with reason that the Gospel is infinitely more severe toward wealth, exploitation, and social disorder than toward any sexual failing. The real problem of social obligation has been repressed and replaced by a veritable obsession with matters sexual, even up to our time.  According to the Gospel, it is the rich who will not enter the Kingdom, while repentant prostitutes enter ahead of the righteous and their influence.  ( pg. 87)

We are so often concerned with or obsessed by the sins of others, while holiness tells us when it comes to sin to specifically look at ourselves.   Christianity is a self-denying religion, but only when it comes to sin does it traditionally tell us to look at ourselves and judge rather than looking at and judging others.

Patriarch Kirill: European population will die without Christianity


Moscow, June 22, Interfax - Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill urged European religious leaders to make collective efforts to pursue the revival of Christianity within the continent.


"The Russian Orthodox Church proposes that European Christian communities unite to become partners of the states and European civil community in pursuing the revival of tangible connection between the human rights concept and the pan-European spiritual heritage," the Patriarch said at the Moscow meeting of the European Council of Religious Leaders.


According to him, only economic and political ties in Europe cannot be "a sustainable basis for the well-being of European community" and existing social values of human rights and rule of law and democracy may remain just "the forms which are unlikely to benefit in the conditions of moral relativism and sometimes may even cause harm."


Patriarch Kirill quoted "the decline of family values causing depopulation in Europe" as an example.


"How can family values be less important than the above ones, if the destruction of family causes physical reduction of the European population? Who will benefit from political developments, if European peoples cease to be or reduce to such number that their role will fail to have any significance?" he asked.


The Patriarch believes that the Soviet human rights concept involves no "clear and reasonable definition of the term human dignity" which is recognized in religious world view, therefore, Patriarch urged representatives of traditional religious communities of Europe to "make the term human dignity meaningful and establish its relation to virtue and seeking perfection."


"This is going to be our investment into generating ethical standards of both personal and social development. Currently, public environment is almost deprived of any moral models or ideals. Mass culture may only offer an image of a prosperous and successful person who can afford to meet every his or her wish," he noted.


The Patriarch expressed hope that the European Council of Religious Leaders will make its contribution to "intellectual enrichment of the European community with traditional religious values which have for centuries encouraged Europeans to seek justice and life under ethical norms generated by this tradition."


Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Prayer Rule for a Busy Life from St. Seraphim

The Simple Rule 

       Many among the simple people told St. Seraphim that on account of their illiteracy or lack of time they could not read the appointed rules of prayer. To such people Fr. Seraphim gave a rule which cold be carried out quite easily.

       Let every Christian on rising from sleep, stand before the ikons and say the following:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
(3x, in honour of the Trinity)


Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast born the Saviour of our souls.
(3x)


The Creed
 I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
 Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
 the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God;
begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And He arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into heave, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead;
Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceedeth from the Father;
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
Who spake by the prophets.
In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life or the age to come.
Amen.


      Having performed this rule, let every Christian go to the work to which he has been appointed or called. But during his work, at home, or on his way to some place, let him say softly, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. But if he is surrounded by people, while doing whatever he has to do, let him say mentally only, Lord, have mercy! and continue till lunch-time.

      Before lunch let him again perform the above-mentioned morning rule (three times).

      After lunch let every Christian while going about his business say softly; Most holy Mother of God, save me a sinner, and let him continue that until bedtime.

      If he happens to spend his time alone, let him say: Lord Jesus Christ, through the Mother of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

      At bedtime let every Christian read again the above-mentioned morning rule. Then let him go to sleep, having protected himself with the sign of the cross.
   
      By keeping this simple rule, it is possible to reach a measure of Christian perfection and divine love. -St. Seraphim

From An Extraordinary Peace: St. Seraphim, Flame of Sarov, p. 327-328

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Egyptian Christian Monk Persecution

Unfortunately, the poster of the video does not allow embedding. The link is here:

http://vimeo.com/22239744

The video is a 15 minute 'documentary style' recording of the monks in Egypt who are being persecuted by the Egyptian government. Well worth your time if you are unfamiliar with the situation.
CAUTION: The last five minutes show some injuries.

This is not an isolated event:
Assist News Service: The Egyptian uprising has left Coptic Orthodox monasteries exceedingly vulnerable, as the police who normally guard the monasteries have either deserted their posts or been redeployed to the cities. Exploiting the security vacuum, Arab raiders, jihadists and prison escapees have attacked and raided several monasteries. When the monks requested protection at the 5th Century Monastery of St Bishoy in Wadi al-Natroun, some 110km north of Cairo, they were told they would have to fend for themselves. So they built a surrounding security wall, inside their boundary. However, Islamic law mandates that Christians may neither build nor repair churches. (See last week’s RLPB 096 for some examples of consequences.)

On 21 February soldiers arrived at the monastery of St Bishoy in tanks and bulldozers. They had not come to protect the community, but to demolish the security wall. After arguing with the monks and workers, the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades. Father Feltaows was shot in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen. Six monastery workers were also wounded, one critically. The wounded are being treated in the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo. The army also attacked the Monastery of St Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, some 130km south-east of Cairo. This monastery likewise had erected a security wall after an attack by armed thugs and Arabs left six monks wounded, one critically. Not only did the military demolish the security wall, they ‘confiscated’ the monastery’s building materials. 
Full Article

What is Divine Mercy?

Divine Mercy: More Than Mercy
By: Andrew Youssef 


Abstract: 
As a group of Armenian women are publicly humiliated, tortured, and ultimately burnt to death by Turkish soldiers on account of their Armenian identity, they are heard invoking the short yet profound prayer that features most regularly in Oriental Orthodox worship: "Lord, have Mercy." They thereby bear powerful witness to the all-encompassing spirit of Divine Mercy which resonates with its conception in the Oriental Orthodox Tradition as well as the Hebrew Scriptures.





Source

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Humility is So Important

In our modern world culture, humbleness is not something that is given a high value.  More common is the encouragement to become self assertive, forceful, to act independently.  Yet Scripture and the Church Fathers continually emphasize the need for humbleness for our spiritual growth.

We know God loves us and wants to protect us.  He knows our problems. He is omnipotent so there is no problem that he cannot help us with, except for one.  That is overcoming our lack of humbleness.

Elder Paisios says,
The difficulty God faces, and I repeat, it is the only one, is the He “cannot” help us when our soul is not humble.  God “feels sad” because, while he sees His creature suffer, He “cannot” offer any help.  What ever help He offers, it will harm the person because he lacks a humble mind.

This is when we are overtaken by our passions and God allows this to happen.  He cannot help us because our soul is filled with pride and self-centered thoughts.  In a sense, in these moments we have rejected God and instead put all our trust in our own being.  We are intent on gaining whatever it is we desire.

The Elder says,
God will not give us what we are asking for, no matter how hard we try, unless we humble ourselves.  If our aim is humility, then God will give us everything for free. God desires only one thing from us: our humbleness.  He does not need anything else; just humble ourselves, so He can actually make us partakers of his divine grace, which was granted to us through the mystery of Holy Baptism.... He is only asking from us to humble ourselves and respond out of gratefulness and appreciation of His love.  Thus, divine grace, will make us love God and get to know Him; it will do everything for us, if we only humble ourselves and allow for it to act.

Saint Peter advises us,
Cloth yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.
(1 Peter 5:5-7)


Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp 88-89
H/T: Orthodox Way of Life

Sunday, June 5, 2011

An exhortation to humility.

Pope St. Clement I
        Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness”), being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: “Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you.” By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, “On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words?”
 -St. Clement, Third Bishop of Rome after St. Peter (Died, 98 AD)

Source.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel

The Chaplet of St. Michael is a wonderful way to honor this great Archangel along with the other nine Choirs of Angels. What do we mean by Choirs? It seems that God has created various orders of Angels. Sacred Scripture distinguishes nine such groupings: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Isa. 6:2; Gen. 3:24; Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38). There may be more groupings but these are the only ones that have been revealed to us. The Seraphim is believed to be the highest Choir, the most intimately united to God, while the Angelic Choir is the lowest.

The history of this Chaplet goes back to a devout Servant of God, Antonia d'Astonac, who had a vision of St. Michael. He told Antonia to honor him by nine salutations to the nine Choirs of Angels. St. Michael promised that whoever would practice this devotion in his honor would have, when approaching Holy Communion, an escort of nine angels chosen from each of the nine Choirs. In addition, for those who would recite the Chaplet daily, he promised his continual assistance and that of all the holy angels during life.

The Chaplet of St. Michael
O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, etc.

[Say one Our Father and three Hail Marys after each of the following nine salutations in honor of the nine Choirs of Angels]

1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity.
Amen.

2. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection.
Amen.

3. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility.
Amen.

4. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominations may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions.
Amen.

5. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

6. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil.
Amen.

7. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

8. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven.
Amen.

9. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven.
Amen.

Say one Our Father in honor of each of the following leading Angels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and our Guardian Angel.

Concluding prayers:

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, you who shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to you with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael Prince of Your Church, make us worthy, we ask You, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into Your Presence.This we ask through the merits of
Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

Source.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Not "Open Communion"?

A good article on the Orthodox perspective of the Eucharist.

Why Not "Open Communion"?
Written by the Very Rev. John Breck



Especially at the feast of Pascha (Easter) non-Orthodox Christians ask why they may not receive Holy Communion in Orthodox parishes.  As painful as this refusal is, it is based on our understanding of the true meaning of the sacrament as revealed in Scripture and ecclesial experience.

A few months ago someone sent me a posting from an Internet site that spoke to the issue of communion among various Christian confessions.  In answer to the question why a Protestant believer was refused the sacrament at Easter in her boyfriend’s Catholic parish, the writer declared that non-Catholics do not believe in "the presence of God’s body in the transubstantiated host."  Therefore, "they cannot take communion."

Then the writer added: "There is just one exception to this rule.  Orthodox Christians (such as Greek Orthodox Christians) may take communion in all Roman Catholic Churches.  The reason for this is that Orthodox Christianity also teaches the actual presence of God in the host."

This widespread understanding of the matter is not accurate and needs to be corrected on several counts, theological as well as pastoral.
  An entire tome could be written by way of explanation, but here are a few of the most important elements.  In the next two columns we’ll explore some others.

In the first place, we need to acknowledge that many Protestant Christians (including many Anglicans) do believe that Holy Communion offers them a true participation in Christ’s Body and Blood.  They may not articulate that belief as Catholics or Orthodox would like; but their faith in Christ’s "real presence in the Eucharist" is genuine and should not be disparaged or denied.

Then again, Orthodox Eucharistic theology does not explain the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ as a result of "transubstantiation," the teaching that the "accidents" (visible properties) of the elements remain unaltered, while their "substance" or inner essence becomes the actual Body and Blood.  Orthodox tradition speaks of "change" or "transformation," (metamorphôsis; in the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy metabalôn, "making the change") but always with a concern to preserve the mystery from the probings of human reason.  It also speaks of the Body and Blood of the glorified Christ, making the point that our communion is in the personal being of the Resurrected and Exalted Lord, and not in the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus, torn and shed on the Cross.  The incarnate Jesus and the risen Christ are certainly one and the same Person ("Jesus Christ is Lord," the apostle Paul declares in Philippians 2:11).  But our communion is in the radically transformed reality of the risen Christ, who ascended into heaven and makes Himself accessible to us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church.

Another point needs to be stressed.  It is true that Orthodox Christians are considered by some Catholic priests to be eligible to receive communion in their parishes; but this practice is not formally sanctioned by the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Holy Office or Magisterium).  On the other hand, the Orthodox Churches, united above all by their Eucharistic faith and practice, accept to communion only baptized Orthodox Christians, and then, theoretically, only when they have prepared themselves by prayer, by appropriate fasting, and -- in most traditions -- by confession of sins.  In addition, Orthodox bishops and other teachers make clear to their faithful that they can only properly receive communion from a canonically ordained priest or bishop within the context of the traditional Orthodox Divine Liturgy (which includes communion taken to the sick).

It is hardly enough, though, simply to state that the Orthodox do not teach "transubstantiation" (despite the term’s appearance in some of our liturgical books) and, if they are faithful to their tradition, do not receive communion outside of their own Church.  There is also the crucial matter of "ecclesial identity."  No Orthodox Christian receives Holy Communion in isolation.  We are incorporated into a universal community of persons, both living and departed, whose common faith and practice unite them in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Our existence in the Body of Christ, our ecclesial identity as Orthodox Christians, is such that we represent the Church in all that we are and do.  If I defy the ordinances of my ecclesial tradition and receive communion in another Church, or as a priest welcome a non-Orthodox believer to receive the Eucharist in my parish, I am acting in violation of my own tradition, to which I have committed myself before God.  And because of my solidarity with all other members of the Orthodox Church, I am implicitly involving them in my act of disobedience.

The real issue, however, is not one of obedience or disobedience to rules and regulations. 
If the Orthodox preserve the sanctity of the Eucharist as a supreme obligation, it is because of the often stated truth that communion in the Body and Blood of Christ is the very end or fulfillment of Christian existence.  It can not, for example, be reduced to a means by which to achieve "Christian unity."  (In any case, Church history has made it clear that sharing of Communion among Churches of conflicting theological teachings never results in lasting unity.)


The Eucharist is life itself.  It is the life of Christ that enables us to live our life in Christ.  To participate in the Eucharist as we are called to do requires our acceptance of a doctrinal attitude and commitment that is specifically "orthodox," grounded in the Scriptures and transmitted through the ages under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It requires as well acceptance of an ascetic discipline, which includes personal prayer, liturgical celebration, fasting, confession of sins, and acts of charity: the ingredients of a life of repentance and of an ongoing quest for holiness.  And it requires that we honor our particular "ecclesial identity," together with submission to ecclesial authority represented above all by our bishops: persons canonically ordained and established, who are called by their actions and teachings to preserve and transmit the truth of the Orthodox faith while maintaining a bond of unity within the Body of Christ.  A unity grounded not in power but in mutual respect and fraternal love, shared by all members of the Church.

From this perspective, "open communion" -- the welcoming of non-Orthodox to share in the Eucharistic celebration -- is simply not possible without undermining the very meaning of the sacrament.
  This implies no particular judgment on the Eucharistic services of other Churches.  It acknowledges rather that for the Orthodox, the Divine Liturgy is what the name implies.  It is both the means and the end of Christian existence, an existence which arises from Orthodox faith, ongoing repentance, ascetic discipline, ecclesial identity and works of love.  To those who accept this "Orthodox Way," the Eucharist offers a true participation in the very Life of the risen and glorified Christ, just as it offers the forgiveness of sins, the healing of soul and body, and a foretaste of the heavenly Banquet in the eternal presence of God.

Our Sin Blinds Us

By St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
(Click on the name for more on St. Tikhon)

Whatever physical darkness is for the eyes, so is sin for the human soul. The spiritual darkness so darkens and blinds the eyes of the soul, that the sinner walks like the blind:
he doesn't know where the path leads him; he doesn't see before him the torment of an eternal death in which he might fall; he doesn't distinguish vice from virtue, evil from good, truth from lies, true good fortune from evil fortune, and, thus, seeing he does not see and acts by touching like the blind.

Does he live in good fortune? He becomes violent, as an untrained and unrestrained horse, and does not see that with this good fortune God draws him to Himself as a father of a little child draws an apple. Will misfortune visit him? He grumbles, is indignant and blames, that as if he told a lie; he makes complaints and says a malicious word: "Am I a liar? In what have I sinned? Am I really more sinful than others? Am I worthy of this? Does my work deserve this?" He justifies himself, being full of every kind of untruth; he cleanses himself, being all besmirched; he considers himself unworthy of temporal punishment, but worthy of the eternal; he praises his merits, which stand for nothing.

All of creation, the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and its fulfillment, as if by mouth "tells of the glory of God" (Psalm 16:2); but the blind sinner does not feel the majesty of His glory and does not tremble. God, both through creation and by His word, reveals Himself for everyone; but the sinner, like a deaf person, does not hear His word and does not recognize the Lord. He hears the name of God, but he does not recognize God: he hears the voice of the Lord only with carnal instead of spiritual ears, and therefore, "hearing he does not hear and seeing he does not see".

When God is preached by His holy word, then His sacred will is also preached; but the sinner doesn't know it and does not make it his own. His omnipotence and majesty is preached, before which the sinner is not humble. His righteousness is preached before which the sinner is not afraid and does not honor. His truth is preached before which the sinner does not believe. His omnipresence is preached, before which the sinner does not show reverence. He does not show it because does not recognize Him. His most wise reason is preached, in which the sinner does not discern. His highest holiness is preached which the sinner does not honor. His supreme authority is preached which the sinner does not obey. His awesome glory is preached which the sinner does not honor. His timeless goodness is preached, in which the sinner makes no effort to participate.
His fearful judgment is preached before which the sinner does not tremble, and so forth. Thus, the sinner is like "the man out of his mind who cannot know, and the stupid who cannot understand" (LXX Psalm 91:7) God and the acts of God.

And not only in relation to God, but also in relation to his neighbor, i.e. to any human, the blind man is a carnal and unenlightened man. We see that a person does evil to his neighbor, which he himself does not want; and does not do good to him, which he himself wants. We see that he is indignant and angry at the one who offends him; he abuses, abases, blames, discredits, lies about him, steals, kidnaps, takes away that which is his, and does other offenses; but he himself does such evil, or repays evil with evil, and is not ashamed and does not sense this. On the other hand, he wants his neighbor to be merciful to him and not leave him in need, for example: to quench his thirst and to give him drink when he thirsts, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger into his home and to comfort the sick and visit those in prison and do other works of mercy for him. All of this he wants, this truth is indisputable, but he himself does not want to do the same for a neighbor. We see that this evil is self-love, an untruth and blindness in Christians, who either silently pass by his neighbors living in misery as if not seeing them, or is ashamed to ask: "what can I do for him?" Many have plentiful food and a magnificent table for themselves, but do not care about a hungry neighbor; others wear all kinds of expensive clothes, and do not care about their naked neighbor; others build rich, large and tall houses and decorate the rest of the building, but for their neighbor who does not have a place to lay his head and to rest they do not care; they have silver, gold and other riches, comfortable for soul and life, that is kept whole and is saved, but there is no care for their neighbor who is burdened with debt and it is torment or prison for him for his shortfalls or sitting debts and suffering. We see this self-love and untruth in Christians: for not only they do evil, but also they don't do good for their neighbors, there is the untruth.

But, what it is even worse, we see that many Christians are not ashamed and are not afraid to steal, to kidnap and to be cunning, to flatter, to lie, to deceive, to slander, to scandalize, to denounce, to abuse, to commit adultery and make other offenses against their neighbor that they themselves would not want. All this comes from blindness.





Source.

H/T: Mystagogy

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Archbishop Demetrios on Suffering

"If we have the eyes to see, and a heart that is open to God’s movement, suffering helps us delve much deeper than the superficial level of life at which so many of us live. Suffering pushes aside the shallowness of life, and helps us focus solely on what is eternal – God Himself. Taken in this manner, the Christian understanding of suffering is this unique opportunity to see and meet God."

-Archbishop Demetrios of America

Friday, May 27, 2011

God's Existence: The Argument from Contingency

... as summarized by the great apologist Frank Sheed:
If we consider the universe, we find that everything in it bears this mark, that it does exist but might very well not have existed. We ourselves exist, but we would not have existed if a man and a woman had not met and mated. The same mark can be found upon everything. A particular valley exists because a stream of water took that way down, perhaps because the ice melted up there. If the melting ice had not been there, there would have been no valley. And so with all the things of our experience. They exist, but they would not have existed if some other thing had not been what it was or done what it did.

None of these things, therefore, is the explanation of its own existence or the source of its own existence. In other words, their existence is contingent upon something else. Each thing possesses existence, and can pass on existence; but it did not originate its existence. It is essentially a receiver of existence. Now it is impossible to conceive of a universe consisting exclusively of contingent beings, that is, of beings which are only receivers of existence and not originators. The reader who is taking his role as explorer seriously might very well stop reading at this point and let his mind make for itself the effort to conceive a condition in which nothing should exist save receivers of existence.

Anyone who has taken this suggestion seriously and pondered the matter for himself before reading on, will have seen that the thing is a contradiction in terms and therefore an impossibility. If nothing exists save beings that receive their existence, how does anything exist at all? Where do they receive their existence from? In such a system made up exclusively of receivers, one being may have got it from another, and that from still another, but how did existence get into the system at all? Even if you tell yourself that this system contains an infinite number of receivers of existence, you still have not accounted for existence. Even an infinite number of beings, if no one of these is the source of its own existence, will not account for existence.

Thus we are driven to see that the beings of our experience, the contingent beings, could not exist at all unless there is also a being which differs from them by possessing existence in its own right. It does not have to receive existence; it simply has existence. It is not contingent: it simply is. This is the Being that we call God.
All this may seem very simple and matter of course, but in reality we have arrived at a truth of inexhaustible profundity and of inexhaustible fertility in giving birth to other truths.
From Theology and Sanity (pp. 54-55), available in both paperback and electronic book formats.
The Ignatius Press