Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sub Tuum Praesidium

     This article was posted over at the New Liturgical Movement blog a few weeks ago. If you are not already familiar with this prayer, you may be interested in it's particular style and content.  Having a mid-third century origin, it's antiquity is intriguing alone, but probably most astonishing is the focus of the prayer. A petition to Mary, the Mother of God, identifiable not only as ancient (as is to be expected for any Catholic and Orthodox faithful), but also as maintaining the same Christian theology that is demanded as authentic by these same churches. Some Protestant circles, in an attempt to discredit the historical authenticity of Apostolic theology, have maintained the early Church's corruption in the fourth century, as if God's Church was lost and then reappeared suddenly 1,200 years later in the Reformation movements. However, this prayer, predating that stance, helps bring an already lacking point-of-view, to a standstill.

    The article is posted in full for you here, however I would encourage you to take a full tour of the NLM website, when you get a chance.

The Sub Tuum Praesidium

Guest article by Henri de Villiers, Paris
The Sub tuum praesidium is probably the oldest Christian prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This prayer was long used in both Eastern and Western rites, even if numerous variants existed at the time. In 1917, the John Rylands Library in Manchester managed to acquire a large panel of Egyptian papyrus -- the exact area where they were discovered is unknown -- including an 18 cm by 9.4 cm fragment containing the text of this prayer in Greek.

I. An Egyptian Papyrus of the Third Century

C.H. Roberts published this document in 1938 (cf. Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library, III, Theological and literacy Texts, Manchester 1938, pp. 46-47). Roberts then dated this piece of papyrus back to the fourth century, thinking it was impossible to find an invocation to the Theotokos before this century (we will however see below, that the expression Theotokos was already in use in Alexandria before 250).

However his colleague E. Lobel, with whom he collaborated in editing the Oxyrhynchus papyri, basing his arguments on pure paleographic analysis, argued that the text could not possibly be older than the third century, and most probably was written between 250 and 280. A contributor to Roberts, H.J. Bell, even said that this document might be a "model for an engraver" considering the beauty of the uncials. The Sub tuum praesidium thus precedes by several centuries the Ave Maria in Christian prayer.

On the papyrus, we can read:
That is this greek text:
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν
Θεοτὸκε· τὰς ἡμῶν
ἱκεσίας μὴ παρ-
ίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνου
λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς
μόνη ἁγνὴ
μόνη εὐλογημένη.
A literal Latin version might be:
Sub tuam
Dei Genitrix ! nostras
deprecationes ne des-
picias in necessitatibus
sed a perditione
salva nos
sola pura,
sola benedicta.
And an English translation could be: 
Under your
we take refuge,
Mother of God! Our
prayers, do not despise
in necessities,
but from the danger
deliver us,
only pure,
only blessed.

II. A Prayer of Great Value

Like all ancient liturgical prayers, the Sub tuum praesidium has a noble simplicity and conciseness of expression, combined with a fresh spontaneity.

Several biblical references may be seen, the last term, "blessed", referring to Elizabeth's salutation: Benedicta tu in mulieribus - Blessed art thou among women (Luke I, 42).

Historical Value

The supplication to the Virgin Mary by the Christian community in danger places, without doubt, the invocation in the context of persecution (of Valerian or of Decius).

Theological Value

A first remarkable point resides in the fact that the Egyptian Christian community turns directly to Mary and asks for her protection. Christians have realized that the Virgin is close to their suffering and asked her help explicitly, thereby recognizing the power of her intercession.

Three fundamental theological truths are admirably synthesized:

1. The special election of Mary by God ("only blessed").
2. The perpetual Virginity of Mary ("only pure").
3. The Divine Motherhood ("Mother of God"; "Mother" may be considered as a poor translation of Genitrix).

The designation of Mary as Theotokos during the third century, therefore two hundred years before the arguments linked to the theses of Nestorius -- an issue resolved by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 -- already created problems for C.H. Roberts, the editor of the Egyptian text as stated above. One must realize that the term Theotokos ("Dei Genetrix") is not an invention of the fifth century.

During the fourth century, the term was already quite popular in the area of Alexandria (St. Alexander of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Serapion of Thmuis, Didymus the Blind), and also in Arabia (Tite of Bostra), in Palestine (Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Cyril of Jerusalem), Cappadocia (St. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, Severian of Gabala) and even among the Arians (Asterius the Sophist).

Moreover, the term may be encountered during the third century, precisely in the work of the Alexandrian school. According to the testimony of the ecclesiastical historian Socrates (Hist. Eccl. VII, 32 - PG 67, 812 B), Origen would have used it in his commentary -- unfortunately lost -- on the Epistle to the Romans. His disciple, Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, also used the term of Theotokos around the year 250 in an epistle to Paul of Samosata. It is interesting to note that the term did not remain a mere theological concept, considering that it received a liturgical dimension in Egypt during the same period. However, it is difficult to determine if it is the theological discourse that influenced the liturgical prayer, or vice versa.

Still, one can better understand the extraordinary pugnacity of St. Cyril of Alexandria against the Nestorian theses in the fifth century, since obviously, the term Theotokos was already part of the deposit of the faith lived and sung in the liturgy of Alexandria for quite some time.

Versions of the Text

Besides the Greek text, ancient versions can be found in Coptic, Syriac, Armenian and Latin.

Regarding the latter, the version used by the Roman rite was surely done directly from the Coptic version of the text (as in the case of the Coptic text, it uses the term praesidium instead of misericordia) without really referring to the Greek text. The Ambrosian form of the text depends much more on the Byzantine tradition.

The Roman text:
Sub tuum
sancta Dei Genitrix :
nostras deprecationes
ne despicias
in necessitatibus,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa
et benedicta.
The Ambrosian text:
Sub tuam
Dei Génitrix :
ut nostram deprecatiónem
ne indúcas
in tentatiónem,
sed de perículo
líbera nos,
sola casta
et benedícta.
A literal translation of the Roman text:
Under your
we take refuge
Holy Mother of God;
our petitions,
do not despise
in necessities,
but of all dangers
deliver us always
glorious Virgin
& Blessed.
A literal translation of the Ambrosian text:
Under your
we take refuge
Mother of God;
may our petitions
not be abandoned
into temptation,
but from danger
deliver us,
only pure
& blessed.

In the Roman text the adjective "gloriosa" replaced "casta"; it is a later interpolation. This expression is absent from the oldest extant example of the text (the Antiphonary of Compiègne) and also in the Dominican version; both only say Virgo benedicta. The musical phrasing also affected the sense of the Roman text, wrongly attributing "semper" to "libera nos" when it should clearly be attributed to "Virgo": we should read "libera nos, semper Virgo" instead of"libera nos semper, Virgo". French musicologist Amédée Gastoué (1873 † 1943) thought that the change in allocation of "ever" was made in the Roman antiphon to fit in a preexisting musical phrase, possibly an Eastern one. The Ambrosian text also has an interpolation of the Greek text: "ne inducas in tentationem" -- a clear influence of the Lord's Prayer -- has replaced"ne despicias in necessitate".

Spread and Liturgical Use

The antiphon was used in the Coptic liturgy at Vespers during Christmas time. It is also known in the Byzantine, Roman and Ambrosian rites. In each of these rites, though venerable and ancient, the Sub tuum praesidium has a discreet, humble, even marginal place. Yet despite this modest place within the liturgy, the piety of faithful Christians has always held this venerable prayer in high esteem in both East and West, even before its great antiquity was known by the analysis of the papyrus of the Rylands collection.

* In the Byzantine rite:

The Sub tuum is sung during Vespers in Lent in the middle of the final prayers after 3 troparia: the Ave Maria, a Troparion to St. John the Baptist, and a Troparion to the Holy Apostles. This place assimilates the text to the role of an apolytikion troparion which changes each day during the rest of the year. The apolytikia troparia are related to the singing of the Canticle of Simeon, which begins with the words in Greek Νῦν ἀπολύεις (Nunc dimittis). It is very likely that this series of fixed troparia at the end of Vespers during Lent represents an old state of the rite. Variable troparia were probably substituted for them for other days of the year. Moreover, the Horologion Grottaferrata seems to assign them at the end of ferial Vespers also during the year (Horologion, Rome 1876, p. 104).

In the Russian tradition, the Sub tuum praesidium is often sung for devotion, even outside of Lent, with the addition of the invocation "Пресвѧтаѧ Богородице спаси насъ" ("Most Holy Mother of God, save us") added to the end. Russian believers are very attached to this troparion. Parishes still widely use the text that predates the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in 1586; this fact is a clear sign of the strength of this attachment (such an attachment to the pre-Nikonian version is not observed for any other famous pieces of the repertoire - for example the Easter Troparion or "More honorable than the Cherubim").

The "Old Believers" text:
Подъ твою милость,
прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво,
молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ.
но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,
едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.
The reformed text by Nikon:
Подъ твое благѹтробїе
прибѣгаемъ Богородице,
моленїѧ наша не презри во ωбстоѧнїй,
но ѿ бѣдъ исбави ны,
едина Чистаѧ, едина Благословеннаѧ.

Here is the reformed version of Nikon in Slavonic writing:

Among the polyphonic settings, Dimitri Bortniansky's version is the most in favor. Here is a great interpretation:

Our prayer is currently unknown in the Syriac and Armenian liturgies, or only by the Latin influence in the Uniate churches (the Maronites use it with the Litany of Loreto).

* In the Ambrosian rite:

In the Ambrosian rite this piece is sung as the 19th antiphon of the procession of the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin on Feb. 2, a procession of 21 antiphons, many of which are originally Greek. It's music is similar to that of a Roman second tone. The 20th antiphon of the procession, that follows, presents a text quite similar to the previous one and is built on the same melody:

It seems very likely that this antiphon, introduced in the Ambrosian rite for this procession, was of Oriental origin (remember, Pope St. Sergius I, born in Antioch, is said to have brought the procession of Candlemas from the East to Rome).

However, the antiphon has been reused in other parts of the Ambrosian liturgy. In the Middle Ages, the antiphon is a litanic psallenda for the sixth Sunday of Advent (according to the codex T 103 Sup. from the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana). Today it also used as the Antiphona Post Evangelium for the two votive Masses (ferial and solemn) of the Holy Virgin on Saturdays. Two feasts, on July 16 (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) and August 5 (Dedication of St. Maria-ad-Nives), employ both pieces of the votive Mass on Saturdays, and therefore also have it as Antiphona Post Evangelium. The singing of this antiphon was favoured by the people of Milan.

* In the Roman rite:

The Sub tuum praesidium is used as an antiphon at the Nunc Dimittis for Compline of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. Here is the plain-song of tone VII, from the Roman Antiphonal of 1912:

More anecdotally, the Sub tuum praesidium is quoted as verse of the fifth responsory of the second nocturn of the feast of the Motherhood of the Virgin on October 11th, a feast instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1931 to celebrate the 15th centennial of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus.

Historically, the oldest extant example of the use of Sub tuum in the Roman rite is found in the antiphonal of Compiègne (from the 9th-10th century), which provides it among the Benedictus antiphons for the Feast of the Assumption (Migne, PL 78, 799).

* In the Dominican rite:

As in the Roman liturgy, the Dominican rite also uses the Sub tuum as an antiphon for the Nunc dimittis at Compline for several feasts of the Virgin and at the office on Saturdays. The brothers kneel for the singing the antiphon after the Nunc dimittis. Here are the plainsong and the rubrics from the book of Compline of 1949:

The list of feasts where the Sub tuum is used was originally smaller, as we can see in the antiphonal of 1862:

* In the Monastic use:

The antiphon is for devotional use. Here is the Sub tuum as contained in the Appendix of the Antiphonale Monasticum of Solesmes published in 1934:

* In the other Western uses and the piety of the faithful:

The former medieval and post-medieval practice in several dioceses, especially in France, was to use the Sub tuum as the final antiphon at Compline -- as in the rite of Paris until the 19th century -- instead of the Salve Regina, by devotion.

Outside the strict frame of the liturgy, piety favoured the ancient prayer. Dom André Wilmart published in 1932 a curious medieval Office in honour of the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary which is attributed to Innocent IV (Authors spiritual, Paris, 1932, pp. 518, 523-26), in which theSub tuum praesidium is the opening prayer of every hour instead of the Pater or the Ave Maria.

In modern times the Salesians used it in honor of Mary Help of Christians, while the Jesuits employed it for their exercises of piety in common.

In France, the catechism sessions organized by the Fathers of Christian Doctrine or the Jesuits included prayers easy to sing by children, among them the Sub tuum. Thus, Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote his Sub tuum praesidium (H. 352) to be sung as "second motet for catechism, for the middle break." Here is its elegant melody:

Still in France from the nineteenth century onwards, the Sub tuum is frequently used for benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The Sub tuum is often associated with the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, as, for example, in the ordo of the procession made for the vow of Louis XIII in the proper of the diocese of Paris. Many old French liturgical books present the Sub tuum in a beautiful plainsong melody of the tone II. Here it is, taken from an edition of Digne of 1858:


At the end of this small study of comparative liturgy, it is interesting to track that this Egyptian antiphon of the third century has remained consistently linked to the end of Evening prayer, as we have seen in the Byzantine liturgy and in the Roman liturgy; the sung context of this piece is related to the end of the evening service and more specifically to the singing of the Canticle of Simeon (a hymn which is also at the heart of the feast of the Purification). From the trusting abandonment into the hands of Divine Providence that the Canticle of Simeon proclaims (Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace), the piety of the faithful have added the same confident abandonment into the protection of our Heavenly Mother.

A partial indulgence is attached to the recitation of the Sub tuum praesidium.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Responding to a Spiritual Yearning

Many of us experience some kind of unexplainable spiritual yearning to be closer to God. We may already be regular church goers, but there is an inner urging that is trying to get our attention that has not totally broken through.  This is the grace that we gain at our baptism struggling to be heard.  After our Baptism it is unnatural for us to be separated from God and we tend to live with a restless spirit within trying to gain our attention. 

As soon as you experience this spiritual yearning, you need to make a conscious choice about responding to it.  Saint Theophan the Recluse says "You need to examine the matter thoroughly and make a firm and unyielding decision, being aware of all the labors, obstacles and difficulties which lie ahead, so hat you may stand up to them with courageous inspiration until the end of your life."1

As you begin to examine it, first, decide if you truly believe this is God within you calling you to be with him.  If you think this to be true, then you will have a desire to act on it.  You will think this is important for you eternal life with God in heaven and who does not want to go to heaven?  But, just having this desire is not sufficient.  Saint Theophan advises us, "You need to resolve firmly to begin a process of labor towards this."2

Here is how he says a desire is fulfilled:
In order for a desire to be fulfilled, it is necessary to elevate it to the level of firm intention or decision, and it is necessary for the heart to say within itself, "No matter what happens, I will obtain such-and-such a deed." Once this has been pronounced within the heart, their immediately begins a thinking out of how to realize what has been decided.3

A firm decision to act is important but still not sufficient.  You need to actually take some action. Hoping that God will make you do what is necessary is not sufficient.  You need to activate your will to respond to God's nudging. God never forces Himself on anyone and awaits your action. You may or may not know clearly what you need to do.  It may be to begin a more disciplined prayer life, to prepare for Confession or some other established ascetic activity prescribed by the Church.  If it's clear, then do it. If not, then take action to see your spiritual Father for help.  If you do not have one, then act to find and go see one.  Even if you do know what to do, if its not something you have already discussed with your spiritual Father then you should meet with him to get his view on your action you are about to take. 

Above all, do not to procrastinate and to let this desire subside.  This inner yearning is a gift you have been given by the Holy Spirit and each time you ignore its working within you, the less likely it will be for it to return.  To procrastinate is affirming that other things in your life are more important than your relationship with God.  This is exactly what the devil wants you to do.  As your worldly activities take over, the nudging from within weakens, and you end up doing nothing.  The opportunity is lost for you to act and the desire is no longer with you. Your separation from God grows even greater.

Saint Theophan says, that if you do not choose grace "it will abandon you completely, and leave you in the hand of your self-will."4

1 p. 137
2 p. 138
3 p. 139
4 p. 129

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

St. Macarius of Egypt on Christians

St Macarius of Egypt (or St. Makarios the Great) lived in the fourth century from around 300-391 AD. A man who preferred personal pious devotion to God throughout his entire life is succeeded by a few remaining homilies and stories, as well as the 'Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great' in Scetes, Egypt. The monastery has has been in continual use since it's founding 1,600 years ago and is also the final resting place of this Saint's body.

In studying history, and in this respect, Church history, one can quickly see that man falls prey to the same sins. Knowing this can be helpful, in that the lessons of past Saints very much relevant to this day and age.

From a selection of homilies, St. Macarius can be found remarking on the merits of Christianity. His comments can sound eerily familiar to the concerns of the modern ear.

HOMILY 4: There is a wide difference between Christians and the men of this world.

1. THE world of Christians, and their way of life, and their mind, and discourse, and practice, is one thing; and that of the men of this world, another. And the difference between them is very wide. For the children of this world are tossed to and fro by unsettled seasonings, by earthly desires, and a variety of gross imaginations, whereby SATAN is continually sifting the whole sinful race of men.

2. For the word that was spoken to Cain by his Maker, “You shall go mourning and trembling, and be tossed about upon' the earth," is a type and image of all sinners, as to their inward state. For thus is the race of Adam tossed about with the incessant suggestions of fear and dread, and every kind of disturbance, the prince of this world tossing to and fro the soul that is not born of God; and variously disturbing the thoughts of mankind, as corn that is continually shifted about in a sieve; and shaking and ensnaring them all in worldly deceits, and the lusts of the flesh, with fears and troubles.

3. As from one Adam the whole race of mankind was spread over the earth,-so one taint in the affections was derived down into the sinful stock of men; and the prince of malice is sufficiently able to shift them all in restless, and gross, and vain, and troublesome reflections. For as one and the same wind is enough to stir, and shake all plants and seeds whatever,-so the prince of wickedness, as an hidden and blustering wind, tosseth to and fro all the race of men upon earth, and, carries them about with unsettled thoughts, and enticing them with the lusts of the world, fills every soul with ignorance, blindness, and oblivion, if it is not born from above.

4. For in this do true Christians differ from the whole race of mankind besides. They have their heart and mind constantly taken up with the thoughts of heaven; and, through the presence and participation of the Holy Spirit, do behold, as in a glass, the good things which are eternal, being born of GOD from above, and thought worthy to become the children of GOD in truth and power; and being arrived, through many conflicts and labors, to a settled and fixed state, to an exemption from trouble, to perfect rest, are never sifted more by unsettled and vain thoughts. Herein are they greater and better than the world; their mind and the desire of their soul are in the peace of CHRIST, and the love of the Spirit; a they have passed from death to life." Wherefore the alteration peculiar to Christians does not consist in any outward fashions, but in the renovation of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love of the Lord, even the heavenly love. Herein Christians differ from all men besides. The Lord has given them truly to believe on him, and to be worthy of those spiritual good things. For the glory, and the beauty, and the heavenly riches of Christians are inexpressible, and purchased only with labor, and pains, and trials, and many conflicts. But the whole is owing to the grace of God.

5. Now if the sight of. even an earthly king is desired by all men, (except those persons that are spiritual, who look upon all his glory as nothing, through their having experimentally known another heavenly glory;) if, I say, the men of this world are so desirous to behold an earthly king, with his splendor and glory-how much more are those upon whom that dew of the Spirit of life has dropped, and wounded their hearts with love for CHRIST; bound fast to that beauty, and the unspeakable glory, and the inconceivable riches of the true and eternal King; with desire and long-suffering after whom they are captivated, turning wholly to him, to obtain those unspeakable good things, which through the Spirit they actually behold already; and for whose sake they esteem all the glories, and honors, and riches of earthly kings as nothing?

6. For they arc wounded with the Divine beauty; their desire is towards the heavenly King; and placing him only before their eyes in the abundance of their affection, they, for his sake, disengage themselves from all love of the world, and draw back from every earthly clog, that so they may be able ever to retain in their hearts that only desire. And they that are Christians in truth and power, rejoice at their departure out of the flesh, because they have " that house which is not made with hands." And therefore, if the house of the body be destroyed, they are in no fear; for they have the heavenly "house of the Spirit," and that "glory which is incorruptible."

7. Let us therefore strive by faith to be possessed of that clothing, that when we resume the body, there be nothing wanting which may glorify our flesh in that day. For every one, so far as he has been thought worthy by faith to be made partaker of the Holy Spirit, in the same proportion shall his body also be glorified in that day. For that which the soul has treasured up within, in this present life, shall then be made manifest outwardly in the body.

8. For as the trees that have got over the winter do, by an invisible power, put forth from within, and shoot out leaves., and flowers, and fruits, as their clothing.and in like manner, as the flowers of the grass come out of the bosom of the earth, and the earth is covered and clothed-so, in the, day of the resurrection, and through the power of the a Sun of righteousness," there shooteth out from within the glory of the Holy Spirit, covering the bodies of the saints, which glory they had before, within hidden in their souls. For whatever (the soul) has at present, the same comes forth at that time outwardly in the body.

9. Therefore ought everyone of us to strive, and be diligent in all virtue, and to believe and to seek it of the Lord; that the inward man may be made partaker of that glory in this present life, and have that holiness of the Spirit, that we may have at the resurrection wherewith to cover our naked bodies, and refresh us to all eternity in the kingdom of heaven. For CHRIST will come down from heaven, and raise to life all the kindred of Adam that have slept from the beginning of the world and he shall separate them all into two divisions; and them that have his own mark, that is, the seal of the Spirit, he shall place on his right hand. And then shall the bodies of these -be surrounded with a Divine glory from their good works, and themselves shall be full of the glory of the Spirit, which they had in their souls in this present life. So that, being thus glorified in the Divine light, and snatched away to " meet the Lord in the air, we," as it is- written, "shall ever be avith the Lord," reigning with him world without end.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Difficult Path of Giving Thanks

From Glory To God For All Things:
By Father Stephen

The mark of a soul that loves wisdom always gives thanks to God. If you have suffered evil, give thanks and it is changed to good. He has not sinned who suffered the evil but he who has done the evil. Give thanks even in disease, lack of possessions, or false accusations. It is not we who are injured but those who are the authors of them. – St. John Chrysostom


My experience in writing and teaching about the life of thanksgiving has had a fairly consistent response. I find general agreement among readers when I write that we should “give thanks to God in all things,” meaning that we give thanks to God despite our circumstances – the relationship of thanksgiving is removed from the circumstance in which we find ourselves.

I have a completely different response when I write about giving God thanks for all things. The insane activity (or so it would seem) of giving God thanks for the cancer one has, or for the tragic death of a child or other loved one, is more than many people can bear.

How thankful should we be and for what should we be thankful?

St. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:20 that we should be “giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ,” is not ambiguous. The underlying Greek uses the construction [hyper panton] which cannot be interpreted as “in” all things. It clear means “thanks for all things.”

The quote from St. John Chrysostom given above echoes this same commandment:

If you have suffered evil, give thanks and it is changed to good. He has not sinned who suffered the evil but he who has done the evil. Give thanks even in disease, lack of possessions, or false accusations.

The scandalous nature of the commandment, to my mind, underlines its place within the Kingdom of God. Anyone can give thanks for good things, or even give thanks to God despite the bad things that surround them. But the purposeful giving of thanks for even the bad things, is repulsive. It is this very plunging into the heart of the repulsive that carries the mark of the Cross. The Cross “makes Him to be sin who knew no sin.” (2 Cor. 5:21). Where is the justice in that? There is no justice – only love. It is the same love that is “gathering together in one all things in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:10).

The life that we are called to live as Christians is the “eucharistic” life [eucharistein=to give thanks]. It is the most essential activity for humanity. In living out this calling, we fulfill the “priesthood of all believers.” That for which we cannot or will not give thanks is that which we are excluding from the Kingdom – from the possibility of redemption in Christ.

We are commanded to love our enemies (many of the fathers also teach that we should give thanks to God for our enemies).

There is no “limited atonement.” Christ is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no modifying clause, nothing that delimits what sins it is Christ takes away. From an Orthodox understanding, Christ’s descent into hades (at the moment of His death) is an entrance into the whole of human sin, the fullness of our emptiness.

It is the good God who loves mankind who offers Himself on our behalf, and also makes it possible for us to be united to His offering. We become creatures of the Eucharist, and are transformed from grace to grace into the image of Christ, becoming eucharistic beings. We become what we were always created to be.

The limitations of our thanks (which is quite common) is also a limitation on God’s grace, refusing for His grace to work in all the world and for it to work in the whole of our own lives.

There is no two-storey universe of thanksgiving. We give thanks always for all things – else we risk giving thanks for nothing at all. I understand that this is a hard word for many and I do not say these things lightly. I know the pain of losing a child, of murders within my family, of tormenting disease ravaging loved ones, and all the tragedy that is common to most. And yet I have seen no other way towards healing and reconciliation other than the fullness of giving thanks as taught in the Scripture.

Glory to God for all things!

God isn't some grand puppeteer in a game world of His own personal satisfaction. However, you never know what events may be used to slingshot you closer to Him. With our small "soda straw" point of view, you may never see how until years later. You should still Trust in Him, that being like Him, is our purpose, too.