Gratitude and Grace at Thanksgiving Time

Gratitude and Grace at Thanksgiving Time Thanks to Godby Glenn Fairman -
As another Thanksgiving has come full circle and we again come face to face with a bounty of foods set before us that in most ages would have been relegated to princes and rajahs, let us not forget that this day flows naturally from the wellspring of Gratitude and Grace — of humility and realization that we as a race are not sufficient — that we have never been islands unto ourselves. And we should further acknowledge that although a great remnant of Americans have not bowed their heads to the false Spirit of the Collective, there still exists a legion of invisible shoulders that we now stand upon for which we are compelled, by what is best within us, to give humble thanks.

Indeed, we are the blessed heirs of hard-won liberties and material blessings that our fathers vaguely but dutifully dreamed over while toiling and praying in yeomanly fashion that their children might be better people, living equally better lives. Yet nevertheless, as we now stand astride our precious but dwindling legacies of plenty, a vague dissatisfaction lurking in the well of our souls whispers to us that this is not enough. And for the Children of God, who were fashioned for the purpose of basking in the starlike glory of his countenance, any blessing divorced from an obligation to its vital source could never have been enough. [Read more...]

Met. Hilarion: Militant Secularism and Radical Islamism Threaten Christianity

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk by Metropolitan Hilarion – (From his address at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches.)

In my address I would like to focus on two fundamental challenges which the Christian world today faces in varying degrees. The first is that of the militant secularism which is gathering strength in the so called developed countries, primarily in Europe and America. The second is that of radical Islamism that poses a threat to the very existence of Christianity in a number of regions of the world, mainly in the Middle East, but also in some parts of Asia and Africa.

Militant secularism in Europe has a long history going back to the period of the French revolution. But it is only in the twentieth century in the countries of the so called socialist bloc that godlessness was elevated to the level of state ideology. As regards the so called capitalist countries, they preserved to a significant degree the Christian traditions which shaped their cultural and moral identity. [Read more...]

Solzhenitsyn: The Courage to be Christian

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Courage to be Christianby Joseph Pearce -
“In these dark days in which the power of secular fundamentalism appears to be on the rise and in which religious freedom seems to be imperiled, it is easy for Christians to become despondent. The clouds of radical relativism seem to obscure the light of objective truth and it can be difficult to discern any silver lining to help us illumine the future with hope.”

In such gloomy times the example of the martyrs can be encouraging. Those who laid down their lives for Christ and His Church in worse times than ours are beacons of light, dispelling the darkness with their baptism of blood. “Upon such sacrifices,” King Lear tells his soon to be martyred daughter Cordelia, “The gods themselves throw incense.”

It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and, if this is so, more bloody seed has been sown in the past century than in any of the bloody centuries that preceded it. Tens of millions have been slaughtered on the blood-soaked altars of national and international socialism in Europe, China, Cambodia and elsewhere. [Read more...]

Coptic Orthodox Hierarch: Abnormal Becoming the New Normal

Bishop Anba Surielby David Virtue -
A Coptic Orthodox Church observer to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter ripped into the Episcopal Church, stunning some 130 archbishops, bishops, clergy and laity, urging them to say “no to ordination of homosexuals, no to gay marriage, no to such immorality, and that it is time to purify the sanctuary of the Lord from this abomination that causes our God to suffer, bleed and be crucified again everyday.”

“You are martyrs without the shedding of blood because you are upholding the teaching of the Gospel handed down once and for all to the apostles,” Bishop Anba Suriel told the stunned delegates.

“An army of sheep led by a lion is more powerful than an army of lions led by a sheep. I really pray that you lions here, the primates of each of the provinces of the Global South will stand united with one accord against the heresies of The Episcopal Church. [Read more...]

Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism

Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalismby John Couretas -
Beginning today, Acton is offering its first monograph on Eastern Orthodox Christian social thought at no cost through Amazon Kindle. Through Tues., Nov. 12, you can get your free digital copy of Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism(Acton Institute, 2013). The print edition, which runs 91 pages, will be available later this month through the Acton Book Shop for $6. When the free eBook offer expires, Creation and the Heart of Man will be priced at $2.99 for the Kindle reader and free reading apps.

A summary of Creation and the Heart of Man:

Rooted in the Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its teaching on the relationship between God, humanity, and all creation, Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss offer a new contribution to Orthodox environmental theology. Too often policy recommendations from theologians and Church authorities have taken the form of pontifications, obscuring many important economic and public policy realities. [Read more...]

The Encounter with Christ, Man’s Desire for God

Encounter with Christ, Desire for Godby Pope Francis -
Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter.

There is a phenomenology of nostalgia, nóstos lagos, feeling called home, the experience of feeling attracted to what is most proper for us, most consonant with our being … Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all men and yet different. The first ones, John, Andrew, and Simon, felt themselves to be looked at into their very depths, read in their innermost being, and in them sprang forth a surprise, a wonder that instantly made them feel bound to him, made them feel different …

We cannot understand this dynamic of encounter which brings forth wonder and adherence if it has not been triggered … by mercy. Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord … [Read more...]

An Orthodox Christian Moral Case for Property Rights

Orthodox Christian Moral Case for Property Rightsby Fr. Gregory Jensen -
As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt many reasons for this disconnect, I think a central factor is a lack of appreciation for the role that private property can, and does, play in fostering human flourishing.

It is through the wise and prudent use of our property that we are able to give ourselves over in love to the next generation and so give them the possibility of likewise transcending a purely material way of life through an act of self-donation. Economists Terry Anderson and Laura Huggins, in Property Rights: A Practical Guide to Freedom and Prosperity  (Hoover Institution, 2009), are right when they remind us that while not a panacea, “property rights to oneself (human capital), one’s investments (physical capital), or one’s ideas (intellectual capital), secure claims to assets” and so “give people the ability to make their own decisions, reaping the benefits of good choices and bearing the costs of bad ones.” [Read more...]

Atheism is a Mental Disorder

St. Nektarios of Aeginaby St. Nektarios of Aegina -
Atheism is a mental disorder: it is a terrible ailment of the soul that is difficult to cure. Atheism is a passion that severely oppresses whomever it seizes. It holds in store many misfortunes for its captive, and becomes harmful not only for him but also for others who come into contact with him.

Atheism denies the existence of God. It denies that there is a divine Creator of the universe. It denies God’s providence, His wisdom, His goodness, and, in general, His divine qualities. Atheism teaches a falsehood to its followers and contrives false theories concerning the creation of the universe. It professes, as Pythia upon a tripod,1 that the creation is an outcome of chance, that it is perpetuated and preserved through purposeless, random interactions, that its splendor transpired spontaneously over time, and that the harmony, grace, and beauty witnessed in nature are inherent attributes of natural laws.

Atheism detracts from God, Whom it has denied, His divine characteristics, and, instead, bestows them and His creative power to lifeless and feeble matter. [Read more...]

A Defense of Christian Faith Against Disbelief

Defense of Christian Faith Against Disbeliefby Fr. Grigori Dyachenko (written in 1900) -
Our times can in all truth be called the times of disbelief: from all directions all sorts of teachings inimical to Christian religion comes to us, and in our midst too there unceasingly come about all manner of fantastic ideas contrary to the spirit of Christian faith. These ideas are usually born among the so-called educated. Contemporary disbelief utilizes for its own ends the liberty that it finds throughout the civilized world. Apparently, disbelief is preparing to engage faith in a decisive battle. Disbelief uses all its efforts and rejects no means in order to uproot faith from the hearts of men.

The press proves to be a suitable tool for this purpose in the hands of unbelievers. No misconceptions of human reason are too monstrous to be released by it. How much blasphemy, how much mockery of all sorts, how many words of ridicule, both crass and subtle, are directed against the holiest and most heartfelt feelings of the faithful! [Read more...]

Spiritual Warfare in the Pauline Epistles

Spiritual Warfare Full armor of God by Fr James Parnell -
Throughout his letters, St. Paul stresses a sense of urgency and vigilance that we have long since lost. This emphasis is based on the reality of a conflict described plainly as a war against evil. It can even seem foreign to us, as it is spoken of in terms far different from the culture wars in which the sins of others become the targets for our Bible bombs and canonical cannons.

No, the conflict he most often references is not that of public conflict with other groups/individuals, but of spiritual conflict. Even conflicts related to those who preached other doctrines (focus on circumcision, spiritual gifts, etc.) are viewed as but a manifestation and example of a spiritual reality:

“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” [1]

[Read more...]

Trail Life USA: A Moral, Godly, and Safe Boy Scouts Alternative

Trail Life USA - a Christian adventure, character, and leadership program for young men by David Rose -
It was Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 6, 2013. The huge hall was overflowing, the convention sold out. Over 1,200 attendees, with many spilling out into the foyer, eagerly awaited the announcement. What would this safe, moral and non-sexualized alternative to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) look like?

With a stirring introductory video came the answer: “Trail Life USA” would now endeavor to “be the premier national character development organization for young men, which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens.”

The reveal, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of Americans was met with rousing cheers. “Our mission is simple and clear,” came the official mission statement, “to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others and experience outdoor adventure.” [Read more...]

What is Family Happiness: An Orthodox Christian Understanding

Sts. Peter and Febronia a married couple who later lived in the monastic rank by Fr. Gleb Grozovsky -
What is family happiness? When you hear the word “happiness,” a bright feeling of the joy of living, of participation, is born in the soul from the word itself. Happiness is harmony of spirit, soul, and body. It is when the body submits to the soul, and the soul to the spirit. Not the swan, the crab, and the fish, as in Krylov’s fable, but when the feelings and movements of the flesh are in submission to the reason. Just look at what catastrophic consequences can come from a bodily movement that is not in submission to the spirit. The body sees a beautiful woman and goes off in answer to the call of lower demands not in submission to the spirit. His reasoning says, “Family happiness is not in this…” But the body does not ask anyone for advice; it just wants something, then goes and does it, without thinking about the consequences.

In Trinity Leaves From the Spiritual Meadow there is a story. One day a woman learned of her husband’s unfaithfulness. She cried bitter tears and asked God to forgive her husband’s sin. When her husband left for work, his wife, not saying anything, with tears in her eyes, blessed her husband as she usually did. When they said good-bye, the husband could not bear it, and fell on his knees asking his wife’s forgiveness—so sincerely, that he never sinned again. This was the true repentance of the husband. Thanks to the wife’s long-suffering, the marriage was saved, and happiness and harmony returned to their relationship. [Read more...]

Divorce, Denial and the Death of God: How the West Really Lost God

Divorce, Denial and the Death of God: How the West Really Lost God by Elise Hilton -
On Christmas Eve 2011, I opened our front door to find one of my teenage daughter’s friends, sobbing. Her parents had divorced months before, and her dad wasn’t around. Her mother started bringing men home regularly to spend the night. The girl told her mom that having the men around made her feel uncomfortable. Her mom kicked her out of the house. On Christmas Eve.

This could be a single story of one young girl and the fall-out of one divorce, but it’s not. It’s becoming Our American Story: adults who do as they wish with little regard for the child, divorce, cohabitation, children with a revolving door of adults in their lives, no longer a family but a group of people with tenuous ties to each other, their community, their faith.

There are plenty of statistics that bear out that this American Story is the norm (the CDC report hereand a report from the Institute of American Values here.) How did it become Our Story? [Read more...]

‘Flat Earth’ Theory: A Secular Myth Fabricated to Defame Christianity

Flat Earth Theory A Secular Myth by Wes Walker -
Where did the idea of “Flat Earthers” come from? The idea has been traced back to “a slanderous fabrication invented by opponents of Christianity in the 19th century and has been thoroughly debunked by contemporary historians of science.”

It’s taught in school textbooks, it’s a favorite citation of New Atheism, and it’s been referenced by no less than the President himself — Medieval Europe believed the Earth was Flat. And so it’s fact! – Except that they believed no such thing.

The popular view taught in schools is that scientists came along and rescued us all from the Medieval Church’s anti-scientific views that the World was Flat.

The only flaw in that story is that nobody ACTUALLY believed it was flat, and hadn’t believed it was flat in a very, very long time — as far back as Greek Antiquity. Even Pythagoras, Aristotle and Euclid called it spherical. [Read more...]

God’s Providence Leads Us Through Life

Orthodox Nun Iconby Sister Paula -
God’s providence leads us through life; and how good it is for those who can hear it in time, who try to understand God’s will for themselves. If we make plans for one thing or another but find numerous obstacles on our path to attaining it, we have to slow down and try to discern—is this plan God’s will for us? Sometimes the Lord protects us from danger, holds us back from our impulsive race through life, but we don’t understand it, we keep fussing, insisting upon our own will, instead of simply stepping back, waiting a bit, trying some other way…

God’s will is revealed through circumstances in our life. St. Ambrose of Optina used to advise people, “Go where they lead you, look at what they show you, and always say, ‘Thy will be done!’” This seems very hard for us in the modern world; in fact it seems downright impossible. How could we, intelligent people, who know everything and are the creators of our own destiny, go wherever they lead us?! Why, they could lead us anywhere! But the saint was in no way talking about breaking the commandments; he was instructing us to see signs from God in our lives, to seek God’s will in circumstances, in coincidences that are not really coincidences at all. [Read more...]