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...]

Christ Was Not a Communist

Christ Was Not a Communistby Bill Flax –
Christians desire to live virtuously with beliefs grounded in love, truth and justice. However, for many churches, justice has been perverted from its biblical meaning — conformity to God’s statutes — into a quest for egalitarianism. Truth — consistency to the character and will of God — has lost its clarity. Love has been reduced into a mere emotion. Many mainline denominations afford more certainty to atheists in academia and media than Scripture.

Many Christians abandoned Scripture, embarrassed by its teachings anywhere they differ from what passes for progressive, nuanced or sophisticated thought. Paul warned against being deceived by the world’s philosophies (Colossians 2:8), but many mainline churches were overrun by the same leftist ideologies that overran every other facet of America’s intellectual current. Babel rises anew.

Salsman perceives this but mistakes its foundations. The religious left and, more frequently, irreligious opportunists transform Christ’s teachings from the spiritual to the political/economic. They even interpret the gospel through the decidedly un-Christian lens of humanistic socialism. [Read more...]

Natural and Sacramental Marriage, An Orthodox Christian Perspective

Natural and Sacramental Marriage, An Orthodox Christian Perspectiveby Fr. Alexander Schmemann –
We can now return to the sacrament of matrimony. We can now understand that its true meaning is not that it merely gives a religious “sanction” to marriage and family life, reinforces with supernatural grace the natural family virtues. Its meaning is that by taking the “natural” marriage into “the great mystery of Christ and the Church,” the sacrament of matrimony gives marriage a new meaning; it transforms, in fact, not only marriage as such but all human love.

It is worth mentioning that the early Church apparently did not know of any separate marriage service. The “fulfillment” of marriage by two Christians was their partaking of the Eucharist. As every aspect of life was gathered into the Eucharist, so matrimony received its seal by inclusion into the central act of the community. And this means that, since marriage has always had sociological and legal dimensions, there were simply accepted by the Church.

Yet, like the whole “natural” life of man, marriage had to be taken into the Church, that is, judged, redeemed and transformed into the sacrament of the Kingdom. Only later did the Church receive also the “civil” authority to perform a rite of marriage. This meant, however, together with the recognition of the Church as the “celebrant” of matrimony, a first step in a progressive “desacramentalization.” An obvious sign of this was the divorce of matrimony from the Eucharist. [Read more...]

St. John Chrysostom on the Terrible Passion of Homosexuality

St. John Chrysostom virtue of faithby Fr. Sarantis Sarantou –

“Because of this did God give them up to dishonorable passions, for even their females did change their natural function into that which is against nature; and in like manner also the males having left the natural use of the female, did burn in their longing toward one another….” (Romans 1:26-27)

The Apostle Paul, according to the Holy Fathers, is the holy mouth of Christ, and divine Chrysostom is the mouth of the Apostle Paul. Commenting on the very important Epistle to the Romans of the holy Apostle Paul, the divine Father gives a divinely inspired analysis of homosexuality, among other issues.

All the passions are degrading to humanity, but especially the mania of men for men. He summarily characterizes homosexuality as an unforgivable passion, not because it really is, but because the entire male personality becomes so distorted that there is a chronic allegiance to this abomination, which is a difficult passion to restrain by the fallen.

The golden words of Chrysostom are remarkably balanced. His unshakable logic, which he uses to spiritually support his flock, is universally acknowledged to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. [Read more...]

Cultivating Faith in Children

Faith Children Orthodox Christianby Evgeny Poselyanin –
There are children who have strong faith despite their parents’ disbelief in, even hostility towards religion. The beauty and order of the universe awakens faith in them, as it did in Great Martyr Barbara.

The writer and New Martyr Evgeny Poselyanin (his real surname was Pogozhin, 1870–1931) reflects upon the teaching of faith to children in his book, Faith, and the Path to Faith.

Such a mind [as Great Martyr Barbaras’] arrives on its own at an inevitable faith in the Creator and Caring Provider of all that exists.

Then, a person with a lively and deep mind and a nature distinguished by a sense of justice finds it necessary to investigate those strange attacks on religion, of which he has become a witness. He strives to make sense of it all. And it could be said that other people, who would have remained indifferent to nature in times when religion is not persecuted, turn to it with all their souls during times of persecution.

However, the path that I have just mentioned is the path of direct faith, and it is the path of a few chosen souls. [Read more...]

True and False Spirituality: How to Deal With Fair-weather Friends

Job and Dealing With Fair-weather Friendsby Deacon Keith Fournier –
One of the most profound of biblical characters is the man named Job. The book which bears his name is rich with insights about real life. It is profound, disturbing, and yet incredibly helpful precisely because it reveals something of importance. Things aren’t always the way they seem – or feel.

Yet, – in the words of the Psalmist David – God “never sleeps not slumbers”. (Psalm 121:4)

This is a troubling and difficult time for many people. Over and over again, I hear the sad stories of financial setback as the U.S. economy struggles. People are watching their retirement funds, their homes and their savings, seem to vanish. When we look around us it seems our culture is in collapse as it rejects the moral foundations of a free society. [Read more...]

The Secret Sloth of Busy, Active People

Secret Sloth of Busy, Active Peopleby Dave White –
Slothful people, to many people’s surprise, are often active, busy, and hard-working people who have given their lives to trivial matters, not transcendent ones. They have immersed their lives with empty pleasures. Slothful people regularly find themselves bored and struggle to compensate by filling their time with self-centered diversions. It’s not that their lives are filled with motion, energy, and bustling about; it’s that their lives are slothful regarding the things that really matter!

Slothful People Embrace Escapism
Sloth is not mere laziness. It’s not a couch potato. Sloth is escapism of the deadly sort—including drug users, TiVo addicts, and obsessive video gamers. Yet escapism also includes most workaholics! Sloth saps our time and emotions through positive activities like clubs, hobbies, and sports—while leaving scant energy for our marriages or kids or preeminent duties. [Read more...]

God Recognized and Honored at Texas Graduation

Fr. Seraphim Holland - Orthodox priestby Fr. Seraphim Holland –

Proof that I live in Texas and not Massachusetts:
1. My daughter’s nursing graduation ceremonies began and ended with prayer.
2. Most autobiographies (probably 60 out of 70) thanked God.
3. They recited the Florence Nightingale Pledge at the end.

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.” [Read more...]

Go and Repair My House, Pope Francis I and True Humility

Pope Francis I and True Humilityby Peggy Noonan –
I’ll tell you how it looks: like one big unexpected gift for the church and the world.

Everything about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election was a surprise—his age, the name he took, his mien as he was presented to the world. He was plainly dressed, a simple white cassock, no regalia, no finery. He stood there on the balcony like a straight soft pillar and looked out at the crowd. There were no grand gestures, not even, at first, a smile. He looked tentative, even overwhelmed. I thought, as I watched, “My God—he’s shy.”

Then the telling moment about the prayer. Before he gave a blessing he asked for a blessing: He asked the crowd to pray for him. He bent his head down and the raucous, cheering square suddenly became silent, as everyone prayed. I thought, “My God—he’s humble.” I wasn’t sure what to make of it and said so to a friend, a member of another faith who wants the best for the church because to him that’s like wanting the best for the world. He was already loving what he was seeing. [Read more...]

Pope Francis I, A Promising Christ-like Leader of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis, A Promising Christ-like Leaderby Abbot Tryphon –
In Catholic tradition, Francis of Assisi had a mystical vision in which Christ told him to rebuild his Church. In taking the name Francis, this pope seems to be pledging himself to rebuild the image and integrity of a church that has suffered from widespread allegations of corruption, and the cover-up of the child sex abuse by innumerable members of her clergy.

After becoming archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, he sold the archbishop’s palace, preferring instead to live in an apartment. He was known to cook his own meals, and rejected the services of a chauffeur, preferring instead to ride the bus. As Jesuit Provincial, he put an end to the Liberation Theology being taught among Jesuits under him, demanding they stop their involvement in politics, and place their energies on serving the spiritual needs of their people.

This is the man who went to a hospice during Holy Week, and washed the feet of twelve aids patients. Known for a simple lifestyle and for dedication to social justice, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had taken a strong stand against the corruption of politicians and business men in Argentina. He has not only been a champion of the poor, but a champion of democracy. [Read more...]

The Image of God and the Dignity of Work

The Image of God and the Dignity of Workby Art Lindsley –
The number one fear of the millennial generation is living a meaningless life.

In a recent informal survey of undergraduate students at Regent University, 27 percent of students asked expressed anxiety when considering their vocation. “Scared,” “uneasy,” “unsure,” “confused,” and “apprehensive” were common words in describing the way they felt about their future vocation.

But college students aren’t the only ones struggling with their calling. Many adults fail to discover their calling in life, too. Why is it so hard to find this thing we call our “vocation”?

When I use the words “calling” and “vocation,” I am referring to what Os Guinness calls our secondary calling. As Guinness points out, along with Luther, Calvin, and many other Reformers, our primary calling is the call to faith in Christ. Several secondary callings flow from this primary calling, including the call to work. [Read more...]

Should Government Coerce Charity?

Christian Charity Voluntary, Real Charity Cannot Be Coerced by Joel J. Miller –
When it comes to the question of social justice, there is more at play than the needs of the poor. Charity requires not only a recipient but also a giver, and that increases the issue’s moral complexity.

From the earliest days of the church, care for the poor was central. It’s there in the New Testament writings, in Christ’s own words even. It’s there in the Didache, which directs Christians to spend time with the lowly (3.9) and give their firstfruits to the poor (13.4). And great pastors and preachers like Basil the Great spoke often and forcefully on the matter.

“How many precepts you ignore, since your ears are plugged with avarice!” said Basil in one sermon, adding, “if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need” (I Will Tear Down My Barns 6, 7). [Read more...]