Daily Prayers: The Battle with Extraneous Thoughts

Daily Prayers: The Battle with Extraneous Thoughts by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) -
Short prayers help in overcoming distractions and extraneous thoughts: “Lord, have mercy,” “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and others, which do not require a special focus on the words, but incline one to the birth of feelings and the movement of the heart. With the help of such prayers, one can learn to pray attentively and to focus on prayer.

One of the main obstacles to attentive prayer is the appearance of extraneous thoughts. St. John of Kronstadt, the great ascetic of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, describes in his diaries how, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, at the most crucial and sacred moments, before his mind’s eye would appear an apple pie or some other reward that he might be given. And with bitter regret he suggests how such extraneous images and thoughts can destroy a prayerful state. If such happened with the saints, then there is nothing surprising if it happens to us, too. To protect ourselves from extraneous thoughts and images, we have to learn, as did the ancient Fathers of the Church, “to guard our minds.” [Read more...]

Orthodox Truth in an Age of Relativism

Orthodox Truth in an Age of Relativism by Gabe Martini -
It is not loving to affirm a person in their sin.

It is not loving to affirm a person in their rebellion against both God and His created, natural order—not “supernatural,” or “unnatural,” but the way nature was always intended to be, revealed most perfectly in Jesus Christ and the Mother of God and all the Saints.

It is not loving to affirm a person in their beliefs or perspectives that run contrary to the blessings offered us in both Christ and His one, holy Church.

It is not compassionate to ignore truth in order to affirm a person in lies.

It is not compassionate to let people live a life contrary to the author of Life.

It is not compassionate to revise, ignore, or trample under foot the essential truths of our Church in order to curry favor with public opinion, the winds and waves of doctrine, cultural trends, the fools—for the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God—of the Academy, and those with the largest checkbooks. [Read more...]

The Lord’s Prayer: Everything Man Needs for Life and Salvation

Christ Praying The Lord's Prayer by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) -
The “Our Father” prayer is of special significance, because Jesus Christ Himself gave it to us. It begins with the words: “Our Father, Who art in the heavens.” This prayer is comprehensive in character: in it is concentrated, as it were, everything that man needs both for earthly life and for the salvation of his soul. The Lord gave it to us so that we would know what we should pray for and what to ask of God.

The first words of this prayer, “Our Father, Who art in the heavens,” reveal to us that God is not some distant or abstract being, not some notional good foundation, but our Father. Today very many people, in response to the question of whether they believe in God, reply in the affirmative; but if you ask them how they imagine God and what they think of Him, they respond something like this: “Well, God is good, it is something luminous, some kind of positive energy.” That is, they treat God like some kind of abstraction, as something impersonal.

When we begin our prayer with the words “Our Father,” then we are immediately appealing to the personal, living God, to God as Father – to the Father about Whom Christ spoke in the parable of the prodigal son. [Read more...]

I Can Do All Thinks Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me

I Can Do All Thinks Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me by Fr. Matthew Jackson -
From the ‘smallest’ temptation to the most dramatic events, all temptation is more than fallen humanity can bear. It is only through God’s assistance that we can bear all things. God will not give us more than we can bear, but bearing our temptations requires that we turn to Him for help.

There is an article (a few of them, actually) making the rounds on social media right now which tries to make the point that the phrase “God will not give you more than you can handle” is not an accurate thing to say. Unfortunately, these articles themselves don’t quite have things right.

They refer back to the quote from 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able.” (This is where the quote ‘God will not give you more than you can handle’ originates). The point is then attempted: this verse doesn’t mean you won’t be given things that can’t be handled, only that God will not allow a temptation you can’t bear – that the verse doesn’t say anything about other experiences you may have within life. [Read more...]

Prayer is the Gauge of Our Spiritual Life

Prayer is the Gauge of Our Spiritual Life by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) -
If our life is not a preparation for prayer, then it can be very difficult for us to pray. Prayer is the gauge of our spiritual life, a kind of litmus test. We need to construct our life in such a way that it conforms to prayer.

Prayer involves not only joy and attainments, which take place because of it, but also painstaking daily labor. Sometimes prayer brings enormous joy, refreshing man and giving him new strength and opportunities. But it very often happens that one is not disposed towards prayer, that one does not want to pray. Thus, prayer should not depend upon our mood. Prayer is labor. St. Silouan the Athonite said: “To pray is to shed blood.” As in every labor, this requires great effort, sometimes enormous effort, in order to force oneself to pray even when one does not want to. And such an effort [podvig] will be repaid one hundredfold. [Read more...]

Don’t Despair, Cling to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Don't Despair, Cling to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by St. John of Kronstadt -
When the darkness of the accursed one [the devil] covers you — doubt, despondency, despair, disturbance — then only call with your whole heart upon the sweetest name of Jesus Christ, and in Him you shall find all — light, strengthening, trust, comfort, and peace; in Him you shall find the greatest mercy, goodness and bountifulness; all these mercies you will find contained in His name alone, as though in a rich treasury.

Never despair in God’s mercy by whatever sins you may have been bound by the temptation of the Devil, but pray with your whole heart, with the hope of forgiveness; knock at the door of God’s mercy and it shall be opened unto you. I, a simple priest, am an example for you: however I may sometimes sin by the action of the Devil, for instance, by enmity towards a brother, whatever the cause may be, even though it may be a right cause, and I myself become thoroughly disturbed and set my brother against me, and unworthily celebrate the Holy Sacrament, not from wilful neglect, but by being myself unprepared, and by the action of the Devil; yet, after repentance, the Lord forgives all, and everything, especially after the worthy communion of the Holy Sacrament: [Read more...]

Christian Woman’s Role in the Home: Nurturer of the Spirit

St. Julianna of Lazarevo Nurturer of the Spirit by Matushka Susan Young -
Most especially we must bring otherworldliness into the home and keep worldliness out by our prayerful attitude.

The duty of a laywoman in the Orthodox Church, especially a married woman, is to keep alive the spirit of other-worldliness which has been so lost today. The beginning of this is seen in the very concept of Christian marriage which is not to be thought of as a source of personal happiness or self-gratification, but rather as the means by which two people may save their souls and bring up children in godliness. All this presupposes a common understanding and mutual struggle.

How can a mother bring up children in godliness? First it must be remembered that the mother has the great role of nurturer. The mother is the first object of the child’s affection because she is his feeder and nourisher, not only of the body, but also of the soul. She must surround her child with an atmosphere of prayer and make of her home a place where virtues are emphasized. From infancy up she can say morning and evening prayers with the child, gradually allowing him to take more responsibility as he grows and learns. She ought to bless her child often, at the least when he leaves for school and when he goes to bed. [Read more...]

Elder Paisios: Defend the Christian Faith, the Family, the Church

Elder Paisios Fight to Defend the Christian Faith by Elder Paisios -
Today there are many who strive to corrupt everything: the family, the youth, the Church. In our day it’s a true witness to speak up for one’s people, for the state is waging war against divine law. It’s laws are directed against the Law of God.

Today they’re trying to destroy faith, and for the edifice of faith to fall they quietly pull out one stone, then another. But we’re all responsible for the destruction; not just those who destroy but we who see how faith is being undermined and make no effort to strengthen it. As a result the seducers are emboldened to create even greater difficulties for us, and their rage against the Church and the monastic life increases.

Today’s situation can be resisted only spiritually, not by worldly means. The storm will continue to rage a bit, will throw all the flotsam, everything unnecessary, onto the shore, and then the situation will become clearer. Some will receive their reward, while others will have to pay their debts. [Read more...]

Cake and Compassion in Arizona

Homosexual Tyranny Gay Wedding Cakes Arizona by Fr. Lawrence Farley -
Like it or not, homosexuality is not a private proclivity like other sins; it is a powerful movement, and one that now demands the surrender of Christian conscience.

Not so long ago, voices were raised and lawyers were sharpening their swords in America’s latest battle in the ongoing culture war. The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado was threatened with a fine and up to a year’s incarceration for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. In New Mexico, a photographer was similarly threatened for refusing to photograph a gay wedding. In Arizona, a bill was put forward which aimed at protecting the rights of those who wanted to opt out of participating in such weddings if such participation would violate their conscience. The governor of Arizona vetoed the bill. Owners of businesses now have no legal right to decline to provide their services for gay weddings, however abhorrent the weddings may be to their consciences. [Read more...]

God is the Cure for Depression – St. Silouan the Athonite

God Christ Cure for Depression by Fr. Vasile Tudor -
As Christians we must give glory to God in all things, even in pain, hoping, always hoping, in our Savior, the only One who can take us out of the brink of despair and set us for a new life in Him. In Him we put our hope, in Him we find our purpose, and on Him we set our goal.

The greatest plague of the 21st century is not AIDS, nor cancer, nor the H1N1 flu, but something that affects much more people in ways we can barely start to understand: depression. Reportedly one in ten Americans suffers from one or the other forms of this malady. The rates of anti-depressant usage in the United States are just as worrisome. A recent poll unveils that one in eight Americans is using them. Prozac, Zyprexa, Cymbalta are not strange alien names anymore, but familiar encounters in almost every American household. Even children approach the usage rates of adults. These are very high and paradoxical numbers in a country where all are free to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” [Read more...]

Holy Saturday – The Orthodox Celebration of Great and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday - Christ Descent to Hades by Fr. Alexander Schmemann –
Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. . . . (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works. [Read more...]

Holy Week – Pastoral Advice from an Orthodox Priest

Holy Week - Pastoral Advice by Fr. John Moses -
The days of Holy Week are designed to represent to us the last week of Christ’s earthly life before His Crucifixion. It is a terrible and wonderful journey: terrible because the Lord will have to endure so much; and wonderful because if we take this journey with Him, it can be a life-changing experience. If we do a bit of study and reading before we go to church, each service will be even more powerful and meaningful.

Sophia Moshura: If we feel that we have not spent Great Lent properly, how can we still use the remaining days of Holy Week to prepare worthily for Pascha?
Fr. John Moses: The days of Holy Week are designed to represent to us the last week of Christ’s earthly life before His Crucifixion. It is a terrible and wonderful journey: terrible because the Lord will have to endure so much; and wonderful because if we take this journey with Him, it can be a life-changing experience. If we do a bit of study and reading before we go to church, each service will be even more powerful and meaningful.

Given that work and family obligations prevent many people from attending all the services of Holy Week, which services should one make a particular effort to attend?
We celebrate Unction on Wednesday night of Holy Week. This wonderful service brings healing to body, soul, and spirit. I wouldn’t miss it. [Read more...]

Priest vs. Priest on Homosexual Orientation

St George Slays Dragon by Editors -
In an online exchange on the popular Monomakhos Blog, the topic of discussion focused on the views on homosexuality expressed by Fr. Alexis Vinogradov a priest in the OCA, rector of St. Gregory the Theologian Church in Wappingers Falls, NY. Fr. Hans Jacobse, a priest in the AOCA, rector of St. Peter Orthodox Mission in Naples, FL, challenged the presumptive opinions of Fr. Alexis and presented the truth from a proper Orthodox Christian understanding.

Fr. Alexis Vinogradov’s views were originally published in 2011 in an article titled New beginnings in community Gender issues and the Church on ocanews.org. Here’s the relevant excerpt that Fr. Hans responded to in the comments section of Monomakhos Blog:

“Homosexual persons did not decide to become homosexual. It was not the fruit of their supposed depravity or sin. That much we know today. There can only be a continuing conversation if we can cross that hurdle of blatant intransigence by those who refuse to acknowledge this fact. But homosexual persons, just as much as heterosexual ones, need to feel the warmth and love and nurture of other persons. God created them for that love, that love is the substance of our humanity; it is what constitutes all of us in bearing his image within us.” ~ Fr. Alexis Vinogradov

[Read more...]

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Orthodox Church

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Orthodox ChurchThe joyousness which accompanies the performance of the Divine Liturgies of St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom was regarded by the early Church as not suitable for the penitential season of the Great Fast. For this reason, the Synod in Laodicea (363 AD) forbade the performance of the Divine Liturgies during the Great Lent. except on Saturday, Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation, and Holy Thursday.

The Christians of that time were in the habit of receiving Holy Communion almost daily and now were deprived of the strengths derived from Holy Communion for about a week. The greatly saddened them.

The Church, desiring Her children to continue their pious habit of daily receiving the Holy Communion, permitted its reception but from Holy Gifts that had been consecrated in a preceding Liturgy. Thus the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts was formed, and was celebrated on evenings from Monday through Friday during Great Lent; there is no consecration of the Sacred Elements at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, but those who desire to communicate receive the Holy Gifts which have been consecrated at the previous Divine Liturgy. [Read more...]

Abortion is a Categorical Evil

Abortion is a Categorical Evil by George Michalopulos -
the mutilation of an innocent baby in its mother’s womb is an unarguable evil. Global warming, income inequality, and even capital punishment are arguable.

We don’t know whether global warming is an actual fact, a hoax, or something in-between. “Income inequality”? Why is the fact that Tom Brady makes more money throwing a football than a hamburger-flipper at McDonald’s unfair? It may be but it may not be. In other words, it’s arguable.

Capital punishment? Unfortunate, but a savage murderer is not on the same moral plane as an innocent child. Again, it’s arguable.

Abortion is a categorical evil for which there is no moral amelioration. [Read more...]