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…]

Losing our Religion: “Retaining” Young People in the Orthodox Church

Young People in the Orthodox Church Youthby Seraphim Danckaert –
A person is most likely to retain Christian faith throughout adult life if he or she had three (3) meaningful and healthy relationships in their early to mid teenage years: one with faithful Christian parents, one with a faithful Christian mentor outside of the family, and one with God Himself.

Seraphim Danckaert at Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy critically evaluated a recent article that claims that “90% of Americans with Greek roots are no longer in communion with the Orthodox Church.” The excerpts below are from Seraphim’s insightful analysis on why the youth leave the Orthodox Church and what must be done to retain them.

The article assumes (but does not show) that the reason for this mass apostasy is two-fold: (1) the inevitable rise of interfaith marriages in America’s multicultural, religiously pluralistic, and secular society; and (2) the Greek Orthodox Church’s failure to respond to the “critical and immediate need for a broad religious outreach; to make room for interfaith families,” and thereby follow St. Paul’s example in extending “Christianity’s outreach to all nations.” [Read more…]

Poverty in Spirit More Important Than Material Poverty

St. Basil the Great Orthodoxby St. Basil the Great –
Poverty is not always praiseworthy, but only when it represents a free choice according to the Gospel commandment.

Many are poor in terms of possessions and very miserly in spirit, and those people will not be saved through their poverty but damned by their attitude of mind.

Not every poor person therefore is worthy of praise, but only those who of their own choice put the commandment of the Lord before all the treasures of the world.

Those people the Lord says are blessed when he proclaims “blessed are the poor in spirit.” He does not say the poor in possessions, but those who have freely chosen poverty in spirit.

What is involuntary cannot merit blessedness. Every virtue, and poverty in spirit more than any other, must be a free choice. [Read more…]

Freedom from a Godly Perspective

Freedom from Godly Perspective, God and Freedomby Fr. Patrick Reardon –
With respect to the life in Christ it is important to keep in mind two aspects of freedom:

First, a correct concept of freedom disinclines us to reduce it to the mere ability to make choices. Thus reduced, indeed, freedom looks more like a potential than a reality. Freedom is counted, after all, as a great human blessing.

But how can the mere capacity for choice be —without reservation— a blessing? Is that man to be called blessed who chooses to fling himself into a fire? Is freedom truly a blessing if someone deliberately enslaves himself? If freedom is to be counted a blessing, choice must in some measure be qualified by its object. [Read more…]

Orthodox Cookbook: Flavors of Our Faith

Orthodox Cookbook: Flavors of Our Faithby SOSI –

The beauty of Orthodoxy is that it encompasses all of our five senses: Seeing the incense rising like our prayers during Liturgy; hearing the bells on the censer announcing an entrance; the glorious smells emanating from the kitchen during the special seasons of the Church; touching the icon of a favorite saint; and finally tasting the sweet joys of Pascha when we break our fast together after proclaiming “Christ is Risen!”

Flavors of Our Faith was created out of a desire to put together a compilation of favorite recipes from parishioners but also to be a source for answers to questions as to why we do certain activities at different times of the year.

Within the pages of this book, you will find 350 recipes divided among eight categories (including Traditional Religious Celebration, Christmas, and Pascha recipes) and sorted by Lenten and Non-Lenten categories. [Read more…]

I Can Do All Things Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me

St. Isaac the Syrianby Fr. Matthew Jackson –
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. Pointing out difficult situations – Auschwitz, cancer, rape, etc. – the authors then say that these things crush people and are more than can be borne (cf. 2 Cor. 1:8-9 for their Biblical example – where Paul says they are at the *point* of breaking in order to learn to trust in God, Who then enabled them to handle their temptations). [Read more…]

Self Awareness and Self Control Key to Living a Virtuous Life

Self Awareness and Self Control Know Thyselfby Fr. George Morelli –
Many are familiar with the famous ancient Greek adage: “Know thyself.” Countless philosophers and spiritual teachers as well have used this theme. To my best recollection, I first came across this aphorism while reading Plato in a philosophy course my first year in college. Interestingly, this aphorism was also used by the ancient Egyptians, who gave it a religious connection. In the temple of Luxor (1400 BC) is the inscription: “Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods.”

The importance of self-awareness and self-control also can be found in other religious systems. In the Buddhist tradition one reads: “Though one should conquer a million men on the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself.” [Read more…]

The Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Tradition

Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Traditionby Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse –
In the Christian tradition of both east and west, the twelve days of Christmas refer to the period from Christmas Day to Theophany. The days leading up to Christmas were for preparation; a practice affirmed in the Orthodox tradition by the Christmas fast that runs from November 15 to Christmas day. The celebration of Christmas did not begin until the first of the twelve days.

As our culture became more commercialized, the period of celebration shifted from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Christmas celebration increasingly conforms to the shopping cycle while the older tradition falls by the wayside. It’s an worrisome shift because as the tradition dims, the knowledge that the period of preparation imparted diminishes with it.

Our Orthodox traditions — from fasting cycles to worship –exist to teach us how to live in Christ. The traditions impart discipline. These disciplines are never an end in themselves but neither can life in Christ be sustained apart from them. [Read more…]

Fr. George Calciu ‘Relics’ Reburied to End Scandal, No Sainthood Claim

Fr. George Calciu Relics Reburied to End ScandalAs reported by the Adevărul news organization, the exhumed body of Fr. George Calciu has been reburied to prevent further church scandals and punitive legal action by Andrei Calciu, Fr. Calciu’s own son. The premature sainthood claims have not been substantiated. The Romanian Orthodox Church has not issued any official statements regarding this incident.

Fr. Calciu’s body was previously dug up without the permission of his family and against Fr. Calciu’s own express wishes not to disturb his grave. Upon unearthing his mummified remains, premature claims of “sainthood” began to circulate in the mass media both in Romania and the United States. However, scandal also ensued for failing to abide by Fr. Calciu’s own testamentary provisions and ignoring his son Andrei’s instructions not to exhume the body. [Read more…]

Fr. George Calciu: My Incorrupt Body a False Miracle, a Curse

Fr. George Calciu: My Incorrupt Body a False Miracle, a Curseby Chris Banescu –
While some Orthodox in America and in Romania have already rushed to label the discovery of priest George Calciu’s incorrupt body as a miracle and declared him a saint, Fr. Calciu’s own premonitions and ominous warnings call for a more sober and discerning response. Not all ‘miracles’ come from God and not all incorrupt bodies are a sign of sanctity.

One month before his death, Fr. George Calciu (Fr. Gheorghe Calciu Dumitreasa), in a letter from his hospital bed written to another priest, Fr. Iustin Pârvu, warned that if his body would ever be dug up and found incorrupt, it would not be a miracle from God, but a deception from the devil. Fr. Calciu asked that Orthodox priests should then pray over his ‘relics’ for the undoing of this curse and to allow his body to return to the dust from which it was made. He further gave precise instructions that the priests who saw his body should never speak of this false miracle and bury him in another grave. [Read more…]

Motivated by Fear

Christ Fear Not Calm the Storm Tempestby Fr. Basil Zebrun –
Following His Resurrection Jesus said to the apostles, “peace be unto you” (John 20: 19,21,26). Furthermore, He distinguishes the peace He bestows from that which is given by the world (John 14: 27). St. Paul describes it as, “…the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Christians experience this peace as not merely the absence of fear or strife, but the presence of Christ in the lives of the faithful.

Additionally, during a storm at sea Jesus offered His disciples these words of comfort, “fear not” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, John 6:20), and prior to raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead He said to the father, “Do not be afraid” (Mark 5:36). At the Annunciation and at the announcement of the Baptist’s conception, the angel also reassured both Mary and Zacharias that there was no need for trepidation (Luke 1).

The statements, “peace be unto you” and “fear not,” were meant to allay the personal anxieties of those whose lives were radically changed by divine grace, freely received. [Read more…]