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…]

Met. Methodios: Our Mission is to Lead Others to Jesus Christ

Metropolitan Methodios Orthodox Bishop

Metropolitan Methodios

by Terry Mattingly –
It happens all the time: Church leaders stand at podiums and urge members of their flocks to go and share their faith, striving to win new converts. These speeches rarely make news, because they are not unusual. But something very unusual happened earlier this month in Brookline, Mass.

“You will surely agree that our mission … is to lead our brothers and sisters — both inside and outside the church — to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said the featured speaker.

“This is becoming more and more difficult because many hesitate to share their faith, fearing they will be considered quaint and bothersome. This is especially the case in America’s colleges and universities where atheism and indifference on matters of faith and religion reign supreme.”

This would be ordinary, if not tame language in a gathering held by Campus Crusade for Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention or any Bible Belt megachurch. But this speaker was Metropolitan Methodios, the white-haired leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, addressing clergy and laity in a conference center dedicated to Greek culture. [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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

Destroying Christianity in Syria, The West Supports the Wrong Side

Syrian Orthodox Church Destroyed by Islamic Terrorists Rebels by Robin Phillips –
The pattern of persecution is being repeated in Syria as Muslim rebel groups seek both to overthrow the lawful government as well as to eliminate the native Christian population. Consequently, Christians in Syria are frightened to worship publicly and many have had to flee to refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

The equilibrium in Syria began to be disrupted after the, so called, ‘Arab Spring’ hit the country in 2011. Rebel groups, many of whom have links to Al-Qaeda, began seeking to overthrow the government. Syria’s Christian population became engulfed in the crossfire of this civil war. Because most Christians in Syria have remained neutral in the two-year civil war and some have supported the government, the insurgents with the ‘Free Syrian Army’ perceive Christians as enemies. Consequently, they have begun systematically confiscating land belonging to Christians, in addition raping women and killing children. Dozens of churches have also been desecrated or completely destroyed, mainly around Homs and Aleppo.

Astoundingly, the anti-government ‘Free Syrian Army’ is considered moderate by the West and is supported by the David Cameron, the Obama administration, NATO and [Read more…]

Christians Massacred by ‘Free’ Syrian Army Terrorists (Rebels)

Orthodox church destroyed in Christian village of Duwayr/Douar Syriaby Editors –
Obama’s and John McCain’s friends in Syria – the so-called “Syrian rebels” continue to bring death and destruction upon Christians and Christian churches in Syria. They’re nothing more than bloodthirsty killers seeking to impose Islamic law on the Syrian people.

The following describes some of the latest atrocities committed by Obama & McCain’s supposed allies in Syria:

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (BosNewsLife)– Mourning Christians in Syria were still awaiting answers Monday, July 8, as to why  Islamic militants with links to opposition rebels entered Christian villages more than a month ago killing several people,  including children, in what locals called a “massacre”.

Vatican-backed news agency Fides said the gunmen raided the village of al-Duwayr/Douar, outside the city of Homs near Lebanon, where they immediately executed a man and his daughter in their home and burned their bodies.

The fighters reportedly also occupied the village church from where snipers began firing at terrified civilians, killing an- 11-year-old boy and a girl of 18, [Read more…]