This Year’s Elections and Moral Choices

Voting and Moral Choicesby Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon –
This year’s elections involve an attempt to usurp an authority that belongs properly to God. Vote wisely, therefore, and in the fear of God. This year—more than any time in my memory—our votes in the election are going to be recorded in eternity.

Since political elections normally deal with matters of policy, I do not normally make them the subject of pastoral concern. This year, however, the national elections in our country are not concerned simply with policies but with principles.

My first comment, I suppose, should address that difference.

About policies—most questions of political concern—we may expect some legitimate disagreements among Christians. Among these we should include questions about the application of civil punishments, the funding of public education, the tax code, the authority of federal agencies, this or that social program, and so forth. These matters, properly governed by prudence, leave much room for legitimate disagreements among Christians. [Read more…]

Going to Heaven, Piece by Piece

Jesus Christ Healing Icon Peters Mother-in-Law by Fr. Steven Belonick –
Over the course of thirty-four years as an Orthodox priest, I have visited countless people with varying degrees of sickness—some with curable ailments and others with grave diseases. Each visit presented me with an opportunity to witness not only human anxiety and frailty but also heroic and steadfast faith. Each visit, as well, magnified my own fear and revealed my own paltry belief in God, teaching me valuable lessons. Two such visits still stand out in my memory: my first trip to a nursing home, and going to see a diabetic named “Alex.”

Impressions of my first visit to local nursing home as a newly assigned pastor in Binghamton, New York, remain fresh. Infirm and abandoned, their own names lost amid their decaying neuro-pathways, the “residents” would continually call out for help—but would receive no response. Confined to wheelchairs and beds, they hungrily sought acknowledgement of their presence, searching for someone to talk to within their shrinking world. [Read more…]

On Consecrating the Entire Economic Order

Consecrating the Entire Economic Order by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon –
St. Luke’s account of Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree (19:1-10) is a story rich in spiritual reflection; preachers and Bible-readers, coming from a variety of backgrounds, have explored the narrative unto great profit for the education of the soul.

A certain liturgical use of the text is particularly instructive; namely, the story of Zacchaeus has long been read in the dedicatory service of a new church building. This liturgical custom—warranted by Jesus’ assertion, “Today, I must stay at your house” indicates a symbolism: The home of Zacchaeus represents the consecrated places where Christians gather to meet, worship, and commune with Jesus.

There is an irony here: Even as we insist that Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor, he sometimes did so in the homes of wealthy. The reason was very simple: the wealthy had larger homes; a greater number of people could actually assemble there. (Some folks, doubtless, will be offended by this consideration, but let me mention that the first complaint [Read more…]

Four Characteristics of Good Orthodox Preaching

Fr. Jonathan Cholcher

Fr. Jonathan Cholcher

by Fr. Jonathan Cholcher –
Orthodox preaching needs to be good preaching. To be good, Orthodox preaching must not only deliver good content, but it must strive to make the hearers good. Therefore, good Orthodox preaching is the Gospel (lit., good news) proclaimed and lived.

Four characteristics mark good Orthodox preaching:

  • Christ crucified and risen;
  • the language, or rationale, of Scripture;
  • plain discourse; and
  • attention to the experience of salvation through the Gospel.

All Orthodox preachers exhibit these traits beginning with Christ Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets. They only preach what they themselves have come to know.

First, Orthodox preaching is the Word, the Logos incarnate Who was crucified and raised to redeem the world from sin, death, and the power of the devil. [Read more…]

Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God

Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle –
We are all given talents to be used to the glory of God throughout our journey toward salvation. If we exercise them to the best of our ability and to the glory of God, they become part of that light which enlightens the world. The enemy is tireless in his attempts to keep us from performing them. If he cannot sway us from performing the obviously important tasks, he works on the little things, the mundane, seemingly insignificant details of daily life. …

Many are perishing
I have often heard advice similar to that given by St. Seraphim of Sarov: Cultivate the quiet light of Christ within you, and with it you will enlighten those around you. At times, when contemplating the zeal which so many apostles demonstrated in their confession of the Faith before the world, I have wondered about that advice. We know that many are perishing, that many have either never even heard of the Orthodox Church, or are not aware that the Church is not an ethnic clubhouse, but a source of Living Water for all. Why are we not told to advertise, to go out with trumpets, drums, loudspeakers, bright lights, to make the Church more visible? God sometimes provides us with wonderful answers in unexpected settings. [Read more…]

Our Love of God is Tested Beyond the Church Walls

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk by Metropolitan Hilarion –
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

In today’s Reading of the Gospel, we heard the story of how our Lord Jesus Christ, at the request of His disciple, fed up a multitude of people with bread and fish. The Gospel speaks of five thousand men who were fed by the Lord, not counting women and children. So, we do not know the exact number of people. The Lord fed them with five thousand loaves and two fishes.

This miracle of the multiplication of loaves in a desert reminds us that the Lord is the Giver of every blessing, the Giver of both material and spiritual food. It is not accidental that every time before eating we ask the Lord to bless our meal and after the meal we thank Him for satisfying us with His earthly gifts and ask that He may not deprive us of His Heavenly Kingdom.

This miracle of the multiplication of loaves in a desert reminds us that the Lord is the Giver of every blessing, the Giver of both material and spiritual food. [Read more…]

Persecuting Christianity in Europe

Christian persecution, loss of religious liberty by Pravmir –
The case of stewardess of The British Airways Nadia Eweida and nurse Shirley Chaplin is considered to be unprecedented by many people. Ms. Eweida and Ms. Chaplin have appealed to the Strasburg Court, calling their case a violation of freedom of religion.

Earlier, the women tried to defend their rights in a British court. But while their case was being investigated, the UK authorities worked out a draft law which, in fact, allows employers to sack employees who do not conceal that they are Christians. Moreover, the UK authorities are going to defend their position in the European Court of Human Rights.

“It sometimes looks like Europe’s secular authorities are trying to totally expel Christianity from Europe,” a representative of the Russian Patriarch’s Office in the Council of Europe Father Philip Ryabykh said in an interview with the Voice of Russia. “The Russian Orthodox Church cannot watch this without expressing its protest!” [Read more…]

What is the Meaning of Life?

Hieromonk Job (Gumerov)

Hieromonk Job (Gumerov)

by Hieromonk Job Gumerov –
Man has given thought to the meaning and purpose of life since antiquity. The Greeks had the myth of Sisyphus, king of Ephyra (Corinth). As punishment for his deceitfulness, in the underworld he had to roll an enormous rock up a mountain for eternity. But as soon as he reached the peak, an invisible force propelled the rock back down to the bottom – and then the same pointless labor began all over again. This is a striking illustration of the meaninglessness of life.

In the twentieth century, the writer and philosopher Albert Camus applied this image to modern man, judging the central feature of his existence to be absurdity:

“At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.” [Read more…]

On Atheistic Fanaticism

Sergey Khudiev

Sergey Khudiev

by Sergey Khudiev –
There are different ways to talk about religion and atheism. A deep, thorough discussion is possible, and I have had occasion to encounter serious, thoughtful atheists who are sincerely aspiring towards an honest and independent judgment. I am genuinely indebted to certain atheistic writers for helping me to acquire a most valuable habit: that of thought. However, a serious discussion about serious questions is often replaced by highfalutin propaganda designed for an audience that is ill-informed and, more regrettably, intellectually lazy. Both believers and atheists can become prone to such propaganda; it is harmful, first of all, in that it encourages and forms a habit of intellectual laziness and dishonesty.

In this article I would like to consider one of the clichés of atheist propaganda. A commonplace of this propaganda is the referral to crimes committed under the banner of religion: have a look, they say, at the madness to which faith in God leads. [Read more…]

The Virtue of Faith, Good in Both Worlds

St. John Chrysostom virtue of faith by John Stonestreet –
John Chrysostom, the archbishop of Constantinople in the fourth century, was an eloquent and fierce critic of the opulent life of the court. Unable to be muzzled, this dynamic advocate for social justice was finally brought before Emperor Arcadius, who demanded that he stop his bold preaching.

The exchange between these representatives of worldly and heavenly power is classic, recalling the dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Christ, who told the Roman procurator, “You would have no authority over me if it were not given to you from above.”

In the showdown between Chrysostom and the emperor, worldly power was put in its place once again. It’s an outstanding demonstration of the power of faith, one of the seven virtues which we’ve been celebrating here on BreakPoint. We’ve already looked at the four cardinal virtues—prudence, temperance, courage, and justice—critical for the people of God to possess at this key moment of history. [Read more…]

Uncertain Times and Prayer

St Issac of Syria by Fr. Johannes Jacobse –
We live in very uncertain times. I don’t think I have ever seen such a widespread uncertainty in my lifetime. My parents saw it since they lived through WWII and the wrenching hardship that placed on them, but many of us only knew the prosperity of the post-war boom that lasted through most of our lifetime.

Some of this trouble is of our own making. We have left off God to a degree, thinking that the security and certainty we had was a kind of birthright instead of recognizing that progress and liberty is hard-won, and must be nurtured and preserved from generation to generation. We tend to forget that “every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights…” as we say at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy (a verse taken from James 1:17).

When we forget God, morality breaks down, and when morality breaks down then the society we build for ourselves begins to fray and may even unravel. [Read more…]

Doubt Should Not be Feared

Metropolitan Anthony

Metropolitan Anthony

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh –
I have been posed a question about doubt. People fear doubt. But they fear in vain, because doubt comes into being when we do not know the truth in full and pose a question.

I will give an example. I once occupied myself with science. One of the characteristics of scientific progress is the calling into question of everything of which you had previously been certain.

When a scientist gathers facts, they are at first uncoordinated. Then he gathers them together, and some kind of general picture emerges. It seems integral. At this point, if he is a true scientist, he will pose a question to himself: where are the cracks? I will search for a fact that will dismantle the integrity of my conception, since my conception is limited.

All science in general consists of collecting facts, arranging them into a single whole, and then calling this whole into question [Read more…]

Fr. Jacobse: Christianity and Same-Sex Attraction

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

by Fr. Johannes Jacobse –
This past Sunday (May 20, 2012), Ancient Faith Todayinterviewed Dr. Philip Mamalakis and Andrew Williams who specialize in counseling people with same-sex attraction. It was hands down one of the most illuminating and informed presentations I have heard on this complex and often contentious topic in quite a while.

Without going into particulars (you can listen to the interview below), their grounding in Orthodox anthropology enabled them to avoid the common misconception that the object of a person’s sexual desire forms what I call a “foundational characteristic of personhood.” In practical terms this means that we error when we see a person first and foremost as either “straight” or “gay” believing that “sexual orientation” sums up much of who and what he is.

This way of understanding the human person is taken at face value in the larger culture, but in Orthodox self-understanding it misses the mark completely. We are not to conform our understanding of the human person to whether he prefers men or women because we don’t define a person in terms of his sexual desire. [Read more…]

Same-Sex Marriage: How Did We Get Here? And Where Are We Going?

Fr. Lev Semenov

Fr. Lev Semenov

by Archpriest Lev Semenov –
President Barack Obama recently affirmed his personal support for the legalization of same-sex marriage. For a perspective from Russia on this momentous development, we offer the following commentary by Archpriest Lev Semenov, Dean of the Faculty of Further Education at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University and cleric of the Church of St. Nicholas in Kuznetskaya Sloboda, both in Moscow.

The political heavyweight of the Western world has taken a step towards the abyss. If we are to believe the news report broadcast on the radio, and later confirmed in the press, President Barack Obama has made his first public statement in support of the legalization of same-sex marriages.

One can only sympathize with the citizens of this country who hold the Christian faith, just imagining how they must have felt when they heard this statement from their head of state. [Read more…]

The Necessity of Christian Friendships

Abbot Tryphon by Abbot Tryphon –
In this age where secularism is on the rise, and materialism has become a major distraction from spiritual pursuits, Christian friendship has never been more important. The pursuit of personal fulfill…ment, entertainment, worldly pleasure, and the acquisition of material goods, has become the dominant theme of our age. Families that once placed the life of the Church as the center of their week, have drifted away from God. Having made idols of worldly pleasures and pursuits, their family life has become focused on transitory goals, leaving them in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. Parents who once brought their children to the temple, having lost their own way, watch those children stray far from faith.

Centered on worldly pursuits, we’ve allowed our spiritual life to be displaced by things that are transitory in nature, no longer thinking on the things of God. Our spiritual illness has infected our youth like a virus, leaving them with little to sustain them, when times get tough. The economic, political, and social instability of our age demands that we be spiritually fit, yet we give our youth virtually nothing that will help them through the hardships ahead. [Read more…]