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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Russia: US Becoming a Godless Nation

cathedral of Christ the Saviour moscow russiaby Marc Bennetts -
At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.”

More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.

“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

In his state of the nation address in mid-December, Mr. Putin also portrayed Russia as a staunch defender of “traditional values” against what he depicted as the morally bankrupt West. [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...]

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...]

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...]

The Encounter with Christ, Man’s Desire for God

Encounter with Christ, Desire for Godby Pope Francis -
Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter.

There is a phenomenology of nostalgia, nóstos lagos, feeling called home, the experience of feeling attracted to what is most proper for us, most consonant with our being … Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all men and yet different. The first ones, John, Andrew, and Simon, felt themselves to be looked at into their very depths, read in their innermost being, and in them sprang forth a surprise, a wonder that instantly made them feel bound to him, made them feel different …

We cannot understand this dynamic of encounter which brings forth wonder and adherence if it has not been triggered … by mercy. Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord … [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...]