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…]

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…]

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…]

Christian Resurgence in Russia, Patriarch Kirill Leads Day of Prayer

Russian Orthodox Christian Bishops Patriarch Kirill by Deacon Keith Fournier –
There is a growing recognition that there is more that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The cultural decline compels our collaboration in Christ. It is leading us to a growing mutual respect which may pave the way toward some form of restored communion. Patriarch Kirill sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as “sister churches”. That is a welcome sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. We ask our readers around the globe to pray for the Patriarch and for Christians in Russia. …

We welcomed the selection of Patriarch Kirill as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in 2009. It was the first election of a Patriarch since the fall of the atheist Communist regime which governed the former Soviet Union for so many years. We, along with millions the world over, hoped it was a sign of the revitalization of the ancient faith in this critical time in history.

Patriarch Kirill is theologically and doctrinally solid – said to be a man of deep faith and courage. He is a champion of the authentic Orthodox Christian Tradition and a stalwart defender of the doctrine of the ancient Christian Faith of the First Millennium – before the first split in the Church occurred. [Read more…]

Religion in the Public Square: Russia Yes, America No!

Russian Orthodox Church Education by Eric Metaxas –
Two years ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a pilot program in which Russian public school students would be required to take classes in either religion or ethics. The plan is part of an effort to re-moralize Russia after seventy-plus years of atheistic Communist rule.

Under the plan, students would study the history of one of the four religions termed “traditional”: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Or they could take a course in secular ethics.

The two-year trial involving twenty percent of Russia’s schools went so well that, according the Asia News, Vladimir Putin, the next president of Russia, plans to expand the program to every Russian school later this year. [Read more…]

Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday

Judas Iscariot Betrays Jesus by Fr. Alexander Iliashenko –
On Great Wednesday the Church remembers how Judas betrayed Christ the Savior. In the following talk, Archpriest Alexander Iliashenko addresses the betrayal of Judas, how Christ was questioned, and the story of Marshal Rokossovsky’s refusal to name names.

Why was it necessary to have a traitor? After all, it would seem that tracking down the Savior would have been easy, since He neither hid nor concealed Himself. He could have been located without any trouble. They could have just sent a detachment to seize Him. But, for some reason, it was necessary to have a traitor – so that this frightful act would take place from within.

This serves as a warning to us all that we must guard our inner unity, not allowing ourselves even to entertain thoughts against those of like mind with us or against those people who are close to us, which can ruin a great thing. [Read more…]

Bearing the Fruits of the Spirit: On Great Monday

Jesus Christ and the Fig Tree by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia –
Each day of Passion Week is marked by special commemorations. After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Lord went every evening with His disciples to the Mount of Olives after spending the day in the Holy City. During these days He turned to them with words that are especially powerful and filled with profound meaning, words that reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and open the curtain to the future of the entire human race.

Monday is associated with particular events. Along the way to Jerusalem, the Lord and His disciples saw a fig tree covered with rich foliage. When the famished travelers approached the tree, the Lord began to look for fruit but did not find a single one. He then cursed the fig tree.

It is well known how critics of the Gospel – people who for various reasons could not and cannot accept the word given to the human race by the Lord Jesus Christ – have criticized this passage. St. Innocent of Kherson responds to this criticism in remarkable manner. According to his words, it was not, of course, as if the Lord was offended by the fig tree and said: “I wanted to taste of the fruit, but there was none – so may you be cursed.” This is not at all what the Savior wanted to say; rather, He cursed the fig tree to give us an example of how barrenness is punishable. [Read more…]

Why Did the Lord Single Out Mary of Egypt?

St Mary of Egypt icon by Fr. Alexander Men –
On the fifth Sunday of Great Lent the Church celebrates the memory of St. Mary of Egypt, the holy ascetic struggler, who is an image of the deep and sincere repentance that brings forth great fruit.

All of you will remember her life. You will recall that her youth was spent in wantonness; that she was a harlot, a courtesan, a fallen woman in a large and depraved city in Egypt; and that she went from being a great sinner to a saint. Yet, regardless of such a manner of life, there was likely some Godly spark in Mary’s heart attracting her to God. She did not understand that she was not living as the Lord’s law or conscience demand. She thought that she was not hurting anyone.

Once a large ship with pilgrims and believers was leaving for the Holy Land, and Mary decided to leave with them. At first it did not even occur to her that this would be a pilgrimage to the holy places. She simply wanted to enjoy herself with the people who were leaving for a journey by ship. [Read more…]

The Meaning of the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

Archpriest Alexander Men

Archpriest Alexander Men

by Fr. Alexander Men –
Every day of Great Lent, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, the prayer “O Lord and Master of my life” is read. According to tradition, this prayer was written in Syria in the fourth century by the ascetic Mar Afrem or, as we have grown accustomed to calling him, Ephraim the Syrian. He was a monk, poet, and theologian, one of the most eminent sons of the Syrian Church, who entered world literature as a remarkable writer.

The words of the prayer, which were quite accurately transmitted by Pushkin [1], sound as follows when translated from the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life,” that is: Ruler of my life, Who gave me life, Who is the center and focal point of my life. “Give me not a spirit of idleness,” that is, laziness, which is, according to the old adage, the mother of all vices. Laziness seems like an innocent thing, but it engenders much that is dark and black.

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem (St. Ephraim the Syrian)
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Despondency (Despair).” Christianity is a joyful doctrine; joyful, too, is he who is despondent – for it will leave him. [Read more…]

2,500 Religious Leaders, Every Catholic Bishop Oppose Obama Mandate

Orthodox Bishops against Abortion Mandate by Kathleen Gilbert –
The Family Research Council has released a letter signed by over 2,500 pastors and evangelical leaders protesting the Obama administration’s birth control insurance mandate. They join every Catholic bishop that heads a diocese in the United States in opposition to the mandate.

“This is not a Catholic issue,” Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said in unveiling the letter at a press conference today. “We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedom infringed upon by the government.” [Read more…]

Six Things Everyone Should Know About The HHS Mandate

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops logo by USCCB –
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers the following clarifications regarding the Health and Human Services regulations on mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them “religious employers” worthy of conscience protection, because they do not “serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs. [Read more…]

Catholic Politicians Who Attack Church Should Remember God’s Judgment

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

by Fr. Johannes Jacobse –
Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois delivered a stern warning to Catholic politicians last Friday warning them that any collaboration with “assaults against the faith” would one day face the judgment of God. Orthodox bishops should take notice.

The report states:

When asked specifically about recent actions of Democratic Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Bishop Jenky replied “I am utterly scandalized.”

“The Lord once said ‘if you deny me at the end, I will deny you,’ this from our most merciful, good Savior. And so if it is a choice between Jesus Christ and political power or getting favorable editorials in leftist papers, well, that’s simply not a choice.”

Some leaders in the Catholic Church compromised with secular politicians for many decades, just as Orthodox leaders have done. The difference is that the Catholic Church remained clear about the moral precepts protecting innocent life while in some (fortunately rare) cases Orthodox leadership muddied the tradition to curry favor with the politicians. [Read more…]

Orthodox Bishops Oppose the Unjust HHS Contraception Mandate

Orthodox Christians Bishops Assembly in Americaby Matt Cover –
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops – comprising the 65 Orthodox Christian bishops of the United States, Canada, and Mexico – has thrown its weight behind the opposition to the Obama administration’s mandate that all insurance carriers provide sterilization and contraception free of charge, including FDA-approved contraceptives that induce abortions.

“The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services,” the Orthodox bishops wrote in a Feb. 2 statement [reproduced in full below]. [Read more…]

True Ecumenism, Christians United Against Obama’s HHS Mandate

The American Catholic True Ecumenism by Donald R. McClarey –
I must confess that I have never been a great fan of Ecumenism, as a drive for greater Christian unity, as it has played out in the Catholic Church since Vatican II.  Too often it has resulted in “dialogues” with non-Catholic faiths that seek to paper over theological chasms that divide us from them.  If the price of Ecumenism is any watering down of the Catholic Faith, please count me out.

However, there is a true Ecumenism which I interpret as the banding together of people of different faiths to accomplish some great good in the name of God.  A striking example of what I am referring to was the action of the four chaplains of the USS Dorchester on January 22, 1943, a Catholic priest, two Protestant ministers, and a Jewish rabbi, who gave up their life jackets so other men could live, and died together, arms linked, praising God to the end.  Go here to read their story. [Read more…]