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...]

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...]

65 Orthodox Church Bishops Call on Obama to ‘Rescind’ the ‘Unjust’ Contraception Mandate

Orthodox Bishops against Abortion Mandate by Ben Johnson -
The 65 canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church have asked President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to repeal the mandate that religious institutions provide birth control, sterilization, and Plan B abortion drugs in their health care coverage.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America – which represents 12 Orthodox jurisdictions and three million Orthodox Christians in the United States – issued a press release last Thursday calling the HHS ruling a violation of religious conscience. [Read more...]

Orthodox Bishops Protest Government Healthcare Mandate

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops -
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, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience. [Read more...]

Orthodox Bishops Assembly Silent on Moral Issues

Orthodox Bishops Assembly Silent on Moral Issues by John Couretas -
At an October 1970 meeting of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Americas (SCOBA), which was called to discuss the burning question of an independent American Church, the presiding conference chair Archbishop Iakovos got fed up and quit. Official letters raising the subject of independence had been sent to the “mother Churches” in Constantinople, Bucharest, Belgrade, Athens and other Orthodox “centers” pointing for the need to do something about the chaotic “situation of Orthodoxy in America.” Only three replies came back. To the Greek Orthodox Iakovos, this was proof that no one took SCOBA seriously and, for that matter, the American Orthodox.

The archbishop resigned from SCOBA in disgust, saying that he had no desire to be the head of a “dead body.” According to a contemporary account, the official minutes of the meeting were forged to cover up what would turn out to be a temporary resignation. [Read more...]

Metropolitan Jonah’s Prayer on March for Life 2012

Metropolitan Jonah and Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Metropolitan Jonah and Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Metropolitan Jonah -
As reported earlier on oca.org, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah offered the opening prayer during the program that preceded the March for Life here on Monday, January 23, 2012.

“Roman Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who is in charge of pro-life activities, invited the Orthodox bishops to stand together with the Roman Bishops, as we are of one mind in regards to Life, and for us to begin to alternate giving the opening prayer for the March,” Metropolitan Jonah said, reflecting on the March. “This year, they gave the honor to me to bless the opening of the March for Life on their behalf, as well as on behalf of the Orthodox. With me at that podium, at my request, was Cardinal-elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

“This is a significant ecumenical event, a strong gesture of unity, and a great symbol of the respect of the Roman Catholic Church for the Orthodox Church in America,” Metropolitan Jonah continued. “We are of one mind in opposition to abortion as a fundamental doctrinal and moral position, in accordance with the ancient Tradition of the undivided orthodox catholic Church.” [Read more...]

Orthodox Christians Take High-Visibility Role in the March for Life

Orthodox Christian bishops hierarchs priests March for Life by The Editors -
At a religious event often dominated by massive presence of Roman Catholics, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church played a more visible role in this year’s March for Life than ever before. For the first time, the opening prayer in front of the Supreme Court was offered by His Eminence Jonah (Paffhausen), Metropolitan of All America and Canada for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), as well as Roman Catholic prelates Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan.

“We are of one heart and one purpose,” he said as he chanted a litany of life before hundreds of thousands of marchers.

The Metropolitan was joined by several of his brother bishops, including Bp. Melchizedek of Pittsburgh, Bp. Matthias of Chicago, and Bp. Michael of New York. At least 15 priests were in his company alone. Several individual representatives of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Antiochian Orthodox Churches also participated. [Read more...]

Fr. Preble: Religious Freedom Under Attack

Fr. Peter Michael-Preble

Fr. Peter Michael-Preble

by Fr. Peter Michael-Preble –
America has a very long tradition of freedom. We cherish these freedoms like, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and until recently, freedom of choice. I will admit right up front that I voted for President Obama because, like many, I believed we needed change. Well I now feel I was duped and his brand of change is not what America needs at all.

As an Orthodox priest and an American I believe in traditional family values like marriage, family, saving one’s self for that person we plan to spend the rest of our life with — in other words I believe in Christian values as proscribed not only by my Church’s tradition but by Holy Scripture itself.

On Jan. 20th it was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the religious exemption on certain parts of the health care plan would not continue and now religious organizations, like the church, would have to supply health insurance that provides coverage for contraception and abortion. The Roman Catholic Church has been carrying most of the water on this fight and as usual our Orthodox Bishops are silent on this. We have an opportunity here to make our voice heard but we are more concerned with territory and language than we are with issues that affect real people! It is time for our bishops to wake up and speak out. Our people are confused and need to hear their voices loud and clear. [Read more...]