A Cold Age – Eliminating Faith from the Public Square

A Cold Age - Eliminating Faith from the Public Squareby Fr. Lawrence Farley –
One of the benefits of reading history is that it enables one to compare one’s own era with other eras, and so identify the blind spots of former times and as well as the blind spots of one’s own time.  As C.S. Lewis once pointed out (in his essay On the Reading of Old Books), “Not that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.  They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing, and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.”

Comparing our own age to those of previous ones (and even our own North American culture to other contemporary cultures) reveals what is perhaps the defining characteristic of our society—its coldness.  Men and women in previous ages sang while they worked, and while they walked down the road.  They greeted strangers in the street, and asked God’s peace upon them.  They retired and rose with the sun—and awoke refreshed.  It was normal even to arise at midnight to pray. [Read more…]

The Lord’s Prayer: Everything Man Needs for Life and Salvation

Christ Praying The Lord's Prayer by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) –
The “Our Father” prayer is of special significance, because Jesus Christ Himself gave it to us. It begins with the words: “Our Father, Who art in the heavens.” This prayer is comprehensive in character: in it is concentrated, as it were, everything that man needs both for earthly life and for the salvation of his soul. The Lord gave it to us so that we would know what we should pray for and what to ask of God.

The first words of this prayer, “Our Father, Who art in the heavens,” reveal to us that God is not some distant or abstract being, not some notional good foundation, but our Father. Today very many people, in response to the question of whether they believe in God, reply in the affirmative; but if you ask them how they imagine God and what they think of Him, they respond something like this: “Well, God is good, it is something luminous, some kind of positive energy.” That is, they treat God like some kind of abstraction, as something impersonal.

When we begin our prayer with the words “Our Father,” then we are immediately appealing to the personal, living God, to God as Father – to the Father about Whom Christ spoke in the parable of the prodigal son. [Read more…]

Prayer is the Gauge of Our Spiritual Life

Prayer is the Gauge of Our Spiritual Life by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) –
If our life is not a preparation for prayer, then it can be very difficult for us to pray. Prayer is the gauge of our spiritual life, a kind of litmus test. We need to construct our life in such a way that it conforms to prayer.

Prayer involves not only joy and attainments, which take place because of it, but also painstaking daily labor. Sometimes prayer brings enormous joy, refreshing man and giving him new strength and opportunities. But it very often happens that one is not disposed towards prayer, that one does not want to pray. Thus, prayer should not depend upon our mood. Prayer is labor. St. Silouan the Athonite said: “To pray is to shed blood.” As in every labor, this requires great effort, sometimes enormous effort, in order to force oneself to pray even when one does not want to. And such an effort [podvig] will be repaid one hundredfold. [Read more…]

Don’t Despair, Cling to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Don't Despair, Cling to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by St. John of Kronstadt –
When the darkness of the accursed one [the devil] covers you — doubt, despondency, despair, disturbance — then only call with your whole heart upon the sweetest name of Jesus Christ, and in Him you shall find all — light, strengthening, trust, comfort, and peace; in Him you shall find the greatest mercy, goodness and bountifulness; all these mercies you will find contained in His name alone, as though in a rich treasury.

Never despair in God’s mercy by whatever sins you may have been bound by the temptation of the Devil, but pray with your whole heart, with the hope of forgiveness; knock at the door of God’s mercy and it shall be opened unto you. I, a simple priest, am an example for you: however I may sometimes sin by the action of the Devil, for instance, by enmity towards a brother, whatever the cause may be, even though it may be a right cause, and I myself become thoroughly disturbed and set my brother against me, and unworthily celebrate the Holy Sacrament, not from wilful neglect, but by being myself unprepared, and by the action of the Devil; yet, after repentance, the Lord forgives all, and everything, especially after the worthy communion of the Holy Sacrament: [Read more…]

Holy Saturday – The Orthodox Celebration of Great and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday - Christ Descent to Hades by Fr. Alexander Schmemann –
Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. . . . (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works. [Read more…]

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…]

Orthodox Christian Services Restore the Soul

Orthodox Christian Services Restore the Soulby St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894) –
Church services, that is, all the daily services, together with the entire arrangement of the church’s icons, candles, censing, singing, chanting, movements of the clergy, as well as the services for various needs; then services in the home, also using ecclesiastical objects such as sanctified icons, holy oil, candles, holy water, the Cross, and incense — all of these holy things together acting upon all the senses — sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste — are the cloths that wipe clean the senses of the deadened soul. They are strongest and only reliable way to do it.

The soul becomes deadened by the spirit of the world, and possessed by sin that lives in the world. The entire structure of our Church services, with their tone, meaning, power of faith, and especially the grace concealed with them, have an invincible power to drive away the spirit of the world. In freeing the soul from the world’s onerous influence, it allows the soul to breathe freely and to taste the sweetness of spiritual freedom. [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…]

Cappella Romana CD: Angelic Light – Music from Eastern Cathedrals

Angelic Light - Music from Eastern Cathedrals Cappella Romana by Chris Banescu –
A new Orthodox CD has been released by Cappella Romana titled “Angelic Light – Music from Eastern Cathedrals.” You can experience the otherworldly sounds of Byzantine chant and choral works in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, from ancient hymns from Constantinople to new choral works inspired by that tradition performed by Cappella Romana. The album selections feature both liturgical and para-liturgical works, seamlessly moving from ancient chant melodies to compositions by some of the world’s most notable composers working in the tradition today including Rev. Dr. Ivan Moody, Peter Michaelides and Tikey Zes.

OrthodoxNet has received an advanced copy of this CD and we have listened to it many times. The hymns are magnificent and heavenly, simply amazing! We wholeheartedly recommend the “Angelic Light – Music from Eastern Cathedrals” CD from Cappella Romana. The album is available as MP3 file downloads or a traditional CD from Valley Entertainment’s website: Angelic Light – Music from Eastern Cathedrals. [Read more…]

Take the Children to Church

Orthodox Children church by George Strickland, Ph.D. –
Based on new studies conducted by Baylor University, children from more religious families and from families with higher rates of religious attendance are better behaved and more well adjusted at home and at school. Better educated people generally had parents who attended church services twice or more a month. Among people with graduate level educations, two-thirds had mothers who were from frequent church attenders, compared to just under half of people with only a high school education. The difference is just as significant when looking at the frequency of church attendance by both parents and even larger when looking at fathers’ attendance. This evidence is highly correlated with other studies that show church attendance during adolescence helps reduce a number of the damaging long-term risk factors of disadvantaged children and leads to better education success overall.

There are a number of reasons why parents’ religious attendance might improve children’s educational and developmental outcomes. First, children may be more likely to learn wholesome values and moral commitment if they go to church. [Read more…]

Christ is Risen – Orthodox Church in Ghana

Christ is Risen being sung in an Orthodox Church in Ghana.
[Read more…]

The Bridegroom Matins – Orthodox Holy Week

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah (chapter 54), as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of His divine presence and watchfulness (“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night…”) during Holy Week and His selfless love for His Bride, the Church.

The Bridegroom Matins

The Troparion
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy is the servant whom he shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, oh my soul. Do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the kingdom.

But rouse yourself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God.

Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. [Read more…]

What’s so appealing about Orthodoxy?

St Sophia Orthodox Churchby Rod Dreher –

I came to Orthodoxy in 2006, a broken man. I had been a devoutly observant and convinced Roman Catholic for years, but had my faith shattered in large part by what I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal. It had been my assumption that my theological convictions would protect the core of my faith through any trial, but the knowledge I struggled with wore down my ability to believe in the ecclesial truth claims of the Roman church (I wrote in detail about that drama here). For my wife and me, Protestantism was not an option, given what we knew about church history, and given our convictions about sacramental theology. That left Orthodoxy as the only safe harbor from the tempest that threatened to capsize our Christianity.

In truth, I had longed for Orthodoxy for some time, for the same reasons I, as a young man, found my way into the Catholic Church. It seemed to me a rock of stability in a turbulent sea of relativism and modernism overtaking Western Christianity. [Read more…]

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Nativity of Christ

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

For by it those who worshipped the stars,

Were taught by a star to adore Thee,

The Sun of Righteousness.

And to know Thee the Orient from on high,

O Lord, Glory to Thee!

– Troparion for Christmas Day

[Read more…]