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.
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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

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Thy Nativity O Christ Our God

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In Defense Of The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Not Pagan, Christian Origin by Fr. Daniel Daly -
The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the Christian Mystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of involvement in occult or “new age” spirituality.

During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me: “…and the Christmas tree is pagan too…,” he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? [Read more...]

Why We Should Preach After The Gospel

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

8/11/2010 – Fr. Johannes Jacobse -
I used to preach at the end of the Liturgy.

It was a pragmatic decision. A good portion of my congregation didn’t arrive until after the Gospel reading. The sloppy behavior was ingrained in parish life for decades and wasn’t likely to change soon no matter how strongly I exhorted them to arrive on time. Better to hear the teaching later then never at all I reasoned.

Did some people benefit from the arrangement? Probably. Did it implicitly encourage the sloppy behavior? Most likely. But short of a full-blown renewal in the parish, the late-comers were like to keep on coming in late and what would they remember if I preached earlier? The announcements?

Since moving from a large parish to a mission parish I’ve changed my ways. The sermon is always after the Gospel reading. I used to think that the rubrics required it because the reading was fresh in the minds of my hearers. While this is true, I’m no longer convinced this is the primary reason. I see something new: The timing of the sermon vivifies – breaths life into – the Eucharistic half of the Liturgy. [Read more...]

Pascha – Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

It is the day of resurrection ! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead! (First Ode of the Easter Canon)

Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Hebrew pesach, both words meaning Passover. [Read more...]

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen!


The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom is read at the end of Orthros (Matins) at Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, universally throughout the Orthodox Church. It was composed sometime during his ministry in the late 4th or early 5th century. St. John’s Sermon is traditionally read to the faithful near the end of the Paschal Matins, before the Paschal Liturgy begins.

“If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.”

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. [Read more...]