Calculating Christmas Not Based on Pagan Festivals

Nativity Christmas Starby William J. Tighe –
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

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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.

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Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God

Cultivate That Quiet Light, Find Strength in God by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle –
We are all given talents to be used to the glory of God throughout our journey toward salvation. If we exercise them to the best of our ability and to the glory of God, they become part of that light which enlightens the world. The enemy is tireless in his attempts to keep us from performing them. If he cannot sway us from performing the obviously important tasks, he works on the little things, the mundane, seemingly insignificant details of daily life. …

Many are perishing
I have often heard advice similar to that given by St. Seraphim of Sarov: Cultivate the quiet light of Christ within you, and with it you will enlighten those around you. At times, when contemplating the zeal which so many apostles demonstrated in their confession of the Faith before the world, I have wondered about that advice. We know that many are perishing, that many have either never even heard of the Orthodox Church, or are not aware that the Church is not an ethnic clubhouse, but a source of Living Water for all. Why are we not told to advertise, to go out with trumpets, drums, loudspeakers, bright lights, to make the Church more visible? God sometimes provides us with wonderful answers in unexpected settings.

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What is the Meaning of Life?

Hieromonk Job (Gumerov)
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov)

by Hieromonk Job Gumerov –
Man has given thought to the meaning and purpose of life since antiquity. The Greeks had the myth of Sisyphus, king of Ephyra (Corinth). As punishment for his deceitfulness, in the underworld he had to roll an enormous rock up a mountain for eternity. But as soon as he reached the peak, an invisible force propelled the rock back down to the bottom – and then the same pointless labor began all over again. This is a striking illustration of the meaninglessness of life.

In the twentieth century, the writer and philosopher Albert Camus applied this image to modern man, judging the central feature of his existence to be absurdity:

“At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.”

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Bible-era Earthquake Confirms Year of Jesus’ Crucifixion

Jesus Crucifixion Earthquake confirms yearby Jennifer Viegas –
Jesus, as described in the New Testament, was crucified on Friday April 3, 33 A.D.

The latest investigation, reported in the journal International Geology Review, focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem. The Gospel of Matthew, mentions that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (Matthew 27:50-52)

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Motherhood is a Life Given Up in Love

Motherhood  Life Given Up in Love by Randy Sly –
Sacrifice is the great virtue of motherhood
Nothing speaks more highly to me of this self-sacrifice than the witness of a mother, who daily gives of herself for her own. Often depriving herself, she offers to others; often preferring others, she offers herself. Motherhood is a call to stay firm in the face of uncertainty, despair, sickness, poverty, and even danger, where her children are concerned. One could almost say that as the father is the sword, she is the shield. A mother lays down her life by taking it up on behalf of these precious ones entrusted to her care. …

Once upon a time there was a young woman who loved her Lord. There was nothing she withheld from Him. Her life was always “yes” to Him, the proverbial “fiat” – “let it be to me as you have said.” She fell in love and, hearing the “Divine Yes,” married the man whom she loved. They grew in Him as one in the sacramental mystery.

A child was born and she loved the child. The child brought something out of her that had always been a part of her yet never expressed. Like a hidden stream now discovered, rivers of love flowed out of the woman to her child.

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The Resurrection

Christ's Resurrection - Christ is Risen
Christ's Resurrection - Christ is Risen!

by Trevor Thomas –
At this time of year, Christians celebrate Easter, or as I prefer, Resurrection Sunday. As one scans history, no other date put such a mark in time as when Jesus Christ shed His grave-clothes and departed the tomb.

Of all the religions of the world, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder. The physical resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christianity. British theologian Michael Green said it well when he noted, “Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all.” Noted biblical scholar, professor, and author Wilbur M. Smith said that “[t]he resurrection of Christ is the very citadel of the Christian faith. This is the doctrine that turned the world upside down[.]” Indeed it did.

C.S. Lewis notes that “[i]n the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection,” or more accurately, a witness of the resurrected Christ. He adds that “to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection.” And preach they did.

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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.

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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.

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The Mystery of Suffering and the Saving Power of God

Jesus Healing Blind Suffering and God Catholic Online –
Suffering, even of the just, can really be transformed into a ‘blessing’ if it becomes the occasion for God to intervene directly into our lives.

Moved by human suffering, Jesus healed many who were sick and cast out unclean spirits. What the readings tell us is not just that suffering can be healed. In the second reading St Paul explains the possibility for each of us to participate in the saving work of Christ. We can truly help to combat suffering by a life dedicated to the untiring proclamation of the Gospel. —

The first reading of the liturgy of the Word has the theme of innocent suffering through the figure of the righteous man Job, who, almost disheartened and greatly tried, raises his cry to heaven seeing the hard work and transience of his life. Job raises the deeply enigmatic question of the suffering of the just which, at the end of the passage, remains almost in suspense awaiting a response from on high.

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When the Wood Is Dry

Cross Christ healing prayer by Daniel Boerman –
The gospel is all about healing and salvation and deliverance. It promises deliverance from sin and the judgment of God. It releases us from guilt and futility and frees us to live a meaningful life in the service of God. And it holds out the promise of a new life in the presence of God after this present life of struggle is over.

But what happens when this Good News seems to pass us by and leave us unchanged? For a period of several years, the gospel seemed to leave me out in the cold as surely as a marooned traveler stranded in a North Dakota blizzard. I struggled with confusion and depression and doubt.

During this period, I constantly prayed for some healing or deliverance. But nothing happened. I had the impression that God was sitting on the sidelines watching my struggle with some interest but also detachment. I questioned my faith and my status with God. It seemed that God wanted me to work out this problem on my own. The healing and grace of the gospel seemed to pass me by.

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Still the Only Solution to the World’s Problems

Ten Commandments Orthodox by Dennis Prager –
There is only one solution to the world’s problems, only one prescription for producing a near-heaven on earth.

It is 3,000 years old. And it is known as the Ten Commandments.

Properly understood and applied, the Ten Commandments are really all humanity needs to make a beautiful world. While modern men and women, in their hubris, believe that they can and must come up with new ideas in order to make a good world, the truth is there is almost nothing new to say.

If people and countries lived by the Ten Commandments, all the great moral problems would disappear. Or, to put it another way, all the great evils involve the violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments.

Here is the case in brief for the Ten Commandments (using the Jewish enumeration, which differs slightly from the Protestant and Catholic):

1. I am the Lord your God.
There are moral atheists and there are immoral believers, but there is no chance for a good world based on atheism. Ultimately, a godless and religion-free society depends on people’s hearts to determine right from wrong, and that is a very weak foundation.

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A Response to an Open Letter on Homosexuality

Fr. John Whiteford
Fr. John Whiteford
by Fr. John Whiteford
In response to the debate about homosexuality that is currently going on in the OCA, there is now an “Open letter to OCA Holy Synod from college students and young adults” that has been sent to the bishops of the OCA, and is making the rounds on the internet.

This letter is a classic example of the use of politically correct arguments to shut down those whom liberals disagree with, rather then deal with the actual substance of the question. This tactic is not by accident. When you can’t deal with the substance of an issue, complaining about the tone of those you can’t answer will do, in a pinch.

In short, the letter complains about the tone of those who say homosexuality is a sin, without unequivocally stating what the correct teaching of the Church actually is on the subject. There is no acknowledgment that statements that are morally ambiguous might be of any legitimate concern, only condemnation of those who seek to make clear what the teaching of the Church is.

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Charlie Rangel’s Misunderstanding of Christ and Charity

Vineyard Parable Christianity Christby William Sullivan –
The left is desperate to coerce Americans into embracing the president’s platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy to redistribute to the downtrodden, slothful, and all those between who stand to collect. So Charlie Rangel appealed to a largely Christian nation, “What would Jesus do?”

The hypocrisy here is so obvious that it need not be discussed in detail. Suffice it to say, when and where progressives draw the line on Christian influence in legislation tends to compromise any faith they claim to have. Asking this question about the current budget debate but not about, say, the morality of tax dollars serving to mutilate and siphon unborn babies from their mothers’ wombs is suspicious to say the least. If conservatives cite Christ’s teaching to protect unborn lives from a progressive agenda that indiscriminately allows for their destruction, it is panned as the archaic ravings of crackpots. Yet when Christ is referenced as a template of charity to advance the progressives’ redistributive agenda, nothing could be more pertinent to American values.

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Benedictine Monk: Remaining in Jesus the True Vine

Jesus the True Vine
I am the vine, you are the branches

by Fr. Gregory Gresko –
In listening attentively to the Word of God, we come to realize authentic communion with our Lord and are perfected slowly but surely in love of His Will through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who is able to safeguard us from despairing or presuming. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15.7).

As we continue celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ during this joyous Easter season, the Gospel passage from Wednesday’s liturgy called us to pause reflectively upon the image of Jesus as the true Vine and His people as the branches. Jesus teaches us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit . Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” (Jn 15.1-5).

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