Orthodox Liturgy Heals and Properly Orders the Human Soul

Orthodox Liturgy Heals and Properly Orders the Human Soulby Fr. Johannes Jacobse –
People say that the Liturgy is the Kingdom of God entering time and while this definition works I suppose, I have never really understood what it really means. Yes, I understand it abstractly, but abstraction has only a limited usefulness. So I’ve come up with another.

Worship is necessary because it creates the place where the soul can experience a measure of the necessary reordering that fosters healing. The soul has structure, and the healing of the soul, which is also the healing of the person, is one of the concrete, experiential constituents of salvation. Salvation is not metaphorical. It is real which means that it is experiential and affects concrete change and transformation measured as the healing of the person. [Read more…]

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Sin as an Offense Against the Body

Mary Magdalene Sin as an Offense Against the Body by Fr. Tim McCauley –
“Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the impure person sins against the body itself.” More than any other type of sin, St. Paul is suggesting that impurity is a sin against ourselves. A deep healing of such sins cannot be limited to a correction of external behavior, but must include a renewal of a relationship with God and ourselves, and the healing of the shame of original sin through the power of Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Our secular culture is almost cunning in its naiveté, suggesting that sexual expression outside of marriage—fornication, homosexual activity, pornography, masturbation—are neutral forms of bodily pleasure, left to individual choice. Yet this same culture is forced to reckon with the prevalence of addictions in the area of sexuality. The celebration of choice becomes the slavery of addiction, as Jesus himself solemnly warned us, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” [Read more…]

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On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: 170 Texts (Philokalia, Vol 1)

St. Anthony the Great Character of Men and the Virtuous Lifeby St. Anthony the Great –

1. Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who are erudite in the sayings and books of the wise men of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God they resolutely adhere by dint of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These men alone should truly be called intelligent.

2. The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul. [Read more…]

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Mystery and History Collide on Christmas

Nativity God with Us Jesus Christby Regis Martin –
When we consider the Christmas Miracle, it is worth recalling the fact that Joseph does not at once repudiate his betrothed, despite his discovery that she is pregnant with another’s child. It is an astonishing development. How painfully bewildering it must have been for him, however, to try and account for a conception for which he was not at all responsible. Still, for all that Joseph is entitled to collect in the way of punitive damages, including death by stoning, he refuses to go that route, resolving instead “to divorce her quietly.”

At which point, of course, an angel of the Lord intervenes, advising Joseph in a dream not to heed the counsel of fear, nor to give way to the demands of justice, but to welcome Mary into his home. How so? Because the Child she bears is the Son of the living God. [Read more…]

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Thou Shall Not Judge – The Misunderstood 11th Commandment

hou Shall Not Judge - The Misunderstood 11th Commandmentby Robert Meyer –
The idea that we can never judge about anything is patently absurd. To say that we can never judge is to wander aimlessly. The Scriptures tell us that we should reprove each other, speaking the truth in love. What our society lacks is righteous judgment. What we have an abundance of is knit-picking and indifference. Neither of those two alternatives promotes justice and righteousness.

Regardless of the level of theological sophistication, we can always be sure the critics “know” one thing: The Bible says that we should not judge one another. Anyone who would do so is clearly being un-Christian. Such obtuse reasoning is employed against Christians who offer a negative commentary on certain cultural trends, behaviors or lifestyles. Still, I wonder how many people have taken this concept to its logical conclusion? [Read more…]

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The Comforting Doctrine of Hell

Jesus Christ Descent Into Hell, Resurrection Salvationby Leon J. Podles –
Modern Christians don’t deny Death, although they don’t like to think about it, and if they believe in an afterlife, they look forward to a pleasant Heaven. However, the other certainty, Judgment, and the other possibility, Hell, have vanished from the minds of Christians.

Surely God is non-judgmental, as non-judgmentalism is one of the few virtues that receive public tribute. And surely no one goes to hell, if it exists. The strong universalist strain in modern Christianity has many variations, ranging from the hope that all will be saved, held by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Richard John Neuhaus, and perhaps by John Paul II (and with which I feel the deepest sympathy), to a total rejection of the doctrine of hell as a patriarchal trick that thwarts self-liberation.

However, the traditional teaching on hell is in fact a sign of the genuineness of Christianity, and it is therefore a cause for hope. Liberal Christianity is largely a human construct; it is what happens to a revealed religion after human beings finish redecorating it to modern tastes.

H. Richard Niebuhr summarized the liberal gospel: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” [Read more…]

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Authority and Moral Life: An Orthodox Christian Perspective

Jesus Christ Moral Authority and Truthby Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou –

I am making the following brief statement as a committed Orthodox Christian and as a priest of the Church. I share with you my personal reflections on the authority for a moral life in accordance with my faith experience.

The teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles as well as those of the Fathers of the Church are directly or indirectly related to moral issues and the way a Christian ought to live his or her life. From the Orthodox perspective, Christ is the final or absolute authority of morality in a Christian society. Even though tolerance and respect of other faiths are a necessity within a pluralistic society, Christ is the supreme authority for the particular Christian community.

The expression of Christ’s authority within the world is that of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition as is manifested in the Church. According to Orthodoxy, the Law of God as applied to the authority for a moral life is manifested in three ways. First, as natural law (the inner conscience), second as the written law (the Old Testament), and third as spiritual, evangelical law (the Gospel of Christ). These three laws are not in conflict with each other, but rather have similar authority because all three have the same source, God, and the same goal, which is to guide man to attain moral perfection. [Read more…]

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Texas Orthodox Priests Reject Fr. Arida’s Scandalous Teaching on Homosexuality

Texas Orthodox Priests Reject Fr. Arida's False Teachingby Texas Orthodox Priests –
Statement of the Brotherhood of the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas on the Comments of Fr. Robert Arida on Homosexuality

In response to Fr. Robert Arida’s recent article, which was posted on the OCA’s Wonder blog, there have been many eloquent rebuttals.  We do not wish to attempt to reproduce those critiques here, but we do wish to underscore some of the more important points that have been made, and to speak out publically on this controversy.

We find it unacceptable for Orthodox Clergy, who have been given the charge to instruct and guide the laity, to suggest that the moral Tradition of the Orthodox Church needs to change with the times or with the prevalent culture. St. Paul admonishes us to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). [Read more…]

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Christianity is One Great Miracle – The Grand Miracle by C.S. Lewis

The Grand Miracle by C.S. Lewisby C.S. Lewis
One is very often asked as present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, “freed” from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals.

But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, which is uncreated, eternal, came into Nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him. [Read more…]

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The Heart of Worship is Surrender to God

Heart of Worship is Surrender to God by Rick Warren –
The heart of worship is surrender. Surrender is an unpopular word, especially in the American culture. Surrender means, to many, defeat. We love winning so surrender is unthinkable. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to Him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, 1 John 4:9:10, 19. Paul urges us to fully surrender our lives to God in worship, Romans 12:1. There are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride and confusion. We want to control our own lives so we misunderstand the meaning of surrender.

1. Can I trust God? Trust is essential to surrender. I won’t surrender to God unless I trust Him, but I can’t trust Him until I know Him better. Fear keeps me from surrendering, but love casts out all fear. The more I realize how much God loves me, the easier surrender becomes. How do I know God loves me? God says He loves me, Psalms 145:9. I’m never out of His sight, Psalms 139:3. He cares about every detail of my life – Matthew 10:30. [Read more…]

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Tolerance and Charity, from a Christian Perspective

Tolerance is Not a Christian Virtue by Brian A. Graebe –
Tolerance is a nice word, but is it a Christian virtue? Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver doesn’t think so, and his claim has occasioned no small amount of protest. In a smug editorial, America magazine recently chastened Chaput for coarsening the tenor of intra-ecclesial discourse. While no call for courtesy and civility should go unheeded, an apology for toleration that ignores its niceties only furthers the intellectual and moral torpor plaguing the public square.

Proponents of a kinder, gentler discussion on the great issues of our day often attempt a rhetorical sleight of hand, coupling tolerance with charity. Such a pairing is ambiguous at best. The call to charity “loving one’s fellow man as a child of God” is universal and, one hopes, uncontroversial. But what does it mean to be tolerant of those with whom we disagree on serious matters? If used as a synonym for charity, combined patience and magnanimity, one can make a case, but that case remains weak and the term imprecise. [Read more…]

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The Image of God and the Dignity of Work

The Image of God and the Dignity of Workby Art Lindsley –
The number one fear of the millennial generation is living a meaningless life.

In a recent informal survey of undergraduate students at Regent University, 27 percent of students asked expressed anxiety when considering their vocation. “Scared,” “uneasy,” “unsure,” “confused,” and “apprehensive” were common words in describing the way they felt about their future vocation.

But college students aren’t the only ones struggling with their calling. Many adults fail to discover their calling in life, too. Why is it so hard to find this thing we call our “vocation”?

When I use the words “calling” and “vocation,” I am referring to what Os Guinness calls our secondary calling. As Guinness points out, along with Luther, Calvin, and many other Reformers, our primary calling is the call to faith in Christ. Several secondary callings flow from this primary calling, including the call to work. [Read more…]

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Our Love of God is Tested Beyond the Church Walls

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk by Metropolitan Hilarion –
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

In today’s Reading of the Gospel, we heard the story of how our Lord Jesus Christ, at the request of His disciple, fed up a multitude of people with bread and fish. The Gospel speaks of five thousand men who were fed by the Lord, not counting women and children. So, we do not know the exact number of people. The Lord fed them with five thousand loaves and two fishes.

This miracle of the multiplication of loaves in a desert reminds us that the Lord is the Giver of every blessing, the Giver of both material and spiritual food. It is not accidental that every time before eating we ask the Lord to bless our meal and after the meal we thank Him for satisfying us with His earthly gifts and ask that He may not deprive us of His Heavenly Kingdom.

This miracle of the multiplication of loaves in a desert reminds us that the Lord is the Giver of every blessing, the Giver of both material and spiritual food. [Read more…]

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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.” [Read more…]

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Doubt Should Not be Feared

Metropolitan Anthony
Metropolitan Anthony
by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh –
I have been posed a question about doubt. People fear doubt. But they fear in vain, because doubt comes into being when we do not know the truth in full and pose a question.

I will give an example. I once occupied myself with science. One of the characteristics of scientific progress is the calling into question of everything of which you had previously been certain.

When a scientist gathers facts, they are at first uncoordinated. Then he gathers them together, and some kind of general picture emerges. It seems integral. At this point, if he is a true scientist, he will pose a question to himself: where are the cracks? I will search for a fact that will dismantle the integrity of my conception, since my conception is limited.

All science in general consists of collecting facts, arranging them into a single whole, and then calling this whole into question [Read more…]

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