Monday, April 24, 2017

The Homily of Holy Thursday by St. John Chrysostom

Homily of our Father Among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, for Holy Thursday 

O my beloved and greatly-desired brethren who have gathered in the Holy Church of God, in order to serve the Living God in holiness and righteousness, and, with fear [and love], to partake of the holy, most-pure, and immortal, awesome Mysteries of Christ: Hearken unto me who am lowly and unworthy. For it is not I who am speaking to you and instructing you; rather the grace of the Most-holy and Life-giving Spirit; for I speak not from myself, but as I have been instructed by the divine canons, and the God-bearing Fathers, as the Church received instruction from the divine Apostles who received their wisdom from God, so do I myself speak, who am lowly and least of all.

I know not your works; I consider not that which you have begun; and so, as one who fears God, I give counsel to everyone among you, whether man or woman, whether great or small, to anyone of you that may be guilty of sin, convicted by your own counsels, that first you must repent and confess your sins, that you may dare, considering yourself unworthy, to approach and touch the Divine Fire Itself.

For our God is a devouring Fire, and they, therefore, who with faith and fear [and love] draw near to the God and King and Judge of us all, shall burn and scorch their sins; and It shall enlighten and sanctify their souls. But It shall burn and scorch with shame, the souls and bodies of them that draw near with unbelief [or without repentance].

Therefore, [as St. Paul writes], many among you are ill and sleep in sickness, that is, many are dying unconfessed and unrepentant. And furthermore, my brethren, I beseech you, and I say: no one that swears oaths, nor a perjurer, nor a liar, nor one that finds fault with others, nor a fornicator, nor an adulterer, nor one that practices homosexuality, nor a thief, nor a drunkard, nor a blasphemer, nor one that envies his brother, nor a murderer, nor a sorcerer, nor a magician, nor a charmer, nor an enchanter, nor a robber, nor a [heretic], shall, unconfessed and unprepared, approach, touch, or draw near the dread Mysteries of Christ, for it is terrible to fall into the hands of the Living God.

For the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the joints and marrow and bones, and thoughts and hearts. See, therefore, my brethren, that no one approach, unrepentant or unprepared or unworthily, to partake of His dread and most-pure Mysteries. For He Himself saith: I am He, and there is no god besides me; I kill, and I make alive; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand; for I, Myself, am King forever: to Whom is due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

Click here to read the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.

Taken from "˜The Great Book of Needs," Volume II, St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 1998, pp. 332-333

Friday, April 21, 2017

An Awesome Recent Vision of the Theotokos Concerning Greece

Note: The following is a summary of an astonishing recent vision regarding the help of the Theotokos. In some ways, it resembles prior visions, such as those of Panagia Paramythia from Vatopedi, and the Holy Protection to St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ.

Several points though may benefit from clarification:

1) Christ has utter love and mercy, and He shed His Blood for the whole world. When scriptures discuss punishment or "wrath" of God, this is an idiom of our perception. Christ allows trials and tribulations as a last ditch effort to bring us to contrition and repentance, only when nothing else will work.

2) This does not mean to imply that the Theotokos would ever disobey or dishonor Christ. It just underlines how much she loves and cares for us, as she did at the Wedding at Cana.

3) As long as we repent and return to the Church during our lives, there is no sin that overcomes the love and mercy of Christ.

4) Though this might seem primarily for the people of Greece, the admonition is just as applicable for the whole world. We all have great sins to repent of, and if we do not repent speedily, it may soon become too late to do so.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Brief Summation of Holy Week and Pascha

Palm Sunday
Six days before the Passover, Jesus entered Jerusalem. People were awaiting a Messiah (which literally means, “the Anointed One”) to free them from the Romans and all their oppressors. While someone with power usually enters triumphantly into a city he has captured, Jesus entered Jerusalem humbly, riding a donkey. This fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy which said, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

People waved palm branches on that day, to symbolize that their Messiah had come. For this reason, we also bless palm branches at our Churches on this day. The Bishop or priest distributes them to all the faithful after the Divine Liturgy, to remember this very important feast day in the Church.

Matins of Holy Monday (Palm Sunday Evening)
On Palm Sunday night, we begin the services of the Bridegroom. We remember that the Church is the Bride of Christ. On all Bridegroom services, the faithful venerate the icon of the Bridegroom Christ. On Palm Sunday night and Holy Monday morning, we commemorate the memory of the righteous Joseph, who we find in the Old Testament (the entire story is found in Genesis 37-50). The story of Joseph shows us that if we believe in God, He will save us and that we should forgive people that might not like us; Joseph did it, so did Jesus and countless others.

We also remember our Lord’s words in the Gospel, specifically the “cursing of the fig tree”. This story tells us that the fig tree had leaves on it but no was alive, looked good and proper, but bore no fruit. Are we like this, only leaves but no fruit? We must always ask ourselves this question to progress in our spiritual lives.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Homily on the Annunciation of the Theotokos by St. Theodore the Studite

Brethren and fathers, the Annunciation is here and it is the first of the Feasts of the Lord, and we should not simply celebrate as most do, but with understanding and with reverence for the mystery. What is the mystery? That the Son of God becomes son of man, using the holy Virgin as the means, dwelling in her and from her fashioning for himself a temple and becoming perfect man. Why so? That he might ransom those under the law, as it is written, and that we might receive sonship [Gal. 4,5.]; that we may no longer be slaves, but free; no longer subject to the passions, but free of passions; no longer friends of the world, but friends of God; no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. 

Those who walk according to the flesh, think the things of the flesh; those who walk according to the spirit, the things of the spirit; for the thought of the flesh is death; but the thought of the spirit, life and peace. And so the thought of the flesh is hostile to God, for it is not subject to the law of God. Indeed it cannot be. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God [Rom. 8,5-8.]. In brief this is the power of the mystery, and this is why we should celebrate spiritually and behave spiritually, with holiness and justice, with love, with gentleness, with peace, with forbearance, with goodness, with the Holy Spirit [2 Cor. 6,6.], so that as far as we ourselves are concerned we do not render the dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ empty and ineffectual. Not only that, but we should both pray and grieve for the world. Why so? Because the Son of God came to save the world, and the world rejects him. Tribes and languages reject him; the barbarian nations reject him, those who have had his holy name invoked upon them reject him, some through abandoning the faith, others through their evil lives. 

What should he have done and did not do? Being God he became man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, the death of the cross [Phil. 2,8.]; he gave us his body to eat and his blood to drink; he allowed us to call him Father, Brother, Head, Teacher, Bridegroom, Fellow-heir and all the other titles which there is no time to mention now. And still he is rejected, and still he bears it. For, he says, I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world [John 12,47.]. What then is there to say, brethren? That the genuine disciples are grieved by the rejections of their fellow-disciples, thus showing love both for the teacher and for the disciples. So too, genuine servants suffer in the same way from the desertions of their fellow-servants.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sermon on the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas: The Second Sunday of Great Lent

Today, the second Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church worldwide celebrates the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, fourteenth-century Archbishop of Thessaloniki and one of the greatest Fathers of the Orthodox Church.

Until this century, because of the influence of the West—the Jesuits in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Russia and the Lutherans who were appointed as the Ministers of Religion under the first King of Greece, a German Lutheran, placed in power in Greece after its liberation from the Turkish Yoke at the beginning of the nineteenth century—, St. Gregory Palamas was a virtual mystery to Orthodox theologians. This man, whom we hymn as "ho phoster tes Orthodoxias" (the "Enlightener of Orthodoxy") and "to sterigma tes Ekklesias" (the "Pillar of the Church"), taught and lived our Faith in a purity which, except in the hidden confines of monasteries and in the hearts of the simple people—who could not articulate what they knew of Orthodoxy—, was lost to the neo-Papism of Patriarchalism, Western notions of "officialdom," and to nationalism and ethnicity, which are nothing more than a return to heathenism.

Even the life of this great Saint is obscured by modern Western ideas. One of the few commentaries on his life, in a book dedicated to the Pillars of Orthodoxy, refers to him as a member of the "Palamas" family, as though this great Saint were remembered for the nobility of his parents, who were, indeed, members of the Imperial Byzantine Court. Many names at the time, of course, were not like family names as we know them today, and the name "Palamas" was an honorific name derived, not from St. Gregory’s bloodline, but from the Greek word for "clapping," thus meaning that the Saint’s family was lauded and honoured. And so, this worldly honour was transformed by St. Gregory into spiritual honour, which we commemorate when we refer to him as "Palamas," one applauded for his spiritual stature. Nor was St. Gregory Palamas influenced by the Bogomils, as the theologian Father John Meyendorff so wrongly taught; neither did he teach an innovative theology, as many modern Orthodox theologians teach. Rather, he codified and wrote about the deep, mystical theology of the Orthodox Church which is, indeed, a teaching passed down through the Fathers, both in writing and by word of mouth, from the time of the Apostles.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Theotokos and the Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The Church of Christ, my beloved brethren, is the Divine-human Body of Christ. The Church of the Old Testament was spiritual and consisted of the righteous, who did not overcome death, but with the incarnation of Christ the Church became physical, that is it was recruited by Christ and became His Body. This was accomplished together with the Panagia, because she gave her body to Christ, who deified it and made it a church. This alone shows the great worth of our Panagia, and that she is the joy and cause of our deification.

Therefore, when we say Church we mean Christ the Bridegroom, the Mother of Christ the Bridegroom, and the friends of Christ the Bridegroom, the saints. Within this communion the deification of man is achieved as well as the sanctification of all creation, and of course great changes occur in society and the world.

In the sermons of the months that have past and are ahead of us, we mentioned and will refer to the Mysteries of our Church, and we saw the importance they have for our lives. There cannot be a spiritual life outside the Mysteries of our Church, especially without Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, and Divine Communion. But these Mysteries also involve our Panagia. The visitation of the angel at the Annunciation and the receiving of the Holy Spirit was the Baptism and Chrismation of our Panagia, because by this means she was purified according to her image and was anointed by the Holy Spirit. If we view Holy Baptism through the Orthodox perspective, not simply as a release from inherited guilt, but as the purification of the image, then we will also understand the situation of the nature of the Panagia during the Annunciation. With the conception of Christ in the womb of our Panagia one could say that the Panagia communed with Christ. The close relationship of Christ the embryo with His Mother shows that the Panagia had nine months during which she bore Christ in a constant Divine Communion. With her dormition and her bodily rise to heaven, the Panagia lived the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of her body.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Identical Twin Studies Prove Homosexuality Is Not Genetic

Eight major studies of identical twins in Australia, the U.S., and Scandinavia during the last two decades all arrive at the same conclusion: gays were not born that way.

“At best genetics is a minor factor,” says Dr. Neil Whitehead, PhD. Whitehead worked for the New Zealand government as a scientific researcher for 24 years, then spent four years working for the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency. Most recently, he serves as a consultant to Japanese universities about the effects of radiation exposure. His PhD is in biochemistry and statistics.

Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay.

“Because they have identical DNA, it ought to be 100%,” Dr. Whitehead notes. But the studies reveal something else. “If an identical twin has same-sex attraction the chances the co-twin has it are only about 11% for men and 14% for women.”

Because identical twins are always genetically identical, homosexuality cannot be genetically dictated. “No-one is born gay,” he notes. “The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.”

The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.
Dr. Whitehead believes same-sex attraction (SSA) is caused by “non-shared factors,” things happening to one twin but not the other, or a personal response to an event by one of the twins and not the other.  For example, one twin might have exposure to pornography or sexual abuse, but not the other. One twin may interpret and respond to their family or classroom environment differently than the other.

“These individual and idiosyncratic responses to random events and to common environmental factors predominate,” he says.