Saturday, July 22, 2017

Abortion: The Finishing Blow by Elder Ephraim of Arizona


My beloved children,

Today, our earth is constantly being saturated with torrents of blood from wars and various other events. It is also saturated, however, with blood that is more innocent than that of Abel’s: the blood of executed infants. It is the blood of innocent babies—these defenseless children—, which is spilt by their very own mothers.

Clinics and obstetricians’ offices have become the “new” slaughterhouses of Herod. Millions upon millions of babies throughout the entire world have been thrown into garbage cans and septic tanks. People don’t even dispose of cats in this way! As we have seen in a startling video documentary, the doctor, obstetrician, and murderer initially kills the child within the mother’s womb using a scalpel. Then with a special instrument, he proceeds to crush the infant’s delicate head, and, finally, removes it. The mother, of course, witnesses none of this and very peacefully departs for her home.

A few days ago, I came across an article written by a physician, and I would like to read it to you, as I think it will help you to understand what abortion is from a practical and scientific point of view. The title of the article is: “The Finishing Blow.” I will read you the original text.

“As the daily media informs us, there will be a vote. In particular, a vote on what will be the most villainous bill ever to pass through the Greek Parliament. At a time when the Greek nation is on the verge of extinction, this decision will serve as the ultimate finishing blow. Unfortunately, this crime is becoming legal. Before, however, members of the parliament approve the aforementioned legislation, we wish to make the following two recommendations:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fasting as Medicine by Saint John Chrysostom

Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail.

Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by. 

In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.

Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: "If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves."

You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you thrusted bad talk in his soul; you wounded it by spreading disfame, causing unestimatable damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others.

If you cannot go without eating all day because of an ailment of the body, beloved one, no logical man will be able to criticize you for that. Besides, we have a Lord who is meek and loving (philanthropic) and who does not ask for anything beyond our power. Because he neither requires the abstinence from foods, neither that the fast take place for the simple sake of fasting, neither is its aim that we remain with empty stomachs, but that we fast to offer our entire selves to the dedication of spiritual things, having distanced ourselves from secular things. If we regulated our life with a sober mind and directed all of our interest toward spiritual things, and if we ate as much as we needed to satisfy our necessary needs and offered our entire lives to good works, we would not have any need of the help rendered by the fast. But because human nature is indifferent and gives itself over mostly to comforts and gratifications, for this reason the philanthropic Lord, like a loving and caring father, devised the therapy of the fast for us, so that our gratifications would be completely stopped and that our worldly cares be transferred to spiritual works. So, if there are some who have gathered here and who are hindered by somatic ailments and cannot remain without food, I advise them to nullify the somatic ailment and not to deprive themselves from this spiritual teaching, but to care for it even more.

For there exist, there really exist, ways which are even more important than abstinence from food which can open the gates which lead to God with boldness. He, therefore, who eats and cannot fast, let him display richer almsgiving, let him pray more, let him have a more intense desire to hear divine words. In this, our somatic illness is not a hindrance. Let him become reconciled with his enemies, let him distance from his soul every resentment. If he wants to accomplish these things, then he has done the true fast, which is what the Lord asks of us more than anything else. It is for this reason that he asks us to abstain from food, in order to place the flesh in subjection to the fulfillment of his commandments, whereby curbing its impetuousness. But if we are not about to offer to ourselves the help rendered by the fast because of bodily illness and at the same time display greater indifference, we will see ourselves in an unusual exaggerated way. For if the fast does not help us when all the aforementioned accomplishments are missing so much is the case when we display greater indifference because we cannot even use the medicine of fasting. Since you have learned these things from us, I pardon you, those who can, fast and you yourselves increase your acuteness and praiseworthy desire as much as possible.

To the brothers, though, who cannot fast because of bodily illness, encourage them not to abandon this spiritual word, teaching them and passing on to them all the things we say here, showing them that he who eats and drinks with moderation is not unworthy to hear these things but he who is indifferent and slack. You should tell them the bold and daring saying that "he who eats for the glory of the Lord eats and he who does not eat for the glory of the Lord does not eat and pleases God." For he who fasts pleases God because he has the strength to endure the fatigue of the fast and he that eats also pleases God because nothing of this sort can harm the salvation of his soul, as long as he does not want it to. Because our philanthropic God showed us so many ways by which we can, if we desire, take part in God's power that it is impossible to mention them all.

We have said enough about those who are missing, being that we want to eliminate them from the excuse of shame. For they should not be ashamed because food does not bring on shame but the act of some wrongdoing. Sin is a great shame. If we commit it not only should we feel ashamed but we should cover ourselves exactly the same way those who are wounded do. Even then we should not forsake ourselves but rush to confession and thanksgiving. We have such a Lord who asks nothing of us but to confess our sins, after the commitment of a sin which was due to our indifference, and to stop at that point and not to fall into the same one again. If we eat with moderation we should never be ashamed, because the Creator gave us such a body which cannot be supported in any other way except by receiving food. Let us only stop excessive food because that attributes a great deal to the health and well-being of the body.

Let us therefore in every way cast off every destructive madness so that we may gain the goods which have been promised to us in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abridged from St. John Chrysostom homilies "On Fasting"

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Abbess Gabrielia: Her Life and Teachings


Gerontissa (Abbess) Gabrielia was born in Constantinople a hundred years ago on October 2/15, 1897. She grew up in the city until her family moved to Thessaloniki in 1923. She went to England in 1938 and stayed there throughout the Second World War. She trained as a chiropodist and physiotherapist. In 1945 she returned to Greece where she worked with the Friends Refugee Mission and the American Farm School in Thessalonika in early post-war years. Later she opened her own therapy office in Athens until 1954. In March of that year her mother died and the office was closed. Sister Lila left Greece and traveled overland to India where she worked with the poorest of the poor, even the lepers, for five years.

It was not until 1959 that she went to the Monastery of Mary and Martha in Bethany, Palestine, to become a nun. When she arrived she asked Fr. Theodosius the chaplain for a rule of prayer. Fr. Theodosius was somewhat surprised to find that she could read even ancient Byzantine Greek. Fr. Theodosius said, “The great elders that we hear about no longer exist. I certainly am not one. You came here to save your soul. If I start giving you rules, you will lose you soul and I will as well. But here is Fr. John. He will be your elder.” So for her first year in the monastery he set her to reading only the Gospels and St. John Climacus (it should be noted that at that time the Ladder had not been published in modern Greek).

She was three years in Bethany. In April, 1962, word came that Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople sought to send an Orthodox monastic to Taize in France. Sister Gabrielia went by way of Taize (she spoke fluent French from childhood) to America.

In 1963 she was back in Greece. The Gerontissa was tonsured to the Small Schema by Abbot Amphilochios (Makris) on Patmos in the Cave of St. Anthony under the Monastery of Evangelismos just before she and the nun Tomasina left again for India. Elder Amphilochios was enthusiastic at the idea a nun who would be open to the an active outreach in the world. In India she was for three year in Nani Tal in Uttar Pradesh where Fr. Lazarus Moore was the priest and where he consulted the Gerontissa in his translations of the Psalter and the Fathers. Between 1967 and 1977 the Gerontissa traveled in the Mission field of East Africa, in Europe including visiting old friends and spiritual fathers Lev Gillet and Sophrony of Essex, again to America, and briefly in Sinai where Archbishop Damianos was attempting to reintroduce monasticism for women.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia on Child Development

Education, says Elder Porphyrios, lasts throughout life (lifelong education) and starts from fetal life, and constantly evolving. The most important educations and upbringing is the one held by the family.

According to Elder Porphyrios, the family is the first physical means of upbringing and educating people. In the first five years of human life the family with all functions – visible and hidden, conscious and unconscious – helps on shaping the personality. The child and the adolescent observe the family roles played by parents. Children often identify themselves with the roles of parents. Sometimes, however, the children reject their parents and adopt a reactive behavior. This is obvious especially in dysfunctional families.

Elder Porphyrios teaches that the core of the personality of young people is organized in the framework of the dynamic relationships in the family. Elder Porhpyrios in all the cases that came to him for confession, he studied their background of their intra-familial and marital relationships. What makes good children, says Elder Porphyrios, is the virtuous lives of parents at home. Parents should love God. Parents, according to Elder Porphyrios, should become ‘saints’, ‘holy’ near their children and have gentleness, patience and love. They should be always available for their children, with enthusiasm and love for them. Then, with the grace of God, and their ‘holiness’ they will transfer their good and virtuous feelings to their children.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monasticism: The Apostolic Life by Abbot Paisios of Arizona


From a Presentation by the Very Reverend Abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery, Archimandrite Paisios, to the San Francisco Diocese clergy conference at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona. Spring, 1998.

Many Christians during the first centuries of the Church were moved by a holy zeal to forsake the world and distribute almost all their belongings to the poor or to a common treasury, and then lived a secular life, praying and reading the Holy Scriptures. They usually lived not far from their own families. By doing handicrafts, they earned what they needed for their basic living necessities. They distributed the little money that was left over to the poor. These people were called “ascetics.” This way of life developed even more during the following years, and from this mode of living the monastic life was born. Women who wanted and desired to dedicate themselves completely to God confessed before witnesses that they desired a life of virginity and thenceforth lived—in the beginning—with their parents, who provided for their livelihood. Later it was customary for the virgins to live together in “Parthenons,” Pachomios the Great organized monasticism for women more perfectly and founded many monasteries for men and many for women.

The monastic life was called the “apostolic life” in the ancient church.  It imitated – and still imitates – the life of the first Christians, who lived under the direct or indirect spiritual direction of the Apostles.  In essence, it is a life of repentance and purification of the heart from our passions, while fulfilling the commandments of the Lord.  The beatitudes of the Lord find their fulfillment in monasticism, and more generally in ascesis, just as in the time of the ancient church.

The ascetical life of the monasteries is just like the ascetical life of the first Christians.  We find in the Acts of the Apostles that the faithful “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers… All who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food. . .” (Acts 2:42-46) And later we find another similar testimony: “The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” (Acts 4:32)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Homily of Pentecost Sunday by St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria


Light, Radiance and Grace Are in the Trinity and from the Trinity (from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion)

It will not be out of place to consider the ancient Tradition, teaching and faith of the catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the Apostles and guarded by the Fathers.  For upon this faith of the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consider, to consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being.  It is wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in Its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved. 

Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is “above all things and through all things and in all things.” God is “above all things” as Father, for He is principal and source; He is “through all things” through the Word; and He is “in all things” in the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Memorial Service

~ TONE FIVE ~

THE BENEDICTIONS

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

The choir of Saints has found the fountain of life and the door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance. I am the lost sheep: O Savior, call me back and save me. 

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

Of old, You created me from nothing and honored me with Your divine image. But when I disobeyed Your commandment, You returned me to the earth from which I was taken. Lead me back again to Your likeness, so that the ancient beauty may be refashioned.

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

I am an image of Your ineffable glory, though I bear the scars of my transgressions. Take pity on me, the work of Your hands, Master, and cleanse me by Your compassion. Grant me the desired homeland for which I long, making me again a citizen of Paradise.

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

Give rest, O God, to Your servant(s), and place him (her, them) in Paradise where the choirs of the Saints and the righteous, O Lord, will shine as the stars of heaven. To Your departed servant(s) give rest, O Lord, overlooking all his (her, their) offenses.

PEOPLE: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Let us devoutly praise the threefold radiance of the one God as we sing: Holy are You, the Father without beginning, the co-eternal Son, and the divine Spirit. Illumine us who worship You in faith and deliver us from the eternal fire.

PEOPLE: Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, gracious Lady, who gave birth to God in the flesh for the salvation of all, and through whom the human race has found salvation. Through you, pure and blessed Theotokos, may we find Paradise.

PEOPLE: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You O God. (3)

~ TONE EIGHT ~

PEOPLE: With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul(s) of Your servant(s) where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.

~ TONE FOUR ~

PEOPLE: Among the spirits of the righteous perfected in faith, give rest, O Savior, to the soul(s) of Your servant, keeping it (them) in the blessed life which is from You, O loving One.

PEOPLE: In your place of rest, O Lord, where all Your saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Your servant, for You alone are immortal.

PEOPLE: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

PEOPLE: You are our God who descended into Hades and loosened the pains of those who were held captive. Grant rest also, O Savior, to the soul of Your servant.

Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You the only pure and spotless Virgin, who ineffably gave birth to God, intercede for mercy and forgiveness of the soul of your servant(s).

PRIEST: Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Your great mercy; we pray to You, hear us and have mercy.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. (3)

PRIEST: Again we pray for the repose of the soul(s) of the departed servant(s) of God (Name) and for the forgiveness of all his (her, their) sins, both voluntary and involuntary.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. (3)

PRIEST: May the Lord God grant his (her, their) soul(s) rest where the righteous repose. For the mercies of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the forgiveness of his (her, their) sins. 

PEOPLE: Grant this, O Lord.

PRIEST: Let us pray to the Lord.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.

PRIEST: O God of spirits and of all flesh, You trampled upon death and abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the soul(s) of Your departed servant(s) (Name) in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin he (she, they) has (have) committed in word, deed, or thought, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth.

PRIEST: For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant(s) (Name), Christ our God, and to You we offer glory, with Your eternal Father who is without beginning and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

PEOPLE: Amen.

THE DISMISSAL

PRIEST: Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You.

Lord of the living and the dead, the immortal King and Risen Christ, our true God, through the intercessions of His all-pure and spotless holy Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles; of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers; of the holy and glorious forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of His holy and righteous friend Lazaros, who lay in the grave four days; and of all the saints; place the soul(s) of His servant(s) (Name), departed from us, in the dwelling place of the righteous; give rest to him (her, them) in the bosom of Abraham; and number him (her, them) among the saints and have mercy on us, as a good God who loves mankind.

PEOPLE: Amen.

PRIEST: May your memory be eternal, brother worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)

FOR WOMEN:

PRIEST: May your memory be eternal, sister worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)

FOR MANY

PRIEST: May their memories be eternal, sisters and brothers worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)


~ TONE THREE ~

PEOPLE: Eternal be his (her, their) memory. Eternal be his (her, their) memory. May his (her, their) memory be eternal. (3)


PRIEST: Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.

PEOPLE: Amen.