Archive | Meditations

Metropolitan JOSEPH on American Orthodoxy

“We have the particularity of various lands and nations of origin, but our identity as Orthodox Christians stems from our confession of faith and the baptismal font where we derive our “birth from above,” and so we can charitably call every man our brother, since Christ made us all to be renewed in Himself.”…A personal encounter and a continuous intercourse with the Living God. The ultimate goal…is precisely the holy man and the holy community, i.e. the Holy Church, and just the holy system.” We live now in a perilous state in society in general, both morally and intellectually. We need to be ready to reach out to everyone, with confidence that we can address their need for spiritual healing with the Holy Gospel.

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Frameworks for Youth Ministry by Gregory Abdalah

Youth Ministry should provide an environment within which our youth can encounter Christ, It should create an atmosphere that facilitates the development of their personal relationships with Christ, Once a relationship with Christ has been developed to provide opportunities for the fostering of that relationship. Our youth are seeking out community wherever they can find them, not knowing where to look. When the Liturgical Life becomes the center of the community. It is then, we can began to help them to realize their Liturgical Discipleship. Considering each from the viewpoint of Liturgical Discipleship, we would understand them as Baptism-the roots of Liturgical Discipleship, Chrismation-the sign of Liturgical Discipleship, Eucharist-the expression of the Liturgical Discipleship. The anaphora prayers aren’t for God. God knows them all already, liturgical prayers are for us. Liturgy is joy Why would keep that joy way from our Youth.

Youth, generally speaking, are narcissistic, and each successive generation seems to be more and more so. Read more.

 

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Reflection from Fr. Laurence Lazar

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will  reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
-Galations 6:9

             Today the breeze outside was a bit cool, even what you might call refreshing but then it hit me that it won’t be too long before everyday will feature cold weather, snow, sleet, and ice.  If you think I’m looking forward to any of that you’re wrong.  The changes in the weather, the roads, the… (fill in the blank), in reality, there will always be the good and bad.  That’s life.  The great philosopher Rosanne Rosanadana said, “Life.  If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.”  In the words of Forrest Gump, “Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

             Isn’t that the truth? Yet, we children of our loving God realize that whatever it is that life “throws” at us, it is His gift to us, to be used for our good and that of others, for His glory.  “Everything that is good come to us from above.” And everything that is NOT good? No, it doesn’t come from Him.  Man’s sin brought into our world death and sickness, problems, heartache, the injustice of poverty, and all of our woes.  But because God loves us, He strengthens us to endure whatever is wrong in our lives, in society, across the world to endure everything until we are with Him forever in Paradise.

             Let us give thanks to the Lord.  The seasons and challenges of our lives change.  But there is one thing that will never change.  God’s mercy and love.  They endure forever.  His love is beyond our comprehension.  His forgiveness is constant.  His blessings never cease to fall on us.  With each day of life in this world-when it’s peaceful and beautiful, or even painful, we need to grow in union with Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Ship of Life, who promises to lead us through the often crashing waves of the sea to the safety and joy of Paradise.

            ~Fr. Laurence Lazar

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Fr. Patrick’s Meditation from April, 2012, Parish Newsletter

   “Remembering a sin that we have committed does not mean that the sin has not been forgiven.  This remembrance of our sins is only a warning to us lest we become proud and sin again.  In fact, we – not God – are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves.”

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

      Many years ago I had the opportunity to become familiar with Orthodox prayers from several different sources.  There was one prayer in particular that made a big impression on me; it included asking God to forgive a long, enumerated list of a wide variety of more and less common sins.  There is one sin from that list that keeps popping up in readings, conversations, and probably most commonly while hearing confessions.  That sin is called, “the remembrance of wrongs.”  I have sought explanation about this sin and believe I have been able to understand its meaning and nuances.  At this holy time of the year it is very appropriate to meditate on the topic of forgiveness.

Are there good remembrances and bad remembrances of sins?  It seems to be so.  Since the Elder has explained somewhat here the good remembrance let us look at the bad remembrance.  It is my experience that the bad remembrance has two components.  First, there can be certain attachments to a sin which continue to arouse one’s interest.  Yes, even one who is sincere in their repentance can still be attracted to the sins from which they are repenting.  Therefore remembering a past sin can be a major source of temptation and provocation, especially if it is remembered with nostalgia and in detail.  Second, there is the distinct possibility that one remembers their sins because they are afraid that God has not forgiven them.  This is something I’m certain every priest hears from time to time as a confessor: spiritual children re-confessing certain sins “just in case” God didn’t hear and forgive them the first time.  When this is the case I am always compassionate, but there are times when I have to be both compassionate and firm.   If the remembrance of our sins is based in doubt over God’s forgiveness then we are adding sin to sin.  One must be reminded in these situations that God’s forgiveness is, like His love, absolute and unconditional.  What are we preparing ourselves for during the holy Lenten season?  It is the entrance into the death and resurrection of our Lord.  While we should be doing this every day of our lives the annual journey of Lent and the celebration of Pascha is time set aside not as a simple commemoration of a distant, dusty past but as a complete and present affirmation of the work of the Cross and the mystery of the empty tomb.

When one uses words like “absolute” and “unconditional” when referring to God’s forgiveness it must be understood that this does not mean “cheap grace.”  First of all, since God’s grace can never be earned (what could a man do to earn/deserve this priceless gift?) it can never be “cheap.”  The point is this: when Jesus died on the Cross He did not did not die for only some sins, He died for ALL sins.  While the covering of this grace is beyond comprehension, we are yet asked to understand – and accept – this grace as the gift of love in which it is intended.  When in Confession or in our daily prayers we ask God to forgive our sins we are essentially asking for a gift that we have already received.  Why do we do this?  We find an answer in the Elder’s words “we – not God – are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves.”  The confession of sin is an act of contrition where we openly admit our mistakes, before God and our confessor, and offer our conscience at the altar of forgiveness.  Each of us must know that a man can deceive himself into thinking there is nothing “wrong” with him and therefore he doe not need confession, but the clear truth is that a man can never deceive his conscience.  The cleansing we receive through sincere confession readies the soul through the conscience to stand before God in judgment; it is the preparation of man’s inner heart and mind to receive the great gift that has already been given.  Our belief in this gift is vital to our growth in virtue which, when lacking, according to St. Peter’s second letter, is a direct result of forgetting that we’ve been “cleansed from [our] old sins” (1:3-9).  Or to put it in a more colloquial way, “The man who forgets his past is bound to repeat it.”

Beloved, if we must, let us remember our past sins, but only in ways that are helpful; beyond this let us more importantly remember the Cross and the empty tomb, now as we once again approach Holy Pascha, and always.  The love of God is seen in the Life that He has given us and desires us to receive.  May we receive it joyfully and each day realize with thankfulness that the Kingdom of God is near!

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March Meditation – St. Nikolai Velimirovic

… Meditate On These Things                    Philippians 4:8

 Commentary of the Sunday of Forgiveness and Fasting (abridged)

“For a soldier in battle, the first rule is not to surrender to the enemy.  A lonely, hungry, cold and naked soldier will be greatly tempted to give himself up to the enemy.  The cunning enemy will make use of his predicament in all possible ways.  The enemy may himself be hungry, cold, ragged and naked, but he will, to show an illusion of the abundance that he has, throw the soldier a little bread and some piece of clothing.

Satan is constantly seeking men, right from the day when he deceived the first man.  He seeks to draw Christ's soldiers to himself with every possible delusion, luring him with false promises and showing him his illusory wealth.  There is none hungrier than he, but he shows bread to the hungry, calling on them to surrender.  There is none more naked than he, but he attracts men to the colors of his false and illusory clothing.  There is none poorer than he, but he, like a magician at a fair, rubs two coins together and skillfully shows the onlookers the millions he seems to have.  “He is a liar; and the father of lies” (John 8:44), and all his power and all his possessions have only an illusory existence.  Pointing out to His followers all the devil's deceits and weapons, the Lord Jesus showed them, by both word and deed, how to resist and with what weapons to fight.

Christ Himself is the main weapon for us His followers; His presence with us and His power within us are our chief weapons.  But, apart from Christ's own presence and power that are our main weapons in the battle against the evil spirit, the Lord Jesus, with His aid, has offered other sorts of weapons.  These weapons are: constant repentance, constant almsgiving, constant prayer, constant joy in the Lord, fear of the Judgment, willing endurance of suffering for His sake with faith and hope, the forgiving of insults, looking on this world as it is as though it has no existence, partaking in His holy Mysteries, vigils and fasting.

When fasting is understood in a true, Christian sense it is not legalistic or pharisaic.  There is very little value in abstaining from food without abstinence from [sin] and the illusion of earthly riches.  The hypocrites are they who fast, not for the sake of God, nor for their own souls, but because of men, that men should see their fasting and praise them for it.  They have indeed received their reward.

The most important regulation that we are given about fasting is that we do so for the sake of God and for the salvation of our soul.  And this means: fast from all evil thoughts.  Do the same with your tongue.  Do the same with your heart.  Do the same with the will of your soul.  In other words: bridle and restrain your inner man, who is of priority and importance, from every evil, and incline him to everything that is good.

Keep your senses from everything that is superfluous and dangerous.  Restrain your eyes from constantly wandering; restrain your ears from listening to anything that does not serve the soul's salvation; restrain your nose; restrain your tongue and your stomach; restrain the whole of your body from becoming over-refined and demanding of you more than it needs for survival.  This is fasting that leads to salvation.  This is the fast that Christ recommends, a fast free of hypocrisy, a fast that drives out evil spirits and brings man a glorious victory and many fruits, both in this life and the next.  How could a Christian not rejoice when he arms himself with this fasting against his soul's most fearsome opponents?

So let us open our eyes while there is still time.  Let us be firmly convinced that the final victory will belong to Christ, our King and Commander.  Let us, then, hasten to take up the victorious weapon that He has offered us for the battle – the precious fast – the weapon that is, when rightly borne, fearsome and deadly to our enemy.

Let us refrain from excessive eating and drinking, so that our hearts do not fail us (Luke 21:26) and drown in corruption and darkness.  Let us refrain from choosing earthly treasures, so that Satan may not separate us from Christ and suggest surrender to us.  And when we fast, let us not fast for the praise of men but for our soul's salvation and the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

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