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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A Christmas Homily (excerpt) by St. Gregory Nazianzus (+380)

Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, be exalted.  Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth.  Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.

Again, the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar.  The people who sat in the darkness of ignorance, let them see the great Light full of knowledge.  Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.  The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front.  The shadows flee away, the truth comes in on them.  Melchizedek is concluded.  He who was without Mother becomes without Father (without mother of His former state, without father of His second).  The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled.  Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him.  O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, whose government is upon His shoulder (for with the cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father.  Let John cry, prepare the way of the Lord; I too will cry the power of this Day.  He who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.  Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk until their tongues ache.  Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God – that putting off of the old man, we might put on the new; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him.  For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful.  For where sin abounded grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the passion of Christ justify us?  Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our master’s; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation…

The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: He it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites Himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like.

He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin.  He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; His coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor.  He comes forth as God, in the human nature He has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.

He who makes rich is made poor; He takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity.  He who is full is made empty; He is emptied for a brief space of His glory, that I may share in His fullness.  What is this wealth of goodness?  What is this mystery that surrounds me?  I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it.  He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh.  He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to Himself through the mediation of His Son.  The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

The Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice.  When He found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him.  The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.  We need God to take our flesh and die, that we might live.  We have died with him, that we may be purified.  We have risen again with Him, because we have died with Him.  We have been glorified with Him, because we have risen again with Him.

 

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Fr. Patrick’s Meditation from Oct/Nov 2014 Parish Newsletter

     “When you are wronged and your heart and feelings are hardened, do not be distressed, for this has happened providentially; but be glad and reject the thoughts that arise within you, knowing that if they are destroyed at the stage when they are only provocations, their evil consequences will be cut off; whereas if the thoughts persist the evil may be expected to develop.”

St. Mark the Ascetic

Everyone knows that pride is the root of every sin, but pride is an enemy of many differing forms that, more often than not, is very difficult to identify.  It’s easy to confess the sin of pride, or at least the lack of humility, but because of the subtleties of pride and our inability or unwillingness to identify it and its disguises, we are left continually vulnerable to a sad recurrence of the same old struggles.  There is one persistent sin that occurs in my life that I believe if I were to become even just a little more watchful of I might find myself at least occasionally ahead of “[our] adversary the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

What is this sin?  It is that which arises in the thoughts, that when embraced gives birth to greater sins.  The thoughts of judgment and hatred, of feeling wronged or jealous, of self-justification and self-pity, of anger and self-doubt, the thoughts of … (insert here).  It seems to me that, more and more, men are becoming a people of the mind, no longer governed by absolutes but rather by thoughts and emotions.  Intelligence and the volatility of our feelings are a vicious combination which can lead to all kinds of evil: evil against a society, against neighbor, and even against one’s own self – blindly and violently!

I am intrigued as to how this particular Trojan Horse has wormed its way into the very fabric of modern disposition.  There isn’t anything new here but it does seem to present itself in a different way at this time in history.  Could one source be progressive education?  C.S. Lewis presented a good argument for this in his book, The Abolition of Man.  Has man become so enamored with himself, his knowledge, his achievements and his potential, like Narcissus and his reflection in the pool, that he has forgotten to “man his post?”  It seems that we’ve become so weighed down with ourselves that we’ve become low hanging fruit – easy pickings – for that “roaring lion.”  Whatever poise any of us may possess seems precarious and subject at any given moment to collapse – at the moment of any random thought or feeling.  How can it not be when I have been empowered to validate my every thought, etched in the very “correctness” of my own evolutionary development (?!).

Beloved in Christ, I would like to state clearly that our thoughts need not be our enemy.  They are only part of who we are and while guided by them we should never be ruled by them.  However, if we do not want to be ruled by them then we must take very seriously our life in Christ and His Holy Church.  It requires of us discipline and a growing ability to see things in a different way; most especially, as St. Mark the Ascetic has said here, “providentially.”  Divine Providence is the strangest of concepts to men who believe only in themselves; and only men who are willing to lower themselves from the heights of self-determination (and conceit) can ever hope to understand it.  What might be the first clues that our thoughts are leading us down the pathway of evil?:  when the thoughts pit man against God or brother against brother, which more often than not lead to the greatest heresy of all: Schism (division – separation from God, separation from our brother).  There are, of course, many other clues, too many to enumerate here.  A question is: How are we to see temptation in this context, or the wrong that I have been asked to endure, or the judgment I am convinced is correct, or the self-justification and self-pity that leads to isolation?  Maybe a better question is: Will my faith carry me through any difficult and unendurable circumstance so that no evil may find its source in me?  Like a cancer, early detection is the best way to stop the spread of provocation and ultimate consequence.  Am I willing to diligently, humbly, prayerfully seek the virtue of early discernment and reject (cut off) the divisive intentions of the devil’s provocation?  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  Beloved, may it be so!  May we all strive to be more watchful over our thoughts!

 

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