Category Archives: Father’s Blog

How To Form An Orthodox Conscience

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Here are the ways in which we can cooperate with God’s grace and form this conscience within ourselves:

1 . We are to have much love for our .Saviour, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are not to divide our love between God and the world. For a beginner this means that when we pray we should struggle mightily to concentrate and avoid distractions: we are to be wholly in God. Furthermore, as St. John of Kronstadt teaches:

“Love for God begins to manifest itself, and to act in us, when we begin to love our neighbor as ourselves, and not to spare ourselves or anything belonging to us for him, as he is the image of God: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen? (I John 4:20).”

St. John says that this is the only love which is real, and lasting:

“The purer the heart becomes, the larger it becomes; consequently it is able to find room for more and more loved ones; the more sinful it is, the more it contracts; consequently it is able to find room for fewer and fewer loved ones–it is limited by a false love; self-love.”

2. We must pray often, both at church and at home. St. Gregory of Sinai says that the great gift which God gives us in Holy Baptism is buried by us, just as a treasure is buried in the ground–‘and common sense and gratitude demand that we should take good , care to unearth this treasure and bring it to light.” One of the most important ways to do this is by acquiring the habit of prayer. Blessed Theophan the Recluse explains further

“Those who only hear about spiritual meditation and prayer and have no direct knowledge [experience] of it are like men blind from birth, who hear about the sunshine without ever knowing what it really is. Through this ignorance they lose many spiritual blessings, and are slow in arriving at the virtues which make for the fulfillment of God’s good pleasure.”

3. We must carefully read and study Holy Scripture. Although many saints had the habit of reading through the entire Psalter and New Testament every week, we should at least read the Gospel and Epistle appointed in the Church Calendar for each day. According to St. Seraphim of Sarov, “It is very profitable ‘to occupy oneself: with the reading of the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently…in order that the whole mind of the reader might be plunged into the truths of Holy Scripture, and that from this he might receive warmth.”

4. Attendance at Divine Services and frequent reception of Holy Communion is vital to the development of an Orthodox conscience. Of this, St. John of Kronstadt writes:

“The Divine Liturgy is truly a heavenly service on earth, in which God Himself, in a particular, immediate, and most close manner is present and dwells with men ….There is on earth nothing higher, greater, more holy, than the Liturgy; nothing more solemn, nothing more life-giving.”

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk observed:   “TheChristians of old frequently received communion as the cause and food of immortality, wherefore even up to our own time the Holy Church daily exhorts us to ‘draw near with fear of God and with faith’. At the present day people have neither, as the facts abundantly prove; only once a year, and even then almost under compulsion, do they approach the Table of Immortality ….  Men hasten joyfully to banquets, but to this spiritual and most Sacred Table to which Christ invites them they come under compulsion.”

5. We should read the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church and the Lives of the Saints. Blessed Theophan the Recluse explained this to one of his spiritual children in the following way:

“The spiritual life is a special world into which the wisdom of men cannot penetrate… This is a subject which embraces much and is lofty and sweet to the heart …. If you seriously desire to enter onto this path, then you won’t have time to turn to the study of other subjects.. for human philosophizing cannot even be compared with spiritual wisdom.”

Therefore, if we wish to learn ways that are  pleasing to God, it stands to reason that we will set aside time in order to study the writings and lives of those who have drawn close to Him while still in this life, for according to St. John of Kronstadt there are rich and .poor in the spiritual world just as there are in worldly society:

“As the poor ask charity of the rich, and cannot live without help· from them, so also in the spiritual order the poor must have recourse to-the rich. We are the spiritually poor, whilst the saints, and those who shine even in this present life by their faith and piety, are the spiritually rich. It is to them that we needy ones must have recourse.”

6. We are to practice the presence of God in our daily life. St. John of Kronstadt explains it in this way:

“Believe that God sees you as undoubtedly as you believe that anyone standing face to face with you sees you, only with this difference, that the Heavenly Father sees everything that is in you, everything that you are …. God is nearer to us than any man at any time. Therefore we must always set God before us, at our right hand, and there behold Him; we must be strong, and in order not to sin we must so place ourselves that nothing can thrust God from our thoughts and hearts, that nothing can hide Him from us, that nothing may deprive us of our beloved Lord, but that we may every hour, every minute, belong to Him, and be perpetually with Him, as He Himself is perpetually with us, as He constantly cares for us and guards us”.

7. We should often, if not daily, examine our souls and repent of the sins we find there. St. Mark the Ascetic writes: “The conscience is nature’s book. He who applies what he reads there experiences God’s help.” Thus, Elder Macarius of Optina wrote in a letter of spiritual direction:

“The Lord calls to Him all sinners; He opens His arms wide, even to the worst among them. Gladly He takes them in His arms, if only they will come. But they have got to make the effort of coming. They must seek Him, go to Him. In other words, they must repent. It is not He that rejects those who do: not repent. He still longs for them, and calls them. But they refuse to hear His call. They choose to wander away, in some other direction.” Therefore, St. John of Kronstadt explains:  “Conscience in men is nothing else but the voice of the omnipresent God moving in the heart–the Lord knows all …. Watch your heart throughout your life; examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents it from uniting itself with the Lord. Let this be your supreme and constant study …. Examine yourself more often; see where the eyes of your heart are looking.”

And then, as Blessed Theophan the Recluse counsels:

“Repent, and turn to the Lord, admit your sins, weep for them with heartfelt contrition, and confess them before your spiritual father.” St. Hesychios the Priest tells us that according to St. Basil the Great, “a great help towards not sinning and not committing daily the same faults is for us to review in our conscience at the end of each day what we have done wrong and what we have done right. Job did this with regard to both himself and to his children [cf. Job 1:5], These daily reckonings illumine a man’s hour-by-hour behaviour.”

8. Struggle mightily to avoid judging others. God alone has the right to judge, for as St. Tikhon of Zadonsk says:

“Do not judge others, for you cannot know what is inside the other man. Do not condemn, for he may still rise whilst you may fall. Be-ware of even talking about others, lest you start judging them. Enquiring into other people’s sin is a curiosity hateful to God and man…because, by judging, man usurps the powers of the only judge, Christ …. Above all, when judging another we cannot know whether perchance he has not already repented and been forgiven by God.”

If we are willing to arrange our lives in the above manner, resolving not to withdraw from this holy labor even if it means suffering and also death, then, from the very moment that we begin, grace starts to flow into us, according to Blessed Theophan the Recluse:

“The help of God is always ready and always near, but is only given to those who seek and work.”

Source: http://www.pravmir.com/how-to-form-an-orthodox-conscience/#ixzz3dzamxNOO

http://www.pravmir.com/how-to-form-an-orthodox-conscience/

Serbian Orthodox Church Glorifies Two North Americans

SS Sebastian and Mardarije
Saints Sebastian and Mardarije

At their regular session here on May 29, 2015, the members of the Holy Assembly of Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church announced the glorification of two clerics who served in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—Bishop Mardarije [Uskokovic] and Archimandrite Sebastian [Dabovich].  Both saints are being recognized as “preachers of the Gospel, God-pleasing servants of the holy life, and inspirers of many missionaries” for their pastoral labors in America and their homeland.

The glorification came in response to a recommendation by the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America.

The annual commemorations of Saint Mardarije of Libertyville, Bishop of America-Canada, and Saint Sebastian of Jackson will be observed on November 29/December 12 and November 17/30 respectively.

Saint Sebastian was born Jovan Dabovich in San Francisco, CA in 1863—in the midst of the US Civil war.  His parents were Serbian immigrants from Sassovae.  From his early youth he was devoted to the Church and spent much of his time at the city’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, where he later served as a reader and teacher.  In 1884, he was assigned to assist at Archangel Michael Cathedral, Sitka, AK.  Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Russia for training and formation as a missionary priest.  After completing three years of studies at the Saint Petersburg and Kyiv Theological Academies, he was tonsured to monastic rank and ordained to the diaconate in 1887.

Returning to San Francisco, he served as a deacon at the cathedral and taught in the newly established pastoral school.  On August 16, 1892, he was ordained to the priesthood and assigned to pursue missionary work in California and Washington.  The following year, he succeeded Father [now Saint] Alexis Toth as rector of Saint Mary Church, Minneapolis, MN and taught at the Missionary School.

In 1894, Father Sebastian returned to California, where he established the first Serbian Orthodox parish in the US in Jackson, CA.  Two years later, he was reassigned to San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Cathedral while continuing his missionary efforts in Jackson.  In recognition of his abilities, Archbishop Tikhon assigned him as part of the North American Mission’s Administration.  During this time he wrote a book titled The Ritual, Services and Sacraments of the Holy Orthodox Church.  In 1902, he was transferred to Alaska, where he served as Dean of the Sitka Deanery.

With the development of additional Serbian parishes in the US, Archbishop Tikhon reassigned Father Sebastian to head the Serbian Mission in America in 1905.  The Mission was based in Chicago, where Archimandrite Sebastian had organized and served as rector of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church.  He continued to guide the Serbian Mission through July 1910, when at his own request he returned to missionary work.  With the opening of Saint Platon Seminary, Tenafly, NJ in 1913, he served as a member of the faculty and also was involved in numerous conferences and discussions with non-Orthodox Christian confessions.  In these meetings, he was sympathetic and understanding, yet firm in his desire to reveal Orthodox Christianity as the fullness of truth and the Church of Christ.

While Archimandrite Sebastian was obviously a candidate for the episcopacy is America, he likewise felt the calling to minister in his ancestral Serbia.  He served as a chaplain to the Serbian Army during the Balkan War and World War I.  In 1916, he requested a release from the North American Mission to serve in Serbia, where he ministered for the remainder of his life.  He fell asleep in the Lord on November 30, 1940 and was interred in the Monastery of Zicha by his friend and Father Confessor, Bishop Nikolai [Velimirovic].

Saint Mardarije was born Ivan Uskokovic in Podgoritsa, Montenegro, in 1889.  In 1907, he embraced monasticism at the Studenitsa Monastery and then relocated to Russia to study at the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.  After graduation, he was ordained by the Russian Orthodox Church and sent as a missionary to America.  In 1919, he was one of five Serbian Orthodox priests who participated in the Second All-American Sobor, held in Cleveland, OH in February 1919, at which time it was recommended that the Serbian Church in Belgrade advance him to the episcopacy to organize a Serbian Orthodox Diocese in America.  Unfortunately, at this most chaotic time in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was impossible to secure the written blessing of Patriarch [now Saint] Tikhon of Moscow.  Later in 1919, Archimandrite Mardarije returned to Belgrade, where he was assigned as head of the Rakovitsa Monastery and principal of its monastic school.  Subsequently, Bishop [now Saint] Nikolai [Velimirovic] of Ohrid was sent by Patriarch Dimitriye to administer the fledgling diocese.  Having likewise returned to America, Archimandrite Mardarije served as Saint Nikolai’s Deputy for two years, and continued to administer the diocese after the latter’s return to Belgrade.

On April 26, 1926, Archimandrite Mardarije was consecrated to the episcopacy in Belgrade.  Prior to his episcopal consecration, he had carried out most of the actual work of organizing the Serbian diocese.  He also served as parish priest in Chicago and purchased with his personal funds the land for Saint Sava Monastery in suburban Libertyville.

From the moment of his return to America, Bishop Mardarije undertook a wide range of ministries.  He did not spare himself, nor did he fear work, although he knew that he was gravely ill with an advancing case of tuberculosis.  In 1927, he convened the first National Church Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox American-Canadian Diocese to address a variety of organizational issues.  At a clergy conference held in Youngstown, OH in 1931, he renewed his appeal for all to work for the unity and good of the diocese.  His kindness, patience and reluctance to use punitive measures resulted in a great measure of unity within the diocese by the time of his repose on December 12, 1935 at the age of 46 years.  He was interred at Libertyville’s Saint Sava Monastery.

 

http://oca.org/news/headline-news/serbian-orthodox-church-glorifies-two-north-americans

Creamation: A Message from St. Nikolai Velimirovic (1956)

Creamation: A Message from St. Nikolai Velimirovic (1956)

You ask me, why is the Orthodox Church against cremation. First of all, because it considers it violent. The Serbs still shudder with the crime of Sinan Pasha, who burned the dead body of St. Sava on Vrachar.

Do people burn dead horses, dogs, cats and monkeys? I have not heard of this. I have heard of and seen them buried. Why should the dead bodies of people who are the lords of all animals on earth endure violence? Would it not be in all respects much more reasonable to incinerate dead animals, especially in big cities, than people?

Second, because this pagan and barbaric habit disappeared from Europe thanks to Christian civilization two thousand years ago. Anyone who wants to reinstate it doesn’t do anything else, neither civilized nor modern nor new, but something ancient which has long expired.

In England, which one can hardly call uncivilized, this form of Neopaganism is very much hated by the people. To tell you a case: during the years of World War II a famous Yugoslav lost his mind. When asked before he died, he said his only desire was to have his body burned.

Our little Yugoslavian community watched as this man was reduced in the incinerator of Golders Green. When the dead body entered the burning furnace we began to tremble with horror. Then they shouted to us on the opposite side of the furnace, “wait a quarter of an hour to see your compatriot in the form of ashes”. We waited over an hour and were mystified why the fire struggled with the dead body, and we asked the stoker about this. He apologized saying the furnace was cold, “it is not heated every day, since rarely do volunteers get handed over to the fire”. Listening to this we were dissolved, unable to wait at the edge for our compatriot. And we know that in London over a thousand human beings die every day.

I am in America, I saw the graves of the great Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Lincoln and many other important persons. None of them are cremated. Now this surprised me, that among the descendants of Saint Sava there could be found those who are like-minded with Sinan Pasha!

But why create an issue that has already been solved? If we want to be loaded with unnecessary worries, then someday we could be troubled by the question on whether to kill our decrepit men and women as do some primitive tribes? And we will create clubs to propagate this “idea”!

source: https://frmilovan.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/on-cremation/cropped-cropped-img_0694

What About Tithing?

 

 

 

 

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Kh. Fredrica Mathewes-Green

Q.  Is it robbing God to tithe on your after-tax (not gross) income?

A.  My husband and I were in seminary and still newly-Christian when a friend told us about tithing. She stressed the importance of giving the full 10% before taxes, before anything else, so that we would be giving God the “first fruits” of our labor. We recoiled at the thought of such an unexpected expense, but she said that, in her experience, it had given God room to work miracles in her life; once she and her husband had put their last dollar in the plate, only to have the pastor turn around and give them the whole collection.

We began right away, and never even considered making our tithe an after-taxes thing. It seemed petty to make such calculations when giving to a God who gave us everything, including his Son.

Before long we had settled into a pattern of giving 5% to our local church and 5% to charity. But one year, when it was time to renew our annual pledge to the church, I was convicted that a radical increase was necessary. God says, “Bring the full tithes into the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10), and for us that “storehouse” must be the local church. So the full 10% should go to our church, while charitable giving, which the Bible distinguishes by the term of “alms,” was to be an additional offering.

When I tentatively began this conversation with my husband, we were both in for a surprise; he had separately come to the same conviction. We were of one mind, and the only problem was that we had just promised 5% of our income to a missionary. Overnight, we went from giving 10% of our income to 15%.

And yet we never suffered, then or over the following decades. We never went hungry. We saw God meet our needs over and over, in ways that bordered on the miraculous. People were always giving us things we needed but couldn’t afford: a sewing machine, a lawn mower, a new refrigerator. Back in those pre-computer days, you checked the total in your savings account by handing over your passbook and having the bank teller stamp it with the correct amount. More than once we found an unexplainable extra $50 appearing there.

As we approach retirement age, we are still giving 10% to the church, and over the years our total giving (including alms) has ranged from 15-20%. It has been a joy to go from receiving miraculous gifts to being able to help supply them to others. We found, like others before us, that once we determined to make our tithe the first payment each month, once this habit became routine, all our other expenses fell into place.

God uses strong language when he speaks of the necessity of tithing: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me” (Mal 3:8-9 RSV). We live in a time that is offended by that strong directive language, and resents any implication that we ought to do or not do something. We regard ourselves as customers, even in church, and expect to be treated with deference, for the customer is always right. This kind of exhortation backfires. So perhaps the best I can say is: at least try. Aim to give a percentage of your income. Start with whatever percentage you give now, and raise it a little each year. In time you will reach the tithe. Then you will be giving as generously as the people of the bible, who lived in conditions we would see as abject poverty. Like them, pay God before you pay Caesar, for there is no better index of your priorities.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

Source: http://frederica.com/writings/open-question-tithing.html

Icons Are Not “Written.”

Editor’s note: Today, we are pleased to present an article by Dr. John Yiannias, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Virginia. Dr. Yiannias holds a Ph.D. in Early Christian and Byzantine Art from the University of Pittsburgh, and is a leading expert on Orthodox iconography. At the 2008 conference of the Orthodox Theological Society of America, Dr. Yiannias gave a lecture on iconography, and at the end of his talk, he offered the following addendum. He has kindly granted permission for us to publish it here at OrthodoxHistory.org. While, on the face of it, the subject may appear only tangentially relevant to American Orthodox history, it is actually rather relevant, in that the term “icon writing” is peculiar to American (or, at least, English-speaking) Orthodoxy, and may very likely have originated here in North America.

[Author’s disclaimer: I can’t claim for sure that the argument I give below is original. A few years ago I saw reference to an article that seemed intended to make the same point that I’m making, but I lost the reference and never actually saw the article. I’d appreciate learning of its contents and place of publication from anyone who may have read it.]

We’ve all heard, and many of us have used, the currently popular phrase “icon writing.” Whoever invented this expression must have noticed that in the Greek word eikonographiaand its Slavonic translation ikonopisanie the suffixes (graphí and pisánie) very often mean “writing.” Our inventor thereupon thought it a good idea to speak of “icon writing,” probably imagining that the sheer oddness of the phrase would attract more attention than the prosaic “icon painting”and also convey a greater sense of the sacredness of the act of producing an icon. Ever since, this tortured translation has stuck to the lips of just about every English-speaking Orthodox Christian who talks about icons.

However, the suffixes graphí and pisánie both mean depiction, as well as writing. The first–more to the point here than the Slavonic term, which was formed on the basis of the Greek–is related to the verb gráphein/grápho and means any representational delineation — such as when you write the letters of an alphabet, but also when you sketch, say, a portrait. The precise translation depends on the circumstances. For example, “geography” does not mean “earth writing,” but earth description, whether verbal or pictorial. “Scenography,” from the word skiní, meaning a shelter, by implication a tent, and by further implication one of canvas, means the painting or other illustration of a backdrop, on canvas or similar material, for a theatrical production (whence our words “scene”and “scenic”); it does not mean “scene writing.” Whether the delineation referred to is verbal or pictorial, graphíimplies circumscription, as when the Church says that God the Father is aperigraptos. That does not mean, obviously, that God the Father is “unwritable.” It means He is uncircumscribable, unbounded, undepictable, incomprehensible, unsusceptible to containment within the boundaries that we must impose on anything before we can comprehend or speak of it.

The habit of describing icons as “written” should therefore be dropped. Not only does the expression do violence to English and sound just plain silly, but it can introduce notions without basis in the Greek texts — such as, that an icon is essentially a representation of words, as opposed to a representation of things that words represent.

The theologically important fact that icons, which are pictorial, and Scripture, which is verbal, are nearly equivalent can be conveyed in other ways than by torturing English. It’s worth noting that in the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Greek word used for an icon painter is simply zográphos (in Slavonic, zhivopísets), meaning simply a depicter of life, or of forms taken from life: that the subjects depicted were religious was more or less assumed.  It seems that when secular artists eventually gained higher social status than before, and zográphos could apply to them as well as to the makers of sacred representations, the term was superseded in Greek by the more specific agiográphos, or eikonográphos (in Slavonic, ikonopísets).

An icon is painted, pure and simple, or produced by some other technique, if made of enamel or ivory or whatever else. But it is not written, and never in the Church’s history until our day, no matter what the language used, has the Church said or implied that an icon is written. Let’s hope it isn’t too late to expunge the expression.

[This article was written by Dr. John Yiannias. Originally delivered as an addendum to a talk given at the Orthodox Theological Society in America meeting in Chicago, IL, June 13, 2008.]

source: http://orthodoxhistory.org/2010/06/08/icons-are-not-written/

What is the Antimins Or Antimension?

(A Greek word meaning “in place of the table”)

In the Orthodox Christian liturgical tradition, the Antimins is among the most important liturgical adornments used in the altar during the Divine Liturgy. It is a type of icon, a rectangular cloth, traditionally sewn of either linen or silk.

Beautifully embellished, it always reflects the image of Christ’s entombment, the four Evangelists and scriptural passages related to the Eucharist. A small piece of a martyr’s relic is ceremoniously and prayerfully placed into the fold of the Antimins as each one is blessed. It is an essential component without which the Holy Eucharist cannot be celebrated. This Antimins is inscribed with the text from the Holy Saturday Troparion, “The noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure body from the tree, wrapped it in clean linen and sweet spices, and laid it in a new tomb.”

The Antimins, once properly folded, sits in the center of another slightly larger cloth called the eileton by which it is completely encased and protected. The two, which are folded in the same manner, are then placed in the center of the altar table, underneath the Gospel Book and unfolded only during the Divine Liturgy in the moments before the great entrance. After the Great entrance, the chalice and diskos are placed on the Antimins and the Gifts (bread and wine) are consecrated. The Antimins remains unfolded until all have received Holy Communion at which time the chalice and diskos are then returned to the Table of oblation (Prothesis). The priest must very carefully inspect the Antimins checking that no particles are left behind, on or underneath it or between the Antimins and the eiliton. At the end of the liturgy, the Antimins is folded into thirds, beginning horizontally from the bottom up, and then in thirds again vertically from left to right. The same follows for the eileton. When the two are unfolded for use once again, the opened Antimins reflects creases that form the sign of the cross. A flattened natural sponge (usually natural loofah), used to collect any crumbs which might fall onto the Holy Table, is kept inside the folded Antimins.

The Antimins is consecrated and signed and/or sealed by the presiding Metropolitan. Upon the arrival of the Metropolitan to any church or monastery under his omophorion, he first enters the altar and checks the Antimins to ensure that it has been properly cared for and that it is, in fact, the one he himself issued. The Antimins and the chrism are the means by which a hierarch gives his blessing for priests to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and Holy Mysteries in his absence. It is, in fact, the only means by which a priest is authorized to conduct divine services. In the rare case that a Metropolitan was to withdraw his blessing from a priest to serve the Holy Mysteries, he would confirm that decision with the gesture of removing or retracting the Antimins and chrism.

Since the Antimins is a consecrated object of the church, it should only be handled by a vested bishop or priest and no one else. One should, at the very least, be vested in his stole (epitrachelion).

The Antimins, being a substitute for the altar table, may be used to celebrate the Eucharist even on top of an altar table that has not yet been consecrated. In emergencies, when an altar table is not available, the Antimins serves an important function in enabling Divine services to take place outside of churches or chapels. In the early church, if the priest celebrated at a consecrated altar, the sacred elements were placed only on the eileton. However, the current practice is for the priest to always use the Antimins on top of the eileton even on a consecrated altar table already housing relics.

Great care should be taken not to stain or damage the Antimins in any way including never washing or dry cleaning it. The Antimins has already been cleaned and protected against spills and stains of any kind. Should the Antimins become worn, torn or damaged, please contact the Metropolitan’s office for instructions on return and replacement protocol.

No writing or inscription should be present on the Antimins with the exception of the Metropolitan’s signature and seal signifying his blessing to his clergy to serve as well as his authority in the archdiocese entrusted to his care.L0259