Fall Classes

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Autumn Education-Our bi-annual classes resume in September

Believe, Belong, Become

When: Beginning on September 15 at 6 pm and every Thursday evening, except Thursday, Oct. 6 when I will be at a conference.

How long: usually about 1.5 hours

Where: The church hall at Holy Spirit Orthodox Church, 700 Shamrock Blvd. Venice FL

What: interactive discussions focused on growing in the Orthodox Faith and practice-a continued catechumenate. The book will be used but also many other things as well, such as an explanation of the structure of the church building, the sanctuary (altar), handouts, icons, videos, etc.

Who: Catechumens, recent new members of the parish, inquirers, lifelong Orthodox, reverts and converts

Ends: November 10 is last class/discussion (8 Meetings)

What do I need?

The Orthodox Study Bible

Note pad and pen

An inquisitive mind and heart

Invite someone

Required:

Becoming Human-The Healing Journey Into The Orthodox Church, by Fr. Jeremy McKemy, available at bookstore or online

 

Holy Synod of OCA Issues a Statement

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Holy Synod issues statement on same-sex relationships and sexual identity

The Orthodox Church teaches that the union between a man and a woman in marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5). As such, marriage is by this reflection monogamous and heterosexual. Within this marriage, sexual relations between a husband and wife are an expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such is God’s plan for male and female, created in his image and likeness, from the beginning, and such remains his plan for all time. Any other form of sexual expression is by its nature disordered, and cannot be blessed by the Church in any way, whether directly or indirectly.That said, the Holy Synod of Bishops expresses its pastoral concern and paternal love for all who desire to come to Christ and who struggle with their passions, temptations, and besetting sins, whatever those might be. The Church is a hospital for the sick; Our Lord has come as a physician to heal those who are ailing. Imitating our Savior, who stretched his arms wide on the Cross, we welcome with open arms all who desire the life of repentance in Christ.Over the course of recent years, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America have made numerous pronouncements affirming the Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Metropolitan Tikhon, at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 20, 2015, in his opening address, stated that:

“… the Orthodox Church must continue to proclaim what she has always taught: that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and the Orthodox Church in America can in no way deviate from this teaching…”

Among the Holy Synod’s affirmations of the same teaching are the “Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life,” from the 10th All-American Council, Miami, Florida, taking place from July 26-31, 1992; the “Synodal Reaffirmation of the SCOBA statement titled ‘On the Moral Crisis in our Nation,’” issued May 17, 2004; and the synodal “Statement concerning the June 26 US Supreme Court decision,” issued June 28, 2015.

Therefore, in accord with the timeless plan of God our Creator, the unchanging teaching of Christ the Savior announced through his holy apostles and their successors, and the consistent witness of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, the Holy Synod affirms what the Scriptures clearly and plainly proclaim and the holy fathers unerringly confess, namely: that God made human beings in two sexes, male and female, in his own image, and that chaste and pure sexual relationships are reserved to one man and one woman in the bond of marriage.

As such, we affirm that sexual relationships are blessed only within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Motivated by love and out of sincere care for souls, we call those who suffer from the passion of same-sex attraction to a life of steadfast chastity and repentance, the same life of chastity and repentance to which all mankind is called in Christ.

We call upon all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons within the Orthodox Church in America never to contradict these teachings by preaching or teaching against the Church’s clear moral position; by publishing books, magazines, and articles which do the same; or producing or publishing similar content online. We reject any attempt to create a theological framework which would normalize same-sex erotic relationships or distort humanity’s God-given sexual identity. The holy apostle Paul writes that such teachings will “increase to more ungodliness,” and that such a “message will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:16-17), misleading the faithful and inquirers seeking the truth.Any clergy, theologian, teacher, or lay person who contravenes our directive thus undermines the authority of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America by disregarding the Holy Synod’s consistent and unwavering teaching on these matters. We call on any such persons to cease their disruptive activities, which threaten the peace and tranquility of the Orthodox Church in America, cause scandal and uncertainty, and tempt those who struggle against their disordered passions to stumble. Consequently, those who teach these errors become participants in the sin of those whom they have tempted or whom they have failed to correct, and thus should seek remission of this sin in the mystery of holy confession. Those who refuse correction open themselves to ecclesiastical discipline.

Thus, we, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, conclude by once again affirming that all clergy, theologians, teachers, and lay persons of the Orthodox Church in America should teach nothing other than the fullness of the Orthodox faith, which is the fullness of the saving truth.

We remind our faithful and clergy that every person of goodwill is welcome to visit our parishes. However, reception into the Church, and continued communion in Christ at the sacred Chalice, is reserved for those who strive to live a life of repentance and humility in light of these God-given truths, conforming themselves to the commandments of God as the only path of salvation in Christ. All of us are sinners, but it is for precisely this reason that Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15).

The Holy Snyod of the OCA

Staying Balanced in a Tilted World

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By Priest Demetrios Makoul for Pravmir
Throughout our day, we must always return to that still, quiet spiritual desert within us. We must start our day there, we return to it throughout the day, and we then return there at the end of the day.
It is difficult to stay or feel connected to God due to our frenetic pace in which we often live our lives. We often rush from one activity to another without taking time to be still, mindful in the present, and process what we have been doing. This can often lead to us feeling out of control or like things in our life are spiralling out of control around us. There is a way however to maintain some level of peace, awareness, and calm even when living life with a hectic pace. It involves maintaining an inner stillness even when all around us seems chaotic. What keeps us grounded and what keeps us balanced throughout the day, even when everything around us seems tilted, is maintaining a constant awareness and connection with God throughout the day. Sounds great and obvious doesn’t it? The following is a reminder of a practice and way of life we all need.

Do you liken the Judean wilderness to your own spiritual desert?

First we have to assess how often, if it all, we focus our mind on God throughout the day. That focus may be in the form of simply reflecting on God, assessing how we are doing spiritually that day (with regards to our thoughts and behaviour), or deliberate prayer even. This awareness of God and of our souls must become a constant undercurrent running beneath the activities of our daily life. In essence, our main daily activity is this awareness of God and monitoring our soul, while our daily earthly activities are the brief ventures out and away from this spiritual activity. For many, this involves a complete reversal to what they are accustomed to. Most of us get lost and immersed in our daily activities, only then making a brief venture out of our earthly duties to reflect on God and our soul.
Are we prepared to make this shift? Throughout our day, we must always return to that still, quiet spiritual desert within us. We must start our day there, we return to it throughout the day, and we return there at the end of the day. God awaits us there and it is the place where we refresh our weary souls from our ventures out into the world. It is where we are replenished with God’s peace. We need to remember the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God outside the cave on Mt. Horeb. God was not in the destructive wind, the earthquake, or the fire. The presence of the whispering breeze or still voice marked the presence of God (I kings 19). We all need our own Mt. Horeb where we seek an encounter with God.

Statement On Overturning Roe v Wade-Metropolitan Tikhon

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Statement on the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon

Monday, June 27, 2022

To the Hierarchs, Clergy, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!

sanctity life

On June 24, the American people received the news that the Supreme Court of the United States, in its opinion concerning the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has overturned the right to abortion created by the court in its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Undoubtedly, this should be a cause for rejoicing for all Orthodox Christians. As I affirmed in my recent archpastoral message for the feast of the Annunciation, “The Orthodox Church in America has always believed, upheld, preached, and defended the sanctity of human life from the time of conception in the womb.” From the earliest times, the shepherds of the Church

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On The Sacredness of Human Life-Assembly of Bishops

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Passed by the full membership on June 19, 2022

Preamble

We, the members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, promote and uphold the sacred and inviolable essence of human life. The continued challenges of our time prompt us to publish a more comprehensive statement of the Orthodox Church’s regard for human life and, in particular, the termination of human life. Prepared by our Committee for Church and Society, and affirmed by the Assembly as a whole, this statement seeks to succinctly articulate Orthodox Christian teaching for the faithful and to continue the Church’s tradition as a beacon and witness to life as freely given by our good and loving Creator.

Sacredness of Life

The sacredness of life is shared with all creatures and creation fashioned and brought into existence by our mutual Creator. From single-celled organisms to plants, reptiles to birds, or mice to elephants, all are created and thus sacred. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As such, it is our responsibility as human beings to treat all life accordingly: with care, reverence, humility, and love.

Human Life is Sacred and Inviolable

The recognition of each human person as created in the image and likeness of God, destined for eternal life and therefore, sacred and inviolable, is a cornerstone of Christianity. Through the Church’s canons, dogma, and moral code across the centuries, we have affirmed this understanding of human life from the womb to the tomb. These convictions are taught and witnessed by the Orthodox Church in all its manifestations around the world today. All human life is both sacred and inviolable, regardless of age, health, or any other status. Human life, including free will, is rightly understood as a gift from God, meant to be cherished and respected. We are all meant to “have life, and have it abundantly,” as we know from our Good Shepherd (John 10:10-11). When human life is understood in this way, we are inclined to care deeply for one another and to cherish and protect each and every person.

Taking of Human Life

Any deliberate ending of human life is a rejection of its sacredness and inviolability and is unacceptable. This includes Continue reading

Sermon-June 26

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The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23)

At that time, as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

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The fruit of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is now evident. Last Sunday we celebrated all the saints who were well pleasing to God in every generation, known and unknown. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit being sown in the Church. This celebration continues today with a focus closer to home, on the Saints of North America.

The people of the ancient Church have Continue reading

Statement On Sanctity of Life and The Supreme Court

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Sanctity of Life Statement

Friday, June 24, 2022

NEW YORK – Today the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Court did not outlaw abortion. It merely returned that decision to the people to decide in their respective States.

In its recent statement entitled, On the Sacredness of Human Life and its Untimely Termination, the Assembly of Bishops, addressed the issue of abortion by stating, “any act to terminate life in the womb – whether by abortive medications, medical procedures, or destructive behavior – is considered murder, and risks terrible spiritual consequences for those involved.” As such, the Assembly of Bishops recognizes today’s decision of the US Supreme Court as a step toward the preservation of life.

April 1-Mary of Egypt

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Venerable Mary of Egypt

Saint Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the

4th Sunday of Great Lent

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4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).

Last Judgement Sunday-Meatfare

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The Sunday of the Last Judgment is also known as Meatfare Sunday, or Carnival Sunday.

This is the last day that meat can be eaten before the Lenten fast.

Dairy products are allowed on each day of this week, even Wednesday and Friday.

The next Sunday is the Sunday of Cheesefare, It is the last day that dairy products can be eaten prior to the commencement of Great Lent.

“‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”
(Matthew 25:34-36)

The Prodigal Son

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Sunday of the Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

The Sunday after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This parable of God’s forgiveness calls us to “come to ourselves” as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being “in a far country” far from the Father’s house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only “arise and go,” confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that “home” where we truly belong (Luke 15:11-24).

After the Polyeleion at Matins, we first hear the lenten hymn “By the Waters of Babylon.” It will be sung for the next two Sundays before Lent begins, and it serves to reinforce the theme of exile in today’s Gospel.

Starting tomorrow, the weekday readings summarize the events of Holy Week. On Monday we read Saint Mark’s account of the Entry into Jerusalem. On Tuesday we read how Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray the Lord. On the night before His death Christ tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him. He also predicts that they will desert Him, and that Peter will deny Him three times. On Wednesday the Gospel describes how Judas betrayed the Savior with a kiss. Thursday’s Gospel tells how Jesus was questioned by Pilate. On Friday we read the narrative of Christ’s crucifixion and death.

Publican and Pharisee

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Sunday of The Pubican and Pharisee

 

The Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus is devoted to the Publican and the Pharisee. At Vespers the night before, the Triodion (the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent) begins.

Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.

The second man was a Publican, a tax-collector who was despised by the people. He, however, displayed humility, and this humility justified him before God (Luke 18:14).

The lesson to be learned is that we possess neither the Pharisee’s religious piety, nor the Publican’s repentance, through which we can be saved. We are called to see ourselves as we really are in the light of Christ’s teaching, asking Him to be merciful to us, deliver us from sin, and to lead us on the path of salvation.

Two weeks before the beginning of the Fast, as part of our preparation for Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, the Church prescribes the reading of Saint Mark’s Gospel. From Monday to Friday the focus is on the end times, and the Savior’s death and burial.

February 2-The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord

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The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he beheld the promised Messiah. By divine inspiration, Saint Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint Joseph had brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the Law.

Saint Simeon received the divine Child in his arms,1 and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Saint Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was an 84-year-old widow, Saint Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” She arrived just when Saint Simeon met the Divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”

Before Christ was born, the righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous persons of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet Him in the Temple.

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokhios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the VI century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. Giving thanks to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: Saint Andrew of Crete in the VII century; Saint Cosmas Bishop of Maium, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the VIII century; and Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessaloniki in the IX century.

Today we also commemorate the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.” The Mother of God is depicted without her Child, and seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar Icon, “Of the Seven Swords” (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right. The “Softening of Evil Hearts” Is also commemorated on August 13.

The Icon “Simeon’s Prophecy” symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

In Constantinople, the Emperors would celebrate the Feast Day at the Blakhernae church during the All-Night Vigil. This custom continued until the Fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Theophany Home Blessings

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Theophany House Blessings

During the days following the Feast of the Theophany (January 6th), it is customary for the Priest to visit the homes of his parishioners, bringing with him the “Jordan Water” for the traditional Theophany House Blessing. All who reside in the household should make every effort to be present for the Blessing.

In anticipation a lampada, or candle should be prepared with an icon. Upon the arrival of the Priest, he is to be greeted by all of the family members, each of whom asks the Priest’s blessing and reverences his right hand. Then a family member lights the lampada (or candle) and turns off all televisions, radios, etc. in the home. Lights should be turned on in all the rooms of the house that are to be blessed. Then the entire family gathers with the Priest before the icon corner (or table) to begin the Theophany House Blessing. All areas of the home will be blessed, messy or not. We bless the mess too. All pets included. And cars.

This is a great way to begin the new year with the cleansing of the home with holy water.

Holy water is always available at the back of the nave for use all year. Drinking everyday is recommended, or at least when feeling ill.

Study the Scriptures-From an Orthodox Perspective

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HOW TO STUDY SCRIPTURE FROM AN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE

What follows is not a comprehensive guide to how to the study the Bible, but it is a collection of previous articles into one post, so that they can be easily accessed.

First, a talk that covers why we should study the Scriptures, as well as some of the basics about how we should do so.

See more here: How to study the Scriptures

 

“When It’s Safe” Means Never

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ARCHPRIEST GEOFFREY KORZ | 18 AUGUST 2020

At every liturgy in the Orthodox Church, just before the singing of the Nicene Creed, the priest or the deacon intones the words, “The doors! The doors!” This call dates back to the earliest times, when the doors of the church had to be barred shut, to prevent outsiders (in those days, Roman soldiers) from entering the church, witnessing those who confessed the faith, seizing them, and killing them.

Being a Christian was not safe.

Centuries later, under the Muslim Turks, Crypto-Christians – those who lived publically as Muslims, but secretly as Orthodox Christians – attended Liturgy in secret churches, often hidden beneath secret doors in the floors of their own homes, or in unknown caves. In rural villages, Orthodox priests sometimes posed as Muslim imams just to maintain their cover. If such a village of Crypto-Christians was discovered, everyone – from the old people down to the infants – was put to the sword.

Being a Christian was not safe.

Centuries later, under Communist regimes, faithful Christians would meet secretly in grey concrete apartment blocks, where priests would baptize for little ones who had been brought by their grandmothers, without the knowledge of the parents – a legitimate excuse for the parents to give to the atheist authorities if the family was ever caught. In the most severe Communist regimes, a handful of faithful would gather outside a city or town for a clandestine nighttime Liturgy, served by a priest brought in from far away to avoid the prying eyes of local authorities. In all these cases, the faithful knew, if they were found out, the punishment would be a swift execution, or worse – a slow and painful death in a concentration camp.

Being a Christian was not safe.

In the last few months, faithful around the world have experienced the closure of our churches, the prohibition of the public celebration of Holy Week, and the effective ban by bishops and civil authorities in different places on the reception of Holy Communion. In most places, churches have now reopened (at least in part).

Yet formal studies and informal observations show that about one-third of those who regularly attended holy services at the start of this year have now become accustomed to staying home on Sundays and feast days, and have not returned to church.

Perhaps good habits have been broken. Perhaps laziness has set in. Perhaps the lure of Sunday breakfast in bed has proven seductive.

Yet what has covered all the human laziness and brokenness behind the spiritual falling away is a single self-deception.

These are the words, “I will return to church when it is safe again.”

Curiously, one does not hear the same phrase repeated in relation to the liquor store – i.e. I will return to the liquor store when it is safe again. Nor does one hear it applied to the purchase of groceries: grocery stores seem somehow protected from all sicknesses, and remained so throughout the recent worldwide crisis.

Neither does one hear this phrase when it comes to the workplace – i.e. I will refrain from making an income, because the risk to my health is too high. I will return to work when it is safe again.

No, it seems only churches suffer from the unique level of danger – just as they did throughout the earlier part of this year, making them more risky than public transport and dollar stores combined.

The truth is, in the current climate of madness, many Orthodox Christians have not only shifted from realistic medical precaution to social hysteria, they have also found social hysteria to be a most convenient cloak for avoiding anything inconvenient or difficult.

Have to visit a relative? Not until it’s safe again.

Have to finish some difficult job? Not until it’s safe again.

And how about going back to church every Sunday morning…?

Brethren, attending the holy services of the Orthodox Church – Sundays or feast days – has never been safer than it is today. The truth is, however, it has never been safe to be a Christian.

In the catacombs around Rome rest the remains of more martyrs for Christ than live in my home city – over half a million martyrs. Being a Christian and going to church was always a risk for them – and so it will be for every generation of Christian, unto ages of ages.

So please, kindly set aside the idea that you will return to the holy services “when it’s safe”. That day will never come.

You will either make up your mind to live as a Christian and return to church, or you won’t.

Awake At Night?

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Are you frequently being wakened at night?

It may be God calling…

There is strategic significance in praying during the early morning hours.

In the Gospel reading this past Sunday St. Matthew tells us that Jesus came to them walking on the water in the Fourth Watch of the night. (Matthew 14:22-33)

The fourth watch is defined by the Roman watch as a time spanning from 3am – 6am.

As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday the Bible refers to this way of keeping time and also refers to hours of the day.

For instance, Matthew 27:45  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

​At the time of Christ on earth time was not as precise as it is today.

It was approximate. The 4th watch was the time between 3 and 6 am. More precisely, the 4th watch started at 3 am and the guards were on duty until day, 6 am.

The hours of the day were: 1st  6 am; 3rd 9 am; 6th Noon; 9th hour 3 pm.

The Orthodox Church reflects this in the Services of the Hours, appointed for those hours of the day, then Vespers at 6 pm. The new day beginning at Vespers. Plus there is the Compline Service and the Midnight Service.

So the first century Christian would understand St. Matthew to mean, it was about 3 am when Jesus came, walking on the water.

The darkest hour of the night. In a great storm. After a long day when they listened to the teaching of Jesus, He fed the 5000 and then sent them into the boat to go ahead of Him across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus went up the mountain to pray after He dismissed the crowds. They all must have been pretty tired. Fatigue can exaggerate fear. The disciples were afraid. Jesus was not.

Then as the disciples row across the Sea a storm fights them, the wind blows against them, keeping them from reaching the other side and threatening to drown them.

Remember, on one other occasion in a similar situation, Jesus was with them and calmed the storm to save them. (Matthew 8:23-27) This time they did not have Him in the boat.

St. Mark tells us (Mark 6:42-53) that Jesus “saw them in the boat” while He was still on the mountain praying. Verse 48 tells us “and he would have passed by them” walking on the water.

Jesus sees them from the mountain and leaves to help them, yet it says “He would have passed them by.” As if He was waiting to hear them ask for help, Matthew says they thought it may have been a spirit and they were very afraid. So they call out to Him and He comes to them.

The dark hours of the night, a raging storm, the disciples are afraid for their lives, the last time Jesus had saved them after they woke Him from sleep. This time they thought they were alone and He comes, but not until stretching their faith. A little.

Sometimes, this is how we awaken in the night. With frightening dreams, worry, fear for some thing or another. The dark seems to make it worse.

But just as Jesus saw them from afar, He sees us as well. Struggling with our thoughts, plagued with worry, lacking faith.

He comes to us, He is with us. But we see the storm and the waves, not Him.

The forces of “nature” seem often to oppose us, indeed the earth itself is against us (Genesis 3) but they are ultimately God’s servants and work at His bidding for our salvation (Romans 8:28).

The Gospel of St. John and St. Mark do not mention the fact that Peter walked on the water. Mark tells us that as soon as Jesus came to the boat it was at the land. Instant resolution.

St. Matthew tells us this story about the wonders of God and our weakness (why did you doubt?) in the midst of the storm; the small reference to the Fourth Watch is a detail that sets me to thinking.

What is it about the night?

  • Jacob wrestled with God and met Him face to face. Gen 32:24

Gen 32:24  And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

  • Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea- Exodus 14:24

Exo 14:24  And it came to pass in the morning watch, that Jehovah looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians.

  • Gideon defeated the Midianites (middle watch), Judges 7:19

Jdg 7:19  So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands.

(before the Romans the Jews kept three watches)

  • Peter and Jesus walk on water, Matthew 14:25.
  • The angels appear to the shepherds in the field to announce the birth of the savior.  Luke 2:8 

Luke 2:8  And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

  • Jesus is resurrected from the dead, Matthew 28:1

Mat 28:1  Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

  • The bridegroom comes at mid-night Matthew 25:6

Mat 25:6  But at midnight there is a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him.

Some pretty amazing things happen in the night!

What if you are awakened in the night for a spiritual reason? What if God wants to come to you in the night?

Maybe 8 straight hours of sleep isn’t the best plan.

The next time you wake in the night, grab some prayer before you try for more zzzzz’s.

Two Sleeps Story Here

The Story of the World We Live In

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The Story of the World We Live In

July 8, 2020 · Fr. Stephen Freeman

Some ten or so years ago, my wife and I were hunting for a long-ish audiobook to entertain us as we made a 10-hour drive. A novel was one possibility, but none came to mind. As it was, we chose a book named “Salt.” It was an account of the world in terms of salt – its use, its production, its vital importance to human life, and its place in the shaping of our history. I was skeptical as the trip began, but found myself intrigued as the hours rolled by and we journeyed across world history courtesy of everyone’s favorite condiment. Salt apparently belongs to something of a literary genre. The author of Salt has also given us Milk, Cod, Salmon, and Paper. I need to schedule more road trips.

What these fascinating books illustrate is that the story of the world, and civilization, can be told from any number of angles. Is the world really just the story of salt? Or, could the story of the world be told from the point-of-view of a single grain of sand? Doubtless, more would be said of the endless procession of ocean waves than is accounted for in our historical travails. As narrative creatures, we tend to dismiss the grain of sand as nothing more than background, a prop that supports the real action. A single grain’s story, however, would provide a great deal to consider. The silica and other elements that make up the average beach have an origin, no less complex than our own, though with fewer words and emotional tensions.

These exercises in historical perspectives are instructive for understanding the limits of all historical conversations. In history, we are always right to ask, “Who is telling the story? What’s this story about? From what point of view is it written?” If we were speaking of a “pure” history, then it would be the story of everything, about everything, told from everything’s point of view. Such, of course, is impossible. Choices must be made. When the choices are made, those questions will be answered more finitely and with greater precision. But what is then called “history” is not really about everything – but about a few things, and always with a point.

During a time of social upheaval, one of the most disturbing aspects of our lives is the turmoil within the public narrative. How do we speak about ourselves and others? How do we describe what is taking place. What is unfolding?

For the faithful, this disturbance should be revealing. The nature of the secular world is that it establishes the dominant narrative for the world. Without noticing, we quietly make the Christian story to be a sub-plot of this larger account. Our faith becomes what secularism tells us: a personal option that is, at most, a religious life-style. We feel powerless and worry that the voice of the Church is silent. Indeed, I hear this when various people suggest how the Church could make its voice more “effective.”

There is a “clash of narratives” as Christ stands before Pontius Pilate. Pilate imagines that the Roman Imperium is the true narrative and defining story of the world. He threatens Christ, “Don’t you know I have the power to kill you or to release you?” For Christ, the Roman Imperium is but a passing moment within the salvific providence of God. “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above.”

This same clash of narratives occurs day-by-day in our own lives, though we rarely notice. We hear the dominant cultural narrative announce its importance and power. Our response is anxiety and concern flows from the fact that we believe its claims to be true. Imagine Pontius Pilate’s shock at being told that he would have “no power” over Jesus had it not been given to him by God (“from above”). It is Christ’s complete dismissal of the Roman narrative. The martyrs of the early Church lived in the same dismissal. Their faith was the full acceptance of the narrative we have received from God in Christ. Christ’s death and resurrection is the final word of God on the outcome of human history. In Christ, history comes to an end, and we won. That quiet assurance eventually led to the complete failure of Rome’s claims.

The danger resurfaces, however, as converted empires, and their secularized children, begin to assert new narratives that seek to replace the gospel of the Kingdom of God with the bastardized gospel of progress and human perfection.

There is always a danger within the political life of modernity that our participation will mark our capitulation to its narrative. As such, our vote (or other such actions) always borders dangerously on the pinch of incense offered to the emperor as worship, a thing rejected as idolatry by the early martyrs. I say, “borders,” because it need not be a capitulation. But, in order to refrain from that capitulation and blasphemous offering, there is a need to deconstruct our own vote.

So, what is the narrative that explains our vote? Do we imagine that history depends on such a thing, that the world is being constructed through politics? Again, in His dialog with Pilate, Christ said:

“If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)

The ballot is certainly a “peaceful” way of joining battle (thank God!), but it, nevertheless, generally assumes the Hobbesian contract in which the world is a pitched battle for control. The nature of the American social contract is an agreement to allow the ballot box to replace the battlefield. Nevertheless, it presumes the supremacy of the ballot. That is its presumed narrative.

For the Christian, the narrative of the gospel of Christ is, always, the controlling structure of our life. That work of Christ, completed in His death and resurrection, are the sole source of peace and true meaning. We may vote, but the outcome rests in Christ, just as surely as the outcome of Pilate’s judgment was not truly in his own hands. None of this denies the actual historical reality of our actions. Rather, it affirms the historical reality of Christ’s actions and their lordship over every human reality. There may be an election whose outcome could be classified as “death.” It remains a fact that Christ “tramples down death by death.”

For too many, the Cross of Christ has disappeared into the historical past and become a “fact” about which we proclaim a doctrine, a religious belief. As for the present, we take up our swords (even the peaceful ones) and imagine ourselves as having been delivered into the wars of this world for good or ill. (Do your best!) However, the historical character of the Cross does not exhaust its content. The Cross is an event of the God/Man. It is the marriage of heaven and earth, both within time and utterly transcendent of time. It is an eternal moment while being truly historical. Its “cause-and-effect” is equally eternal and triumphant over every human cause. Every human cause is thus “judged” by the Cross. An election, like every act of the human will, stands before the Cross and has its meaning within the light of the Cross. It is only in that Light that we see light.

Christ’s words, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” remain true and triumphant. Today, this is the story by which we live. All of creation holds meaning only in its light. God forbid that we imagine this to be a religious conversation and not a conversation about the whole of life.

We all stand before Pilate. However, it is God’s story that rules the world.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

Upcoming Events and Sunday Bulletin

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July 19-26

Wednesday  9 am-Divine Liturgy-Mary Magdalene 6 pm-Orthodoxy Class-bring a  Bible-5th Century and End Times

Thursday     12-Molieben for an Epidemic

Saturday      5 pm-Vespers

Sunday        9 am-Matins

Sunday        10 am-Divine Liturgy

Sunday, July 19-6th Sunday after Pentecost-The Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils

 The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. (12:6-14)

Brethren, Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (9:1-8)

At that time, getting into a boat Jesus crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”

And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

 Prayer List:

Sub-deacon Mitri and Nora Moussa, Helen Nicholas, Barbara Demis, Dennis Poney, Lydia Holt, Lily Zelner, Anna T., Matushka Sasha, Fr. Ian, and Alia Karras, Al Maruskin.

On Receiving Holy Communion

Let us attend.

We welcome all people to come and worship with us, however, only Orthodox Christians in good standing may come to the chalice and receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This means that we believe it is the Body and Blood, not just bread and wine. This means that we confess ourselves to be sinners in need of salvation and we have participated in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession, confessing our sins to the priest for absolution and forgiveness.

St. Paul teaches us that there is a dangerous way to receive communion, unworthily, not discerning the Body and Blood, this can cause people to get sick and possibly to die. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26-31) But St. Paul does not teach us that we can get sick if we approach the chalice the right way. We cannot get a virus by consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. The God who created the cosmos, appeared miraculously in the burning bush and revealed Himself in the Holy Trinity can certainly keep us from illness when properly communing with and consuming a miracle. This does not mean we blindly go worth, but we go forth in faith; distancing, sterilizing, masking, etc.; out of love for neighbor, not believing that the building itself will keep us healthy. We do not put God to the test.

The miracle is in the chalice, not the people nor the building. But even with that we are careful, tilting our heads back, opening our mouths and allowing the Gifts to be dropped in with care. Not touching anything, for the sake of the weaker brethren. Have faith, not fear; be cautious, not afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

Church Services On-Line

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Services are not open to the public, due to virus restrictions.

If you would like to attend please send your request to frstephenlourie@gmail.com

We have a limited number of spaces due to social distancing requirements. We follow all CDC guidelines.

If you want to see our services click on this:  video link

The easiest way is to “like” our Facebook page, then you will receive an alert when we are broadcasting.

Click here   hsocparish 

If you want to get updates, they will be on that same place.

 

The Church Is Not a Cruise Ship, But a Battleship

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By: Archpriest John Moses | 28 December 2019

It always surprises me when someone comes to the Orthodox faith. Given the present age, there are so many versions of Christianity on offer. Many of them are in step with the values and hopes of the culture. Some offer a path of prosperity and comfort (whether they ever deliver is another issue). Some offer helpful hints for hurtful habits and demand little more while others teach the path of positive thinking. In some, the music is rousing and contemporary, but often the theology is not intellectually demanding.

Why then would someone want to join a Faith that asks you to be regular in your attendance instead of coming when it suits you; that you fast as a lifestyle; adopt a prayer rule instead of just praying what you want and when you want; tithe instead of dropping in the box whatever you have in your pocket; study to challenge your thinking instead of believing that all you have to do is “read and heed”; attend classes to learn from others, etc.

Read more here: battleship

Elder Ephraim Reposes in the Lord

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On December 7, 2019 at approximately 10 p.m., Elder Hieromonk Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos Arizona, founder of 17 monastic communities in the United States, peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at Saint Anthony Monastery in Florence, Arizona at the age of 92.

The Athonite elder, loved throughout the entire Orthodox world, also remained the spiritual father of several monasteries in Greece and on Mt. Athos, where he labored for many years as the spiritual child of the recently-canonized Elder Joseph the Hesychast and as abbot of Philotheou Monastery.

The Funeral Service for Elder Ephraim was held on Wednesday, December 11 at Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America presided, along with numerous hierarchs and monastics of his Archdiocese. May his memory be eternal!  ​

 

A Simple Approach to Reading the Entire Bible

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Archpriest John Whiteford | 04 August 2019

There are some elaborate charts that tell you how you could read the Bible all the way through in one year — which if you followed, would work fine. However, I wonder how many people have ever followed such charts all the way through, because it would require that you make regular reference to the charts, and remember where you were on the chart.
On the other hand, many people simply open up the Bible at Genesis, and then get bogged down somewhere towards the end of Exodus and Leviticus, and then quit.
One method I would suggest is much simpler to follow, and if you do, you not only will read the Bible all the way through in about a year or so… but you could continue to read the Bible and get a balanced intake of the various parts of the Bible rather than hit one section that is difficult and then lose interest.

Read the rest here: Read

The Soul is a Mirror

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by Fr. Stephen Freeman

The soul is a difficult thing to speak (or write) about. First, the word is used so commonly and widely that its true meaning becomes obscured. Second, the soul is largely unknown to each of us, despite its primary importance. So, I will begin by giving its simple meaning: the soul is our life. When we hear the story of Adam’s creation we learn that he is fashioned out of the earth. Then, God breathes into him, “and he became a living soul.” The soul is the life (there are no dead souls), and the life is a gift from God, the “Lord and Giver of Life.”

Read the rest here: soul