Monday, February 7, 2011

What is The Church ? Part 1.

One of the tragic aberrations of so-called modern religion is "Churchless Christianity."The assertion is that it is Christ who saves us, not the Church, so "all you need is Jesus."
Few who claim to be Christians, would argue that it is Christ who saves. For He is the eternal Son of God who has assumed human flesh, and has done so "for us and for our salvation." Thus Paul writes, "for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1Ti 2:5). But because this Mediator established the Church which is His Body, we who are joined to Him are joined to His Church as well. To say we love Christ, who is the Head of the Church and at the same time reject His Body is to deny New Testament teaching.
The first use of the word "church" in the New Testament comes in the Gospel of Matthew, when our Lord gives His approval of Peter;s confession of faith and promises, "I will build My church" (Mt 16:18). Jesus Christ builds and we cooperate with Him.
The Book of Acts amplifies what Jesus meant in Matthew 16. When Peter;s sermon on the day of Pentecost concludes, those present ask for guidance toward salvation: "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Following Peter's word, they are baptized and join with the other believers, three thousand of them (Acts 2:38, 41).
Having been joined to Christ and HIs Church, these baptized believers begin living as the body of Christ . We find them looking after each other, using their personal resources for one another's care, continuing together in prayer and in the Eucharist (Acts 2:42-47). From this point on " the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47), and through out Acts, we see the Church being built as the Gospel of Christ spreads.

Credits: from the Orthodox Study Bible.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Give blood and receive Spirit

1920s... For the Russian Orthodox Church these were times of very strong temptations - times when true faith of the people was revealed. Then, one day of standing in the Diving Truth was equal to a whole lived in peaceful times when confessing one's faith was free and without any danger. The Church tried to avoid confrontation with the new government and called for peace in the society; however, in spite of this, persecutions of the faithful were only growing and getting more severe. Repressions against the clergy and the monastics, forceful confiscation of the church property, robbing the faithful of their civil rights were all going on. No monk in St. Sergius Monastery leaving for the service was sure that he will come back to his cell.

Great spiritual fathers of St. Petersburg were arrested at that time. Together with Metropolitan Benjamin were arrested more then 90 people due to their "anti-revolutionary organization of the clergy."These people were church clergy, laymen, and monastics.

Metropolitan Benjamin was arrested on June 1st, 1922 without being given any reasons. The only reason for arrest served a wire sent from Moscow to St. Petersburg: "Metropolitan Benjamin must be arrested and tried at court. Gather all convicting material. Arrest his closest friends and helpers ... Menjinky."

Court proceedings started on June 10th. A famous anti-church man by the name Krasikov who came for the trial, loudly proclaimed: "All Orthodox Church is a anti-reolutionary organization! Therefore, the whole Church must be imprisoned!"

All faithful were following the trial with pain and sorrow. When Metropolitan Benjamin appeared in court, all the faithful started singing: "Save the Lord, Your people.. " and His Highness would bless the believers.

Before the judge proclaimed the verdict, Metropolitan Benjamin was offered to say his last words. What he said shook even the non believers: "I don't know what the verdict will be - life or death... but whatever it is, I will look at the Heaven, sign myself with the sign of the cross and say " Glory be to you, our Lord and God, for everything!"

Metropolitan Benjamin and three other people with him were killed on August 12th, 1992. Memory Eternal to the Man of God!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to ward off thoughts - Philokalia

Novices in the faith are unable to ward off thoughts if God does not help them. Only the strong in the faith are able to fight with their thought and drive them away. But even in their case, it is God who helps them in their battle. You, on the other hand, whenever thoughts come, call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ often and with patience and those thoughts will leave you. For not tolerating the warmth given to us though prayer, the thoughts disappear. Use the name of Jesus to beat them evil for our God is fire that consumes the evil. the Lord is hasty to come and help those who sincerely ask Him day and night. Those who do not have prayer, tend to ward off their thought like Moses. For when he gets up and raises up his hands and eyes, God drives them away.

Philokalia

87) The one who has love does not know how to envy, is not proud and is not puffed up; does not act inappropriately towards his neighbor; does not seek his own benefit only, but also his neighbor's, does not get irritated at those who offend him, does not blame another person when he himself is suffering from evil, does not rejoice in iniquity of his friends, but rejoices with their truth; he covers everything bad happening to him, believes all things in his simplicity, and hopes to receives all blessings that God has promised us; is patient in all temptations and does not do evil for evil; and never will a doer of love be moved away from the love for his neighbor (1 Cor. 13 : 4-8).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Silence of the Minds by Fr. Basil Tudora

Why do we always have to say something? Or for the same reason why do we have to listen to something all the time: radio in the car, TV at home, iPod when working out and we can go on and on. Put three people in an elevator for a couple of minutes and you will immediately see the beginning of a conversation. Weather, local sport teams, the financial crisis and other general subjects flourish in any communal moving vehicle. No one wants to just travel in silence and everybody feels the need to say something, or at least to smile, nod, interact in some way with the others. One thing is clear everyone hates uncomfortable silence.

The term itself however is paradoxical: why would silence be uncomfortable? After all silence is associated with peace, tranquility which is the opposite of annoying.

The answer might be that there is something we are afraid to be alone with. Archmandrite Meletios, from the Monastery of St. John in California, says it is our thoughts. Our mind generates an uninterrupted stream of thoughts, or logoismoi, as the Greek Fathers call them. This stream of thoughts, originating in the primordial separation between our mind and our heart (nous), is what drives us nuts when there is silence around. Suddenly we have to deal with all our inner turmoil, all our frustration, all our depression, all our deep seated feelings that are masked by focusing our attention on something else. Conversation and any other surrogates of sort are like a Band-Aid on an eviscerating wound.

The problem of inner thoughts is a very important one because the thoughts are the root of all we do. No sin is done without passing through the mind that gives the command. Stop the command and you will stop sin. In our minds we are at war, an unseen warfare, as people like to call it, in which our path in life as persons is defined.

The mind is so affected by these unstoppable thoughts that it becomes unbearable at times; this is where the discomfort in silence comes from. The only way to stop it is to do what St. Theophanes the Recluse says: “Get out of the head and into the heart.” The heart or the nous (I’ll use these two terms interchangeably) is the only part of us that is not affected by the logoismoi because is the part that could establish the contact with God and God does not have to be explained in words, He just Is. The goal becomes then to sink our mind into our heart and embrace the peace that comes from the presence of God in our heart. Until we completely surrender our mind to God we will continue to be bothered by thoughts.

Talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, St. Isaac the Syrian said that the language of the future is silence. This may seem odd for many that cannot imagine eternal Communion with God as being silent, without words. We imagine that at the End we will be able to ask and find answers to all our questions and God will preach explaining everything we want to know. I doubt that this will be the case because in the presence of God there are no more questions and answers, no noise, distractions or entertainment, just love that flows and fills everything. The very presence of God is enough to fulfill any need or question we might have. He, the Logos, the Word incarnate is the answer. He was, is and will always be the answer to all our questions. We just have to shut-up and listen.

A beautiful article taken from the Orthodoxy and the World

Orthodox Faith and Marriage

"When we believe that we are the center of the universe, we remain focused only on what makes us happy without realizing that “happiness,” in and of itself, is a fleeting emotional state. There are many things that make me happy (a good book, a piece of chocolate), but few things that bring me complete and utter joy of the gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit variety (like watching my students really learn or celebrating Liturgy). When we focus on meeting someone who “makes us happy,” we’re developing a superficial relationship, looking for the fairy tale ending of presents, platinum, and Prince Charming. Truly solid marriages can’t be based on similar interests in traveling and pumpkin flavored coffee alone: they have to have a solid core. That’s not easy when the rest of the world sees God as an abstraction and Sundays as the day for football and laundry. The struggle against the current can be exhausting when you’re looking for someone who understands that marriage is about becoming martyrs for each other in small ways every day and not about picket fences and puppy dogs.

The only thing I know for sure is that, like the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, the end result will be completely worth the struggle. When we’ve finally reached that point, we’ll be able to toast to a couple where each person brings out the light and love of Christ in the other. And if they also happen to like traveling and pumpkin coffee, that’s just the icing on the cake."


Taken from Blind Leading the Blind by Emily E. Howard

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wisdom of Holy Father Anthony

God guides all by the action of His grace. Therefore, do not be lazy or lose heart, but call to God day and night to entreat God the Father in His loving-kindness to send you help from above to teach you what to do. Do not give sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids (Psalms 131:4) in your zeal to bring yourself to God as a pure offering, in order to see Him; for without holiness, no one can see God, as the Apostle says (Hebrews 12:14).

He who does not with his whole heart conceive hatred of all that belongs to the material and earthly flesh and to all its movements and actions, and who does not lift his mind on high to the Father of all, cannot receive salvation. But a man who does this will move our Lord to mercy by his labors and will be given an invisible transubstantial fire, which will burn up all the passions in him and completely purify his mind. Then the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ will come to dwell in him and will abide there, teaching him to worship the Father aright. But as long as we take pleasure in our material flesh, we shall be enemies of God, His angels and all the saints.

I beseech you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, do not neglect your life and your salvation, do not let this short moment of time rob you of eternity which has no end, nor this material body deprive you of the kingdom of light, which has no bounds and which no words can describe. Truly, my soul is troubled and my spirit freezes at the fact that, although we are given freedom to choose and do the deeds of the saints, we are intoxicated by passions, as though drunk with wine, and do not want to lift our minds on high and seek greater glory, do not want to imitate the deeds of the saints nor follow in their footsteps in order to become heirs of their words and receive with them the eternal heritage.