Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, October 9, 2015

Martha & Mary Maternity Home

Wonderful news!  The starting of an Orthodox pro-life ministry in the Chicago area: 
With great joy, we write to inform you of a brand new, pan-Orthodox ministry here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago: the Martha and Mary Maternity House, a ministry under the omophorion of the Greek Metropolis of Chicago.
As a pro-life ministry of the Holy Orthodox Church, we aim to promote the sanctity of life in a very practical way, providing for the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of women in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, and of their newborn.  Expectant mothers will be welcomed as the “daughters” of our home regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, social background or marital status.  As an Orthodox home, however, we do hope to serve Orthodox daughters in need whenever possible. 

God willing, starting November 1, our family-style home will serve up to four women in need at a time, at any stage of pregnancy and for an appropriate amount of time after childbirth.

We would ask your assistance in the following specific ways.  Please:

Keep us in your prayers – the Martha and Mary Maternity Home, its daughters, their children, families and loved ones, our staff, directors, and supporters.

Share our contact information with any woman we might be able to help who comes to you for counsel.  Our website is due to be finished shortly: www.MarthaMaryChicago.org

Encourage anyone who may wish to assist us, whether as a volunteer, as staff or counselor, or by contributing financially or by gift-in-kind.

Spread the word about our Grand Opening Celebration on November 10, perhaps by sending this link, especially to those in the Chicago area:   Click here for reservations or to donate

I hope and pray that this work is fruitful and God-pleasing, and appreciate your assistance with us to get the word out. 
Yours in Christ,
Laura (Aikaterini) Paulus 
Laura J. K. Paulus
Executive Director & Housemother
Martha and Mary Maternity Home
Toll-Free:  877 HELP 293 (877-435-7293)
Fax:           847-789-7241

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sheep of His pasture

We should remember what name Christ calls His people, what title He gives to His flock.  He calls them sheep, that their Christian innocence might be like that of sheep.  He calls them lambs, that their simplicity of mind might imitate the simple nature of lambs.  Why does the wolf lurk under the appearance of sheep?  Why does he who falsely claims to be a Christian dishonor the flock of Christ?  To put on the name of Christ and not to walk in the way of Christ is a mockery of the Divine name and a desertion of the way of salvation.  Christ teaches that the one who keeps His commandments will receive life, and one who hears and does His words is wise. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bamboo humility

In all cases let us hasten to humility; for the humble one lies on the ground, and where can one fall who lies on the ground?  But it is evident that one who is in a high place easily falls. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The company we keep

The Lord desires one man to be saved through another, and in the same way satan strives to destroy one man through another. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Nostalgia & spiritual investment

Am I the only person who remembers standing in line with mom and her Christmas Club coupon book at the local bank in the 1960’s?  Anyone who lived during the 60’s (or earlier) probably remembers the popularity of Christmas Club savings programs back then.  (Trivia:  The interest in Christmas Club accounts peaked in the ‘70’s and somewhat petered out afterwards.  However, in the ‘60’s, Christmas Club accounts were all the rage and used by many American families to their advantage).  Along with many other Americans, my mom faithfully put aside $5 a week all year anticipating the holidays.  Result?  She had $200 plus dollars available to her every December to prepare for holiday gift-giving and more. 




Today I was thinking of our brethren in Kosovo and their hardships.  They, too, hope for a festive Christmas, if not as much for themselves as for their children.  Supporters of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund often manage to gather money to help brethren there at year end, but not all have extra funds in December.  For many people, cash is not free flowing.  It wasn’t for my family in the 60’s.  But, using the local bank, my mom found a way to make the holiday merry and bright without breaking the bank, so to speak.  With its help, she routinely set aside $5 a week at the beginning of the year.  When December rolled around, she reaped the reward of consistent saving.  Five dollars doesn’t seem like much, but still, $5 a week, if you started saving this week, would yield about $60 by year end. 

Beloveds, it is still somewhat easy these days to save for Christmas giving like my mom did in the 60’s.  But, rather than save for your own merry Christmas, why not save for someone else’s?  Someone who cannot do for his or her family what you can do for them.  How about a Christmas Club account for Kosovo? 

Here’s the idea:  set aside an envelope this week and mark it “Kosovo Christmas Fund.”  Each week through mid-December, place $5 into the envelope.  The third week of December, use that money to make a Paypal donation to the Decani Fund (I will post a reminder about that time as a help).  Or, those who prefer can write a check instead.   

The Serbians celebrate the Nativity Feast on January 6 so there should be enough time for the Decani fathers to receive funds and purchase food for individuals and families with the greatest needs.     

Five dollars a week may not seem like much, but if a number of people do that, what a huge difference it would make!  Talk about smart, cooperative giving.  We can do it together.  How much easier can it get?  What I do know is this--a small amount a week is manageable for most people.  And if a group of people do this together—well, the cup of blessing will overflow!  What a relief it will be for Christians who live in chronic hardship.  Bless those who cannot repay in this life—that’s God’s way. 

I’m starting my Christmas Club account for Kosovo today.  Will you join me in routine, consistent giving to help bless the brethren in Kosovo during the upcoming Christmas holidays?  There is little relief for a life of destitution unless someone comes alongside to ease the burden.  These folks live in hardship due to circumstances beyond their control; we, on the other hand, are stewards of God’s bounty.  It’s easy to lend some support:  just set aside $5 consistently each week through the third week of December and bring JOY and THANKSGIVING to many hearts. 

Let’s plan ahead to wish our brothers & sisters in Kosovo thus, “Mir Boziji, Hristos se rodi!", meaning "The peace of God, Christ is born!"  Be assured, the blessing will return to you from God. 

Nativity grotto where Christ was born in Bethlehem 

Thank you, dear brothers & sisters in the Lord!
Presbytera Candace 

The Decani Monastery Relief  Fund is exempt from Federal income tax under section 501 © (3).

October 2: Honoring the memory of Ss. Cyprian & Justina

Because new readers routinely join this blog, I like to repeat this posting yearly. 

Anyone who has dabbled in dark arts or read books that describe the kind of “talents” that Cyprian was given by the prince of darkness before his conversion to Orthodoxy will recognize that there is genuine power available to practicers of sorcery in all its forms.  That power is sourced from the demonic realm.  However, demonic power is impotent power when confronted with the power of Christ. 

Learn about Cyprian, an authentic individual from the third century, who abandoned all the dark arts and became a Saint of God.  Let us call upon him and St. Justina in faith and appreciate what this account reveals to us.  Presbytera Candace

October 2--Demonic arts abandoned

Here below is a short life of Saints Cyprian and Justina celebrated on October 2 each year. Cyprian was once a sorcerer and converted to Orthodox Christianity in the third century.

By reading the lives of the Saints below, parents and young people can reckon that the phenomenon of sorcerers is not something that is pure fantasy found in fiction books only. It is real power energized by demonic forces, but not power that is greater than that offered by God Himself, to Whom the demons are subject and tremble. Note the power of the making of the sign of the Cross in this account...
Lives of Saints for Young People  

Saints Cyprian and Justina

In the reign of the pagan emperor Decius (249-251), there lived in the city of Antioch in Asia Minor a famous philosopher and magician whose name was Cyprian. His parents were pagan and when he was still a child, they sent him to study sorcery and demonic wisdom. Cyprian learned all sorts of evil tricks which he was able to perform with the help of demons. He could send diseases upon people, produce thunder, cause damage to crops, and finally he even learned how to call forth the dead from the graves and force them to speak by means of various magic spells. He became a great sorcerer, magician and destroyer of souls. God had given him a good mind, but Cyprian used all his knowledge to serve evil. He became the faithful slave of the prince of darkness.

Returning to Antioch, it was not long before Cyprian was teaching others how to perform evil tricks: some he taught to fly in the air, others to sail in boats on the clouds, still others to walk on water. By the pagans he was greatly honored as a chief priest and most wise servant of their horrid gods. The prince of darkness himself, as Cyprian later related, spoke with him face-to-face and praised him for his obedience, promising to help him in everything during his earthly life. Cyprian described how he saw the prince of darkness sitting on a throne and surrounded by a countless number of evil spirits.

Through his wicked way of life, Cyprian had already placed himself in the jaws of the devil. But the Lord Who, in His great love for mankind, desires that all men be saved, wished also to save Cyprian. And He did this in the following way...

There lived in Antioch at that time a certain maiden named Justina who had chosen Christ as her bridegroom. She served Him with her whole heart, with fervent prayer and a pure life. Seeing her virtuous life, the devil, the hater of mankind, became angry and began to do her harm.
In the same city there lived a young man named Aglaias who was very rich and led a very worldly life of pleasure. Once it happened that he saw Justina as she was going to church and he was struck by her beauty.

By evil trickery, the evil one planted in his heart shameful feelings towards the maiden. Aglaias, burning with passion, tried by every means to win the love of Justina, and thereby deceive her into falling into sin with him. But Justina firmly resisted for she had already chosen Christ as her bridegroom. Finally, unable to deceive her himself, Aglaias asked Cyprian to help him, promising him much gold and silver if he should succeed.

Cyprian called on one of the evil spirits who proudly said that he should have no trouble implanting the same impure thoughts into the heart of Justina. The next night, when Justina was praying, she noticed that some wicked thoughts had entered her head and she felt as though her body were possessed by a sinful attraction for Aglaias. Recognizing that this was caused by the evil schemes of the devil, she only increased her prayers. This put the demon to shame and he was forced to flee. The inward battle stopped and Justina glorified God and sang a song of victory.

Then Cyprian sent a more powerful demon. But, he, too, was unable to overcome the maiden. Finally the prince of darkness himself, disguised as a woman, came to Justina and tried to deceive her using words of Scripture. But Justina saw that this, too, was the work of the devil. She protected herself with the sign of the Cross and the wicked one immediately vanished in great shame.

Seeing how powerless even the prince of darkness was against Justina, Cyprian became angry and demanded to know what weapon the maiden used against them. The devil admitted: "We cannot behold the sign of the Cross, but flee from it because it scorches us like fire and banishes us far away."

Having become convinced that nothing could conquer the power of the sign of the cross and the name of Christ, Cyprian came to his senses and said to the devil, "O destroyer and deceiver of all. Now I have discovered your true weakness; woe is me. For, I, too, have been deceived. Get away from me, you wretched one." Angered by these words, the devil threw himself at Cyprian in order to kill him. But Cyprian protected himself with the sign of the Cross and the devil immediately leaped away from him like an arrow shot from a bow.

Fully realizing his sins, Cyprian went to the Christian bishop and begged him to give him holy baptism. He then gave him all his books of magic to be burned. Seeing his genuine repentance, the bishop baptized him and burned his books in front of all the believing people. Cyprian completely changed his life and began to work not only for his own salvation, but also to help others. Soon he was made a bishop and Justina became the abbess of a convent. The devil was angry at this betrayal of one of his former servants. He inspired the pagan rulers with the idea that Cyprian and Justina were their enemies because they were leading people away from the pagan gods to the worship of Christ. Many deceived pagans went to the governor and demanded that Cyprian and Justina be put to death. After they had bravely withstood many tortures, these two servants of the true God were beheaded with a sword. The devil had thought to destroy Cyprian and Justina, but instead, they had gained crowns of martyrdom and eternal life with Christ our God, to Whom be glory and honor forever. Amen.
(The above was adapted from the Life of Saints Cyprian and Justina, The Orthodox Word, Vol.XII, 5)

One can always invoke the prayers of Saints Cyprian and Justina against the darkness of this contemporary age. Two sources for icons of these Saints are www.orthodoxmonasteryicons.com and www.skete.com.  If you would like the Akathist prayers to St. Cyprian, please write to me and I will send you a copy for personal use (not to be copied or sold).  Pres. C.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Having JESUS in one's heart

When someone opens your heart, I’d like him to find nothing there but Christ.  Amphilochios of Patmos

When St. Ignatios of Antioch was martyred for Christ in the second century, his heart was cut asunder by pagans and lo and behold the miracle--the name of JESUS was inscribed there in gold!  Read the account below.  St. Ignatios, pray to God for us! 

Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer the Bishop of Antioch 

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little boy, the Savior hugged him and said: “Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see St Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: “I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation... In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, ‘Hasten to the Father.’”

From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch. From Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.

On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp, who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians (Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius’s letter to the Romans (AGAINST HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day.

The Roman Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: “Jesus Christ.” After his execution St Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Source:  https://oca.org/saints/lives/2011/12/20/103594-hieromartyr-ignatius-the-god-bearer-the-bishop-of-antioch