Orthodox Thought for the Day


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hail to the Mother of God


Hail to you forever, O Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy...You are the pearl of great price that belongs to the Kingdom; the fate of every victim, the living altar of the Bread of Life.  Hail, O treasure of the love of God.  Hail, O fount of the Son's love for man. 

Visit this link for the life of St. Mary of Egypt, written for children:  http://otftd.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-life-of-st-mary-of-egypt.html

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Christian curative

From the sacrament of the cross you receive both food and drink; let the wood, which availed at Mara in a figure for sweetening the taste, avail you in truth for soothing the softened breast, and you will not labor for the remedy for increasing the health. Cure yourself at the source from which you had been wounded. Love those whom you hated before; esteem those whom you envied with unjust disparagements. Imitate the good, if you can follow them; if you cannot follow them, surely rejoice with them and congratulate your betters. Your debts will be forgiven you, when you yourself shall forgive. Your sacrifices will be accepted, when you shall come to God as a peacemaker.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A holy soul cares for his neighbor

Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s (I Cor 10:24).  That is the principle of the saints of God, both in times past and at the present time, from all ages to the end of the world.  That is the principle of all true social structure.  On that principle can be
founded a human society that is the most perfect, the most pleasing to God and the happiest. It is a saving principle in every kind of difficulty that people today encounter, against which they struggle without victory and without hope.  A holy soul cares for his neighbor, either close at hand or far away.  He cares where the homeless will spend the night, how the hungry will be fed, with what the naked will be clothed.  He cares and he prays for the salvation of his neighbors; that their hearts may be filled with love towards God, that their minds may be directed towards God, that the wicked may turn from the paths of wickedness, that the hesitant may be confirmed in the Faith, that the firm may persevere, that the departed may behold the Face of God, that the living may be written in the book of Life in the Kingdom of Light. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Memory Eternal--Fr. Thomas Hopko

+Fr. Thomas Hopko of Blessed Memory reposed on March 18 at about 3 PM


MOURNING THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE And the need to embrace our grief

We need to mourn. One of the most tremendously rewarding and challenging aspects of the priesthood is comforting people in their darkest moments of sorrow. Do not be mistaken and think that priests are exempt from the pain of those whom they try to comfort, or that we have magical words that somehow ease the pain or bring order to the chaos of grief. Platitudes are useless in dark days of mourning. Telling someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one that they are “in a better place,” is oddly of little comfort. In a powerful witness of human behavior, Christ “does not say, ‘Well, now he is in heaven, everything is well; he is separated from this difficult and tormented life.’ Christ does not say all those things we do in our pathetic and uncomforting attempts to console. In fact he says nothing—he weeps.”

We need to embrace the grief, and honor the bereavement process. Grief is confirmation that our loved one was a person of value, a beloved son or daughter, a cherished brother or sister, a treasured friend. Grief is how we honor a well-lived life, for the death is grief-worthy. In grieving, we do their memory justice, and follow in the example of Jesus, who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Like martyrs of the ancient church, like Lazarus in the New Testament, the death of a loved one is galling for those of left behind, for we wonder how we are going to fill the space that they once occupied. The mystery of a future without our friend or relative is a daunting, as the mystery of death itself.

As a priest-monk of the Orthodox Church, I am comfortable with this mystery, as all Christians should be. Death can be a mystery precisely because the triumph over death is not a mystery. As the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann wrote, “in essence, Christianity is not concerned with coming to terms with death, but rather with the victory over it.” In the light of everlasting life, in the name of Jesus Christ, the dreadful threat and dark mystery that is death is transformed into a happy and victorious event for the believer, and “Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Cor. 15:54)

So mourning is an ancient ritual, one in which Jesus participated, just as those before Him. For all of us, all people, death is a common element of humanity, the common trait that we share, and the common enemy of our loved ones. And like grief, victory over death binds people together in a larger, more powerful community, the community that is found in the Christian faith. People accuse Christians of being members of a “death cult,” obsessed with a dying savior and focused on the afterlife to the exclusion of the present; but they are wrong. Christianity does not deny life, Christianity affirms life. Christianity affirms life even in death, because for Christians, death does not remove the relationship that exists. In death, as in life, we love and honor our friend or loved one, and death cannot take them from us. Death may take them, but it has also provides us with the opportunity to live with the hope of one day joining them. And a life with hope is a good life.

So for us, death is the beginning of the true life that also awaits us beyond the grave, if indeed we have begun to live it here. Christ, “the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25) transformed death. Christ assumed human flesh, Christ was crucified, resurrected, ascended to heaven and waits for us there, and Christ ushers us into new life both now and after our death. Therefore, even as death exposes our frailty and our grief, death does not reveal our finiteness; instead it reveals our infiniteness, our eternity. To this end, the Christian does not ponder the mystery of death in a way that is paralyzing, negative and apathetic, but in a way that is productive, positive and dynamic.

God, to whom you have entrusted your soul, is a good and perfect God. This God will do what is right with your child, what is just with your sister or brother, and what is honorable with your friend. There is no saying, no claim, no scripture that will give us peace in our loss right now or even calm our troubled souls; but we can find comfort and peace in God who is present with us, and in us and through us today as we gather in the intimacy of grief.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Blessed Feast of St. Patrick

Blessed Feast Day of the Holy Patrick,
Orthodox Christian Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland! 
Holy one of God, intercede for us!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On finding your other half

A correspondent of Pravoslavie.ru asked Fr. Artemy Vladimirov to share his thoughts about what we should seek in our life’s companion, how we should not give in to societal pressure in choosing a spouse, and not miss our chance to have a person with whom we can truly live the rest of our lives.

Sts. Peter and Febronia. Artist: Alexander Prostev    

On July 8, the Russian Orthodox Church honors the memory of the holy right-believing Prince Peter and Princess Febronia of Murom, who endured many trials in order to create an example of a Christian family.

The first trial was what the young prince had to endure in order to fulfill God’s will regardless of the world’s demands, and marry the daughter of a simple woodsman. Unfortunately, many people today are looking for someone “within parameters,” forgetting about the fact that what we really need is someone of like soul.

Sacrifice is the main expression of love”

Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov 

—As a prince, Peter was of course seeking a partner equal to what his rank required. He was a man of importance, surrounded by the aristocratic boyar elite, and understood that his choice would affect the fate of the princedom itself. By that time in ancient Russian society there were already class distinctions in place. Having fallen ill, his entire body covered with a rash, he despaired of receiving any help. But the wise Febronia from the village of Laski (this village still exists, near Ryazan) healed him. The prince promised to marry her, but later forgot about his promise. And again he was covered with a rash, and again Febronia treated him. Then he understood that it was his fate, and he had to quickly keep the word he had dropped.

St. Febronia was unusually intelligent. We have no grounds for thinking that she was not good looking. If she had been a homely girl, a grandee would not have taken such a salacious interest in her as she traveled along the river, now in royal clothing with a sable collar. She put that audacious man in his place and shamed him in a very convincing manner, having understood his impure intentions.

Well, and St. Peter very soon understood what a treasure he had found in Febronia, who was distinguished by her calmness, without an ounce of rebelliousness, hysteria, or light-mindedness in her. She never caused any scandals for her husband, did not order him around or try to become his boss. Rather in her can be seen, judging from the text of their Life, a special dignity, a humble grandeur, which is characteristic of people who have grace. To her natural intelligence was joined also grace-filled enlightenment, and God clearly worked through her, judging from her Life and the influence she had on the moral world of those around her.

Thus, the young prince Peter was not free of certain stereotypes characteristic of his class, but neither was he a slave to these concepts. By the way, we cannot call them incorrect. Even in the nineteenth century people strove to marry within their own class, in order to have more points of contact, to expose a kinship not only based on mutual attraction between beings of opposite genders, but also of the same way and style of life, the same understanding of life’s aims.

Everyone was taken with Peter’s wife, but they did not admit it right away. As we can see from the Life of Sts. Peter and Febronia, the wives of the upper class boyars were not nearly so smart and wise in their words. They were the ones who provoked their under-the-heel husbands to protest and rebel. So, St. Febronia humbly took her husband to Murom. Having learned to believe in his spouse’s charisma, Peter could feel that God was protecting her, that she did not do things for no reason, and he trusted her judgment.

However things turned out in such a way that the class divisions, the fights, rebellion and chaos caused the people to seek out their meek prince and his spouse. Having returned as victors, they lived long and happily, finally dying on the same day. Perhaps this is even where the expression comes from of “dying on the same day.” Febronia was an object of general adulation; everyone desired to see her and spend time with her.

In order not to fall for stereotypes and not lose that one and only person, one must not be carried away, as King Solomon teaches us, by external good looks, elegant facial features and figure, and not walk on the leash of the lust of the eyes. Goats, mules, and rams are distinguished by this not so clever art. The ability to see the personality itself, the traits and qualities of the soul is a rare capability amongst the young, who are more inclined to get carried away than older people made wise by experience.

How can we avoid falling for stereotypes? By praying to God: “Lord, grant me wisdom, Lord, teach me, Lord, direct me. Show me Your holy, blessed will.” Well and of course, they say that there is no need for haste in affairs of the heart. Do not accept sudden decisions. “Ah, I am smitten by Cupid’s arrow! Ah, I have no life without you!” But she may be thinking only about how to get her hands on your wealthy father’s summerhouse. And many, well known, talented older men have fallen for this as well.

The art consists in seeing the soul’s riches, faith, loyalty, good housekeeping, creativity, patience, and self-sacrifice of your future other half. Self-sacrifice, it seems to me, is the main manifestation of love and it leavens and illumines all other sides of the character. We shall be silent about such lofty qualities as dedication, gentleness, love of orderliness, beauty, the ability to create beauty around herself, to pinch off a piece of what she loves the most in order to make room for her close one. Or the ability to work, to sew, to cook, to grow flowers, and feed the parrot.

Walking the long path of life is not just crossing a field. You have to test a man, find out what he is like in work, how he is in a battle, how he conducts himself with ladies, in the theatre, or with mama at tea. You have to take a good look in order to determine whether there isn’t some masked passion he is serving. Some may accept the courtship and not recognize in their chosen one an alcohol dependency, and then it suddenly comes up. That is very unpleasant.

Thus, we have explained how Peter the Prince of Murom by no means made a mistake. Having renounced the superficial judgment he had assimilated in his youth, he found in the person of the woodsman’s daughter Febronia an authentic, priceless treasure. According to the apostle Paul, his wife’s distinguishing good qualities were, “the incorruptible beauty of a meek and quiet spirit” and “the hidden man of the heart”. Whoever is capable of thinking about these subtle things, who can see the true beauty of a human personality, will never be caught by an external, glamorous mask, under which all may be empty and dead.

If you do not want to miss the chance to have a person with whom you can walk the long path of life, look attentively at him, keeping that saving distance, which is called careful, chaste relations with your interlocutor. If you feel that the soul of a close one is warmed by pity and compassion, if it takes sincere pleasure in serving its neighbor through word and deed, if it knows how to give thanks to God and people, if it knows how to calmly and steadfastly overcome the many obstacles that inevitably arrive on the path of those who do good works—then you have found what you are looking for, you have found your other half, and stepped upon the path of unselfish love.
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Translation by OrthoChristian.com
09 / 07 / 2014

On sorrows and persecutions

“Sorrows and persecutions drive us to turn to God.  It seems, humanly speaking, there is no hope, and we are persecuted, so we must seek salvation from God.  If it were not for sorrows, we would probably not have turned to God.  One should not be afraid of this.”  When he was asked what those currently experiencing various hardships should do, he replied: “Turn to God more zealously and be humble before the will of God. Be drawn to God alone.”  

Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopil and Kremenets (Ukrainian Orthodox Church)