THIS VALENTINE’S DAY
DISCOVER LOVE THE ORTHODOX WAY
Just in time for Valentine’s
Day, the Barna
Group has released a study showing that young people view failing to
recycle items like cardboard and aluminum cans as more immoral than
pornography. The Porn Phenomenon survey of teenagers and
young adults found that 32% of those surveyed believe that viewing porn is
“usually or always wrong” compared to 56% who say not recycling is “usually or
St. Valentine must be rolling
in his grave.
More than ever we see that
the opposite of real love is not hating people but using people.
As Valentine’s Day becomes
more and more about sex rather than real love, here are three Orthodox lessons
about love to remember this Valentine’s Day:
Real Love Does Not
Use – It Gives:
What Orthodox Christianity teaches about love is very different from the
popular idea of love. Popular love focuses on what other people do for us. This
is reflected in a popular culture where people constantly use each other
sexually and mistake such actions for genuine love. Seeing people as objects
instead of icons of God’s love is dangerous. When men and women lose their
intrinsic worth in the eyes of others, they are easily damaged. Real love in
Orthodox Christianity is never about using people to feel good about ourselves.
Men and women are not designed to use each other, but to empty themselves and
give to each other. This is the foundation of healthy love and part of being
created in the image and likeness of God. St. Basil the Great tells us that
real love is “ …not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the
benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.”
Real Love Practices
Orthodox Christianity understands that sex is good and has always been a
special gift of creation. However, like any gift, it can be used in a healthy
way or in an unhealthy way. The teaching of the Church shows us how to use the
gift of sexuality in a healthy way. Orthodoxy offers some of the most
progressive and healthy advice when it comes to sex. At the heart of this
advice is the practice of chastity. Popular love says that the freedom to do
whatever we desire sexually is healthy. Chastity says that we find real freedom
and real love when we give up the notion of unrestrained sexual freedom for the
greater good of the one we love in an eternal commitment. For this reason,
chastity says no to any sex outside of sacramental marriage as well as no to
unhealthy sex in marriage because real love strives for something more
beautiful than pleasure alone. St. Augustine of Hippo reminds us that
“Chastity, or cleanness of heart, holds a glorious and distinguished place
among the virtues, because she, alone, enables man to see God; hence Truth
itself said, ‘Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.’”
Chastity protects people from
being objects and becoming numb to real love. It teaches us to love in the way
that makes our lives meaningful. Real love practices chastity because it
understands that behind each “NO” God gives us, there is a greater and more
beautiful “YES”. Every person–without exception–is able to experience the “YES”
of real love that the gift of chastity gives us. This real love is far more
enduring and fulfilling than anything in popular culture. And contrary to
popular belief, chastity even leads to a healthy sex life.
Real Love Makes Us
love is never safe. It never hides the broken reality of the world. Loving
people does not make us perfect, nor does it conceal our flaws. Real love makes
us vulnerable and exposes our deepest weaknesses so as to transform them into
something beautiful. C.S. Lewis wrote the following: “To love at all is to be
vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If
you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one. . . Wrap
it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.
Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that
casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken;
it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” An Orthodox Christian
understanding of love is one in which each of us become the people God intended
us to be. This type of love is more than the feeling of falling in love. It is
more than romance. It is more than sex. Real love is an ascetic choice to live
our lives as a gift. Real love is a choice to submit every aspect of our lives
to the good of another person. In this way, real love is not only vulnerable
but healing. One of the great secrets of living an Orthodox Christian life of
love is that by being vulnerable, we find a joy that far transcends the
commercial feeling of love the world celebrates every Valentine’s Day.
The commercial onslaught of
Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming. It is easy for Orthodox Christians to
resign themselves to moving along and doing nothing. February 14th is just one
day. However, each of us would do well to remember the words of Metropolitan
Kallistos Ware who wrote that “In its deepest sense, love is the life, the
energy, of the Creator in us.” History has shown that this energy has the
capacity to change the world in the face overwhelming odds and the most broken
Real love has radically
changed countless lives before, and it can do so time and again.
[At the time of separation, the soul sees]…all the works it performed,
good and bad, by day and by night.The
sinner’s soul parts from the body in fear and, trembling, it sets off to be
present at the Immortal Tribunal.Grieved is the presumptuous man; grieved the indifferent; grieved the
lazy, who neglected to do what was pleasing to God; grieved is the man who has
much property, who gave his soul for worldly things; grieved is the rich man,
for he is separated from his riches…All these are grieved at the hour of death,
for they are given to things worldly.
A message from Fr. Nektarios Serfes, President of the
Decani Monastery Relief Fund…
My brothers & sisters in Christ,
you ever needed to summon an ambulance? Most people feel blessed if they’ve
never had to. But, life oftentimes requires that we become involved in
you ever ridden with someone in an ambulance? Have you ever been taken as a
patient in an ambulance? It can be a scary ride, but also a comforting one, in
the presence of trained paramedics with life-saving instruments at hand that
sustain life in an emergency.
of us believe that if we need an ambulance, we go right to the phone.Dial 9-1-1 and the dispatcher on the other
end will send one right away. It is something we expect will be at our disposal
whenever needed. We make the call, do our best to comfort the person in
distress, and count the seconds until the life-saving vehicle arrives with its
trained personnel. It cannot happen fast enough for us. Our hearts race as we
what if there is no ambulance available? In many countries, a taxi or someone’s
car or truck has to do in an emergency. A person in crisis may not have life
support much less comfort or room for anyone to ride along. And neither can a
personal vehicle perform well in an emergency—there’s no warning siren,
emergency lights or other markings that cause other vehicles to “step aside,”
and let it pass. An ambulance is a necessity and one we seldom think of, unless
we find ourselves in an emergency.
may wonder—why have I painted this picture for you? Because we have Christian
brethren in Kosovo whose hospital in Osojane is without a working ambulance. It
even lacks some basic medical supplies.Can you imagine running a hospital like this?Would you feel confident relying on it for
your health care?Hospital personnel
there are competent. However, equipment and supplies are not.
Here are some things you should know:There are three
working hospitals in Kosovo at which the Serbian population feels they can be
safely treated and cared for.And
not only that, they are the only three hospitals which allow treatment of the
Serbian population. These hospitals are located in Lapje Selo, Metohija
and Osojane.The hospitals are modestly
equipped, but not fully, such as the medical center in Belgrade. In serious cases, these local hospitals
must determine whether to transport a patient to Belgrade, a seven hour
drive away.God willing, the
person’s health holds out until they reach destination. Some patients make it, but not all do.
I visited Osojane hospital last November, I learned about their need for an
ambulance. Yes, they’d had one.However,
it was stolen and only recently recovered. Now they now are functioning at
sub-par level with a poorly equipped ambulance that is subject to break-downs.
an elderly woman in Osojane needed to be transported by ambulance to the local
hospital. On this short trip, the vehicle broke down more than once due to
mechanical problems. Mercifully, the woman did arrive at the hospital, received
care and eventually went home in better health. But if the ambulance suffers
breakdowns on a short trip, how can it be expected to make it all the way to
gave my word to the people there that I would try to help them obtain a new,
fully equipped ambulance as a life-saving option.The fathers of the Decani Monastery have
sourced a proper ambulance in Germany. It will be fully outfitted, suited for
the needs of the Osojane hospital. The price is USD 23,000. For some readers,
this would be the cost of a second, modest car here in the United States.
Perhaps someone reading would like to say, “My second car is an ambulance!”
Indeed--what a blessing that would be!
However, if one person cannot afford to buy an ambulance, a
group of people could. It is not so hard when many people moved by the grace of
God chip in with a single mind. I have seen God do great things for the
suffering Serbs in Kosovo, to the amazement of those who are united to their
detriment. Yes, it is possible to accomplish great things—with prayer,
single-mindedness and above all, love. See photo of the proposed new ambulance
I share one more thing with you? Lapje Selo’s hospital is a modest, active
hospital. It offers 40 beds and sees approximately 130-150 cases daily. It not
only treats the Serbian population, but the Albanian one as well. Fr. Isaiah of
the Decani Monastery recently met with the hospital administrator who revealed
the hospital’s needs for basic tools and supplies. Here is a list:
·Regents for lab analysis of blood
·Basic medical supplies
·New mattresses & pillows for 40 beds
·Chairs for patients & physicians
·10 computers (minimum) to help track patients’ records,
it is difficult to imagine medical care in our present day without basic
supplies and equipment.But these are
current conditions in Kosovo.
Fr. Isaiah and the hospital administrator in Lapje Selo
with an active conscience and a God-loving heart will find it hard to turn away
from these pressing needs. These are our brethren in Christ—people who need to
look outside of their country to meet basic, medical concerns.
me go back to the beginning—if you’ve undergone an emergency where an ambulance
and paramedics came to your aid—do you remember how relieved and grateful you
felt? Have you ever had a desire to somehow pay it forward—to help someone else
whose life might be in the balance some day? Well, here’s your opportunity to
help save or preserve someone’s life—it is no small thing!
you have a heart to provide emergency medical equipment and supplies for those
in Kosovo, be sure that God will bless and reward you. As stewards of His
bounty, you have the power to release His resources to effect good in the
world. In this case, you can release good and blessing to those in Kosovo. It is up to you.
love and bless you! Let me now ask…will you help us buy a life-saving ambulance
and medical supplies for Kosovo? If so, God reward you!Please send a check of any amount payable to:Decani
Monastery Relief Fund and mail to:
c/o Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702
Decani Monastery Relief Fund also accepts donations via credit cards or Paypal.
Please visit our web site http://www.thedecanifund.org/ and use the “donate” button near the top of the page.The Decani Fund is a 501c3
tax exempt charity.
Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never
fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and
I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with
faith, suddenly my sins falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find
myself free… For the faithful the Cross is a mighty power which
delivers from all evils, from the malice of the invisible foe.
By + Very
Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, President
TheDecani Monastery (Kosovo) has been threatened by
four men with guns and an AK 47 assault rifle on the road leading up to the
monastery. They were captured as they reached the first check point.
Keep in mind there
are three check points before one can enter the holy monastery (see photo
below). Let us pray that this incident does not happen again.
In the meantime,
there are denials of who these individuals are who caused this incident.
However, what is important now is that no one was seriously injured, and that
the monks at the monastery were protected and are safe.
Thank you for
your prayers for the Decani fathers and the faithful in Kosovo!
This is a short account of the
martyrdom of a group of Christians from the third century. It took
place in Carthage, a Roman province in North Africa. This account is based on
the written account, the diary of Perpetua, one of the martyrs. This is
one of the greatest treasures of martyr literature, a document that preserves
the actual words of the martyrs and their prison experience. The final
details of the martyrdom were written by a Christian witness to their deaths in
the arena. St. Perpetua’s diary is a historic record and the earliest
surviving text written by a Christian woman….Keep reading this entry here:http://otftd.blogspot.com/2012/02/martyrdom-of-ss-perpetua-felicity-and.html
Cover of the video presentation
mentioned in the entry. It is excellent, offering two presentations—one documentary
type geared for an adult audience & one for youth:
Through the prayers of St. Perpetua
and her companions, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!