Orthodox Thought for the Day


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Sharing a meditation from Fr. Seraphim Holland as found on the Pravoslavie RU website (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/67424.htm)

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen! Christ is Born!

The place of the manger, Bethlehem    

On a day like today, there are many episcopal letters—very good ones, that I would like to read to you’ but not right now. And the reason is because on a day like today, a pastor wants to share something of his heart with his flock. That is why those letters are written: because the archpastor wants to share something of his heart. Well, in every church celebrating the Nativity today, pastors want to share from their hearts, and this is what I want to do with you right now. This Gospel is not expressly about the Nativity of Christ, is it? It not a narrative; it isn’t about a baby in a manger. It is about what happened after the Nativity of Christ. We are not quite sure exactly how long after, but not on the day of the Nativity; probably not even during the week of the Nativity. It is about the wise men, the astrologers from Persia, who came to worship Christ. They enquired of Herod where the Christ Child would be born. They did this is because by God’s dispensation the star, which was actually an angel guiding them, moving in a way that a star does not move—from north to south, and not according to the way a star would move in that area—disappeared when the wise men came to Jerusalem. They didn’t know where to go, so they enquired, and then Herod knew of their intentions. He said, “When you worship the Child, then tell me, so that I can also worship Him” (cf. Mt. 2:1–8). But of course, we know that he wanted not to worship, but to kill. And shortly after the wise men had left, he did kill ten thousand holy innocents, trying to make sure that he killed the Christ Child. But by then our Lord was either on His way to Egypt or there already.

Here is what I want to share with you from my heart. When the wise men had finished worshipping the Lord Jesus, Being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way (Mt. 2:12). This is very significant. Every time I read this, I am filled with great joy. There is another way, brothers and sisters. Not the way of the world, not the way of death, not the way of mundane life; there is another way. And we are celebrating, that the God-man came down, became incarnate—He actually became the God-man, so that we could have this other way. These wise men went another way to avoid Herod; but mystically this means there is now another way to live: because Christ is born. There is another way to be. There is another way to become. Human life is filled with sorrow, it is filled with sin, uncertainty, incompleteness, sickness, death. But there is another way. That way is life, that way is perfection, that way is completeness, peace, and righteousness. And that way is obtainable because of Jesus Christ. So we must apply the Nativity to our souls. We must learn to live in another way.

Now, sometimes when I look at my own life, and I happen to know the lives of many other people (they are very similar to mine), I see how mundanely we live, how easily we become angry or confused, how easy it is for us to be lazy about holy things and diligent about things that don’t matter. It seems that we are always living in the way of the world. But that wasn’t what we were born for. We were born for perfection. We were born for eternal life. And that eternal life is to be in God, and with God; to be united with Him, to not have anything in us that is corruptible. We see corruption every day in our lives, but we weren’t born for that. We were born for another way. We were born to know Jesus Christ personally, intimately, by becoming like Him. And that is what the incarnation of the God-man provides—for us to become like Him. Now, there is much that must transpire for us to become like Him. He gives us the ability, but He does not give us the will. He strengthens our will, but He does not give it to us. We must desire to follow this other way. And if we do, then we will indeed become perfect. We will become what we were born for.

Just recently I was having a conversation, and as often happens in conversations, the significance didn’t hit until later. This person said that it really hit her that Christ was born to die… When we look at Him in the manger, we see someone Whose whole purpose in life as a human being was to die. From the beginning, His purpose was to die—so that we could live. But we are not born to die. Now, we do die, and we live with that stench of death around us when we sin. Because anything that is sin is death: when our thoughts, emotions, or priorities are not holy and righteous—that is death. But we weren’t born to die. We were born to live. We were born to be fully alive. Do you know that in our ascetical theology, we do not consider human beings without Christ to be truly human? You are not truly human until you are a Christ-man, and Christ is totally filling you—because man was created to have Christ within him. If Christ is not within the man, then he is not fully a man. We are becoming fully men, fully humans because of Christ. That is the other way, not the way of the world.

I also want to say something about why this particular passage was selected—not about the Nativity narrative, not about the babe in the manger, but what happened afterwards; just as on Pascha we do not read about the Resurrection. We read from the first chapter of St. John about the nature of God, Jesus Christ Who is eternally the Son, becoming man so that we could be one with Him. Why do we do this? Why do we look ahead? Well, first of all, in our services we have already read the Nativity narrative many times previous to today. In the same way, throughout the year, every Sunday we read the Resurrection narratives. But knowing the history is not what you need. What you need is to become what the purpose is of our Lord’s incarnation, death, and Resurrection. So, we read on the Nativity about the wise men, and how they went back another way—because the Nativity is so that you can live another way, a different way, not the way of human flesh without Christ, but the way of being a Christ-man, a deified creature. That is why we read it. It’s the same on Pascha, and the same thing also after Theophany. On the Sunday after the Theophany we read of Christ going into the wilderness, being tempted by the devil, because after baptism comes temptation. After baptism comes life, the living of your life with the power that God has given you, so that you can live differently from the rest of the world, differently from your own motivations; so that you can be changed, become a deified Christ-human creature.

That is the purpose of the incarnation. St. Paul says it in clear language—for those who have ears to hear—in one of my favorites of all the epistles, where he speaks of the fullness of time, when God sent His Son, the Incarnation, and then he says to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His son into your hearts crying Abba, Father; wherefore ye are no more a slave, but a son. And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Gal.4:5-7). Do you know what this means? This is possible because through the Incarnation, and then Baptism, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, we can become something that we are not. We can become, as the Scripture says, gods. It is not blasphemous to say that. The Psalm says ye are gods, and the Church understands that to mean that we will become God-like, full of righteousness, truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God—something that we do not have by nature. Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature, eternally. But we are not sons of God by nature—we are adopted into sonship; and with this adoption we are treated entirely as sons. But this necessitates a change in the way we think, the way we live, the priorities we have, and how we spend our time. It means we must live a different way, another way.

This is what my heart wants to tell you today, on this day of the Nativity, when the Lord has made it possible for us to be adopted, to be of His family, to become united with Him, and perfected in Him. We must remember this in everything we do, and not live the way of the world, but rather live the other way, the holy way—the way that makes no sense to the world, the way that is foolishness to the world. We must remember this in everything we do. We were born to be alive, even though there is evidence of death in us every day—from our sins, from aging, from the mistakes we make, from our uncertainties. If a Christian has the God-given ability in his heart, he can feel that death. But that death is not natural, that death is not the purpose of our life. The purpose of our life is to be alive in Christ. And with God becoming man, it is now possible. Remember this. Live a different way from the rest of the world. And if there are things in you that are living like the world, beg God to help you with them. Do something about it. You were born for perfection. Don’t wallow in mediocrity. None of us should be mediocre. All of us should know God, and feel God in everything we do; with every breath we take, we should feel the Holy Spirit. If we do not feel this, then we must change the way we live. This is the purpose of life—to live a different way from just being a human—to live as a Christ-human. The Greeks have a word, Theanthropos, or God-man. We are also to become God-men. We call Jesus Christ the God-man, but we are to become God-men. We are to become like God and to be united with God, and to do godly things, to have the knowledge of God, to be united to Him in holiness, wisdom, and purpose. This is that other way that is possible today.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Transcription of the original audio recording

09 / 01 / 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's freezing in Kosovo--the warmth of Christian love is desperately needed

A message from Fr. Nektarios Serfes

President of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund USA
Boise, Idaho

Dear Friends In Christ Our Lord,

May the great peace and love of our Lord God always be with you! Now that we’re approaching Christmas, the weather in Kosovo and Metohija is becoming severe, especially at night, and many people are already freezing. Thousands of Christian brethren who are cold are in need of our assistance and warm Christian love. It will get even colder as the days proceed into January and February.

We here in America simply turn up our thermostats or light our woodstoves to keep warm. But there are no heaters or woodstoves for thousands of families in much of Kosovo and Metohija at this hour! It is estimated that at least 12,500 families are now in need of firewood and food!

A particular concern at this point in time is the availability of needed food.  The current situation is that the electric bills must be paid first before food can be obtained. Even so, electricity is shut down often enough that some families lose their food. There is no good reason for this situation, except that it is used to oppress the Christian populace.  We, here in America, to date, have been spared such a fate—let us not abandon our brethren who are truly suffering great deprivation, mostly because of their Christian heritage and confession

Current shortages are forcing parents to go hungry in order to provide meals for their children.  This should be a concern to anyone who is reading this--many people are eating only once a day and, some, even less often. Can you imagine living like this in cold conditions?  What if you became ill and were malnourished and unreasonably cold?  How would you survive?  In truth, some people don’t survive.  For many elderly, pensions have been cut and they no longer can afford what supplies of food and heating fuel are available.  Some people are barely surviving, by the mercy of God.

The Decani Monastery (Kosovo) ministers to extreme needs by helping as many as possible obtain firewood and food.  Will you share this ministry by giving provision through the Decani Monastery Relief Fund?

The monks of the Decani Monastery rush to assist those in need of firewood, no matter what the conditions might be or what the hour. They routinely put their own lives and safety on the line to relieve others' desperation. This in itself is true Christianity-- to care enough to do whatever it takes to assist those in need of simple life sustaining staples such as firewood or food!

Please, loving Christian brethren, let us together help the suffering and struggling souls in Kosovo and Metohija by providing needed food and firewood! Let us just momentarily pause in the pursuit of fulfilling our own needs and desires and consider how truly blessed we are by our Lord God. Let us then hasten to share these blessings with those in desperate need at this time.

Believe me when I say prayers will be answered because of our love! Through our giving, we will help sustain souls with hope, both materially and spiritually.  People will be reminded of God’s care and mercy, even if deplorable conditions still exist.  Thanksgiving will be offered to God because we gave to bring relief to afflicted brethren--Christians who hold to their confession and faith in Christ!

Let us who are so richly endowed with material blessings seize this opportunity to bring the light of Christ to the displaced and desperate in Kosovo and Metohija. Then we may be ever joyful knowing no one of our brothers and sisters has perished, but, instead, all will have again known the warmth and peace of true Christian love.

The Decani Monastery Relief Fund offers a Paypal option for donations.  Please click this link to reach the Paypal button:  http://www.thedecanifund.org/#!/cjg9

If you prefer to send a check, kindly send to this address: 

Decani Monastery Relief Fund
C/O Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

Peace to your soul! May God love and bless you!

On behalf of the Board of Directors we humbly and with great Christian love pray for you and offer our heartfelt thanks!

+Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes

President, Decani Monastery Relief Fund

Who humbly prays for you and begs your loving prayers

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to overcome evil in the world

Why is there so much evil in the world today?  Because people have thrown away their most reliable weapon, the all-victorious weapon with which every evil, every sin, and every demon are assuredly vanquished on all battlefields.  And this weapon is prayer—prayer and fasting.  It is the most reliable weaponry, because it is God’s weaponry; the most reliable, all-victorious weaponry because it is Christ’s weaponry—the weaponry of the only true God in all realms. 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A great mystery

A great mystery has been performed through Mary, a mystery that exceeds all understanding and knowledge.  The Mother of God has received tremendous powers, in virtue of which she is greater than all the saints we honor. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On regaining spiritual comfort

Just as the sun’s rays are sometimes hidden from the earth by a thick cloud, so for a while a person may be deprived of spiritual comfort and of grace’s brightness; this is caused by the cloud of the passions.  Then, all of a sudden, without that person being aware, it is all given back.  Just as the surface of the earth rejoices at the rays of the sun when they break through the clouds, so the words of prayer are able to break through to drive the thick cloud of the passions away from the soul. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On forgiveness

Let us not render evil for evil, and we shall not receive our due for our sins.  For we find the forgiveness of our trespasses in the forgiving of our brothers; and the mercy of God is hidden in mercifulness to our neighbor. Therefore the Lord said, “Forgive and you shall be forgiven,” (2 Peter 2:22).  And, “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”  See how the Lord bestowed on us the method of salvation and has given us eternal power to become sons of God.  So, finally then, our salvation is in our will’s grasp. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Examine yourself

Examine yourself daily in the sight of God, and discover which of the passions is in your heart.  Cast it out, and so escape His judgment. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

On the greatness of gentleness

Do you see what a great thing gentleness is?  More than any vehemence, it pricks our hearts, inflicts a keener wound.  For in the case of bodies which have become callous, the man that strikes upon them does not affect the sense so powerfully, but if he first mollify them and make them tender, then he pierces them effectually.  But that which softens is not wrath, not vehement accusation, not personal abuse; it is gentleness. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prayer when dejected and weary

When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected and you are wearied and oppressed, remember then, as always, that God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that is the Trinity, looks upon you with bright eyes, brighter than the sun; and so do all the angels, including your own guardian, and all the saints of God.  Truly they do, for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

On blame and the need for humility

Oh, Brethren, what is the result of pride? Oh, see what humility can do? What was the need for all these sufferings? For, if from the beginning Man had humbled himself, obeyed God, and kept the commandment he would not have fallen.

Again, after his fall, God gave him an occasion to repent and to receive mercy but he kept his stiff-neck held high. He came to him and said “Adam, Where are you?” instead of saying “What glory you have left and what dishonor you have arrived at?” After that, He asked him “Why did you sin? Why did you transgress the commandment?” By asking these questions, He wanted to give him the opportunity to say, “Forgive me.” However, he did not ask for forgiveness. There was no humility, there was no repentance, but indeed the opposite.
He answered, “The woman whom You gave to be with me” (Gen 3:9-12), he did not say, “the woman deceived me,” but “The woman whom You gave to me,” as if he wanted to say: “This catastrophe has come upon me because of You.” So it is, brethren, since Man is not accustomed to blame himself. He does not hesitate to consider even God as the cause of evil.
Then God came to the woman and said to her, “Why did you not keep the commandment?” as if He wanted to say, “At least you, say forgive me, so as to humble your soul and to receive mercy.” Again, there was no request for forgiveness. She also answered, “The serpent deceived me,” (Gen 3:13) as if she wanted to say, “If the serpent sinned, where is my mistake?”
Why did you act in this way, you pitiable ones? Make a bow of repentance, recognize your fault, be sorry for your nakedness. Neither one of them could blame himself, neither of them had the least bit of humility. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The wonder of the Holy Eucharist

What the Lord did not endure on the Cross (the breaking of His legs), He submits to now in His sacrifice for His love for you. He permits Himself to be broken into pieces that all may be filled. What is in the chalice is the same as that which flowed from Christ’s side. What is the Bread? Christ’s Body. Not only ought we to see the Lord, we ought to take Him and unite ourselves with Him in the closest union. 

On astrology

The belief in stars is a foolish disbelief against God’s omnipotence and creativity, for God is subjected to the star’s power. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On voluntary poverty

Let no man then accuse poverty as being the cause of innumerable evils, nor let him contradict Christ, who declared it to be the perfection of virtue, saying, ‘If you will be perfect.’ [Matthew 19:21] For this He both uttered in His words, and showed by His acts, and taught by His disciples. Let us therefore follow after poverty, it is the greatest good to the sober-minded.

Perhaps some of those who hear me, avoid it as a thing of ill omen. I do not doubt it. For this disease is great among most men, and such is the tyranny of wealth, that they cannot even as far as words endure the renunciation of it, but avoid it as of ill omen. Far be this from the Christian’s soul: for nothing is richer than he who chooses poverty of his own accord, and with a ready mind. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

God knows

If we want to do something but cannot, then before God, Who knows our hearts, it is as if we have done it.  This is true whether the intended action is good or bad. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Accept the troubles...

St. Nicholas of Myra--December 6

I like to put this out a few days before the feast--feel free to share it with others:

The Real Santa Claus

St. Nicholas Day will soon be here (December 6). I would like to share a resource with you that a friend and I put together a few years ago for an educational purpose. It is an Orthodox presentation on the life of St. Nicholas of Myra, parked on a closed YouTube channel.

The video was produced by myself and a brother in Christ from New Zealand, Frank McDonald, while my family was yet serving the Church in Alaska. As many of you know, our family is now serving the Church in New Hampshire.  I apologize that parts of the presentation are "frozen in time" and credits unfinished.  That said, please enjoy the presentation (just under 10 minutes long). May you find it edifying.

Here is the link
: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh74DcbSqfk

Because this is a "closed" YouTube channel, you won't find this presentation by searching on YouTube unless you have the link above.   

Please keep in mind it the presentation is only for the sake of edification and education—it gives a historical profile of the “real” Santa Claus. The presentation itself is not for replication and/or sale nor should any profit be made by sharing it with others.  

Wondrous is God in His Saints!
Pres. Candace Schefe