Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, October 31, 2014

Sign of the season

This sign was created some years ago at my request by Brittany Michelle in Portland, OR.  It has faded a bit over the years, but the message is still good and it makes its yearly appearance on our door.  In short, our family will be happy to treat you (with gold foil covered chocolate coins) on St. Nicholas Day if you come knocking at the door.  
Pres. Candace

To date, I haven't had anyone come back of their own accord...but if they do, I'll be ready to give them gold foil covered chocolate coins.  Best bet--get your child to go out and round up his or her friends--they'll be so glad if you do! 

I think the sign is a gentle way to “put off” and not get involved in the Halloween trickery stuff.  I am happy to give kids candy on other days—St. Nicholas is a very good day to do that as he put gold in the stockings of impoverished young women so they would have a dowry to marry rather than be sold into slavery.  So there is a correlation.  There may also be an opportunity to talk a bit about the Saint’s life on that day. 

Another day to laden kids with goodies is during the Twelve Days of Christmas when they can sing carols—or as the Greeks say, “kalanda.”  Traditionally, kids go door to door and sing the carols and receive treats.  At our church, rather than go door to door, the kids perform the kalanda using triangles that are actual musical instruments (sweet sounding) and we have a fellowship hour where parishioners bring treats to put in kids’ decorated boxes in appreciation. The kids love it and so do the parishioners!  So it’s not necessary that kids go door to door at Halloween to get treats.  They can know there are other days for that.   

Hope these ideas are useful.
Pres. C.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spiritual nourishment during education

If we should be involved with profane teachings during our education, we should not separate ourselves from the nourishment of the Church’s milk. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to describe the Living God?

No matter what kind of language is used, it will be unable to speak of God as He is and what He is.  The perfection of learning is to know God in such a manner that, although you realize He is not unknown, you perceive that He cannot be described. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On the expulsion from Paradise

God drove them out of Paradise, separating them from the Tree of Life—not because He wanted to protect the Tree of Life from them, as some teach, but because God pitied them.  He did not want them to continue to live forever as sinners, or for the sin which had engulfed them to last forever, or for evil to have no end or remedy.  So, God set a bound to sin by interposing death, thus causing sin to cease (Rom 6:7). 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On wasted time

What is more precious than anything in the world? Time! And what do we waste uselessly and without being sorry? Time! What do we not value and what do we disregard more than anything? Time! When we waste time, we lose ourselves! We lose everything! When we have lost the most trivial item, we search for it. But when we lose time--we're not even aware of it. Time is given by God to use correctly for the salvation of the soul and the acquisition of the life to come. Time must be allocated in the same way that a good housekeeper allocates every coin--each one is used for something. Each one has its own purpose. In such a way let us also allocate time profitably, not for vain amusements and entertainments, conversations, feasts and parties. The Lord will call us to account for having stolen time for our own whims, and for not using it for God and our soul. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On personal prayer

Every faithful man and woman, when they have risen from sleep in the morning, before they touch any work at all, should wash their hands and pray to God and so go to their work…Pray also before your body rests on the bed. 

About (St.) Hippolytus, c. 170-235 AD:  Bishop of Pontus (near Rome), was an eminent and learned scholar who wrote voluminously in the early third century.  Since he was unusually well versed in Greek philosophy, the Hellenistic mystery religions, and the teachings of the Apologists, it seems clear that, like (St.) Irenaeus, (St.) Hippolytus came from the eastern half of the Roman Empire.  He professed himself to be a disciple of (St.) Irenaeus and, like his teacher, (St.) Hippolytus wrote his works in Greek; indeed, he was the last Christian author in Rome to do so.  He died a martyr. 

(St.) Hippolytus’s writings include several widely different fields of Christian concern.  His Refutation of All Heresies engaged pagan culture and philosophy extensively.  In his Apostolic Traditions, (St.) Hippolytus handed on what had become customary practice within the Church by his day.  Topics covered include particulars regarding Christian life, details about the administration and celebration of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, and some information about the responsibilities of clergy. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A prayer of St. Ambrose of Milan

May God grant us our prayer:  to sail on a swift ship under a favorable breeze and finally reach a haven of safety; that we may not be exposed to spiritual obstacles too great to overcome; that we may not meet with shipwreck to our faith.  We pray also for a peace profound and, if there be anything that may arouse the storms of this world against us, that we may have as our ever-watchful pilot our Lord Jesus, who by His command can calm the tempest and restore once more the sea’s tranquility.  To Him be honor and glory in perpetuity, both now and forever, and for all ages to come.  Amen. 

The Decani Monastery Relief Fund thanks you

Philippians 1:3-11 NKJV 

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 

Our brother in Christ, Rev. Fr. Nektarios Serfes, is traveling to Kosovo today, October 13…please offer prayer for him as he travels and seeks to bring your loving and generous gifts to those who live in hardship in that area.   

Know that the benefactors of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund are remembered with love and thanksgiving before the altar of God at the Decani Monastery as seen above.  In behalf of Fr. Nektarios, the fathers of the Decani Monastery and the faithful in the area, they send their heartfelt thanks and prayers for you, their benefactors and brethren in Christ!
Decani Monastery, Kosovo and Metohija, Serbia

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Some thoughts on the Hexaemeron (Six days of Creation)

From the writings of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan +397AD:

In the beginning of time, God created heaven and earth.  Time proceeds from this world, not before the world. 

The earth is not suspended in the middle of the universe like a balance hung in equilibrium:  the majesty of God holds it together by the law of His own will. 

Evil arose from us, and was not made by the Creator God.  It is produced by the created thing; it does not have the dignity of a natural substance.  It is a fault due to our mutability and is an error due to our fall. 

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters and let it separate the waters from the waters; .. and it was so,” Genesis 1:6.  Listen to the words of God, “Let there be,” He said.  This is the word of a commander, not of an adviser.  He gives orders to nature and does not comply with its power.  He does not regard its measurements, nor does He examine its weight.  His will is the measure of things and His word is the completion of the work. 

But since His word is nature’s birth, justly therefore does He who gave nature its origin presume to give nature its law. 

“Let the earth bring forth,” God said, and immediately the whole earth was filled with growing vegetation.  And to humanity it was said, “Love the Lord your God”; yet the love of God is not instilled in the hearts of all.  Deafer are human hearts than the hardest rock. 

The bramble preceded in time the light of the sun; the blade of grass is older than the moon.  Therefore, do not believe that object to be a god to which the gifts of God are seen to be preferred.  Three days [of creation] have passed.  No one, meanwhile, has looked for the sun, yet the brilliance of light has been in evidence everywhere. 

“Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures,” Genesis 1:20, said the Lord—a brief statement, but a significant one and one widely effective in endowing with their nature the smallest and the largest animals without distinction.  The whale as well as the frog came into existence at the same time by the same creative power. 

Fish follow a divine law, whereas human being contravene it.  Fish daily comply with the celestial mandates, but humans make void the precepts of God. 

Moses saw that there was no place in the words of the Holy Spirit for the vanity of this perishable knowledge which deceives and deludes us in our attempt to explain the unexplainable.  He believed that only those things should be recorded which tend to our salvation. 

The Word of God permeates every creature in the constitution of the world. 

The divine wisdom penetrates and fills all things.  Far more conviction is gained from the observation of irrational creatures than from the arguments of rational beings.  Of more value is the testimony given by nature than the proof presented by teaching. 

A Patristic Treasury, Early Church Wisdom for Today, Ancient Faith Publishing, pp 339-342 (excerpts from among those pages)

Ancient Faith Publishing offers a beautiful set of Creation icons
Written by iconographer Michael Kapeluck

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where did this Faith originate?

Our faith is right, and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and the tradition of the Fathers, being confirmed both by the New Testament and the Old.  St. Athanasios of Alexandria (298 - 373 AD)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Remember God

It is when you forget God that you begin to entertain evil thoughts and commit wicked deeds. 


The goal of the life of virtue is to become like God. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A very special event in a parish community

When a parish community has a heartfelt desire to glorify God in a new or larger consecrated temple, they often undertake a building project.   


The parish community of Holy Transfiguration (Greek Orthodox) Church of Anchorage, Alaska, undertook such a project with faith and hope in the living God back in October of 2005.  For many years, the congregation had been worshiping in a converted living room of a large residence on the church property. 
There had been a longing in many hearts within the parish to build a proper Orthodox Christian temple on the existing site. It was on October 23 that the Parish General Assembly overwhelmingly decided to go forward with a new church building.   

On August 30, 2009, the ground was officially broken for the new church. 
And, on this day, October 4, 2014, the church is officially opened by His Eminence, Archbishop Gerasimos of San Francisco, to the joy of the parishioners and their presbyter, Fr. Vasili Hillhouse.  The Thyranoixia (Opening of the Doors) and Great Vespers take place at 4PM today, Anchorage time.  
See the beautiful photos of the new church, the only Greek Orthodox Church in Alaska, which has been raised for the glory of God:  http://transfiguration.ak.goarch.org/ 

May God see fit to further bless and enlarge the ministry of Orthodox Christian witness in the Anchorage area through this beautiful event. 

Your sister in Faith,
Presbytera Candace

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A life that leads to true happiness

A life that is lived with a clear conscience and in humility brings peace, calm, and true happiness, while wealth, honors, renown and high position are frequently sources of many sins, and do not bring happiness. 

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)

What about Halloween?  Many Christians recognize the darkness that casts itself 'round about on the celebration of Halloween each year. Some choose to ignore the festivities, some opt for alternative activities, some see it as purely harmless fun. In recent years, I have come to view it as an opportunity for prayer and education.  I decorate our front door on Halloween night with a sign that an artistic Orthodox friend created at my request--it has a circle with a line through it (like the old "ghostbusters" symbol) superimposed over the word Halloween, i.e., "No" Halloween. Under it that it says, "Come back on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, for a sweet treat!" Any kid who shows up on December 6th will get a bag of gold wrapped foil coins from our house and receives an awareness of the "real" St. Nicholas of Myra.

Some Orthodox churches offer the Akathist Prayer service to St. Cyprian on Halloween night following a lovely harvest dinner. 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.

These are just a few thoughts of ways that one can give glory to God and wise teaching through the lives of His Saints in contrast to traditional Halloween fare.  Pres. Candace