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)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reframing difficulties in marriage

The married are…also to be admonished to consider not so much what each has to endure from the other, as what the other is made to endure. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fasting: the possibility for change & transformation

“We are all called to strive for perfection, and prayer and fasting are the best helpers in this work”

Priest Dimitry Shishkin, rector of the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God in village of Pochtovoe (Diocese of Simferopol and the Crimea):

The main joy of the fast, strange as it sounds, consists in the possibility for our change and transformation. It is in the possibility to become something different; to comprehend, hear, and feel that other world that exists not somewhere on another planet but here and now—however it remains completely unseen and non-existent for those who do not seek it and do not try to retune themselves, so that they could enter this most bright and blessed world. And we must definitely all retune ourselves and change, because the fleshly life we are so used to, without which we can’t imagine any other life, changes us and makes us so fleshly that it seems to us that this state and worldview is the only one possible and natural. Meanwhile this fleshly life is in fact absolutely unnatural, because God calls all us people to a special, supernatural life in His Kingdom. This is our goal, this is our calling, and it is the greatest human joy—the aim of all human strivings.

The problem is that we do not understand this or feel it clearly. And even if we know about this, then that knowledge gives nothing to our hearts and souls, because we with our fleshly lives deprive this knowledge of its main strength—living and direct experience of communion with God. Of course, everything is relative in this world, there are varying degrees of a person’s nearness to God and varying measures of tasting His holy blessings, but we are all called to strive for perfection, and prayer and fasting are our best helpers in this work. The Lord Himself said that it is fasting and prayer that help us in a mystical way to change, be transformed, and begin to live in another way—an indescribably joyful, bright, and peaceful life here and now. Peaceful does not mean carefree and easy, but rather free of torment and a doubting heart that comes from sin, from the consequences of a sinful life, which torment and burden a person at times more than material hardships and disorder.

In this fortunate possibility to change and begin living a different life in accordance with the Lord is the main sense of fasting. We will seek this repentant change. And the Holy Church gives to us all the necessary means and “tools” for this. Only obey! Just obey, and that’s all. Begin doing as thoroughly and piously as possible all that the Holy Church offers you in order to be with the Lord—and soon you will see what a saving, bright, and joyful (regardless of the flesh’s complaints) path it is that the Church leads you on to a different, higher, glad and radiant life. This is precisely why the Lord took our sins upon Himself, why He suffered and died on the Cross, and then rose on the third day—so that we, believing in Him and following Him, might become participants in this holy and immortal life. What happiness, what joy there is in this—if only we could understand it! And after all we can, if we wish, make use of this blessed source of fasting and prayer, commanded us by the Lord.
Priest Dimitry Shishkin
Translation by OrthoChristian.com
26 / 02 / 2015

40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

These glorious martyrs continue to shine with great radiance each year on their Feast.  Please see the March 7, 2013 entry to learn about the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste:  http://otftd.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-forty-holy-martyrs-of-sebaste.html

Holy Ones of God, intercede for us!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Coptic Church canonizes 21 recent Christian martyrs in Libya

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the 21 Egyptian Christians murdered by the Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar as martyrs and saints.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II said that the names of the 21 martyrs beheaded by ISIS on February 14 will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s official list of Martyrs, a procedure similar to canonization in the Latin Church.

An icon of the 21 martyrs, drawn by Tony Rezk, will be the official image to commemorate their supreme witness (accompanying photo).

The Islamic State terror group released a video on February 15 showing the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians who had previously been kidnapped in Libya. The Egyptian Christians were lined up along a beach and abruptly beheaded in the graphic five-minute video. The Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media produced the Libya video titled, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”

Pope Francis denounced the murders and called the Christians “martyrs” who were “killed simply because they were Christians.” The Pope also remarked that their last words were: “Jesus, help me!”

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard,” the Pope said. “It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants,” the Pope continued. “They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”

The recent murders in Libya have driven home to Europeans the proximity of the Islamic State to Europe, moving them to high alert and the mobilization of security forces. At the same time, the heroic witness of those who died has also strengthened the faith of many.

Beshir Kamel, brother of two of the Coptic martyrs, said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy and Samuel, and said that their martyrdom was “a badge of honor to Christianity.”

Kamel went so far as to thank the Islamic State for including their Christian witness in the videos before beheading them.   “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith,” he said.

Kamel said these words in an interview with SAT 7-ARABIC. The interview went viral, receiving over 100,000 views within hours of its release.

The interviewer asked Kamel what his reaction would be if he were to encounter an Islamic State militant, to which Kamel recalled his mother’s response: “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven,” Kamel said.

27 / 02 / 2015

In Paris--myrrh streaming icon in Turkish home

From Pravslavie.ru:

An Icon of the Mother of God is streaming myrrh in a Turkish family in Paris

Paris, March 3, 2015
Many years ago a couple from Turkey (namely Antakya, Hatai) came to live in Paris. There they found jobs and settled in a suburb of Paris. Their names are Esat and Sevin Altindagoglu.

In their Paris home one can always see many guests not only from France but from abroad as well. All of them come to see an icon which head of the family calls “a miracle.” The Orthodox icon of Holy Theotokos of the Byzantine period that the family obtained in Antakya and brought with them to Paris (though they are Muslims) began shedding tears, reports the Greek Romfea portal.
According to the Altindagoglus, the icon was given them in 2006 by a Greek monk from Libya. As soon as they received this icon they felt its great holiness and an unexplainable atmosphere of peace has reigned in their home since then.

When they moved to Paris they took this venerated icon with them. When the icon was placed in a separate room in the new house it at once started weeping, according to the couple’s evidence. The news speedily spread not only among Turks, but also among Christians.
The icon, “All-holy Virgin,” as the Turkish family called it, soon became an object of veneration and a source of miracles.
The news of the new icon spread literally all over the world and now pilgrims from such countries as Germany and Belgium are coming to venerate the Mother of God.

Esat Altindagoglu relates that not long ago a young married lady visited them: she could not conceive a child for a long time, so she grieved very much and her marriage was on the brink of divorce.
The woman on her knees prayed before the icon of the Mother of God a long time and after a few days she called the Altindagoglus and with tears told the couple that a miracle had happened – she already was expecting a child!

The portal writes that especially for sceptics it provides photographs of the wonder-working icon of Holy Theotokos inside the Turkish family’s house in Paris as well as a photograph of article in a Turkish newspaper with the distinctive heading: a Miracle of the Mother of God in the House of One Turk.
06 / 03 / 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to respond to the grieving

From Fr. Alexis Trader’s site, Ancient Christian Wisdom:

How to Respond to Those Who Grieve?
March 4, 2015 By fatheralexis

It’s not easy to know what to say or what to do for someone who has just lost a loved one. What that loved one really meant to the bereaved, how that loved one’s presence completed their world, and what the world looks like now that the loved one is gone, the bereaved and only the bereaved fully know. That is why grief is so exquisitely personal, so undeniably unique, and often frustratingly inscrutable not only for others, but even for the person experiencing grief. “The heart is deep” (Psalm 64:6), and as Saint John Chrysostom puts it, “Nothing is as obscure (δηλον) as the human heart” (Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah, 17, PG 64.916). So how can someone looking in from the outside hope to help someone else suffering from grief?
Kimberly Calderwood, in her 2011 article “Adapting the Transtheoretical Model of Change to the Bereavement Process,” notes that “bereaved people undergo a transformation of self rather than returning to their original state.” Employing a model used for understanding how people change in recovering from addictions, Calderwood suggests that the bereaved also go through stages in which both the way they look at their loss and their willingness to act work in tandem to change their thoughts, feelings, and behavior thereby transforming their entire selves. According to this well-known model, the five stages are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. In colloquial terms, they involve the stage of not being ready to think about a change, followed by a time in which one considers what changes might be necessary, followed by a period of mentally preparing to make the changes, leading to a stage in which one acts on the basis of one’s decisions, and then reaching a plateau in which one maintains one’s status until a new cycle of change is called for.
What do these stages look like in the case of grief? In terms of thoughts, the person begins thinking “it’s all a bad dream” until it sinks in that “life will never be the same.” Afterwards, a person thinks about how to move forward until deciding on doing or seeing things differently culminating in accepting the fact that the loss will always be there. In terms of emotion, the grieved usually are initially numbed and may be unable to articulate their feelings. Then, the emotions become less intense and more easily identifiable. Afterwards, there is an oscillation between hope and despair until a sense of peace is at last reached. With respect to behavior, in the beginning one just goes through the motions of living and then without really trying one begins to function a bit better. Later on, the grieving turn to the task of planning how to continue to maintain a bond with the departed. Finally, the individual puts changes in place reaching a new normal.
Although everyone is unique and truly the heart is deep, the knowledge of this process of change can offer some guidance about offering the appropriate support at the right time. In the preparation stage, the grieved often need help with basic needs such as meals and time to rest. In the contemplation stage, they may need assistance with the ambivalence over trying to recommence with life. In the preparation stage, they often need extra support, because others often withdraw and might expect the grieving to get “over it.” In the action stage, the bereaved may need encouragement in selecting realistic goals for the new life without their loved one. And finally even in the maintenance stage, when moments of grief arise on anniversaries, an encouraging word can do wonders in helping someone to continue to “fight the good fight and keep the faith.”
Support is necessary for everyone, especially those who are grieving over a loss. As Saint John Chrysostom put it, “It is God’s will that we receive benefit from one another, for why else has He commanded us to pray for peace and stability of the world? Why has He commanded us to pray in behalf of everyone when that includes robbers, tomb-raiders, thieves, and people rife with a thousand vices, but so that they might return” (Homily 3 on Philippians, PG 66.205). And for Christians, it is helpful to recall that just as God “gives us our nourishment in due season” (Psalm 144:15, LXX), so we should help in good season (ν εκαιρία) those who are grieving, for as the wise Solomon once said, “How good is a word spoken in due season!” (Proverbs 15:23).
Timing is clearly everything, according to both psychologists and the fathers. Timing requires not only compassion, but also sensitivity that comes from really looking at our grieving brother or sister, trying to perceive where they are, and responding to them according to their hour of need. From a Christian perspective, in order to really see them, we need the light of discernment. As Saint Peter of Damascus puts it, “we need this light before we say or do anything. When it is present we are able to view everything else with wonder.” Now, “discernment is born of humility” (Book 1). So if we still do not know what to do or say in the presence of the grieving, if we can’t pinpoint what stage they are in, let us at least strive to be genuinely humble before their suffering, for humility is “that light wherein the love of Christ is found” (Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 57). The love of Christ is the ultimate answer to the grieving at any stage, for it “surpasses all knowledge” and enables the believer to “be filled with the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). When the fullness of God replaces the emptiness of loss, when the light of Christ replaces the darkness of death, then the soul of the grieving finds not only peace, but also the strength to put on Christ and walk in newness of life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Glory to God!

OCA Alaskan Diocese “gives” a church to Kenya!

Alaska, Kenya
On February 15, 2015, His Eminence, Archbishop Makarios of Kenya, assisted by his new vicar, His Grace, Bishop Neophytos, consecrated the first church in Africa dedicated to Saint Herman of Alaska—a “gift” from the clergy and laity of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of Alaska.
Fifteen parishes and 37 individuals, most of whom are from the Diocese of Alaska, not only made the “gift” possible, but also donated the icon of Saint Herman for the iconostasis of the new temple, which was built in the Nandi region of western Kenya.

Alaska, Kenya
The project began when a retired diocesan priest made Facebook contact with a young, energetic Kenyan priest, Father Jonah Rotich, who needed an additional classroom for his growing village school.  Providing the $650.00 to expand the school was a relatively quick and easy project. But then Father Jonah displayed the foundations of his new church due to a shortage of funds, it was discovered that the building could be completed for a mere $17,000.00.
It was determined that 34 donors, each providing $500.00, could make Father Jonah’s dream a reality.

Alaska, Kenya
His Grace, Bishop David, gave his blessing to make the construction of the church a diocesan project.  At the Alaskan Diocesan Assembly in October 2014, clergy and lay delegates enthusiastically embraced the idea. Reasoning that the Russian Orthodox Church had built, decorated and furnished many historic Alaskan churches, both during the era when Alaska was part of the Russian Empire and also for 50 years thereafter, the Alaskan Orthodox faithful decided it was time for them, as a mature diocese, to begin assisting other missions around the world.
Funds were transferred to Kenya with immediate results.
Father Jonah regularly reported on the number of bricks, the kilos of sand or the quantities of cement he bought from week to week and posted photos of the construction project’s progress.  Contributors from other parts of the US and Canada supplemented the gifts from over 30 generous Alaskans and a dozen diocesan parishes. The stone and brick church was completed in less than four months!

Alaska, Kenya
Bishop David provided a portion of the relics of Saint Herman, which were placed in the new church’s altar table.
At the church’s consecration, Kenyan clergy and laity responded with an amazing and overwhelming celebration in dance and song, with the children, teens, men and women of the parish composing and performing jubilant songs to celebrate and give thanks to God for the gift of a church they received from their distant Alaska Native brothers and sisters in Christ.
“The project witnesses to the possibility for even a small number of Orthodox Christians to contribute significantly to the growth of the Faith using modern technology,” Bishop David said.  “Saint Herman Church in Kenya is the product of a close and trusting relationship between two priests, with the blessing of two bishops, and the possibilities of cooperation across half the globe: a church built by the Grace and Mercy and Love of God — and Facebook!”


For those with shattered nerves

In the book With Elder Porphyrios:  A Spiritual Child Remembers,  on pg 263, we read this advice to a mother with shattered nerves: 

The Elder advised a mother with shattered nerves due to serious trials, to struggle to become holy.  At the same time, he gave her practical advice so that she could manage to escape from her melancholy.  She should take care to get rid of unpleasant memories and fears; she should remember pleasing events; she should always cultivate optimistic thoughts about the future; she should listen to good music that she likes; go out for walks in the countryside; go with Christian ladies, who were friends of hers, to vespers and vigils, and also to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday; and she should pray with trust in Christ.  

The above is basic advice that seems like it could apply to most anyone in our stress filled age filled with temptations, disappointments and sorrows.  Pres. Candace

Monday, March 2, 2015

MEMORY ETERNAL! Fr. Matthew Baker

Many who read the Ortho Thought may have already heard the news of the tragic accident involving Fr. Matthew Baker last evening. 

Fr. Matthew Baker, a young priest in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, was called from this life as a result of an auto accident late yesterday afternoon.  He was a deeply devoted priest, husband and father of six children.  We grieve for the acute loss of his presence and ministry and offer prayers for the repose of his soul.  May God’s comfort be in abundance to his wife, Presbytera Katherine, his children and extended family. 

I will not try and report all that is available about this tragedy on-line right now, but I would like to make a few links available as a testament to his life and ministry.  You’ll also find a link to a “Go Fund Me” site that has been set up to benefit his family.     

Metropolis of Boston announcement regarding tragic accident

The life of Fr. Matthew Baker is a Triumph of Orthodoxy

Comments from Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

How to help the Baker family

Eternal be his memory!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Flee despair

Despair is a mortal sin.  Flee from it.  And believe in the Merciful God, our Mediatrix the Theotokos and the Saints.  They can do all things.  But it is absolutely necessary to humble oneself and be patient.  St. Anatoly of Optina
A reader wrote and inquired about the above:  why is despair was labeled a "mortal" sin?   Isn’t sin, sin?   
Here’s my reply:
I think the translator used the word “mortal” to emphasize the seriousness of the sin.  Yes, sin is sin, you are correct there.  However, despair can lead to suicide which is a “mortal” sin—the result being the taking of one’s own life.  That certainly is very serious in the eyes of God and His Church.
Despair often points to a giving up of hope, of faith in a loving God and in the mercy of God.  Those feelings can move a person to take their fate into their own hands.  May God grant that none of us fall into despair, but rather cling to the hem of His garment at all times.   
Pres. Candace

Endure everything for Jesus Christ's sake

Conclusion of story: 

Every time when someone insulted him or sneered at him, he took the piece of paper out of his belt, read it, remembered the promise of endurance which he had made to God, and calmed down.  Some of the brothers wondered at his patience and began to love him.  Others, in their malice, said, “He is doing some kind of magic to calm himself.  Whenever we annoy him, he takes a piece of paper out of his belt, and when he looks at it, his anger passes away.  This business is not good.  He must be a magician…”   

With such suspicions in their hearts, the spiteful monks went to the abbot and slandered the young brother before him.  The abbot investigated the matter, found out the innocence of the brother, and for his justification and as a lesson to all, he summoned all monks to himself.  When the accusations against the young brother were repeated, the abbot ordered him to show the piece of paper before everyone.  The young monk obeyed, took out the paper and read the writing, “I will endure everything for Jesus Christ’s sake.”  Then the accusers were ashamed and silenced, and the brother, acquitted and praised, lived peacefully with the respect and love of the monks. 

In the same way, if we endure everything for Jesus Christ’s sake, we will be saved.   

When we quarrel and fight, we always consider ourselves right and the others guilty.  This is a result of our pride, and pride is the greatest obstacle to the peace of our soul.  When no one bothers us, we are calm and consider ourselves very good.  But when someone offends us, we get insulted and enraged and think that the other person is the cause of our anger.  No, he is not to blame for it!  The real cause is in the passions that are dormant in us.  They have dozed quietly while they were not irritated, but at the first occasion they show their sting.   

The man who has insulted us is not to blame that we are so proud, touchy, and sensitive that we cannot endure even the least offense.  The fact that the offender can even bring benefit to a meek and humble soul, and that he becomes a cause of sin only for the proud one, testifies very clearly that the offender cannot be considered guilty for our spitefulness and strife.  He only provides an occasion for the feelings that are already hidden in our soul to gush forth.   

If a man breaks moldy bread which has grown musty inside but has retained its good outward look, is he to blame for the mold on the bread?  With our hidden passions we resemble whitewashed tombs wonderful on the outside and filled with stench on the inside.  According to the instructions of the Holy Fathers, if we want to be corrected, we should blame ourselves and not get angry at others.  Instead of getting angry at the brother who has become the occasion for our passions to explode, we should rather thank him for helping us to know ourselves. 

Happy is he who has learned that he himself is to blame for his own sins.  This realization will lead him to repentance; the repentance—to humility; the humility—to endurance; and the endurance—to salvation.


Text found in The Meaning of Suffering and Strife & Reconciliation, by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev, pp 101-107.  Book is available from St. Herman Press and can be ordered from their web site:  http://www.sainthermanmonastery.com/  This is a book that can be read again and again and always be found edifying and profitable to the soul.