Orthodox Thought for the Day

ORTHODOX THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Thursday, December 31, 2015

On the struggle against thoughts

When we struggle against demonic thoughts, the struggle will be considered as a martyrdom.  This is because one suffers a great deal when evil thoughts attack, and God, seeing the toil and pain of his soul, considers it to be a martyrdom. 
 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CHRISTMAS CLUB FOR KOSOVO

Hello, beloved readers, 

Wondering how many of you took up the challenge to start a “Christmas Club for Kosovo” at the beginning of last October?  http://otftd.blogspot.com/2015/10/nostalgia-spiritual-investment.html 

If you took up the challenge and have been faithfully setting aside just $5 a week since then, you should have an envelope of cash worth $60 today.  Congratulations!  It wasn’t hard, was it?  And $5 didn’t seem like much but it really did add up.  Thank God! 

The blog posting prior to this one is an update from Fr. Nektarios about his November trip to Kosovo.  Through your love, prayers and kind gifts of seeds and icons, people were greatly encouraged.  Monetary resources of $12,000 were distributed to meet particular needs as well.  Most importantly, the Serbian Orthodox living in Kosovo/Metohija were reminded they are not forgotten by the Body of Christ around the world. 

There are many acute needs, still.  Whatever we can send before year end will help the folks stay warm and fed through the intense winter months.  We want to shore up the available food supplies as much as possible.  And, as we do yearly, we endeavor to provide hearty food (pork), for the faithful during their Nativity Feast which begins on January 7 in Serbia. 

Ready to send that $60 Christmas Club savings to the Decani Monastery Relief Fund?  Please visit their site and use the Paypal button:  http://www.thedecanifund.org/   Time is of the essence...unfortunately, we lost a few days last week due to the Decani site being down unexpectedly.  Nevertheless, God is great--let us now help the Serbian Orthodox of Kosovo/Metohija. 

If you don’t use Paypal, feel free to write a check and mail to: 

Decani Monastery Relief Fund
c/o Very Reverend Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

Donations of any amount are thankfully received.  Sixty dollars, more or less, from a number of people will make a significant difference in the lives of Orthodox faithful of Kosovo/Metohija.
 
Let us wish our brothers & sisters in Kosovo, “Mir Boziji, Hristos se rodi!", meaning "The peace of God, Christ is born!"  Be assured, the blessing will return to you from God. 

 


 

Love in Christ,
Presbytera Candace

ENCOURAGEMENT THROUGH CHRISTIAN LOVE

Dear Friends in Christ our Lord, 

May the great peace and love of our Lord God always be with you!   

I recently returned from a two week trip to the region of Kosovo/Metohija.   As president of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, it is my privilege to represent the love of Christ, made possible through your care, when visiting the region.  

First, I’d like you to know that there was such an outpouring of thanksgiving over the 1,000 packages of seeds that were distributed.  People were both amazed and grateful for the generosity and provision received.  We gave out icons everywhere we went (again, thanks to you) and sensed a great deal of encouragement despite on-going situations of deterioration and difficulty.  During my visit, the Fund also distributed over $12,000.00 and another $6,000.00 was distributed before my arrival in the region to help cover the costs of firewood, electricity, food & medicine, new chain saws, as well as water repairs for schools. 

Having said this, I will speak candidly:  the needs in the area remain significant.  And, we are entering the coldest season of the year.  

Many churches in the region are often without heat. I attended one Church that simply does not have heat--not even on Sunday.  Winter temperatures are often in the single digits and sometimes below 0.  With scant or no heat, this is no small hardship.  

Fuel is desperately needed, not only for churches and monasteries, but for family homes as well.  Fuel = firewood.  $125 will keep a home warm for a month. $125 will also heat a church or monastery for services.  $400 will heat one family’s home throughout the winter months.  Sadly, many do not have $125.00 or $400.00 to even purchase fuel and depend on the Decani Monastery’s Fund to help.  This is one reason why the Fund exists, to provide practical assistance.

 
Family receives firewood on behalf of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund

Firewood arrives at Decani Monastery to help families and monasteries

Fuel and electricity is also an issue for local schools and hospitals.  On one visit to a school, I learned that for three hours at a time, daily, the school’s electricity is turned off.  I asked a teacher what happens at the school when this occurs?  She matter-of-factly remarked that the children put on their coats, because it means we’ve lost heat and lights.  Of course!  Can you imagine having your own child educated in this environment? 

Food supplies remain a serious problem throughout the region.  Six soup kitchens exist with limited food to feed those who are destitute.  One soup kitchen visited feeds two thousand families a day at lunch only—that is all the food that is available for one day.  They could cook for more than just the lunch meal, but there isn’t enough money to buy additional food. 

This kitchen also supplies a meal to students from a local school. Oftentimes the meal is soup and bread.  Previously, the local soup kitchens used to feed children at some of the schools a breakfast, but due to food provisions, the meal has been cut back to once a day—a lunch.   
The truth is some people eat only once a day—youth, elderly, entire families.  The situation regarding limited food and lack of fuel is oppressive.  Sadly, it is the Serbian population that is being oppressed in this manner.  Non-Serbs in the region appear to have plenty of heat and food.  

The Decani Monastery is attempting to help as many families as possible through the winter months obtain needed firewood and food. We can continue helping our brethren who live in hardship through our donations to the Decani Monastery Relief Fund.  
 

The Feast of our Lord’s Nativity is celebrated on January 7 in Kosovo/Metohija.  It’s a custom among many families to roast a pig for this great celebration.  Every Christmas, the Decani Fund helps as many families as possible obtain a pig to roast.  One roast will provide a week’s worth of meals for a family.  This is a special provision for people who eat meagerly otherwise.  Each pig costs over $100, but it’s money well spent—people receive hot, substantial nourishment!  The abundance is also a sign of God’s merciful watch and care for them.  Last year we helped over one hundred families by providing pigs for the Feast.  We would love to do that and more this year.  Will you joyfully help us feed these dear people again this season?   
 

 

Prayers are offered daily in the region that others still care about their sufferings and struggles.  Prayers of thanksgiving are being offered daily for you!  

Through your support of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, there will be joyful faces and hearts in Kosovo and Metohija this season!  One person cannot provide everything needed, but many people doing what they can will make a huge difference for the Christian brethren there.  We count on you as we have in the past, and, frankly, I stand amazed at what God has done and continue to do through you all. 

Would you be willing to provide firewood fuel for a home or church?  Or, pay a school’s electric bill?  Would you prefer to bolster the food supplies of a soup kitchen?  Would you like to provide a pork roast for someone’s Nativity celebration?  When donating, feel free to designate how you would like your gift to be used.  You can send me an email at father@serfes.org and let me know how you’d like your gift applied.  

Donate easily by using Paypal option at this link http://www.thedecanifund.org/ or by writing a check: 

Decani Monastery Relief Fund
c/o Very Reverend Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

The Decani Fund Board of Directors joins me in offering our sincere thanks and prayers for your kind-hearted generosity—the Lord bless you! 

Peace to your soul! 

Humbly in our Lord,
+Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
President of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund

P.S. I just received word today from the school in Osojane.  They now have a new refrigerator and oven which was donated in behalf of our Fund.  Lunches will now be served at this school daily!  Icons were donated, too, for the classrooms and enough resources for a new PE room.  Also, the hospital in Lapje village received 22 sets of complete linens for the beds there, thanks to the DMFR.  Thank God for all of you who make this possible—thank you, O Lord!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Our few and infirm works

 
Your few works, done with all your infirmity, if offered with repentance and self-reproach, will be received by God more favorably than great feats and labors performed with arrogance and a high opinion of oneself. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

CELEBRATE THE TWELVE HOLY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Dear all,  

This is one of my all-time favorite articles and I like to share it with other Orthodox brothers & sisters during the month of December.  The Twelve Days of Christmas are, indeed, Orthodox!


~May your Twelve Days of Christmas be blessed~ 


Love in Christ,
Presbytera Candace 
 
 


From the web site of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois:

The Twelve Days of Christmas - They're When?By Pearl Homiak 



Believe it or not, December 25th is the first day of Christmas.  You'd never know it, especially if you happen to be shopping any time after Halloween.  Plastic crèches, soldiers, and Santa Clauses; Christmas trees, colored and sometimes blinking lights; red ribbons, candy canes, and homes and lawns with varying degrees of lighted decorations-all begin to mushroom each year from the beginning of November, and sometimes even sooner. 


I remember that when I was very young Christmas was hardly even mentioned before Thanksgiving.  No one that we knew put up a Christmas tree until a few days before Christmas (December 25th; "Orthodox Christmas" took place on January 7th in those days.  However, most Orthodox people decorated for Christmas on December 25th, which was celebrated as a gift-giving day. January 7th was reserved for the religious observance of Christmas).  Even department stores held off until their day-after-Thanksgiving sales.  Christmas parties took place after Christmas, and people sang and played recordings of Christmas carols from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day or even up to Epiphany.  The Christmas season was a meaningful time back then, but what is it now? 


There is a song we all know called "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that describes gift giving over a period of time-twelve days.  St. Ephraim the Syrian first mentioned the period of the "twelve days," according to one source, sometime before the year 400.  The Council of Tours made it official in 597. This period of time begins at Christmas and ends at Epiphany. 


The origin of the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," has been recently disputed. I had no idea it was more than a cute song until a friend of mine e-mailed an explanation of it to me a few years ago.  According to the missive I received, the song was actually a "catechism song" used by Catholics in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The song was supposedly used to teach children the tenets of the faith during this period, when law forbade practicing Catholicism.  As such, the song's gifts and other images have the following religious representations (compiled from various sources):
  • True love = God
  • Me = every baptized person
  • Partridge = Jesus Christ, who, like a bird, will protect God's defenseless children
  • Pear tree = the Cross, which was made from a tree.
  • 2 Turtle doves = the Old and New Testaments; also, two turtle doves were sacrificed when Jesus was first brought to the temple,
  • 3 French hens = faith, hope, and charity (sacrificial giving); also, gold, frankincense, and myrrh from the Wise Men
  • 4 Calling birds = the four Gospels and/or the four Evangelists
  • 5 Golden rings = the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) which gives the history of man's fall from grace
  • 6 Geese a-laying = the six days of creation
  • 7 Swans a-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6-8); also, the seven sacraments
  • 8 Maids a-milking = the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10); also, milking symbolizes Christ's love for us
  • 9 Ladies dancing = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • 10 Lords a-leaping = the Ten Commandments
  • 11 Pipers piping = the eleven faithful Apostles
  • 12 Drummers drumming = the twelve points of the Apostles Creed; also, the twelve Apostles preaching
Recently I came across a different source of the song.  It seems that several centuries ago in France children played a non-religious memory game called "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  Each child recited a verse of the song. If someone missed a verse he/she had a consequence.  This game was apparently first recorded in a book published in England in the late 18th century.  However, the game could have been known for a long time before that.  Further, the religious application of it might have been based on the French game in the first place. Who knows?  And, anyway, is it really important?  There is more than one way to convey the tenets of faith, and singing representative songs is one way to do it. 


We still hear the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," but it has nothing to do with Christianity.  (I haven't found any information about children today playing a game called by the same name).  Sadly, many modern-day children don't know the real story of Christmas, of Christ's Nativity. For them Christmas is only a great decorating, celebrating, and present-getting time that happens to begin revving up after Halloween and reaches its high point on December 25th.  (Even Thanksgiving gets minimized).  After that, everything returns to "normal," except for more celebrating on New Year's Eve. 


Maybe people think the "twelve days of Christmas" start on December 13th and are the most important shopping days before Christmas.  To some people "the twelve days of Christmas" might even be the twelve Saturday-and-Sunday-department-store-best-sale-days between Halloween and Christmas (there really are twelve Saturdays and Sundays during this time, and don't most people shop then)? 


I see nothing wrong with shopping well in advance for the sake of my personal economy and more unique and unhurried gift selection.  (In fact, one year I actually got all of my Christmas shopping done before advent started.  The only store I went to during advent was the grocery story, and that as rarely as I could.  What a meaningful advent and Christmas I had that year!).  However, the untimely pre-season decorating, the never-ending-department-store-carol-playing, and the during-advent Christmas partying are too much for me.  I'm all for getting things back into perspective.  We shouldn't allow ourselves to be dictated to by advertising and department store companies.  Let's put the celebration of Christmas back where it belongs. 


Awhile back I decided to make changes in my Christmas-related habits to refocus my celebration of Christ's Nativity.  I stopped playing tapes of Christmas carols during advent.  Instead, I started playing them on Christmas day.  We also continued to turn the TV off during advent, something we have done for more than twenty years (except for one chaotic year). 


Over the last several years I have deliberately been sending my Christmas cards after December 25th when I can truly say, "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!"  It just seems to make more sense that way.  While everyone else is watching TV or snoozing after Christmas dinner, I sit down after the dishes are done and write out my Christmas cards.  If I send out a Christmas letter, I write it then.  Within the next couple of days, I mail out my cards with joy, rather than the hurry-up-let's-get-this-over-with anxiety that plagues pre-Christmas card-senders.  If I'm not home for Christmas, then I get the cards ready for mailing the next day.  So if you receive a Christmas card from me shortly after Christmas, it's not late.  It's right on time! 


I like the idea of Christmas starting instead of ending on December 25th.  We usually don't celebrate our own birthdays until the day they occur or later.  So why do we, in effect, celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday (Nativity) so long in advance?  Christmas trees and outdoor decorations could still be put up ahead of time.  However, they don't have to be turned on until Christmas Eve.  After all, no one would light the candles on a birthday cake two months before the birthday party. 


It doesn't take much effort to make these changes, but it does feel weird at first.  Yet it's not a matter of bucking the establishment.  It's really all about getting things back into perspective.  And it just makes sense. 


Our society has come a long way from St. Ephraim the Syrian's statement about the significant twelve-day period between Christmas and Epiphany.  However, I question our ultimate destination.  We seem to proclaim Christmas earlier and earlier as time goes on… Focusing our celebration of Christmas after December 25th could help us do that. 


The Twelve Days of Christmas became important to western Christians many centuries ago.  However, this period ultimately degenerated to become filled with superstitions, fear, and other negative elements.  The song," The Twelve Days of Christmas," was used to teach spiritual truths, then it, too, degenerated, becoming a cute folksong.  From now on let's limit the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle.  Let's use the real "twelve days"-between Christmas and Epiphany--to pull away from the over commercialization of Christ's Nativity.  Let's start making the Twelve Days of Christmas something special and joyful-a real celebration of Christ's birth-for us in America and for our children. We will be glad we did. 

Beautiful prayer for the 12 Holy Days of Christmas



A few years ago, the text below appeared in The Orthodox Observer as a prayer for the Nativity Fast.  However, with a line or two adjustment, it is every bit as precious and pertinent for use during the Twelve Holy Days of Christmas.  Hope you’ll find it a blessing to use in the days ahead: 

Lord Jesus You have come so many times to us and found no resting place.  Forgive us for our overcrowded lives, our vain haste and our pre-occupation with self.  Come again, O Lord, and though our hearts are a jumble of voices and our minds overlaid with many fears, find a place, however humble, where you can begin to work your wonders as you create peace and joy within us.  If in some hidden corner, in some out-of-the-way spot, we can clear away the clutter and shut out the noise and darkness, come be born again in us and we shall kneel in perfect peace with the wisest and humblest of men. 

Lord, give us Christmas from within that we may share it from without, on all sides all around us, wherever there is need.  God help us, every one, to share the blessing of Jesus in whose Name we keep Christmas holy.  Amen.  



Further to December 24, 2015 posting

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him! 

An Ortho Thought reader wrote to me last evening to say that she couldn’t read the WSJ article I provided a link for yesterday.  I will reproduce the article below in full so you all can read it.   

Regardless of how the NYC marketers are attempting to white-wash the Christmas holiday, the light of Christ burns bright in many, many hearts in the United States.  We need to use this to our advantage, to the glory of God. 

Rev. Fr. Philemon Patitsas of St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Naples, FL, invites us to become involved in the Christian Rights and Freedom Institute.  Please visit this link for more info  http://stkatherine.net/christian-rights-and-freedom/  This is an excellent resource for us at this time in our nation’s history and a good way to represent the Christian viewpoint in a cohesive way.  Thank you, Fr.  Philemon, for making this effort known to us. 

The Year Christmas Died


A ‘holiday’ window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. 
Photo: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
By
Daniel Henninger

As we moved into December and what for some time has been called “the holiday season,” the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee issued a “best practices” directive for the campus to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.”

A Christmas party in disguise? Has it come to this?

Aghast state legislators got the directive rescinded, but the Christmas killers will get the last laugh. In fact, they’ve already won. This is the year Christmas died as a public event in the United States.

We know this after touring the historic heart of public Christmas—Fifth Avenue in New York City.

For generations, American families have come to New York in December to swaddle themselves in the glow and spirit of Christmas—shops, restaurants, brownstones, the evergreen trees along Park Avenue, bar mirrors and, most of all, Fifth Avenue’s department-store windows. You couldn’t escape it, and why would you want to?

A friend, an ardent atheist, would be inconsolable if he couldn’t sing Handel’s entire “Messiah” with 3,000 other revelers this month at Lincoln Center. Even if the only god you worship is yourself, December in New York has always been about the bustling good cheer flowing from the Christian holiday.

For many, December required a pilgrimage to Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Bergdorf Goodman. No matter the weather, people walked the mile from 38th Street to 59th Street and jammed sidewalks to see these stores’ joyful Christmas windows.

Stay home. This year Fifth Avenue in December is about . . . pretty much nothing, or worse.

To be sure, the magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas tree still stands, and directly across on Fifth Avenue is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, its facade washed and hung with a big green wreath. But walk up or down the famous avenue this week and what you and your children will see is not merely Christmas scrubbed, but what one can only describe as the anti-Christmas.

Forget public Nativity scenes, as court fiat commanded us to do years ago. On Fifth Avenue this year you can’t even find dear old Santa Claus. Or his elves. Christmas past has become Christmas gone.

The scenes inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s many windows aren’t easy to describe. Saks calls it “The Winter Palace.” I would call it Prelude to an Orgy done in vampire white and amphetamine blue.

A luxuriating woman lies on a table, her legs in the air. Saks’ executives, who bear responsibility for this travesty, did have the good taste to confine to a side street the display of a passed-out man on his back (at least he’s wearing a tux), spilling his martini, beneath a moose head dripping with pearls. Adeste Gomorrah.

But you haven’t seen the anti-Christmas yet. It’s up at 59th Street in the “holiday” windows of Bergdorf Goodman. In place of anything Christmas, Bergdorf offers “The Frosty Taj Mahal,” a palm-reading fortune teller—and King Neptune, the pagan Roman god, seated with his concubine. (One Saks window features the Roman Colosseum, the historic site of Christian annihilation.)

I thought: Lord & Taylor! Surely the iconic Christmas windows on 38th Street won’t shelve St. Nick. They did. He’s gone, replaced by little bears and cupcakes, gingerbread men and Canada geese.

There is one holdout to the de-Santification of America: In Macy’s windows at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street—as in “Miracle on 34th Street”—the characters of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” frolic in Yuletide splendor.

The Christmas-less feeling along once-famous Fifth Avenue this year is similar to the loss one feels reading the last lines of “Casey at the Bat”—a shattering, historic strikeout.

The erasure of Christmas between the grinding stones of secular fanaticism will persist. Eventually the holiday will be forbidden, forgotten and filed away in attic boxes. But maybe God, in His usual mysterious way, is nudging us back toward the beginning.

Once the inevitable Federal Office of Diversity and Inclusion has joined with the commercial cynics at Saks and Bergdorf’s to suppress even Santa, what pretext will parents have to give gifts to their Christmas-cleansed children? Amazon Day?

In the post-Christmas era, the infant Jesus and Santa Claus will go back to the catacombs of early Christian life, where you won’t have to say happy holidays to anyone. Christmas as we know it will die off, and what will be left on December 25th will look a lot like Thanksgiving, but smaller.

Unless celebrating Christmas in America becomes a prosecutable crime, as it was in the Soviet Union, families will go to church in the morning to renew the beginnings of their faith and then spend the day at home listening to pirated copies of the carols and hymns on Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” album. For radical refuseniks, I recommend playing, at the highest possible volume, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” on Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You.”

As for Saks and the other Fifth-Avenue sellouts, I have two words this season. They aren’t Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Today's "Christmas" culture--clues from New York City holiday windows

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-year-christmas-died-1450914228

The Year Christmas Died


A ‘holiday’ window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
Photo: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

After reading the WSJ article above, I have some thoughts on this...

My initial thought when seeing this is—Christians need to take a stand for our Christ, pure and simple.  Even those who have not made a commitment to Christ should consider taking a stand, also.  Why?  Because the culture is rapidly deteriorating and Christianity, true Christianity, is the salt that enlightens and preserves it.  The thing is, a personal cost will be involved.   

If we desire to have Christ stand with us, then we must stand with Him first.  Every denial, however small, erodes our existing Faith and weakens us spiritually and other ways as well.  Our personal and cultural denial—the “dissing” of the true and Living God--is costing us.  If we don’t step in, even at this late date, and take a stand and push back, we will live through experiences we’d never think possible on US soil.  We may still live through such experiences, but by being bold, humble and faithful, we will have the strength and mercy of God with us.

The marketers in NYC are motivated by what they think the public wants—or perhaps they are being handsomely paid to steer the public in a desired direction.  I believe they feel empowered by pushing blatantly anti-Christian propaganda visually.  What to do?  As a start, tell them we don’t want it and are offended by it.  It is an offense to the God of heaven whom we love and worship.  He loves us all, even those yet to believe, but this behavior will not be allowed to go on very long without response.  It is, simply, the spirit of rebellion.  And, of course, take your business elsewhere and tell everyone you know why.

Orthodox Christians have a responsibility to take a stand—to lead, if necessary, against these pervasive anti-God, anti-Christian influences, regardless of personal cost.  I more often include in my prayers a request that God would keep me from denying Him ‘til my last breath.  What would happen if the majority of Christians were to do the same and live with courage and commitment, in “bold humility?”  God grant us holy boldness which is the legacy of committed Christians. 

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!
Presbytera Candace

Sunday, December 20, 2015

On Christmas trees & Orthodox tradition


I suspect that the custom of decorating a tree at Christmas time is not simply a custom which came to us from the West and which we should replace with other more Orthodox customs. To be sure, I have not gone into the history of the Christmas tree and where it originated, but I think that it is connected with the Christmas feast and its true meaning.

First, it is not unrelated to the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah, ‘There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots,’ (Is. 11:1).  St. Cosmas, the poet, had this prophecy in mind when he wrote of Christ as the blossom which rose up out of the Virgin stem from the stump of Jesse. The root is Jesse, David’s father, the rod is King David, the flower which came from the root and the rod is Theotokos. And the fruit which came forth from the flower of the Panagia is Christ. Holy Scripture presents this wonderfully. Thus, the Christmas tree can remind us of the genealogical tree of Christ as Man, the love of God, but also the successive purifications of the Forefathers of Christ. At the top is the star which is the God-Man (Theanthropos) Christ.

Then, the Christmas tree reminds us of the tree of knowledge as well as the tree of life, but especially the latter. It underlines clearly the truth that Christ is the tree of life and that we cannot live or fulfill the purpose of our existence unless we taste of this tree, ‘the producer of life.’ Christmas cannot be conceived without Holy Communion. And of course as for Holy Communion it is not possible to partake of deification in Christ without having conquered the devil when we found ourselves faced with temptation relative to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where our freedom is tried.

We rejoice and celebrate, because ‘the tree of life blossomed from the Virgin in the cave.’  Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos



Excerpt from: “The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the 12 Feasts and Orthodox Christology” by Metropolitan of Nafpatkos Hierotheos Vlachos – November 1993.  Sourced from blogsite:  http://andreasblom.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Unrepairable?


We must never believe that our sinful state is beyond repair.  We must be confident that there is always forgiveness for us.  All we need to do to be forgiven is to ask. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dec. 15: Ss. Eleftherios & Anthia

If you’ve never had a chance to learn about the life of St. Eleftherios, do take time to read and honor his memory and that of his mother, Anthia, today.  From Grace & Truth blogspot, access the link for details:  http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2008/12/sts-eleutherios-hieromartyr-and-his.html 

 

Also, in the book, Animals & Man:  A State of Blessedness, author, Dr. Joanne Stefanatos, has provided a wonderful account of the Saint’s life.  It is a rather a riveting read, especially when read aloud. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Why not admit sin?

Are you a sinner? Do not become discouraged, and come to Church to put forward repentance. Have you sinned? Then tell God, ‘I have sinned.’ What manner of toil is this, what prescribed course of life, what affliction? What manner of difficulty is it to make one statement, ‘I have sinned’?

Perhaps if you do not call yourself a sinner, you do not have the devil as an accuser? Anticipate this and snatch the honor away from him, because it is his purpose to accuse. Therefore, why do you not prevent him, and why do you not tell your sin and wipe it out, since you know that you have such an accuser who cannot remain silent? Have you sinned? Come to Church. Tell God, ‘I have sinned.’ I do not demand anything else of you than this.
Holy Scripture states, ‘Be the first one to tell of your transgressions, so you may be justified.’ Admit the sin to annul it. This requires neither labor nor a circuit of words, nor monetary expenditure, nor anything else whatsoever such as these. Say one word, think carefully about the sin and say, ‘I have sinned.'” 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lack of progress?

Don’t you see that this is why we make no progress, why we find we have not been helped towards it? We remain all the time against one another, grinding one another down. Because each considers himself right and excuses himself, as I was saying, all the while keeping none of the commandments yet expecting his neighbor to keep the lot! This is why we do not acquire habits of virtue, because if we light on any little thing we tax our neighbor with it and blame him saying he ought not to do such a thing and why did he do it - whereas ought we not rather to examine ourselves about the commandments and blame ourselves for not keeping them? 
 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Historic St. Nicholas


Hello, again, dear readers,

I am repeating a posting from previous years as there are always new subscribers to the Ortho Thought each year.  God’s blessings for the Feast of St. Nicholas tomorrow.  And, XRONIA POLLA!  MANY YEARS! to each of you who have St. Nicholas as your namesake.  May he remember us all before God’s throne.

St. Nicholas Day is 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 Maine.  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