Orthodox Thought for the Day


Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to process the daily news

The newspapers present us daily with the Calvary of suffering humanity.  Reading them should inspire us to compassion and prayer. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sobering, thoughtful & more

A deeply moving meditation from the heart of Frederica Mathewes-Green, offered on January 22 of this year. 

The topic is abortion in our contemporary society—and what the future may hold.  Truly, this meditation is worthy of your time and attention.  Please share it  with others. 

Pres. Candace


At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, I was a college student — an anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student. That particular January I was taking a semester off, living in the D.C. area and volunteering at the feminist “underground newspaper” Off Our Backs. As you’d guess, I was strongly in favor of legalizing abortion. The bumper sticker on my car read, “Don’t labor under a misconception; legalize abortion.”

The first issue of Off Our Backs after the Roe decision included one of my movie reviews, and also an essay by another member of the collective criticizing the decision. It didn’t go far enough, she said, because it allowed states to restrict abortion in the third trimester. The Supreme Court should not meddle in what should be decided between the woman and her doctor. She should be able to choose abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

 But, at the time, we didn’t have much understanding of what abortion was. We knew nothing of fetal development. We consistently termed the fetus “a blob of tissue,” and that’s just how we pictured it — an undifferentiated mucous-like blob, not recognizable as human or even as alive. It would be another 15 years of so before pregnant couples could show off sonograms of their unborn babies, shocking us with the obvious humanity of the unborn. 

 We also thought, back then, that few abortions would ever be done. It’s a grim experience, going through an abortion, and we assumed a woman would choose one only as a last resort. We were fighting for that “last resort.” We had no idea how common the procedure would become; today, one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. 

 Nor could we have imagined how high abortion numbers would climb. In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been 59 million abortions. It’s hard even to grasp a number that big. Twenty years ago, someone told me that, if the names of all those lost babies were inscribed on a wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall would have to stretch for 50 miles. It’s 20 years later now, and that wall would have to stretch twice as far. But no names could be written on it; those babies had no names.  

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad. 

 Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting. 

 A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine. 

 But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really “turn back the clock.” It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle. When she first sees the positive pregnancy test she may feel, in a panicky way, that she has to get rid of it as fast as possible. But life stretches on after abortion, for months and years — for many long nights — and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made.

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion, since it rescued her from the clutches of her child.

 If you were in charge of a nature preserve and you noticed that the pregnant female mammals were trying to miscarry their pregnancies, eating poisonous plants or injuring themselves, what would you do? Would you think of it as a battle between the pregnant female and her unborn and find ways to help those pregnant animals miscarry? No, of course not. You would immediately think, “Something must be really wrong in this environment.” Something is creating intolerable stress, so much so that animals would rather destroy their own offspring than bring them into the world. You would strive to identify and correct whatever factors were causing this stress in the animals.  

The same thing goes for the human animal. Abortion gets presented to us as if it’s something women want; both pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric can reinforce that idea. But women do this only if all their other options look worse. It’s supposed to be “her choice,” yet so many women say, “I really didn’t have a choice.” 

 I changed my opinion on abortion after I read an article in Esquire magazine, way back in 1976. I was home from grad school, flipping through my dad’s copy, and came across an article titled “What I Saw at the Abortion.” The author, Richard Selzer, was a surgeon, and he was in favor of abortion, but he’d never seen one. So he asked a colleague whether, next time, he could go along. 

 Selzer described seeing the patient, 19 weeks pregnant, lying on her back on the table. (That is unusually late; most abortions are done by the tenth or twelfth week.) The doctor performing the procedure inserted a syringe into the woman’s abdomen and injected her womb with a prostaglandin solution, which would bring on contractions and cause a miscarriage. (This method isn’t used anymore, because too often the baby survived the procedure — chemically burned and disfigured, but clinging to life. Newer methods, including those called “partial birth abortion” and “dismemberment abortion,” more reliably ensure death.) 

 After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.” 

 He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life.  

The last words in Selzer’s essay are, “Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?”  

The truth of what he saw disturbed me deeply. There I was, anti-war, anti–capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? How could I think it was wrong to execute homicidal criminals, wrong to shoot enemies in wartime, but all right to kill our own sons and daughters?

For that was another disturbing thought: Abortion means killing not strangers but our own children, our own flesh and blood. No matter who the father, every child aborted is that woman’s own son or daughter, just as much as any child she will ever bear. 

We had somehow bought the idea that abortion was necessary if women were going to rise in their professions and compete in the marketplace with men. But how had we come to agree that we will sacrifice our children, as the price of getting ahead? When does a man ever have to choose between his career and the life of his child? 

 Once I recognized the inherent violence of abortion, none of the feminist arguments made sense. Like the claim that a fetus is not really a person because it is so small. Well, I’m only 5 foot 1. Women, in general, are smaller than men. Do we really want to advance a principle that big people have more value than small people? That if you catch them before they’ve reached a certain size, it’s all right to kill them? 

 What about the child who is “unwanted”? It was a basic premise of early feminism that women should not base their sense of worth on whether or not a man “wants” them. We are valuable simply because we are members of the human race, regardless of any other person’s approval. Do we really want to say that “unwanted” people might as well be dead? What about a woman who is “wanted” when she’s young and sexy but less so as she gets older? At what point is it all right to terminate her?  

The usual justification for abortion is that the unborn is not a “person.” It’s said that “Nobody knows when life begins.” But that’s not true; everybody knows when life — a new individual human life — gets started. It’s when the sperm dissolves in the egg. That new single cell has a brand-new DNA, never before seen in the world. If you examined through a microscope three cells lined up — the newly fertilized ovum, a cell from the father, and a cell from the mother — you would say that, judging from the DNA, the cells came from three different people.  

When people say the unborn is “not a person” or “not a life” they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is “Can I kill this?” the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it “a human life”: It’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA. It’s a person, just like the rest of us. 

 Abortion indisputably ends a human life. But this loss is usually set against the woman’s need to have an abortion in order to freely direct her own life. It is a particular cruelty to present abortion as something women want, something they demand, they find liberating. Because nobody wants this. The procedure itself is painful, humiliating, expensive — no woman “wants” to go through it. But once it’s available, it appears to be the logical, reasonable choice. All the complexities can be shoved down that funnel. Yes, abortion solves all the problems; but it solves them inside the woman’s body. And she is expected to keep that pain inside for a lifetime, and be grateful for the gift of abortion. 

 Many years ago I wrote something in an essay about abortion, and I was surprised that the line got picked up and frequently quoted. I’ve seen it in both pro-life and pro-choice contexts, so it appears to be something both sides agree on. 

 I wrote, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” 

 Strange, isn’t it, that both pro-choice and pro-life people agree that is true? Abortion is a horrible and harrowing experience. That women choose it so frequently shows how much worse continuing a pregnancy can be. Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then expect them to be grateful for it. 

 Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression. 

 And so we come around to one more March for Life, like the one last year, like the one next year. Protesters understandably focus on the unborn child, because the danger it faces is the most galvanizing aspect of this struggle. If there are different degrees of injustice, surely violence is the worst manifestation, and killing worst of all. If there are different categories of innocent victim, surely the small and helpless have a higher claim to protection, and tiny babies the highest of all. The minimum purpose of government is to shield the weak from abuse by the strong, and there is no one weaker or more voiceless than unborn children. And so we keep saying that they should be protected, for all the same reasons that newborn babies are protected. Pro-lifers have been doing this for 43 years now, and will continue holding a candle in the darkness for as many more years as it takes. 

 I understand all the reasons why the movement’s prime attention is focused on the unborn. But we can also say that abortion is no bargain for women, either. It’s destructive and tragic. We shouldn’t listen unthinkingly to the other side of the time-worn script, the one that tells us that women want abortions, that abortion liberates them. Many a post-abortion woman could tell you a different story.  

The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence — fatal violence — against the most helpless members of our human community? If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us? 

 In time, it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They can say, “After all, they had sonograms.” They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters. 

 One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind. 

 — Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of Real Choices: Listening to Women; Looking for Alternatives to Abortion.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Riches & generosity go hand in hand

The rich man is not one who has much, but one who gives much.  For what he gives away remains his forever. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Jan 22, 2016: 43rd anniversary of legalized abortion in America



A Pro-Life Generation

Wonderful, resourceful site to help students champion life:  http://studentsforlife.org/ 

Related article that recommends Students for Life—a man’s past experience with abortion and his efforts to see legalized abortion come to an end:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Healing the shock-waves of abortion

Here is a ministry that many are not yet familiar with:  The Silent No More Awareness Campaign  http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/ 

Their slogan?  “I regret my abortion.”  Men and women both suffer levels of grief and regret.  Healing is available through abortion after care, regardless of how many years may have passed.  Please considering sharing this ministry with others whose lives may have been affected by abortion.

Pres. Candace


West Coast Walk for Life event—please share around:

The obstacle to the energy of God's grace

God wants and desires only one thing from us:  our humbleness.  He does not need anything else; just to humble ourselves, so He can make us partakers of His divine grace, which was granted to us through the mystery of Holy Baptism.  Although we did not love Him yet, neither had we struggled to acquire His grace, He gave it to us as a gift out of His extreme kindness.  He is only asking from us to humble ourselves and respond out of gratefulness and appreciation to His love.  Thus, divine grace, which abides in us, will be activated
and function accordingly.  It will make us love God and get to know Him; it will do everything for us, if only we humble ourselves and allow for it to act.  The only obstacle to the energy of God’s grace, is our pride, our lack of humility. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Loving God...loving people

He who loves God will certainly love his neighbor as well.  Such a person cannot hoard money, but distributes it in a way befitting God, being generous to everyone in need. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016


This is a worthwhile read from author Sergei Khudiev.  I have reproduced the article here, without its lead photo.  The first photo in the original article is of an operating room clean up after an abortion in Russia.  The photo is a sobering one.  If you want to see the entire article with omitted photo, click here: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/66921.htm

Leave the side of evil 

According to the results of a survey conducted by the Levada Center, 52% of the Orthodox and 61% of the Moslems [interviewed in Russia] do not regard abortion as murder. It is obvious that we are talking here about people who merely identify themselves as Orthodox or Moslems—participating little or not at all in the life of their respective religious communities.

This is a manifestation of what some sociologists call "poor faith." A person does not deny that God exists, he counts himself with the religious tradition that his forefathers were affiliated with—Orthodox or Moslem respectively—but this tradition in no way influences his relationship towards life, his ideas of right and wrong, or the decisions that he makes.

Abortion is one of the issues over which the views of the Church and the views of secular society are sharply divided. As it says in the document accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church entitled, "Foundations of the Social Concepts of the Russian Orthodox Church":

"Since ancient times, the Church has looked upon the intentional interruption of pregnancy (abortion) as a grave sin. The Canons equate abortion with murder. Such an evaluation is based upon the conviction that the conception of a human being is a gift of God; therefore from the moment of conception any interference with the life of the future human person is a crime."

Actually, this is not the position of the Orthodox Church alone—Catholics come out very sharply against abortions. Even Pope Francis, who has gotten a reputation as a "liberal" and "reformer" has recently emphasized that "this cannot be a subject for any kind of supposed reform or 'modernization.' It is not 'progressive' at all to try to solve a problem by way of the annihilation of a human life." Similar views are held by the majority of Protestants. Even some unbelievers come out against the "life-negating horror of abortions."

Why? Contrary to what the advocates of abortions usually say, there is nothing specifically religious in recognizing abortion to be murder. "You must not deprive an innocent human being of life" is an evident moral truth known to people even outside of Biblical revelation.

What is a human? Aristotle suggested a self-evident definition early on: "a human is a living being belonging to the human race."

Is the child in the mother's womb a living being, and not part of the mother's body? Yes.

Is it a human being? Yes, and what kind? To what race does it belong, if not the human race?

Is it innocent? Some supporters of abortion declare it to be "an aggressor" or "an unwanted tenant," which the mother has a right to kill or "evict." But such logic is absurd—the child in the womb is not undertaking any armed aggression, which it might have been permitted to repulse, and he does not commit any crime deserving the death penalty. He is an innocent human being, and to deprive him of life is criminal, not by virtue of any specific church principles, but by virtue of the moral principle self-evident to all: one must not kill innocent people.

The unique proclamation of the Church here is not that abortion is murder—here the Church simply bears witness to moral self-evidence. The Church proclaims the forgiveness of sins. Christ is the “Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—among which is the grave sin of abortion. Everyone who comes to Him with repentance and faith obtains full forgiveness and the chance to start life with a clean slate. Many abortionists—and other people involved in this evil—have acted thus, and now come out in defense of life. The Church denounces the sin not in order to torment people with a hopeless feeling of guilt, but in order for them to repent, find forgiveness, and be saved.

“Mommy, don't kill me!”    

But there is yet one more deep discrepancy between the secular and the church view of sin. The holy Apostle Paul writes about the fact that those who approve of sin are more guilty than those who commit it directly (cf. Rom. 1:32). This may seem strange, but it is so. A woman who commits an abortion may do it under heavy pressure from circumstances, when no one—neither the father of the child, nor her relatives, nor the doctor—shows support for her, but, on the contrary, urges her on to the sin in every possible way. Sin remains sin, and the person needs repentance and forgiveness—but the extent of the guilt here is different.

It is another whole story when a person in a completely comfortable situation and without any pressure accepts this sin as being permissible. It is no longer a manifestation of weakness in the face of severe trials—it is a conscious, free choice of evil and sin. And this approval is a serious sin which one must repent of—acknowledging that evil is evil and confessing that we stood on the side of evil. We must resolutely stand on the side of our Lord Jesus Christ; we must resolve to be Orthodox not in name only, but by a serious personal choice. This is what the first step to salvation may look like: that we refuse to consent to the evil that everyone around us regards as permissible.

Sergei Khudiev
Translated by Dimitra Dwelley
21 / 12 / 2013

Other worthwhile reads on the topic:






In the United States of America the third Sunday of January is known as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  It is a day that Christians and all those with a God prompted conscience are reminded of the necessity to remember and champion the unborn.   

Lest anyone consider the Christian teaching on the topic, let’s quickly look at what The Didache, the Teaching of the 12 Apostles has to say, "The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child," (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).  Refer to this past Ortho Thought posting for the full article:  http://otftd.blogspot.com/2012/12/commemorating-14000-holy-innocents.html 

We are not to be lazy about the abortion issue, but to work to overturn this evil in our society.  Many people do not realize that the Orthodox Church is active in the pro-life movement.  Please see this link:  http://www.oclife.org/   

As Christians, we are all called to be involved in one way or another.  It should surprise no one that we will answer to God someday for our actions—for, against or indifferent to what is happening around us.  That should be sobering enough to move us to take action.   

Let your views be known to law makers…support your local Crisis Pregnancy Center, usually found by checking a city’s phone book.  Volunteer, be a prayer partner, help financially, be a voice for the defenseless.  Support Christian ministries to the unborn, those that educate women about non-violent, pro-life options for a crisis pregnancy.  Please don’t be silent.  We are living in the midst of a silent holocaust. 

There are a number of very fine Orthodox Christian outreach ministries for women and their unborn children.  Refer women to them, help them financially—most of all, please pray and take a stand for LIFE.   

Christ calls us to light our lamps amid the current “culture of death.”  Let us not disappoint Him by ignoring what is before us.  If you can, join the March for Life in Washington, DC on January 22 and be a physical presence in solidarity with other Christians—see the link below. 

Upcoming Sanctity of Human Life retreat for college/young adults:  https://gallery.mailchimp.com/d23564944ae60d9b585b5f2ad/files/March_for_Life_retreat_2016_2_0.pdf 

On January 14, 2016, the tally of abortions performed in the United States exceeds 58 million (58,586,256)  since the Roe vs Wade decision in 1973.  This is a result of 43 years of legalized abortion in this country.  See http://www.lifenews.com/2016/01/14/58586256-abortions-in-america-since-roe-v-wade-in-1973/ 

Have you noticed the slogan for the Sanctity of Human Life retreat? 


It is, indeed.  Let us work together to protect both women and their unborn children.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Let us praise St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia

Many years to all those named for the Holy Nina; I count my precious daughter among them! 

Be blessed by this video presentation on the life of St. Nina of Georgia, Equal to the Apostles:  http://trisagionfilms.com/project/life-st-nina-enlightener-georgia/ 

Holy one of God, intercede for us! 

Pres. Candace

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Being invaded? Wake up!

Source:  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/79601.htm


I would like to step back to biblical times, when life in general and everyone’s decision regarding their lives revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. And for the Orthodox Church (the Early Church), which is the only Church that Christ founded, life similarly revolved around the teachings of the Church Fathers, on Holy Scriptures, the Divine Liturgy, and Holy Tradition. However, in modern times we notice that no more does the life of a Christian revolve around the teachings of the Church Fathers, Holy Scriptures, the Divine Liturgy and Holy Tradition. However, these things have become very important:

—Gadgets and accessories, including our mobile phones and I Pads, are the things we go to sleep with at night and wake up to in the morning.

—Many of us have become uncontrollable users of Facebook and Whatsapp, and though Christians, our priority has changed to constantly swiping with our fingers over an electronic device rather than turning the pages of Holy Scripture or reading a good spiritual book.

—The stock market, commodities markets, and the real estate market are things that we study more than Holy Scripture.

—Not to mention the amount of media at our fingertips. Almost all the entertainment we crave is in our hands. The kingdom of this world and the kingdom of the devil are also in our hands.


We have become busy, busy, busy. At the same time, we know that most of what we call work is actually not work; and rarely do we stop to think about whether we are really living our lives effectively.

I want us to stop for a moment and realize that we are being invaded. The enemy is invading our souls and is sowing in our hearts weeds that are going to harm our spiritual life. Let me provide a few examples to help all of us. It is quite possible that many of us would fit into one or all of the categories below:

—There was a time when I used to pray with my prayer rope whenever possible and even during the night; it was the only thing that I used to hold onto, and even when I woke up in the morning I had my prayer rope with me. But now, I have my laptop, and the availability of entertainment at my fingertips. Yes, I have argued with my conscience and have told myself that I am not doing anything wrong. I am reaching out to people, I am using my time wisely etc. But the greatest evil is that of not praying. But I keep justifying to myself that it is okay.

—There was also a time when I studied the Holy Scriptures diligently. I also do it now, but not with the intensity with which I used to study it before. What has taken up my time? I spend time reading newspapers or magazines, for example. It is one thing to just glance and choose what to read in a newspaper or magazine, but if it takes up the majority of my reading time, it means that I have started giving more importance to a newspaper than to the Word of God. I easily notice that I can’t remember five good things that I may have read in a newspaper, but I still waste my time in front of it.

Photo by D.Zabolotsky / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru    

—We are all aware of how important the Divine Liturgy or Holy Eucharist is for our lives. But many of us have chosen to have a late night out on Saturday or keep our Sundays so busy that we find a good (lame) excuse to either come very late to church or not to come at all. Is our attitude toward coming to church like that of going to have “a date” with someone important? I am just questioning the motivation behind our actions. I intend to say: where is the desire we once had when we used to frequent the church week after week and were so prepared to meet the Lord? Where is our first love for Christ?

—The worst attitude that we Christians can have is that of being lukewarm. We take the Divine Liturgy for granted, we take the priest for granted, we take the community for granted. We know that the Holy Mysteries are extremely important for our salvation, but we choose to follow Christ from a distance. We stay away from prayer, from the Divine Liturgy for long periods of time.

If we don’t repent and allow our lives to be transformed by God, what do you think will happen to us?

The broad path will only lead us to destruction, and over a period of time, this is what we will become:

—Instead of having spiritual abundance we will become people who will lack happiness in everything.

—Instead of living a lifetime of being grateful to God for all that have received, we will become ungrateful people.

—When we are away from God, there is a 100 percent probability of us becoming failures in all things.

—When we are away from God, it is neither technically nor logically possible for us to progress in anything.

—When we are away from God, we will tend to become people who are scared of the future, we will worry more, and crave satisfaction in people.

—Instead of being clear minded, we would only be confused by the number of choices in this world, and we would find clutter in all things, not being able to make decisions.

—Instead of being connected with everyone and with God, we will become disconnected with people, and disconnected within ourselves.

—When we are away from God, we will lose the sense of who we actually are, and sin and evil will overtake us.

—When we are away from God, we will lose the ability to bear good fruits in our lives, and we will become more discouraged and depressed, finding no confidence in anything, and not being able to endure difficulties.

—When we are away from God, we become procrastinators and people who never do anything good with the time that God has given us; and as a result, we end up becoming helpless, and fail in all the tasks that are set before us.

What does Holy Scripture tell us?

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15: 5-6).

What does St. John of Kronstadt tell us?

St. John of Kronstadt    

“You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God’s grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, it is impossible for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy. Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions. Conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them—that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness. Do not help the devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God’. Be zealous in the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive with joy them that trespass against you, as a good son rejoices when he has the chance to fulfill the will of his beloved father” (St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ).

Five Practical Steps of what must we do!

—Start praying the “Jesus Prayer” as often as possible.

—Confess your sins as often as possible to the priest.

—Long for and participate in the Divine Liturgy/Holy Eucharist as often as possible.

—Spend time studying Holy Scripture, memorize Holy Scripture, read the Lives of Church Fathers, and practice them in your own life.

—Try to live in an Orthodox environment or near an Orthodox Church.

And last but not least, I pray for all of you reading this article that Christ live in you, that CHRIST LIVE YOU.

28 / 05 / 2015

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Overcoming grumbling

Grumbling is caused by misery and it can be put aside by doxology (giving praise). Grumbling begets grumbling and doxology begets doxology.  When someone doesn’t grumble over a problem troubling him, but rather praises God, then the devil gets frustrated and goes off to someone else who grumbles, in order to cause everything to go even worse for him. You see, the more one grumbles, the more one falls into ruin.  Sometimes the devil deceives us and makes us unable to be pleased with anything; however, one can celebrate all things in a spiritual manner, with doxology, and secure God’s constant blessing. 

Fulfill now His commandments


Faith consists not only in being baptized into Christ, but in fulfilling His commandments.  Holy baptism is perfect and offers us perfection, but does not perfect a person who fails to fulfill the commandments.   

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Jordan was turned back

Theophany Miracles in the Holy Land
"The Jordan was turned back"


Larisa Kaliuzhnaya

River Jordan on the day of the Theophany 

In Ben Gurion Airport our group met the tour guide who held a touching sign reading, “City of St. Peter”. When we were all gathered together, she greeted us with amiable words, some of which surprised and puzzled me:

“A miracle will definitely happen to each one of you in this Land—after all, you have stepped foot upon the extraordinary, Holy Land. Believe me—I have lead tour groups here for five years now. You only have to be able to see these miracles.

That this trip would not be commonplace is something that I already felt in St. Petersburg. All my business connected with our departure worked out in the best way possible, without any participation from me, and I thought sadly that probably I have already used up all my miracles and I don’t have anymore to look forward to.

But the miracles were only just beginning!

The main event, the reason we came to the Holy Land precisely on these days, was the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. However, our guide, Presbytera Maria, the wife of the archpriest at the Greek church of St. Nicholas, disappointed us when she said that for several years in a row now the Israeli military has not allowed pilgrims to come to the historical site of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we needed to pray fervently so that permission would finally be granted.

On the morning of January 18, when we boarded the bus, it was still unclear whether they would take us to the very place where St. John the Baptist baptized the Lord and not to some other spot on the River Jordan. Presbytera Maria again called upon all to pray, and in an everyday tone of voice added that today after the Great Blessing of the Waters we will see how the Jordan turns back. Apparently this was an ordinary manifestation for her. But not for me. This information made me rise from my seat and cry, “What do you mean by ‘turn back’? Does the Jordan really start flowing in the opposite direction?”

But Presbytera simply waved her hand. “Yes, you’ll see it for yourself soon!”

I fell silent and dropped back into my seat in confusion. But this did not mean that I had yet been successful in dealing with the churning flow of thoughts in my head. “What does this mean, ‘The Jordan was turned back’? How are we supposed to understand this? Do they really mean it literally? And why haven’t I heard about this before?” The words of Psalm 113, The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back (Ps. 113:3) that are sung on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord was something that I had always considered allegorical. The Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. The Jordan is an image of human mortality, and the Dead Sea is an image of hell. Out of all the rivers in the world, Christ had the Sacrament of Baptism take place in the Jordan, as if freeing our human race from its flow into death. This interpretation by St. John Chrysostom of the words of the Psalm was a real discovery for me when I heard them once. But that the water in the Jordan would actually start flowing backwards! And although the brain refuses to accept this extraordinary event, something within me was already living and trembling in expectation of this miracle.

Under my clothes and over my swimsuit, at Presbytera Maria’s advice I had put on while still in the hotel a white gown I bought the day before for five dollars in an Arab shop near the Lord’s Sepulcher. Along the road to the Jordan our bus stopped at the last shop where those who had not done so earlier could still purchase white gowns for a reasonable price. After all the fuss of shopping we walked upwards along a road and stopped near some sort of wall. I happened to be standing near the tour guide at the very moment when she announced that we were now near the first tomb of Lazarus the Four-days-dead. After eight days of our trip I still could not get used to the continually lightening-fast transformation from the ordinary to the great in this amazing Holy Land!

Finally, with all the anxiousness over the unknown behind us, we were now standing near the historical site of the Baptism of Christ, by the walls of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist! A brief wait for the arrival of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, and the Cross procession solemnly moved to the accompaniment of the kettle-drum and horns toward the Jordan, where the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters began.

During the services, a white dove landed decorously on the Patriarch’s staff. At the end of the service he flew up, turning two circles over our heads, and then returned again to his place. The Israeli military guarding the entrance to the Jordan, automatic rifles on the ready, allowed the priests to approach the water and then closed ranks in front of the pilgrims. I was seized with anxiety: now how will I see the most important thing! Recalling that enormous TV screens had been installed to the left and right of the covered platform where the services had taken place, I pushed forward to one of them. Everything that was happening below could be seen on these screens like in the palm of your hand!

Now the priests throw before themselves wreaths of green leaves tied with ribbons. And now they pull them back out from the left side. Obviously they are floating away with the stream. Yes, but the Jordan flows from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, that is, from left to right, if you look at it from our shore… That means that the stream should take the wreaths to the right and the priests should be pulling them out of the right side… But they throw the wreaths in front of themselves again and again pull them from the left side… I watched, enchanted, this action, which is repeated many times—apparently for those of little faith, like me. I looked around in confusion and my eyes met with those of Presbytera. She was almost laughing as she looked at my shocked expression, and gestures to me that we need to hurry.

Why is the water in the Jordan salty?

I gathered the just-sanctified Baptismal water into a bottle I had brought from St. Petersburg. You don’t need to go down to the river to do this because the water is piped upward. I poured some holy water into a plastic cup, took a big gulp, and froze with surprise: the water is bitter-salty to the taste! A bold supposition flickered through my head: Could this water have come from the Dead Sea to this place when it was ‘turned back’? But there is no time to ponder this because hundreds of pilgrims in baptismal robes are already standing at the entrance to the river like a huge white cloud. On the other side of the barrier the Isreali soldiers are running around. One of them energetically waves his automatic rifle and shouts indefatigably in perfect Russian at everyone not to crowd around the turnstiles, not to step on the barriers, and to take a few steps backward. After an hour of marking place our “white cloud” starts murmuring indistinctly; in the fore you can hear soldiers squabbling with the pilgrims, who are angry about the extremely slow pace of the queue. To my left is a group of people with a priest at the head, singing harmoniously, “When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan…” Soon I saw with amazement how they walked singing through the turnstile. I suggested to my neighbor on the right that we sing the troparion to the feast. They replied with embarrassment that they didn’t know the words. It was the same with my neighbors to the rear and to the side. I started singing the troparion quietly to myself. It became easier to stand there, but I didn’t notice any progress in the queue ahead…

Two hours later I managed to push through the turnstile, ran down the steps to the wooden platform, quickly took off my shoes and approached the water. Now I had to immerse myself totally three times. I took a step into the water. My leg was burned by the cold as with boiling water! I forced myself to take another step, then another… Shivering from the cold I dipped three times into the icy water, mumbling to myself, “In the name of the Father! And the Son! And the Holy Spirit! Amen! And then shot out onto platform like a cork out of a bottle. My whole body was burning, like after a good Russian bathhouse! The weariness of three hours on my feet disappeared as if it had never been—to the contrary I was overcome by a feeling of physical lightness and was spilling over with unbelievable joy!

The first thing I did after climbing into the bus was to ask Presbytera Maria why the waters of the Jordan are salty.

“What? Did you already swallow some?” she said with a horrified look on her face.

“Of course I did! Wasn’t I supposed to?” I said, perplexed.

“Of course not! The waters of the Jordan are salty because fertilizers from the surrounding fields flow into it along with the ground water! How are you feeling—does your stomach hurt yet?”

“Why should it hurt? This is Theophany water!” I would not give up. “Don’t you drink the water that has been blessed in the Jordan?!”

“We add a few drops of this water to a bottle of ordinary fresh water and drink it only after that.”

I lost a little steam after such a prosaic explanation for the saltiness of the waters of the Jordan… But how wonderful it would be if the Dead Sea were transformed on this great feast!

My joy caught up with me in St. Petersburg when I found a citation on the internet from a book by Archimandrite Ambrose (Yurasov), On Faith and Salvation: “On the eve of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Orthodox Christians cut wooden crosses and fix lit candles to them, and the Jordan River carries them to the Dead Sea. But on the day of the Baptism, when the waters of the Jordan are turned back and flow away from the Dead Sea, the crosses are carried back. And the usually fresh water of the Jordan becomes salty.”

Visit this link with original article—there is a video there of the Jordan turning back:

Larisa Kaliuzhnaya
Translation by OrthoChristian.com

21 / 01 / 2015