Fr. Gerasim Clear Choice in Diocese of the South Vote

gerasim

Yesterday, about 3pm EST,delegates from around the South gathered in Miami and made their choice for their next bishop to be known.

Abbott Geraaim Eliel received 81 votes. Alexander Pihach received 12 and Bishop Daniel Brum recieived one.

Here’s the tally:

Vote breakdown:

Fr. Gerasim Eliel: 81 votes
Fr. Alexander Pihach: 18 votes
Fr. Callinic Berger: 2 votes
Bishop Daniel (Brum): 1 vote
Invalid Ballots: 3 votes

Fr. Gerasim won the vote with 77%.

The margin was so lopsided that only Eliel’s name will be submitted to the Holy Synod for approval.

AXIOS!

About GShep

Comments

  1. Y'all Come! says

    SAVE THE DATE: Town-Hall meeting to discuss proposed revisions to the Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America

    The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. will be holding a “town-hall” meeting for all interested parishioners to discuss a draft of the proposed revisions to the Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America. The purpose of the town-hall is to broadly solicit input so as to refine the draft revisions prior to voting on them at the upcoming All American Council. The town-hall will be held from 4-6pm, Sunday March 8 at St. Luke Orthodox Church at 6801 Georgetown Pike in McLean, VA. The original Statutes were adopted in 1971 and revisions are meant to better reflect our current needs and structure. Copies of the draft revisions will be made broadly available in the very near future. We welcome your participation and feedback in this upcoming town-hall.

  2. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Te Deum laudamus!

    • Bruce W. Trakas says

      “Axios, “He is Worthy,” “Axios!”

      Fr. Gerasim is an SVS classmate of a priest friend of mine in the AOCANA who speaks very highly of him. The Diocese of the South will be well served by him, I’m sure.

  3. Hieromonk Joshua says

    Many years Abbot Gerasim! Axios! Axios! Axios!

  4. Help me out, folks. As a layman who will soon be in an OCA parish, should I be glad or worried about the quiet reaction to this news at this here website?

    • Terry, I’m not sure what kind of reaction you are looking for. “Diocese of the South votes for obvious, well-known nominee” is not surprising!

      The real excitement, I think, will come if the Synod proceeds with electing and consecrating Fr. Gerasim. The OCA bishops have refused nominations before.

      Are you moving somewhere? I thought you attended Holy Cross in Linthicum.

      • Moving to Oak Ridge, TN, this June, after a happy decade at Holy Cross. What a parish!

        After this move my godfather — Father Stephen Freeman — will also be our family’s priest. (And may I request prayers for my spiritual father, Father Gordon Walker of Franklin, TN, as he battles cancer.)

        • Thanks for telling me about Fr. Gordon. I will definitely keep him in my prayers.

          I’ll admit I generally don’t recommend OCA parishes, for obvious reasons, but I understand you wanting to be with your godfather.

          May you have a smooth move to the Atomic City and enjoy St. Anne’s.

    • This website nor any other should ever worry you. Honest. Just confess to your priest your read Monomakhos as a guilty pleasure, like the rest of us.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      tmatt-I think I can say fairly confidently that the folks in the Diocese of the South are happy with the nomination of Fr. Gerasim–after all, the delegates gave him 81 of the 105 votes that were cast. However, the Holy Synod can concur with the Special Diocesan Assembly, or elect somebody else. Therefore, we are not ready to celebrate fully yet.

    • TMatt –

      I don’t know about everyone else in the DOS , but I’m just holding my breath until the Holy Synod meets next month to approve the DOS’s nomination of Fr. Gerasim . We have had the rug pulled out from under us too many times by the OCA hierarchy (nothing they would do would surprise me) , so I’m holding off on any celebrating. Perhaps that is also why the general reaction has been “quiet” , so far . (quietly optimistic , quietly hoping that this is not another hope that will be dashed against the rocks)

      With that cautionary note I will add my voice to the others who shout AXIOS ! for Fr. Gerasim as our new Bishop . Many years to him !

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Terry Mattingly inquires, “should I be glad or worried about the quiet reaction to this news at this here website?”

      I am wondering about this, too, Terry.

      My own reaction was the traditional Te Deum of thanksgiving, for which I received no fewer than four pollices versi on the posted approval rating.

      Is there something here we don’t know?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Te Deums are correct Fr. I think we’re all just holding our breath that the Synod does the right thing and not find some obscure canon in order to overturn an overwhelming vote.

        They did that with the Venerable Dmitri back in 70, in favor of a more ethnically suitable candidate. Look how that worked out for the OCA. (On the other hand, it did wonders for the South.)

    • Given the nature of our Synod, and their various defects, mental, moral, and genetic, I’ll hold my piece till I see their response to this election.

    • tmatt,

      There is a good Wikipedia article on Fr. Gerasim. He is an excellent choice to be the next bishop of the Diocese of the South. If you read his bio and speak with him, you will see that he was not formed in a day but over a number of years. To his credit, he stayed at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and completed his MDiv. In fact, one of the interesting things to note about him is that he finishes things. When you read his bio, ask yourself what happened to all the other people he came in contact with? Did they ever go on to complete their seminary education? Did they humble themselves to be the assistant at a small church after having been the abbot of a monastery? Did they repent when they went off and left their monastery? I could go on and on but you get the point. Fr. Gerasim is a wonderfully talented individual who clearly has his head on straight — unlike a whole list of people he came in contact with over the years.

      I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Gerasim when he was at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles several times and I found him to be very pleasant, intelligent, and humble. The Diocese of the South will be very blessed if he is confirmed and installed as their new bishop.

    • Uhhhhhhhhh … Silence means what?

      • Terry, another factor to the quiet reaction is that George approves comments once or twice a day, so it takes longer for threads to build up.

        • George Michalopulos says

          More like every other day now, Helga. I work 12-13 hr days now so sometimes when I get home I don’t get on the internet.

    • Starovernik says

      If you have a conservative, traditionalist approach to the Orthodox Faith, this is a good move. The fear is that the Synod may reject the clear choice of the people and impose some candidate with, er… “progressive” views more to their liking. Apparently no outsider has a good handle on the closely-guarded internal politics of Syosset, but from their doings in the past, it appears that there is a great deal of input and deal-making orchestrated by the Apparat within Syosset itself (Jillions the Chancellor, Tosi the Secretary, and perhaps most of all by Kishkovski, the External Affairs guy.) If past is prologue, the road ahead could be bumpy. You, the guy in the pew who pays the freight, will never know the whole story, and maybe not even the true story… Pray for Archimandrite Gerasim.

      • So far as I have ever seen, there are no pews in the DOS — God bless Abp. Dimitri…

        • No pews in the OCA’s monasteries, seminaries and cathedrals, either, apart from the ‘ethnic’ eparchies.

          • Not true, Monk James. You need to get out more. And I note that you conveniently left out the most important thing: parishes.

            Is it really that painful for you to have someone just try to say something nice about the late Abp. Dimitri?

          • Nonsense. The OCA Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Denver has pews (as does the OCA parish of St. Herman located a few miles away in Littleton, Colorado). Neither are ‘ethnic’.

            • Funny about the Denver Sobor! Many years ago I was a delegate to the Diocesan Assembly there, and they had taken the pews out for the occasion. Many commented on how much larger the little church seemed then, but I suppose TPTB put them back in after all the foreigners left…

          • Monk James,

            For clarification, this statement is not true. Some OCA non-“ethnic” eparchies have pews in their cathedrals. St Stephen’s Cathedral (OCA) in Philadelphia has pews. Holy Resurrection Cathedral (OCA) in Wilkes-Barre has pews. St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (OCA) in Pittsburgh/Allison Park has pews. None of these cathedrals is in an “ethnic” eparchy.

            Blessed Forgiveness Sunday and beginning of Great Lent to all!

            Fantastic Coffee with Sister Vassa episode on Forgiveness Sunday and the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPzrH_-xsAk

            • Many thanks to ‘Gregory’ for his corrections — I had forgotten about St Stephen and St Alexander Nevsky. Holy Resurrection in Wilkes-Barre is called a ‘cathedral’ but the seat of the OCA’s bishop of Philadelphia is actually St Stephen.

              Generally speaking, the more ‘russian’ an american parish’s traditions are, the less likely it is to have pews. The less ‘russian’ parishes generally have pews, starting with the Greeks, who seem to have installed them in the US in imitation of their protestant friends and neighbors. This is why around 1950 the saintly Abp Michael Constantinides directed people to use the kneeling benches in the pews during the epiklesis of the Divine Liturgy: since people were nearly immobilized by the fixed seating, they couldn’t make the appointed prostrations then and just before communion.

              On the whole, though, the big picture remains true with exception of the two actual cathedrals mentioned above: there are no pews in the OCA’s monasteries, seminaries and cathedrals apart from the albanian and romanian eparchies. Not sure about the bulgarian cathedral.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          So, what’s the term for the “man in the pews”? 😉

          • Given our style of worship all over the world, perhaps the ‘man in the pews’ is a sort of hybrid orthodox Christian, losing authentic practice, stuck in an alien, protestant architecture incompatible with our prescribed bowing and prostrating as we pray during the services.

        • r j klancko says

          if chrisitanity comes down to whether we have pews or not, then we are very sick puppies — that is why we are orthodox and not christian – externalities is not where it is at – by the way something we cradle orthodox realize is that we are not living in the 18th century – we should be focused on our christian ministry – how do we beome part of the fabric of our country and how can we establish institutions that will further our ministry – pews or no pews, pony tails with rubber bands, chotki around the wrist, ethnic chant versus indigenours music all point tot an exclusivity, a ghetto like, cult like existance – however ins’t that what orthodoxy is all about – an exclusive series of tribes, we love to create barriers and the ‘do it my way’ syndrome – i can just see st paul with tears in his eyes – no wonder we have barely 800,000 and are declining rapidly – why is it that as the population of this country grows we become even a smaller minority — but we must get rotator cuff syndrome regarding the fact that there are no pews, not that we have funded a wing at st judes hospital, or created an christian orthodox college – yep we have our pirorities correct, sure do – i weep – God have mercy on all of us

        • Edward:

          So far as I have ever seen, there are no pews in the DOS — God bless Abp. Dimitri…

          YES AND GOD FORBID THE OLD AND INFIRM SHOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE A COMFORTABLE SEAT. LET THEM SIT ON THE GROUND OR USE A COLD METAL FOLDING CHAIR IF THEY INSIST ON SITTING!

          • OOM is missing the point here.

            Always and everywhere, our churches have had seating available for those who need it. They just haven’t had benches fixed in place like a protestant meetinghouse or a courtroom.

            Even the monastic typikons have directions for sitting, standing, bowing, prostrating — they just don’t assume rows and rows of benches which can’t be moved.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Of course. OOM is being hysterical. I’ve never seen an old-world Orthodox church/Monastic church without places to sit.

              OOM, take a deep breath.

              • No, OOM is not being hysterical, she is trying to be a troll, and as I have noted before, she isn’t even a particularly talented one — pretty lame in fact.

                From Wiki: In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]

                Talented trolls can be kind of fun, spicing up online discussions by subtly provoking the more touchy members of the forum into froth-mouthed tirades, usually by mixing in just enough (selective) truth to make some feel they have to respond.

                There is no such talent on offer here, especially since anyone who has been in any traditional Orthodox temple knows that there is always plenty of seating for the truly elderly, infirm, pregnant, mom’s with infants, etc. to sit just as much as they want to.

                As I said, no talent.

            • r j klancko says

              and what is so bad about a protestant meeting house? haven’t the protestants created hospitals, universities and even supported orthodox churches and what have we done – of course we are better than you because we have no pews, no universities, no hospitals ……………… and do not forget no sense or compassion — please , please teach me to be judgemental of others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              • OUCH!

                My comments had nothing to do with the good deeds of Protestants or of anyone else, merely that their lecture-hall-style churches are incompatible with the traditions of orthodox christian worship.

                In countries where the Orthodox are the majority or at least a large proportion of the population, there are indeed orthodox hospitals, universities, social welfare programs, etc. So when we attain such a size in America, it’s reasonable to think that our economic strength will then allow us to do that here.

                In the meantime, though, there’s no reason for us to wastefully duplicate the educational and social efforts of other groups, religiously affiliated or not, in favor of specifically orthodox institutions, but rather to assist them in their good work as we can.

                Still, we’re doing well with IOCC , for example, which aids people in need around the world, and with OCMC’s efforts at evangelization and mission support.

                I hope that further reflection on these points will gruntle our correspondent at least a little.

                • Tim R. Mortiss says

                  An interesting article about the origin of pews in American Greek Orthodox churches– a definite trend starting in the 1920s and ’30s, but the reasons not so clear. Generally, they were built without pews, but were added later, sometimes much later.

                  http://orthodoxhistory.org/2009/12/09/pews-or-lack-thereof-in-early-orthodox-churches/

                  • r j klancko says

                    so why do our parishes buy old protestant churches and remodel them – even cathedrals – at least 2 in new york city — very myopic response here

                    • Rdr. Daniel Kowalcheck says

                      There is nothing myopic about this at all. These communities purchased old Protestant churches because with limited resources, it made the most financial sense. Some of these churches that you speak of in the Northeast left behind grand Gothic-style churches on valuable and otherwise unattainable real-estate. It just made sense to purchase them and convert them to Orthodox temples. This has absolutely nothing to do with pews and everything to do with location and adequate facilities that are easily converted to an Orthodox church (as opposed to a warehouse, etc).

                      Nowadays in the South, these Protestant churches (typically much smaller and less grand) are converted to churches and the pews are immediately removed (or perhaps a few moved to the walls). But even the OCA Cathedral in NYC (that you mentioned) removed the pews; so I’m not sure what you point is R J?

                  • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                    Timor, You are mistaken that “generally” they were built without pews. I saw two Greek Orthodox Churches built in postwar Detroit: SS Constantine and Helen and St Nicholas. Pews were there from the beginning; likewise in St Sophia in L.A. , inthe Frank LLoyd Wright flying Saucer in Wisconsin and everywhere else.Name more than one GOA Church that was built “originally without pews, please. And Mr Klancko, the tragedy is that so many Greek Orthodox temp[es were built in our ciries and later sold to Baptists or Muslims because the “action” and money had moved to the suburbs. In Apostolic and sub-Apostolic times, before Constantine, the Liturgy was served in private spaces, rooms and dwellings. etc.
                    By the way, did that GOA church destroyed on 9/11 have a congregation? Will the new one have a congregation? Where do most of the parishioners reside? Or is it mostly for “flying OUR Flag, too?”

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      All I know about it is what I read in the article I cited, which is worth a read. I claim no other knowledge whatever about the subject.

                      The gentleman who wrote the article has a pretty thorough discussion. Based on what he says, I have little doubt that GO churches built postwar had pews from the beginning. But he refers to many newspaper articles from the early part of the 20th century where local writers noted the absence of pews in the Greek churches.

                      Again, I disclaim any personal knowledge whatever and, indeed, I didn’t claim it in the first place.

              • What have protestant meeting houses have to do with hospitals and universities? The statement was about the meeting house, not the good works done by protestants.

              • Re: pews, it’s a minor point compared to serious moral problems in the church, but it’s not meaningless. I do prefer having none. Our worship evolved without pews and it’s hard to worship properly with them.

                Have you ever been to a Lenten service in a church with pews? As soon as the priest says, “O Lord and Master…” there is a rumble of feet dashing for the aisles. Those who can’t make it in time are forced to do awkward curtsies instead of prostrations. We talk about unnecessary barriers, how about barriers to worshiping properly? (I’ll include chronically malfunctioning sound systems here also.)

                Why do we have the hubris to think we, of all people, should reform our worship? If people won’t go to church because there are no pews, why should we expect them to come on Sunday mornings? Or weekdays during Lent? Or at midnight on Pascha? Or fast? Or confess their sins? If you want to be Orthodox, you’ll do what it takes. If you don’t, you won’t.

                All that said, there are bigger problems than pews, per se. But it seems to me it may be a symptom of the bigger problems, and that’s just a lack of commitment to our own faith.

                • r j klancko says

                  It seems to me that back 50 years ago we had more people who lived in the faith, and lived the faith – they may have cut some corners but they built much of the infrastructure we now have — and knew what it was to be a true Christian – however what i see now is a group that gets orgasms over the externalities, revel in the pony tails, the chotki, the persual of every ingtedient on a package listing, and the environment of a cultist lving in the 18th century — but the true faith that i saw exhibited 50 years ago is not there – but what we have ended up with is a group of legalists, pharises, who do not remember the meaning of the words but can tell you every note of the correct tone to sing them in.

                  we truly need to reflect on what is it to be a real Christian, one very revered senior Eastern Orthodox Clergyman, of thrice blessed memory, once said to me, ” if you want to find a Christian, you won’t in my congregation – and Orthodox however, we have many.”

                  And this is the reason our numbers are under 800,000 and are dropping – because we have lost the essence of what we are, what we should be, and how to get there.

  5. Good for Johnny Reb. But what will those Yankees do to Gerasim. Pray that they don’t do a redo of what they did to Met. Jonah.

    • NMom:

      Good for Johnny Reb. But what will those Yankees do to Gerasim. Pray that they don’t do a redo of what they did to Met. Jonah.

      BIBLE BELT ORTHODOX. CAN”T GET OVER THE CIVIL WAR.

      • George Michalopulos says

        You mean “The War Between the States.”

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          Can’t get over that, either.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            Another of those fratricidal atrocities which made the West and Christendom famous amongst Muslims? I bet they enjoy that Christian doctrinal hair-splitting over the “true” meanings of “Democratic/Republican, The Civil War/The War Between the States. Holy Serial Monogamy, Jihad/Crusade, GOD in English vs GOD in Arabic etc.

  6. Starovernik says

    Axios! A good conservative man is nominated. Many Years, Archimandrite Gerasim! Now we will see how the Syosset Apparat tries to put the knife in his back…

    • Alexey Karlgut says

      Starovernik,
      You give to much credit to Aparat’s intelegence! All shoud think about that as we get ready for AAC.
      Meanwhile, to have a good laugh at how dim Syosset is, read the reflection they posted on OCA website, without realizing that author was speaking about them! 🙂
      http://18aac.oca.org/becoming-fishers-of-men/
      Alexey Karlgut

      • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

        Oh, Father Alexey, thanks for the reference! The article is, indeed, a wonderful summation of the OCA Administration at work!!!!!!! It’s still up their at OCA.org!!!

      • Alexey:

        Meanwhile, to have a good laugh at how dim Syosset is, read the reflection they posted on OCA website, without realizing that author was speaking about them! 🙂

        In mocking Syosset, Alexey mocks the bishops, including Michael, to whom Syosset is accountable. Apparently Alexey is too dImwitted himself to realize that priests can be “fishers of men” AND receive continuing education (at their bishop’s direction) AT THE SAME TIME!

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          Careful, OOM, your podriznik is showing!!!! And it needs a thorough cleaning and fumigation!!

          • Mike Myers says

            Come on, your Grace, let’s try to play nice. You can be so harsh with the clergy at times (said the King of Snark.) Plus, it looses my diss instincts, which are probably best kept on a short leash. As my similar harshness may do in you. Forgive me if so.

            Way cool & meta, Fr. Karlgutt! A healthy warning to us all. Probably not relevant just to Syosset, though. (A side note: Fr., forgive me for questioning more and more into what boat ROCOR fishermen hoist their poach(?). I wonder if some of them are doing a serious reconsideration of things . . . Or maybe it’s another case of, in for a копе́йка, in for a рубль.)

            • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

              Mike. I remember with affection ever-memorable Archbishop Peter of New York—one of his refrains went like this: “We have fallen into protopappakratia/” That means roughlw Archpriestocracy.

        • Mocking Syosset? Really? Blind devotion to a failed institution is not mocking, rather presenting to the powers that be that they are not in touch with their clergy and faithful. Syosset has gone off the rails and they deserve push back. If clergy don’t speak truth to power, then who will? Fr. Alexey is a brave priest and there are many others who will speak out against the outrageous changes to the OCA Statute. As it stands now, there is no need for diocesan bishops who continue to cede authority to Syosset. The Statute changes are dangerous and one should hope that they will hear from the rank and file in Atlanta who will at least table these changes or outright reject them.

          Bravo Fr. Karlgut. You are not alone.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        On the contrary, dear Father, I think they knew exactly what they were doing. The article reflects what happens in most organizations, to include most Orthodox Churches. What is encouraging here is that they have dared to openly point out a fault that they have. I wish most Orthodox Church would do the same because self-criticism is a good thing, no?

        • Mike Myers says

          Word.

        • Self criticism is good, but Syosset continues to be moving further away from the reality of parish life by imposing restrains on clergy and attempting to consolidate more power. If the OCA as an organization was respected that would be one thing, but it is not respected and continues to become more irrelevant and detached.

          Respect is earned not imposed, a lesson that, sadly, Syosset simply doesn’t understand nor does it have the means to overcome it.

          • Let me add that Fr. Rucker is a “doer” not a “talker” when it comes to mission. For too long Syosset has talked a good game but has done so little to actually expand their mission. Decades of “trickle down” mission, education, etc. economics, have left those on the ground with little help. The Church Planting Grant Program was an initiative from the bottom up and not the top down, and is a good exception, still too much money is spent on administrative costs, a director, meetings, travel, etc. The CPG was an effort to put resources where they count most, on promoting the sustainability of a full-time mission priest because there is no more important point of growth than a fisherman actually putting his line in the water to catch fish.

            Limiting the interference of a growing administration, bloated salaries, endless meetings that do little to actually strengthen the ability to fish may be the best way for a failed OCA to take itself off of life support, especially when it is still a shriveling jurisdiction.

            Kudos for allowing Fr Rucker to post his pointed criticism of his jurisdiction and its leadership and even more for him doing the work of the Lord and not just talking about it. Let those who have ears to hear…….”

    • Mike Myers says

      My money’s on Fr. Gerasim.

      OOM, I’d advise you to consider carefully whether you’re being uncharitable toward this man. I have a strong sense that “the company he keeps” may be a lot lot bigger and more impressive than you think. And anyway, nothing wrong with forgiving but clear-eyed loyalty to erring brothers. Could use more of that, though I concede a bishop must also have a firm, tough side.

  7. Sean Richardson says

    It is always a blessing to see the process work well. All I’ve ever heard are positives about Fr. Gerasim, so I am quite hopeful that this is a perfect marriage between a Godly man and a diocese with great potential for growth.
    Many years!

  8. No idea where to post this- but it’s interesting. A different understanding of Islam . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-LYn6Y5nKM

  9. Yellow Rose says

    Pokrov ladies are not liking him.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Pokrov has done some good things in the past but their selective outrage makes me doubt their credibility.

      Sort of reminds me of the late OCANews. 5-6 years ago when I was corresponding with Mark Stokoe (before I knew what OCAN was all about) I gave him some tidbits about the lack of T&A in the GOA and some budding scandals. He didn’t bite. He had his sites set on Metropolitans Jonah and Philip. Small beer in the grand scheme of things, scandal-wise if you ask me.

      Now of course we know why he didn’t care about the GOA and hated Philip. My hunch is that he set Jonah in his sights because he was worried about Jonah’s veer to the Traditionalist right. Bu that’s a story for another day.

      Long story short when Pokrov starts casting a wider net (and relies more on evidence rather than innuendo), we’ll be able to say they’re completely on the up-and-up and have no hidden, Stokovite agendas.

  10. Tony Dimopolous says

    MelanieJulaSakoda
    Feb 20

    http://www.snapnetwork.org/ny_new_bishop_nominated_for_orthodox_church_victims_disapprove_of_candidate_urge_reconsideration

    NY–New bishop nominated for Orthodox Church Victims disapprove of candidate & urge reconsideration

    For immediate release: Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Statement by Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, CA, East Bay Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (925-708-6175, melanie…@gmail.com)

    A recent special assembly of the Long Island-based Orthodox Church in America (OCA) nominated an episcopal candidate for the long vacant see of the Diocese of the South.

    https://www.facebook.com/wilmingtonoca/posts/1038294042852069:0

    While the selection of Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel is subject to approval by the OCA’s synod of bishops, normally such nominations are routinely approved. However, in this case SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is urging the synod to carefully consider this nominee and hold out for another candidate.

    Eliel’s glowing resume leaves out some pertinent facts about him, in particular his long and close connection to two notorious Orthodox predators, Herman Podmoshensky and Pangratios Vrionis.

    https://www.facebook.com/wilmingtonoca/posts/1038294042852069:0

    While the resume mentions that Eliel’s monastery, St. Herman of Alaska in Platina, California, went into schism from the Orthodox Church in the 1980s, it chooses to omit the fact that the abbot who led the monastery into schism, Podmoshensky, left the Church in the wake of allegations that he sexually abused young men and boys. The Church never made any findings on the abuse allegations, electing instead to defrock Podmoshensky on the easier to prove charge of disobedience. Eliel, unlike most of the Platina brotherhood, chose to follow this sexual predator into schism.

    http://www.pokrov.org/persons/father-herman-podmoshensky/

    The resume also neglects to mention that after leaving the Orthodox Church Podmoshensky and Eliel joined a group led by a convicted child molester, Metropolitan Pangratios Vrionis. The metropolitan has two convictions for abusing minor boys, one in 1970 and one in 2003. He was defrocked by the Orthodox Church following his first conviction, but started his own church and made himself a bishop.

    http://www.pokrov.org/persons/metropolitan-pangratios-vrionis/

    Finally, the resume claims that the reconstituted Platina brotherhood removed Podmoshensky as abbot “in response to the erratic leadership of the late Abbot Herman and his failure to decisively bring the monastic community back into canonical unity with the Orthodox Church.” However, it neglects to mention that the brotherhood was only one of many parishes and monasteries that left Vrionis after his first conviction was publicized on a website tracking Orthodox abusers (http://www.pokrov.org) in 1999. It also fails to mention Eliel wrote to his Orthodox bishop in 2001 saying that Podmoshensky was removed because of additional incidents of sexual misconduct.

    http://www.pokrov.org/wp-content/uploads/GerasimtoJovan20011226.pdf

    Cappy Larson, one of the founders of Pokrov.org and now also a SNAP leader, was incredulous that Eliel had been nominated.
    “The OCA is still reeling from the conviction of Archbishop Seraphim Storheim for the sexual abuse of a child. I can’t believe assembly would seriously consider a man who spent so much time in the company of two notorious sexual predators, and has yet to say a public word against either. I hope that the synod of bishops has more sense than to elect a candidate who thinks it’s more important to conceal predators then to protect the vulnerable and help heal the wounded.”

    Melanie Jula Sakoda, also of Pokrov.org and SNAP, agreed. “If the OCA is serious about changing the way abuse is handled in their Church, Eliel seems like precisely the wrong kind of candidate.”

    • Heracleides says

      Shameful. Those two hags hacks are obviously shills for Mrs. Stoke-Brown.

      • Antonio Arganda says

        Speaking of which, what is Faith Skordinski up to ?

        • I wish I had some good news to share about Faith Skordinski, but I don’t.

          Last I heard, several years ago, she had left The Church after doing incalculable damage among us.

          May the Lord be merciful to her and to us all.

          • M. Stankovich says

            Last I heard, several years ago, she had left The Church after doing incalculable damage among us.

            Better that the “last you heard” were the words of our Father John Climacus:

            Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater good deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes. So listen to me, all you accountants of other people’s faults, listen well; for if, as is certain, it is true that “you shall be judged with the judgment you have used yourselves” (Matt. 7:2), then whatever sin of body or spirit that we ascribe to our neighbor we will surely fall into ourselves. Those who pass speedy and harsh judgments on the sins of their neighbors fall into this passion because they themselves have so far failed to achieve a complete and unceasing memory of and concern for their own sins. Anyone untrammeled by self-love and able to see his own faults for what they are would worry about no one else in this life. He would feel that his time on earth did not suffice for his own mourning, even if he lived a hundred years, and even if a whole Jordan of tears poured out of his eyes. Mourning of that kind has, as I know, no trace in it of slander or harsh judgment.It is the murdering demons who push us into sin. If they are balked here, they get us to pass judgment on those who are sinning, thereby smearing us with the stain we are denouncing in others.

            You can always recognize people who are malicious and slanderous. They are filled with the spirit of hatred. Gladly and without a qualm they slander the teaching, the doings and the virtues of their neighbor. I have known men who secretly had committed very grave sins and had not been found out, yet cloaked in their supposed goodness they lashed out against people who had done something minor in public.

            To pass judgment on another is to usurp shamelessly a prerogative of God, and to condemn is to ruin one’s soul.Self-esteem, even when there are no other attendant vices, can bring a man down. Similarly, if we have got into the habit of passing judgments, we can be destroyed completely by this alone, for the Pharisee was condemned for this very thing. A good grape picker chooses to eat ripe grapes and does not pluck what is unripe. A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of the virtues it observes in another, while the fool goes looking for faults and defects. It is of such a one that it was said, “They have searched out iniquity and died in the search” (Ps. 63:7). Do not condemn. Not even if your very eyes are seeing something, for they may be deceived.

        • Here's the Answer says

          Ms Skordinski is now an avowed atheist. I’m surprised she’s still not working as the hatchetwoman for Syosset.

          • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

            If that is true, then she has sunk from sinister co-conspirator against Metropolitan Jonah to godless atheist. The next stage may be, like Dostoevsky’s memorable character Ivan Karamazov, total insanity.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            I give her credit for her admission: others think they have too much invested in Orthodoxy to admit they agree with her! The noisome stench of such private but not admitted atheism perfumes even some posts here, especially some of the anonymous and pseudonymous ones!

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            I find it very funny and ironic that a person named FAITH is now an atheist. May God have mercy on her and on all of us.

            Peter

          • That’s terrible news. Lord, have mercy on her.

            • I have reason to believe its not true, but whatever….let’s spend lots of time judging the state of our sister’s soul.

            • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

              It is horrifying news. I mean, this is the valiant little attorney who was appointed by Metropolitan Herman to be the Prosecutor of Protopresbyter Rodion S. Kondratick in a so-called Spiritual Court created to divert the bloodhounds from their proper target! Metropolitan Jonah held her in high regard until having to accept that poor judgment.

          • Here’s the Answer:

            Ms Skordinski is now an avowed atheist.

            WHERE and WHEN has she “avowed” atheism? WHO HEARD THE “AVOWAL” ?

      • This is a post that would require absolute anonymity. Well played.

      • While I often admire the work that Pokrov does, in this instance I hope that the OCA synod does not listen to Pokrov too much, but instead takes into consideration the overwhelming opinion of the DoS at the recent assembly.

        Yet I’m concerned that the OCA synod will listen to Pokrov more than the Diocese of the South, and thus will soon tell Bishop Daniel (Brum) to move from Phoenix to Dallas. Ugh.

    • Cappy Larson, one of the founders of Pokrov.org and now also a SNAP leader, was incredulous that Eliel had been nominated.
      “The OCA is still reeling from the conviction of Archbishop Seraphim Storheim for the sexual abuse of a child. I can’t believe assembly would seriously consider a man who spent so much time in the company of two notorious sexual predators, and has yet to say a public word against either. I hope that the synod of bishops has more sense than to elect a candidate who thinks it’s more important to conceal predators then to protect the vulnerable and help heal the wounded.”

      ROCK – JILLIONS – HARD PLACE

      • Oh yes. Jillions has been working overtime with the Pokrov girls to besmirch the reputation of Fr. Gerasim. There is no coincidence that their “report” came out when it did. Jillions has been trying his worst to angle Brum into Dallas. He will do Syosset’s bidding in Dallas. He will be the North’s carpetbagger in the South.

        Pray this does not come true. If it does, the South will rise again!

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          I think that Father Jillions was backing ANYBODY bur Bishop Daniel orFather Gerasim. I believe It’s not only Pokrov, but Protodeacon E.W., his inlaw, that he aimed to please.

        • James, I doubt that Bishop Daniel would be a viable candidate for the South now. If Jillions were sailing on that ship, it hit the iceberg at the nomination.

          On the other hand, what do you know about Fr. Alexander Pihach? He received far more votes than the other runners-up combined.

        • Daniel E Fall says

          Quite possibly slander. What proof do you have for such assertions? If Jillions said nothing to Pokrov, which is in all probability a fact; you have slandered him. For what purpose? Does it give you an ego boost?

          • How about his, Daniel, Jillions is a hack. He is also a vindictive person who has no business being in any position of leadership in any Church. Does saying this make me feel better. No. It makes me sick to my stomach. You, Daniel, don’t know the man. I do. And it isn’t slander if it is true.

    • Well…there’s the other shoe, and it is a shameful one, full of holes of its own.

      Speaking as a member of the Diocese of the South, we are well aware of the history referenced above in my home parish, and I would assume in most if not all DoS parishes as well. When Fr. Gerasim visit our parish some time ago he was asked a number of pointed questions on just these issues. His answers were more than satisfactory. He has the confidence of our whole parish. We pray the Holy Synod will confirm him as our new Bishop.

      Nothing of this has been hidden, covered up,or painted over. Archbishop Dimitri was aware of these things as well when he recommended Fr. Gerasim go to seminary in anticipation of being recommended for the episcopate one day…and one thing was for certain, Archbishop Dimiti was a loving and careful pastor of the Diocese of the South. His opinion of Fr. Gerasim was in accordance with the vote cast at the assembly.

      Fr. Gerasim is our choice, our nominee for Bishop of the Diocese of the South and it is our prayer God preserve him and grant him favor with the Holy Synod so that the Diocese of the South will receive a bishop we can greet with unreserved cries of Axios.

      The attempt at scandal and muckraking above by whoever is propagating such vitriol is beneath contemptible. May they become better informed and repent of this attack on the DoS nominee for our bishop.

  11. Michael James Kinsey 1380805 says

    Christian tradition allows the congregations to choose their bishops.Else wise , the congregations become sheep to be slaughtered and scattered,and not fed. No one escapes perfect divine justice on Judgement Day.Helpless cleric’s, their still mortal, they cannot beat Divine Justice. It Will Stand for Eternity.

  12. I personally spoke with those who were involved with the removal of the non-canonical Bp Herman and the movement to become canonical. When they found out the truth about him and the deposed Bp Vrionis they told Fr. Gerasim and they all confronted Bp Herman. Up until then, they were in the dark. I think the original biography of Fr. Gerasim, where he goes into much more detail of those days, may still be on the DOSOCA website from a couple years ago. What appears above is a condensed version. I also had a chance to ask Fr. Gerasim some hard questions about decisions he made and what lessons he learned from those days when he visited our parish a couple years ago.. He was quite frank. I was satisfied with his answers and am glad he is our nominee in the DOS.

    • George Michalopulos says

      As have I, Anna. What the SNAP ladies are doing is engaging in guilt by association. I have extended family in Dallas and their association with the GOA parish there is well-known. Are they and the others at that church to be tarred because their spiritual father (a married man btw) was later found out to be a pederast?

      • Pere LaChaise says

        I know from personal experience how broad a brush the Larsons, POKROV & SNAP paint. Cappy and her daughter have been thrown out of every parish they attended because they engaged a pathologically vindictive accusation of every priest and layman that dared to even question their paranoia. They would be happiest if every Orthodox clergyman was put in jail on the basis of the most scurrilous, unsubstantiated rumor of impropriety. I have no respect for these people.

        • Pere:

          Cappy and her daughter have been thrown out of every parish they attended

          How does one get THROWN OUT of a parish in the Orthodox church?

          • Fr. George Washburn says

            Hello friends:

            More accurately, they seem to have thrown themselves out, or rather recused themselves, from any practical involvement in the communion of the Orthodox Church. I think I like recuse a little better, since it is so often used to describe what judges do to avoid being or appearing improper. And judges is one thing our pokrov friends have become.

            Fr. G

            • Fr. G:

              More accurately, they seem to have thrown themselves out, or rather recused themselves, from any practical involvement in the communion of the Orthodox Church.

              Sometimes the HURT and PAIN caused by those in the church makes people shy away. Maybe some good priest or bishop who actually cares will reach out to them with compassion, and bring them back into communion. Or, MAYBE, what they are doing – exposing the SHAMEFUL DISGUSTING UNPLEASANTNESS IN AMERICAN ORTHODOXY – renders them unworthy, by the condescending standards of some, to be in communion.

              • Fr. George Washburn says

                Hi friends:

                I won’t dialogue with the anonymous OOM about this point, but I do have exact knowledge of a priest who sincerely, but unsuccessfully, attempted what OOM suggested.

                sincerely,

                Fr. George

                • Fr. G.:

                  but I do have exact knowledge of a priest who sincerely, but unsuccessfully, attempted what OOM suggested.

                  Vladyka:

                  Oh, OOM! Answer to your question is: By making them an offer they can’t refuse.

                  Vladyka is being more honest here. An ultimatum was given: stop publishing the truth, or NO COMMUNION FOR YOU!

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            Oh, OOM! Answer to your question is: By making them an offer they can’t refuse. Elementary!

      • Michalopulos:

        What the SNAP ladies are doing is engaging in guilt by association.

        A MAN IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS.

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          OOM echoes the authorities that caused St Peter to deny Christ three times! As do the SNAP ladies.It’s called “Channeling Caiaphas.” He subscribed to the same axiom.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      Anna, thank God that the deposed monk, Herman (Podmoshchensky), once an Hegumen, was never ever made a bishop anywhere. As formthe Pokrov ladies, they are prisoners of their own propaganda, and do not know Faher Gerasim at all. Father Gerasim’s autobrography is on line, and anyone can Google it and read it, although it’s very, very long—fifty pages. The Orthodox Church witnesses EVERYWHERE Father Gerasim has lived and served to his piety and moral probity. This witness, of the Church, outweighs any pathological and ill-willed slanders of those who attend Church now and then (if at all) only to judge others.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Very well said, Your Grace.

        • Interesting, George, that you agree with the irreverent Bishop a lot, but don’t allow other opinions to appear sometime. Pure case of censorship on your part. But it’s your log, I guess, and you can make the rules.

      • Vladyka:

        The Orthodox Church witnesses EVERYWHERE Father Gerasim has lived and served to his piety and moral probity.

        Since when does a man who blames a father for the suicide of his son speak with authority on the witness of the Orthodox Church concerning moral probity?

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          Dumb question. OOM, Try again?

          • Vladyka:

            Dumb question. OOM, Try again?

            Okay, here goes. Vladyka defends his old pal Protopresbyter Rodion Kondratick at every opportunity. Look how he ends up. Maybe Vladyka’s “endorsement” doesn’t amount to much?

        • His Grace said that the Church witnesses to Fr. Gerasim’s moral probity, not himself.

          Bishop Tikhon’s comments to Ashley were absolutely contemptible, but that doesn’t change the truth about Fr. Gerasim.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            Helga, please cite one or any of the remarks I made “TO ASHLEY” that you judge to be “absolutely contemptible.”

    • care to paraphrase the q&a?

  13. I think the statements by Pokrov must be reconciled in order to name this man a bishop. As someone standing on the OCA sidelines; it is a very curious question.

    Has the OCA ever made a statement or investigated the relationship between Eliel and the other two?

    Why were the DOS folks disinterested in the past?

    Bueller? Bueller?

    • We weren’t disinterested in the past in the DOS. The hard questions were asked and were answered to the satisfaction of those asking, including the Synod.

      • Daniel E Fall says

        Well, then Pokrov is making a wild, baseless accusation. I have criticised them in the past for naming innocent thirds on their site.

        Some people slam gays or perceived gays for what might go on in the bedroom; this is a step further away, that is, to slam someone for serving a Liturgy with a deviant. How many people served with Storheim? Did they know he misbehaved with children? Doubt it.

        But if Eliel ventured off into schism; that would be a different story. Only that has no bearing on this matter.

        The problem is really Pokrov’s credibility. For them to lose credibility is sad because their purpose seems pretty good. Posting Susan’s rants is another Scooby Doo moment.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      I give her credit for her admission: others think they have too much invested in Orthodoxy to admit they agree with her! The noisome stench of such private but not admitted atheism perfumes even some posts here, especially some of the the anonymous and pseudonymous.!

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      Dan makes reference to “statements by Pokrov.” It is sometimes said that the blessings of heretics are curses. One might consider that every statement coming from that fountain of accusations should be given a very careful examination. Pokrov is a very special group in many respects—a byway off The Way,petering out into a cul de sac.

      I’m not sure why the reference to Ronald Haler-Bueller-Puhalo was tacked on.?

      • Daniel E Fall says

        The reference to Bueller is from the movie actually. It basically means noone has stepped forward to counter their [Pokrovs] claims.

        It is pretty simple. If Eliel hadn’t the foggiest clue; then someone needs to say so and stop the villification. Even the OCA ought.

      • The “Bueller” joke was a reference to the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

      • Vladyka:

        One might consider that every statement coming from that fountain of accusations should be given a very careful examination.

        Has Vladyka ever shown A SINGLE ONE of those statements to be false? Or is he just BLOWING SMOKE?

  14. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    As we start our Lenten Fast:

    February 24

    Reading:

    The first finding came to pass during the middle years of the fourth century, through a revelation of the holy Forerunner to two monks, who came to Jerusalem to worship our Saviour’s Tomb. One of them took the venerable head in a clay jar to Emesa in Syria. After his death it went from the hands of one person to another, until it came into the possession of a certain priest-monk named Eustathius, an Arian. Because he ascribed to his own false belief the miracles wrought through the relic of the holy Baptist, he was driven from the cave in which he dwelt, and by dispensation forsook the holy head, which was again made known through a revelation of Saint John, and was found in a water jar, about the year 430, in the days of the Emperor Theodosius the Younger, when Uranius was Bishop of Emesa.

    Apolytikion of 1st & 2nd Finding of the Head of the Forerunner in the Fourth Tone

    The Forerunner’s sacred head, having dawned forth from the earth, doth send incorruption’s rays unto the faithful, whereby they find healings of their ills. From on high he gathereth the choirs of the Angels and on earth he summoneth the whole race of mankind, that they with one voice might send up glory to Christ our God.

    Kontakion of 1st & 2nd Finding of the Head of the Forerunner in the Second Tone

    Since we have obtained thy head as a most sacred rose from out of the earth, O Forerunner of grace divine, we receive sure healing in every hour, O Prophet of God the Lord; for again, now as formerly, thou preachest repentance unto all the world.
    ________________________
    First & Second Finding of the Venerable Head of John the Baptist

    The Gospel of Matthew 11:2-15

    At that time, when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
    ___________________
    St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians 4:6-15

    Prokeimenon. Grave Mode.
    Psalm 63.11,1

    The righteous shall rejoice in the Lord.
    Verse: Oh God, hear my cry.

    Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

    But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

    Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      Interesting that the head of Saint John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of our Lord, is still maintained and venerated ih the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

  15. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    From Vespers: “Inspired by your Spirit, Lord, the prophets foretold your birth as a child incarnate of the Virgin. Nothing can contain or hold you; before the morning star you shone forth eternally from the spiritual womb of the Father. Yet you were to become like us and be seen by those on earth. At the prayers of those your prophets in your mercy reckon us fit to see your light, “for we praise your resurrection, holy and beyond speech. Infinite, Lord, as divine, in the last times you willed to become incarnate and so finite; for when you took on flesh you made all its properties your own. So we depict the form of your outward appearance and pay it relative respect, and so are moved to love you; and through it we receive the grace of healing, following the divine traditions of the apostles.”

    “The grace of truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with beauty not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith. For if we cling to the icon of him whom we worship, we shall not go astray. May those who do not so believe be covered with shame. For the image of him who became human is our glory: we venerate it, but do not worship it as God. Kissing it, we who believe cry out: O God, save your people, and bless your heritage.”

    “We have moved forward from unbelief to true faith, and have been enlightened by the light of knowledge. Let us then clap our hands like the psalmist, and offer praise and thanksgiving to God. And let us honor and venerate the holy icons of Christ, of his most pure Mother, and of all the saints, depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels, setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching. For the veneration given to the icon passes over, as Basil says, to its prototype. At the intercession of your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the saints, we pray you to grant us your great mercy. We venerate your icon, good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God. For you freely willed in the flesh to ascend the cross, to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed. So we cry to you with thanksgiving: You have filled all things with joy, our Savior, by coming to save the world.”

  16. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    And Then They Will Fast
    His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

    Forty days after His glorious resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the heavens. Before His ascension, He had promised His disciples that He would return after His initial departure. Actually, Jesus had mentioned His departure and His glorious return many times during the three years of His public ministry.

    As the Book of Acts records, on the day of His ascension two men in white apparel were standing near the Apostles and the other eye witnesses who were watching the event. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.”[1]

    The first Christian communities in the days of the Apostles and immediately after the Apostolic era lived with the fervent anticipation of the re turn of Jesus in their lifetime. Even the Apostles themselves expected His return very soon. This belief was held in large measure because of the Lord’s words to the Apostle Peter when the two were walking together after His resurrection. It was at the time when John the Evangelist was walking slightly behind them. After the Lord had informed Peter of his impending martyr’s death, Peter turned for a moment toward John and asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus replied, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”[2]

    Yet John clarified the incident when he wrote in his gospel about that particular discussion. It was necessary for him to keep the record accurate; for the body of believers was repeating the statement that John was to remain alive until the Lord’s return. John wrote, “Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die.” Yet Jesus had not said this, but “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”[3] John was so concerned with the accuracy of this statement of the Lord, that he repeated it at the end of his gospel.

    However, the belief persisted throughout the Christian communities that John would still be alive upon the return of Christ. Even the Apostle Paul seemed to have given credence to the saying about John. This is probably why he wrote to Timothy his disciple saying…… keep this commandment without spot until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.”[4] He wrote virtually the same thing to his other disciple, Titus, telling him that the followers of Christ should live righteous and godly lives because they were anticipating ” . . . the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”[5] Besides Paul, Peter and James also wrote about the Parousia or the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in their epistles, as if it were to be soon.

    There were no discernible changes in the world, even after the lifesaving, cosmic events of the death and the resurrection of Christ. The Roman Empire remained intact and controlled all of the known world. However, with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 AD many of the faithful equated this destruction and their suffering with the prophecies of Christ as recorded in Saint Matthew’s gospel (24:1-22) about the end of the age. Many of them did not enter into marriage. Others gave all they had to the Church and lived as brothers and sisters in the various Christian communities, identifying them-selves as members of the family of God and the Body of Christ. Still others, most of whom are unknown in the Church today, but certainly known to God, went out into the wilderness throughout the Middle East, Asia Minor and northern Africa where they lived as hermits, praying unceasingly, and waiting in caves and in the crevasses of the earth for the end to come. It was not the desire for Christians to continue to live in the world in the face of the tyranny of Rome and the subjugation of thousands by the military might of the pagan empire. They preferred to be with Christ and their expectations centered on Christ.

    After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish community was in shambles. The religious practices and the strict adherence to the Jewish faith had come to a sudden stop with the destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the people to different parts of the known world. The Christians also found themselves under tragic circumstances. Rome’s grip upon the world continued unabated.

    Yet even in the face of all this, the Apostles, greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit, continued to preach and to teach of Christ and His coming Kingdom. They established new communities wherever they went and continued to convert many to the faith. As conditions settled down after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Christians there began to receive the help which was so desperately needed from Paul the Apostle and many others. The Apostle Paul’s love for his people was so great that wherever he went, he received donations and gifts for the “saints in Jerusalem.”[6]

    In all of this adversity and destruction, what was it that kept the members of the Church fervently committed to Christ and His promises? Many wondrous signs and miracles took place. People were healed of severe infirmities; some were also raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit was manifesting His presence and power among the people, strengthening them in their faith. The mighty works performed by the Apostles in the name of Jesus Christ gave courage and determination to the people to be persistent in the faith. Eye-witnesses of the resurrected Lord and of the great day of Pentecost who were yet alive con-firmed the reality and the truth of the Christian faith. In the face of those glorious events, the unifying strength of Christ was experienced throughout the expanding Christian communities.

    The hope, then, of the soon return of Jesus Christ continued to dominate the hearts of the people who were looking forward to this event with joyful anticipation. They reminded one an-other to be watchful and to be vigilant like the five wise virgins in the parable. The Lord Jesus was to appear. “Maranatha”[7] was the watchword. They repeated it often: “O, Lord, come!”

    As time passed, the realization began to set in that it was not the time for Christ’s return. His prophecies in the holy gospels had not yet come to pass. They recalled that when the disciples asked the Lord about the signs before the end, His response included many events which had not as yet been fulfilled. The destruction of Jerusalem mislead them. There were to be many other events that were to occur in the heavens, as well as on the earth. They recalled also that Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”[8]

    The Christian believers soon began to accept that they were going to continue to live in the world. The Lord was not about to come and to gather them up. Yet they also knew that they could never become identified with the world; for one day the whole world would be consumed by fire.[9] Suddenly they began to realize that something unexpected was happening in the world around them. Better days had come about. The Church was growing in increasing numbers. Their beliefs and the Church were now tolerated by the empire. In time – less than three hundred fifty years after Pentecost – the Christian Church would become the official religion of the converted and Christianized empire. The Church found a new freedom to develop in all Her expressions for the salvation of Her people. Still the Church never forgot that there would be an end to the age and that Her Lord would one day return to take Her with Him.

    The belief, then, in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, His Parousia, would remain constant and the paramount eschatological tenet in the life of the Church. In the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in almost every worship service the Lord’s words of His coming Kingdom were to remain basic. From the year 381 AD and the Second Ecumenical Council the confession of faith now known as the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed would allow the faithful to proclaim as in the days of the Apostles the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, the future event before the consumation of the present age.

    The Church grew and developed in Her primary years, the divinely established, living organism which can never be destroyed by any power antithetical to Her. This the Lord promised when He told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them Who would abide with the Church forever[10]. He also said that not even the power of Hades would ever be able to prevail against His Church[11].

    The Holy Spirit, then, Who presides over the Church gave direction to the divinely inspired Fathers in Her formative years to place the teaching of the Parousia at the core of the faith. In doing so, the Church to this day preserves the belief in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the services of the Church which take place at the holiest time of the annual ecclesiastical cycle, the period called Triodion, Great Lent, and Holy Week, a duration of seventy days.

    From the very beginning then, and as we shall see further on, the Church has held this basic belief in the Parousia uninterruptedly down through the centuries to the present day. Although the people of the Church are reminded annually of the dreadful and terrifying latter-day events before the return of Christ, they also are ever mind-ful of the most wonderful and joyful events which shall occur thereafter with the beginning of the Eighth Day, the day of perfection. This wondrous day begins with the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Day of Holy Pascha. For one to experience this day, it is imperative for him and for her to prepare themselves properly.

    In Her preservation of the teaching regarding the Second Coming of Christ, the Church uses the depiction, which Christ gave to Himself in His parable of the Ten Virgins and the Bridegroom. It is this most dramatic parable, which describes so simply, yet so eloquently, the events of the last days, the return of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of His eternal Kingdom. Many of the services of the Church during this seventy-day period allude to Christ as the Bridegroom. The meaningful prayers and hymns of the Triodion and of Great Lent are replete with the message of the coming Bridegroom to claim His Bride, the Church.

    The days of preparation involving the three-week Triodion and Great Lent lead the practicing believer through a symbolic spiritual wilderness for sixty-three days to the first service of Holy Week which is called the Service of the Bridegroom, and which takes place every Palm Sunday evening in all the churches.

    Throughout the penitential period of the Fast or Great Lent, the Church encourages Her people to increase their time of prayer, both private and corporate, while at the same time invites them to abstain and to fast from those things in life which identify one as belonging to the world. The purpose of this discipline is to strengthen one’s spirit, so that the mind and the heart begin to dwell on the things not of this world. In this regard the believer runs a parallel course to that which Christ traveled in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights before He went forth to be tempted by Satan.

    Relative to the temptations which Christ faced, the practicing Christian is also expected to defeat the three temptations which Christ experienced and which identify one with the world: the temptations of pride, power, and possessions. In today’s world we would use the terms, egotism or self-esteem, control, and unabated consumerism. In the temptations faced by Jesus, He was told by Satan to demonstrate His power by changing stones into bread to satisfy His hunger[12]. The Lord was then tempted by pride when Satan said to Him that if He were the Son of God, that if He were to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, He would not be hurt. For it is written that God would send His angels to bear Christ up, lest He dash His foot against a stone[13]. Finally Satan took Jesus to a high mountain from where he showed to Him the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to Jesus, “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” [14]

    This temptation was, probably, not really an enticement for Jesus, since He knew that all things came from Him and that all things were in His hands, except the corruption His eyes saw because of fallen man who first had been victimized by Satan in the Garden of Eden. This last temptation revealed the fact that Satan never realized who Jesus really was. For Satan could never comprehend in his vainglory that Almighty God would so humble Himself to the point of becoming a man: Jesus, then, as the new Adam, overcame the three great temptations and Satan was gone.

    In the iconographic image of the temptations, which Christ overcame, the Church instills in Her people the desire to acquire such spiritual strength through the discipline of prayer and fasting throughout the preparation period of Great Lent. The faithful are reminded of our first parents in the Garden who were first tempted by Satan with the very temptations, which Satan used to tempt Christ. Adam and Eve failed the temptation of power by desiring to know the difference between good and evil. They failed the temptation of pride by desiring to be like God. And they failed the temptation of possessions because they desired to have it all, even the fruit of the one forbidden tree.

    During the penitential, and yet spectacular and exciting period of Great Lent, which the people should eagerly desire to experience, there is one basic message and that is for the people of the Church to take control of their lives. Once they do this, then the anticipation of meeting Christ in a personal way and experiencing a taste of the coming Kingdom becomes basic and natural in their daily lives.

    How did all this process begin regarding Great Lent and its expectations? It was Christ Himself Who established the process. He gave the formula for this lenten season, the season in which we experience a joyful sorrow, sorrow that He left and anticipated joy that we will see Him again. To understand this process biblically we must read the words of Saint Matthew in his Gospel. He writes the following:

    “Then the disciples of John came to him saying, `Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, `Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.’ “[15]

    It is in this gospel quotation that we see and understand that Christ Himself establishes the connection between His impending departure from the world and the discipline of fasting with a new meaning. Fasting, in this regard, is a basic practice of the believing Christian to remind him that Jesus Christ will one day return in glory.

    The benefits of fasting or abstinence are enormous. This does not have anything to do with the reasons many today use the discipline of fasting. For in our day we see individuals fasting as a political tool or other type of protest, a way of losing extra pounds, or even as a desire to die. Christian fasting is blessed by God Himself for it is the message of the believer to God that he de-sires the eternal blessings that are to come rather than the finite blessings of this life. Its benefits include increased spiritual strength, true obedience to God and total patience with one’s fellow man. It assists the believer to take control of his lower appetites that involve the physical senses. The believer becomes mentally alert and sensitive to what is happening all around him. Moreover his understanding of life is also expanded.

    Spiritual fasting for the Christian believer, then, makes him more watchful and vigilant to the expectations which God has established for His people. Fasting to an Orthodox Christian is what physical and mental exercise are to a professional athlete who aspires to win the big title and the trophy. Fasting of mind and body to the Christian, based on the obedience of prayer, renews the health of the soul, which in most people is parched and possibly dying. The achievements experienced by the believer include spiritual grace and an inner peace and joy that no one can take away. It is this blessed state that allows one not only to focus on, but to continually be mindful of the heavenly blessings that Christ promises to His people.

    Christian fasting is the most effective weapon one can have next to prayer. The two together in the name of Jesus can do wonders. One day His disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal a boy by expelling a demon from within him. They asked, “Why could we not cast it out?” The Lord’s reply was, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”[16]

    In the Gospels Jesus instructs us to fast in secret. Why? Obviously, faith is an inner power; the real power of a person is in his spirit. This spiritual power is developed by the heart and the mind, which work in concert to strengthen the inner man. Man is energized and renewed by God esoterically, through his inner being and his inner heart. Anyone can have this kind of spiritual strength and power if he practices the Christian discipline of prayer and fasting. It is important to remember that many of God’s most devout servants, who had the power of healing others because of their inner strength, were themselves physically infirm, such as Saint Paul the Apostle. Fasting, moreover, makes one realize that he is dependent on God, even if he may have no infirmities. He knows that without God he can do nothing.

    Increased prayer and fasting are encouraged by the Church during Great Lent as a means to purification and preparation. Both physical and spiritual purification are stressed so that the believer may feel prepared to experience a spectacular event, the event of the Lord’s return. His Bride, the Church is always in anticipation of the glorious return of Her Bridegroom. This anticipation is brought into focus during the first Divine Liturgy of Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which is celebrated on Holy Monday morning. The Gospel reading of the Liturgy, which is taken from Saint Matthew’s Gospel (24:3-35) speaks of the disciples of the Lord asking Him when His return will take place, as well as the end of the world. Fasting and prayer, therefore, during this time of the year is not simply because it is Great Lent but because the Church is awaiting the return of Her Bridegroom.

    In this eschatological theme of Great Lent another basic truth is stressed which is that Christ will return as the Eternal Judge Who is to come with great power to judge all people. This is why it is imperative that the believing Christian should be prepared as much as possible through humility and repentance to come before God. At the same time his desire to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Who died for the sins of the world never wanes.

    The Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross, established for the Church the mystery of Holy Eucharist. It is at each Divine Liturgy that the penitent and humble and obedient Christian is invited to receive the very Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of his sins and for the promise of eternal life. He does it in fulfillment of Christ’s words at the Last Supper, which the Apostle Paul records most accurately saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you will proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes.”[17]

    As the practicing believer goes forth on this annual pilgrimage to the symbolic Jerusalem to meet the Lord at His Tomb through the special worship services, he will certainly encounter the scoffers of these latter days. They are more numerous than ever before. But they will not de-tract the obedient and devout Christian. Peter the Apostle speaks of them when he says that in the last days people will cynically be asking, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”[18] They may not be using these very words, but their life-style, their behavior, their speech, their obsessions with the things of this world, will all witness to their unbelief, their cynicism, and their scorn.

    Nevertheless, the faithful believer will persevere. He will go on with his fasting, his good deeds, his increased time in prayer. In a symbolic, yet in a very real way, the three-week period of the Triodion is the crossing by the people of God of the Red Sea from pagan Egypt into the wilderness of the Sinai. The forty days of spiritual toil and the traversing of one’s penitential journey is symbolic, in a very real sense, of the ancient Israelites’ forty-year sojourn in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula. This spiritual journey for the Christian is the time for him to leave behind all the excess baggage he may have brought from the secular world, as well as to shed all vestiges of rebellion and idolatry.

    As the ancient Israelites zigzagged their way through Sinai, sometimes obedient to God, but at other times reverting to their pagan past and re belling against God, in like manner the penitential Christian travels the difficult wilderness of the influences of the secular world, sometimes standing strong in his faith and sometimes falling. The Israelites could have reached the Promised Land much sooner than they did, had they traveled a more direct route. But God kept them in the Sinai for forty years, so that the generation which had come out of Egypt and which had been heavily tainted with idolatry and rebellion would not be able to enter the Promised Land. It was the second generation, those born in the wilderness of the Sinai, who were to enter.

    In the very same way as Moses led his people, the Church leads Her children through the forty-day sojourn of Great Lent. For it takes at least this long for many of the faithful to discard the vanity and the concerns of this world and to be transformed. In this transformation the faithful people of God become the newborn children from the secular wilderness who will be able to experience the joy of the Promised Land.

    The additional and lengthy services, the periods of silence and introspection, the discipline of prostrations both in the services and in private prayer will help the repentant Christian to rid himself of impatience, anger, foul talk, and all the various expressions of rebellion against God, against others, and even against oneself. The struggling Christian must, after this intense discipline, be at peace with himself, with others, and especially with God.

    Once the believer accomplishes these things, never by himself, but with the help of God, he will be able to climb the spiritual mountain, not only to peer into the Promised Land, as did Moses, but to enter it. This entrance into the land of promise is for the Christian the beginning of Holy Week and Pascha. At the first service of Holy Week which is held on the evening of Palm Sunday, the faithful pilgrim of the forty-day struggle will hear the words of the parable as the icon of Christ comes forth from the sanctuary: “Behold the Bridegroom is Coming!” The believing Christian will follow in the footsteps of the Bridegroom throughout the holy services of that spiritually moving week. In so doing, he will experience, in a real way, as the original events continually reflect themselves down through the centuries, the public ministry of the Lord and the words regarding His return. He will relive in a dramatic way the Lord’s betrayal, arrest, extreme suffering, painful and torturous death, and His burial, especially through the services of Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

    On the next day, the Holy and Great Sabbath, all of nature will observe a brief silence while the body of Jesus lies in the tomb. This silence will be experienced mostly by those who followed Jesus through the dramatic events of His passion in the holy services. They will be meditating on the final events of His earthly life. Then on the first day of the week, which today is called Sunday, but which is the dawn of the Eighth Day, the day that knows no sunset, the words of the Lord will swell up like a fountain in their hearts, “Can the friends of the Bridegroom fast while the Bridegroom is with them?” [19]

    At the midnight services of Holy Saturday evening in the darkened churches throughout the Orthodox world, the celebrant will emerge from the sanctuary with lighted tapers chanting, “Come and receive light from the Unfading Light and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead!” The new and glorious day of the Resurrection of Christ the Lord will shine forth with extreme joy and gladness. Although it will not have been the actual Parousia during the present year, it will definitely have the same spiritual glow that shone on the faces of the first Christians.

    At the final service of this seventy-day period called Agape, one of the hymns that will resound in the churches will announce:

    “Come from that scene, O women, bearers of good tidings and say to Zion, `Receive from us the tidings of joy of the Resurrection of Christ; Exult, rejoice and be glad, O Jerusalem, for you are beholding Christ the King as the Bridegroom coming forth from the Tomb!”‘

    The lengthy preparation and watchfulness of the believer during this holiest time of the year will not have been in vain; for in his inner heart he will remember the word, “Maranatha” which his Christian fore-bearers had in their hearts and on their lips. And in response to that expression of uncontainable joy, he will hear, in anticipation, the heart stirring words of the Bridegroom of the Church ringing out for all the world and the heavens to hear: “Surely I am coming quickly! Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus! “[20]
    References

    [1]Acts 1:11

    [2]John 21:21,22

    [3]John 21:23

    [4]1 Timothy 6:14

    [5]Titus 2:13

    [6]Romans 15:25-32

    [7] It is most disturbing that modern-day translators of the New Testament have chosen to translate this word on their own authority from the original texts into English and taking away its original impact, found in 1 Corinthians 16:22.

    [8] Matthew 24:36,42

    [9]2 Peter 3:10

    [10]John 14:16

    [11]Matthew 16:18

    [12] Matthew 4:3

    [13] Matthew 4:6

    [14] Matthew 4:9

    [15]Matthew 9:14,15

    [16] Matthew 17:19,21

    [17]1 Corinthians 11:26

    [18] 2 Peter 3:4

    [19] Mark 2:19

    [20]Revelation 22:20
    – See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/articles/lent_they_will_fast.asp#sthash.vyedgZIi.dpuf

  17. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    The Jesus Prayer

    Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis

    Prayer is the basis of our Christian life, the source of our experience of Jesus as the Risen Lord. Yet how few Christians know how to pray with any depth! For most of us, prayer means little more than standing in the pews for an hour or so on Sunday morning or perhaps reciting, in a mechanical fashion, prayers once learned by rote during childhood. Our prayer life – and thus our life as Christians – remains, for the most part, at this superficial level.

    THE CHALLENGE OF ST. PAUL

    But this approach to the life of prayer has nothing to do with the Christianity of St. Paul, who urges the Christians of first century Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). And in his letter to Rome, the Apostle instructs the Christian community there to “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). He not only demands unceasing prayer of the Christians in his care, but practices it himself. “We constantly thank God for you” (1 Thess. 2:13) he writes in his letter to the Thessalonian community; and he comforts Timothy, his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) with the words: “Always I remember you in my prayers” (2 Tim. 1:3). In fact, whenever St. Paul speaks of prayer in his letters, two Greek words repeatedly appear: PANTOTE (pantote), which means always; and ADIALEPTOS (adialeptos), meaning without interruption or unceasingly. Prayer is then not merely a part of life which we can conveniently lay aside if something we deem more important comes up; prayer is all of life. Prayer is as essential to our life as breathing. This raises some important questions. How can we be expected to pray all the time? We are, after all, very busy people. Our work, our spouse, our children, our school – all place heavy demands upon our time. How can we fit more time for prayer into our already overcrowded lives? These questions and the many others like them which could be asked set up a false dichotomy in our lives as Christians. To pray does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things or to spend time with God in contrast to spending time with our family and friends. Rather, to pray means to think and live our entire life in the Presence of God. As Paul Evdokimov has remarked: “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer-prayer incarnate.” This is what St. Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians that “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

    THE JESUS PRAYER

    In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to come to grips with St. Paul’s challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
    THE SCRIPTURAL ROOTS OF THE JESUS PRAYER
    The Scriptures give the Jesus Prayer both its concrete form and its theological content. It is rooted in the Scriptures in four ways:

    In its brevity and simplicity, it is the fulfillment of Jesus’ command that “in praying” we are “not to heap up empty phrases as the heathen do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them . . . (Matt. 6:7-8).
    The Jesus Prayer is rooted in the Name of the Lord. In the Scriptures, the power and glory of God are present in his Name. In the Old Testament to deliberately and attentively invoke God’s Name was to place oneself in his Presence. Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means God saves, is the living Word addressed to humanity. Jesus is the final Name of God. Jesus is “the Name which is above all other names” and it is written that “all beings should bend the knee at the Name of Jesus” (Phil. 2:9-10). In this Name devils are cast out (Luke 10:17), prayers are answered (John 14:13 14) and the lame are healed (Acts 3:6-7). The Name of Jesus is unbridled spiritual power.
    The words of the Jesus Prayer are themselves based on Scriptural texts: the cry of the blind man sitting at the side of the road near Jericho, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:38); the ten lepers who “called to him, Jesus, Master, take pity on us’ ” (Luke 17:13); and the cry for mercy of the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:14).
    It is a prayer in which the first step of the spiritual journey is taken: the recognition of our own sinfulness, our essential estrangement from God and the people around us. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer in which we admit our desperate need of a Savior. For “if we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth” (1 John 1:8).

    THE THREE LEVELS OF PRAYER

    Because prayer is a living reality, a deeply personal encounter with the living God, it is not to be confined to any given classification or rigid analysis. However, in order to offer some broad, general guidelines for those interested in using the Jesus Prayer to develop their inner life, Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, distinguishes three levels in the saying of the Prayer:

    It begins as oral prayer or prayer of the lips, a simple recitation which Theophan defines as prayers’ “verbal expression and shape.” Although very important, this level of prayer is still external to us and thus only the first step, for “the essence or soul of prayer is within a man’s mind and heart.”
    As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction. Theophan remarks that at this point, “the mind is focused upon the words” of the Prayer, “speaking them as if they were our own.”
    The third and final level is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son (Luke 15:32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries ‘Abba, Father!'” (Gal. 4:6).

    THE FRUITS OF THE JESUS PRAYER

    This return to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit is the goal of all Christian spirituality. It is to be open to the presence of the Kingdom in our midst. The anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim reports that the Jesus Prayer has two very concrete effects upon his vision of the world. First, it transfigures his relation ship with the material creation around him; the world becomes transparent, a sign, a means of communicating God’s presence. He writes:

    “When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise.”

    Second, the Prayer transfigures his relationship to his fellow human beings. His relationships are given form within their proper context: the forgiveness and compassion of the crucified and risen Lord.

    “Again I started off on my wanderings. But now I did not walk along as before, filled with care. The invocation of the Name of Jesus gladdened my way. Everybody was kind to me. If anyone harms me I have only to think, ‘How sweet is the Prayer of Jesus!’ and the injury and the anger alike pass away and I forget it all.”

    ENDLESS GROWTH

    “Growth in prayer has no end,” Theophan informs us. “If this growth ceases, it means that life ceases.” The way of the heart is endless because the God whom we seek is infinite in the depths of his glory. The Jesus Prayer is a signpost along the spiritual journey, a journey that all of us must take.

  18. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Psalm 50 (LXX – Brenton)

    For the end, a Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, when he had gone to Bersabee.

    Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of thy compassions blot out my transgression. 2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of mine iniquity; and my sin is continually before me. 4 Against thee only have I sinned, and done evil before thee: that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. 5 For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me. 6 For, behold, thou lovest truth: thou hast manifested to me the secret and hidden things of thy wisdom. 7 Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be purified: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. 8 Thou shalt cause me to hear gladness and joy: the afflicted bones shall rejoice. 9 Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in my inward parts. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and remove not thy holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of thy salvation: establish me with thy directing Spirit. 13 [Then] will I teach transgressors thy ways; and ungodly men shall turn to thee. 14 Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation: [and] my tongue shall joyfully declare thy righteousness. 15 O ord, thou shalt open my lips; and my mouth shall declare thy praise. 16 For if thou desiredst sacrifice, I would have given [it]: thou wilt not take pleasure in whole-burnt-offerings. 17 Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit: a broken and humbled heart God will not despise.
    ____________
    Our Pray for Forgiveness this most blessed season of Lent.

    Peter

  19. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Psalm 51 (MT – RSV)

    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

    [1] Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to thy steadfast love;
    according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
    [2] Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
    [3] For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
    [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
    and done that which is evil in thy sight,
    so that thou art justified in thy sentence
    and blameless in thy judgment.
    [5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    [6] Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
    [7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    [8] Fill me with joy and gladness;
    let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
    [9] Hide thy face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
    [10] Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
    [11] Cast me not away from thy presence,
    and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
    [12] Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
    [13] Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
    and sinners will return to thee.
    [14] Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    thou God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.
    [15] O Lord, open thou my lips,
    and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
    [16] For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
    were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
    [17] The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

    __________________
    Our Pray for Forgiveness this most blessed season of Lent.

    Peter

  20. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    The Glory of the Cross
    Fr. Demetrios Carellas

    “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” [1]

    St. Paul calls the cross glory. The most humiliating and degrading form of death during his lifetime, he calls glory; his only glory in the world. Why? How does one understand this seemingly foolish statement of the Apostle of the Gentiles? Well, dear children of God, to get a glimpse of this awesome mystery, we must go back; before the crucifixion, before the parting of the Red Sea, before the creation of man. In fact, before creation itself. Yes. We must return to the point when there was no time or creation. And then we’ll move step by step to Golgotha. And hopefully when we reach the foot of the cross, during this very quick journey, we will see a little more clearly as to why the cross is not only the glory of St. Paul, but is destined to be each of us’ only glory in life.

    So, since this is kind of a journey we are going to take, let’s begin our journey by saying a prayer for guidance: † O Lord Jesus Christ, Who did journey with Luke and Cleopas down the road to Emmaus, journey with us; as we journey in our minds, seeking to better understand the glory that is the cross. And grant that this may be not just a mental journey, but also a journey which leads into our hearts and gives the joy of the cross a light there that glows forever. Amen.

    Once upon a time, there was absolutely nothing. Nothing, that is, except God. But, God was so filled with love, that He could not exist as one person. He existed in a mystery, as the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God, however, wanted to share His love even more than within the Trinity, so He began to create the entire universe. Through His Son, the Father created everything visible and invisible. How? By simply saying, “Let there be…”, and there was. It was so easy for God, in His great infinite love, to create the universe. The Prophet and King, David, was told through God’s Holy Spirit how easy the creation of the vast universe occurred. We read this Psalm [2] every Vespers service, and I’m going to quote some of the verses from it: “Thou stretchest out the heavens as it were a curtain; Thou has appointed the clouds for Thine ascent, and walked upon the wings of the wind; Thou makest Thine angels spirits and Thy ministers a flame of fire; The mountains rise up and the plains sink down unto the place which Thou has established them; He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and green herbs for the service of man; Thou lookest upon the earth and maketh it tremble, Thou touches the mountains and they smoke.” Is it any wonder that in the middle of this psalm, David shouted out with joy, “How magnificent and how magnified are Thy works , O Lord, in wisdom hast Thou created them all, the earth is full of Thy creation!” And the pinnacle of this creation, made in His image and likeness was man; upon whose face He breathed the Breath of Life. And in His great love, not desiring that man should be alone, He formed woman from the rib of man. And then God placed man and woman, as it’s called in the Septuagint, not the Garden of Eden, but the Paradise of Delight. The most beautiful place in all of His creation. And our holy fathers tell us that it was not just a garden, but a church; for here is where Christ our God used to come down and talk with Adam and Eve. Here they lived, they worshipped. They talked to Him in prayer, and they received many good things from Him. Everything was in peace and harmony. There were no wars, no diseases, no natural disasters like Hurricane Diane. God made everything in beauty and in love. And sometimes we lose sight of that: God made everything in beauty and in love. Adam and Eve lived, for a time, like innocent children in the wonderful, garden church. But, the evil one tricked them into the sin of disobedience. They partook of the Tree of Knowledge; the fruit of that tree. And what the serpent promised to be the most delectable fruit was very bitter to them. The bitterness tasted by Adam and Eve would affect all of creation. For now, two things came into the world which God did not create; and this is something else we also forget: God did not create sin, God did not create death. And the Tree of Life, which was also in this garden, which held the mystery of everlasting life, was now put under guard by the Lord. A cherubim with a flaming sword, that turned every which way, was assigned to guard it. Man had lost that path to everlasting life. But, God would give His people little glimpses of the Tree of Life – revealing hints as to both its tribulation and its power.

    In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we are told that Jacob blesses his two grandsons in the sign of the cross.[3] So, right away we know something, that cross and blessing, there’s some meaning there. Moses used the sign of the cross to part the Red Sea. First, he took his staff this way, and the waters parted. And then across like this, and the waters came together.[4] So, now we see that this cross sign has some power. Then another characteristic of the cross came on later. It was a time in the wilderness for the Jews when things were really bad. They had nothing to eat or drink. And they came to a place after three days of not being able to drink anything, and the water was very bitter. The people cried to Moses, and Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. And he took the tree and he cast it into that bitter water, and this tree made that water sweet.[5] Later on in that same life of the early Jews, Moses was to do battle with Amalek, the most hated enemy of the Jews. And he was told by God to go up on a hill and stretch out his arms in this fashion.[6] And as long as Moses had his arms this way, the people of Israel prevailed. But, when he got tired, and his arms fell down, Amalek began to win. So, Aaron and Hur held up his arms throughout the battle. And while the cross shape prevailed, the children of Israel prevailed.[7] Later on in the life of the Jews, after being very disobedient to the Lord, the Lord sent deadly serpents to bite them. And having been bitten by one, many of them died. And so they came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned against God. Do something so that we can be healed of this dreaded serpent.’ So God instructed Moses to fashion a bronze figure of the serpent and put it on a wooden staff and hold it high. Ad all the people who were bit by the deadly serpent that looked at the bronze figure, were healed.[8]

    Something is beginning to form about this cross, this tree in the minds of the people. King David called the cross the footstool of the Messiah’s feet.[9] And King Solomon said that the Tree of Life is wisdom, and he encouraged everyone to cling to it as to the Lord.[10] And finally Isaiah even went so far to say that the cross would be composed of three types of wood, and it would be placed in the sanctuary to bring more beauty to the sanctuary, and it would be used to make glorious the place of the feet of the Messiah.[11]

    So, the Israelis, in new scripture who lived about the time of Jesus, could begin to form an image of some life-giving tree, which would perhaps be shaped like a cross and would be very powerful in the hands of the Messiah. Then Jesus Himself came and preached that the Messiah would have to be lifted up on the cross, and that those who follow after Him would to take up their cross. But, the Jews did not listen carefully to these words of Jesus. They had already decided what type of Messiah was going to come. Someone who would conquer their enemies, and reestablish the kingdom of Israel as the greatest power on the earth. It had to be this type of Messiah. And if He came with some kind of cross-shaped tree, it would be used, obviously they thought, to destroy all the enemies: all the armies who had been enslaving the chosen people of Israel for so long. Can’t you just picture them thinking and saying among themselves, ‘What is this great new instrument of power? When will it make its appearance?” Well, it finally made its appearance. And when it came, everyone including those who had lived for Jesus and with Jesus for three years… everyone shrieked back in horror. What? The Messiah, the invincible Warrior and Deliverer of the Israelites carries a large, wooden cross up a hill to be crucified? He is beaten, He is spit upon, He is crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross where He would die? Where’s the power? Where’s the deliverance? Where is the defeat of the enemies of Israel? I wonder if we can imagine the total despair of the disciples as they huddled in terror behind the locked doors for fear of the Jews. All their hopes died with Jesus when He died on the cross. The cross became for them a symbol of defeat. But, it was in this state of total helplessness and despair that the risen Lord appears to them, and soon they are transfigured as He was – from the valley of despair to the mountain of joy. And they begin to see the cross in a new light. Moses, through the cross, defeated Amalek. Jesus, through the cross, conquered the greatest enemy of all: the evil one. And along with the evil one: sin and death; two creatures of the creation which God didn’t create. The deceiver himself was now deceived. And this is why St. Paul cries out with joy, “O death where is thy sting, O Hades where is thy victory?”[12] In Moses’ time, those bitten by deadly serpents in the wilderness were healed when they gazed upon the bronze serpent raise on a wooden staff. But, now those who fall into sin and death who are bitten by the evil serpent, receive forgiveness and everlasting life when they look upon the cross and the Lord who was nailed upon it. So, the cross becomes to those who believe the symbol of victory. Victory over the evil and his demons. Victory over death through salvation in Jesus. Is it any wonder then why St. Paul calls the cross glory?

    But, there’s more, dear brethren which we should point out regarding the glory of the cross. For that is why we’ve journeyed all the way back before time and creation. God, the Son, through Whom this vast universe – I’m going to pause a minute to look at this vast universe. I read an article in Newsweek about two weeks ago. They had taken a photograph (how they did it I don’t know) of the center of the Milky Way. And they showed a picture and in the center there was this hole (it looked like a hole) 30,000 light years across. Any physics majors know that it takes the speed of light travels at 186,000 miles a second. So, it takes light from one end of that hole to the other 30,000 years to get to that spot going at the speed of light. And that is only part of the Milky Way. So, you can imagine how big the universe is. The God who created this vast universe then, and all of its content with ease, with the greatest of ease and with love, through Whom all mankind was created with ease in God’s image and likeness, Who Himself took upon our flesh in the womb of the Virgin… this all-loving, and all-compassionate, and all-powerful God chose the cross as His instrument of salvation for us all. And we must exclaim like the hymnologists do in some of the hymns: O great mystery! Tell me, beloved, can anything in the universe be glory then next to the cross of Jesus? Now, if this is something that you just can’t grasp now, it’s something that you have to think about everyday. What happened? All of this creation by the most magnificent God Who can’t be explained, Who Himself becomes man and He chooses the cross as the instrument of salvation, how can anything else then on earth be glory but that?

    I want to take a peek at the second half of that statement. Through His glory, the cross, the world is crucified to him (that is St. Paul) and he to the world. The world here, as St. Chrysostom tells us, is not heaven or earth, but the affairs of life: the good, the bad and the indifferent affairs of life; the praises and the rebukes; all the materialism; the knowledge or lack of it; the feign whatever. They are all dead to St. Paul, and he to them through the cross. But, for this to be coming true, for each of us, the cross has to become my personal glory too. And this can only happen if I totally abandon myself and submit my life completely into God’s hands. In other terms, I am being called to pick up my cross, and to taste the bitter vinegar of suffering… Not to hide from it, but to accept it… Not to cover it up, but to embrace it… Not to run away from it, but to ascend to it. Look at our Lord Jesus. St. Chrysostom tells us: ‘He did not descend from the cross not because He could not, but because He would not. For Him Whom the tyranny of death could not restrain, how could the nails of the cross restrain?’ He could overcome death. So if He wanted, He didn’t have to be nailed there. He was there because He wanted to be, by His choice.

    But, we have nothing to fear. We are not being called to become masochistic here. Far from it. We are being called to accept suffering as a part of this temporary existence so that the power of the cross can be made manifest in us to comfort us, and to change our sorrow into joy. Unfortunately, most people today do everything to avoid inconvenience much less suffering. A few examples: We now have remote controlled TV, so we don’t have to strain to walk three steps to change the channel; We now have garage door openers because to lift the garage door may cause a cramp in my arm; We are told that there are new diet pills or types of diets which we can get on which tell us we can eat whatever we want, and still lose ugly fat. We live in a world where a person chooses either to deny suffering and pain or to handle it with his or her own powers and abilities. A sign in a hospital the other day that I noticed led me to ponder on this dilemma. It said: Pain Control Center. And I thought, I just made up a hypothesis of what this could be where anybody who’s suffering, they run into this pain control center, you see them coming inside and then they pop out the other side and they’re very happy. Of course, that’s not what the pain control center was for, but we really have that type of dilemma in our lives today. Some people try to conquer all of their problems through the power of positive thinking, to quote a very familiar thing you heard today. The ‘I’m okay and I can do it’ syndrome, and when this fails the backup is the pain control squad. It’s called an action when the person drinks heavily, may go into drugs, may catch a very prominent disease of workoholism (bury everything in the work, in order words), lives a loose and carefree life. So, this is how we choose to solve the problems. We either attack them with our own strengths or we call upon the pain control squad. The cross provides us with an alternative way of drinking the bitter waters of life. Instead of denying our suffering, or seeking to personally conquer our pains, we are called to take them to the foot of the cross. And in that state of total helplessness, like the disciples were in that locked room, we’re called to cry out to God to send down the cross’ power upon us so we can have that victory.

    What are some of the bitter waters we have to drink in this life? Let’s look at a few: What about broken relationships? Between a parent and a child, where over the years communication just fades away, where it’s almost nonexistent or maybe nonexistent. And a big wall goes up between the two. And let’s say the parent begins to hate the child, and is very upset. Or relationships between the two close friends that go sour. Or what if two people supposedly in love, married after years, then one of the partners says: ‘I want out; I don’t love you anymore.’ That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow in life. How do we handle that? Well, if we take the ‘I’m able to do it myself’ routine, we build a wall up, and we say, ‘I’m better than this person, they’re at fault.’ Or we may go into the ‘why me’ syndrome, and try to get everybody’s sympathy. And our bitterness then is multiplied because we get hatred in our hearts for this person who loved us and doesn’t love us anymore. What we don’t see is that we don’t love them either. Because if we did, the fact that they stopped loving us wouldn’t matter. I’ll say that again: The fact that they stopped loving us doesn’t matter. So the cross tells us, how do we handle this? We put Jesus’ cross there and we see Him on the cross, and we hear Him say: “Forgive them.”[13] Now He is righteous, we’re not. And He loves everybody, and we don’t. So, in light of that confession of our Lord, we see a new dimension about love. The joy of love is not from the receiving it from man, but in being able to give it to man without expecting anything in return. And that type of love only comes from God, and He gives it through the cross to those who will do it.

    What about a sudden physical crisis? That’s a pretty bitter pill. You’re very healthy and happy, and then you’re told you have cancer. Or you’re very athletic or very beautiful and you’re in a car wreck and you’re disfigured and deformed forever. What does this world have to offer you? All the same syndromes: ‘I’m great’ routine… the pain control squad. Why go that route? Why not take it to the cross? And in the cross you’ll see that Jesus loves you and you’re precious to Him no matter how you look or no matter how you live in this temporary life. And then death can’t touch you. Physical pain… disease… has no control. Because you know this isn’t home… you’re visiting. And you know that this type of thing only brings you closer to coming home sooner. But, you can only find that through the cross.

    The death of a loved one. Another bitter pill. So many people I’ve met who try to overcome that by denying the death. It’s as if they keep the dead person alive. I had a situation not too long ago where the parents just couldn’t accept the death of the child. They couldn’t picture the child’s body going into that cold ground. One of the parents wanted to have the child cremated and kept on a mantle so it would always be there. You have to weep… you have to feel sorrow for that type of thought because it’s based on this world here. You take that dead person to the cross, and you find that the cross has destroyed death. You find that the person is asleep and that there will be a day when everyone will wake up and we’ll be together again with Christ; not for a few years, but for eternity. You can’t get that hope in this world, only the cross can give you that hope.

    Loss of wealth and position. That’s happening a lot today cause many people are out of jobs. I see so many people suffering in that respect and they become very bitter. They feel that the world had shortchanged them and it’s not fair. And all that time that they waste in bitterness, they could have gone to the cross and heard the Master say, “Seek the Kingdom of Heaven first and everything else is going to be added to you.”[14] Then they would have enough strength to get through each day and, believe me, something would happen because the power of the cross is great and mysterious.

    What about some real examples of situations like this? I read about a woman, young woman, who knew this particular man (he was a doctor before he became a priest and then a bishop). And she happened to come into his office one day when she was fifteen, and she saw the Gospel book there, and she said, “What are you doing reading that stupid book?” And he looked at her and he said, “Have you ever read it?” And she said, “No.” And he said, “Well, do me a favor. Before you judge what the book is like, read it.” Well, she did, but she read it with that attitude that ‘I’m in control.’ And it locked in. She started thinking, “Well, things are so great.” She was a very attractive girl, too. And she was feeling the power of the Word. She got married a few years later. And about a week after her honeymoon, she went to the doctor because something was bothering her. And she found that she had an incurable disease. A disease that not only would waste her away, but would disfigure her. And there was no cure. Well, at first, she turned to The Word and she was very strong in it. And she wrote this particular person, who was now a bishop, and she told him, “Oh, now that I’m on my back, I see even greater powers!” And he said, “Don’t trust in your powers because right now you’re trusting in yourself. You’ve got to let go of that self-will, because it may not be this way always.” Well, it happened: Her husband couldn’t take it anymore, so he left. And so she was in a state of total despair, and she cried out to God. And He came to her at that moment in a way He had never come to her before. And she had somebody write this note to that bishop: “I am finished. I can no longer ascend to God, but it is He Who comes down to me.”

    There was a priest in Alaska, this happened last Easter. Alaska is a very treacherous area with the islands. Children are lost there forever. Maybe the tide sweeps one out or something happens, and they lose maybe a couple of hundred kids a year. One priest had a seven-year-old boy, and just before Pascha, they lost him. But, he sang “Christ is Risen” with tears in his eyes. And he told another priest, “I didn’t think I could do it. I told God, ‘There’s nothing left, I have nothing. I’m totally in despair.’ But, when I reached that point, I felt power. And I said ‘Christ is Risen’ in a way I’ve never said it before. And I knew at that point that my son was not dead. Physically? Yes. But, my son is not dead, because he’s with Christ.”

    Then, there’s the loss of material things. Well, the best example of that for me is good old Prophet Job; who when everything was taken away from him, he made this statement: “As it seemed good unto the Lord, so it has come to pass, blessed be the name of the Lord.”[15] Now do you see what’s happening here, in these examples? Where the world would say, ‘Oh, Disgusting! terrible!’… All that bitterness through the cross is turned into sweetness. And only the cross can do that.

    If there is a punch line to all of this, it’s now: Until I can experience and you can experience the bitter pain of the cross, then we can never know the sweet joy of the Resurrection. Whose pain am I talking about now? My pain? No. I’m talking about the pain of my Lord Jesus. That’s whose pain I’m talking about. Have you ever stopped and meditated on that hymn that we sing every Holy Thursday, “ Σημερον Κρεμαται?”: “Today He, Who suspended the earth upon the waters, is hung upon a tree.” We can add so many of our own: He, Who fed the universe with His hands, now finds nails like this one; this size, this type of nail;[16] nails in those hands, which fed the universe! He, Who wrapped the clouds in the air with light, is wrapped in mockery! He, Who is the King of kings, is crowned with thorns!… We must be able to see what He did for us. We must be able to take His pain. Because that’s when we get an awareness of something that is so critical to all of our lives: that He didn’t die on the cross two thousand years ago for the world, though He did, but that’s so impersonal. What happens in that revelation of that instant that the pain of Jesus is this: He died for me… He did this for me. Personally. And the only thing you can say after something like that is, “Oh how he loves me.” And then for the rest of your life, there’s a little pain in your heart because you know: He’s not worthy of any suffering. But, you’re worthy of everything. Like the good thief said on the cross, “We justly are condemned, but not Him.”[17] Then you’re able to see: His suffering goes beyond everything. He, Who existed before time and creation, suffered personally for me. And at that point the cross becomes my cross. At that point, I can take the cross of Jesus and cast it into the sea of all of the afflictions that hit me in life no matter what they are. And in light of the awareness of His suffering: Although the suffering we face will cause us pain, somehow in that pain we’ll always find joy. Somehow, in all that bitterness, we’ll always be able to find sweetness. We become imitators of Jesus; Who, when He was suffering His totally unjust passion, did not fix His eyes on the hands of those who beat Him, or the mouths of those who falsely accused Him, or the feet of those friends who abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. No. He fixed His eyes on the hands of the Father, Who gave Him the cup to drink, and He ascended the cross. When we see the cross for what it really is in our lives, it helps us not to look side to side. Because when we are hurt, the first thing we do is look at why we were hurt. Who hurt us? And we focus on this person, or that event, or this disease, or whatever. But, if we look right at the cup – at the hands of the Father holding the cup – and say, “He gave it to me. I don’t know, I don’t know why… I don’t understand it… It hurts… But I do know this: If He gave it to me, then I have to take it. And I also know this: If He gave it to me, what now seems bitter and unbearable is going to become sweet.” We become like the Prophet Ezekiel, when we abandon ourselves before that cross. Listen what happened to him: In one vision, he said, “I look and behold, a hand stretched out to me, and in it a volume of a book. And he unrolled this book before me. And in it the front and back were written upon; it was filled with writing. And what was written upon it was lamentations, mournful song and woe.” He saw a book filled with pain. “And He said to me,” God said to him, “‘Son of man, eat this volume.’ So He opened my mouth and caused me to eat the volume.” And listen to what he says next, “So, I ate it. And it was in my mouth as sweet honey.”[18] What appeared on the surface to be disgusting, God told him to eat it, and he did it. And it became sweet because he obeyed the Master.

    When we come before that cross abandoned, looking for power, then we become like St. Paul, and we can say as He said: “I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. And the life I live now, I live for Him Who died for me, who gave Himself up for me.”[19] So, this is what we’re called to do. We’re called to be the possessors of the greatest power beyond creation because Creator Himself made it so: The cross, the tree of life. We have to remember that God never promised us an escape from life, but He promised us a full life, and with a cross. Sometimes big, sometimes small. But, if you look at life in this world as a whole, dear brothers and sisters, and you’re honest with life, and you take the facades away and the phony faces, you have to see that life can be one of two things: it can either be agony or a struggle. The two words in Greek are very close: Αγων and Αγωνια. But, the difference in their meaning is magnanimous. With the cross, life becomes a struggle. But, it’s a struggle that has a promise of joy and everlasting life and even sweetness in this world; sweetness in pain. Without the cross, life becomes agony. Doesn’t make you wonder sometimes why we choose the agony? Why we choose to be bitter? Why we choose to think we are in control? Why we choose to hurt when others hurt us? When we have this other alternative, where the Master Himself gives us the power to overcome it all. As St. Paul says, “…we become more than conquerors.”[20] And look what happens: The flaming sword in front of the tree and the cherubim move away. The first time it moves away is when the thief came up. He came marching up, according to the hymnology of the church, with the cross. And as soon as they saw he had the cross, then the cherubim and the sword moved back and opened the door of Paradise. So, let us pick up that cross. Let us dip it into the sea of life, so that our bitternesses can become sweet. Let us take and raise it and lift it up high, as Moses did over Amalek, and keep it up so that all the real enemies of our life – the evil one, sin and death – will be conquered and destroyed. Let us take the blood from that cross that is offered to us every Liturgy…[21]
    References

    [1]Galatians 6:14

    [2]Psalm 103. Note: All references to the Psalms will be given according to the Septuagint text. If you would like to look them up in another Bible, just add one to the Psalm number. The verse number will remain the same.

    [3]Genesis 48.

    [4]I apologize for the inconvenience in not seeing the visual, but this sermon was transcribed from a tape. I cannot duplicate the arm motions.

    [5]Exodus 15:22-25.

    [6]See footnote 4.

    [7]Exodus 17:8-13.

    [8]Numbers 21:4-9.

    [9]Psalm 98:5.

    [10]Proverbs 3:13-18.

    [11]Isaiah 60:13.

    [12]1 Corinthians 15:55.

    [13]Luke 23:34.

    [14]Paraphrased from Matthew 6:33.

    [15]Job 1:21 (from the Septuagint text).

    [16]See footnote 4.

    [17]Paraphrased from Luke 23:41.

    [18]Ezekiel 2:8-3:3.

    [19]Galatians 2:20.

    [20]Romans 8:37.

    [21]I apologize for this but here is where the tape cuts off at the end of his workshop.
    – See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/articles/glory_of_cross.asp#sthash.gO9JCrrY.dpuf

  21. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    The Rule of Fasting in the Orthodox Church: by Fr. Seraphim Rose
    Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina

    In answer to numerous requests from readers, the rule of fasting is given for each day of the year. Where no indication of fast is given, and during “fast-free weeks,” all foods may be eaten (except during Cheese-fare Week, when meat alone is forbidden every day). Where “fast day” is indicated alone, the fast is a strict one, with no meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine or oil to be eaten. Where, underneath “fast day,” is indicated “wine and oil allowed,” the fast is relaxed for the sake of a feast day or vigil, to allow eating of these foods. Where “fish, wine and oil allowed” is indicated, then all three of these foods may be eaten.

    The rule of fasting, which is dependent on the Church’s cycle of feasts and fasts, is contained in the Church’s Typicon, chiefly in chapters 32 and 33, and is repeated in the appropriate places of the Divine service books, the Menaia and Triodion. In general, fast days for Orthodox Christians are all Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year (except for fast-free periods), the four canonical fast periods of Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles’ Fast, and Dormition Fast, and a few special days: the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th) and the Beheading of the Forerunner (August 29th)—which, even though they are feast days, are also fast days (with wine and oil allowed) for the sake of the events commemorated thereon.

    There are some local variations in the allowances of wine and oil, and sometimes of fish, and so the indications in the present Calendar cannot be uniformly applied everywhere. In particular, on the celebrations of the patronal feast of a parish or monastery, fish is generally allowed, and when a saint is honored with a service of Sung Doxology or Polyeleos rank, wine and oil are allowed. In the Russian Church, on the feast days of the more renowned Russian saints, such as St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Seraphim of Sarov, and of wonderworking Icons of the Mother of God such as the Kazan and Vladimir Icons, of course, wine and oil are allowed (except during Great Lent), although this is not mentioned in the present Calendar because the Typicon leaves this to local practice, indicating only the fasts and allowances that are of general application. The meaning of the Typicon in its allowances is simple: the more one labors for the glorification of a saint or feast day, the more consolation one is allowed in food. For one who has become accustomed to the Orthodox fast, the allowance of oil on food, or fried foods, together with a little wine, is indeed a consolation, as well as a source of physical strength. Where the Typicon itself indicates two variant practices (as for a few of the weekdays of Great Lent), the present Calendar follows the Typicon’s preferred practice.

    While most Orthodox Christians are perhaps aware of the general rule of fasting for Great Lent and the Dormition Fast (wine and oil allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays, except for a few feast days and vigils), many are probably not familiar with the precise rule governing the less severe fast of the Nativity and Apostles’ Fast. Therefore, we shall quote this rule, from Chapter 33 of the Typicon:

    “It should be noted that in the Fast of the Holy Apostles and of the Nativity of Christ, on Tuesday and Thursday we do not eat fish, but only oil and wine. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we eat neither oil nor wine… On Saturday and Sunday we eat fish. If there occurs on Tuesday or Thursday a saint who has a Doxology, we eat fish; if on Monday, the same; but if on Wednesday or Friday, we allow only oil and wine. If it be a saint who has a Vigil on Wednesday or Friday, or the saint whose temple it is, we allow oil and wine and fish… But from the 20th of December until the 25th, even if it be Saturday or Sunday, we do not allow fish.”

    In these two fasts, the fast for laymen is the same as that of many Orthodox monasteries, where Monday throughout the year is kept as a fast day in honor of the fleshless ones, the Angels.

    This rule of fasting, to be sure, is not intended to be a “straight-jacket” for Orthodox believers, nor a source of pharisaical pride for anyone who keeps the letter of the Church’s law. It is rather the rule, the standard, against which each is to measure his own practice, and towards which one must always strive, according to one’s strength and circumstances. Whenever, for sickness or any other reason, one falls short of the rule, he applies to himself the spiritual medicine of self-reproach and strives to enter more fully into the spirit and discipline of fasting, which is indeed of great spiritual benefit to those who sincerely strive to follow it.

    * This article is from “Saint Herman Calendar”

  22. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    Speaking of which:

    Ankara has granted Turkish citizenship to several clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of which 4 are Metropolitans.

    A few days ago, Ankara gave Turkish citizenship to 10 clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, four of which have the rank of Metropolitan, namely:

    Metropolitan Emmanuel of France,
    Metropolitan Athenagoras of Kydonia,
    Bishop Arsenius of Austria,
    Bishop Maxim of Silivri.

    In addition, the following clergy living in Constantinople, also received Turkish citizenship: Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod, Archimandrite Bartholomew, Under-Secretary Joachim, Archdeacon Andrew, Deacon Theodore, Protosingelos Ambrose, and librarian Archimandrite Agathangelus. All clergy are Greek citizens.

    So far, 35 bishops and clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have received Turkish citizenship. This measure allows other hierarchs, other than those born in Turkey, to participate in the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
    We remind you that in accordance with the laws in force in Turkey, only Turkish citizens can occupy the position of Patriarch of Constantinople. The only exception was Patriarch Athenagoras (Spirou, 1972), former Archbishop of America, whose candidacy was imposed by the United States of America. He traveled to Istanbul in the US presidential plane made available by President Truman. Upon arrival in Istanbul, a representative of the authorities hand-delivered a Turkish passport to him on the plane.

    Originally posted on February 20, 2015.

    http://ocl.org/ankara-has-granted-turkish-citizenship-to-several-clergymen-of-the-patriarchate-of-constantinople/

    You’ll want to go to the link above – there’s an interesting photo of President Truman with Patriarch Athenagoras. No way would a president be caught on camera like this nowadays.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      I thought Turkish citizenship was still required for membership in the EP’s Sacred Synod.

    • Bruce W. Trakas says

      A clarification, Lee, about the election of +Athenagoras of America to the Ecumenical Throne, not-with-standing the information in the GOArch Blog. The U.S. State Department was said to be supportive of his election, but it was the Foreign Ministry of Greece, which at the time was working amicably with Turkey, that prevailed upon the Turkish authorities for support of Athenagoras’ candidacy in 1948.

      Patriarch Athengoras and President Truman were close and the President did lend one of the Presidential aircraft, the Sacred Cow, for +Athenagoras’ trip to Turkey. +Athnagoras was also pictured on the cover of “Time Magazine” at the time.

      The Turkish government is granting “dual-citizenship” to those within the Ecumenical Patriarchate abroad who seek it, so that they may be considered eligible candidates for election to the Ecumenical Throne. Last I read, among the American hierarchy, only Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta had sought such, although Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellion, the Director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute (PAOI), Berkley, who is directly under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, an American, has secured “Dual Citizenship.”

  23. Sean Richardson says

    George:
    While perhaps well-intentioned, ” Peter A. Papoutsis says:” and his lengthy postings are so burdensome that they form a kind of spam, keeping us from reading the comments of contributors. We know he can cut-and-paste, but some original thoughts, information and opinions would be more useful.
    Is there some way to limit the length or frequency of these?
    It’s just my thought.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      You don’t like scripture and lenten reflections? Well that says a lot. Ok I shall not bring the light of Christ any longer to you. Enjoy.

      Peter

      • Nicole Cooper says

        I hope you will change your mind Mr. Papoutsis and continue to post variously as you have. Anyone may simply choose to skip or skim any post or any contributor. I welcome your different kinds of posts (comments and referenced material) and would be sorry to be deprived of them and lose my choice to read them… The Orthodox material often provides an Orthodox perspective which serves as a timely curb to the passions, at least mine, which are easily aroused here, and helps me to remember we are all made in the image of God as we “speak”to one another at a tempting remove with some in disguise introducing still a further remove. In the Orthodox Calendar for today: “The person who listens to Christ fills himself with light; and if he imitates Christ, he reclaims himself.” St. Thalassios the Libyan Your posts often remind me. Thank you in Christ.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          No. Its Lent and I need a long break. Prayer, Fasting and Alms giving, especially with my wife and kids, is more important.

          Peter

      • I don’t think anyone minds scripture and Lenten reflections, but the comment section is not your personal blog.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          You mind. Hence good-bye and try to have a good Lent.

          Peter

          • Priest Raphael says

            Self-righteous much? You are basically spaming then judging those of us who do not appreciate it.

  24. Even though I believe a vote is the best way to appoint a new Bishop, that is not the practice of the NT Church. In the Book of Acts, when a replacement for Judas was needed there was not an election rather drawing of straws was the preferred means of determining a successor. No nominations, no campaigning and no vote, the Holy Spirit worked through drawing of straws. I do believe that the Holy Spirit works through consensus of the faithful and the hierarchs yet the apostles chose a different method. Maybe we need to gather straws to choose our hierarchs.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I believe the “drawing straws” has often been done at various places and times among the Orthodox. Generally, out of a pool narrowed somewhat beforehand.

      The Copts do it that way for their Pope. It was most interesting to watch when they did so a year or two back.

      • George Michalopulos says

        I think all bishops should be chosen by the drawing of straws. That’s how we chose the name for our parish some eight years ago.

      • Anonymus per Scorilo says

        The Copts do it that way for their Pope

        So do the Serbians for the Patriarch.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      That is indeed the way the holy Apostles chose a new member of THE TWELVE, but never of the 70 or five thousand. The man, Matthias, that they chose was ALREADY an Apostle. BISHOPS were created by Apostles personally. Later, after the death of the last Apostle, new bishops were consecrated ONLY after ALL bishops of the province consented to him. No candidate was deemed worthy before his consecration—only after.

      It is true that some allowed elections by ballot in order to approve a candidate for consecration: St. Ambrose, a consummate municipal politician in Milan is a famous example of the use of party poliutics to nominate a Bishop. The Church, however, soon saw party politics for what they are (even today), and that process became a historical curiousity. In our time, the Russian Church restoring the Patgriarchy, agreed to have the most revered monastic in the Empire to draw a name from a container placed before the Iconostasis. The name he drew was that of the least popular candidate, Tikhon. Anthony and Arseny both had way more popular votes in their nominations. It was the Bishops CHOOSIING to accept the name that was drawn as Patriarch that was essential. Elementary.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Master bless!

        Dear Vladika–May I follow up by asking you some clarifying questions?

        I think that your account is more correct than this Wiki account on St Tikhon of Moscow:

        1. The ROC had employed some sort of a nomination process that resulted in the names of three bishops submitted for consideration: +Tikhon, +Anthony and +Arseny. How was that done? Was it comparable to the Diocesan Sobor of clergy and laity that nominated (or “elected”) +Tikhon the ruling bishop of Moscow?

        2. Am I correct to say that when the bishops gathered to elect the new Patriarch, the drawing of lots was only the first step in the election process. After the most esteemed monastic drew the name of +Tikhon, the election was completed by the unanimous assent of the bishops–a rather straightforward application of the Apostolic Canon 34.

        • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

          Yes, Karl. We Americans are strongltybeholden to Protestant and “levelling prejudices in our culture. Many (especially among “conciliarity” types) want desperately to see the exercise of episcopal Grace as “ceremonies,” the “reality” being the expressed sentiments of the “popular” electorate. Therefor whatever hierarchs did in connection with the consecration of Bishops or the identification of a First Hierarch——these are JUST CEREMONIES, So, many see the Russian Church Council as a Constitutional Convention

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Your Grace: There may be folks who would agree with your depiction of American Orthodox; I am sure there are a few who feel that way, but I do not think that they are in a majority. (Again my perspective may be skewed as I am most familiar with DOS/OCA).

            The way that I look at the sobors of All-American Council is colored by my total acceptance of the Ignatian Model: The Church is ontologically complete when the ruling bishop is surrounded by his priests, deacons and laity. There is nothing wrong if the governance of the Church is distributed amongst the elements listed above. I recently read an essay by Father Lawrence Farley, where he says that the Great Litany was originally part of the Liturgy of the Faithful because it was the prayer of the laos, in particular the baptised/Chrismated laity, who by virtue of their baptism are members of the Royal Priesthood of Christ. No matter which way we look at Church governance, it seems to me that the OCA practice is based on solid theological and ecclesiastic grounds. Again, there is no question whatsoever that the bishops are the boss; that does not mean that the deputy-bishops (priests) and assistant-bishops (deacons) have no responsibility and authority. Indeed, there are some ministries that are performed by lay members who also have requisite authority and responsibilities. Needless to say, all members of the laos participate in two general functions: the pray and to be stewards of their time, talents and money.

            Given the above, I am at a loss to see a radical division that you posit between episcopal grace and sobors. Would you please elucidate?

            • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

              “Given the above”, Karl? I disagree. All that is not a given, Please keep in mind that the bishops are all members of the Laos of which we speak. They are not called OUT of the Laos to do anything. To say they are and to say that if deposed from their high LAY calling they are “laicized: is to me just more of the same soaking up up of the Western models and language of “clergy vs laity.”
              It’s mostly, but not only, an Anglophone thing
              The use of the word clergy and clerical has also become in our Anglophone world a source of much nonsense. A lot, as in casting lots ands drawing lots and in lotteries, is an instrment of chance and gambling. When there were so many men set apart as readers/singers in the great church of the Holy Wisdom in the Imperial capital city that they could not all FIT in the choir, lots had to be cast with readers’ names on them, Lot in Greek is kleros. Those who won the casting of lots and could therefore sing at a given Liturgy were called the klerikoi Since Bishops, presbyters, deacons were all first such “klerikoi”, they retained the apellation, klerikoi, or Clergy, in English.
              So there’s nothing mystically “holy” or “divinely inspired” in the use of casting lots or the like to simplify personnel decisions, otherwise fraught!

          • Michael Bauman says

            Your Grace, you make an important point especially for those who want an “American” Orthodoxy. What foundation do we have as a nation and culture that would make anyone believe that there could be such a thing?

            Those the whine about “foreign” influence or direction don’t really have anything substantial to replace it with.

            The closest thing we have to a spiritual/religious tradition on which to build the Church here is the Native American understanding of the interrelationship of the divine and the creation. It is certainly not the secularized pseudo-Protestant approach or the secularized legalism of modern the modern RC.

            It is unlikely that the Orthodox Church will ever be a large-scale phenomena. That is reserved, in this culture, for the emotionalized C-major happy-happy types and the prosperity gospel types.

            We do have the opportunity in the new world to take the best of the Greek, Syrian and Slavic experience, plumb each deeply and apply that wisdom to our lives and culture here.

            Although many will scoff, I personally am quite heartened by Met. Joseph’s call to have a monastery within driving distance of every Antiochian parish in the U.S. and Canada. The monastery of St. Silouan that is forming in Wichita will be a local work. One of the monks grew up in Severy, Ks. a small farm town about 60 miles west of Wichita.

            The more we do that and the more we connect with our actual experience ala Fr. Moses Berry, the more we will have a foundation of Christ, not the ideological clap-trap most are trying to use today (whether political clap-trap or mindless traditionalism).

            Ethno-centrism in place of genuine tradition is more clap-trap.

            But we are a stubborn people and it would not surprise me a bit if what actually brought us together on a firm foundation was persecution. Whether it is jihadist Islam or nihilist secularism they both hate us and both appear to be stronger in the world right now that we are.

        • Mike Myers says

          Your Grace, bless!

          I had exactly the same question as Carl’s #1.

  25. Tim R. Mortiss says

    As I recall reading, +Tikhon became Patriarch of Moscow through drawing of lots. To what extent was this method used among the Orthodox, historically?