“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXVII)

holy sepulcher church praying

Continued from (Part XXXVI)

Mechanics of Prayer.

The Church of Christ teaches us prayers composed by righteous and holy men. The Holy Fathers and Ascetics of the Church, enlightened by the grace of God, have composed many beautiful prayers, filled with holy thoughts and deep feeling for the guidance and admonition of Christians. We hear these prayers in Church during the Divine Services, but for private prayer at home, each Christian must recite the prayers contained in the Prayerbook.

When we begin to pray, we do not immediately break off from our daily tasks and just start praying, but we must prepare ourselves. As the Prayerbook says: “Stand in silence for a few moments until all your senses are calmed.” Furthermore, as Holy Scripture tells us: Before offer-ing a prayer, prepare yourself; and do not be like a man who tempts the Lord (Sirach 18:23). In addition to this, before entering into prayer, one must prepare himself not only inwardly, but also outwardly.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXVI)

prayer

Continued from (Part XXXV)

Orthodox Prayer.

The goal of the Christian’s life on earth is salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ and, at the same time, communion with God. The means for this communion is prayer, and through his prayer the Christian is joined in one spirit with the Lord (I Cor. 6:17). Prayer is the focal point and foundation of spiritual life and the source of salvation. Without prayer, as St. John Chrysostom says, there is no life in the spirit. Without prayer man is deprived of communion with God and can be compared to a dry and barren tree, which is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXV)

The Wedding at Cana

Continued from (Part XXXIV)

Holy Matrimony.

In the theology of the Orthodox Church man is made in the Image of the Most-holy Trinity, and, except in certain special cases (such as monasticism, for example), he is not intended by God to live alone, but in a family situation. Just as God blessed the first humans, Adam and Eve, to live as a family, to be fruitful and multiply, so too the Church blesses the union of a man and a woman. Marriage, however, is not a state of nature, but is rather a state of grace, and married life is a special vocation (no less than the special calling of monasticism), requiring a gift or charism from the Holy Spirit — this gift being conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXIV)

Πατριαρχική Θεία Λειτουργία (Χριστούγεννα 2002)

Continued from (Part XXXIV)

Holy Orders.

In the Orthodox Church there are to be found three “Major Orders”-Bishop. Priest and Deacon — and two “Minor Orders” — Subdeacon and Reader (although in ancient times there were other “Minor Orders” which have now fallen into disuse). The Holy Apostles appointed seven men (Church Tradition calls them “Deacons”) to perform a special serving ministry (Acts 6:2-6) and in his first Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of various ministries in the Church (1 Cor. 12:28). Likewise, he addresses his Letter to the Philippians, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philip pi, with the bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1). In his first Letter to Timothy, the Holy Apostle also speaks of the qualifications of Bishops and Deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13), as well as in his Letter to Titus (1.5-9).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXIII)

St Basil

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name.

Continued from (Part XXXII)

A Lament for Sin.

St. Basil the Great says, “Weep over your sin: it is a spiritual ailment; it is death to your immortal soul; it deserves ceaseless, unending weeping and crying; let all tears flow for it, and sighing come forth without ceasing from the depths of your heart.”

In profound humility I weep for all my sins, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, covert and overt, great and little, committed by word and deed, in thought and intention, day and night, at every hour and minute of my life.

I weep over my pride and my ambition, my self-love and my boastfulness;

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXII)

Paining by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov

Paining by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov

Continued from (Part XXXI)

Holy Repentance (Penance — Confession).

The Sacrament of Repentance developed early in the Church’s history in the time of the persecutions of the 3rd and 4th Centuries, when many people, giving in to the threats of the persecutors, apostasized and fell away from the Church. Apostasy was considered to be a very serious sin; many held the extreme position that such could not be received back into the Church in their lifetime, while others held that those who had lapsed should be re-baptized — that is, their sins should be washed away by a second baptism. Moderation, in the course of time, prevailed and a penitential discipline — the Sacrament of Repentance — developed, taking on the meaning of Second Baptism; for this reason it was eventually numbered among the Sacraments of the Church.

After the end of the persecutions, the Sacrament of Repentance remained, so that in the event of sins committed after Baptism, forgiveness could be obtained and the sinner reconciled to the Church. This Sacrament acts also as a cure for the healing of a soul, since the Priest also confers spiritual advice to the Penitent.

Since all sin is not only against God, but also against one’s neighbor, confession and the penitential discipline in the early Church were a community affair and took place publicly before the whole local Christian community. In time, however, Confession has developed into a private action between the Priest and the Penitent, and the Priest is forbidden to reveal to any third party what he has learned in Confession.

In ancient times, before the beginning of Confession, it was appointed to read an entire series of Psalms from which Psalm 51 has been preserved in the present rite, being known as the Penitential Psalm. Then the Priest reads certain prayers, the first of which recalls King David who repented before Nathan the Prophet when he had caused the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba whom David loved. After being rebuked by Nathan, David confessed, I have sinned against the Lord! Read more…  Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXXI)

Panagia i Vatopaidini 2

Continued from (Part XXX)

 The Holy Icons

One of the first things that strikes a non-Orthodox visitor to an Orthodox church is the promi-nent place assigned to the Holy Icons. The Iconostasis (Icon-screen) dividing the Altar from the rest of the church is covered with them, while others are placed in prominent places throughout the church building. Sometimes even the walls and ceiling are covered with them in fresco or mosaic form. The Orthodox faithful prostrate themselves before them, kiss them, and burn can-dles before them. They are censed by the Priest and carried in processions. Considering the ob-vious importance of the Holy Icons, then, questions may certainly be raised concerning them: What do these gestures and actions mean? What is the significance of these Icons? Are they not idols or the like, prohibited by the Old Testament?

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXX)

burning bush

Theotokos the Burning Bush. An icon from the workshop of the Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopedi.

Continued from (Part XXIX)

The Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

In the theology and piety of the Orthodox Church, a special place of honor is given to the Mother of God — the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who is reverenced by the Orthodox as being “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious, beyond compare, than the Seraphim.” As Orthodox we style her as the most exalted among God’s creatures; but we do not regard her as some sort of goddess, the 4th Person of the Trinity, as some accuse us; nor do we render her the worship due God alone. Just as with the Holy Icons, the veneration due Mary is expressed in quite different words in the Greek writings of the Fathers than that due God.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXIX)

Jesus Preaching Sermon on the Mount Gustave Dore

Continued from (Part XXVIII)

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

The more profoundly we become aware of our sinfulness and spiritual imperfection, the less bearable to our reason and our conscience becomes the idea of being spiritually extinguished — the threat of losing our salvation — and within our soul are born hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. Just as in life the body periodically hungers for food and thirsts for drink, so in the spiritual life come moments when man yearns for spiritual food.

The good news of the gospel is the Truth that the Savior has come to earth, and His teaching — the righteousness of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This good news of the Truth of Christ enlightens the soul. The Truth of Christ leads to faith in the true righteousness of our salvation. And the stronger the faith in this righteousness, the more fully its depths are re-vealed to the soul possessing it wholly, acting from faith to faith, urging it to lead a life compati-ble with this righteousness.-

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXVIII)

The Sermon On The Mount by Gustav Dore

The Sermon On The Mount by Gustav Dore

Continued from (Part XXVII)

The Foundations of Christian Morals.

The Sermon delivered by our Savior on the Mount was preceded by two significant meet-ings, one with His secret disciple, Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), and the other with the Samaritan Woman (John 4:4-42). In His conversation with Nicodemus, Christ spoke of being born again, born of the Spirit of God, and in Samaria He taught of God as Spirit and of the worship of the Father in spirit and truth.

Nicodemus had not known of spiritual birth before his meeting with the Lord. What in-terested him was the same question that troubled many other men: was this Teacher and Miracle-Worker an ordinary prophet, or was He the Christ, the promised Messiah? His desire to find the answer to this question is evident in the words with which he addressed Christ: Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him (John 3:2).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXVII)

Moses

Continued from (Part XXVI)

The Ten Commandments.

After the Exodus from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 14), the Children of Israel encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses went up onto the mountain and there received from God two tablets of stone, upon which were written by God’s hand the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20,31). The text of these commandments (The Decalogue) is as follows:

1. “I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex. 20:2-3).

2. “You shall not make for yourselves a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them (20:4-5).

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ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM

vatopaidi monk

With the development of monasticism in the Church there appeared a peculiar way of life, which however did not proclaim a new morality. The Church does not have one set of moral rules for the laity and another for monks, nor does it divide the faithful into classes according to their obligations towards God. The Christian life is the same for everyone. All Christians have in common that «their being and name is from Christ»[1]. This means that the true Christian must ground his life and conduct in Christ, something which is hard to achieve in the world.

What is difficult in the world is approached with dedication in the monastic life. In his spiritual life the monk simply tries to do what every Christian should try to do: to live according to God’s commandments. The fundamental principles of monasticism are not different from those of the lives of all the faithful. This is especially apparent in the history of the early Church, before monasticism appeared. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

THE SPIRIT OF TRUE CHRISTIANITY

Christ Pantokrator, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Pskov (1988).

Christ Pantokrator, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Pskov (1988).

By Archpriest Paul O’ Callaghan

In any form of religious belief, one of the most common questions is, “What does God (or the gods) require of us?” And of course, the different religions all answer that differently. In Judaism, for instance, keeping the 613 commandments of Moses is what God wants. In Islam, he requires one to pray 5 times a day, to abstain from pork and wine, to fast during Ramadan, and to make a pilgrimage to Mecca if possible. In the Sikh religion of India, men must wear a turban on their heads, read a six page prayer in the morning, and bathe in the holy pool in Amritsar as often as possible. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

The Work of the Holy Spirit (St Maximus the Confessor)

St Maximus the Confessor. Detail of a byzantine fresco by Manuel Panselinos (late 13th century) at the Protaton Church in Karyes, Mt. Athos.

St Maximus the Confessor. Detail of a byzantine fresco by Manuel Panselinos (late 13th century) in the Protaton Church in Karyes, Mt. Athos.

The Holy Spirit is present unconditionally in all things, in that He embraces all things, provides for all, and vivifies the natural seeds within them. He is present in a specific way in all who are under the law, in that He shows them where they have broken the commandments and enlightens them about the promise given concerning Christ. In all who are Christians He is present also in yet another way in that He makes them sons of God. But in none is He fully present as the author of wisdom except in those who have understanding, and who by their holy way of life have made themselves fit to receive His indwelling and divinizing presence. For everyone who does not carry out the divine will, even though he is a believer, has a heart which, being a workshop of evil thoughts, lacks understanding, and a body which, being always entangled in the defilements of the passions, is mortgaged to sin. (First Century of Various Texts, 73, Philokalia, vol. 2, pp. 180-181)- St Maximos the Confessor (580-662)

Source: Mind in the Heart

Sacrament of Confession

izpoved_small

St. Cosmas Aitolos

Perhaps the most misunderstood sacrament of the Christian Church is confession (or repentance). How did it originate? What role does a priest play? Is there a special procedure for confession? The Holy Scriptures hold answers to these questions.

God’s Word promises «If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness» (1 John 1:9). The faithful are to bring their sins to God in repentance and receive cleansing and forgiveness.

The early Christians would stand and confess their sins to God in the presence of the whole congregation. Jesus encouraged His followers to walk in the light together, to confront problems corporately, to «tell it to the church» (Matt. 18:17). Thus James writes, «Confess your trespasses to one another» (James 5:16). But as time went on and the Church grew in numbers, strangers came to visit and public confession became more difficult. Out of mercy, priests began to witness confessions of sin privately on behalf of the Church.

Jesus, giving His disciples the authority to forgive sin, said, «If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained» (John 20:23; c.f. Matt. 16:19, 18:17-19). From the beginning, Christians understood that the grace of ordination endowed the shepherd of the flock with the discernment and compassion to speak the words of remission, on behalf of Christ, regarding the sins of those who confess and turn from sin. For God has promised the removing of sin from us «as far as the east is from the west» (Ps. 103:12). St. John Chrysostom says, «The priests decree below, God confirms above, and the Master agrees with the opinion of His slaves». Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »