Tuesday, April 28, 2009
- Elder Paisios
Friday, April 24, 2009
I've been reading a lot about Orthodoxy in North America, and how all the churches were all under the Moscow patriarch, regardless of their country of origin. It's such a beautiful thing that orthodox people of all cultural backgrounds (greek, russian, ukranian, american/canadian, etc) would all participate together in the liturgy, with there being sometimes three or four different languages used. That is how it should be. This division not only creates division among orthodox people that should not be there, but it also propigates an arrogance that one is better than the other, which is demonic and evil. No church tradition is "higher" or "better" than the other one. It is just different, and that very difference is what makes orthodoxy beautiful.
Sermon delivered on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Naples, Fl. in March, 2009.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This invocation of the Holy Trinity which I have just recited is familiar to us all. It is repeated often in every Orthodox service and it is included in every Orthodox prayer. Yet I wonder how many of us have ever contemplated the concept that underlies this invocation, and how that concept is the very core belief which brings us together this evening for the Triumph of Orthodoxy .
In the divine liturgy, we affirm the Holy Trinity as one in essence and undivided. In fact, the Church goes even further and confirms that the Holy Trinity is not only one in essence and undivided, but that it is also comprised of three different and distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity, in its entirety is the God-head, or in short, God. We, as Orthodox Christians and benefactors of the true faith are called, even commanded, to become “god-like”. Our whole purpose and focus in this life is to strive to that end. What exactly does this mean? Simply put, it means that although we the Orthodox are many in persons, we are to be one in essence and undivided, in concert with the Holy Trinity — the God-head, or God.
Consider for a moment, what the situation would be if God the Father decided not to interact with Christ, the Son, because Christ the Son was not Russian. What if Christ, the Son, would not interact with the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit was not Greek? What if the Holy Spirit would not interact with either of the other members of the Holy Trinity because they were not Syrian? The Holy Trinity would be completely dysfunctional. Preposterous, isn’t it? Yet this is precisely the condition that many of the Orthodox in this country find themselves.
While theologically we are of one essence and undivided, we are physically and emotionally divided. It is important to understand that although the Holy Trinity is made up of three separate persons, those three persons are of one mind. The scriptures confirm this and we affirm this in the divine liturgy when we say “let us love one another that with one mind we may confess, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one in essence and undivided”. The Holy Trinity is of one mind because all three persons are in perfect unity with each other. The Holy Trinity is our example. It is our “gold-standard.” We Orthodox fail to be of one mind and perfectly united because of our human frailties. We constantly strive to attain the unity of the God-head, but as humans we often fail.
So, how do we improve our situation? How do we practically achieve the unity that so many of us talk about but cannot seem to realize? The answer, for better or for worse, lies within us, both individually and collectively.
It has been said that extraordinary leadership is extraordinarily rare. If we expect our Orthodox hierarchs to initiate unity from above and pass it down to us, we will be waiting for our life-time, our children’s lifetime and our grandchildren’s lifetime. Orthodox unity will only be achieved when the laity, parish priests and monastics lovingly unify themselves and exhibit that untiy to the hierarchs. One thing those of us in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) have learned from our recent “times of trouble” is that only when the discontent among the laity, parish priests and monastics rose to a fever pitch - only then were the hierachs moved to action. Imagine what could be accomplished if that same level of energy was focused on achieving unity among those at the parish and monastic level!
We begin building unity with small steps, growing and expanding as our unity strengthens. This service tonight is a small step, but we cannot simply have a vesper service once a year and expect to achieve unity. We need a series of small steps, community wide. We need to establish Orthodox women’s groups, men’s and teen’s groups, which can come toghether to accomplish tangible goals within the community at large — as a unified Orthodox group.
Tangible goals could include food banks and other charitable endeavors. The list of targets is endless. Eventually we may consider opening clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, universities, etc. All of these would be identified as “Orthodox”, but not specifically Russian, Greek, or Syrian.
It begins with us. There are at least two thousand Orthodox in Southwest Florida — enough to make things happen if we want them to. However, the desire must be there. If we think that it will not work, or that it is too much trouble or too expensive, then it will go nowhere. Every good neighborhood, every unified neighborhood, requires those neighbors to sacrifice. Sacrifice of time, energy and resources but this is what god commands us to do — go out into all the world and preach the gospel, raising the cross of Christ for all mankind to see.
When Christ was on earth, he focused on two things — healing mankind spiritually and physically. That also is precisely what our goal as Orthodox Christians should be. Yet we cannot do it if we are divided, disorganized and dysfunctional. The Orthodox priests and other clergy here tonight want to help and support you, the laity, in any way that we can. We need to work together to meet that “gold-standard” of the Holy Trinity, many in persons, of one mind, of one essence and undivided. This will affirm the true “triumph of Orthodoxy”.
Now may he who is the author of all unity help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us by his grace, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Fr. Gleb McFatter pastors St. Demetrios Orthodox Church  in Naples, Florida.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Antiphon (XII) - troparion, idiomelon of the Hours (Tone 8)
Thus says the Lord to the Jews.
My people what have I done to you, or how have I offended you?
To your blind I gave sight, your lepers I cleansed,
the paralytic I raised from his bed.
My people what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me?
Instead of manna, gall, instead of water, vinegar:
Instead of loving me you nail me to the cross.
I can bear no more. I shall call the Gentiles mine.
They will glorify me with the Father and the Spirit,
and I shall give them life eternal.
Antiphon (XV) - Doxastikon of the Hours (Tone 6)
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree.
The King of the Angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bredegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.
Doxastikon of the Praises. (Tone 6)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
They have stripped me of my garments
And clothed me in a scarlet robe.
They have set upon my head a crown of thorns
And have given me a reed in my right hand.
That I might dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.
When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet
before the supper,
the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice,
and to the lawless judges he betrayed You the Righteous Judge.
Behold, oh lover of money, this man who because of money hanged himself.
Flee from the greedy soulwhich dared such things against the Master!
O Lord Who art good towards all men, glory to You!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Behold, the bridegoom comes in the middle of the night
and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching,
and unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Take care then, O soul of mine
be not overcome with sleep that you will not be given over unto death
and be excluded from the Kingdom.
But rise up and call out: Holy Holy, Holy are you O God,
by the Theotokos have mercy on us.
I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Saviour
and I have no wedding garment so that I may enter;
O giver of light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me.
Hymn of Kassiani the Hymnographer
The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Your divinity, O Lord, received the dignity of a myrrh-bearer, for with lamentation she brought fragrant myrrh to You before Your burial. And she cried: Woe is me, for love of sin and stings of lustful passion envelop me as the night, dark and moonless. As You cause the clouds to drop down the waters of the sea, accept the fountain of my tears. As by Your indescribable condescension You bowed down the heavens, so incline to the groaning of my heart. I shall kiss Your most pure feet and wipe them with the hair of my head, those same feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise when she hid herself in fear. Who can count the multitude of my sins? Who can measure the depths of Your judgments, O Saviour of my soul? Do not turn away from me, Your servant, for You have immeasurable mercy.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Six days before the Feast of Passover Jesus entered Bethany.
His disciples asked Him:
"Where should we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?"
He answered "When you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.
Follow him into the house which he enters
and tell the master of the house: The Teacher says to you:
Here I shall eat the Passover with my disciples."
By Your command, O loving Lord, You have raised Lazarus Your friend from death!
His flesh had been given over to corruption! He was in the power of death four days!
By this You have foretold Your Holy Ressurection for us!
Today, You mount an untamed colt as Your charriot, foretelling the conversion of the gentiles.
Your beloved Israel offers You a hymn of praise from the mouths of innocent children,
as they see You enter the holy city, O Christ, six days before the feast of Passover.
Prayer at the Blessing of Palms
Doxastikon of the aposticha from Holy Monday Matins (Tone 8)
The serpent found a second Eve in the Egyptian woman
and plotted the fall of Joseph through words of flattery.
But, leaving behind his garment, Joseph fled from sin.
He was naked but unashamed, like Adam before the fall.
Through his prayers, O Christ, have mercy on us.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
By raising Lazarus from the dead before thy passion,
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.
Like the children, with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee,
O Vanquisher of Death, Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.
Kontakion (tone 2)
Christ - the Joy, the Truth, and the light of all
the life of the world and the Resurrection -
has appeared in His goodness to those on earth.
He has become the image of our ressurection
granting divine forgiveness to all
Oh Lord, wishing to see the tomb of Lazarus -
for you were soon to dwell by your own choice within a tomb-
You asked, "Where have you laid him?"
And learning that which was already known to You,
You called to him whom You loved, "lazarus, come forth."
And he who was without breath obeyed the One who gave him breath,
the Savior of our souls.
Oh Lord, wishing to give Your disciples an assurance of your ressurectionfrom the dead.
You came to the tomb of Lazarus and called to him by name.
Then was hell despoiled, and it released the one that had been dead four days,
as he called upon You, "O blessed Lord, glory to You.
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.