December 30, 2009

Regarding Prayer Rules

It is very simple. Follow the prayer book. That belongs to the Church, not to individuals, who set themselves up as 'spiritual fathers'. Morning and evening prayers, and force yourselves to do them day in, day out.

If in a hurry in the morning, read them on the way to work or substitute with the Jesus Prayer, said secretly and without any display of prayer knots (which are to be kept in the pocket), not showily wound around wrists as decoration). Alternatively get up earlier!

Prayer rules are for monasteries. Follow the Church. It is simple, do not invent things that the Church has not appointed.

Fr Andrew Phillips

December 27, 2009

The Parable of the Supper

Sunday of the Holy Fore-Fathers

Luke 14:16-24

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

16-20. Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and called many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were called, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one accord began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

Because the man who sat at table with Him had said, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, the Lord teaches him at some length what it means to feast with God, and tells this parable. By a certain man the Lord means His Father, the Lover of man. Whenever Scripture alludes to God’s power to punish, He is called a panther, a leopard, or a bear [Hos. 13:7-8]. But whenever it alludes to God’s love for man, He is presented as a man, as is the case here. Since the parable treats of God’s extreme love for man and the divine economy of the Incarnation which He worked in us, making us sharers of the Flesh of His Son, the parable calls God a man and this divine economy a great supper. It is a supper because the Lord came in the last days, as it were at the evening of this age. And this supper is great because great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our salvation. [I Tim. 3:16] And he sent his servant at supper time. Who is this servant? The Son of God, Who assumed the form a servant and became man, and as a man is said to have been sent forth. Notice how He did not say "a servant," but instead, using the definite article, the servant [of his.] (1)

Christ is the One and only Servant Who in His human nature was perfectly obedient and pleasing to God. For Christ is pleasing to the Father not only as Son and God, but also as Man. He is the only Sinless One Who carried out all the counsels and commandments of the Father and fulfilled all righteousness, and in this sense is said to serve God the Father. He alone can be called the true Servant of God. He was sent at supper time, that is, at the appointed and proper time. For there was no other time more opportune for our salvation than the reign of Caesar Augustus, when iniquity had reached its peak and it was critical that it be cleansed. Just as physicians allow a festering and malignant boil to burst and release all its foul pus, and only then apply the medication, so too it was necessary that sin first display all its forms, and then the Great Physician applied His medicine. For this very reason the Lord waited for the devil to fill the full measure of iniquity, and then the Son of God took flesh and healed every form of iniquity by every aspect of His holy life. Therefore He was sent at that hour, that is, at that comely and opportune season of which David says, Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, 0 Mighty One, in Thy comeliness. (2) Certainly the sword here signifies the Word of God [Heb. 4:12], while the words upon Thy thigh indicate His Nativity in the flesh which was in comeliness, that is, when the time was right and seemly. He was sent to speak to those who had been called. Who are those that were called? Perhaps this refers to all men. For God has called all to the knowledge of Him, by means of the order and harmony of visible creation, and by means of the natural law. But those that were called are also, more specifically, the children of Israel, who were called through the law and the prophets. In the first place, then, the Lord was sent to the sheep of the house of Israel. [Mt. 15:24] The Lord was saying to all the Jews, Come, for all things are now ready, when He proclaimed the good tidings that the kingdom of heaven is at hand [Mt. 4:17], and among you [Lk. 17:21].

And they all with one accord began to make excuse, that is, as if at a signal. For all the leaders of the Jews refused to have Jesus as their King, and thus were found unworthy of the supper, one because of his love of wealth, and another because of his love of pleasure. The man who bought a piece of ground and the man who bought the five yoke of oxen signify those who love wealth, while the man who married a wife signifies those who love pleasure. Furthermore, the man who bought a piece of ground signifies the man who cannot accept the mystery of faith because he is governed by the wisdom of this world. The piece of ground represents the world and, in general, nature, and the man who must go and see his piece of ground is he who sees only nature, and cannot accept what is beyond nature. Therefore the Pharisee, for example, "sees his piece of ground," that is, he looks only at the laws of nature and cannot accept that a Virgin gave birth to God, because that is beyond nature. Because they are examining this "piece of ground," that is, nature, none of those who boast in external wisdom have recognized Jesus Who made nature new. The man who bought five yoke of oxen, and tested them, also represents a man who loves the material world. He has yoked the five senses of the soul to the five senses of the body and has made the soul into flesh. For this reason he is concerned only with the earth and does not desire to commune of the rational Supper, for as Wisdom says, How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough? [Eccles. (Wis. of Sirach) 38:25] He who stays behind because of a wife is a lover of pleasure who has devoted himself to the flesh, the mate of the soul. By cleaving to the flesh he cannot please God. You may also understand these things literally. We also fall away from God because of fields, because of yokes of oxen, because of marriages, when we become so attached to them that they consume our whole life and we are carried away even to the point of shedding blood over them. Then there is no divine thought or word that we can practice, or even comprehend.
21-24. So that servant came, and declared to his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were called shall taste of my supper.

The rulers of the Jews were rejected, and not one of them believed in Christ. And they even boasted of their malice, saying, Have any of the rulers believed on Him? [Jn. 7:48] Therefore these students of the law and scribes, as the prophet says, became foolish and fell from grace. But the simple from among the Jews are likened to the halt, the blind, and the maimed. It is the foolish of this world, the lowly, who were called. For the multitude marvelled at the words of grace which proceeded from the mouth of Jesus, and they rejoiced in His teaching. But after these had come to Him from the sons of Israel, that is, from the chosen whom God foreordained for His glory, such as Peter, and the sons of Zebedee, and the tens of thousands of those Jews who believed, then God’s goodness was poured out also upon the Gentiles. For those who are in the highways and hedges mean the Gentiles. The Israelites were within the city, inasmuch as they had received the lawgiving and inherited a civil and moral way of life. But the Gentiles were strangers to the Covenants, and the lawgiving of Christ was foreign to them. They were not fellow citizens of the saints, and did not travel the one true path, but instead followed many highways of lawlessness and coarseness, and were to be found in the hedges, that is, in sins. For sin is a great hedge and middle wall which separates us from God. By highways He signifies the Gentiles’ coarse way of life, which led them to so many false beliefs. By hedges He signifies their life of sins. The master does not command his servant simply to call all those in the highways and hedges, but to compel them to come in, although each man is free whether to believe or not. But He uses the word compel to teach us that it is a sign of God’s great power that the Gentiles, who were in such ignorance, came to believe. If the power of the preaching and the might of the word of truth had not been so great, how could men who were crazed with idol worship and practiced unspeakable things have been persuaded all at once to know the true God, and to perfect a spiritual life? He called this "compulsion" to show the miraculousness of their change. One might say that the pagan Greeks did not want to leave their idols and their rich feasting, yet they were compelled to flee from them by the truth of the Gospel. Also, the power of the miracles He worked was a strong force that induced them to be converted to faith in Christ. Every day this Supper is prepared and we are all invited to the kingdom which God prepared for man even before the foundation of the world. But we are not worthy of this Supper—some of us because of useless philosophical musings, others because of love of material things, and yet others because of pleasures of the flesh. But God in His love for man freely bestows this kingdom upon other sinners, upon the blind who have no spiritual vision to perceive the will of God; or if they can perceive it, upon those who are crippled and unable to take a step to do the will of God. And in short He grants the kingdom of heaven to all the poor who have fallen away from the glory above, and even to the maimed who cannot show forth in themselves a blameless life. To invite these sinners to the Supper, who are wandering astray in the streets and broad avenues of sin, the Father sends His Son Who became a Servant according to the flesh, and Who came not to call the righteous, but sinners. All these He feasts liberally, instead of the clever, the rich, and those who indulge the flesh. By the judgments known to Him alone He sends diseases and dangers upon many, causing them, even against their will, to renounce this life. Thus He leads them to His Supper, "compelling" them by means of the dangers. There are many examples of this. Understood in a simpler way, this parable also teaches us to show favor to the poor and the crippled rather than to the rich, just as He exhorted us to do a short while before. [Lk. 14:13-14] It is for this reason that He tells this parable, to confirm that we must give hospitality to the poor. And we may also learn from this that we should be so eager and generous in welcoming our brethren that, even when they are reluctant, we should compel them to partake of our good things. This is also good advice for teachers—teach what is necessary, even when the students are unwilling.

1. The definite article is present in the Greek text, ton doulon autou [the servant of him], but not in the English translation, his servant, because in English the possessive pronoun coming before the noun replaces any articles.
2. Ps. 44:3. The Greek word oraiotetos, rendered here as comeliness, derives from the adjective oraios, which in turn derives from the noun ora, which means "hour." This Greek word for "beautiful," oraios, has a broad range of meanings including, "coming at the right season [ora], seasonable, timely, ripe, at the bloom of youth, beautiful."

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas / Merry Hermanmass

Most Christians in America including New Calendar Orthodox are celebrating the birth of Christ today. However, throughout the the Orthodox world following the Julian Calendar we wait and fast 13 more days for the coming of Christ! Instead today we commemorate St. Herman of Alaska, America's first saint. So to those brethren following the New Calendar, Merry Christmas - Christ is Born! For us Old Calendar Christians, Happy St. Hermans day!

SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, the first "American" saint, was the first to bring Orthodoxy to this [North American] continent. He came to America as a young monk in 1794 as part of the original Russian Orthodox mission to Alaska. He lived there until his repose, and for more than four decades taught the natives by word and example. With his own severe asceticism a secret, he ministered to both physical and spiritual needs of the people. And his memory is preserved, fresh and personal, among their descendents to this day. Ironically, however, he is unknown to so many other Americans. By his prayers may we, also, truly receive the Gospel he brought and follow the way that he taught.

St. Herman on Love Of God

Once the Elder was invited on board a frigate that had come from St. Petersburg. The captain of the frigate was a man quite learned, highly educated; he had been sent to America by Imperial command to inspect all the colonies. With the captain were some 25 officers, likewise educated men. In this company there sat a desert-dwelling monk of small stature, in an old garment, who by his wise conversation brought all his listeners to such a state that they did not know how to answer him. The captain himself related: "We were speechless fools before him!"

Father Herman gave them all one common question: "What do you, gentlemen, love above all, and what would each of you wish for his happiness?" Diverse answers followed. One desired wealth, one glory, one a beautiful wife, one a fine ship which he should command, and so on in this fashion. "Is it not true," said Father Herman at this, "that all your various desires can be reduced to one - that each of you desires that which, in his understanding, he considers best and most worthy of love?" "Yes, it is so," they all replied. "Well, then, tell me," he continued, "can there be anything better, higher above everything, more surpassing everything and in general more worthy of love, than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who created us, perfectly adorned us, gave life to all, supports all, nourishes and loves all, who Himself is love and more excellent than all men? Should not a person then love God high above all and desire and seek Him more than all else?" All began to say: "Well, yes! That is understood! That speaks for itself!"

"And do you love God?" the Elder then asked. All replied: "Of course, we love God. How can one not love God?" "And I, sinful one, for more than forty years have been striving to love God, and cannot say that I perfectly love Him," answered Father Herman; then he began to show how a person should love God. "If we love someone," he said, "we always think of him, strive to please him, day and night our heart is occupied with this subject. Is it thus that you, gentlemen, love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always think of Him, do you always pray to Him, and fulfill His holy commandments?" It had to be acknowledged that they did not! "For our good, for our happiness," concluded the Elder, "at least let us make a promise to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this very moment we shall strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will!" Behold what an intelligent, superb conversation Father Herman conducted in society; without doubt this conversation must have imprinted itself on the hearts of his listeners for their whole life!

(Yanovsky, in Life of Monk Herman of Valaam, 1868)

December 22, 2009

The Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos

On December 22nd, (the 9th, old style), the Church commemorates the conception of the Most-holy Theotokos by Saint Anna.

In the land of Galilee, in the city of Nazareth, there lived the righteous couple Joachim and Anna, who were descendants of kings and high priests. By their pious life this couple so pleased God, that He chose them to become the parents of the Holy Virgin Who had been destined to become the Mother of God. But just as the Lord Himself was to become incarnate from a Most-holy Mother, so the Mother of God was to come from holy and pure parents.

In accordance with God’s providence, the venerable Joachim and Anna remained childless until a very old age, so that in the conception and birth of their Daughter from barren and extremely aged parents the power of God’s grace would be manifested. The righteous Joachim and Anna wept and sorrowed for a long time over their childlessness, and were subjected to mockery and scorn from those around them, but they never lost hope in God’s mercy, for which their sorrow finally turned into joy, and their dishonor - into great honor and worthiness. Once, when Saint Anna in great sorrow prayed to God in her garden, the Lord sent her an Angel who fore-told her of the forthcoming conception and birth of a Maiden, which soon came to pass.

Thus was conceived and born the holy Virgin Mary in accordance with God’s pledge, albeit through a physical union, so that the Lord in His incarnation could fully draw upon human essence from His Holy Mother. In the conception and birth of the Holy Virgin it was not only Her righteous parents who received a pledge of salvation, but also the entire world.

December 20, 2009

The Healing of the Ten Lepers

Twenty-ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 17:12-19

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

11-19. And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found any that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

From this one may learn that nothing prevents a man from living in a manner pleasing to God, not even if he belongs to a despised race, if only he has a good will and disposition. For behold, ten lepers met Jesus as He was about to enter a certain city. They met Him outside the city, for those who were considered unclean were not permitted to go into the city. They stood afar off, as if ashamed of their supposed uncleanness, and did not dare to draw near, thinking that Jesus abhorred them as did the others. They lifted up their voices and made supplication. By physical location they were standing afar off, but in their supplication they were near. For the Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him in truth. [Ps. 144:19] And they did not make supplication to Him as to a mere man, but as to One greater than a man. For they called Him Master, meaning Lord, Protector, and Guardian, which is not far from thinking of Him as God. The Lord instructs them to show themselves to the priests. Initially the priests would examine men such as these to determine whether they were lepers or not. For there were certain signs by which the priests could recognize incurable leprosy. But in addition to this, if it should happen that someone who had been suffering from leprosy was healed, the priests would again examine him to verify the cure, in which event the gift commanded by the law would be offered. [Lev. 14] In this case, since these men were already confirmed lepers, why should they show themselves to the priests, unless indeed they were about to be cleansed? To command them to go the priests indicated nothing less than that they would be healed. This is why the Evangelist says that as they went, they were cleansed. Of the ten lepers, the nine who were Israelites showed themselves to be ungrateful, while it was the Samaritan, an accursed foreigner, as we said earlier, who returned to voice his gratitude. The Samaritans were Assyrians; therefore, let no Gentile despair, and let no one descended from holy forebears boast. This miracle also signifies the common salvation that came to the whole human race. For the ten lepers represent all of human nature—it was leprous with wickedness, carrying about with it the ugliness of sin, passing its life outside the heavenly city on account of its uncleanness, and standing afar off from God. But this very distance from God is itself a supplication. For when the Lover of mankind, Who wills that all should be saved and receive good things, sees someone who is not sharing in His goodness, then He is most quick to show mercy and to heal those who are so miserably afflicted. But He also healed the whole leprous nature of man, when, for every mans sake, He took flesh and tasted of death. Although the Jews had been cleansed of the uncleanness of their leprous sin, as far as it was the Lords part to do, they showed themselves ungrateful and did not return from the path of their vain foolishness to give glory to God Who saved them, that is, to believe in Him Who is God and Who endured the extremes of suffering. For this is the glory of God: His Flesh and His Cross. These Jews, then, did not confess the incarnate and crucified Lord of glory. But the foreign and accursed people of the Gentiles recognized the One Who makes clean, and they glorified Him by believing in Him. They believed that God loves man so much and is so powerful that He accepted the very depth of dishonor for our sake—this is His love of man—and having accepted it, He suffered no harm to His own nature—this is His power.

December 18, 2009

Pilgrimage To Dzhvari

My wife and I recently read this book a couple of months ago. It is a terrific book for Orthodox Spirituality that is not too theological. In fact, this book is fiction but also loosly related to the author's life. Written by Valeria Alfeyeva mother of the Russian Orthodox Church's Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev. While this book is wrritten for the an audenice of women it also well suited for men to enjoy.

Editorial Review - From Publishers Weekly:
In this loosely autobiographical novel translated from the Russian, Alfeyeva describes her search for spiritual serenity and a deeper understanding of her Eastern Orthodox faith through visits to two Georgian monasteries. Shortly after the death of her husband, the narrator, a journalist like Alfeyeva, and her teenage son Mitya, arrange an unusual visit to a well-known monastery--unusual because women are traditionally forbidden entry. There, the narrator is urged to abandon her "intellectual" appreciation of Christianity for a more visceral faith while Mitya is encouraged in his desire to become a priest. Six years later, Mitya becomes a monk rather than the priest his mother had hoped and in a visit to another Georgian monastery, the narrator grapples both with her disappointment over his decision and with broader problems of Soviet mores and modern moral laxity. The strength of this impressive work comes not only from the depiction of the monks' human weaknesses and constant spiritual self-testing, but resides also in Alfeyeva's thoughtful explanation of the Orthodox faith and in her lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of the Georgian countryside.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Pilgrimage To Dzhvari: A Woman's Journey of Spiritual Awakening

December 17, 2009

ROCOR - Better and Different?

I do not like to blog Personal opinions or experiences, I tend to just report about orthodox news, articles, and books with a traditional outlook. However, recently I was confronted by an Orthodox Priest with the question of why I am a member of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russian (ROCOR) instead of his closer Orthodox parish of another jurisdiction. The best I could answer at the time was that I felt called to membership in ROCOR and could identify myself better with the Russian traditions and left it at that in order to avoid any polemic discussion. Within this conversation it was implied that ROCOR thought of itself as Better and Different than other Orthodox jurisdictions in America. The truth is Better and Different is a matter of opinion. I do not see ROCOR as necessarily better, as this would be a unorthodox virtue, as we are called to meekness and to think of ourselves as the chief of sinners. Nor is ROCOR different in comparison to the Orthodox faith from centuries ago. ROCOR is only different in comparison to other jurisdiction in America. Most might think of ROCOR as an ultra conservative in tolerate jurisdiction for its adherence to tradition and the old calendar, but that would be confusing conservatism with traditionalism.

ROCOR is actually very moderate and teaches a simple Orthodox faith and tradition. For this ROCOR stood apart from other Orthodox groups on two fronts. First is the New Calendar ecumenists and modernists that have gone against the tradition of the Church by introducing a new ecclesiastical Calender outside of a decision of an Ecumenical Council and who continue to renovate and abbreviate liturgical services. On the other front ROCOR battles Old Calendar super correctiveness that "preached asceticism without love, the application of akrivia (the strict and literal interpretation of the canons) and never ikonomia (pastoral dispensations).1"

Despite this ROCOR has never officially expressed views of these Churches being without grace or outside of the Church. Thus, ROCOR is neither Better or Different in fact it has remained the same despite so many Better and Different views that have encamped round about Her.

1. Archpriest Andrew Phillips

December 12, 2009

Healing of the Woman with a Spirit of Infirmity

Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 13:10-17
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

10-17. And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over, and could in no wise straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead it away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

The woman suffered from this affliction as a result of demonic assault, as the Lord Himself says, This woman … whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years. Perhaps God had departed from her on account of certain sins, and as a result Satan was punishing her. For Satan is in part the cause of all the hardships which afflict our bodies, when God on high permits him. From the very beginning it was Satan who brought about our fall by which we lost the incorruptibility in which we had been created; it was Satan who caused us to be bound to diseased bodies prone to suffering, symbolized by the garments of dead skins in which Adam and Eve were wrapped [Gen. 3:22]. But now the Lord, with the majestic voice of the Godhead, full of power, drives out the infirmity of this woman. He places His hands on her, so that we might learn that His holy flesh imparted both the power and the energy of the Logos. For His flesh was His own, and not that of some other human person alongside Him, separate from Him in hypostasis, as the impious Nestorius thinks. (1) So great is the goodness of the Lord, Who in this manner took mercy on His own creation. But Satan, who had bound the woman in the first place, was vexed at her deliverance because he desired her continued affliction, and so he bound the ruler of the synagogue with spite, and through the mouth of this man, Satan reviled the miracle. This is how he always attacks the good. Therefore the Lord uses the apt example of irrational animals to rebuke the man who was indignant that a healing had taken place on the Sabbath. And thus not only this man, but all the other adversaries of Jesus as well, were put to shame by Christ’s words. For it was insane to hinder the healing of a man on the Sabbath using as a pretext the commandment that the Sabbath be a day of rest. So it was, that even while the people were rejoicing at the Lord’s deeds, His adversaries were put to shame by His words. For these adversaries, instead of joining in the jubilation which followed His work of healing, burned with rage that He had healed at all. But the multitude, because they derived benefit from His signs, rejoiced and took pleasure in this healing. You must also understand these miracles to refer to the inner man. The soul is bent over in infirmity whenever it inclines to earthly thoughts alone and imagines nothing that is heavenly and divine. It can truly be said that such a soul has been infirm for eighteen years. For when a man is feeble in keeping the commandments of the divine law, which are ten in number, and is weak in his hope of the eighth age, the age to come, it can be said that he has been bent over for ten and eight years. (2) Is not that man indeed bent over who is attached to the earth, and who always sins in disregard of the commandments, and who does not look for the age to come? But the Lord heals such a soul on the Sabbath in the assembly of the synagogue. For when a man assembles together within himself thoughts of confession (Judah means "confession") and keeps the Sabbath, that is, he rests from doing evil, then Jesus heals him, not only by word when He says to him, Thou art loosed from thine infirmity, but also by deed. For when He has placed His hands on us, He requires that we accept the energy from His divine hands to do in collaboration with Him the works of virtue. We must not be satisfied to receive only that healing which comes by word and by instruction.


1. The heretic Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431 A,D., taught that the co-unoriginate Logos was not conceived and did not take flesh in the Virgins womb, but instead was united to Christ the man at some later time. This implied that the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, were not united in one hypostasis, that is, in one person, but in two, and therefore were not truly united. If this were so, Christ would not have accomplished the salvation of the human race. As a result Nestorius called the Virgin Mary Christokos, that is, the Birthgiver of Christ, but refused to call her the Theotokos, the Birthgiver of God. This false teaching was condemned as heresy at the Third Ecumenical Council held in Ephesus in the year 431, and from that time Nestorius and all who follow his teaching have been outside the Church.

2. The Greek text of the Gospel expresses the number of years in this fashion: ete deka kai okto, "ten and eight years."

December 11, 2009

Orthodox Christians in the Workplace

by Priest David Moser
Originally Printed in Orthodox America

As Orthodox Christians we are called to be constantly aware of God's presence and to be constantly striving to work out our salvation. The most visible implementation of that striving is the monastic life, where worldly cares and concerns are abandoned or at least completely submitted to the activities of the spiritual life. But not all of us are called to monastic life. Most of us are called to marriage and family life, and others to a life of celibacy in the world. Those of us who live in the world, with rare exceptions, find ourselves with the necessity to work in some occupation or profession so that we can make a living. Most employers are not concerned with their employee's spiritual lives and the workplace environment is not a necessarily spiritual one. The focus is not on spiritual tasks but on production and efficiency. Our co-workers are seldom Orthodox Christians, and in many cases they are not Christians of any confession. The conversations tend to be filled with the concerns of the workplace and of the world. How then do we Orthodox Christians fulfill our calling to work out our salvation on one hand and to function as a part of the work force?

The obvious answer to this question is to be constantly mindful and aware of our Orthodox Christian calling in all circumstances. There are some techniques to facilitate this in the workplace. One is to carry a small icon, just as you would carry a photo of your children, and look at it frequently to recall your mind to the heavenly kingdom. A small icon can be made into a medal worn around the neck much as one wears a baptismal cross. Another technique is to create a routine of regular, short, frequent prayers; for example, set a watch beeper to signal the hour, and at each hour pause a few seconds to recite a particular prayer. The Jesus Prayer is good for this. Likewise, one can memorize a short psalm or a prayer from the prayer book. One suggestion from the prayer book is to use the prayer of St John Chrysostom for the twenty-four hours of the day, which can be found in the evening prayers of the Jordanville Prayer Book. Regular morning and evening prayers, as well as daily reading from the Gospel and from spiritual writings, also serve to center the mind and heart on the Kingdom of God. Taking a portion, or even all, of the lunch hour to feed the soul as well as the body by prayer or spiritual reading provides a regular break in the middle of the day to draw the mind back to its true place. And there are many other things we can do to create a constant reminder of our Christian calling.

Despite our best efforts, however, we often face conflicts and situations where we find that the life of the Church is not compatible with the life of the workplace. There are practical conflicts; there are temptations and the necessity of moral behavior; and there are ethical conflicts. Each can occur on its own or in concert with other related difficulties.

Some of the practical conflicts have to do with the daily cycles of Church life: such things as fasting, prayer, and holy days. When we strive to keep the fast, it suddenly seems as though there is a cascade of temptations to break the fast. Office lunches, snacks and munchies, even the rushed lunch necessitating "fast food," all seem to have some element of meat or dairy products. When we don't partake of the non-fasting foods, we invite questioning looks and there is the need to explain. It seems nearly impossible to make one's co-workers understand without somehow giving the impression of judging or condemning. So the initial conflict is to resist temptation, however, the underlying conflict is how to explain our behavior.

Those who work at desks, in offices or at a fixed workstation, often have the opportunity to decorate their workspace with some personal items. Pictures of family, pets, or friends are common as are calendars, posters or other decorative pictures. It seems only natural that we as Orthodox Christians place icons, in prominent places. However, there is the question of what others will think, or whether we might inadvertently offend someone else's beliefs. We can easily explain pictures of friends and family, but it is always the icon that attracts attention and questions.

Most employers allow a certain number of holidays on which the business will be closed, such as Labor Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, (Western) Christmas, etc. Rarely do these work holidays coincide with Orthodox holy days such as Holy Week and Pascha, Nativity (on the Church calendar), Theophany, Transfiguration, Dormition, etc. So we are faced with the conflict of whether to attend the Divine services or go to work. If we attend the Divine services, we have to forfeit some pay, arrive late, use vacation, or pay some other price. In some jobs it is increasingly common for there to be the expectation to work "non traditional" schedules, which frequently include weekends. This can be quite a conflict for the pious Orthodox Christian who makes a priority of attendance at Divine Services.

A final practical concern is simply that of conversation and interaction with our coworkers, clients and customers. An obvious temptation here is to gossip. The "grapevine" in any office is the unofficial carrier of information. If we don't listen in on the grapevine, we may miss important information. And yet, the vast majority of the information on the grapevine is gossip, personal information, speculation, and criticism of others. Where do we draw the line? We also often find ourselves involved in discussions of current events, television programs, sports, plays, movies and other entertainments. While these discussions are often innocuous, they sometimes involve topics which are opposed to our Faith. Overall one should keep in mind the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things(Phil. 4:8).

Conversations with coworkers also may involve religion. Heterodox Christians may well assume that they share with us a belief system with only minor differences. We are faced with having to decide whether to let the false assumption rest, or whether to confront the issue, possibly having the differences in belief become an impediment to your working relationship. If you are able to freely discuss differences in beliefs, just how far is it appropriate to go on "work time." As we know, religious discussions can become quite involved, taking up a lot of time and energy and distracting us from the task at hand.

In order to address these practical concerns, we have to look at our priorities. Is the keeping of the fast important enough to go without a meal (if there is nothing appropriate to eat)? It is increasingly common for even worldly people to adopt a vegetarian - even vegan - diet for any number of reasons. They have no trouble acting according to their beliefs. How is it that we Orthodox Christians, who fast for our spiritual health, have such difficulty with our dietary restrictions? Some of us actually welcome such conflicts as giving us an excuse to "cheat" on the fast in order not to "offend" someone else or "make a show" of our fasting. It has been my experience that once you begin keeping the fast among your co-workers, there is really very little fuss that occurs. Some of my co-workers actually go out of their way to make sure that at company lunches there is some kind of fasting food that I can eat when it is, as I say, a "vegan day." (While most people go along with such idiosyncrasies, most do not understand, nor do they really care to, why we fast. However, I have found that the ones who best understand are not Christians but those who are involved in religions that actively address the link between body and soul, i.e., "new age" pagans.)

On feast days, it is not always possible to attend Divine services due to work. However, with a little planning and attention to the calendar, often a vacation day or some "flex time" can be used to celebrate the feast. Many parishes are open to early morning services so that parishioners can attend the liturgy, receive the Mysteries, and still make it to the office on time. (If it seems daunting to get up an hour or so earlier in order to get to Liturgy, just remember that the priest has to get there even earlier, to prepare the temple and to begin the Proskomedia!) Sometimes, though, it is just not possible to get to the Divine Liturgy on the day of a feast. It is important to recall that the Vigil of the feast, served the evening before, is also part of the celebration. In fact, many of the special events of a feast take place at the vigil; for example, the veneration of the cross on the Feast of the Elevation and on the Sunday of the Cross in Great Lent. On a feast day at work, be sure to celebrate the feast as best you can. Have a festive lunch or bring a special snack or treat to share with co-workers. If you can play tapes or CD's, find the music for the feast and put it on. Make the feast a special day for yourself and those around you.

The issue of working on Saturdays and Sundays is more complex. One solution is just to refuse any position which requires Sunday hours. This is not always realistic; an alternative might be to limit weekend hours to once a month or some other schedule that permits frequent attendance at Divine Services. Another alternative is to schedule hours on weekends around the times when there are services, e.g., work days on Saturday and evenings on Sunday. Admittedly, none of these solutions is optimal and they involve some measure of compromise; ultimately, each person, in conjunction with his spiritual father, must make the decision of what is acceptable in his situation. Work is important as the source of our support, but far more important are meaning and identity for Orthodox Christians come from God.

The second major area of conflict for Orthodox Christians in the workplace involves moral and ethical issues. These are issues of behavior and attitude and are much more difficult to deal with because they involve our more deeply seated passions. In the workplace we are often confronted with "normal" behavior that is in fact immoral. I am not referring here to sexual improprieties. Actually, the truly tempting and sometimes almost unnoticed immoral behavior seems much more innocent. One of the most prevalent of these "normal" temptations is lying. In the workplace we frequently find ourselves in positions where it is expected to tell less than the truth, or to embellish the truth. Our statements may still be rooted in the truth, but they are "edited" for the situation. There are times, for example, when an office worker is asked to cover up the mistakes of a superior or to present a false front to a customer. Sometimes this involves an outright fabrication; at other times it is simply distortion, hiding flaws or fallacies. An even more "innocent" situation is the manipulation of numbers and statistics. Many companies rely on productivity statistics to market themselves, and they use the numbers to present a certain picture. The numbers may be real, and the facts may be there, but their presentation is arranged to produce a certain conclusion, whether or not that conclusion is valid. An employee may be asked to present this data as truth, knowing full well that the presentation implies conclusions that cannot be supported by the real situation. Is this lying? Is this a sin? Another place where lying is "expected" is in self-reporting of work. In a situation where a worker is expected to track his activity, it is easy to inflate numbers. Padding one's report, one's time card, the billing sheet, is a common, accepted, and even expected practice. Some people routinely bill for "thinking time" or for "research" that was only an excuse to nap. This kind of sanctioned dishonesty is so rampant that, in many cases, the honest employee appears to be less productive than his less honest coworkers. Some billing formulae even build in the cheating factor. If you bill by the "task" and the minimum billable time segment is 15 minutes then if you do three five-minute tasks, the only way to track them is to bill for forty-five minutes, when in fact you have worked all of fifteen minutes. Is this lying? Is this a sin?

Related to lying is the necessity of "blowing your own horn" in order to advance your career and get ahead. No one else will "market" you to the powers that be, and so you have to do it yourself. You are expected to boast of your accomplishments. The entire atmosphere of the workplace in which this is an expectation can become one of pride and self-aggrandizement. The worker who boasts the loudest gets promoted, gets the raise, or, in a poorer economy, gets retained. And yet as Christians we are expected to be humble, to count ourselves as nothing, to boast not in our own accomplishments and qualifications, but in Christ. Where is the middle ground? How can a Christian survive and prosper in the working world and yet avoid this atmosphere of pride?

Another moral conflict that many of us face in the workplace is theft - not blatant embezzlement or stealing "big ticket" items but the taking of small things: office supplies, copying, phone use, etc. We spend so much time at the workplace that often the borders between that which belongs to me and that which belongs to the company, or between my personal business and company business, can become blurred. Often the items involved are very small and inexpensive - almost worthless - and it is easy to rationalize that what we are doing is not really theft. Pens, pencils, paper clips, paper, etc., are all common items that seem to find their way out of the office - almost without noticing. Sometimes even more permanent items - staplers, hole punches, tape dispensers and other small tools - migrate home for some project and never seem to find their way back to the office.

In addition to the theft of "things," there is also the matter of how we use the resources to which the workplace may provide access: the phone system, computer/internet access, copy and fax machines, and so on. These resources are often misused for personal gain. These "invisible" thefts are perhaps even more prevalent and more tolerated than the theft of supplies.

In addition to the resources themselves, there is the issue of time, for which the employer is paying, being used to take care of such personal business. The theft of time accompanies the theft of supplies and the theft of resources, all of which are means by which we cheat our employer. The Christian response to all these moral conflicts involves self-denial and adherence to moral standards not of the world. We must measure our behavior by the commandments, and, in the cases noted above, that means specifically the 8th and 9th commandments. Honesty - even when dishonesty is encouraged - is necessary for the Christian, while dishonesty - including "little white lies" or "mostly true" reports, which may appear necessary for advancement in the workplace and material gain - is forbidden. In order to maintain this level of honesty, it is imperative that one's own goals be placed within the eternal rather than the worldly kingdom. In this world, we are all familiar with the concepts of delayed gratification and of accepting some momentary difficulty or struggle for the attainment of a greater gain in the long run. The same applies to eternity. We must be willing to accept the loss of worldly gain, of worldly reputation, etc, in order to obtain the riches of the kingdom of heaven. What is a transitory loss in this world next to the loss in eternity of one's soul?

The same principle applies to the "necessity" of "blowing your own horn." In order to keep things in perspective, one must keep in mind the ultimate necessity of saving one's soul. Therefore, when applying for a new position or competing for a promotion or raise, one must be honesty about oneself. List your real accomplishments and qualifications for the position at hand, but do not exaggerate or over-emphasize your capabilities. As you do these things, take care to avoid the seed of pride taking root as you look at all you have done. Make this a matter of prayer, recognizing that the talents, skills, and opportunities that you have had in order to achieve what you have done come not from you but from God, and that were it not for His mercy and His grace, you would have none of these things. Offer praise and thanksgiving to God constantly as you list your accomplishments, in your heart at least, turning all of your praise to Him and keeping none for yourself. This is a difficult exercise; however, it is necessary if one wishes to effectively combat pride.

As for access to resources in the workplace, keep close track of what is yours and what is not and do not allow even a small breach of that boundary. Often employers will have some type of allowance or policy, permitting the use of office resources for personal business. Whatever these policies are, adhere to them strictly. If there is a charge for photocopying, keep track of what you copy and make sure that the charge is paid. If there are guidelines or limits on personal phone calls, be certain that you abide by them. If you are allowed to use resources for personal business, make sure it is on your own time rather than that of the company. If you have questions about the propriety of any action, ask for clearance from the supervisor or whoever is in authority in that particular area.

One guideline is your own conscience - and if you feel as though you must "hide" an action or worry about being "found out," if there is secrecy involved, then it is something which should be avoided. This may sound "picky," but by maintaining this boundary strictly and not allowing yourself to cross it even to a small degree, you will protect yourself from greater temptations and falls.

Closely related to moral issues are ethical conflicts that arise in the workplace. These have to do with our attitudes and beliefs and how we either remain faithful to them or compromise them. One conflict which often appears is the conflict between Christian morals, values and standards and a less than upstanding business practice. Sometimes there are practices in a business which are contrary to Christian behavior, and the conflict arises as to whether to comply with the common practice or whether to stand upon principle and confront those who are backing the questionable practice. For those in a professional practice or in management positions there is another conflict of "dual relationships." Do we use our professional or supervisory relationships and influence with clients to subtly "coerce" them to be interested in Orthodoxy? In any work environment, there is informal interaction with coworkers in which almost every topic is discussed. Is it appropriate to "push" your own religion in these discussions, and how do you differentiate between "coercion" and a simple expression of your beliefs? In the course of such innocuous discussions, assumptions will be made that "we all believe in the same God" and that "we are all Christians, right?" The quandary is whether or not to let such an assumption remain, especially if it is unspoken. These are all questions of attitudes and principles which can lead to conflict.

In addition to the above mentioned conflicts there is another which arises in a work environment where there is a strong heterodox religious presence - for example, in a business which is Christian in some fashioned makes a point of employing only Christians or those who comply with certain Christian beliefs or standards of behavior. Or perhaps within a purely secular business there is a group of strongly committed Christians of mixed backgrounds, who find some sort of camaraderie in their shared basis of belief and who then gather either formally or informally for some kind of religious meeting. How do Orthodox Christians relate to such a group. Is it possible to be a part of such a group without participating in common prayer? How should our personal prayer life relate to our workplace, our customers, our coworkers, our boss? Can we ignore the differences in belief in order to be a part of such a group of people with whom we, without question, share so much?

In these conflicts, many of the principles already discussed about moral behavior apply. It is important to retain an eternal perspective. We must recall that we are not competing here for earthly rewards and earthly consolations, but for those of the Kingdom of Heaven. All that we have comes not from ourselves but from God, and therefore His standards and actions must always be a part of our reactions. The principle which applies to witnessing and dual relationships is that of being who we are, Orthodox Christians. We do not need to persuade anyone to follow Christ or to enter the Church. Our task is to present the option of the Church and to open the door for others. Let God do the persuasion. Therefore, do not be shy about your beliefs, "Let your light so shine among men..." Your entire life should be a sufficient witness. Answer questions and provide information and explanations when asked. The Holy Spirit is the One to affect the soul, the One who persuades and draws the soul to Himself. We do not need to "drive" others before us into the Church; we need only to hold open the gate and allow the Holy Spirit to draw people in. Now this puts the burden on each of us to be a good source of light by our behavior and our consistent Orthodox Christian life, presenting a clear and open path to the Church, and not, by our behavior and our lives, closing the gate and driving people away. This is a reflection on the oft quoted saying of Saint Seraphim of Sarov: "Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved." (Actually, "save yourself" is more accurately rendered "acquire the Spirit of Peace.")

As for prayer, we should make a practice of praying for our customers, our co-workers, our bosses. This is one area where we can most intimately and effectively affect others. We don't always know what the needs of others are, but we can simply pray, "Lord have mercy on N.(name)," and let God act upon them according to His mercy and His awareness of the particular needs of each soul for its salvation. It is, however, best to refrain from participating in heterodox prayer meetings or Bible studies. Our faith is both expressed and shaped by our prayers. By joining in the prayers of heterodox Christians we unwittingly incorporate their false beliefs into our own prayer and life. Because this action is on the non-verbal level of direct action on the soul, only one who is well versed in the spiritual life such that he can clearly discern, at the very least, the depths and condition of his own heart has a chance of catching this undue influence on the soul. Bible studies are the same, for they presume that we all have the same basic belief and the right to interpret the Sacred Scripture as we personally wish. For those who have not had the experience, it is important to know that when one begins to talk about Holy Tradition, the lives of saints, the writings of the fathers, liturgical practice, etc., in relation to the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, most heterodox will either ignore it or actively resist it. The better course is to live your life according to the teaching of the Church as best you can and let them "read" the true interpretation of Scripture in the living book of your life.

Living a Christian life in the workplace is simply a microcosm of living a Christian life in the world at large. The temptations and conflicts are the same. Our faith contains everything we need to live as Christians in the workplace and in the world. We must center our minds and hearts on the things of Heaven and let our actions be governed, not by the considerations of the world but by the desire to gain that which is eternal. If we concentrate on working out our own salvation, on acquiring the Holy Spirit, then we will become lights shining in the darkness, through whom the Holy Spirit will draw all men to Himself.

December 07, 2009

American Christmas and Orthodox Nativity

On American Christmas, some of you more, some of you to a lesser extent, celebrate, have parties, give presents to each other, etc. Alas, American Christmas is acquiring a more and more pagan character: so much time is wasted on shopping, often unnecessarily, for clothing, for everything exterior, while inner spiritual concerns remain almost in oblivion.

The Nativity of the God-Child Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, is hardly given any thought whatsoever. The kind, gentle image of Christ is supplanted by that of jolly old Santa Claus—a distressing, blasphemous caricature of one of God's greatest saints—Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra, whom the Roman Catholics contrived to exclude from their order of saints some years ago.

The psychology of the masses is infectious. We, the zealots of religious piety, understand this and, in a fatherly way, for the sake of love, look askance, although not without sadness, at this chaotic tribute in the country which gave shelter to our flock. At the same time, we sincerely ask all members of our Russian Church Abroad: having given notice to the secular world, when the embers of the American festival have died, give some attention to your inner self—prepare yourself spiritually, in the Orthodox way, for our Orthodox Feast of the Nativity of Christ. First of all, for at least the remainder of Lent—fast. After all, there are not many fast days left. Whoever is able, prepare yourselves with fasting. On the holy eve of the feast, make certain that you come to church: the Nativity services are so beautiful! On the day of Nativity, try your best to get leave from work or school, even if you must lose a day's wages. Give them to God!

Keep holy, sanctify in a special way, this whole day of the Great Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Do not do anything thoughtless on the Nativity. It is traditional on this day to visit the clergy, family or friends, to somehow reinforce the joy of the Festival. It is not sinful on this day to have guests or go out, within reason of course, so as not to lose the image of God, which we carry. It is certainly blessed for families and those of means [who have more of this world's goods] to invite people who are alone to their Nativity dinner, especially those in poverty, to warm them with kindness and attention. How good this is and pleasing to God!

On this great day we can and must celebrate, especially spiritually. Too often this celebration is substituted with uncontrolled drunken par ties. It is not a crime to be merry and celebrate a Festival, but not wildly. Examine the Holy Gospels. There the word joy appears nearly twenty times, but the word gladness appears only once, and even then in conjunction with the word joy. I will introduce the text: But the'angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; anid many shall rejoice at his birth (Luke I, 13-14).

On the Feast day of the Nativity it has become customary, seemingly from the Three Wise Men, to give each other gifts, especially the poor and needv. This is a good and holy custom! In America, we may divide it into two parts: on American Christmas give gifts to family and friends, and on our Nativity to do good deeds; that is, send care packages to needy people, churches and charitable organizations.

In this way, we can pay tribute to the customary American Christmas as well as to our Great Orthodox Feast of the Nativity of Christ. God grant that this advice would find its way to your hearts!

As pastors, we understand how, when all around people are celebrating, it is difficult not to be caught up in the festivities. However, blessed are those who maintain their fasting and prayer throughout the whole period of the Nativity Fast, leaving aside all celebration until our Orthodox Nativity.

by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago († 1987)
Translated from Russian by Alexander Morin.

December 03, 2009

Holy Theotokos shows us the Way

The feast of the entry of the Holy Theotokos into the temple represents a wondrous model of our entry into the Heavenly Kingdom. The church itself symbolizes the Kingdom of God on earth. In church we see the altar table, which is like a throne on which the Lord God sits, just as He does on His heavenly throne. In church, through the partaking of Holy Communion, we become united with the Lord Himself. In church, as in heaven, we are surrounded by hosts of angels and saints. In church, by means of the divine services we glorify God, as do the angels and the saints in heaven.

When the righteous Joachim and Anna brought the Holy Virgin to the temple, they offered to the Lord a gift that was supremely pure. So should we, in order to enter the Heavenly Realm, be absolutely pure, because the Lord Himself said that nothing unclean can enter the Kingdom of God. But we can cleanse ourselves of our sins and all manner of spiritual impurity only through the sacrament of penitence, through confession and communion.

As the righteous parents of the Holy Virgin prepared to take Her to the temple, they first dressed Her in royal garments, adorned Her, and provided Her with an escort of maidens carrying lighted candles. So should we, in order to enter the Heavenly Realm, first clothe our souls in the garment of obedience to the Lord’s commandments, adorn our souls with virtues, and accompany them with the lighted candles of prayer and charity.

Upon arriving at the temple, the 3-year-old Infant Mary had to make an effort to ascend 15 high steps in order to enter the temple. So should we, in order to enter the Heavenly Realm, make the effort to ascend the ladder of virtues, to labor at fasting and prayer. The Holy Virgin went up the steps by Herself, without any help from others, but with the miraculous help of God. So should we, in our attempt to attain the Heavenly Realm, make the effort ourselves, but constantly asking God for help along the way.

Such is the lesson we receive from this wondrous holiday! By entering the temple, the Holy Mother of God clearly shows us the Way, and through the earthly temple lies the way into the heavenly temple, the Kingdom of God. Let us follow the Holy Theotokos into the temple, into the church. Now is the time of the Nativity fast, a time for preparing oneself to greet the Saviour on earth, a time for purifying oneself through fasting, prayer, and repentance, a time for increased church attendance. Let us not pass by this important period of time, for beginning with this holiday and throughout the entire Nativity fast we will hear in church the joyous tidings of our forthcoming salvation, we will hear the joyous appeal: “Christ is born – glorify Him!”

Patriarch Kirill wants women-believers to be active, but warns against "unwise mannishness"

Moscow, December 3, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes a woman should have an active position in society, but remember about her top-priority duties of wife and mother.

"Active participation (of women - IF) in all spheres of social life is needed, it will make the society hear voice of believers. At the same time, woman's role as wife and mother, keeper of the house, in no event can be reformed," Patriarch Kirill said on Thursday at the opening of the first All-Russian Forum of Orthodox Women in Moscow.

The Patriarch believes nowadays many Orthodox families practice "hyperpatriarchate" when woman willfully refuses her professional realization, work and social calling.

However, the Patriarch says this "hyperpatriarchate" is often "a reaction on atmosphere of today's world," when false understanding of "equity" with man is imposed on woman and she is forced to imitate worst muscular qualities: aggression, will to competition, strive to make a career neglecting the family."

"Woman's happiness is first of all in being wife and mother. If our society doesn't learn to back up this role of a woman, it doesn't have future. On the Creator's intention, woman should be far from unwise mannishness," Patriarch Kirill said.

However, the Primate of the Russian Church is sure that "today an Orthodox Christian woman should stick to an active social position and be a keeper of Christian moral values in family and society."

According to him, a Christian woman, besides realizing herself as wife and mother "should realize herself as an active member of civil society responsible for the country's future."

"Church, Motherland and the whole world awaits vigorous steps from women-believers," Patriarch Kirill said.

November 25, 2009

Zeal and Love

by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentile unto all men . . ." (II Timothy 2:24)

OUR PIOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, the laity in Christ, must also take care not to be led astray by the spirit of the world and to confuse imprudent zeal with the true spirit of evangelical love.

St. Nectarios of Aegina offers us, in just a few lines, an image of the true zealot of Christ:

"The zealot according to knowledge, motivated by the love of God and his neighbor, does all things with charity and self-effacement; he does nothing that might bring sorrow to his neighbor; such a zealot is enlightened by knowledge and nothing prompts him to deviate from what is morally right" (see Self-Knowledge, pp. 135-136).

The zealot blessed by Christ is a model for the true Christian, the principle characteristics of whom are fervent love for God and neighbor, gentleness, religious tolerance, forgiveness, graciousness of manner, and, in general, all of those fruits of one dwelling in the Holy Spirit.

By contrast, that unfortunate Christian who is inspired by zeal not according to knowledge is a "ruinous man" who literally turns the Gospel of Grace and love upside down.

Let us see how the saints of the Orthodox Church view the zealot whose zeal is not according to wisdom:

* his zeal is a "seductive fire, a consuming fire"
* "destruction comes forth from him and desolation follows in his wake"
* "he beseeches God to send down fire from Heaven and to devour all of those who do not embrace his principles and convictions"
* he is "characterized by hatred for those of other religions and confessions, envy and persistent anger, violent resistance to the true spirit of Divine law, an unreasonable obstinacy in defending his own views, a passionate zeal for prevailing in all things, the love of glory, quarrels, contention, and a love of turmoil" (St. Nectarios, ibid.).

Orthodox spirituality has always considered it essential that zeal go hand-in-hand with love, so as not to become deviant:

"Zeal for piety [or preserving the Church and Holy TraditionBMB] is a good thing, but when combined with love" (St. John Damascene, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. SCIV, col. 1436).

The magnificent epistle of St. Dionysios the Areopagite to the Monk Demophilos, in which he expounds in a God-inspired way on the subject of the extremes of importune zeal, shows that this "temptation" among the pious is ancient.

But now let us juxtapose with the demon of imprudent zeal the zealots of Patristic deity, calling to mind their Patristic precepts:

"We will not approve of your fits of rage, which are alien to genuine zeal ('unenviable impulses'), even if you should invoke Phineas and Elias a thousand times" (St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. III, col. 1096C, "Epistle to Demophilos the Monk [or Therapeutes, a term used by St. Dionysios for a monastic]," 5).

Likewise, our Savior, through the Apostle Paul, "teaches us that we should educate with gentleness those who reject the teaching of God"; "for the ignorant need to be instructed, not punished, just as we do not chastise the blind, but lead them by the hand" (ibid.).

Let the pious Faithful never forget that the criterion of the genuineness of our love is not imprudent zeal, but withdrawal from all of our passions:

"Strive to love every man equally, and in short you will drive out all of your passions" (St. Thalassios, Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 213, and Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, col. 1441B).

Our zeal for piety, like every other spiritual endeavor, is of doubtful purity and genuineness if it does not incline the heart towards love and humility:

"For every pursuit and every endeavor involving great toil that does not end up in love and a contrite spirit is futile, and yields no profitable result" (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Catechesis I, Sources Chretiennes, Vol. 96, pp. 143-145).

Hence: "Zeal for piety is a good thing, but when combined with love!"

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 2 (1996).

November 17, 2009


Archbishop Averky of Syracuse

We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.

We must be clearly aware of the kind of time in which we live. Indeed, only a spiritually blind roan, or one who had already sold his soul to the enemies of our holy faith and Church, could fail to sense the spirit of the approaching Antichrist in everything which is now happening in the world. Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can one speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed it is from this that are derived all these numberless "balls," various kinds of "games," "dances" and amusements toward which, despite their immoral, anti-Christian nature, even my modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing them themselves and participating in them.

A terrible, unrelieved, hopeless unscrupulousness has taken possession of many people. The true doctrine of the faith and the Church for which the first Christians died in such tortures has become a hollow sound for the majority of modern "Christians." They neither know this doctrine, nor do they desire to know it, for they are indifferent to it.

Dull, cold indifference to almost anything which bears the imprint of ideological content and seeking in everything only one's own personal advantage. This is the character of our time.

This lack of ideological content, this unscrupulousness accompanied by departure from the true faith and the Church and by indifference to them is the basic, fundamental sin of which we, Russian Orthodox Christians, must repent.

It is not for us to enjoy ourselves, to amuse ourselves, to dance on the grave of Russia, brought down to its deathbed by us, but rather to repent in tears, really to repent, as the Holy Church teaches us, with a firm intention to change our life radically, to renew our spirit.

As salt preserves food from decay and makes it healthful and pleasant to the taste, so too true Christians preserve the world from moral decay and facilitate its return to health. But if the salt "loses its savor," as the Gospel says, i.e. "loses its strength" (in the East there actually is a kind of salt which can lose its taste), then it becomes good for nothing except to be "thrown out to be trodden under foot of men" (cf. the Gospel reading for the third day of the feast of Pentecost, Matt. 5:31-3).

How terrible this is! And we find ourselves living in such times when the tendency dominating the world is directed toward making all Christians such "salt which has lost its savor," once it has abolished the true Church of Christ derived from the Holy Apostles and thus has deprived Christians of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

This is the so very fashionable, so-called "ecumenical movement," which is based tin the position that supposedly the true Church of Christ does not presently exist on earth and it is necessary to create it anew...through the unification of all Christians belonging to various "churches" and confessional associations and organizations; this will be done by various mutual concessions in matters of doctrine and the development of a new, common system of doctrine acceptable to all and, along with it, of course, a new world view.

And the opinion, extremely popular in our times, that "it's all the same which church you go to; after all, God is one" is in agreement with this tendency.

Yes! God is one, but, you know, He also gave us one faith; He created one Church for us, not many different faiths and "churches." This is confirmed by the holy Apostle Paul when he says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," and so we Christians should form "one body and one spirit," as we are called to "in one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4-6).

If there is only one true faith and only one true Church, then as a consequence all other faiths and "churches" are false, not true. How then can anyone say that all faiths and "churches" are of equal value and that "it is all the same which church you go to."

Therefore one can and must speak not of the ecumenical unification of everyone for the creation of some new Church, but only of the restoration of union between all who have fallen away and the one true Church of Christ to which Christ the Savior Himself gave the great and sure promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

Oh, how great now is the dulling of conscience even of those people who consider themselves believers-the clouding of their minds and hearts, so that seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear, neither do they understand with their heart, as the holy prophet said (Isaiah 9:10).

This is the "hardening of hearts" of which he spoke.

But there is in our days an even more terrible phenomenon, encountered more and more often: a more or less conscious decision, for the sake of earthly goods and advantages, to serve the coming Antichrist.

This is the most extreme degree of falling away, from which it is very difficult to arise.

The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old world with all its former concepts and "prejudices" in order to built in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching "new owner" who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them ....

One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to true Christianity not to understand all this!

Zeal for God, zeal for the Truth is not "phariseeism," just as "humility" before the enemies of God, the enemies of the Church, before diabolical Evil, is not the true and saving humility of the Publican, but just destructive self-deception, leading to the depths of hell.

In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every "truth" is considered relative and it is considered proper for each person to hold to "his own truth," the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of "phariseeism" and suggests "humbling oneself" before Falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself.

For us modern Christians faith, for the most part, is being divorced from life: we do not live in full agreement with the teachings and demands of our faith. Our faith so clearly and so definitely teaches us to renounce everything corruptible and earthly and to concentrate with all our thoughts and feelings on the incorruptible eternal life awaiting us. Theoretically, perhaps, we accept this (although of late there has appeared a special current of "neo-Christianity" which does not even want to accept this theoretically, but has thought up a completely new, heretofore unknown pseudo-Christian world view aimed at binding man more firmly to an earth which supposedly has been transfigured and sanctified by Christ's coming into the world), we admit the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the future life, but in practice we live and act as if none of this is to be expected and we have only to make ourselves comfortable here on earth by providing for ourselves all sorts of good things and conveniences. We do not really want to think about the death which unavoidably awaits every one of us and we do not prepare ourselves as we ought for the future eternal life before us.

Peace!.. peace!.. peace!.. is heard now from every side: "mutual disarmament!..peaceful coexistence!.. we shall struggle for peace!.. everyone in defense of peace!.." How wonderful it would be, what a bright and joyful future it would promise for mankind if only these appeals had in mind that peace of which the angels sang on the night of Christ's Birth: "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!" (Luke 2:14); if only it were that peace which the Savior Christ promised to His disciples at the Last Supper when He said, "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27); if only it were that "peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) which, at the Lord's command, the Apostles transmitted to the first Christians, which they were taught to seek (I Peter 3:11), and which they were encouraged to have with God and with all people (Rom. 5:1; 12:18). How gratifying it would be to hear them if these appeals came from people of whose sincerity we could not have the slightest doubt, whose words we could trust completely-from people who were really convinced that the highest good in life is precisely that peace-peace with God, peace with one's own conscience, and peace with one's neighbors in the name of God.

But alas! It is not of such peace that people are talking now. All these frequently unnatural and pompous speeches and at times hysterical cries for peace for the whole world come at the present time for the most part from people who are either far from true Christianity or are directly opposed to the Church-from people who do not live at peace with God and with their own consciences, but are filled with spite in their relations with their neighbors.

Can we believe in the sincerity of speeches about peace when they are pronounced by people who in principle deny faith in God and love for their neighbors and do not recognize the voice of conscience?

Can we believe that people are really working toward peace when with open and bold blasphemy they have declared war on God Himself and His Holy Church?

When quite recently they did not hide the fact that their aim was to "stir up a worldwide conflagration"? When they openly preach "class hatred" as the basis of their ideology and are not in the least ashamed to pour out whole oceans of blood and to exterminate millions of people just for the suspicion that they disagree with their ideology?

Can we likewise believe in the sincere love for peace of those who in their words unctuously and cloyingly preach "Christian love" and "total forgiveness," while in their actions they sow disturbances and discord and, by spreading lies and slander, create hostility and divisions, stirring people up against their neighbors? Can one in general believe that any sort of secure and reliable peace can be established on earth with the crude flouting of God's Truth, with the lies and hypocrisy which are so clearly characteristic of the life of modern mankind?

Where the Truth of God is lacking there cannot be genuine peace.

While struggling resolutely against the most minute manifestations of evil and sin in our own souls, let us not fear to uncover and point out evil everywhere where it is to be found in modern life-not from pride and self-love, but only out of love for the truth. Our chief task. in this evil time of lying shamelessness is to remain totally faithful and devoted to the genuine truth of the Gospel and to the author of our salvation, Christ, the Giver of life Who rose on the third day from the tomb, the Conqueror of hell and death.

One must know well and remember that Tolstoy's harmful doctrine of "non-resistance to evil" is completely foreign to true Christianity (by the way, this doctrine destroyed our unfortunate homeland, Russia, and plunged it into the terrible, bloody horrors of Bolshevism): no true Christian can be reconciled to evil, wherever and in whomever he might encounter it.

All true Christians throughout the whole history of the Church have followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and have always condemned evil and struggled against it, even though this might cause them all sorts of severe deprivations and even cost them life itself.


From Stand Fast in Truth, the Works of Archbishop Averky, published by St. John of Kronstadt Press and distributed in part on the Internet by the Brotherhood of St. Niphon, New York and the Russian Orthodox Church St. Nicolas of Dallas, Texas

November 14, 2009

The Legion of Demons and Herd of Swine

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 8:26-39
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

26-33. And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is across from Galilee. And when He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city a certain man, possessed by demons for a long time, who wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not. (For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For often times it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he broke the bands, and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many demons were entered into him. And he besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. And He suffered them. Then went the demons out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were drowned.

See how the demon is torn between two wicked passions: impudence and fear. When he says, What have I to do with Thee? he shows the impudence of a shameless slave; when he says, I beseech Thee, he shows his fear. He was dwelling among the tombs because he wanted to instill in men the false suspicion that the souls of those who have died become demons. The demons ask not to be cast into the abyss, but that they be permitted to remain a while longer upon the earth. The Lord permits them to remain upon the earth so that they might fight and contend with men, and thus render men tested veterans. If man had no adversaries, there would be no struggles and contests; and if there were no contests, there would be no crowns of victory. There is a more spiritual sense which you should learn as well: the man who has demons within him and wears no garment and makes his home outside the house, is anyone who does evil and demonic deeds, who has stripped himself of his baptismal robe, and dwells outside the Church. Such a man is not worthy to enter into the Church, but instead he lives in the tombs of dead and rotting deeds, for example, in brothels and in the chambers of publicans and graft. These are indeed tombs of iniquity.

34-39. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the demons were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the demons was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and He went up into the boat, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the demons were departed besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done unto him.

When those who had been feeding the swine fled into the city, it became an opportunity for salvation for the Gadarenes, but they did not understand. They ought to have marvelled at the Saviour’s power and believed in Him. The Evangelist says that they besought Him to depart from them, instead of calling upon Him in supplication. They did this out of fear of suffering another loss like that of the swine. But the man who had been healed shows indisputable proof of his healing. That he had been healed in his mind is shown by the fact that he now both recognizes Jesus and begs His permission to be with Him. For he was afraid, it would seem, that the demons would again easily assault him when he was separated from Jesus. But the Lord shows him that even if he is not with Jesus, the Lord’s grace can shelter him from demonic attack. The Lord says to him, Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee. By not saying, "what great things I have done unto thee," the Lord gives us an example of humility and teaches us that we should attribute all our accomplishments to God. But though the Lord had commanded him to tell what things God had done for him, he told instead what things Jesus had done for him, so great was his gratitude. Therefore when you do something good for someone, do not desire it to become public knowledge; but he who is the beneficiary of that good deed ought to be moved by gratitude to tell it to others, even though you do not want him to do so.

November 07, 2009

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 16:19-32
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

19-22. And there was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain poor man named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.

These words follow closely upon what was said before. Because the Lord first taught, above [Lk. 16:1-13], how we are to be good stewards of wealth, now He appropriately adds this parable which teaches the same thing through the example of the rich man. This is a parable and not, as some have foolishly imagined, something which actually occurred. For good things have not yet been allotted to the righteous, nor punishments to the sinners. The Lord, then, fashioned this story to teach those who show no mercy and give no alms what punishments await them, and to teach the suffering what good things they will enjoy on account of the sufferings they patiently endure in this life. The Lord gave no name to the rich man in this parable, because such a man is not worthy to be remembered by God by name. As the Lord says, through the prophet, nor will I make remembrance of their names through My lips. [Ps. 15:3] But the Lord mentions the poor man by name, for the names of the righteous are inscribed in the Book of Life. There is a story, according to the tradition of the Hebrews, of a certain Lazarus who lived at that time in Jerusalem, whose lot was one of extreme poverty and sickness. Because he was so well known in the city, the Lord uses his name in the parable. The rich man was awash in wealth, so much so that he clothed himself in purple and costly linen. Not only this, but he also luxuriated in every other kind of luxury. For it says that he fared sumptuously, not now and then, but everyday, and not in moderation, but sumptuously, meaning, extravagantly and at great cost. But Lazarus was destitute and grievously diseased, for it says that he was full of sores. It is one thing to be ill; it is another thing to be covered with open sores. But the evil which he suffered goes even further: lying at the gate of the rich man, he had the added torment of seeing others feasting to excess while he himself starved. He desired to be fed, not with their costly foods, but with the crumbs of these foods, the same crumbs which the dogs ate. He was also destitute of any help, for the dogs licked his sores, and he had no one to drive them away. Lazarus suffered such terrible things. Did he then blaspheme? Did he revile the luxury of the rich man? Did he condemn his callousness? Did he accuse the Divine Providence? He did none of these things, even in thought; rather, he bravely and wisely endured all. How do we know this? From the fact that the angels took him when he died. If he had been a grumbler and blasphemer, he would not have been deemed worthy of such an honor—to be escorted by angels. The rich man also died, and was buried. In truth, while he still lived his soul had been buried alive, entombed within his flesh. Therefore, when he died, his soul was not led away by the angels but was instead borne downwards into hades. He who has never had a single lofty or heavenly thought deserves the lowest place. Thus by saying that he was buried, the Lord implies that the rich mans soul received its portion in the lowest and darkest place.

23-26. And in hades he lift up hise yes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,that he may dipthe tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou arttormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

When the Lord cast Adam out of paradise He settled him in a place just opposite, so that the continuous sight of paradise before his eyes would keep fresh in his mind the calamity that had befallen him and would arouse in him a sharper sense of his fall from good things. In like manner the Lord condemned the rich man to a place just opposite Lazarus, so that the sight of him in such a blessed state might awaken in the rich man the realization of the good things he lost because of his cruelty. Why was it that he saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, and not of any other of the righteous? Because Abraham showed hospitality to strangers. The rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham as a reproof of his own inhospitality. Abraham used to draw into his own house even those who were just passing by, while the rich man overlooked a man who was lying every day within his very courtyard. And why does the rich man address his words to Abraham, and not to Lazarus? Perhaps he was ashamed. It may be that he judged Lazarus to be no different than himself and therefore assumed that Lazarus would bear a grudge for past wrongs. "If I, while enjoying such great prosperity, overlooked him while he was suffering such great afflictions, and did not even give him the crumbs from my table, how much more will he who was thus despised now remember those past wrongs and refuse to grant me any favor?" This is why he addresses his words to Abraham, thinking that the patriarch would be unaware of what had happened. How then does Abraham respond? Does he say, "0 cruel and heartless man! Are you not ashamed? Only now do you remember compassion?" Not this, but rather, Son. Behold a compassionate and holy soul! A certain wise man has said, "Trouble not a soul that has been brought low." This is why Abraham says, Son. By this he also intimates that it is within his power only to speak to him gently, but more than this he is not permitted to do. "That which I have to give, I give you—a voice of compassion. But to go from here to there I cannot, for all things have been shut. And you have received your good things, and in like manner Lazarus evil things." Why does he use the [Greek] word apelabes, thou receivedst, and not the [simpler Greek] word elabes? We say [in Greek] that a recipient receives [apolambanei] those things which are his due. What then do we learn? That even if a man is utterly defiled and has reached the last degree of wickedness, perhaps he has done at least one or two good things. So that even such a man may have some good things, as when he obtains prosperity in this life as his reward, and thus it may be said that he has received these things as his due. Likewise Lazarus received evil things as his due. For perhaps he also did one or two evil things, and he received as his merited reward for these evil things the suffering which he endured in this life. Therefore now he is comforted, while you are in torment. The chasm indicates the separation and the difference that exists between the righteous and the sinners. Just as their choices were far different in this life, so too their dwelling places in the next life are separated by a great distance, each one receiving as his due the reward appropriate to his choices in this life. Mark here a conclusion to be drawn against the Origenists who say that there will be a time when there is an end to hell, that the sinners will be united with the righteous and with God, and thus that God will become all in all. Let us hear what Abraham says, that they who would pass from hence to you, or from thence to us, cannot. Therefore it is impossible for anyone to go from the place apportioned to the righteous to the place of the sinners, and likewise, Abraham teaches us, it is impossible to go from the place of punishment to the place of the righteous. And Abraham, I presume, is more trustworthy than Origen. (1) What is hades? Some say that it is a place of darkness beneath the earth; others have said that hades is the departure of the soul from that which is seen to that which is unseen and invisible. While the soul is in the body, it is manifest through its own energies [which animate the body], but when the soul has departed from the body it becomes invisible. (2) This is hades, they say. The bosom of Abraham is the enclosure within which are stored up the good things that await the righteous, who after the storm have found the heavenly haven. We use the same word to name those bodies of water on the sea which are shaped like harbors and havens. (3) Mark this as well—on the day of judgment the man who did wrong will see the one he wronged in the glory that is his, and the man who was wronged will likewise see the one who wronged him in that condemnation which befalls him, just as here in this parable the rich man sees Lazarus, and Lazarus, the rich man.

27-31. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my fathers house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The miserable rich man, having failed in his request for himself, now makes supplication on behalf of others. See how punishment has led him to awareness. He who before had overlooked Lazarus as he lay at his feet now thinks of others who are absent, and begs that Lazarus be sent from the dead to his fathers house. He asks that not just anyone of the dead, but Lazarus in particular, be sent, so that the rich mans brothers might see him crowned with health and glory. They who once saw him in sickness and in dishonor and were witnesses of his poverty, would be witnesses of his glory. From this it is clear that Lazarus would have appeared to them in glory, had it been necessary to send him as a believable messenger. How then does Abraham reply? They have Moses. "You do not take care of your brothers," he is saying, "as well as He Who created them, God Himself. For He has appointed ten thousand teachers for them." But the rich man answers, Nay, father. Since he himself had heard the Scriptures and did not believe, considering the readings to be myths, he suspected that it was the same for his brothers. Judging them by what he knew to be true of himself, he said that they gave no more heed to the Scriptures than he had, but that if one should rise from the dead, then they would believe. There are those even now who say the same: "Who knows what is in hades? Who has ever come from there to tell us?" But let them hear Abraham who says that if we do not give heed to the Scriptures, we will not believe even those who come from hades. The Jews showed this to be true. Because they gave no heed to the Scriptures, they did not believe when they saw the dead resurrected, but even attempted to slay that other Lazarus who was four days dead. Many of the dead arose at the Lords Crucifixion, yet this only intensified the Jews murderous assault against the Apostles. If raising the dead would truly help us to believe, the Lord would do this often. But there is no help so great as the close study of the Scriptures. For the devil by trickery has appeared to raise the dead and by this means has deceived the foolish; and, concerning those in hades, he spreads doctrines worthy of his own wickedness. But no such trickery can prevail against those who make wise study of the Scriptures. For the Scriptures are a lamp and a light [see Prov. 6:23], and when light shines, the thief appears and is discovered. Therefore, let us believe the Scriptures and not seek out resurrections from the dead. The parable may also be understood in a more figurative sense. The rich man represents the Hebrew people. Of old this people was rich in all knowledge and wisdom, and in the words of God which are more precious than gold and many costly stones. And this people was clothed in purple and fine linen, having both kingship and priesthood, being a royal priesthood to God [Ex. 19:6]. The purple signifies kingship and the fine linen priesthood, for the Levites used fine linen cloth for the priestly vestments. The Hebrews fared sumptuously everyday. Everyday, morning and evening, they offered sacrifice, which was called the constant offering [endelechismos, Ex. 29:38, 42]. Lazarus represents the people from among the Gentiles, destitute of divine grace and wisdom, lying before the gates. For the Gentiles were not permitted to enter the house of God; this was considered a defilement, as when, in the Book of Acts, an outcry was made against Paul for bringing Gentiles into the temple and defiling that holy place [Acts 21]. The Gentiles were covered with the sores of festering sin, on which impudent dogs, the demons, were feeding. For our sores are pleasure to the demons. And the Gentiles longed for the crumbs which fell from the table of the rich man. They had no share at all of that bread which strengtheneth mans heart [Ps. 103:17], and they were in need of those most subtle and refined particles of the rational food, like the Canaanite woman who desired to be fed from the crumbs, even though she was a Gentile [Mt. 15] What then? The Hebrew people died to God, and their bones, which made no movement towards the good, became stiff in death. But Lazarus, the Gentile people, died to sin, and the Jews, who died in their sins, burn with the flame of spite. They are envious, as the Apostle says, that the Gentiles have been accepted unto faith [see Rm. 11:11], and that the people of the nations, who before were destitute and dishonored, are now in the bosom of Abraham, the father of the nations, and rightly so. For Abraham, himself a Gentile, believed in God, and changed from idolatry to the knowledge of God. Therefore it is right that those who share in his change and in his faith should also find rest in his bosom, and inherit his same portion, dwelling place, and store of good things. The Jew desires just one drop of the old sprinklings and purifications of the law in order to cool his tongue, that he might have the boldness to say to us that the law is still in effect. But he does not obtain his desire. For the law was until John the Forerunner and from then sacrifice and offering hast Thou not desired, as the prophet foretold [Ps. 39:9] And Daniel foretold that the anointing [chrisma] shall be destroyed [Dan. 9:26], and prophecy shall be sealed [Dan. 12:4, 9], meaning, that prophecy shall cease and be closed. But you, 0 reader, must also understand the moral meaning of this parable. Do not be rich in wickedness and overlook your mind which is starved and cast down, although it was created to be borne aloft. Do not let it wander outside, nor let it lie idly on the ground, but lead it within and let it act. Then there will be in you the working of the mind and the spirit, and not merely the feasting of the flesh. Likewise, there are other elements of this parable which may easily be understood for your moral benefit.

1. Origen’s teaching of apokatastasis, the ultimate restoation and reconciliation of everyone, even Satan, was condemned as heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 553 A.D.

2. BI. Theophylact here provides the connection between the Greek word, ades, hades, and its etymological root, aeides, invisible.

3. The Greek word kolpos means both bosom and bay.