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.