April 21, 2014

Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to Birth — Visualized

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Tell me this is not a miracle, and I'll respond that your vision is truncated. From the filmmaker: The mathematical complexity of how these things are done [the rapid development of the child in the womb] are beyond human comprehension, and even though I am a mathematician I look at this with a marvel; how did these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us? It's a mystery, it's magic, it's divinity. … [Read more...]

Benjamin Peck: Speak My Name

Benjamin Peck

I am always encouraged whenever I read or hear young people who are serious about Christ. Below is a sermon written by Benjamin Peck, a freshman at Holy Cross College that he gave at the Festival of Young Preachers conference sponsored by the Academy of Preachers in January, 2012. (Learn more about the festival here.) Ben is 21 years old but you can see by his sermon he thinks deeply and seriously about the needful things. He is aware that following Christ carries a cost and requires soberness and courage. He knows that the Christian life requires interior transformation, a putting away of sin, and boldness and resolve in the face of opposition and even danger. This kind of clarity doesn't come without concrete encounter with the Risen Christ. As I said, this is very encouraging. Good work Ben. By Benjamin Peck Oh Heavenly King, the comforter, the spirit of Truth, who art everywhere and fillest all things. Treasury of blessings, and giver of life; come and abide in … [Read more...]

WND: Bonhoeffer in Harlem

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I attended seminary over 20 years ago, one of my favorite activities was the inter-seminary dialogues. Once a month about seven or eight of us would drive down to Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan to meet up with Jewish rabbinical students and seminarians from Union Theological Seminary (Protestant) and St. Joseph's (Catholic). You'd think the gathering would spark some lively and substantive debate, but the truth was the contest wasn't even close. From the very first meeting the Jews and Orthodox left the Protestants and Catholics in the dust. The participants from Union were caught in the worst sort of theological relativism, so much so that they were uncertain even of first principles. We just got tired of waiting for them to build up enough self-assurance to craft a coherent argument. The Catholics were reeling from the exposure of the sex-abuse scandals that were coming to light at the time and retreated into an obscure Marian piety that we Orthodox could … [Read more...]

A Hymn to the Lesser Good

The Thankful Poor by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Source: Holy Trinity Cathedral By Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco Many people believe that to live according to the faith and to fulfill the will of God is very difficult. Actually — it's very easy. One needs only attend to details, to trifles, and try to avoid evil in the slightest and most trivial things. This is the simplest and surest way to enter the world of the spirit and draw near to God. A man often thinks that the Creator demands great things of him, that the Gospel insists on complete self-sacrifice, the abolition of one's personhood, etc., as a condition of faith. A man is so frightened by this that he begins to be afraid of becoming acquainted with God, of drawing near to God, and hides himself from God, not even wishing to look into God's Word. "If I can't do anything important for God, then I'd just better stay away from things spiritual, stop thinking about eternity, and live 'in a normal way'." There exists at the entrance to the spiritual realm … [Read more...]

Met. Jonah: Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness

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Wisdom from the experience of a true pastor. The piece is a bit long but once you start you will want to complete because it covers matters of the heart that all serious Christians struggle with. When I was in seminary I had the great blessing of becoming the spiritual son of a Greek bishop, Bishop Kallistos of Xelon. He ended his life as the bishop of Denver of the Greek Archdiocese. It was he who taught me the Jesus Prayer. The whole spiritual vision of Bishop Kallistos had three very simple points. Do not resent. Do not react. Keep inner stillness. These three spiritual principles, or disciplines, are really a summation of the Philokalia, the collection of Orthodox Christian spiritual wisdom. And they are disciplines every single one of us can practice, no matter where we are in life – whether we’re in the monastery or in school; whether we’re housewives or retired; whether we’ve got a job or we’ve got little kids to run after. If … [Read more...]

Osama is Dead. Now What Should I Feel?

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Source: OrthodoxyToday.org Last night, like most of the world, I was captivated by the announcement that the President of the United States would be making a statement at 10:30 p.m. As I Tweeted this information, I added the line that this could not be good. Presidents do not often come on at 10:30 on a Sunday night to announce good news. So, like the rest of the world, I waited and watched the social media to try and find out what was going on. I will add a side note here that I almost went to bed! News started to be leaked and then confirmed that the USA had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and that they were working on identification. This was a military operation and no U.S. military personnel were harmed in this operation. I will admit, I, like many others in the U.S. and around the world, rejoiced at this news. Rejoiced at the news that bin Laden was dead and the news that no Americans were hurt or killed in the operation. I watched as Twitter and Facebook lit up with … [Read more...]

Humility, Prudence, and Earth Day

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Source: Acton Institute | John Couretas At a World Council of Churches conference last year on the French-Swiss border, much was made of the “likelihood of mass population displacement” driven by climate change and the mass migration of people fleeing zones inundated by rising seas. While the WCC acknowledged that “there are no solid estimates” about the likely numbers of what it called climate refugees, that didn’t stop assembled experts from throwing out some guesses: 20 million, hundreds of millions, or 1 billion people. The WCC bemoaned the fact that international bodies looking at the impending climate refugee crisis were not taking it seriously and, despite its own admission that the numbers of refugees were impossible to predict, called on these same international bodies to “put forward a credible alternative.” The WCC did a thought experiment on the problem: What kind of adaptation is relevant to migration? Sea walls? Cities … [Read more...]

Met. Hilarion: Life is given for us to exercise in virtue

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Homily on the Sunday of St. John Climacus, author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Source: Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church This book was written in the 7th century for the monks on Mount Sinai, but it is still relevant today. It presents the entire spiritual life of a Christian as a ladder of ascent to God. There are thirty stairs in it, each representing either rejection of a particular vice or acquisition of a particular virtue. The secret is that in one’s ascent on this ladder it is impossible to get rid of only one vice and to acquire only one virtue. One has to keep repeating one’s steps getting rid of each of one’s passion, sin and sinful habit and acquiring the virtues necessary for one to become a true Christian and to unite with Christ in the next life and to become a heir to the Heavenly Kingdom. It is not in the same way and in the same order that all people get rid of vices and acquire virtues. And not everyone … [Read more...]

What to Believe? – The soul-searching personal journeys of Bart Ehrman & James Berends [VIDEO]

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Source: Orthodox Christian Fellowship Press release of the talk yesterday evening (February 17, 2011) and archived below. CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 4, 2011 -- The New York Times best-selling author Bart Ehrman and Eastern Orthodox priest James Berends will give a free public presentation at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 17, at the FedEx Global Education Center on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. Ehrman and Berends, both of whom graduated from Wheaton College as Evangelical Christians in 1978 and 1979 respectively, will share their subsequent three-decade spiritual journeys for the forum: "What to Believe? An Internal Struggle." Graduating Wheaton College in 1978, Ehrman received a master's degree in divinity and his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, pursuing a scholarly career in New Testament textual criticism. During that time, Berends did stints in ministry and industry between his two divinity degrees at Dallas Theological … [Read more...]

Fr. Hopko: 10 Essential Conditions for Coming to Know God’s Truth and Finding Life

Fr. Thomas Hopko

By Fr. Thomas Hopko   1. The belief that the truth of things can be known, and the desire to know the truth and to do it, wherever it leads, is most essential. Indeed it is everything. When people have this desire and seek truth in order to do it, and are ready to do it whatever it takes to find it, know it and do it, God promises that they will find, and understand and live. In a sense, this desire and seeking is all that is necessary. 2. The seeking person must read the New Testament through, slowly and without judgment of details, at least two or three times, taking the time needed to do this. They should let go of what is not clear, and focus on what they can understand, what is clear to them. It would also be helpful to read a Psalm or two everyday. 3. The person must pray, as they can. If they claim to be Christian, at least somehow, they should say the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers of the Church tradition, and attend Liturgical services, without serving or … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jenson: Stewardship and the Human Vocation to Work

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Acton Institute | Fr. Gregory Jenson Paying the bills and contributing to the collection basket are laudable. But Christian stewardship is significantly more than these; like prayer, fasting, and the sacraments, it is an essential part of our Christian life. More than what we say, the way we use our time, talent and treasure, reveals what we value, how we understand ourselves as men and women of faith, and what we believe it means to be human. It is this last point that I want to focus on here. What does it mean to be human? Maybe this is a strange place to begin, but before we are Christians, we are human. Before any of us are baptized or make a commitment to Jesus Christ, we are human. We can only be Christian because we are human and the importance of our shared humanity should not be minimized; we are saved and made one in Christ precisely because God took on our humanity. He becomes as we are, in the frequently repeated phrase of the fathers, so that we might become … [Read more...]

Why Women Were Never Priests

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Source: Preachers Institute | Alice C. Linsley From Preachers Institute: A convert to Orthodoxy from the Episcopal Church, Ms. Linsley renounced her priestly office in March 2004. She left the Episcopal ministry on the Sunday that Gene Robinson was consecrated and has not entered an Episcopal church since. After years of studying the question of women priests she is persuaded that this innovation is the root cause of the schism within Anglicanism. She is also the author of the excellent blog: Just Genesis. The Messianic priesthood of Jesus Christ is the true and single Form[1] of the Priesthood. Every priest, either living before Christ or after Christ’s appearing, stands as a sign to this one priesthood. The priesthood is unique (not to be confused with the office of shaman) and it is impossible to change it in any essential way. All attempts to change the priesthood, such as developed out of Protestant theology or the ordination of women, corrupt the sign so … [Read more...]