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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox’

1It has been some time since I have posted on my blog.  I have been trying to respond faithfully to the changes life has brought upon me.  In doing to I have had to prioritize and make decisions about what is really important.  So I have taken an absence to my blog.  I am currently working on some content, and should be posting on a more regularly basis.  Until then please enjoy this reflection from St. Clement of Alexandria

The perfect person does not only try to avoid evil.


Nor does he do good for fear of punishment, still less in order to qualify for the hope of a promised reward.

The perfect person does good through love.

His actions are not motivated by desire for personal benefit, so he does not have personal advantage as his aim. 

But as soon as he has realized the beauty of doing good, he does it with all his energies and in all that he does.

He is not interested in fame, or a good reputation, or a human or divine reward.

The rule of life for a perfect person is to be in the image and likeness of God.

St. Clement of Alexandria

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0413-450x600It has been cold here.  The whole city is covered under a thick blanket of ice.  For many the ice and cold is a nightmare.  For me I see it as therapy.  Much needed at that.   I love this weather.  I find the cold calming.  I long for the brutal cold wind of the North.  I long to hear it whip around my house.  The rattle of the windows.  The sting on my face as I work outside.   The cold and ice is gone now.  Still in my heart it remains

The Nativity of our Lord is just around the corner.  I am looking forward to it, and dreading it at the same time.  Physically I am not ready.  My house is not prepared.  Emotionally I am all over the place.  Spiritually I am anxious.  I guess this is a good way to be.

I once was the one with answers.  I was the one people went to for direction.  A pillar in the church.  Now I am none of these things.  Just a shadow.  A phantom of my past.  I hope Nativity will a new beginning.  The start of something beautiful.  At the same time I am ok if this is as good as it gets.

I am no longer the hopeless optimist.  I am not a pessimist either. Whatever is will be.  I am not looking for some sort of false reality.  Or living on hope of something better.  I am trying to live in the present.  To accept it and grow in it.

Lord have mercy on me.  I came into this new place in life very arrogant.   I didn’t see it at the time.  Who am I?  What exactly did I expect? I don’t know if I have any answer.  What I do know is that I am so done.  I am over worrying about what family might think of me.  I am over preconceived ideas of who I am suppose to be.  I just want to live.  Truly live.

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72750_1603573401531_4403968_nDoes the Lord’s command about ceaseless prayer that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1), apply only to monks or to all Christians in general?

If it applied only to monks, the Apostle Paul would not have written to the Christians in Thessalonica “to pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).

The Apostle repeats the Lord’s command, word for word, and issues it to all Christians without distinction, whether monks or laymen.

St. Gregory Palamas lived a life of asceticism for some time as a young hieromonk in a monastery in Beroea. The elder Job, a well-known ascetic whom everyone respected, lived in that monastery. It happened that, in elder Job’s presence, St. Gregory quoted the Apostle’s words, asserting that ceaseless prayer is the obligation of every Christian and not just for monks.

However, elder Job replied that ceaseless prayer is the obligation of the monk only, and not for every Christian. Gregory, as the younger of the two, yielded and withdrew in silence. When Job returned to his cell and stood at prayer, an angel in great heavenly glory appeared to him and said: “O Elder, do not doubt the truthfulness of Gregory’s words; he spoke correctly and you should think likewise and pass it on to others.”

Thus, both the Apostle and the angel confirmed the commandment that all Christians must pray to God without ceasing.

Not only without ceasing in church, but also without ceasing in every place and at all times, and especially in your heart.

For if God does not for a moment tire of giving us good things, how can we tire of thanking Him for these good things?

When He thinks of us without ceasing, why do we not think of Him without
ceasing?

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candleSo finally I have found what I just want to do with this blog.  I am going back to my original idea.  This blog will mainly be thoughts, reflections, and possibly some humor.

So much has happened in my life over the past few years.  I have ran the the gambit of churches.  I have had dreams of being a missionary, pastor, and a slew of professional carriers.  The only thing that has been consistent since I was 18 is my wife.   Through the bad times, and the good she has stood beside me.  We have survived maturing and growing into adulthood.  She still loves me, and I look forward to growing old with her.

Work has been interesting.  I have worked for the same company for 13 years.  Mainly in the same department the whole time.  Last year I was transferred to a new job.  To keep it short.  It is a good move, and I enjoy it very much.  It has been challenging, but I think that is a good thing.

This year at Christmas my family and I will be received into the Orthodox church.  Finally we are home.  I am finally in the place I always wanted to be.  No more playing around.  I have looked hard at myself, and asked what am I truly looking for.  I always thought it was the Roman Catholic Church.  After much prayer, and visiting many parishes.  I found that in fact this is not the place for me.  I decided to take a long hard look at Eastern Orthodoxy.  In this church I found what it is I was looking for within the Catholic Church, but I also found the monastic / prayer aspect that I was longing for in regular catholic circles.

I am sure I will talk more on all of these things in greater detail in the future.

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It’s been a few weeks since I have blogged on Thoughts after twilight.  I have been working on a new blog.  In that blog I am writing about life and my faith journey.  In many Eastern Orthodox churches they just celebrated the feat of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.

I decided to read up on this feast.  I have to say it opened my eyes to how God interacts with his natural creation.  More thoughts on that later.  As I am still meditating on what I read.

Added to this blog post is something the Orthodox Church of America wrote up on this feast.  I found it interesting, and thought I would share it with you all.

Pax

Br. John-Paul

 

Synaxis (Feast)  of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers

Commemorated on November 8

The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

A Feastday was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).

The Angelic Ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest.

The Highest Hierarchy includes: the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

The six-winged SERAPHIM (Flaming, Fiery) (Is 6:12) stand closest of all to the Most Holy Trinity. They blaze with love for God and kindle such love in others.

The many-eyed CHERUBIM (outpouring of wisdom, enlightenment) (Gen 3:24) stand before the Lord after the Seraphim. They are radiant with the light of knowledge of God, and knowledge of the mysteries of God. Through them wisdom is poured forth, and people’s minds are enlightened so they may know God and behold His glory.

The THRONES (Col 1:16) stand after the Cherubim, mysteriously and incomprehensibly bearing God through the grace given them for their service. They are ministers of God’s justice, giving to tribunals, kings, etc. the capacity for righteous judgment.

The Middle Angelic Hierarchy consists of three Ranks: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities:

DOMINIONS (Col 1:16) hold dominion over the angels subject to them. They instruct the earthly authorities, established by God, to rule wisely, and to govern their lands well. The Dominions teach us to subdue sinful impulses, to subject the flesh to the spirit, to master our will, and to conquer temptation.

POWERS (1 Pet 3:22) fulfill the will of God without hesitation. They work great miracles and give the grace of wonderworking and clairvoyance to saints pleasing to God. The Powers assist people in fulfilling obediences. They also encourage them to be patient, and give them spiritual strength and fortitude.

AUTHORITIES (1 Pet 3:22, Col 1:16) have authority over the devil. They protect people from demonic temptations, and prevent demons from harming people as they would wish. They also uphold ascetics and guard them, helping people in the struggle with evil thoughts.

The Lowest Hierarchy includes the three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels:

PRINIPALITIES (Col 1:16) have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling of God’s commands. They watch over the world and protect lands, nations and peoples. Principalities instruct people to render proper honor to those in authority, as befits their station. They teach those in authority to use their position, not for personal glory and gain, but to honor God, and to spread word of Him, for the benefit of those under them.

ARCHANGELS (1 Thess 4:16) are messengers of great and wondrous tidings. They reveal prophecies and the mysteries of the faith. They enlighten people to know and understand the will of God, they spread faith in God among the people, illuminating their minds with the light of the Holy Gospel.

ANGELS (1 Pet 3:22) are in the lowest rank of the heavenly hierarchy, and closest to people. They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions, guiding people to virtuous and holy life. They support those who remain steadfast, and they raise up the fallen. They never abandon us and they are always prepared to help us, if we desire it.

All the Ranks of the Heavenly Powers are called angels, although each has its own name and position by virtue of their service. The Lord reveals His will to the highest ranks of the angels, and they in turn inform the others.

Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord appointed the Holy Archangel Michael (his name in Hebrew means “who is like unto God”), the faithful servitor of God, as Chief Commander. He cast down from Heaven the arrogantly proud Lucifer and the other fallen spirits when they rebelled against God. Michael summoned the ranks of angels and cried out, “Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and do not consider doing what is displeasing unto God!”

According to Church Tradition, and in the church services to the Archangel Michael, he participated in many other Old Testament events.

During the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt he went before them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael defended Israel in all its misfortunes.

He appeared to Joshua Son of Navi and revealed the will of the Lord at the taking of Jericho (Josh 5:13-16). The power of the great Chief Commander of God was manifest in the annihilation of the 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib (4/2 Kings 19:35); also in the smiting of the impious leader Heliodorus (2 Macc. 3: 24-26); and in the protection of the Three Holy Youths: Ananias, Azarias and Misail, thrown into the fiery furnace for their refusal to worship an idol (Dan 3:22-25).

Through the will of God, the Chief Commander Michael transported the Prophet Habbakuk (December 2) from Judea to Babylon, to give food to Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 14:33-37).

The Archangel Michael disputed with the devil over the body of the holy Prophet Moses (Jude 1:9).

The holy Archangel Michael showed his power when he miraculously saved a young man, cast into the sea by robbers with a stone about his neck on the shores of Mt Athos. This story is found in the Athonite Paterikon, and in the Life of St Neophytus of Docheiariou (November 9).

From ancient times the Archangel Michael was famed for his miracles in Rus. In the Volokolamsk Paterikon is a narrative of St Paphnutius of Borov with an account of Tatar tax-gatherers concerning the miraculous saving of Novgorod the Great: “Therefore Great Novgorod was never taken by the Hagarenes… when… for our sins the godless Hagarene emperor Batu devoured and set the Russian land aflame and came to Novgorod, and God and the Most Holy Theotokos shielded it with an appearance of Michael the Archangel, who forbade him to enter into it. He [Batu] was come to the Lithuanian city and came toward Kiev and saw the stone church, over the doors of which the great Archangel Michael had written and spoken to the prince his allotted fate, ‘By this we have forbidden you entry into Great Novgorod’.”

Intercession for Russian cities by the Most Holy Queen of Heaven always involved Her appearances with the Heavenly Hosts, under the leadership of the Archangel Michael. Grateful Rus acclaimed the Most Pure Mother of God and the Archangel Michael in church hymns. Many monasteries, cathedrals, court and merchant churches are dedicated to the Chief Commander Michael.

In old Kiev at the time of the accepting of Christianity, a cathedral of the Archangel was built, and a monastery also was named for him. Archangel cathedrals are found at Smolensk, Nizhni Novgorod, Staritsa, at Great Ustiug (beginning of the thirteenth century), and a cathedral at Sviyazhsk. In Rus there was not a city, where there was not a church or chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

One of the chief temples of the city of Moscow, the burial church in the Kremlin, is dedicated to him. Numerous and beautiful icons of the Chief Commander of the Heavenly Hosts are also in his Cathedral. One of these, the Icon “Blessed Soldiery,” was painted in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The saintly soldiers, Russian princes, are depicted under the leadership of the Archangel Michael.

We invoke St Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.

Holy Scripture and Tradition give us the names of the Archangels:

Gabriel: strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

Raphael: the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

Uriel: the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

Selaphiel: the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

Jehudiel: the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.

Barachiel: distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.

Jeremiel: the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword), on which is outlined a scarlet cross.

Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

Jeremiel holds balance-scales in his hand.

Each person has a guardian angel, and every nation also receives its own guardian angel from God (Dan. 10:13). When a church is consecrated, it also receives a guardian angel (Palladius, Dial. Ch. 10).

The Archangel Gabriel whose name means “the strength (power) of God,” is the herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Gabriel appears with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

The Archangel Raphael, whose name means “the healing of God,” is the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

The Archangel Uriel, whose name means” the fire or light of God” (2 Ezdras 4:1, 5:20, 10:28). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

The Archangel Selaphiel, whose name means “the prayer of God, impelling to prayer” (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

 

The Archangel Jehudiel, whose name means “one who glorifies God,” encourages us to strive for the glory of the Lord, and intercedes for our efforts to be rewarded.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

 

The Archangel Barachiel, whose name means “the blessing of God,” entreats the mercy of God for people.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

 

 

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Today we celebrate the feast of the assumption of Mary. This has long been a significant day within Christ’s church. Sometime in the fifth century Byzantine Emperor Mauricius Flavius ordered this holy day to be celebrated on the 15th of August. He also had a basilica built over her tomb. This church was at some point destroyed, and then rebuilt by the crusaders in the 11th century.

What we know about the Blessed Mothers death has been handed down to us from tradition. Officially the Roman Catholic church has never said if Mary died or not. This in itself really has no effect on the celebration or belief of the assumption. It is note worthy that most in the western church do believe she died. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, “after the completion of her earthly life was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.”

More so it is the understanding that like Enoch and Elijah, that Mary was taken up into heaven. It is important to know that the church never in history or now believed that she did this by her own power. She did not ascend like Jesus into heaven, but assumed by the power of God.

This feast like many feasts of Mary do not point to her holiness. Which she was holy. Mary’s assumption is a reminder of the promises of Jesus. That we the faithful will live in Christ forever. That death cannot hold us. We are again pointed to the cross, and to Jesus who payed the price for our sins. By his death and resurrection we are not only freed from sin, but from death.

So today is a day of celebration. A reminder of the great honor given to our Blessed Mother. A hope for us of what is to come.

It is my prayer that you all will find yourself a bit closer today to our mother Mary, and to her most precious son our Savior Jesus.

For those who are interested here is some scripture that talks about the possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming. It is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: “[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called “paradise,” where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

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Today is the day that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. For the past 2 days I have been reflecting on the events that unfolded this sorrowful day. We all know the bible verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. God loved us so much he sent his Son to earth. Born of flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was a plan that was set in motion before the beginning of time.

You see this was the plan for us before God spoke the world into existence. It was his plan through Abraham to create a chosen people. It was his plan to speak through the prophets. Again from the get go we see the Lord’s plan of redemption through our Blessed Mother in Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Through Mary salvation would come to the world in Christ Jesus.

It is hard to imagine the sorrowful pain Jesus must have felt when the very people he picked to be his chosen people would not only reject him, but have him beaten and nailed to a cross to die. It was a deep sorrowful love our Blessed Savior felt this very day oh so long ago. It was a love for those chosen and set aside, but his love did not stop there. His suffering did not stop.

You see when Jesus was lifted up on his cross. Time stood still. From his eyes he saw past present and future. Not just the Jews but all of humanity. For it was truly all of humanity who nailed Jesus to the cross. It was my hands who nailed his healing hands to the cross. It was your hands that pushed the crown of thorns causing his precious blood to pour out over his body and to the soiled ground. It was us who whipped him. It was us who mocked him. It is us who deny him like St. Peter.

We did it. We killed him, and in that moment he suffered because of what we do now. It is a suffering that knows no time. It did not stop for we continue these offenses. I beg you all to examine your heart today. Say a prayer at 3 p.m. or pray the rosary. Tonight make solemn and reflective trip to your local parish and fix your eyes on the cross. Take a moment and venerate the cross. Kiss it if you feel the urge. Touch it and cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness. For today is a day of redemption.

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