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Showing posts from April, 2006

Why Orthodox? comments needed!

I am in the very early stages of thinking about writing something about Orthodoxy primarily directed to the inquirer. There are so many books introducting Orthodoxy that I am wary of doing it. If it happens, I am going to approach a little different than the standard apologetic for Orthodoxy using historical and theological arguments. Those are great, and I don't think I would be there today if it weren't for those types of books (thanks Clark Carlton). However, as I have reflected on my journey as well as others, I realize that although the academic arguments are helpful there were other reasons that moved me along.

For example, part of the search that landed me in Orthodoxy was the struggle of the Christian life. Always looking for another book or formula that could help me lead the "victorious Christian life" left me frustrated. I was attracted to the mystical element of Christianity and that lead me to some of the early Fathers. I was struck by the depth of…

Christ is Risen!

The Date of Orthodox Pascha

I was asked by a friend to explain the difference in the date of Orthodox Pascha/Easter.Much of the article is a compilation of articles from Lewis Patsavos and Fr. Nabil Hanna.The date of Pascha has been controversial since the beginning of Christianity and early gave way to local customs.Some churches would celebrate on the actual Nisan 14, which was the actual date of the Resurrection, but it did not always fall on a Sunday.Other churches observed it on the Sunday following the Jewish Passover.By the 4th century, the latter practice prevailed throughout the Church; nevertheless, differences continued to exist.In response to this ongoing problem, the First Ecumenical Council convened at Nicaea in 325 took up the issue. It determined that Pascha should be celebrated on the Sunday which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox-the actual beginning of spring. If the full moon happens to fall on a Sunday, Pascha is observed the following Sunday. The day taken to be the invar…

The Ladder Part 5

Step 13On DespondencyTedium of spirit-Greek word is “akidia” tedium, distraction, boredom, despondency.This is a broad term which covers the continuum from boredom and distraction to depression or despondency.-Path of tedium:loss of purpose, despair, then spiritual death-St. John:“When dinner is ready, he jumps out of his bed.But now when the time for prayer comes, his body begins to languish once more again.He begins his prayers, but the tedium makes him sleepy and the verses of the psalms are snatched from his mouth by untimely yawns.”-Same word used in the Prayer of St. Ephraim…”faintheartedness”interesting use because we pray first that God deliver us from sloth then faintheartedness.With sloth we become lazy with spiritual activity then comes faintheartedness when we give it up all together because it is of no use.One writer said that sloth is that we think our spiritual activity is useless, and faintheartedness is despair because we come to believe that God can do nothing for us…

The Ladder Part 4

Step 10On SlanderSt. John“Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbour disparagingly, but rather say to him: “Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him?” In this way you will achieve two things: you will heal yourself and your neighbour with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” (Luke 6:37)”*What is Slander?-speaking evil behind someones back…Dangerous for Two Reasons:Hypocritical “It puts on the appearance of love and is the ambassador of an unholy and unclean heart.”James 3:9,10 Attitude and Motive behind it.It is judgmental.James 4:11,12.When we judge we make ourselves equal with God.“In addition to the harm that has already been identified, slander is the result of being judgmental. This provokes the wrath of God. There is only one Judge and by judging others we invite judgment. Not knowing what is in anothe…

The Ladder Part 3

Step 7:MourningWhat is mourning?1.Not just repentance – but a sober view of the nature of reality.Mourning is the ability to see the life and moral state of the world clearly; then seeing ourselves as contributors to the pain and sadness of this world.Human suffering and even death are a result of sin.When we look at the world around us we can not become judgmental over its condition because we have added death to this world.Not only do we accept responsibility for the evil in the world, but we allow ourselves to suffer with others, directly or indirectly, through prayer.This is part of our duty as a Christian as we have united ourselves into Christ.See the following:Rom. 8:17, 2 Cor. 1:15; Phil 1:29; Phil 3:8; Col 1:24; 1 Pet 4:122.Sorrow for the lack of the fullness of God in our lives.This sorrow is a result of the thirst we feel the fullness of God’s Kingdom and His presence in our lives.- Not seeking a pleasure centered life.St. John suggests: "Think of your lying in bed as …

Jonah - Fish Tales and Good Friday

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Jonah is one of the most familiar Old Testament prophets.Although his book is not large in scale like Isaiah or Jeremiah, the story of Jonah is so engaging and even entertaining that it is told and retold.Most young children learn the story of Jonah early on in their religious education.Even within the life of the church, Jonah plays a significant role.His prayer in the belly of the great fish is Ode Six of the canonical odes that make up the matins canon.Also, the book as a whole is read on Holy Saturday.Unfortunately, the story of Jonah can become too familiar and therefore the Christian can lose sight of its meaning.The purpose of this essay is to explore the meaning of the book of Jonah.A brief summary of the book will be given, then the multiples themes that occur in the book will be discussed, and finally the overarching message will be examined.Jonah a prophet of the Northern Kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II, was called by God to go to Nineveh and preach.Jonah runs from …

The Ladder Part 2

Step 4:Obedience-Obedience ultimately the burial place of the will, because you submit your will and desires to someone else.-St. John is insistent that without obedience no one will attain heaven.Fr. John Mack comments “We do not obey so that we may fulfill some external set of rules and thus earn God’s favor and love…Our obedience does not earn us anything.Rather the act of obedience changes us and makes us ready to receive the love [and grace] which God has already given to mankind in Christ.”-Obedience cuts off our self-will and pride.Obedience is the cure for pride.(Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.)-It must be remembered that St. John was originally writing to monastics.One way that monastics fulfilled obedience was by being totally obedient to their abbot or spiritual father.*How do we fulfill obedience as no-monastics? (Suggestions by Fr. John Mack)-obey those in authority-…

The Ladder Part 1

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The LadderBackground:WrittenSaint John Climacus was a 6th century monk and abbot of the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai in Egypt, the same location where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.-inspired by the image of Jacob’s ladder. -monastic spiritually is only different in degree not kind.We all must follow the same basic path toward God.The difference between monastics and secular Christian is the degree to which we can apply the truths or commandments of the gospel.-divided into three parts.1.The Break with the World2.The Practice of the Virtues (Active)3.Union with God (Contemplative)-the following study relies heavily on Fr. John Mack's Ascending the Heights which is a worthy addition to a copy of the Ladder.
Step 1On Renunciation of Life“of all created and rational beings, endowed with the dignity of free will, some are friends of God, some are His true servants, some are useless servants, some are entirely estranged, and there are some who, for all their…

Ladder of Divine Ascent Outline

Here's the original outline I used for our class in discussing the Ladder. I picked this up from another teacher and I think it is a helpful way to categorize and think about what St. John Climacos was doing.
The Thirty Steps of the Ladder of Divine Ascent I. The Break With the World1. Renunciation2. Detachment3. ExileII. The Practice of the VirtuesA. Fundamental Virtues4. Obedience5. Repentance6. Remembrance of Death7. SorrowB. The Struggle Against Passions(a) Non-physical Passions8. Anger9. Malice10. Slander11. Talkativeness12. Falsehood13. Despandency(b) Physical & Material Passions14. Gluttony15. Lust16-17 Avarice(c) Non-Physical Passions18-20. Insensitivity21. Fear22. Vainglory23. Pride (also Blasphemy)C. The Higher Virtues24. Simplicity25. Humility26. Discernment III. Union with God27. Stillness28. Prayer29. Dispassion30. Love

Weep! Motivation for Repentance

In prepping for a class on the virtues of "mourning", I remembered an article that I had read several years ago, impacting my understanding of the problem of evil, suffering, and repentance.

The essay is from a book edited by Fr. Seraphim Rose entitled "Russia's Catacomb Saints". It is an interesting and sobering book as it tells the stories of Orthodox Christians persecuted in Soviet Russia.

One of the persons highlighted is a Russian philosopher named I.M. Andreyev. He appears to be a brilliant man who was persecuted by the Soviets and eventually made it to America where he lived his final days. The following excerpt is from his life and describes an essay that he wrote entitled "Weep!".

"This article, entitled simply "Weep!" and dedicated to the memory of Dostoevsky...tells simply of one of the cold and senseless crimes of a large American city. A 29 year old mother in New York City, in a fit of rage, beat to death her two month …

First Post

okay, I've finally succumbed to the blogosphere. My initial intention is not to try to share any wisdom with the world (lacking in the dept.), but to have a place to post lessons and links from my teaching responsibilities at St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox church in Louisville KY. I currently teach Adult Sunday School and help our priest with Catechism duties. I am a convert to Orthodoxy from the Baptist/Evangelical world, and will probably post some things about that journey as well.

As for the title of the blog, it comes from a Patristic metaphor that is used in two ways.

First, it enlightens the inner relationship of the God/Man Jesus Christ. The Church has always upheld that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. One image for explaining this is the sword in the fire. Place a sword in fire and it glows read hot and takes on the properties of fire while still remaining a sword. Hence, Christ is fully man and fully God without compromising the elements of either.

Sec…