Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 10/ March 2020

Man’s Ethos Of Freedom

St. Cyril of Jerusalem instructed his catechumens at one point as follows:

“True religion consists of these two elements: pious doctrines and virtuous actions. Neither does God accept doctrines apart from good works, nor are works, when divorced from godly doctrine, accepted by God. What does it profit a man to be an expert theologian if he is a shameless fornicator; or to be nobly temperate, but an impious blasphemer? The knowledge of doctrines is a precious possession; there is need of a vigilant soul, since many there are who would deceive you by philosophy and vain deceit.” (Cyril of Jerusalem, 1969, pp. 119-120).

Heresy was one of the reasons why the Church established and enunciated its doctrine in a very clear and unequivocal way. The doctrinal system of the Church contains

  • dogmas decreed by the Councils that opposed heresy and
  • all the other doctrines that the Church always proclaimed as being part of the message of salvation that she addresses to the world.

These include The Triune God, the doctrine of creation of angels and man, man’s fall, the divine plan of salvation, Christ’s person and work, the Church, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, the Sacraments, and Orthodox eschatology (the “last things”).

The ‘knowledge of doctrines’ is inextricably bound up with the growth toward theosis. It assures truth, provides discernment, protects from error and guides the Church and the individual Christian towards theosis. But, since Christians are in different stages of belief and understanding, our attitude towards ‘knowledge of doctrines’ differs from individual to individual.

Moreover, every individual connects himself with freedom. Freedom when defined in its moral and philosophical sense is the possibility of choice and preference. We also observe that our freedom can only exist in the relative sense due to the fact that every being which has a beginning owe its existence to some other being (e.g. our biological relation with our parents). This being the fact, mostly we use the experience of others as a guiding factor to take our decisions. This is due to the moral constraint where we are conscious of the fact that we live in a society which follows a rule to respect the freedom of others as well. We take care that our choices will not conflict with the freedom of others so that order is maintained and there is no chaos.

But this in the actual sense is no freedom to many in today’s times, especially the youth of today define freedom as the choice where they are free to do whatever they wish without regards to any rules. It is, for them the right to choose whatever they like be it in terms of education, friends or relations, lifestyle etc. To be free, for some again means to do anything even if it is an irresponsible action without having to think that it could be a wrong choice; an action that can harm.

In such a case, moral values are under attack, i.e. we see that some set of moral values at one point of time lose credibility at another point of time. It remains just as a social convention. Flattery and dishonesty have become a part of our everyday life. People don’t dwell on the moral quality of life. Today’s motto of ‘do your own thing’ and the principle of instant gratification fostered by our consumer society causes more harm to the ethics.

What is the reason for such differences arising among a set of values or morality/ethics at different times, among different groups of people? How is ethics defined in a society?

The scale of objective virtues or values[1] known as ethics which determine the morality of the individual is the result of religious, philosophical or scientific interpretation of problems to do with the behaviour of the individual in the society. Ethics may arise out of a philosophical interpretation of man’s ethos, or it may result from a given body of religious law determining how man should behave. It can also be a science, the branch of so-called “human sciences”, which tries to find the most effective values for the best organisation of men’s social coexistence. There are two preconditions for application of ethics: authority and convention. The supreme authority can be “divine” in a religious or mythological sense; it can also be represented by party leadership, or by the impersonal principle of state power. If we reject authority, then we are obliged to accept the conventional character of social ethics. The rules of behaviour for the individual follow an agreement or convention, either conscious or dictated by custom. We accept, on utilitarian grounds, ideas about good and evil, which may be those put forward in particular case or those by experience. And we constantly seek to improve them, using philosophy or science to study the manifestations of social behaviour.

Distorted understanding of freedom has damaged our lives and darkened our understanding. We have blindfolded ourselves in such a way that we cannot connect to the actual reality even if we wish to do so. Due to all these factors the two basic building blocks of any society, the family and the church, are being undermined and suffer unrelenting attack.

The truth of the Orthodox Christian Church is that Freedom[2] is infact a reality connected to man. Man is in the image of God. In the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the image is closely connected with freedom, independence. And this is what characterizes man. In patristic (holy fathers) thinking the definition of freedom is different from the secular meaning as defined above. It is clear that ethics as defined above separates the ethos or morality of man, his individual behaviour and value as a character, from his existential truth and hypostatic identity i.e. from what man is, prior to any social or objective evaluation of him. The ethics leaves outside its scope the ontological question of the truth and reality of human existence, the question of what man really is as distinct from what he ought to be and whether he corresponds to this “ought”.

Does human individuality have an ontological hypostasis, a hypostasis of life and freedom beyond space and time?

Does it have a unique, distinctive, unrepeatable hypostatic identity which is prior to character and behaviour, and which determines them?

Or is it a transient by-product of biological, psychological and historical conditions by which it is necessarily determined so that “improvement” in character and behaviour is all we can achieve by resorting to a utilitarian code of law?

If we accept morality simply as man’s conformity to an authoritative or conventional code of law, then ethics becomes man’s alibi for his existential problem. He takes refuge in ethics, whether religious, philosophical or even political, and hides the tragedy of his mortal, biological existence behind idealized and fabulous objective aims. He wears a mask of behaviour borrowed from ideological or party authorities, so as to be safe from his own self and the questions with which it confronts him.

According to the Fathers, freedom as a possibility of choice is the indication of the imperfection of man’s nature (fallen nature). Only God has absolute freedom[3], since God is uncreated. ‘God is uncreated’ means ‘God is unbounded by any “necessity” including his own existence’. Since we are created, such a reality does not exist for us i.e. we do not have absolute freedom. But man, within his limits can, as far as possible acquire absolute freedom, only when he is reborn in Christ, when he becomes a dwelling of Trinitarian God and a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Then, by grace, he becomes fatherless, motherless and without genealogy. Thus freedom in patristic teaching is the possibility of the person determining his existence. And since by our biological birth there is no possibility of our living this out, therefore it is by spiritual birth, which takes place in the Church, that we acquire real freedom. Moreover, it is by our own will that we seek this new birth, which is clearly higher than the biological one.

Since in the Orthodox Church morality is not an objective measure for evaluating character or behaviour, but the dynamic response of personal freedom to the existential truth and authenticity of man, we do not use the term ethics/ethical life but this kind of ‘spiritual living out’ by our own will is the ascetical living of every Christian defined by the Church. This understanding is detailed with example in the next article of this issue. Ascetism in its simplest form of understanding is that as children of God, we have significant duties towards the manifestation of the true meaning of what it is to be a human being. To be truly human is to be righteous, pure, truthful, and good. Simply stated, it is to become by grace what God is by nature. In other words, it is to struggle to grow towards the infinite perfection of our Creator. We are called to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48).

Therefore, asceticism has purely dogmatic/doctrinal character, because it concerns the correct evaluation of concepts. Someone must know exactly what these concepts are, what type they are, and what relationship they bear to the reality that they symbolise or express.” When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine/dogma lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian. The whole struggle is, as Vladimir Lossky so eloquently put it, to “live the dogma”.

We see this in the history of the Church. Many people accept dogma in order to be saved, but they do not observe the ascetical teaching of the Church connected with the dogma.

“But what connection does this dogma – the Holy trinity, the incarnation, all these things – what connection does the dogma of the Holy Trinity have with man’s therapeutic treatment (i.e. the ontological question of the truth and reality of human existence, the question of what man really is as distinct from what he ought to be)?

What saves is ascetical living which includes the doctrine/dogmas of the Church as a therapeutic treatment of man. For man to be saved means that he becomes “safe and sound”, or whole, and realizes to the full his potential for existence and life beyond space time and conventional relationships: it means conquering death. The insatiable thirst common to all human existence is a thirst for his salvation, not for conventional improvements in character or behaviour. This is why for the Church, the question of ethics takes as its starting point the freedom of morality—freedom from any schematic valuation of utilitarian predetermination.

The strange thing is that most of the Orthodox Christians today in ignorance, live the ethical life rather than the ascetical life defined by the Church, and at the same time have become very much involved in moralising.

In this context with only ethics, moralism develops[4]. For e.g. If we ask: “Why ought I to be unselfish?” and you reply “Because it is good for society,” we may then ask, “Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” and then you will have to say, “Because you ought to be unselfish”—which simply brings us back to where we started.

Similarly, if we consider only dogma that is separated from ethics, speculation prevails. Since it is viewed with the idea of being theoretical and not concerned with our everyday living, it just remains vague. For e.g. the view prevailed that the dogma exists and we ought to believe the dogma so as not to go to Hell. It is believed among many that God is such that, we shall go to Hell, if we do not accept the dogma, even though we are good people and that God punishes us for not believing in dogmas.

Thus, practical living should include the understanding of the dogma or the doctrine of the Church. The doctrines/dogmas help in discernment. So as to guard the right path of faith, the Church has had to forge strict forms for the expression of the truths of faith: it has had to build up the fortresses of truth for the repulsion of influences foreign to the Church (these definitions of truth declared by the Church have been called, since the days of the Apostles as dogmas).

In the discourses of Mar Philexenos of Mabbug we read thus, “As for the cure of our soul, the commandment of the word of God urges us to cure its diseases and to heal its passions and to satisfy its hunger with the nourishment of doctrine, to give it the drink of the knowledge of God, to clothe it in the clothing of faith, to put on it the shoe of the preparation of hope, and to rear it in good habits and in the fullness of all virtues, and in the obedience that prepares [it] for the work of the commandments of God. For while our inner actions are holy and our outer actions are pure, let us become vessels prepared for the spirit of God, so that it may dwell in us purely and in a holy way, while through knowledge and wisdom we heal the diseases that occur within us, and heal the wounds of sin from our soul.”

 To conclude in the words of H.G Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios, “He thus “was seen on earth and had concourse with human beings” (Baruch 3:38), so that men may no longer need to rely on their own notions for their view of self-existent, making up doctrines out of conjectures and guess work. Rather, convinced that truly God was manifested in the flesh, let us believe this alone to be the ‘mystery of Godliness’, the faith handed over to us by the Logos-God Himself, in direct face to face conversation with the Apostles. Let us then receive the teaching concerning Transcendent Nature, given to us through a mirror and as in a paradox (ainigmatos), through the most ancient Scriptures concretised as Law, the Prophets, and Proverbial wisdom, as a witness to the Truth revealed to us reverently (eusebos) apprehending the sense of words, in accord with the faith (hos….pistei) set forth by Lord of All, let us guard that faith in literal and untampered purity, regarding the slightest deviation from the words traditionally handed down as the highest blasphemy and impiety.”.

For the full issue (for free) click the ‘download’ button below….


[1] Christos Yannaras on Morality

[2] The person in the Orthodox Tradition, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

[3] ibid

[4] Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church, according to the spoken teaching of Fr.John Romanides, Volume 1

Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 9/-Jan 2020

THE DIVINE ECONOMY

The liturgical Calendar Year of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is divided into six periods:

  1. From Koodos Etho Sunday to Yeldo
  2. From Yeldo (Birth) to Kothine
  3. From Kothine (water made into wine) Sunday to Kymtha
  4. From Kymtha (Resurrection) Sunday to Pentecost
  5. From Pentecost to Sleeba
  6. From Sleeba (Feast of the Cross) to Koodos Etho

As a remembrance and a means of union with Christ, the liturgical year becomes a source of grace[1]. With its succession of feasts and fasts it commemorates on the one hand events in the life of our Lord, His Mother, St. John the Baptist and also all those men, women and children who have achieved sanctity. Each feast brings into focus a special aspect and meaning of the divine order. The feasts of the saints, beginning with those of the Theotokos and ending with those of the most recently glorified members of the Church “celebrate a special grace that flows from Christ, for their sanctity is but an aspect, a shining ray of the holiness of Christ” (Fr. Lev Gillet). The festal calendar is a result of continuous development. Begun in Christian antiquity, it is always “in progress.” Each age adds to it its own significant ecclesiastical events and its own martyrs and witnesses of the faith, who in the purity of their hearts have seen the invisible God as in a mirror, and through whom divine grace has richly flowed to us.

As Father Lev Gillet has written, “In the liturgical year we are called to relive the whole life of Christ: from Christmas to Pascha, from Pascha to Pentecost, we are exhorted to unite ourselves to Christ in his birth and in his growth, to Christ suffering, to Christ dying, to Christ in triumph and to Christ inspiring His Church.  The liturgical year forms Christ in us, from His birth to full stature of the perfect man.”

We have entered the second period of the Liturgical calendar year; from Yeldo to Kothine.

Yeldo perunal can also be understood through the words of Mar Philexenos of Mabbug, as— “God who made Adam in the beginning outside his personality, has now recreated nature of man in himself. This is a mystery which we confess by faith, and not by reason.” ‘Yeldo perunal’ as known in the Indian Orthodox Church is (in the words of St. Gregory of Nazianzus), the celebration of coming of God to man that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God -that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him.”.

But, for the world Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.

Sadly, this kind of practice is seen in many of our Orthodox Christian households too. On the day of Christmas, we get up early in the morning and attend the church. We come back from the liturgy and have delicacy food with our family and friends because for us it a great day, a joyful occasion; to get together with our near and dear ones and have the best time and hoard up great memories rather than commemorating the day to heal our soul. The Church observes a 25 day fast before Christmas (the Nativity Fast) which has become an option for many in today’s times.  Rather than observing the fast to practice in progression to rid ourselves of the earthly needs and wants and through prayer and charity renew our faith and relationship to God and others, we chose to spend these days like any other days running behind wants and desires that never satiate. In the midst of such occupations and celebrations we fail to understand the spiritual reality that God became man, so that we become like God. We forget the actual reason for the season. To such a celebration, St. Gregory of Nazianzus counsels,

“Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him Who is ours, or rather as our Master’s; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

And how shall this be? Let us not adorn our porches; nor arrange dances, nor decorate the streets; let us not feast the eye, not enchant the ear with music, nor enervate the nostrils with perfume, not prostitute the taste, nor indulge the touch, those roads that are so prone to evil and entrances for sin; let us not be effeminate in clothing soft and flowing, whose beauty consists in its uselessness, nor with the glittering of gems or the sheen of gold or the tricks of color, belying the beauty of nature, and invented to do despite unto the image of God. Not in rioting and drunkenness, with which are mingled, I know well, chambering and wantonness, since the lessons which evil teachers give are evil.

Let us not appraise the bouquet of wines, the kickshaws of cooks, the great expense of unguents; and let us not strive to outdo each other in temperance, and this while others are hungry and in want, who are made of the same clay and in the same manner.

Let us leave all these to the Greeks[2] and to the pomp and festivals of the Greeks. But we, the object of whose adoration is the Word, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in word, and in the Divine Law, and in histories; especially such as are the origin of this Feast; that our luxury may be akin to and not far remove from Him Who has called us together. Or do you desire (for today I am your entertainer) that I should set before you, my good guests, the story of these things as abundantly and as nobly as I can, that you may know how a foreigner can feed the natives of the land, and a rustic the people of the town, and one who cares not for luxury those who delight in it, and one who is poor and homeless those who are eminent for wealth?

We will begin from this point; and let me ask of you who delight in such matters to cleanse your mind and your ears and your thoughts, since our discourse is to be of God and Divine; that when you depart, you may fade not away. And this same discourse shall be at once both very full and very concise, that you may neither be displeased at its deficiencies, nor find it unpleasant through wearisomeness.”.

So true to the words of St. Gregory which was said centuries ago is very relevant even today in the 21st century. The reason for the season is forgotten and we spend our life having a good time.

The reason for this season is the Word’s becoming Man and His divine Appearing in our midst; the Incarnation.

God made all things out of nothing, and He reserved especial mercy to the race of man.

St. Athanasius[3] quotes,

“He bestowed a grace which other creatures lacked—namely the impress of His own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word (The Second Person in the Trinity) Himself, so that, reflecting Him and themselves becoming reasonable and expressing the Mind of God even as He does, though in limited degree they might continue for ever in the blessed and only true life of the saints in paradise”.

Referring to Ephesians 4:11-16[4], the above quote means that, what we are all expected to do is to be true in love, so that all grow towards him and in him; for he, Christ is the Head. It is from Him as controlling element that the whole body is coordinated and linked together in harmony, through the mutual connecting joints provided in the body, and through each part fulfilling the function assigned to it. The same Head ensures that the whole body grows and builds itself through love.

Further referring to Mathew 4:19, Christ says “Come, follow me.”. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. And in 1 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me”.

He secured this grace to man by making it ‘conditional’ from the first with two things—a law and a place.

“If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven. But if they went astray and became vile, throwing away their birthright of beauty, then they would come under the natural law of death and live no longer in paradise, but, dying outside of it, continue in death and in corruption. This is what Holy Scripture tells us, proclaiming the command of God, “Of every tree that is in the garden thou shalt surely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat, but in the day that ye do eat, ye shall surely die.”. “Ye shall surely die”—not just die only, but remain in the state of death and of corruption.”.

Through our (man’s) own devising’s, we chose to turn to evil and set ourselves to the law of death. We lost our existence by turning away from God, Who alone Exists and Who alone is all good. We were called to ‘being’, but we chose to return to ‘non-being’ by choosing evil which is the negation and antithesis of good. We were creatures brought out of nothing, but bore the Likeness of God, and

“and if man preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt.”

Keeping of the law was the assurance of man being incorrupt.

But man,

“turning from eternal things to things corruptible, by counsel of the devil, they had become the cause of their own corruption in death; for, as I said before, though they were by nature subject to corruption, the grace of their union with the Word (The Second Person in the Trinity) made them capable of escaping from the natural law, provided that they retained the beauty of innocence with which they were created. That is to say, the presence of the Word (The Second Person in the Trinity) with them shielded them even from natural corruption, as also Wisdom says: God created man for incorruption and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death entered into the world.”

“When this happened, men began to die, and corruption ran riot among them and held sway over them to an even more than natural degree, because it was the penalty of which God had forewarned them for transgressing the commandment. Indeed, they had in their sinning surpassed all limits; for, having invented wickedness in the beginning and so involved themselves in death and corruption, they had gone on gradually from bad to worse, not stopping at any one kind of evil, but continually, as with insatiable appetite, devising new kinds of sins. Adulteries and thefts were everywhere, murder and rapine filled the earth, law was disregarded in corruption and injustice, all kinds of iniquities were perpetrated by all, both singly and in common. Cities were warring with cities, nations were rising against nations, and the whole earth was rent with factions and battles, while each strove to outdo the other in wickedness. Even crimes contrary to nature were not unknown, but as the martyr-apostle of Christ says: “Their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature; and the men also, leaving the natural use of the woman, flamed out in lust towards each other, perpetrating shameless acts with their own sex, and receiving in their own persons the due recompense of their pervertedness.”

“The thing that was happening was in truth both monstrous and unfitting. It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word (The Second Person in the Trinity) should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption”

“As, then, the creatures whom He had created reasonable, like the Word, were in fact perishing, and such noble works were on the road to ruin, what then was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them? In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning?”.

“What—or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required?

The Word of God (The Second Person in the Trinity) Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.”

Thus, for this reason the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God (the Second person of the Trinity) entered our world. He was never far away from us, and filled everything while still abiding in union with the Father (refer Creed).

“But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.”

To explain the above quote further— The Incarnation of God the Word is a great grace given by God to the humanity. This is the primary affirmation of Bar Ebraya[5] regarding his faith in the Incarnation. According to him, the purpose of Incarnation is the salvation of the world. God could have accomplished it by any other means. It pleased Him, however to work it out in and through human life, because, it appeared to Him, the appropriate way for the accomplishment of the purpose of Economy (mdabronuto). Bar Ebraya says: “It is by birth of God according to the flesh, by His voluntary suffering according to the flesh, and His death according to the flesh, that you have been saved.”

Therefore God the Son the second person of the Trinity became man. God the Son accepted an incarnated state as a dispensation for the salvation of the world. This dispensation is God’s action in which the Son accepted a birth from a human mother. However, God the Son incarnate does not mean that the universe was deprived of His divine care during his lifetime on earth. In order to become incarnate God the Son accepted on Himself a self-limitation.

But why only the second person of the Holy Trinity became incarnate in Virgin Mary, rather than first or third?

According to Bar Ebraya, each one of the hypostases has the power to do every possible thing. But it is the hypostasis[6] of the Word that the union is convenient.

“He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us……”

The above quote means God the word is one hypostasis. He united Himself hypostatically to the flesh endowed with a rational and intelligent soul, which was assumed from Mary. The natures, therefore, which came in to union were hypostases although manhood received its hypostatic status only in the union. The one from two is one person. Jesus Christ as a person has been formed of a union of Godhead and manhood. Thus He is one double nature (united nature) and one composite hypostasis. The concern of Bar Ebraya here is not to explain away either of the natures but to affirm the real unity.

In brief, God the Son became man. Though the Virgin was the mother of manhood alone, because manhood had come into being, and existed, only in union with God the Son, she gave birth to God incarnate, and therefore she was the Theotokos. The confession is not to minimize the reality and perfection of Christ’s manhood, but to insist to the unity of Christ.

“This great work was, indeed, supremely worthy of the goodness of God. A king who has founded a city, so far from neglecting it when through the carelessness of the inhabitants it is attacked by robbers, avenges it and saves it from destruction, having regard rather to his own honor than to the people’s neglect. Much more, then, the Word of the All-good Father was not unmindful of the human race that He had called to be; but rather, by the offering of His own body He abolished the death which they had incurred, and corrected their neglect by His own teaching. Thus by His own power He restored the whole nature of man.”

“For by the sacrifice of His own body He did two things:

  1. He put an end to the law of death which barred our way;
  2. and He made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection.

By man death has gained its power over men; by the Word made Man death has been destroyed and life raised up anew. That is what Paul says, that true servant of Christ: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. Just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” and so forth. Now, therefore, when we die we no longer do so as men condemned to death, but as those who are even now in process of rising we await the general resurrection of all, “which in its own times He shall show,” even God Who wrought it and bestowed it on us. This, then, is the first cause of the Savior’s becoming Man.

Thus,

“it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.”

To summarise, Man, as we already noted, is a creature of God endowed with creaturely freedom. As a creature he has a beginning and the possibility of an end. Yet, unlike other creatures, he/she is created to attain the eternal life, which God grants him. To gain this goal man is called upon to live his life in communion with Creator and follow his way, using his creaturely autonomy. However, man took advantage of his personal freedom to follow his own plan in life. This led to his fall from the Source of eternal life, to which he had to be restored. The restoration required an absolute self-surrender to God on the part of man, which was possible only by God himself helping man to do it. Therefore, the coming together of God the Son and man into union (Incarnation) was necessary, and God accomplished it in Jesus Christ. This is the Divine Economy[7].

For the full issue (for free) click the ‘download’ button below….


[1] Liturgical Calendar, Ahmedabad Diocese

[2] Greeks or referring to pagans

[3] On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius (Source: Copticchurch)

[4] The Kingdom of Diakonia- Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios

[5] The Christology of Bar Ebraya by H.G. Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascoros

[6] In the words of H.G Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, “Trinity means ‘one in three and three in one’. God is one and three in the same time. One ousia and three hypostases is difficult, but simple we can say one family with father, mother and a child. This relativity is to make supra-natural sharing of love, which is the very sharing of God. The number three is not ultimate in nuclear families. 360 Deg. Of a circle remains the same in bigger circles also. Therefore, ultimately whether children are one, two or many, the unity of family remains.”

Hypostases can mean ‘in particular’. This meaning is given for the understanding of all but there is theological depth to it.

[7] An Orthodox Catechism on the Faith and Life of the Church, Dr. V.C. Samuel

Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 8/-July 2019

MAN’S JOURNEY FROM ADAM TO THE MOTHER OF GOD

Man is a theological being according to the understanding of the Fathers. In the world before the fall, God came in the cool of the day to converse with the primordial human as with a friend. This man was in virtue sinless and pure. This man was created in the image of God. Being in the image of God, pure and blameless, this kind of divine communion was given and set in. Thus it is as such that the human being was created as a mediator between God and the creation, by communing in divine life.

When God created man, he created him the Fathers declared, avtexsousios[1] , “possessing self-determination.” This distinctly human quality, freedom of will, pertained to man’s very being from the beginning. It is presupposed in the very fact that God gave Adam and Eve a command—and, therefore, a choice whether or not to obey it—in the original Garden of his existence.
The second century Bishop of Lyons, St. Irenaeus, who cited the Lord’s many commandments as proof of man’s to avtexsousion, “self-determination” (Against the Heresies 4.37.3).
Why would the Creator have given a “law” to man unless man was able to make a choice with respect to that law? There is “no coercion in God,” St. Irenaeus reasoned; “God made man self-determining (avtexsousios) from the beginning” (4.37.1).

Thus for the primordial human, in his very nature was included a life of grace in God and with God, for he was created in the world for God. And in adamic sin (not to confuse with the RC understanding of original sin) the human extinguished the life of grace within and tore asunder his direct graced communion, “conversation” with God; ceased to be a human, a friend of God, and instead became a natural being, and plunged into cosmism.

This was in Adam’s paradisiacal state, before the fall, when the ontological[2] commandment not to eat the fruits of tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the double possibility for self-determination towards God or towards the world appeared before Adam. After the choice, this possibility of choice disappeared not only for Adam but also for all of his descendants. This is ‘the event’ that marked the beginning of our age, the consequences of which stand even till the present times and further.
Having turned away from God, the human lost the power and fountain of life within and weakened, he could no longer contain and bind his body. Death entered the world.

At the same time being the ontological center of the world, its soul, he lost the faculty “of having dominion” in the world. The world fell into an orphaned state; it was left without a master.

The fall was a cosmic catastrophe, “a curse” for the earth; it happened not just in the human but also in the whole world (and through this it condemned the human to labor in the sweat of his brow). The world fell ill with the human, and until the present day, the whole creation groans and is tormented on account of “the one who accused her” from whom she hopes for her deliverance (Romans 8.19-22). The world of the human being became a world lying in evil and suffering, although the human world was a divine world in its first principles. Having corrupted his body, the human being harmed the whole world; having become the law of his life, evil in the world began to bear fruit and multiply as it did in the human. We see this further down from Cain (who committed fracticide) in his generation of descendants.

Adam comes forward as the all-human, with his own definition defining his nature not on its essence (in the image and likeness of God) but its condition. Thus this critical moment of choice, trial and self-determination lay unavoidably on the human’s path (that is for every individual) owing to his creatureliness (a created being), and perhaps to the double possibility objectively deposited to him (through ‘the event’ mentioned above): if he turned towards God, he could become god by grace for the sake of the whole world or, if he turned away towards the world, he could become its slave and give power to the elements of non-existence and death.

After the fall, we sons of Adam no longer know this “very good”[3] in which the world was created. If the fallen human being, according to the word of the apostle, has “another law which is in our members, a sinful law” (Romans 7:11, 20), then this disorder extends into the whole world.
Being away from God, not knowing the very good, man started living and understanding life in his own terms without God. This is known as self-creation. Thus man was defined as an individual without God rather than a man filled with the grace of God, divinizing himself from measure to measure with the influence of the Divinity that was set in for him. He committed a sin of unbelief and hatred for God. He got the false idea that spiritual might and immortality could be obtained by the powers of this world.

Thus individuality is born in this self-determination (on the freedom to choose). Individuality is the fruit of the fall. The human being characterizes himself as a biological being and spends his whole life and activities on his material and biological needs without having any other pursuit in his life. This is the present state of man as we now see him.

The question then is did Adam have this individuality and If it was someone else other than Adam, would the same occur?

Adam was the primogenitor (first born) of the human race. As a primogenitor, alone in himself, begins beforehand and holds in himself all people and everything (For example, an apple seed forms into an apple tree, the tree contains the seeds that it produces and will produce in the form of apples and also in the form of other apple trees and further on…i.e. in a particular seed is contained the future trees and seeds). Given this, in his primordial state, his being unburdened by sin, his clarity of sight and proximity to God are fundamental immanent characteristics of such an Adam. His personal qualities, in the sense of individual endowments, genius or talents, as we now distinguish them in people are completely annihilated and seem insubstantial, as if they did not exist, due to his superiority in his immanent characteristics. In other words, as sinless and primordial, Adam does not have individual personhood in the sense as we now understand it. Adam was not an individual, for a sinless human is at the same time a human in general i.e. is the all-human, free from the bad limiting influence of individuality.
Thus Adam’s individuality had no specific significance, it was his position as primordial that was decisive here and none of the descendants of Adam, placed in his position, would be distinguished from him at all, each one would be Adam. All people are not only of equal value but are also equal, equally of genius in their primordialness and chastity. Distinctions in individual endowment and strength came later, only in the fall, in its limiting and hence differentiating power.
Hence the question loses meaning; it becomes senseless to ask what would have been if the primordial had not been Adam but, for example, Seth or even you (the reader) and me (the author). Each primordial would have equally turned out to be Adam.

Is it then, that each one of us commit ancestral sin, and if so, when and how?

St Paul says: ‘Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned’ (Rom.5:12).
This text, which formed the Church’s basis of her teaching on ‘adamic sin’, may be understood in a number of ways: the Greek words ef’ ho pantes hemarton[4] may be translated not only as ‘because all men sinned’ but also ‘in whom [that is, in Adam] all men sinned’. Different readings of the text may produce different understandings of what ‘ancestral sin[5] ‘ means.
If we accept the first translation, this means that each person is responsible for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression. Here, Adam is merely the prototype of all future sinners, each of whom, in repeating Adam’s sin, bears responsibility only for his own sins. Adam’s sin is not the cause of our sinfulness; we do not participate in his sin and his guilt cannot be passed onto us.
However, if we read the text to mean ‘in whom all have sinned’, this can be understood as the passing on of Adam’s sin to all future generations of people, since human nature has been infected by sin in general. The disposition toward sin became hereditary and responsibility for turning away from God sin is universal. As St Cyril of Alexandria states, human nature itself has ‘fallen ill with sin’; thus we all share Adam’s sin as we all share his nature. St Macarius of Egypt speaks of ‘a leaven of evil passions’ and of ‘secret impurity and the abiding darkness of passions’, which have entered into our nature in spite of our original purity. Sin has become so deeply rooted in human nature that not a single descendant of Adam has been spared from a hereditary predisposition toward sin.
The Old Testament writers had a vivid sense of their inherited sinfulness: ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’ (Ps.51:7). They believed that God ‘visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation’ (Ex.20:5). In the latter words reference is not made to innocent children but to those whose own sinfulness is rooted in the sins of their forefathers.

How is it that ‘…one man’s obedience many will be made righteous’[6] ?

The Lord conquered death and healed the entire human race from ancestral sin. To Him belongs all authority in heaven and on earth, and He will resurrect the whole human race (for The Last Judgment) and renew nature, once the new heaven and new earth have appeared. The world is saved by Christ, for the power of Resurrection acts in the world. The new Adam has already taken the place of the old one, and if the old Adam is still decaying and with his decaying body covers the flesh of resurrection, then anything connected to the heavenly worship, the sacraments does not correspond to the authentic reality, as in the sacred mysteries, the empirical [visible] reality of bread and wine does not correspond to the real presence of Body and Blood.
The old Adam is not decaying because the saving fruits of Christ’s death were made available not only to those who lived after Him, but also to those who lived before Him; for during His three-day burial Jesus Christ harrowed hell and brought to Paradise those righteous ones who had lain in hades throughout the ages. “Christ’s death,” writes St. Symeon the New Theologian, “was an indispensable sacrifice also for the pious ones who died before His coming in the flesh[7] .”

Through Christ’s Resurrection, all mankind has been made subject to future resurrection: physical, bodily resurrection. Those who receive Christ’s gift of salvation are resurrected unto eternal life, as He says; while those who reject it are resurrected unto damnation (cf. John 5:29). Once again, this is because human nature is one. St. Paul affirms: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:21).
Orthodox theology is as per what St. Paul says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ”[8]. The Lord established baptism for the remission of sins and it is the only path to salvation, according to His unassailable word. This means that a for a human there cannot be theologically any action in isolation, but only within the community of the Church, he can work out his own salvation according to Trinitarian model of God, in the image of whom we humans function.

Then what about the mystery of baptism for the whole Old Testament humanity, for paganism and for the entire non-Christian world?

Destinies and salvation[9] is a mystery of God for which there are indications in the preaching of Hades about several other paths of salvation beyond the grave unknown to us; but for Christians to whom the mysteries and the keys of the mystery have been entrusted here on earth there is only one means of salvation—through baptism. Thus baptism of infants, necessary even after the already accomplished healing from the disease of ancestral sin through Christ’s incarnation and resurrection, indicates the presence of sin in them.

The effect of sin comes into light first of all as the infirmity of nature, expressed in mortality of the human being. The sickliness of the body is only the particular expression of its mortality. With this is bound also its dependence on the natural elements, on hunger, cold, on the weakness of the body, its weariness, on the weakness and limitedness of the mind and cognition, on the weakness of the will and its vacillations, on the affectivity of the whole passionate essence of the human being. All these properties, burdening and limiting human life, form a source of infirmity in every human being.

This infirmity of nature differs from sins as human acts known as transgressions. This becomes as the work of evil in the world. These transgressions as human acts has its basis in the infirmity of nature. These transgressions in a human is called personal sin.
Thus we have the infirmity of nature which is the consequence of the ancestral sin as that which is common to every human being and sins as personal human acts or personal sin having its basis in infirmity of nature.

The infirmity of nature causes, ofcourse, the active power of sin, engenders sinfulness. The power of the devil over humankind is realized in this sinfulness. But this power of sinfulness can be weakened or approximated to the state of potentiality. The law living in the members of the human being and opposed to the good through “the body of death” can be rendered powerless to a greater or lesser degree. That is the power of sin in a human can increase to the point of becoming satanic (Antichrist) or enfleshed (antediluvian humanity), but it also weakens to such a degree that it is capable of being exalted to the highest sanctity, the summit of which is attained in the Virgin Mary.

In the fallen world that has the consequences (the infirmity of nature) of ancestral sin, and the human being not knowing the “very good”, individuality takes root and becomes the sole form for the life of the soul, just as a sinful body is for the life of the flesh. Fallen humankind defines his nature and knows himself only in the form of individuality. Individuality is the reflected light of the Satan on a human being whom he desired to pervert according to the image of his metaphysical egotism—a state without love. The wholeness of the human race collapses. A common single life becomes obscured and perverted. It comes unraveled together with the loss of chastity. In place of multi-unity in love, multi-difference appears. In place of concentricism (the quality of having the same center i.e. God) there is eccentricism.

Only life in Christ liberates us from individuality, leading into the multi-unity in love that is necessary for the soul, into the Church. Thus liberation from the captivity of individuality, is the condition of Christian salvation. Christ is the fullness of all good, there is no Good that is outside of him. Only in Christ can we grow in knowing the “very good” from measure to measure to become like Christ. And this is the very purpose of our life. A life deified, to attain theosis.

The Mother of God’ unconditional salvation was accomplished by the visitation of the Holy Spirit. She is not being saved but saves not as a savior; for there is only one Saviour of the whole human race and of Virgin Mary as well. For she too speaks about the Saviour as “God, and my Saviour[10]” . She saves us as the advocate and intercessor for the human race.

She is the new earth and heaven, created in place of the former ones defiled by sin. She is the paradise and the woman promised by God in paradise whose seed would trample the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). She is the Noah’s ark of salvation and the ladder seen in a dream by Jacob. She is the Burning Bush, seen by Moses, the Red Sea in which Israel was saved. She is the tabernacle and temple, the Ark of the Covenant, the urn, the tablets, the incense stand and the rod of Aaron. She is Gideon’s fleece. She is the queen of psalm (Ps. 45) and the bride of Song of Songs[11] . She is the Virgin foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Is. 7:14) and the closed gates seen by the prophet Ezekiel (Ez. 44:1-4). She is the mountain not hewn seen by Prophet Daniel, the mountain overshadowed by the thicket seen by the prophet Habakkuk.

Finally we sing along with a monk, who was a scholar-musician wandering in the highlands of Ethopia, long ago, from his crafted love song to the Virgin in the book ‘Harp of Glory-Enzira Sebhat’ as,

    O Virgin, you are the boast of Adam and Eve,
Because of you, the locked gate of Paradise has been re-opened.
Because of you, the way of life has been made smooth once more.
O Pure One, through your purity, cleanse the defile temple of my body.
You whose name is so sweet, salt with the flavor of your love, these insipid lips of mine.
Fountain of Glory, set me as a bucket dropped in your holy stream, that overflowing river of joy.

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[1] frjohnpeck.com
[2] Ontological means a branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being

[3]Gen 1:31

[4]Orthodox Faith Texts
[5] The phrase the Greek Fathers used to describe the tragedy in the Garden was ancestral sin.
[6] Romans 5:19

[7] St. Symeon the New Theologian, First-Created Man, p. 73
[8] Philippians 2:12
[9] The Burning Bush

[10] Luke 1: 47
[11] St. John of Damascus in his discourse on the Nativity of the Theotokos

Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 7/-May 2019

My biggest battle with death came when I was just a boy. My father faced a hopeless battle against cancer. Slowly, he was reduced from a giant of a man to someone who was frail and broken. His death left me empty, afraid and bitter!

The perfect description of how I felt came the day we buried my father. It was a Saturday. The trip to the cemetery was on the same route that people were going to use for a parade just a few minutes after we passed. I sat in the back of the car with my family. We were all dressed in black. We mourned, but none of the people lining the streets for the parade were aware of what was happening to us, happening to me.

Children didn’t understand why the crowd hushed as the hearse passed. They didn’t know that I lost someone I loved. They held balloons in their hands. They had smiles on their faces. I felt empty and alone. Their world was happy. My world was ending. Death does that to those left to mourn. Few people understand the pain, the loneliness, and the frustration you feel. They are smiling while you are crying. This is the testimony[1] of a young boy on death of his beloved father.

We find this mystery of death terrible, because it breaks the unity between the loved ones, because we lose a person we love. This is a great truth, experienced by those who lose persons dear to them, as in our example, the case of the young boy.

We shall see another example that is expressive; is the funeral oration of St. Gregory the theologian on the death of his sister, St. Gorgonia. St. Gregory says, “She longed for her dissolution, for indeed she had great boldness towards Him who called her”. There had developed in her love towards the loved one, “Who is, I will even say it, her lover”.

She had been made aware of the day of her falling asleep, and, as St. Gregory says, when the appointed day came, she prepared herself for death and departure, “and fulfilled the law towards such matters and took to her bed”.  When she understood that the hour of her soul’s departure from her body was coming, she lay down on the bed and waited for her death. She fell asleep after she had previously counseled her husband, children and friends and had spoken brilliantly about what happens in heaven, and made her last day a “day of solemn festival”. The day of her soul’s departure became for her a day of solemn festival. And St. Gregory the Theologian, speaking of her death, said that his sister “was set free, or it is better to say, taken to God, or flew away, or changed her abode, or anticipated by little the departure of her body”.

At the end of his funeral oration St. Gregory added a detail which, nevertheless, is expressive and indicative of the overcoming of death.

In the room where St. Gorgonia lay at the time when she was nearing her departure from this world, there “was solemn silence, as if her death were a religious ceremony. This description of the hour of death is most beautiful. It amounts to a religious ceremony. The saint was repeating a psalm. Her father came near in order to hear what she was saying. And he preserved the information that “under her breath she was repeating the last words of psalm”, the funeral service. Her manner of dying was, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, a testimony to the boldness with which she was departing.

It is in this that the saints who have boldness with God leave this world. They leave with the hope of resurrection, with the assurance that they will meet the beloved Bridegroom(Christ). The hour of death conceals a mystery. And that is why the suspense then is great. A mixture of feelings prevails. Repentance, prayer, fear, hope, expectation of a meeting. Therefore not only the one who is dying should pray, but all who are around him should accompany him with their prayers. This holy hour should be faced with holy awe and spiritual inspiration.

This makes us think of What am I? What is the meaning of life?

Orthodox Christian teaching on man in general differs from all metaphysical theories. The creation of man is discussed in the first books of the Holy Bible. We read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Some basic truths are manifested in this passage. First, it can be seen that God who created man is a Person (three persons), not an ideal nor impersonal. He is not an assemblage of impersonal ideas.

Then it declares that man is created according to the image and likeness of God. If this passage is linked with another passage (which mentions that God formed the body from the dust of the ground and then breathed into him and thus the soul was created) it is clear that man was directly created by God in a positive way. This means that the soul did not previously live in an eternal and unborn world of ideas, but was created by God at that moment. It also means that the body is not the prison of the soul, but was formed by God at that moment, and man was formed in this way a unity of soul and body. That is to say, the body did not exist before the soul, and the soul did not exist before the body. Man is not simply a soul or simply a body. The soul is the soul of a human person and the body is the body of a human person, i.e., man is always bother, because he consists of both soul and body. Furthermore, this passage shows the Truth that man is created by God to be king, the ruler of all creation and hence have the responsibility to keep the creation from being destroyed and provide it the required nourishment. Therefore, understand that the body is not the prison of the soul, but was created together with the soul in a positive way by God. Both soul and body must have a common course towards God.

However, in studying the human body from a Christian point of view we can look at five phases.

The first phase refers to how the body functioned before man’s fall. Right after man’s creation, the body had the grace and energy of God. That is, the soul was in communion with God and this brightened, gave glory, to the body as well, and through the body this brilliance was extended to the whole of nature.

The second phase is what took place after man’s fall. As soon as man lost his communion with God, the mirror was shattered, and as a result great darkness fell upon all creation. Then Adam and Eve saw that they were naked and felt ashamed, so they tried to cover their nakedness. The body became untamed, because of sin, and all bodily passions appeared, and this means that death entered into man. The body suffered a great catastrophe, diseases appeared, and it became weak and needed more food and clothing to be protected from changes in the weather. The body that we know today is not the body received at creation. It is not the same body as that which was created by God; rather it is the body that accepted the consequences and the results of sin, that is, death.

The third phase of the body starts with Christ’s Incarnation. The Logos/Word of God assumed the human body, indeed, a mortal body, in order to bring it back to its former glory and raise it beyond where is was in the person of Adam. The Transfiguration of Christ, when His face shone like the sun and his tunic turned as white as light, shows the glorification of the human body. So, our God is not simply an idea, He is not just a Person, but the Theanthropos, both God and man. The human body acquired great glory in the Person of the Logos/Word. We also have the opportunity to live within the Body of Christ. We are reborn through the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, the Holy Baptism, the Holy Chrismation, and we give glory to the body through Holy Communion.

The fourth phase of the body begins with the soul’s exit from it. Despite the separation of the soul, man’s unity remains intact, the person, the hypostasis, remains. If someone manages with God’s Grace to balance the relationship between soul and body, then his/her body becomes a holy relic. In the Orthodox Church we have several holy relics, namely bodies, which remain incorruptible, give off fragrance, and make miracles. This means that these bodies, without undergoing any chemical process, without being in certain, suitable, climate conditions, are maintained incorruptible, an indication that God’s Grace is within them.

The fifth phase of the body will start with the Second Coming of Christ, when the bodies of all human beings will be resurrected.

Where am I going after I die is a curious question asked by  youth or any person whose interest in such questions is intensified due to the uncertainties he faces in everyday living or who have had such experiences of losing a loved one.

Death[2] is the greatest mystery, which has always occupied man’s spirit. It is the consequence and also the cause of sin. The sin from which death was born is Adam’s fall in the Paradise of delight (Genesis 2:17). After this sin, death did enter human nature—first spiritual death, which is man’s separation from God, and then bodily death, which is soul’s separation from the body at the appropriate time. On the day when Adam sinned he died spiritually, and more slowly he died physically as well. 

In the patristic teaching, death is not a punishment by God, but a fruit and result of Adam’s sin (Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-25; Romans 5:12-14). The term “death” is used to mean man’s withdrawal and separation from God, in Whom is the real life. Thus anyone who withdraws from life, from God, is deadened, he dies. As St. Gregory of Palamas emphasizes “the first to undergo this deadening was Satan, whom God rightly abandoned because of his disobedience”. The deadened devil transmitted the deadening of man as well because man listened to his advice, disobeyed God, and lost His Grace.

Death is not created by God, but is a free choice of man. Death becomes the result and cause of sin. It is the cause of sin— in the sense, that because of decay and mortality[3] which we inherit from our parents, the various passions develop, such as self indulgence, avarice, and love for glory and in general because of mortality we fall into many sins. According to St. John Chrysostom, the biological inheritance of decay that was introduced into human nature by the descendants of Adam is justifiable. “Having become corruptible, such too were the children that they produced”. St. Cyril of Alexandria says the same: After falling into this (death) they procreated children, the offspring from this, being from corruption were produced corruptible.” Indeed St. John Chrysostom observes that we even baptize babies “although they have no sins”, so that they may be added “sanctification, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, membership of the brotherhood of Christ, becoming dwelling-places of the spirit”. This also answers the question on “why do Orthodox Christian’s baptize babies?”

What then is the relationship between Baptism and Death? From the words of St. John Chrysostom on baptism, how is Death conquered?

Christ’s incarnation was in order that death and sin might be destroyed and the devil might be conquered. In fact Christ assumed a mortal and vulnerable body in order to conquer death. Through His Crucifixion and Resurrection He overcame death and gave man the possibility, after being united with Him, to overcome death himself in his personal life.

This aim is achieved through the sacraments of the Church. Through Baptism we become members of the risen Body of Christ, and through Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ we receive the medicine of immortality. Not only is the soul united with God, but also the body receives a sense of this inner change and transformation of the soul. This is seen clearly in the relics of the saints of the Church. Through Baptism man is enabled, of his free choice, to fight sin; the sin which is inseparably linked with the perishability and mortality of his body.

In this sense man’s salvation is God’s operation but also man’s cooperation. St. Gorgonia’s life is the exemplary example of this.

More interesting facts and Orthopraxy on death, for the full issue (for free) click the ‘download’ button below….


[1] Online source

[2] Life After Death- Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

[3] See further article 2 of this issue

Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 6/Feb-Mar 2019

A Far Country!!!

In the parable of the “Prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32); the prodigal son went to a far country and there spent all that he had. A far country! This is the unique definition of our human condition today and from the time of our fall. A man who has never felt that he is exiled from God and from ‘real life’ will never understand what Christianity is about.

“After our falling away from God the perturbation occurred that was bound to happen throughout the entire human composition —

  • having been separated from God, the spirit lost its strength and submitted to the soul,
  • and the soul, having not been elevated by the spirit, obeyed the body.                    

In other words, man’s goal in this world is to strive towards eternity by obeying God’s commandments. “Man’s home” is the Kingdom of God. This is “The Reality”.

But man considers that he is perfectly “at home” in this world and its life. He has forgotten to desire God and His Kingdom; and strives towards the cares of life in this world. In this strife, he forgets to strive towards perfecting himself in virtue and only grows more passionate with the desire towards; and attachments and fancies of this world. Thus a man who has never been wounded/suffered/suffers in the desire for God and His Kingdom will not understand what repentance is.

Many understand repentance as an “objective” enumeration of sins and transgressions; as an act of “pleading guilty” to a legal indictment. Confession and absolution are seen as being of juridical nature.

In this definition of Repentance, confession and absolution “something” very essential is overlooked. This “something” is precisely the feeling of alienation from God, from the joy of communion with Him, the real life as created and given by God. Without this neither confession nor absolution has any real meaning or power.

It is easy indeed to confess that I have not fasted on prescribed days, or missed my prayers or become angry. It is quite a different thing to realize that I have defiled and lost my spiritual beauty (spiritual beauty as created by God before the fall), that I am far away from my real home (real home is the Kingdom of God), my real life (i.e. life in Christ), and that something precious and pure and beautiful has been hopelessly broken in the very texture of my existence (existence on earth after the fall). Yet this and only this, is repentance and therefore it is also a deep desire to return, to go back, and to recover that lost home.

To do this, God has even provided us with wonderful riches:

  1. First of all life and the possibility to enjoy it, to fill it with meaning, love and knowledge.
  2. In Baptism— the new life of Christ himself, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the peace and joy of the eternal Kingdom.
  3. The knowledge of God and in Him the knowledge of everything else and the power to be a son of God.

But all this we have lost and are losing all the time due to the deviation of our love from God.

Thus repentance is  not only feeling guilty/wrong for the particular “sins” and “transgressions” as we have mentioned earlier like becoming angry, or not keeping up our fasts etc, but for all that, which is done in the sin of all sins:  “deviation of our love from God,” preferring the “far country” to the beautiful home of the Father.


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Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 5/Dec 2018-Jan 2019

Falling in Love

There’s a feeling we all get when a gorgeous stranger passes by or pops up on the Instagram. Friends say it’s a coincidence, but you swear its fate. It’s as if, in that instant, the heavens have opened up, shone down a light and whispered to you, “That’s the one.” We’ve all seen the story play out countless times on the big screen. Any rom-com enthusiast knows there is a point in the movie when the protagonist finds the one character he or she will spend the next 90 minutes pursuing. And we all know these two will definitely end up together because, if not, it would be rated as the worst love story ever, right?

Everyone, at some point, has caught feelings for some ambiguous figure before. Whether it’s a celebrity crush, an acquaintance through social media or through a mutual friend, if the person seems to match what you’re looking for in a significant other, you’re all in. We have this scary ability to instantly become emotionally, and sometimes mentally, fixated on people we virtually have no clue about.

Symptoms of this sickness are desperation and unrealistic expectations. We get this mindset that “life as we know it will cease to function if we do not successfully engage this person in conversation.” We make pathetic attempts at talking to the person, and we often do not take the time to plan out what we say. You’ll dream up scenarios of the two of you making out, relaxing on vacation at a secluded beach house, buying your first pet together and so on.

Speaking as a 20-something young adult 1 , the aforementioned “symptoms” of this condition are further magnified by society.

We, as young people, are constantly receiving messages that tell us we should aspire for love, that we’re “missing out on” if we’re single or that everyone else around us has somehow caught on to these ideas more quickly than we have. In this digital age, we’re constantly plugged in to every little thing that happens around us, and these messages are messing with our sense of timing and good judgment. You may think you’re resilient to these worldly pressures, but are you seriously telling me you weren’t a little bit ticked off at your friend’s recent engagement announcement on Facebook (especially when you’re still getting over your last breakup)?Or what about the 200 plus Instagram likes your best friend got on that photo with her boyfriend? (It sort of makes that “artsy” photo of your frozen yogurt cup seem a bit meaningless, huh?)

We’re all affected. There’s no denying it.

As young people of this generation, we internalize the stranger who passes us by as the one we could call ours because we see it happen for so many other people. There’s a part of us that hopes and prays if we could just figure out how to be nice enough, cute enough, bubbly enough, sexy enough or simply just “enough,” the person would want us back, too. Inside all of us lies a basic desire to be wanted, plain and simple. That’s why it’s not so crazy when the stranger on the subway is the only thing we can think about. We want love, and when we catch a rare glimpse of what could be just that, we attack like the poor, clueless love predators we are.

What are we to think of this phenomenon from the Orthodox point of view? Is it good or evil, or something in between 2 ?

The phrase “falling in love” suggests something ambiguous, partaking of both good and evil. On the one hand, the word “falling” indicates that this is a phenomenon close to lust, a fall from virtue. And certainly, it comes from the influence of fall (fall of Adam and Eve). Thus St. Augustine writes: “We know that many of our brothers by mutual agreement refrain from carnal love, but not from marital love. The more strongly the former is suppressed, the more the latter is strengthened”. Again, “when purity is preserved,” writes St. Asterius of Amasia, “peace is preserved as well as mutual attraction, but when the soul is overwhelmed by unlawful and sensual lust, it loses the lawful and just love”. Again, St. John Chrysostom says that “love is born from chastity”, that “love makes people chaste”, and that “lewdness comes from nothing else than a lack of love”.

As Sir Roger Scruton (English Philosopher) has pointed out, “Desire is indeed a natural phenomenon, but it is one that lies beyond the reach of any ‘natural science’ of man.” Science can understand love, desire and “falling in love” only by reducing them to the category of instinctual animal behavior and chemical reactions in the brain. The problem is that while being in love is clearly influenced by instinctual forces, it differs from instinctual behavior in important ways.

This important psychological fact is well documented in Orthodox Christian literature – but more or less completely discounted/omitted by secular psychologists. In the next article of this same issue, we shall understand ‘the path’ instituted by God through His grace and mercy to convert this “fallen love”. We look into the fact, that through the sacrament of marriage, “the faculty of ‘desire’ in our soul“; designed by God in our nature; corrupted in the fall, can be converted to its true, real and “divine love” in our journey towards the real purpose of attaining Theosis.

In this article, let us examine the progress of this process from childhood and adolescence to the adult married love. The progress of the process, as it were, of the sexual impulse from its inchoate, undirected, instinctual beginnings in childhood and adolescence to its fixed, focused and “intentional” end in adult married love.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (from Russian Orthodox Church) writes: “When the male organism matures, a feeling of self-satisfaction is aroused in the young man. This is strengthened by the change in the youth’s social position: he becomes an independent member of society – a student; or, as a senior schoolboy, he is preparing to become one – to enter this totally uninhibited group of people. In student society he feels like a bridegroom – he is no longer under the constant supervision of his parents, he earns some money for himself. In general, his conditions of life favor the development of a feeling of self-satisfaction. The newly aroused sexual passion on its part has also something in common with this feeling, and now he wants to live without any restriction; mentally he says to himself: ‘Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth… and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes’. But the words which follow in Ecclesiastes ‘But know, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement’ (Ecc. 11:19)will be revealed to him by the voice of his conscience even if he has never read them, and will cause him intense irritability and will arouse a feeling of enmity against God and against religion.

But then he meets a girl who for the first time focuses and “incarnates” his hitherto bodiless, unshaped longing. And not only focuses it, but also humbles it. For the feeling of self-satisfaction noted by Metropolitan Anthony flees with the advent of true (or, at any rate, truer) love. Before the image of beauty he humbles his proud mind. Now he and his own desires are no longer his first priority; he seeks to serve the object of his love. The way in which falling in love humbles the lover is illustrated by the words of a German Nazi during the invasion of Russia: “I fell in love with a Russian girl, although nothing ever came of it, and for the first time I began to doubt our racial superiority. How could I be better than her?”

Does the instinctual longing then disappear? No. And yet one can no longer call it purely instinctual. For what precisely is this longing for? The sexual act? Hardly, especially if the youth is still a virgin. In fact, the very idea would probably disgust him, as if it polluted the absolute purity of his new feeling. A particular form of sensual pleasure? Not at all, for he does not yet know what sexual pleasure is, still less how it is produced. In fact, the paradoxical thing is that at the first appearance of the object of desire, desire as such is stilled, at any rate temporarily. It is as if a thirsty man having come upon a river in the desert is so stunned by the beauty of the water that he forgets to drink…

When vague longing has matured into “being in love”, the boy longs for a specific individual girl, the girl, not for just any girl, not for anything about the girl, but the girl herself. He does not long for certain pleasures which she may be able to give him. He does not long for her body as such, nor any part of her body. He longs for her. John longs for Mary, not for anything or anyone else.

Of course, even now he still feels a fascination for certain parts of the girl’s body, and here undoubtedly the instinctual part of his nature is evident. And yet the part of the body which fascinates him most is not any of the specifically sexual members or “erogenous zones”, but the face. What a German Philosopher Schopenhauer (1788-1860,) writes is referred by Sir Scruton, “– whose view of these matters is a good example of the chaos that ensues from the premature attempt to explain them – argues that the face is the least important of all the indices of beauty, since it is the least relevant to the reproductive function which underlies and explains desire. That is almost the opposite of the truth. Although a pretty face surmounting a deformed or mutilated body may indeed fail to arouse sexual interest, it is well known that a pretty face may compensate for much bodily ugliness… A beautiful body, however, will always be rendered repulsive by an ugly face, and can certainly never compensate for it.”

Why the face? 
Because the face, far more than any other part of the body, reveals the soul, the person. In Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich’s ((1920-1956) from Serbian Orthodox, canonized as Saint Nikolai Velimirovich of Ohrid) parable on love entitled “Cassiana”, the heroine of the story is ugly in body – she has a huge hump-back. And yet she has a beautiful face – which indicates her inner beauty of soul. This is why the word for “face” and person”, similarly the Latin word persona, whence comes the English “person”, originally referred to the masks, or faces, that actors assumed during performance. If we wish to know who a person is and what he is feeling, then while we may take into account other elements of body language, it is the movements of the face, – the smiles, the blushes, the laughs, the tears, – and especially the expression of the eyes, that we will study most closely. For it is the eyes that are, as the proverb says, “the mirror of the soul”, making the workings of the invisible soul visible with an extraordinary transparency: a quote from Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice: “Beshrew your eyes, They have o’erlooked me and divided me, One half of me is yours, the other half yours –Mine own I would say: but if mine then yours, And so all yours.”

  But what has sexual desire to do with the workings of the invisible soul?
The phenomenon of sexual desire, which, the more focused and concentrated it is, the more intensely personal it is. For sexual love, as opposed to lust, is not in the first place directed to the flesh of the desired one but to the soul. It is not the purely physical pleasure of the caress, the glance or the kiss that is the vital element, but the fact that his (or her) caress, glance or kiss; the physical pleasure is inseparable from the knowledge of the person who gives it. This knowledge makes the physical contact the sign, the “incarnation”, the icon, as it were, of a non-physical reality.

How is this physical pleasure inseparable from the knowledge of the person who gives it?
For e.g if that same physical pleasure were provided by another person, it would entirely lose its significance and thrill. This is proved by the fact that if the lover discovers that the pleasure he receives comes not from the person he thought it came from, but from someone else, the pleasure immediately evaporates and often turns to disgust.

Thus the true object of desire is not the body as such, but the body as the expression of the soul, not the pleasure as such, but the pleasure as the expression of the thought. It is this iconic quality of the flesh in sexual love, enabling the veneration paid to the flesh to ascend to its “archetype”, the soul that transforms the temporality of pleasure into the eternity of true love: Again another quote of Shakespeare’s from, Antony and Cleopatra: “Eternity was in our lips and eyes, Bliss in our brows’ bent, none our parts so poor, But was a race of heaven.”

But what does the lover actually see in the “embodied soul” of his beloved? And: with what does he see it?
He sees with the eyes of the mind, and not of the body. For, as Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich writes, “flesh can neither love nor hate. A body cannot fall in love with another body. The capability of loving belongs only to the soul. When a soul falls in love with a body, that is not love but desire, lust. When a soul falls in love with a soul, but not through God, that is out of either fascination or empathy. But when a soul falls in love with another through God, then regardless of the physical appearance (beauty or ugliness) that is love.”

• The power of Eros is a power of the mind no less than of the body.
• For Erotic love must become “all mind” in order to see its true object. And this object must be, an ideal, unmoving object and not a sensory object.
• For “It was not sex” – that is, simple lust – by which the lovers saw each other. And yet it was Eros. For the love in question here is the image of God in her; which is the one in which the object of erotic love that is true is in essence unchanging—and not her body, which is changeable, nor the moods of her soul, which are also changeable. Only such an object (i.e. the image of God) is worthy of love and can raise love from the corruptible to the incorruptible. Hence the intuition that true love must survive the fading of bodily beauty; it must be immortal, since its true object is immortal.
This intuition was wonderfully expressed by Shakespeare in his work Sonnet, who begins by pointing out that even erotic love is in essence the marriage of minds:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds, Admit impediments. Love is not love, Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks, Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error, and upon me prov’d. I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

And yet what we are in essence, our Godlikeness, which alone is worthy of an undying love, does not match up to what we show ourselves to be in everyday life (we give more preference to our will and refuse to cooperate with the will of God, never finding our true selves, and increasing the image of sin in us.)

And this discrepancy between the image of God and the image of sin – in the soul both of the lover and of his beloved – causes intense anguish and pain – moral pain – to the lovers.

For, as Sir Scruton writes: “Desire obliges you to find value in its object, and so to ‘see him as’ the embodiment of virtue’”. You want your lover to see you as the embodiment of virtue, and you are prepared to work on yourself to make yourself more worthy. Thus falling in love becomes a major incentive to moral improvement.

In fact, this love is well defined, in Solomon’s words, as “the care of discipline” (Wisdom 6.17). For the lover is impelled by his love to discipline himself, to make himself worthy of his beloved. This inextricable – and highly creative – relationship between love and esteem is the analogy and reflection, on a much lower level, of Christ’s making His Bride “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5.27).

In the words of Sir Scruton “One may describe the course of love as a kind of ‘mutual self-building’… I want you to be worthy of my love, behind which desire lies, always compelling me. And I too want to be lovable, so that you may reciprocate my affection. Hence we begin to enact a cooperative game of self-building.” This “cooperative game of self-building” may lead to quarrels – but quarrels with a creative element, because the relationship becomes an arena of moral improvement, spurred on by desire. Hence the English proverb: “The falling out of lovers is the renewal of love.” Thus according to Shakespeare, in his work Antony and Cleopatra, even Cleopatra, the embodiment of fallen sensual desire, wishes in the end to become not simply a mistress for Anthony, but a wife, having shed all downward-looking elements, the “earth and water” of lust, in order that only the “fire and air” of pure love should remain: “Husband, I come. Now to that name my courage prove my title! I am fire and air; my other elements, I give to baser life.”

Of course, a lover may wish to “build up” himself or his beloved for selfish, vainglorious reasons: because he considers himself to be a good person, and “only the best will do” for such a good person. However, this attitude is already at one remove from the initial experience of being in love, which in its simplicity is an encounter with what one’s perceives to be goodness incarnate. For not only does love reveal beauty to be truth: it also reveals it to be goodness. But is it in fact virtue or goodness? Does not love see beauty sometimes in the most worthless objects, as was dramatized in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Is it not so much the perception of an ideal as an idealization of something that is far from ideal, a form of self-deception?

It certainly can be; for the intuitive power of the lover’s erotic vision is strictly dependent on his own moral level. An unspiritual man is not likely to fall in love with a spiritual woman, because he will neither see her spirituality nor admire it if he did. But a spiritual man will love a woman who is like him in being spiritual -although he, too, can be deceived into loving an object unworthy of his love. For like can recognize like only in the case of one whose Eros is sufficiently purified to see the likeness. But for one who’s Eros is less purified, there will be many misperceptions and mismatches in love, giving fertile ground for the proverb that love is blind. And yet Eros in its essence, purified of that veil of darkness that the fall has draped over it, is the opposite of blind: it is an instrument given by God to us in order to pierce the veil of the flesh and see the true person underneath.

According to research and studies, while falling in love in a sense idealizes the beloved, this idealization may not always be self-deceiving. It may sometimes be a more accurate vision of the true nature of the beloved, an ideal vision which nevertheless lights up something that is real, and therefore helps rather than hinders the durability of the relationship. Similarly, while falling out of love may be the consequence of seeing “the bitter truth” about the beloved, it may in also involve a loss of true vision, an obscuring of that ideal reality which was so wonderfully obvious before. Since human beings are a mixture of good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the image of God and the image of the beast, there are objective grounds for both kinds of vision – the vision which accompanies falling into love and the vision which accompanies falling out of love…

“Falling in love” is not simply lust, but nor is it pure love unsullied by fallen passion. Saints do not fall in love; they have passed that stage. But nor do the truly evil fall in love; they cannot attain to the glimpse of the ideal that it provides…
And so falling in love remains an ambiguous phenomenon, on the frontier between good and evil. But whether good or evil, it is always essentially human, and irreducible to mere lust, since it is always an intentional, personal experience.
1) Its moral quality depends, first, on the spiritual maturity and purity of the person who loves, and
2) Secondly, on whether God is in the process, guiding and inspiring it to the end-state of lawful marriage.
         a. If God is not in that process, and He is not leading it to that end, then the love is likely to fade and may lead to fornication or an unhappy marriage or even divorce.
         b. If, on the other hand, God is in it, then the experience will be truly “in the Lord”, that is, “in all decency and in honour”. For, as St. John Chrysostom says, “it is God Who sows these loves”, in that “it is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman” (Proverbs 19.14).

References:

1.Online source written by a 20 year old  youth.                                              2.The Theology of Eros by Vladimir Moss 

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Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 4/Oct-Nov 2018

DISCOVERING THE REAL YOU: OUR NATURE AND ITS HIDDEN TREASURES

Creation was not a necessary or spontaneous effect of God’s nature as many scientific or philosophical studies may indicate. In accordance to Orthodox Church’s understanding, it is a free act of divine will that brought into existence beings radically different from God. Created beings are radically different because they are created and contingent (dependent) creatures made by uncreated and absolute Triune God.

God freely chose to create out of love, for He “brought creatures into being not because He had need of anything” writes St. Maximus the Confessor (590 – 662 AD), “but so that they might participate in Him in proportion to their capacity and that He Himself might rejoice in His works [cf. Ps. 104:31], through seeing them joyful and ever filled to overflowing with His inexhaustible gifts.”

According to the Psalmist, God created cosmos (whole universe) by his Word: “he spoke, and it came into be; he commanded, and it stood forth” (Ps 33:9) and as he says through the Prophet Isaiah, “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose” (Isa. 55:11). The Word of God, is effective and realizes what it is spoken to do, this is something we have to believe and make as foundation of our faith on Christ. This tells us that God had a particular motive from which he created the world, and a particular purpose for which he created it and it is only because of this motive and purpose of God, the world has meaning. 1

Because its motive is from God and its purpose is in God, the meaning of the world is not found within itself but transcends (rises above) all that is created by God. In fact, everything that God does has one single transcendent purpose: to unite everyone and everything to himself.

Jesus_Menas_Icon_AmitiéThis purpose can be known to us because the world (created by the Logos/God) is rational (having or exercising reason). Since we are able to know this purpose and reason, the notion or the idea (as proposed by many scientific or philosophical studies) that the world has an existence and meaning in and of itself, or that “nature” can somehow be considered apart from God is wrong or heretical to the teachings of our Eastern Oriental Church. This notion, that we and the world are “down here” while God is someplace “up there,” common in Western popular conceptions, both Christian and secular, is alien to Orthodox Christian thought. Transcendence (Superiority) of God must not lead us to forget that he is immanent (innate or ingrained) in the world as well. So each of us who are in this world should remember that there is no place where God is not present. Thus each person bears an individual responsibility for himself (our own soul and body) and equally important is caring for all the creation, for God is present in all of it. In order to achieve and align ourselves (Creation) with motive and purpose of our Creator’s, we must focus attention on us as individuals (thoughts, words and actions) and the choices we make every day, every moment. These are the only things within our control. The way we respond to or understand the rest of the world are all external, mostly connected to another person, situation, objects, climate or any other creation. And the world around us is continuously changing, change happens due to the choices we make (good or bad), grace of God is always available to us as He is omnipresent.

Man is created in the image and likeness of God, and it is his nature to desire good or to desire virtue. Virtue is the natural health of the soul, says St. Isaac the Syrian. The choices that man makes based on his own understanding makes his soul unhealthy. This in turn creates chaos and confusion in him. He looks out for solutions to feel satisfied and feel at ease and peace. Such solutions become the guidance that aims just at moral improvement. Guidance that only aims for moral improvement is anthropocentric–it is centered on man, and in it, human effort dominates, and not the grace of God. It then seems as if it is our own morality that saves us, and not the grace of God. Life under these conditions does not give us genuine experiences of God, therefore the psyche (soul) is not truly satisfied because its thirst remains unquenched. This method of guidance has been tried, and it failed because it does not represent the784px-Descent_of_the_Modernists,_E._J._Pace,_Christian_Cartoons,_1922 genuine spirit of Christ’s Church. It is often responsible for atheism and for many people’s indifference towards the spiritual life, especially among the young. 2

To understand this a bit more, let us look into a simple conversation between a Dad and Son

Son: “Daddy, May I ask you a question?”

Daddy: “Yeah sure, what it is?” Son: “Dad, how much do you make an hour?”

Daddy: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?”

Son: “I just want to know. Please tell me. How much do you make an hour?”

Daddy: “I make Rs. 500 an hour”. “Oh”. The little boy replied, with his head down. Looking up, he said “Dad, May I please borrow Rs. 300?”

The father was furious and said “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or other nonsense, then march yourself to your room and go to bed. Think why you are being so selfish. I work hard every day for such, this childish behavior.” The little boy went quietly into his room and shut the door. The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money? After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think: “May be there was something he really needed to buy with that Rs. 300 and he really didn’t ask for money very often!”

The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door. “Are you asleep son?” He asked.

“No daddy, I’m awake”, replied the boy. “I’ve been thinking. Maybe I was too hard on you earlier; said the man. “It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the Rs. 300 you asked for.”

A father giving his son adviceThe little boy sat straight up smiling “Oh thank you dad” he said. Then searching under his pillow he pulled some crippled up notes. The man, seeing that the boy already had money, “Why do you want money if you already had some?” the father grumbled. “Because I didn’t have enough but now I do. Daddy I have Rs. 500 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you” the little boy replied.

From such experiences in life often results in the following:

• The boy understands that if he has the money he can buy his dad’s time. As he progresses in life, he can come to a conclusion that only if he earns money can he get something. Money can buy anything for him later on in life.

• He learns to understand that he can obtain his satisfaction by getting what he desires.

• The dad is ready to spend his time only if it’s beneficial for him.

• We also notice that the dad seeks a sort of satisfaction of achievement, every time he goes up to the son thinking he can achieve something by doing something for his son, he only gets disappointed, which in turn is causes anger and frustration in him.

All of the above few results that we can infer is pointing out to the fact that the entire experience of the son is completely centered on man. The boy is making efforts based on his own understanding and reasoning. This kind of human effort dominates when he becomes successful in getting his Dad’s time. This kind of effort from the boy or the morality makes him seem that it has helped him, but eventually in the long run, his soul still feels something is lacking. This is because his effort was his own and was not made with the understanding of God.

The soul always yearns a union with God and things which are above. The reason being: that is how God created us. The soul that is invisible like the invisible God is made in the image and likeness of God. Anything that is made in the image of God is virtuous and all perfect and all good like Him. It always yearns to be like him.

The fall of Adam and its effects of corruption, death, division and separation was introduced in the world. Thus handicapped, Adam was unable to realize his role in the divine plan. The body which is created from earth has a yearning towards earthly things. Christ however, by assuming human nature and restoring it to its original function, was himself able to accomplish this cosmic task, and each person regenerated in Church and baptized into Christ is empowered to do the same. This task involves overcoming all the division and separation in the created order and unifying it and offering it back to God. Thus a human should strive through this battle to achieve the real purpose of God by moderating himself from the worldly comforts not allowing his soul to get affected by the morality or any sort of understanding the world gives without God. Then only, can he truly know God. And grow towards uniting himself with God, which is the real purpose of man, to achieve theosis. Our work in this world needs to be part of what St. Paul calls “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10), “for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible….all things were created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16, 17).

The above said reasons of an anthropocentric society is the reason why most youngsters today cannot accept the Orthodox way of life. With technological advancements, consumerism and the like, there are lot of challenges youngsters have to confront to lead/choose this way of life. There always arises a conflict internally because it is not the normal way of life for most people in our society. This normal way of life is the life, the world offers, but the Orthodox way of life is offered by Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and Life, through the Church as the most practical life for people faced with the challenges of life. It is the way of living that will make your life less stressful and more meaningful. Many of the early Church fathers or Saints who followed this life are examples, who through their writings guide us every day. It is our choice to decide what we want to follow. This is the freedom God has given us.

As monks/priests or as laymen we have the same goals. The life of monks are the most honored way of living for Christ. Again this is a calling, which have to be chosen with the help of God. Most of us are called to live in the world with our families, but like the monks we too have to seek holiness and union with God. The principles of our spiritual growth are the same no matter which path we chose.

Most of us never take the time to reflect on the purpose of our lives. In a moment of grief or in times of the death of a loved one, we begin to think about what life is all about. Death is the reality where we are headed to, but we too often refuse to think about this seriously because of the unknown and the fear it presents.

When often asked to many: What is the purpose of your life? The answer would vary according to one’s experience of life. Most of the answers would be “To be a good father or mother”; “To provide for my children and help them to success in life”; “To be successful in all that I do”; “To become famous”; “To have a great career” etc. None of these answers are the purpose of our life.

As young people, we often fall into such man centered traps and confusions by setting up purposes for our life like the above. The reason being: we are ignorant about the actual purpose of our life. We do not understand the actual role of the Church in our lives. We only read the Scriptures but we do not live the spiritual life mentioned in the Scriptures. We admire nature based only on its outward appearance, not trying to understand the inner principle. We come to conclusions based on our senses, which is what we see and hear. Someone who does not make progress in his spiritual life will suffer in his understanding of creation and of the Scriptures. Without understanding the life of the Orthodox Church, its faith and the traditions, one becomes blind and short-sighted (2 Peter 1:9) and suffers from ignorance of the true cause of created beings [God].

As St. Mark the Ascetic quotes: “Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is a wasted effort”. So true to the words of St. Mark, only by loving God and a purpose directed to God can we discern our actions in line with God’s purpose. The purpose of life taught by the Apostles and the Church Fathers is finding union with God (theosis). Christ came down as man and showed us how to live through His teaching and lived as an example. He showed us that we have nothing to fear in death.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). Anything that is good comes from the revelation of God, and the mind that is not prepared properly will never understand God, or His revelation to the human heart. According to the Scriptures: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear”. We all have ears, but not all of us hear.

“So, while we have been called for this great purpose; to unite with God; to become gods by Grace; and to enjoy this great blessing for which our Maker and Creator made us, we often live as if this great and noble aim does not exist for us. Because of this, our life is filled with failure. Our Holy God molded us for Theosis (Deification), so if we are not deified, our whole life is a failure. The Anthropocentric Humanism is a self-sufficient humanism in the socio-philosophical system which is separated from and made independent of God. It leads contemporary man to a civilization based on selfishness, and this has brought modern humanity to an impasse. In the name of the development and liberation of humanity it wishes to estrange us from our Orthodox Christian faith. 2

And who is behind such confusions in the world? The story that follows serves as an eye opener to each one of us:

satanLate at night in the deserted cell a novice monk prayed. He was very tired, having worked hard for the day, and now he hastily recited words, hurrying to finish a long rule. He got off several times, stopped, and then continued on just as quickly. And he did not see how a figure had grown under the window. The uninvited guest was huge and stood, leaning over, listening to every word, and on his face a smirk wandered. When he heard that the novice mixed up the words of the prayer, he pushed the door with his shoulder and found himself inside.

The owner was taken aback. In front of him, stupid and ugly, stood … the devil.

‘Well? Do you want to talk?’ the guest visibly grinned. The man waved his hands, backed into a corner, and fell, squeezing into the wall. ‘Go away, go away! Go away, go away!’ He whispered. His hand lifted, his prayer rope hanging helplessly. The devil grinned, mockingly looked at the prayer rope and moved closer ‘No, now I won’t leave without you. You’re mine!’ The novice shook his head ‘Not! Not! Not yours!’ his lips repeated in horror. Devil replied ‘How is it not mine? Chatterbox you! Hurry up! Let’s go!’ The face of the novice was sweating. He tried to control himself, but he was choking on the foul smell that the devil was spreading around him and wanted to turn away. ‘Why do you turn your face?’ the devil barked suddenly. ‘I heard how you pray!’ and he began to hastily pronounce words, mimicking the novice.

The novice blushed painfully. ‘Do you recognize yourself?’ mocked the demon. ‘Yes’, the novice recognized himself and his haste, and how he confused words. But still, he was the one who loved and worshiped God, and therefore raised his eyes and, feeling a sudden courage, firmly said ‘I am not yours! I’m a Christian!’

‘Ha ha ha!!!’ cried the devil. ‘Christian! Many of you, wander the earth!’ He made a movement, and in a flash the wall of the cell opened, and the whole world opened up to the eye of the novice. Many people, overtaking each other, hurried somewhere, hurried and confused. Tense, with tired faces, they seemed like clockwork toys. “Here they are,” the devil grinned mockingly, “human dolls.” Devil asked hastily ‘How do you think they have time to think? Do something deep and serious?’ The novice shook his head longingly. ‘Where is it then to be in time?’ And the devil continued ‘the whole world lives like this: running, running. Hastily eat, hastily communicate with friends. Do you know what it is called? Devilish hurry. And devilish means mine!’

And with these words he imperiously and demandingly stretched his paw ‘Get up!’ The man shivered. He realized that if now, at this moment, he did nothing, he would fall forever into the painful power of these clawed, ruthless paws. But how can he help himself, even if prayer is the only means and there is no saving power on his lips? And suddenly … Quietly, firmly and clearly, he said ‘Our Father!’ The words sounded distinct, and the demon frowned.

‘Hallowed be thy name! Thy kingdom come!’ he uttered every word: hard, slowly, deeply, and the prayer that had already been spoken a thousand times thoughtlessly, suddenly found a new power. ‘Thy will be done …’

the guest felt bad, he twisted his nose, not finding a place for himself. And when the novice finished the prayer and all the same clearly and firmly said “Amen!” The devil twitched and disappeared.

The cell became quiet. Shedding tears, the novice crawled to the altar and grabbed the icon of the Mother of God. “Sorry, sorry!” he whispered. He wept for a long time, asking for forgiveness, and then discovered his rule and slowly, calmly and distinctly began to read it. The devil wandered through the forest for a long time, looking around at the novice’s hut. Before dark, now it was glowing with fire. It was the heat of prayer, and even from here, from afar, he burned the demon with an intolerable flame. He was angry, his teeth glittered, but he could not get any closer…

So finally, the CHOICE is left up to us, to follow the path of theosis or to live as confused human beings, giving up ourselves to the schemes of the devil.

References:  1.Creation and heart of man, Fr. Michael Butler & Andrew P Morris.

2. Words of Archimandrite George, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Gregoriou (Saint Gregory) Holy Monastery on Mount Athos (Holy Mountain), Greece

3. ibid

   Click the link(Issue 4 – Oct/Nov’18) below to continue reading other articles……

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Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 3/Aug-Sep 2018

COMFORTABLE CHRISTIANITY! – IS IT THE NARROW WAY?
st. theophan quote

Today’s society is showing signs of deterioration of traditional culture; of noble values being replaced by materialistic ones. In such a decay, we are generally getting to observe many of our contemporaries speaking of “progress”, and of overcoming evil and war, and of future societies of peace and brotherhood.

Many in today’s society seek to satisfy themselves in this subtle deception. The deception being; to try to realize in this world, through powers of human reason, the ancient longing for heavenly perfection.

Autonomous man is attempting to refashion the outer world to conform to his new idea of the world by means of technology, social and economic theory, architecture etc. This he does to bring in perfection/complete satisfaction for himself because he is inwardly insecure about this, due to his autonomous reason. This kind of reason, by being out of contact with God, will also be out of contact of the reality that we are created by God (the concrete reality), and so this autonomous man can only look on things as ideally…as perfect which is nothing but termed as utopia.

Perfection is that in which man rests, but man can only rest in God, because God alone is perfect. Without God, there are always imperfections. The imperfections of the world and of men only lead us to what is truly perfect (God). Modern man, however wants to rest in the world, so he has to make it perfect. Since the world is obviously not perfect, modern man strive to make it perfect. The result; ideal, utopian character of all rational schemes of the world.

Without a utopia, modern man would despair. It is a sure thing when deprived of it, he will despair. In normal times, in such a despair he would turn to God, but most people today no longer believe He exists, so despair is futile and self-destroying. The choice before man is always the same: perfection in the world, or perfection in the other world. Man is not able to live without some hope of some kind of perfection. For modern man, then the choice is: the rationalist utopia (modern man making this world perfect and satisfies himself in this perfection without God) or God.

‘The deceptive spirit of the age’, which makes man seek to fulfil his innate yearnings in this world is the ‘spirit of Anti-Christ’. This spirit is in preparation to the real coming of Anti-Christ in person as mentioned in Revelation.

Anti-Christ is viewed not only as that which is against Christ, but also as that which replaces and mimics Him, since Satan is the “ape of God”. “The Anti-Christ, is the fake Christ who promises to give outwardly and obviously what Christ brought inwardly and hidden”. Christ promises a perfect Kingdom of Heaven; the Anti-Christ, whose master Satan was cast out of Heaven and consigned to earth, promises a perfect Kingdom in this world. Modern man having lowered his gaze from celestial reality to what is most “obvious” succumbs to the latter, false promises; he thinks that an ideal society on earth is more attainable than a vague heaven, whereas actually such a society is made impossible by the unavoidable reality from the Scriptures of the primordial fall (fall of Adam and Eve- is explained in another article, the link to which is provided at the end of this article).

On the satanic imitation of God’s otherworldly Kingdom, we find Modern man lives on the dregs of Christianity, on Christian experience digested and turned into ‘ideas’ for mass consumption (for everyone to follow, who does not follow Christ and his commandments). Hence the parody of Christianity is to be seen in modern ideas like ‘equality’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘charity’…. In orthodox Christianity, one has to train oneself in the life of virtue, holiness and righteousness with the help of the Divine grace for selfless love, sacrifice and charity. Then only charity and other like virtues become true charity to a Christian. Then this will turn into true Christian love for your brother or neighbor, as we try to imitate Christ in the love of God. The coming Kingdom which is not of this world (John 18:36)—has been perverted into the coming Kingdom of this world that practically everyone believes in today. Modern man cannot return to Christ until he is first aware of the apostasy of his age. He has to differentiate between that which is of Christ and that which—no matter how harmless or even “Christian” it seems—stands in opposition to Him.
fr. seraphim roseFrom the life of Fr. Seraphim Rose, a 20th century hieromonk, who lived the Orthodox Christian life in its full sense, we come to know how before his conversion, that Fr. Seraphim suffered enough to know that complete fulfillment and happiness were not to be found in this life, and how, even after he accepted Christ, his deadness to the world caused him to suffer profound loneliness. He understood that Christianity was by nature ascetic, looking beyond this world and its inevitable end. So foreign was his otherworldly outlook to the spirit of his times that even contemporary writers whom he otherwise admired—such as Buber, Berdyaev and Merron—were expressing hopes in “one world government,” “the abolition of war,” and “the final union of mankind.” Fr. Seraphim wrote “And so it is still only the lonely ones who experience the ‘end’; everyone else has ‘interpreted’ that end to fit their own desires. Only the lonely ones dare to live it in fact, in full awareness (as full as men may know) of what it is.”

In referring to these “lonely ones” (those striving to live a true Orthodox Christian Life) who “suffer in intense form the great evil of modern age,” Fr. Seraphim was of course counting himself among them. He looked on his life in the world as a form of crucifixion.

He writes:
“Let not us, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified. For to be Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. Christ’s life is an example—and warning—to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for through crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him—even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.

“And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and world cannot bear it, even a single representative of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at any time.

“No wonder, then, it is hard to be a Christian—it is not hard, it is impossible. No one can knowingly accept a way of life which, the more truly it is lived, leads the more surely to one’s own destruction. And that is why we constantly rebel, try to make life easier, try to be half-Christian, try to make best of both worlds. We must ultimately choose—our felicity lies in one world or the other, not in both.

“God give us the strength to pursue the path to crucifixion; there is no other way to be a Christian.

‘The true Orthodox teaching on life after death, on the other hand, fills one precisely with the fear of God and the inspiration to struggle for the kingdom of heaven against all the unseen enemies (Satan and his army) who oppose our path. All Orthodox Christians are called to this struggle, and it is a cruel injustice to them to dilute the Orthodox teaching to make them more ‘comfortable’. Let each one read the Orthodox text more suited to the spiritual level at which he presently finds himself but let no one tell him that he can dismiss as ‘fables’ the text he may find ‘uncomfortable’. Passions and opinions among men may change, but the Orthodox tradition remains ever the same, no matter how few may follow it. May we ever be its faithful children!’

For a more detailed reading on the Orthodox Christian teaching/purpose of our life from the treasury of the Church Father’s writings , click the link : https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2018/10/08/i-will-get-up-and-go-to-my-father-luke-1518/

   Click the link(Issue 3 – Aug/Sep’18) below to continue reading other articles……
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: Issue 3-Aug/Sep’18

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Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 2/July 2018

MYSTERYapostasy bn w
OF FAITH


On entering into the uncreated Church we come to Christ;
We enter into the realm of the uncreated

The Church is without beginning, without end and eternal, just as the Triune God, her founder, is without beginning, without end and eternal. She is uncreated just as God is uncreated. She existed before the ages, before the angels, before the creation of the world—before the foundation of the world as the Apostle Paul says. She is a divine institution refer Eph 1:4and in her dwells the whole fullness of divinity refer Col 2:9 . She is an expression of the richly varied wisdom of God. She is the mystery of mysteries. She was concealed and was revealed in the last of times. The Church refer 1 Pet 1:20 remains unshaken because she is rooted in the love and wise providence of God.
The three persons of the Holy Trinity constitute the eternal Church. The angels and human beings existed in the thought and love of the Triune God from the beginning. We human beings were not born now, we existed before the ages in God’s omniscience.
The love of God created us in the image and likeness. He embraced us within the Church in spite of the fact that He knew our apostasy. He gave us everything to make us gods too through the free gift of grace. For all that, we made poor use of our freedom and lost our original beauty, our original righteousness and cut ourselves off from the Church. Outside the Church, far from the Holy Trinity, we lost Paradise, everything. But outside the Church there is no salvation, there is no life. And so the compassionate heart of God the Father did not leave us exiled from His love. He opened again for us the gates of Paradise in the last times and appeared in flesh.
With the divine incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God, God’s pre-eternal plan for the salvation of mankind was revealed again to men. In his epistle to Timothy the Apostle Paul says:

Incontrovertibly, the mystery of faith is great. God was revealed in flesh, justified in Spirit, seen by angels, preached among gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. The words of the Apostle Paul are dense in meaning: divine, heavenly words!

God in his infinite love united us again with His Church in the person of Christ. On entering into the uncreated Church, we come to Christ, we enter into the realm of the uncreated. We the faithful are called to become uncreated by grace Cf. Col 3:9; Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22 , to become participants in the divine energies of God, to enter into the mystery of divinity, to surpass our worldly frame of mind, to die to the ‘old man’ and to become immersed in God. When we live in the Church we live in Christ. This is a very fine-drawn matter, we cannot understand it. Only the Holy Spirit can teach us.

The head of the Church is Christ and we humans, we Christians, are the body. The Apostle Paul says:

He refer Col 1:18 is the head of the body, of the Church.

The Church and Christ are one. The body cannot exist without its head. Without Christ the Church does not exist. Christ is the bridegroom; each individual soul is the Bride.
Christ united the body of the Church with heaven and with earth: with angels, men and all created things, with all of God’s creation….The Church thus became the fullness refer Eph 1:23 of Him who fills all in all, that is, of Christ. Everything is in Christ and with Christ. This is the mystery of the Church.
Christ is revealed in that unity between His love and ourselves: the Church. On my own I am not the Church, but together with you. All together we are the Church. All are incorporated in the Church. We are all one and Christ is the head. One body, one body of Christ:

You are the body of Christ refer 1 Cor 12:27 and individually members of it.

We are all one because God is our Father and is everywhere. When we experience this we are in the Church. This is our Lord’s wish for all the members of the Church as expressed in His great high-priestly prayer: that they may be one refer John 17:11,22. But that’s something you can only understand through grace. We experience the joy of unity, of love, and we become one with everyone. There is nothing more magnificent!

The important thing is for us to enter into Church— to unite ourselves with our fellow men, with the joys and sorrows of each and everyone, to feel they our own, to pray for everyone, to have care for their salvation, to forget about ourselves, to do everything for them just as Christ did for us.

In the Church we become one with each unfortunate, suffering and sinful soul. It is just like how we love our family where each one is born into. We always feel a special bond with our parents, siblings and close relatives and friends in their respective order. Our parents are very dear to us. Our siblings mean a lot to us. Irrespective of this biological bond also we always take care that we do not harm a person whom we love or who is very important in our lives. We take care to keep the other happy in whatever way we can.
This holds well in our spiritual lives. We should develop the same kind of bond with everyone in the Church. The Church is our family with Christ as the head of the family. And it is for fulfilling His purpose that we are born and that we are members of this Family called Church.

This is the choice God gives us. The freedom to choose: to live in the good by keeping the commandments of Christ. This is the essential aspect of Man’sꟷ being in the image of God. As God is Creator, Man has also to become a creator, a creator of the good. This is the real purpose which we have to fulfill. This is our goal when we live in this world. This is how we get our salvation.

No one should wish to be saved alone without all others being saved. It is a mistake for someone to pray for himself, that he himself may be saved. We must love others and pray that no soul be lost, that all may enter into the Church. That is what counts. And it is with this desire one should leave the world to retire to a monastery or to the desert.

When we set ourselves from others, we are not Christians. We are true Christians when we have profound sense that we are the members of the mystical body of Christ, of the Church, in an unbroken relationship of loveꟷ when we live united with Christ, that is, when we experience unity in His Church with a sense of oneness.

That is why Christ prays to His Father saying, that they may be one. He repeats the prayer again and again and the apostles emphasize it everywhere. This is the most profound aspect, the most exalted meaning, of the Church. This is where the secret is to be found: for all to be united as one person in God. There is no other religion like this; no other religion says anything of this sort. They have something to say, but not this mystery, this exquisite point of mystery which Christ demands and tells us that this is how we must become, that he wants us to be His.
The Church is the new life in Christ. In the Church there is no death and no hell. Saint John the Evangelist says: Whoever keeps my word refer John 8:52 will never taste death. Christ does away with death. Whoever enters into the Church is saved; he becomes eternal. Life is one, an unbroken continuity: there is no end, no death. Whoever follows Christ’s commandments never dies. He dies according to the flesh, according to the passions, and starting from the present life, is accorded to live in Paradise, in our Church and thereafter in eternity.

With Christ, death becomes the bridge which we will cross in an instant in order to continue to live unsetting light.

In Church which possesses the saving sacraments there is no despair. We may be deeply sinful. But we make confession, the priest reads the prayers, we are forgiven and we progress towards immortality, without any anxiety and without any fear.
When we love Christ, we live the life of Christ. If, by the grace of God, we succeed in doing this, we find ourselves in a different state, we live in another enviable state. For us there is no fear; neither of death, nor of the devil nor of hell. All these things exist for people who are far from Christ. For us Christians, who do His will, as the Gospel says these things do not exist. That is, they exist, but when one kills old self along with passions and desires refer Gal 5:24 , one gives no importance to the devil or to evil. It doesn’t concern us.
What concerns us is love, service to Christ and to our fellow man. If we reach the point of feeling joy, love, worship of God without any fear, we reach the point of saying, It refer Gal 2:20 is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me. No one can prevent us from entering into this mystery.

In order for us to preserve our unity we must be obedient to the Church, to her bishops. When we are obedient to the Church we are obedient to Christ Himself. Christ wishes for us to become one flock with one shepherd.
Let us feel for the Church. Let us love her fervently. We should not accept to hear her representatives being criticized and accused. We should not give credence to those who make accusations against the clergy. Even if with our own eyes we see a priest doing something we judge negatively, we should not believe it, nor think about it, nor talk about it to others. The same is true for the lay members of the Church and for every person. We are all the Church.
Those who censure the Church for the errors of her representatives with the alleged aim of helping to correct her make a great mistake. They do not love the Church. Neither, needless to say, do they love Christ. We love the Church when we embrace with our prayer each of her members and do what Christ didꟷ when we sacrifice ourselves, remain ever vigilant, and do everything in the manner of Him who when He refer 1 Peter 2:23 was abused did not return abuse, and when He suffered did not threaten.
We need to take care also to observe the formal aspects: to participate in the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is in these things that Orthodoxy/true Christian religion or right faith is to be found. Christ offers Himself to the Church in the sacraments and above all in Holy Communion.

At Pentecost the grace of God was poured out not only on the apostles, but on all the people who were around them. It affected believers and unbelievers. Listen what the Acts of Apostles says in Acts 2:1-6:

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together and in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, according as the Spirit gave them utterance…the crowd gathered and were confused because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Whereas Peter the apostle was speaking his own tongue, the language was instantaneously transformed in the mind of the hearers. In an ineffable way the Holy Spirit made them understand his words in their language, mystically, imperceptibly. These miraculous things happen through the action of the Holy Spirit. For example, the word ‘house’ would be heard by the person who spoke French as ‘maison’. It was a kind of gift of clear sight; they heard their own language. The sound struck their ears, but in their minds, through divine illumination, the words were heard in their own tongue. At Pentecost the people suddenly found themselves in such a state of assimilation to God. The divine grace enthused them, filled them with God.

And breaking bread in their homes, they shared food in great joy and simplicity of heart, praising God and having goodwill towards all the people. And every day the Lord added to the Church those who were being saved.

The ‘breaking of bread’ was Holy Communion. And the number of those who were being saved increased continually, since people saw all the Christians in a state of—

‘great joy and simplicity of heart’ and ‘praising God’. The ‘great joy and simplicity of heart’ is like ‘fear refer Acts 2:23 came upon every soul’. This is the divine grace. This is also love towards Christ.

What the apostles experienced amongst themselves when they felt this great joy happened then to all those who were beneath the upper room. That is, they loved each other, they took joy in one another: the one had become united with the other. This experience radiates outwards and others experience it.

And refer Acts 4:32 the heart and soul of the multitude of those who had believed were one; and not one of them said that any of his possessions were his own, but they had everything in common. Here is the mystery of Christ. This is the Church. The best words about the first Church are here.

……Click the link(Issue 2 – July’18) below to continue reading other articles……

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Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 1/May 2018

Seeingdownload (3)

the Unseen


The Maze Runner

A teenage boy wakes up in an ascending elevator with no recollection of his name, where he comes from, or where he is. When the elevator reaches the top, a door above him opens and he finds himself in a community of boys.
Once a month the elevator (or the box as they call it), comes to the surface with supplies as well as a new boy. They all live in the glade and call themselves Gladers. None of them can remember anything about their past or why they were sent there, but after a few days they will remember their names. A door opens in the giant wall every day and closes every night. The door leads to a maze that surrounds the glade. Runners go through looking for a way out. “If you’re trapped in the maze overnight, the Grievers get you and you die”. The maze changes every night. Alby was the first boy to arrive in the Glade. No one knows why they are there.
The teenage boy later remembers his name as ‘Thomas’. Alby takes Thomas around to show him more of the sites. The boys carve their names on the wall when they arrive. When one dies, they cross off the name. Thomas tries to fit in and he’s given the task to dig up the fertilizer out in the woods. While he’s still there, he’s attacked by Ben, one of the Runners who was stung by a Griever. A sting will apparently cause tremendous pain and make the victim prone to violence. There’s no cure for it, so the other teens force Ben into the maze at night just as the doors are closing. Everyone is concerned that there was a Griever attack during the day.
The next day, Alby goes into the maze to retrace Ben’s path and to find out what happens. It rains during the day. Now it’s getting late and Alby still hasn’t returned. All the boys gather around the entrance to the maze. Just as the doors are about to close, the lead Runner named Minho appears with a very injured Alby. Thomas rushes into the maze to help them, but the door closes behind him.
Minho and Thomas use vines to suspend Alby’s body and try to keep it safe from the Grievers. Alby was stung while inside the maze. One of the Grievers appears and chase after Thomas. The Grievers look like gigantic bedbugs with robot legs and scorpion tails. Thomas and the Griever run around a bit as the walls in the maze change. Finally Thomas is able to lure the Griever between two walls that are colliding and SQUISH! Dead Griever.
Their world begins to change, with the challenge becoming fiercer. The boys have disagreements and got divided into two factions. To further shake things up, Teresa becomes the first girl to arrive in the Glade with a note that says she will be “the last one ever,” which means the steady flow of supplies will also cease.
Eventually Thomas gets to become “the runner”. Along with another group of runners, Thomas and Minho recover a device from within the Griever’s body and they theorize that the Maze may have a hidden code that could set them all free.
Inside the Maze, Thomas and Minho get farther than anyone has ever gotten before. But that night, the Maze entrance remains open and the Gladers are attacked by the Grievers. Overcoming all the hurdles, Thomas finally regains his memory and realizes that the entire scenario has been an experiment.
Thomas and his group fight their way through the Maze and discover a laboratory at the end of it. Inside are dozens of dead scientists. In a recording, one of the scientists explains that the planet was devastated by a solar flare and by an incurable virus which was also called “The Flare.” The whole point of the Gladers experiment was to see how their brains resisted the virus, since they were basically immune to it.
Finally masked men with weapons then appear and whisk Thomas and the other survivors away into a waiting helicopter. From high above the Maze, they see that it was located in a vast desert wasteland as they fly towards the ruins of a city.
This is exactly what happens in our real and spiritual life. We all live in a glade, “the daily routine life” doing all sorts of stuff required for our daily survival, relying on our human wisdom unaware of the actual reality, “the spiritual reality”. We are given a door (Christ) to enter the maze of the spiritual reality. As we enter the maze, we are often tempted by grievers; Satan and his demons. This is called the Unseen Warfare. Our test in this world is to finally survive the grievers and find our way out in the truth; victorious only to say as in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Finally when we are dead and gone, our guardian angel, the angels of the Lord can be compared to the masked men in the above story who whisk us away to the mansions that Christ promised in John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions, If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you”.
As the teenager in the story wakes up inside an underground elevator with no memory of his own identity, is what every teenager or a young person feels, in the days of his youth. The biggest challenge that hangs on for every youth out there is to establish our own identity.
Who am I? Why am I here? I just know my name and do things everyday as everyone does. What is it that I should achieve in this life?
We enter the maze each day with these questions. We encounter different situations; the different people, their culture and values. Each situation puts us into a learning experience. We get to see something unhappy, unjust, and cruel either in our lives or in the lives of others. We are unhappy and unsatisfied at times due to many reasons even though we pretend to be happy. The injustice in the world is growing each day. We can imagine ourselves to be fighters inside this maze just as the teenager in the story who wants to fight out in the maze to find the right way out. As teenagers or youth we often see ourselves fighting between good and the bad.
Like the runners in the story, who get stung by the griever inside the maze, we often get stung by Satan and his demons, with thoughts that divert us from the way of Christ. These thoughts deceive us as Eve was deceived.
But how is it that we can get out of these everyday traps of our life so that we grow in God and discover the real purpose and find answers to the questions we ask in our everyday living?
Just like how Thomas and Minho recover a device from within the Griever’s body and they theorize that the Maze may have a hidden code that could set them all free, in the similar way we have the writings of the Church Fathers which will give us those hidden codes to set ourselves free in the maze; the real purpose in our life, the real freedom and the real joy of living. Church Fathers are the real heroes to follow who through their practical way of living (orthopraxis) have defeated Satan just like the way Thomas the teenage boy fought the Griever and crushed it. We should always remember Satan can only deceive us through thoughts but God has given us the power to overcome and defeat Satan and his army. And the Church is the hospital where we get healed through the sacraments…….Click the link(Issue 1 – May’18) below to continue reading message from the metropolitan(president, OCYM&MGOCSM-Chennai diocese, Vice president’s message and other articles……Click the link(Issue 1 – May’18) below to continue reading message from the metropolitan(president, OCYM&MGOCSM-Chennai diocese, Vice president’s message and other articles……

 download (4): Issue 1 – May’18