Posts Tagged ‘orthodoxy’

Sunday of Orthodoxy. St. John of Kronstadt- On the Joy of Being Orthodox

February 21, 2010 1 comment

“As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.
(Loudly) This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!”  (Synodicon: The Affirmation of the Orthodoxy Faith)

“Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn.1: 47)

Our Lord Jesus Christ said this of a certain Nathanael, an Israelite who dwelt in the Galilean town of Cana, when the latter, on the advice of his friend Philip, went to meet Jesus Christ to be assured whether He was the Messiah promised to Israel. Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” But Nathanael said to him, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip then said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “Whence knowest Thou me?” Jesus answered him, saying, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee,” i.e., I knew all your thoughts, your faith, your hope for the Messiah, your future ministry. The Lord Who knows the hearts of men apparently touched the very heartstrings of Nathanael, his inmost thoughts, desires, aspirations, showing His divine omniscience plainly to him. Thus was Nathanael brought to faith in Christ, and he cried out, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel!,” and became His disciple.

Why is it that during the Great Fast, on the day called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” it is this particular Gospel which is prescribed to be read? Because the Lord’s words to Nathanael reveal the character of the true, or Orthodox, Christian and, in general, the character of the true Church of Christ. “Behold, an Israelite indeed,” the Lord said of Nathanael, “in whom is no guile,” i.e., behold a man who rightly, directly, firmly thinks, reasons, believes, hopes, speaks and acts, since Nathanael directly, immediately believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and never wavered in his faith and hope, never changed his mind concerning His divine Person. Should not the true Christian be like him; should not the divinely instituted society of Orthodox Christians also be such; should not the Orthodox Church be such, and is it not such?

What high praise did He Who searches the hearts and reins render unto Nathanael in the words: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” What high praise there is for that Christian of whom the Lord says, “Behold a Christian indeed, in whom is no guile!,” and for that Church of which the Lord will say, “Behold a Church indeed, in which is no guile, or vain human inventions, i.e., which is wholly true in all its doctrines, mysteries, divine services, directives, and its entire organization.

And just such men were our holy favorites of God; such has the whole Orthodox Church been from the beginning up to now, as is borne witness by an impartial history of the Church and by God Himself through the divers signs and wonders wrought in the Church. It is, as the Apostle says, “the pillar and ground of Truth,” it is “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

To preserve the Orthodox Faith rivers of the blood of the apostles, the prophets and the martyrs were poured forth; and many tortures were borne by the venerable fathers and other champions of the Faith. But what about us, the children of the Orthodox Church? Are we preserving this precious inheritance, the Orthodox Faith; are we following its teachings, commandments, canons, rules, counsel? Do we love to offer service to God? Are we renewed thereby, are we hallowed each and every day, are we setting ourselves aright, are we attaining the perfection which the saints have reached? Are we becoming perfect in love for God and our neighbors; do we cherish our Faith; do we regard the mercy of God as the greatest thing, and that we have the good fortune to belong to the Orthodox Church is the first and greatest happiness in our life? What answer would we give to these questions if we were to respond according to our conscience?

To our shame, we must admit that in many Orthodox Christians the Orthodox Faith is not only absent in their heart, but it is also not on their tongue; among them it has vanished entirely, or has been turned into total indifference with regard to any religion whatever–Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Mohammendan, or pagan. We hear that one may please God in every religion, i.e., that every religion is supposedly pleasing to God, and that falsehood and truth, righteousness and unrighteousness are matters about which God does not care.

This is what ignorance of their own Faith, ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, estrangement from its life and divine services, has brought many to–an eclipse of any understanding of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other religions! The annals of modern events relate that somewhere in Russia a certain headmaster, during the examination of his students, referred to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac as stupid. This is darkness, chaos, pernicious ignorance! The Christian, as a member of the Church, must know his own Faith and strive to live according to that Faith, to achieve salvation by means of that Faith, because the enemies of our salvation never sleep; they seek our destruction every hour and every day. The Orthodox Christian must not dismiss his Faith as a concern merely of certain people, or as a disposable toy appropriate only for children, or something fit only, as it were, for the uneducated common folk.

It would not be out of place to remind those who think thus of the venerable antiquity of our Faith, which is contemporary with the beginning of the human race, and of its direct origin with God and that men of high birth, vocation, position and gender lived and attained salvation in this Faith–glorious kings and wise philosophers, law-givers and the greatest orators, nobles and simple folk, rich and poor, men and women, the beauty and glory of the human race. To the glory of the Orthodox Faith one ought also to say that no other religion than the Orthodox Faith is capable of bringing man to moral perfection or holiness and the pleasing of God, as is shown by the history of the Church and the incorrupt, wonder-working remains of the holy favorites of God and the miraculous feats of the saints of the Orthodox Church, whereby they became perfectly pleasing unto God, becoming clairvoyant and working wonders even during their lifetime. Thus must it be for the sane mind: only a perfect Faith with all its divine powers, with the full spiritual armor of God, is able to bring one to perfection, against the passion-fraught flesh, the world and the devil.

And if now many even Orthodox Christians live badly, their manner of life, even if truly ungodly, cannot in the least, of course, be held against the Orthodox Faith, which is unshakable in its principles of Truth and holiness, in accordance with the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, although they have departed from us, were not ours in essence, but only in name…

Yea, my brethren, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature which has been defiled by sin…Do you wish to be assured of this? Read the history of the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and you will see this for yourselves. You will see wolves transformed into lambs, fornicators into angelic righteous men and women, misers into paragons of charity, lovers of pleasure into ascetics; you will see people of power and earthly grandeur and luxury in humble monastic garb…These were true Christians indeed; these were angels in the flesh, citizens of heaven while still on earth… This is what our Orthodox Faith can do with those who sincerely hold to it and follow its direction!

But why does it not produce such a salvific change within us? Because of disbelief and lack of faith, flippancy, depravity and unrepentance of heart, because of the passions which have intensified and gained dominion over us, because we have withdrawn from the Church, and because many are not in the least imbued with the spirit and life of the Church, and many are only weakly, only formally, insincerely, attached to it. Because all the modern lusts have been engendered within us

...For us to be genuine Orthodox Christians, we must first of all have living, constant fellowship with the Orthodox Church, i.e., participation in its prayers, teachings, mysteries, we must earnestly study our Faith and become imbued with it, live in its spirit, be guided by its rules, commandments, precepts; and most important, we must restore within us by true and profound repentance the image of the true Orthodox Christian, according to the image of the saints, ancient and recent, according to the model of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who says: “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13: 15), that the Lord may also say to us, as He once said of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”


Categories: Homilies, Orthodox Feasts

Faith In Christ Our Lord Brings Victory

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

“Christ our Lord conquers the world, and the victory, is ours also. The Holy Apostles conquered the world, and that victory is ours also. Both the saints and the holy martyrs of our church have conquered the world, and the victory is again ours. There is nothing greater power in the world, then the Christian faith, the Holy Orthodox Faith we all love. The swords that cut off this faith are blunted and broken, but the Faith has remained. We know well from the history of our Church that many have tempted themselves to suffocate our Faith in Christ and His Church, however this Faith has again remained the victory is ours!

When the world rushes upon us, with illusions; especially with the temptations of its exterior beauty, the illusion of riches, of pleasure, and of transitory glory, with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victors but by this Faith? Truly, by nothing but this invincible Faith, which knows nothing better than any of the good things of this world?

We should be never spiritually interested in the face that the world offers us, but only to spiritually behold the face of our Lord God, and to behold Him, and in all His Glory, honor, and worship. Truly, nothing is so important for all Christians then to apply our Faith, which only teaches us endurance, and unchanging values in the Kingdom of God. What a great spiritual victory, as again this victory is ours!

We all can be victorious by faith in our Lord God! Do not ever be shameful about having faith, and being God loving Christians! We must spiritually resist that which is unholy, and see that which is truly holy, as we all know that our Gracious Lord Jesus Christ is the “Conqueror” of the world, who helps us also to conquer the world by faith in Him. Our purpose on this earth as Christians is to seek the Kingdom of our Lord God, therefore let us humbly, as well as piously seek it in faith and with faith. Our Lord God shall reward us, as we truly become victorious, as we have found the true Faith! The victory is ours!

Never for one moment believe that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. Pray with all your mind, heart, and soul, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening, as well as when our loving Church calls us to pray. Go to Church to pray and in faith be victorious! Think about attending Church with your family and be victorious!

Our Church is waiting for you and loves you when you gather in prayer! Our faith in Christ our Lord brings victory; let our faith in Him begin

Peace to your soul!

Humbly in Christ our Lord,

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!”

Categories: Spirituality

God is just and He commits no injustice

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment


A certain Abba who practiced asceticism with candour to God, begged Him with tears to reveal to him the way He judges and decides in certain cases where people do not understand Him, but believe they concern strange things. God however, for a long time did not wish to reveal anything to him because man can never know and understand the mysteries of God. The ascetic never ceased asking, night and day, for that particular revelation.

One day therefore, God, wishing to inform him, set in his heart the thought to go and meet an elder ascetic, who was at another location that required a few days walk to reach him. When the ascetic started his walk, God sent him an angel in the form of a young monk, who greeted him by saying “Father bless”. The elder ascetic responded “God forgive you, my son”. The angel then asked the elder, “where are you going abba?” and the elder replied, “I am going to so and so ascetic to meet him”. And the angel then said, “I too am going there, so let us walk together”.

Having walked together the first day, they arrived in the evening at a village and were put up at the house of a pious and hospitable man, who looked after them. In fact he brought a silver platter in the dining room. When it was time for them to leave, the angel took the platter secretly, and tossed it up in the air and the platter disappeared. The elder when he saw this was saddened but said nothing.

The second day they reached another village, where they were looked after by a hospitable pious Christian. He had a single son and he brought him to be blessed and receive their blessing. The angel though, when he was about to leave with the ascetic, grabbed the child by the neck and choked him to death. Witnessing such a view, the elder suffered a great surprise and fear but again said nothing.

Having walked the third day, they reached another place, but because they could not find anybody to receive them, they sat in a courtyard that had an unstable wall that was close to collapsing. The angel stood up, rolled up his sleeves, brought down the wall and immediately rebuilt it from the foundations up.

Witnessing this last event, the elder could no more keep quiet, and said, “I invoke the name of God, the Most High, for you to tell me the truth. What were these things you did? Are you an angel or a demon? What you did are not human deeds”. When the angel asked “what did I do?” the elder replied, “yesterday and before yesterday when we were received by those Christian men and looked after us, you took from the former the silver platter and you tossed it in the air and it disappeared, while you choked to death the son of the latter. And here where we came, they did not offer us hospitality, yet you toiled in building and you were beneficial to them”. The angel then responded, “Listen abba, I’ll reveal to you the truth of the situations. The first one who received us was a God loving and just man, and deals with his subordinates according to God’s commandments. That silver platter though came from an unjust inheritance, so that he may not lose his reward for his good deeds, due to the platter, God ordered me to make it disappear, so that his hospitality be pure and free from injustice. The latter who gave us hospitality is a pious and virtuous man and if his son continued living he would have become the devil’s tool, and would have done many evils, rendering the good deeds of the father to be forgiven”. The elder then said, “OK you have done well, but what do you have to tell me about the last case?”. The angel then answered him, “learn father this too, that the owner of the courtyard is an evil and unjust man and wishes to hurt many but unable because of his poverty. His grand father when he was building the wall, hid in it a great sum of money and if I let it collapse, the evil owner needing to rebuild it, would have discovered the money in the ruins and would have used it to do the evil deeds he wished. That is why God ordered me to stabilize it, so that the evil man may not find the money he intended to use for his evil wishes to hurt people. And God knows when to reveal it to a worthy person who will use it for good deeds.

Have you seen therefore how God judges in certain cases you asked to learn? Go to your cell therefore and don’t let the things of this world bother you, asking why and how they are done. For the judgments of God are an immeasurable abyss as the prophet said and His energies are unfathomable and incomprehensible and man cannot know everything accurately. Believe therefore, father, God is just and He commits no injustice. Whatever is needed to be done, it is done justly. When the ascetic heard these things from the angel, he glorified God, retiring to his cell and never again questioned anything.

Categories: Spirituality

Elder Arsenie – On Suffering

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

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