Regarding the Transfiguration

By Fr. Steven Allen of Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Saint Claire Shores, MI

The Great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we will celebrate this month, reveals to us the solution for the disorder of our inner lives.

God created our minds to know Him and to reflect His glory. The natural state of man’s mind, before the Fall, was one of light, simplicity, and unity. The mind was an unbroken mirror reflecting its Creator. By the Fall, the mind was both darkened and fragmented: It could no longer reflect the Light of the Lord, and it was broken into a million pieces, each piece obsessed with some disconnected aspect of the fallen world, and unable to connect to its other pieces. All the striving of human philosophy and science is somehow aimed at recovering this original light and unity, but without complete and accurate information about ultimate things, which can come only through direct revelation from God, and without the right formation of the mind by the power of grace acting through the life of the Church, all of this striving is doomed to failure.

This does not apply only to man in general, but to each of us in particular. Each of us, whether he knows it or not, wants to be a philosopher, in that each of us naturally wants to know what the meaning of his life is. Each of us, whether he knows it or not, wants to be a scientist, in that each of us wants to acquire accurate knowledge of the world around him.

Having the inestimable privilege of being Orthodox Christians, we know what the basis of true wisdom and true knowledge is: The Incarnate Logos of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the basis for all true knowledge and wisdom in that He is both the blueprint for all created reality as well as its ultimate goal.

Christ is the basis of true wisdom and true knowledge also in this way: Only He can heal our minds, so that we can understand this blueprint and this goal. This is what He was doing on Mount Tabor, when He revealed His divine glory to the disciples. For a moment, He opened their eyes to see the uncreated light of His Divinity shining through His created human nature. By this He showed us what our purpose His: to be saved by grace and healed of our sinful passions, so that our minds, recovering the original light, simplicity, and unity, might once again know Who God is and who we are, and be united to Him in an indissoluble bond of love which will endure beyond death unto eternity.

Each of us suffers from the mental and emotional fragmentation and obsession wrought by the insanity of contemporary life. But the remedy is close at hand: to take up the tools of spiritual life offered us by the Church, and to use them. If we do not set aside time for prayer, and do not cleanse our souls through confession and feed them by Holy Communion, we have no excuse to complain that we find life too confusing and hard to deal with. Christ beckons to us each day to go up the mountain with Him. Let us heed His beloved and divine voice, and He will give rest to our souls.

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A Sermon for the Sunday of All Saints

by Metropolitan Moses

Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Apostles, which granted to mankind God’s greatest gift, that is, sanctification through the New Testament Priesthood. It was at Pentecost that the Apostles were given the charism to perform the Holy Eucharist. It is from this point that the faithful who are baptized in Christ, put on Christ and receive Him into themselves through the Holy Eucharist.

On this Sunday, one week later, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints and the Gospel reading chosen by the Holy Fathers for this feast begins with the words:

The Lord said unto His disciples, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in the Heavens. And whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in the Heavens. (Matt 10:32-33)

Holy Pentecost manifested the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, that is, the potential of the renewal of all mankind in Christ. The Apostles preached, the seed of the knowledge of God was implanted in the hearts of many and when the time came the Church blossomed forth the holy Martyrs. During the feast of All Saints we commemorate especially the martyrs and confessors of our Holy Church.

As it is written in the Service of All Saints in the “Glory” for Vespers

O Divine Choir of Martyrs, foundation of the Church, perfection of the Gospel, ye have fulfilled in deed the sayings of the Savior; in you the gates of Hades, that yawned against the Church are shut; the flow of your blood hath dried up the libations of idolatry; your slaughter gave birth to the plenitude of the faithful. Ye did amaze the incorporeal hosts, and now stand crowned before God. Unceasingly entreat Him in behalf of our souls.

The word “Martyr” means witness — and witnessing and confessing the Son of God before men is the foundation of the Church and the foundation of all the virtues. We are called upon to worship God in spirit and in Truth and to confess Him before men.

This witnessing for Christ never came easily. As our Savior encouraged and forewarned the disciples:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be glad: for great is your reward in the Heavens: for so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you. (Matt 5:11-12)

We all must ask ourselves: Have we readied our minds to endure such things for the sake of witnessing to the fact that we are Orthodox Christians?

If one examines the state of so-called world Orthodoxy and studies the history it is evident that many local churches have compromised their witness to the truth of Orthodoxy and confession of Christ for the sake of political objectives. The very next verse in the Beatitudes applies to the consequences of this compromise:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot by men. (Matt 5:13)

We are salted with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are salted with the Gospel truth. As our Savior said in today’s Gospel, we must confess that truth. A local Church that has lost the savor of the confession of the confession of Gospel truth loses all.

Our Christ tells us in today’s Gospel reading that if we are to be worthy of His love, we must love Him more than all things. He also forewarned us that being faithful to this love would at times be a Cross.

He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. (Matt 10:37-38)

We are to love all men unto salvation. That means that in a spirit of love, we are called upon to witness for the truth and not compromise it. If there comes a time when anyone would attempt to separate us from Christ, we are required to show a self-sacrificing love by standing for the truth. This is not easy, but this stand for the truth will be unto our salvation and perhaps unto the ultimate salvation of those who are trying to lead us astray. This is not the easy way; this is the way of the Cross.

The heresy of ecumenism overturns all of the above. Our Savior said that “God is a spirit and those that worship Him must worship Him is spirit and in truth.” Ecumenism says that there is no truth and doctrine is of no significance. Our Savior calls all men to be united to Him in love of the truth. Ecumenism calls men to be united to every error in total indifference to the truth.

In order to understand the great gulf that separates the mindset of the false shepherds who trivialize the significance of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism today and the saints of the Church, it is important to note that the martyrs of the first centuries were not killed because they worshipped Christ. They were killed because they worshipped Christ exclusively.

The Roman pagan authorities built temples that were intended to house all of the gods. That is where the term “pantheon” came from. The word “pantheon” in Greek is from two words “theos” (god) and “pan” (all). The pagan rulers were willing to place a statue of Christ in their pantheon, but they wanted Christians to also worship the Roman gods and the genius of the emperor. As we know from the lives of the saints, the Christian confessors proclaimed the Holy Trinity as the one true God and refused to acknowledge the pagan gods.

Today, the Pan-Heresy of Ecumenism attempts to unite all spiritual errors into a one world super church. The betrayers of Orthodoxy who participate in this heresy participate in an attempt to place Christ in the pantheon of all of the false gods.

There are many so-called spiritual leaders today found in the Ecumenist jurisdictions who claim to love the saints, and who claim to be their disciples. Are they really?

Saint Peter was crucified upside down and Saint Paul was beheaded because they confessed Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch was devoured by lions because he confessed Christ. Is it reasonable to say that these saints would encourage Orthodox Christian laity to be members of a local church that participated in the pan-heresy of Ecumenism? Would it be reasonable to claim that any of the saints would encourage Orthodox Christian laity to partake of the mysteries at liturgy wherein a local bishop who professed ecumenism was commemorated?

The words of our Savior in the Gospel reading for the feast of All Saints are a light in the darkness of the confusion of our day. We are called upon to Confess Christ before all men. We confess Him by preserving and proclaiming the “faith once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) If we count family or anything of more value than our love for Christ, we are unworthy of Him. The saints and confessors of every age and station in life have given us examples of how we must live. I pray that none of you are ever confused by the false spiritual leaders of our day into compromising your confession of faith.

May you all Confess Christ in spirit and in truth. May you confess Him also by your way of life. May you proclaim that you are His disciples by the self-sacrificing love that you show one to another. May the examples of the saints inspire and guide you in your life and may you and your families partake of the grace of the Holy Spirit that illumined the saints from ages past, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Pascha 2012 in New York City

A video of Holy Friday, Holy Saturday, and Pascha at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Markella in Astoria, Queens, NY, celebrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Pavlos, His Grace, Bishop Christodoulos, many priests, and thousands of faithful.

From beginning of video to ~8:10: Taking down of Christ from the Cross.

~8:10 to ~9:12: Procession of the Epitaphios (burial shroud of Christ) around Cathedral and placement in the Kouvouklion (funeral bier).

~9:12 to ~21:00: Procession of the Kouvouklion around a closed-off block of New York City in Astoria, Queens. Just before 21:00, the faithful walk underneath the Kouvouklion to receive a blessing.

~21:00 to ~21:55: The Epitaphios is brought into the Cathedral and placed on the Altar, where it will remain for 40 days.

~21:55 to ~23:57: Holy Saturday Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great. It is here we celebrate Christ’s harrowing of and victory over Hades, where Christ decended into and broke the bonds of Hades, and is celebrated by tossing bay leaves around the Church and making noise, with bay leaves being an ancient symbol of victory. The Church is now preparing for Christ’s imminent Resurrection.

~23:57 to end: Celebration of Pascha (Easter)! This part starts with the Gospel reading of Matins and is then followed by the chanting of Christos Anesti!  Christ is Risen! and the response: Alithos Anesti! Truly He is Risen! Red eggs are also distributed by Metropolitan Pavlos to the faithful, the red being a symbol of the blood that Christ shed for our salvation.

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A Blessed Holy Week and Pascha

To all the readers of this blog, I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Pascha.  For those readers who are not familiar with Orthodox Christianity, we celebrate Holy Week this week, with Pascha this coming Sunday (April 15th new style).

The following are two articles relating to Holy Week and the Resurrection of Christ that I hope you will find profitable:

http://www.saint-spyridon.com/msg0509.htm

http://holytheotokosgreenville.org/pastoral-notes/171-behold-the-bridegroom-cometh

UPDATE: The following is the Paschal Epistle of the bishops of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece: http://www.ecclesiagoc.gr/en/announcements/208-anastasimon-minuma-2012

Kalo Pascha (Happy Easter)!

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Kali Sarakosti!

Fr Steven Allen wrote a pastoral message for Great Lent in 2007 exhorting us to strive for our salvation, negating the modern belief that salvation will come easily for us.  Let us remember that our salvation requires more than just belief–it requires our action: continual repentance and struggle against sin, ultimately striving to live like Christ.  With the many worldly distractions that occur in our day-to-day life, let us remember to set aside time for prayer, spiritual reading, and silence, especially during this holy Lenten season.  And let us ask Christ to give us the strength to endure that which is necessary so that we might find salvation.

Few people today believe that they can lose their salvation. Even “religious” people are very careless about their souls, thinking that if they “just believe” (whatever), they will “go to heaven.” They have forgotten the many, many places in Holy Scripture which speak of death, God’s judgment, heaven, and hell, and especially they have forgotten Christ’s own words that the way to life is narrow and few find it! Let us cast off carelessness and a superficial attitude regarding our salvation, and strive to find and follow the narrow way laid out in the Gospel!

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Metropolitan Moses Celebrates Theophany in Greece

His Eminence, Metropolitan Moses of Portland and the West, visited Greece for the Feast of Theophany.  Every year, the bishops, clergy, monastics, and laity process to the port in Piraeus for the Blessing of the Waters.  His Eminence addressed the faithful on this Feast of Lights, making many important points.  First of all, Theophany should remind us of our own Baptism into Christ.  Baptism gives us new life in Christ, and allows us to save our souls if we live according to His Commandments.  It is important that we give thanks to Christ for showing us the way to His Holy Church.  Secondly, we must remember the important task that we, as Orthodox Christians, have been given: to remain steadfast in and preserve the Faith which Christ has given to us and has been passed down through the ages.  And thirdly, we must remember that we are not alone in our struggle.  We are united to all the other Orthodox Christians throughout the world, and on a local scale, we have the support of our fellow Orthodox Christians at the parish we attend.  Let us remain strong in the faith, and may the Holy Theotokos guide us to Eternal Life.

Sons and daughters of the Church, you should ever rejoice that you have been called, and through Baptism you have been sanctified. We are immersed in Baptism and we die unto sin so that we may live with Christ.

Beloved, these are the days when many seek to offer the rational flock of Christ the strange herbage of subtle words and vain speculations. Remain steadfast, brothers and sisters in Christ! Restrict your spiritual food to the pastures of Christ and His Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and be strong in the faith “once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

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Holy Ascension Monastery

Have you ever considered the monastic life?  Many people may not be aware that God is calling them to the monastic life, especially in today’s secularism where we are told to seek out successful careers and life a very worldly life.  Maybe God is calling you?  The monastic life is truly the life of the angels.

Many may not know, but the Hellenic Orthodox Traditionalist Church of America has a monastery named after the Holy Ascension in Bearsville, NY.  You should make a visit!  The monastery gladly welcomes guests.  Having visited the monastery myself a few times, I can tell you that a visit to the monastery is very spiritually enriching, and will allow you to discern if you might have a call to the angelic life.

The following is a video recently taken on the grounds of Holy Ascension Monastery, showing the construction of the new Catholicon bearing the name of Hagia Sophia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=97k-2FeqIVM  It will be a 1/5th replica of the original Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

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