Seeking for More

It is in our human nature to fall into routines, to accept the status quo and not look for more.  Routines are comfortable; they are safe and easy; we can predict (to a limited extent) how our lives will be from day to day.  There are some aspects about routines that are, in fact, beneficial in our lives.  For example, it is good to be in a routine of saying our morning and evening prayers.  It might also be beneficial to be in a morning routine so that we will be at our place of employment on time every day.

But routines and the sticking to the status quo can also have drawbacks.  In our life as Christians, we might be able to do more.  Maybe we could be doing more to help the poor and the sick, or it could be as simple as maybe needing to be there more for a friend or family member who is need of advice or in need of our love and support.  Maybe we could be praying more or attending more of the services of the Church, especially during the fasts (this should be done in conjunction with the guidance of one’s spiritual father, of course).  Maybe we regularly attend the Divine services, but do nothing more at our parish.  But parishes always need help from their parishoners to help keep things running, whether it be helping by sitting on the parish council, cooking food for Trapeza, or cleaning.  We should always be looking for more, each according to their abilities.  How many of us are eager to look for more when it comes to increasing our financial status, or look for more in regards to advancing in our careers?  We should be even more eager to pursue more in regards to our spiritual lives and in regards to our life in the Church.

We should recognize this temptation to keep the status quo, to keep our routine, and not look for more.  In this way, the evil one hopes to prevent our spiritual life from growing, to prevent us from doing good works for the Church and our neighbor.  Maybe we are afraid to seek more, afraid of what the “next step” might bring? Maybe we are afraid of falling flat on our face?  Let us not fear, but find consolation in Christ, and ask Him for strength and courage. Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  We should strive to be like the two men who doubled the talents that they were given because of their faith, who sought for more according to their abilities, and not be like the man who had one talent, who was too afraid to seek out more, who felt safe not seeking for more with his one talent, and who was hence condemned.  Yes, we may fall on our path to seek out more, to not settle for the status quo, but we must never lose faith that Christ is with us, and that when we do fall down, we should recognize that we have fallen, look for the cause, and get back up and keep going.

There is no reason why we shouldn’t take the initiative to seek for more.  May the Most Holy Theotokos guide us all in our path to seek for more, and may you all have a blessed Nativity Fast!

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Why do we follow the Old Orthodox Calendar?

This article briefly summarizes why we use the Old Calendar, what Ecumenism is, and who the Genuine Orthodox Christians are.  The New Calendar has been condemned by three Pan-Orthodox Councils.  The New Calendar was also introduced without the assent of the other Orthodox Churches, for the reason that it might aid in the common concelebration of all churches, which is the very heresy of Ecumenism.  With the heresy of Ecumenism, the faithful are taught that there is no one True Church, but that all churches are equal.  This is precisely why the Genuine Orthodox Christians exist: to preserve the Orthodox faith unadulterated, teaching the faithful of the One, True Church of Christ is the only path to salvation.

It was suggested in the Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1920 that the acceptance of a common calendar would aid the common celebration of all Churches. What it conceived of as “Churches” were all the heretical parasynagogues (Monophysites, Latins, Anglicans, Protestants and the rest of the cacodox) who, based on this encyclical are considered branches of the common body of the “divided Church”, thus paving the road for today’s syncretistic pan-heresy of Ecumenism.

…the faithful of the Martyric Church of Genuine Orthodox Christians struggle, endure and persist with the help of God, not to change anything of their faith, to preserve undistorted the commandments of the Holy Apostles and the teachings of the Holy Fathers.

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The Effects of Baptism

It is now nearing four years since I was baptized into the Orthodox Church.  As a result, I have been reflecting on the time around my baptism and the many graces that baptism into the Church of Christ has bestowed upon me, and bestows upon all who are baptized.  In baptism, by dying to our old self and putting on the new man, we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ: His death and resurrection restored man’s relationship to God.  After baptism, we are cleansed from all of our past sins, and our life in Christ through grace really begins.  These results can be seen in the life of one who has become baptized, and can often be seen by others as well.

Theologically, baptism is our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. His death on the Cross, entombment, and resurrection on the third day put death to death. Paradoxically, it was by death that death was abolished, in that when He was put in the tomb, His soul descended to Hades, where the dead lay, and He restored our Fathers Adam and Eve to life. 

When man is baptized, he descends into the water, which becomes his grave. Emerging from this watery grave, he is resurrected with Christ. After the three immersions, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, man is chrismated, or anointed with oil, which bestows the Holy Spirit on him. His old nature is killed, and he is reborn with the gift of grace. All of his sins are forgiven.

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Sanctification Through the Faith

His Eminence, Metropolitan Moses of Portland and the Western United States, gave a speech at the 2011 Orthodox Conference in Toronto regarding our sanctification and salvation through Christ and the Church.  His Eminence was clear in his emphasis that we must be in the One, True Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church, in order that we might have hope of being saved. We must safeguard ourselves though, as it is possible to be led away from the Church by the demons at any time.  One way that many have been led away from the Church is by the charisma of a man who appears to be holy.  Thus, it is important to remain humble and always submit to the teachings of the Church so that we might not find ourselves outside of Her.  It is also important that we study the faith so that we remain grounded in it.

His Eminence also talked about the importance of seeking the joy of God in our lives as a way to overcome adversities in our life.  We might have many sorrows in our life, but by finding a way to seek out the joy of God, we will not become overwhelmed by such sorrows. Also, by seeking first the joy of God, we will be better able to live out a virtuous life.

…we must confess the true faith and be united to Christ by holy baptism in this life in order to have a sure hope of salvation.

If we resolve in our hearts that we will always follow the consensus of the Holy Fathers and refuse to become too daring in our thoughts, then the devil can never grab hold of us and throw us down.

We must be grounded in the Faith. We must apply ourselves! These are difficult times and every last Christian needs to study and know his or her faith.

Our Savior has given us the word of truth, He has accomplished all things so that we might have peace. Yes, we will have tribulations in this life, but be of good cheer. He has triumphed, He has overcome. Our Savior has achieved the ultimate and everlasting victory and that victory is certain. But it is our task to work out the details of our participation in this victory in our own life. Seek joy, count blessings, look to things above. We should constantly remind ourselves of the promises that have been given us.

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Relating to Non-Orthodox Family as a True Test of Orthodoxy

Dr Jonathan Gress wrote a helpful paper for those who might be Orthodox Christians with non-Orthodox family members.  Myself being an Orthodox Christian with an Orthodox Christian fiancee, with both of our families being non-Orthodox, this paper is very valuable in regards to providing advice on how to interact with family members who are not Orthodox Christians.  This can certainly be a real challenge at times, but it can also be an opportunity to teach our family members about the Orthodox faith.  It is important to remain strong in our Orthodox practices when interacting with non-Orthodox family members, even when it may be very inconvenient, lest we portray ourselves as not being serious about our faith.

If anyone reading this is a convert to Orthodoxy with non-Orthodox family members or is a non-Orthodox family member of a person who has converted to Orthodoxy and is maybe wondering why their Orthodox family member does certain things the way they do or wants to know how to better accommodate their Orthodox loved one, feel free to contact me, and I will do what I can to help or put you in touch with people that can help.

Having non-Orthodox family members, especially if one is the only Orthodox member due to personal conversion, can be a real trial and test of one’s faith, but it is also a truly God-given opportunity to witness to Christ and the Church, and to win over new converts, provided one understands how to use the opportunity. Orthodoxy does not require us to abandon our relationship with our non-Orthodox relatives, and certainly does not absolve us of our natural obligations towards them, but it does require us to put God and the Church first whenever there is a conflict between the demands of family and the demands of our faith.

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Our Actions Affect Others

Oftentimes, I think about how my actions affect and may influence others.  While it is important not to dwell on past sins, it is also important to at least call to mind how our actions, both positive as well as negative, both Christ-like and not Christ-like, influence others, both in the Church and outside of the Church, so that we may make changes to our life.  Our actions are never isolated; it is a misconception of our modern times that our individual actions only affect our own self.  In this way, many will attempt to justify sinful behavior by saying, “As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I am free to do what I want with myself”, or, “What is kept private in my own home cannot hurt others.”

These statements couldn’t be further from the truth.  What we do with ourselves and what many think doesn’t hurt others does, in fact, hurt others.  The effect may not be immediate, or may be one that we do not even see (either physically, in that the effect occurred no where near us, or as a result of our spiritual blindness, in which we fail to notice an evil act/event that we physically saw), but that does not mean that no effect exists.  By drawing away from God’s grace through sin, we lose the strength that His grace provides so that we may act rightly.  So, those sins which we may commit in the privacy of our own home or against our own self (those sins which supposedly only affect the individual committing the sin or those in our own home) in turn affect us and weaken us from doing that which is right when we are interacting with others in public.  As a result, we may end up hurting others and might also influence others in a way that will lead them to sin as a result of our not being a model of Christ to them.  Of course, as Orthodox Christians, we have the Mystery of Confession to restore God’s grace, and those who are not Orthodox Christians have the ability to accept baptism, in which one truly begins one’s life in Christ.  So, while a sin may seem to be private or only affect us alone, this is not actually the case.  This is further reinforced by the fact that in the early days of the Church, the Mystery of Confession was done in public.

Our actions ultimately affect those in the Church, as well as outside the Church.  We, as Orthodox Christians, must remember that we might be the only or one of few Orthodox Christians that many will meet their entire lives (depending on the part of the country that one lives in, an individual may have more interaction with Orthodox Christians than in another part of America), and hence, we must be the best model of His Church as we possibly can, for, as Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Our actions also affect those who are already Orthodox Christians: good actions will undoubtedly influence our brothers and sisters in Christ to also act rightly, and vice versa.

Saint Cosmas the Aetolian also notes the concern that we should have for the salvation of those around us: “Studying the holy and sacred Gospel, I found in it many and different teachings which are all pearls, diamonds, treasures, riches, joy, gladness eternal life. Among the other things I also found this teaching in which Christ says to us: no Christian, man or woman, should be concerned only with himself, how he can be saved, but must be concerned also with his brethren so that they may not fall into sin.”

So, it is important from time to time to reflect on our actions and think about how we might be affecting the lives of others.  We may find some areas of our life where we are positively affecting the lives of others, through God’s grace alone, and if so, give thanks to God.  But we must not ignore the often more difficult task of acknowledging where we might be affecting others in a negative, non-Christ-like way, and hence possibly leading them into sin.  If we are living the Orthodox life as it should be lived, we will be participating in the Mystery of Confession regularly, and reflecting on our actions prior to Confession will provide us with the opportunity to see how we are affecting others. For those that might find this article that are not part of the Orthodox Christian Church, you should seek out the One, True Church of Christ that is the Orthodox Church so that you, too, may partake of the Mysteries (sacraments) of Confession and Communion and have life in Christ and, in turn, affect those around you in a more positive manner, through God’s grace.

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!

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Saint Cosmas and Missionary Work

Fr Anastasios Hudson, who is a priest serving the Raleigh/Durham area as well as the Greenville area in North Carolina, wrote an article on his own blog regarding missionary work in our modern day, referencing the work of St Cosmas the Aetolian.  St Cosmas lived in Greece around the middle of the 18th century, during a period of time in Greece when Orthodoxy was on the decline.  Missionary work can bear one of two meanings.  It can mean going to a foreign land and preaching, or it can mean evangelizing among those living near one’s own home.  The latter is especially needed here in America, and was needed at the time of St Cosmas in Greece as well.  He would travel from one village to another, preaching out in the open.  In this manner, he helped educate many Orthodox Christians which helped them to remain within the Church and improve their faith.  The life of St Cosmas should inspire us to do here in America what he did in Greece: to share the teachings of Christ with our fellow Americans, so that they might accept baptism and become part of His Church.

Certainly, Christianity has a rich history of such people being sent away from the comforts of their homeland in order to work for the salvation of others.  However, there is an equally great need, especially in today’s modern Western world, to conduct such efforts at home.

[Saint Cosmas] would go from village to village, and set up a Cross in the square.  Various Christians would come to hear his teachings, which he presented in simple language so that most could readily understand him.  Saint Cosmas established over 100 schools in his years of struggle. His earthly body was silenced… and helped thousands of Christians to improve their faith and avoid apostasy…

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