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OCN THIS WEEK: A Wise Man Listens to Advice

April 7th, 2016

 

 

 

The Importance of “Watching” 

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to His Disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.” And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.”

Matthew 26: 36-38  (From the Gospel of the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Thursday Morning)  Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent 

 

Good morning Prayer Team! 

The first “act” of Christ’s Passion was His betrayal by Judas.  This was revealed in the context of the Last Supper.  Then Jesus began a lengthy discourse to His Disciples.  In the midst of this, He revealed that Peter would deny Him, another “act” of the Passion.  Jesus eventually left the upper room, and “went forth with His Disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which He and His Disciples entered” (John 18:1), the Garden of Gethsemane.  This place was very familiar to Jesus, “for Jesus often met there with His Disciples.” (John 18:2)  But it also set the scene for His arrest, for “Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place.” (John 18:2)  

Jesus, knowing all things, knew that as He entered the garden a free man, that He would be exiting the garden shortly as a prisoner.  He knew that it was only a short time before an excruciating day of pain and torture would commence.  And He knew that He would endure a humiliating and painful death.  

He had just spent a “peaceful” evening having supper and speaking with His Disciples, His friends.  And now His mood began to change.  He asked Peter (whom He still loved, even though He had predicted Peter’s denial), and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to “watch” with Him while He prayed.  Why?  Because He did not want to be alone.  He didn’t ask these Disciples for pray FOR Him.  He didn’t ask them to pray WITH Him.  He didn’t ask them to share in His sufferings WITH Him.  He asked them only to watch with Him while He was praying, so that He wouldn’t feel alone. 

Loneliness is a very powerful feeling.  It makes one feel debilitated at best, and hopeless at worse.  There are many people who have lots of friends, who live in the public eye, and at times they are lonely. There are many jobs where the person at the top is lonely, in the sense that he or she stands alone to make decisions.  In a household, there is one mother, so one mother caring for a small child or small children, when she is virtually their entire world, responsible for their entire well-being, this is a lonely job.  Teachers can be lonely—up in front of thirty-five students, they stand alone in trying to impart knowledge.  Doctors, surgeons, dentists, architects, business executives, salespeople, all of these can feel lonely as well.  

From personal experience, the priesthood is like this at times.  For instance, at a funeral, I may stand in front of a church filled with people, many of whom I consider friends, but I am the only one up in front, and sometimes that is a lonely feeling.  

The point of this is that at some point, we are all going to feel like Jesus—alone, sorrowful.  And we won’t need to necessarily have someone take away our burden.  But to have someone “watching” is a comfort in itself.  The sorrow of Christ in the garden was not only because of His impending suffering but because at that moment He experienced the human emotion of loneliness and it made Him sorrowful.  Keep Reading. 

The Children’s Word: Making Progress! 

If you are in school, you might have gotten something called a “progress report.” Your teacher shows your parents how well you are doing in math or reading or spelling or even at getting along with others. Your teacher always wants you to “progress” or get better. 

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent. Today we remember a Saint John who wrote a book about a ladder to heaven. It isn’t a real ladder, of course, but it is a way to see if we Christians are making progress, to see if we are growing closer to Christ in heaven. 

We can ask ourselves if we are growing closer to Christ. Are we really trying to stop doing the wrong things, and start doing the right things? Or are we stuck with bad habits? 

The funny thing is that all Christians can make progress. All Christians can move forward to Christ…not just kids, but also very, very old people. Not just school kids, but mothers and fathers, priests and bishops, and monks and nuns. We can all keep growing closer to Christ. We can all keep progressing! 

Let’s always think about that. What would a progress report say about us?  Keep Reading. 

God’s Image and Likeness in Death and in Art 

In this episode of Come Receive the Light we have two interviews. First, Fr. Chris speaks with Dr. Timothy G. Patitsas, Assistant Professor of Ethics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theologyabout the Orthodox understanding of death and the proper way to lay a body to rest body after death. Tree pods, cremation, and graffitied caskets are not adequate ways to express who we are.  There is a fantastic book A Christian Ending that explains more. 

And keep listening as we hear a conversation between Bryce and Fr. Anthony Salzman. Fr. Anthony is an iconographer, college lecturer and priest for the St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Watkinsville, GA. Listen as he reveals many of the key factors of the Annunciation icon. There is also an iconography workshop and retreat May 22 – 27, 2016. For more information, go to their website Image and Likeness. 

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OCN’s Rudder Host Receives Award 

Holy Synod awards Order of St. Romanos to noted liturgical musicians 

SYOSSET, NY [OCA] During their Spring Session here March 29—April 1, 2016, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops awarded the Order of Saint Romanos to Dr. Vladimir Morosan and Aleksei Shipovalnikov in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the field of liturgical music in the Orthodox Church in America. The dates on which the awards will be presented has yet to be determined. 

Established by the Holy Synod of Bishops in 2014, the Order is awarded to influential arrangers, composers, teachers and conductors. Past recipients include Archpriest Sergei Glagolev, Archpriest Igor Soroka, Prof. Dr. David Drillock, Mr. Walter Shymansky and Archimandrite Roman [Braga]. 

Dr. Vladimir Morosan is one of the leading experts outside Russia in the field of Orthodox liturgical music. He is Founder and President of Musica Russica, a publishing company specializing in the publication and dissemination of Orthodox choral music throughout the western world. As Founder and Artistic Director of Archangel Voices, a professional-level choral ensemble, he has recorded six CDs of Orthodox liturgical music in English. The composer and editor of numerous choral arrangements, he has coached numerous professional choirs, including two Grammy Award Winning ensembles performing Russian Orthodox music. He serves as consultant to the OCA Department of Liturgical Music and Translations and the Music Department of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. A tonsured Reader, he currently serves as Director of Liturgical Singing at Saint Katherine Mission, Carlsbad, CA.  Keep Reading. 

 Have You Kissed Your Eikona Today? 

Many mornings we wake up rushed and ready to begin a new day of working, parenting, achieving…of living. We grab our coffee, eat some breakfast and run out the door to head into the ‘world.’ But have we forgotten something…something rather important? 

“Having raised me from bed and sleep, O Lord, enlighten my mind and my heart, and open my lips that I may praise Thee, O Holy Trinity. Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God. Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.” 

Sometimes as we hit the ground running, head filled with to-do lists, we forget the most important item—to pray to our gracious and life-giving Lord and to kiss His holy Eikones, or icons. What is an icon? It is a sacred image—prepared according to our Orthodox Tradition—of Christ, His mother, the Saints, and Holy events. It is a window into heaven and a reminder that God created us and gives us life, and whether we are awake or asleep, it is He who sustains us. Eikones bring to mind that God and His Saints are alive, and real, and available for help, if we will only remember them! Kissing an icon is like kissing your favorite relative and is an expression of love and respect for them. It makes present today the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The morning prayers continue. They stop us in our tracks:  Keep Reading 

 

 A New Hero (Saint) in Aleppo

He recognized her, and he thought she had converted to Islam and would expose him, revealing that he was not a Muslim. She whispered in his ear that he shouldn’t be afraid.

It almost sounds like a new novel waiting for a movie deal. But this isn’t fiction. This was a story told to Nuri Kino, founder of A Demand for Action (ADFA) – a global initiative to support the protection of the Assyrians (incl. Syriacs/Chaldeans) and other minorities in Iraq & Syria. 

The young man was from Aleppo and mistaken as a Muslim. Instead of killing him on site, they took him to the hospital and when he recovered, she helped him escape. She risked everything to save lives. She is a true hero. 

Who is she? Is she still alive? In the article he wrote, “Her cover was blown a few months ago. She carried a child on her back when the terrorists realized that she was not one of them and shot at her. Rumors say that she is alive and in Turkey.” 

What does it take to risk everything to save another life? This is a quality of many of the saints in our Christian history.   Sacrificial love for your neighbor is truly a gift of grace.  And I know many of you are up in arms because I suggested she might be a saint.  But what exactly is a saint?  Orthodoxy does not have a single definition of sainthood.  We don’t have a checklist we follow. But if we did, I imagine that “willing to risk your life to save another” would be on the list.  Keep Reading 

 

 A Wise Man Listens to Advice 

Listen to the daily reading for April 5, 2016.

Genesis 9:8-17 

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”

Proverbs 12:8-22

A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of perverse mind is despised. Better is a man of humble standing who works for himself than one who plays the great man but lacks bread. A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense. The strong tower of the wicked comes to ruin, but the root of the righteous stands firm. An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his words a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent man ignores an insult. He who speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan good have joy. No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. 

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Family Camp for Special Needs 

Once again the Diakonia Retreat Center in South Carolina will ring with the laughter of children and their families as the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos offers a Special Needs Family Camp focusing on Autism. The words from the Gospel of John; Christ the Good Shepherd loves and takes care of all of His sheep underlines the value of the special needs family camp. The camp is a collaboration of the Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos and regional specialists in the field of Autism. 

I asked Despina Koulianos, the director of this groundbreaking initiative as to her motivation for designing such a camp. Her answer and observations led me to the realization that her undertaking bears a clear reference to what Mother Maria undertook 71 years ago, the “transfiguration of the world requires creative contemplation, active love, the most heartrending personal compassion, and the ability to reinvent life. It is a question of giving human beings not only bread, but also beauty, opportunity, and celebration.” 

Observing a growing autistic community and the services that were being offered in cities increasing as well. She saw them being left out of programming in their own local churches. “We want to provide a faith based camp helping Autistic children grow in their relationship with God,” she says. It took Despina over a year and a half to prepare for the very first camp of its kind that ran last year and was funded entirely by Metropolis of Atlanta Philoptochos. Keep Reading  

 

Associated Press reports on ‘Pope may visit Greek island to highlight refugees’ plight’ 

Vatican City

4/6/2016 

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, will visit the Greek island of Lesbos next week to highlight the plight of refugees, the Greek government said, as refugees and other migrants are being deported back to Turkey under the European Union’s controversial program to ease Europe’s migrant problem. 

Under the EU’s deal with Turkey reached last month, those arriving on Greek islands from March 20 onwards who do not apply for asylum in Greece or whose application is rejected or deemed inadmissible will be deported back to Turkey. For every Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian there will be relocated to a European country. 

But after the initial return of 202 people Monday from the islands of Lesbos and Chios, most of the roughly 4,000 people earmarked for deportation were submitting asylum applications, leading to delays in the system. 

No deportations were carried out Tuesday, and a Turkish interior ministry official said no further returns were expected until Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has been outspoken about Europe’s moral obligation to welcome refugees and his visit to Greece will likely embarrass EU leaders already under fire from human rights groups over the deportations. 

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, the decision-making body of the Greek church, said Francis had asked to come to highlight the plight of refugees. It said the request had been accepted and the island of Lesbos suggested, adding it had also extended an invitation to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, to visit the island on the same day.  Keep Reading 

 

 Commemorating the Repentance of St. Mary of Egypt 

She was born in Egypt, in about 466 AD, to Christian parents. At the age of 12, she ran away from home to Alexandria, where she lived on the street, giving away her favours and spinning flax to feed herself. She loved a good party and her endless capacity for wine brought even more men to her. For 17 years she indulged what she called her “irrepressible desire for lying in filth.” As she told Father Zosimas years later, “every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.” 

About 475, when she was about 29, God called Mary so clearly she couldn’t ignore Him any longer. As she roved the streets of Alexandria, she noticed a crowd of Libyans and Egyptians hurrying to the harbour. They were heading for Jerusalem, they told her, for the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross. She asked if she might also go along. Certainly, they replied, as long as she could pay her own passage and buy her own food. 

Mary hadn’t been serious, but was suddenly seized by a compulsion to travel to Jerusalem for the feast. She sped through the hot, dusty streets to the harbour. Once on the ship, she paid for her passage and meals on board ship with her body, but she also set out to seduce as many of the passengers and crew as she could, even, she said later, “forcing those miserable youths even against their own will.”  Keep Reading  

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