Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Teaching Children about the Orthodox Faith

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)


Some children, influenced by what they are taught at school, have a flawed understanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Three common errors are listed below:
  • The Jews worship the God of the Old Testament, but Christians worship the God of the New Testament.
  • The God of the Old Testament is God the Father.
  • The Old Testament was ‘nasty’ but the New Testament is ‘nice’.
Explain to children that the Trinity exists before time began, and that all the appearances of God in the Old Testament were the unincarnate Word of God. Christ took flesh in Bethlehem as the man Jesus Christ, but was not separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit as we hear in the Akathist Hymn:
Wholly present with those below was the uncircumscribed Word, yet in no way absent from those above; for this was a divine condescension and not a mere change of place; and His birth was from a virgin chosen of God.[1]
The difference between the two Testaments can be illustrated by comparing the slaying of Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant to prevent it from falling with Christ’s forbearance when being beaten by the soldiers before the Crucifixion. In both Testaments, Christ’s power is undiminished because He is God, but in the New Testament He came as a Lamb to the slaughter to destroy death by His death. St. Philaret of New York explains:
The main distinction of the New Testament law from that of the Old Testament consists in that the Old Testament law looked at the exterior actions of man, while the New Testament law looks at the heart of man, at his inner motives. Under the Old Testament law, man submitted himself to God as a slave to his master, but under the New Testament, he strives towards submitting to Him as a son to submits to a beloved father.[2]
The Holy Spirit is also active in the Old Testament, because He is inseparable from the Father and the Son, as Metropolitan Hierotheos observes:
The Holy Spirit is active in the Old Testament as well, differently from the way He acts in the New Testament, in the Church. For, as we said before, in the Old Testament, He pointed out to the prophets the transgression of the commandments and revealed the coming of Christ, while in the New Testament He makes men sons of God and members of the Body of Christ and guides them to deification. [3]
The Orthodox Church is the true heir of the Old Testament Church. Fr. Michael Pomazansky explains that:
In this heritage, some things have an eternal significance and value, but others have ceased to exist and are significant only as recollections of the past and for edification as prototypes. The Church makes use of her Old Testament heritage authoritatively, in accordance with her understanding of the world, which is complete and superior to that of ancient Israel’s.[4]
It is worth explaining to children that the righteous and the sinners that died in the Old Testament all had a second chance to believe on Christ through the preaching of St. John the Baptist in Hades. The kontakion for the Beheading of John the Baptist begins: ‘The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation, that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to those in Hades.’ [5]

There are many types of Christ in the Old Testament, but make sure that children understand the difference between a type and the actual appearance of the Person.

Types of the Word of God in the Old Testament


The Paschal Lamb

On seeing Christ, John the Baptist cried out ‘Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world’(John 1:29). Christ is called the Lamb of God because He is offered in sacrifice for us. Christ is our Passover. He is our ‘Paschal Lamb that has been sacrificed’(1 Corinthians 5:7). Christ was sacrificed, or rather, He gave Himself as a sacrifice so that our sins might be forgiven. Christ became man out of love for man and offered Himself up on the Cross to forgive the sins of the whole world.

Rock


St. Paul makes clear that the Rock of Horeb is a type of Christ: ‘They drank from that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Christ is ‘the stone which the builders rejected that has become the head of the corner’ (cf. 1 Peter 2:7); He is the ‘rock of stumbling’ prophesied by Esaias (Is. 8:14), and the ‘chief cornerstone’ of the Church (Ephesians 2:20).

Manna

The Jews, after their escape from Pharaoh, wandered in the wilderness for forty years and were fed by manna sent from heaven. This manna prefigured Christ who is the true Bread of Life. St. Gregory of Nyssa explains that this bread had a physical substance, even though it was created in a miraculous fashion. He also links together the miraculous nature of the bread which required no sowing, harvesting, grinding or mixing to make it, with the birth of Christ from the Virgin:
The bread which came down from heaven is not some incorporeal thing. For how could something incorporeal be nourishment to a body? Neither ploughing nor sowing produced the body of this bread, but earth which remained unchanged was found full of this divine food, of which the hungry partake. This miracle teaches in anticipation the mystery of the Virgin. [6]

Extract from Young Children and the Church written by the Fathers of Saint Edward Brotherhood


[1] A Prayerbook for Orthodox Christians (Brookline: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1987) p.224.

[2] http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/law_of_god.htm

[3] Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, The Feasts of the Lord (Levadia, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery: 2003) p.316.

[4] Protopresbyter M. Pomazansky, The Old Testament in the New Testament Church (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery,1977) p.5.

[5] The Great Horologion (Brookline: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1990) p. 591.


[6] A.J. Malherbe, E. Ferguson (trans.), Gregory of Nyssa – The Life of Moses (New York: Paulist Press, 1978) p. 88.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Saints celebrated in July

July falls neatly between the Apostles’ Fast, which ends after the Liturgy on 29th June / 12th July, and the Dormition Fast which begins on 1st / 14th August.  (Remember, though, that this year the day of the Saints Peter and Paul is also a fast day because it falls on a Wednesday).  Although the month falls in mid-summer, when generally the services are a little shorter – undoubtedly because the nights are shorter and because in agricultural societies there was much more work to do  –  yet we celebrate many of the most beloved saints in July.  Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome, the Great Martyr Procopius, the Great Martyr Marina, the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, the holy Prophet Elias (Elijah), the Righteous Anna the mother of the Theotokos, and the Great Martyr Panteleimon are among them.

    Among the other saints celebrated in July we have:-

    The Venerable Athanasius of Athos (5th / 18th July), whose feast day coincides with the renowned Russian monastic father, Sergius of Radonezh, was named Abraham in holy Baptism, and was born in the city of Trebizond.  He was orphaned early in life, and was raised by a certain good and pious nun. He imitated his foster mother in the disciplines of monastic life, and he also progressed well in his studies.  After the nun’s death, Abraham went to Constantinople, to the court of the Emperor Romanus, and was enrolled as a student under the renowned rhetorician Athanasius.  In a short while he attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and himself became an instructor.  Reckoning asceticism to be the true way of life, Abraham led a strict and abstinent life; he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment.  However his teacher Athanasius, succumbing to temptation, became jealous of him, and Abraham resolved to leave.  Just at that time the Venerable Michael Maleinos (feast day: 12th / 25th July) arrived in Constantinople.  Abraham sought his counsel and revealed to him his desire to become a monk.  

The holy elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, instructed him in the ways of salvation. Once, during their spiritual talks, Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nicephorus Phocas, a renowned military officer and future Emperor.  The lofty spirit and profound mind of Abraham impressed Nicephorus, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love.  Having forsaken everything, Abraham went to the Saint Michael’s monastery, seeking to take up the monastic life.  He was tonsured with the name Athanasius.  With severe fasts, long prayer vigils and prostrations, struggling night and day, Athanasius attained such perfection, that he was blessed to live as a solitary.  Subsequently, having left the monastery at Kimineia, he made the rounds of many desolate and solitary places, and guided by God, he came to a place called Melanos, at the very extremity of Athos, far distant from other monastic habitations.  Here he built himself a cell and began to struggle.  The enemy of mankind tried to arouse in Saint Athanasius hatred for the place he had chosen, and bombarded him with constant suggestions to leave.  Saint Athanasius decided to suffer it for a year, and then wherever the Lord should direct him, he would go.  On the last day of that year’s duration, when he started his prayer rule, a Heavenly Light suddenly shone upon him, filling him with an indescribable joy, all the thoughts dissipated, and from his eyes welled up grace-filled tears. From that time Saint Athanasius received the gift of tenderness, and he became as strongly fond of the place of his solitude as before he had been tempted to loathe it.  

At this time Nicephorus Phocas, having had his fill of military exploits, remembered a vow he had made to become a monk and he sought out Father Athanasius to build a monastery and a church where the brethren could commune of the Divine Mysteries of Christ on Sundays.  Trying to shun cares and worries, the Venerable one would not at first consent, but seeing the fervent desire and good intent of Nicephorus, and discerning in this the will of God, he set about building a monastery.  He built a large church in honour of the holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist, and another church at the foot of the hill, in the name of the All-Holy Virgin Theotokos. Around the church were cells, and thus the first monastery was founded on the Holy Mountain. Brethren flocked there from far and wide, desiring to become monastics in the Laura of Saint Athanasius on Athos.  The saint established the cœnobitic rule based on the ancient Palestinian monasteries.  

The Heavenly Protectress of Athos, the All-Pure Mother of God herself, was graciously disposed towards the saint. Many times he was granted to behold her. By the sufferance of God there once occurred such a dearth of food, that the monks one after the other left the monastery. The saint remained alone and in a moment of weakness he also considered leaving.  Suddenly he beheld a Woman, coming to meet him. “Who art thou and whither goest thou?” she asked quietly.  Saint Athanasius from an innate deference halted. “I am a monk here,” he answered, and told her about his plight. “And on account of a morsel of dry bread thou would forsake thy monastery, which was intended for glory from generation to generation?  Where is thy faith?  Turn back, and I shall help thee”. “Who art thou?” asked Athanasius. “I am the Mother of thy Lord,” she replied and bade Athanasius strike a rock with his staff, such that from the fissure there gushed forth a spring of water, which continues to this day in remembrance of that visitation.  

Thereafter brethren again gathered, and the construction work at the Laura continued.  Father Athanasius, foreseeing the time of his departure to the Lord, foretold his impending end and besought the brethren not to be troubled over what he had foreseen. “For Wisdom disposeth in ways other than people do judge.” The brethren were perplexed and pondered over these words of their father. He gave the brethren his final guidance and comforted all. Saint Athanasius entered his cell, and after prolonged prayer he emerged.  Alert and joyful, the holy hegoumen went up with six of the brethren to the dome of the church to inspect the construction work.  Suddenly, through the imperceptible will of God, the dome collapsed.  Five of the monks immediately gave up their souls to God.  Saint Athanasius and the architect Daniel were thrown down under the debris but remained alive. All heard him call out to the Lord: “Glory to Thee, O God!  Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” The brethren with great weeping began to dig their father out from the rubble, but when they found him he had already given up his holy soul.  This occurred in the year 1003.  Thus even in the manner of his dying he gave us a lesson in not judging according to the perceptions of our fallen human state.
Our Holy Father Willibald, Bishop of Eichstatt (7th / 20th July), was born about the year 704 in Wessex, probably near where Southampton now stands. When he was three years old he was stricken with a sickness and his life was despaired of, but his parents laid him at the foot of a great cross which had been erected near their house. There they prayed with great fervour, and made a vow to God that should the child recover they would consecrate him to divine service. God accepted their pious offering, and the child was immediately restored to his health.  In fulfilment of their vow his parents kept the child until he was a little older at home, and when he was five years old placed him under the Abbot Egbald in the monastery at Bishops Waltham.

The young saint in all his thoughts and actions seemed to aspire only to heaven, and his heart seemed full only of God and His holy love.  He spent his childhood at Bishops Waltham and left the monastery when he was seventeen years old, and his brother Winibald nineteen, only to accompany his father and brother in a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles at Rome and to the Holy Land.  They visited many churches in France on their way; but the father, who is venerated as Saint Richard and is called a king (though there seems to be no historical record of a king with that name at that time, perhaps he was a nobleman thought to be a king and his name has been modified from its original form), died at Lucca, where his relics are still venerated in the church of Saint Fridian. The two sons went on to Rome, and there took monastic vows.  

Subsequently Winibald was obliged to return to England, and Saint Willibald and some companions continued to visit the holy places which Christ had sanctified by His sacred presence on earth.  They added most severe mortifications to the fatigues of their journey, living only on bread and water, and when on land using no other bed than the bare ground.  They sailed to Cyprus and thence into Syria.  At Emesa the saint was taken by the Saracens for a spy, was loaded with irons, and suffered much in confinement for several months, till certain persons, who were moved with compassion for him, satisfied the caliph of his innocence and procured his freedom. The holy pilgrims then pursued their journey to the holy places, sanctified by the earthly life of our Saviour.  They likewise visited all the monasteries, lavras, and hermitages in that country, and with an ardent desire to learn they imitated all the most perfect practices of virtue, and whatever might seem most conducive to the sanctification of the soul.  After seven years spent on this pilgrimage the saint and his companions arrived safely in Italy.  There the celebrated monastery of Mount Cassino had been lately repaired by Pope Gregory II, and the saint chose that house to further his monastic endeavours.  He was first appointed sacristan, afterwards dean or superior over ten monks, and during the last eight years porter, which required his dealing with the lay people that visited.  

It happened that in A.D. 738 Saint Boniface of Crediton, the Apostle of Germany, came to Rome, and he begged Pope Gregory III that Willibald, who was his cousin, might be sent to assist him in his missions in Germany.  The pope desired to see the monk, and was much delighted with the history of his travels, and edified by his virtue. At the close of their conversation, he told him of Bishop Boniface’s request. Willibald desired to go back to his monastery to obtain the blessing of his abbot; but the pope told him his order sufficed, and commanded him to go without more ado into Germany. The saint did so in obedience. Accordingly he set out for Thuringia, where St. Boniface then was, and by whom he was ordained priest.  His labours in the country about Eichstatt, in Franconia and Bavaria, were crowned with success.  

In A.D. 746, he was consecrated by St. Boniface as Bishop of Eichstatt. This dignity made trial of his humility, but he used it to increase his zeal. The cultivation of so rough a vineyard was a laborious task, but patience and invincible meekness overcame difficulties. His charity was most tender and compassionate, and he had a singular talent for comforting the afflicted. He founded a monastery which resembled in discipline that of Mount Cassino, to which he often resorted. But his love of solitude did not diminish his pastoral solicitude for his flock. He was attentive to all their spiritual necessities, he often visited every part of his charge, and instructed all his people with indefatigable zeal and charity. His fasts were most austere, nor did he allow himself any indulgence in them or in his labours on account of his great age, till his strength was entirely exhausted.

Having laboured almost forty-five years in setting in order and sanctifying his diocese, he died at Eichstatt in A.D. 790, being eighty-seven years of age, and was buried in his own cathedral.  Since his repose he has been glorified as the worker of many miracles.  The two brother Saints Winibald and Willibald also had a sister, Walburga, who is greatly venerated in Bavaria and her sacred relics were later laid besides those of her brother, Saint Willibald.

Excerpt from the July issue of The Shepherd

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Homily on the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul

After His Resurrection, Christ said to the Apostle Peter who had denied Him: "When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18).

Without doubt with these words Jesus Christ foretold the martyric death of a disciple whom He loved, and actually this is confirmed by the words of the evangelist which follow: "This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God" (John 21:19). Furthermore the Greek text of these words gives one cause to think that Christ stretched out His hands in the form of the cross as He foretold to him death on a cross. In actuality the Apostle Peter was crucified head-down.

From the most ancient history of the Christian Church we know that all the other disciples of Christ ended their lives as martyrs. Only one, Saint John the Theologian, died a natural death, although even he did not escape sufferings. The Apostles knew that afflictions awaited them (John 16:33), but this in no way confounded them in boldly and zealously spreading the light of Christ's teaching. On the contrary, with joy they bore injurious beating (cf. Acts 5:40-41, Col. 1:24).

Evidently the example of their Divine Teacher always stood clearly before their eyes (John 13:15). "If they have persecuted Me," He said, "they will also persecute you (John 15:20), and this is quite understandable, because "the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him" (John 13:16). Therefore they firmly proclaimed that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). To them it would have seemed beyond comprehension that they should live in any other way than had their Teacher, Who had not where to lay His head (Luke 9:58). "If one died for all, then were all dead. But Christ died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This filled their hearts with the assurance that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have of God a building in the heavens, not made with hands, eternal (2 Cor. 5:1), to which they strove irrepressibly; having a desire to depart, says the holy Apostle Paul, and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). His desire was fulfilled before natural death overtook him: "Already they offer me in sacrifice" – he wrote not long before his end – "and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6). On the 29th June in the year 67 he was beheaded with the sword.

In this way the Apostles lived physically on earth, but spiritually they were in heaven. They were not disturbed by the bloody end which faced them, but on the contrary they rejoiced and counted it a blessing to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul even says with boldness: "Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 4:16).

Of course, this does not mean that all are to be martyrs, for it was only to the Apostles that Jesus Christ foretold a martyric end, and even so He did so not to predestinate such a death. In any event what is important for us is that the holy Apostles' love of their Divine Teacher extended to selflessness: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13), and they actually did lay down their lives for they remembered Christ's precept, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.... If a man love Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:21, 23). In such love there is no fear (see 1 John 3:17), for as the holy Apostle Paul cries out: "Who shall separate us from the love of God; shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:35). No one and nothing can separate us (cf. Rom. 8:38-39).

O friends and brethren, may the example of Christ's holy disciples be instructive for us. Let not the afflictions and distress of this sinful and adulterous world make us fearful, for the Lord never sends trials which are greater than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:18). And all the blood poured out from the time of the Apostles to that of the numberless martyrs of our days will serve as the very best cement to bind all believing Christians into the one body, the Church of Christ, against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18).

O holy, glorious and all-famed Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, whose memory we now prayerfully keep, we call upon you assiduously: help us to abide in peace and concord that the love of Christ might be inflamed. Pray to God for us! Amen.

By Archpriest Leonid Kolchev 
Translated from a collection of sermons published in Copenhagen, 1938 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

New Blog

The Fathers of Saint Edward Brotherhood have just started a new blog! 'A Young Adult's Guide to the Orthodox Church' is aimed at Orthodox young people (and their parents!). This new blog will deal with both contemporary issues and aspects of traditional Orthodoxy in an approachable way mainly in the form of short articles and question and answer posts. Please feel to comment and leave your own questions which we will attempt to answer if we are able.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Guidance for Confession

From Hieroschemamonk Ambrose's Book,"On the Grace-filled Activity of the Prayer of Jesus"

With God's help, I came to Kiev. My first and most important desire was to prepare, confess and commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ in that grace-filled place, and so I settled as near as possible to the God-pleasers [i.e. the saints whose sacred relics repose in the Caves Monastery - transl.], the better to be able to go to God's house. A good, elderly Cossack took me into his hut, and as he lived alone, it was peaceful and quiet for me there. Throughout the week during which I was preparing for confession, I often thought how best to confess. I began to remember things from my youth and to examine all my sins in detail, so as not to forget anything. I started to write everything that I remembered down even the most trifling things, and I wrote out a huge list.

I heard that seven versts [a verst is about two-thirds of a mile - ed.] from Kiev in the Kitaev Hermitage there was a spiritual father who lived an ascetic life and was very wise and prudent. Whoever visited him for his soul's profit, came away with a feeling of tenderness, restored by his spiritual instruction, and with a feeling of lightness in his heart. This delighted me and without delay I went to see him. Having asked his advice and talked with him, I gave him my list to look through. When he had read it, he told me:

"You, beloved friend, have written down much that is useless. Now, listen: 1) you must not say in confession those sins which you have formerly confessed and which have been absolved and which you have not repeated, for to do otherwise would be to be untrusting of the efficacy of the mystery of confession; 2) you must not mention other people who were involved in the circumstances of your sins, but must only judge yourself; 3) the Holy Fathers forbid us to tell our sins in every detail, but to identify them in general terms, lest by our particular fastidiousness we cause a temptation for ourselves and for the spiritual father; 4) you came to repent, but haven't repented of that which you did not think to repent of, that is how coldly and carelessly you are offering your repentance; 5) you have catalogued all the slight things, but have lost sight of the most important thing, you have not revealed the most grievous sins; you have not even recognized them or written down that you do not love God, that you hate your neighbour; that you do not believe the word of God and that you are overflowing with pride and self-esteem. In these four sins there is mixed all the abyss of evil and all our spiritual depravity. They are the main roots, from which spring all branches of our falls into sin."

Hearing this, I was amazed, and I began to speak: "Be merciful, venerable father, but how can I not love God, our Creator and Protector? How not believe in the word of God itself? - in it everything is true and holy. And I wish well to each of my neighbours; yes, and why would I hate them? In no way can I be proud; except for my innumerable sins, I have nothing at all to boast of. And in my state of poverty and illness, in what way can I enjoy sensual pleasures and lasciviousness? Of course, if I had been educated and rich, then without a doubt, I would have been guilty of the things you have said."

The elder replied: "It is a pity, beloved, that you have understood so little of what I have explained to you. So as to make you understand more quickly, I will give you the crib-sheet that I always use myself when I confess. Read it through and you will see clearly all that I have just told you, set out precisely." The spiritual father handed me his list, and I began to read it.

THE CONFESSION OF THE INNER MAN, WHICH LEADS TO HUMILITY

Having attentively turned my gaze upon myself, and observing my inner disposition, I am convinced by the experience that I do not love God, that I have no love for my neighbour, that I do not believe anything religious and that I am full of pride and sensual love. I have actually found all this in myself through this detailed examination of my feelings and actions, thus:

1) I do not love God.

For if I loved God, then I would unceasingly think about Him with heartfelt satisfaction; every thought of God would then bring me a delightful sweetness. On the contrary, I much more often and much more readily entertain worldly thoughts, and reflections on God seem to me heavy and dry. If I loved God, then conversation with Him in prayer would nourish me; it would delight me and draw me to uninterrupted communion with Him; but, on the contrary, not only am I not delighted by prayer, but even when occupied by it I feel it to be a labour, I have to fight against reluctance, I become enfeebled by laziness, and am always ready to turn my attention to something else of little importance, just so that I can shorten my prayers or even give them up.

When I am engaged in empty occupations time flies by for me unnoticed; but when occupying myself with God, when placing myself in His presence, every hour seems to me like a whole year. But if someone loves another, then he thinks of him throughout the whole day, he represents him to himself, he is concerned about him, and in whatever he may be occupied the beloved friend does not leave his thoughts; but for the course of a whole day, I hardly set aside even one hour, that I might immerse myself deeply in thoughts of God and that might ignite the love of Him within me, but the twenty-three hours I readily offer as a willing sacrifice to the idols which are my passions.

When conversing about worldly, vain things, and about subjects which are demeaning for the soul, I am full of spirits and I feel satisfaction, but when conversation turns to the things of God I dry up, becoming bored and indolent. If, moreover, I am involuntarily drawn into a conversation with others about sacred things, I try to turn the conversation quickly to something which will flatter my passions. I am insatiably curious about the news, about events in the world, about political developments; I greedily feed my obsession for knowing about the worldly sciences and about the arts, and that for acquisitions, but the study of God's Law [catechism], of the knowledge of God, and of religion, make no impression upon me at all; it does not feed my soul, and I study it not as the only indispensable study for the Christian but as a side-issue and accessory subject, to which I have to apply myself if perhaps I have some spare time or am at leisure.

To put it succinctly, if love for God is manifest in the fulfilment of His commandments - and the Lord Jesus Christ says, "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments," - and I not only do not keep them but even do not try much to do so, then according to the plain truth itself it follows that I do not love God. Saint Basil the Great confirms this, saying: :"If anyone does not keep His commandments, it is proof that he does not love God and His Christ"

2) I do not love my neighbour.

Because I not only do not lay down my soul (as the Gospel says) for the good of my neighbour, but I do not even sacrifice my honour, my benefit or my peace for the good of my neighbour. If I loved him, according to the Evangelical precept, as myself, them his misfortune would affect me as well, and his good fortune would bring me delight. But, on the contrary, I listen with great curiosity to unhappy news about my neighbour, and I am not distressed by it, but I remain indifferent to it, or, what is even more criminal, I find a certain satisfaction in this. And I do not cover the evil actions of my brother in love, but I noise them abroad, adding judgment thereto. His good standing, honour and happiness do not delight me, as should be the case, and what is even worse, they do not evoke in me a feeling of joy, but they very subtly arouse in me as kind of envy or of disdain.

3) I do not believe in anything religious.

Neither immortality, nor the Gospel. If I were firmly convinced and undoubtingly believed that beyond the grave there was life eternal with requital for deeds committed on earth, then I would reflect on this constantly; the very thought of immortality would horrify me and I would spend my life like a traveller preparing to return to his homeland. On the contrary, I do not even think about eternity, and I consider the end of this present life as but the limit of my existence. The secret thought nestles in me: who knows what will be after death?

If I say that I believe in immortality, then I say this only according to the intellect, but my heart is a long way from being firmly convinced of this, as my deeds make manifest and as does my continual concern for the good arrangement of the things of this perceptible life. If the Holy Gospel, being the word of God, were received in faith by my heart, I would be continually studying it, I would learn it, I would be satisfied by it and I would look upon it with the deepest reverence. Wisdom, goodness and love, which are hidden therein, would lead me to delight; I would be sustained by instruction in God's Law day and night, I would be nourished thereby, as it were by daily bread, and I would be heartfeltly drawn to fulfil its precepts. Nothing earthly would be strong enough to draw me away from it. But, on the contrary, when occasionally I read or hear the word of God, whether it be of necessity or through a desire to learn, even then I do not pay it the greatest attention, I feel dryness, inattentiveness and, as if it were just routine reading, I leave it without any particular benefit, and I readily rush on to turn to reading worldly things in which I find more satisfaction, and more new subjects to engross me.

4) I am full of pride and sensual self-love.

All my actions make clear that, seeing good in myself, I desire to make a show of it, either by getting praise from others thereby or by an inner love of self; and even though I manifest an apparent humility, yet I attribute everything to my own powers, and I consider myself superior to others, or, at the very least, in no way worse than they. If I notice some defect in myself, I try to excuse it, to cover it, as if it were some personal necessity or were harmless; being irritated by those who are disrespectful towards me, I consider them people unworthy of consideration; I am vainglorious of my talents; I consider my failures in undertakings as affronts; I gossip about and rejoice at the misfortunes of my enemies; and if I do attempt something good, then I have some purpose or praise, or some spiritual self-interests or worldly comfort in view. In a word, I constantly make an idol of myself, to which I offer unremitting service, always seeking sensual gratification and food for the satisfaction of my passions and vices.

From all that I have enumerated, I see that I am proud, adulterous, faithless, one who does not love God and hates his neighbour. What situation could be more sinful? The state of the spirits of darkness is better than my situation; although they do not love God and hate man, although they live by and are nourished by pride, yet at the very least they believe and, because of that belief, they tremble. But what of me? Surely it can only be a calamitous fate that awaits me? And how much severer and more punishing will be the sentence of the judgment in view of the inattentiveness and foolhardiness of life, which I have recognized in myself!

Having read the confession that the spiritual father had given me, I was horrified and thought to myself, "My God, how dreadfully sin has eaten into me, and until now I had not even noticed!" And so the desire to be cleansed of it forced me to ask guidance from this great spiritual father, in what way, as he had recognized the causes of all the evils, I could find the means of correction. This is how he began to explain:

"Do you not see, beloved brother, that the cause of not loving God is not believing, the cause of not believing is lack of conviction, and the cause of lack of conviction is failure to seek out the radiant truths of knowledge, negligence regarding the illumination of the soul. In a word, one can say: if you don't believe, it is impossible to love; if you are not convinced, it is impossible to believe. And in order to be convinced, it is imperative to gain a full and thorough understanding of the subject in hand; and it follows that it is absolutely necessary by means of reflection, of study of the word of God and of experimental observation, to inspire in the soul a thirst and a longing, or to explain it another way, a 'wonder' which will produce an unquenchable desire to comprehend things, and more deeply to penetrate matters in their essence."

"One spiritual writer formulated it thus: 'Love,' said he, 'usually develops from understanding, and the greater the depth and breadth of the understanding, so much the greater will be the love, and so much more opportunely will the soul be softened and conformed to the Divine love, while diligently looking towards the most praeter-perfect and most exquisite being of God and His unexcelled love for man’.”

"Well, now you see that the cause of the sins which you read out is slothfulness of mind with regard to spiritual matters, which quenches the very feeling of their usefulness. If you wish to know the way of escaping from this evil, then in every possible way strive for spiritual illumination, achieve it with diligent study of the word of God, with study of the Holy Fathers, with reflection, with spiritual counsel, and by conversing with those who are wise in Christ."

Translated from a photo-lithograph of the Los Angeles Vicariate of the Russian Church Abroad.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Orthodox Church


Orthodoxy means right belief or right glorification. Ortho means ‘right’ in Greek and doxa can either be translated as ‘belief’ or ‘glory.’ In other words, the Orthodox Church holds the right beliefs about God and glorifies God in the right way. Some people in other Christian groups may try to glorify God, but they do not have the correct faith and so cannot glorify Him correctly.

The Church is more than just the building that we worship in, and it is more than just a gathering of people; the Church is the Body of Christ. The Head of the Church is Christ and we are members of His Body. The word ‘member’ in this sense means a limb or a part of the body) Because the Church is the Body of Christ, it is also filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Church is also often called a vine; Christ is the stem and we are the branches that receive their food and strength from Him. It is also called a flock of sheep; we are rational (we have the ability to think) sheep and Christ is the Shepherd that keeps us safe, guides us and feeds us.

The Church began with the creation of angels and men. After the fall of Adam and Eve, throughout the Old Testament the Church continued in the persons of the holy men and women such as Abraham, Issac, Jacob & Ruth. The apostles became members of the Church at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on them in the form of tongues of fire. The main ways we receive this grace is through the mysteries of the Church.

Grace isn’t a packet of holiness that God creates and gives us to make us good boys or girls. We can’t know God in His essence or ‘God-ness’ but we can know Him through His uncreated energies. Grace is just another word for these energies and we come to know God through His grace.

Of course, God is not limited to acting only through these mysteries. God sends forth his grace upon everyone in the world but it is only within the Orthodox Church that we can receive this grace in full — the grace that leads us to union with God. This is why the mystery of Baptism is so important because as St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain says: ’Before holy Baptism the grace of God moves a man towards good from outside, while Satan is hidden in the depths of the heart and soul. But after a man has been baptised, the demon hovers outside the heart, while grace enters inside.’[1]

It is impossible to define God or explain how God works. We need to remember that even though it is possible for us to become gods it is impossible for us to explain how this occurs. Vladimir Lossky compares this mystery with the mystery of the Incarnation: ‘We remain creatures while becoming God by grace, as Christ remained God in becoming man by the Incarnation.’[2]
What do bishops do?
Orthodox bishops are the leaders of the Church on earth. In the Orthodox Church, bishops are called hierarchs which is a Greek word meaning ‘high priest.’ For this reason, the Orthodox Church is called hierarchal because all the different ranks are arranged in order with the hierarchs at the top.

Each bishop runs a group of churches called a diocese and any important decisions concerning the life of his diocese are made by him. However, his main role is not to make decisions, it is to shepherd his flock which are the people in his diocese.

In doing this, he must try to imitate Christ the Chief Shepherd, in loving and caring for his flock. Also, the bishop is an important teacher of the Orthodox Faith. In return, the people must show love and respect for their bishop. Although the bishop is the most important person in the diocese, the most important decisions regarding the Church as a whole are taken by all the bishops together. The highest authority in the Church is when bishops are called together from all over the world to form an Œcumenical Council.

The Orthodox Church recognizes seven Œcumenical Councils. In general, a council can be considered to be Œcumenical if it is a worldwide gathering of bishops called by an Orthodox Emperor or Empress and if the decisions of this Council are accepted over time by the faithful of the Orthodox Church.[3]

It is our duty to know as much as we can about our Orthodox Faith because we have to look after that faith. There have been many councils over the years that have looked Œcumenical but were rejected by the ordinary people. The Letter of the Orthodox Patriarchs, written in 1848, illustrates this point clearly: ‘Among us, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could ever introduce a new teaching, for the guardian of religion is the very body of the Church that is the people itself.’ So, we can see that the people are helpless without an Orthodox bishop, but a bishop who is not teaching the Orthodox Faith is helpless if he does not have the confidence of his Orthodox flock.

Excerpt from 'The Ark of Salvation: A Young Adult's Guide to the Orthodox Church'


[1] E. Kadloubovsky & G.E.H Palmer (trans.), Unseen Warfare (Oxford: A.R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1978) p.153
[2]  Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. Ltd.,1991) p. 87
[3] Œcumenical is taken from the Greek word Œcumene which means ‘the world’

Thursday, 15 June 2017

New Book by Saint Edward Brotherhood

The Grace of the Spirit: A Guide to the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church

The Grace of the Spirit is an approachable guide to the theology and practice of the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. Written by the Fathers of Saint Edward Brotherhood, the Grace of the Spirit is 273 pages in length with numerous black and white illustrations and seven full colour plates; it is also comprehensively indexed.
From the back cover:

Orthodox Christians are united to Christ, and each other in this life, through the mysteries of the Orthodox Church by which we partake of the grace of the Holy Spirit. We are fused by grace into a single body with Christ as our Head in the hope that we will dwell together with Him in eternity. Written by the Fathers of Saint Edward Brotherhood, The Grace of the Spirit is a guide to the structure and theology of the mysteries (often called sacraments) of the Orthodox Church. Drawing together numerous quotes from the Church Fathers the authors illustrate the significance of the traditions preserved in the Orthodox mysteries. 

In addition to the seven universally accepted mysteries, the authors also discuss the mysteries of burial and monastic tonsure as well as the structure of the daily services of the Orthodox Church. Particular attention has been paid to the relevance of each mystery for us today. To this end, each chapter has a Freqently Asked Questions section dealing with issues related to the theology and practice of the mysteries. In addition, subjects related to the mysteries such as cremation and medicine are discussed in dedicated chapters. 

The Grace of the Spirit approaches the practical and theological aspects of the mysteries from a traditional Orthodox Christian viewpoint. Although customs vary between national Churches and parishes, we hope that all traditionalist Orthodox Christians will find this book a useful guide.

Priced at £10.00 from the bookstall at Saint Edward's

Order from Amazon or via our website.

For bookstore discounts and all other enquries, please e-mail us:
 

info@saintedwardbrotherhood.org

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01483 487763


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Foundation of the Ethos of the Orthodox Church

Mercy and Love Transcend Race, Nationality, and Religious Affiliation


 “And who is my neighbour?”

a. Ideologizing a disdain for foreigners

    THE RECENT mass influx of refugees into our country, particularly from Afghanistan, has occasioned great confusion and has also demonstrated that those “Greek Orthodox” who are opposed to the new identity cards [which do not indicate one’s religious affiliation and are, for this reason, viewed by a vocal faction in Greece as an attempt by the state to undermine the Orthodox identity of the country—Trans.] and who have organized public protests over the matter, with certain laudable exceptions (such as the residents of Zakynthos), do not evidence a Christian heart and have failed to keep in mind what it means to be a Christian.

    We are not merely addressing, of course, the issue of the legal obligation of the government, which—on the basis of international conventions—is prevented from expelling any refugee who declares that he has been persecuted and that his life is likely to be in danger if he returns to his homeland.

    Nor, in addition, are we only distressed by the shamelessness of the police authorities [in violation of the foregoing international conventions—Trans.], one agency of which even went so far as to issue a deportation order to a new mother with her twenty-day-old baby...! (To go where...?)

    What is, in our view, by far more alarming is the fact that a disdain for foreigners is being turned into an ideology—in the name of Orthodox tradition, no less!—, to the unbelievable extent that a well-known clergyman has been vehemently condemned for providing free relief to hundreds of children of illegal immigrants, very few of whom are Orthodox (the majority of them being Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants), and that the following truly shocking question has been posed: “Are we going to allow a few clergy who are ignorant of our Orthodox Tradition to save their souls while they destroy Greece?”

b. Love is Christocentric

    THE ETHOS of the Orthodox Church is Christocentric.  It is the teaching of the Fathers, proclaimed in deed and word, “always, everywhere, and by all,” that the members of the Orthodox Church are called to function as the active hands of Christ.  As the eyes of Christ, which are filled with understanding.  As the attentive ears of Christ. As the heart of Christ, which is filled with love for all mankind, in all of its needs and all of its concerns, demonstrating, by their deeds, that they are members of the Body of Christ.  They are called to show this love and understanding towards mankind, not only theoretically, but also in concrete terms and in practice. For, it is precisely their bodies, through which love towards humanity is manifested in specific and practical ways, that have become members of Christ.  Love should be extended towards other people in a corporeal way, since it is in their bodies that Orthodox Christians have become, or can become, members of Christ.

The “neighbour” in the parable of the Good Samaritan is embodied in the person of our fellow man, regardless of race, nationality, or religion.

    The aim of our Lord’s astonishing reply to the question posed by the lawyer in that parable was precisely to demolish the exclusive “boundaries” of love established by the Hebrews, who regarded as their “neighbour” only those who were of the same nation and religion as themselves.

    Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, Whose Divine heart becomes our own heart through the Holy Mysteries of our Church, was, and lived as, a “refugee”: He descended from Heaven to earth, took refuge in Egypt, lived as a “stranger,” and has continued, throughout the centuries, to knock on our doors as a “stranger,” in the person of our “neighbour.”

    Now, in view of this, what racial, national, or religious “walls” are capable of preventing exuberant waves of love from pouring out of our hearts—the very heart of Christ—in all directions?

c. Saint Acacius and the Persians

    ON 9th APRIL, we celebrate the memory of Saint Acacius, who was Bishop of the Armenian city of Amida at the beginning of the fifth century.  During the war between the Romans and the Persians (421-422), the Byzantines had captured seven thousand prisoners, whom they refused to feed or to release.  So, Saint Acacius summoned his clergy and addressed the following words to them, among others: “Our God needs neither dishes nor cups, for He neither eats nor drinks.... Since our Church possesses many gold and silver vessels, which derive from the generosity of the faithful, it is our duty to ransom the prisoners with these and to feed them.  And that is what happened: the treasures were melted down, the prisoners were ransomed, given food, and sent back to their king with the necessary provisions for the return journey.  King Baranos V of Persia was so amazed by this magnanimous act of Saint Acacius that he asked to meet the most holy Hierarch in person.

d. Saint Gregory Palamas and the Turks.

    THE VERY SPLENDOUR of Christian love and “mercy”— over and above race, nationality, and religious affiliation—expresses, in addition, the “œconomy” of God, as Saint Gregory Palamas wrote to his Church flock with regard to his captivity under the Turks (March 1354-Spring 1355): “It seems to me that, because God has ordained things in such a way that Christians and Turks are intermingled, and that I am a prisoner of the Turks, that God’s Providence and the works of our Lord Jesus Christ...are being made manifest to them (the Turks) as well..., such as to be without excuse before His future and most dread Tribunal.”

    WOE TO US, if our “national identity” should continue to adulterate the Christocentrism of our Orthodox ecclesiastical ethos, which rises above nationality!

    Woe to us, if the dust of the “statistical triumph” (!) of “signatures” [on petitions submitted to the Greek government by those protesting against the new identity cards—Trans.] continues to prevent the inscription, in the hearts of Christians, of the “New Name,” which is unceasingly inscribed by the Holy Spirit and which renews our identity through the “New Commandment”: Of love for our neighbour without conditions, limits, or boundaries!

† His Eminence, Metropolitan Cyprian I of Oropos and Fili
 Tenth Sunday of St. Luke 5/18 December 2005

Source: Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIX, No. 2 (2002), pp. 7-9

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Praying for the Departed

Before the Second Coming of Christ the souls of those that have died will dwell in Paradise or Hades. However, even though the person who has died is not able to repent for his sins, we should still continue to pray for him and ask God to have mercy on him. The funeral service of the Orthodox Church is made up of hymns and prayers confirming our belief in the Resurrection and asking God to have mercy on the soul of the person who has fallen asleep in faith. 
 
One of the most difficult parts of life for people to deal with is the death of loved ones, particularly when their death is unexpected or at a young age. As Orthodox Christians we know that the death of the body is not the end of our life. Christ has defeated death and granted us life eternal. Our relative is not dead but sleeping and is waiting for the coming of Christ. However, the person we loved when they were with us in the body still needs to be loved by us even after their death.

We show this love  by making sure we honour the memory of our relatives and by making sure that they are prayed for in Church.  If our relatives are not Orthodox then we cannot ask the priest to perform memorial services for them, but we should ask him to pray for them privately. More importantly we should pray for them ourselves and give gifts to the poor in their memory.

After the funeral, we should continue to remember our departed loved ones in our daily prayers and, if they are Orthodox, we should make sure that we ask the priest to serve memorial services on the 40th day after their death, the anniversary of their death and on their nameday.
 
One of the ways we show honour to our departed relatives is to make kolyva.  The practice of blessing kolyva (pronounced kol-ee-va) dates back to the 4th century when the Emperor Julian the Apostate who was an active persecutor of the Christians ordered that the food in the markets be sprinkled with the blood of animals sacrificed to idols. He hoped by doing this to break the spirit of the Christians. The bishop was warned in a vision about this by the Great Martyr Theodore who told the bishop to order the Christians to boil wheat (called kolyva) as a replacement for the food in the markets.
 
We should all know how to make kolyva. If we don’t pray for our relatives, then our own children will be very unlikely to pray for us when we’re dead.

1) Ask the priest if he can perform a memorial service and arrange a date and time.

2) Find some whole wheat grain (not buckwheat or cracked wheat). Buying the wheat is the most difficult step in the whole process. Ethnic shops (Cypriot or Arab) normally have some in stock.

3) On the day before, boil the wheat (500g of wheat grain is enough for about 30 people) until it is soft. Don’t make tons of kolyva- there are no prizes for size. Drain the wheat and dry it between kitchen towels overnight.

4) On the next day, before going to Church, mix the wheat with  dried fruits, sugared peel, chopped nuts, glacé cherries, pomegranate seeds etc.

5) Put the wheat and fruits in a nice glass bowl. Sprinkle a little crushed biscuit on top of the wheat — this helps to absorb any moisture.

6) Sieve some icing sugar on top of the wheat to make a layer about 1cm thick.  Press down the icing sugar gently and then decorate the top of the kolyva with nuts or glacé cherries in the form of a cross.

7) When you get to Church, push a candle into the centre of the kolyva.

Extract from The Ark of Salvation

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Charitable Donations for 2016

Saint Edward Brotherhood’s Orthodox Aid Fund made donations totaling £14,132.82 during 2016. These funds were donated to various church, humanitarian and environmental charities (other than the King Edward Orthodox Trust, which administers our own community). The donations were made possible by the generosity of our church people, the readers of “The Shepherd” and other friends of our Brotherhood.  In 2015, the fund gave away £12,509.13, so this is an increase of just over £1,600 on that figure.  This is the more remarkable in that during the year we have also been raising funds for the King Edward Orthodox Trust Co. Ltd towards the Mortuary Restoration.  We owe a debt of gratitude to all who have helped us achieve this, and pray that our Saviour will grant you things heavenly for things earthly and reward you richly in this life and in the next.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Kingdom of Peace of Earth

 From the Works of Archbishop Jerome of Kholm-Varshava


THICK DARKNESS covered the earth.  Town and countryside were seemingly wrapped in sleep; quiet reigned everywhere; only in Judea, in the fields of Bethlehem, the shepherds kept vigil guarding their flocks.  Suddenly the heavens opened, a boundless light illumined the earth, choirs of the Angels of God were revealed, and they were singing a new song, hitherto unheard from the depths of eternity: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.  The Old Testament prophets had foretold that with the coming of Christ an abundance of peace would dawn forth upon the earth (Ps. 71:7), that they that murmur shall speak peace (Es. 29:24).  Jesus Christ Himself, completing His Divine ministry on earth, unremittingly proclaimed peace (John 14:27).  He called His followers to peace and rest (Matt. 11:28), instilling peace, and He commanded His Apostles to proclaim peace to all (Luke 10:5).  Christ’s Apostles went out into all the world, and their first desire, their proclamation, was to announce and desire peace for all (2 Ptr 1:2,  2 John 3:1,  Phil. 4:7,  Col. 3:15).  And they clearly taught of the reconciliation of man with God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19,  Col. 1:19-20, 22)

But what is this peace?  Where is it on earth, when, to the contrary, we see almost continuous wars between one people and another, internal wrangling and instability in governments, disagreements, enmities, and quarrels between individuals?  Where is this peace, when not long ago there was a serious war between us and the enemies of Christendom, and when it is necessary to conduct battles with our internal domestic enemies? Is there no peace on earth? There is.

The peace proclaimed by the apostles of God, announced aforetime by the Old Testament prophets, and proclaimed by the Saviour Himself and His Apostles is, primarily, the peace of God with the race of mankind, the peace of earth with heaven, God’s preaching of the forgiveness of sins for man through Jesus Christ, Who suffered for us.  Since we are justified by faith, says the Apostle Paul, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).  Secondly, that kingdom of peace, which the Angels announced is comprised in Christ’s Church and in the soul of the true Christian.

A few words are sufficient to describe the condition of the Jewish people and of the pagan world at the time of the coming of Christ on earth, to show that the life of the race of man was at enmity with God, and was such that it must needs be curtailed through the kindheartedness of God, either by arousing His just judgment unto condemnation, as happened before the universal flood, or by calling upon a Reconciler.  Israel had evidently outlived its time.  Prophesy had long since atrophied, and princes from Judah had disappeared with the demise of the family of the Maccabees, and now at the head of the Jewish kingdom there was someone foreign, - a sedulous servant of Caesar, and a cruel tyrant who lorded it over the people.  It is through the Gospel that it comes about that we can wrestle with not only the religious, but also the communal order, to which this gave rise.  Under the influence of sensuousness and cruel officialdom, morality fell to such an extent that immoral actions were considered religious.  Art, literature and luxury had never before been so prominent as at the inception of Christianity.  Yet, at the same time, the spirit of society had never before been so decadent.  The rich lorded it over the little people, having over them, as over animals, the right of life and death.  While they were unfair and cruel to the poor, they cringed before the Emperor, proclaiming him a god.  

Mankind, while reduced to a slavery in which it had no recourse to any basic rights, made a god of a man, who more often than not had all the qualities of a beast.  In family life, shamelessness had reached an extreme.  For her husband the wife might be used like a slave for the time being to serve his vile passions - and she would even boast of this.  Children, who were thought an inconvenience, were thrown out onto the street as unwanted; all of human life was tied up in depravity.  By his own abilities man could not rise up from this fallen state; he could not apprehend the righteousness of God, nor could an Angel or a mediator.  It required that God Himself appear, and indeed the Redeemer of the world did appear, Who reconciled the race of man with eternal righteousness.  The Lord Jesus Christ brought peace to people.  He reconciled the sinful race of man to God through His death upon the Cross; He induced sinful man to abandon his enmity with God and to submit his unruly will to the will of God, which gives the soul such peace, as passes all understanding.  He taught people to forgive offences, to desire good for their neighbours, which more than anything else makes firm an inviolable peace.  He inspired man to expel from his heart that which destroys peace between peoples - envy, pride, self-interest.  He disseminated among all peoples the principle of peace.

My Kingdom, the Saviour said, is not of this world (John 18:36).  From these words it is clear that it is not in the earthly, human kingdoms, in which, according to the Saviour’s prophecy, we shall hear of wars and rumours of wars (Matt. 24:6), but in the particular Kingdom of the Grace of Christ, in the Holy Church, that we must needs seek peace.  One of the Old Testament prophets directly calls the New Testament Church the place which grants peace.  In comforting the Jews, who were mourning over the glory of the first temple, and manifesting unto to them the glory of the second, he says: Great will be the glory of this house, the latter more than the former, saith the Lord Pantocrator, and in this place I will grant peace, and peace to the soul in providing to its founder, who hath raised up this temple.  The Kingdom established by Jesus Christ on earth, which is called the Church, is not by its communications, nor by its inner character, not yet by its purposes, like earthly kingdoms.  The communications of this Kingdom are spiritual - the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  And through these communications it conquered the obstinate Jews, and the faithless pagans, and the wise and the powerful of this world, so as to establish one flock in Christ Jesus (see Rom. 12:5), and all, according to the Apostles expression, in the one Spirit were baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves of free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).  The unity of those who believe in Christ, who constitute the One, Catholic Church on earth, is expressed in all its strength in the gatherings of the Christians in prayer, where Christ Himself quickens them by His invisible presence.  The life of the Church in these sacred, mystical moments presents an image of the life of Heaven.  Finally, if we turn our attention to the purpose of the Church on earth, it is impossible not to see her as the most peaceful kingdom.  The Church follows one aim - the salvation of her members and life eternal for them.  This aim is not earthly, it is foreign to every earthly consideration, and removes all causes and incitements to feuds and conflicts.

The history of the Church of Christ positively confirms the truth that the True Church is a kingdom of peace.  What an exalted spirit of love and unity we see amongst the members of the original Christian community! And the multitude of them that believed, says the Apostle who was an eye-witness, were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them that ought of the things he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.  Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need (Acts 4:32, 34-35). Such was the peace in primitive times, such was the original love and unity,which we also see in the spreading of the Church of Christ to all the ends of the universe.  All her true members call each other brothers according to the spirit, they pray for each other, they help each other in their physical needs and even more so in the spiritual, they desire for them salvation and eternal blessedness.  The harrier of the race of man did not leave the earthly Kingdom of Christ in peace.  Aiming to shake it, he engendered conflicts in kingdoms of men, which lead to various kinds of disturbance and instability, and he even openly fired up the pagan world against the believers in Christ, whereupon a whole range of fierce persecutions against them was initiated. Yet the peaceable kingdom of Christ continued unshaken and unmoved throughout all those times. Whole kingdoms and peoples have disappeared from the face of the earth, but the Church of Christ continues and will do us unto the ages.

The Church of Christ, being the true kingdom of peace, grants peace in particular to each and every one who believes in Christ.  If a Christians maintains obedience to the holy faith, fulfils the law, which was brought from Heaven by the Son of God, participates in the saving Mysteries of the Church, then, without a doubt, he has within the Kingdom of God, as the Lord Himself said concerning His followers: The Kingdom of God is within you, that is, whoever keeps all that was laid down in Christ’s law, and employs all the means that the Church has granted for the salvation of her children, such an one comes to conform with his calling, to harmony and reconciliation with himself, he achieves the required relationship with God.  And could there be any higher or more blessed state for the soul on earth, than to experience peace, to abide in peace with one’s neighbours and to be found in union with God?  No impoverishment or suffering could even besmirch such a state.  On the contrary, we know from the history of the Church that holy people even rejoiced in their sufferings, and offered praise in their afflictions, in bonds and in prisons, in the deserts and in caves, in every visible depredation they were well humoured and at peace, such as those people who live with every comfort and good fortune perhaps never experience.  Death itself does not terrify the people of God, with equability they await their demise, and with peace they depart unto God, their Saviour.

This is where the peace on earth is, which the Angels of God proclaimed as they announced the advent of our Saviour.  The Kingdom of peace is in the Church of Christ and in the soul of the true Christian.  Let not your heart be troubled by any disturbance deriving from this world.  We have a quieting - this is the protection of the God’s Church; we have the possibility of acquiring lasting peace in the soul - this is obedience to the Church of Christ.  The Kingdom of Christ is not of this world.  In the world wars between peoples and kingdoms never pass and never cease, and it is just the same between individuals, and among those not established in God’s Kingdom they flourish and will increase.  In the world conflicts will never cease, because the people therein are guided by worldly and temporal inducements and interests, from which enmities and conflicts derive.  But if people are wholly convinced of the spirit of faith and of the Church, then they are concerned with spiritual good things, and worldly good things fail to have such a significance as is usually ascribed to them.  If society were founded on such concepts, then, doubtless, there would be fewer disagreements and conflicts on earth.  One can confidently say that the Christian peoples are more condescending and peaceful than the pagans and the Muslims, and among Christian peoples the more they are devoted to the Faith and the Church the more they are distinguished by a greater spiritual tranquility, by compliance and by a peace-loving character.  In particular that Christian who is devoted to the Church, and follows all her ordinances and precepts, will have greater meekness, condescension and love.

Translated from the Trinity Calendar for 1988, published by the Holy Trinity Monastery, Printing Press of the Venerable Job of Pochaev, Jordanville.