The time is now at hand for us to start upon the spiritual contest and to gain the victory over the demonic powers. Let us put on the armor of abstinence and clothe ourselves in the glory of the angels. With boldness Moses spoke to the Creator, and he heard the voice of the invisible God. In Thy love for man, O Lord, grant us with the same boldness to venerate Thy Passion and Thy Holy Resurrection. (Canticle 9 Tone 6 of Matins, Sunday of Forgiveness)
WHY FASTING ISN’T THE POINT
Great Lent officially begins tomorrow, which is the greatest fast of the year that culminates in the explosive joy of Pascha (Easter).
Most frequently, food is the focus of Lent. Traditionally, the Orthodox abstain from meat, dairy, and eggs; so the diet is essentially vegan during this time.
More than anything though, I believe that Great Lent is meant to call us to repentance, which thereby draws us closer to God in a very real way. Fasting is a tool that aids in our repentance. Any sort of fixation upon food is unhealthy, whether it is in the forms of anorexia, bulimia, gluttony (eating more than necessary), or a food-focused fast.
When we make Great Lent about food and abstaining from food, and we focus all of our energy on the fast, then we have truly missed the purpose and even the joy of Lent. Continue reading
If you are new to Orthodox theology, buckle your seat belt and ready yourself for something quite different. This is a controversial topic in the Christian world, and I’m not wanting to start any fights, but rather offer my understanding of the truth regarding Heaven and Hell. Continue reading
At noon the children gather at the lake, to bathe in the sun and the water.
O Lord, how the whole of nature marvels at innocence! Strained and pained laborers in the presence of sinners — the lake and the sun are transfigured in the presence of children. What a magnificent temple of the Lord the lake becomes, when children are in it, and what an inspired high priest the sun becomes, when its rays cross the rays of children’s souls. Continue reading
Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died. And not one good deed was left behind her. The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire. And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell God?
Then he remembered and said to God, “Once she pulled up an onion and gave it to a beggar woman.”
And God answered, “Now take that same onion, hold it out to her in the lake, let her take hold of it, and pull, and if you pull her out of the lake, she can go to paradise, but if the onion breaks, she can stay where she is.”
The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her, “Here, woman,” he said, “take hold of it and I’ll pull!” Continue reading
I’ve heard many times people describing violence, grasps for power, lust, and cruelty as human nature.
As a child, I grew up in Protestant churches and heard a common theme: man is wicked by nature. We just have to endure long enough in this body, and then God will free us of this weight.
Our bodies are thought of as something less than worthy. I’ve heard several times, “I am a spirit trapped inside of a body,” or “I am a spirit weighed down by a body,” or as some Christians sing, “some glad morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away.” They all teach the same message: we have something valuable inside of us, but it isn’t this body that you can see. Continue reading
Recently, a much publicized debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham (founder of a creation science museum) left many people disappointed. In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who thoroughly enjoyed the debate. As a kid, I was wrapped up in that world while I watched videos by Kent Hovind, and as a young adult, read books on apologetics.
Now, I usually stay away from arguments regarding old earth vs. young earth, and even evolution vs. instantaneous creation. They distract us from what is important. If one side of the debate finally “won” with absolute empirical evidence that no one could deny, how much would change?
We Orthodox would still believe in the God-man Jesus; we would still teach the Trinity; we would still partake in the body and blood of Christ at every liturgy; we would still believe that through our (typological?) ancestors, Adam and Eve, sin entered the world, and through the God-man Jesus sin and death were overcome; and we would still believe that all of creation was caused by God and is held in existence through Christ.
YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL SOON BE ARCHAIC Continue reading
Today we commemorate St Brigid of Ireland. Since my ancestors came from that region of Europe, I’m always intrigued by Celtic saints
READING FROM THE SYNAXARION:
When Ireland was newly converted to the Christian Faith, the Holy Abbess Bridget devoted herself to the establishment of the monastic life among the women of her country, and founded the renowned convent of Kildare-Kil “Cell (or Church)” Dara “of the Oak.” She was especially renowned for her great mercifulness, manifested in her lavish almsgiving and in miracles wrought for those in need. The Book of Armaugh, an ancient Irish chronicle, calls Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget “the pillars of the Irish” and says that through them both, “Christ performed many miracles.” She reposed in peace about the year 525. Continue reading
If you’re anything like me, you struggle with sinful thoughts and behavior on a daily basis. Those with an addiction or some strong habitual sin can especially relate. It is easy to feel depressed or overwhelmed. I spent many years of my life afraid of God because I felt He was either mad or very disappointed in me. Spiritually and emotionally, I crawled through life wondering when the next lightning strike would hit me.
A habitual sin is like a rut in the road in which a wagon wheel easily enters and struggles to leave. In Orthodoxy and scripture, these sins are called “passions,” and are the result of entertaining a thought that may have begun with something seemingly neutral. There’s often a bit of guilty pleasure in entertaining these thoughts. Continue reading
Prayer is central to the life of the Christian. I always knew it was important, but struggled with it most of my life. I honestly wondered: how much good is this? After all, isn’t God all-knowing and outside of time? In the grand scheme of the universe, what good are the prayers of one little Christian?
Wouldn’t I be better off serving the poor or reading the Bible or some such thing? Wouldn’t that be a more efficient use of my time? Continue reading
When I first began in Orthodoxy, I was a bit offended. Saints frequently wrote about how unworthy and sinful we are and how we need to frequently repent. I still had the legal model of salvation in my mind: didn’t God wipe away our debts? Why all of this weeping and repenting?
AN UNPOPULAR NECESSITY
But salvation is therapeutic, which necessitates that it is a process and a journey. I sin every day of my life, meaning I am breaking communion Continue reading
In the first part of this series, I contrasted the Western, legal perspective of salvation with the Eastern Orthodox understanding of sin and salvation. In this blog, I want to unpack the topic further, but mostly focus on Orthodoxy.
THE IMAGE OF GOD
In Genesis, we learn that mankind was created in the image of God. When we fell, and continue to fall, that image becomes tarnished and obscured, but it never disappears. It is still within you. Continue reading
“Christ is baptized, in the Jordan!” is a phrase you will hear today in Orthodox Churches worldwide. The sixth of January is Theophany. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the first time I ever understood why Jesus was baptized was when I began exploring Orthodoxy. The significance of this event can be found in the hymns of our Church.
Below are the verses of the Canon of the Theophany. If you are looking for a study on the significance of the Lord’s baptism, I would highly recommend reading the more in-depth hymns from the Vigil Service that I posted yesterday. Also, I wrote briefly about the Theophany icon here. Continue reading