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The Liturgical Theme of the Sunday of Forgiveness, The Casting out of Adam from Paradise. The prerequisite for true forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011


The Liturgical Theme of the Sunday of Forgiveness, The Casting out of Adam from Paradise

The prerequisite for true forgiveness.

 

Adam and Eve Lamenting. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/adam-and-eve-lamenting.jpg (Source: http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Decani/exhibits/Collections/Genesis/CX4K2306_l.html)

(http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Decani/exhibits/Collections/Genesis/CX4K2306_l.html)

Adam and Eve Lamenting

 

What is the dominant liturgical theme of Forgiveness Sunday? This is not a trick question. It is NOT that we would forgive our brethren. The theme is concerning the absolute prerequisite for us to be able to forgive others. Without this virtue, we are lost, having darkened understanding, and blindly stumbling through life.

 

The services for Forgiveness Sunday, also known as the “Casting out of Adam from Paradise. are full references about our *personal* sinfulness. The overall theme is contemplating the Garden of Eden and OUR fall. Although Adam and Eve were the only ones who sinned in the garden of Eden, in our services, their sin is personalized as our own. The services are full of *personal*, *first person* confessions and lamentations, and often in the same hymn, self-exhortations and confident pleas for mercy.

 

Here are some examples, truly few among many from Vespers and Matins:

 

Come, my wretched soul, and weep today over thine acts, remembering how once thou wast stripped naked in Eden, and cast out from delight and unending joy. (Matins Canon, Ode I)

 

In my wretchedness, O Lord, I have disobeyed Thy command­ment. / Woe is me! I have been stripped of glory, / filled with shame, and cast out from the joy of Paradise. / I have been justly deprived of Thy blessings: // but in Thy mercy and compassion take pity on me. (The expostilarion,  Glory…, from the Triodion)

 

 

Casting out of Adam and Eve from Paradise http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/casting-out-of-adam-and-eve-from-paradise.jpg (source:http://saintsilouan.org/calendar/pre-lenten-sundays/casting-out-from-paradise/)

The casting out of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

 

We will not forgive others; neither will we be able to forgive others unless we have a realistic view of ourselves. If we know ourselves, we will be softened with humility, and will not judge others. If we are lightened of the burden of judging others, we will freely forgive them, and according to the Gospel dogma, we will be forgiven of all of our sins.

 

This is why, on the day in which we ask forgiveness of all our brethren, we prepare ourselves by contemplating our sinfulness and the great tragedy of The Fall – Our fall.

 

The world and worldly Christianity (to make an oxymoronic association) does not spend much (or any!) time with personal introspection and admission of faults. The church is not worldly, and is brutally honest regarding human nature. We should listen carefully to the services because we need to find a cure for our spiritual blindness. The best time to apply a healing plaster to our pride, vainglory and blindness to self is when we stand and pray the whole of Matins and especially the Matins canon. Any pastor who serves the vigil knows this and has the fervent hope that his flock will attend the vigil with expectation and zeal.

 

From recent reading:

 

44. He who is afraid of being cast out of the bridal chamber as an interloper[1] should either carry out all of God’s commandments, or else he should strive to fulfill just one of them – humility (Ilias the presbyter, Gnomic Anthology I, from the Philolakia, The complete text, Volume 3, pg39.)

 

Careful prayer in the services and in our daily prayers will help produce the humility that St Ilias is speaking of. Of course, he is not advocating that we “only” be humble – as such a feat is IMPOSSIBLE. The truly humble man will forgive all, and fulfill the two great commandments[2] with exactitude. Without humility, we have no chance to recognize our own sins, and with a darkened mind, will judge our brother, and condemn ourselves. It is important that we meditate upon our human condition.

 

The church gives the perfect example of how to do this – a balance of lamentation and hope in God’s mercy. Without both these actions, we will never fully forgive our brother.

 

I beg all my flock to change their usual patterns and attend the entire Saturday vigil with expectation. The themes of repentance and hope in God will be particularly rich this season. “Come and see” whether there are changes that occur in your soul because of your increased attention to prayer.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-28-liturgical-theme-of-the-sunday-of-forgiveness+rerequisite-for-true-forgiveness.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-28-liturgical-theme-of-the-sunday-of-forgiveness+rerequisite-for-true-forgiveness.doc 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

 


[1] Cf Matthew 22:1-13 and especially: “Mat 22:11: And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  (12)  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.  (13)  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

[2] Mat 22:36-40 KJV  “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  (37)  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  (38)  This is the first and great commandment.  (39)  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  (40)  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

 

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As we think, so we live. Almost Heaven, West Virginia. Pilgrimage to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne, WV Part 1

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Pilgrimage to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne, WV

Week of the Prodigal Son, 2011

Part 1

As we think, so we live.

 

I traveled to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia right after theSunday of the Publican and Pharisee[1] in order to get myself ready for Great Lent. I needed what they call in the world an “attitude adjustment” – in the Christian faith this is accomplished by repentance, prayer and (good) activity. I was also going to see Hierodeacon Sergius for the first time since he came to the “monastery of his repentance”[2], not long he was baptized at St Nicholas, and also old friends Igumen Seraphim, Hieromonk Andrew, and Mother Theodora, whom I knew in St Louis before the Hermitage began.

 

Left to right, Priest Seraphim Holland, Igumen Seraphim, Hierodeacon Sergius in the Monastery Trapeza. http://www/orthodox.net/photos/2011-02-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross/2011-02-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross-retreat-priest-seraphim-igumen-seraphim-hierodeacon-sergius.jpg

Left  to right, Priest Seraphim Holland, Igumen Seraphim, Hierodeacon Sergius in the Monastery Trapeza.

More Pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint-nicholas/sets/72157626088190552/

 

I had been feeling a little run down – not physically, but mentally. Ironically, I became VERY run down physically, but have been refreshed spiritually. The visit has not been all that I expected because I got sick, but the spirit blows where it wills, and what I wanted most was to work on adjusting my thoughts to always be good, and all the things in this monastery, especially the compunctionate monastic worship, the good friends I have seen again after too long an interval, and the incredible beauty of the West Virginia countryside and bucolic farm[3] work have helped me in this.

 

I wish to state something that should be obvious to us, but oftentimes is not. Our thoughts determine how we live our lives, good or bad.

 

I have been recently reading materials that have made this simple, (it should be!) obvious point very clear, including a recent book about Elder Thaddeus of Serbia, and several books in the incredible spiritual honey pot of “anything related to Staretz Siluan, Archimandrite Sophrony and Archimandrite Zacharias”.

 

By bad thoughts I do not mean lust, envy, jealousy, anger, bitterness and the like. No, those are well beyond bad thoughts – those are thoughts which put us on the precipice of hell.

 

I am talking about the kinds of thoughts that hinder us greatly, those “whisperings in the ear”, that, if listened to and acted upon can certainly progress to the most dangerous thoughts. Sometimes they are not acted upon – we end up doing the right thing anyway – but because of their presence our inner peace and tranquility is disturbed and over time we reach a point of spiritual exhaustion where we are prone to many temptations, like a stressed person becomes immune suppressed and more likely to get sick. I fight them often, (at least the ones I know about) and they are like a swarm of black flies, oppressive, biting, and not constantly present and somewhat predictable in their times of appearance. 

 

These thoughts are things like being weary of doing things, crabbiness, and my personal nemesis, and kind of diffuse, unfocused pessimism. There are many more, and they are so subtle that they are often not discrete thoughts at all, but rather our disposition, attitude, hidden prejudices, passions, etc.

 

I serve 5 days a week, work 2 long days in that week, and get way too disappointed about low attendance (sometimes justified (the services talk of absence for honorable cause[4])) and also low participation in the mysteries of confession, the Eucharist, reading of scripture, personal prayer, which is usually not because of “honorable cause”, but then, I am the shepherd and a good shepherd knows that his rational sheep are at all different stages in the spiritual life, and , “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”[5]

 

The best solution for negative thoughts is prayer and activity. You must give a lot of effort, internally you must grunt and strain! The Holy Fathers are really clear about this. Of course, all must be combined with humility and ardent desire to follow the commandments, and all this because of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, or everything comes to nothing.

 

The best thing that has ever happened in our parish life is the regular weekday liturgy where we commemorate aloud everyone on our parish family by name in the fervent ectenia[6], and a good more besides, since we have a public commemoration list that anyone can ask to be added to.

 

The next best thing is the weekly Moleben where we also commemorate the same list. With these prayers has come substantial increased vitality in our parish in many ways, visible (such as a new temple), and invisible. I have increased private prayer for everyone, and I dare to think, that others in the parish have been moved to pray for everyone in the parish daily (so far, two have asked for the parish dyptichs for this purpose – I am glad to send them to anyone I know, with all address, and other contact information deleted).

At the goat barn, facing, l-r, Princess, Priest Seraphim, http://www.orthodox.net/photos/2011-02-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross/2011-02-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross-retreat-facing-princess-tulip.jpg

At the goat barn, facing, l-r, Princess, Priest Seraphim, Tulip

 

To be continued.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-19-almost-heaven-west-virginia+pilgrimage-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross-wayne-wv-part-01.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-19-almost-heaven-west-virginia+pilgrimage-hermitage-of-the-holy-cross-wayne-wv-part-01.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] Arrival Sunday evening  Jan 31/Feb 13. Departure Saturday morning , Feb 6/19, 2011. Homilies on this Sunday are at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#Sunday_of_the_Publican_and_Pharisee

 

[2] This is the way monks refer to the monastery in which they were tonsured..

[3] The monks have goats, cows, and chickens. And I dug in the earth, shoveled  gravel, fed animals and baled hay. It don’t get no better than that!

[4] “Be mindful, O Lord, of the people here present and also those who are absent for honorable reasons, and have mercy upon them and upon us, according to the multitude of Thy mercies” – from the priest’s silent prayer after the Epiclesis, Liturgy of Saint Basil

[5] 1  Corinthians 3:6 

[6] Fervent Ectenia (Litany of Fervent Supplication) – Intoned after the Gospel is read in the Liturgy. There is a place where general petitions for specific people, the sick, traveling, etc, can be inserted.

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The Christian view of suffering and pleasure. 1 Peter 4:1-2

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Arm yourselves with the same mind.

He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin

The Christian view of suffering and pleasure.

1 Peter 4:1-2

38th Wednesday after Pentecost

 

1 Peter 4:1-2 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

 

 

Our life must be an emulation of Christ. He voluntarily suffered; we must VOLUNTARILY suffer. This idea is not well known or well-liked among many people, including Christians.

 

In emulating Christ, we acquire His mind – we think like Him, act like Him, and begin to understand Him. Since salvation is to know God (“and this is eternal life, that they may know Thee the true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent”), it is essential that we acquire the mind of Christ. There is NO other way to do this except to emulate Christ, with God helping us.

 

The Apostle explains why this is important, and here is the Christian understanding of pleasure: “he that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”

 

To experience pleasure is not sinful in and of itself, but to seek pleasure above God darkens the mind. If we are pleasure seeking creatures, we cannot cease from sin. We must have the mentality of a soldier, who is willing to forgo pleasure to fulfill his mission.

 

It is not the “suffering” that causes us to “cease from sin”, but the willingness to suffer in order to follow God only. There is much suffering in the world that does not purify us, because we do not experience it seeking God. If we suffer in any way because of our attempt to follow God and Him only, this suffering will purify us (over time, not all at once), “like gold in the furnace”.

 

The Fathers talk a lot about “attachment” and how important it is to free ourselves from this passion. The more free we are from attachment (which is always associated in some way with pleasure, and our own desires) the less we sin, because our motivations will change to spiritual ones.

 

Christians are not “anti-pleasure”, but against the seeking of pleasure above God. If we are honest with ourselves, we all do this, and this is why we still sin.

 

As we think so we are. Let us desire above all things to acquire the mind of Christ, and we will become like Christ.

 

 

The full epistle reading for the 38th Wednesday after Pentecost

 

1 Peter 4:1-11 1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.   St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-09-arm-yourselves-with-the-same-mind+he-that-hath-suffered-in-the-flesh-hath-ceased-from-sin+the-christian-view-of-suffering-and-pleasure+-38th-wednesday-after-pentecost_1-peter-4-1-2.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-09-arm-yourselves-with-the-same-mind+he-that-hath-suffered-in-the-flesh-hath-ceased-from-sin+the-christian-view-of-suffering-and-pleasure+-38th-wednesday-after-pentecost_1-peter-4-1-2.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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“let him refrain his tongue from evil” One cannot be a Christian without enduring persecution without complaining 1 Peter 3:10-22 Mark 12:18-27

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

“let him refrain his tongue from evil”

One cannot be a Christian without enduring persecution without complaining

1 Peter 3:10-22 Mark 12:18-27

 

The readings for today, Tuesday, the 38th week after Pentecost are from 1 Peter and Mark. We should read the Scriptures with understanding. Here are a few points about these readings.

 

1 Peter 3:10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

 

This is a quote from  Psalm_34:12-16.  It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to “keep our tongue from evil”. I have said before, “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind!” This is because the first and greatest commandment is fulfilled in the doing of the second – to love our neighbor as ourselves. Perhaps I should say: “at least be kind and hold your tongue!” because it is rare that we talk about others and do not do harm to them in some way. Some of the best things I have ever said are the things I have not said, and I am certain this applies to everyone. We may have poor self-control over many things, but God will help us in all of them if we control our tongue. Even if our thoughts are evil, if we do not let words pass our lips that reflects the evil in our heart, the fire of the passions that causes our evil thoughts will be snuffed out, just as a fire goes out when the flue is closed.  

 

 

1 Peter 3:17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

 

This is something to remember when we feel persecuted. The Apostle explains later that we must endure persecution gladly because our Lord was persecuted. Our life is an emulation of Him. Perhaps we cannot pray with great attention, and are a little lazy, and many other things. But if we endure persecution and even simple unpleasantness without complaining and responding in kind, God will help us in all things. There are many things we cannot do, but we can be kind to others, and we can stop complaining about our lives. If we do these things, we will truly attract God’s grace to us.

 

 

1 Peter 3:18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

 

It is important to note that the Apostle says that Christ suffered ONCE for our sins. We do not believe that the Eucharist is a reenactment of our Lord’s sacrifice, but rather an entering into the one sacrifice He made.

 

The Apostle also mentions the dogma that Christ descended into Hades (“prison”) and preached to all the spirits there. This idea is repeated many times in our services.

 

 

1 Peter 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

 

Here the purpose if baptism is described. – a “good conscience toward God”. Baptism enables us to pursue perfection and attain it. We cannot have a good conscience toward God unless we change. This is a well known idea in our daily life. We may do something terrible to someone and be forgiven by them, but we still bear a burden of unease until we have made amends or changed in some way. Our friend forgives us, and his forgiveness is not predicated upon our actions, just as God forgives us, but we must change in order have a good conscience towards our friend (or God). Without baptism, this change is not possible.

 

 

Mark 12:26And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

 

We show that we BELIEVE the Lord’s words when we ask those who have dies (in the body) to pray for us.

 

 

1 Peter 3:10-22 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

 

Mark 12:18-27 18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.   St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-08-let-him-refrain-his-tongue-from-evil+one-cannot-be-a-christian-without-enduring-persecution-without-complaining_1peter3-10-22-mark12-18-27.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-08-let-him-refrain-his-tongue-from-evil+one-cannot-be-a-christian-without-enduring-persecution-without-complaining_1peter3-10-22-mark12-18-27.doc

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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Murphy’s law and molebens. Logismoi. How to think about personal intercessory prayer.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

We all know about “Murphy’s Law” – “If anything can go wrong, it will”.  It has many corollaries, and is sometimes funny in context. But it is not funny when applied to real life – and by this I mean our inner life, in which we gain our salvation.

There is an “occupational hazard” in the pastoral life, which, I believe afflicts all but the truly humble and perfected. It consists of “Murphy’s law type of thinking – “logismoi” – negative thoughts.

I have these thoughts, and they are like mosquitoes – very hard to get rid of – and the best way to deal with them is to ignore them and just keep doing the right thing.

My parish needs the weekly Moleben [1] (and the weekday liturgy). During these, all parish members, and a good deal of others (who visit sometimes/often/hardly at all/are friendly to our community/have asked for prayer) are commemorated by name, three times. I have recently become aware that people I have been praying for with intensity for the people on my daily dyptichs for quite some time have had marvelous things happen in their lives. I would never say what, because I keep so many secrets that I may not even tell you if it is raining outside if you asked me – and it is not like angels have started singing in heaven, but I have seen real things happen that have comforted me.

 

How to think about personal intercessory prayer.

 

I have a “code” when I think about my intercessory prayer for others.

 

1. I MUST do it, because I am a Christian, and the defining characteristic of a Christian is love. Those who love think of those they love, and try to help them. Prayer should be the first, the middle and the last thing we do for those we love, and if it is mixed with other things because of contact with them, so much the better, but we should think ourselves totally deficient in loving others if we do not pray for them. I do not think anyone should consider themselves a Christian if they do not regularly pray for others.

 

2. I have dyptichs [2] which I keep on the computer, and print off using “Clickbook [3]”: software in 4 pages to a piece of standard printer paper, so I can cut it up and have it in my pocket at all times. The list includes all parishioners, “sort of” parishioners, friends of the parish, etc. It also includes our public prayer list, which is at: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn. The goal is to pray for each of these people by name at least once a day. Since it is with me, I can pray in the car, or when at work (or in a train, or in a plane , or in a bus, or here or there, or anywhere!) this list is also used in the Monday Moleben, and the Thursday morning liturgy. With a list, I have a concrete thing to help me remember people. I recommend that everyone would make one.

 

2. I believe in “KISS”, that is I keep it real simple. I just pray that the Lord would have mercy on those I love and care for. I use the Jesus prayer, since it is so powerful – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on _____” [4].  It does not matter if they are sick, going through a divorce, Orthodox, or not Orthodox, it does not matter about anything in a person’s life – we all need God’s help, and nobody knows with exactitude what we need. In praying only for mercy (the Orthodox Christian understanding of it, by the way), the prayer is short, focused, intense (well, to tell the truth, it can be intense, but sometimes it wavers) and non judgmental.

 

3. Just as I do not know what people really need, except in general terms, I cannot know if “my” prayer was answered. I also do not care. If I thought my prayers were extremely “effective”, I would get proud. I just pray, and rejoice if something happens to the good in a person’s life.

 

4. Even though I resolutely do not “take any credit” for anything I pray about, I am open to the possibility that God has heard my prayer, and especially my prayer in behalf of my people before the altar as a priest of God. Therefore, I am encouraged to pray more.

 

Back to the logismoi – negative thoughts. Here is an example. The Moleben is not attended by a lot of people. I sometimes pray alone. I have it after a long 14 hour day of work and travel, and sometimes I have a bit of a war negative thoughts when I am going to this service, tired and maybe a little crabby. I have found that I am never sorry I have served the Moleben, and believe with all my heart that the regular serving of it is crucial to our parish’s inner life.

 

There is one part to “Murphy’s Law” that does apply to Molebens and weekly prayer services. If I am late, people are waiting. If I am early, nobody is there, and sometimes I serve alone.

 

This past Monday, I forgot about the service three times, and almost did not go, but God reminded me. I was offered a chance to go to feed the horses with my son Tim, and I will always do this if I can. I said I would be there at 8 pm after work, totally forgetting about my obligation to serve at the church. Later in the day, Tim cancelled, since someone else in his family had already fed them. I was asked to pick up my son Dan at about 7:30 PM from a practice for a play he was in, because my wife was delayed at work. I was ready to do this, and texted him, but he replied that one of my daughters would do it. I was blissfully unaware that these two obstacles to serving the Moleben had been removed, and when I got in my truck to drive home after a long day at work, I somehow forgot completely about the Moleben (it was formerly on Tuesday evening, but my work schedule changed), and I only remembered after ten minutes on the highway. The negative thoughts set in for a short while, but they are just mosquitoes – swat them away and go do what I gotta do.  

 

I arrived at church (a little bit late, and despite Mr. Murphy, nobody was waiting) and served alone, and there was a marvelous peacefulness and intensity to the prayer. I also got to say the list of names “mentally” since nobody was there to hear me. I prefer to pray “in my head” most of the time, since I am “this close” to being autistic when it comes to sound. I thought about “Murphy’s law” before I served and how I almost forgot to even come to the church, and in this case, nobody would have cared. I decided that “Murphy’s Law” doe not apply in any way to Molebens or any prayer or anything in our Christian life, and decided to write a little something about it (which due to Mr. Murphy, I was unable to finish until this glorious and rare (in Texas) snowed in Wednesday)

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-02-murphys-law-and-molebens+logismoi-intercessory-prayer.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-02-murphys-law-and-molebens+logismoi-intercessory-prayer.doc

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] “Moleben” means “Prayer service” and is from the Russian word “molitva” – prayer. It is a short, multi-purpose service which is like a severely shortened matins service, with intercessory prayers inserted. We serve it once a week, with an Akathist, almost always to the Theotokos, inserted.

[2] “Dyptichs” means “list”. All priests have personal dyptichs, and all Christians should have them, and USE them. The word also has a serious theological implication. The head bishops of the local Orthodox churches in the world (such as the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kyrill, etc) have an official dyptichs which names the heads of all the local Orthodox churches. If a bishop is not on it, there is something seriously amiss in the canonical relationship of the two churches, or the other church is not even Orthodox. For example, the Pope of Rome is not on any Orthodox Church’s official dyptichs.

[3] “Clickbook” ( www.clickbook.com/) is not expensive, and it is awesome. I have no relationship with the company, except that I have used their product to print zillions of booklets, cards and other stuff, especially for the church, for many years.

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Quiet and healing for the soul. Monday Moleben and Akathist

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Quiet and healing for the soul

Monday Moleben and Akathist

 

Last night I arrived early at church to prepare for the regular Monday Moleben with Akathist, and to await the arrival of someone for an appointment. We have served a Moleben each week for a long time, with prayer for a long list of names – all of our parish members, our parish “sort of” members, friends from other local parishes and a long list of people on our public prayer list, who have requested prayer.

 

It is one of the most important things I do. It is also often quite hard to do. This is because of me; anything in which the soul feels heavy and does not want to do something is because of us. Let’s be honest here. We all have weak faith, and the best we can do if we want to eventually have real, warm and perfect faith is to be like the son in the parable who at first said he would not go into the field to work, but later repented, and went to work. Our Lord tells us that he did the will of his father, and not the other son who said he would go, but did not.

 

This parable has always been a great comfort to me. It tells me that I can receive a blessing even from imperfect obedience, and that the most important part of obedience is not what we say or feel, but what we do.  This describes a lot of stuff that I do, or, often, describes the way I start to do things. In the case of the Moleben, which, because of the Akathist and the long list of names repeated three times is a rather long service,  when I am tired and sometimes alone in the temple, I am always happy that I prayed after I have begun.

 

I was born for this – to pray, and show my love for others by praying for them, and doing what they cannot or will not do for themselves. I may be alone, or, as it was this night, with only one other person, or perhaps with as many as 10 or a few more, but I cannot think of a more efficacious use of my time.

 

I was thinking during the Moleben (it would be better not to be thinking so much, but our thoughts are like the wind, and hard to stop or even catch) that “it was good to be here”, because I was fulfilling one of my most important pastoral duties for my people – praying for them, aloud, but also that these evenings, especially when I am alone or almost alone are very healing to my soul. Sometimes I am like the son who did not want to go, but went, and other times I serve with enthusiasm and zeal from beginning to end, but in every case, I have done something important, and I absolutely know that in some way I have become stronger, better.

 

My parish needs me to get better. I cannot give what I do not have, and on some level, I feel more strength when I pray alone, or when I am tired. The stronger I get, the more strength I can give to those I love.  Of course, it is great when the church is full of those praying with me, but this is very rare on any day except a Sunday.

 

I try very hard to teach my flock the restorative nature of the services, but many do not seem to “get it”.  Sunday is still “the day’ to go to church, with Saturday (my favorite) a far distant second, and the other days of the week not even “on the radar”. I know that job and other responsibilities can cut into attendance, but this does not account for everything. Part of my prayer, as it were, a “groaning” in my heart, is that all of my flock, and the many that I pray for who are not my flock, or are sort of part of the flock will develop a great zeal for prayer and be comforted in everything in their life.

 

I am a stubborn guy. I know that true happiness only comes from moral change and the increasing

knowledge of our beautiful God that accompanies and assists it. Prayer is a big part of this. I must be honest with myself – if I teach my flock how important it is to pray – I must pray!

 

 

I also noticed something as I was lighting the lamps. It had been a difficult day. I had stumbled upon a passive aggressive attack from a person I know but have never known. I was upset that this person would most likely never apologize and most likely go on as in the past, with snarky accusations, and an air of superiority, without direct communication and person to person honesty and compunction. I came to a conclusion. This person has never really acted like a friend, so they are more like an enemy than a friend. We should pray for our enemies. I have promised to pray for this person in my daily prayers. This brings me more peace. I give the advice all the time that we must pray for anyone we have a conflict with, and I follow it myself. There may be incidents in the future, and I am still upset, but I am sure that my opinion will soften and become perfected as I pray. I was looking forward to mentioning this name for the first time in the Moleben.

 

I also felt a great peace in the quiet church as I lit the lamps. I would wish for all my flock that they come early sometimes, and light the lamps, and take stock of their lives. Really, all that matters is that we gain true peace.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-11-quiet-and-healing-for-the-soul+monday-moleben-and-akathist.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-07-11-quiet-and-healing-for-the-soul+monday-moleben-and-akathist.html

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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“Parable” of the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. I see men as trees.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Mark 8:22-26 – 30th Tuesday after Pentecost

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Dec 15/28, 2010) [1] is much like a parable. It is a factual recounting of the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida, and is one of the shortest recounting of a healing in the Gospels, but it has a very important and rare detail – and this detail makes it also a type of parable for us.

 

The blind man was healed by degrees, and not all at once, as in almost every other healing of Jesus. The first, partial healing, was that a man who formerly could not see anything could now “see men as trees, walking” – that is – he could see poorly, fuzzily. After Jesus put his hands again on him and made him look up (this is no accident, there is important symbolism here! (what is it [2])) he could see clearly.

 

This can be thought of as a “parable” describing all spiritual healing. We get better by degrees. Here is another example of scripture being intensely personal – and we must read it in a personal way. We read it for personal reproof, instruction in righteousness, wisdom, encouragement [3]. This healing is not a factoid or merely a historical item – it describes our healing too.

 

Of course, anyone with even weak and almost blind eyes “to see” knows that he has blindness – he does not always “see” things as they are, and certainly cannot see God as He is – and this is certainly because of impurity, and overall weakness and incompetence.

 

It is alright to acknowledge this – it is the truth! Our world does not like to acknowledge sin and weakness, either because our pride and vanity is repelled by such thoughts, or because in our political (in)correct age, honesty about oneself is labeled as poor “self-esteem”. True, Christian, healthy “self-esteem” is to know deeply that we are sinners and yet /we are becoming perfected, putting off darkness, and becoming light.

 

All lasting healing is by degrees. In this healing, the degrees proceeded rapidly, but in our lives, the degrees of healing take an entire lifetime. When I read this scripture passage, I am very much encouraged, because I get better very little at a time, and there are days and weeks and even years when I see little progress, but when I recollect a little I know I have gotten better. There is a little more heaven in me, a little more peace. I am not the man I was, and I will become the man that today I cannot be.

 

This is the “Good News”, stated in another way. The Gospel is infinite, so it can be stated and described in an infinite number of ways. Today, it tells us that we will be healed, even by degrees, as this was the purpose of the God-man, the Good Samaritan.

 

 

Mark 8:22-26 22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-30_2010+i-see-men-as-trees-the-parable-of-the-healing-of-the-blind-man-of-bethsaida_mark8-22-26.html

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-30_2010+i-see-men-as-trees-the-parable-of-the-healing-of-the-blind-man-of-bethsaida_mark8-22-26.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] In the Lectionary, the selection of Mark 8:22-26 is given for the 30th Tuesday after Pentecost, but it may be read on a different Tuesday (which varies year by year), if the “Lukan jump” (http://www.orthodox.net/ustav/lukan-jump.html) is used.  In 2010, this selection was read on 12/15 (12/28 ns), the 32nd Tuesday after Pentecost.

 

[2] The symbolism is the same as that of Zacchaeus in the tree (Luke 19:1-9), or various references to mountains, or “Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house” (Matthew 24:17 ). We must “look up” and not down, that is, think and pray spiritually, not carnally.

 

[3] “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  (17)  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2Timoth 3:16-17) 

 

 

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He Who is became what He is not, so we are not can become like Him

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

I am at the 6th annual Winter retreat at St George Orthodox Church in Pharr Texas.  Of course, most of the people here have celebrated Nativity, but Matushka Elizabeth always takes care of me with no fuss.

As part of the presentation by Fr Evangelos Pepps, he sang in the Byzantine tone "Joseph was amazed", the following Sessional Hymn, and as is always the case when I here such exalted theology, I was moved to personalize it, and thought these feelings were worthy to share. After all, what good is theology if it is not lived, or does not inspire us and help us to change?

He whom nothing can contain, * how is He held within a womb? * And while in His Father's arms *, how in His mother's pure embrace? Such is His will and good pleasure, and as He knoweth. * For  being without flesh, * He took flesh willingly; * for us, He Who Is * became what He was not. * Without forsaking His own nature, * He hath partaken of what we are. * For Christ is born now, twofold in nature, * to fill Heaven with mankind. (Sessional Hymn, Dec 25, matins, sessional hymn after the Polyeleos)

The theology in this one hymn is immense! It references dozens of Scriptures and some of the most important dogmas regarding our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is important to know these dogmas, and along with this, we must feel them deeply as they resonate in our heart.

Perhaps as an edifying exercise I will attempt sometime to reference all the important dogmas and scriptures that are related to this hymn, but I am on a slow modem, with little time because of the retreat. I at least wanted to bring forth two points.

 1. Our hymnology always has a sense of wonder – and this is unsophisticated and shallow as we see so often in this season, but theologically intricate and unspeakably beautiful. If you want to understand the incarnation, we Orthodox do not hide this dogma – it is present in all of our services, especially matins on ANY day, and especially on the Nativity and major feasts! It is all there, if we stand, and incline our heads, and listen! It may take years of listening, but it does sink in. Those who have stood in many vigils know what I mean.

2. "He Who Is * became what He was not". There are deep theological implications to this part of the hymn, but more than any other part, it gives me great hope concerning the purpose of my life and the "lively hope" I have for the fulfillment of this purpose.

I feel these words as a solemn promise to me (and you, and all mankind).

There are many things that I am not. One can even say that if we are not in Christ, we are "not" – there is no meaningful existence outside of Christ (and becoming like Him), since everything else is temporary and shallow. I feel my fallen humanity deeply, but I also feel deeply the promise that our Lord has made because of His incarnation. He took on our humanity, which was marred by sin, and changed it – fundamentally, and made us capable of attaining perfection. He also taught us the path to perfection, because one needs ability and knowledge to accomplish anything, whether secular or sacred.

Therefore, when I heard these words, in a flash, "whether as a thought in my brain, I know not, or whether in my soul, I know not – God knows" – I reformed these words like this:

Because He Who Is became what He was not,

I who am not, and have not, can become like He Who is.

This is the core meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, and we can never state it too many times, or in too many different ways. Glory be to God.

 

 

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All dogs do not go to heaven but most dogs have some heaven in them. Sasha

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

It looks like my dear friend Sasha is in her last days. She has stopped eating, and her cancer, which until a week ago did not seem to affect her, seems to have run its course. She has the anorexia typical of end-stage cancer, and is having a lot of trouble getting around. Her breathing has become labored. My wife called today and offered to take her to be put down while I am at work, but I need to say goodbye to her. I plan to celebrate liturgy tomorrow, then take my friend and companion to the vet later that morning.

 

Two weeks ago she was cavorting with her new companion, Princess, a 1 year old miniature schnauzer, and the two have become best friends. Sasha has always loved people, but the Akita in her (she is half Akita, half Border Collie)  has always been very dominant with other dogs, especially females. When I was offered to take Princess home, from a parishioner who cannot keep her anymore, I brought Sasha to the house, and she met Princess on the little dogs’ territory. They became fast friends. Princess is not your typical Schnauzer – she doe not bark, except very occasionally when excited and playing with Sasha.

 

I have watched these two play wrestle many happy times. My wife is probably tired of me mentioning how much I love to watch them play (almost as much as my bragging about my resting heart rate of 40!) 

 

I knew Sasha had cancer (a mediastinal growth) for over a year, but she has still had a lot of vigor for an old girl, and only a couple weeks ago, she was running in the woods with my grandchildren and I.

 

I do not have any illusions about dogs. I don’t have any patience for all that new age stuff. They do not go to heaven, and they are not angels. They have a soul, as all animals do, but their soul is not eternal. When they die, they pass out of existence, but while they live, the exceptional ones are a great gift from our creator, and Sasha has been so good to me so many times, than I have thought of her as a kind of “guardian angel”. 

 

I have been through a lot of life with Sasha. I got her from the pound in Plano, only days before I was to go on a trip to Russia. I was in pretty big trouble for this, because, shall we say, I made a unilateral decision. When I saw Sasha at the pound, she was an absolutely beautiful , alert 1-2 year old dog, in a large cage with at least 8 other dogs. As I walked to the cage, all the dogs were against the cage, barking. Sasha was not barking, but just looked at me, and, I do not want to be too mystical here – we (Sasha and me) just knew.

 

Sasha likes everybody, but she has always been my dog. Most of her life, if I was home, she wanted to be with me. Only lately, did she not as readily get up and come join me when I went into my study, but she always came when called.

 

http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/sasha2.jpg<br />
             I believe dogs teach us a lot about Christianity. They are loyal, obedient, and they always forgive. I have had plenty of difficult times in the past 10 or so years, and Sasha always seemed to know. When I was really down, she would come and join me on the couch. Normally she did not like to sit on the couch, but on the floor beside me. She has always been a constant in my life. I am not much of a constant – I have good days and bad ones, but Sasha always had good days, and was always chose to not leave my side when she sensed I was not doing so well.

 

For Sasha, I am grateful to God. She was there for me in some dark times. I am glad that god’s love is so powerful that is can even be expressed in the ways of senseless animals.

 

I will miss Sasha, and in some ways I do not need such a special companion anymore, but I hope that someday I can find one that is like her.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-12-08+dogs-and-heaven+sasha.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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A text that Elder Porphyrios loved. By St Symeon the New Theologion.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

We should look upon all the faithful as one person and consider that Christ is in each one of them

By St Symeon the New Theologion

A text that Elder Porphyrios loved.

 

Icon of Elder Porphyrios http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/porphyrios-elder-02.jpg, originally from http://cyberdesert.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/elder-porphyrios/

Elder Porphyrios persistently taught that our love for our fellow man should be such that we look upon them as we look upon ourselves. At one time he had asked one of his spiritual children to photocopy the following article of St. Symeon, the New Theologian, which was handed out to his visitors.


 


Picture of Elder Porphyrios http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/porphyrios-elder-photo-01.jpg from http://ishmaelite.blogspot.com/2010/06/elder-porphyrios-on-simplicity.html


We should look upon all the faithful as one person and consider that Christ is in each one of them.

 

We should have such love for them that we are ready to sacrifice our very lives for them.

 

For it is incumbent upon us neither to say, nor think of any person as evil, but we must look upon everyone as good.

 

If you see a brother afflicted with a passion, do not hate him. Hate the passion that makes war upon him.

 

And if you see him being terrorized by the habits and desires of previous sins, have compassion on him. Maybe you too will be afflicted by temptation, since you are also made from matter that easily turns from good to evil.

 

Love towards your brother prepares you to love God even more.

 

The secret, therefore, of love towards God is love towards your brother.

 

For if you don't love your brother whom you can see, how is it possible to love God, Whom you do not see?

 

"For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he has not seen" (1 Jn. 4:20)

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/a-text-that-elder-porphyrios-loved-by-st-symeon-the-new-theologion.html

and

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/a-text-that-elder-porphyrios-loved-by-st-symeon-the-new-theologion.doc

 

Originally from: http://www.oodegr.com/english/biblia/Porfyrios_Martyries_Empeiries/A7.htm

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

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