One distinct difference between Protestants and Orthodox Christians is this; Orthodox Christians tend to meander, Protestants do not. Nothing is really ever rushed in Orthodox Churches… at least not that I have observed so far.
In the Orthodox church, there seems to be this deep connection & understanding of God being in charge and not needing our help at all… with anything. While many Protestants work themselves up into a frenzy through prayer and worship in the hopes of encountering God and influencing His decisions, the Orthodox seem to step back and have a ‘pray… wait & see’ attitude. This wait & see part has been, for me, an especially tough adjustment. While I have heard many Protestants talk about holding God accountable to the promises mentioned in the bible; Orthodox Christians realize that it is God who is sovereign and Who never forgets. Yes, there are promises from God to us in the bible, but how those promises are manifested, and when, is entirely up to God… not us. God IS good and His timing is perfect. We want what we want when we want it often forgetting, or more accurately refusing, to submit to God fully in all things.
My nephew and husband attended Gr. Vespers on Saturday. While I would have loved for them to have walked out committed catechumens with set dates for their baptisms, I realize those are the desires of my heart but that God takes each person on their own journey into the Orthodox Church and personal encounters with Him.
I am thankful that these two people who are so important to me were even at services. I will do my best to place them into the hands of God, step back, pray… not push.
If you have been doing more pushing than praying lately, why not take a step back and spend more time in front of icons and let God take over? His ways are better than our ways. He is good and He loves us.
To my utter horror, persons masquerading as ‘faith leaders’ have created an ad campaign in support of Planned Parenthood and abortion. This has all been done under the deception of supporting marginalized women in need of health-care. What a load of lies, deceit and non-sense. Here in my city, we have an organization that helps unwed mothers deal with an unwanted pregnancy without abortion. Do I hear the same kind of support for that organization? NO. ANYONE who claims to be a ‘faith leader’ who supports abortion is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. ANYONE. Yes, my words are strong and they are intended to be so. No one who calls themselves a follower of Christ could support abortion. We as Christians must acknowledge the sanctity of the soul and respect for life. We are not the ones who give life, God is and only God can determine when it is time for a soul to return to heaven.
The ‘faith leaders’ who spoke out in this advertisement did so while spouting the lie of women in need of health-care need Planned Parenthood. Abortion is not health-care. I’ll say it again… ABORTION IS NOT HEALTH-CARE. People who support abortion and claim to be ‘of faith’ rarely come right out and say they support baby-murder. Some part of them deep down knows that this is wrong so they skirt the issue and make it sound like there is a noble purpose to their madness and if the rest of us do not join up in the false crusade, we’re the evil ones not those who support Planned Parenthood. Do not be fooled. You are NOT evil for not supporting Planned Parenthood.
Stick to your convictions. support those who oppose Planned Parenthood. Speak out for those who have no voice, the unborn babies. Do not allow yourselves to be hoodwinked into supporting the mass murder of unborn children. Not just in America, but in other nations as well. Oh yes… Planned Parenthood has their evil, blood-stained claws in the wombs of women in other nations as well.
The above photo is of an icon representing the innocents who have died. Not just aborted babies but also babies lost to miscarriage or infant deaths for any reason. Jesus is there looking over them… and offering comfort. Comfort for the babies and for the mothers. Yes, comfort for the mothers. We must remember that as Christians, God also loves the mothers who, under the spirit of deception, aborted their babies. These women are suffering, and will most likely continue to suffer until the day they die, for what they have done. The act of abortion creates two victims, not just one. This is what PP and others who support it do not tell you. This is why it is especially heinous that so called ‘faith leaders’ are supporting such an insidious, and evil organization. Have none of these people ever counseled a woman post-abortion and seen the horror she goes through?
I strongly believe that anyone, anyone at all, who calls themselves a ‘faith leader’ who verbally supports or gives money to Planned Parenthood should immediately be removed from their position on grounds of abuse of power/authority. Any organization that calls itself a church or synagogue that receives tax exempt status should have that status removed. See, there is a certain criteria that should be met and followed before an organization should be allowed to classify itself as being linked to Christ. The major one should be NOT advocating the murder of unborn children.
We must no allow ourselves to be drawn into the culture of death that has grown in our society. The beginning and end of life is when we are the weakest and most vulnerable. This is where evil lies in wait for those unable to defend themselves. When murder is advocated from the pulpit… who will protect them from harm? Lord have mercy.
According to ancient tradition, the wonderworking icon of Tikhvin is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the fifth century, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.
In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the (Muslims) Turks, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod the Great witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amid a radiant light. According to an early sixteenth century Russian manuscript, “The Tale of Miracles of the Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God,” the Theotokos herself decided that her image should leave Constantinople, perhaps in anticipation of the impending fall of the Byzantine Empire.
Shortly after its miraculous appearance, the icon was discovered in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin. A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was built on the site of the icon’s final resting place. Miraculously, the icon survived a number of fires.
In the early sixteenth century, through the zeal of Great Prince Basil Ivanovich, a stone church was built to replace the original wooden structure. In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church and enclosed with a stone wall.
In 1613-1614, the Swedish army, having seized Novgorod, made several attempts to destroy the monastery. The countless prayers offered to the Theotokos before the icon were heard, and the monastery was spared. On one occasion, after monks had been alerted to the approaching Swedish army, they decided to flee and to take the icon with them. But the monks soon discovered that they could not remove the icon from its shrine. Seeing this as a sign of the Theotokos’ protection, the monks decided not to abandon the monastery, begging the Theotokos to spare them and their beloved spiritual home. To their amazement, a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery.
When the Swedes encountered the army, they retreated immediately. Word of this miracle spread rapidly, and imperial emissaries soon visited the monastery. Accompanied by a copy of the wonderworking icon, they set off for the village of Stolbovo, 33 miles from Tikhvin, where they concluded a peace treaty with the Swedes on February 10, 1617. Afterwards, the copy of the icon was taken to Moscow and enshrined in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Later, the same icon was placed in the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in Novgorod at the request of the city’s faithful, who also found themselves under attack by the Swedes. Once again, through the intercession of the Theotokos, the city was spared.
Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide. Copies of the wonderworking icon began to adorn churches throughout the land. Some of these copies also proved to be sources of miracles, and it was not uncommon to find the faithful praying before the icon to seek healing for children who were ill.
No fewer than 24 processions with the icon were celebrated each year at the Tikhvin Monastery, where the icon was enshrined. A decorative cover, or “riza,” adorned the icon, exposing only the faces and hands of the Holy Virgin and Christ child. Numerous precious stones studded the riza, and many of the faithful, desiring to express thanksgiving for prayers answered through the Theotokos’ intercession, affixed precious jewelry to the riza.
Most miraculous is the fact that the icon was preserved from destruction or sale after the Russian Revolution, which ushered in a 74-year persecution of the Church. During the 1920s, the communist government demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church turn over countless icons and other precious liturgical items, which through the nationalization of private property were considered the property of “the people.” Many of these sacred items were sold, allegedly to raise money to feed the Russian and Ukrainian population which was afflicted by famine.
During the World War II German occupation, the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery, from where it was taken to Pskov and subsequently to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. While Soviet agents had spotted the icon, Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Bishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. After his retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday in 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.
The icon began its year-long journey to Russia at the 99th annual Pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, May 23-26, 2003. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, together with members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and guest hierarchs, greeted the icon, which was available for veneration by the faithful.
The icon follows the “Hodigitria” model and is similar in style to the ancient Iveron icon of Our Lady. It differs in that the Christ child’s legs are crossed, while the sole of His foot is turned to the viewer. Several historic sources note that several other Hodigitria icons of the Theotokos had been brought to Russia in the 1380s, during the rule of the saintly prince Demetrius Donskoy.
Matrona was born in 1881 into a poor family in the village of Sebino-Epifaniskaya (now Kimovski) in the Tula region of Russia. Blind from birth, she bore her infirmity with humility and patience, and God made her a vessel of grace. At the moment of her baptism, the priest saw a cloud above the child, which shed forth a sweet fragrance as a sign of divine favor. From the age of six or seven, she exhibited an extraordinary gift of insight, discerning sicknesses of soul and body in the many people who visited her, revealing to them their secret sins and their problems, and healing them through prayer and wise counsel. Around the age of fourteen, she made a pilgrimage to the great holy places in Russia along with a devout benefactress. When they arrived at Kronstadt to receive the blessing of St. John, they became lost in the crowd. St. John suddenly cried out, “Matrona, come here! She will be my heir, and will become the eighth pillar of Russia.” At that time, no one understood the meaning of this prophecy.
When she turned seventeen, Matrona became paralyzed and was unable to walk from then on. Knowing that this was God’s will, she never complained but thanked the Lord. For the rest of her life – over fifty years – she lived in a room filled with icons, sitting cross legged on her bed. With a radiant face and a quiet voice, she received all who came to seek divine consolation through her presence. She foretold the great misfortunes that were to sweep down upon the country after the Bolshevik revolution, placing her gift of insight at the service of the people of God. One day when some visitors commiserated with her about her disablement, she replied: “A day came on which God opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the sun, the stars and all that exists in the world: the rivers, the forests, the sea and the whole of creation.”
In 1925 she left her village to settle in Moscow and, after her mother’s death in 1945, she moved frequently, welcomed secretly into the houses of the faithful. This was because the Communists, fearing her influence among the people, wanted to arrest her. But, every time, she had advance knowledge, and when the police arrived they learned that she had moved an hour or two earlier. One day, when a policeman arrived to arrest her, she advised him to return home as quickly as possible, promising him that she would not escape. When the man arrived home, he discovered that his wife was on fire, and was just in time to take her to the hospital.
St. Matrona led an ascetic life on her bed of pain. She fasted constantly, slept little, her head resting on her chest, and her forehead was dented by the innumerable signs of the Cross that she made. Not only the Muscovites but also people from afar, of all ages and conditions, thronged around her to ask her advice and her prayers. In this way she truly became the support of afflicted people, especially during World War II. To those who came to ask her for news of their relatives in battle, she reassured some and counseled others to hold memorial services. She spoke to some directly, and to others in parables, having in view their spiritual edification and recommending them to keep the Church’s laws, to marry in the Church and to regularly attend Confession and take Communion. When the sick and possessed were brought to her, she placed her hands on their heads, saying several prayers or driving the demons out with authority, always insisting that she was doing nothing of herself but that God was healing by her mediation. When asked why the Church was undergoing such great persecutions, she replied that it was because of the sins of the Christians and their lack of faith. “All the peoples who have turned away from God have disappeared from off the face of the earth,” she affirmed. “Difficult times are our lot, but we Christians must choose the Cross. Christ has placed us on His sleigh, and he will take us where He will.”
Having foretold the day of her death, she gave instructions for her funeral. Before falling asleep in peace on April 19, 1952, she cried out, “Come close, all of you, and tell me of your troubles as though I were alive! I’ll see you, I’ll hear you, and I’ll come to your aid.” Miracles were multiplied at her tomb and, ever since her translation to the women’s monastery of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God (March 13, 1998), the faithful who, in their thousands, line up to venerate Moscow’s new protectress, turn to her icon and bring her their various problems as though St. Matrona were alive in front of them.
From Volume Four of the Synaxarion, compiled by the Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Mount Athos
My sister has been going to church with me for a little over a month now. I sent her a photo of this cross as a lark with these words, ‘maybe this should be your cross so the demons can see it and leave you alone!’. Her response? ‘I want it!!’. She’s been through hell and is still here with us. I think she deserves a big cross to ward off evil.
These are taken from the Orthodox Church in America website. I’d like to focus for a moment on the first scripture listed: 1 Peter 1:3-9. In it we find a promise from God. A promise of eternal salvation. Not a promise to have our best life now full of health, wealth, and beauty. No. Those things are temporary trappings of this world. Such false promises, twisted out of scripture like a corrupted thread from a bundle of wool, entrap people and prevent them from being able to cope when trials come their way. Writing about such lies as if they were truth sell books. Many, many books but that is all they do, unfortunately. they do not feed believers what they need to grow and mature in Christ. This is the true promise of God; 3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Verse 6 paints a more mature and accurate picture of life on earth; In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
We are not grieved by various trials because we have done something wrong or because God does not love us. We live in a fallen world and things happen. We must remember to always put our hope in Christ and not in the things of this world which rust & decay and which we cannot take with us when we die.
People often times get so wrapped up in praying for ‘things’ that they forget to pray to ‘The One’. The most important aspect of prayer is to develop a close relationship with God that nothing, and no one can steal from us. Almost 1,000 people died during Ramadan this year. Ramadan is the bloodiest holiday in Islam. A bus load of Christians were shot, one-by-one when they refused to denounce God and their faith. This was done on their way to a monastery to worship God. God is still good. He is still loving. People are corrupt but if we keep our eyes, and prayers fixed on God, the corruption will not overcome us. What corruption? The temptation of temporary things that appear to be what will save us but in the end, will be our ultimate doom.
We just don’t realize how good we have it right now as Christians in America. No one died yesterday in church just because they were in church. But those days are quickly coming to an end and we are the instruments of our own destruction.
Pray for the safety of Christians around the world and in America.
Pray that the freedom of religion is not further corrupted and that true religious freedom is restored in America.
Pray for the restoration of true family structure and true sexual identity as God made us and not as we remake for ourselves.
If one person in every household were to pray, and refuse to be offended (they became the peacemaker in their homes, offices, schools, etc.) the world would begin, and continue to change for the better. I’ve paraphrased this from the book by Elder Thaddeus of Vetovnica.
These are just a few suggestions of possible prayers during this fast. A fast is not just about the food… it’s about prayer and conversing with God in hopes that we, and the world around us, will begin to change.