Whom are you serving?

Our Orthodox Life: Acts 29 - Eucharist (Part 1)
Jesus with the Apostles eating the Mystical Supper

When Christians properly serve, God… they think not only of themselves, but of those around them as well. ‘How will my actions today effect those around me? Not only for today but in the years to come?’.

The word, ‘progress or progressive’ is bandied about these days as if saying it should be an automatic, ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for bad behavior, for whomever utters those words. Taking away the income of millions of people who drive for a living is acceptable to many under the guise of ‘progress’ or environmentalism. Little to no thought has been given to how these people will manage to take financial care of their families once their jobs have been taken over by robots. ‘It’s their problem’ is the cry among those who work so hard to cast millions into unemployment. Has no one thought of the burden to the economy of each state when millions of drivers are left without work?

Legislatures must step up now and make laws to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If we create a society run by robots where no one can earn a living, then we must remove our current system of commerce and replace it with one that works for all people. Nothing has proven to work as well as capitalism. Few things in life bring as much satisfaction as putting in effort, seeing a job completed and being rewarded for doing well. So… what then? How do we continue to give people the satisfaction that comes from work when we replace them with robots? Not everyone is comfortable, or happy, working in an office. How do they glean personal satisfaction from life? Will society fall into more mindless entertainment to fill those empty spaces left open and unfulfilled by a lack of productivity?  Already many young men do not enter into the workforce. They prefer playing video games to working. With the increase of potential jobs they could have had being replaced by machines, and so much to distract them, ‘why bother’ has become the cry of the young instead of, ‘I can!’.

Everything we do as Christians must be tempered with thoughts on how it will affect those around us. An example of that, although it may seem quaint by today’s anything-goes standards is this; it used to be that newspapers would not print the Sunday comics because of concern it would cause children to become distracted and make them forget about going to church. Here is an example of a corporation thinking about the effect their actions might have on people they had never met.

I say, ‘Christians’ when talking about treating people better because it is what, Jesus advocated. We are to treat others as if they are better than us. Would you want someone to remove your employment in the name of ‘progress’? I’m certain you would not.

If we who call ourselves, ‘Christian’ would put on the real mantle of Christ and stop being mercenaries at the expense of those around us… THAT would be real and true progress.

Here is a LINK to an article about the ‘globalized’ and ‘universal’ person by, St. Paisios.

On head covering

inheadcoveringdoc

I don’t know of any other topic in all of Christiandom that is more talked about… or misunderstood. If there is any other topic that elicits such a range of emotional response as head covering, I do not know what it would be.

Veiled Christian Women - YouTube

First of all there is the confusion as to its origin. When my nephew came to church HERE he asked, ‘What’s with the head coverings? Is that a Muslim thing?’. Sigh… no it is not a, ‘Muslim thing’. Islam did not come around until 300-400 years AFTER Christianity got its start at Pentecost. The origins of head covering are found in Judaism. Paul had been a Jewish leader before his conversion to Christianity. He had intimate knowledge of every law and custom. While some argue that head covering was a cultural standard for women in ancient times and not for women today, it does have a place in modern Christianity.

I began my research on head covering about 4-5 years ago. I had read a comment on a blog about how Christians pick and choose which bible verses they will follow, and if we were against some things because the bible said not to do them then why did we not do other things, such as head covering, which the bible tells us to do? While it is clear the individual who wrote that comment had no understanding of free will, it did get me thinking about head covering, and there began my journey.

At the beginning of this article you will find a link to an article on head covering written by a Jewish Rabbi. I hope it opens for you. It contains information I have never found on any Christian website or video that talks about head covering. Also, I cannot find this article any more on the Net. Maybe you can. I downloaded in onto my computer years ago and it is an invaluable tool. I believe one of the reasons why the bible verse about it is so confusing is because we lack the oral history that pertains to head covering. Because it is something that, Paul had to tell Christians to do, I think it would be a logical conclusion to say that it was not widely practice among pagans which would have been the primary converts to Christianity at the time Paul wrote to remind women to cover and why. Head covering, and the reasons why, would have been a part of daily life for Jewish women. Most of them would have known why they were to cover. Where scripture falls off about it, oral tradition would have carried on like a torch passed down from mother to daughter over centuries. Let’s take a look at the scripture, see what it has to say about head covering and then try to figure out why, Paul said nothing more in regards to covering ‘because of the angels’.

KANDYLAKI: AN EXEGESIS ON WOMEN’S HEAD COVERINGS

1 Corinthians 11:5-

5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for it is just as if her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, let her hair be cut off. And if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels…

Ok, Paul. What about the angels? I wonder if he left out details explaining about the need to cover, ‘because of angels’ because they were such a well known factor of everyday life at that time that what people needed to know was SO well known he had no need to expand upon his statement? I do see where science has convinced many people that such spiritual encounters are not what we should know them to be. We as Christians should be used to such things but many are still doubtful regarding spiritual encounters. They are dismissed or over looked. such things are explained away and if you believe in them then you are the odd ball. Clearly, Paul had personal experience and wise advice regarding angelic encounters. While the bible tells us that the kingdom of heaven is not about miracles, I do believe we would be wise in not dismissing spiritual encounters, or ignoring biblical advice on how to protect ourselves regarding unseen beings.

There is quite a bit being written about head covering. I personally believe that there is a great deal of confusion about it with most of the confusion centering around the verse pertaining to the angels. First let us clear up one important misconception about head covering… head covering is NOT about the oppression, and subjugation of women, by their husbands. Head covering is about revealing the God-given authority of women; to the world around them, their husbands, other men, and the angels.

Women have the right to pray and prophesy publicly. Their head covering shows those around them, seen and unseen beings, that they have been given this gift by God who protects them through their head covering. Yes, it is right for women to head cover when praying at home alone, but it is especially important for us to do so when in public. In his article, Ye’hosheba tells us that when Paul talks about the angels he is talking about good angels, and bad angels. The good angels see the woman praying with her head covered and listen all the more attentively to her prayers because they see her as a woman who understands her God-given authority. ‘She means business how can we help her more?’ Evil angels, those who are the minions of Satan, see a covered woman praying and avoid her. ‘This woman knows her authority! We cannot prevail against her she is too strong. Let us go find one who is weak (uncovered) and see if we can destroy her.’.

Ladies… head covering is a big deal. Do not allow anyone to talk you out of it or try to embarrass you because you practice this important, outward expression of your authority. Once, when I was still a Protestant groping in the dark and trying to figure out head covering, I wore my cover to church.  The pastor of that church did not pull me aside to discuss privately why I covered. Instead, he stood right in front of me and preached a sermon against the practice of covering. Subtle. I hold no grudge against him for it. What he did only served to help me find a place where the practice of head covering would be more readily accepted and encouraged. Hello Orthodox Christianity.

Head covering is part of the armor that I put on when I pray and worship. I would feel, ‘out of uniform’ and unprotected if I were to enter temple without it or pray uncovered. I have had many strange, and wonderful, experiences through head covering. Each one serving to solidify my understanding of the importance of covering.

My dear sisters in Christ, if you have been struggling with head covering you are not alone. If you would like to have a safe place where you can discuss the struggles of head covering, please consider joining this Yahoo group that I have created: OCWWC. I believe head covering can heal, empower, show leadership, and in many ways enrich the lives of women. It is uniquely our weapon given to us by God. So-much-so that even the priest must remove HIS head covering before carrying out certain rites and rituals during liturgy. Please, do not allow head covering to be the thing that trips you up as you walk out your sanctification.

God grant you many years!

Meet St. Matrona, my patron saint

747-matrona-moscow-24-800-419x600

St. Matrona of Moscow

clip_image001Commemorated on April 19

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’s new cross?

 

 

 

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.

Christ is risen!

What I learned about the Orthodox church from Pinterest

No, Really. Say what you will about memes. They helped me to find my way toward Orthodoxy.

  1. Bees respect icons and do not build wax combs across them: MYSTAGOGY: The Respect Bees Have For Holy Icons - THIS IS INCREDIBLE! HOW CAN PEOPLE SEE MIRACLES LIKE THIS AND NOT  SEE THE PROOF OF GOD IN OUR WORLD?:
  2. Prostrating is a Christian thing:

Prostrations are a part of Orthodox praxis (Russian Orthodox Christian Pilgrims visiting Jerusalem Israel):

3. Monks and animals go together like PB&J!

Beautiful Mount Athos http://www.travelandtransitions.com/european-travel/:

4. They take scripture serious:

"The more one is united to his neighbor, the more he is united to God." - Dortheos of Gaza:

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5. Orthodox Christians have a great sense of humor:

"Honk Forty Times if You're Orthodox" bumper sticker :): Orthodoxy. For kids who like to stay up all night, drink wine, and play with fire.:

6. God is good and He loves us. (I already knew this but the Orthodox say it in every service. Perhaps so that we do not forget. Especially when we are going through hard times. )

"The Anthropic Principle states that if you were to change the conditions of the universe from what we currently observe, it would make life impossible".:

7. It all began with t he Orthodox Christians after Pentecost; the bible, how services are run, prayer, fasting, etc. It can be exasperating when Protestants ask if we know, Jesus.

Ha ha!:

8. How deep a faith you wish to have is completely up to and reliant upon what you’re willing to give up in, Jesus name. (I knew this too but it seems to be lacking more and more in modern church sermons.)

Free from Passions:

9. It’s okay to acknowledge and venerate, Mary:

Mary is venerated because she is Theotokos. To venerate the Theotokos is an inherent part of rightly believing in the Incarnation of God-Man. To ignore her as Theotokos is to hold a diminished and inadequate understanding of the Incarnation. -Stephen Freeman:

10. Sometimes, the peculiar things you read about being in heaven show up on the walls of the temple… and that’s ok. All Seeing Eye Icon:

11. There is more to fasting than just food:

 :

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Lent:

12. Orthodox Christians know how to celebrate & worship God with all five sense:

The Byzantine style frescos of the new Orthodox church of Omala. Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece.:

Γιατί θυμιατίζουμε στην Ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία;:

Cross and candles + + + Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν + + + The Eastern Orthodox Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEasternOrthodox Pinterest The Eastern Orthodox: http://www.pinterest.com/easternorthodox/ Pinterest The Eastern Orthodox Saints: http://www.pinterest.com/easternorthodo2/:

13. Prayer is a big deal… a BIG deal.

It is of great significance if there is a person in a family who truly prays. Prayer attracts God's grace, and all the family feels it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica:

Someone seriously loves their saints. Add photos of family and friends to remember to pray for them:

 

And more but that’s all for today…

Lord have mercy.

 

 

My 1st Great Lent

... : Saint Theophylact of Ochrid-Meatfare Sunday, The Last Judgment
Mural of the Last Judgment.

Kondakion (Tone 1)

When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory,
All things shall tremble
And the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat;
The books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed!
Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire,
And make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, righteous Judge!

I think that perhaps if more non-Orthodox Churches had awesome murals such as this, showing the Last Judgment, more Christians would take their faith serious.

I made my first Koliva for the memorial service our church held on Saturday. I started on Thursday, and finished up decorating them on Saturday morning.

Today is Meatfare Sunday. Then, starting Monday, it’s time to begin fasting. Our first fast category is meat, but eggs and dairy products are permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday.

Here is a fasting schedule taken from the website: http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html

First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins (see below).

Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.

Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.

Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil’s Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.

Wine and oil are permitted on several feast days if they fall on a weekday during Lent. Consult your parish calendar. On Annunciation and Palm Sunday, fish is also permitted.

We are not only to fast during Lent, but also we are called to increase our prayer life. Prayer and fasting are often mentioned together in the bible as powerful tools against The Enemy, as well as tools intended to draw us closer to God. Lent is not intended as a time of suffering. We are to use it as a time of purification and sanctification. There is a divine, and mystical, purpose to Lent. It is a waste of Lent to merely fast and ‘suffer’ because one is not able to enjoy ‘regular’ eating which I’m sure involves some sort of glutton as we in America are prone to do.

In the churches I grew up in and worshiped in as an adult, protestant churches, not much emphasis was placed on overcoming fleshly desires.  I want to overcome my passions, and food is one of the things I need to overcome. I hope that this Lenten season will be the transformative tool I have been looking for that sets me free. I love that the Orthodox Church provides us with the tools we need to obtain whatever level of sanctification, or asceticism, the Lord has placed within our hearts as our personal goal. Each person’s spiritual walk is individualized but all are pointed toward the same target, sanctification for Eternity with God.

1 Corinthians 10:31English Standard Version (ESV) 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Escaping the gospel of Pollyanna

One of the reasons why I ran away from contemporary (read: heretical) church, was to escape the fakey-happy-happy Pollyanna gospel. If you’ll recall, Pollyanna is a fictional girl who saw the sunbeams & rainbows in every situation, and if there were none to be had, she’d make them up. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing to do unless it creates within the person, and those around them, a total disconnect from reality.

Case-in-point. In the Pollyanna gospel, you cannot risk saying anything negative or you might curse yourself. This is NO WHERE in the bible. In fact, that sort of thinking is narcissistic and stinks of witchcraft. Jesus came to help us overcome our superstitions, and said not to practice magic and yet, here it is being taught right from the pulpit as a, ‘name it and claim it’ gospel. Or as I like to refer to it; The Pollyanna Gospel. In the Pollyanna Gospel, no one is ever sick (if they are they cannot tell anyone or they curse themselves and possibly the person to whom they are speaking) really? Is the holy spirit so weak within them that they cannot say, ‘oh, this is what is really going on in my life and I need help’ for fear of being completely overcome by their words? That is so deadly. It binds people and keeps them in prisons which is exactly what the enemy wants. He wants people to be isolated and afraid to talk about what is going on in their lives. This keeps people from praying for one another, and lifting one another up which is the true way to overcome any situation.

In this fakey-Pollyanna gospel church, no one is open and honest with each other. Everyone puts on their fake smile, lies to everyone around them for fear of condemnation & judgment, then goes home to battle their demons alone, and greatly diminished. If they had felt free to talk about their trials they could have received the help they need… with greater speed and efficiency.

The church is supposed to be a hospital, not a courthouse. Can you imagine walking into a hospital emergency room for help but then you are told by the staff that you cannot talk about your symptoms? Or, you do some how manage to talk about what is going on but then you are blamed for your medical situation because you dared to speak about it instead of keeping quiet because, ‘words have power’. Some hoe by speaking about your problems, you are laying claim to them, adopting them, and allowing them to become your demonic pets. You feed them with your words of acknowledgment. This Pollyanna gospel says that just telling someone you have a pain in your shoulder manifests it more and gives it a deeper foothold into your shoulder making it worse. Really? No, not really. This is a great example of just a taste of the heretical thinking and twisting of scripture that has occurred in modern churches over the last 2000 years. Unfortunately, this crap is preferred by many over the truth.

Galations 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of, Christ.

How can we bear each other’s burdens if we’re not allowed to talk about our burdens? I feel as though I cannot be myself around such people. If I did have a burden, how could I tell anyone? How would someone who does not understand suffering, and its purpose in the life of Christians pray for one who is suffering?

There are at least 100 verses in the bible about suffering. Not one of them says ‘don’t talk about suffering because we are not here to suffer’. No, not one.

Therefore, I continue to withdraw form the Pollyanna’s. I cannot offer them comfort by explain the purpose suffering has in their life because they are clinging to false teachings that have made them weak. They cannot help me because, I’m supposed to constantly have a smile on my face no matter what sort of trial or tribulation is going on in my life. I can’t be like that. I’m not talking about wallowing in suffering. I’m talking about being a real Christian. One who has dark days and does not have all the answers. One who does not lean on their own understanding, or that of heretical teachings.

If you have burdens that you cannot talk about with those around you, let me know. If you want to go into details you may but if you don’t that’s ok too. I’m letting you know, I’ll pray for you if you would like me to. Just put in comments, ‘pray for me’. If you want to pour out your heart, you may email me. blessings house of prayer at g mail dot com

Lord have mercy.

‘Works’ shaming

... Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers - Orthodox Church in America
Christ surrounded by Archangel Michael and other bodiless powers of heaven.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, Matt 6:3, NIV

Works, like many biblical concepts, can be quite a controversial subject. Some people live their whole live sin an attitude of continual piety. Being so very careful so as not to cause others to sin, they even consider dressing plain to be an active part of their faith,or ‘work’. Giving to the needy is a work and one that is emphasized during the Nativity Fast which is currently being observed by those of the Orthodox faith.

Other people refuse the idea of Christians needing to do any sort of ‘work’ as part of their salvation beyond receiving, Jesus as their savior. Some of these same people will go so far as to sin thinking that deliberate sin also helps the grace of God to abound in their life. this is rank heresy but not what this post is about today.

Today, I’m writing about those people who post their ‘good deeds’ on Facebook and other forms of social media and then chastise their readers for not being as wonderfully kind heart and generous as they and if we were we’d all get along so much better so why can’t you be more like me… huh??? And breath.

If you are doing a good work and then talking about that good work in order to brag about yourself, or to shame other people, you are completely missing the point about ‘works’. Works, much like forgiveness, is about your heart. Not your neighbor’s heart. The good works you do are completely destroyed when you use your experiences to beat other people over the head about what you do vs. what they do, or do not do.

Acts 5:12-16

12The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people, and with one accord the believers gathered together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13Although the people regarded them highly, no one else dared to join them. 14Yet more and more believers were brought to the Lord—large numbers of both men and women. 15As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16Crowds also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were healed.

Oh, to have a shadow that heals! It would be far better for us to pray for gifts (the gift of healing is a work) of which we are not aware so that we cannot boast, than it is to do good works and boast of them to others, and still worse yet, use those gifts/works to shame other people.

I pray this message sinks deep into your hearts. Shaming people is bad enough but to do so using biblical doctrine on the concept of works is just plain slimy.

Here are 100 bible verses about, ‘works’. Go… read… be enlightened.

Lord have mercy.