Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stump the Priest: What is the Nous and how is it distinct from the Soul?


Question: "What do we mean by the "nous," how is it distinct from the soul, and are the Orthodox the only ones who speak about the "nous"?"

This question is complicated by the fact that the word "nous" (which is usually translated into English as "mind" has been used in different senses, at different times. The best discussion on this topic I have come across is found in Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos)'s book "Orthodox Psychotherapy: The science of the Fathers" (pp. 118-156 (the title might lead you to think that this is a book about psychiatry, but it is about the healing of the soul, which is what "psychotherapy" literally means)). A shorter summary of the question can be found in an excerpt from the book "Patristic Theology," by Fr. John Romanides, which is available online: "What is the Human Nous?" Fr. John Romanides says in part:

"The chief concern of the Orthodox Church is the healing of the human soul. The Church has always considered the soul as the part of the human being that needs healing because She has seen from Hebrew tradition, from Christ Himself, and from the Apostles that in the region of the physical heart there functions something that the Fathers called the nous. In other words, the Fathers took the traditional term nous, which means both intellect (dianoia) and speech or reason (logos), and gave it a different meaning. They used nous to refer to this noetic energy that functions in the heart of every spiritually healthy person. We do not know when this change in meaning took place, because we know that some Fathers used the same word nous to refer to reason as well as to this noetic energy that descends and functions in the region of the heart.

So from this perspective, noetic activity is an activity essential to the soul. It functions in the brain as the reason; it simultaneously functions in the heart as the nous. In other words, the same organ, the nous, prays ceaselessly in the heart and simultaneously thinks about mathematical problems, for example, or anything else in the brain.

We should point out that there is a difference in terminology between St. Paul and the Fathers. What St. Paul calls the nous is the same as what the Fathers call dianoia. When the Apostle Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit,"[1 Corinthians 14:5.] he means what the Fathers mean when they say, "I will pray with the nous." And when he says, "I will pray with the nous," he means "I will pray with the intellect (dianoia)." When the Fathers use the word nous, the Apostle Paul uses the word "spirit." When he says "I will pray with the nous, I will pray with the spirit" or when he says "I will chant with the nous, I will chant with the spirit," and when he says "the Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit,"[Romans 8:16] he uses the word "spirit" to mean what the Fathers refer to as the nous. And by the word nous, he means the intellect or reason."

A few other points that Metropolitan Hierotheos makes on this subject:

  • Many Fathers use the words "nous" and "soul" interchangeably.

  • St. John of Damascus says that the nous is the purest part of the soul.

  • St. Gregory Palamas uses the word "nous" in two senses: as the whole soul, and also as the power of the soul.

  • In Scripture and in many of the Fathers there is an identification of the nous with the heart, and the terms are used interchangeably. 

  • Other Fathers use the term "nous" to refer to refer to "attention" as opposed to reasoning. And so for example, when we pray, we may be reading our prayers with our intellect, but our attention wanders. And so when one achieves the prayer of the heart, our attention (the nous) returns to the heart, and we truly pray.

Contemporary Protestants will typically only talk about the "nous" to the extent that they find references to it in in Scripture, and they generally would not spend a lot of time (if any) trying to understand what the Fathers had to say about those passages. Being influence by American pragmatism, they would also tend to see spending time focusing on the nuances of the mind, heart, and soul of a person to be of little use to the bottom line questions of how one is saved, and how we should live our lives, which they tend to see in far more simple terms, and look for far more simple answers.

If you were an Eskimo, you would speak about various forms of frozen water with subtle distinctions that would be lost on tribesmen who live near the equator, because those people don't often encounter frozen water, and so hail, snow, sleet, etc, would be seen as being pretty much the same thing. Whereas for you, ice, snow, sleet, and all the subtle variations one encounters of those things would be a pervasive reality that would never be far from your thoughts. The saints of the Church spent their lives waging spiritual warfare, and so speak about the aspects of the soul in very subtle ways, compared to those who think that if you say a prayer and ask Christ into your heart, that you are saved, and couldn't lose your salvation if you tried.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stump the Priest: Is Universalism a Heresy?


Question: "Is the teaching that ultimately all men will be saved (the apokatastasis) a heresy, or is it an acceptable theological opinion within the bounds of Orthodoxy?"

Origen taught the heretical doctrine of the apokatastasis, that ultimately everyone, even the devil, would be saved. The Church condemned this teaching at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The Church has ever taught this as a fact since that time. However, in recent times we have had a rebirth of this heresy, and have many who try to argue that the Fifth Ecumenical Council did not condemn this teaching.

Did the Fifth Ecumenical Council Anathematize this Heresy?

To cite some examples of trustworthy theologians who state this in no uncertain terms, Fr. Michael Pomazansky wrote:

"The Church, basing itself on the word of God, acknowledges the torments of gehenna to be eternal and unending, and therefore it condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council the false teaching of the Origenists that the demons and impious people would suffer in hell only for a certain definite time, and then would be restored to their original condition of innocence (apokatastasis in Greek). The condemnation at the Universal Judgment is called in the Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian the "second death" (Apoc. 20:14).

An attempt to understand the torments of gehenna in a relative sense, to understand eternity as some kind of age or period — perhaps a long one, but one still having an end — was made in antiquity, just as it is made today; this view in general denies the reality of these torments. In this attempt there are brought forward conceptions of a logical kind: the disharmony between such torments and the goodness of God is pointed out, as is the seeming disproportion between crimes that are temporal and the eternity of the punishments for sin, as well as the disharmony between these eternal punishments and the final aim of the creation of man, which is blessedness in God.

But it is not for us to define the boundaries between the unutterable mercy of God and His justice or righteousness. We know that the Lord "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4); but man is capable, through his own evil will, of rejecting the mercy of God and the means of salvation. Chrysostom, in interpreting the depiction of the Last Judgment, remarks: "When He (the Lord) spoke about the Kingdom, after saying, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom,’ He added, ‘which is prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matt. 25:34), but when speaking about the fire, He did not speak thus, but He added: which is ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41). For I have prepared for you a Kingdom, but the fire I have prepared not for you but for the devil and his angels. But since you have cast your own selves into the fire, therefore accuse yourself for this" (Homily 70 on Matthew).

We have no right to understand the words of the Lord only conditionally, as a threat or as a certain pedagogical means applied by the Saviour. If we understand it this way we err, since the Saviour does not instill in us any such understanding, and we subject ourselves to God’s wrath according to the word of the Psalmist: "Why hath the ungodly one provoked God? For he hath said in his heart: He will not make enquiry" (Ps. 9:34) (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Platina, CA: St. Herman Press, 1984, p. 349f).

Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) devotes an entire chapter to this subject in his book "Life After Death (Chapter 8 The restoration of all things, pp. 273-312), affirms that this heresy was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and goes to great lengths to make the case that St. Gregory of Nyssa did not in fact teach it, but rather taught that hell (gehenna) and its punishments are unending, and that those who attribute this teaching to him are simply failing to understand them in the context of his complete teachings on the subject. If one rejects the argument that St. Gregory of Nyssa did not teach this doctrine, that would only prove St. Gregory to be in error, because Ecumenical Councils are infallible, whereas no Church Father, as an individual, is. However, it certainly is interesting that in the one instance in which, if he was a universalist, you would expect him to put that on display, St. Gregory of Nyssa not only does not affirm universalism in his treatise on the death of unbaptized infants, but directly refutes it when speaking of Judas as an example of one who died in his sins:

"Certainly, in comparison with one who has lived all his life in sin, not only the innocent babe but even one who has never come into the world at all will be blessed. We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels; namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin. For, as to the latter, on account of the depth of the ingrained evil, the chastisement in the way of purgation will be extended into infinity..." (On Infants' Early Deaths).

Anathemas? What Anathemas?

The advocates of Universalism try to argue that, despite the fact that the Church has consistently stated that the Fifth Ecumenical Council anathematized this heresy, that there are reasons to doubt whether the council formally issued the anathemas ascribed to it.

St. Justinian issued his anathemas against Origen before the Council, which he convoked, and the last of those anathemas is as follows:

"If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema."

The first of the Council's anathemas states:

"If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) which follows from it: let him be anathema."

Now, for the sake of argument, let's assume that there is some ambiguity about whether or not these anathemas were endorsed by that council. All one has to do to settle the question is to consider the Synodikon of Orthodoxy which is recited every year, throughout the Orthodox Church, on the Sunday of Orthodox (the first Sunday of Lent):

"To them who accept and transmit the vain Greek teachings that there is a pre-existence of souls and teach that all things were not produced and did not come into existence out of non-being, that there is an end to the torment or a restoration again of creation and of human affairs, meaning by such teachings that the Kingdom of Heaven is entirely perishable and fleeting, whereas the Kingdom of Heaven is eternal and indissoluble as Christ our God Himself taught and delivered to us, and as we have ascertained from the entire Old and New Testaments, that the torment is unending and the Kingdom everlasting, to them who by such teachings both destroy themselves and become agents of eternal condemnation to others, Anathema! Anathema! Anathema!"

Those who advocate for universalism argue that this is only a condemnation of Origen's universalism, not the universalism supposedly expressed by other Fathers, because they had different theological and philosophical reasons for their universalism. But that is a bit like arguing that the Church hasn't anathematized Jehovah's Witness Christology, because they have different theological reasons for denying the divinity of Christ than the Arians did. This anathema states, without equivocation, that "we have ascertained from the entire Old and New Testaments, that the torment is unending and the Kingdom everlasting..." and there is no indication that we would ascertain anything differently if people were universalists because they saw a documentary on the history channel, read pseudo-Isaac's writings, and agreed with it, or agreed with Origen.

Anyone who has ever had an Orthodox thought in their life knows that we believe what we say in the services of the Church (lex orandi lex credendi), and when what we say ends with "Anathema!", we mean it in no uncertain terms.

What Saith the Scriptures?

If one believes Christ's teachings carry any weight, He affirms the unending character of the torments of hell repeatedly:

In Mark Chapter Nine, he states that the fires of hell (gehenna) will not be quenched five times, and speaks of the worm that will not die three times:

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-48).

When Christ speaks of gehenna in these terms, he is probably alluding to Isaiah 66:24: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh"; and Judith 16:17: "Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; he will send fire and worms into their flesh; they shall weep in pain forever."

In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Christ addresses the wicked (the goats) and said: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:26); and he concludes the parable by saying: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25:46).

St. Paul wrote: "since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

Commenting on these verses, St. John Chrysostom wrote:

"There are many men, who form good hopes not by abstaining from their sins, but by thinking that hell is not so terrible as it is said to be, but milder than what is threatened, and temporary, not eternal; and about this they philosophize much. But I could show from many reasons, and conclude from the very expressions concerning hell, that it is not only not milder, but much more terrible than is threatened. But I do not now intend to discourse concerning these things. For the fear even from bare words is sufficient, though we do not fully unfold their meaning. But that it is not temporary, hear Paul now saying, concerning those who know not God, and who do not believe in the Gospel, that “they shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction.” How then is that temporary which is everlasting? “From the face of the Lord,” he says. What is this? He here wishes to say how easily it might be. For since they were then much puffed up, there is no need, he says, of much trouble; it is enough that God comes and is seen, and all are involved in punishment and vengeance. His coming only to some indeed will be Light, but to others vengeance" (Homily 3, 2nd Thessalonians).

Conclusion

Those who advocate for this heresy are forced to place all their weight on the supposed advocacy of a few saints of the Church, while ignoring the clear and unambiguous teachings of all the other Fathers, the Councils, the Apostles, and even Christ Himself. This is not how Orthodox Christians approach such matters. We affirm that which the Church has consistently taught -- we do not go hunting for theological exotica. And if it happens that God has a surprise for us in eternity, and that despite all the talk of the unquenchable fire and the undying worm, He will ultimately save even the devil, then we have nothing to worry about. However, if Christ, the Apostles, the vast majority of the Fathers and saints of Church, the Councils, and the Synodikon of Orthodoxy are correct, then it is a very dangerous thing to give unrepentant sinners false hope -- because those who teach such a heresy will "both destroy themselves and become agents of eternal condemnation to others" (the Synodikon of Orthodoxy). This is not a question of what we may wish to be true -- it is a question of what Christ, who is Himself the Truth, assures us to be true, in the most emphatic terms.

Update: Here is an interesting comment from St. Cyril of Alexandria, on 1 Peter 3:19:

"Here Peter answers the question which some objectors have raised, namely, if the incarnation was so beneficial, why was Christ not incarnated for such a long time, given that he went to the spirits which were in prison and preached to them also? In order to deliver all those who would believe, Christ taught those who were alive on earth at the time of his incarnation, and these others acknowledged him when he appeared to them in the lower regions, and thus they too benefited from his coming. Going in his soul, he preached to those who were in hell, appearing to them as one soul to other souls. When the gatekeepers of hell saw him, they fled; the bronze gates were broken open, and the iron chains were undone. And the only-begotten Son shouted with authority to the suffering souls, according to the word of the new covenant, saying to those in chains: "Come out!" and to those in darkness: "Be enlightened." In other words, he preached to those who were in hell also, so that he might save all those who would believe in him. For both those who were alive on earth during the time of his incarnation and those who were in hell had a chance to acknowledge him. The greater part of the new covenant is beyond nature and tradition, so that while Christ was able to preach to all those who were alive at the time of his appearing and those who believed in him were blessed, so too he was able to liberate those in hell who believed and acknowledged him, by his descent there. However, the souls of those who practiced idolatry and outrageous ungodliness, as well as those who were blinded by fleshly lusts, did not have the power to see him, and they were not delivered." (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Gerald Bray, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervasity Press, 2000) p. 107f).



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stump the Priest: Prayers for the Dead in the Bible and in Tradition


Question: "Where do we find any evidence that praying for the dead is a biblical? From what I have read it appears that the Bible almost says the opposite of this in Ezekiel Chapter 18. Sure, Ezekiel was talking to Israel prior to the New Covenant that we have in Christ, but it says at the start of the chapter that this came from the word of the LORD and it seems consistent with Romans 2:3-9."

What does the Bible Say?

First, let me point out that neither of the passages cited address the question of praying for the dead.

The point of Ezekiel 18 is that a son is neither saved nor condemned because of the righteousness or the sins of his father, and neither is a father saved or condemned because of his son. Also, past righteous will not save a man who falls into sin, nor will past sin condemn a man who turns from his sin. The passage is not about prayers for the dead.

The point of Romans 2:3-9 is that everyone will be judged according to his works, This has nothing to do with prayers for the dead either, unless you assume that we believe that by praying for the dead we could pray an impenitent sinner into heaven, but we do not believe that.

There are, however, passages of Scripture that do address this question. 2nd Maccabees is not in most Protestant Bibles, but it was included in the 1611 King James Bible, and has been considered to be part of Scripture by the Church since the time of the Apostles (see Canon 85 of the Holy Apostles) -- and in 2nd Maccabees 12:38-45 we find a very clear example of prayer for the dead.

In the Wisdom of Sirach (which is also listed among Scripture by the Canon 85 of the Apostles), it says: "Give graciously to all the living; do not withhold kindness even from the dead" (Sirach 7:33).

And in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, St. Paul is praying for Onesiphorus, who obviously is no longer among the living:

"The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus."

Jewish Tradition

The text from Second Maccabees that has already been cited is clear evidence that this was the Jewish custom well before the time of Christ, but is also a fact that the Jews continue to pray for the dead. So if prayers for the dead were some pagan corruption that crept into the Church, one has to wonder how it also crept into Judaism... especially when this would have to have happened before the the time of Christ.

Christian Tradition

When I first began to seriously consider becoming Orthodox, prayers for the dead were on my list of about 5 issues that had to be resolved, but it was also one of the first issues to be scratched off that list, because the evidence that the early Church prayed for the dead is far too ubiquitous to allow one to doubt it. You find it in the earliest texts of the Liturgy. You find it passing comments made by the earliest writers of the Church. You also find them in the catacombs. For example, we have the Epitaph of Abercius, Bishop of Hieropolis, who reposed in 167 A.D., in which he asks for those who read the epitaph to pray for him. When St. Augustine's pious mother was departing this life, her last request was: "Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be" (Confessions 9:27). And quotation upon quotation could be multiplied along these lines.

Prior to the Protestant Reformation, there weren't any Christians, anywhere, who did not have the custom of praying for the dead.

Conclusion

I remember hearing the story of an Anglican priest who had adamantly opposed prayers for the dead any time the issue was raised, and then after his wife's death he ceased to speak up on the matter, and was asked about it. He said that he had prayed for his wife every day, since he had met her, and could not bring himself to stop after her death. Prayer for the dead is a way the living show their love for dead. We also believe that prayers the dead are of some benefit to them, but exactly how these prayers benefit them is not something that the Church has precisely defined. If someone dies in a state of repentance, but without having had a chance to bring forth all the fruits of repentance, we believe that they are not ready to enter immediately into the presence of God, but that at some point, through the prayers of the Church, they will be. If someone dies in a state of impenitence, while our prayers are of some benefit to them, those prayers cannot make them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. But in either case, by praying for the dead, we strengthen our own faith, and come to better entrust our loved ones to God's mercy.

Update:

For those who want further proof that the Church does not believe that those who die in a state of unrepentance can be prayed out of hell, consider the following:

St. John of Damascus wrote that those who have departed, unrepentant, and with "an evil life" cannot change their destination from hell to heaven by the prayers of anyone ("On Those Who Have Fallen Asleep in Faith, 21 PG 95,268BC, referenced in "The Mystery of Death," by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, p. 432. St. John Chrysostom likewise speaks of those who are where it is not possible to receive cleansing, and who are outside of the Kingdom of God, but who may receive some consolation by our prayers (Homily "On Not Mourning Bitterly Over the Dead", PG 60,888-889, referenced in "The Mystery of Death, p. 432-434),

And St. Mark of Ephesus states in his "First Homily, Refuting the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire":

"But we have received that even the souls which are held in hell are already given over to eternal torments, whether in actual fact and experience or in hopeless expectation of such, as can be aided and given a certain small help, although not in the sense of completely loosing them from torment or giving hope for a final deliverance. And this is shown from the words of the great Macarius the Egyptian ascetic who, finding a skull in the desert, was instructed by it concerning this by the action of Diving Power. And Basil the Great, in the prayers read at Pentecost, writes literally the following: "Who also, on this all-perfect and saving feast, art graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hades, granting us a great hope of improvement for those who are imprisoned from the defilements which have imprisoned them, and that Thou wilt send down Thy consolation" (Third Kneeling Prayer at Vespers). But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which -- even though they have repented over them -- they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have aid, has not at all been handed down to us). But some must be cleansed in the very departure from the body, thanks only to fear, as St. Gregory the Dialogist literally shows; while others must be cleansed after the departure from the body, either while remaining in the same earthly place, before they come to worship God and are honored with the lot of the blessed, or -- if their sins were more serious and bind them for a longer duration -- they are kept in hades, but not in order to remain forever in fire and torment, but as it were in prison and confinement under guard. All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind. This Divine cooperation immediately disdains and remits some sins, those committed out of human weakness, as Dionysius the Great (the Areopagite) says in the "Reflections of the Mystery of those Reposed in Faith" (in The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, VII, 7); while other sins, after a certain time, by righteous judgments it either likewise releases and forgives -- and that completely -- or lightens the responsibility for them until that final Judgment" (see "The Soul After Death", Appendix I, p. 208f).

Here also is a quote from St. Symeon of Thessalonika's Liturgical commentary, about commemorations at the Proskomedia: "And there is no place here [in commemorations at the proskomedia] for unbelievers, let alone for the heterodox. "For what communion does light have with darkness?" since, scripture says, the angels will separate out the evil from the midst of the just. Therefore it is also not at all right for a priest to make a commemoration of him; neither for a heterodox, or make a commemoration of him neither for those openly sinning and unrepentant. For the offering is to their condemnation, just as it is also for the unrepentant who receive communion of the awe-inspiring mysteries, as the divine Paul says" (St. Symeon of Thessonika, The Liturgical Commentaries, edited and translated by Steven Hawkes-Teeples, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2001), p. 232f). 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Paschal Hours (How to do them)


During Bright Week, the Paschal Hours are done in place of the usual order for Small Compline and the Midnight Office, in addition to the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours. It is also a pious practice to do them in place of our usual morning and evening prayers (which are based on the Midnight Office, and Small Compline). If you have a Jordanville Prayer Book, you have the text of the Paschal Matins, followed by the text for the Paschal Hours (in the 4th edition, it begin on page 206). You can also find the text, arranged for use by a laymen here. And you can also listen to this audio file to learn how to sing the Paschal Hours, if you don't know how to sing the tones: http://www.saintjonah.org/podcasts/paschalhours.mp3

Singing the Paschal Hours during bright week make for an easy and joyful prayer rule, and help keep us connected with the celebration of Bright Week, if we are unable to attend services this week.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Homily for Holy Saturday by St. Epiphanius of Cyprus

The Harrowing of Hades



Homily on Holy Saturday: The Lord Descends into Hades

St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus (403 A.D.)

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won Him the victory. At the sight of Him Adam, the first man He had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him, “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by My own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the Life of the dead. Rise up, work of My hands, you who were created in My image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in My image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but I will enthrone you in Heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am Life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity. “

From the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triondion and Pentecostarion, Fr. David and Mother Gabriela, eds., HDM Press, Rives Junction, MI, 1999 pp. 160-161.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

For those who might be wondering why my Facebook account has suddenly disappeared


It's because Facebook thinks drag queens should be able to use stage names like "Lil' Miss Hot Mess," but doesn't think Christian Clergy should be allowed to use anything but their legal names.

See "Stories from the Culture War Trenches" by Rod Dreher.

Update: They have done the same thing to Fr. Tryphon, who if he used his legal name (which I don't even know) would not be recognized by anyone who hasn't known him since he was kid.

Facebook has gotten too big for its britches. It's time for the users they depend on to whittle them back down to size. Refuse to advertise on Facebook until this policy is reversed.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Stump the Priest: Holy Week Without a Parish

Golgotha, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Question: "What should someone do during Holy Week if they have no parish nearby, and so cannot attend the services?"

We should of course plan ahead, and if at all possible make a way for us to be at the services of Holy Week, but of course there are many circumstances beyond one's control that might prevent them from attending some or all of these services. But as for what to do when one is in this situation, let me give the ideal answer, and then an answer for those who cannot yet deal with it in the ideal way.

Ideally...

If you learn how to do reader services, you can actually do most of the Holy Week services in a fairly full way. You can't do the sacraments without a priest or a bishop, but you can do pretty much everything else. This requires investing the time to learn how to sing the services, and also to acquire the texts, but it is time and money well spent.

For more on that, see:

The Reader Service Horologion

Practical Questions on How To Do Reader Services

Tone Tutor

Practical Tips on Building a Liturgical Library

There is also a summer course on liturgics that is offered by the Orthodox Pastoral School.

However...

If you don't know how to do reader services, here are some things you can do that are not very difficult to pull off:

For Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Pascha, you can do Typika, which is relatively short service that has many of the elements of the Liturgy. You can get the text for Typika as well as the variable portions for those services by clicking here.

For the other days of Holy Week, you can do Akathists, which are found in the Book of Akathists from Holy Trinity Publications. Akathists are not complicated, and so you don't have to know a lot of rubrics to do them. It also doesn't take too much to learn how to sing them. For Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, you could do the Akathist to the Divine Passion of Christ. For Holy Thursday, you could do the Akathist for Holy Communion. For Holy Friday, you could do the Akathist to the Precious Cross. For Holy Saturday you could do the Akathist to the Tomb and the Resurrection of the Lord. And for Pascha (in addition to the Typika) you could do the Akathist to the Resurrection of Christ.

One of the Traditions of Holy Week is to read all for Gospels in their entirety on Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. If one is working during Holy Week, that might be difficult to pull off, but you could try to read at least one Gospel completely. And in addition to that, you can read the other appointed Scripture readings for the days of Holy Week.

For these readings, you can download Menologion 3.0 which provides the appointed readings for each day.