Friday, November 30, 2012

Hell: Eternal Damnation or Universalism

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary entitled "Hellbound". Before anything I would recommend everyone to watch it. It is an interesting documentary that looks at the concept of Hell in western culture today. Very fascinating and interesting perspectives were raised throughout the documentary. Now I do not want to ruin the documentary by talking about so if you want more information you can contact me however, the following blog entry will discuss the concept of hell and if hell does exist how can a loving God surely send his own creation to hell. Before anything I would like to clarify that in the Orthodox church there is no set doctrine or dogmas on hell!

Hell has had and still plays a major impact within the church. Many church fathers have written on the concept of hell and and many wide views exist today in our modern times about hell. Before we do get into the concepts of hell I will first mention a few points; the wrong way hell is quoted by many people today. First of hell is not the place you go to if you do not go to church one Sunday out of the entire year. Going to church or living out your theology and love with others should not be based on fear. If you truly are embodied in the body of Christ then the concept of fear should not be present within you. Unfortunately today many people would use hell as a scare tactic to make individuals come to church or to partake in different church service. However the question must be asked how can one truly love and live within the church if it based on fear? Christianity as a whole (referring to all types) then becomes just a "set of activities" that one does so that he or she can "check of his list" knowing what he did wont get him to go to hell but will think he or she is saved. This is the unfortunate part of society today. We think we get something done and we are in the clear. However, this is not the case. This explains why many people stop going to church. Church for them has ceased to be the most beautiful thing because church has turned into a set of activities. If church then, by that definition, a set of activities, many will say I can do many better activities at the luxury of my own home. Instead of going to liturgy I can watch it at home and check of my list of attending liturgy many would think. However, by trying to fill your heart and soul with things of this world that will return to the dust it will always leave us searching for the depth that is only found within the church. Hell should not be preached out of fear. If we truly represent the one body of Christ and are living out our liturgy and being Christ in the world then fear and hell should never cross our minds. If we recognize Christ in all of humanity then Christ will accept us because we do not live for the "I" and "Me" but we live in Him and for Him.

Having touched on that there are a few more points that one should contemplate some more and that is the theories around hell. I will speak of two approaches and realize that I am not doing any justice to these topics as I am only touching the surface with my weak writing. The first concept is the idea that the majority of Christians would fall under and that is there is a heaven and a hell. You live a good life you go to heaven and you live a bad life you go to hell and burn for eternity. The other side to that coin is the concept of universalism. Essentially that concept is summed up as the salvation of all humanity.

Live good you go to heaven and live bad you will go to hell. Christians have struggled a whole lot trying to explain how can a loving God send people who never knew him to hell. To this concept I would say that God as we understand Him out of our weakness is a merciful and loving God. This concept cannot be held in our minds because we simply do not know if people go to hell or not. Now I am not saying people such as Hitler and Stalin, two individuals society labels as being horrific people who did much bad than good, are not in hell. My point being is that if God is love and he truly loves his creation that we cannot say God sends you to hell. If hell is understood as a separation from God then we can translate that as being when one dies that will be "there hell" because they are being separated from the things they most love and lived for. Money, possessions, cars, clothes, shoes etc. if this is what the individual loves then death will truly be painful and this will lead into "hell" for that individual because they are being separated from the things they love most. However, if one rids the mind and soul of worldly possessions and truly lives in the body of Christ seeing Christ in all of humanity then when that person dies it wont be a painful death but rather it will become life. That is when that person will say "into thy hands do I commend thy spirit".

St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote before his death to the community in Rome: "I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ".

Ignatius did not see his death as being death but rather life in Christ. To be made a perfect human in life Ignatius understood this as being made pure and holy in the body of Christ. Did Ignatius every think for one minute he was going to hell? He had short comings just like any human out of there has weakness but is there mention of hell? The idea of humanity then is the path that leads to the body of Christ. Christ is our example because Christ shows us what it is to be God in the way he dies as a human being. We sing that Christ trampled death by death. The one thing that we as humans are weak and vulnerable but Christ has bestowed life to us through death. Life then becomes the opposite of what we know and this explains many things the church does today. We enter the church through death to receive life (baptism). This then would lead into the next point; universalism.

Universalism in a nut shell speaks of the salvation of all humanity. Now before I get into this I would like to say that both these concepts of universalism and heaven and hell are not DOCTRINE or DOGMA! There are no canons that ascribe to the existence of hell and there is no writing preaching about people being in hell either. So if society has pushed on us these concepts of hell why not talk from the other side? Heaven!

Many people have preached about universalism. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa are two fathers who are labeled with this concept. Now the one thing we must understand about universalism that one can agree with it and another person might not and that is fine because its an opinion. Universalism says that no matter what kind of life one will chose to live out at the end we will all be molded in the hands of Christ becoming clay and being molded in the image of Christ. Universalism is not an easy concept to comprehend and like I said before I am only touching the surface. Now universalism is not living "the good life" (whatever definition one gives it) and thinks they will be saved. Actually this type of life goes back to death being painful because you will be separated from what you truly love. Universalism is accepting and seeing that we all fall short and in doing that we must be broken down and build back up in the image and likeness of God. This is personified when Paul the Apostle says my strengthen is manifested in weakness. Once we start seeing things "backwards" is when we start living in the one body of Christ. We are not given life and then we grow old entering death but rather we are given over to death and we enter into life. We are made new in Christ and this goes back to what Ignatius was saying before " that I might become the pure bread of Christ". Life and being the perfect human being is realized through the person of Christ.

By touching on these two points I hope that this shed some light to some misconceptions that are being preached on hell. Hell should not be based on fear for one going to church and being active in service! The most important concept is live which is brought to fruition in the one body of Christ. Living out ones liturgy in the world does not then rest in the "I" and the "ME" but in Christ. Seeing humanity in the light of Christ will reveal to us that Christ is all and in all and in doing so we will commit our lives to the love of Christ and not the fear of hell.              

Friday, November 23, 2012

Becoming Human: Life in Death

Patristic teaching is summed up as "Christ shows us what it is to be god in the way he dies as a human being". Orthodoxy has always been about how to get there and not how it is set out to be. Orthodoxy is based on a vision that is set out based on one perspective however, people distort this message by making everything black and white, right and wrong, good and bad and this is not what Orthodoxy is. As we stated before the fathers' teachings can all be summed up in one saying that Christ shows us what it is to be god in the way he dies as a human being. The Christ I am talking about is the crucified and risen Lord proclaimed by the apostles and by Scriptures (cf. Luke 24). Not the Christ spoken of by Bart Ehrman. He shows us what it is to be god, which cannot be otherwise, in the way he dies as a human being. Chalcedon reaffirmed this when he included that Christ came forth out of two natures into one nature. Not only a divine nature but also a human nature!

The truth about Christ is not then to be understood on the historical level which is not to say that gospels are not true; it is not a matter of history but it means that the criteria of truth is measured in Him as the way to see truth in history. In measuring history through Christ we are not to be denying the negative which is "history". This can be the same when we reflect on our past. Our past is changed with our current encounter with Christ. It's my way working to Christ and to that truth. What we are interested in is the truth of Christ. In doing so a distinction must be made between History and Theology. We always want to reduce theology to history. This should never be the case. The discourse (study) of theology is not subject to the discourse of history. It's not denying history but truth is not found in history. These two concepts cannot be mingled because out of it contradictions can be brought forth. When you mix theology and history silly questions begin to be asked for example when did Christ die (6th or 9th hour?) And how many times did the cock crow? This is why it should point you to the fact this is theology and not history. When we mix theology and history we will be asked questions that can never be answered. "But I am going to concern myself with trying to establish which one happened or why because you cannot historicize history to theology because it will never work out" and this not theology because what you are doing now is using bias to make theology work. Scripture is understood as a theological reflection and if it is understood as a theological reflection then everything within Scripture is in a sense the perfect word of God.          

The truth of Christ: 

The truth that Christ is not a matter of history because then you subject Him and His truth to history which is not correct to do because if you do so then Christ fails to be the promised Messiah. Christ is much more than that and He can now change history if He so chose to. This all goes back to our encounter with and how He changes us. He is then the definition; the content; the starting point. His revelation in this world is a transformation of this world into Himself. Theology is then a very different discourse. An analogy to demonstrate this would be between an icon and photograph. An icon is not a photograph; the saints look at the painter representing the person of Christ so then the saint does not become the focus on the Icon rather the Icon is transformed into a window into heaven to reflect on the person of Christ. This is what distinguishes between an Icon and a photograph. Another analogy is how we understand scripture. Scripture has always been understood as a theological reflection of the community. This explains why Christ "died at different times in the passion narrative or why the cock crew one or three times etc". It's because the gospels representing Scripture is a theological reflection on the person of Christ and not a history book. The sad part is that we have forgotten this discourse and think we are doing theology by asking such questions but we are really doing bad history and in doing so this can shake the personal belief of any individual study scripture either in a secular institution or seminary for that matter.

Canon and hypothesis are related. The articulation of the hypothesis is that canon. What is important is that these two points are not separable from scripture. It is like the arrangement of the tiles of the mosaic. When you read it correctly it depicts Christ. It not a a separate body of doctrine. It is a symphony that is in constant harmony of the coming of the Lord through the law of Scripture. Paul speaks like this in the New Testament when reading his letters. The Logos is a Eucharistic Logos (cf. 1 Cor 10 and 11). The Eucharist is the canon and everything else is a canon. We have this tradition being given to us from the very beginning. In the context of meeting the coming Lord it's always been available to us (cf. Luke 24). The handing down is tradition and this is where it comes out from the last part in chapter 24 of the gospel of Luke; the breaking of bread and opening of scripture. However, understanding Christ in our modern times is not suitable in our study of modern theology. We must understand that Tradition and Scripture are not separable at all. They both come from the same tradition. Tradition is the handing down of that which is taught. This is made relevant in the liturgical life of the church; the breaking of bread and opening of scripture.

The key to all of this is what happens at the beginning point is decisive to what happens next. Those early centuries are foundational to helping us understand what we are doing. This does not mean we accept everything everyone says. It's paradigmatic but not definitive when looking back at the fathers. This is why the era of the fathers never ends but then becomes a living tradition. The fathers are still alive to the present day. The same hypothesis stays the same which is centred on Christ. The discussion turns in upon itself and it forgets what it is talking about  and that is the unfortunate part. It would be easy to say that they are infants compared to us (the fathers). In that case the way we interpret gospel is based on our modern approach. The question that we must ask before doing any of that is what is your starting point? Whatever our starting point is shapes our reading. The New Testament only came together and exists as a book within a certain context. The most important question for our age then becomes what is theology? The starting point is vital because we must dive in with a clear mind however, if we first as a question then look at Scripture all will do is just look for the answers to that question and never focusing on "what is Scripture", however if you do what the fathers did and is that go into Scripture then you will see the revealed person of Christ. This explains why all the church fathers up to the 4th century (except for Origen) were converts to Christianity. Christ was revealed to them through the opening of Scripture and breaking of bread.    

Christ died a violent death. In light of that at His conquering death by death is how we encounter Christ. Now we can say Adam sinned and death came into the world. Christ came into the world and righteousness came into the world. The encounter of Christ who conquered death showed that death can be conquered. Death is the last enemy. We do not know sin until we encounter Christ. In order to know the problem we have to look at the solution (the cross). You do not start with sin to know Christ but rather we should have an open mind set by first thinking about the solution. If this is how we ought to think about it then having a problem and coming to Christ is not a good thing because we will come out more messed up because we have a perspective (bias) trying to know and encounter Christ. It's when we encounter Christ that we know we are sinful and by doing this we look at the solution and not the problem and by looking at the solution we will see the problem. It's the light that makes you see the darkness and realize it. Darkness does not know it is dark until the light shines. It is not until Paul encounters Christ till he proclaims the sin. That is why when you look at the solution you will understand the problem. Instead of thinking you know your problem, the encounter with Christ redefines what the problem is and not what you think it is. And this is how I know myself as a forgiven sinner. We are then redeemed recreated and any other word you want to use to express this. The church fathers never wrote about "salvation history". The term is a 17th century invention. If the cross is the starting point then we must start with the cross and not Genesis. Salvation has then come through the cross!

Having established the order we are in light of that we can also see that the problem has become the solution.  How does Christ conquer death? By his death! It is by death, baptism, taking up the cross etc that we enter into life. Too often people say "Christ has conquered death we are set free as if we are not going to die". Christ has not let the bondage of the fear of death out of us. We were held down by it but by His conquering of death we can see death even more and becomes part of the solution.

We then must ask was the fall inevitable? You put yourself in a situation to ask should have it happened? Well what we do know is that Christ conquered death by death and we can say sin came into the world by Adam; the enemy of death is removed from us and He has turned it inside out by becoming the means of life. We have then to die in order to live! You can unpack that much more fully like Adam had the breath of life which would die eventually; Christ brought the spirit which is life eternal. All things are encompassed by Christ action. It is not a question about if death had to happen or not. We all have been dying. Christ showed us that we are dying because we are not living his law in light of Christ. The selfless sacrificial life is not how we have been living. We have been living for ourselves. We have been taught all our lives that we have life in ourselves. What do we do with that? We secure it develop it etc. Christ says you are a fool. If you think you can preserve it you will lose it but if you lay it down you will gain it. This life then cannot go through death because we have gone through death! The fact of our mortality is a means to enter His life because He showed us what it means to be god. This plays out from the whole of creation. Adam is the type of one to come meaning the one to come must have lived before Him and Adam must model Him but the problem is that Christ was not shown or revealed. The life of God is not known and it it is not known then the human race lived for itself! We come into this world very egocentric. We do not start living for others but we come into the world asking to be freed. We have to learn to live for others. We better learn this because we are going to "die" either way.

God reduces everything to nothing in order to build it back up and this is a major theme in Scripture. Death and baptism play on this theme and death and Eucharist plays on this theme of death. If Christ is the Eucharist then when we die when we are partaking of the Eucharist by choosing this death. Creation happens at the end not the beginning. Creation happens when we chose death not life. Creation is death in Christ. To be a creature of God you must be the will of God. This is looking at the solution first before looking at the problem. This is coming to Christ with the solution who then reveals the problem. The potter makes the pot and he makes it as he wants it and not what the pot wants. We are not yet creatures of God if we do not carry God's will. This will happens when we break down to clay and He will fashion us. He has to break it down in order to bring it up; the same theme echoed in Scriptures. Origen is then not wrong when he says Christ is a being because he is referring to this whole process of the breaking down and brings it back up as the means of salvation. Christ then had to become human (breaking down) in order to save (to come back up). When you get into the 4th century, you get the reality of begotten etc. If we are not creatures then we are creatures in process. We are being formed but we are not yet perfected. Christ was the perfect being.

To conclude we have focused on the question of death. This all goes back to the point Christ shows us what it is to be god in the way he dies as human being. If that is the case we are in a difficult position because people today do not see death. Yes we know people die but "we do not see death". The biggest change in the whole history of human race that's changed in the past 50 years has to do with the concept of death. A common feature was back not too long ago you would have had a sibling dying at child birth or even before they reached the age of adulthood. You would have had their bodies in your house for a few days at least. Society was a part of death but death was seen as a good thing because death was not understood as something bad. However, when someone dies today the medical services have to come in as soon as possible to take the body away. People today do not see death. People today do not have funerals but a party to celebrate the life of the individual. If Christ shows us how to die as a human being and if we do not see death we do not see the face of God and if we do not see the face of God then we will never understand the point which was echoed by scriptures and by the fathers; "Christ shows us what it is to be god in the way he dies as a human being". And this would explain why during the climax of the liturgical year we sing the hymn of the resurrection..."Christ is risen from the death trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing eternal life".       

This following talking given by Fr. John Behr relates to what was written in this blog entry. I recommend everyone to watch it completely but the part that speaks about this blog entry starts at the 47 minute mark of the video and goes for about 10 minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The enthronement of Patriarch Tawadros II the 118th Patriarch of Alexandria

Axios, Axios, Axios the church shouted in joy and happiness. On Sunday November 18th we remember a few things. It was the same day the council of Nicaea began according to the Synaxrium. Also more importantly we remember the day of the Lord and His resurrection (Sunday). Also on this very special day we also remember the enthronement of His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, the 118th Patriarch of Alexandria decedent from the Apostle St. Mark. What a true joy it is to share in such a blessing. The church had not witnessed such a moment since 1971 with the enthronement of his late Patriarch Shenounda III, his memory be eternal. November 18th was for many a blessed day because it was the first time they got to see such an occasion within the church. One should appreciate the beauty and depth of the Orthodox Church after seeing what they saw. Most important the love that all Orthodox Churches have for each other was truly expressed on this day. Many representatives from all Orthodox Churches were present and this shows the love we all have for each other. The selfless sacrifice that we are called to carry out in our lives. The love was also expressed at the climax moment when Metropolitan Bachomius said and I will paraphrase here I will return to my dioceses to serve under the feet of my son Patriarch Tawadross II. How amazing, is this as Metropolitan Bachomius essentially was saying that me being the teacher will learn from the kid I brought up and thought to be my student. This is the ultimate form of love and sacrifice anyone can show to another human being. Truly a blessed service and may God grant the newly ordained Patriarch Tawadros II many years and a peaceful time at the Patriarch of Alexandria and to all Orthodox Christians in the world. The joy of this celebration can be expressed by one word as Patriarch Theodore II, the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria proclaimed when giving his gift to Patriarch Tawadros; Axios!    

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Father Arseny

This is a beautiful story and I recommend everyone to read Fr. Arseny's book. This is an excerpt from one of the chapters that my beloved brother shared on his blog and I thought I would share the beauty and to see how one ought to live there lives. This is what it is meant and exemplified by living out ones liturgy. Father Arseny never held back and always lived according to the will of God in every insistent that was presented to him. I hope you see the beauty from this one small example of his life and in seeing the beauty and we live out our liturgy constantly in our lives!

His Holiness Arcbishop Tawadros II

Metropolitan Seraphim sharing a moment with the newly ordained Patriach of Alexandria, Bishop Tawadros II.

I would like to congratulate Bishop Tawadros II on his elevation to the seat of St. Mark and becoming the 118th Patriarch of the city of Alexandria and of all of Egypt and Africa. May God grant you many years and peaceful times to lead the church. God has truly chosen you to lead the church. Continue to pray for us and for all Orthodox Christians in the world and especially for the peace of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.

The following is the link to the enthronement. The beauty of the Orthodox Church was exemplified in this service. All Orthodox Christians had representatives present at the ordination and this speaks to how Orthodoxy is one Holy Catholic and an Apostolic Church. The taste of honey cannot compare to the taste of the Christian life that we are called to live out everyday!

Look at the love that our sister churches have for each other if you watch from the 4 hour and 50 minute mark:


Friday, November 16, 2012


Sometimes we get gems from others, which accurately articulate what is in the essence Orthodox Lex Orandi. In the milleu  of charismatic mega-Church world views, such work from the see of Rome is a sober reminder for us Orthodox to avoid packaging and reducing our theology (our lex credendi) and also to make us aware of our Orthodox missiology which is kenotic, restorative and about theosis.  


"Mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God. Mission is transmitting to people a new inner freedom and hope; it is unlocking the doors of their being so that new energies can flow; it is taking away their shoulders the terrible yoke of fear and guilt. To give life to people is to reveal to them that they are loved just as they are by God, with the mixture of good and evil, light and darkness that is in them: that the stone in front of their tomb in which all dirt of their lives has been hidden, can be rolled away. They are forgiven; they can live in freedom."

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

More gems connected to to deification and restoration:

"When I discover that I am accepted and loved as a person, with my strengths and weaknesses, when I discover that I carry within myself a secret, the secret of my uniqueness, then I can begin to open up to others and respect their secret. Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other's stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.

It is not just a question of performing good deeds for those who are excluded but of being open and vulnerable to them in order to receive the life that they can offer; it is to become their friends. If we start to include the 'disadvantaged' in our lives and enter into heartfelt relationships with them, they will change things in us. They will call us to be people of mutual trust, to take time to listen and be with each other. They will call us out from our individualism and need for power into belonging to each other and being open to others. They will break down the prejudices and protective walls that gave rise to exclusion in the first place. They will then start to affect our human organizations, revealing new ways of being and walking together.

So, the one-way street, where those on top tell those at the bottom what to do, what to think, and how to be, becomes a two-way street, where we listen to what they, the 'outsiders,' 'the stranger,' have to say and we accept what they have to give, that is, a simpler and more profound understanding of what it means to be truly human.

If we start to see people 'at the bottom' as friends, as people with gifts to bring to others, then the social pyramid, with the powerful, the knowledgeable, and the wealthy on top, becomes a place of belonging where each person finds their place and where we live in mutual trust. It this a Utopian vision? If it is lived at the grassroots level, in families, communities, and other places of belonging, this vision can gradually permeate our societies and humanize them. I'm not suggesting for a moment that each one of us must welcome into our homes all those who are marginalized. I am suggesting that if each one of us, with our gifts and weaknesses, our capacities and our needs, opens our heart to a few people who are different and become their friends, receive life from them, our societies would change. This is the way of the heart."

Jean Vanier, community and Growth


Lastly this following passage expresses the truthfulness of Orthodoxy in regards to mission. Mission is not about converting people and checking of a list of things you have done to please God. Orthodoxy is lived out and if Orthodoxy is lived out then your mission is not something you do for a short time period by going to Africa, Asia or South America to help people rather your mission is constantly being lived out through the beauty and sweetness of what Orthodoxy is. Everything we do is liturgy and if we are constantly living our liturgy then we are in a constant mindset of mission.


We do not try to win people to Orthodoxy, but we are a missionary Church in the same that we believe with all our hearts that Orthodoxy is infinitely precious, is capable of bringing joy and vision to people both if things divine and of human relationships and out our total attitude to the created world, and we want to share it-whether people become Orthodox technically or not is something which is secondary to us. What matters to us is that they should become partakers of this exulting joy and wonder which Orthodox is. So what we should do is to be a presence that is convincing; that is, looking at us people should see our faces, in our eyes, in our behaviour, a dimension of wonder, joy and also of a sincere and sober desire to serve; and a disciplined mind and heart capable if serving faithfully whomever is in need if being served. And I think that if we became even a small light-if we became nothing but a handful if salt that prevents corruption-if we could bring a little hope to the hearts of people who lost all hope, a little faith in the sense of trust and faithfulness and knowledge of God, a little love, we would be fulfilling our vocation. This is what we should bring, each of us perhaps a crumb, all of us we possess, and express this in the readiness to give without asking any return.

HE Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, from Gilligan Crow's "a Man of Vision" (New York: SVS Press, 2005) 158-159.

Liturgy: Living the Faith through Worship

The first experience for a convert to the faith will most likely be some form of Orthodox prayer, worship and spirituality that intrigues there minds. That first experience might be so powerful so to the point where people might say "that God dwells there among those humans". However, the liturgy, as it would be the first service many converts would see, has had a huge impact on the liturgical movement of the 20th century. Alexander Schmemann, George Florovsky, Robert Taft, Gregory Dix and many others have contributed immensely to this liturgical movement. The liturgy, as was understood by these great scholars, becomes the live and the matrix of the believers life.

The word Orthodoxy, does not necessarily mean right doctrine but rather right worship or praise, and it is through worship and praise that Orthodoxy understands right doctrine in the context and setting of worship. Florovsky famously wrote that "Christianity is a liturgical religion. The Church is first of all a worshipping community. Worships comes first, doctrine and discipline second." Bishop Kallistos ware echoed the same theme saying "Orthodoxy sees human beings as liturgical creatures who are most truly themselves when they glorify God, and who find their perfection and self-fulfilment in worship."

The Divine Liturgy then is a celebration of the Eucharist alone. The beauty of this worship to the non-believer usually stands out with the singing, the decoration of the church and most important the icons within. The mixture of formality and familiarity that is unique to the faith leaves the believer assured that they are in the house of their true Father. With that meeting taking place the church and liturgy are truly meeting points between heaven and earth.  

Divine offices or daily services (Matins and Vespers) are conducted in the church by the priest and must have at least one other person present. These services consist largely of readings form the book of the Psalms, with other prayers surrounding them. Personal prayer is also another important concept to the believer usually conducted in front of icons in the home. However, the thought of personal prayer should never escape the mind of the individual as something done alone. The context of community and liturgy should always be a consistent thought in the mind through personal prayer. Florovsky said it best "Personal prayer is only possible in the context of the community. Even in solitude, in the chamber, a Christian prays as a member of the redeemed community, of the Church." Living out liturgy is then not a personal task but rather one that is done within the community setting. The community coming together in the one body of Christ.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Pope Cyril (Kirolos) the 6th prayed the divine liturgy everyday of his life.

The life of all Orthodox Christian is one that is based on prayer. This was echoed by Father Matthew the Poor. In the tradition, it is us who truly pray that make us into theologians and God-seers. The purpose of our entire life in all that we do is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to live our lives in the one body of Christ. In our tradition this is known as theosis or deification.

Our Church makes this life possible through prayer. Prayer is doxology, praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication and intercession to God. We praise God unceasingly through the different services the church has like the Tasbeha prayers, Liturgy  Vespers and Matins which always begins with the thanksgiving prayer. Prayer is so profound  that an Orthodox theologian wrote, "When I pray I was new, but when I stopped praying I became old." Prayer then is understood as a way to renew the spiritual life, prayer is being alive in God, prayer gives strength and should be the ultimate joy we have in our lives. Prayer then should guide the way we live. Prayer lifts us from our isolation and depressed state to a loving communion with God in which everything we experience in brought forth in the light of God. Prayer then is a personal dialogue with God, which allows us to pour forth our hearts to God. Prayer will be true and faithful in form once we stop saying the same words from our mouth and start speaking the language of God which is pouring out our hearts in constant prayer.

The church has always taught that God does not ask of us to talk to him with words, but rather what we say emanates from a beautiful soul. It is sufficient that we want to pray because out of praying the learning becomes rapid and effortless. From praying which leads to learning living out ones theology becomes something part of our lives, almost second nature. The beauty of the church should express to us how important prayer is through the different lives and services the church gives to us. We have liturgy, daily (Agepya) and personal prayer, icons and prayer, the Jesus prayer and the monastic life. All these different aspect propel us in our prayers.

Christian prayer is not regurgitating a bunch of words, nor is prayer rationalist thoughts or emotional high appealing to something we do not understand. Christian prayer in the larger picture is a participation, an encounter with Christ.

Christian prayer has always been linked to a ancient rule within the church. Lex Orandi Lex Credendi- the law of worship (prayer) determines the law of faith (belief). If prayer then is understood to be a participation that means that the words we pray and how one is to pray them not only shape what we believe but how we live out what we believe. We then become not just a bunch of words from our mouths but rather we become what we pray.

The prayer of the Eucharist worship is meant to make us become more like Christ. If you refer to previous posts I make mention of how the church bringing the community of believers together under the one body of Christ. Prayer holds the same concept. In our Eucharistic celebration and our liturgical life, we join our own sacrifices to His. In the early church the practice was that the congregation would bring in the sacrifices (Bread and Wine) for the Eucharist meal. In doing so this is how they would join in there own sacrifices to His. Prayer then is a self-offering as Christ gave Himself up on the cross. In expressing our union with Christ, we offer ourselves to Him as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.  

Perhaps how Christians pray is rooted and based in the ancient authentic prayer that is focused on life which is given and maintained through the divine liturgy. What Christians pray for can be exemplified by the same prayers which are connected to the Liturgy. In doing so our life then becomes liturgical always seeking to live out our liturgy. By living out ones liturgy that is when constant prayer becomes a reality. Living out our liturgy will transform our prayers into constant praying and constant praying will direct us into living out our liturgy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

True joy: Becoming human

If we cannot find joy in the liturgy and the life of the church how do we expect to serve the church with true love for our service. Service is not about what I can do for myself rather it is about how you can serve in the body of Christ. Christ came to serve and not to be served and this should be the same mentality we bestow on ourselves. It only makes sense then that when we approach service that two points should stick in our heads as to why one would serve. First and foremost we are seeking our holiness and spirituality through service. Second, service is not about serving myself in the best conditions or how the "best" treat me but rather how I serve others with unconditional love and a selfless sacrifice to help others.

Many times service, for all the wrong reasons, turns into a "up and down" service were the servant looks down on the individual they are serving. However, this should never be the case. Rather the servant must learn to bring him or herself down on the same level of the person they serve. Once we learn to bring ourselves down or to humble ourselves then our service will begin to prosper because people will start to see that you are being true with them. Being yourself is the best thing to do in service because you show others that you yourself are a human and by being "human" you are broken and when you both see each other brokenness it is only then that both of you can work together. Once that concept is understood then the person serving will realize that he is not only serving but is also being served by the other person. Service then is not about the up and down approach but rather serving others in order to see there service in your life. Once we realize we are all broken that is when service begins to prosper and grow for the glory of God. Service then is about the spiritual rebirth of the soul and not about the physical nature of the service. Many people wonder if they should give money to a homeless person they see. Well why would you do that? By giving money that creates an "up and down" relationship because that tells him you have money and are rich and out of pity you will give him money. It is not about the money you give because money comes and goes (and you should give money. I am not suggesting you should not but rather give with love and care), rather if you sit down and talk to him or her for 5, 10 or 15 minutes that is the time they will remember the most. Coming down to there level in order to talk to anyone is what service is all about. It's not about the 5 dollars or the sandwich you buy for them because all that "stuff" comes and goes for them. Rather, it is about lowering yourself for the glory of God. This is when service will be service not only for the individual but for the person serving.

Through service can our own spirituality and holiness grow from within. Once we start humbling ourselves can we see Christ in every human being. However, if we continue to go about with our pride we will never see Christ in other humans and will continue to fool ourselves. Once then we see Christ in humanity and our own holiness is being preserved then that is when we will be able to serve others in the one body of Christ. Christ came to serve not the ones who were being served but rather those who had no one. He came for the prostitutes, tax collectors, homeless and every other type of broken people. Once we see the brokenness in the individual that is when we will see Christ also. As Matthew the Poor suggests in the quote following that true joy is with those who not only walk ahead of there flock but rather have obtained spiritual insight so that others may grow as well. Our actions and deeds determine the actions and deeds of others. Service is very important for that reason. If we are not true in our service then it is to no avail. If we maintain Christ within our service and we live out the liturgy it is then that service will grow and be fruitful.    
"It is no joy for the church to have many active members of varied services who lack the spiritual proficiency for renewing souls and regenerating them in a genuine spiritual rebirth to win them for the kingdom of heaven. The true joy of the Church lies in leaders who possess spiritual insight, who walk ahead of their flocks so that the flocks can follow a sure path. It is not possible to obtain spiritual insight by action or study, spiritual insight is attained by silence, retreat and long prayers in their various stages." Matthew the Poor

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

The liturgy is not something one experiences. Liturgy is not a 3 hour show on a Sunday morning. Liturgy is not where you talk to your best friend. Liturgy is life. Sounds a bit weird when one thinks about it. How can liturgy be life? As the title reads: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi: "The law of Worship determines the law of Faith determines the law of Life". This 5th century Latin term began to be incorporated into the life of the church. Liturgy is life because it forms not only what we do on a Sunday morning but it forms our entire life. Corinthians chapter 10 accounts the Eucharistic practice and not only does it mention the Eucharist but the climax of the Eucharist is partaken within the contexts of the unity of the community of the believers. The Eucharist is formed and shaped by the community of believers. If this is true and if we are to accept this "formula" then this is how liturgy is life! Liturgy representing life is then something not we do every Sunday rather it is lived out by the entire community on a daily basis. How can liturgy be life on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of work school or whatever is might be?

Liturgy is lived on a daily basis if we come together in the one body of Christ. Christ living in us and we living in Christ is how liturgy is to be lived out. If that is understood then we will see the good in everything because God's creation is good. If we come to appreciate that point then everyday of our lives will be a lived liturgy not for us but for everyone around us. It is a selfless sacrifice we make to the people around us. This is not a definitive "formula" but rather a starting point to how one is to live out his or her liturgy. Once we begin to respect and appreciate the liturgy inside the church then our own liturgical life will gain spiritual increase from our readings of scripture prayer and service. Liturgy will only truly be lived once we have encounter the mystery of Christ. Living and partaking in the Body of Christ is the true essence of what the church and liturgy represents for us. Only then will  Liturgy stop being a form of archaic methods of worship but rather it will become life as Fr. Alexander Schmemann suggests in the quote following.

Once we take ourselves of what WE think liturgy is and HOW we think liturgy should be only then will liturgy begin to be life for us. Only then will everything within the life of the liturgy begin to blossom. Christianity will then cease to be based on a "set of activities" trying to bring more people to the church rather Christianity will be based on the brokenness of the human being and how can the brokenness of the individual brings the community together into the body of Christ. Life in liturgy will not be based on how "big the church will be" or "how many people come to an event" rather how will the liturgy and the church focus on the inner holiness and spirituality of the individual. If liturgy and church maintain the spirituality and holiness of the believer all other aspects of the church will "take care of itself". Services will be done by servants who are dedicated show love for all. Living there liturgy will be a commitment in there service or whatever else it might be. Essentially, you would never have to have servants meetings to "come up with ideas" on how to serve because rather the church will have people on its feet asking to serve if the holiness and spirituality is the main focus of the church. The church then won't be based on the "gym" or the "Sunday dinner" but rather on the living liturgy incorporating the community of believers in the unity of the one body of Christ. Therefore, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi"The law of Worship determines the law of Faith determines the law of Life". Life is found in liturgy and liturgy is life!

This beautiful quote from Alexander Schmemann explains this concept of liturgy being life for all. This is taken from his book "Introduction to Liturgical theology" which is based on his PH.D dissertation. A recommended read to all who are interested in the study of Liturgy.                        
"The liturgical crisis consists, first of all, in the mistaken concept of the function and place of worship in the Church, in the profound metamorphosis in the understanding or worship in the mind of the Church. Let us emphasize the fact that we are speaking here about something much more important than the misunderstanding of the texts, ceremonies and language of divine service. We are speaking here about the whole approach to worship and its "experience". Worship-its structure, its form and content-remain what they were before and essentially what they have always been. In this sense it is right to speak of Orthodoxy's faithfulness to its liturgy. But to understand it and to use it are two different things. A discrepancy has appeared between the basic purpose of worship and the way it is understood, while the membership of the Church has simply not noticed this discrepancy, and the "key" which supposedly leads to an understanding of the Church's worship actually excludes the possibility of this understanding. No matter how paradoxical it may sound, what obscures the meaning or worship is that is has become for the faithful an object of love, indeed almost the sole content of Church life...

...The overwhelming majority of Orthodox people have no interest in the meaning of worship. It is accepted and experienced in mystical and aesthetic but never "logical" categories. It moves the soul of the believer by its sacredness, but its mysteriousness, by its "other-worldliness." And everything that happens to fall within its orbit becomes overgrown with complicated symbolic explanations. It is characteristic that in this symbolism there is no symbolism of the Church. Thus, people love to explain the Divine Liturgy as the depiction of the life of Christ. But who explains it as the expression of the life of the Church, as the action by which is is eternally realized? Who ever sees that in this action she is not depicting the life of Christ before the congregation, but is manifesting, creating and fulfilling herself as the Body of Christ? The believer loves the ceremonies, symbols, the whole atmosphere of the church building, this familiar and precious nourishment for this soul, but this love does not long for understanding, because the purpose of the cult is thought of precisely as the bestowal of a spiritual experience, spiritual food. For the membership of the Church worship has ceased to be the Church's self-evidencing.  

And finally, having become a "cultic society," existing in and for the sake of the cult, the membership of the Church has become unable to understand that worship-as the expression, creation and fulfilment of the Church-places the Church before the face of the world, manifests her purpose in the world, the purpose of the people of God, set in the world with a Gospel and a mission. having ceased to be the expression of the Church, worship has also ceased to be the expression of the Church in relation to the world. It is no longer seen as the leaven which raises the loaf, as the love of God directed toward the world, as a witness to the Kingdom of God, as the good news of salvation, as new life. On the contrary, worship is experienced as a departure out of the world for a little while, as a "vent" or break in earthly existence, opened up for the inlet of grace."

Fr. Alexander Schmemann, "The Task and Method of Liturgical Theology" in "Introduction to Liturgical Theology" (New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2033) 28-31.

St. Macarius Monastery

St. Macarius Monastery is the home of Father Matthew the Poor and his disciples. The following description is taken from the description provided by the YouTube documentary (found below). This is a must see documentary which looks at the restoration of St. Macarius Monastery by Father Matthew the Poor and his disciples who continue to live according to the will of God. Listen to the innocence and love of the monks as they speak with peace and great reverence. May God continue to bless them and as they grow in love for God and His will:

                                                                  Matthew the Poor

The monastery was founded in approximately 360 AD by Saint Macarius of Egypt, who was the spiritual father to more than four thousand monks of different nationalities. From its foundation in the 4th century up to the present day, the monastery has been continuously inhabited by monks, Several Christian saints and fathers of the early Church were monks at the Monastery of Saint Macarius, such as Saint Macarius of Alexandria, Saint John the Dwarf, Saint Paphnutius the ascetic, Saint Isidore, Saint Aresenius, Saint Moses the Strong, Saint Poemem, Saint Serapion and many others.

In 1969, the monastery entered an era of restoration, both spiritually and architecturally, with the arrival of twelve monks under the spiritual leader of Father Matta El Meskeen (Matthew the Poor). There monks had spent the previous ten years living together entirely isolated from the world, in the desert caves of Wadi El Rayyan, about 50 kilometres south of Fayoum.

It was the late Pope Cyril VI who ordered this group of monks to leave Wadi El Rayyan and go to the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great to restore it. The Pope received them, blessed them, assured them of his prayers and asked God to grant their spiritual father grace that the desert might bloom again and become the home of thousands of hermits. At that time only six aged minks were living in the monastery and its historic buildings were on the verge of collapsing. The new monks were warmly received by the abbot of the monastery, Bishop Michael, Metropolitan of Assiut, who through his wisdom and humility was able to create an atmosphere favourable to the renewal they hoped for.

Today, under the late Pope Shenouda III, who is himself busily engaged in restoring the Monastery of Saint Pishoy and the Paremeos Monastery, and after fourteen years of constant activity both in reconstruction and spiritual renewal, the monastic community in the Monastery of Saint Macarius numbers about one hundred monks. The minks live in strong spiritual unity, according to the spirit of the Gospel, practising brotherly humility and the unceasing prayer of the heart. They are all directed by the same spiritual father who watches over the unity of the spirit of the monastery. The renewal is also revealed in the diligent prayer of the daily office and other liturgical services, for it is the aim of the monks to revive in the Church the spirit of the first centuries of Christianity, both by their riles of life and by conscientious study.  

The Monastery of Saint Macarius maintain spiritual, academic and fraternal links with several monasteries abroad, including the monastery of Chevtogne in Belgium, Solesmes Abbey and the Monastery of the Transfiguration in France, Deir El Harf in Lebanon and the Convent of the Incarnation in England.

The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great contains the relics of many saints, such as the Forty Nine Elder Martyrs of Scetes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

                                  In the picture we have His all Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch
                                  Bartholomew, His Eminence Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem
                                  Karim, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian,
                                                Archbishop Mor Titus Yeldho,
                                  Archbishop Abune Zachariach and Bishop David.

When people approach me and ask me questions about the faith I try to answer in a humble and respectful way full of sincere love. I do not answer that way on purpose to show how deep our faith is with words but rather because our faith is lived out constantly. If our faith is based on spoken words then we are as good as any hypocrite. As the title of this blog entry suggests, we are ONE Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

We are ONE church. There is no division or disunity within the church. Ever since I began studying at St. Vladimir's Seminary people warned me about the "Eastern Orthodox" practice and how they will brain wash you with silly doctrines about "theosis" and "complicating our faith". This is complete nonsense and rubbish if anyone tells you that. Ever since listening to Fr. John, Fr. Alexander, Fr. David, Dr. Barnet, Dr. Myenedorff, and all the teachers and students on campus I came to realize one thing about the beauty of the ONE church. Orthodox is not a denomination but rather it is LIFE. Life in the ONE church. We are not divided or separated by beliefs, dogmas or traditions. So when then why do we still speak about two "Orthodox families"? It boggles the mind how people can speak about the beauty of Orthodoxy and still spilt the church into two different "denominations". The body of Christ is not two but one. We are all one in the same community united in the ONE body of Christ. The body of Christ is not spilt but rather is united under the same physical building we go to in order to worship the same Christ; the ONE church. The church is ONE and is not separated. Unfortunately, in our modern times we have created facades by hiding behind what the ONE church means behind terms like the GREEK Orthodox Church, the RUSSIAN Orthodox Church, the COPTIC Orthodox Church, the MALANKARA Orthodox etc. What we have forgotten is that first before anything else we are Christians. We are the ONE church represented by the love of God bestowed through his church. We then are Orthodox! Orthodox by faith and belief. Then lastly we are whatever nationality we are born into weather that would be Greek, Russian Coptic or Indian. Imagine now saying that you are a Christian Orthodox Greek (you can fill that in with any nationality). The beauty of expressing that you are first among all Christian, Orthodox then whatever nationality it is. This shows that we are the ONE church. We are united by the SAME belief. Unity exists in the ONE church and not dividing the church in two. Christ cannot be divided. If we say we are one in the body of Christ then we need to stop using silly terms such as "Eastern Orthodox" or "Oriental Orthodox". These post WWII invented terms need to be dropped from our language if we are to begin expressing the ONE church. Christ is not divided into two parts! That was the heresy of the 5th century. Christ, as the councils concluded was united into one person of his human and divine nature! Now many people will approach me and say that we simply are not the same because the liturgies are different and many practices are not the same from church to church.

The next part of the blog title is HOLY CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH. The ONE church is holy and catholic. We are a universal church by definition. I would like to focus on the Apostolic Church part because this is how the church began. Christ instituted the church through his Apostles who passed on the traditions to the next generation of disciples. Being at St. Vladimir's Seminary we have to attend a Matins services and Vespers on a daily basis. I can say with full confidence that the similarities between vespers and matins should bring the church together. All matins and vespers between church to church is done differently. However, there are more similarities than there are differences. How can that be? Because the church is established by the Apostles. The traditions were the same! The teachings were the same. Over time as each tradition (Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople) began to grow, developments grew out from these traditions but at the core of the worship the main elements remain the same! Censing and venerating icons, partaking of the Eucharist, the canonical prayer of the hours, choral chanting either by lay people or deacons and the list is endless. I remember a specific incident where one of the students began talking to me about the Coptic rite liturgy and the different services we have in the church. I was fascinated and amazed at the knowledge this student knew about the Coptic rite. I began to think about it more and realized that he knew all that information because the same thing is done in the Russian Church, in the Greek Church, in the Malankara Church. What does that mean? It shows that the church is truly ONE not only in beliefs and doctrine but we are the ONE church through the same worship which was handed down to us by the Apostles themselves received from Christ. The beauty of the ONE church lies in the person of Christ and through our worship. When we enter the church we are entering heaven on earth. Complete reverence and respect is shown once you are in the church. The church stands outside of time and in standing outside of time we leave all our worries and troubles of society and enter a place where we become one in Christ. This I can find in any Orthodox church I go to. However, this will only be realized once terms such as "Eastern" and "Oriental" are dropped from our language. We are the ONE Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are one in the body of Christ! Orthodox is not a denomination but LIFE!  

Listen to the beauty of daily vespers from St. Vladimir's (Gladsome Light; one of the most ancient hymns in the Orthodox Church. St. Basil from his time when writing said he himself does not know how old this hymn is. Listen to the beauty):

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Matthew the Poor (Matta El-Meskeen)

Father Matthew the Poor was a Coptic monk who lived out his life at the monastery of St. Macarius. This documentary is meant to showcase his life in a brief snapshot. Father Matthew is well known for his spiritual writings and has three books that are published. Orthodox Prayer Life, Communion of Love and the Titles of Christ. Father Matthew the Poor has changed the lives of many people I know and the personal experiences I hear from many people always keeps a smile on my face knowing that living out ones theology can be attained by reading and meditating on his writings. Seeking our our holiness and spirituality can be attained not only through the monastic way of living but living an ordinary life in the world and Father Matthew's writings can help guide the mind in that direction. I hope you all enjoy this documentary.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Heresy of the West

The cave of St. Anthony. The first great monastic in the Christian world. 

The sad reality is that many of us today are living based on a "Orthodox mindset" but instead we are living according to the heresy of the west. Strong words, however, words that are necessary in order for us Christians to wake up from the bubble we call the west. We wake up, eat breakfast, either go off to work or school and then do some more work when we get home and then if we have time or if we are not tired (which we usually 9 times out of 10 make the excuse that we are tried) will fit God into our program for the last 5 minutes before we go to sleep and even then we are not focused or pay attention because there are so many things going on in our minds. Are we even talking to God? What is the point of even giving 5 minutes if we are not solely focused on our prayer? The problem is not that we are wanting to pray to God and focus on the prayer but rather we have built and put our trust into the western society we live in today, a society that no matter what we do will never satisfy us and will always have us coming back for more because there is no fulfillment within this society. A quick example of such a notion is that every couple of years we have to have the new iphone because our old one is just not the same. We need the latest and greatest technology because we feel like this will help us. But we have to ask help us with what exactly? There is a big void with "wanting" something and "needing" something. Unfortunately both the wanting and needing are misconceptions that have been fused into our minds because society has made us think that wanting a needing is how one ought to live there life. This is not the case and because based on how we live our life according to the heresy of the west these ideas then carry over into the life of the church. Let me demonstrate how this is done without us even realizing that the shallowness of western society is creeping into the formula of what the church is.

The church as a physical building must exist within the physical world (a building you go to in order to engage in prayer within the unity of the community of believers). However, the church must not be understood as a physical building because the church stands outside of time. The church is heaven on earth. Liturgy, icons, censing, venerating icons, kiss of peace are all heavenly actions we do because if the church stands outside of time then everything we do within the church must not be of this world. If this is the understanding of what the church is being a place where it stands outside of time then that means it's not of this world. If this is true then we must understand the church as the place where the believers come together to form the body of Christ, not as a separate body but as the unity that unites the believers in the one body of Christ. The church then can be understood as being something that from the beginning of time has never gone through modernity. So why do people make a huge deal that western influence has crept into the church? Because humanity has gone through modernity.

Humans have gone through modernity. Anyone living human in the west carries technology of any sort either a cellphone or laptop or whatever it might be. We have become comfortable with technology that we had to use them as a handicap to support us in life. To a certain degree I would agree with this simply because its good and has helped the growth of humanity. I am not saying I am against technology and western influence on us. Everything around us is good and can be used for the Glory of God. However, the big mistake we all make is that when we start using these handicaps to help our prayer and worship within the church. When you start seeing projector screens and westernized music being used in the church that is when the sweetness and beauty of the church begins to diminish. That is when the church will begin to lose people. People will start thinking that because we sing music and play basketball within the church that the church is represented by those activities. So as a believer why would I go to church? I can play basketball on my front yard and music from my laptop that is used already in the church. I might as well start my own church at home and invites others...This is where the west creeping into the church can be dangerous  When we enter the church we have to leave everything we know about society outside of the doors. We must begin to work on inner silence in order to focus on prayer within the church and at home. If we don't focus on how to increase inner silence, a concept so foreign to the west, then we will begin to lose the sweetness of the church and what it means to be part of the church. You will then get people saying "I need to go to a monastery in order to gain a spiritual revival in my life". However, the point of all of this is that the monastery can be not only the church of the monks but also the church to all of us. Monasticism is not a separate entity within the church. Christianity is a single society that includes monasticism. So then why are the churches of today not reflective of the monasteries? Because we have gone through modernity and forgotten what the church means to us. And this is why people have to go on "spiritual revivals" but nothing changes after the week in the monastery because your thrown to the den of lions (western society) not knowing of how deal with it. It is almost like you have never gone to the monastery to begin with.

Respect for the church is important to understand what the church is. Once we respect the church and understand what the church is, only then will we be able to appreciate the church. If we continue to approach the church with the handicaps we have built into it then the church will be turned into a set of activities while people are begging you to serve in the church because they can't find servants to help with a particular service. If we begin to focus on the inner holiness and spirituality of the believer and start breaking down the concepts in our heads about western society then that is when you will have people coming to the church on their knees begging to serve and to be part of the community. The "I" and the "me" must be taken out of our heads because the church is not about the I and Me but it's about the community of believers united in the body of the one Christ. ONE!!! There are not multiple bodies of Christ but one body. We work in unity within the body of Christ. Only then will the church reflect the monasteries in complete reverence and obedience to the church. Once we have respect, obedience and reverence in the church then we will be able to experience Liturgy in our lives. And I am not talking about only 3 hours on a Sunday morning but liturgy that is lived within the world. Liturgy does not end when the priest says go in peace the peace of the Lord be with you but rather he tells you to go in peace so that you can continue the liturgy in your entire life. Once that is achieved then the beauty of and sweetness of the church will taste like honey that you will never need a handicap within the service of the church. You will then truly feel heaven on earth within the church. You will cease from using cellhpones and asking someone how there week went as the service is going on but rather your heart will be uplifted to prayer to God and to be united in the body of Christ. Once we taste the beauty we can never desire anything else because that fulfillment is more gratifying and everlasting than anything society can ever offer to us. The depth of the church and liturgy is what we need in our lives. Not the newest technology and new hillsong devotion. Once we have tasted this sweetness no one will say I need to go to the monastery for a "spiritual revival" because the monastery will reflect the church. Once we stop doing things "big" and building big churches will we as the community of believers begin to appreciate the church. Once we rid our nature of the "I" and "Me" will we be worthy to approach the Eucharist as the community of believers. Once we realize our brokenness can we as a community come together and ask for forgiveness of our sins as we approach the one body of Christ. When the heresy of the west leaves our minds is only when we will begin to appreciate the church and the Liturgy as truly heaven on earth. But if we continue to use westernized ideologies to influence our worship in the church the church will continue to be a set of activities and doing big events to please the people. Once all this stops will the beauty and sweetness of the church begin to be reflective in our hearts, minds and souls and only then will be a genuine love and only then can we truly live in the west representing the body of the one Christ.    

Here is a beautiful quote that demonstrates what I have been referring to. Keep in mind this was spoken back in the late 1950s. Its 2012 today...

"My mind is found to be constantly on the Holy Mountain and with every opportunity I try to enlighten my acquaintances about it. I emphatically believe that the revival of Orthodoxy will come only with the restoration of our monastic life. Precisely because the Church in the world is cut off from the monastic tradition, the collapse of spiritual life in our days is manifested. Satan has distorted so much the theology of the heretics and those supposed Orthodox influenced by the West, to the point where some think that (humankind) is saved not from the dominion and grasp of the enemy, but (from the wrath) of God. God became man in order to save us from Himself!

Because of this the West has abandoned the ascetic life. They neither fast nor pray much. They only seek happiness. The manifestation of our monastic life does not benefit, as some thing, the shortage of dedicated youth. There are many who devote themselves to the Church. However, because they have distorted notion of salvation, predestination and sin, for this reason instead of going to Monasteries they go to "Zoe" (i.e. a religious education association based on protestant prototypes but working under an Orthodox banner), or they become monks of the world, that is worldly archimandrites, and unfortunately today from these come our bishops. When theology is false, then Christianity is reduced to activities. Unfortunately we do not have one ascetic or monastery, and there is no living example of Orthodox life. Therefore, the pietism of "Zoe" conforms very much with pietism of the heterodox, to the point where it will wreak havoc if ingrained.  

I wanted to know your opinion about the possibility of establishing a monastic community of 5-10 monks in the land of America. If this does not happen, Orthodoxy will vanish here or will transform into something else, as it has already happened to a great degree. I have tried in my book to say these things which you also say in your book, but here nobody understands these things. You see, Greeks have assimilated with the happiness of the West and in their eyes happiness is the will of God. So why would they go to the top of mountains and do vigils and so on?...I believe the devil will be saddened that we do not like the "Christianity" he is promoting, but what's to be done? Nobody can be like the devil if they want to be like God..."

-Fr. John S Romanides
(Excerpts from his private letter sent in 1957 to Fr. Theocletus the Athonite)