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Patristic Comments on the First Monastic Reading

  READING FROM THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON [3:1-9]. But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect. When St. August

Meaning behind Vespers Old Testament Readings for Monastic Saints

  The Old Testament lessons (or parameia readings) for monastic saints reveal some interesting aspects of the monastic life, some of which are misunderstood in modern Orthodoxy, especially in America. The strongly Protestant-derived culture of the United States affects both those converting to Orthodoxy from Protestantism, but also those who have grown up Orthodox, but from within a non-Orthodox culture. What is immediately noticeable is the similarity between the readings for monastic saints and those for martyrs; two of the three readings are shared. Of the three monastic readings presented below, the first and the third are also used for martyrs. This somewhat helps define what it is to be a monastic: those who have chosen a living martyrdom. In the book of Revelation, when St. John the Theologian sees of the martyrs under the throne, there is a key word that speaks to this living martyrdom: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain

Do We Need to Send Money for Missions?

And how do we apply all these ideas in our parishes today? Do we build our own mission parishes here at home or send money to foreign “missions”? I do not want to go too far, as if to suggest that the Protestant drive toward missions that I grew up with is completely misplaced, because, otherwise, “how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” And truth be told, their zealousness toward missions shames us. However, I would say that using money to support people to go and live among another culture often gives us a false sense of self-accomplishment. We feel like we are “doing missions”, but we choose to ignore the negative effects of what is actually happening. Your parish will choose how to use your money and how to engage in missions. However, there is one waning sign I would like to share, something that might be helpful in determining to whom or to what organization you should send your money. An organization totally focused on evangelism and without any mention of es

A Problematic Viewpoint of Monks in Missions

 “If you are called to be in the monastery, you better not go [into missions], and if you are called to go, you better not be in the monastery.” How these words came from the mouth of an Orthodox Christian deeply involved in missions, I cannot understand. In context, it was clear that this viewpoint came from someone who sees monasteries as merely a place to provide spiritual health to parishioners in the world, maybe something like a retreat center. Even if that was all monasteries were, then we should we not start monasteries wherever we are involved in mission so that the host people can also have the benefit of that spiritual guidance? But it is not a well thought out viewpoint; it is (as a best case scenario) an accidental misunderstanding of monasticism and the various vocations of the Christian faith, likely from a leftover Protestant, Romo-phobic viewpoint. Point 1 : the easiest case to make for monastics in missions. Later in the same person’s talk, there was an encouragement

What Is Incarnational Missions?

 The term “incarnational missions” is one of those catch phrases used so much it almost lacks any meaning when we hear it now. It seems that now, all it really means is ‘to go and live among a people’. The idea of incarnational missions is based on the Incarnation of Christ, God taking on flesh, the uncreated entering into the created. St. Gregory of Nazianzus’s oft-quoted, “that which is not assumed is not healed”, not only helps us understand the impact of God’s Incarnation, but would naturally also extend to incarnational missions. As for the Incarnation of Christ, he becomes fully man...every aspect of man. Therefore, every aspect of man is healed as it is united to God. And in missions, the extent to which we are truly incarnational will be the extent to which the world will be able to be healed by the gospel message. In the past twenty-five years, as we have watched “old school” Protestant mission efforts be retired out and new missions methodology implemented, we have also seen

What Is Living a Christian Witness?

Heading toward a fuller understanding of what it means to live incarnational lives, whether you stay in your local parish or are sent out to cross into another culture and incarnate Christ in that context, we should first investigate some key words from the gospels to build an appropriate understanding of what it means to “bear witness” to the gospel. Witness , testimony . Maybe some of you have heard this before, but it is a good reminder: the word “witness” and “testimony” are the same word in the Scriptures. To bear witness, false witness, give a testimony, “his testimony is true”, and every other instance, are built on the same root word in Greek. And that is not all. The root on which they are built is the word martyr . So, intentionally transposing these words in English will help us feel some of the nuance that word holds in all of its various contexts: “There was a man missioned from God, whose name was John. This man came for a martyrdom , to bear forth a living martyrdom of

What Is the Difference between Missions and Evangelism?

What do all these words mean? That will greatly help us understand the commission given to Christians to “go and make disciples...teaching them to observe”. And particularly, we need to look at the difference between missions and evangelism. Missions . Think of the word missive , as in ‘to send out a missive ’. It is ‘to send’, which would mean it carries the same meaning as “apostle”, ‘one sent out’. A disciple is a learner, but the Disciples became Apostles when they were sent out. So, missions is when someone is sent. A missionary is the person who was sent. “Mission parish” is a small problem, unless we think of it only as a parish established in a place that required the Church to stretch out and develop a parish in a new place; that could be seen as ‘sending’, I guess. Evangelism . From the Greek word for ‘good news’ or ‘good message’. An angel is a messenger, and even in today’s English word, you can still see “angel” inside of “evangelism”. The word “evangelism” is directly tie

What Was the Gospel before the Gospel?

Trick question for you: what does it mean to “preach the gospel”? To tell others about the death and resurrection of Christ, right? Then, what did Jesus mean when he said to the disciples of John the Baptist: “‘The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them’”? Jesus was not yet crucified and resurrected. So, what was this gospel they were preaching? And that is not the only challenging use of “gospel” in the Gospels. When Jesus sends out the Twelve, tells them to take nothing, staff, bread, or money; shake off the dust if a city does not receive you; the passage then says, “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” And again, elsewhere, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’

Tabernacled in Us

Having grown up Protestant, books like Baruch were not in my Old Testament back in the old days. Don't worry, this is not that post, kicking up dust. Maybe some other day. I just came across a verse in the book of Baruch the other day that caught my eye, and I am glad it did. Especially in this Nativity season, as we prepare for the coming of God himself and his taking on of human flesh, the uncreated taking on created nature, this verse fits in perfectly. This is our God; no other shall be compared to him. … Afterwards, he was seen upon the earth and lived among men ( Baruch 3:36,38) . This clearly refers to Christ (...though I cannot figure out what the writer might have meant at the time of writing). This one simple verse holds the truth that sets Christianity apart from all other religions: God himself became man. And, in Greek, that is not "lived among men" as translated here and also in the Prologue of the Gospel of John in just about every translation out there.

If Scripture Is Sufficient, Why the Need for Church Authority?

I just stumbled on this wonderful passage from St. Vincent of Lérins: "I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else would wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own believe in two ways ; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the catholic Church." It is interesting to me that finding the one Church is such a pressing topic on St. Vincent's mind back in 434 A.D., when this was written. How much more difficult this is in today's world with such a wide array of variation of faiths which ca