Thursday, October 29, 2009

No Quick Fixes - Orthodox Christianity: The Lasting Solution

By George Aramath

Want to know how to be an instantaneous Christian? Want to know how to fully know God right now? Want to live like Christ in a few easy steps?

This sounds like an ad that you might see on TV. Like most ads, essentially it’s not possible. I’m beginning to realize this fact even after being a Christian by name for many years. Christianity is not a quick fix; it’s a gradual step-by-step growth. This is hard for many to accept, including myself. We fall into the trap of those who claim otherwise. They claim to have the ingredients. Just look around us. Many fall prey to the idea that Christ can completely change you right now, instantaneously. They tell us, “accept Him now”. But what happens thereafter?

I remember as a young boy wanting to buy a Nintendo system. My parents couldn’t afford it and didn’t see the need for it. But I wanted it more than anything else. Eventually my cousins got a Super Nintendo so they gave us their Nintendo system. It was the greatest gift. I didn’t care that it was out-of-date. The next day I must have played “Mario” and “Super Tecmo Bowl” for countless hours. I had to beat the games no matter how long it took. The point is, as many of you can attest to, after a few weeks, the games got boring and lost its flavor. I needed something else. I went to the nearest store and traded two of these games for another. The intensity began again; and so did this pattern. Your experience may not be with video games. It may have occurred after getting a car, computer, job, wife, etc. All we can think about is that one thing. Our life revolves around it. But does it last?

This is how we sometimes see Christianity. We have times when we go through a “spiritual high”. Maybe we attended a charismatic meeting, just watched the “Passion of the Christ”, or heard a breathtaking sermon. We then want to make a change. We promise that we’ll turn our lifestyle around; dedicate it to Jesus. We’re told to pray that we “accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior”. And the speaker tells us that if we do this, we’re changed. Wow! Sounds like a quick fix. But will it last?

From my experience, it did not. I’m beginning to understand that this is not ‘true’ Christianity. Christianity is a process, a gradual step-by-step process. We don’t hear it like this because it wouldn’t be popular. For instance, if someone discovers a diet that promises that you’ll lose weight gradually with many, many months of exercise, I’m sure that it wouldn’t sell. Just look at the medications we take. We don’t have regular strength anymore. It’s “Extra Strength”; and if that’s not enough, “Maximum Strength”. We want it now; no time for waiting.

But the plain truth is that there is no quick fix with religion. Jesus talks about this in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. A farmer sowed his seeds. Some fell on the wayside and the birds ate it; some fell on places with not much soil where it grew but eventually withered because it had no root. Others got choked up by thorns surrounding it; and still others fell on good soil, “where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (13:8). Most of the time, we are like the seed that fell on places with not much soil. We “hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since it has no root, it lasts only a short time” (13:20-1).

Jesus then speaks about the parable of weeds and finally of the mustard seed. In all these parables, He cleverly uses the analogy of a farmer sowing his seeds because of a greater meaning. Do you think that the seed that fell on good soil produced crop the next day? Common sense tells us that it took many months. My father plants seeds in our backyard during the beginning of springtime. I see him everyday watering and nurturing it like a baby. Sometimes I joke around saying that he cares more about his seeds than us! But after a few months, the seeds eventually produce crop. This is also true with Christianity.

Our forefathers understood this. Only later did I begin to grasp the value and wisdom of our Orthodox faith. We don’t claim to have the quick fix. Tradition is important for us because it’s our root and it’s been proven to succeed. There’s a reason for everything: why we should pray at least two times a day, continually confess in front of a priest, routinely take the Eucharist, observe Lent 105 days of a year, etc. It’s because the Orthodox Church understands that Christianity is a step-by-step process. This is why Timothy writes to constantly “exercise yourself towards godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).

Let’s examine how Jesus approached it. We always hear about the miracles that He performed: giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, raising the dead. These are the instantaneous fixes that our flesh desires. But our church recognized the value of this verse: “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23). I must emphasize the words “by Himself”. He didn’t conduct public prayers, showing off his godly powers. He spent many, many hours in pray by Himself. If God did this, what about us?

What does all this mean? Many times we want a quick fix. I hear parents telling the priest or Sunday School teachers to try and “fix” their children. The congregation looks towards the sermon to uplift them. But we must not compare God to our new car or video game. The Orthodox Church emphasizes worship and the Holy Qurbana because it’s all part of a continual, growing process. If we live like an Orthodox, meaning praying daily, sincerely confessing, taking the Holy Qurbana, observing the Lents, etc., we will become the seed that eventually produces crop.

Yes, like me, we may fall at times and need to start over, but the point is, this time, we learned from our past. We start anew with confession. This does not mean that we can keep on sinning. We always hear the pleasant and popular idea that God is loving and merciful. But we must remember that our God is also the God of “judgment” (1 John 4:17). We should turn from our sins and become a new creation, not thinking of the past but the future, with the utmost confidence in the power granted through God of our ordained priest to absolve our sins.

This process of gradual spiritual growth may seem like a heavy cross to some, but to those who understand true Christianity, it should bring utter joy. Some believe that when Jesus tells us to “take up his cross” (Matt. 16:24), He’s telling us that being a Christian means distress and pain. But He also tells us to “have confidence, be of good cheer” (John 16:33). If we see our Orthodox Church as one with many rules and long worship, then we miss the point. We may find temporary “spiritual highs” elsewhere, but it won’t last.

Our church holds the distinction of being formed by the early fathers of Christianity. Who knows God more than those who spent time with Him or those that knew the Disciples of Christ? For instance, the liturgy book and prayers that we use today is based upon the original text of St. James. The liturgy book is commonly known as the “Anaphora of St. James”. Our Eucharist is also based upon the texts of other Disciples, such as St. Peter and St. John. Our third Patriarch, St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of St. Peter, wrote about the organizational structure of the church. We belong to this church. It did not start a few years back. It’s the same church from the beginnings of Christianity. It’s the church that Jesus envisioned. Who else would grasp the process necessary to know God than those who knew Him intimately? What better source to look towards than those who actually lived with God for many years? Let us remember that the Orthodox Church is distinctly based on the beliefs and teachings of these forefathers.

It must be noted here that our church and diocese play an important role in making some minimal changes for our young generation. For instance, our American diocese needs to help in this process by, for instance, providing English translations for all our prayers and services. Our leaders should routinely educate our members about the value and worth of Orthodoxy. There needs to be an appreciation and pride amongst our members for our church.

This gradual growth needs to build upon a routine. Essentially, building a routine is very important. Pray everyday; make it to church early every Sunday; observe all the Lents. Our church is build upon these consistencies and routines for the purpose of our spiritual growth. These sacraments should be partaken with an open heart, not blindly or nonchalantly. But this only starts with the individual. We usually want others to get us going. We want to hear the awe-inspiring sermon that changes us. But, in the end, we only can take the first step. We must have the desire to continually learn and grow in the faith. Just like an exercise routine, we must keep it going in order to see results. The Orthodox Church offers the complete system; we just need to utilize it. Trust me, sincerely following these routines set up by our forefathers will bring joy to our life and make us practicing Orthodox Christians. James instructs us, “faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works” (2:22). Our church offers the daily works that we need for growth and perfection. We must grow together to understand and share this fact with others. Orthodoxy offers the lasting solution that can’t be found elsewhere.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Moran Patriarch - An Ocean of Love

By Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu

The Patriarch of Antioch and all the East - Ignatius Zakka Iwas

Who is a true shepherd? Who is the true leader of a church? Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church says that a true shepherd is the one who loves his sheep even unto the point of giving his own life for them. When our blessed church is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the enthronement of its supreme head, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, my mind is pondering how true this is about our Moran Patriarch.

As one who was blessed to have experienced His Holiness’ proximity for a long period, my mind is getting overfilled with the memories of Moran’s love to his sheep. It is indeed the greatest blessing in my life that I could go to Damascus in 1996 to learn Syriac there. As an young priest having no experience with Moran, I was shivering with awe, when I was called to meet H.H. on my very first day in Damascus itself. When I went to H.H., Moran made me sit close to him and talked to me as a father talks lovingly to his son. Moran enthusiastically asked me all the details about me, including my educational qualifications, working experiences, family etc. It is marvellous how Moran took a clear picture of me on that day itself and remembered all those details later too. From that day till I left Damascus in 1997, I have gone through many incidents where I could experience how much love Moran has for his Indian folk. I would like to share some of them with the readers.

I left India just few days after the birth of my elder daughter and this made me gloomy and sad many times in Damascus. On such occasions I used to go alone to the chapel there and seek solace in prayer. Once when I was coming out of the chapel, Moran called me to his room adjacent to the chapel and asked me “Moon ith Kasheesho?, methul moon karyo aath?" (= Presbyter, what is it? Why are u sad?). Then I explained to H.H. how much I missed my infant daughter. Moran comforted me and asked me whether I have a photo of her. When I brought a photo from my room, Moran looked a while in the photo and asked me what her name is. As I said that she is not yet named, Moran smiled and said that we will call her Thabeetha, because she has beautiful big eyes. Then Moran kindly explained to me that the name Thabeetha means Dorcas, the deer with beautiful eyes ( In Malayalam “Peda man,” see Acts 9.36). H.H. also told that his sister’s name is Thabeetha as well. In 1998 at the Monastery in Germany, I was wonderstruck when I heard Moran calling her Thabeetha on seeing her for the first time and then taking her with him for a small walk in the monastery premises. Yes, our church is indeed blessed to have a shepherd who bears in his heart even the names of the small sheep in his stall.

On another occasion the second secretary of H.H., Dayroyo Eliyo, made a surprise visit to my room. He had an envelop in his hand and he handed it over to me with the words “Moran has asked me to give it to you personally”. When I opened the cover, my eyes were filled with tears to see that it contained many photos where I was standing somewhere near to Moran, either in the church, or at a reception or such. Moran was always specific that I should be given some duty like holding the staff or candle etc, while he was celebrating the Mass. And on many festive occasions H.H.’s official photographer has made plenty of photos of the liturgies and functions of H.H. Now Moran has picked up the ones among them, where I was in the photo with Moran, and sent personally to me!! When I thought how little I am and how great Moran is, I could not stop praising God for giving our church a leader who loves and takes care of his sheep so much.

Still another instance Abu Yakob, the driver of Moran came to my room with a 5Kg Nido skimmed milk powder. He has put it in my room and said to me that Moran has asked him to buy it for me. Just then I remembered why Moran asked me few days ago whether I used to drink milk in India. (2-3 months after my arrival, I had put down weight because of the severe fasting in the monastery in Marat Seydnaya and that was the reason why Moran asked me that). Can anybody point out to me such a high ecclesiastical Dignitary taking care of the health condition of one of the servants who actually should not matter to him anything at all? That is our Moran and it is indeed a very special blessing of our church that we have a Patriarch who is so much concerned about his folk. There are many more incidents where I could feel that touching love both in Syria and Europe. For the sake of brevity I am limiting my personal experiences here.

The immense growth of our church in the last 25 years all over the world under the magnificent leadership of Moran is certainly the gift of God to Moran as reward of his sincerity to the church. In spite of his bad health and problems with kidney and knees Moran is still hard working for the flourishing of his church. His apostolic visit to India last year to strengthen his folk, in spite of all the physical hazards, is just an example for that. And this HH will do, till he offers even the least breath to the church. The blooming of our church today is the true example of how gracious God will be to a church, which is being led in true love by a leader, who has submitted his whole life to love his church and the people. May our Moran live much longer to lead us. May God give him all the necessary graces and health to lead His church and people to the green pastures.

Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Pradhaman neenal vazhatte!!

* "Moran" is a Syriac-Aramaic term for "our master."


Adam, Where are you?

Reflections on Adam, Christ, and Us

by Peter Bouteneff

Many think about Adam and Eve from the perspective of debates about the age of the universe and the origin of human beings. The Church Fathers and the liturgy have a completely different starting point, less in terms of cosmology than Christology. The Church rarely mentions Adam without speaking of Christ, so that we reckon the “Old Adam,” or “First Adam,” in terms of the “New Adam.” This orientation of thinking about Adam helps us to understand our lives as baptized Christians, as human beings who are both fallen and raised, distorted and renewed, dying yet redeemed from death. In our baptism and sacramental life, we have died to the Old Adam and put on the New Adam – yet we are somehow partaking of both. Our cosmological questions may remain, but they receive new perspective from the Church’s reckoning of Adam. Let us humbly ask God and his Church about Adam, and see what we find.

In Genesis, we hear God calling to his creature, Adam, who has just disobeyed the divine command and who has hidden himself: “Adam, where are you?”

We also may ask, with love and in a spirit of holy inquiry, “Adam, where are you?” And perhaps, “Adam, who are you?” “Adam, what are you?”

“Adam where are you? You have hidden from God in shame, but you are also hidden from our view. You are there at the beginning of our Bible and at the very end, and nowhere in between.

“Adam, who are you? Your name in Hebrew means both ‘humanity’ and ‘of the earth.’ Are you ‘man’ as a totality, or a single person? Or both at once? Or are you me and am I you, when I disobey God’s command in my own life? Or are you all of these things, and perhaps more than all? Adam, can you tell us something about ourselves, and our life in this world? For the divinely inspired Scriptures have surely told us about you so that you may teach us about God’s purpose.”

St. Silouan of Mount Athos brings far more beautiful words to Adam. In a deeply moving meditation, he sees Adam at first lamenting painfully at the loss of his closeness with God, and then completely enraptured with joy in the Lord who has given him a still greater Paradise in communion with the Holy Trinity.

O Adam, sing unto us a heavenly song
that the whole earth may hearken,
and delight in the peace of love toward God.

In St. Silouan’s writing, we have an important clue to who and what Adam was in the paradise of old: he was in a state of sweetness and gladness, looking upon God. But he was not perfect. He was not yet in the state of a fully redeemed, deified, immortal man in the “fairer Paradise” given in Christ through his cross.

It is important for us to recall that the Adam we meet in the book of Genesis is not the icon of perfected humanity. He and Eve were “naked and unashamed,” but they were neither perfect nor immortal. As the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great puts it, God put his human creature in Paradise with the promise of immortality. Adam and Eve are human beings in the making. They are works in progress.

This is the conviction of several of the Church Fathers, including St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Ephrem of Syria. The forbidden tree in Paradise was not evil in itself, and was meant for human beings, but it was meant to be eaten of at the right time and in the right disposition. Adam and Eve’s tragedy was to eat of it when they were still as children – innocent and immature.

The biblical story shows us that Adam and Eve are not perfectly fulfilled human persons. What was it in Eve that made her listen to the voice of the serpent? That is not perfection. We speak of God-given “freedom,” but their freedom to forget God is not the genuine freedom of the deified human person. True freedom is freedom in God, the freedom to do the good, not the freedom to listen to this pathetic snake.

Adam and Eve are creatures of potential, on the way to fully realized perfection. They – we – were created for life, not death – for life in union with God. But they do not attain it. And so Adam, in the mind of the Fathers, and in the hymns of the liturgy, never represents royal, deified man, but fallen man. When the hymns speak of “Adam” they mean “fallen humanity.” Nearly every feast of Christ recalls this. At the feast of the Transfiguration, for example, we sing:

You were transfigured, O Christ,
And made Adam’s darkened image to shine again as lightning,
Transforming it into the glory and splendor of Your own divinity….

Here we are not talking about an ancient historic man, “Adam.” If Christ came only to raise some single person, that would certainly not have the effect of reshaping the whole cosmos. Christ comes to raise fallen humanity. He comes to raise us.

This leads to the question not just “who is Adam,” but “who are we?” If Adam is fallen humanity, and Adam is us, then are we fallen humanity? Yes we are. But aren’t we renewed humanity, in Christ? Yes we are. We are both, and must choose between orienting ourselves in Christ or orienting ourselves in Adam. As we sing at the Matins of Holy Saturday:

You descended to the depths of the earth to fill all with Your glory;
For my person that is in Adam was not hidden from You.
And when You were buried,
You renewed me who am corrupt, O Lover of mankind.

So I can consider “my person that is in Adam” and at the same time I know my person that is in Christ. I am both. We are back to the paradox with which we began. We are baptized in Christ and in principle dead to Adam – i.e., to fallen humanity – yet we still sin. And our every sin reveals us to be still living in Adam.

This is another theme throughout the Church Fathers and our hymnography: Adam is us as “fallen humanity,” but also we are Adam. We are creatures of potential who constantly repeat and perpetuate the sin in the garden. Everything that is reported in the garden of paradise, with regard to Adam’s sin, pertains to us and our sin. “I came to know my nakedness and clothed myself in a garment of skin, and fell from the garden” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 19.14). “My ancestor’s weakness is my own” (Or. 38.12). “We were entrusted with Paradise that we might enjoy life. We received a commandment so that we might obtain a good repute by keeping it…. We were deceived because we were the objects of envy. We were cast out because we transgressed. We fasted because we refused to fast, being overpowered by the tree of knowledge.” (Or. 45.28)

Who is the subject of this sad tale? It is, again, not an ancient historical Adam. It is us. We sing, on the eve of Great Lent:

Long ago the crafty serpent envied my honor
And whispered deceit in the ear of Eve.
Woe is me! I was led astray
And banished from the dance of life.

And so, Adam is our forefather. But the next question is: is he our forefather in the spiritual sense, the moral sense, or in the genealogical sense? In other words, can we be said to have descended from Adam, in the same way that I have descended from a particular line of parents and grandparents and great-grandparents? Genealogically and genetically? This is a further question we are led to ask, especially in view of new perspectives from history and science.

“Adam, where are you: in our historical past? Are you in the same plane of history as Winston Churchill, Leonardo DaVinci, and Plato?” On what basis may we approach this question? To whom may we pose it? Can we look to the Fathers to answer it? Were they even concerned with “historicity” as we are in our post-Darwin era?

In fact some of the Fathers were interested in this question. There were those who answered in a very literal way, such as Theophilus of Antioch, who provided a date in history for the creation of the world and of Adam. (To this day, there are those who assert, in order to be harmonious with the Scriptural genealogies, that the universe was created somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago. St. Augustine noticed that if we were to take literally all the chronologies in Genesis, Methuselah would have had to be present on Noah’s Ark.)

Other Fathers were a great deal more open about the Paradise story and what it may have represented. Possibly the best example of this open inquisitiveness was St. Gregory the Theologian, who writes that God placed the human person in Paradise, “Whatever that may mean.” He speculates that the tree of knowledge may have represented theoria, contemplation. He sees the Paradise story as one open to several interpretations. St. Gregory endorsed Origen’s view that the Paradise described in Genesis did not reside in our historical space and time:

Who will be found simple enough to believe that, like some farmer, “God planted trees in the garden of Eden, in the east” and that he planted “the tree of life” in it, that is a visible tree that could be touched, so that someone could eat of this tree with corporeal teeth and gain life, and further, could eat of another tree and receive the knowledge of “good and evil?” … [T]hese are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual events. [De Principiis 4.3.1. The passage cited here is part of the Philokalia of Origen, an anthology of Origen’s texts compiled by Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian.]

Some Fathers were interested in the question as to whether Adam and Eve and Paradise existed in the same way that, for us, Hyde Park – and those walking within it – exist in London. They answered this question in different ways. Most probably believed that Adam existed as a historical person rather than in a mythical realm, for they had no scientific reason not to. Yet none of their theological conclusions about Adam and what he represents require him to exist as a particular historical human being.

The Orthodox theologian Jean-Claude Larchet proposes two categories of history, or temporal orders. He says that the chronological history which we try to document scientifically is already the history of fallen humanity. Our history resides on a different plane from the “spiritual history” described in Genesis:

The original condition of man as it is presented by Scripture and the Fathers is situated in another temporal order than that of historical knowledge: it does not belong to the time of sensible realities (chronos), but to the duration of spiritual realities (aiĆ“n), which eludes historical science because it belongs to the sphere of spiritual history.[Theology of Illness, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 23 n. 51]

Larchet’s model helps us make sense of modern science while retaining the inspired integrity of the scriptural story.

We may conclude that Adam is our forefather in the sense of representing what we came from, representing a failure of potential, representing us whenever we repeat that failure, representing the Old Man whom we shed in our baptism in favor of the New Man Jesus Christ. He is also our forefather in the sense of showing that there was a beginning to sin and death. Sin and death are not an eternal reality. They began, and spread to all.

When “Adam” means “fallen man,” he is rarely mentioned in our hymns apart from Christ — who by clothing himself in Adam (= humanity, = us), restores Adam, recalling the divine image, bringing fallen humanity to the place that was always intended for it: into union with God himself. Christ, therefore, is the New Adam, the Second Adam.

Aside from representing the “Old Man,” Adam is also the prefiguration of Christ. In theological and scriptural language, Adam is a “type” for Christ. In Romans, St. Paul already calls Adam “a type of the one to come” (typos tou mellontos). Adam is a “place-holder” for Christ. Adam/humanity was given the vocation to be a true human person — and failed in every respect. It is Christ — being the Word of God (the prophet), the living sacrifice (the priest), and the king of glory — who fulfills the human vocation perfectly.

Indeed, as several of the Fathers put it, you can either see Adam as the “type” for Christ, or more properly you can see Adam as being made in the image of Christ – even, in the eternal perspective, in the image of the crucified Christ. As St. Nicolas Cabasilas wrote:

It was not the old Adam who was the model for the new, but the new Adam for the old. … For those who have known him first, the old Adam is the archetype because of our fallen nature. But for him who sees all things before they exist, the first Adam is the imitation of the second. [The Life in Christ 6.91-94.]

As St. Irenaeus has it, “it was necessary that one who would be saved [Adam] should also come into existence, in order that the One who saves should not exist in vain.” [Adv. Haer. 3.22.3]

All of this is a part of the Church’s rich tradition of typology, which we will probably recognize from the Church’s hymnography. Adam is a type for Christ, Eve a type for Mary. The tree in Paradise is a type for the tree of the cross, and paradise itself is a type for the Church, which is God’s Kingdom on earth. In fact, the Fathers leave almost no element in the Old Testament unexplored for its typological potential. Moses’s outstretched hands are a type for the crucified Christ. Christ himself, in the gospels, repeatedly tells his disciples that what was written in the Scriptures, in other words written in the Old Testament, was all written about him. “Moses wrote of me,” says the Lord in John 5:46 and in Luke 24. Christ explains to his disciples how the entire Old Testament concerns himself.

This is illustrated in a beautiful liturgical act. During Lent, at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we read from the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis: the creation of the world in six days, and the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. And just after this reading, we all bow down to the ground, our faces to the floor, while the celebrant comes out of the sanctuary with a candle placed on the gospel book, proclaiming, “The light of Christ illumines all.” Indeed, the light of Christ illumines all that is told in the Old Testament Scripture.

And so Adam, who represents fallen man, represents a type or prefiguration of the New Man, Christ. St. Gregory the Theologian makes a poetic one-to-one relationship between the two, contrasting the hands of Christ – stretched out in generosity and fixed by nails – with the hand of Adam, stretched out in unrestrained self-indulgence. Christ is lifted up (on the cross) to reverse Adam’s downward fall. Christ ingests vinegar instead of Adam’s fruit. Christ dies for Adam’s death, and is raised so that Adam may be raised. He says, also:

All of us …partake of the same Adam, and were led astray by the serpent and slain by sin, and are saved by the heavenly Adam and brought back by the tree of [the cross] to the tree of life from which we had fallen. [Oration 33.9]

This brings us back to the paradox of our lives in this world, both fallen and redeemed, redeemed and fallen. We revisit this paradox in the light of the Old and New Adam.

Let us look at what is practically the last mention of Adam in the Old Testament, in Genesis chapter 5, drawing from the Septuagint Greek translation:

This is the book of the origin of human beings. On the day that God made Adam, he made him according to the divine image; male and female he made them, and he blessed them. And he named their name “Adam” on the day that he made them. Now Adam lived two hundred thirty years and became a father, according to his form and according to his image, and named his name Seth. And the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth amounted to seven hundred years, and he had sons and daughters. And all the days of Adam, that he lived, amounted to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

God makes “Adam” – meaning humanity, male and female – in his image. And then Adam, having fallen, has a son according to his image. And what follows in this chapter is a long genealogy that leads to Noah, who lives in an age of violence and depravity. This shows us what “the fall” is: human beings, created in the divine image, are now in the image of Adam. God is not gone, nor is his image in us, but now everyone who is born, is in Adam’s image as well as in God’s.

We know what follows. Jesus Christ, the living image of God, is born in history. The pre-eternal Son of the Living God, is born of a woman, a virgin – herself born in the image of Adam, and he lives a fully human life. It is this Jesus, this New Adam, fully divine and fully human, who restores the image of God. And so, now we may live in Christ, we may die in Christ, and be raised in Christ.

The paradox remains, but it is entirely redefined. Life and death are transfigured by God, in the life and death of his Son. The divine image is restored in all its splendor, and that image, or icon, is Jesus Christ, the New Adam. But like every dimension of our life in the world as Christians in the Church, this restoration is both a gift and a calling.

Our baptism is our death. From that point onward we are alive in Christ, in the Church, through the sacraments. Death, which continues to bind us biologically, no longer defines us spiritually. This is a gift, given to us freely. It is also our calling to take it up, at every moment of our lives. At every moment we may choose to live in the Old Adam – to yield to the self-justifying call of the serpent and pursue a deification without the cross – or to live in the New Adam, taking up the cross and following Christ.

Our call, “Adam, where are you?”, now finally yields to the constant seeking out of the New Adam, and the constant calling out to him by his holy name: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Our paradoxical life as fallen yet redeemed persons is now taken up by the task of constantly reorienting our perspective, training our sites on Christ, the true image of God. That’s what we’re to do in and through the Church, Christ’s body. This is the meaning of asceticism, our universal calling: the redirection of our whole person, mind, body and soul. Living in Christ, we continue to suffer, we continue to be tempted, we continue to sin. But all this is decisively overcome, changed.

But that is not the only message of the gospel. The other vital message that God gives us in the New Adam is that he loves us beyond measure. He gives everything to us. And he knows our suffering in this life of paradox, because he enters it. He is not simply watching passively. No, he knows our pain, and he comes to experience it to its very fullest extent.

With our gaze thus fixed on the New Adam, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we cry out with all conviction and all joy: Christ is Risen!

❖ ❖ ❖ ❖

Peter Bouteneff teaches dogmatic theology, patristics, and spirituality at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. He has a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under Bishop Kallistos Ware. This is a shortened version of a paper he delivered in May at the 13th Western European Orthodox Congress, held in Amiens, France. He is the author of Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives (Baker Academic, 2008).

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on forgiveness: For an offense, whatever kind may have been given, one must not only not avenge oneself, but on the contrary must all the more forgive from the heart, even though it may resist this, and must incline the heart by conviction of the word of God: “If you will not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”; and again, “pray for them which despitefully use you.” One must not nurse in one’s heart malice or hatred towards a neighbor who bears ill-will; but must strive to love him and, as much as possible, do good, following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” And thus, if we will strive as much as lies in our power, to fulfill all this, then we may hope that Divine light will shine early in our souls, opening to us the path to the Jerusalem on High.
– St. Seraphim of Sarov

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Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Join us for prayer retreat

The Nature and Mission of the Church: An Indian Perspective

HE Geevarghese Mor Coorilos

Let me, at the very outset, greet you in the most precious name of the Holy Trinity.

I also greet you on behalf of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) and I should like to express my deep sense of gratitude to the Moderator of Faith and Order Commission, His Eminence Metropolitan Dr. Vasilios and to the Rev. Cannon John Gibaut, its Director for their kind invitation to be part of this meeting of the Plenary Commission. It is matter of immense satisfaction that the CWME and the Faith and Order, two of the foundational pillars of the World Council of Churches, have now entered into a period of collaborative work, which I hope will continue in the coming years.

I have been asked to make a brief response to the document “The Nature and Mission of the Church”, neither from the perspective of the CWME1, nor from my confessional perspective which is Orthodox, but from my regional contextual perspective which is Indian.

In a matter of 10-12 minutes, one could not possibly make a substantial response to a document that contains some profound ecclesiological and missiological insights. Therefore, for reasons of time, I shall confine myself to just one aspect of the NMC document that, in my perception, has some serious ramifications for our context in India. This, then, is a humble effort to respond to the call of the text itself which says:

Faith and Order invites Churches in different parts of the world to enrich this
study with appropriate regional material to enable their congregations and
church members to engage directly with themes which are necessarily
expressed here in quite general terms.(2)

The Locus: The Land Struggle of Dalits and Adivasis at Chengara:

On August 3, 2007, around eight thousand families belonging to Dalit and Adivasi communities invaded a rubber plantation in Chengara, Kerala, India. They literally “pitched their tents” on that piece of land, which was given to a multinational firm by the Government of Kerala on a lease agreement for ninety nine years. Even after the lease period was over, the Government did not take any steps to retrieve the property from the company. The landless and the homeless Dalits and Adivasis who “occupied” this land demanded five acres of agriculture land for each of their families and declared that until their demands were met, they would not leave the estate. This historic struggle at Chengara estate led by Dalits and Adivasis, under their own banner, has now crossed two years and has attracted international attention. About eight thousand small tents have been pitched in Chengara by Dalits and Adivasis. Struggles like Chengara movement offer a real theological locus for a meaningful discourse on ecclesiology and mission in India. At Chengara, each of the eight thousand and odd tents offers us different “little narratives”—narratives, albeit unwritten, texts of their own, a new depositum fidei, for ecclesiological missiological reflections in India.

Against this backdrop of the predicament of the poor in India, namely Dalits, tribals, and particularly their womenfolk of whom the plight is further worsened by the ongoing project of economic globalization and other unjust systems of patriarchy, cultural nationalism, genocide and ecocide, one has to say that the ecclesiology that is reflected in the NMC text is by and large an “ecclesiology from above”. More specifically, there is an obvious absence of an ecclesiological discourse “from below” that would treat the poor and the oppressed as the real constituencies of the church. This probably was a consequence of the particular methodology of this study process that perhaps did not consider an integral analysis of the global geo-political context as a necessary pre-requisite for such a study. As a result, the document, to a great extent, fails to bring out the socio-political implications of theological insights that are articulated here, especially for the poor and the marginalised sections of our society who form the majority of the church in the global south, particularly in India. In other words, the landscape of the dispossessed is what is conspicuously missing in the text.

One of the fundamental ecclesiological assertions that the NMC makes is that “the Church is centred and grounded in the word of God…it is the word of God made flesh: Jesus Christ incarnate, crucified and risen”.(3) It could be deduced from this statement that the Church, in real terms, is the approximation of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, an extension of “the Word becoming flesh and pitching the tent among the people” (Jn.1:14). This incarnational aspect of ecclesiology and therefore of mission is not adequately explicated in the text. Differently put, the real lacunae of the document lies in the fact that the words of the text are not embodied and incarnated among “the tent dwellers” of our times, the dispossessed and the disempowered. Let us remind ourselves, in this context, yet again, of the challenge the younger theologians at Kuala Lampur posed to the Faith and Order Work of the WCC, that “these formulations would go to waste if they were not integrated into the realities of our lives”.(4)

The Chengara struggle of Dalits and Adivasis (cited above) is a very tangible and contemporary manifestation of God’s word becoming flesh and pitching tents, around 8000 of them, in this case. It is in these tents of the homeless Dalits and Adivasis that we need to locate the real “ecclesia”. The NMC, unfortunately, is not very helpful in his process of identifying the actual church amongst communities of people in struggle for fullness of life.

The Biblical images of Church that are expounded in the NMC, images such as ‘people of God’, ‘koinonia’ body of Christ’ and so on are also bereft of this liberative dimensions of ecclesiology. ‘Body of Christ’, for example, as in the case of the other metaphors used in the text, is dealt with almost exclusively from an a priori, doctrinal, and sacramental perspective, leaving out its sociological implications. In India, for Dalits who form the majority of the Indian Church, the body of Christ is a Dalit body, a ‘broken body’ (the word Dalit literally means ‘broken’ and tornasunder’). Jesus Christ became a Dalit because he was torn-asunder and mutilated on the cross. The Church as ‘body of Christ’, in the Indian context, therefore, has profound theological and sociological implications for a Dalit ecclesiology. As Y. T. Vinayaraj, a young Dalit theologian urges us:

We need to convert the Church as the true body of Christ where Dalits meet and transform other untouchable and abused bodies into divine agents.(5)

This is an urgent ecclesiological challenge for the Indian churches. The NMC, however, fails to strike chords and resonate with such contextual theological challenges. Even in those places where the text does speak of prophetic dimensions of the Church, somewhat of an artificial dichotomy between the being (ontos) and the becoming (praxis) modes of the Church is maintained. In other words, the text, fails to encounter the real “ecclesia” among communities of people in pain and suffering. As Gutierrez reminds us:

…the poor today, rather than being regarded as a ‘problem for the church’
raise the question of what ‘being the church’ really means.(6)

The prophetic and social dimensions of sacraments, especially of Baptism and Eucharist, are however, more strongly reflected in the document. These have crucial significance in the Indian context where discrimination on the bases of caste, class and gender is still practised even among ecclesial communities. Inter-communion is not just a problem between and amongst churches in India, rather it is experienced among various caste groups within the same ecclesial traditions as well, who are not able to share the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the Lord’s table. The NMC in this sense should be able to challenge the unjust and discriminatory attitudes of certain churches (mine included) towards Dalits who are either rejected by these churches or treated as inferior people if and when they are allowed to join these churches. Those churches that still retain their ‘upper caste’ complex and hegemony must be challenged by the discussion of NMC on the ‘sinful’ nature of the Church, as casteist structures within churches in India must be deemed expressions of systemic sin.

Another major challenge that the Church in India is encountering is the persistent attacks and persecution that it has to suffer from the fundamentalists among the majority religious tradition in India. The recent attacks on Christians in Orissa (Khandamal) have been particularly atrocious. What is often ignored in all this is the fact that it is the Dalit and Adivasi Christians who are being specifically targeted by the casteist Hindu fundamentalists in India, often with overt and covert support from the State. This is where the importance of civil society is particularly noticed. In such a context, church must become an interlocutor in civil society, as Felix Wilfred would put it.(7) The challenge before the church in India is to be part of progressive civil society initiatives such as the subaltern movements of the Dalits and tribal communities. This also calls for an inter-religious dialogue of a different persuasion, quite different from the classical models of dialogue. What is needed today in India is a subaltern version of inter-religious dialogue. Unlike the classical models of dialogue which was mostly about mutual appreciations of doctrines at esoteric and intellectual levels, a subaltern version of dialogue is “diologue from below”, a process of challenging religious traditions including one’s own on, on questions of injustice such as casteism, that is practised within various religions traditions. Here again, the NMC does not have much to say and offer. Perhaps, it is time, Faith and Order took up the issue of ecclesiology and religious plurality on its agenda.

In sum, the NMC is appreciated for its philosophical imagination, but it needs to be complimented with sociological and poetic imaginations where the text (the Word) takes on flesh and enters the realm of the pain and pathos that the poor and their earth endure.

1 . Commission on World Mission and Evangelism has already made an initial response to “The Nature and Mission of the Church” copies of which are available.
2 .See “The Nature and Mission of the Church” , p.11.
3 . Ibid, p.13.
4 . Qouted in Mary Tanner, “A View from the Past”, a paper presented at the Faith and Order Plenary, Crete, 2009, p.8.
5 . Y.T. Vinayaraj, Re-imagining Dalit Theology, CSS, Tiruvalla, 2009, p.61.
6 . Quoted in Julio de Santa Ana (ed), Towards a Church of the Poor, WCC, Geneva, 1979, p.152.
7 .Felix Wilfred, Asian Dreams and Christian Hopes at the Dawn of the Millennium, ISPCK, Delhi, 2000, p.181.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Miracle at Kattchira

KATTACHIRA, INDIA - Oct 23, 2009: The miracle that started in a simple looking icon of Mother Mary carrying Infant Jesus, printed in flex and kept at the chapel of our Kattachira St. Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church near Kayamkulam, is continuing for the 3rd consecutive day.

It was on October 21st that the women who gathered for Wednesday prayers first noticed the miracle. Thinking that the picture was wet because of rainwater the women took it and wiped it clean. But they noted that it is becoming wet again. They immediately called upon the Vicar, Rev Fr. Roy Kattachira, who also tried to wipe it clean many a times but noticed that a water like substance was still coming from the eye part. This happened on Wednesday the late-forenoon. One of our friends took a small video clipping in his mobile camera which is shown in the links as the 'first video footage'.

On the next day Mor Thevodosius Mathews, the Metropolitan of our Kollam diocese under whom the parish comes, also visited the chapel and witnessed the same thing happening again. H.G. wiped the picture clean using a soft cotton cloth, but in half an hour the oily fluid again started dripping from the same portion, ie; from the eye part of Mother Mary in the icon.

This simple looking icon of Mother Mary and infant jesus, printed in flex material, is not a very old one and is not even properly framed, hence either sides are exposed. Since the news first spread the faithful fromall denominations are visiting the church to see the miracle happening.

Hail Mary , Full of grace.....

Holy Virgin , Theotokos Pray for us


Original Sin; The Psalms.

Here is the second part of Archbishop LAZAR's talk about original sin in this video.

Brief discussion about Original Sin

What is the difference between Augustine's Doctrine of Original Sin and the Orthodox Christian concept of The Ancestral Sin? Archbishop LAZAR about original sin in this video.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Resolving apparent inconsistencies in Scripture

A YouTube series purports to point out contradictions in Scriptural statements. In this video Archbishop LAZAR responds.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mark your calendars

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Mark our calendars for Friday November 12 through Sunday November 15, 2009.
Pack your bags and head for Plymouth, Indiana, It will be a weekend of
praying and celebrating and praising God. There will be speakers talking
about prayer and how Christ gave us an example of how to live our lives.
Christ not only taught but He showed us how to live. He had dinner with
lots of folks no one else would eat with. And that is what we are going to
do this weekend.

Friday evening will start with evening prayers at 6:00 pm and there will be
an open mike with poetry readings, music and lots more. And then some more

Saturday morning will start with morning prayers at 9:30 am followed by
speakers and more prayers. After lunch there will be a prayer services for
jobs. Evening prayers will be celebrated in the evening at 5:00 pm

Sunday the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated with special prayers for jobs.
The Liturgy starts at 10:30 am. Lunch and fellowship will follow.

The Mor Gregorios Community Center, 1000 South Michigan Street, Plymouth,
Indiana, is located on the corner of Oak Hill and Michigan Streets, across
from the Webster Elementary School.

The Mor Gregorios Community Center and St. Mary the Protectress Syriac
Orthodox Church hope you are able to join us in a weekend of prayer,
worship, celebration and praise.

For more information, either email the center at or
telephone 574-540-2048

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What To Do About a Bad Priest

The Letters of St. Theophan the Recluse

Question: “We had a good priest; but he was transferred to another parish. In his place came another, who is a grief to the soul. In his serving the services, he is careless and hurried; when conversations occur, he talks only about trivial things; if he starts to talk about the things of God, then it is all with a kind of limitation and truncation of the strict truth. How is one to escape from such a temptation?”

Answer: You yourselves are at fault. You made poor use of the good priest, and the Lord took him away. Tell me, did you become better from your previous good priest? Here you falter to say, “Yes.” But I from a distance shall say that you did not become better, judging by the fact that you are judging the new priest, not knowing how to control your feelings in relation to him as you should. Indeed, you had a good priest even before this good priest who has now departed from you, and the one before him was good too. You see how many good priests the Lord has sent you; but you all have not become any better for it. And here He has decided: why waste good priests on these people? I’ll send them one not so good. And He did. Seeing this, you should have at once paid attention to yourself, to repent and improve, but you just judge and keep judging over and over again. Improve yourselves, and then the priest will at once be changed. He will think: “With these people I cannot carry out my holy work carelessly; I must serve reverently and conduct edifying conversations.” And he will mend his ways. If priests are negligent and hurried in serving the services and are trivial in conversations, then most of the time it comes from conforming to the parishioners.

Saying this, I am not justifying the priest. He has no excuse, if he tempts the souls entrusted to him not only with action against the ustav but even unwise action according to the ustav. But I say only what is more useful for you to do in the given case. And the most important thing I have already said: do not judge, but pay attention to yourselves and improve yourself both in prayer and in conversation, and in all your behavior. Pray for this with all your heart, that the Lord will correct the priest. And He will correct him. Only pray properly. The Lord said, that if two agree about anything and will begin to pray, then they will have their request (Matt. 18:19). So all you right-thinking parishioners gather together and decide to pray for the priest; join fasting to your prayer and redouble your almsgiving; and do this not just for a day or two, but for weeks, months, a year. Labor and afflict yourself with brokenness so long as the priest has not changed. And he will change; be certain that he will.

I recently heard about a similar podvig and its fruit. One old woman, a simple peasant, a deeply pious woman, noticed that someone she respected had begun to depart some from his customary strictness of life, and she began to be sick at heart for him. She came home, locked herself in her hut, and began to pray after she had said to the Lord: “I will not leave this place, or taste a crumb of bread, or drink a drop of water, or give my eyes a minute of sleep until Thou hearest me, O Lord, and hast turned this person back to his former ways.” She did just as she had decided: she labored in prayer and afflicted her-self with broken-hearted tears importuning the Lord to hear her. Already she had become fatigued, already her strength had begun to leave her; but she all over again prayed: “Though I die, I will not give this up until the Lord hears me.” And He did. The confirmation came to her that this man for whom she was praying had again begun to keep himself as of old. She ran to have a look, saw that it was so, and broke into rejoicing. Her grateful tears had no end. And so this is the kind of prayer you are to establishalthough not such in form, because, perhaps, for you it would not be suitable to do as she didbut such in zeal, self-sacrifice, and persistence. And undoubtedly you will receive what you desire. If you will some-times say, “Grant, Lord, that He may become good” only in passing, whether at home, or in church, or during conversations, then what sort of fruit is to be expected from such prayer? For this is not prayer, but words only.

I have said the main thing to you. I should add still one thing more; but it is the sort thing that is most difficult to carry out in such a way that it achieves its aim. Here is what I think! It may be possible for you who are right-thinking and respected to come to the priest and ask him to change in his actions that which incites you and leads you into temptation. To do this—there is nothing simpler; but to do it in such a way that it bears fruit is difficult in the extreme. Every-thing must breathe with the most sincere and zealous love—not only the content of what you say, but even your glance, and expression, and tone of voice. Then it may be hoped that this will achieve its aim. But without this love, it is better not to undertake such a step: it will come out worse, produce the most sorrowful discord. One could, perhaps, write everything to him in like manner, but, again, the whole matter must be carried off in the spirit of all-conquering love. It is also as possible to spoil the whole matter by this means just as it is by personally appearing to the priest. This is why I am not unconditionally decided to recommend this approach. I know, that it may be crowned with success, but the main thing is proper execution. Many good people will be found to come to the priest or to write him without seeing him and to express everything in the most polite manner, but for success, something other than gentleness is needed. Gentleness without love is a wounding sting. I know that in other places they act in this way and then boast: “We have done our part!” But I shall say, that it had been better had they not done it.

I shall not say anything more to you about this—maybe just one thing more: be patient. There are still other legal means; but they are not my field, and I shall be silent about them.

Translated by Fr. Justin Brian Frederick


Friday, October 9, 2009

Difficulties a Convert Faces

I am a convert to Orthodoxy and live in regional Australia. I came to my local Greek Orthodox Church from the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch whose Patriarch is based in Syria. In Australia, this Church is known as the Antiochian Orthodox Church. There are five traditions of World Orthodoxy represented in my area, but only the Greek and Serbian traditions are "affiliated" with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Only rarely do these churches offer a Divine Liturgy in English.

I'd like to share with you some of my thoughts on what difficulties converts face on coming into the Orthodox Faith. It has been my experience that, if one wants to do more than just participate in a "nominal way" in the life of the church, a full commitment to the Orthodox Faith is what is required. My sole purpose in writing this letter is to increase awareness of the process of conversion to the Faith. I pray that I will do this with humility. Hopefully, by sharing some of my thoughts with you, we can learn from one another that the road will be made just a little easier (not just for those converts who may come after people like me but for each one of us whose spiritual journeys are often unique and deeply personal as we aspire to live our lives in the Lord's name).

People who come to the Orthodox Church from another faith are required to do Catechesis. This means taking instructions in the Orthodox Faith. On transferring over to the Greek Church, I was given special permission by the Bishop so that I would not have to undertake any more catechesis. I was also granted approval to be Chrismated any time after that. Because of the unique circumstances that led me to the Greek Church, I found myself as the only convert attending the church on a regular basis, in need of a kind of "unofficial" catechesis. This was not only because I was grasping with a new faith and how to truly live an Orthodox life in the outside world, but also because of the particular demographics of the church and my reawakening to its different culture and language.

Such an experience has given me a good foundation in Orthodoxy and has helped when I have had to face the various challenges of life. I have held a strong conviction that Orthodoxy is the true Faith for a long time. I wanted to offer my commitment to God through not just the Sunday Services but some of the most wondrous services in the Orthodox Church including the Paraklesis (Service of Supplication) and Esperinos (Vespers). I longed for some English in the Services so that I could explore all the senses... Orthodoxy is certainly an encounter of the mind, body and soul.

Converts have a variety of experiences coming into the Faith ranging from virtually turning themselves inside out as they throw out a lot of their values and beliefs held for a life time. For others, the move to another faith can be quite smooth.

The difficulties of course are naturally more likely in parishes where only one or two converts come to church on an on-going basis and want to participate regularly in the various services and not just in the Divine Liturgy. The church may also be of one particular ethnic persuasion and/or have a particular age demographic.

This means that not only does a sole convert have to adapt to a new faith, they also have to deal with being virtually totally immersed into another culture overnight. Because of a lack of any sort of history of regular converts attending a particular church, there may also be some bewilderment on the part of some parishioners as to WHY the convert is actually there in the first place.

This lack of understanding may have been coloured by a particular parishioner's personal experiences of family members becoming Orthodox for the sole reason of wanting to marry someone in the family who happens to be of that faith. Anecdotal evidence tends to show that once married, such new family members rarely, if ever, attend an Orthodox church.

As far as my own transition to Orthodoxy is concerned, I found myself asking lots of questions - everything from: "Why did God send me in such a roundabout way back to the Greek Church; the very church from where I thought about converting some 20 years ago?" to "What sort of spiritual and practical commitment is expected from anyone who is a member of a parish community such as the one I found myself in?"

It means:

* Asking ourselves every day about what are we aiming for in the Christian life and being aware that what we think, say and do should be in line.
* Offering ourselves to God in the service of His Kingdom, not just on Sundays, but every day of the year.
* When you feel discouraged, being strengthened by encouraging comments from Greek-Australians.
* Trying to throw out the legalisms carried over from one's former faith as one works through what should actually be one's personal response as an Orthodox confession and communion.
* Learning that the role of the spiritual father is not the same as a Catholic Priest.
* Exposing one's own weaknesses to a spiritual father in order to better understand one's response to the Faith; to better understand ourselves and with God's help see the inner state of our soul and grow even more from the experience.
* Knowing that when things get really tough, we need to just step away and taking a sabbatical for a while, remembering not to be too hard on ourselves. There is so much to grasp as a committed convert coming into the Church and we are all only human, after all!

Despite the obstacles, coming to the Church has made me stronger spiritually in a lot of` ways. It has been difficult though, to offer patience in the midst of affliction. Sometimes, when the affliction brought about by others causes us immense pain, we need to try and liberate ourselves from such encounters by reminding ourselves that the suffering of the moment is not worth worying about, considering the glory we will experience later on (Romans 8:18).

I understand that Orthodox witnessing is setting an example to others by bearing witness to the Truth and is the job of every member of the Church. By having such an outlook, we can actually help our local Parish in genuine service. So, ideally, this offering of ourselves should be a way of life. We should be in a continuous relationship with God and hopefully we should be having an ongoing dialogue with Him and His people. The words " Your own of Your Own, we offer to you" are a declaration of our Faith. We should give God all our time, talent and treasure every moment of the day, because He has given us His gift of grace out of unconditional love for us.

I feel we have a wonderful treasure in the Orthodox Christian Faith. Others really should be able to see the beauty of our Faith. Let us consider challenging the attitudes and modes of our being, so we can continue to grow in the Faith and the Love of Christ.

From The Greek Australian VEMA, Dec 2003, p. 39


The Youth Friendly Parish

Everyone wants to see youth involved in the Church and there are many reasons for this. Clergy see them as a sign of parish vitality and growth. The elderly see them as a guarantee for the Church's future. Parents hope and pray that their children will find an example in the Church by which to live their life. Youth look for peers who share their faith to affirm that they really do belong in the Church. But how does a parish actually get them involved? The real questions are: What characteristics do parishes need to be places where youth do come and participate in the life of the Church?

What makes a 'youth friendly' parish?

Youth, as adolescents, by virtue of their stage in life, are in the process of evaluating everything in their lives and choosing what they will accept and what they will reject.

Often they are making choices without being fully informed. As they begin to determine the role the Church will play in their lives, they probably are not aware of everything the Church teaches. They may or may not be aware of having a direct and genuine encounter with the Living God. Another problem that arises is that often we, as sinful adults, have incorrectly taught them, through our example, about what the Church teaches. Children and youth learn most effectively by example and from experience.

How often, in our daily and weekly actions, do we teach them that Church teachings can be disregarded at a whim, or that the Church is a place where people fight and gossip? For these reasons the youth-friendly parish wants above all "to be identified by young people as a community of care and concern," a place where young people can see and experience the Love of Christ living and acting in its members.

Educators and psychologists agree that adolescents require four basic needs:

• the need to find a place in a valued group that provides a sense of belonging.

• the need to identify tasks that are generally recognized in the group as having adaptive value and that thereby earn respect when skill is acquired for coping with tasks.

• the need to feel a sense of worth as a person.

• the need for reliable and predictable relationships with other people, especially a few relatively close relationships--or at least one.

Photo: Hieromonk Yuliy (Viktorov),

Youth spend most of their adolescence searching for a place that can fulfill these needs. Unhealthy subcultures such as gangs and cults attract so many teens precisely because they provide these four elements to adolescents. But why should young people have to go to such destructive extremes to fulfill their basic needs? Our Church provides the perfect place for all these things: the parish community. What better place to find a sense of belonging, build reliable and predictable relationships, and develop a sense of worth as a person, than in a community whose vision is to actualize the Kingdom of God in this fallen world? It is a place, a community, with people of many ages, talents, and backgrounds. It is a place where all these people have no other purpose than to proclaim the Gospel of Christ by living as a group who support, challenge, and work for each other. Based upon this, the youth-friendly parish continually evaluates how it can best address these needs. It continually asks itself:

• Do we see our parish as an essential place for people, including teenagers, to spend their time, where they are provided with a genuine sense of belonging, where they are needed, where they receive what they need; or is it just somewhere you have to go on Sunday?

• Does our parish give teenagers opportunities to learn and do important and valued tasks within its life (reading, serving, directing the choir, singing, leadership, making prosphora, etc.), or does it really just want them standing quietly in the back at worship services?

• Does our parish continually affirm to teens that they are special and essential persons within the community, or does it feel that they are a problem that must be dealt with (i.e., too much youthful energy, apathy, etc.)?

• Do people within the parish try to develop reliable relationships with youth where Christ is the center point, or are the youth avoided and sent away whenever possible?

• Does the parish provide the necessary opportunities for teens to meet and develop these types of relationships with each other, or is everyone just too busy with other things to exert the effort and time?

These questions require the interest of more than one or two people. To put it bluntly, if most of the people in a parish are not concerned with learning even the names of young people, the parish will not be a place where youth will want to spend their time. Attracting youth to the Church and encouraging them to be active in her life is a task which involves the entire community.

There are four things a parish must be ready to do if it wants to become more "youth-friendly."

Pray with and for them. Take time to pray with them about an issue that is important to them. Pray for them that God will help them with their problems. As part of your daily prayer life, simply pray for them to know God acting in their lives. It is even helpful to let them know you are praying for them (without bragging). When you let them know that you care enough to pray for them, you show youth that they are valued by the community and by people in the community. It also indirectly teaches them about the power and purpose of prayer, and how to pray. Just be consistent, and respectful of their privacy. One way to do this is by placing a "prayer list" somewhere in the church or church hall where everyone in the parish can write down the names of persons they want to be prayed for and why. These people can be included in the services' litanies and in people's private rule of prayer.

Spend time with them. It sounds like an obvious suggestion, but we need to remember that young people spend most of their time with peers and very little time with adults who want to be part of their lives. This lack of significant adult relationships is a major reason why teens and young adults go to peers for help in dealing with difficult problems rather than adults, who may have more wisdom, knowledge, and experience in dealing with the problem. As Christian adults, it is our calling to develop significant and dependable relationships with young people. Our attempts to build relationships just need to be genuine and not condescending or sporadic.

Learn about their world. If you are going to spend time with kids and hope to influence their lives, you must be sure to respect them enough to know about the world in which they spend their time. Find out what they listen to, watch, and read. Be sure to ask them about it. The way you perceive something and the way they perceive it can be very different. It is important to respect that. The key is to "learn it, don't live it." If you are an adult you need to be an adult and not try to live like a teen. Everyone, including youth, feel the falseness of an adult behaving as if he or she were 15. Next, as St. Basil instructed the educators of his time, search for what is good and true in youth culture. The lyrics of much of today's music talk about principles found in the Gospel.

On the other hand it is necessary to weed out and talk to young people about what is not of God in much of today's pop culture. Studies have shown that each year television programs bombard viewers, explicitly or implicitly, with over 14,000 acts of sexual intercourse, and that 94% of these acts are between people who are not married. Adults need to reaffirm to teens (they already know that the Church says "NO" to sex before marriage) that this is not "normal" or healthy (physically, emotionally, or spiritually). They must also be ready to explain why.

Really listen to them. Jesus spent significant amounts of time simply listening to people before He ever said a word. (Take time to read the biblical accounts of Jesus' encounter with the apostles on the road to Emmaus, and with the Samaritan woman at the well.) How often do adults ask teens for ideas on certain subjects with no intention of taking anything they say seriously? How often do we tell teens that we want them to talk to us about their problems only to listen halfheartedly and quickly hand out trite one or two-sentence quick answers based upon "when I was a teenager?" A teen's greatest desire above all is to be heard.

But what are some things a parish can do to make itself more "youth-friendly?" Here are four concrete steps. You will notice that they all require the commitment and involvement of the entire parish.

• First, provide the setting in which youth will share and discuss their needs and fears. This requires a group of committed people (clergy, lay adults, and youth) who already possess a genuine experience of God's presence in their own lives and in the lives of others, and who want to share that experience with youth. Make it a parish project to recruit and train these people. For assistance you can contact the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

• Second, provide activities where these youth ministers can spend time with youth, either through retreats, camps, weekly sessions, service projects, or other activities. These activities should include opportunities for Fellowship, Education, Worship, and Service, (the F.E.W.S.).

• Third, ensure that youth are not only ministered to, but also expect, encourage and allow youth to minister to others as a living expression of their faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Find ways they can help others, draft a schedule and make it a regular part of young people's parish life.

• Fourth, form a local parish or regional youth group and/or club which meets on a weekly or monthly basis to plan and accomplish the first three steps. Many parishesare forming "YO" (Young Orthodox) groups to accomplish this.

At a time when many denominations are launching huge campaigns, and are planning elaborate programs and events for their young people, we must remember that activities are worthless if youth are not "at home" in a regular parish community. Your parish may not have elaborate and expensive programs, but it can still be "youth-friendly" if your parishioners are committed to building personal Christ-centered relationships among their community's children, youth, and adults. The type of parish that youth are attracted to is one where they are respected, valued, challenged, and most of all loved unconditionally.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Understanding the Orthodox Faith

Understanding the Orthodox Faith is an introductory guide to learning the basics about the Christian Orthodox faith. Ellinas Multimedia has combined interviews with Orthodox Priests along with beautiful photography inside Orthodox churches to teach you about the following:

* When did the Orthodox faith begin?
* Who was the founder of the Orthodox faith?
* What is meant by Apostolic Succession?
* What does Holy Tradition mean?
* Why are there icons in Orthodox churches?
* Are Orthodox Christians "saved?"
* How does the Orthodox faith view the Virgin Mary?
* Are Orthodox Christians "born again?"
* Why is the Orthodox faith considered "the best kept secret?"

Chalcedon Revisted

Chalcedon Revisted


alt: ih_2008-11-01.mp3

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Kevin and his guest, St Vladimir's Theological Seminary professor, historian, and author Fr John Erickson, discuss the near 1500-year rift between the Oriental Orthodox (Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Indian) and Eastern Orthodox churches. They will discuss the theology, history, politics, attempts at reunion and the current state of affairs between these two ancient eastern Christian churches

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

St. Mary's Orthodox Bookstore: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Gift of the Spirit

St. Mary's Orthodox Bookstore: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Gift of the Spirit: "Clark Carlton writes that since his conversion to Orthodoxy, he has continued to dialogue with Protestants. While he says he has not had a problem answering Protestant notions such as sola scriptura or predestination. However, he has always had trouble dealing with questions of tongue and other gifts of the Spirit. According to Carlton, Father Alexis' book, In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord, gave him a truly Orthodox answer."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

syrian orthodox church

a visual journey to the syrian orthodox church...created by MOR IGNATIUS YOUTH ASSOCIATION PRAKKANAM,PATHANAMTHITTA.

Making a difference

I talk a lot about the fact that we can make a diffeence in the lives of our friends and neighbors. In these video a deacon discusses how we can make a difference in the world. Gospel message delivered by Deacon Gheevarghese John at St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India in Philadelpha.

God's Garden - The Film

Short clips from a 90 minute documentary on the life of Fr. Moses Berry, an African-American Orthodox priest. For more information, visit

Fr. Moses Berry - Who's on Your Blacklist Video

Fr. Moses Berry - Who's on Your Blacklist Video

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Prayers for the departed

Archbishop Lazar discuss in this video playlist the Orthodox Tradition of offering prayers in memory of the departed.

Infant Baptism

Infant Baptism

According to the Fathers, God created man with a natural desire for love, goodness, life and that which causes and sustains it, because God Himself is absolutely Love, the Good, the Life and Cause of all existence. The Fathers say that man also has been given an innate desire for the truth, because God is the Truth. Mankind naturally inherits this. Afterwards, delusion sets in through mistaking sensual pleasure and created things in general as the Good, the Life, etc. and men then doubt that God is the Good, etc. and so choose untruth under the influence of a wish to best satisfy certain passionate desires, man naturally knows that God is the Good, the Life, the Truth, etc. Hence it can be said that:

St. Maximos the Confessor, “First Century on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice”:

100. God, Who created all nature with wisdom and secretly planted in each intelligent being knowledge of Himself as its first power, like a munificent Lord gave also to us men a natural desire and longing for Him, combining it in a natural way with the power of our intelligence...

St. John of Damascus, “Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”, Book I, Ch. III:

“That there is a God, then, is no matter of doubt to those who receive the Holy Scripture, the Old Testament, I mean, and the New; nor indeed to most of the Greeks. For, as we said, the knowledge of the existence of God is implanted in us by nature. But since the wickedness of the Evil One had prevailed so mightily against man’s nature as even to drive some into denying the existence of God, that most foolish and woefulest pit of destruction (whose folly David, revealed of the Divine meaning, exposed when he said, ‘The fool said in his heart. There is no God’)...”

It is the teaching of the Fathers that human nature was created by God, for goodness and communion with God, in every way predisposed toward virtue. Therefore, along with love of God and all virtue, faith in God, the belief that God is “the Good” Who we seek, the Source of all goodness, is natural to humanity. It is only through the entrance of the deception of the devil, using pleasure as bait, that delusion later sets in and that faith is misdirected to things that are not God. Therefore, the whole criticism of infant baptism, which is founded on the assertion of the inability of infants to believe in God, cf. “he who believes and is baptized will be saved”, is completely un-Christian and even Manichean. It presupposes that man is naturally evil, rather than evil is the misuse of man’s nature on the basis of delusion, that is, on the basis of an acquired misbelief or misperception. Since it presupposes that human nature is naturally sinful or evil, it presupposes that God created something evil and then added an over-riding, corrective influence, grace.

As to an argument from tradition justifying infant baptism, let us say this: while there is no verse that says ‘baptize infants’, neither is there one that says ‘do not baptize infants’. Moreover, indirect evidence may be gathered for the rightness of infant baptism from the New Testament, from reason itself, and explicit ancient evidence from the Fathers of the Church beginning with the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

The Anabaptist position, of course, is that because an infant cannot express in rational discourse and words that we understand that he or she has faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, therefore one must not baptize the infant or recognize infant baptism. However, this line of reasoning is extremely problematic. If because the infant cannot verbally affirm its faith, then it is not baptizable, then neither are retarded or mentally-ill people to be baptized either, since many of them cannot formulate in rational discourse the faith they have in their heart. Therefore, there is no possibility of salvation for infants, children, mentally-ill, or retarded people, simply because the Anabaptists cannot ascertain whether or not in his heart he has ‘Jesus Christ as His personal Lord and Savior’. However, I seriously doubt if the Anabaptists are consistent in regard to the mentally-ill or retarded. They probably baptize such persons anyway, but in so doing they undermine their argument completely.

Christ did not always ask for a clear confession of faith in Him before He healed someone. For instance, in Matthew 17:14-18, we find that a young boy is possessed by a demon and is convulsed before our Lord’s very eyes. The father of the child pleads with the Lord to heal his son, who cannot express his faith or lack of faith in such a state. Although the child cannot speak for himself and affirm his faith in Christ in any way visible to man, the Lord heals the child. So, if such a thing is possible with demonic possession, why should Baptism be any different?

Let us take a clearer example of the Lord interacting with infants.

“And they were bringing to Him also the infants, in order that He may be touching them; but after the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “Let alone the little children (the Greek is brephe ; literally, “infants”) to come to Me, and cease hindering them; for of such is the kingdom of God. [Lk. 18:15,16]

According to St. Kyril of Alexandria, in his 121st homily on Luke: “The mothers, desiring His blessing, brought the babes, begging for their infants the touch of His holy hand.” I do not think that anyone will dispute that the passage means that parents desired Christ to bless their little children or infants. Now, here, although the infants plainly could neither bring themselves to Christ nor confess faith in His ability to sanctify them with His blessing, yet Christ not only blessed and sanctified them, but He even forbade anyone to hinder infants from being brought to be blessed and sanctified. If Christ considered the state of an infant no impediment to receiving His sanctifying blessing, why would He consider the infantile state a hindrance to Baptism? However, the Anabaptists, to be consistent, should also find fault with the Lord here, as they find fault with those who bring infants to the Lord for the greatest sanctification and blessing of all, that of Baptism. So, we see to what a blasphemous act of contradiction the Anabaptists must assent if they will stubbornly hold to their disdain for infant baptism.

Moreover, a fairly strong case can be made for the validity of infant baptism on the basis of the parallel between circumcision and baptism found in the New Testament. God commanded Abraham and his descendants to circumcise their whole household, including infants, on the eighth day. The Lord said that if the infants were circumcised, then they were accounted as inheriting the covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants, but if they were not circumcised, then they would be considered cut off from the covenant. An explicit case of infant circumcision occurs in Exodus where Moses and his wife Saphora are threatened with death if they will not circumcise Moses’ new-born son as the other young son had also been circumcised. Of course, they circumcised the new-born immediately. We see that circumcision was given for a sign of the covenant which was given to Abraham because he had demonstrated his strong faith in God, yet infants and young children could also be considered inheritors of the promises and covenant to Abraham by receiving the sign of the covenant, circumcision, even while they were still unable to form a rational, verbal expression of their faith in God. This alone should be a stumbling block for those who think that without such a rational, verbal confession of faith, a divinely-established rite is made of no effect. If that were so, then circumcision of infants should have meant nothing to God, and the Lord would have commanded them to be re-circumcised when they were old enough to make a verbal confession of faith.

In the New Testament, circumcision is considered to be a type foreshadowing Baptism, as, for instance St. Paul says to the Church at Colosae:

“...11in Whom also ye were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh in the circumcision of the Christ, 12having been buried with Him in the baptism, in which also ye were raised with Him through faith in the energy of God, Who raised Him from the dead. [Col. 2:11,12]

If Holy Baptism, which is the entrance of someone into the New Covenant, is typified by circumcision, which is the entrance into the Old, and the latter was able to be given to infants and little children, how much more should the former, the glorious and more powerful Mystery of Holy Baptism be? If the type was given to all ages how much more should the fulfillment of the type be?

Additionally, the likelihood is that infants or little children were among those baptized in instances in the Book of Acts where it speaks of someone who was baptized as well as all “his household” or “all his family” (Acts. 16:14-15, 16:33, etc.)

And lastly, but most importantly, infant baptism was the practice of the early Church.

Even among those some wrong-minded persons that delayed being baptized until they were 30 or 40, (whose reticence the Anabaptists cite as proof that infant baptism is an innovation) even among these, one cannot find it said that they did so because they considered baptism ineffective if one were baptized when a child or an infant. Indeed, why would they wait until they were 30 or 40 being already convinced of the truth of the Faith and the power of Baptism? Certainly, if it were a matter of disbelief in the effectiveness of bestowing Baptism on infants or children, then they would have only waited to be baptized until they passed beyond the bounds of childhood. But this is not what we see; rather, we are told by ancient sources that they delayed Baptism until they were quite old or even near death, because they wished to avoid soiling their Baptismal purity with the more frequent falls of youth.

Having examined the foregoing, let us now provide a sampling of the evidence for a consistent practice of permitting infant baptism in the ancient Church from the Holy Fathers and other witnesses arranged in chronological order.

St. Dionysios the Areopagite, disciple of St. Paul and first Bishop of Athens (95 A.D.), responds in the 7th Chapter of his epistle “On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy” to a question sent to him by St. Timothy, disciple of St. Paul and first Bishop of Ephesus, concerning how to respond to someone who was dubious about the worth of infant Baptism:

“But let me set down what our blessed teachers, in their knowledge of the earliest tradition, have passed down to us. What they say is this, and it is true. Children raised up in accordance with holy precepts will acquire the habits of holiness. They will avoid all the errors and all the temptations of an unholy life. Understanding the truth of this, our divine guides [the Apostles] decided it was a good thing to admit children to holy Baptism, though on condition that the parents of the child would entrust him to some good teacher who is himself initiated in the divine things and who could provide religious teaching as the child’s spiritual father and as the sponsor of salvation. Anyone thus committed to raise the child up along the way of a holy life is asked by the hierarch to agree to the ritual renunciations and to speak the words of promise. Those who scoff at this are quite wrong in thinking that the one is initiated into the divine mysteries instead of the other, for he does not say “I am making the renunciations and the promises for the child,” but “the child himself is assigned and enrolled.” In effect what is said is this: “I promise that when this child can understand sacred truth I shall educate him and shall raise him up by my teaching in such a way that he will renounce all the temptations of the devil, that he will bind himself to the sacred promises and will bring them to fruit.” So I do not think there is anything ridiculous if the child is brought up with a godly upbringing, provided of course that there is a holy guide and sponsor to form holy habits in him and to guard him against the temptations of the devil. When the hierarch admits the child to a share in the holy Mysteries it is so that he may derive nourishment from this, so that he may spend his entire life in the unceasing contemplation of the divine things, may progress in his communion with them, may therefore acquire a holy and enduring way of life, and may be brought up in sanctity by the guidance of a holy sponsor who himself lives in conformity with God.”

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 180 A.D.):

“The Son of God came to save all persons by means of Himself - all, I say, who through Him are born again [i.e. baptized; cf. Jn. 3] to God - infants, children, boys, youths, and old men.” (“Against All Heresies,” Bk. 2, 22:4)

St. Hippolytus of Rome (215 A.D.):

“Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.” (“The Apostolic Tradition”, 21)

Origen (244 AD):

“According to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants.” (Homily on Leviticus 8:3)

St. Cyprian (A.D. 253):

From St. Cyprian’s Epistle 58 - “To Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants”

“ respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. For as the Lord says in His Gospel, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them,” (Luke 9:56) as far as we can, we must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost. For what is wanting to him who has once been formed in the womb by the hand of God? To us, indeed, and to our eyes, according to the worldly course of days, they who are born appear to receive an increase. But whatever things are made by God, are completed by the majesty and work of God their Maker.

3. Moreover, belief in divine Scripture declares to us, that among all, whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the divine gift. Elisaios, beseeching God, so laid himself upon the infant son of the widow, who was lying dead, that his head was applied to his head, and his face to his face, and the limbs of Elisaios were spread over and joined to each of the limbs of the child, and his feet to his feet. If this thing be considered with respect to the inequality of our birth and our body, an infant could not be made equal with a person grown up and mature, nor could its little limbs fit and be equal to the larger limbs of a man. But in that is expressed the divine and spiritual equality, that all men are like and equal, since they have once been made by God; and our age may have a difference in the increase of our bodies, according to the world, but not according to God; unless that very grace also which is given to the baptized is given either less or more, according to the age of the receivers, whereas the Holy Spirit is not given with measure, but by the love and mercy of the Father alike to all. For God, as He does not accept the person, so does not accept the age; since He shows Himself Father to all with well-weighed equality for the attainment of heavenly grace.

4. For, with respect to what you say, that the aspect of an infant in the first days after its birth is not pure, so that any one of us would still shudder at kissing it, we do not think that this ought to be alleged as any impediment to heavenly grace. For it is written, “To the pure all things are pure.” (Titus 1:15) Nor ought any of us to shudder at that which God hath condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that any one should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace; since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought for his very religion’s sake, to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing, in the man lately formed and freshly born, when we are embracing that which God has made. For in respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us.

5. For which reason we think that no one is to be hindered from obtaining grace by that law which was already ordained, and that spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision, but that absolutely every man is to be admitted to the grace of Christ, since Peter also in the Acts of the Apostles speaks, and says, “The Lord hath said to me that I should call no man common or unclean. (Acts 10:28)” But if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted-and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace-how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, but only, being born after the flesh according to Adam, has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth...

6. And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council, that by us no one ought to he hindered from baptism and from the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to be observed and maintained in respect of all, we think it is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons, who on this very account deserve more from our help and from the divine mercy, that immediately, on the very beginning of their birth, lamenting and weeping, they do nothing else but entreat.”

Optatus of Mileve (A.D. 365):

“The baptismal garment shows no crease when infants put it on, it is not too scanty for young men, it fits women without alteration.”

[Against Parmenium, 5:10]

St. Gregory the Theologian (c. 388 A.D.):

“Give your child the Trinity, that great and noble Protector ...Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith! ‘Be it so,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of the lack nor of the grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly, especially if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated...” (“Oration On Holy Baptism” 40:17)

St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 388):

“Blessed be God, Who alone does wonderful things! You have seen how numerous are the gifts of baptism. Although many men think that the only gift it confers is remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless (lit. “without sin”), that they too may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places of the Holy Spirit.” [3rd Instruction, 6th Paragraph, Ad Neophytos or Baptismal Instructions, p.57]

St. Jerome of Bethlehem (A.D. 403):

“While the son is a child and thinks as a child and until he comes to years of discretion to choose between the two roads to which the letter of Pythagoras points, his parents are responsible for his actions whether these be good or bad. But perhaps you imagine that, if they are not baptized, the children of Christians are liable for their own sins; and that no guilt attaches to parents who withhold from baptism those who by reason of their tender age can offer no objection to it. The truth is that, as baptism ensures the salvation of the child, this in turn brings advantage to the parents. Whether you would offer your child or not lay within your choice, but now that you have offered her, you neglect her at your peril.”(“To Laeta”, Epistle 107:6)

Council of Carthage, Canon 60, (A.D. 418):

“Canon 2. Likewise it has been decided that whoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized....let him be anathema.”

[Note that the Sixth Ecumenical Council (692 A.D.) and the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 A.D.) both ratified this council’s canons.]

St. Cyril of Alexandria (444 A.D.):

St. Cyril speaks of how “a newborn child is brought forward to receive the anointing of initiation, or rather of consumation through holy baptism.” [Commentary on John, 7 (A.D. 428)]

St. Pope Leo the Great [pope from A.D. 440-461]:

“QUESTION XIX. Concerning those who after being baptized in infancy were captured by the Gentiles, and lived with them after the manner of the Gentiles, when they come back to Roman territory as still young men, if they seek communion, what shall be done?

REPLY. If they have only lived with Gentiles and eaten sacrificial food, they can be purged by fasting and laying on of hands, in order that for the future abstaining from things offered to idols, they may be partakers of Christ’s mysteries. But if they have either worshipped idols or been polluted with manslaughter or fornication, they must not be admitted to communion, except by public penance.” [To Rusticus, Epistle 167(A.D. 459), in NPNF2, XII:112]

St. Gregory the Great of Rome (c. 604 AD)[ Pope A.D. 590-604], To Leander, Epistle 43(A.D. 591),in NPNF2,XII:88

“But with respect to trine immersion in baptism... we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days’ sepulture; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed.”

The Council of Celchyth (Canterbury, England, A.D. 816)

“Let ministers take notice that when they administer the holy baptism, that they do not pour the holy water upon the heads of the infants, but that they be always immersed in the font; as the Son of God has in His own person given an example to every believer, when He was thrice immersed into the waters of the Jordan. In this manner it ought to be observed.” (Canon 6)

Dormition Skete


Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

 Have you stopped the monastery's new web site?  Come on by and visit, either on line or in person.  I love meeting new folks and make n...