Fr. Barnabas Powell, Georgia, USA: Finally Oriented – From Protestantism to Orthodoxy

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

432010-svetik

Georgia, USA

photo

Fr. Barnabas Powell is the priest

at Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church

in Cumming, Georgia, USA

EPD-Logo_FINAL---transparent2 (2)

Finally Oriented

by Fr. Barnabas Powell

http://journeytoorthodoxy.comHERE

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

The Pentecostal church I grew up in had a profound impact on my life. The lively services, the thundering sermons, and the emotional altar calls gripped my young heart and fed my hunger for an intimate encounter with God.

As a young man growing up in a Pentecostal church, I always knew I wanted to be a preacher because all the powerful men I had ever known had been men in the pulpit, and I wanted to be just like them.

In my Pentecostal church I was told that a stream is purest at its source, so what we had to do was to be like the Church in the Book of Acts. If we were going to affect our world for Jesus then we needed the same power the Early Church had, and that meant being Pentecostal.

The whole purpose for our emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, lively, emotional worship services, and powerful, motivating, sermons, was to keep us motivated to win lost souls. If you weren’t witnessing, you weren’t on fire for the Lord.

I was the youth choir director and our youth group traveled around the Southeast singing and preaching the Good News. Sometimes I would give the sermon, but that had been a honor earned on the streets, since none of the young preachers were allowed to speak at church until they’d proved their metal by preaching on the street corners. It was there that we got our first speaking experience.

Every Saturday we’d gather at the church and get our sound system and go street preaching. We’d set up usually across from a strip shopping center near a traffic light so we could witness to the shoppers and the folks in their cars. Only one at a time could speak so the rest of the group fanned out in the shopping center with Gospel tracts in hand, ready to lead lost people to the Lord. One of the greatest badges of honor was if you were preaching and someone in one of the cars stopped at the red-light heckled you. That was suffering persecution for the Gospel.

Over the years, I began having difficulty dealing with those times when the level of religious excitement wasn’t at a fevered pitch. I knew I was excited about Jesus, but I began questioning whether I knew Him or not. I knew I didn’t want to go to hell. I knew I wanted to go to heaven (after all, if you’re in heaven, then you’re not in hell, right?). I knew I wanted to be a preacher, because everybody listened to the preacher. I knew I wanted to have a successful ministry (meaning a large church), but what I didn’t know is what to do when the emotions died down. All my quick and simple answers weren’t working for me so why would I think that they’d work for others. I was missing something.

It was then that I received the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do: go to college for a theological education. So, off I went to Toccoa, Georgia, where I attended a small, conservative, Evangelical, college. While at school, I was exposed to a depth of theology I had never imagined. Wow, this was it! Deep theology! But a lot of this theology was causing me to question my Pentecostal upbringing. I could no longer see the Christian life as one of constant emotional excitement, or ecstatic religious experiences. I had to admit that some of the doctrinal positions I once held were not entirely accurate.

I Became an Evangelical

Gradually, I became an Evangelical, committed to the classic theology of the Protestant Reformation. At least our goal was still to win the world for Christ. My time at school was wonderful. The classes were, for the most part, challenging and enlightening. I was being taught to be a scholar, to ask the right questions, and to discover the right answers. But the longer I studied the more I became convinced that something was missing! It was then that I discovered an interest in church history.

Every graduate of a Pastoral theology course of study at Toccoa Falls College had to have what was called an internship at a church. So, the last summer of my senior year I had scheduled my internship at one of the most successful churches in the Southeast, Christ Church, in Nashville, Tennessee. This church was well known for being a Pentecostal church that had successfully married Evangelical theology with Pentecostal worship.

Some of the questions I was asking were also being asked by the assistant pastor of Christ Church, Dan Scott, Jr. He and I had long discussions about this. Dan was a scholar with a Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Southern California. We would talk for hours about theology and church history.

A Dream About Orthodoxy

Dan told me about a dream he had while he was a missionary in Canada. In the dream, he was walking inside this very old church building, with marble floors and high ceilings. Inside there were pictures all over the walls and candles burning everywhere. Several old men with long white beards and dressed in black robes, were praying standing up, and he sensed, stronger than he had ever sensed, the presence of God in the place. The men were actually glowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Dan said he was speechless.

All of a sudden, one of the old, bearded, men turned to him and asked: “Where have you been?”

One day Dan advised me to read The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. I started reading this book and was captured by the history of the Orthodox Church. Here was the story of what happened to the missions of St Peter and St Paul in the New Testament; the continued story of the missions to Greece, Ephesus, Antioch, Asia Minor and Jerusalem.

It was eye opening to say the least. I had been trained to see all of Christianity as a question of either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism and now I was being confronted with a third Way.

Much to my surprise, I learned that not only were there still Orthodox Christians, but that there was even a group of former Evangelicals and Charismatics who had become Orthodox. I got in touch with them and two of their leaders journeyed to Georgia to visit with me.

By the fall of 1989, I was pastoring a growing Evangelical congregation in Woodstock, Georgia called Church of the Firstborn. I was also working as a Promotions Manager at In Touch Ministries in Atlanta.

This placed me deep in the Evangelical world of media and ministry.

Every week my best friend, Rod Loudermilk (a former Pentecostal pastor himself), and I would meet to discuss theology and the books we were reading and invariably we would turn to the church history books we both found so interesting. In these books we discovered the Church fathers, the witness of the Holy Spirit in every age of the Church and the heroes of the Faith we began to identify as true and genuine followers of our lord Jesus. We began to be convinced that there were treasures here for us today that we desperately needed to reclaim.

I was also trying to incorporate what I was learning about the early Church into our local congregation: things like a weekly Lord’s Supper, and the weekly recitation of the Apostle’s Creed. Also, I began involving the congregation in regular responses:

“Peace be with you,”

“And also with you.”

I imagine our Pentecostal church was the only Pentecostal church in the area with icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary behind the pulpit! As a Pentecostal, I had been taught that worship wasn’t a spectator sport. I didn’t realize till it was too late that the underlying theology behind historical Christian worship wasn’t compatible with my current theology.

It was like trying to mix oil and water. It didn’t work.

Discovering the Orthodox Church

In 1992 I began to have regular discussions with those who had become Orthodox. I found myself drawn to these men and their journey. They didn’t try to persuade me they were right. They just told me about their own story.

After an invitation from one of these men, I visited an Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, Indiana to experience what we had been reading about. What we both experienced there was both overwhelming in an emotional and experiential aspect and exciting in that here was the historical perspectives I had been searching for in a modern setting.

After the service, we said our good-byes and headed back to Atlanta. For a long time neither of us said a word. There were no words. I was convinced that I had to have the theology behind the beauty that I had just experienced.

I eventually had to come to grips with my own spiritual journey and my pastorate at our church in Atlanta. The breaking point came when an evangelist I had invited to our church for a series of meetings (we still called it a “revival” at that time) began praying for my folks in a prayer line and I was there praying that his prayers wouldn’t harm or deceive these dear people.

That was it! I had to make a choice. I approach our church elders and spoke frankly with them about my own journey to Orthodoxy, and we agreed to make a clear message to our church about my own choices. At the end of those days of talking and praying 20 families from our church had decided to enter the Orthodox Church with me. We went through a year’s worth of catechism and were all chrismated into the Church at St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church in America) in Atlanta in November of 2001. Our journey to Orthodoxy took almost nine years, but we were finally home.

Orthodoxy attracts me precisely because of my background as a Pentecostal. Worship is very important to Pentecostals. And in Orthodoxy I have found a depth of worship that doesn’t deny my emotions, but doesn’t depend on them as well. Orthodox worship takes into account the whole person. It was said by the great Russian writer, Dostoevsky, that “beauty will save the world,” and I have found a beauty in Orthodox worship that draws me to God.

A former professor and Evangelical (now a Roman Catholic) once said that the theology he read that had been written by Christian writers in the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries (times that were suppose to be gripped in the darkness of ritualism and false teachings) were more awesome and more powerful than most of all the conservative Protestant writers of his own day. In effect, he said that their “error” was more beautiful and more powerful than my “truth.”

Richness and Fullness

My journey has led me into Orthodox worship and belief. This should not lead others to think I have abandoned my desire to find the fullness of Christian faith and worship. It simply means that I no longer feel the need to reconstruct a pure church in the image of the early church. I am not certain I would be able to recognize such a Church if I encountered it. If those folks mocking Christ failed to recognize the scourged, beaten, bleeding, and crucified person hanging on the cross as the Lord of glory, would I recognize his body today? My only recourse is to trust the Holy Spirit has preserved His Church and ask that same Spirit to form me within the Church that exists today.

Nonetheless, for me, Orthodoxy offers a richness and a fullness that is timeless and yet refreshingly new. It is so vast and wide-reaching and so full of mystery that it will take more than a lifetime to fully examine it. While I am not competent to judge the hearts of others, I am convinced that there is preserved within Orthodox Christianity a foundational core of worship and faith that is fundamentally true to the Spirit and life of the New Testament. This is the faith “once, for all, delivered to the saints.”

For those who wonder whether this can be true, I refer them to the words of St. Philip the apostle:

Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathaniel said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”- John 1:45-46

Video: Το Ευαγγέλιο που μάτωσε στην Arizona των ΗΠΑ & η ανάπηρη που περπάτησε

http://arizonaofmyheart.wordpress.com

ARIZONA OF MY HEART

33a605a2b843179bd308ead735fb8736.jpg

Το Ευαγγέλιο που μάτωσε στην Arizona των ΗΠΑ

& η ανάπηρη που περπάτησε

A Ortodoxia – Em Fé Ortodoxa – Bispo Alexander ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* Portuguese

http://portugalofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://romancatholicsofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://latinamericaofmyheart.wordpress.com

PORTUGAL OF MY HEART

ROMAN CATHOLICS OF MY HEART

LATIN AMERICA OF MY HEART

portugal-rivers-lakes-mountains-trees-jungle-forest-pics-151753.jpg

A Ortodoxia

 Em Fé Ortodoxa – Bispo Alexander

Fonte:

http://www.fatheralexander.org

http://ww.fatheralexander.org/page23.htm

http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/portuguese/a_ortodoxia.htm

EM FÉ ORTODOXA – BISPO ALEXANDER

É a autêntica religião cristã pregada pelo Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, transmitida pelos Apóstolos aos seus sucessores e aos fiéis e preservada zelosamente na sua pureza pela Igreja Ortodoxa através dos séculos.

É a doutrina certa e justa, compreendida, sem reduções nem acréscimos, nas Sagradas Escrituras, na Tradição e nos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos.

É a doutrina ensinada e pregada pela Igreja Ortodoxa para glorificar a Deus e salvar as almas, segundo a vontade de Cristo.

Chama-se ORTODOXIA a doutrina que observa os ensinamentos de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, reverenciados e transmitidos pela Igreja Ortodoxa.

Igreja Una, Santa, Católica e Apostólica

A Igreja Ortodoxa é a sociedade, baseada na fé dos doze Apóstolos, dos fiéis cristãos que obedecem aos pastores canónicos e vivem unidos pelos elos da Doutrina, das Leis de Deus, da Hierarquia divinamente instituída e da prática dos Sacramentos.

A Igreja Ortodoxa professa a Doutrina autêntica de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, tal e qual nos foi revelada e exercida pelos Apóstolos no primeiro século da era cristã, na Palestina e nas cidades de Jerusalém, Damasco e Antioquia. Esta doutrina obedece aos mandamentos, procede de acordo com a vida da Graça que Cristo nos legou por Sua morte e edificou pelos sacramentos; crê na vida eterna, observa os ensinamentos dos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos e persiste estreitamente unida aos seus pastores, bispos e demais sacerdotes ortodoxos, continuadores em linha recta da obra dos Apóstolos. Reconhece como Chefe Único da Igreja, sem representantes ou legatários, Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, que nos dirige, ensina e eleva. É depositária da Doutrina de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo e prossegue em todo o mundo a Sua obra de amor e Salvação. Ensina as verdades nas quais devemos crer firmemente, os deveres que havemos de cumprir e os meios a aplicar para nos moralizar e santificar.

A Igreja Ortodoxa Oriental reúne as quatro características que distinguem a Verdadeira Igreja: Una, Santa, Católica e Apostólica. Durante vinte séculos, manteve inalteráveis os sacramentos, as próprias doutrinas e os mesmos pastores que são sucessores dos Apóstolos. A designação Ortodoxa procede do facto de ela crer e ensinar correctamente a doutrina do Cristo. Conservou-se exemplarmente na doutrina, desde a pregação de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, até aos dias de hoje. A primazia de honra da Igreja é desempenhada pelo Patriarca Ecuménico de Constantinopla.

Deus prometeu à Sua Igreja a assistência do Espírito Santo e a Sua união com ela até a consumação dos séculos, a fim de não cair no erro nem falhar nos seus ensinamentos.

A Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição

As fontes de onde se extrai a Fé Ortodoxa são: a Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição.

A Sagrada Escritura é a Doutrina de Deus revelada ao género humano por intermédio dos patriarcas, dos profetas e dos apóstolos, e está consignada no Antigo e no Novo Testamentos.

Ao lermos a Sagrada Escritura, as palavras dos profetas e dos apóstolos penetram nos nossos corações como se fossem verdades proferidas pelos próprios lábios desses santos homens, apesar dos séculos e milénios decorridos desde a data do registro dessas obras divinas.

O mais antigo meio de divulgação da Revelação Divina foi a Santa Tradição. Desde os tempos do primeiro homem, Adão, até Moisés, não havia nenhuma Sagrada Escritura. Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, o próprio Salvador, transmitiu aos Apóstolos os seus divinos ensinamentos através de sermões e parábolas, e não por meio de livros. Assim, no começo, procederam os Santos Apóstolos que divulgaram, oralmente, as Verdades Divinas, edificando deste modo as bases da Santa Igreja. A razão do registro da Sagrada Escritura foi para conservar, de maneira precisa e inalterável, a Revelação Divina.

A Santa Tradição é o conjunto de verdades reveladas por Deus, mas não consignadas na Sagrada Escritura; são transmitidas oralmente de geração em geração. Hoje, encontramo-la divulgada, por escrito ou por símbolos, nos concílios, liturgias, costumes, monumentos, pinturas, leis eclesiásticas, bem como através de sentenças e epístolas ensinadas pelos Santos Pais da Igreja.

Em resumo, a Tradição Apostólica encontra-se manifestada:

a) nos Sete Concílios Ecuménicos;

b) nas Obras Cristãs dos Santos Pais da Igreja

c) no Símbolo dos Apóstolos;

d) no Símbolo Niceno-Constantinopolitano;

e) no Símbolo de Santo Anastácio;

f) na Liturgia da Igreja;

g) nos monumentos, pinturas e arqueologia cristãos;

h) nos livros simbólicos da Ortodoxia:

1 – a confissão ortodoxa de Pedro Moghila;
2 – a confissão ortodoxa de Dositeu, Patriarca de Jerusalém, 1672; e
3 – o catecismo de Filareto de Moscovo.
i) no magistério permanente da Igreja;

j) na legislação eclesiástica; e

l) nos costumes e usos cristãos.

Mesmo que tenhamos a Sagrada Escritura, devemos seguir a Santa Tradição, que está directamente ligada a ela e unida à Revelação Divina. A própria Sagrada Escritura no-lo ensina: “Então, irmãos, sede firmes e conservai as tradições que lhes foram ensinadas, seja por palavras, seja por epístolas” (Tes 2:15).

As diferenças Doutrinais entre a Igreja Ortodoxa e a Romana

A diferença fundamental é a questão da infalibilidade papal e a pretensa supremacia universal da jurisdição de Roma, que a Igreja Ortodoxa não admite, pois ferem frontalmente a Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição.

Existem, ainda, outras distinções, abaixo relacionadas em dois grupos básicos:

a) diferenças gerais; e

b) diferenças especiais.

Para termos uma ideia dessas diferenças, vejamos o seguinte esquema, de cuja leitura se infere uma possibilidade de superação, quando pairar acima das paixões o espírito de fraternidade que anima o trabalho dos verdadeiros cristãos.

Diferenças Gerais:

São dogmáticas, litúrgicas e disciplinares.

-A Igreja Ortodoxa só admite sete Concílios, enquanto a Romana adopta vinte.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa discorda da procedência do Espírito Santo do Pai e do Filho; unicamente do Pai é que admite.
-A Sagrada Escritura e a Santa Tradição representam o mesmo valor como fonte de Revelação, segundo a Igreja Ortodoxa. A Romana, no entanto, considera a Tradição mais importante que a Sagrada Escritura.
-A consagração do pão e do vinho, durante a missa, no Corpo e no Sangue de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, efectua-se pelo Prefácio, Palavra do Senhor e Epíclese, e não pelas expressões proferidas por Cristo na Última Ceia, como ensina a Igreja Romana.
-Em nenhuma circunstância, a Igreja Ortodoxa admite a infalibilidade do Bispo de Roma. Considera a infalibilidade uma prerrogativa de toda a Igreja e não de uma só pessoa.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa entende que as decisões de um Concílio Ecuménico são superiores às decisões do Papa de Roma ou de quaisquer hierarcas eclesiásticos.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não concorda com a supremacia universal do direito do Bispo de Roma sobre toda a Igreja Cristã, pois considera todos os bispos iguais. Somente reconhece uma primazia de honra ou uma supremacia de facto (primus inter pares).
-A Virgem Maria, igual às demais criaturas, foi concebida em estado de pecado original. A Igreja Romana, por definição do papa Pio IX, no ano de 1854, proclamou como “dogma” de fé a Imaculada Concepção.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa rejeita a agregação do “Filioque,” aprovado pela Igreja de Roma, no Símbolo Niceno-Constantinopolitano.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa nega a existência do limbo e do purgatório.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não admite a existência de um Juízo Particular para apreciar o destino das almas, logo após a morte, mas um só Juízo Universal.
-O Sacramento da Santa Unção pode ser ministrado várias vezes aos fiéis em caso de enfermidade corporal ou espiritual, e não somente nos momentos de agonia ou perigo de morte, como é praticado na Igreja Romana.
-Na Igreja Ortodoxa, o ministro habitual do Sacramento do Crisma é o Padre; na Igreja Romana, o Bispo, e só extraordinariamente, o Padre.
-A Igreja Ortodoxa não admite a existência de indulgências.
-No Sacramento do Matrimónio, o Ministro é o Padre e não os contraentes.
-Em casos excepcionais, ou por graves razões, a Igreja Ortodoxa acolhe a solução do divórcio.
-São distintas as concepções teológicas sobre religião, Igreja, Encarnação, Graça, imagens, escatologia, Sacramentos, culto dos Santos, infalibilidade, Estado religioso…

Diferenças especiais:

Além disso, subsistem algumas diferenças disciplinares ou litúrgicas que não transferem dogma à doutrina. São, nomeadamente, as seguintes:

1-Nos templos da Igreja Ortodoxa só se permitem ícones.
2-Os sacerdotes ortodoxos podem optar livremente entre o celibato e o casamento.
3-O baptismo é por imersão.
4-No Sacrifício Eucarístico, na Igreja Ortodoxa, usa-se pão com levedura; na Romana, sem levedura.
5-Os calendários ortodoxo e romano são diferentes, especialmente, quanto à Páscoa da Ressurreição.
6-A comunhão dos fiéis é efectuada com pão e vinho; na Romana, somente com pão.
7-Na Igreja Ortodoxa, não existem as devoções ao Sagrado Coração de Jesus, Corpus Christi, Via Crucis, Rosário, Cristo-Rei, Imaculado Coração de Maria e outras comemorações análogas.
😯 processo da canonização de um santo é diferente na Igreja Ortodoxa; nele, a maior parte do povo participa no reconhecimento do seu estado de santidade.
9-Existem, somente, três ordens menores na Igreja Ortodoxa: leitor, acólito e sub-diácono; na Romana, quatro: ostiário, leitor, exorcista e acólito.
10-O Santo Mirão e a Comunhão na Igreja Ortodoxa efectuam-se imediatamente após o Baptismo.
11-Na fórmula da absolvição dos pecados no Sacramento da Confissão, o sacerdote ortodoxo absolve não em seu próprio nome, mas em nome de Deus – “Deus te absolve de teus pecados”; na Romana, o sacerdote absolve em seu próprio nome, como representante de Deus – “Ego absolvo a peccatis tuis….”
12-A Ortodoxia não admite o poder temporal da Igreja; na Romana, é um dogma de fé tal doutrina.

Os Dez Mandamentos

A Santa Igreja Católica Apostólica Ortodoxa conservou os dez mandamentos da Lei de Deus na sua forma original, sem a menor alteração. O mesmo não sucedeu com o texto adoptado pela Igreja Católica Apostólica Romana, no qual os dez mandamentos foram arbitrariamente alterados, tendo sido totalmente eliminado o segundo mandamento e o último dividido em duas partes, formando dois mandamentos distintos. Esta alteração da Verdade constitui um dos maiores erros teológicos desde que a Igreja Romana cindiu a união da Santa Igreja Ortodoxa no século XI. Esta modificação nos dez mandamentos, introduzidos pelos papas romanos, foi motivada pelo Renascimento das artes. Os célebres escultores daquela época tiveram um amplo leque de actividades artísticas, originando obras de grande valor. Não obstante, as esculturas representando Deus, a Santíssima Virgem Maria, os santos e os anjos estavam em completo desacordo com o segundo mandamento de Deus. Havia, pois, duas alternativas, ou impedir a criação de estátuas ou suprimir o segundo mandamento. Os papas escolheram esta última solução, caindo em grave erro.

O que significa ser Ortodoxo

É ortodoxo quem pertence à sociedade dos fiéis cristãos que, unidos pela fé ortodoxa, seguem os ensinamentos e a doutrina da Igreja Ortodoxa e obedecem aos seus Pastores em tudo o que é concernente à Glória de Deus e à Salvação da alma.
É ortodoxo quem vive a fé e pratica as virtudes pregadas pela Igreja Ortodoxa, à qual passou a pertencer por meio do Baptismo ministrado por seus sacerdotes; quem assiste nas Igrejas Ortodoxas a todas as cerimónias, recebe os sacramentos, escuta a voz de Deus através dos pastores e empenha-se em viver do culto e da Graça derramada sobre todos os crentes.
É ortodoxo quem ama o Verdadeiro Deus e ama a Jesus Cristo e a Sua doutrina, conforme o ensina a Santa Igreja Católica Apostólica Ortodoxa.
Em outra ordem de considerações, é chamado ortodoxo aquele que crê rectamente (a palavra grega “ortodoxia” significa Doutrina Recta).

A fundação da Igreja Ortodoxa

Fundada por Cristo sobre a fé de seus doze Apóstolos, a Igreja Ortodoxa nasceu no ano 33 da era cristã, dia de Pentecostes, quando o Espírito Santo apareceu aos Apóstolos reunidos no Cenáculo como línguas de fogo. A Igreja Cristã Ortodoxa nasceu com Cristo e seus Apóstolos e não com Fócio no ano 858, nem com Miguel Cerulário, em 1054, como equivocada e erroneamente alguns propagam.

A Igreja Ortodoxa surgiu na Palestina com Jesus Cristo, expandiu-se com os Apóstolos e edificou-se sobre o sangue dos mártires. Não teve a sua origem na Grécia ou noutra região ou país que não seja a Palestina. Ela não morre, porque vive e descansa em Cristo e tem a promessa divina de que existirá até o fim dos séculos. Em vão os seus inimigos e todos os corifeus da impiedade tentaram destruí-la, negá-la, perseguí-la. À semelhança de seu Divino Mestre e fundador Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, a Igreja Ortodoxa, desde o seu nascimento, tem padecido e sofrido terríveis perseguições debaixo do jugo do Império romano, passando pelo muçulmano e turco, até nossos dias. O sangue de uma infinidade de mártires tem selado e provado ao mundo a sublimidade do seu amor, a perfeição e a veracidade da sua doutrina divina. Apesar de todas as campanhas, sempre subsistiu e triunfou. Vive e viverá eternamente em Cristo e, confiante, seguirá com Suas palavras: “Eu estarei convosco até a consumação dos séculos, e as portas do inferno não prevalecerão contra Ela.”

Foi na cidade de Antioquia onde os primeiros crentes em Jesus Cristo começaram a chamar-se, pela primeira vez, Cristãos, denominação que usamos até hoje (At XI,26). Logo após, a prédica cristã chegou até Roma, capital do Império Romano, onde o Apóstolo São Paulo formou a primeira comunidade cristã, constituída por várias famílias que ele enumera e saúda na sua Epístola aos Romanos, Capítulo XVI. Da cidade de Roma, o Evangelho foi propagado por todo o Ocidente e outras partes do mundo.

Os bispos exerciam a administração dos cristãos; aquele que mais autoridade tinha na sua região usava o título de Patriarca. Eram cinco os Patriarcas que o mundo cristão tinha nos primeiros séculos: o de Roma, o de Constantinopla, o de Alexandria, o de Antioquia e Jerusalém. Todos eles, com iguais direitos, eram independentes na administração das suas respectivas regiões e, iguais entre si, considerando-se o

primeiro entre iguais “primus inter pares,” o Patriarca de Roma, pela condição de ser a capital do Império (I Concílio Ecuménico, art. 6; II Concílio Ecuménico, art. 3; IV Concílio Ecuménico, art. 28; VI Concílio Ecuménico, art.36). A mais alta autoridade da Igreja Cristã era, e ainda continua a sê-lo, o Concílio Ecuménico, cujas decisões são obrigatórias para toda a Igreja.

O triunfo do Cristianismo teve lugar no terceiro século após a morte de Cristo, motivado pela paz decretada por Constantino, Imperador de Roma. Até então, o Cristianismo vivia nas catacumbas, locais onde eram celebrados todos os actos religiosos e se aprendia a religião de Cristo (Actos dos Apóstolos). Desde aquela era, a Igreja segue o seu caminho através do mundo, pregando a doutrina de Jesus Cristo.

A separação das Igrejas Ortodoxa e Romana

Em primeiro lugar devemos realçar que a Igreja Ortodoxa nunca se separou de nenhuma outra Igreja. Ela permanece em linha recta desde Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo e seus Apóstolos. Jamais se afastou, através dos séculos, da autêntica e verdadeira doutrina ensinada pelo Divino Mestre. Dela separaram-se outras Igrejas, mas ela não se afastou nunca de ninguém ou da linha recta traçada por Jesus Cristo. A Igreja Ortodoxa é una, ontem, hoje e amanhã – é sempre a mesma. Cristo assinalou-lhe o caminho a seguir, e ela observou-o e cumpriu-o sem se afastar nunca do mandato de Cristo.

Triste e doloroso acontecimento na Igreja de Cristo foi a separação das Igrejas Ortodoxa e Romana, que por mil anos permaneceram unidas. São múltiplas e complexas as causas; psicológicas, políticas, culturais, disciplinares, litúrgicas e, até dogmáticas. Todavia, é bem certo e historicamente demonstrado que a separação definitiva não se processou com o Patriarca Fócio, no século IX, nem com o Patriarca Miguel Celurário, no século XI (1054). Apesar das divergências havidas entre ambas as Igrejas, principalmente a questão do Filioque e dos Búlgaros, a unidade foi mantida. Os Patriarcas Orientais e Ocidental permaneceram em comunhão, pelo menos parcial e, mesmo em Constantinopla, as Igrejas e mosteiros latinos continuaram a existir.

A divisão foi efectuada durante vários séculos. A origem desse facto histórico teve como verdadeira causa a pretensão de Carlos Magno (século VIII – ano 792) de contrair casamento com a Princesa Irene de Bizâncio e não conseguir seu objectivo. Ressentindo-se com a recusa, atacou os orientais, atribuindo-lhes erros que não tinham, nos livros chamados Carolinos, apoiado pelos teólogos da corte de Aix-la-Chapelle. Essa atitude prejudicou profundamente a vida entre ambas as Igrejas, não obstante haver o próprio Papa desaprovado a ocorrência.

A ruptura definitiva e verdadeira produziu-se na época das Cruzadas, que foram totalmente nefastas para as relações entre as duas partes da Cristandade. Os bispos orientais foram substituídos por latinos. O golpe de graça nos vestígios de unidade que ainda existiam foi dado, principalmente, pela famosa Quarta Cruzada, em 1198. A armada veneziana, que transportava os Cruzados para a Terra Santa, desviou-se até Constantinopla, e cercou a “Cidade Guardada por Deus.” Relíquias, museus, obras de arte, e tesouros bizantinos, saqueados pelos Cruzados para a Terra Santa, enriqueceram, inteiramente, todo o Ocidente. Até um patriarca veneziano, Tomás Marosini, se apossou do assento de Fócio, de acordo com o Papa Inocêncio III.

A mentalidade do século XX, mesmo no Ocidente, não pode deixar de recordar-se com profunda revolta e indignação, dos actos dos cruzados contra os fiéis da Ortodoxia neste infeliz Oriente, mormente em Constantinopla, no ano de 1204, quando lançaram o Imperador Alexe V do cume do Monte Touros, matando-o. Destituíram o Patriarca legalmente escolhido, João e, no seu lugar, colocaram um cidadão de nome Tomás Marosini. Em Antioquia, no ano de 1098, despojaram o Patriarca legítimo, João e, no seu lugar, colocaram um de nome Bernard. Em Jerusalém, compeliram o Patriarca legal, Simão, a afastar-se da Sé e substituíram-no por um chamado Dimper.

Os abusos dos cruzados devem ser considerados, no mínimo, actos de inimizade, além de violação do direito. Vieram ao Oriente, alegando a “salvação dos lugares santos das mãos dos muçulmanos árabes,” mas o objectivo era bem outro. Quando passaram por Constantinopla e a ocuparam na terça-feira, 13 de abril de 1204, depois de um cerco mortífero que durou sete meses, ficaram deslumbrados com sua civilização e riquezas, atacaram os seus habitantes, assaltaram os seus museus e lojas, roubaram os seus palácios e igrejas, destruíram a nobre cidade do Bósforo e incendiaram-na, depois de praticarem actos de rapina e pilhagem, não deixando nenhum objecto de valor ou utensílio de utilidade doméstica.

Os cruzados permaneceram em Constantinopla de 1204 a 1261, quando foram obrigados a evacuá-la, no dia 15 de agosto, festa da Assunção de Nossa Senhora, pelo General Alexe Estratigopolos, sob o governo do Imperador Miguel Paleólogos, que reconquistou a Capital. Depois, os cruzados foram definitivamente aniquilados na Palestina em 1291.

O cisma estava consumado e, apesar dos desejos e dos esforços conjugados nesse sentido, não houve nenhuma possibilidade de sanar a ruptura até ao dia de hoje. A esperança de união não conseguiu converter-se em feliz realidade, como todos apelavam. Essa ânsia motivou três concílios: de Bai, Apúlia, em 1098; de Leão, em 1274; e de Florença, entre 1438 e 1439. Infelizmente, porém, não se conseguiu, em nenhum deles, a ansiada união de todos os cristãos numa única Igreja, debaixo de uma só autoridade: Cristo. Somente Deus e as orações farão possível a união de ambas as Igrejas. Todos os esforços que se realizam actualmente em todo o mundo serão em vão e condenados ao fracasso se não se apoiarem na oração e no sacrifício. É necessário, inicialmente, que se eliminem e desapareçam totalmente os ataques, as pregações condenatórias e o tratamento de hereges e cismáticos prodigalizados, abundantemente, pela Igreja de Roma contra a Igreja Ortodoxa. (Após o último Concílio Ecuménico de Roma, cessaram os ataques contra a Igreja Ortodoxa e aos demais cristãos). É absolutamente imprescindível reconhecer que a Igreja Ortodoxa não é uma ovelha desgarrada que vive no erro e nas trevas. Pedimos a Deus para que as palavras de Cristo, “um só rebanho guiado por um só pastor,” sejam um dia, uma feliz realidade.

A Fidelidade Ortodoxa e a salvaguarda incólume da Fé

A Igreja Ortodoxa manteve sem acréscimos nem reduções a Lei que lhe foi confiada. Em três ocasiões, São Paulo recomendou ao discípulo Timóteo que mantivesse a fé, incólume e imaculada, tal como a recebera, dizendo-lhe:

“Eu te exorto diante de Deus… que guardes este mandamento sem mácula nem repreensão até a vinda de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo” (I: VI-13 e 14).
“Timóteo! Guarda o que te foi confiado, evitando conversas vãs e profanas e objecções da falsa ciência, a qual tendo alguns professado, se desviaram da fé” (I: VI-20 e 21).
“Conserva o modelo de sãs palavras que de mim ouviste na fé e no amor que há em Cristo Jesus. Guarda o bom depósito com o auxílio do Espírito Santo que habita em nós” (II: I-13 e 14).
Um comentador das Epístolas apresentou o seguinte conceito:

Quem recebe um depósito, cumpre restituí-lo à pessoa que lho confiou. Um depósito não é propriedade do depositário; este deve repô-lo, completo, sem reduções nem modificações. O depósito, que é a fé, é muito precioso por constituir o direito de Deus, revelado à humanidade. Cabe a todo crente e, especialmente, aos mestres, que sejam fiéis na guarda desse depósito e transmiti-lo incólume e sem alterações àqueles que lhes sucederão.

Timóteo, o discípulo dilecto do Apóstolo São Paulo que o sagrou Bispo de Éfeso, cidade situada no coração fervilhante da Anatólia, era igual aos primazes orientais, guardiães dos conselhos dos mestres, que os transmitiram aos sucessores sem nenhuma alteração. Os estudiosos da história do Oriente e os pesquisadores da verdade reconhecem que os homens do Oriente zelam com todo o rigor pelo que se lhes confia, mormente quando o objecto confiado é uma questão de fé, relacionada com o que representa as contas a serem prestadas no Dia do Julgamento.

Éfeso, que teve em Timóteo o seu primeiro bispo, permaneceu durante longo tempo como a vanguarda do cristianismo. Nela se realizou o VI Concílio Ecuménico. Os seus numerosos bispos contribuíram para a grandeza da Igreja, que deles se orgulha através dos séculos. O Bispo Marcos, um dos seus sábios prelados, de atitudes nobres e corajosas na defesa do cristianismo, compareceu ao Concílio de Florença, em 1439, batendo-se quase sozinho, sem medo e sem vacilação, com a maioria constituída de antagonistas, em defesa da fé confiada pelos seus antecessores.

O bispo Marcos não era, no Oriente, o único prelado íntegro e leal, zeloso pela pureza da fé; Como ele existiram numerosas e nobres personalidades. Assim, todas as deliberações dos Concílios Ecuménicos, arquivadas pela Igreja Ortodoxa, sem acréscimos ou reduções, foram a maior prova e o mais santo testemunho da conservação da fé, sã e intacta, na Igreja do Oriente.

Missionary Leaflet #

Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068

Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA: From Unchurched Hawaiian to Local Orthodox

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://nativeamericansofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://hawaiiofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

NATIVE AMERICANS OF MY HEART

HAWAII OF MY HEART

napali-coast.jpg

5149_1172858526329_8284474_n-150x150.jpg

Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA:

From Unchurched Hawaiian to Local Orthodox

http://journeytoorthodoxy.comHERE

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

I grew up unchurched. I became a Christian in high school through reading the Living Bible. I was active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Hawaii. My home church was Kalihi Union Church (KUC), a fine evangelical congregation that was part of the United Church of Christ (UCC).

I was deeply troubled by the UCC’s liberal theology and wanted to help it return to its biblical roots. This led me to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the purpose of preparing to become an evangelical seminary professor in the liberal United Church of Christ to help the UCC return to its biblical roots.

However, in a surprising turn of events, I became Orthodox!

It was my first week at seminary. As I walked down the hallway of Main Dorm I saw on the door of one of the student’s room an icon of Christ. I thought to myself,

“An icon in a Calvinist seminary!?!”

This was to be the first of many encounters with Eastern Orthodoxy.

After receiving my M.A. in Church History, I did doctoral studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. While there I attended Saints Kyril and Methodios Bulgarian Orthodox Church. I was drawn to the deep mystical worship of liturgical worship that was rooted in the historic Christian Faith. I also felt comfortable with its all-English services and a congregation that was made up mostly of converts. Orthodox worship presents a stark contrast to the emotionally driven entertainment that passes for contemporary Evangelical worship.

My journey to Orthodoxy began when little questions about Protestant theology turned into big questions, and the big questions turned into a theological crisis. Protestant theology holds up so long as one accepts certain premises but becomes problematic when considered from the standpoint of church history and the early Church Fathers. As a church history major I became painfully aware that much of what passes for Evangelicalism: the altar call, the symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper, the inductive bible study method, minimalist creed, the rapture, all have their origins in the 1800s.

This means that Evangelicalism is a modern innovation as is Liberalism.

But more troubling was my investigation of classical Reformation theology, e.g., Martin Luther and John Calvin. Two foundational tenets of Protestantism: sola fide (faith alone) and sola scriptura (Bible alone), were not part of the early Church and rely upon reading the Bible in a certain way. Moreover, these two tenets originated out of the theological debates of Medieval Scholasticism. In other words, the Protestant Reformation marks not a return to the historic Christian Faith, but rather a late innovation.

What makes Orthodoxy so daunting to an Evangelical is its understanding that to have the true Faith means belonging to the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. If the Orthodox Church is the true Church, then that meant that I needed to resign my membership from Kalihi Union Church and become Orthodox. I was received into the Orthodox Church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1999 at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Honolulu. I am very grateful for what I have learned from Evangelicalism but there is so much more to Christianity. Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of Evangelical theology and worship.

Robert Arakaki, Hawaii, USA

Jorge’s Journey from Roman Catholic Spain to Wisconsin Orthodox – By Jorge Luque, USA

https://americaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://romancatholicsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

AMERICA OF MY HEART

ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY

USA OF MY HEART

WisconsinMap2.jpg

floor-1024x576.jpg

Jorge’s Journey from Roman Catholic Spain to Wisconsin Orthodox

by

Jorge Luque, USA

Source:

http://journeytoorthodoxy.comHERE

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

I was born in a nominally Roman Catholic family, though they did not practice their faith. I was baptised in the RC church, and some years later, about the age of nine, had my first communion. And that was all my Christian formation, those two separate instances without anything in between. My family did not go to church, except for baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

I was more or less like them until I was a teenager, when I converted, or rather came back, to the Roman Catholic faith.

I was 16 years old when, after undergoing a severe and long depression, I turned back to the faith of my “forefathers”. That was my thought back then, that is, to make a turn around, returning to my cultural and religious roots. The love for tradition was very strong in me, and was leading me step by step to the true faith, though not directly, for I had to go first through a period in my life dominated by the Roman Catholic faith.

I was sitting in a public library when, reading the first words of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel, something, finally, changed in me. That was a turning point for me, the moment in which I decided to turn to God.

Months later I went on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle St. James in Spain. After reaching my destination and praying at the apostle’s tomb, I visited and then joined a nearby Roman Catholic monastery of the Trappist order.

I stayed there for a year as a postulant. I was 18 to 19 years old.

It was one of the best periods of my life, that monastery was like a school where to learn about my recently embraced faith. But I could not stay there, for I felt clearly that monasticism was not my calling, and I desired very strongly to get married and start my own family. So I decided to leave before making any vows. After that year in the monastery, my life was like walking through a wasteland, spiritually speaking. I had no contact whatsoever with other Christians. I used to go to mass every Sunday, even on a daily basis sometimes? but those churches were almost empty, except for some elderly people. After a few years I stopped going to church and abandoned all my personal devotions ( I used to pray the psalms and to say the Jesus prayer.) It was a very long and dark period of my life. Somehow, I clung to my faith, but my heart was getting colder and colder, to the point where I almost stopped feeling.

It was then, when I could not bear it any longer, and my heart was almost drained, that I finally found the Orthodox faith.

I was about to turn 35 years old, and all that I knew about the Orthodox Church I had learned in that Roman Catholic monastery in two 2 books: the Way of the Pilgrim, and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

One day I came across a random article on the internet about the fall of the papacy into heresy, and the schism of the West from the Orthodox East. It was just a mediocre article, but for some reason it set off something within me. I began to doubt what I had been told regarding the Roman Catholic dogmas about the pope (papal supremacy, infallibility, and his primacy)

The whole building of my Roman Catholic beliefs fell apart overnight. When that happened I saw myself swimming in a rough sea without any boat, I turn to the Orthodox Church, running away from the chaos in which I was immersed.

A month later, after rejecting the pope and his lies, I embraced my Orthodox faith, though it took me longer to walk into an Orthodox church.

I found a Russian Orthodox Church in Spain, under the Patriarchate of Moscow, about 50 miles from my home, an hour and a half each way by bus. One Sunday I went to this church and spoke to the priest, after liturgy. An elderly lady translated for us because the priest, Fr. Dimitry, did not speak Spanish well.

I told him about my desire to be baptised, to which he answered, very reasonably, that I needed first to go for a while to church every Sunday before being received into the church. That same day during lunch he advised me to go back to the Roman Catholic church, for I definitely would not be able to adapt, because of the language barrier, almost no one spoke Spanish. I assured him that I would adapt and that I was firmly decided to stay in the Orthodox Church. I asked his permission to keep going to liturgy every Sunday. He was very much surprised and told me to come back and even got someone to drive me to and from church.

After a few months going there every Sunday, Fr. Dimitry offered to chrismate me. I declined explaining again that I wanted to be received into the church by baptism, for the sacrament for receiving people into the Church is baptism, not Chrismation, except by economia.

Fr Dimitry told me he did not have a place to baptise me, and that it was not the practise to receive adults through baptism outside of Russia. Then I asked his blessing to come to the USA to be baptised and to go to the seminary for I felt I was called to the priesthood. He gave me his blessing, though he was taken aback.

To make a long story short, 2 years after first going to Fr Dimitry’s church, I saved enough money to pay for a plane ticket and come to the US, to Wisconsin, where Fr Thomas and Matushka Elizabeth Kulp had offered to have me stay in their house and baptise me in their Church. I came 3 months ago now, right before the visit of the Kursk Root icon to our parish. And got baptised on
Holy Saturday of this year. Fr. Thomas and Matushka Elizabeth took me in like a member of their family and offered me a living example of how to live like a true Orthodox Christian. They have encouraged me in my desire to attend seminary and have helped me with this application.

***

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY:

I just received notice that Jorge was just accepted into the seminary program at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY. Congratulations, Jorge, and remember us in your holy prayers!

Confession: The Healing Sacrament – By Jim Forest, USA & the Netherlands

http://orthodoxyislove.wordpress.com

ORTHODOXY IS LOVE

Jim Forest windmill.jpg

Confession: The Healing Sacrament

by

Jim Forest, USA & the Netherlands

Source:

http://www.antiochian.org

http://www.antiochian.org/content/confession-healing-sacrament

A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes. —Sayings of the Desert Fathers

“When I went to my first confession,” a friend told me, “tears took the place of the sins I meant to utter. The priest simply told me that it wasn’t necessary to enumerate everything and that it was just vanity to suppose that our personal sins are worse than everyone else’s. Which, by the way, was something of a relief, since it wasn’t possible for me to remember all the sins of my first thirty-odd years of life. It made me think of the way the father received his prodigal son—he didn’t even let his son finish his carefully rehearsed speech. It’s truly amazing.”

Another friend told me that he was so worried about all he had to confess that he decided to write it down. “So I made a list of my sins and brought it with me. The priest saw the paper in my hand, took it, looked through the list, tore it up, and gave it back to me. Then he said ‘Kneel down,’ and he absolved me. That was my confession, even though I never said a word! But I felt truly my sins had been torn up and that I was free of them.”

The very word confession makes us nervous, touching as it does all that is hidden in ourselves: lies told, injuries caused, things stolen, friends deceived, people betrayed, promises broken, faith denied—these plus all the smaller actions that reveal the beginnings of sins.

Confession is painful, yet a Christian life without confession is impossible.

Confession is a major theme of the Gospels. Even before Christ began His public ministry, we read in Matthew’s Gospel that John required confession of those who came to him for baptism in the River Jordan for a symbolic act of washing away their sins: “And [they] were baptized by [John] in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6).

Then there are those amazing words of Christ to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The keys of binding and loosing sins were given not only to one apostle but to all Christ’s disciples, and—in a sacramental sense—to any priest who has his bishop’s blessing to hear confessions.

The Gospel author John warns us not to deceive ourselves: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:8, 9).

The sacrament of baptism, the rite of entrance into the Church, has always been linked with repentance. “Repent, and . . . be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” Saint Peter preached in Jerusalem, “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In the same book we read that “many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds” (Acts 19:18).

The Prodigal Son

One Gospel story in which we encounter confession is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). Here Christ describes a young man so impatient to come into his inheritance and be independent that, in effect, he says to his father, “As far as I’m concerned, you have already died. Give me now what would have come to me after your funeral. I want nothing more to do with you or with this house.”

With Godlike generosity, the father gives what his son asks, though he knows his son well enough to realize that all the boy receives might as well be burned in a stove. The boy takes his inheritance and leaves, at last free of parents, free of morals and good behavior, free to do as he pleases.

After wasting his money, he finds himself reduced to feeding the pigs as a farmhand. People he had thought of as friends now sneer. He knows he has renounced the claim to be anyone’s son, yet in his desperation he dares hope his father might at least allow him to return home as a servant. Full of dismay for what he said to his father and what he did with his inheritance, he walks home in his rags, ready to confess his sins, to beg for work and a corner to sleep in. The son cannot imagine the love his father has for him or the fact that, despite all the trouble he caused, he has been desperately missed. Far from being glad to be rid of the boy, the father has gazed day after day in prayer toward the horizon in hope of his son’s return.

“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (v. 20). Had he not been watching, he would not have noticed his child in the distance and realized who it was. Instead of simply standing and waiting for his son to reach the door, he ran to meet him, embracing him, pouring out words of joy and welcome rather than reproof or condemnation.

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’” (v. 21). Here we have the son’s confession compacted into a single sentence. It is the essence of any confession: our return to our Father, who made us and constantly awaits our homecoming.

What Is Sin?

There are countless essays and books that deal with human failings under various labels without once using the three-letter word sin. Actions traditionally regarded as sinful have instead been seen as natural stages in the process of growing up, a result of bad parenting, a consequence of mental illness, an inevitable response to unjust social conditions, or pathological behavior brought on by addiction.

But what if I am more than a robot programmed by my past or my society or my economic status and actually can take a certain amount of credit—or blame—for my actions and inactions? Have I not done things I am deeply ashamed of, would not do again if I could go back in time, and would prefer no one to know about? What makes me so reluctant to call those actions “sins”? Is the word really out of date? Or is the problem that it has too sharp an edge?

The Hebrew verb chata’, “to sin,” like the Greek word hamartia, simply means straying off the path, getting lost, missing the mark. Sin—going off course—can be intentional or unintentional.

The author of the Book of Proverbs lists seven things God hates: “A proud look, / A lying tongue, / Hands that shed innocent blood, / A heart that devises wicked plans, / Feet that are swift in running to evil, / A false witness who speaks lies, / And one who sows discord among brethren” (6:17–19).

Pride is given first place. “Pride goes before destruction, / And a haughty spirit before a fall” is another insight in the Book of Proverbs (16:18). In the Garden of Eden, Satan seeks to animate pride in his dialogue with Eve. Eat the forbidden fruit, he tells her, and “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

The craving to be ahead of others, to be more valued than others, to be more highly rewarded than others, to be able to keep others in a state of fear, the inability to admit mistakes or apologize—these are among the symptoms of pride. Pride opens the way for countless other sins: deceit, lies, theft, violence, and all those other actions that destroy community with God and with those around us.

Yet we spend a great deal of our lives trying to convince ourselves and others that what we did really wasn’t that bad or could even be seen as almost good, given the circumstances. Even in confession, many people explain what they did rather than simply admit they did things that require forgiveness. “When I recently happened to confess about fifty people in a typical Orthodox parish in Pennsylvania,” Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote, “not one admitted to having committed any sin whatsoever!”

“We’re capable of doing some rotten things,” the Minnesota storyteller Garrison Keillor notes, “and not all of these things are the result of poor communication. Some are the result of rottenness. People do bad, horrible things. They lie and they cheat and they corrupt the government. They poison the world around us. And when they’re caught they don’t feel remorse—they just go into treatment. They had a nutritional problem or something. They explain what they did—they don’t feel bad about it. There’s no guilt. There’s just psychology.”

For the person who has committed a serious sin, there are two vivid signs—the hope that what one did may never become known, and a gnawing sense of guilt. At least this is the case before the conscience becomes completely numb—which is what happens when patterns of sin become the structure of one’s life to the extent that hell, far from being a possible next-life experience, is where one finds oneself in this life.

It is a striking fact about basic human architecture that we want certain actions to remain secret, not because of modesty, but because there is an unarguable sense of having violated a law more basic than that in any law book—the “law written in [our] hearts” to which St. Paul refers (Romans 2:15). It isn’t simply that we fear punishment. It is that we don’t want to be thought of by others as a person who commits such deeds. One of the main obstacles to going to confession is dismay that someone else will know what I want no one to know.

One of the oddest things about the age we live in is that we are made to feel guilty about feeling guilty. There is a cartoon tacked up in our house in which one prisoner says to another, “Just remember—it’s okay to be guilty, but not okay to feel guilty.”

A sense of guilt—the painful awareness of having committed sins—can be life-renewing. Guilt provides a foothold for contrition, which in turn can motivate confession and repentance. Without guilt, there is no remorse; without remorse, there is no possibility of becoming free of habitual sins.

Yet there are forms of guilt that are dead-end streets. If I feel guilty that I have not managed to become the ideal person I occasionally want to be, or that I imagine others want me to be, that is guilt without a divine reference point. It is simply an irritated me contemplating an irritating me. Christianity is not centered on performance, laws, principles, or the achievement of flawless behavior, but on Christ Himself and on participation in God’s transforming love.

When Christ says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), He’s not speaking of getting a perfect score on a test, but of being whole, being in a state of communion, participating fully in God’s love.

This condition of being is suggested by St. Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity: those three angelic figures silently inclined toward each other around a chalice on a small altar. They symbolize the Holy Trinity: the communion that exists within God—not a closed communion restricted to themselves alone, but an open communion of love, in which we are not only invited but intended to participate.

A blessed guilt is the pain we feel when we realize we have cut ourselves off from that divine communion that irradiates all creation. It is impossible to live in a Godless universe, but easy to be unaware of God’s presence or even to resent it.

It’s a common delusion that one’s sins are private or affect only a few other people. To think our sins, however hidden, don’t affect others is like imagining that a stone thrown into the water won’t generate ripples. As Bishop Kallistos Ware has observed: “There are no entirely private sins. All sins are sins against my neighbor, as well as against God and against myself. Even my most secret thoughts are, in fact, making it more difficult for those around me to follow Christ.”

Far from being hidden, each sin is another crack in the world.

One of the most widely used Orthodox prayers, the Jesus Prayer, is only one sentence long: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Short as it is, many people drawn to it are put off by the last two words. Those who teach the prayer are often asked, “But must I call myself a sinner?” In fact, the ending isn’t essential—the only essential word is “Jesus”—but my difficulty in identifying myself as a sinner reveals a lot. What makes me so reluctant to speak of myself in such plain words? Don’t I do a pretty good job of hiding rather than revealing Christ in my life? Am I not a sinner? To admit that I am provides a starting point.

There are only two possible responses to sin: to justify it, or to repent. Between these two, there is no middle ground.

Justification may be verbal, but mainly it takes the form of repetition: I do again and again the same thing as a way of demonstrating to myself and others that it’s not really a sin, but rather something normal or human or necessary or even good. “Commit a sin twice and it will not seem a crime,” notes a Jewish proverb.

Repentance, on the other hand, is the recognition that I cannot live any more as I have been living, because in living that way I wall myself apart from others and from God. Repentance is a change in direction. Repentance is the door of communion. It is also a sine qua non of forgiveness. Absolution is impossible where there is no repentance.

As St. John Chrysostom said sixteen centuries ago in Antioch:

Repentance opens the heavens, takes us to Paradise, overcomes the devil. Have you sinned? Do not despair! If you sin every day, then offer repentance every day! When there are rotten parts in old houses, we replace the parts with new ones, and we do not stop caring for the houses. In the same way, you should reason for yourself: If today you have defiled yourself with sin, immediately cleanse yourself with repentance.

Confession as a Social Action

It is impossible to imagine a healthy marriage or deep friendship without confession and forgiveness. If we have done something that damages a relationship, confession is essential to its restoration. For the sake of that bond, we confess what we’ve done, we apologize, and we promise not to do it again; then we do everything in our power to keep that promise.

In the context of religious life, confession is what we do to safeguard and renew our relationship with God whenever it is damaged. Confession restores our communion with God and with each other.

It is never easy to admit to doing something we regret and are ashamed of, an act we attempted to keep secret or denied doing or tried to blame on someone else, perhaps arguing—to ourselves as much as to others—that it wasn’t actually a sin at all, or wasn’t nearly as bad as some people might claim. In the hard labor of growing up, one of the most agonizing tasks is becoming capable of saying, “I’m sorry.”

Yet we are designed for confession. Secrets in general are hard to keep, but unconfessed sins not only never go away, but have a way of becoming heavier as time passes—the greater the sin, the heavier the burden. Confession is the only solution.

To understand confession in its sacramental sense, one first has to grapple with a few basic questions: Why is the Church involved in forgiving sins? Is priest-witnessed confession really needed? Why confess at all to any human being? In fact, why bother confessing to God, even without a human witness? If God is really all-knowing, then He knows everything about me already. My sins are known before it even crosses my mind to confess them. Why bother telling God what God already knows?

Yes, truly God knows. My confession can never be as complete or revealing as God’s knowledge of me and of all that needs repairing in my life.

A related question we need to consider has to do with our basic design as social beings. Why am I so willing to connect with others in every other area of life, yet not in this? Why is it that I look so hard for excuses, even for theological rationales, not to confess? Why do I try so hard to explain away my sins, until I’ve decided either that they’re not so bad, or even that they might be seen as acts of virtue? Why is it that I find it so easy to commit sins, yet am so reluctant, in the presence of another, to admit to having done so?

We are social beings. The individual as autonomous unit is a delusion. The Marlboro Man—the person without community, parents, spouse, or children—exists only on billboards. The individual is someone who has lost a sense of connection to others or attempts to exist in opposition to others—while the person exists in communion with other persons. At a conference of Orthodox Christians in France a few years ago, in a discussion of the problem of individualism, a theologian confessed, “When I am in my car, I am an individual, but when I get out, I am a person again.”

We are social beings. The language we speak connects us to those around us. The food I eat was grown by others. The skills passed on to me have slowly been developed in the course of hundreds of generations. The air I breathe and the water I drink is not for my exclusive use, but has been in many bodies before mine. The place I live, the tools I use, and the paper I write on were made by many hands. I am not my own doctor or dentist or banker. To the extent that I disconnect myself from others, I am in danger. Alone, I die, and soon. To be in communion with others is life.

Because we are social beings, confession in church does not take the place of confession to those we have sinned against. An essential element of confession is doing all I can to set right what I did wrong. If I stole something, it must be returned or paid for. If I lied to anyone, I must tell that person the truth. If I was angry without good reason, I must apologize. I must seek forgiveness not only from God, but from those whom I have wronged or harmed.

We are also verbal beings. Words provide a way of communicating, not only with others, but even with ourselves. The fact that confession is witnessed forces me to put into words all those ways, minor and major, in which I live as if there were no God and no commandment to love. A thought that is concealed has great power over us.

Confessing sins, or even temptations, makes us better able to resist. The underlying principle is described in one of the collections of sayings of the Desert Fathers:

If impure thoughts trouble you, do not hide them, but tell them at once to your spiritual father and condemn them. The more a person conceals his thoughts, the more they multiply and gain strength. But an evil thought, when revealed, is immediately destroyed. If you hide things, they have great power over you, but if you could only speak of them before God, in the presence of another, then they will often wither away, and lose their power.

Confessing to anyone, even a stranger, renews rather than contracts my humanity, even if all I get in return for my confession is the well-worn remark, “Oh, that’s not so bad. After all, you’re only human.” But if I can confess to anyone anywhere, why confess in church in the presence of a priest? It’s not a small question in societies in which the phrase “institutionalized religion” is so often used, the implicit message being that religious institutions necessarily undermine spiritual life.

Confession is a Christian ritual with a communal character. Confession in the church differs from confession in your living room in the same way that getting married in church differs from simply living together. The communal aspect of the event tends to safeguard it, solidify it, and call everyone to account—those doing the ritual, and those witnessing it.

In the social structure of the Church, a huge network of local communities is held together in unity, each community helping the others and all sharing a common task, while each provides a specific place to recognize and bless the main events in life, from birth to burial. Confession is an essential part of that continuum. My confession is an act of reconnection with God and with all the people and creatures who depend on me and have been harmed by my failings, and from whom I have distanced myself through acts of non-communion. The community is represented by the person hearing my confession, an ordained priest delegated to serve as Christ’s witness, who provides guidance and wisdom that helps each penitent overcome attitudes and habits that take us off course, who declares forgiveness and restores us to communion. In this way our repentance is brought into the community that has been damaged by our sins—a private event in a public context.

“It’s a fact,” writes Fr. Thomas Hopko, rector of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, “that we cannot see the true ugliness and hideousness of our sins until we see them in the mind and heart of the other to whom we have confessed.”

A Communion-Centered Life

Attending the liturgy and receiving Communion on Sundays and principal feast days has always been at the heart of Christian life, the event that gives life a eucharistic dimension and center point. But Communion—receiving Christ into ourselves—can never be routine, never something we deserve, no matter what the condition of our life may be. For example, Christ solemnly warns us against approaching the altar if we are in a state of enmity with anyone. He tells us, “Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24). In one of the parables, He describes a person who is ejected from the wedding feast because he isn’t wearing a wedding garment. Tattered clothing is a metaphor for living a life that reduces conscience to rags (Matthew 22:1–14).

Receiving Christ in Communion during the liturgy is the keystone of living in communion—with God, with people, and with creation. Christ teaches us that love of God and love of neighbor sum up the Law. One way of describing a serious sin is to say it is any act which breaks our communion with God and with our neighbor.

It is for this reason that examination of conscience—if necessary, going to confession—is part of preparation for Communion. This is an ongoing proc-ess of trying to see my life and actions with clarity and honesty—to look at myself, my choices, and my direction as known by God. The examination of conscience is an occasion to recall not only any serious sins committed since my last confession, but even the beginnings of sins.

The word conscience derives from a Greek verb meaning “to have common knowledge” or “to know with” someone, a concept that led to the idea of bearing witness concerning someone, especially oneself. Conscience is an inner faculty that guides us in making choices that align us with God’s will, and that accuses us when we break communion with God and with our neighbor. Conscience is a reflection of the divine image at the core of each person. In The Sacred Gift of Life, Fr. John Breck points out that “the education of conscience is acquired in large measure through immersing ourselves in the ascetic tradition of the Church: its life of prayer, sacramental and liturgical celebration, and scripture study. The education of our conscience also depends upon our acquiring wisdom from those who are more advanced than we are in faith, love, and knowledge of God.”

Conscience is God’s whispering voice within us calling us to a way of life that reveals God’s presence and urges us to refuse actions that destroy community and communion.

Key Elements in Confession

Fr. Alexander Schmemann provided this summary of the three key areas of confession:

Relationship to God: Questions on faith itself, possible doubts or deviations, inattention to prayer, neglect of liturgical life, fasting, etc.

Relationship to one’s neighbor: Basic attitudes of selfishness and self-centeredness, indifference to others, lack of attention, interest, love. All acts of actual offense—envy, gossip, cruelty, etc.—must be mentioned and, if needed, their sinfulness shown to the penitent.

Relationship to one’s self: Sins of the flesh with, as their counterpart, the Christian vision of purity and wholesomeness, respect for the body as an icon of Christ, etc. Abuse of one’s life and resources; absence of any real effort to deepen life; abuse of alcohol or other drugs; cheap idea of “fun,” a life centered on amusement, irresponsibility, neglect of family relations, etc.

Tools of Self-Examination

In the struggle to examine conscience, we have tools that can assist us, resources that help both in the formation and the examination of conscience. Among these are the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and various prayers, as well as lists of questions written by experienced confessors. In this small booklet, we will look at only one of these, the Beatitudes, which provide a brief summary of the Gospel. Each Beatitude reveals an aspect of being in union with God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poverty of spirit is my awareness that I need God’s help and mercy more than anything else. It is knowing that I cannot save myself, that neither money nor power will spare me from suffering and death, and that no matter what I achieve and acquire in this life, it will be far less than I want if I let my acquisitive capacity get the upper hand. This is the blessing of knowing that even what I have is not mine. It is living free of the domination of fear. While the exterior forms of poverty vary from person to person and even from year to year in a particular life, depending on one’s vocation and special circumstances, all who live this Beatitude are seeking with heart and soul to live God’s will rather than their own. Christ’s mother is the paradigm of poverty of spirit in her unconditional assent to the will of God: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Similarly, at the marriage feast at Cana, she says to those waiting on the tables: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). Whoever lives by these words is poor in spirit.

Questions to consider: We are bombarded by advertisements, constantly reminded of the possibility of having things and of indulging all sorts of curiosities and temptations. The simple goal of poverty of spirit seems more remote than the moons of Neptune. Am I regularly praying that God will give me poverty of spirit? When tempted to buy things I don’t need, do I pray for strength to resist? Do I keep the Church fasts that would help strengthen my capacity to live this Beatitude? Do I really seek to know and embrace God’s will in my life? Am I willing to be seen as odd or stupid by those whose lives are dominated by values that oppose the Beatitudes?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Mourning is cut from the same cloth as poverty of spirit. Without poverty of spirit, I am forever on guard to keep what I have for myself, and to keep me for myself, or for that small circle of people whom I regard as mine. A consequence of poverty of spirit is becoming vulnerable to the pain and losses of others, not only those whom I happen to know and care for, but also those who are strangers to me. “When we die,” said Saint John Climacus, the seventh-century abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery near Mount Sinai, “we will not be criticized for having failed to work miracles. We will not be accused of having failed to be theologians or contemplatives. But we will certainly have to explain to God why we did not mourn unceasingly.”

Questions to consider: Do I weep with those who weep? Have I mourned those in my own family who have died? Do I open my thoughts and feelings to the suffering and losses of others? Do I try to make space in my mind and heart for the calamities in the lives of others who may be far away and neither speak my language nor share my faith?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Meekness is often confused with weakness, yet a meek person is neither spineless nor cowardly. Understood biblically, meekness is making choices and exercising power with a divine rather than social reference point. Meekness is the essential quality of the human being in relationship to God. Without meekness, we cannot align ourselves with God’s will. In place of humility, we prefer pride—pride in who we are, pride in doing as we please, pride in what we’ve achieved, pride in the national or ethnic group to which we happen to belong. Meekness has nothing to do with blind obedience or social conformity. Meek Christians do not allow themselves to be dragged along by the tides of political power. Such rudderless persons have cut themselves off from their own conscience, God’s voice in their hearts, and thrown away their God-given freedom. Meekness is an attribute of following Christ, no matter what risks are involved.

Questions to consider: When I read the Bible or writings of the saints, do I consider the implications for my own life? When I find what I read at odds with the way I live, do I allow the text to challenge me? Do I pray for God’s guidance? Do I seek help with urgent questions in confession? Do I tend to make choices and adopt ideas that will help me fit into the group I want to be part of? Do I fear the criticism or ridicule of others for my efforts to live a Gospel-centered life? Do I listen to others? Do I tell the truth even in difficult circumstances?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. In his teaching about the Last Judgment, Christ speaks of hunger and thirst: “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink” (Matthew 25:35). Our salvation hinges on our caring for the least person as we would for Christ Himself. To hunger and thirst for something is not a mild desire, but a desperate craving. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means urgently to desire that which is honorable, right, and true. A righteous person is a right-living person, living a moral, blameless life, right with both God and neighbor. A righteous social order would be one in which no one is abandoned or thrown away, in which people live in peace with God, with each other, and with the world God has given us.

Questions to consider: Does it disturb me that I live in a world that in many ways is the opposite of the Kingdom of heaven? When I pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” am I praying that my own life might better reflect God’s priorities? Who is “the least” in my day-to-day world? Do I try to see Christ’s face in him or her?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. One of the perils of pursuing righteousness is that one can become self-righteous. Thus, the next rung of the ladder of the Beatitudes is the commandment of mercy. This is the quality of self-giving love, of gracious deeds done for those in need. Twice in the Gospels Christ makes His own the words of the Prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7). We witness mercy in event after event in the New Testament account of Christ’s life—forgiving, healing, freeing, correcting, even repairing the wound of a man injured by Peter in his effort to protect Christ, and promising Paradise to the criminal being crucified next to Him.

Again and again Christ declares that those who seek God’s mercy must pardon others. The principle is included in the only prayer Christ taught His disciples: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). He calls on His followers to love their enemies and to pray for them. The moral of the parable of the Good Samaritan is that a neighbor is a person who comes to the aid of a stranger in need (Luke 10:29–37). While He denounces hypocrisy and warns the merciless that they are condemning themselves to hell, in no passage in the Gospel do we hear Christ advocating anyone’s death. At the Last Judgment, Christ receives into the Kingdom of heaven those who were merciful. He is Mercy itself.

Questions to consider: When I see a stranger in need, how do I respond? Is Christ’s mercy evident in my life? Am I willing to extend forgiveness to those who seek it? Am I generous in sharing my time and material possessions with those in need? Do I pray for my enemies? Do I try to assist them if they are in need? Have I been an enemy to anyone?

Mercy is more and more absent even in societies with Christian roots. In the United States, the death penalty has been reinstated in the majority of states and has the fervent support of many Christians. Even in the many countries that have abolished executions, the death penalty is often imposed on unborn children—abortion is hardly regarded as a moral issue. Concerning the sick, aged, and severely handicapped, “mercy killing” and “assisted suicide” are now phrases much in use. To what extent have I been influenced by slogans and ideologies that promote death as a solution and disguise killing as mercy? What am I doing to make my society more welcoming, more caring, more life-protecting?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The brain has come up in the world, while the heart has been demoted. The heart used to be widely recognized as the locus of God’s activity within us, the hub of human identity and conscience, linked with our capacity to love, the core not only of physical but also of spiritual life—the ground zero of the human soul. In our brain-centered society, we ought to be surprised that Christ didn’t say, “Blessed are the brilliant in mind.” Instead, He blessed purity of heart.

The Greek word for purity, katharos, means spotless, stainless; intact, unbroken, perfect; free from adulteration or anything that defiles or corrupts. What, then, is a pure heart? A heart free of possessiveness, a heart capable of mourning, a heart that thirsts for what is right, a merciful heart, a loving heart, a heart not ruled by passions, an undivided heart, a heart aware of the image of God in others, a heart drawn to beauty, a heart conscious of God’s presence in creation. A pure heart is a heart without contempt for others. “A person is truly pure of heart when he considers all human beings as good and no created thing appears impure or defiled to him,” wrote Saint Isaac of Syria.

Opposing purity of heart is lust of any kind—for wealth, for recognition, for power, for vengeance, for sexual exploits—whether indulged through action or imagination. Spiritual virtues that defend the heart are memory, awareness, watchfulness, wakefulness, attention, hope, faith, and love. A rule of prayer in daily life helps heal, guard, and unify the heart. “Always keep your mind collected in your heart,” instructed the great teacher of prayer, Saint Theophan the Recluse. The Jesus Prayer—the prayer of the heart—is part of a tradition of spiritual life that helps move the center of consciousness from the mind to the heart. Purification of the heart is the striving to place under the rule of the heart the mind, which represents the analytic and organizational aspect of consciousness. It is the moment-to-moment prayerful discipline of seeking to be so aware of God’s presence that no space is left in the heart for hatred, greed, lust, or vengeance. Purification of the heart is the lifelong struggle of seeking a more God-centered life, a heart illuminated with the presence of the Holy Trinity.

Questions to consider: Do I take care not to read or look at things that stir up lust? Do I avoid using words that soil my mouth? Am I attentive to beauty in people, nature, and the arts? Am I sarcastic about others? Is a rhythm of prayer part of my daily life? Do I prepare carefully for Communion, never taking it for granted? Do I observe fasting days and seasons? Am I aware of and grateful for God’s gifts?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Christ is often called the Prince of Peace. His peace is not a passive condition—He blesses the makers of peace. The peacemaker is a person who helps heal damaged relationships. Throughout the Gospel, we see Christ bestowing peace. In His final discourse before His arrest, He says to the Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). After the Resurrection, He greets His followers with the words, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He instructs His followers that, on entering a house, their first action should be the blessing, “Peace to this house” (Luke 10:5).

Christ is at His most paradoxical when He says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34; note that a similar passage, Luke 12:51, uses the word “division” rather than “sword”). Those who try to live Christ’s peace may find themselves in trouble, as all those who have died a martyr’s death bear witness. Sadly, for most of us the peace we long for is not the Kingdom of God, but a slightly improved version of the world we already have. We would like to get rid of conflict without eliminating the spiritual and material factors that draw us into conflict. The peacemaker is a person aware that ends never stand apart from means: figs do not grow from thistles; neither is community brought into being by hatred and violence. A peacemaker is aware that all persons, even those who seem to be ruled by evil spirits, are made in the image of God and are capable of change and conversion.

Questions to consider: In my family, in my parish, and among my coworkers, am I guilty of sins which cause or deepen division and conflict? Do I ask forgiveness when I realize I am in the wrong? Or am I always justifying what I do, no matter what pain or harm it causes others? Do I regard it as a waste of time to communicate with opponents? Do I listen with care and respect to those who irritate me? Do I pray for the well-being and salvation of adversaries and enemies? Do I allow what others say or what the press reports to define my attitude toward those whom I have never met? Do I take positive steps to overcome division? Are there people I regard as not bearing God’s image and therefore innately evil?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. The last rung is where the Beatitudes reach and pass beyond the Cross. “We must carry Christ’s Cross as a crown of glory,” wrote Saint John Chrysostom in the fourth century, “for it is by it that everything that is achieved among us is gained. . . . Whenever you make the sign of the cross on your body, think of what the Cross means and put aside anger and every other passion. Take courage and be free in the soul.”

In the ancient world, Christians were persecuted chiefly because they were regarded as undermining the social order, even though in most respects they were models of civil obedience and good conduct. But Christians abstained from the cult of the deified emperor, would not sacrifice to gods their neighbors venerated, and were notable for their objection to war or bloodshed in any form. It is easy to imagine that a community that lived by such values, however well-behaved, would be regarded as a threat by the government. “Both the Emperor’s commands and those of others in authority must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven,” said Saint Euphemia in the year 303, during the reign of Diocletian. “If they are, they must not only be disobeyed; they must be resisted.” Following torture, Saint Euphemia was killed by a bear—the kind of death endured by thousands of Christians well into the fourth century, though the greatest number of Christian martyrs belongs to the twentieth century. In many countries religious persecution continues.

Questions to consider: Does fear play a bigger role in my life than love? Do I hide my faith or live it in a timid, half-hearted way? When I am ordered to do something that conflicts with Christ’s teaching, whom do I obey? Am I aware of those who are suffering for righteousness’ sake in my own country and elsewhere in the world? Am I praying for them? Am I doing anything to help them?

Finding a Confessor

Just as not every doctor is a good physician, not every priest is a good confessor. Sometimes it happens that a priest, however good his qualities in other respects, is a person not well suited for witnessing confessions. While abusive priests are the exception, their existence must be noted. God has given us freedom and provided each person with a conscience. It is not the role of a priest to take the place of conscience or to become anyone’s drill sergeant. A good confessor will help us become better at hearing the voice of conscience and become more free in an increasingly God-centered life.

Fortunately, good confessors are not hard to find. Usually your confessor is the priest who is closest, sees you most often, knows you and the circumstances of your life best: a priest of your parish. Do not be put off by your awareness of what you perceive as his relative youth, his personal shortcomings, or the probability that he possesses no rare spiritual gifts. Keep in mind that each priest goes to confession himself and may have more to confess than you do. You confess, not to him, but to Christ in his presence. He is the witness of your confession. You do not require and will never find a sinless person to be that witness. (The Orthodox Church tries to make this clear by having the penitent face, not the priest, but an icon of Christ.)

What your confessor says by way of advice can be remarkably insightful, or brusque, or seem to you a cliché and not very relevant, yet almost always there will be something helpful if only you are willing to hear it. Sometimes there is a suggestion or insight that becomes a turning point in your life. If he imposes a penance—normally increased prayer, fasting, and acts of mercy—it should be accepted meekly, unless there is something in the penance which seems to you a violation of your conscience or of the teaching of the Church as you understand it.

Don’t imagine that a priest will respect you less for what you reveal to Christ in his presence, or imagine that he is carefully remembering all your sins. “Even a recently ordained priest will quickly find that he cannot remember 99 percent of what people tell him in confession,” one priest told me. He said it is embarrassing to him that people expect him to remember what they told him in an earlier confession. “When they remind me, then sometimes I remember, but without a reminder, usually my mind is a blank. I let the words I listen to pass through me. Also, so much that I hear in one confession is similar to what I hear in other confessions—the confessions blur together. The only sins I easily remember are my own.”

One priest told me of his difficulties meeting the expectations that sometimes become evident in confession. “I am not a psychologist. I have no special gifts. I am just a fellow sinner trying to stay on the path.”

A Russian priest who is spiritual father to many people once told me about the joy he often feels hearing confessions. “It is not that I am glad anyone has sins to confess, but when you come to confession it means these sins are in your past, not your future. Confession marks a turning point, and I am the lucky one who gets to watch people making that turn!”

Jim Forest is the author of Praying with Icons, Ladder of the Beatitudes, Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness and a forthcoming book—Resurrection—about the Orthodox Church in Albania. He is secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (www.incommunion.org) and editor of its quarterly journal, In Communion. His home is in Alkmaar, the Netherlands. He and his wife Nancy are members of St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church in Amsterdam.

+++

This article is available as a printed booklet from Conciliar Media, a department of the Antiochian Archdiocese, as part of their popular series of attractive and informative booklets and brochures about the basic teachings of the ancient Orthodox Christian faith. To learn more, visit Conciliar’s online booklet catalog. This essay is copyrighted by Conciliar Press.

Return to Discovering Orthodox Christianity

Fr. Peter Smith, USA: From Peruvian Paradise To Orthodox Priest

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://romancatholicsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

http://latinamericaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY

LATIN AMERICA OF MY HEART

Rock-city-Lookout-Mountain-Georgia-USA-1-620x412.jpg

Georgia, USA

PeterSmith-199x300.jpg

From Peruvian Paradise To Orthodox Priest

by

Fr. Peter Smith, Georgia, USA

Source:

http://journeytoorthodoxy.comHERE

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

Perhaps this journey to Orthodoxy really starts for me as a Roman Catholic college student.

The Newman Club was an interesting way to meet “people” [from a college student, you need to read “girls!”] and so I “joined” the Club. Soon, however, there was an instant shock wave through the Newman Club as the priest who was the coordinator and facilitator of the Club, came onto me and tried to “hook up” one evening in the rectory.

Well, that hastened a totally unceremonious departure and immediate exit from that entire scene and – believe it or not – started me on the road to the Orthodox Church.

As a direct result of that dark and traumatic evening the night before I left college I returned home. That summer, a wonderful British family was visiting my folks. They lived in Peru and were on holiday in New York. My father knew them through his position of Vice President of an international import/export firm dealing with companies in South America. After hearing about the recent happenings in my life, they invited my dad to let me spend a year with them in Peru!!

An intriguing and incredibly exciting doorway and escape was all set for me to walk through on my way to the Orthodox Church…though I had no idea of just how that would happen, since the Lord kept it completely hidden from me. At this point, I was really “far away” from God! After the Newman Club and college, I truly embraced the proposition of a year far away from the chaos of my life as it was. Ever since the disastrous and indelible exit from “the college that will live in infamy,” there was an abiding and almost gnawing sense that there indeed was a God… and He must be somewhere!!

My world totally and graphically changed during that exhilerating flight from New York City to Miami to Panama City, Panama to Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. With the exception of that gnawing sense of the Lord’s presence somewhere within me, I spent quite a carefree and ‘bon-vivant’ life in and around Peru for about 6 months. The caring and incredibly generous British family with whom I lived in a wonderful penthouse apartment in Miraflores, Peru [a rather affluent and “international” section of suburban Lima] helped me acquire a teaching position, allowed me to almost exclusively use one of their several cars, subsidized a club membership to a magnificent private golf course, introduced me to several “unattached” and truly vivacious daughters of foreign dignitaries and brought me along on many of their day-long sailing ventures.

In brief, at 20 tender and inexperienced years of age, I was tending to believe that Paradise was my immediate neighborhood.

Life was sweet, available, enticing, totally satisfying and completely at my beck and call. Seemingly, the Lord merely decided not to warn me to get ready to duck!!

In celebration of the ’78’ that I shot in my latest round of golf, the sister of one of my co-teachers at the Instituto Cultural and I double dated at a local beach with another couple – her other sister and her fiance. So the fiance Antonio and I decided with great gusto to go body surfing in the 6 foot surf at the beach that day. Beautiful weather…, delightful beach and surf…, lovely company…; it just couldn’t get any better than that! That gnawing sense of His presence now rose up to meet me …head on!

As I ran from the beach and dove into one of those enticing, beckoning waves, the Lord drew His two iron from His golf bag… and WHAM!!…He knocked me into the next week. Right through the top of the wave I flew!! A cartoon from the ’50’s comes to mind… a young, careless boy dives from a dock and gets stuck headfirst in the sand below; the caption reads, “LOOK MOM!! NO HANDS!!” Sooo, I went through that wave just like a knife…and smashed onto the hardened sand behind it…CRASH!!!

Totally stunned and unable to move, my mouth finally came to the surface…

“HELP ME!” I yelled as loud as I could!!

And then I immediately thought, “You clown! Nobody understands English at this beach!” So in Spanish, I again yelled

“AYUDEME!!”

Finally, Antonio came and dragged me to shore…somewhat lifeless.

“O GOD, PLEASE LET ME LIVE!!”

is the prayer that came to me just then!!

Well, He indeed let me live…but not very comfortably it must be said.

After 10 days of an agonizing uncertainty and a more agonizing pain; it was finally discovered that my vault into hard sand left two cervical bones broken into about 26 pieces as it showed on the X-rays. It took my dad flying to Lima, rallying a couple of his friends and associates to arrange a Panagra flight to New York and convince the pilot to land on a most inclement and stormy night in Lima and fly me back to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

The Lord had emphatically put my raucous life to a complete stop and began drawing me into the life He set for me. After a lengthy surgery where I was put into skeletal traction with 40 pounds of weight pulling 180 degrees from my neck, I began a rehab that would not only put my neck into better shape…but would alter the entire life I had led and would live from now onward. On a Wednesday evening, the phone near my bed rang.

My ’24-7′ nurse handed it to me, and my girlfriend said quietly,

“Hi Gary, how are you?”

Within the next 10 minutes, my then girlfriend quickly became my ex-girlfriend. While I was living “the high life” in Peru, she had become enamored with another guy. But…the Lord had a plan…I was introduced to another young woman who was babysitting along with my now ex-girlfriend.

After a rather contentious and “sparring” conversation, the young woman told me that she’d try to get by to see me on Saturday. IT WAS STILL TIME FOR THE LORD TO KEEP ACTING!!

Saturday came, as did my dad. He visited on Saturdays and my mom on Sundays. Somewhere in the mid-morning, a most attractive and vivacious young woman showed up at my bedside!! Her name was Terri, and she decided to make good on her statement about trying to get to see me that weekend. Now we know the entire plot of this “conversion” journey… recently high living, young and ‘reckless’ young man, a lapsed Roman Catholic with a need for God; meets a “cradle” Orthodox young nursing student with a great sense of caring for and ‘healing’ people.

Our courtship began that day!! We spent the entire day getting to know Terri and liking everything we learned…both my dad and me, of course. What wasn’t there to like?…friendly, jocular, bright…[Oh, did I mention looooonnngg blonde hair and rather undulating curves?] Well, I told my dad after Terri left that I would marry her in a not too distant time of my life. He was amused!

The next day, my mom was to meet Terri. After a lovely and consuming day, I told my mom just what I told my dad the day before. She, however, was NOT amused. Well, none of us yet realized that the Lord was playing out this story. As I mentioned, Terri was a ‘cradle’ Orthodox Christian in the Russian Orthodox Church. I was still a curious and thirsty pilgrim in search of Christ…I seemed to have lost Him a little while ago! It was an encounter – you will pardon the expression – “made in Heaven.” Terri and I spent the next two months in the hospital – as I recouped from the broken neck – in regular conversation about God, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and salvation. I learned a great deal. Finally, I was able to go home for another two-months of recuperation…this time in a leather collar that closely resembled “Ming the Merciless” from Flash Gordon [my, my, I AM dating myself!] We continued my education…actually, my “catechesis.”

We spoke of marriage for a while, and I finally had an opportunity to meet Terri’s folks. Her dad could have been a priest…or at least a catechist! I learned sooo much from him about my future “home.” Terri and I married in September of 1969. After the birth of our daughter [our second child], it was just the right time for me to enter the Orthodox Church and make our family wholly one!! Studying and training with

A) the Irish-Catholic convert priest in their home church;

B) the Romanian-American priest who succeeded the Irish/Catholic priest; and

C) my father-in-law; allotted me every twist and turn necessary to negotiate this journey. Hence, by the time our family was ready for one church and one chalice, I was convinced and anxious for the service of Chrismation to receive the blessing of the fullness of Christ.

Chronologically, I was “introduced” to Orthodoxy [and my future wife!] in 1968 while in the hospital. Our marriage in 1969 took place in East Meadow, Long Island, NY. Fr. Daniel Hubiak was the priest who celebrated our wedding. I was Chrismated in 1975 in Niagara Falls, NY. We moved to Charlotte, NC in 1979 and were members of the Nativity of the Theotokos Mission until we moved to SVS in 1984. It was during our time in Charlotte while we were pastored by then Father Seraphim Storeheim – now Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and all Canada [who was on loan from Canada] when all ahead became clear.

One day in the midst of weeks of unemployment, I asked him,

“Father, after all this stuff that has been my life…do you think God might be calling me to the Priesthood?”

His response was so ‘totally Orthodox,’

“Well…could be!”

Well, we were on our way to SVS 4 months later!! I was ordained to the diaconate in 1986 in Charlotte and to the Holy Priesthood in 1987 at SVS. I guess my life has always been in God’s Hands…I just didn’t realize it until that violent encounter in 1968.

Essentially, any “conversion” truly affected a real change in the manner and intensity of life in the world for me. Yes…the swimming accident was central to any “conversion;” but it is a great mystery as to how much of “an accident” the episode really was.

Fr. Peter Smith is the Priest of St. Mary of Egypt Church in Norcross (Atlanta), Georgia, USA

Parishes in Alabama, USA – Eastern Orthodox Church

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

https://americaofmyheart.wordpress.com

AMERICA OF MY HEART

USA OF MY HEART

a6a7f4c7748f2ca663baae75f6c0147d.jpg

https://oca.org/parishes/state/AL

Parishes in Alabama, USA

Eastern Orthodox Church

Link: St Sabbas the Sanctified Orthodox Monastery in Harper Woods, Michigan, USA

http://linksjourney.wordpress.com

https://americaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

AMERICA OF MY HEART

LINKS JOURNEY

505369_orig

http://stsabbas.org

St Sabbas the Sanctified Orthodox Monastery

in Harper Woods, Michigan, USA

St. Sabbas the Sanctified Orthodox Monastery
18745 Old Homestead Dr
Harper Woods, Michigan 48225

Email: stsabbasorthodoxmonastery@gmail.com

Click here

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 18.18.25.png

Video: Ο Αγιορείτης π. Συμεών δε λα Χάρα (Fr. Symeon de la Jara) από το Περού & η μεταστροφή της μητέρας του

https://americaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://romancatholicsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

http://latinamericaofmyheart.wordpresss.com

LATIN AMERICA OF MY HEART

ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY

AMERICA OF MY HEART

Dawn-at-the-Amazon-Peru-e1432230319739.jpg

Περού

Ο Αγιορείτης π. Συμεών δε λα Χάρα (Fr. Symeon de la Jara)

από το Περού & η μεταστροφή της μητέρας του