Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bridegroom Services

Parable of the 10 Virgins
Dear Students and Friends,

Today is the last Bridegroom Service of Holy Week. I found an excellent resource explaining the service and the Holy Icon.

Read about the Bridegroom Service »

Bridegroom Service Texts

I hope this will be a blessing to you, and that Holy Week will be especially meaningful to you this year!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The First Three Days of Holy Week

Dear Students and Friends,

It's here! Holy Week is upon us. Here are some podcasts to help us this week, to set the tone and prepare our souls for Holy Pascha.

The Orthodox Christian Network is offering a six-part reflection on the first days of Holy Week, hosted by Fr Thomas Hopko of St Vladimir's Seminary.

View the podcast list and listen now.

You can earn one credit for each podcast you listen to. Simply fill out a Podcast Worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) for each podcast and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit.

May your Holy Week be blessed!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Timeline of Church History

Dear Students and Friends,

One of the things I found most helpful when I was first exploring Orthodoxy was to acquaint myself with church history and where the Orthodox Church fit in.

A helpful pamphlet by Conciliar Press, "A Timeline of Church History," was my first introduction. I've added a pdf of the pamphlet to the "New to Orthodoxy?" tab, above.

In the beginning, we ALL were Orthodox! However, several events are pivotal in the creation of the various denominations we see today:

1054: The Great Schism. This is where the Roman church broke off to form the Catholic church. The pamphlet describes the issues.

1517: The beginning of Protestantism. Again, the pamphlet describes the event. To give Martin Luther credit, however, he was not protesting Catholicism per se, but the corruption that had entered the Catholic Church.

1529: The formation of the Church of England by King Henry VIII. Although the pamphlet does not go into this in detail, the formation of this church was due entirely to the fact that Henry wanted to divorce one wife and marry someone else. He had no ecclesiastical power except the one he believed he had as his right by kingship.

And finally, one more event that does not make this timeline.

1525: Zwingli, a humanist, challenges the belief that the liturgical gifts of bread and wine are the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This paved the way for Protestant churches to change the Eucharist into a Communion, merely a memorial service of the last supper where Christ is present only as a remembrance, not in actual fact.

Learning how the various churches came to be is quite helpful in examining what we believe and why. For a more thorough treatment of the development of the Orthodox Church, I recommend the book, "The Orthodox Church" by Kallistos Ware as a readable and lively introduction to this history.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prayer of the Week: Hebrews 9:11-14

Dear Students and Friends,

As we travel towards Pascha, won't you join us in occasional Prayers of the Week? These are weekly e-mails from Fr Andrew Harrison of St Luke Church where a prayer is offered, plus a question to answer.

This week's prayer:

Let us pray to the Lord--O Lord You will return with the sound of the trumpet. You will reveal to us Your Holy city which we only experience as a shadow, a copy, each time we attend the Divine Liturgy. You are our high priest who has entered the more perfect tabernacle with Your own precious body and blood as a sacrifice for us. Grant that we may see through our spiritual eyes this more perfect tabernacle which you made present in Your Holy Church. We pray in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible verse: Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is not of this creation. Heb 9:11

Bible question: What does Christ's Sacrifice do for us?

You can earn one credit for answering this question--e-mail your answer to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. In addition to earning one credit, your anonymous response to this question will be posted on the St Luke website. Visit the website each week to see more questions and answers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Podcasts to end Lent

Dear Students and Friends,

Today ends a week celebrating St Mary of Egypt, and now we process with our Lord to Jerusalem. Here are some podcasts for reflection.

St Mary of Egypt. On Harmony of Thunder, Fr. David Smith shares thoughts on St. Mary of Egypt. Listen now.

The Liturgy of St Basil. Throughout Lent we have been celebrating the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. But who was this man? We can learn more about him from Paula Kerifides on Theologically Thinking. Listen now.

You can earn one credit for each podcast you listen to. Simply listen, complete a Podcast worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Read-Along resumes after Pascha

St Luke, physician of our souls!

Dear Students and Friends,

Our Read-Along in the Gospel of Luke resumes after Pascha; however, lessons 8 and 9 are now posted on the Read-Along tab so you can read and complete the lessons. Answers to some of the lessons are also posted to assist you.

View lessons here.

You can earn 1 credit for each lesson you complete. Simply complete the lesson worksheet and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

The Read-Along is a perfect way to study and spiritually grow in the Faith, as the commentaries by Father Farley are from the Orthodox perspective. The lessons also help you read and engage with the Bible. Won't you join us?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Podcast: St Mary of Egypt

Icon of St Mary of Egypt. Photograph by Jim Forest.

Dear Students and Friends,

As we get closer to Pascha, our Lenten efforts may seem harder to accomplish! We can find encouragement in the story of St Mary of Egypt, who fled her passions into the desert to practice repentance and to more closely follow God.

This week on Come Receive the Light podcast, you can listen to a podcast about St Mary, one of two examples of Christians who struggled in this world but found peace in Christ. We’ll hear first about one of Orthodoxy’s most beloved Saints - Mary of Egypt - from Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. Then, we’ll hear from Hieromonk Calinic Berger about a Romanian priest who died just twenty years ago. Fr. Dumitru Staniloae is recognized as one of the leading Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, and spent 5 years in a Communist prison for his faith. We’ll hear about his life and his thoughts on prayer, humility, and repentance.

Listen now.

As always, you can earn 1 credit for listening to this podcast. Simply listen, fill out the Podcast worksheet (from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Wishing you Lenten peace!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Everyday Saints

Dear Students and Friends,

One of our students, Staci, offers this review and insights into the book, "Everyday Saints," by Archimandrite Tikhon. The book sounds perfect for encouragement during the Lenten season, as I'm sure you'll agree. Thank you, Staci, for allowing me to print your review.


Everyday Saints is a collection of stories of monks and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has known throughout his life.  He begins with the story of his own conversion to Orthodoxy (being raised in the Soviet Union he did not have religion or a knowledge of God in the early part of his life).  The stories are about the monks at the monastery (Pskov Caves Monastery in Pechory, Russia) and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has encountered in his life.  Some of the stories are really poignant, others are quite funny, and all are wonderful examples and lessons on Orthodox Christianity and the presence of God in our lives. 

This has been one of the most impactful books I have read.  I can’t wait to read it again.  This book teaches lessons through the lives of the monks about how to be more spiritual, how to be more selfless, how to be more connected with God.  One of the strongest themes in the book was that there are no coincidences.  The hand of God is constantly in our lives, and we don’t always pay attention to that, but things would go better for us if we did.  There are lots of examples in the book of people deciding what is best for themselves and then having LOTS of reminders about what they would be better off doing instead.  I am hardly able to put into decent words how much of a blessing it is to read this book.  This is one of the best books I have read.

I don’t know that I found any of it difficult to understand.  The book itself is very relatable.  With all monastic stories, the hardest thing to understand or apply is total obedience to God and giving up our own whims and desires.  The book does not make this sound crazy though; in fact, we see the monks struggle with so much of their own humanity--and these are people that the rest of us would say totally are on track with being close to God--that they seem to be struggling even more than any of the rest of us.  It is a reminder of the constant struggle, but the great reward. 

Here is a random-ish list of what will stay with me:

The monks--throughout this book I feel like I got to know them personally.  I cried when some of them died. I miss them now that I am done reading the book.  Archimandrite Tikhon creates them so fully for us, through little stories here and there, that it is as though I know them personally. 

The monks as warriors--My dad always taught me that this life is a battle waged against evil in the world.  The battle is won through God, and God knows how it all plays out, but we have to fight the battle.  Fr. Tikhon constantly refers to the monks as warriors for our spiritual salvation, fighting ina  true war against evil. 

The vast forgiveness the monks demonstrate--people spit on them, steal from them, persecute them, deny their religions freedom, you name it.  And through it all they demonstrate forgiveness (although not in a Polly Anna way--they get mad too!) and they pray and turn things over to God.  And God delivers.

Prayer--the monks pray all the time.  When things go wrong, they pray, and they get help.  When things go right, they are thankful.  There is no end to the importance of prayer. 

The vastness of Russia--this may not seem important because it’s not part of the spiritual elements of the book, but it just is so interesting such a large and endless place.

The oppression of the Communists--We just have no idea.  It is amazing to me what these poor people had to endure for all of those years.  Horrid.

Listen to God--the messages are there, and apparently if we stop overriding them with what WE think is right, we will hear them and actually get somewhere in our lives.

I could go on...

I loved this book.  I am so thankful I got to read it.  I am loaning it to my mom, and then I want to read it again.  I miss it already. There is a website for the book too:  http://www.everyday-saints.com/. What a great book!