Tomorrow we give thanks…for our family…for our loved ones…for our neighbors…and for our glorious & merciful God…
Tomorrow we pray…for our family…for our loved ones…for our neighbors…and for those who hate us…
Friday I depart for Constantinople…for an audience with the Ecumenical Patriarch…pray for us who are making the journey, that we may do His will for His greater glory…
Prayer is hard work…pray…
As we were preparing to depart we noticed a visitor…
2009/10/05 • 00:17 0
Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.
– Orthodoxy by Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Chapter III: The Suicide of Thought
2009/10/04 • 03:12 0
Greek philosophy held poverty to be a be a curse from the gods. Indeed it was Aristotle who held that a man capable of reflective contemplation had to, by necessity, be of some wealth in order to afford the time for such. The impoverished, on the contrary, were not necessarily worthy of attention. This belief supported the keeping of slaves and unmitigated celebration. However, this did not translate into the expenditure of one’s fortune. The wealth of an individual was expected to be passed on to successive generations. (My children believe in the latter concept.) The idea of patrimony was very strong in Greek philosophy. Patrimony and usufruct affected the core of philosophical and moral behavior arguments in the early Church.
The Old Testament of Israel did not hold to the prevailing Greek philosophy. The people of Israel were, in their fidelity to the Covenant, to care for the poor and, if necessary, defend the poor, orphans, and widows (Lev. 19.10; 1 Sam 2.8; Ps. 72.12; 82.3; 113.7; Prov. 14.31; Isa 3.15).
It was this very concept, brought forth into the emerging Christian ethos, that created great strife within the prevailing Greek world. The Christ’s judgment of the rich oppressor (Luke 12.16.-21) supported by His counsel to eschew possessions and wealth (Mark 10.25; Luke 12.22-35), even for the radical abandonment of wealth (Mark 10.21-31), are taken by many of today’s Christians as a requirement of their personal covenant (i.e., personal theology) with God. This commitment, albeit admirable for adherents of St. Francis of Assisi – a Western saint whose commitment to poverty challenged the values of the Western Church, was not the theology of the patristic writers.
Christ’s admonitions were held by the patristic writers as being applicable to the apostles and their disciples whose missionary activities required them to travel and give witness to the cross, empty tomb, and resurrection. The disciples could not, in spreading the Word of the Risen Lord, afford to be constrained in their activities by concerns of wealth.
“Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6.20), later rendered “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5.3), was taken by the patristic writers as being allegorical admonitions akin to the teaching of the Sower and the Seed (Mark 4).
The early patristic writings supported the distribution or sharing of one’s wealth to be a renewal of commitment to following the Christ; almsgiving was of paramount importance, contributing to the wealth of the church and its ability to prosper, spread the faith and care for the poor.
Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century directly addressed the emerging Christian theology of wealth in Paedagogus (“table manners guide”) and Quis dives salvetur (Salvation of the rich). In his writings Clement said that Jesus was too intelligent to advocate total poverty for his followers knowing it would be ruinous for the faith. Total detachment from possessions, deliberate impoverishment, was a level of hyperbole that would result in sin.
Clement, in exegeting Mark 10, said that moderate wealth was a blessing for the all – the church and its faithful.
Gregory of Nazianzus in Oration 14: On Love for the Poor further elaborated on the theology of wealth by writing that it is the Christian’s social duty to engage in philanthropy, especially for the needy. Gregory went further to state that the poor person is equal to all other human beings meriting love and care. Moreover, Gregory said that the poor bear the image of God within them; hence the care of the poor is vital to the Christian faith. (Contrast the foregoing to prevailing Greek philosophy of the day and 4 centuries earlier!)
Gregory states that without the wealthy, there would be an inability to act Christ-like by demonstrating mercy via philanthropy and helping the helpless.
It bears mentioning that Gregory collaborated in his writings with Basil of Caesarea who was immensely wealthy. It was because of the efforts of Gregory and Basil that the early church became actively engaged in societal needs and the welfare of the people.
Gregory stated that spending one’s wealth in support of and caring for the poor, lepers, orphans, and widows was the greatest of endeavors giving rise to the Cappadocians being referred to as philoptochoi, “friends of the poor.”
St. John Chrysostom emphasized that the proper perspective of wealth is its application vice its systematic accumulation. Herein is a person’s treasure – “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.21). With this in mind, Chrysostom’s homily The Widow is Chosen gives a place of honor to the impoverished.
Where is your treasure?
2009/07/20 • 02:09 0
• 01:40 0
This may well be a once-in-a-lifetime photo. Above are the five priests from Nativity of Our Lord Orthodox Church. The priests are from left to right:
– Fr. Joseph, the 4th priest, presently with St. Thomas Orthodox Mission Parish in Waldorf, MD;
– Fr. Nicholas, the 2nd priest, presently with St. Nectarios Orthodox Mission Parish in Lakeland, FL;
– Fr. John, the 1st and Nativity’s founding priest, presently with St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Rankin, PA;
– Fr. Nectarios, the 3rd priest, present at Nativity of Our Lord Orthodox Mission Parish, Manassa, VA; and
– Fr. Maximus, presently at Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Mission Parish, Hampton Roads, VA, the 5th priest.
Frs Joseph, Nicholas, Nectarios, and Maximus were once Nativity parishioners, who through the grace of God, were ordained to the Holy Priesthood. Our parish has been blessed in answering the call of our Lord God & Saviour Jesus Christ.
Filed under: Parish
2009/06/28 • 04:32 0
2009/06/26 • 02:51 0
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2009/06/16 • 14:49 0
2009/05/28 • 01:41 0
2009/05/18 • 18:58 0
2009/05/12 • 21:13 0
2009/04/27 • 01:52 0
2009/04/25 • 17:47 0
2009/04/23 • 19:33 0
Okay, so I searched on Satanism in Amazon and here is what I found:
* Books (6,586)
* Kindle Store (42)
* VHS (16)
* DVD (173)
* MP3 Downloads (14)
* Music (12)
Then I went to Google.it and searched on satanismo and the number of hits was circa 598.000 per satanismo. I then searched Google.it video and the number of hits was circa 9.880 per satanismo.
I did not search on all of the possible variants of satanism. but then again, I believe the facts speak for themselves.
The only difference is: the former cost money, the latter are free.
• 16:19 0
O’God, today was very disturbing
I shall not want to re-live it
I flee unto thee for strength
Protect me from the Evil One
Surround me with Your Love
Envelope me with Your Holy Spirit
Today was most disturbing. We saw videos of evil; videos I did not know existed. These were not homemade videos, but highly professional productions – well comparable with anything that Hollywood can portray. However, unlike Hollywood, the evil was real.
No matter how much I shielded my eyes, the images pierced my heart. Man’s inhumanity to man, to children, to His creatures, and creation is truly unfathomable. Believe me, you do not know more.
You do not want to see the videos, so please do not search for them. The fear I have within me is that our children can find them – all of them are easily accessible on the Internet. Moreover, I fear that our children might be influenced by them. You can do something about it. Protect your loved ones. Know where they are. Know what they are doing. Know every minute of every day.
Satanism was ‘officially’ born in 1611 A.D. when the first trial regarding Satanism was held in France during the reign of Louis XIV.
Present day Satanism was born in California (*please keep a straight face*). It was born under the leadership of a person named La Vey. He created the ‘Church of Satan,” authored the “Bible of Satanism,” and promoted indulgence in place of abstinence, revenge instead of turning the cheek, and stated that Satanism was the The Church’s best friend; after all it had kept The Church in business all of these years.
In 1975 there was a schism within the Church of Satan and it presently has four branches:
1. Rational – the original Church of Satan, which is essentially comprised of atheists and looks upon Satan as something abstract, not a created being; it promotes the ego.
2. Occultist – which worships Satan of the Bible, practices black magic and mind control, has rites – the Black Mass, and drugs.
3. Acido or Acid – which worships the Satan of the Bible, attracts the youth, ages 14-25, indulges in drugs, and engages in sacrifices and crimes.
4. Luciferismo or Luciferian – a more philosophical approach to Satan promoting ego; very Manichaeism in nature and outlook.
The elements uniting the above movements are a desire to celebrate ego; hatred of the Catholic and Orthodox churches; rituals; sexual gratification and power; a belief that power can be obtained through actions; and sacrifice.
“So what?” you might say. Well, the answer is, “It is in your neighborhood. It might have been in your home – via your friends, your children’s friends, or your a neighbor.” Do not underestimate its pervasiveness. After all, it is as close as your computer.
How alarmist I must sound. How naive I must sound. I admit, I am – after today – realizing I am both.
This is the mantra of Satanism: “archangel, dark angel, lend me thy light.”
There is even a “Hail Mary Satanic Ritual” video.
And the motto of Satanism? It is: “Better to be King in Hell, than servant in Heaven.”
Want to learn more? No, you don’t. Please don’t
2009/04/22 • 18:02 0
As I was re-reading my notes and reflecting on the past few days, two things standout:
1. The level of profound suffering that exists because of the devil and demons is unfathomable. People need help. One comment made today was the professional opinion of one exorcist that in some mental institutes upwards to 50% of the patients were there because of the devil. Will we ever truly know?
2. All of the instructors – all competent, possessing first-hand experience, and dedicated – are not driven by their egos or desire for publicity. They are all God’s soldiers with a mission to perform and a battle to be won. There is no room for individualism and egos in this war.
• 17:17 0
Today, was no less overwhelming. Our instructor for the entire day Padre Professor Francois Dermine, a Dominican priest, and diocesan practicing exorcist for the last 12 years. He spoke on the discernment of spirits.
For many reasons I will not go into many details on this topic, not the least of which it is difficult to explain in writing and would take much longer than the space allows. Today’s class had the most active participation from the student body.
1 Cor 12.10 – “…to another the ability to distinguish between spirits…”
– in the bible, nothing is attributed to a natural cause (i.e., mumps, measles, etc.)…
– all that occurs can be traced back to the influence of a spirit: the spirits of jealousy, bad spirits, or the spirit of darkness, etc…
1. Spirits can tempt, but they cannot move our will.
2. Never underestimate the role of spirits in our lives; to do so would distance us from the scripture and great Traditions of our faith.
3. The discernment of spirits is rooted in the great ancients and the Patristics and Fathers of the Church.
4. Role of spirits in our lives:
– infestions – diabolical actions on & within houses or objects…the movement and materialization of objects within a house
– vexations – external physical persecutions that the devil inflicts on our physical life or social life, i.e., health, work, friends, family…
– obsession – persecution of the individual will and imagination via images and voices
– possession – the devil substitutes itself or takes over the external faculties of a man, i.e., tongue/voice, motor capacities…
The following one would seem to be self-evident, but unfortunately, to many, it is not.
5. Stay away from fortune tellers, magicians, palm readers, or other mediums…
6. The foregoing are instruments of the devil, i.e., God has no need of them…
7. As instruments of the devil, the foregoing cannot tell the future…neither can the devil.
The following is also important to remember; it is a statement of the Fourth Lateran Council:
8. “…the Devil and the other demons were created by God good in their nature but they by themselves have made themselves evil.”
a. By this it is meant that the Devil and the other demons are spiritual or angelic creatures created by God in a state of innocence, and that they became evil by their own act. It is added that man sinned by the suggestion of the Devil.
b. The devil is not the god of evil, but a creature that owes his existence to God; naturally created by God, naturally good, it became evil on their own initiative. We humans were created by God as being good…man sinned by instigation of the devil; comment – the devil is not the cause of the sin, but man is; Revelation affirms the action of the devil. Apoc. 12.12 – “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
One important issue (for my parish):
9. Instructor’s Opinion: The dead and damned cannot possess people or influence them. The devil, however, might clothe himself with the persona of the dead and damned to tempt or influence people.
10. Satanism is very complex; it takes on the nature of a complex war fought at many levels via the tools created by man: music, games, books, sects, criminal acts, temptations, infestations, etc. How can man withstand this assault without the help of God?
Much of the remaining information was for the use of the priests, so I’ll not go into it at this point (or probably in the future). Padre Francois’ commitment is based on his experiences. He is, rightly, opinionated. But his opinion is based on the facts he has had to deal with. One statement I found of interest was: “we need a less intellectualized faith and a faith based on actions with and commitments to the people.”
It was towards the end of the day that I learned he spoke English quite well. He is the type of person with whom I’d like to spend a few days.
Trivia: The priests I’ve met thus far are from Italy, Ukraine (Greek Catholic), Poland, Australia, England, Hungary, and the U.S.
2009/04/21 • 19:28 2
When one studies at a seminary, one learns all about the Father’s, the Son’s, and the Holy Spirit’s works, miracles, and efforts for mankind. What one learns little about is the devil and is minuscule in comparison, and for good reason – seminaries, by definition, are present to teach about God.
Today I learned more than I bargained for, the evil in this world, while pervasive, is greater, perhaps, more evil than I anticipated.
Again, I present only the highlights, to write everything is more than I can do in this forum. Moreover, I do not want to re-live all that I learned.
1. Silence is the devil’s ally.
2. Satanism, occultism, and relativism are from the same source – Satan.
3. Most active believers & participants in true Satanic rituals are people of the upper middle and upper economic strata.
a. Massive amounts of money are involved & spent in these rituals.
b. Participants are seeking the Holy Grail of life.
c. Every participant is fully vested, they can never leave once inducted into the cult and ritual.
d. Every participant or invitee is fully vetted; they are all monitored to one degree or another.
e. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and the communion of Satan (well thought out Black Masses using words akin to those in the Divine Liturgy) are a principal focus of meetings.
f. Behind all participation and rituals is the search for power – personal, social, and organizational (business).
g. These endeavors are surrounded by a complete code of silence.
Now the following highlight, I must admit, I mentally scoffed at, but as the explanation went on, it made me pause. I now have concerns about how little I truly know regarding this subject. I now know I need to attain a great understanding. The presenting priest said that all critiques against the text were written by “uneducated” or “uninformed” authors, thus readily dismissed. In contrast, the author of the text is quite highly informed and knowledgeable of her subject matter. Add to this the atmosphere of relativism, post-modernism, and political correctness where expressing the truth is about evil is inappropriate and mocked, and you have the perfect environment for the success of Harry Potter (HP).
4. HP, throughout,:
a. uses the same words employed by occultists and satanists “energy”…”energies”…and “sorcery”;
b. is about attaining power (this is the aim of HP and Satan);
c. has no distinction between good and evil;
e. is about what is fair and not easy (this is what Satan wants you to believe); and
f. portrays humans as living the worst part of existence, thus it is better to go to another world of sorcery, magic, and Satan.
And, I admit, there was so much more.
Comment: Does this mean we go out and destroy all our children’s HP books? No. Does it mean we ought not purchase any more HP books? Perhaps. What it does mean is that HP’s ways and logic ought not become our child’s ways and logic. And the latter requires a profoundly conscientious effort on the part of the parents or grandparents to dispel. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that the author knows full well what she is writing, using the proper occultist and satanic words, fully expecting to influence a generation of children (and adults). The pathology present in the legitimacy of the HP books is one of creeping indoctrination.
The next topic was most disturbing and perhaps is best introduced in the following manner. When a child or any person commits suicide, the police only investigate that a suicide was actually committed (vice the reasons for the suicide)? Once the police are convinced it is a voluntary or self-inflicted act, the investigation ceases. In contrast, what the growing body of evidence is portraying is that many acts of suicide are in response to satanism and a form of self-sacrifice. Here, again, silence is in favor of Satan.
5. Increasingly, Satanism is behind acts of suicide.
6. Satanism is not a crime.
In fact, satanism is being legitimized by the State governments. It is gaining in respectability. The satanism we see in public ought to be of concern. But the satanism that is bound to and surrounded by the code of silence is worse. What we do not hear about and or know about is the evil under girding much of society; this is a reason to pray.
2009/04/20 • 18:27 0
Christ is Risen!
The first day of classes is filled with so many quotes…so much information…and taught by truly knowledgeable professors and priests, all possessing first-hand knowledge of their areas of expertise and experiences with the demons, that it is going to take me a while to re-write my notes, synthesize everything, and absorb it.
My plane landed at 08.30 a.m. local time; I did not receive my luggage for almost another hour (!) – unbelievable slowness; and I arrived at my hotel at 10.00 a.m. So I only missed the introductory class. But the remaining three classes were powerful. There was nothing dry about the material.
Monsignor Luigi Negri spoke of the devil’s role in our world. Professor Adolfo Morganti addressed the anthropological aspects of the devil. And Professor Carlo Climati lectured on the devil’s phenomenological aspects. I have 7 pages of handwritten notes (my computer battery was low) and untold pages of typewritten notes.
What I am going to do is share a few highlights to whet the parish’s appetite (as well as my own – again). Some of the highlights may seem obvious, but, where the devil is concerned, none must be overlooked or taken for granted. What I am sharing are but a few high points, but if you don’t understand what I have written – then “when was the last time you prayed?”
1. Realizing self is the way of the devil.
2. Evil affects man individually, socially, societally, and culturally. Evil is beyond personal sin.
3. The devil exists, in part, to enable man to reach the fullness of his/her personality and individuality. (See #1.)
4. There is a reality of God.
5. There is a reality of the devil.
6. The central point of all evil is the devil.
7. The devil can affect man physically, spiritually, ethically, and morally. It can influence all aspects of man’s life.
8. Exorcism is the power of Christ; to not perform exorcisms is to deny Christ and his victory over evil.
9. We must embrace the possessed and not treat them as lepers.
10. Technology will never understand evil.
11. Science will never understand evil.
12. Political correctness is an evil, particularly where it means there can be no mention of evil and the devil.
13. Science, by its very definition, tries to negate God.
14. The devil was defeated by the Christ; therefore, only The Church and the priesthood of the Christ can defeat the devil. The laity cannot free man from the devil.
15. Modernity and post-modernism are tools & efforts of the devil.
And the above is only the tip of the information provided in the first class this morning.
The following summary quote (meaning my words and my interpretation of Italian), will be one of my favorites:
16. If you don’t believe in Satan then why believe in the Virgin Mary?…if you cannot see or experience Satan, then you cannot see or experience the Virgin?..or the saints?
The following quotes, in addition to #16 above, are from the second class:
17. Regarding the devil and evil, silence works on its behalf. (See #12.)
18. Angelology (the study of angels), by definition, includes demonology.
Finally, regarding the phenomenological aspects of the devil, Google “satan” and just note the number of hits. There are twice as many hits this year as last. What is being learned is that following Satanic sects is easy – they have common attributes of readily identifiable location, leadership, and followers. But with the Internet, sects are irrelevant. It is nearly impossible to follow the on-line movements. This was experienced last year when, in Italy, 3 girls met on-line, plotted the luring of a nun to a field, and there they all met for the first time to perform a ritual killing – a Satanic sacrifice.
Do you want to leave your child alone with a computer?
There is so much more to share and learn. Tomorrow we will study the social, societal and spiritual, liturgical, and canonical aspects of the demon.
A bit of trivia:1. I was informed I that I am the second Orthodox priest to attend the course; a monk from Mt. Athos attended last year’s course. 2. There are 29 students in the class. 3. The weather is in the 50’s. 4. I still dislike flying.
2009/04/16 • 15:46 0
I am presently reading: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio
I believe the following paragraphs are worth sharing…
The demons of the highest hierarchy always have biblical names like Satan, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Zebulun, Zebuin, and Meridiano. As Father Carmine explains, “They are usually followed by many others who are secondary and are the ones who go to possess a person because they have been ordered to by their leader.” Satan, of course, is the most powerful demon, is always present to some extent in every possession, but almost never is he “physically” present.
The key to being able to differentiate between the types of demons is by their level of intelligence. “You don’t measure the power of the demon by the strength of the person, but by the intelligence of the demon who talks,” says Father Gramolazzo. “They will always manifest a profound knowledge of theology.” In addition, a stronger demon will always be able to resist the prayers of exorcism longer than a weaker one, and he may be able to pronounce sacred names such as Jesus or Mary, names that a weaker demon will never say. Instead of using names, they will simply say, “He is destroying me,” or “She is burning me.”
While the hierarchy of the angels is based on love, there is no such concept in “hell,” say exorcists. The demons keep their former angelic ranks, but the only thing that unifies them is their hatred for God and man. The demons of the lower ranks obey the stronger ones, not out of obedience but out of fear. “They are like slaves,” says Father Nanni.
Exorcists have seen this firsthand when a more powerful demon blocked a weaker demon from leaving a person’s body during an exorcism, even though the prayer caused him great pain. This is also evident when there is more than one demon present. The weakest demon will always manifest first. “The strongest tend to hide; in the meantime they send out the smaller ones,” says Father Nanni.
Some demons seem to be actively antagonistic toward one another. Father Daniel (who became an exorcist briefly in Rome in 2006) had to schedule two possessed people he was seeing on different days. The instant they saw each other, their demons would manifest and become so violently enraged that they would often come to blows. And yet, even while some apparently despise one another, other groups seem to be able to work together. A stronger demon – or perhaps the leader of the possessing demon – will often come to the aid of the weaker demon. Most often, this will happen during the Ritual, in which the exorcist will discern that he is dealing with a stronger demon, or in between exorcisms, when the character of the demon (and its name) will change from one session to the next.
As for Giovanna, there was no way for Father Gary to know the hierarchy of her demon. He had been too engrossed in reining her in to hear whether Father Carmine had addressed the demon by name. Later, Father Daniel would speculate that the case was one of the rarest of rare instances – actual Satanic possession.
2009/04/14 • 19:40 0
2009/04/13 • 14:52 0
I have been asked, “how do you prepare for a course like this [meaning the Vatican’s excorcism course]?” My response is simple: “first, I pray…second, I read everything I can possibly get my hands on.”
What have I read? The following is a list – it is only the beginning – of some of the materials I have read in whole or part. The first two books are a must…
An Exorcist Tells His Story by Gabriele Amorth and Nicoletta V. Mackenzie
An Exorcist: More Stories by Gabriele Amorth (Author), Nicoletta V. Mackenzie (Translator)
The Vatican’s Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century by Tracy Wilkinson
The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio
Moreover, there is information, albeit limited, on the Internet. One article is “Exorcism in the Orthodox Church”. There is an excellent discussion forum located at Monachos.net – in my humble opinion one of the better Orthodox sites.
2009/04/12 • 06:02 0
1. trans. To drive away (an evil spirit) by the invocation or use of some holy name; to call forth, expel. Const. from, out of.
2. To clear (a person or place) of evil spirits; to purify or set free from malignant influences.
3. To call upon (an evil spirit) with a solemn asseveration; to adjure. Also, to conjure up. Now rare.
Hence exorcized ppl. a. exorcizement, the action of exorcizing; exorcizing influence. exorcizer (exorcisor), one who exorcizes. exorcizing vbl. n. and ppl. a.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
• 05:45 0
This is a test blog – an attempt to document my travels & experiences. I will be traveling to Rome from 20-26 April to attend, with His Eminence’s blessing, the Vatican’s Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University’s IV Corso sul ministero dell´esorcismo – the Vatican’s Exorcism Course…
The following topics will comprise the curriculum:
– Social aspects of Satanism
– Phenomenological aspects: Satanism in the youth
– Biblical and theological aspects
– Historical and theological aspects
– Liturgical aspects
– Pastoral and spiritual aspects
– Theological aspects
– Canonical aspects
– Legal aspects
– Criminological aspects
– Psychological aspects
– The ministry
I hope via this blog to share my travels with the diocese and others who might be interested…
2009/05/29 • 03:05 0
The old man was almost asleep when he heard the child approach. The last time the monk had seen the child he was across the meadow. How the child got to this side of the meadow so quickly was beyond the monk’s comprehension. He wondered to himself if the child had wings?
“Father, I’ve another question.” The child was not breathing as heavily as the monk thought he ought to be had the child been running.
“Yes, my son, what is it?”
“Well,” and the child paused as if searching for the right words, “what do you say when bad things happen to good people? Are there words of comfort?”
The monk eyed the child, almost with suspicion and asked himself, “How did he get here so quickly?”
“Huh, oh yes my child. This is an excellent question and a very difficult one to answer.”
“Well, it is difficult to answer because it depends on the level of faith in God possessed by the one suffering. You see, my child, if a person does not believe in God, then that person is not going to believe in evil and the Evil One. And there is little that can be said to comfort the person unless he realizes the error of his heart.
“If, however, a person’s faith in God is weak, then that person, when confronted with evil and the bad things that can happen to them, will wane in their belief of God.”
“Wane?” The child again was turning his head as would a puppy who did not understand.
“Wane, yes, yes…that is the right word. Wane means to weaken or grow smaller. In other words, the person whose faith is not on firm ground, will challenge and question God. Their faith must be strengthened by their priest. The person must truly learn to pray, frequently partake of the sacraments, and learn to trust in God. How this person responds to counsel is often dependent on the damage the evil one has done. The existence of the devil is real and the person whose faith is waning must understand this fact. If they do not, then they blame God for the suffering. This is wrong; but it is a sign of our human frailty – our very weakness.”
There was a pause then the old monk continued, “My child, even the strongest person shows weakness during times of suffering. Few, if anyone, wants or welcomes suffering. But suffering is a part of this world – it is unavoidable because of the demon-infested world we live in.” The old man concluded firmly by pounding his staff into the ground raising dust into the air. The child was momentarily startled, he had not expected the monk’s response, and he stepped back.
“I’m sorry my son, but the demons are evil. You see, if a person does not believe in God, he will not believe in the devil. If a person’s belief in God is weak, then the person will question God, not the devil, when bad things happen.
“But if a person believes in God, with all his heart, mind, and soul, then the person will believe in the devil. To truly believe in God is to love Him. To love Him is to have hope in Him. This person, who believes, loves, and has hope in our Lord, will never doubt that suffering comes from the Evil One. This person will never blame God. No, no, the person will thank God.”
“Thank God? Why?” The child was bemused and attempting to understand.
“Oh yes, the one who believes, loves, and has hope in our Father, this suffering person knows they have the freedom to reject and blame the Lord – and they are choosing not to blame or reject Him. The suffering person knows it is the Evil One who is the cause of all the suffering – the evil, the pain, the maliciousness or slander. The suffering person is then in the same position as the Son, Who willingly accepted the evil of this world. In accepting the evil of this world, as did our Christ, the suffering person is then following our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by accepting the fate of this world knowing that in the end as our Saviour rose, so, too, shall he, the suffering person, arise.”
“My child, the suffering person who believes, loves, and has hope is a very serious person – serious about their faith, about their love, and confident in their hope. This person has the conviction of greatness.” The monk ended on an upbeat note with a strong firm voice.
“The conviction of greatness is the conviction of holiness. This person is special because they have a living trust in the Lord. This person knows – he knows! – that God is real. He knows that God is good. He knows that God can do no evil. He also knows that the demons are real and he refuses to succumb to them. This person is a warrior and very, very special. This person lives every moment of their life seriously and deliberately, in the same manner as did our Christ. You see my child, this person knows the cross is real. This person knows that without the cross and the suffering on it, there would not have been the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Pentecost. Without the latter three events, there would be no hope, no love, no belief.”
“My child, this person knows very well that evil is real. This very special person knows that evil afflicted our Lord causing Him to suffer, which, we must never forget, He did so willingly. But what this very special person knows is that as he is suffering, he is doing so in solidarity with our Saviour. This is a special communion, a very special love. Imagine, my child, solidarity with the Lord – that which we all seek and pray for. This communion is a conviction of greatness, not out of pride, but out of love. When this person accepts suffering, then hell itself is denied. By this I mean, the reality of hell might be experienced as it was experienced by the Lord, but the eternal hell is denied victory as this person is following the luminance of the Lord. For a person with this conviction, their suffering becomes a prayer of hope.”
Silence. Then the child asked, “But father, I wanted to know if there are words of comfort?”
“Yes, yes…there are words of comfort for the waning person. When the wane’er asks….”
The child interrupted with laughter, “Wane’er! I like that word.”
The monk continued, “When the wane’er asks, ‘why?’ or ‘why me?’ the answer is….”
Just then lightning cracked across the sky. The thunder was instantaneous with the flash. Both the old man and child were shaken. They could feel the electrical energy run across their flesh. Again there was silence.
The child persisted, “The answer is?” The child was growing impatient as he looked into the sky.
“Oh yes, the answer is very simple, ask the person: ‘on whom would they wish the suffering they are enduring?’ Tell them to chose a person. Tell them to look around. Point someone out to the suffering person and say, ‘him? or him? or her?’ The suffering person must be made to realize their selfishness and pride. The believers will not accept your challenge and will realize the absurdity of their actions. Once this is accomplished, then the priest has an opportunity to teach and reinforce the faith of the suffering person. The suffering person must know, all suffering must know, that God is present and that, but for God, it could be a lot worse. God is the One who mitigates suffering. God is the One Who buys us time to right our life and accept Him into our hearts. God is the One Who gives each suffering person an opportunity to define evil and hell, and realize the reality of their existence. Having realized this, God is then waiting to accept the suffering person’s petition for forgiveness and mercy. If the suffering person understands and accepts this, then, and only then, can the person’s suffering then become a prayer, a communion with our Lord.”
The lightning flashed again across the sky and both knew it was time to take shelter.
2009/05/16 • 17:18 1
Tortured by the Turks for his faith in Christ, Nicholas was beheaded in Trikkala in 1617 A.D. A reliquary containing the head of this martyr is preserved today in one of the Meteora monasteries in Thessaly.
Nicholas’ faith was, as should be our faith, focused.
Unfortunately, our focus in life is more akin to the following.
It is no wonder that we have problems listening to God.
Focus on the light…
• 04:11 0
A Spiritual Chronicle on the Feast Day of The Venerable Martyrs of The Monastery of St. Sabas The Sanctified
The old man had been walking in silence while the boy played along the path. The sun was bright, yet the air was cool. The breeze was at their face soothing the skin. The monk noticed the boy coming toward him. He knew the boy’s arrival would be followed by a question.
“Master, it is a beautiful day, run with me.” The child’s energy was to be admired.
“Run with you?” The old man could not help but laugh aloud. “My child, the day’s are gone for me when it comes to running.” The smile on the child’s face was enough to reinvigorate the old man; but run?…no, that he would not do.
“Abba, I have a question.”
“Yes, child, I’ve been expecting it.”
“Explain ’silence’ to me. Why do you teach ’silence.’”
“Oh, my son, that is a good question – one that all mankind should comprehend. You see, there are three kinds of silence: the sin of silence…the silence of negation…and the silence of the heart.”
“Three?! I thought silence just meant being quiet?”
The old man laughed and thought, one way or the other the child was going to make him run – not so much physically but mentally. “Well, yes, you are right. It is about being quiet. But it is much more than that. Let me explain.
“Why one is silent is important. For example, suppose someone is blaspheming our Lord. Should we do nothing? Or should we correct the person? Let me state another example, suppose someone is telling a lie and we know it to be a lie, do we do nothing? Oh, there are many, many examples in this world. Let me think a moment. Suppose someone claims that all Christians are the same…or that the Muslim Turks and Christians worship the same God…what are we to do, remain silent?
“No. We must not remain silent. To remain silent would be sinful. Those who remain silent commit the sin of silence. We should be upholding and proclaiming the truth. We should tell the blasphemer to cease. We should correct the liar. We should state that not all who claim to be Christian are Christian. Some so-called Christians are simply heretics invoking the name of our Saviour to avoid scrutiny and gain acceptance. Other so-called Christians are in reality Satanists.”
The boy interrupted. “Satanists, claiming to be Christians?”
“Oh yes, yes. They make the false claims to hide their true allegiance to the evil one. This way they can move among man with stealth and undermine the good of the Lord. They are quite cunning.
“And there are those who claim that the god of Islam is the same God of Christianity. They are not the same. Indeed, Islam requires the denunciation of the Christian God when a Christian converts to Islam. But for the fact that the god of Islam is not the God of Christianity, this would not be necessary.
“Therefore, the sin of silence is to say or do nothing in rebuking the lies and influence of the evil one. This sin is most pervasive amongst mankind, even amongst clergy, because under the guise of political correctness and sensitivity, they remain silent.
“The silence of negation is also wrong and may also be a sin. When someone offends our ego and we respond by engaging in silent anger and ignoring that person, the God-created creature in our life, then we may as well be offending God.
The boy was holding up two fingers, then raised the third and said, “Okay, what is the third?”
“Oh, it is the most important silence – the silence of the heart, a silence that is the striving of quietude.”
“Quietude?” The boy still tilted his head when curious.
“Yes, quietude – the peace of the Lord, a stillness and silence that will allow us to listen to the Lord with the ear of our heart. It is a process we must learn and we can only acquire it by practicing silence. Only in silence can we hear the Lord and His calling for each one of us.
“Today man is consumed with endless activities, so much so, that he has no time for the Lord, or so he believes. But this is a fiction, a lie fostered by the demons. Yet man succumbs to this belief. When man is in trouble he calls on the Lord and expects His undivided attention, not later, but now. This is preposterous. Man is unwilling to give of himself to God, unwilling to give God an hour of his day, and yet he wants God to drop all He is doing and be attentive to man? Preposterous, absolutely preposterous. Man believes he is god when he acts like this. When man acts like this he is challenging God! Preposterous!”
“Yes, Abba, I understand, but what is silence of the heart?”
“Hmmm, oh yes. well, man must not do what the demons are asking of him. Man must learn to listen to our Lord with the ear of his heart. God is all-powerful. We learn this in the bible: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life….” (John 1.3,4)
“St . Benedict uses the word obsculta, to listen; he does not ask or request of his monks, or us, to listen to God, he directs us to listen. Our saint is simply repeating that which we read in Proverbs: “My sons, to my words pay attention.” (4.20) In Jeremiah we again hear our Lord telling Israel: “Listen to my call…walk in the way which I enjoin on you.” (7.23)
“My child, God demands we listen to Him. To not listen to Him is a sin. To not listen to God is a reflection of the evil hardness in our heart and we would be turning our backs on Him. (cf Jer 7.24) This, my child, is a sin. This was the sin at the fall of man.
“When I was a child and my father pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen…,’ I was being told to not only ‘listen’ but to ‘obey.’ This is what we must do when we listen in silence; we must listen and obey. Only in listening can we hear God and obey. One cannot do the latter without first doing the former. In order for us to obey, we must first learn to listen.
“It is no wonder, if man is too busy with earthly things and has no time for God, then man will never be able to obey God.
“My child, we learn in Romans (10.17) that if we listen to God our faith will grow and we will do His will and become His children (cf John 15.17). “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Luke 11.28). What man does not seem to comprehend is that obedience to God counters the fall of man. Whereas man’s fall was caused by disobedience of God, man’s redemption can only come from obedience to God.
“Listening with the ear of our heart must become a discipline for all mankind. It requires work and patience, but no greater patience than that which the Lord has shown for and to us. The work will be difficult, but no more challenging than what our Saviour suffered at the cross.
“My child, our Saviour said, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11.28-30).” If we would only take the time to listen to Him in silence, away from the world’s noise, then He will talk to us, teach us, and we will be blessed.”
2009/05/14 • 15:48 1
The sun was quickly warming the air. It was time to seek solace in the shade of a tree. As the old man was lowering himself to the ground, the child, whose energy was limitless, ran up to the monk and said, “Abba, why is it that we do not speak of the evil one? I mean, no one talks about him.”
The old man waited until he was firmly on the ground before answering, “That is a most excellent question. We should be aware of and speaking of the devil’s evil influence in our lives. Instead, we keep quiet.”
“My child, silence is the devil’s ally. We should be speaking of the wrongs in the world. All evil – Satanism, occultism, and even relativism – are from the same source, the Evil One.”
“In this world, today, if we same something about the Turks and their role in the Armenian holocaust, we are considered insensitive to the Turks! What about the Armenians?! If we say something truthful about anyone and it is not good or positive, then we are blasphemed as being insensitive. Where did this concept of ‘being insensitive’ come from?”
“No, instead we are supposed to be ‘nice’. At the judgment day, we will see if we are judged nicely or truthfully.”
There was a pause in the conversation, the old monk was getting a bit upset and could sense his blood pressure rising. Then the child interrupted the silence and said, “So, should we speak of the evil one and its deeds?”
The monk looked around and said, “Child, what has God given us?”
As thought it might be a trick question, the child paused and also looked around, then with a sense of realization pointed all around him in a sweeping circle and said, “Everything!”
“Exactly. He has given us everything. Now what has the evil one done to that which our good God gave us?” The old man, now a bit calmer, was using the moment to teach the child.
“Oh, I get it,” the child said. “The evil one has kept God’s creation from living together in peace. You told me that long ago.”
The old man could not recall having said such a thing to the child, but he conceded the statement. “Exactly, that we cannot live together in peace and love is due to the devil’s actions. And we should see and recognize this daily. We should not be afraid of pointing this out to our fellow man. To say nothing is wrong. If we do not point out evil, then we cannot respond or address evil and it continues to perpetuate itself.”
“Daily, my child, we should look about us and recognize the gifts God has given to us. However, when we look about we will also see evil. We should not hesitate to call evil exactly what it is – evil. If we keep silent, we are doing what the evil one would want us to do. That, my child, is intolerable before the Lord.”
2009/05/12 • 20:52 0
“Master, what about the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Can we live the sacrament daily?”
“Oh yes, my child, of course we can. Just as we live the liturgy on a daily basis, anticipating and preparing, followed by gratitude and the sharing of our Lord’s mercy and love, so, too, must we have the same approach to reconciliation.”
“But how is that possible?”
“First, we should initiate the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. Second, we should keep it within our hearts daily.”
“But how do we do that?” The child was getting a bit flustered. The old man wondered, was it his youth or impatience? Of course, it did not matter, the two were one.
“Well, my child, the more often we partake of reconciliation with our Lord, the more often we align our souls to His love. Reconciliation cannot simply begin and end when we’re before the icon of the Christ confessing our sins. Just as we must prepare for the liturgy days before attending liturgy, so, too, must we prepare for reconciliation days before stating our confession.
“We must truly seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our transgressions. Our sorrow, before partaking of the sacrament, must be palpable, felt within our very soul. If it is anything less, then our confession is not genuine.
“Long before we seek reconciliation with the Lord, we must reflect on our sins and the impact of our sins on us and our relationship with our neighbors and the Lord. If we have offended a neighbor, we should seek forgiveness first from our neighbor. This very human reconciliation is an important precursor to reconciling with God.”
The child interrupted, “What is a pree…ker…sir?”
“Ah, oh yes, a precursor is something that must happen first…it must happen before something else. In this case the penitent, the person confessing,” the old monk was now speaking slower and was more mindful of the boy’s youth, “must mend his relationship first with his fellow man before seeking to mend his relationship with God.”
“Okay,” the boy stated as he walked along side the monk.
The old man continued, “Then the penitent must pray before the sacrament. He must acknowledge God’s supremacy, glorify Him, and seek His mercy and forgiveness well before initiating the sacrament. Then during the sacrament, he must in all humility go before God and beg for forgiveness. If he does so, God will forgive him.”
“Is that all?” The boy was really asking if the conversation was concluded.
“No, no,” the monk replied, “there is one more thing. After departing from the sacrament the penitent should give thanks to God for his mercy and make a sincere attempt to sin no more.”
“Now that is going to be hard,” the boy replied, as though speaking from experience.
“Yes, it will be difficult, because we are human and frail. When and if we fail again, tears of regret should flow down our face because we are such miserable creatures. And, my child, the reconciliation process must begin anew, all over again.”
“And what happens if we do not seek reconciliation again and soon?” The child was asking as though exasperated.
“That is exactly what the evil one desires. If we do not seek frequent reconciliation, then our hearts will harden and grow cold to the Lord and we run the risk of eternal suffering.”
Both the old man and the child were quiet as they walked along the path. The sun was beginning to set and it was time to settle down for the evening’s meal and prayers.
• 02:09 1
As the two walked in the meadow, a breeze rocked the flowers and grass. The slow swaying motion was comforting.
Finally, but not unexpectedly, the silence was broken, “Master, I’ve been thinking. If we are to live our faith today, in the moment, how are to live our sacraments?”
“My son, you’ve asked an excellent question; a question seldom asked, with an answer few appreciate.”
The old man smiled at the child as he was now trying to take big steps matching the monk step-for-step.
“My child, we must live our sacraments on a daily basis.”
The child responded, “As we live our faith? But we don’t go to liturgy every day?”
“Ah, that we should be so blessed!” said the old man. “You’re correct, the reality is we do not go to liturgy daily. But we can live with the liturgy daily.”
“How?” the child said as he tried to maintain pace. The old man resolved to shorten his steps lest the child tire or fall.
“My child, the liturgy does not begin and end at specific times on a weekly basis.”
“Yes it does Abba, it begins every Sunday morning at 10.”
“Yes, yes…that is true; but that is the time in which we are supposed to be in church, not the time at which the liturgy begins.” The child had that puzzled look on his face again. “You see child, we are supposed to be in church at 10 on Sunday mornings, but the liturgy is supposed to begin in our hearts days before.”
“Long before we get to the church, each one of us is supposed to be within the church within our hearts preparing our body, heart, and soul for liturgy. Days before we attend church, we should pray and act and prepare ourselves to be with and in the presence of the Lord, to partake of His body and blood. This does not and should not begin at 10 on Sunday mornings. It begins days before Sunday.”
“Our daily, weekday prayers and deeds should all be focused in preparation for the coming Sunday’s liturgy.”
“Similarly, when we depart from the church at the priest’s dismissal, we should take the liturgy with us. After all, we have the Christ within us. We should take Him Who is within us and go forth into the world sharing His love. We have been given the greatest of graces and should act accordingly. If we do this properly, we will carry Him in our hearts and souls for days upon days upon days.”
“After a few days, we should once again begin preparing for the coming Sunday’s liturgy. This way the cycle never ends. This way our soul is anticipating and preparing for the Lord. Then, after receiving Holy Communion, our soul is grateful for His presence and grace within us. We can then share His love with our neighbors. This cycle continues over and over again.”
The child, now excited, said, “It’s like we never leave liturgy!”
“Exactly my child, the liturgy is always with us. Only in this way are we truly living our liturgy. Remember, the liturgy has no start or end time; liturgy is always with us – a part of our life – always with and within us if we truly love Him as He loves us.”
The child gave up keeping step with the old man and went forward skipping into the meadow.
2009/05/11 • 05:17 0
The old man was slowly relaxing, almost asleep, when he felt a tug at his sleeve. He shrugged, not recognizing what was occurring, and began to dream. He felt another tug at his sleeve, then a push on his shoulder.
“Master, I have a question.” The old monk opened an eye and saw the young child standing next to him. The aging man raised his eye brow as though asking a question.
“I have a question.” The child was adamant.
“Yes,” the old man took a deep breath in the hope of waking up, “what is it?”
“Master, how do we live our faith?”
The old monk struggled to aright himself, body and mind. He repeated the child’s question slowly, “How do we live our faith?”
“Yes, I want to know.” The child held a blue flower in his hand.
“My child, we live our faith in the moment.”
The child tilted his head as a young puppy would in incomprehension.
The old man smiled and again readjusted his posture. “My child, we must live our faith now – in the moment, with our very thoughts and actions. You see our past is gone, it is now history and we can do nothing about it. And our future is yet to come, and we cannot act in the future today.”
Again the child was tilting his head. The monk laughed and said, “My child, the imagination is an incredible thing. Our imagination leads us to many conclusions, many of which are false. Our imagination can enslave us and confine us to and in the past and create angst and troubles regarding the future…about things which long ago occurred and that which does not yet exist. As a consequence man can needlessly worry. This is the work of the evil one; by living in the past and worrying about the future, we will ignore the gifts God has given us today.”
“My child, our history, our past, is gone forever. We can do nothing about the past. We cannot go back in time.”
“Similarly, our future is yet to come. It is not here and we can do nothing about it, except, perhaps, to prepare for it today. But in doing so, we are doing something today – in the moment.”
“Therefore, if the past is forever gone and the future is yet to come, we must live our faith in the moment – today and now. We must give glory to God, praise Him, and pray to Him. Each moment we do this, we prepare ourselves for the future, especially the eternal future.”
As the old man finished talking he turned to the boy, who by this time had a butterfly at the end of his index finger. They boy was giggling as the butterfly slowly flexed its wings. “Like the butterfly on my finger?” the young boy said.
The old monk could not help but smile. “Yes, like the butterfly; it is living in its faith in you my child, trusting you – in the moment – today, as we should be trusting in our Lord.”
2009/04/22 • 20:49 1
“Father, the young monk is coming to see you.”
“Huh, where?” The old man knew he needed spectacles, but why bother he would not be using them long.
“Master, bless.” Once again the young monk was out of breath. “This one never slows down,” thought the old man.
“What’s the matter my son, is everything okay?”
“Yes, Father…all is well, but Fr. Ephrem is having difficulties with Macrina.”
“Oh? What is the matter?”
“Macrina says she is beset by ailments and is complaining loudly. Fr. Ephrem wants to give her a blessing, but she won’t let him. So she is ranting about the monastery railing about her ailments. No matter what we offer, she says it will not work. She is disturbing everyone.”
“My son, go back and tell Macrina you’ve spoken with me. Tell her I said that if she wants to feel better she needs to catch a chicken, only the fastest chicken, and swing it over her head three times. Then she is to set the chicken free. After that she is to drink a cup of warm goat’s milk and rest for one hour without talking. If after that she does not feel better, then she is go see Fr. Ephrem and do as he says.”
The young monk looked quizzically at the old man and being of an obedient nature, all he could say was, “Yes, master.” Then off the young monk went running to the monastery.
The child came up behind the monk and said, “Swing a chicken, warm goats milk, and rest for one hour without talking?”
The old man smiled, “Yes, yes…it works. You see when Macrina begins to chasing the chicken she will get more attention than she bargained for. And should she catch it, well let us say the chicken will not be happy. Then the warm goats milk will make her sleepy. Add to this she must rest for one hour without talking and, I suspect, she will go to sleep. When she wakes up, she will either feel rested and better or she will have to obey Fr. Ephrem.”
The old man walked toward the meadow with a smile on his face. The child shrugged his shoulders and began to chase the butterflies among the blue flowers.
2009/04/16 • 15:05 0
“Father, someone is coming.”
“Where my child?” Instinctively the old man looked toward the monastery.
“Yes, there,” the child pointed toward the monastery confirming the monk’s inclination.
The old man rose from his sitting position. By the time he was fully standing and dusting himself, the young monastery monk arrived. Once again he was out of breath. In between gasps he managed to extend his hands forward, right over left with his palms up, and said, “Master, bless.”
As the old man was extending his blessing, he asked, “Simon, what brings you here in such haste?”
“Master, a miracle!”
“Master, this morning Basil the Builder came to morning services…afterwards, he asked for a priest and then he said, ‘I want the Sacrament of Repentance.’ He insisted on it then and there. He was most insistent and said that he would not leave until the sacrament was completed. We were, of course, stunned. Never did we expect Basil to seek the sacrament. In our silence we did not move but remained staring at him. It was then that Basil said, ‘Now!’ We ran about in surprise and Fr. Ephrem took Basil aside and heard his confession. They were together for a long time. Finally when it was finished, Basil departed…and Fr. Ephrem said that I should let you know what had occurred.”
The old monk responded, “And did Fr. Ephrem survive the sacrament? There was no lightning? Thunder?”
Surprised until he looked up and saw the old monk’s smile, “No master.”
“Thank you my son for this most glorious news. Perhaps it is a miracle, perhaps not. It is most definitely the work of Holy Spirit. You may return to the monastery – but please walk.” He said the latter still smiling.
The young monk bowed, received the old man’s blessing, and departed.
The child, now behind the old man, asked, “The strong medicine worked?”
The monk turned about, again out of surprise, and said, “My child, why must you startle me so?”
Again, “The strong medicine worked?”
The old man paused, blessed himself, and said, “Perhaps. Perhaps not. But this I know my child, the Holy Spirit has worked another miracle.”
2009/04/15 • 16:43 1
The light of the day was waning. Darkness was on the eastern horizon and working its way across the sky.
In the west, there was a brilliant blend of orange, red, and pink. This time of day was, for the old man, a time of prayer and contentment. That he had lived through another day he was thankful for. Still he wondered why.
“Father, it is beautiful.” The child was standing by the monk gazing toward the illuminated horizon.
“Yes, my child, it is truly beautiful.” The monk took a deep breath, ever thankful the evening would again be cool. The old man marveled how the Lord had balanced the heat of day with the night’s refreshment. The day’s cycle led to anticipation within man’s heart of the Divine, knowledge that He was coming as surely as the sun would rise in the morning.
“Father, I have a question.” At this the old man could only smile, the child always had the five words close by.
“Yes, yes…what is it you want to know?” The old man had long since started his kindling. He now sat, ever so slowly, beside the small fire and began to feed it.
“Tell me about the crucifixion.” With this question, the monk nodded. He laid a small branch across the fire.
“Crucifixion was a death sentence for the accused. It is a most horrific form of punishment.
“You’ve seen the icons at the monastery and images in books?…well, do not trust your eyes and what you see.” With this statement the boy looked surprised. The monk continued, “Oh the Christ was crucified, in that sense the icons and book images are correct. But what you see is barren, devoid of the massive blood letting, the stench of death, and the agony and pain suffered by man and our Christ.
“What you see in the icons and book images have been considerably,” the old man searched for words, “considerably cleaned up so that we can focus on His death – the death of the Christ for you and me. And, in this regard, it is good; but it is not enough.
“My child, crucifixion was not simply the hanging of a man on the cross; no, no…crucifixion is a process culminating with the hanging of a man on the cross and his eventual death. What we see in icons and books is the final event, not the crucifixion process.
“Crucifixions were the most extreme form of punishment that could be inflicted by man on man. Crucifixions were reserved for the most heinous of crimes – for rebels, murderers, and some thieves.
“When a man was sentenced to be crucified, long before the actual hanging of the man on the cross, the convicted person was subjected to indescribable torture. The convicted found himself with his hands tied by rope to an upright pole or pillar, stretching his body to the point of pain, with his shirt removed, and then whipped.
“The whip was not an ordinary whip. It consisted of a short stick to which were tied many leather straps. The end of each strap had a piece of metal woven within it. As the straps lashed the convicted, the metal pieces slowly broke the man’s skin. At first the body fluids and blood would ooze from the man’s back. As time and more lashings occurred, blood would begin to freely flow as the veins, arteries, and capillaries across the man’s back were ripped open.”
The child winced at the telling of the story. Noticing this the old man asked, “would you rather I not speak any more of this?” The child shook his head from side-to-side and so the monk continued.
“The whipping of the man’s back could continue for hours until the man was finally in a weakened state, praying for his death and relief from the agony. But the soldiers would not and could not let him die. Severe dehydration and shock would set in for the convicted. By now his back was a bloody mess with skin tissue hanging from his back and his underlying muscle structure exposed.
“The soldiers could not let the convicted die…no, this would have not reflected well on them. The entire crucifixion process existed for the local populace to see. The crucifixion process was intended to be observed by the public, only then would the process have meaning – as a deterrent against future criminal actions, and to keep the populace subservient and compliant with the ruling army.
“Blood flowed freely. It was everywhere. The convicted’s tissue would often hang off the whip and be laid across the ground. Still, he could not be permitted to die.
“The next phase of the crucifixion process was for the convicted to carry a cross or heavy wooden cross beam through the town to his final place of death. Often the cross or beam was tied to the convicted’s shoulders and across his back – the rough wood touching open wounds.
“The man was then forced to walk through town for everyone to see him. The soldiers would ensure there was a good audience present along the streets. You see, the soldiers would enter the shops and homes along the parade route and compel the people to watch the spectacle. Should the people hesitate, they would be whipped into submission.
“Humiliated, bloodied, in pain, and near death, every time the convicted fell, the rough wooden beam would gouge into his exposed back. The pain was unbearable.
“Once the parade reached the final destination, the convicted either had his upper arms tied to the cross beam and he would hang from there, or he would find himself nailed through the wrists or hands to the cross beam.
“The convicted would then have his feet or ankles nailed to the vertical beam, usually with his legs bent at the knee. This would cause further suffering since the convicted could not straighten himself up to relieve his discomfort without causing immense pain.
“With all that had been done, the agony was just beginning. In the slumped position, the convicted’s lungs would begin to fill with fluid. The convicted could take in a breath, but he could not fully exhale. Poisonous air would fill his lungs; he was slowly suffocating.
“Fluid would begin to build around the convicted’s heart, applying more pain, pressure, and stress. If the convicted was fortunate, he would lose consciousness. If not, the suffering was beyond description. Finally, the heart would stop…its beating would cease…and the crucifixion process would be over. ‘It is finished.’”
“My child, crucifixion is a process – not a single event. We, in looking at our blessed icons and book images, must look beyond the moment of His death and recall the entire sequence – the entire crucifixion process – the gruesome torture and suffering that preceded his ascension on the cross.
“Our Saviour endured the most terrible and indescribable of tortures – for us. If we focus solely on the image as we see it, His death, we miss too much. This is what the demons want us to do, to forget about the entire crucifixion process. Only in succeeding can the demons raise questions about the Christ’s actual death and cause doubt in the heart of man.
The old man’s voice cracked. “My child, never forget the suffering.” Both the child and monk had tears flowing down their face.
The fire cracked releasing the brightest of embers into the evening sky.
2009/04/14 • 18:12 0
“Father, I have a question.”
“My child, where have you been?”
“Over there.” The boy pointed toward the meadow and flowers. Again he said, “Father, I have a question.”
“Yes, what is it my child?”
“Weren’t you a bit hard on Basil? I mean, he is a good man. Yet, you called him a coward.”
The boy could not have been at the meadow, thought the old man, if he was asking such a question.
Nevertheless, the monk answered, “You are correct, Basil is a good man. Yes, I was tough on him. But, my child, Basil is sick, plagued by the same illness that affects so much of mankind. He has forgotten who he is.
The boy interrupted, “He’s forgotten he’s Basil?!”
The monk laughed. “No, no. Basil and much of mankind have forgotten their relationship to God.
“God, the Creator, is infinitely good and in His infinite goodness He made man in His image and likeness – wholly capable of good and wholly capable of love. God created man. Man did not create God.
“After making man, all that was required of man was that he love God. This is why Matthew tells us that the Christ said, ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.‘
“If we truly love God first and wholly, then how much more can we love our father, mother, son or daughter. If, however, we love our family first, than we cannot reflect God’s love within us upon or to our family. Our love will be man’s love, a very imperfect love.
“The Christ also goes on to say ‘he that findeth his life shall lose it.‘ What the Son is saying is that if we love ourselves first and foremost, then we will lose our life because our life will be, by definition – devoid of the fullness of God and very imperfect,. We will be incapable of complete goodness possess an imperfect love. My child, it would be man defining what is good and what is love – not God.
“Yet the Christ continues, ‘he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.‘ In other words, if we give our life completely and wholly to Christ, then our life will be defined by and filled with God’s infinite goodness and love.
“This is what mankind has forgotten; this is what Basil has forgotten. This is why Basil needs to confess his sins – to realign his relationship with God by acknowledging His infinite goodness and love. He needs to do this publicly before God’s priest, in accord with God’s directions.”
“Why has man forgotten the Christ’s message?” the child asked.
“He has forgotten because he is ill. And when man is ill, we must give him the strongest medicine we have to cure him quickly. We cannot afford to let the illness linger lest man become more ill and die an eternal death.
“My child, my toughness with Basil was the strongest medicine I could offer him. Basil is a very strong man and only responds to the strongest of medicines.”
The old man was now in prayer…he had to meet with Basil again and soon. The monk then turned to seek out the child only to see him skipping amongst the flowers, all of them blue.
2009/04/13 • 20:16 0
The two old men sat down on the ground. As they did so, one labored because of age, the other did so with painful discomfort.
“Tell me about confession old man.”
The monk glanced at Basil and said, “To begin with, it is called the Sacrament of Repentance…not confession. One confesses at the sacrament and you are decades overdue.”
The monk continued, “You can only blame yourself. This, you cannot blame on the priest; you may not lay it on his shoulders. It is your cross. It is the only sacrament that you, Basil, can initiate; the only sacrament that can be initiated by the laity.”
“The sacrament exists for you because of and as a reflection of God’s compassion and love for mankind. The sacrament, as are all sacraments, were given to us by our Lord God & Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Basil interrupted, “But why must I confess to the priest, I don’t even like him! Why can’t I confess to God Himself?”
One more harrumph from the monk was emitted, “I know I taught you better. You do not confess to man; you confess to God, in front of His representative – the priest-man.”
“It would be too easy, no humility would be required, particularly if man was merely to confess to an invisible God whom he might well doubt exists. And this would only further man’s self-delusion in this fallen world.
“Let me start at the beginning my dear Basil.” This was the first affection shown by the monk and Basil silently took note of it; yet, neither acknowledged it.
“With regard to God, there are three types of confessions: praise, faith, and repentance,. We confess our praise of God…our glorification of God via the psalms, songs, and prayers.
“We confess our faith when we recite the Nicene Creed daily. Tell me Basil, you do recite it daily?”
Basil, half listening, said, “Oh yes…yes, of course, daily.” The old monk shook his head slightly.
“Then,” the old monk said, “you have no problem publicly confessing your praise of God and faith in Him?”
“No, no…of course not. I do this daily.” The old monk’s eyes rolled up and back in his head.
“Then why would you have any problem publicly confessing your sins before the priest whom He called?”
“But that is different.”
“Different, how? You mean you can celebrate your joy publicly, but your ego keeps you from confessing your sins? This is about you and your ego, right?
“So, Basil, you are a coward.” Another harrumph came from monk as he stated a conclusion.
At this Basil’s spine stiffened. “I’m not a coward.”
The monk could not let this opening pass him by, “If you’re not a coward, then prove it.”
Basil said nothing.
“You see Basil, this is not about the priest you do not like…it is not about any priest. It is about you and your decision to ignore the Tradition and teachings of the church. It is about your decision to become a god – to define what is right and wrong, to decide what God believes.
“This, Basil, is an illness of mankind – an illness of the spirit and soul. This illness is the result of man’s ego and unwillingness to publicly humble himself before God and His representative, your priest.”
Basil interrupted, “I am willing to humble myself, but I would rather do it alone, with God.”
“And how do you know God will forgive you?”
Basil, now regaining his wits, said, “Because He is a good God, He will forgive me.”
“Prove it Basil.”
“Abba, you know I cannot.” For the first time in the conversation Basil admitted the monk’s spiritual leadership; both took note of it, yet neither admitted such.
“I can prove it.”
“How?” Basil’s eye’s reflected surprise and hope.
“The priest, who witnesses your confession, can, as member of God’s holy priesthood, pray:
May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, by the grace and mercies of His love for mankind, forgive you all your transgressions.
You see Basil, the priest prays to God that He may forgive you; the priest, himself, does not forgive you. The priest is your warrior and advocate – the priest is your gladiator. In publicly repenting of your sins you are enlisting the priest’s support. Basil, in repenting you are repenting to the same God to whom David repented, the same God whom Peter denied 3 times, and the same God whom the apostles abandoned in His hour of need – all of whom died believing in and for our Lord. But the priest can only say this prayer if you are not a coward, if you repent in his presence, and enlist his support.” The last words were forceful.
“Abba, I’m not a coward.”
“Then go and prove it, repent of your sins to your priest…then I will believe in you my dear Basil.”
• 17:05 0
“Father, a man is approaching.” The child was pointing toward the monastery. The old man looked eastward and could discern a figure walking toward their location. The monk’s eyes were failing him; he could only see the man’s gait. From the walk, the hunched back, and the man’s struggling legs, he readily noted, “Its Basil. What could be bringing the old man out here?”
The old monk turned around to look for the child. He was no where to be seen.
Basil waved to the monk and said, “Old man what are you doing out here in the sun?”
“Who are you calling old man, old man?”
To this came a gruff retort, “You are an old man, old man. Did you not baptize me?”
“I did, but you look older than I, no doubt because of your many sins.” The monk could not resist the opportunity to chastise his friend of many years.
“Ah…,” and Basil waved his hand in the air in a dismissive manner, “please don’t add to my burdens old man.”
Now that Basil was close to the monk, the worry on Basil’s face was evident. The monk said, “Basil, you look older than ever! What is the matter?”
“Thank you old man for the compliment. I did not walk all this way to receive such compliments as you offer.”
“So, what is wrong? Why did you walk all this way in the noonday sun?”
Basil was quiet for a moment, chewing on a stem of grass in the hopes of partially quenching his thirst. He then turned to the monk and said, “I came to speak with you about…” and his voice trailed off. Finally, “I came to speak with you about my sins.”
“Oh?!” The monk firmly planted his staff in the ground raising a small cloud of dust. “We do not have enough time left in the day to speak of your sins – they, no doubt, are many.” At the last words, the monk leaned his head forward to Basil as if to place additional emphasis. “Perhaps you should come tomorrow morning, early just after sunrise, and we can spend the next couple of days…or perhaps weeks…listening to your confession.”
“Ah…,” and Basil again waved his hand dismissively, “why are you so hard on me?”
The old monk stood as tall as his small stature would permit him to do and said, “Because you were a good child…and I believe you had a calling…and you chose,” here the old monk placed a very hard emphasis on the word ‘chose’, “you chose to defy God and go your own way – to bear your own beliefs.”
“Did I not help you every time you asked? Did I not help the people when they needed help, when you asked me to help? Did I not treat people with honor? Did I not pay my debts?” And then it was Basil’s turn and he leaned forward into the old monk’s personal space. “If I cheated anyone, did I not pay them back four-fold?”
The aging monk harrumphed and said, “You are not a tax collector.”
There was silence between the two old men.
Finally, Basil said, “Old man, I am dying.”
Again silence prevailed as both men looked toward the horizon, one deep in thought, the other in prayer.
“I am dying. I may die soon. I may not die for many months. The doctors do not know. Who knows, I may be around a long time to call you old man.” Basil smiled slightly as he said ‘old man.’
“I want to know about this…this confession thing. What is it? And why must I confess to you?”
2009/04/10 • 04:28 0
They’d been walking in silence for quite a while when the boy said, “Father, how can man bear life’s burdens?”
The old man nearly stumbled at the child’s voice. Startled as he was and but for his staff he certainly would have fallen. “What do you mean my child?”
“Well, if man is frail, how can he withstand the burden’s of this life?”
“My child, let me tell you a story. When the Christ was tried – scourged, beaten, spat upon, and finally condemned – His physical body, His very human body, was about to give out on Him. His mortal endurance was at an end. And then the Romans made Him carry a heavy cross, a cross upon which He was to be crucified and die.”
“The cross, we know, was made of heavy timber, since it would have to support the weight of a man.”
“His burden was beyond description. The timbered cross would have made any normal man struggle under its weight; but a man who’d already been tortured beyond description, whose back had been beaten until His flesh had been ripped from Him, a man whose loss of blood had already weakened His very essence, would never make it to Golgotha.”
“The Christ struggled…He stumbled and fell…He got up…walked further…stumbled…and fell again.”
“He could go no further. Perhaps He was to die there on the stone path in Jerusalem. Had He died then and there, the prophecies and His destiny would never have been fulfilled.”
“It was then that an unknown person was forced to help the Christ. That person was Simon. We do not know where Simon was coming from or where he was going to. We do not know what brought him to that spot where the Christ was to fall at that particular time. We know little about him. All we know is that he was there – he was present.”
“Simon probably saw Him fall. But Simon was just another man amongst many, who were lined along the streets and alley ways, who happened to be present at the moment the Messiah being whipped in an effort to keep Him moving along toward Golgotha. Simon probably withdrew, he stepped back, when the Saviour fell in front of him, the heavy cross across his back.”
“It was then that a Roman soldier reached into the crowd and grabbed Simon by the arm and threw him to the ground next to our Saviour. I believe it was at that moment that Simon and our Saviour exchanged glances – they looked into each others eyes for a brief moment. One man’s eyes were filled with fear. The other’s with love. In that brief moment, they sustained each other.”
“The Roman soldier barked out an order to Simon, telling him to lift and carry the cross for the Saviour…enabling the Saviour to fulfill the prophecies and answer His calling. A human supported the man-God. A human enabled the Father’s plan for mankind to be fulfilled. Simon carried the cross for the Saviour to Golgotha.”
“My child, as did the Saviour, we all have a Simon to help us carry the cross, our cross. That is how we bear life’s burdens.”
“The question, my child, is this: ‘Do we know who our Simon is?’”
2009/04/08 • 05:38 1
“Father, what is prayer?”
The old man was deep in contemplation, leaning on his staff, and did not hear the child.
The child tapped the monk’s staff with a stick, a short stout stick. The child, too, had been carrying his own staff as he walked beside and imitated the old man. The monk was stirred by the tapping and somewhat annoyed, until he looked into the child’s eyes.
“Yes my child, what is it?”
“What is prayer?”
“Prayer? Well, prayer and praying is communing with God. Prayer should always be a petition for our salvation because we are frail and sinful.”
“Some people pray for their earthly needs, but this is a waste of time since God knows what we need.”
“All prayer should be: for others; for God’s mercy; an understanding of His calling for each of us; and for His wise and benevolent counsel, and sustaining strength during our life’s trials.”
“Whenever we pray, we should give thanks to and glorify God. In doing so, we will be communicating with Him in humility.”
“Prayer, for most of us, comes in three phases – the public prayer we learn from our parents and in church; private prayer comes as we spiritually mature; and within our hearts as our interior life grows. It is in the latter phase that we begin to raise our hearts to God in the hope that He might enter and grace us with His divine teaching.”
“You see my child, prayer is beyond mere words. Oh, words are necessary to train our minds and heart. We will always read prayers out of books, as the priests do at Divine Liturgy. But words are only the beginning.”
“Words, you see my child, are limiting. We can never have the vocabulary of our Lord. His knowledge is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, while our words are inadequate – they are a beginning.”
“It is with our words that we must begin to commune with God as a child begins to speak with his parents.”
“And, as a child grows, he can begin to show and return his love for and to his parents…so, too, can we, as God’s children, begin to do the same with the Lord.”
“As we grow in our prayer life we must transcend our limited vocabulary and seek union with God – not with words, but with our very being, our life. Our life must become a prayer. When this happens only then can we pray unceasingly.”
“My child, you asked ‘what is prayer’ – prayer and praying are a journey beyond words encompassing our entire life.”
Satisfied he had answered the question, the old man looked for the child who lay sound asleep beneath a dogwood tree.
• 03:36 1
“Father, tell me about the other faiths.”
“The other faiths? There are many other faiths.”
“The other faiths besides our faith.” The child never seemed to be standing still when asking questions. This time he was hopping on one foot around the old man.
“There is not much to say.” The monk stopped and gazed at the child who was now staring at him with inquisitive eyes. “Okay…let me think for a moment.” The old man continued walking with the aid of his staff.
“All of the faiths have a history,” the old man felt as though he was being tested, “and all of the faiths are unlike Orthodoxia.”
“Buddhism is a religion of no-religion…it has no god…and it believes man can be reincarnated forever until he achieves nirvana, liberation from continuous rebirth.”
“Hinduism is a religion of life, a way of life, without dogmatic structure. There are many schools of Hinduism as there are many gods – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh…oh, too, too many to remember.”
“Islam is the youngest of the faiths. The members of Islam believe it is the successor faith to Judaism and Christianity…in other words if Islam is right, then the Jews and Christians are wrong. The god of Islam is not the God of Christianity, despite what the scholastics might say. Islam denies the divinity of the Christ and our belief in a Trinitarian God…therefore, our God is not the god of Islam.”
“Judaism is a faith of shared genealogy going back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, patriarchs of the the Hebrew people. Judaism has become split between those Jews who are Jewish by culture and those who are observers of the religion, followers of the Torah.”
“There are many other faiths…each faith, my child, is to be respected; but know this, each faith has truth only insofar as the Holy Spirit is working within it and its people.”
When the old man finished speaking, he turned to look for the boy, who was no where around.
2009/04/06 • 18:38 0
“My child, where are you?” The old man was gazing toward the tree line. His eyes were failing him.
“Father, I have a question.”
The old man was surprised and in his turning about to follow the child’s voice he nearly lost his footing. But for his staff with which to balance himself, he might have fallen. “Where have you been my child?”
“Father, I’ve been here with you.”
“Oh yes, I suppose you have been. But don’t go to far away…my eyes are failing me and I cannot see you.”
“You see well Father. I have a question.”
“Yes, yes…ask your question.” The old man was slowly lowering himself to the ground next to a tree. It was time to settle down for the evening.
“Father, is our faith Greek or Russian?” With these words the ire of old monk began to rise. Why did the child have to ask the question at this time of the day?
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, the old monk said, “My child, all Orthodox are Greek, but not in the sense of the country or people, but Greek in the sense of being Eastern – from the eastern empire of Byzantium…this is from where our faith emanated.”
“You see, of the five historical patriarchates – Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem – only one was in the West, Rome. The remaining four were in the East. And Greek was the predominant language of the four.”
The old man paused, thinking, and then continued. “All Orthodox are also of Semitic heritage. Our religion and our religious culture and customs have roots within the Jewish faith and people.”
Then, with his staff extended before him on the ground, the old monk gave a firm push on the staff driving it forward into the soil creating a small trench in the ground. At this point he firmly said, “The Holy Orthodox Church does not belong to a nation; it is neither Greek or Russian or belonging to any country or ethnic group of people. It belongs to God and God alone.”
“It is a curse of the devil to say that a nation or ethnic group of people are more Orthodox or more correct than others. It is a curse of the devil for Orthodox people to be judgmental toward other Orthodox brethren. When this happens, only the devil wins. When our Orthodox brethren deny God’s love to other Orthodox brothers, they are acting on behalf of the devil.”
“This is a vile and shameful curse.” The staff again went forward into the ground digging an even deeper furrow.
“Too many Orthodox worry about ecumenism when they do not have ecumenism within their own church.” The emotion in his voice was but a precursor to the tears in his eyes.
“My child, our Holy Orthodox faith is not unlike any other faith. Yes, we are the true faith – the only true and apostolic faith and a right review of history and facts always prove such. But like all other faiths we have our pharisees with their phariseeism, our own fanatics with their fanaticism, and fundamentalists with their fundamentalism. This, my child, is never good. These people have learned nothing from the Christ and His battles with them.”
“Our Holy Orthodox Church is Orthodoxia – the true Christianity, the true Church. It is God’s church – not man’s church. It is, therefore, not subject to man’s rationalization and intellectualization. Our church and faith is, as is God, subject to apophatic and cataphatic understanding…there are things we know and things we cannot know. Man should be careful in defining God and defining the Holy Orthodox Church.”
“My child, all of the national and ethnic Orthodox churches are but rooms in the same house, God’s house. And it our responsibility to keep our rooms clean.”
2009/04/04 • 07:04 0
“Dad…Mom…can we talk?” The young girl was obviously nervous, somewhat rigid, and most uncomfortable. Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.
Her parents exchanged glances. They knew something was wrong. The girl’s mother held out her hand to touch her daughter’s shoulder only see a momentary recoil.
The young girl sat on a chair. Her posture was perfect. Her face was pained. Her parents sat on the couch opposite their daughter. They said nothing. Silence prevailed and, yet, the noise was deafening.
Instinctively, mother and father held each other’s hands. They knew they had to comfort each other.
The young girl truly believed her life was coming to an end. She could not find the words to speak.
“Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant…” Her words faded as the tears erupted. She buried her face in her hands as she leaned forward sobbing. She knew she had failed her parents and wished her life would come to an end. She could not bear to look at them.
Her mother started to rise only to be see her husband motion to her; she remained seated with tears flowing down her cheeks.
The young girl’s father could only mange to shake his and take a deep breath. He, too, remained seated on the couch.
Neither parent knew what to say at the moment. The shock seemed unending.
Thoughts raced through their minds: “What does a parent say at a moment like this?…All of their dreams were shattered…their dreams?…All of their dreams for their daughter were broken?…their dreams?…How could their daughter do this to them?…to them?…How could their daughter betray them?…them?”
“What about their daughter’s future?…What about her education?…What about her life?…She is too young!…She has not had a chance to grow up?…Her life will never be the same?…What will she do?”
The father keep taking deep breaths, holding back, trying to control his emotions. The mother was wiping her tears, trying, unsuccessfully, not to cry…she could not believe what she had just heard from her precious child – still a child in her mother’s heart.
Unexpectedly and without warning the youngest child, a five year old boy, came into the room. Actually, he came running into the room with an airplane in his hands. He was full of life, filled with noise, and footsteps that would rival thunder. Before anyone could react, the child read everyone’s face, stopped in his tracks, and said, “What?” His mother reacted with an intent to tell the boy to leave the room when his father said, “Uh, we’re talking…”
The boy interrupted, “About what?” The boy then approached his sister and said, “What’s wrong sis?…why are you crying?” The moment was touching considering the little boy had managed to spend every walking moment of his life pestering his sister. She took a breath to gain her composure. “Sis, what’s the matter?” The boy’s concern was genuine.
Before anyone could react, the sister said, “I’m pregnant.”
Her brother looked at her with a tilted head, mimicking that of a confused puppy, and said, “What’s that mean?”
Father, mother, and sister looked at the little boy realizing the moment was beyond his comprehension. Finally his sister said, “I’m going to have a baby.”
The boy’s head rocked back for a brief moment as he took in the words, then he erupted, “Cool!” Next, with all the seriousness a five year old could muster, he stepped up to his sister, placed his hand on her arm, and said, “Please…no more sisters!”
The boy then turned to his parents, who by this time could not help but laugh, and said, “A baby!…That’s great!” And the airplane continued on its thunderous flight path into the kitchen.
It was, is, and will always be all about the baby.
2009/04/02 • 16:22 0
“Father, why do we venerate martyrs?”
“My child, martyrs have been venerated since the beginning of time. The Jews of the Christ’s time held Kiddush Ha-Shem, the Sanctification of the Divine Name, to be essential to life and faith.
“But the legalism’s and tensions of the Jewish faith may have confounded the Jews of the time. Deuteronomy 6.5 contradicted Leviticus 18.5 and there seemed to be no clear answer. But even with the contradiction, amongst the Jews, there was a broad consensus that martyrdom was preferable to idolatry – the worship of idols. Martyrdom was also preferable to unchastity and if one was going to be compelled to commit a murder. In other words it was better to give up one’s life than to break the sacred vows of one’s relationship with Yahweh.
“Now my child, I tell you this because the same belief regarding idolatry carried over into early Christianity. As Jews were martyred because they refused to engage in idolatry, so, too, were many Christians.
“But for Christians, to be a martyr was to be a witness – meaning that the early martyrs were witnesses to the life of Christ and His resurrection.
“As time passed, the word martyr took on a new meaning. The second generation and later martyrs, although they were not witnesses to the life of Christ and His resurrection, were sharers in Christ’s suffering since many, if not all, underwent torture and painful deaths. In their dying, these martyrs willingly went to their death knowing they would, as the Christ did, defeat death – the Devil’s sentence for mankind.
“What is important to understand is that our early Christian martyrs were not living and dying for this world, but to this world. The early Christian martyrs serve to remind us how we should be living. This is why we venerate the martyrs – they are unparalleled examples of the faith.”
2009/04/01 • 19:32 0
“Abba, we have been looking for you!” The young monk was out of breath and leaned against the tree, his lungs heaving from running.
“What is wrong that you would come with such haste?” the old man said. The old man noticed that the child was no where to be seen. “Perhaps he is off chasing the butterflies again,” he thought to himself.
“Abba, the child of Nicodemus, has died. And Nicodemus is distraught and filled with grief.”
“And what would you have me do? Why are you not praying for the child?”
“Our brothers are praying, but they do not know how to console Nicodemus.”
The old man let his chin rest to his chest. He was pained to hear the latter news from the young monk. Slowly, with the support of his staff, the old monk stood up, an increasingly painful endeavor.
With stern conviction, in a low voice, the old man said, “What do you mean they do not know how to console Nicodemus? Is not the child now dead to sin?”
“Well, of course abba, she is dead.”
“Is she dead to sin?! Is she not dead to the sin of the world, its trials and pain?”
“Then her soul is also dead to sin, right?”
“Abba, I don’t understand.”
The old monk’s patience was waning; now he understood the Christ when He questioned, “How long am I to be with you?” Taking a deep breath to slow and calm himself down, he said, “My son, she was but a mere child, unknowing of sin, pure and innocent. Her youthful soul was dead to sin…therefore, her soul was not eternally corrupted. Is this not true? Is this not what we believe?”
“Our Father, Ambrose, maintained that bodily death was the completion of the present life. He also told us that bodily death was necessary to free the soul…to free it from the prison of the body…and enable the soul to enjoy the eternal joy of heaven.
“That Nicodemus is grieving is good, it is natural. From his grief will come joy, just as it did for the Holy Mother at the cross of our Saviour. From his grief will come joy if he is true to his faith and the teaching of our Father Ambrose.”
“But abba, I thought Augustine and Aquinas….” At hearing the pending argument the old monk raised his staff and brought it down, forcefully, to the ground. A small torrent of dust was kicked up. The young monk knew what the action meant. He lowered his head saying nothing.
“My brother,” the old man said, “Augustine and Aquinas may be saints, but even saints can be wrong; they are, after all, human. Death is not bad as they have portrayed it. Yes, man was not meant to die. But die he does. And die he will…as well you, if you do not learn!” The old man’s patience had long since faded as he raised his voice.
The young monk knew he had best be silent…and learn.
A moment of silence to the old man, an eternity to the young monk, passed between the two of them. Finally, the old man said, “Our Father, Ambrose of Milan, was Orthodox, right in faith.”
“Go and be with Nicodemus. Let him grieve. Stay beside him, assist him. Grief has its rightful place. When the time is right, teach him of the wisdom of our Father Ambrose.”
“Yes, Master.” And with that, the young monk ran down the hill toward the monastery, holding his cassock high so as to not trip.
The old man was watching the young monk as he ran when he heard the voice of the child beside him, “Who is Ambrose?”
Startled the old man turned around to see the child holding out his hand with a brightly colored butterfly on his finger. The old man smiled.
“My child, where have you been? Who was Ambrose? He was the Roman governor in Milan. When the Arian bishop Auxentius died, there was strife in the city between the Orthodox and Arians. Tension prevailed when an assembly gathered together to elect a successor. At the assembly, Ambrose appealed for peace. During his speech a child’s voice cried out, ‘Ambrose for bishop.’ The assembly took up the slogan chanting it until Ambrose, despite his protestations, was elected. Within one week Ambrose was baptized and consecrated as a bishop.
“Ambrose was a great defender of the faith and Church. He defeated Arianism, told the emperor Valentinian that he was in the Church, not above it, publicly admonished Emperor Theodosius making him do public penance, and encouraged monasticism.
“The brilliance of Ambrose, my child, was his ability in De bono mortis to unite Christian and Platonic piety, and metaphysics into a single vision – a vision on the meaning of human death.”
After speaking, the old man realized that he was talking to a mere child and perhaps he had spoken beyond the child’s comprehension.
The child was looking at the old monk with a look of wonderment when he said, “I know the child.”
“You know which child?” The old man was now the one with a questioning look, not comprehending the child’s statement. Certainly he could not know the child of Nicodemus?
“I know the child who said, ‘Ambrose for bishop.’”
With that pronouncement, the child took off running chasing another butterfly.
• 17:27 0
“Father, tell me about the Devil.”
“My son, the Devil is all that is evil. He has many names:
Prince of darkness, the
Evil One, the
Enemy of God, the
Enemy of Man,
Old Serpent, and the
“Whatever name he goes by, his proper name is Satan, the supreme spirit of evil, and the arch-foe of God and all that is holy.
“The Devil’s role is to corrupt mankind, to shackle and bind man within hell. He is devious and enlists men to commit the sin of Lucifer in an attempt to dethrone God and His place on earth. These men are filled with Satan’s pride – the primal sin, resulting in his downfall from heaven as told by Isaiah. The earthly soldiers of the Devil are as proud as Lucifer. These Lucifering people are themselves damned for eternity.”
The monk was now getting upset and it was the child, standing next to the seated old man, who was making an effort to calm him down. The old man took a deep breath.
“Thank you my child. But the Devil and his angels are very real – they are all about us, waiting for an opportunity to beguile and cause us injury.”
The child looked all about, wondering what tree might the Devil be behind, knowing they were safe beneath the dogwood.
• 16:35 0
The boy had been silent for a while, although he was still chasing butterflies, he stopped only to look at the pink dogwood trees. Finally tired, he sat beneath a dogwood that was in full bloom. While the shade was minimal, it was cool nevertheless.
When the old man finally caught up with the child, he, too, sat down.
“Father, I know the devil is real, but is he really real?” This was a question only a child could ask.
“The answer, my son, is simple: he is really real.” With that answer, the boy’s increased attentiveness was apparent.
“There are three categories of people when it comes to the devil and God.”
“The first category are those who believe the devil is not real. These people have already succumbed to the devil. They believe exactly what he wants them to believe. Unfortunately, this category of people also do not believe in the existence of God. Their beliefs are the source of all of their troubles.”
“Second, there are others who believe in God, but do not believe in the devil.” The monk shook his head in obvious disdain. “These poor devils…uh, people…are truly confused. The one question they cannot answer is: ‘if they don’t believe in the devil, who is the source of all that is evil, then why do they believe in God, who is the source of all good.?”
The monk paused to watch a butterfly land on the boy’s hand. The child had a gift.
“The third category of people are those persons who believe in God and the devil. They recognize there is a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. They also recognize that man is in the midst of this war, choosing sides every day with everything he is doing – every action, every deed.”
“My son, the devil is really real.
All that you say,
all that you do,
is either for God or the devil.
There is no action that is in-between
God and Satan.
Those who believe that things are
complicated, meaning that actions can reside between
God and Satan,
are a people who are uncourageous.”
2009/03/31 • 21:15 1
The child had been deep in thought when he finally said, “Father, tell me about the cross. Is it a pagan symbol?”
“My child, the cross has been with us
since the beginning.
Those who say it is a pagan symbol
are in error.
Those who believe it is unique to Christ’s new testament
“The cross has
always reflected and, today, still reflects
the power of the Lord and
His love for man.
“Recall Isaac carried wood
on his back
to a hilltop
to be sacrificed.
So, too, did our Lord God and Saviour carry wood
on his back,
to a hilltop,
to be sacrificed.
“It was the arms of Jonah,
extended outward, that
formed a bodily cross.
And when he prayed
he was freed from the whale’s captivity.
Moses did likewise with his arms
enabling the Israelites to defeat Amalek.
Joshua, too, did the same
to stop the moon and sun.
Finally, it was the Incarnate Son
who willing extended His arms outward
to defeat death.
Thus it was the Evil One,
who had used the fruit of the wood
to deceive mankind,
who was deceived and defeated
by the wood of the tree – the cross,
“My child, let no one tell you
the cross is a pagan symbol.
The cross has been with us
since the beginning,
a part of the Father’s plan
to save man and
to restore him to his rightful place.”
• 17:58 0
“Father, what is sin?”
The old man, with a heavy heart, said:
“Sin is the gravest malady
oppressing and afflicting man.
It is the wall between man and the Lord.
It is a wall that can be overcome,
but man must climb the towering wall.
“Sin is the consequence of man’s evil deeds.
Only man is subjected to this fate.
The remainder of God’s creation,
all that surrounds us,
is free from sin.
“Sin came about when man disobeyed God,
falling away from Him.
Since the fall,
man has been in exile,
filled with shame,
living in a foreign land,
a distant land,
far from his Father.
” Sin consumes man,
it occupies him throughout the day,
every day of his life.
He must struggle mightily to escape sin.
Sin surrounds man as though it were an enemy army,
distracting him from God and all that is good in this life.
“Sin is barrenness and futility.
man’s life is a fiction.
He lives his life for sin and not for God.
The glory of life is missing.
death is real and forever.
Hope is lost.
Grace is non-existent.
God’s mercy is unknown.
“Sin is also on the path to salvation,
assuming man recognizes his sin,
humbles himself, and
returns to the Father.
“Sin makes a fool of man.
I am a fool,
a wretched fool,
for having exiled myself.
For that I wander.
My heart is afflicted and in pain.
Behold I am returning to You O’Lord.
Behold my tears.
Despise me not.
Embrace me O’Lord and
have mercy on my miserable soul.”
2009/03/30 • 20:06 0
The boy turned to the old man, who was walking a few steps behind him, and asked, “Was the Holy Mother an ascetic?”
The monk stopped and gazed at the boy, wondering where these questions came from…and why the boy was asking.
“My boy, from where do you get these questions?”
The now animated child persisted, “Well? Was she an ascetic?”
“Yes, I believe she was an ascetic…
“We know from an early age she was given over to the temple by her parents, Joachim and Anna…
“We know that once in the temple she, along with other maidens, were dedicated to serving the Lord and maintaining their virginal purity…dedicated to the Lord…
“Prayer was central to her life, within the temple as a child and beyond its confines as an adult…
“Prayer was manifested by more than our Mother’s words. Her entire life was a prayer, thus she prayed unceasingly…
“Fasting was a major part of her life. This we can know from our readings and the role fasting played in the Jewish life…
“She was obedient to the Lord saying “Thy will be done” – love answered Love…
“Austerity was central to her life…certainly it was so in the temple as it must have been with Joseph and throughout the remainder of her life…
“Indeed, our Mother must have lived in her own desert – apart from humanity, knowing she was the Mother of God…it would have been difficult to live in this world knowing her son, the Son, was not of this world…
“Her heart must have been bright – illuminated and pure to bear the Christ. There could not have been darkness within her for He Who is the source of Light to become incarnate…
“Her life and very essence glorified God. So profound and dedicated was her life that no saint has lived whose life can compare to the Holy Mother’s life.”
“Yes, the Holy Mother was an ascetic. She is the ascetic to be imitated.”
Finishing the old man turned to look for the boy; he was chasing butterflies.
• 02:56 0
The old man was tired. The day had been a long one. He lowered himself ever so carefully to sit on the ground . Over the years, this effort had become more of a challenge. Once on the ground, he knew he would be there for a while. Rising in the morning would be tougher.
The small fire lit the faces of the old monk and the boy. The light was warmth and comfort.
The boy had been staring at the fire, watching the flames jump and following the flickering embers as they rose in the air. Seemingly out of nowhere the boy asked, “What is asceticism?” In doing so, he broke the old man’s concentration. He, too, had been staring at the fire.
“Asceticism?” The old man cleared his throat. “Asceticism is a very simple word…and a simple concept. It is most challenging for man, too trying for many.”
The monk continued. “Asceticism comes from the Greek word askēsis, an old word, meaning ‘preparation.’ The ‘preparation’ to which the word originally referred to is athletic preparation. Before athletes go to the games, the best engage in a very strict and vigorous preparation. And, perhaps, if they do it well, they might win. Their preparation consists a difficult regimen of repetitive practices and, often, very strict denials. They rise early…eat well – only the right foods…practice at specific times – sometimes many times in a day…and even their sleep is limited. Some athletes do this for months and years. When they reach the event for which they have been training the athlete competes against other athletes with all of their strength and might.”
After a moment’s thought, the old man once again gently stoked the flames, now beginning to subside. “When a person continuously practices askēsis he is considered an ascetic. Some people are ascetics for a short time, others for an entire life. Monastics are ascetics…though they are not athletes of the olympic kind.” The monk was now laughing to himself and rubbing his slightly rotund belly. “No, monastics are athletes of a different kind. Unlike athletes of the games who compete against each other, the monastics are not in competition, except, perhaps, with themselves. Athletes compete for medals and recognition. Monastics are challenging themselves, denying their passions, avoiding temptations, and the material comforts of this world. So monastics also practice asceticism and they, too, like the athletes must rise early…eat the right food…pray many times in a day…and their sleep is limited.”
The flames had long since given up. What remained were glowing embers, radiating as though possessing a pulse. “Monastics, at least most of them, are ascetics practicing asceticism. They have given up this world in pursuit of the next. Life, today, is serving and glorifying our Saviour in the hopes of His mercy that they might be with Him in the next…the eternal life. Because their religious life is so rigorous, these monastics are called ’spiritual athletes.’ With God’s mercy and compassion, they might reach ‘deification’ – union with God’s energies and sanctification. We learned from St Athanasius who told us that ‘God became man, that man might become God’”
The monk, now tired, contemplated his words; had he said them or just thought he’d said them? The old man gave his final sigh of the day, it was time to sleep. He turned to the boy and saw that he was curled up on the ground, quite asleep. The old man smiled to himself, wondering if the boy had heard anything.
One star above the old man and the boy shined vibrantly, more so than the others. It provided warmth and comfort.
2009/03/29 • 04:54 0
The sun began to warm the hilltop on which sat the old man and the child. The morning mist settling into the valley below was quickly dissipating. The monk and the child were finishing the hymn to the Theotokos.
“Rejoice, O Virgin, Theotokos! Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have borne the Savior of our souls! “
The old man surveyed the meadows surrounding them. The birds were beginning to sing. Life was stirring all about them.
The boy was chasing a butterfly.
Time passed; neither the child nor the old man took note of the sun’s climb into the sky.
The boy appeared beside the monk. Once again he was inquisitive. “What did Mary do at the Cross?”
“At the Cross? Well, the book does not say what she did…but I believe we can guess.”
“Was she in sorrow?” The boy had not forgotten the word.
“Yes, yes. She was in a deep sorrow. We can imagine that her heart was broken…she was crying…probably pulling at her hair…perhaps beating her chest. She was in pain. She felt helpless and could not save her son, the Son.”
The boy took in the old man’s words. “Why did she pull at her hair and beat her chest?”
“Well, that is part of the culture in that region of the world. It is not an unusual for grieving mothers to pull out their hair and beat their chests.”
A moment passed when the monk, looking at the child said, “What are you doing?”
“I’m pulling my hair and it hurts.” The monk laughed and patted the boy’s hand to stop.
The old man continued, “There is nothing that can console a mother’s grief when a child is lost. You see, Mary gave herself to the Lord. She accepted His calling and submitted to His will. She raised Jesus, protected Him, soothed his childhood wounds, and stayed with Him throughout His life. She trusted the Lord and was hurt when her child died. Her sorrow was deep…and painful.”
Time once again stopped.
The old monk had tears in his eyes. The boy, too, was sad. The child finally asked,”How long did she sorrow?”
“Well, she must have sorrowed for the next three days.”
“You mean when Jesus rose again?”
“Yes, the Holy Mother must have been elated…she, like the Apostles, probably thought she was seeing a ghost. But when she realized He was alive, I suppose she cried again – this time tears of joy. Her joy must have been beyond description. I have to believe Mary held Him close and kissed Him. From sorrow came joy. Her tears…well, her tears at the birth of the infant child, the Son…her tears at the Cross…and her tears at His resurrection have, in many ways, become a symbol of this life – our sorrows and joy.”
The child reached a child-like, yet profound, conclusion, “That’s why she’s special to us.”
The old man smiled, “Yes, my child, that is why she is special.”
2009/03/28 • 04:19 0
The mist was soft, almost weightless. The stones were glistening as though polished. The grass was vibrantly green. And the sun appeared to be floating overhead. Reaching the hilltop, the old man and the boy were concluding their prayers.
“Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Father, bless.”
The old man then gave his blessing to the child. “May Christ our true God bless you my child, have mercy on you…” and the sound of his voice faded across the hillside.
The mist was beginning to break under the power of the sun; morning light was breaking the hold of darkness.
“Father, why do we cry?”
“Cry? There are many reasons for crying…we cry because we sorrow…we cry out of joy.”
The boy thought for a moment then said, “What is sorrow?”
“Sorrow is sadness – a deep sadness. We experience sadness when we lose something…or someone whom we truly love.”
The boy was quiet as he walked along side the monk. After a moment’s silence, he asked, “Why do we sorrow?”
The monk, taking a few steps, replied, “We sorrow because we are filled with love. We sorrow because we are human and that means we are weak.”
“Sometimes I do not like being weak. It hurts.”
The old man extended a comforting hand to the boy’s shoulder. “Yes, hurt is not something we like or want. But from the hurt, we can attain joy and comfort.”
“How?” The boy’s curiosity was evident in his eyes.
“Sorrow can become joy if we believe in God. You see, when our heart is filled with pain, we cry…just as Mary shed tears at the Cross. Her tears were caused by sorrow; the pain at the loss of her son, our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The boy interrupted, “Yes, but Jesus rose from the dead.”
“That’s right, He did. So, you see, Mary’s tears, her sorrows at the Cross, were rewarded with tears of joy…when she learned that her son was alive.”
Again the boy interrupted, “And our tears will be rewarded like Mary’s?”
“Yes, we will be rewarded if we learn from Mary and believe in Jesus.”
“Now I understand,” the boy said with animation, “if we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, our tears of sorrow will be followed by tears of joy, like Mary.”
The old man smiled. And the boy skipped ahead.
2009/03/27 • 21:53 0
The young boy turned to the slow walking father and asked, “Why do we pray?”
Moving his walking stick over the rocky ground, the father replied, “Why do we pray? Well, my son, we pray to talk to God.”
“But that’s what I want to know, why do we talk to God?” the boy responded.
The old man stopped and reached into his cassock pocket. Befuddled in his search for a worn cloth, he finally pulled it out and mopped his head. Sitting on a stump of a tree long ago cut down by some unknown woodsman, the man began to think.
The young boy, full of life, danced around the old monk when he came to a sudden stop, “I know, we talk to God when we are in trouble.” The boy continued skipping around the man.
“Huh?” the old man looked at the boy in wonderment, “when we’re in trouble?”
“Yes,” the boy replied, “like when we saw the lion, you blessed it and began to pray. We were in trouble, right?”
The man smiled, “Yes, yes. We were in big trouble.” The man held his arms out widely to emphasize the degree of trouble, then added, “But God answered our prayers didn’t he?”
“Yes, the lion turned and walked away. Do you think God told him to leave us?” The boy was now out of breath and sat on the grass beside the man.
“I suppose God could have spoken to the lion…or perhaps the lion was too tired to chase us and wanted to rest.”
“Even so, God must have made the lion tired because he just walked away like this,” and the boy made his fingers walk on the ground very slowly.
“So, do you believe God answered our prayers?” the monk was now asking the boy.
“Of course He did!” The boy was now walking his fingers through the grass around the old man’s feet.
“How do you know God answered our prayers?”
“Because that is what God does…He listens to our prayers…and then He answers our prayers. He does that every day. Do you think God gets tired of listening to us?”
“Oh no, God cannot get tired; He is God and God never gets tired,” the old monk responded with firmness.
The boy now held his small hands to his face shading his eyes from the sun as he look at the monk’s face, “That means God is not like you.”
The monk, momentarily startled, laughed and rubbed the boy’s head saying, “No, He is not like me.”
Nor is God like you. When was the last time you prayed?
This is a personal website, which I share with family and friends – particularly my parish family. I suppose there ought to be a disclaimer, so here it is: “The views posted on this website are mine, solely mine, and are not reflective of anyone else’s personal beliefs or perspectives.” But I cannot stop here, I must include: “I am a priest; therefore, my views are biased towards my Orthodox Christian faith. And because of this, I will not be apologetic for expressing my bias.” It is the latter belief that led to the selection of the domain name. We must never forget May 29, 1453 – the date the world changed. This is not simple romanticism, but a reality that lives with us to this day. The Battle for Constantinople and the date of May 29th 1453 is with us today…we are still fighting for our survival.
One more thing: “Yes, I do live on a mountain.”