Metropolitan Jonah’s 2011 Pastoral Letter at the start of Great Lent

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Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

      The beginning of another Lenten season is upon us, and with it comes the opportunity for us to cast aside those things which have distanced us from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like a wise mother, the Church provides this period of time as a means for us to prepare for receiving the joy of Pascha and Christ’s holy resurrection.

      This same joy and blessing was granted to us at our baptism, when the following prayer was read:

      “Grant that he (she) who is baptized therein may be transformed; that he may put away from himself the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that he may, in like manner, be a partaker of Your Resurrection; and having preserved the gift of Your Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed to him, he may receive the prize of his high calling, and be numbered with the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, in You, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

       Our baptism in the waters of regeneration enabled us to participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore, it is appropriate for us to use the upcoming season of Great Lent to return to those baptismal waters. For this transformation to take place, we must first have a desire for a change of heart. Do we want to turn aside from the passions of our flesh? Carnal thoughts or deeds, idle chatter, gossip, lying, selfish acts, greed, and gluttony are all things which separate us from Christ. Isn’t it time to stop these destructive habits? Simply put, we know our passions stand in our way of entering into the heavenly kingdom. Now is the time to cast them into oblivion. Instead of tearing each other down, let us build each other up, as the Gospel commands. Instead of slander and accusation, judgment and condemnation, let us encourage and love our neighbors.

      If we truly desire to return to God, then let us do so in a spirit of humility. Let God transform our minds and hearts through true repentance, the fruit of that humility. We live in a society which encourages us to have an opinion or comment worthy of posting or tweeting about everyone and everything, but as Orthodox Christians it is time for us to stop thinking we have all of the answers. Let us turn off the rhetoric and excuses while rejecting our arrogance and pride. Denial of self is not easy. Yet we can echo the example of our Savior, who silently, and with meekness and humility approached the cross. When we take up our cross and follow Him, He will make our burden light.

      When we have reacquired a sense of humility, it is possible to more clearly recognize our sins and repent of them. Admission of our sins through repentance will not only help us as individuals, but also as communities of Orthodox Christian throughout North America. The effects of a broken and contrite heart can have a great impact on every relationship in our lives. True repentance replaces discord with harmony, and frustration with love. Individually and collectively, our lives should and need to reflect the love found in Jesus Christ.

      Great Lent is an excellent time for us to rediscover the importance of loving one’s neighbors. If, as Orthodox Christians we are the Body of Christ, then we have a responsibility to ask forgiveness for our failings, while banishing our grudges and egos. It means sharing the love of Christ with those in need, whether they are in our parishes or on the street. Putting an extra ten dollars in the basket is an excellent start. Or try to actually tithe your income (10%) to the Church during Lent. Taking it one step further to make a connection with someone by providing them with a meal or charity can make Christ present in their lives and so fulfill the law of God.

      The joy and radiant light of Pascha will quickly be here, and it is imperative that we make use of the time available for us during Great Lent to work on our spiritual health. It is time for us to cast off the works of darkness, as the Apostle Paul says in his epistle to the Romans. The services, prayers, fasting, and acts of charity we do during Lent are merely tools to help us return to God. Be careful, my beloved ones, that these tools do not become stumbling blocks for us, or that we use them to cause others to sin.

      I believe it is possible for each of us to turn from our sins and draw closer to our God the Father by redirecting our lives through Christ. What a joy it will be if each of us begins taking those first steps in love on the narrow path leading back to God. Our collective journey through Great Lent will bring us closer together as a community of love, and as the baptismal prayer says, may we become partakers of the Resurrection. Let us keep a sober mind to properly prepare for that moment on Pascha when we boldly and confidently may proclaim: Christ is Risen!

      In the many ways while serving as your archpastor, if I have failed or wronged you, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. May the Lord forgive us all!

      With my prayers for a holy season of Great Lent,

       With love in Christ,

      +Jonah

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St John of Kronstadt on divine love

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St John of Kronstadt on divine love

“Great is Your love, O Lord: You have wholly spent Yourself out of love for me. I gaze upon the cross and marvel at Your love to me and to the world, for the cross is the evident token of Your love to us. ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (Jn. 15:13). Your life-giving Mysteries, Lord, serve as a perpetual glorious proof of Your love for us sinners; for this Your Divine Body was broken for me, for us all, and this Blood was poured out for me, for us all. Lord, I glorify the wonders accomplished by Your Holy Mysteries upon Your believers, to whom I have ministered Them; I glorify the innumerable cures of which I was witness; I glorify Their all-saving action in myself. I glorify Your mercy to me, revealed to me in Them and through Them, and Your life-giving power, acting in Them. Lord, in return for Your great love, grant that I may love You with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself, grant that I may also love my enemies, and not only those who love me.

-St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ; Holy Trinity Monastery pgs, 319-320)

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Profound theological truths expressed in Glykophilousa icon

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Profound theological truths expressed in Glykophilousa icon

The icon of the Glykophilousa, the Sweetly Kissing, shows the bond of love between the Theotokos and her son and the physical expression of that love in a tender kiss. Often the Mother of God has a sombre, reflective expression, and her infant Son touches her face to comfort her.

This theological icon proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation. It points to the living, human relationship between mother and son. The infant’s hand is the hand of the Logos, cherishing the finest fruit of his creative love. Her embrace enfolds the Uncircumscribable whom heaven and earth cannot contain. The Glykophilousa shows Christ as a human child, relating to his mother as any other human child does, but also as a divine person whose every human expression, action, gesture reveals something of the Godhead.

This icon is virtually the obverse of the Hodegetria in which the Virgin points to her son as the way, the truth, and the life. Here she gazes at Jesus, not out of the icon at us. She does not point to him, she embraces and kisses him. And the infant is caught in movement as he turns in her arms, returning her embrace, his hand rising up to touch her cheek, drawing our awareness back to her. He does not point to her, he touches her tenderly, with loving trust.

As we contemplate the cyclic interplay of divine and human love, of mother and son, our own humanity is interpreted by the relation between.

Blackwell’s Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Edited by Ken Parry, David J. Melling, Dimitri Brady, Sidney H. Griffith and John F. Healey).

Commemoration of five year anniversary of Metropolitan Laurus’ repose

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Commemoration of five year anniversary of Metropolitan Laurus' repose

Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, presided yesterday at the Panihida memorial service for his predecessor Metropolitan Laurus at Holy Trinity seminary Cathedral near Jordanville, NY. Along with the Moscow Patriarch Alexey II, Met. Laurus worked for the 2007 reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church after a painful separation dating to the Soviet years of persecution. Here is an article from the ROCOR website with additional information on the memorial service.

A centering prayer for compassion

forgiveness

Each morning after or before you pray, and each night before you sleep, say these words slowly and deeply, so that the peace of God which “passes all understanding” may fill your heart and the Lord’s grace may quiet your soul.

“I was created by God out of His love.

I am alive today by His grace.

I will die in hope of eternal life with Him.

Through His mercy, I will rise again in the glory of the resurrection.”

Then, look or think upon anyone who has hurt or wronged you, and, keeping him or her in mind,  reflect on this person that:

“You were created by God out of His love.

You are alive today by His grace.

You will die in hope of eternal life with Him.

Through His mercy, you will rise again in the glory of the resurrection.”

If, in this way, you can truly look upon your fellow man with kind intent, even a person who hurt or wounded you, then you not only do a good work in God’s sight, but you lessen any pain in your soul. By allowing the grace of the Holy Spirit to work and move through you in a spirit of forgiveness, any anger and bitterness in your soul will dissipate, replaced with genuine compassion and deep Christian love. This freedom from anger and bitterness is the fruit of all regenerative redemption, healing of soul, and inner peace.

Magnificent external frescoes and icons on ancient Romanian monastery church

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Magnificent external frescoes and icons on ancient Romanian monastery church

Aceasta este o mănăstire magnific! Uită-te la icoane externe de pe perete!

This is a magnificent! Look at the external icons on the wall!

Mânăstirea Moldovita -ISTORIC-Mănăstirea MOLDOVIŢA

-Adresa: Comuna Vatra Moldoviţei, Suceava.
-Acces: DN 17A Câmpulung Moldovenesc – Vatra Moldoviţei (22 km), apoi dreapta pe DL până la Moldoviţa (5 km).
-Hram: Buna Vestire – 25 Martie.

Mănăstirea Moldoviţa este una dintre cele mai vechi aşezări monahale, cu un important trecut istoric. Originea sa nu este cunoscută cu precizie, însă tradiţia o aminteşte încă din perioada voievozilor Muşatini. Sub domnia lui Alexandru cel Bun a fost zidită prima biserică din piatră, atestată documentar între 1402-1410 cu întregul ansamblu de contrucţii, având hramul Buna Vestire şi fiind deja un centru cultural. Mănăstirea Moldoviţa s-a bucurat de privilegii şi din partea lui Ştefan cel Mare. Prin mai multe hrisoave voievodul a confirmat mănăstirii 11 sate, mai multe iezere, prisăci şi privilegii comerciale care o situau printre cele mai înstărite mănăstiri din Moldova.

Moldavian monasteries and historical Monasteries of Moldova:

-Location: Commune of Vatra Moldoviţei, Suceava.
-Access: DN 17A Câmpulung Moldovenesc-Vatra Moldoviţei (22 km), then turn right onto MR. to Moldoviţa monastery (5 km).
Dedication/Feast day: Annunciation – March 25.

Moldoviţa monastery is one of the oldest monastic settlements, with an important historical past. Its origin is not known with precision, but traditionally it dates to the period of the Muşatini princes. Under the reign of Alexander the Good the first stone church was built. This was first mentioned in 1402-1410 with the entire ensemble of structures, dedicated to the Annunciation and (by this time it) already was a cultural center. Moldoviţa monastery enjoyed the patronage of Stephen the Great. Through several charters rulers confirmed the monastery’s 11 villages, several more mountain lakes, and commecerial privileges so that it became one of the wealthiest monasteries of Moldova..

On humility and pridefulness in prayer

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On humility and pridefulness in prayer

“If you become proud when you receive what you ask in prayer, then it is obvious that your prayer was not to God, and you did not receive help from Him, but the demons were working with you in order to exalt your heart; For when help is given from God, the soul is not exalted, but is all the more humbled, and she is amazed at the great mercy of God, how merciful He is to sinners.”

-St. Barsanuphius the Great

Barsanuphius of Palestine (+540), also known as Barsanuphius of Gaza, was a hermit of the sixth century. Born in Egypt, he lived in absolute seclusion for fifty years, and then near the monastery of Saint Seridon of Gaza in Palestine.

How to cross the road in Russia

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Late to work or wanting to take a shorter route home? This pious man crosses himself before embarking on a spontaneous street-crossing of dubious safety – the street appears to be a busy thoroughfare.

A lovely Russian woman I know recalled a proverb about pedestrians who cross the street in the wrong places. She wrote that there are generally three types:

1. ZOMBIE- once they start crossing, they just keep going no matter what… it is dangerous but manageable, if the driver has a clear mind..
2.KAMIKAZE – the ones that see your car coming but keep running anyway… these are manageable as well…
3.INDECISIVE – they start crossing, and when they see your car coming they stop right in the middle or start flouncing about, and you have NO idea which way they will go… this is the most dangerous type… it’s good if you have time for a full stop without someone tail-gating you…

She felt like “being philosophical”, and mused about the proverb that she didn’t “know if it’s about where you cross, or it’s about you knowing what you want and knowing what you will do… and it is definitely a different situation when you are a pedestrian and the driver is not fully conscious… then I guess running and praying is the best option!”

What do you think? Is this man a ‘zombie’ or more of a kamikaze?

I think this babushka is definitely a kamikaze! She doesn’t run, but she has such iron determination!

Abbot Tryphon on love for the Saints

Abbot Tryphon

THE SAINTS
Our Friends in High Places
 
We Orthodox are known for our veneration of the saints, recognizing as we do the truth that there is no separation between the Church Militant, here on earth, and the Church Triumphant, in heaven. In the Divine Services we are not gathered together alone as mortals, but we are joined in our worship before the Throne of God by the Cloud of Witnesses, who are joined with us in Christ. This truth is exemplified by our use of icons and frescoes depicting the saints. Their images surround us, reminding us that heaven awaits us, where those who have won the good fight have gained their reward, and stand before the Lord of Glory.
 
When entering our temples we venerate the icons with a kiss, not because we believe the saints reside within these icons, but because we, by our veneration, pass on our love to the archetypes. This is not really any different than if we’d kissed a photo of a beloved relative, whose memory we cherish. In our veneration of the icons, we are not worshiping the saints, reserving adoration only for God, but showing honor and love to our friends. They stand before us as witnesses, by their lives, to the truth that eternal life is a reality, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
 
Because of His redemptive act upon the cross, the saints are not dead, but alive. The saints gaze upon the glory of Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven, and through the Holy Spirit they see the sufferings of men on earth. The great grace that resides within the saints allows them to embrace the whole world with their love, and they see how we languish in affliction, and they never cease to intercede for us with God. The saints, having won the good fight, encourage us by their example, and pray for us to be victorious.
 
Their lives give witness to the importance of living in repentance, and placing Jesus above all else, for it is in Jesus Christ that they have gained eternal life. It is in Jesus Christ that we, like the saints who have gone on before us, have the same promise of this life eternal. As our friends, they await the day when we will join them, and they offer their prayers for that end.
 
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon
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The Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.