The soul that loves God has its rest in God alone

Image

The soul that loves God has its rest in God alone

St Issac the Syrian (also known as Isaac of Nineveh) was a seventh century monk and mystic. Like many pre-Schism saints, he is also revered by the Roman and Eastern-rite Catholic Churches. He was born on the Arabian Peninsula, near present-day Qatar.

A strict ascetic, the saint entered monastic life at a young age along with his brother, and studied the Scriptures in isolation for many years. Eventually elevated as bishop of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, he abdicated this role after five months to return to the desert. He reposed around the year 700.

Holy Father Isaac, pray to God for us!

Abbot Tryphon on “Christian Pharisees”

Christian Pharisees
The Orthodox Faith is Nothing Without Transformation of Life

If your spiritual life is concentrated only on external practices and traditions, but does nothing to bring about real change, you have gained nothing. Too many people think as long as they keep the fasting rules, do their prayers, and attend the services, they are good Orthodox Christians. Yet if there is no love, no charity, and forgiveness of others, and your life is filled with gossip and judgement, your Orthodox Christian faith is worth nothing. 

Christ condemned the Pharisees not because they kept the law and attended to the traditions of the Jewish faith, but because they did so while filled with pride and arrogance. Without sincere repentance and holiness of life, their encounter with God led to an emptiness of heart.

Because our Orthodox faith is one of tradition and liturgical structure, it is easy to fall into the trap of being nothing more than a Pharisee. Being strict in one’s observance of Orthodox practices can easily lead to pride and arrogance. If you find yourself feeling better than others and proud of your piety, you have gained absolutely nothing. The external practice of the Orthodox Christian faith without heartfelt humility and repentance leads down the road of spiritual ruin. 

The Church is the hospital of the soul, but healing can only come if we put effort into it. If your doctor prescribes a medication for your condition but you fail to follow your doctor’s orders, you will not get well. The Church has all that you need for spiritual transformation, but healing only comes if you cooperate with the healing process. 

The goal is holiness (wholeness) and is the direct result of our having submitted in all humility to a life of repentance. When you do this Christ changes you. If you simply go through the motions of your Orthodox faith, you are no better off than the Pharisees whom Christ condemned.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

ImageThe 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.

Archbishop Lazar on the significance of the Orthodox crowning ceremony

Video

This is the first part of a two-part video recording from a truly holy and erudite man (retired Archbishop Lazar, founding abbot of All Saints Monastery in British Columbia) on the deep theological and liturgical significance of the crowning ceremony to marriage and salvation in Orthodox Christianity.

At the height of the ceremony, the bride and bridegroom are crowned and communed together as equal partners in a mystical union joining them forever in shared devotion and loving self-sacrifice to each other. The husband is an icon or type of Christ, the eternal Bridegroom who cherishes and honors the Church more than Himself (Ephesians 5:25), and the wife is an icon or type of the holy Church, the eternal, loving Bride of Christ.

Vladyka Lazar explains that the Western Christian tradition of the father of the bride walking his daughter down the aisle to meet her waiting groom is historically absent from Orthodoxy. The handing over of the bride by her father to her new husband recalls the ancient pre-Christian Roman and Greek patriarchal practice whereby fathers symbolically transferred their power and authority (potestas and auctoritas) as paterfamilias over their daughters to the husband, who then automatically assumed her into his authority and family, effectively erasing her independent legal existence.

Orthodox couple waiting for priest to arrive

A Russian Orthodox couple waiting for the priest to arrive.

Since in Orthodoxy, by contrast, bride and groom come to the altar as equal partners, they walk there together after first making their vows and exchanging rings at the entrance to the temple. Then, with the priest or bishop presiding, they are mystically joined together by the grace and power of God during the Liturgy, a mystical transformation which recognizes the close bond of love they already share.

Unlike in Western Christian ceremonies when the couple is considered married from the moment when the presiding clergyman pronounces them as such following the exchange of vows, there is no set moment in the Orthodox crowning ceremony when the couple is considered automatically joined in marriage.

Their crowning three times by the celebrant, who exchanges the crowns between their heads, symbolizes their mystical union and their equality in partnership before God as king and queen of a new ‘little church’, a new family. The traditional Byzantine bridal crowns, called stefania, explain the etymology of the name Stephen.

Orthodox wedding crowning

The priest crowns the couple, moving the crowns over their heads three times while intoning the doxology, before setting them on their heads. From this point, the husband, an icon of Christ, is mystically transformed as king over the family, and the wife, an icon of the Church, as queen over the family.

The couple can be considered married by the time they first commune together of the holy Mystery of the Eucharist as husband and wife and walk around the altar, on which rests the chalice, patens, and the Holy Gospel, to the solemn hymn of witnesses. This walk symbolizes both a religious procession of pious faith by the married couple, now a holy unit, and is the moment from which they take their first steps together in their new union.

After their crowning, the husband and wife take their first steps in a procession three times around the altar, reverencing the holy Cross and the Gospel book.

After their crowning, the husband and wife take their first steps in a procession three times around the altar, reverencing the holy Cross and the Gospel book.

From the moment they approach the altar, they are already considered bound to each other in sight of man, and once they commune and walk together after their crowning, this mystically binds them in the eyes of God.

Please click on this helpful link for more information.

St Gregory of Sinai on noetic prayer

Noetic prayer is an activity initiated by the cleansing power of the Spirit and the mystical rites celebrated by the intellect.

Similarly, stillness is initiated by attentive waiting upon God, its intermediate stage is characterized by illuminative power and contemplation, and its final goal is ecstasy and the enraptured flight of the intellect (νους) towards God.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

St John Chrysostom on prayer

Quote

“Prayer is a great weapon, a rich treasure, a wealth that is never exhausted, an undisturbed refuge, a cause of tranquility, the root of a multitude of blessings and their source.”

-St. John Chrysostom, d. 407.

The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholic Churches venerate St John as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, while in the Roman Catholic Church he is revered as a great Doctor of the Church. During his tumultuous tenure as Patriarch of Constantinople, he ran afoul of the Empress Eudoxia after criticizing her for her vanity, haughtiness and indifference to the plight of the city’s poor. He offended the imperial capital’s wealthy political elites by turning over their lavish gifts to him to the poor and exhorting them to repent of their dissolute lifestyles. Extremely eloquent and persuasive as a preacher, he earned his epithet meaning “the golden mouthed” from his numerous homilies and his masterful writings as a practiced ascetic and theologian. He is the principal author of the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is the most widely used liturgical form in the world today following the Novus Ordo ‘ordinary form’ of the Roman Catholic Mass, and among both Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, this Byzantine liturgical form is the most widely celebrated.