Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
We can rent--and possibly eventually buy--the St. Nicholas Church building! The Red Sea has parted for us. Glory to God! The OCA has given us very generous terms. God has been very good to us. I’m sure that more problems will follow, they always do. But for now we can rejoice that we have found a home that should serve us well for several years. We still need to buy property and build a real Orthodox basilica--one large enough for our children and grandchildren to get married in. We need an Orthodox School and an Orthodox grave yard. Our job is not done. But today we rejoice for at least the next step has been made clear for us.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
A Meditation on Almsgiving
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
Christ commanded his disciples to give alms. To “give alms” means literally “to do” or “to make merciful deeds” or “acts of mercy.” According to the Scriptures, the Lord is compassionated and merciful, longsuffering, full of mercy, faithful and true. He is the one who does merciful deeds (see Psalm 103). Acts of mercy are an “imitation of God” who ceaselessly executes mercy for all, without exception, condition or qualification. He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Mercy is a sign of Love. God is love. A deed of merciful love is the most Godlike act a human being can do. “Being perfect” in Matthew’s Gospel corresponds to “being merciful” in Luke’s Gospel. “Perfection” and “being merciful” are the same thing.
To love as Christ loves, with the love of the God who is love, is the chief commandment for human beings according to Christianity. It can only be accomplished by God’s grace, by faith. It is not humanly possible. It is done by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Acts of mercy must be concrete, physical actions. They cannot be “in word and speech [only] but in deed and truth [also]” (see 1John and James).
Acts of mercy are acts done to Christ himself who was hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, in prison and sick in the form of being wounded for our transgressions on the cross, taking up our wounds, and dying our death.
Christian acts of mercy must be sacrificial. By this we understand that we must not simply give to others what is left over. We have to be sharing our possessions with others in ways that limit ourselves in some way (for example, the widow’s mite). And, acts of mercy should be done without qualification or condition to everyone, no matter who, what or how the are (the Good Samaritan is our example).
Adapted from a flyer produced by International Orthodox Christian Charities: www.iocc.org Icon from St. Isaac the Syrian SketeGod
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Last night I got back from my visit with Monk Anthony. Monk Anthony is a prisoner in the Super MAX federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. He is sentenced to life in solitary confinement. Although his only presenting crime (the crime for which he was originally arrested) was to forge his step-father’s signature on a $150. check, several foolish actions after he was incarcerated--actions of a confused and angry young man--have added up to life in solitary confinement in America’s most secure penitentiary.
After ten years in prison, Rodney was baptized under the ministry of an Orthodox priest who has devoted his life to visiting and corresponding with prisoners. Almost immediately he began painting icons in his cell--using his hair to make brushes and mustard, coffee grounds, ketchup, etc. from his food tray as pigment. A priest in the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry asked Bonnie, my wife, to correspond with him to teach him the techniques of iconography. Along the way, Rodney was tonsured (in prison) “Monk Anthony” by Metropolitan Isaiah of Dallas. Today, Monk Anthony paints beautiful icons using pastels and children’s paints (the only “craft” supplies he is allowed).
Monk Anthony’s solitary life has set him on a path of spiritual trajectory that I, as a married priest in the world, have no direct experience in. So in God’s providence and love I have been able to meet a hermit monk and through letters introduce him to Monk Anthony. Fr. Gregory was so moved by the simplicity of Monk Anthony’s love for God as evidenced in his letters and icons, particularly considering the dry and oppressive context in which this flower of God’s garden grows, that he submitted to the long and invasive process required by the U.S. Department of Prisons to become Monk Anthony’s “minister of record” just so that he could visit him once a year. This process now complete, I took Fr. Gregory from his hermitage in the mountains of British Columbia to meet Monk Anthony in the Super MAX prison in the Rocky Mountains in southern Colorado.
Bonnie and I had visited about a year and a half ago--having corresponded regularly for over ten years, we qualified as “friends” and were able to become “approved visitors”; so I knew how to get there and could walk with Fr. Gregory through the procedure of entering the prison, coaching him on what is and is not to be said and done. After about a half hour of checking and double checking our identifications with their computer records, stamping our hands, taking our pictures and passing through various gates, steel doors that open and shut automatically and a very sensitive metal detector, we descended a long flight of stairs underground into the visiting room: a series of painted cinderblock stalls (if you put your hands on your hips, your elbows touched both sides) with two telephones attached to the wall on either side of a large plexiglass window. And there stood Monk Anthony in a white prison jumper, all smiles, on the other side of the plexiglass.
St. Paul said that where sin abounds, there does Grace much more abound. Here Grace was abounding. For six hours I saw the Light shining in the darkness. Just driving onto the prison grounds, you could feel the oppression. No one smiled: the guards, the administrators, the lawyers, the little pack of FBI agents who were “touring” the place. And yet, Monk Anthony smiled. He smiled the smile of a man who is at peace with himself, who wanted to be instructed, who was eager to hear from another human being what God had already spoken to his heart.
For most of six hours I watched. I could hear only Fr. Gregory’s side of the conversation, but I saw Monk Anthony’s face and gestures. And as time went on I was struck with what seemed to be a glow coming from Monk Anthony—“glow” really is the only word for it, for his facial expressions and gestures caused me to feel a peaceful, intimate, holy Presence, as though we were having the same conversation in the sitting area of the hermitage, not in a vault surrounded by cinder block through a telephone behind plexiglass under the U.S. Super MAX prison.
And then the guard said that our time was up. Our six hours of sweet communion were over. We put our hands on the plexiglass and pushed against Monk Anthony’s hand pushing from the other side. We blessed, we waved, we watched until the guard closed the door behind us. But it was not over. Even now Monk Anthony is in my heart and the peace of his presence--the peace of a very bright light in a very dark place--is still shining in my heart.