Location News: With grateful hearts we have occupied our new home at St Teresa’s. Now that we are settled in, we can appreciate the blessing of having our own dedicated Orthodox Chapel as well as tremendous dining and meeting facilities, along with a commodious and beautiful worship space. May we use this place to increase in stature as individuals and as the Body of Christ!
Prayer requests: Please remember the following in your personal prayer both Orthodox and Non-Orthodox included. (Place names on the prayer sheet for inclusion herein)
For the Living: Nicholas and Scotty, Dave M., Bob P., Heather and Jon, Joel and Ingrid, Miss Collins, Miss Simmonds, Kristin Cook, Michael, Karen, Hannah, Peter, Victoria, Liam and his parents Tatiana and Marko, Carrie, Neil, Gwen, Archbishop NIKON, Metropolitan TIKHON.
For the Departed: Mark, Marie, Thomas, Scott, Charlie, John, Mark, Herman, Jane, Patrick, Ruth, Constance, Robert, Catherine, Mildred, Richard, Fr Lewis, Fr Lawrence, Scott Maximus, Marvin, Ruth, Rosemary Marshall, Betsy O’Herrin, Jeff Larson, Peg.
General Requests: Pray that God will send us Catechumens and seekers!
Orthodox Teaching of the Month
(As we approach Great Lent it is good to get a fresh perspective on the issue of fasting. This article from our OCA website gives a clear presentation of the topic, and will help us keep our balance as we enter into combat with the passions with the goal of drawing nearer to Christ in the coming months. There is much scripture to guide us and much patristic wisdom to enlighten us here. Highlights in yellow are mine +scm.)
Jesus Himself fasted and taught His disciples to fast.
And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt 6.16–18).
The purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul so that it would not yield to temptation and sin. According to Saint Seraphim, fasting is an “indispensable means” of gaining the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life (cf. Conversation with Motovilov), and Jesus Himself taught that some forms of evil cannot be conquered without it (Mt 17.21, Mk 9.29).
Man does not fast because it pleases God if His servants do not eat, for, as the lenten hymns of the Church remind us, “the devil also never eats” (Lenten Triodion). Neither do men fast in order to afflict themselves with suffering and pain, for God has no pleasure in the discomfort of His people. Neither do men fast with the idea that their hunger and thirst can somehow serve as a “reparation” for their sins. Such an understanding is never given in the scriptures or the writings of the saints which claim that there is no “reparation” for man’s sin but the crucifixion of Christ. Salvation is a “free gift of God” which no “works” of man can accomplish of merit (cf. Rom 5.15–17, Eph 2.8–9).
Men fast, therefore, and must fast, only to be delivered from carnal passions so that the free gift of salvation in Christ might produce great fruit in their lives. Men fast so that they might more effectively serve God who loves them and has saved them in Christ and the Spirit. Fasting without effort in virtue is wholly in vain.
Why have we fasted, and Thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and Thou takest no knowledge of it?
Behold, in the day of your fast, you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight . . . Fasting like yours . . . will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness . . . to let the oppressed go free . . . is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them . . .
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall protect you. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; then you shall cry, and He will say: Here I am (Is 58.3–9).
“Fasting in the body, O brethren, let us also fast from sin.” This is the Church’s song in the lenten season of fasting. It is also the teaching of the saints.
. . . in fasting one must not only obey the rule against gluttony in regard to food, but refrain from every sin so that, while fasting, the tongue may also fast, refraining from slander, lies, evil talking, degrading one’s brother, anger and every sin committed by the tongue. One should also fast with the eyes, that is, not look at vain things . . . not look shamefully or fearlessly at anyone. The hands and feet should also be kept from every evil action.
When one fasts through vanity or thinking that he is achieving something especially virtuous, he fasts foolishly and soon begins to criticize others and to consider himself something great.
A man who fasts wisely . . . wins purity and comes to humility . . . and proves himself a skillful builder (Saint Abba Dorotheus, 7th c., Directions on Spiritual Training).
Saint Paul himself fasted, and in his teaching on food insists that men fast and do so in secret, without mutual inspection and judgment.
Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. For many of whom I have often told you and now tell you with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Phil 3.17–19).
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (1 Cor 6.12–13).
Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains, pass judgment on him who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?
He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of him for whom Christ has died . . . for the Kingdom of God does not mean food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Do not for the sake of food destroy the work of God . . . the faith that you have keep between yourself and God . . . whatever does not proceed from faith [whether eating or abstaining] is sin (cf. Rom 14).
The spiritual fathers, as strictly ascetic as they were, are very clear in their teaching about fasting. They insist with the Lord and the scriptures that men must fast in order to be free from passions and lust. But they insist as well that the most critical thing is to be free from all sin, including the pride, vanity and hypocrisy which comes through foolish and sinful fasting.
. . . eating beyond the point of being satisfied is the door of madness through which lust enters, for the belly is the queen of passions which man serves as a slave.
But you, firm in this knowledge, choose what is best for you, according to your own powers . . . for the perfect person, according to Saint Paul ought both “to be full and be hungry . . . and do all things through Christ who strengthens (Phil 4.12–13).
Thus a man who strives for salvation . . . must not allow himself to eat to fullness . . . but should still eat all kinds of food so that on the one hand he avoid boastful pride and on the other not show disdain for God’s creation which is most excellent . . . Such is the reasoning of those who are wise! (Saint Gregory of Sinai, Instruction to Hesychasts).
Saint Isaac of Syria says, “Meager food at the table of the pure cleanses the soul of those who partake from all passion . . . for the work of fasting and vigil is the beginning of every effort against sin and lust . . . almost all passionate drives decrease through fasting.”
For the holy fathers taught us to be killers of passions and not killers of the body. Partake of everything that is permissible with thanksgiving, to the glory of God and to avoid boastful arrogance; but refrain from every excess (The Monks Callistus and Ignatius, 14th c., Directions to Hesychasts).
If such is the teaching to hesychast monks, it is certainly applicable to all Christians as well. The whole essence of the matter is put simply and clearly in these two short stories from the fathers of the desert.
A certain brother brought fresh loaves of bread and invited his elders. When they had eaten much, the brother, knowing their travail of abstinence, began humbly to beg them to eat more. “For God’s sake, eat this day and be filled.” And they ate another ten. Behold how these that were true monks and sincere in abstinence did eat more than they needed, for the sake of God.
Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, called the abbot Hilarion to see him. A portion of fowl was set before them and the bishop invited the abbot to eat. The old man said, “Forgive me, Father, but since the time I took this habit I have never eaten anything that has been killed.”
And Epiphanius said to him, “And from the time I took this habit I have let no man sleep who has anything against me, and neither have I slept holding anything against anyone.”
And the old man said to him, “Forgive me, Father, for your way of life is greater than mine” (The Sayings of the Fathers).
“Thinking about our Faith”
We would like to share thoughts and essays from our Parish in our monthly bulletins. Please consider sharing your thoughts or an essay on a topic of interest to you and our Parish; email articles to Fr Scott Ceraphim. Regular Columns are invited!! Thank you.
A contribution from Joan Proudman
I enter the chapel. A shroud of peace envelops me. Anxious thoughts disperse like vanishing clouds. I greet and venerate a row of icons- images of saints from the distant past. Like radiant angels, they glow beneath the brass vigil lamps which are suspended from the ceiling by chains. The chains in turn cast intricate shadows on the icons and on the wall behind them. From each small brass vessel, a single flame flickers: a flame that is ignited in longing, for God. And from each vessel dangles a single cross, to which we bow in reverence. We bow to the most profound and timeless mystery of all—the true burning bush--the Eternal Flame where God's Love burns brightest.
The Orthodox Chapel is a sacred dimension therefore beyond all that is worldly and mundane. Its ambiance beckons and heals like a balm on an ulcer, one that is formed by the relentless pressure of the senses. The Divine Liturgy (or Vespers Service) is where human souls are gathered, healed, and united in and for God. Angela Doll Carlson (who wrote, On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition) says of the Divine Liturgy, “It breaks your heart open and turns you toward God…it brings heaven into the community assembled on earth; it takes the community beyond itself into the communion of saints of all times and places”. She goes on to say that when she is away from it for too long she burns for it, for the steadiness of the calendar, the words that ring out in repetition, the incense. “When I return each week, I am coming home again”, she says. “Liturgy is written into my flesh, sinking into skin and spirit”.
Actually, Divine Liturgy is a gift from Spirit that has been guarded by generations of faithful servants of God. Like a flowing river that has gone on long before us and will continue on long after us, the Orthodox Divine Liturgy connects us to Eternity, and to its "Living Waters", even if for a short span of time. For an hour or two we get to immerse ourselves in its flow, where we can taste of the fountain of Truth, promise and Grace. For a little while, we get to experience freedom from the outer world and of all of its entrapments and distractions. It's a brief respite from the prison of personality and individual desire, where unity to others and to God can take hold.
Nothing on Earth compares to this.
Reflection on Prayer by Karen Kelley
I love to make little prayer requests. When you pray, you enforce good by God's hand as it waits for your intentions. God loves to answer your prayer.
When I lived with the nuns, I watched women pray constantly. They prayed for hours, They woke to pray, they prayed going to the table, and would not leave it without songful prayer in a united voice.
We have been granted great powers by the act of faith, which is prayer. Armies of Angels who can work beyond our understanding are available at the whisper of our prayers. This is the faith God adores in us! So we start to pray, and a single prayer, for a single beloved, soon becomes a litany. The moment a heavenly heart remembers one in prayerful thought, how can that prayer be contained? If I am reminded and pray for my sister, do I not recall my mother, and the neighbor, and the Man at the grocery, and the vagrant under the bridge? So the initial prayer is spurred by heavenly habit to sing a further litany of names, stations, and recollections, finally resting and recalling without name, all that the mind has forgotten.
Heaven knows we are frail, yet upon hearing our prayers, our praise, or worship, the Holy Spirit will deliver His grace wherever a single heart intends to draw near. Utter prayers as habit instead of raising inward complaint against conditions carefully designed to bring you home to your Father who dearly loves you. Ask, and it shall be given, knock, and His purpose and heavenly strength is there -- in your voice and heart.
Christ the Savior Contact information:
For Hospital visits, Pastoral visits, Bible Studies, or Evangelistic Outreach needs, please call or email Fr Scott Ceraphim at 207-478-3088 and firstname.lastname@example.org. For any Church related administrative or charitable donation needs, please call or email Sr. Warden Chris Maas at 924-4553 and email@example.com. To Post items on our website or Facebook page contact Chris Maas or Reader Michael Boucher at firstname.lastname@example.org.