Thursday, November 26, 2015

55 Maxims of the Christian Life

Fr. Thomas Hopko

(Below is a series of short phrases, or maxims, that I have found to be very practical and helpful. We can often times think that the spiritual life is very complicated and and hard to live. Fr. Thomas was asked to come up with a simple and concise list of the essence of our Life in Christ as we struggle on the path towards salvation. He came up with these 55 maxims. I would encourage you to post them somewhere where you can see them often.)

Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
Pray as you can, not as you think you must.
Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline.
Say the Lord's Prayer several times each day.
Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied.
Make some prostrations when you pray.
Eat good foods in moderation and fast on fasting days.
Practice silence, inner and outer.
Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day.
Do acts of mercy in secret.
Go to liturgical services regularly.
Go to confession and holy communion regularly.
Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings.
Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly.
Read the scriptures regularly.
Read good books, a little at a time.
Cultivate communion with the saints.
Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
Be polite with everyone, first of all family members.
Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
Exercise regularly.
Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
Be totally honest, first of all with yourself.
Be faithful in little things.
Do your work, then forget it.
Do the most difficult and painful things first.
Face reality.
Be grateful.
Be cheerful.
Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
Never bring attention to yourself.
Listen when people talk to you.
Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out.
Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
Don't complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
Don't seek or expect pity or praise.
Don't compare yourself with anyone.
Don't judge anyone for anything.
Don't try to convince anyone of anything.
Don't defend or justify yourself.
Be defined and bound by God, not people.
Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves.
Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
Be merciful with yourself and others.
Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
Focus exclusively on God and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin.
Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God's mercy.
When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Prayer

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Final words

Father Alexander Schmemann celebrated the divine liturgy for the last time on Thanksgiving Day. This was particularly appropriate since Father Alexander had devoted his whole life to teaching, writing and preaching about the Eucharist; for the word eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Alexander took from his pocket a short written sermon, in the form of a prayer, which he proceeded to read. This was a strange occurrence since Father never wrote his liturgical homilies, but delivered them extemporaneously. These were his words, which proved to be the last ever spoken by him from the ambo in Church.

Thank You, O Lord!

Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;" Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.

The Orthodox Church, Vol. 20, No. 2, February 1984, p. 1:1

Friday, October 30, 2015

When God calls us, what do we do?

The Holy Apostles were people just like other people in their time and culture, and even like us today, with the entire range of human faults, personal weaknesses, and individual imperfections. They were not remarkable in a human sense so that God would choose them out from the crowd. They were, however, very remarkable in one thing, very remarkable indeed. It was how they chose to hear God calling, to listen to what He had to say, and then to do what He asked them to do-- although at the time it seemed incredible, irrational, and impossible to do this. They were untrained for this work, and there wasn’t even a previous pattern to follow, but they stepped forward and said yes, yes, yes, even when their minds staggered and their hearts were overwhelmed. They learned the great secret of spiritual life: if God asks us to do more than we are able, then He can make up for whatever we are lacking. The Holy Apostles were people just like us, just like us. So, what will we do when God calls us? Let us pray that we can hear Him, listen to Him, and do even the small things that He knows we can do with His help and love. God is calling. Let us say quickly with our Fathers and Mothers in Christ, yes, yes, yes. Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prayer is...

“Prayer is not an obligation or an order. It is not just a commandment or piety and devotion... It is a desire and longing... otherwise, it would be a burden which we, unwillingly practise, just for obedience sake!!

Prayer is not just a request. One might pray without asking for anything... but contemplate on the beauty of God and His life giving qualities... Therefore, a prayer of praise and glorification... is more sublime than that of a request... Whoever seeks something else besides God alone, will never be able to enjoy prayer as he ought to.

Prayer means dying completely to all the world, an utter forgetfulness to pleasures, where God alone remains in one's thought...

Prayer is the ladder which connects heaven and earth. It is a bridge that we cross to reach the heavenly places where there is no world...

It is a key to Heaven ...”

Excerpt From: H.H. Pope Shenouda III. “Words of Spiritual Benefit Vol. 1.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How difficult it is...

How difficult is our approach to God, especially in the case of some of us, when everything-even nature, heredity, and the entire composition of man-builds up a wall between him and God.

The kind of man we most often encounter presents a combination of three traits: pride-faith in his own strength, delight in his own creations; a passionate love for earthly life; the absence of any sense of sin. How can such a man approach God? As they now are, they are helplessly isolated from God; they do not even feel the need of him. And this is precisely the kind of personality that is developed in the conditions of modern life, through education, literature and so on. The idea of God is erased from the soul. What catastrophes are required, before such a man can be reborn!

Alexander Elchaninov

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Truth

“He who loves and always defends the truth, before he takes God's rights from people, he must first take God's right from himself.

He who loves the truth, never favours himself or any of his beloved ones on the account of truth, because he loves the truth from all his heart more than he loves anyone.

The lover of truth has only scales to weigh for all, he does not strain out a gnat for one and he does not swallow a camel for the other.

He does not condemn anyone for something which he justifies for another because of his feelings towards this or that. He has no objection to take the blame and refuse to justify himself as he considers that self-justification does not agree with the truth and it puts in front of him the Lord's saying: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (Prov. 17:15). He who loves the truth never oppresses anyone and does not accept someone to suffer injustice, even those who are against him.

He loves the truth far from any denomination and discrimination, with no difference between a relative or a stranger. To him, the truth does not differ because of religion, sex or relationship.

Truth is one of God's names and he who loves the truth, loves God and who keeps away from the truth, keeps away from God.”

“He who is led by the truth will be pleased with its leadership and nourishment and lives by it.”

Excerpt From: H.H. Pope Shenouda III. “Words of Spiritual Benefit Vol. 4.” iBooks. 
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

All American Council reflection

One of the more remarkable things about the All American Council is the opportunity to see and venerate icons and relics that most would otherwise have no chance to see. Two wonder working icons were present here: Our Lady of Sitka (pictured above) and the Weeping Icon of St Anna.
These are not the first wonder working icons that I have had the honor of venerating, but they are the first in 20 years.
Even in the crowed ballroom, with its harsh lighting and crowds, there was something calming about standing in front of these icons, and the row of relics. To know that one stands in the presences of the Kingdom manifested in these Saints simply draws one away from the trials and tribulations of the world  and offers hope and solace that comes from a Loving God, even in this place of rampant consumerism. I did not want to leave their presence.
I know that when I once again stand in front of the altar where, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, I have been called to serve, I will remember this small peace that I have experienced here.