Monday, April 26, 2010

Trip to England...

Dear Friends and Family,

Christ is Risen!

The semester is racing by, and we're nearly approaching the final month of classes! The month of May is full of exciting events. On Wednesday I'll be heading to the UK for an Orthodox Youth Festival, and hopefully a trip to the Monastery in Essex. Directly after I return three parishioners from my church in Boston will be coming for a pilgrimmage to the Holy Mountain and Thessaloniki, and directly after that some other folks will be coming, and then a trip to Romania to meet Vera, Teo and Sophia and a journey home with them to Boston for the summer!

Nothing to share in the way of insights, except for the following gem from Fr. Justin Popovich:

"It is essential to create in our people (speaking to the Serbian nation, but really to all of us) the sense that the faith of Christ is a virtue beyond nationhood, being ecumenical and catholic, trinitarian; and that for someone to believe in Christ entails their waiting on Christ, and only on Christ, with every event of their lives."

Glory to Thee for All Things!

with love,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Light of the Volcano...

Dear Friends and Family,

Today, while reading an editorial in the greek paper Kathimerini entitled "The Lesson of the Ash," something struck home very clearly. In the article the author reminds his audience that we as humans only understand our innate dependence and limitations when the works of our own hands begin to fail us, or when nature intervenes (referring specifically to the recent volcano eruption, and the consequent halt in sky travel all over the globe). His article reminded me quite vividly that we, the "enlightened" ones, have become very sure of ourselves, of our cleverness and capabilities. We undermine reality to philosophize about multiple realities because we have come up with advanced methods to avoid the only true one, one that, if we do not act, meets us with the bitter kiss of death; by taking pain-killers, drugs, "injections" of emotional and sexual highs from various forms of media, among other things, our religion (the avoidance of reality) has truly become our opiate.

It is times like these however, when the surprising silence in the air, reminds us that we do not rule the earth or the skies, but are rather completely dependent to their beck and call. We often only realize this when the rug is pulled out from underneath us (when we lose our ever-present "oxygen" as it were...the system that we have spent lifetimes building) When our economic system, like an enormous teetering mountain, begins to come crashing down upon us, we realize that our are inventions are built on the straw foundation of our human confidence. Human ingenuity is truly a marvel to behold, as we are capable of so much! But a denial of our dependence and a confidence leading back to ourselves, makes it all seems so vain. When we grasp on to our own intelligence and craftsmanship as if it is the ultimate mind, we find in the end, that we have been fooled...but it's often too late.

We, the children of the Enlightenment, call the children of the "dark continent" (or of the pre-settler America's or any other "unenlightened" land) barbarians and fools. We conquered them, educated them, civilized them and taught them a religion that we ourselves would not uphold, only to discover that we had successfully beaten most of the precious, God-given, wisdom out them--wisdom that we could have done well to listen to and to apply!

10 years of higher education often opens the door to...

...a suffocating world of hyper-analysis, inability to smile, and depression. We are so advanced and educated that we are able to (or rather, forced by our diseased minds, to) deconstruct the view of a marvelous sunrise or a breath-taking mountain-range. While we blow our minds up like balloons, filling them with numbers and information, we allow our life-giving organ, our heart, to wither like an unwatered flower in the hot sun. Never before has man been so in need of his Creator. Never before have we been so defiant and desirous to lead our own destiny. But destiny in our hands inevitably leads to confusion and despair. Confusion, because it is not our natural state, and we know this. Despair, because life has a way of showing us that we are not in charge. Beloved friends, let us wake up to this reality and seek within ourselves the answers that have for so long lain dormant and untouched...and that we have been taught to keep that way.

Let us allow the prophetic words of Fr. Justin Popovich (and others) to soak into our very being and lead us to the TRUE Enlightenment:

"The more a man devotes himself to the ways of natural knowledge [whose chief characteristic is its approach by examination and experimentation], the more he is seized on by fear and the less can he free himself from it. But if he follows faith, he is immediately freed and "as a son of God, as the power to make free use of all things." "The man who loves this faith acts like God in the use of all created things," for to faith is given the power "to be like God in making a new creation." Thus it is written: "Thou desiredst, and all things are presented before thee" (cf. Job 23:13 LXX). Faith can often "bring forth all things out of nothing," while knowledge can do nothing "without the help of matter." Knowledge has NO POWER OVER NATURE, but faith has such power. Armed with faith, men have entered into the fire and quenched the flames, being untouched by them"

(Fr. J. Popovich "The Theory of Knowledge of Saint Isaac The Syrian").

We all know that natural knowledge is not evil, but a work of creation at which we can marvel and for which we can give thanks. But just for a moment, let's unplug and go within, let's turn down the noise of our calculations and analysis and see if there is a message in the "un-productive" stillness.

Let us turn from our father the Enlightenment, and become children of Faith, where instead of a fatal and false self-deification we find a confidence and foundation based in a sure, never-failing reality. Then we can marvel at the never-ending sun-rise of our lives as we plunge deeper and deeper into the ocean of true knowledge.

Glory to Thee!

with love,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Inspirational Gem #1

Dear Friends and Family,

A good friend, John M, came and visited Greece in January. In our efforts to “seize the day” while he was here, we briefly recorded (both audio and text) some thoughts and “gems” that we picked up throughout the course of our time together. These gems come from conversations that took place between us, with others (priests, monks, lay people), in “dialogue” with some books that we were reading, and just from life itself. We had intended to send them out bit by bit in the form of a mass e-mail, and still hope to do so, but life has a way of delaying these worthy efforts and making it difficult to complete. Thus, I have decided to start posting them slowly but surely on my blog, so that at least you all will be able to benefit from these moments as we did as well.

The following text is made up of some notes taken during an informal conversation with a local priest and confessor here in town, Fr. Spiridon. We were discussing various topics relating to ministry and work in the Church and this is mostly from the mouth of Fr. S:

We as humans, when we undertake any kind of work, we need to focus on two things: our effort and God’s blessing (hope, prayer, effort) and in trusting that He will complete the work in His time. We need to leave the results (and worrying about them) for God and be happy at all times even when things don’t go our way, knowing that our success lies in our effort and in God’s seeing our effort and blessing it (maybe not in such a way that matches with our understanding of human “results” but still a blessing nonetheless).
We don’t need too much experience or expertise when we begin a particular work in service to Christ and His Church, we just need to strive from our hearts to do God’s will out of love and not worry (i.e. if we are teacher) about how much someone understands something, but instead to focus on our effort and knowing that He will bless.
We never want to be slaves to a program. We make schedules and have a course of action. When you live like that, you are easily disappointed, and you switch things around by saying that, instead of God being in control and giving the blessing, we are in control and wait for God to be obedient to us. We have a list of things to do, and one step at a time, it leads us to become more and more anxious at every step. Anxiety comes when we trust ourselves and take things into our own hands. If you are confident and want to be in control then God says: ok, you can do it on your own? Fine, go ahead, and he “leaves you” to try.
A word of caution: hoping does not mean carelessness and saying that God will take care of everything and so I can sit back and watch, but rather means that we begin with respect and acknowledge that our human attempt is weak and poor and that God will complete and perfect our weakness.
A priest or layperson doesn’t start his labors thinking that he is capable, but rather because he loves the children of God and by his ministry in performing the sacraments (in the case of the priest), he puts his hope in God’s blessing.
The priest in the parish has to first have a fatherly relationship with his parishioners, and then be a teacher, otherwise they won’t listen (this is a mentality that seeks to avoid the trap of guruism).
Teachers have to have the sense of being life-long students, and must have the inspiration and desire to learn from their students. Only in this way will their students respect them. They have to be human first.
More to come!

with love,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Χριστός Ανέστη!

Christ is Risen!

Although this is a bit late, I hope and pray that everyone who is celebrating Orthodox Easter (both yesterday and continuing through Bright Week and beyond) has a peaceful, joyful few weeks, infused with the renewing Grace of the resurrection of Christ which happened at a particular historic point, but effects us drastically even today, if we would have the eyes to see!

with much love,