Posts Tagged With: Orthodox

My Miraculous Meeting With St.Spyridon

SPYRIDON

St.Spyridon lived somewhere between the latter part of the 2nd and early part of the 3rd century.

He was at the first ecumenical council of Nicea and was instrumental in the arguments against Arius.

Originally from Cyprus and buried there, when the Arabs took Cyprus he was removed from the grave to be taken to Constantinople where they witnessed he was incorrupt. In his hand was a scent of Basil indicating true sainthood.

After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, his relics were removed by a Corfiate monk to the island of Corfu where they remain to this day in St.Spyridon Church.

One of his miracles during his lifetime was calling forth rain during a time of drought. This is where it got interesting for me.

An Orthodox Priest and friend of mine learned that I was in Corfu via facebook and highly recommended I visit this church and venerate the Saints relics. He noted that the relics are not always there due to them being moved around a lot and when he was there some years ago they were not present.

Eventually we made our way through the Venetian cobbled streets until we landed upon the Church. I took some pictures of the boys outside in front of the icon of the saint.

From there we entered and there was a short enough queue and to my surprise the relics were present with two priests at either side. Before I entered everyone was quiet. When me and Christian entered the priests began to chant ”Kyrie Eleison”.

I wasn’t sure what to kiss and didn’t realise that the priest opened the Casket for me to kiss the Saint so instead I kissed the Casket as did my son Christian.

That was all good and so we decided to go around the corner to the byzantine Museum which was an old Church now in disuse but everything still in place just used as a Museum for Icons.

I wanted to go back and buy an Icon in the shop directly across the road from St.Spyridons Church and so we headed back that way.

The woman in the shop kept me there for quite a considerable time. By the time my wife came along she was waiting on me and obviously does not share the same enthusiasm as I do for the Orthodox icons or churches so she’s impatient and wanting to leave.

She approaches me and said ”Stephen you need to hurry it up, dark clouds are gathering and it looks like it could actually rain.”

I kept calm and allowed the lady to finish showing me all her icon collection. Then a seriously heavy down pour of rain and hailstones began. It was so heavy I’d never seen anything like it not even in Ireland. The rain was so thick, heavy and chunky. You could hear it just slam into the ground.

I wanted so desperately to visit the Church again with my icons but I knew Audrey wouldn’t have it and so whilst in the shop and anxious about these things it began to rain.

I said to my wife I want to touch the icons off the casket of St.Spyridon and in this way have them blessed. We might as well go over to the Church and inside there because we are blocking entry to the shop.

The woman approached me and said ”This is such unusual weather for this time of year but it shouldn’t last long”. But it did, a whole three hours.

I was delighted to be back in the Church. This time I actually peered in and saw his face with his little skull-cap and vestments all still on him.

It was at this moment that the Saint revealed to me that it was him who, calling forth the rain all those years ago to end the drought, had called forth the rain yet again that I may have my icons blessed and venerate him once more.

Whilst I stood there, the rain plummeting from the heavens, to many it was an inconvenient moment where they had to refrain from shopping and it ended their day out in Corfu. To me however, I stood there in the church with a gleeful smile on my face knowing who it was that called forth the rain and hailstone.

It was an undeserved grace for a rotten little sinner like me. It almost seems prideful to even assume that the Saint would accommodate just one speck of dust such as myself with all the problems going on in the world but I was convinced that this miracle was simply God’s simplicity shining forth giving me the time I really needed to soak up the experience of venerating one of the churches greatest ever saints that lived.

 

 

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A Domestic Schism

In a conversation over dinner with someone earlier in the week they asked what was the attraction of the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox churches.

It was a good question but not one I could have answered without my soup going cold so I had to be quick and say what came to mind.

I said what attracted me was the balanced masculinity and femininity of the services. The reverence was also on top of the agenda. It just suits my personality and I’ve a very masculine kind of persona where the Roman Church just can’t satisfy that and its more a church that used to have this but no longer has mans attention.

The Roman Mass today with its few faults is still a nice one when done appropriately (which I’ve never seen happen except on EWTN) but even so my heart really is in the eastern churches.

Then tonight I read something in my Ukrainian Greek Catholic Catechism which really brings it home. In it, the Envoy of prince Vladimir is sent to find a religion suitable for Ukraine and lo and behold they stumble into the Hagia Sophia. They wrote back saying:

‘“And we went into the Greek lands, and we were led into a place where they serve their God, and we did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth; and do not know how to tell about this. All we know is that God lives there with people and their service is better than in any other country. We cannot forget that beauty since each person, if he eats something sweet, will not take something bitter afterwards; so we cannot remain any more in paganism.”

It sounds almost cruel and I don’t want it to sound cruel out of respect for the mass but to me all I taste when I’m at a Roman Liturgy is bitterness now that I’ve tasted the sweetness of both Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.

When I came back to the Church there was only one Church which was your local roman church. I even got involved with my guitars and thought this is great this will do.

Then one day I stumble across a you tube video of Orthodox chanting and choral singing both in Russian and Greek. I then experienced via you tube an Orthodox service and I was totally lifted off the ground by the reverence and presence, beauty and majesty of God I felt there.

Things go even worse when I went to Greece and visited just your average Orthodox parish. I was thrown back by the intensity of all I’d seen, heard and smelled. It woke me up to realize that they may be the truth.

However I have decided to remain in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for now because I can’t bring myself to the Orthodox churches just yet. But to say I’m obsessed would be an understatement.

I still go to adoration here and confession in the roman churches but once a week I’m determined to make it to Dublin for Divine Liturgy. It’s the only thing keeping me alive in the Catholic Church and if it wasn’t for it I’d crumble under pressure and become Orthodox.

After so many falls in the Roman Catholic church and clashes with the faithless clergy there and having to forfeit so many theological classes  because they’re full of twisted theology, I decided I’d had enough. Got my boys baptised into the UGCC and never looked back.

The only sad thing is that my wife doesn’t share the same enthusiasm and wants to remain going to her local RC church. So we are split. I take Christian to the UGCC and she takes Joseph to her church on Sunday.

I used to go with my wife every sunday to the roman church because I felt pressure that we should be together as a family which we definitely should be but recently I’ve had enough. I need to take care of my mental and spiritual health and if that means a sort of mini schism occurring in my own household then so be it.

This is it, once you’ve tasted the sweetness of Orthodoxy it’s very difficult to make a return to the bitter.

 

 

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We Are All Lazarus In The Tomb

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I read this to my son Christian this evening. He really likes this story.

It is the story of a sick man who dies and has been this way stinking in the tomb for four days. Everyone who cared for him is weeping and moaning.

It is the Story of St.Lazarus but it is also the story of me and you.

As a convert myself I too was once sick. I was so sick I became spiritually dead to the world. There I lay in the darkness of my tomb, no light to be seen for many many years. My spiritual corpse smelled so bad.

Everyone who loved me (like Martha loved Lazarus) all cried and wept over my rotten corpse. Even ”Jesus wept”(John:11:35) and could endure it no longer.

First he didn’t remove the stone, he ordered my friends and family to do that for me. They were the instrument he used to open my tomb and then he did the rest. They gave me rosaries and books.

He called me forth from the tomb. I came stumbling out of the darkness of sin but according to Jesus there was still more work to be done. Ok I’m free now but… I was all tied up and mummified in the cloth of spiritual imperfections.

He ordered those who would spiritually guide me (the Orthodox and Catholic fathers of the churches) to unbind me and loose me that I may at least have some kind of vision of who it was that called me from the tomb.

When I look at myself today and the state my soul is in, I realize there’s always going to be more unbinding to be done and that the work of those around me is never finished.

I just pray that Jesus never has to call me out of the darkness ever again.

 

 

 

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How Often Should I Go To Confession?

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A friend of mine in the religious community (and I don’t have many religious friends in case you’re wondering) and myself suddenly spoke about confession.

Now I thought I was doing bad by going once a week but turns out he was surprised by such frequency. Things got even more surprising for him then when I told him I to used to frequent it almost every second day.

He went once a month or other. The Church recommends we go to confession at least once a year. That does not mean however that you can receive Holy Communion when you like. I’d be surprised to go one year without committing some sort of grave sin that would deprive me of Holy Communion.

A lot of Irish go to Medjugorje in Bosnia/Herezegovina and I’ve been twice myself. It’s a popular message of Our Lady there where she asks that we at least go to confession once a month.

I thought that was quite generous of Our Lady given that it’s very difficult to get us to go in for confession.

I suppose I frequent confession so often not because I’m a goody two shoes, rather I seemed to have just formed a habit of it.

I told my friend yes once a week. When you think about it, you shower once a week. You go for a walk once a week. You eat at least one healthy meal a week. You go out and have a good time at the disco once a week so why not go to confession once a week?

Once a week we shower and bathe ourselves to keep clean because we know that if we don’t have a shower we will smell. When we are stinky then the people around us will notice this stink and be disgusted.

It is the same with Christ. We may not see our souls or smell the stench of sin fuming from us but such a stink reaches right up to heaven into the nostrils of God.

Therefore keeping our souls clean is necessary. We would not enter the company of someone if we smelled awful, so what makes you think God wants you in his when you smell as bad as you do from the stink of sin?

Go on now, give yourself a good wash with the Grace of Christ and form a habit of doing it once a week. You’ll thank me for it later.

 

 

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Surrounded By People Who Want To Convert Me

Christos Annesti!

They’re good people whom I love dearly and I know have good intentions, but I am surrounded by many who are trying to rope me in and get me involved in their religious communities. Some may offer an invitation to their Church and some may try and use something I possess like my photography for example to get me involved. Why? because people see I’m interested in the Orthodox church and so the Orthodox want to help me and the Catholics see I’m looking for a good excuse to leave the Catholic Church as I’m concerned for my boys and families spiritual future and growth (which I don’t believe they’re getting in the overtly feminine Catholic Church) and so naturally are employing tactics to get me to stay.

It’s a good idea and I like their strategies because one knows that when you’re embedded into a group there’s a better chance you’ll remain in the Church or become part of theirs. I know my photography is awful so when someone asks me to come in and do it for them I’m always aware of the reasons why and its not because I’m any good at it (I’ve only being doing photography since 2013) but because they want to use it as a means to get me involved.

That said I enjoy doing it anyway if it contributes towards the church and the cause because I hold both of these things dear to my heart anyway.

I would just prefer it if people would not approach me in a roundabout way and do it directly be blunt and just come out with it. I don’t like to praise myself but I’m a little more astute than most people think in examining situations. I’d prefer it people just said ”Stephen would you like to speak with someone about why you want to leave the church or for any other help you may need?”

Great, its just so great because it eliminates the wastage of time inviting me here nor there. Again I’m not praising myself here or boasting but that’s something you do with someone whose spiritually asleep and who needs a gentle awakening and introduction to the faith because they’ve been hammered by secularism and numb to all things spiritual for years.

I on the other hand am a different kettle of fish altogether and to be honest there’s really no need to convert me because the massive row that’s going on between me and God at the moment over his Church he’s brought me into will be ongoing and there’s nothing you can do about it. I possess my own spirituality in the sense that I go to Mass once a week and confession, accept all the churches wonderful teachings and I’m happy to leave it at that with everything else in between such as the odd devotional prayer.

When I came into the Church I’ve done my bit in my immediate local community, tried to get involved and realized the church from laity to bishop wont listen to reason and so getting any more involved in the Catholic Church would drive me absolutely more bonkers than I already am.

I’m happy in the job I’m currently in and I’ve returned to what I consider a fairly normal life and I’m at peace now with that so just leave me be and focus on those who need your attention. It’s not your fault, its mine for advertising my difficulties on facebook and wordpress but you’re better off ignoring my rants and getting on with your own life. You have enough to be worrying about me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Palm Sunday: Did You Welcome Him With Joy Too?

We all live out Palm Sunday at some point in our lives. All of us welcomed the Lord into Jerusalem (Our hearts, souls and minds) in the beginning.

Up on cloud nine rolling around like a pig splashing in the mud rolling around all the rosaries, crucifixes and bowls of incense. Visiting every church that we come across. No desire for conversation with anyone unless it’s about…..JESUSSSSSSS. Yeah that’s a perfect description of us all.

Then when the dust settles, some of us either are on the verge of becoming a mystic, or a crazy (like me) and even turn on the Lord and abandon him altogether.

For others we go on a retreat and we are so high on the Graces that Jesus showers upon us that we love and forgive everyone their faults whilst confessing our own. Then we arrive home from pilgrimage only to turn back into a monster that avoids Jesus at every turn.

One could say we are always welcoming Jesus and rejecting Jesus in a sense.

Hosanna in the Highest!!! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest!!! Yes great, but do you really welcome Jesus in those who represent him today?

Jesus comes to us many times throughout the day in those whom he loves. This could be the atheist, muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc etc but do you welcome them, or…reject them, avoiding them altogether?

Sometimes we welcome people who are of benefit to us. Perhaps they’re a millionaire and we want to form a relationship with them in the hopes they will cure our poverty?

When you think about it, that’s what the people who welcomed Jesus at first thought. They thought this humble man on a donkey was going to be of benefit to them. He would perform the miracle and make this roman empire disappear and they’d be freed from oppression. It wasn’t until they realised they weren’t getting what the wanted that they turned on him in the end.

We do the same, like the people did with Jesus here, we welcome people only because we want to use them. We never see them, only what we can get out of them, whether that be money or emotional comfort all we see is ourselves but rarely do we see the person or Jesus.

What I’m asking you is to look hard yourself and ask the question, Am I welcoming Jesus, or am I just looking for him to answer all my prayers. If after a few rosaries I don’t get a shiny new car I’ll turn on him and abandon him. We’ve all been there.

God bless

 

 

 

 

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Your Home Is A Domestic Monastery

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Recently my wife has become friends with some people who home school locally. To my surprise most are not Christian or do it for them purposes. A few are evangelical but most are secular.

One woman she takes into my home every now and again practices Reiki and new age occult stuff.

I explained to my wife you can’t go around having friends like that. Queue the ”Jesus ate with sinners line”.

Jesus had a different ministry than we do and he didn’t hang around very long and often retreated from the company of us sinners to be alone with God and recharge his batteries.

Taking people like this into the home they carry with them spirits from whatever it is they practice and if you’re in a state of mortal sin and weak in the faith you’re susceptible to getting pounced on and like fleas spirits jump from one to the next.

The home is quite different to the outside world. The home is a monastery and you should be careful about who you let behind that door. We are called to welcome everyone in Christs name and be kind and this is fine but it should only be a brief visit and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be overcome by too many visits.

We don’t know the particulars of anyone who approaches us and what goes on behind their closed doors so we are vulnerable in that aspect. That said if we have prior knowledge that someone practices witchcraft or is into the new age occult, we should think again about letting them behind what I like to call ”The Royal Door”.

In Orthodoxy they call the doors that the priest enters on the altar ”The Royal Doors”. When the Deacon shouts ”The Doors The Doors” everything is closed and the non-Orthodox must leave so that the mystery of the Eucharist is protected and doesn’t become defiled.

Our home is where the presence of Christ should be, and anything with the prospect of endangering that peaceful presence must not be allowed to pass through the doors. Like a monastery it is a brotherhood who learns to separate it’s guests and has a line that must not be crossed where the brotherhood is. Our line is the front door and where we meet the guests is outside depending upon the guest.

I’m not saying the person themselves defile the home no, it’s whatever they carry with them even unknown unto themselves that defiles the home. If all of this sounds really over the top and crazy to you it may be that you’re just not ready spiritually to hear it and so it’s too much for you.

However I would invite people to be extremely careful who you let in. I never let people in my home whom I have prior knowledge of that’s practicing the occult. So that’s the last time that lady will get in.

Remember, the devil like a slug is always hard at work trying to destroy the nice garden you’ve created. Slugs by the way take their time, they don’t come all at once. It’s the same with the devil, he takes his time at eating away at your spiritual fruits until you’ve none left and you’re always the last to know.

Everyone has their vocation in life, in the home, the monastery where kids minds are being formed in their formative years, the vocation of a parent is to help develop that heart, soul and mind that it may remain pure from anything that isn’t Christ until he or she is old enough to tell their right hand from their left, what is Holy and what isn’t.

 

 

 

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The Monk With The Giant Diamond


One day a monk was strolling through the woods when he happened to stumble upon the biggest diamond in the world. 

That evening he lay down by a tree, rummaged through his rucksack pulling out a sandwich to eat. 

After a heavy meal He fell asleep. 

On the same night in another part of the village the most holy Theotokos approached a peasant man in a dream as he lay asleep in his cabin. “All your prayers have been answered and you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams”She explained.”go to the woods in the morning. There you will find a monk laying beneath a tree. Awake him and ask him for the giant diamond in his rucksack and he will gladly give it to you”. 

The peasant man upon waking ran into the woods and sure enou there he was laying beneath a tree. He awoke the monk and explained the dream to him. The monk responded “what this thing? I found it in the woods, it was weighing me down any ways so here you can have it.” 

The man couldn’t believe his look. His eyes bulged with excitement at his future investment. 

Some time later the peasant came back to the monk who by now was in the middle of morning prayers. 

The monk surprised to see him again said “what is it you want now? ”

“Please ” replied the man in a sorrowful tone and with a repentant heart said “take it back from me I want something you have that is greater than is diamond. ”

“And what what would that be ?” Replied the Monk cheerfully.

“Could you give me whatever grace you have that enabled you to part with this diamond and give it to me?”

“It is not for me to give but I will certainly show you “the way”.”

So the man certainly became rich beyond his wildest dreams and the Theotokos was telling the truth but he became rich in a way he didn’t expect. 

Sometimes God responds with what we need when we pray not with what we want. 

Please tell this story to your children if you like. 

God bless

Stephen 

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Dear Irish Catholic Priests . . .

Where do you get this idea in your head that it would be great to place two women ( or men ) on the altar, with out of tune guitars and vocals singing country western songs and expect the youth to just come flooding in? Add to that a tambourine and you’ve just given all us young 18 – 35 year olds a seriously good reason the emigrate. 

This isn’t about musical taste and how I like to worship verses how others like to worship because I happen to appreciate all kinds of music so let’s not go down the Liturgical relativist route of discussion . In the context of the Divine Liturgy ( also known popularly as Mass to most Irish folk ) when the priest sings a Latin chant ( in English ) followed by two women on a guitar and tambourine singing country western hymns with Jesus somewhere in there ( I experienced this tonight ) it sounds so out of sync. 

To be honest it sounds like the church is sick. It has an illness. What I’ve noticed is that The Roman Catholic Church has all the Love and talk of love, but it has no discipline. Muslims on the other hand have all the discipline but their religion possesses no love. 

The Orthodox Church whilst not perfect herself seems to possess all the Love and the discipline. Without this discipline the Church in the east would fall apart because to rupture the Liturgy or toy around with the Eucharist as Catholics have, would be like removing a limb from its body. It would cease to function and then eventually die. 

When I was in church this evening, I turned around to make a quick exit and I saw no young people save a few who were there most likely out of obligation. All I saw was a sea of grey heads bopping along to music they thought was too cool for school. 

I left church as soon as I came of age and it wasn’t a decision made I just slipped off into secularism. My local parish church was so bland and it hasn’t changed. There was nothing there that led me to feel or experience the Divine. It was a plain church with no icons, no frescoes or mosaics. It had tacky blue carpet and a supposedly modern infrastructure. 

It too had these folky tambourine choirs and I just don’t think they realised how much such cheesy music drove us young ones away. It was even worse when they tried using modern music and incorporate Jesus into that too. 

Have you ever bothered to come out of yourself and ask the youth ….”honestly ….do you like this? Does this music elevate your soul to touch the other world that exists in the heavens, to see Christ himself?” 

The answer you’d get would be a resounding “NO!”

But here’s the thing, most youth don’t protest all of this, they silently walk away like I did. You lose their attention and the sheep wander out of the field looking for truth in drugs, sex, power, money etc. 

They don’t protest because they’re already struggling in their relationship with Jesus and love. They already associate Jesus and standing up for God to be seen as uncool. So to save themselves the embarrassment of  standing up to it, they walk off out the door and into the hands of the world where they get caught up in the crosswinds of the devil himself. 

So please, if you’re a catholic priest reading this, stop being lazy and throwing guitars and bad singers at us because it’s easy. Go out and actively take the time to develop a choir that will sing the music developed within the church because like 2+2 = 4 somethings never get old, like the ancient chant of your church for example. In fact calling it ancient is inappropriate because it will always be more modern than your average guitar and tambourine. 

Try it out, teach the youth how to sing chant and choral music because no 15 year old will put on one of your silky robes and stand in front of a congregation of their peers singing something Daniel o Donnell wrote whilst having tea with his 80 yr old neighbour one afternoon. It’s embarrassing for them. 

But teach them heavenly music and they’d happily put their hand up to volunteer. You might not think it but music is a big deal and the music of the church is something neutral that all ages will appreciate. 

If I walk into a bar and hear metal music, I’ll leave it. If I walk into another playing country western I will leave that one also. That’s just how subjective music is but the Lord was clever. The Holy Spirit developed a liturgical music that no age group could resist. 

This is why when you go into an Orthodox Church you will see plenty of young, old and middle aged there. They will not allow the worldly music into their church but rather prefer to bring the heavenly music into the world. 

Please take a leaf out of their books as they are the last rebellion in this world whilst the rest of us have buckled in compromise to the secular Atheistic philosophy. 

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My Orthodox Delusion 

I’m at the Japanese restaurant tonight with my wife having sushi. I don’t recall how the conversation turned to Orthodoxy but it did. I think it was my fault. 

You see…I’m not normal. I can’t have a conversation about the weather, movies or trivial things. It always have to have Christianity in there somewhere which is weird because I’m nowhere near a good Christian. 

I really can’t function during the day because God is always on my mind. It’s actually hindering my day to day interaction with the world it’s that bad. 

I lean over to my wife and I spontaneously blurt out “when I walk into a Orthodox Church, I feel at peace, a peace I feel nowhere else, why is this ?”

She rolled her eyes dismissively and answered ” because your deluded Stephen, you’re suffering a delusion. It’s all in your head ”

I threw one last thing at her and we both withdrew from the conversation. I said ” Then I like being deluded.” 

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