Posts Tagged With: Orthodox

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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Why do we want to be a Saint and what does it mean to be one? 

I don’t want to become a saint and leave behind some sort of legacy. People often say, in fact the church asks us to strive for sainthood but I don’t want it. I always just encourage myself  and others to be a good Holy Christian. I don’t want to be recognised and leave behind some sort of legacy. 

Here’s the thing, I want to be a saint alright ( Sanctus = Holy) I just want to protect myself from romanticising it. We’ve all closed our eyes when we were kids and wished we were The pop singer being praised and worshipped by millions. 

I feel that many of us fall into the spiritual trap laid out for us that we strive to be Holy before the world only because we want to be remembered and romanticise people kissing our icons when we’re dead and gone or flipping through our theological books ( if we’ve written any ) remarking how “intelligent and full of the Holy Spirit we were”. 

It’s like the guy who becomes charitable only because he himself gets a kick out of helping people. Can it really be called charity if we are giving only to receive the profitable inflation of our ego as a result? Is that really selfless giving?

Likewise with sainthood. What do we want it for? Maybe I’m wrong by saying I don’t want to be a saint or that we shouldn’t strive for saint hood. Perhaps I’m afraid to because like alms giving and love whose meaning has been torn in two, the meaning of sainthood has also been torn in two. 

I’ll give you another example. A guy sees a fellow solider about to be blown by a grenade. The soldier jumps on the grenade to save his friend. He effectively lays down his life for his friend. This is selfless love right? Surely that guy died a saint. But how do we know his intentions? What was running through his mind? Maybe it was “I’ll be remembered as a great hero ” and I’ll leave behind a great legacy and they’ll erect statues in my honour”.

So I’m asking you now what goes through your mind when you think of sainthood? What do you want it for? 

You know one of the reasons God put many of the saints throughout the centuries into a spiritual desert where he deprived them of all graces and consolations, was to humble them. He didn’t want them falling in love with the experience and develop a relationship with the graces but Christ Himself. Therefore he deprived them of these to remind them of who it is they should be looking at. It’s all part of the training. 

Why, then, do we want to be saints? When we think about sainthood, are we more in love with the idea of becoming a saint or becoming closer to God? Are you striving to be a Saint or are you striving to enter a relationship with God? 

I am weak and so I always ignore my desire to become a saint or when the desire presents itself I ask myself why I want to be a saint. I want to just focus on my relationship with God every day and be an ordinary Christian striving for Holiness through a relationship with God. 

The church has these definitions of what a saint should be before they recognise someone as a saint. I won’t go too deep but some are “led a good life, no skeletons in the closet and practiced what he preached ”

That’s the only definition they have. I disagree with this assessment. Yes, I actually disagree with the Catholic Church for once. Not that I’m more clever than they. 

A saint is someone who can also be a great sinner who endured to the end. I’ll give you an example. Elder Paisos of the Holy mountain Athos one related a story to people who complained about a monk who was always drunk when he greeted them at the gates. When he died they related to the monk Paisos how relieved they were this sinful monk was dead. Elder Paisos said “ah yes him, I saw a thousand angels come to take his soul to heaven when he died”.

The people were scandalised by this. They reminded Elder Paisos just how sinful this monk was and how could he a drunk get into heaven? So the monk told the story. 

A boy once came to the monastery and he drank strong raka and was drunk. He was an alcoholic since birth as his parents, who worked in Asia Minor ) gave him strong raka to get him to sleep. He cried a lot as they worked in the fields so this is why they did this. He grew up an alcoholic. The Elder Paisos advised the new novice to pray to the Theotokos and make many prostrations everyday and to slowly eliminate the amount of glasses of raka he consumed a day. 

The monk did this and after many years of prayer he reduced himself from 10 a day to just 1 glass. The raka was so strong however that it still made him drunk and stink of alcohol. 

So, said Paisos, “what you saw was a dirty sinner unworthy of heaven but what God saw was a saintly warrior who endured to the end and fought the devil all the way until his last breath. 

So you see, we need to ask ourselves why we want to be saints and what a saint actually is. Unfortunately I have always felt the hierarchy of the Catholic Church whom I love and am obedient to, have overlooked many many saints throughout the centuries .

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Children Pay More Attention To Prayer Than We Do. 

Every evening when Christians mother goes puts the youngest to bed, we wipe clean the coffee table and bring out the hand written icons of St.Patrick, Jesus and St.Paul. We light our candles and then I take out my kindle paper white ( great modern device with a built in light  that lets you read in the low light of candles ) and proceed to open our Orthodox prayer book. 

Here is the child’s evening prayer we pray: 

Dearest Jesus, I am one of your children. Take me into your arms and bless me as you embraced children when you visited us on earth. Hear my prayer this evening. May your icon which I always keep by my bedside ever remind me that while I sleep, you are always with me. Make me sleep in peace and let me awaken in the morning to love you and serve you, Amen. 

My son is only five and cannot quite read yet so I had him repeat the words after me. It’s only been a few days but he said the whole prayer without me. I was amazed and so when my wife came down the stairs I mentioned how he memorised the prayer in only a few days of hearing it. Not even I could memorise the first sentence. My wife responded in which for some reason I understood it as the Holy Spirit speaking to me and not my wife. She said: “that’s because he pays more attention to it than you do”. 

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Put Christ Into The Curriculum 

How do we put God at the heart of our teaching at home? I often find teaching a subject and talking about how this or that reflects either God or the gospel to be quite good. 

Today we took a plexiglass dish and, placing some paper towels in it and cress seeds thrown on top then soaked it all in water. We then placed it by the window. 

I explained that the water and the light is needed for it to grow.

It is at this point that introducing the Gospel can be helpful. Stories such as the seeds thrown in rock, thorns and the good soil or the one of the mustard seed that grows and the trees rest in its branches. 

I decided to tell him that we are the seeds. We are so small yet we can never grow without the Water ( church ) and light ( Grace ) of God. We need this in order to spiritually grow because only the seeds in darkness do not grow because darkness offers them nothing. The more we moisten our souls with the dew of church and prayer, the more we grow in Gods love. As much as it takes time for the seeds to reach their own true potential it is the same for us whose growth in God is a gradual process that cannot be rushed. 

I also taught him how to use his watch as a compass. Here again we can discuss how humans need a moral compass in order to find their way to Christ and the moral compass is the Gospel and just how we need to learn how to use a compass to find our way to the sweet shop,  we also need to learn how to read the Gospel correctly so that we do not fall into error and end up headed in the wrong direction. 

Try these things, they help make learning science or any subject more fun also. 

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The Orthodox Churches Theology Is Stagnant

Some Catholic theologians have made this assertion that our theology is not something that has progressed. They feel that the Holy Spirit is always on the move and theology is always developing. I often view these type of accusations as coming from the mouth of a theological hipster which is what the Catholic Church feels like at times. It feels like this cafe of theological hipsters discussing how things must ”progress”. For example giving children Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Communion all in one go just wasn’t cool anymore for them, so they invented a new reason as to why they should do away and abandon this tradition, all in the name of gaining new converts no doubt.

They ( the Catholic Church ) are forever complaining that the Church of England is embracing new things just to appease secualr liberalism and get bums on the seats but they do the very same themselves. Apparently their Vatican Council II achieved this and statistically it did gain many converts, but does bums on the seat really count and are the converts just there because life and theology was made easier for them? I don’t think that would work well in the Orthodox church where one doesn’t enter merely to keep warm and dry from the cold and rain, but to become transfigured from the old to the new.

The Orthodox church does not exist to adapt to the world, but to be apart from the world. The law of 2+2=4 is old but we still apply the sum to our daily lives today. If someone gets the sum wrong, the laws of physics cannot adapt to such a persons weakness or feelings, rather the person in question must adapt to the it and there must be a teacher there to help such a person get the sum right. If the person becomes frustrated and leaves the classroom well that’s just too bad, lets hope they return with more fervor than before.

This is what the Orthodox church is. It is the ancient faith but her traditions and theology are always relevant. It does not adapt to the worlds weakness and it awaits and prays for the rest of the world to adapt to it and become another strong beam in the boat of salvation. The word ancient just represents when it began but the Orthodox church will always be more progressive than the progressive because it has that which is more priceless than any passing phase of human theological musings. . . The Truth as revealed by Christ himself.

The Orthodox do not need the use of gimmicks, balloons and  of modern cultural music to convert people, we just need to become witnesses of the Gospel through our actions as best we can. If,  (in relation to the earlier use of the sum) people cannot adapt to this way of life and become frustrated and leave, why should we be worried? We just pray and hope they return to learn and adapt with more fervor than before and overcome their demons.

Your prayers please,

 

 

 

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