When other animals get sick, the first thing they do is stop eating – they fast, in other words. Fasting is an acknowledgement that, as all the Fathers have taught us, we are fundamentally sick with the disease of Death. Not to fast is to deny the most basic truth of our Faith, that we have become separated from God, and is to deny the example of God himself, who became man to unite us to himself, and who likewise fasted and still does fast. As St. Seraphim says, he who does not fast does not really believe in God. Certainly, he does not believe in the “god” we mean when we say that word.
“It is shameful to be proud of the adornments that are not your own, but utter madness to fancy one deserves God’s gifts. Be exalted only by such achievements as you had before your birth. But what you received after your birth, as also birth itself, God gave you. Only those virtues which you have obtained without the co-operation of the mind belong to you, because your mind was given to you by God. Only such victories as you have won without the co-operation of the body have been accomplished by your efforts, because the body is not yours, but a work of God.” – Saint John Climacus
Editor note: the things we call “male pride”, “civic pride”, “national pride”, “personal pride” are all covers for things forbidden by authentic Christianity. You do find the sort of ‘victory’ ‘armies of god’ ‘triumphant’ megachurch insane power-mongering out there that makes of pride a religion – a religion cut almost wholly from the cloth of that grievous passion. But that is to Christianity what KFC is to Chicken, or MTV is to Music. The Orthodox Mind is forbidden all forms of pride, just as it is forbidden the fiction of “righteous anger” and all other forms of “virtuous sin” and “righteous unrighteousness” and “bullshit truth”. We are forbidden to turn the temptations of Christ into the virtues of the Christian, and any “Christianity” that does so is an abomination, besides not being that which Christ himself founded and has never ceased to preserve intact.
A Faith that can’t grapple with the actual teachings of the Church might be a cultural icon, a revered institution, in an NPR kind of way, but it’s still not Christian. Christianity is far more challenging than that. It doesn’t leave us all right in the main areas of our lives and just clean up our ethics a little bit. It’s not primarily a religious philosophy. It’s an ascetic war. It transforms the things we *most* want to protect. It casts down the established pillars of our culture that we consider most authentic and to be believed. That which we are most prone to wink at. That which we think is so “traditional” that it has to be accepted. That is the idol to be destroyed by the One who is before the ages, and the tradition that is older than our oldest institutions.
Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. – Oscar Wilde
“There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three – the church, dogma, and asceticism – constitute one single life for me.” — Elder Sophrony
“He cannot have God for his Father who has no the Church for his mother.” – St. Cyprian of Carthage
In the teaching of St. Silouan and Elder Sophrony, people are not classified as enemies and friends, bad and good, but people who have known God and people who have not known God. Wherever enemies are acknowledged, it means part of the body of humanity is cast aside and universality is restricted. Keeping the commandment of love for ones enemies, man embraces all human beings and becomes catholic and universal. On an ecclesiastical level, love for ones enemies comprises the criterion that ensures catholicity. – Prof. George Mantazaridis, quoted in Patristic Theology, – Fr. John Romanides
Gabriel came and stood before you, O Virgin.
Revealing God’s eternal plan he greeted you:
“Hail, O earth that has not been sown!
Hail, burning bush that remains unconsumed!
Hail, O unsearchable depth!
Hail, O bridge that leads to heaven,
and ladder raised on high that Jacob saw!
Hail, deliverance from the curse and restoration of Adam! The Lord is with you!”
You appear to me in the form of a man,”
the undefiled Virgin said to the captain of the heavenly hosts.
“How can you speak to me of things that pass man’s power?
You have said that God will be with me,
that He will take up His dwelling in my womb.
How shall I become the holy dwelling place of Him
Who rides upon the Cherubim? Do not deceive me.
I have not known pleasure; I have not entered into wedlock.
How then shall I bear a child?”
“When God so wishes,” said the bodiless angel,
“the order of nature is overcome.
What is beyond man’s power comes to pass.
Believe my words, O pure and holy Lady.”
She cried out, “Be it done to me according to your word!
I shall bear Him who has no flesh! He will take flesh from me!
By this, He will lead mankind to glory,
for He alone has the power to accomplish this!”
What earthly joy remains untouched by grief? What glory stands forever on the earth? Frail shadows of elusive dreams which death will one day sweep away. But in the light of Thy countenance, O Christ, and in the enjoyment of Thy beauty, give rest to those whom you have chosen and taken, for Thou art the lover of mankind. – St. John of Damasca, Aposticha verse
Magnify, O my soul, her who is more honorable and more glorious than the armies on high. It would be easier for us to keep silence, out of fear, for it is without danger, and it is difficult O Virgin to weave complex hymns harmoniously with love. But O Mother, grant us strength to fulfill our intention. – Apodosis of Nativity, Ode IX.
Originally posted 1/9/2008
Rejoice O Jerusalem. Keep the feast all ye who love Sion. Today, the ancient bonds of Adam’s condemnation hath been loosed. Paradise hath been opened unto us. The serpent hath been destroyed. He who deceived our first Mother of old, hath now seen a Woman become the Mother of the Creator. O the depths of the richness and the wisdom and understanding of God! For, the vessel of sin which brought death upon all flesh, hath become the beginning of salvation for the whole world through the Theotokos. For the all-perfect God hath been born of Her as a babe, and sealeth her Virginity by His birth . . .” – the Glory be, Holy Nativity, Tone 4 (from the All-Night Vigil)
Originally posted 1/9/2009
Magnify, O my soul, her who is more honorable and more exalted in glory than the heavenly hosts.
I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave a heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, and the manger a noble place in which hath lain Christ the uncontained God. Let us, therefore, praise and magnify Him.
Magnify, O my soul, the God born in flesh from the Virgin.
When the Magi saw a new and strange star appearing suddenly, moving in a wonderful way, and transcending the stars of heaven in brightness, they were guided by it to Christ, the King born on earth in Bethlehem, for our salvation.
Magnify, O my soul, the King born in a cave.
The Magi said, Where is the Child King, the newborn, Whose star hath appeared? For we have verily come to worship Him. And Herod, the contender against God, trembled, and began to roar in folly to kill Christ.
Magnify, O my soul, the God worshipped by the Magi.
Herod ascertained from the Magi about the time of the star by whose guidance they were led to Bethlehem to worship with presents Christ Who guided them, and so they returned to their country, disregarding Herod, the evil murderer of babes, mocking him.
Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Lord inside the cave.
Verily it is easier for us to endure silence since there is no dread danger therefrom for us. But because of our strong desire, O Virgin, and Mother of sameness, to indite well-balanced songs of praise, this becometh indeed onerous to us. Wherefore, grant us power to equal our natural inclination.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: Magnify, O my soul, the might of the indivisible and three-personed Godhead.
O pure one, Mother of the Word that appeareth newly from thee, O closed door, verily, as we behold the dark shadowy symbols pass away, we glorify the light of the truth and bless thy womb as is meet.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. Glorify, O my soul, her who hath delivered us from the curse.
The Christ-pleasing people, O Virgin, having deserved to be granted its desire by the coming of God, doth seek now with tears thy help to worship the glory of His enlivening appearance wherein is the renewal of birth; for it is thou who dost distribute grace, O pure one.
With these blessed powers, O Master and Lover of Mankind, we sinners also cry out and say: “Holy are You, truly all-holy!” There is no limit to the majesty of your holiness. You are revered in all your works, for in righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. When You created man and had fashioned him from the dust of the earth and had honored him as your own image, O God, You set him in the midst of a bountiful paradise, promising him life eternal and the enjoyment of everlasting good things by keeping your commandments.
But when he disobeyed You, the true God Who had created him, and was led astray by the deceit of the serpent, he was made subject to death through his own transgressions. In your righteous judgment, O God, You exiled him from paradise into this world and returned him to the earth from which he had been taken. But You provided for him the salvation of rebirth which is in your Christ Himself.
For You did not turn Yourself away forever from your creation whom You had made, O Good One, nor did You forget the work of your hands, but You visited him in different ways. Through the tender compassion of your mercy, You sent forth prophets. You performed great works by the Saints who in every generation were well-pleasing to You. You spoke to us through the mouths of your servants the Prophets who foretold to us the salvation which was to come. You gave us the Law to aid us. You appointed angels to guard us. And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us through your Son Himself, through whom You had created time.
Being the Brightness of your Glory and the Stamp of your Person, and upholding all things by the power of his Word, your Son did not think of equality with You, Who alone are God and Father, as something to be grasped. And so, although He was God before time began, He appeared on earth and dwelt among us. He was incarnate of a holy virgin and emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant and being conformed to the body of our lowliness so that He might conform us to the image of his glory. Since sin entered the world through a man and death through sin, so your Only-begotten Son, Who is in your bosom, our God and Father, was well- pleased to be born of a woman, the holy Birth-giver of God and ever- virgin Mary. He was born under the Law, so that He might condemn sin in his own flesh, so that those who died in Adam might be made alive in Him, your Christ.
He lived in this world and gave us commandments for salvation. He released us from the delusions of idolatry and brought us to the knowledge of You, true God and Father. He procured us for Himself as a chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Having purified us with water, He sanctified us with the Holy Spirit. He gave Himself as a ransom to death by which we were held captive, having been sold into slavery by sin. He descended into the realm of death through the Cross, that He might fill all things with Himself. He loosed the sorrow of death and rose again from the dead on the third day, for it was not possible that the Author of Life should be conquered by corruption. In this way He made a way to the resurrection of the dead for all flesh. Thus, He became the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the first-born of the dead, that He might be first in all ways among all things. Ascending into heaven, He sat at the right hand of your Majesty on High, and He shall come again to reward each person according to his deeds.
— Liturgy of St. Basil, the anaphora
“the churching of the World” – Anestis Keselopoulos, Man and the Environment
“Theological language uses episteme, but cannot reduce itself to it without falling yet again from this world.” – Vladimir Lossky
“Yet theological thought can also become a hindrance, and one must avoid indulging in it, abandoning oneself to the feverish illusion of concepts.” – Vladimir Lossky