Catechesis

Catechesis

Faith is a comprehensive knowledge of the essentials, and knowledge is the strong and sure demonstration of what is received by faith, built upon faith by the Lord’s teaching, conveying the soul on to infallibility, science, and comprehension. And, in my view, the first saving change is that from heathenism to faith, and the second, that from faith to knowledge. And the latter terminating in love, thereafter gives the loving to the loved, that which knows to that which is known. — Clement of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: For the method of godliness consists of these two things, pious doctrines, and virtuous practice: and neither are the doctrines acceptable to God apart from good works, nor does God accept the works which are not perfected with pious doctrines. – Catechetical Lectures

Abba John Cassian related with regard to another old man living in the desert, that he had asked God to grant him never to become sleepy during a spiritual conference, but, if someone uttered slanderous or useless words, to be able to go to sleep at once, so that his ears should never be touched by that poison. This old man also said that the devil, enemy of all spiritual instruction, works hard to provoke useless words.

He used the following example, “Once when I was talking to some brothers on a helpful topic, they were overcome by sleep so deep, that they could not even move their eyelids any longer. Then, wishing to show them the power of the devil, I introduced a trivial subject of conversation. Immediately, they woke up, full of joy. Then I said to them with many sighs, ‘Until now, we were discussing heavenly things and your eyes were heavy with sleep, but when I embarked on a useless discourse, you all woke up with alacrity. Therefore, brothers, I implore you to recognize the power of the evil demon; pay attention to yourselves, and guard yourselves from the desire to sleep when you are doing or listening to something spiritual.’” The Desert Fathers

St. Seraphim of Sarov: Before anything else one must believe in God, “that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
— Spiritual Instructions

St. Symeon the New Theologian: Belief is a matter of dying for Christ and His commandments. It is believing that such a death is life-giving. It is to count poverty as riches, and to consider the lowest humiliation as true honor and nobility. Faith is believing that when one has nothing, one has everything. More than this, it is to possess the incomprehensible riches of the knowledge of Christ and to look upon all visible things as but clay and smoke.
The Practical and Theological Chapters

Simplicity

Walk before God in simplicity, and not in subtleties of the mind. Simplicity brings faith; but subtle and intricate speculations bring conceit; and conceit brings withdrawal from God. — St. Isaac of Syria

Let all of us who wish to attract the Lord to ourselves draw near to Him as disciples to the Master, simply, without hypocrisy, without duplicity or guile, not out of idle curiosity. He Himself is simple and not composite, and He wants souls that come to Him to be simple and guileless. For you will surely never see simplicity bereft of humility. — St. John Climacus, from The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Hold faith and humility fast within you; for through them you will find mercy, help, and words spoken by God in the heart, along with a protector who stands beside you both secretly and manifestly. Do you wish to obtain these things, which are a fountain of life? From the very onset take hold of simplicity. Walk before God in simplicity and not with knowledge. Simplicity is attended by faith; but subtle and intricate deliberations, by conceit; and conceit is attended by separation from God. – from The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.

A person can be raised up above the earth by two wings, one is simplicity and the other is purity of heart. You must be simple in your actions and pure in your thoughts and feelings. With a pure heart you’ll seek God and with simplicity you’ll find Him and be glad. A pure heart passes through Heavens gate with ease. — Elder Amphilochios Makris

Idolatry, Murder, & Witchcraft

There is only one sin, that of despising anyone. – a desert father

Rage is idolatry. When I rage, I play God. Rage is delusion. The raging person treats his own dissatisfaction not only as another’s crime, but a crime of such magnitude as to cease to see another person as valuable. In fact, in rage, one ceases to see the other person as a person, and so really ceases to see the other person at all. Rage is blindness. It blinds me even to myself and to all other things, leaving me in a room of shadows. Rage is the exaltation of my convenience and comfort to the most important thing in life, the interference with that as the greatest crime, and the Violator of this presumed ‘divine’ law as the ultimate criminal. It is then a form of human sacrifice on the altar of my own ego. Rage is satanic murder. When I rage, I am guilty of blood in my own name, and all blood is innocent by comparison.

Anger is murder. Anger is the loss of vision of another person as a person. It is therefore an abandonment of the angry person’s own humanity. To become angry is to become bestial, killing wildly and indiscriminately, affirming and making me responsible for the death of all mankind and so of the death of all things. St. John Cassian explains that there is no righteous anger either; to become angry is to be possessed of the passions and lose any pretense to righteousness. It is casting off the likeness of God, and repelling the Holy Spirit. In anger I become simply wrong, no matter what the perceived cause. I must say then with the Centurion, “By my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault.” If I fall into anger, I must recognize it as a fall, and must not let the sun go down upon my anger. I must realize the rift between myself and God that is wrought by anger, and leave my gift at the altar, and go and be reconciled to my sibling, which every person is, owning the wrong, and not accusing him, but taking the responsibility. I must do this, even if the other person is not Orthodox, and must not fail to do it because someone is close to me and presumably should understand and tolerate my faults. There can be no blaming the victim for murder, no excusing the murderer because he knew or did not know the victim.

Defiance is witchcraft. To defy what is right, or rebel against those exercising rightful authority over me, or thumb my nose at those to whom I must submit, even when that submission is mutual, is false religion. I commit false religion when I rebel, and defiance makes my religious actions a mockery. For this reason, the Lord would not suffer Saul, who could not rule himself, being a subject of his own passions, to be the Lord’s anointed to rule over Israel. The prophet Samuel said to King Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice,” but that the Lord had rejected Saul as King “for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” To the degree that I might rightly expect others to submit to me, to yield to me, to prefer me, unworthy as I am, I must rule myself and submit to others, yielding to and preferring them whom I must see as more worthy than I. Anything less is illegitimate, and is false power, the kind of power that amounts to witchcraft – the raw power of my will and influence over others. It is the magic of dominance, which has no part with Him who does not overcome my will, though He created it.

When I struggle with these faults, I must pray for help. I must not give way to these passions, but actively fight against them. I must not let them wash over me and rule me and control my life. We were not meant to be slaves to so crude an aberration. I am a pawn of the enemy and slaves of death if I do not overcome, conquer, subdue these passions, and live in synergy with Christ. Salvation, as St. Seraphim says, is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. I must not defy, quench, and repel Him with rage, anger, or defiance. I am set free in Him.

We must each defy Death, repel the Enemy; conquer ourselves, in triumph over the passions, destroying the power of the Serpent who led us in the garden. We must freely choose the grace of the Trinity. When we feel the temptation to justify ourselves, we must realize this is the path of blindness and deafness. If we feel the temptation to shift blame, we must realize we are about to be lost and turn back again to the Lord. When we are lured by the notion that this is ‘normal’ or ‘only human’, we are about to fall into heresy, denying the Incarnation, and must quickly turn to Christ who became man, so that our minds are not darkened. — Catechetical Letter 4/5/2006

The Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk.  But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.  Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages.  Amen.

 

Is Fasting a Good Idea?

Notes on the Great Fast

Catechumens: The question with which we’re often greeted by non-Orthodox observing our abstinence during the Great Fast is more or less whether fasting is a good idea. To such questions, we really have nothing to say in any language that would make sense while their presuppositions are presumed intact. First of all, Holy Orthodoxy does not submit itself to external tests of rightness or wrongness; there is no reference standard apart from Holy Orthodoxy by which it can be evaluated or judged. “Truth”, as C.S. Lewis has said, “is its own justification.” References to fasting as healthy, etc., first of all reduce fasting to a decontextualized cultural phenomenon that can be studied sociologically, such that attempts to evaluate it from without mean not objectivity, as Vladimir Lossky observes, but failure to understand. Some things can only be understood objectively from within. Secondly, these justifying attempts pander to notions of an external source of validation imposed upon Orthodoxy by an external culture, in which Orthodoxy, it is incorrectly presumed, is situated. ‘This is Orthodoxy,’ we must say. It is reality. It is subject to no other criteria and is impossible to scrutinize from outside. – Catechetical Letter 4/5/2006

Fasting in Holy Week

Orthodox Church in America

On the first three days there is one meal each day, with xerophagy; but some try to keep a complete fast on these days, or else they eat only uncooked food, as on the opening days of the first week [of the Great Fast]. On Holy Thursday one meal is eaten, with wine and oil (i.e., olive oil). On Great Friday those who have the strength follow the practice of the early Church and keep a total fast. Those unable to do this may eat bread, with a little water, tea or fruit-juice, but not until sunset, or at any rate not until after the veneration of the [Epitaphion] at Vespers. On Holy Saturday there is in principle no meal, since according to the ancient practice after the end of the Liturgy of St. Basil the faithful remained in church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, and for their sustenance were given a little bread and dried fruit, with a cup of wine. If, as usually happens now, they return home for a meal, they may use wine but not oil; for on this one Saturday, alone among Saturdays of the year, olive oil is not permitted.

More at: www.oca.org/OCFasting.asp

Tradition: Godparent / Godchild

The practice of godparents, witnesses or sponsors of a person who is to be baptized, and who are to instruct the person in the rules of Christian living, has existed from the first century of the Christian era. The first written information about godparents is attributed to the second century. In the first century of Christianity the godparents quite often were deacons, deaconnesses, hermits, virgins and, in general, people who dedicated themselves to serving the Church and who were able to instruct the baptized in true Christian faith and its morals. – “Orthodox Way,” October 30, 1983

 

Godparents are adults who sponsor a child at the time of his/her baptism. They take on the responsibility of helping the child’s parents raise him/her in the Orthodox Faith, ensuring that he/she takes part in the Holy Mysteries and other divine services, knows the Creed and the main prayers and hymns of the Orthodox Tradition, and is familiar with the lives and teachings of Christ and His Saints. – Beliefs & Practices web site


The use of sponsors in Baptism dates back to the days when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero. Parents were often massacred during these persecutions. Thus sponsors were provided to instruct the children in the Christian faith in the event the parents were martyred. The godparent promises to see to it that the child is raised and educated in the Orthodox Christian faith.  – Greek Archdiocese of
Australia

Dictionary: Godparents, Nounos, Affinity

From: A Dictionary of

Orthodox Terminology

Fotios K. Litsas, Ph.D.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese web site

Affinity. (Gr. Syngeneia). The spiritual relationship existing between an individual and his spouse’s relatives, or most especially between godparents and godchildren. The Orthodox Church considers affinity an impediment to marriage. 

Baptismal Garments. (Gr. Fotikia or baptisika; Sl. krizhma). The garments brought by the godparent to dress the infant immediately after the immersion in Baptism. In Orthodoxy, these garments are considered sacred and must be either kept safely or destroyed by fire.

God-parents.   (Godfather, Gr. Nounos; Godmother, Gr. Nouna).Sponsors at Baptism and Chrismation taking the responsibility for the faith and spiritual development of the newly-born Christian. The Orthodox people highly regard the spiritual bond and relationship between godparents and their godchildren, and marriage between them is prohibited. (see affinity). 

Nounos. (see godparents).

The Responsibility of the Godchild

by Sub-deacon Thomas Wilson Godparent and Godchild should develop a close and loving relationship. As with any relationship, this spiritual one needs to be fostered and cared for in order for it to develop. The best way for this relationship to grow is through prayer. Pray for your Godparent and his/her family. By doing this you are encouraging a relationship and giving it the spiritual basis on which to mature.

When greeting one’s Godparent, you should feel the love and familiarity that you have with your own parents. It is NOT inappropriate to hug or kiss your godparents, as you would your own parents.

A Godchild should light candles and pray for their Godparents every time they enter a church, say their family prayers, and say their personal prayers. The Godchild should observe the Godparents names day. Celebrate it with a special visit and dinner if you’re nearby, and give a “spiritually oriented” gift to celebrate, like a spiritual book of the Godparent’s patron saint’s life, a new icon, etc.

Keep in touch by phone, e-mail, or postcard if your Godparent lives out of state or across the globe. Prayer and love in Christ know no distance!

There will come a time in which your Godparents have aged and are less able to be fully present with you do to illness or perhaps a nursing home placement. Remember to continue to pray for them and visit or write them often to maintain your relationship. Ask for their advice even though you have grown up.

Finally there will come a day in which your Godparents will repose in the Lord, maintain your image of your Godparents in your mind to help brings peace and memories of love and wisdom. Pray for your Godparents and offer memorial services in their memory, do works and offer alms in their name. And pray for them as they will continue to do for you in heaven.

From: The Orthopraxis of Godparents in the Orthodox Church

The Responsibility of the Godparent

Sub-deacon Thomas Wilson has compiled from the OCA web site and Fr. Timothy Sawchak some areas of responsibility for the godparent. They are written mostly in the tone of godparents of non-adult godchildren, but essentially, they break down into these twelve:

1.      Keep the anniversary of his baptism, learning the life of his patron Saint together. Keep his name day together with reverence and joy. Be together, break bread, and give a particularly appropriate type of gift.

2.      Study, learn, and make progress, in order to answer questions.

3.      Encourage progress in the Faith by offering presents that help with it, such as icons, prayer books, scriptures, lives of Saints, and help him start an Orthodox library.

4.      Be available. Spend time together. Strengthen the relationship. If distant, call, write, email and/or visit. Send letters at the beginnings of liturgical seasons (Nativity, Great Lent, etc) to help keep the calendar. “Prayer and love in Christ know no distance.”

5.      Pray always for him; You will be asked about his soul in The Judgment.

6.      Be a genuine friend and an example in Christ. “The relationship between the Godparent and the baptized is so important and so close that the Church forbids marriage between the Godparent and Godchild.” They are parent and child, and also siblings.

7.      “Pray through the ups and downs of life with your godchild. Find out what’s troubling or challenging your Godchild, what he or she is excited about or eagerly anticipating,” and contextualize it in the Faith. Encourage prayer, pray together, and remind him of your prayers for him.

8.      Emphasize the “spiritual” (ascetic) aspects of the Feasts and holy days. Make it a tradition to share fitting readings at such time, and keep the days in proper veneration. Diminish the commercial culture in the keeping of time.

9.      “Invite your godchild to go with you to Great Vespers, Matins, or weekday services . . . Encourage your whole “god-family” to come to Church for services other than (in addition to) the Sunday resurrectional Divine Liturgy”

10.  Ask what your godchild is studying and learning, discuss these things and be be a help in them, and encourage study of the Holy Gospel.

11.  “Help your godchild serve God. Choose a service project to work at regularly together, such as working at a hot-meal program or visiting parishioners in the hospital.” Encourage service in the Church and to others. Help him find and fulfill his vocation. Encourage seminary or monasticism, if interest is shown. Do not rule out Holy Orders as his vocation.

12.  “Make your godchild “one of the family”. Include your godchild, and his or her parents and siblings, in your own family’s “social” events: reunions, picnics, camping trips, and zoo and museum outings.”

I have realized, all along, of course, that taking the affinity (syngeneia) of godparent and godchild seriously is easily considered odd and awkward in our culture. But then so is every other piety, even the sign of the cross when sincerely made. I will always find delight in my duties toward you, who are my delighting, and likewise gravity and dread of judgment, and so then also a means of salvation for me, by your prayers. Because of Christ, we will never be parted, if we persevere and overcome. Let us keep one another on the Ladder.

– Catechetical Letter 2/15/2006

Prayer

Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of

everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong. – St. Theophan the Recluse

Every prayer must come from the heart, and any other prayer is no prayer at all. Prayerbook prayers, your own prayers, and very short prayers, all must issue forth from the heart to God, seen before you. And still more must this be so with the Jesus prayer.The Art of Prayer, by Hegumen Chariton of Valaam

Praying does not mean repeating a certain number of words of prayer; praying is reproducing the contents of the prayers within ourselves, so that they flow as if from our own mind and heart. – St. Theophan the Recluse

 

“This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.” – St. Isaac the Syrian

 

Prayer is learned only by praying. No one can teach another to pray. But a good way to begin to pray is to use the prayers of the prayer book. This is so because, since “we do not know how to pray”, the Holy Spirit reveals in the prayers of [the Son and] the saints the proper form and content of prayer. In the prayers of the books – especially the Lord’s Prayer – we not only pray truly by putting ourselves into the words of the prayers, but we also learn what we must pray. – Fr. Thomas Hopko

The Prayer Book & Lay Prayers

The temptation to fear private prayer or treat it with overmuch delicacy is a deadly one.  It can also be a misconception, since private prayer is never prayer ‘alone’. All Orthodox prayer is prayer in and with the Church, the Saints, the Angels. This is especially true of prayer in keeping the times and days and seasons of the Calendar (e.g. praying the Hours and the troparia). It is especially true of prayer from the prayer book, which is the prayers of Saints and the praying of Scripture. Prayed in an Orthodox manner, too, praying with these ‘prepared’ prayers, with brief intercessions of our own, is an act of humility. Letting the words come from the very heart of the Church, the Saints, rather than praying only our own thoughts, allows us to focus on the interior prayer; by this we learn to pray and to think as the Saints pray and think. We do not presume that we already know how to pray and how to think, but we regard it right that we should be transformed by the prayers of the glorified.

When I was first led to the faith, my catechist advised me to look upon the holy monks as the example for me, the layman, and to begin to pray the hours. He warned me to avoid attempting feats, such as regulating my breathing, or even reading certain texts, as these things are all spiritually dangerous for the layman and without the constant guidance of a spiritual director. But rather, beginning with the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me the sinner.” and then the common (Trisagion) prayers, I was instructed to work throughout my life toward the praying of some of the hours, and keeping as close to remembrance of them as possible – never pushing hard enough to break, but ever stretching past my natural inclination. From striving to follow this advice, I learned (such as I have) fidelity to the calendar, to the days and the seasons, and by these both dedication to the Saints and to the Gospel, and so to seeing Christ’s Incarnation. Keeping fast and feast serve spiritual combat and salvation, the slaying of passions, the seeking of theosis, and praying for true repentance and the gift of tears. I am a pale ghost of the the words of my catechist, but I remember well that teaching, and am striving by small labours and by your prayers to fulfill it.

A prayer book is a layman’s very great help. I still use the ones given me by my catechist. With the layman’s prayer book, you should never feel shy or improper about praying the abbreviations of Vespers or Matins or the Compline. In fact, there is much to be gained in, perhaps once a week start out, praying one of the Hours in one’s own ikon corner, at a time when one cannot attend daily services in the Church. Praying one of these (e.g. the Vespers) until it becomes a familiar friend, while perhaps praying another (e.g. Matins) on special occasions, and perhaps prayig the evening prayers into the morning prayers if keeping a private vigil, or if feeling distressed or in great need, is a deeply beneficial custom.

Naturally, these are never to be regarded as an alternative to prayer in the Church, but they are meant precisely to supplement that prayer. Private prayers and lay prayers among families and godfamilies are supposed to be the natural result of prayer in the Church. As my catechist would say, it is the services of the Church that teach us how to pray, and free us from the burden of composition and of second-guessing our words and their orthodoxy. We find our meaning in their meaning, our thoughts take shape in the shape of those thoughts. Likewise, our private prayers, using the prayer book, are a help to us when we pray in the Church, making the prayers there less initially awkward for us, more familiar, our familiar work of prayer. We strive to make the prayer all one, whether at home or in Church.

The home, after all, is called “the little church”; it is fitting that it is made so through prayer.

Finally, the prayer book and the prayers in Church, teach us how to pray when we have no texts to use at all, as in moments of sudden need, or at any moments of veneration, thanksgiving, praise, intercession, petition, supplication.  These prayers also train the mind to think in an orthodox way. They develop, when prayed with the whole person, an Orthodox mind – the Orthodox mind. They teach us to think, and to think with the clarity of piety, and to apply the thoughts of the Fathers – of Holy Scripture – to our own. They keep the Scriptures in us as liturgical works, words of activity, theology and doctrine that are prayed, for we pray all that we believe and what we do not pray, we cannot believe. In this culture, especially, we keep ourselves from sinking, in the backs of our minds, by conditioning, by habit, and by the surrounding influence, into text-based religion.

Entering a Church: I will enter Thy gates with thanksgiving and Thy courts with praise.

Leaving a Church:  Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.

Before Meals: The eyes of all hope in Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their food in due season, Thou openest Thy generous hand and fillest every living thing with good will.

After Meals: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast sated us with the good things of Thine earth: do not deprive us also of Thy heavenly Kingdom.

When about to fall asleep: Into Thy hands O Lord, Jesus Christ, my God, I commend my spirit; bless me, save me, and grant unto me ever-lasting life. Amen.

It is neither wrong to pray one’s own prayers, nor absolutely necessary to pray with a prayer book. It is important, in either case, to avoid pride and delusion. All this must be worked out with the knowledge and guidance of one’s spiritual director or father confessor.

St. Theophan wrote:

In Letter 31: Accustom yourself to pray your own prayers. For instance: it is the essence of evening prayer to thank God for the day and everything that happened, both pleasant and unpleasant; to ask forgiveness for all wrongs committed, promising to improve during the next day; and to pray that God preserve you during sleep. Express all this to God from your mind and from your whole heart.

The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep, rest and regained strength and to pray that He will help us do everything to His glory. Express this to Him with your mind and with your whole heart. Along with such prayers in the morning and evening, present your greatest needs to the Lord, especially spiritual needs. Besides spiritual needs, present your worldly cares, saying to Him as would a child: “See, O Lord, my sickness and weakness! Help and heal!” All this and the like can be spoken before God in your own words, without the use of a prayer book. Try this and, if it works, you may leave the prayer book altogether; but if not, you must pray with the prayer book, otherwise you might end up with no prayer at all.

In letter 47: You ask about the prayer rule. Yes, because of our weakness, it is proper to have a prayer rule. For one thing, it controls excessive zeal. The great men of prayer had a prayer rule and kept to it. Every time, they began prayer with the established prayers, and then, if self-initiated prayer came, they turned to it from reciting prayers. If they needed a prayer rule, then we need one even more! Without formal prayers, we would not know how to pray correctly at all. Without them, we would be completely without prayer.

Nevertheless, we should not collect too many prayers. A few prayers, correctly read, are better than many prayers raced through. And, of course, it is hard to keep from rushing when, in our eagerness to pray, we have gathered more prayers than we can handle.

For you, it is quite adequate to complete the morning and evening prayers as they are found in the prayer book. Always strive to complete them with as much attention and feeling as possible. To do this successfully, make an effort in your spare time to read them with extra care, attention and feeling, so that when you are at prayer, you will be familiar with the holy thoughts and feelings contained in them. Praying does not mean repeating a certain number of words of prayer; praying is reproducing the contents of the prayers within ourselves, so that they flow as if from our own mind and heart.

In Letter 31: Accustom yourself to pray your own prayers. For instance: it is the essence of evening prayer to thank God for the day and everything that happened, both pleasant and unpleasant; to ask forgiveness for all wrongs committed, promising to improve during the next day; and to pray that God preserve you during sleep. Express all this to God from your mind and from your whole heart.

The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep, rest and regained strength and to pray that He will help us do everything to His glory. Express this to Him with your mind and with your whole heart. Along with such prayers in the morning and evening, present your greatest needs to the Lord, especially spiritual needs. Besides spiritual needs, present your worldly cares, saying to Him as would a child: “See, O Lord, my sickness and weakness! Help and heal!” All this and the like can be spoken before God in your own words, without the use of a prayer book. Try this and, if it works, you may leave the prayer book altogether; but if not, you must pray with the prayer book, otherwise you might end up with no prayer at all.

In letter 47:
You ask about the prayer rule. Yes, because of our weakness, it is proper to have a prayer rule. For one thing, it controls excessive zeal. The great men of prayer had a prayer rule and kept to it. Every time, they began prayer with the established prayers, and then, if self-initiated prayer came, they turned to it from reciting prayers. If they needed a prayer rule, then we need one even more! Without formal prayers, we would not know how to pray correctly at all. Without them, we would be completely without prayer.

Nevertheless, we should not collect too many prayers. A few prayers, correctly read, are better than many prayers raced through. And, of course, it is hard to keep from rushing when, in our eagerness to pray, we have gathered more prayers than we can handle.

For you, it is quite adequate to complete the morning and evening prayers as they are found in the prayer book. Always strive to complete them with as much attention and feeling as possible. To do this successfully, make an effort in your spare time to read them with extra care, attention and feeling, so that when you are at prayer, you will be familiar with the holy thoughts and feelings contained in them. Praying does not mean repeating a certain number of words of prayer; praying is reproducing the contents of the prayers within ourselves, so that they flow as if from our own mind and heart.

– Catechetical Letter 2/11/2006

[At this time, members of our mission were being criticized for praying in homes in between trips to church services, and for using prayer books to do so.  This letter may take a slightly pastoral tone, simply because it is attempting to encourage the catechumens, without giving undo attention to the controversy brought by a minority of agitators who denied the very concept of a prayer rule and claimed that prayers were improper if not held in the church building – in short, people who were squarely outside Orthodox thinking and tradition on prayer.]

Hymns to Learn for Holy Pascha

HYMN TO THE RESURRECTION:

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,
let us worship, the holy Lord Jesus,
the only Sinless One!
We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ,
and Thy Holy Resurrection
we praise and glorify;
for Thou art our God,
and we know no other than Thee;
we call on Thy name.
Come, all you faithful,
let us venerate Christ’s Holy Resurrection!
For, behold, through the Cross
joy has come into all the world.
Let us ever bless the Lord,
praising His Resurrection.
By enduring the Cross for us,
He destroyed death by death!

PASCHAL HYMN TO THE THEOTOKOS:

The angel cried
to the Lady Full of Grace:
Rejoice, Rejoice O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Thy Son has risen from His three days in the tomb!
With Himself He has raised all the dead!
Rejoice, rejoice all ye people!
Shine! Shine! Shine, O New Jerusalem!
The Glory of the Lord
has shone itself on you!
Exalt now, exalt,
and be ye glad, O Zion!
Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
in the Resurrection
– the Resurrection of thy Son!

THE PASCHAL TROPARION:

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Intellect

Just as the simple thought of human realities does not oblige the mind to disdain the divine, so neither does the simple knowledge of divine things persuade it fully to disdain human things, for the reason that the truth exists now in shadows and figures. Hence there is a need for the blessed passion of holy love, which binds the mind to spiritual realities and persuades it to prefer the immaterial to the material and intelligible and divine things to those of sense.

– St. Maximus the Confessor.

 

“Discrimination is born of humility. On its possessor it confers spiritual insight, as both Moses and St. John Klimakos say: such a man foresees the hidden designs of the enemy and foils them before they are put into operation. It is as David states: `And my eyes looked down upon my enemies’ (Ps. 54:7). Discrimination is characterized by an unerring recognition of what is good and what is not, and the knowledge of the will of God in all that one does. Spiritual insight is characterized, first, by awareness of one’s own failing before they issue in outward actions, as well as of the stealthy tricks of the demons; and, second, by the knowledge of the mysteries hidden in the divine Scriptures and in sensible creation.”

– St. Peter of Damaskos.


“Now the divine nature, as it is in itself, according to its essence, transcends every act of comprehensive knowledge and it cannot be approached or attained by our speculation. Men have never discovered a faculty to comprehend the incomprehensible; nor have we ever been able to devise an intellectual technique for grasping the inconceivable. For this reason the great Apostle calls God’s ways unsearchable (Rom. 11:33), teaching us by this that the way that leads to the knowledge of the divine nature is inaccessible to our reason; and hence none of those who have lived before us has given us the slightest hint of comprehension suggesting that we might know that which in itself is above all knowledge.”

– St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Reverence in Speech

Catechumens: Throughout the scriptures, we learn to be gentle in our speech with others, to season our speech with grace, to be reverent of that which is worthy of reverence, wherever we find it, and to avoid speaking ill of that which is not helped by our condemnation. Christ did not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but spoke with Grace. The Apostle warned us of speaking flippantly – without gravity – of angels, reviling the bodiless powers. You have heard me many times also say to you that we should offer piety in our speech, not casually throwing around the word “Jesus” or “Mary” as we would “dude” or “bud”, and to take such pains with our prayers, also, following the example of the Holy Fathers, indeed of Christ. Particularly grievous is flippancy when speaking of clergy, as likewise I’ve already advised you – even calling a priest “Jimmy” or ‘that guy’ instead of Fr. James teaches our minds an inappropriate (lack of) piety. Let us always avoid the temptation to speak too casually of those who are responsible for our salvation; the next step toward the pit, after that, is to speak against them, and then to denounce them. Let us not even set out into such darkness. – Catechetical Letter 2/1/2006

Let your speech be alway[s] with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.St. Paul the Apostle

Save Yourself – St. Seraphim

Catechumens: You have probably also grown used to my rather constant refrain of the words of holy St. Seraphim – ‘save yourself, and thousands around you will be saved’. Again, though, I’ve had recent cause to remind you, not to correct but to protect you. We must each seek first our own salvation, if we are to have anything to give to others. It’s like avoiding waste or luxury, so we have something to give to the poor. We must pursue theosis before all else. Before mission. Before comfort. And we must sometimes endure difficulty, solitude or desertion; we must sometimes take pains. “Save me by any means,” we pray. That is our great work of mission. We can give out of our poverty, only by the richness of union with Christ, but it is all idle talk if we step off the path to guide others, and lose our own way. This is the humility that robs us, of which the Holy Apostle warns the Church at Colossi; it is not yet the humility of Christ. – Catechetical Letter 2/1/2006

Do Nothing Without The Bishop – St. Ignatius

Catechumens: In having led you, and with the very first lessons I provided from our father among the saints Ignatius, you know how I have always exhorted you to cling to the Bishop, venerating him as Christ, without whom there is no Church to save. And you have always done so. In fact, since there has been no priest at the local mission, which has been under the Bishop’s care, so that it is the Bishop who has been our priest, as Father Basil has put it. Again, I have had cause, recently, though you have not been the cause, to remind you to cling to the Bishop. We must always resist the temptation to do anything against his intent or instructions. Without the Bishop, we will drift in a sea of our own delusion, cutting ourselves off from the Apostles and from Christ, our first Bishop and prototype of all. I would be remiss, seeing how we have need again to seek the safety of his omophor, if I did not charge you, though I know already where you hearts lie, to flee independence, cast aside any temptation to illusory liberty, and to cling to him. Do not be lax in this endeavour. — Catechetical Letter 2/1/2006

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.The Apostle Paul