Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 24, 2011

- - - - - - -

One hundred ninety years ago, Greece regained its independence and became a symbol of democracy for the world for the second time in history. As America recognizes this milestone in the birthplace of democracy, we also celebrate our warm friendship with Greece and the lasting legacy of Hellenic culture in our own country.

America's Founders drew upon the core democratic principles developed in ancient Greece as they imagined a new government. Since that time, our Union has strived to uphold the belief that each person has a fundamental right to liberty and participation in the democratic process, and Greece has continued to promote those very principles. Over the centuries these cherished ideals -- democracy, equality, and freedom -- have inspired our citizens and the world.

The relationship between the United States and Greece extends beyond our common values and is strengthened by the profound influence of Greek culture on our national life. From the architecture of our historic buildings to the lessons in philosophy and literature passed on in our classrooms, America has drawn on the deep intellectual traditions of the Greeks in our own establishment and growth as a nation. Reinforcing the steadfast bonds between our two countries, Americans of Greek descent have maintained the best of their heritage and immeasurably enriched our national character.

The American people stand with Greece to honor the legacy of democracy wrought over 2,000 years ago and its restoration to the Hellenic Republic nearly 200 years ago. As we celebrate the history and values of Greece and the United States , we also look forward to our shared future and recommit to continuing our work as friends and allies.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2011, as "Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy." I call upon all the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.




Next time you have extra time, try stacking your coins
Cool Mailboxes I hope that backpack is a parachute "Ahhh, it's so warm and cuddly on here"
Sorry bro, but thanks for being my chair
Looks like he wanted to be alone, and chances are he will be
Bye-Bye Freeway. Mother Nature had another idea
Help! Call 911
I guess cats can read after all
This is not as comfy as I thought it would be

Static cat!
Is the sign really necessary?
Don't try this at home

The water is so clear the boat seems to be floating on air

I'm sorry. I didn't know you were coming back
OK, let's change places at the next corner

Fluffy in flight

Let me know when all the dogs are in so I can move

You may not be happy with dinner, but you're going to eat it anyway!


The real meaning of words

ay you always walk in sunshine, my friend!!

Be especially kind to all you meet, each of us carries a burden that others can't see.




Best friends
Di vine
"Life is
not about waiting for the storms to pass .... it's about caring and
loving your relatives and friends while you can touch and see them, and they are still among us.

Have a Lovely Day!!

27 Mar -3 Lent - Veneration Holy Cross

Tone 3 - 27 Mar -3 Lent - Veneration Holy Cross

25 Mar 2011 - A n n u n c i a t i o n MATINS SERVICE

25 Mar 2011 - A n n u n c i a t i o n MATINS SERVICE


How Do We Worship God?

Taken from the Lenten lectures "Back to the Basics" delivered at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul , Minnesota . Lent 2007.
The worship of God is something He commands as good for our souls and for our relationships with our neighbour (Ex.20:1-8; Lev.19:4,18; Deut.6:4; 30:6; Mt.22:37-40; Mk.12:29-31; Lk.10:27-28). But how do we worship God? Let's approach the question from a basic, nuts and bolts, perspective.
• Hard Work. Know that worship is extremely difficult. It's not entertainment, it's not a drug, it's not sentimental. The word "liturgy" literally means the work of the people. Worship is difficult because the demons are also working against you. We must persevere and put forth a great deal of effort to realize the fruits and benefits of worshipping God.
• Preparation. We must prepare for worship by praying each day, watching our behaviour, avoiding sin and temptation, limiting exposure to amoral stimuli from the television, radio, video games, and other media; getting up early and using the morning for prayer, silence, and solitude. If we think worship is boring, it's probably because we have not prepared properly.
• Arrive on Time. The entire service is important, not just certain parts of it. If we arrive late, we miss part of the service and therefore we miss worship. If we arrive on time, we are effectively giving priority to worship.
• Entering the Church. Many of us are familiar with the common tradition of lighting a candle, silently saying a prayer, and greeting the saints by venerating the icons when we enter the narthex. These are good habits which helps make the transition from the world into the Kingdom of God .
• Humility. Moving from the narthex to the nave, we should avoid greeting people or calling attention to ourselves. Worship is about God, not about us or other people.
• Order/Taxei. We should all know the established rubrics of Orthodox worship, both for clergy and laity. Doing our own thing or making it up distracts and disrupts the service even if it's an expression of piety. Heed Jesus' warning: "Beware of practising your piety before men."
• Sit towards the front. I'm often puzzled by people who sit in the back even when the church is empty. Sitting towards the front reduces the opportunities for being distracted by others.
• Let us be attentive! How often do we hear this during the service? It is God's way of saying, "Pay attention! Something very important is about to happen. Focus! Don't let your mind or eyes wander."
• Participate. The Divine Liturgy or any other service is not a play or drama for people to watch. We can participate by bowing, kneeling, standing, sitting, singing, praying, and listening. The more you participate, the less bored and distracted you will be.
• No work of and for the Church during worship. Worship services are not the time to clean the kitchen, count money, have side meetings, or conduct the business on behalf of the parish. These are noble and good activities but not a substitute for worship.
• Watch your thoughts. Do not to be distracted by your own thoughts. Dismiss them if they are inappropriate. Otherwise, offer them up to God in prayer and continue to follow the service.
• Personal Prayer? Not now. Follow and pray the text of the service. Worship is not the time for our own personal prayer and devotions. Those are part of our preparation.
• Receive Holy Communion. Frequent communion is normative for Orthodox Christians. Of course, we must be prepared to receive Holy Communions through fasting (especially from sin) and Confession.
• Keep your eyes on the icon of Jesus Christ. We are in Church to worship Christ, not to watch other people. At seminary there was a saintly man, Bishop Gerasimos, who lived on campus and attended worship services. My friend watched Bishop Gerasimos, thinking that he wanted to be holy like this man is holy. He even watched the Bishop closely during the worship services in the chapel. During one service he had a revelation. He realized that the saintly man never took his eyes off the icon of Jesus Christ on the iconostasis. No matter what else was going on, the saintly man's eyes were always fixed on Jesus. That's how we can be holy, by constantly gazing upon our Lord, God, and Savoir Jesus Christ.
Follow these simple rules and we will walk the road to Christ in our worship.

Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota . Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), and a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.


Sunday Of Orthodoxy

Greetings in the Name of our Lord!

Dearly Beloved,

Herewith the Sunday Matins Hymns for the First Sunday of Great Lent – Orthodoxy Sunday, or The Triumph of Orthodoxy.
Don’t forget every Friday evening we chant the Akathist Hymn to our Ever Blessed Lady Theotokos.
Be strong throughout this Lenten Fast and encourage and support each other.

With Love in Christ
Marguerite PTone 1 -13 Mar - 1 Lent - Orthodoxy

Sunday Of Orthodoxy– The Triumph of Orthodoxy

First Sunday Of Great Lent
Can any Good thing come out of Nazareth?
Come and See!
In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, brothers and sisters, is the first Sunday of the Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Church wants to tell us some things. Indeed we should come to Church always with the expectation that God will teach us something, whether it be something we learn with our mind and consciously understand, or something that penetrates the soul, and helps us in an unseen way.
A most important statement for a Christian to understand in this particular gospel reading, even after He has lived the Christian life for some quite some time is:
"Come and see".
Is not Great Lent always a period of time when, with all the fasting and the longer services and the time of the year being more intense, there more temptations?
Don't we sometimes have doubts?
Don’t we have difficulty?
I don't know a person who does not have them, and as a priest I can say this with sincerity, because I know so many of you so well … we all have doubts, we all have difficulties, we all have temptations.
The Lord says "Come and See". The Church says “Come and see”. What is She telling us to “come and see?”
The question which preceded this instruction (and more than this - also a promise, a pledge, and a rallying cry) by Nathaniel to Philip was:
"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
Now this can be understood in a historical sense in that Nazareth was city of no account and unimportant; a backwater. Could anything good come out of Nazareth?
But the spiritual meaning of the text, is that Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of my Nazareth? Out of my Heart? Can I be changed? Can I be made whole?"
This is the question that He asks for us, because we ask it of ourselves.
Now I am talking only to Christians here, to those who have at least begun to believe, begun to lead the Christian life, or desire to follow the Christian life. Those who do not desire to follow it, to whom Christian morality, Christian Commandments, the Incarnation of Christ are unimportant things -- I am not speaking to those people. Such a person must be converted first, have something of a small spark of repentance in their heart. I am speaking to the Christian, the one who desires to know Christ, and has difficulties in life and doubts because of those difficulties.
This is a perfect time to speak of it because it is after the first week of Lent, which is often, in my experience as a pastor, very difficult for people, and a time when many temptations occur. The devil knows that if we do not make a good beginning, we will not make a good end. This is true in anything we do. We must struggle to make a strong start so that when we lag at the end so that as St. John Chrysostom says, "you will have momentum built up to carry you through those difficult times."
The Church is saying come and see.. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can I be changed? Can I really stop doing these things that I despise about myself? Can I really believe fully, in every way with every ounce of my being? Can I really become purified?
Yes indeed, you can. And why can we, and how can we? The Church tells us this, too. By faith we can have good come out of Nazareth.
Now this faith is explained to us. Examples have been given to us, very strident examples. Examples that make us feel enflamed with enthusiasm. We heard of the Saints of old (and this was even before the Promise, which we Christians enjoy!) stopping the mouth of lions, being sawn asunder, and wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute and afflicted. These were great heroes the Apostle Paul talks about, who conquered by faith.
The world did not think that they conquered. It thought they were defeated. But we understand what victory is. Victory is in the heart. Victory is when a man overcomes his own self with the help of God and becomes purified and becomes fire.
But also, besides those examples of ways of living and thinking, when St Paul speaks to us when He writes to the Hebrews, the Lord also is showing us something about faith in His Gospel that we must not forget.
There is nothing accidental in this story of Nathaniel meeting Christ.
First He was under the fig tree; Phillip comes to him and says to him that we have found the Messiah. Nathaniel says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" How can this be?
Remember the spiritual meaning … can anything good come out of me? Can I really be changed? Can I really appropriate Christ? I have so many weaknesses, every day I fall. I cannot seem to defeat this enemy. I seem to have circumstances that consistently cause me to fall. I continue to have difficulties, to have doubts, to be frightened. All these things are my Nazareth.
So Nathaniel comes with Phillip because Phillip says, "Come and see". Then He meets the Lord. And the Lord says: "Whence thou knowest me?" Nathaniel says to the Lord. "Verily when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee."
There is deep meaning here in these words, brothers and sisters. The Lord knows us. He understands us. He knows our deepest inner desires, He knows our motivations, and He knows our weaknesses. He knows how to help us. He knows our desires before we know them.
This is quite important for a Christian to remember. Moment by moment, truly we feel so often that we are alone. I only discovered after I was an adult that every teenager had the same doubts about themselves as I had. That I wasn’t good looking enough, my hair looked weird, being nervous with girls, all those things that every teenager goes through. The reason I mention this is because as priest I know that all of us go through doubts, go through uneasiness in our faith, even if our uncertainty is only about ourselves. The hours and the evening prayer of St. John speak about it:
deliver me from faintheartedness.
We have great faintheartedness. All of us suffer from this malady, this affliction of not being able to believe fully in the Resurrection. And we somehow believe that we are alone in our struggle. I previously thought this until I became a priest and saw that I am not alone. We tend to believe that our weaknesses are not applicable to the promise in some way. We say: yes if we had enough faith, yes if we did better in this or that, we believe that God can change us ... But we don’t believe that we will be changed, because we feel alone.
I am convinced of this and that is why I speak on this kind of subject so often. I am convinced that our lack of faith is what holds us back from truly appropriating the love that God wants to shower upon us, wants us to feel - and actually He has already greatly blessed us - He wants us to feel it. He wants us to feel the warmth, to feel the embrace, but we are not capable until we are able to believe fully.
Now of course, if we are to believe, we must act. The Christian life is acting according to the Commandments as well as believing them and we must take them all seriously and lament if we do not follow them in their exactitude. We must also believe not such that we have to think it but so that it is part of our being.
We must believe that Jesus Christ knows all of our circumstances, all of our struggles, all of our deepest desires, even those we can not express or are afraid to say out loud. Does not the scripture tell us that ”For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”? (Heb 4:15)
He knows them all because He is God and also a man, and saw Nathaniel under the fig tree and He sees all of us. He sees our Nazareth. He knows how to defeat it. He knows that good will come out of it because He has placed his image in us and He desires to burnish that image, to polish it, to remove all the dross and mud from it so that it gleams and shines. And He will do this if only we allow Him to, if only we believe that He can do it.
Not for someone else, such as, for instance, the Saints or even those Christians we know and admire, but for ourselves we must believe this. Certainly we believe in the Resurrection, we believe in miracles, we believe that all these things that the Saints have done are true and holy and righteous, but we can’t see ourselves doing them.
If it’s for humility sake that we say that we are not worthy of such things, that is good. None are worthy, but all can be made capable. I am convinced that it is not humility that makes us believe that we cannot do righteous things; that we cannot change. It is weakness of faith.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord says to us today, "Come and see."
This is why you should struggle through the Great Lent, even if you are wondering, "Why am I fasting?” The purpose of fasting is to open the heart to God so that God will enlighten us and help us with things. Perhaps your thoughts also say “I am in a worse mood now than I was before! I am snapping more at my children, or at my wife, or at my coworkers. I am having more difficulty with thoughts than I had before. Or I still have trouble with this sin or that sin. What use is it to deprive myself of eating? What use is it to struggle till the end? I’ll just be tired on Pascha and I won’t feel the Lord. Not as much as I want to."
These are our doubts. Some of you express openly doubts about yourself. Others of you have not been able to express it openly, but I am convinced that we all have these kinds of doubts to a greater or lesser degree. That is why the Church is telling us today, as we have embarked now upon the first week of the Great Fast, "Come and see."
Come and see that good things can come out of Nazareth. We can be completely changed. Everything that applies to the Saints applies to us, absolutely and positively. Jesus Christ came for us, for every man, He wants everyone to have fullness, completeness, regardless of how weak we are, regardless of what happens to us, He wants us to be completely changed. And we can be.
Indeed, as Christians, we must believe this, if we are to truly call ourselves Christians, we must truly believe that we can be changed.
Now the only way to be changed is through great effort. It takes great effort, make no mistake about it. The way to perdition is very wide, and very easy, and it is downhill. And the way to paradise is truly a narrow road and a difficult road. But it is not difficult because of our Lord; His burden is easy and His yoke is light. It’s difficult because of our own faithlessness and our weakness and because of our own predilection toward sin that beguiles us. And we play mind games with ourselves and find ourselves in snare after snare after snare.
Truly you must struggle if you are to be a Christian. Great Lent is a struggle; other fasting periods are a struggle. They are only an example of the Christian life. They are not in totality the struggle of the Christian life. If fasting is your greatest struggle, then indeed you have not struggled enough. Fasting should be an aide to you in the real struggle that God wants you to have. Perhaps for some that is a frightening thought, because fasting is so difficult. Even attending church services may be difficult. But indeed God wants to bring you beyond this struggle of fasting and services and prayer, and fill you with himself completely.
He wants to make you all fire.
And it will indeed happen, regardless of what kind of man or woman you are, if you have faith that you can be changed. And if you must struggle with that faith, and not give up even though you fall, and continue to struggle to live righteously, even if, for the moment, you are not righteous.
In our age what has happened is that sins have been re-codified, they have been renamed, reassigned. Things we understand to be sin, the world calls virtue, and these are. Many things, not just sexual sins that are obviously happening in the world today and being called virtuous, but all manner of other things. Why does the world, and even us, since the Psalmist has us beseeching the Lord each Vespers that we not "make excuse with excuses in sins", speak about sin so?
Because people struggle against these sins and they can’t make it, they can’t hack it. Instead of accepting this reality that they are weak and they need a Savior and they can be changed if only they believe the words "Come and see", and acknowledging (and more than this: embracing!) the struggle that comes with it, the sweat and the tears and the blood that comes with it, they redefine what a sin is.
We see these examples in secular life, but also we have these examples in our own life when we excuse ourselves from our sins. For the Christian excuses himself mostly because he cannot bear that he calls himself a Christian, but does not act as one. I say, Christian, admit boldly to the Lord, that I am a Christian but I don’t act as one. Or I desire to act as one. Be willing to say it, be willing to say it out loud. Be willing to admit that you fall short continually but have great hope that He can, and not just can but will, change you if you live by faith.
Look at the examples of many of the saints. They had many falls in their lives. And yet, they are righteous. How can this be? Because they were willing to come and see. They were willing to take the trip.
Now Nathaniel only walked a few paces to see Jesus. But this trip is indicative of our life.
The Lord says I will show you greater things than these. Not just that I know you are under a fig tree; not just that I know all your thoughts. I knew you yet while you were in the womb. Not just those things; Greater things than these will I show you. I will show you that you can be completely changed, completely made whole. Have no fear, have no sadness, have no doubts, have no sins, have no shame. Have no pain. I will show you greater things than just that I know you. I will show you that I will change you, this is what the Lord says to Nathaniel. And this is what the Lord is saying to us.
We appropriate this change by believing the words of the Lord. By understanding their meaning. He knows us and He will change us. Good will come out of Nazareth, come out of the heart because of our faith. Brothers and sisters -- beg the Lord for faith, beg Him for faith, because this is the key. Faith is just not belief. Faith envelops the whole man and makes him fire, and makes him able to change. This is what faith is. Faith permeates our life. We must appropriate the Lord’s promise with all the struggles and difficulties that the Christian life entails. Because of the promise the Church asks us:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)
He has begun our journey with our baptism. He was with us then, He’s with us now, and He will finish the course for us. You must have faith that He who began a good work in you will complete it in Christ Jesus.
Certainly a good thing will come out of Nazareth.
May God grant you faith. Amen.


98-year old parishioner of Sretensky Monastery carries bricks when visiting services

Moscow, March 5, Interfax - The oldest parishioner of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow is 98 years old.

The woman is always carrying two bags with one brick in each. She ties the bags to a shawl and carries them on her neck, one at her left, and another at her right side, father superior of the monastery Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov said in an interview to the Krestovsky Most Orthodox newspaper.

"Why do you need the bricks?" I keep asking her. She said, "I need them for balance, otherwise I can't keep myself straight." She comes to the service from Belyayevo which is the most far-away end of Moscow, Father Tikhon adds.

The monastery has many young parishioners and almost half of them is under 45.

"I recall when elderly women first appeared in the monastery and how important their visits were for us. We did everything to make them feel comfortable and at ease, they made us all happy," Father Tikhon said.



Hymns And Prayers Of The Feast Of The Prodigal Son

Exapostelarion of Matins (Tone Two)
Wretch that I am I disobeyed Your good commandment, O my Lord. And being stripped of Your glory, alas, with shame I am laden. And I have been evicted from the pure delights of Paradise. O merciful and compassionate, have mercy on me who rightly has been deprived of Your goodness.
We were expelled of old, O Lord, from the Garden of Eden, for wrongly eating from the tree. But, O my God and Savior, You once again have restored us through Your Cross and Your Passion. Thereby, O Master, fortify and enable us purely to finish Lent and to worship Your holy resurrection, Pascha our saving Passover, by the prayers of Your Mother. Listen »

Kontakion (Tone Plagal Second)
O Master, Guide to wisdom, Giver of prudent counsel, Instructor of the foolish and Champion of the poor, make firm my heart and grant it understanding. O Word of the Father, give me words, for see, I shall not stop my lips from crying out to Thee: I am fallen, in Thy compassion have mercy on me.


Prayer to the Holy Spirit

O Heavenly King, the comfortor, the spirit of Truth, Who art present everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life; come and abide in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Gracious One.



It reached my ears that, as it seems, you consider my sermons very strict and believe that today no one should think this way, no one should be living this way and therefore, no one should be teaching this way. “Times have changed!”

How glad I was to hear this. This means that you listen carefully to what I say, and not only do you listen, but you are also willing to abide by it. What more could we hope for, we who preach as we were ordered and as much we were ordered?

Despite all this, in no way can I agree with your opinion. I even consider it my duty to comment on it and to correct it, since – even though it perhaps goes against your desire and conviction – it comes from something sinful, as though Christianity could alter its doctrines, its canons, its sanctifying ceremonies to answer to the spirit of each age and adjust itself to the changing tastes of the sons of this century, as though it could add or subtract something.

Yet, it is not so. Christianity must remain eternally unchanging, in no way being dependent on or guided by the spirit of each age. Instead, Christianity is meant to govern and direct the spirit of the age for anyone who obeys its teachings. To convince you of this, I will put forward some thoughts for you to consider.

Some said that my teaching is strict. First of all, my teaching is not my own, nor it should be. In this sacred office nobody should, nor even can, preach his own teaching. If I or someone else ever dare to do so, you can put us outside the Church.

We preach the teachings of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles, and the Holy Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we make sure to do everything possible to keep these teachings whole and inviolate in your minds and hearts. Every thought we present and every word we use, we do so very carefully, so as not to overshadow this brilliant and divine teaching in any way. Nobody can act differently.

Such a law that calls for each man’s preaching in the Church to be "God-sent," was established at the creation of the world, and should thus remain valid until the end of the world. The Prophet Moses, after the delivery of the commandments from God Himself to the people of Israel, concluded: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2)

This law of constancy is so unalterable that the Lord and Savior Himself, when He was teaching the people on the mountain, said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Math. 5:17-18)

Then He gave the same validity to his teaching, before interpreting the commandments in the spirit of the gospel, by adding: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Math. 5:19)

This means that anyone who wrongly interprets the commandments of God and lessens their validity, will be an outcast in the future life. This is what He said at the beginning of His preaching. He assured the same thing to Saint John the Theologian, the beholder of ineffable revelations, to whom He described the final judgement of the world and the Church, indicating in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelations): “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Apoc. 22:18-19)

From the time of His first appearance in the world until the Second Coming, Christ has given the Holy Apostles and their successors the following law: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Math. 28:19-20)

That means “for you to teach, not what anyone else could possibly imagine, but what I ordered, and this to the end of the world.” And He adds: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Math. 28:20)

The Apostles received this law and sacrificed their lives in order to keep it. And to those who wanted to keep them from preaching what it was they preached under the threat of punishment and death, they replied: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

This clear law was delivered by the apostles to their successors, was accepted by them, and has timeless effect in the Church of God. Because of this law, the Church is the pillar and the ground of truth. Can you see then what an inviolable steadfastness it has? After that, who would be so bold as to stubbornly disturb or move anything in Christian doctrine and law?

Next listen to what is said of the Prophet Ezekiel who for seven days was in the ecstasy of prayer and after seven days heard the word of the Lord: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth” (Ezek. 3:17), and he declared to the people: Here is the law for you! If you see a wicked person committing iniquity and you do not tell him: leave your iniquity and change your way, “that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezek. 3:18) Conversely, “if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezek. 3:19-21)

What a strict law! And though it sounds in the consciences of all pastors during their election and consecration, when a heavy yoke is put on them, namely the instruction of the flock of Christ that He entrusted to them, big or small, not only to guide it but also to preserve it. How could anyone be so bold, to pervert everything in the law of Christ, when this involves the destruction of both pastors and flock?

If the saving power of this teaching depended on our opinion of it and our consent to it, it would make sense for someone to imagine rebuilding Christianity according to human weaknesses or the claims of the age and adapt it according to the sinful desires of his heart. But the saving power of Christian law does not at all depend on us, but on the will of God, by the fact that God Himself established precisely the exact path of salvation. Beyond this there is no other way, nor could it exist. Therefore, anyone who teaches in any other way, is deviating from the true path and is destroying himself and you. What logic is there in that?

Notice how strict judgment was mentioned when something similar happened to the nation of Israel during the difficult years of their captivity. Some prophets out of pity for the suffering and sick talked to the people, not as the Lord had ordered, but as their heart dictated. Concerning them the Lord gave the following commands to Ezekiel: “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls.” (Ezek. 13:17-18)
This means: Woe to those who order any kind of special treatment and suggest such leniency, so no one feels the slightest displeasure, either from those on top or those at the bottom, not caring whether this is for their salvation or destruction, whether it is pleasing to God, or repulsive. Woe to them, because “thus says the Lord God...your pillows and veils,” namely your candied and comforting teaching, “upon which there you are perverting souls, I will tear from your arms and I will let their souls that you are perverting, go away...” (Ezek. 13:20-21) from this teaching of yours and I will destroy you corrupters.

This is the benefit of this special treatment and leniency, such as you want to hear from preachers! When you put all this deep in your heart, it is not right for you to want us to make any concessions in Christian doctrine, having the wrong desire to be pleased by us. On the contrary, you are obliged to persistently demand from us to remain true to doctrine, as strictly and firmly as possible.

Have you ever heard of the indulgences of the Pope of Rome? Here is what they are: special treatment and leniency, which he gives defying the law of Christ. And what is the result? From all of this, the West is corrupt in faith and in their way of life, and is now getting lost in its disbelief and in the unrestrained life with its indulgences.

The Pope changed many doctrines, spoiled all the sacraments, nullified the canons concerning the regulation of the Church and the correction of morals. Everything has begun going contrary to the will of the Lord, and has become worse and worse.

Then came along Luther, a smart man, but stubborn. He said, “The Pope changed everything as he wanted, why shouldn't I do the same?” He started to modify and re-modify everything in his own way, and in this way established the new Lutheran faith, which only slightly resembles what the Lord had commanded and the Holy Apostles delivered to us.
After Luther came the philosophers. And they in turn said, “Luther has established himself a new faith, supposedly based on the Gospel, though in reality based on his own way of thinking. Why, then, don't we also compose doctrines based on our own way of thinking, completely ignoring the Gospel?” They then started rationalizing, and speculating about God, the world, and man, each in his own way. And they mixed up so many doctrines, that one gets dizzy just counting them.

Now the Westerners have the following views: Believe what you think best, live as you like, satisfy whatever captivates your soul. This is why they do not recognize any law or restriction and they do not abide by God's word. Their road is wide, all obstacles displaced. Their way is broad, all the obstacles taken out. But the broad road leads to perdition, according to what the Lord says. This is where leniency in teaching has led!
Lord, save us from this broad way! But it is better to love each difficulty that the Lord has appointed for our salvation. Let us love Christian doctrines and let us compel our mind with them, pushing it not to think otherwise. Let us love Christian morals and let us compel our will in them, forcing it to lift the light yoke of the Lord humbly and patiently. Let us love all Christian rituals and services which guide us, correct us, and sanctify us. Let us compel our heart with them, encouraging it to convey its desires from the earthly and perishable, to the heavenly and imperishable.

Let us confine ourselves as though in a cage. Or better, let us drag ourselves, as if we were passing through a narrow passage. Let it be narrow, so no one can deviate neither to the right left, nor the left. Yet undoubtedly, through this narrow way we will obtain the kingdom of the heavens in return. For as you know, this kingdom is the kingdom of the Lord. The Lord laid this narrow way and said, “Follow exactly this route and you will obtain the kingdom of heaven.”
Could anyone then doubt whether the traveler will get to his destination? And what mind would one have who starts wanting all kinds of annulment of the commandments, when by doing this he would immediately lose his way and be lost?

Once you have fully understood this assertion, do not worry if something in our teaching seems to be strict. The only thing you should strive for is to carefully make sure if it is from the Lord. And after you have made sure it is from the Lord, accept it with all your heart, no matter how strict or obliging it may be. And not only avoid wanting special treatment and leniency with doctrine and the ethics, but even flee from all these, as though fleeing from the fire of Gehenna. Those who cannot escape from this are those who think up such things and with them lure those who are spiritually weak to follow them. Amen.
Saint Theophan the Recluse

CATECHETICAL HOMILY On the Opening of Holy and Great Lent

Prot. No. 195


By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
And Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace and Peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
With our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness

Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,
“The arena of the virtues has opened; those who desire to compete may enter, girding themselves with the good struggle of fasting.” (Triodion, Cheesefare Sunday) Or, better, the arena has always remained open, from the time that the All-Merciful Lord of Glory deemed it worthy to assume our nature. Since then, through His Church, he invites every person to participate in the boundless gifts of the grace of the Holy Spirit, particularly during this blessed period of Holy and Great Lent.
Beloved children in the Lord, the boundless goodness of our God, who is truly worshipped in the Trinity, created the human race solely out of love in order to render us human beings – to the degree that is possible for human nature – sharers and participants of the grandeur of His sacred glory. This is the exclusive purpose of life at all times. Indeed, in order to achieve this purpose, the holy and inspired tradition of the Orthodox Church comes to our support, instructing, interpreting and including the entire spectrum of the spiritual life by means of various struggles, with which the faithful must always advance courageously.
Through the holy Sacrament of Baptism, each Christian received the grace of the Holy Spirit. If we begin to love God with all our heart, then this grace transmits to us in an incomprehensible way the wealth of its benefits. Whoever wishes to retain this experience of grace should strive with great joy to renounce from the soul the benefits of the present age in order to acquire the hidden wealth of true life. To the same degree that the soul advances in this spiritual struggle, the sacred gift of divine grace reveals the Lord’s goodness concealed in the depth of the soul in order to become the sure guide in the manifold spiritual struggle. (St. Diadochus of Photike, Century 77)
This spiritual struggle is ongoing for every faithful. Therefore, it requires us to start anew each day, each moment. “The time has come for the beginning of spiritual struggle, the victory of demons, the armor of virtue, the conduct of angels, the boldness before God.” (Lauds, Cheesefare Sunday) Great Lent precisely resembles a constant beginning of spiritual regeneration and renewal. This is why the hymnographer of the Triodion correctly orientates us toward its proper content, stating that bodily fasting by renouncing certain foods cannot result in remedy and is even despised by God as false, unless it is accompanied by purity that results from renouncing the spiritual passions (Lauds, Wednesday of Cheesefare Week).
Of course, focusing the intellect on the work of knowing God, in order to return it from passionate dispersion, comprises a toilsome and time-consuming labor. However, it is necessary and definitive for our spiritual wellbeing and social life. The way of virtue appears difficult and extremely unpleasant to those who undertake the journey; yet, not because it is actually like this, but because human nature has become accustomed to the ease of pleasure. For those who have succeeded in reaching the middle of this journey, in fact it appears pleasant and effortless (St. Diadochus of Photike, Century 93).
Frequently, those who cannot understand the great mystery of this piety consider the Orthodox ascetic tradition as negative and as leading to deprivation of creativity, of original initiative, of enjoyment in life’s pleasure. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that was created by God was created “very good” and offered to us in order to delight in and enjoy in order for us to give continual glory to our Benefactor. The commandments of God guide us and inform us in the proper use of these divine gifts, so that our body, mind and soul, together with all the material gifts, may be truly joyful and beneficial for our life. On the contrary, the arrogant, independent and contemptuous use of material gifts offered to us by the Creator result in entirely different goals to God’s expectations, leading us to depression, anxiety and misfortune, even though appearing to satisfy human pride momentarily.
Our Savior, who is truly divine and truly human, who is incomprehensibly known to the humble and those capable of receiving His uncreated grace, the Lord of glory and Lord of history, who directs our soul and mind, who contains the universe in His divine providence – from the smallest particle of His creation to the most inconceivable aspect of our world, is eternally the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14.6) Just as the hypostatic source of Life could not possibly be held by death, which was crushed through His resurrection, so too there could not possibly be any positive human life without participation in the life-creating Body of the Risen Christ, the Orthodox Church, and the inspired Holy Tradition. In brief, the Lord reigns forever, while the ideas of the proud are proved false. Or, as St. Diadochus so wonderfully says: “There is nothing poorer than a mind endeavoring to philosophize about God without God.”
Beloved children in the Lord, upon entering the arena of Holy and Great Lent, we paternally exhort you not to be afraid or lazy in assuming the most important task of your life, namely the spiritual arena of work. Instead, be courageous and strong, so that you may purify your souls and bodies of all sin in order to reach the Kingdom of God, which is granted already from this life to those who seek it with sincerity and with all their soul.
May the grace of God and His boundless mercy be with you all.
Holy and Great Lent 2011
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Fervent supplicant to God for all


Biblical Readings March 2011

1 Jude 1:1‐10 Lk 22:39‐42, 45‐23:1
2 Joel 2:12‐26 Joel 3:12‐21
3 Jude 1:11‐25 Lk 23:2‐34, 44‐56
4 Zec 8:7‐14 Zec 8:19‐23
5 Gal 5:22‐6:2 Mt 6:1‐13
6 Rom 13:11‐14:4 Mt 6:14‐21
7 Isa 1:1‐20; Gen 1:1‐13 Prov 1:1‐20 (L)
8 Isa 1:19‐2:3; Gen 1:14‐23 Prov 1:20‐33
9 Isa 2:3‐11; Gen 1:24‐2:3 Prov 2:1‐22
10 Isa 2:11‐22; Gen 2:4‐19 Prov 3:1‐18
11 Isa 3:1‐14; Gen 2:20‐3:20 Prov 3:19‐34
12 2Ti 2:1‐10 Mk 2:23‐3:2
13 Heb 11:24‐26, 32‐12:2 Jn 1:43‐51
14 Isa 4:2‐5:7; Gen 3:21‐4:7 Prov 3:34‐4:22
15 Isa 5:7‐16; Gen 4:8‐15 Prov 5:1‐15
16 Isa 5:16‐26; Gen 4:16‐26 Prov 5:15‐6:3
17 Isa 6:1‐12; Gen 5:1‐24 Prov 6:3‐20
18 Isa 7:1‐14; Gen 5:32‐6:8 Prov 6:20‐7:1
19 Heb 3:12‐16 Mk 1:35‐44
20 Heb 1:10‐2:3 Mk 2:1‐12
21 Isa 8:13‐9:7; Gen 6:9‐22 Prov 8:1‐21
22 Isa 9:9‐10:4; Gen 7:1‐5 Prov 8:32‐9:11
23 Isa 10:12‐20; Gen 7:6‐9 Prov 9:12‐18
24 Isa 11:10‐12:2; Gen 7:11‐8:3; Prov 10:1‐22
25 Gen 28:10‐17; Ezek 43:27‐44:4; Prov 9:1‐11 (N)
Heb 2:11‐18 Lk 1:24‐38
26 Heb 10:32‐38 Mk 2:14‐17
27 Heb 4:14‐5:6 Mk 8:34‐9:1
28 Isa 14:24‐32; Gen 8:21‐9:7; Prov 11:19‐12:6
29 Isa 25:1‐9; Gen 9:8‐17 Prov 12:8‐22
30 Isa 26:21‐27:9; Gen 9:18‐10:1; Prov 12:23‐13:9
31 Isa 28:14‐22; Gen 10:32‐11:9; Prov 13:20‐14:6