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Podcasts Are Back!

Nativity Podcasts are back!

Check our ‘Media” section to find audio podcasts of weekly sermons and more…

Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century?

This is a great quote I came across, from Saint Nikolai Velimerovich,

“We must be super-conservative in preserving the Orthodox faith, and super-modern in propagating it.”

May we have the courage to follow his words!

Word Study: ‘Philotimo’

There is beauty found in all languages, as language does not only allow communication and the conveyance of ideas, but language teaches us how a culture thinks and processes.  The Greek language is among the most rich that mankind has ever seen—perhaps a contributing factor as to why God chose to plant His Church in the Hellenized world!

Let’s focus on one word from the Greek lexicon: “Philotimo”

As many words in the Greek language, they may not be adequately translated into the English language, therefore, these words are most adequately translated through description, and even perhaps through story.  The following is an offered description/explanation of the word “Philotimo” by Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain…

“‘Philotimo,’ according to Elder Paisios, is the reverent distillation of goodness, the love shown by humble people, from which every trace of self has been filtered out.  Their hearts are fll of gratitude towards God and their fellow men, and out of spiritual sensitivity and sense of honor they try to repay the slightest good which others do for them.”

We should all strive to actualize ‘Philotimo’ in our lives—John Lennon wrote the song, ‘Imagine,’ ...imagine if he knew what “philotimo’ was…

Politics: Not the Proper Environment to Mandate a Morality

In recent decades, politicians, and the forces that motivate many of them, have discovered that issues of morality are fertile fields to produce political capital.  Moral issues have been forced political, and we have now reached a point when traditional communities that have been the bedrock for educating and guiding individuals in issues of morality, including; faith-based communities, family units, etc… are shunned when they attempt to offer foundational guidance.  I was pleased to read the political machine of one state has reacted in the way of abdicating legislative authority in one area of morality, and extending it back to it’s most primary place—the guidance of parents within the family unit.  The following instance may be read through the below listed link:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/03/utah-oks-abstinence-only-sex-education-curriculum/1?csp=24&kjnd=D1PmSmWmL3rPn45MsLfBJtqH1%2B3CAsHZydg9yYF9TnT7Z6co26HR13wD6wUCZUyf-fcfc87c8-edb3-4219-8a65-aac9222458c1_5e5WvnwMsn%2B5XnK5l4uDMUOjWLLRs9J8tNmkwf38ldtw%2BQAdXeEL4c7o5hHrXwH4#.T1fVXpivKfQ

Imagine for a minute if the billions of dollars that have been spent in the pursuit of political capital on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, sex education, support of the concept of a family-unit, etc… had been utilized in approaching the issues on moral ground, through education, compassion, and love.  I guarantee that the individuals affected by these issues would be better supported, a lesser stain would be upon society, and politicians would have much more time to adhere to their constitutional responsibilities.

Regardless of political landscape, the Church will remain in Her role of serving the people, and shepherding them to a morality and code of ethics rooted in the teachings of our Lord. 

Good for you Utah—thank you for leading an effort to return moral guidance and education to its rightful place—outside of politics!

The Holy Anaphora & The Priestly Prayers of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great

The prayers of the Divine Liturgy are potent and transformative in the lives of the faithful participants, and the whole of creation that is prayed for.  The section of the Divine Liturgy titled, The Holy Anaphora, is amongst the most substantive as it leads to the consecration of the gifts, and the faithful’s experience of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  Below is the Holy Anaphora section of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, which we celebrate each Sunday during the season of Great Lent.  I encourage you to apply particular focus on the priest’s prayers, that are often read inaudibly during the Divine Liturgy… 

May our Embracing Lord strengthen us through out the remainder of this season of Great and Holy Lent.

THE HOLY ANAPHORA

Deacon: Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering in peace.

People: Mercy and peace, a sacrifice of praise.

Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

People: And with your spirit.

Priest: Let us lift up our hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord.

People: It is proper and right.

Priest: Master, Lord, God, worshipful Father almighty, it is truly just and right to the majesty of Your holiness to praise You, to hymn You, to bless You, to worship You, to give thanks to You, to glorify You, the only true God, and to offer to You this our spiritual worship with a contrite heart and a humble spirit. For You have given us to know Your truth. Who is worthy to praise Your mighty acts? Or to make known all Your praises? Or tell of all Your wonderful deeds at all times? Master of all things, Lord of heaven and earth, and of every creature visible and invisible, You are seated upon the throne of glory and behold the depths. You are without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, beyond words, unchangeable. You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the great God and Savior of our hope, the image of Your goodness, the true seal of revealing in Himself You, the Father. He is the living Word, the true God, eternal wisdom, life, sanctification, power, and the true light. Through Him the Holy Spirit was manifested, the spirit of truth the gift of Sonship, the pledge of our future inheritance, the first fruits of eternal blessings, the life giving power, the source of sanctification through whom every rational and spiritual creature is made capable of worshiping You and giving You eternal glorification, for all things are subject to You. For You are praised by the angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers, and the many eyed Cherubim. Round about You stand the Seraphim, one with six wings and the other with six wings; with two they cover their faces; with two they cover their feet; with two they fly, crying out to one another with unceasing voices and everresounding praises:

Priest: Singing the victory hymn, proclaiming, crying out, and saying:

People: Holy, holy, holy, Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to God in the highest.

Priest: Together with these blessed powers, loving Master we sinners also cry out and say: Truly You are holy and most holy, and there are no bounds to the majesty of Your holiness. You are holy in all Your works, for with righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. For having made man by taking dust from the earth, and having honored him with Your own image, O God, You placed him in a garden of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of everlasting blessings in the observance of Your commandments. But when he disobeyed You, the true God who had created him, and was led astray by the deception of the serpent becoming subject to death through his own transgressions, You, O God, in Your righteous judgment, expelled him from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Your Christ. For You did not forever reject Your creature whom You made, O Good One, nor did You forget the work of Your hands, but because of Your tender compassion, You visited him in various ways: You sent forth prophets; You performed mighty works by Your saints who in every generation have pleased You. You spoke to us by the mouth of Your servants the prophets, announcing to us the salvation which was to come; You gave us the law to help us; You appointed angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us through Your Son Himself, through whom You created the ages. He, being the splendor of Your glory and the image of Your being, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal with You, God and Father. But, being God before all ages, He appeared on earth and lived with humankind. Becoming incarnate from a holy Virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, conforming to the body of our lowliness, that He might change us in the likeness of the image of His glory. For, since through man sin came into the world and through sin death, it pleased Your only begotten Son, who is in Your bosom, God and Father, born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary; born under the law, to condemn sin in His flesh, so that those who died in Adam may be brought to life in Him, Your Christ. He lived in this world, and gave us precepts of salvation. Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He guided us to the sure knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He acquired us for Himself, as His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Having cleansed us by water and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself as ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the cross, that He might fill all things with Himself, He loosed the bonds of death. He rose on the third day, having opened a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible that the Author of life would be dominated by corruption. So He became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the first born of the dead, that He might be Himself the first in all things. Ascending into heaven, He sat at the right hand of Your majesty on high and He will come to render to each according to His works. As memorials of His saving passion, He has left us these gifts which we have set forth before You according to His commands. For when He was about to go forth to His voluntary, ever memorable, and life-giving death, on the night on which He was delivered up for the life of the world, He took bread in His holy and pure hands, and presenting it to You, God and Father, and offering thanks, blessing, sanctifying, and breaking it:

Priest: He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles saying: Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you and for the forgiveness of sins.

People: Amen.

Priest: Likewise, He took the cup of the fruit of vine, and having mingled it, offering thanks, blessing, and sanctifying it.

Priest: He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles saying: Drink of this all of you. This is my blood of the new Covenant, shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

People: Amen.

Priest: Do this in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim my death, and you confess my resurrection. Therefore, Master, we also, remembering His saving passion and life giving cross, His three; day burial and resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, and enthronement at Your right hand, God and Father, and His glorious and awesome second coming.

Priest: We offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all.

People: We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, Lord our God.

Priest: Therefore, most holy Master, we also, Your sinful and unworthy servants, whom You have made worthy to serve at Your holy altar, not because of our own righteousness (for we have not done anything good upon the earth), but because of Your mercy and compassion, which You have so richly poured upon us, we dare to approach Your holy altar, and bring forth the symbols of the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ. We pray to You and call upon You, O Holy of Holies, that by the favor of Your goodness, Your Holy Spirit may come upon us and upon the gifts here presented, to bless, sanctify, and make this bread to be the precious Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

(He blesses the holy Bread.)

Deacon: Amen.

Priest: And this cup to be the precious Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

(He blesses the holy Cup.)

Deacon: Amen.

(He blesses them both.)

Priest: Shed for the life and salvation of the world.

Deacon: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Priest: And unite us all to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and the Cup in the communion of the one Holy Spirit. Grant that none of us may partake of the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ to judgment or condemnation; but, that we may find mercy and grace with all the saints who through the ages have pleased You: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith

The Primary Difference Between the Wise and Foolish

I rarely even open forwards, let alone recommend them!  However, I received this text from a friend and found it insightful… enjoy!

A few weeks ago, a business acquaintance called to discuss a challenge he was facing at work. As usual, I began with a few questions, trying to understand the context and the issues involved.

It quickly became apparent that he didn’t want to change. In fact, the entire conversation was about why he couldn’t change, why he didn’t need to change, and why he wasn’t responsible for the results he was getting.

Ten minutes into the discussion, I realized I was dealing with a fool. There was no point in continuing the conversation. More talk would not change anything.
In Chapter 7 of his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud deals with the difference between wise people and fools. It has given me clarity about something I have struggled with for years.

The difference between a wise person and a fool is not about:
Position. Plenty of business leaders, pastors, and politicians are fools. Conversely, I have met wise executive assistants, gardeners, and even one shoe shine man.
Intelligence. I know fools with masters degrees and Ph.Ds. Some of them teach in universities and have written books. Conversely, I know wise people who never graduated from high school and a few who can’t read.
Talent. I know fools who are successful entrepreneurs, worship leaders, and television pundits. I know wise people with average talent and modest income.

According to King Solomon, there is one major thing that differentiates a wise person from a fool: how he or she receives instruction and correction. (See, for example, Proverbs 1:5; 9:8–9; 10:8; 12:15; 15:12; 17:10; and 19:20.)
A wise person:
Listens without being defensive.
Accepts responsibility without blame.
Changes without delay.

If you are dealing with a wise person, talking is helpful. They soak up feedback and use it to adjust their lives for the better. Your input can truly make a difference.  If you are dealing with a fool, however, talking is a waste of your time. They resist change. The problem is never “in the room.” It’s always out there somewhere—something you can neither access nor address.  I have always wondered why some conversations never seem to go any where. Instead, I am left confused and frustrated. Now I know. This inevitably happens when you are talking with a fool.
By the way, this doesn’t mean that you have to write fools off. Instead, you have to change strategies. More talk won’t help a fool. Instead, you must:

Stop talking.
Provide limits.
Give consequences.

Father Deacon John Chryssavgis’ Presentations Now Available On-Line

Following the transformative presentations of the Reverend Father Deacon john Chryssavgis at the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church—audio recordings of his two presentations are now available on-line.  Through the Nativity website: www.nativityofchrist.org—Fr. Dn. Chryssavgis’ presentations on the Christian understanding and experience of Repentance & Forgiveness may be streamed or downloaded, through the media section under the podcast heading.

Subscribe to the Nativity podcast to hear weekly sermons, lectures, and classes…

Sermons Now Available On Line Via Nativity Podcast

The Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church is now offering a podcast, beginning with the offering of audio recordings of weekly sermons and lectures.  You may find our Podcast at the Nativity website: www.nativityofchrist.org—in addition, you may subscribe to the podcast through the website, or directly through itunes for automatic downloads.  Simply click on the MEDIA section of the website, and then click on the PODCAST section.

May our Lord bless this aspect of our web-based ministry offerings, and all those who seek His love and grace.

A Blessed Retreat With Fr. Dn. John. Chryssavgis

Today the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church of Novato was honored and blessed to host a one-day retreat featuring Father Deacon John Chryssavgis.  Fr. John offered two presentations on the topics of Repentance & Forgiveness.  The warmth of Father John’s presentation and content illumined the love of God through these primary topics to the Christian journey.  His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco joined our retreat, and reflected this warmth in his closing comments.

Both presentations were audio recorded, and will be made available through the Nativity of Christ website in the near future.

www.nativityofchrist.org

Fr. Dn. John Chryssavgis To Speak At Nativity

The Nativity community is honored to host a day of spiritual reflection and growth with Father Deacon John Chryssavgis—a premier theologian of contemporary times.  Fr. John will lead us in the exploration of Christian love, through a discussion of beauty found in experience of forgiveness and repentance. 

Space is still available, and all are encouraged to participate in this special day of fellowship, learning, and growth. 

When:  Saturday, February 11th

Where:  Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church
          1110 Highland Drive, Novato, CA

Time:  10:00 am - 3:00 pm

The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple

A blessed Feast Day to all who celebrate this day, and all those who find hope and love in the Lord, who was presented in the Temple on this day.  February 2nd marks the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple—a very tender feast, where are attention is called to the infant Christ who has been entrusted to the Virgin Mary, and embraced by the Righteous Symeon.  The following excerpt from the www.goarch.org website is offered in reflection as we celebrate today;s great feast of the Lord…

When the most pure Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary’s forty days of purification had been fulfilled, she took her first-born Son to Jerusalem on this, the fortieth day after His birth, that she might present Him in the temple according to the Law of Moses, which teaches that every first-born male child be dedicated to God, and also that she might offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons, as required by the Law (Luke 2:22-24; Exod. 13:2; Lev. 12:6-8). On this same day, a just and devout man, the greatly aged Symeon, was also present in the temple, being guided by the Holy Spirit. For a long time, this man had been awaiting the salvation of God, and he had been informed by divine revelation that he would not die until he beheld the Lord’s Christ. Thus, when he beheld Him at that time and took Him up into his aged arms, he gave glory to God, singing: “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master. . .” And he confessed that he would close his eyes joyfully, since he had seen the Light of revelation for the nations and the Glory of Israel (Luke 2:25-32). From ancient times, the Holy Church has retained this tradition of the churching of the mother and new-born child on the fortieth day and of the reading of prayers of purification.

The Apodosis of the Feast of the Meeting in the Temple is usually on the 9th of February. This, however, may vary if the Feast falls within the period of the Triodion. Should this occur, the Typicon should be consulted for specific information concerning the Apodosis of the Feast.

Change in the Church

The issue of ‘change’ is one that impacts all in this globalizing, fast-paced world—the question is weather or not we are willing to engage it!  The Christian Church mustn’t ask Itself to rethink theology and tradition when addressing change, but rather follow the historical line of continued institutional continuity, which brings the substance of Scripture & Tradition to the people.  His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, touches upon this experience in the following article: http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=46363

House Blessings Following the Epiphany Feast

It is common practice for the faithful to request their home or place of business to be blessed through the prayers of the Church and the sprinkling of Holy Water.  This Friday (January 6th) we will celebrate the great feast of Epiphany (Jesus’ baptism), with the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of the Waters service.  Holy Water originating from this service will be used to bless homes and businesses.  If you are interested in having your home or place of business blessed, please contact the Nativity office so that arrangements may be made.

Theology From Mumford & Sons

London has once again produced a beam of brilliance in the field of music—now taking form in the relatively new acoustic band titled, “Mumford & Sons.”  It is nice to see the rare occurrence of modern musicians who honor the term ‘artist,’ and offer substance in their art of song. 

In Mumford’s song titled, “Awake My Soul,” these young artists strike at the cord of a basic Christian teaching in the following lyrics: “In these bodies we will live, and in these bodies we will die.  And where you invest your love, you invest your life.” & “You were made to meet your Maker.”

Truly, Scripture teaches that our life in ‘these bodies’ is temporary before proceeding to an eternal experience.  Furthermore, God’s Word affirms that we may trust that the experience will be eternally good if we have dedicated our earthly life to the message of the Gospel, which is love.  God’s ultimate will is that we return to Him, once again becoming citizens of Paradise!

Thank you Mumford & Sons for illuminating these basic, yet eternal truths to generations who appreciate your art.

What Happened to the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

Mystagogy has a tremendous article on the history of the gifts that the three wise men brought to Jesus Christ at His birth…

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/12/three-gifts-of-magi-on-mount-athos.html

Why Christmas is Glorious & Worthy of Celebration

Saint John Chrysostom taught and shepherded the faithful of the 4th & 5th centuries, together with the millions of people who following his death have encountered his Godly-inspired words.  Below is a slightly abridged translation of one of his homilies on the Nativity of Christ, poetically illustrating the glorious essence of Christ’s birth…

Behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature’. For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

How Should A Christian Behave?

How is it that a Christian is to behave?  Perhaps this question has been posed to you, either by another or by yourself… especially in these days that we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Let us learn from a great figure from Christian history, and father of the historic Christian Church—the 4th C. hierarch, Saint Basil the Great!

How the Christian Should Behave

Many things are set forth by Scripture as binding upon all who are anxious to please God. But, for the present, I have only deemed it necessary to speak by way of brief reminder concerning the questions which have recently been stirred among you, so far as I have learnt from the study of inspired Scripture itself. I shall thus leave behind me detailed evidence, easy of apprehension, for the information of industrious students, who in their turn will be able to inform others.
The Christian ought to be so minded as becomes his heavenly calling, and his life and conversation ought to be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
The Christian ought not to be of doubtful mind, nor by anything drawn away from the recollection of God and of His purposes and judgments.
The Christian ought in all things to become superior to the righteousness existing under the law, and neither swear nor lie. He ought not to speak evil; to do violence; to fight; to avenge himself; to return evil for evil; to be angry.
The Christian ought to be patient, whatever he have to suffer, and to convict the wrong-doer in season, not with the desire of his own vindication, but of his brother’s reformation, according to the commandment of the Lord.
The Christian ought not to say anything behind his brother’s back with the object of calumniating him, for this is slander, even if what is said is true. He ought to turn away from the brother who speaks evil against him; he ought not to indulge in jesting. he ought not to laugh nor even to suffer laugh makers. He must not talk idly, saying things which are of no service to the hearers nor to such usage as is necessary and permitted us by God; so that workers may do their best as far as possible to work in silence; and that good words be suggested to them by those who are entrusted with the duty of carefully dispensing the word to the building up of the faith, lest God’s Holy Spirit be grieved. Any one who comes in ought not to be able, of his own tree will, to accost or speak to any of the brothers, before those to whom the responsibility of general discipline is committed have approved of it as pleasing to God, with a view to the common good.
The Christian ought not to be enslaved by wine; nor to be eager for meats, and as a general rule ought not to be a lover of pleasure in eating or drinking, “for every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things.”
The Christian ought to regard all the things that are given him for his use, not as his to hold as his own or to lay up; and, giving careful heed to all things as the Lord’s, not to overlook any of the things that are being thrown aside and disregarded, should this be the case.
No Christian ought to think of himself as his own master, but each should rather so think and act as though given by God to be slave to his like minded brethren; but “every man in his own order.”
The Christian ought never to murmur either in scarcity of necessities, or in toil or labor, for the responsibility in these matters; lies with such as have authority in them. There never ought to be any clamor, or any behavior or agitation by which anger is expressed, or diversion of mind from the full assurance of the presence of God. The voice should be modulated; no one ought to answer another, or do anything, but in all thing roughly or contemptuously, moderation and respect should be shown to every one. No wily glances of the eye are to be allowed, nor any behavior or gestures which grieve a brother and show contempt. Any display in cloak or shoes is to be avoided; it is idle ostentation. Cheap things ought to be used for bodily necessity; and nothing ought to be spent beyond what is necessary, or for mere extravagance; this is a misuse of our property.
The Christian ought not to seek for honor or claim precedence. Every one ought to put all others before himself.
The Christian ought not to be unruly. He who is able to work ought not to eat the bread of idleness, but even he who is busied in deeds well done for the glory of Christ ought to force himself to the active discharge of such work as he can do.
Every Christian, with the approval of his superiors, ought so to do everything with reason and assurance, even down to actual eating and drinking, as done to the glory of God.
The Christian ought not to change over from one work to another without the approval of those who are appointed for the arrangement of such matters; unless some unavoidable necessity suddenly summon any one to the relief of the helpless. Every one ought to remain in his appointed post, not to go beyond his own bounds and intrude into what is not commanded him, unless the responsible authorities judge any one to be in need of aid. No one ought to be found going from one workshop to another. Nothing ought to be done in rivalry or strife with any one.
The Christian ought not to grudge another’s reputation, nor rejoice over any man’s faults; he ought in Christ’s love to grieve and be afflicted at his brother’s faults, and rejoice over his brother’s good deeds. He ought not to be indifferent or silent before sinners. He who shows another to be wrong ought to do so with all tenderness, in the fear of God, and with the object of converting the sinner. He who is proved wrong or rebuked ought to take it willingly, recognizing his own gain in being set right. When any one is being accused, it is not right for another, before him or any one else, to contradict the accuser; but if at any time the charge seems groundless to any one, he ought privately to enter into discussion with the accuser, and either produce, or acquire, conviction. Every one ought, as far as he is able, to conciliate one who has ground of complaint against him. No one ought to cherish a grudge against the sinner who repents, but heartily to forgive him. He who says that he has repented of a sin ought not only to be pricked with compunction for his sin, but also to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. He who has been corrected in first faults, and received pardon, if he sins again prepares for himself a judgment of wrath worse than the former. He, who after the first and second admonition abides in his fault, ought to be brought before the person in authority, if haply after being rebuked by more he may be ashamed. If even thus he fail to be set right he is to be cut off from the rest as one that makes to offend, and regarded as a heathen and a publican, for the security of them that are obedient, according to the saving, When the impious fall the righteous tremble. He should be grieved over as a limb cut from the body. The sun ought not to go down upon a brother’s wrath, lest haply night come between brother and brother, and make the charge stand in the day of judgment.
A Christian ought not to wait for an opportunity for his own amendment, because there is no certainty about the morrow; for many after many devices bare not reached the morrow. He ought not to be beguiled by over eating, whence come dreams in the night. He ought not to be distracted by immoderate toil, nor overstep the bounds of sufficiency, as the apostle says, “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content;” unnecessary abundance gives appearance of covetousness, and covetousness is condemned as idolatry.
A Christian ought not to be a lover of money, nor lay up treasure for unprofitable ends. He who comes to God ought to embrace poverty in all things, and to be riveted in the fear of God, according to the words, “Rivet my flesh in thy fear, for I am afraid of thy judgments.” The Lord grant that you may receive what I have said with full conviction and show forth fruits worthy of the Spirit to the glory of God, by God’s good pleasure, and the cooperation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

~Saint Basil the Great,
Letter XXII

Now That The Turkey Is Digested…

Once again Thanksgiving has come and gone, the people have all gone home, the color of the table actually did not matter, perhaps the pots & pans have been put away, and the Turkey is just about done being digested… now what?

What does one do after expressing ‘thanks?’ If we truly offer genuine thanks, then it is our responsibility to honor and respect that for which we are thankful.  Example: you are thankful that your parents gave you a new toy, then you must honor your parents’ generosity by respecting that toy and taking good care of it.  As our first (and best) president, George Washington proclaimed that the Thanksgiving Holiday is a day to first and foremost give thanks to God.  With authentic sentiments of thanks, we must then honor God by respecting all of the blessings that He has bestowed upon us.  Be attentive to the family that He placed you in—sacrifice for them, and spend the quality time with them that they deserve.  Take care of the body that He entrusted you with—do not abuse your body with poisons of one sort or another, maintain it in sound shape, and presence.  Be respectful of the talents that He gave to you—develop your God-given talents, whether physical, emotional, or physical, and use them in a way that glorifies God by serving the rest of His creation.  The list goes on and on…

Now that the turkey is digesting, seriously think about the infinite blessings from God that we are to be thankful for… then commit to honoring and respecting those gifts through a conscious, committed Christian life!  May our Lord’s blessings be upon you, and may you have a continued productive journey through the Nativity Lenten season.

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

“WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;—for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;—and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;—to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington”

Nativity Turkey Bomb on Sunday, November 20th

“Turkey Bomb” is an effort to collect as many frozen turkeys in one day as possible!  On Sunday, November 20th (...and even in the days preceding) the Nativity family will collect as many frozen turkeys as possible, to be distributed through the Marin Country Food Bank to families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday.  Please bring frozen turkeys to the church where they will be stored in the walk-in freezer until delivery to the food bank prior to Thanksgiving.  May our Lord bless your humble offering, and the joy they bring to those in need.

Turkey_Bomb.pages.zip

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

While navigating through a Northern California airport this morning, I approached the dreaded security section where dozens of individuals were waiting to be cattle-herded through the body scanning devices.  A lady TSA worker looked me up and down, smiled, and showed me to the alternative metal detector that we all remember and miss.  As I said thank you and proceeded, she said to me, “John 3:16.”  God bless her!

We have seen it at the football game, on the bottom of In-N-Out burger cups, Forever 21 bags, etc… although John 3:16 has become a semi-regular part of American life—I encourage you to choose to not allow it to become a member of the bag labeled “Familiar but Forgotten!”  Choose to recognize the depth of God’s love for you, and all of His creation—when we recognize this, then we can not help but improve the way that we treat ourselves and others.  We can not help but choose to become better Christians.

Marin County: 5%... Are You Sure?

Since moving to Marin County to serve the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church, I have often heard it referenced that the residents of Marin County have one of the nation’s lowest rates of church affiliation—often referenced at about 5%!  Today I had an experience that may challenge that…

I stopped in at the local Verizon Retail store in the Hamilton area of Novato, and wanted to purchase a protective case for my new phone.  The price rang up at over $40 (yes, for $.25 worth of plastic)—another customer in the store looked at the price and asked the manager who was serving me, “Hey, what about a clergy discount?”  I smiled at the gentleman, and the manager, whom I later found out to be an Orthodox Christian himself, immediately looked up and said, “Absolutely!” 

Now, discounting a priest’s phone case does not equate to faith; however, the fact that another customer would speak up in support of a clergyman, and that his comment would be welcomed rather than met with a cynical comment… I believe that means something!  I believe that the 5% rule of Marin County may have just been challenged!

One interaction at a time, if we offer an experience of the love of Jesus Christ, all of His children will turn to Him—even those who currently do not recognize Him!

Thank you to the gentleman in the Verizon store who saved me a few dollars, and the manager who responded—you are both in my prayers!

Recommended Orthodox Blog Site

Mystagogy
www.johnsanidopoulos.com/

This is a tremendous Orthodox based blog site, offering solid perspective and insights from both the history of Christendom and contemporary times.  Enjoy the continued pilgrimage of exploring Christ’s Holy and Orthodox Church.

So, What’s The Deal With Halloween?

Yes, Halloween does have roots in paganism…  as do many other aspects of modern life, including aspects with in the life of the Orthodox Church!  The question is, are these experiences of contemporary life still rooted in pagan experience, or have their foundations been reoriented?

An example:  although candles and incense were used in Judaic temple worship, they were also abundant in the life and practices of multiple pagan rituals.  The Christian Church organically embraced the experience of candles and incense in its life of worship—however, the foundation and understanding of these practices radically changed from previous pagan focus to Christ-centered foundations.  Candles: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12  Incense:  “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3,4

Back to Halloween.  The common experience for today’s families include a datogether time is spent together, children dress in various costumes and create connection to neighbors by inviting their hospitality through the offering of treats.  If the foundation of your Halloween experience is rooted in quality time spent with your family, fellowship with neighbors and friends, and the offering/reception of humble offerings of hospitality—then may it be blessed by God!  If your Halloween experience is rooted in pagan ritual—then I encourage you to question your experience and seek the counsel of an Orthodox Christian priest.

Remind your children, that as we put on costumes and trick or treat, that the costume to is a fun pretend exterior activity for the evening, but our true identity is found in our interior—our identity as children of God, our identity as Christians, which is not pretend of temporary but authentic and eternal!  Furthermore, teach your children that the act of trick of treating is not an exercise in self-entitlement, but rather a polite experience of fellowship and hospitality.  Use the modern experience of Halloween to teach your children about Christian identity, and these eternal Christian virtues.

I invite you all to have a blessed day rooted in quality family time, fellowship, fun, and hospitality!  Stay safe, and brush your teeth!!!

Free Luncheon Following the Divine Liturgy - Sunday October 16th

In recognition of Father Luke’s name day, the feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist October 18th, a free lunch will be offered at the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church following this Sunday’s (October 16) Divine Liturgy.  Thank you to the handful of beloved ladies who are offering this hospitality in honor of our parish priest’s Patron Saint!

Ancient Christian Worship in Marin County, California!

Liturgical worship is central to Christian experience, and has been since Judaism, through Christianity’s initial fulfillment of Judaism 2000 years ago, and at every moment in Christian history!  Liturgical worship, specifically the sacraments (termed ‘Mysteries’ in the original Hellenic language), invites all of God’s children to experience and be healed by Him in both tangible and profound form.

The Orthodox Christian Church has maintained this liturgical experience through out Her 2000 year history, and continues to offer participants and witnesses an experience of the Divine!  Here in Marin County, California such experience is offered to any and all who wish to be in the presence of God in this most profound fashion.  The Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Christian Church of Novato, CA celebrates the Divine Liturgy each Sunday at 9:30 AM, and all are welcomed to join in this beautiful and faithful fellowship.

Visit the Nativity community this Sunday, experience ancient Christian worship through the continuity of contemporary times, and find your spiritual home!

MEDITATION ON THE EUCHARIST

  Every time we approach the holy chalice to receive Communion to the Body and Blood of Christ we say a prayer that contains words that must become true on our lips, otherwise they are a lie before God. We say to God that we are the worst sinner; we are the chief sinner that there is.

  And isn’t it natural that so often we say these words thinking, ‘This was true of the saints, who could feel that way, but I can’t feel that I am the worst of sinners.’  When we look around, when we look at the state of the world in which we live, we can see a number of people who in our eyes are worse than we are.  And regarding this I would like to remind you of a passage in the diary of Saint John of Kronstadt, who also asked himself the same question, and in the end answered it in the affirmative: ‘Yes, I know, I am the worst of all sinners.’

  And the reason he gave for this judgment of his was that he was aware of how much God had given him, and how little he had given to God in response.

  I think we must all of us begin in this frame of mind, ask ourselves: What are the gifts, which God has bestowed upon us?  What is it that makes us so happy in ourselves, or makes others so happy in us, rightly or wrongly? And when we have come to understand how much we have received, then we can ask ourselves: what are the fruits, which we have borne of these gifts?

  And we will see that, according to the first Beatitude, there is nothing in us, in our life, which is our own, of our own making. God gave us life. He gave us a body, a soul, a mind. He gave us all that fills our lives with richness. All that we are and all that we possess are gifts of his. Do we give Him gratitude for it, or do we appropriate these gifts, thinking no, they are our own really? And even when we are aware of the fact that they are not of our making, that it is God who has given us all that we are and all that we have, do we know how to be grateful and also to ask ourselves the question which I have already mentioned: what have I done with all the gifts of God? And if we go ever more deeply within ourselves and in our lives, can we begin to be able to say: yes, I really am the worst of all the sinners around me because I am so richly endowed by God and look how little, how very little, I have brought to God and to my neighbor as a result of it?

  Let us all reflect on this.  And when we come next time to Communion and we think or say these words, let us say them with at least a beginning of understanding that yes, it is true, and I know why. But come with an incipient understanding, because it takes a very long time for us to see how richly God has endowed us and how poorly we have responded to Him.  But gradually, step by step, these words will become true and we will receive Communion with a new depth of broken-heartedness and with gratitude. Amen.
                                                                                                        Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh

In Memoriam - Fr. John Asimacopoulos

Echoing the Prophet Hosea in the Old Testament, St. Paul, in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, declares triumphantly, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)  And in the passage from his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, read at the Funeral Service, he writes: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”  (I Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Our Lord has taken from our midst a beloved priest, colleague, good friend and brother in Christ; and, in addition and no less important, a beloved husband, father and grandfather.  We mourn, but we do so with hope in the Risen Lord, the Lord of Glory, the Lord that Fr. John served faithfully, sincerely and with zeal for these past fifty-four years.

I met Fr. John forty-four years ago, in 1967.  At that time he was serving the parish of the Annunciation in Modesto, where he served from 1964 to 1981.  I had been a priest for one year, having served as an assistant to Fr. Anthony Kosturos, of blessed memory, at Holy Trinity in San Francisco, and had just been assigned as pastor of the Church of St. Basil in Stockton.  Our respective ministries in these two parishes overlapped fourteen years.  In that time we forged a bond that included a lasting friendship between our families, and a number of joint ministry activities, including retreats, youth rallies, participation in the Feast Day celebrations of our parishes, and many joyous moments in the context of family and social events.

Fr. John was a good friend, and source of encouragement and good advice.  He was also honest enough, in a good-humored way, not to let you off the hook, especially if he thought you were wallowing in self-pity.  I remember very distinctly the early years of my ministry, and at times feeling sorry for my self, as the exuberance of youthful zeal came into conflict with the realities of everyday parish life.  We were having lunch and I was bemoaning and lamenting any number of things, when he looked at me, and said in his inimitable fashion, “Poulaki mou.”  The Greek version of “You poor thing.”

In his life, Fr. John strengthened and ennobled the faith and commitment of many by his faith and commitment to Christ.  He was not only a spiritual father but a natural father as well.  His Presbytera Maria was always a tremendous source of love, strength and support, throughout his ministry.  He enjoyed, and will always enjoy the deep love and respect of their children and grandchildren.  He was sincere, filled with energy and commitment.  He loved the Divine Services of the Church and celebrated them with great devotion.  He was a teacher and pursued higher education to better himself and his ability to minister to his flock.  He ministered to countless spiritual children who loved him and will continue to hold him in high esteem and regard, and will honor and cherish his memory.  Short in physical stature, but large in spiritual stature, Christ our Lord manifested His grace, power, and strength, through him and his good works, which in turn brought many blessings to many people.

Father John’s example of faith, devotion, and service, are an example and inspiration to all of us.  We are deeply grateful to God for the many years he served our Lord and His Church and his fellowman.  He inspired many generations.  May his example of unselfish service and devotion continue to inspire all of us.  The well-known author, Mark Twain, is quoted as saying “Fear of death follows from the fear of life.  A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”  Fr. John lived life fully, loving and serving God and His people, and he was prepared to go to his Lord.

May your memory be eternal, our dear and ever to be remembered brother, Fr. John, and may our gracious and loving Lord remember your priesthood in His Kingdom, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

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