29 March 2010

He said it better than I could

The servant of God, the Subdeacon Steve, has written a wonderful piece of reflection on the spiritual journey and the feeling of true humility that says "Lord, I know I am not worthy nor sufficiently pleasing that Thou shouldst come under the roof of the house of my soul..." It is well worth a read. Title links, but you can also click here.

26 March 2010

The Synaxis of Archangel Gabriel

from the Synaxarion:

The Archangel Gabriel was chosen by the Lord to make the blessed announcement to the Virgin Mary about the Incarnation of the Son of God from Her, to the great rejoicing of all mankind. Therefore on the day after the feast of the Annunciation -- the day itself on which the All-Pure Virgin Herself is glorified, we give thanks to the Lord and we venerate His messenger Gabriel, who contributed to the mystery of our salvation.

The holy Archistrategos Gabriel acted in service to the Almighty God. He announced to Old Testament mankind about the future Incarnation of the Son of God; he inspired the Prophet Moses during the writing of the Pentateuch books of the Bible, he announced to the Prophet Daniel about the coming tribulations of the Hebrew People (Dan. 8: 16, 9: 21-24); he appeared to Righteous Anna with the news of the birth from her of the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary. The holy Archangel Gabriel stayed constantly with the Holy Virgin Mary when She was a child in the Jerusalem Temple and afterwards watched over Her throughout all Her earthly life. He appeared to the Priest Zachariah, foretelling the birth of the Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist. The Lord dispatched him to Saint Joseph the Betrothed, where he appeared to him in a dream revealing to him the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and warned him of the wicked intentions of Herod, ordering him to flee into Egypt with the Divine-Infant and the Mother of God. When the Lord before His Passion prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to the extent of sweating blood, according to Church tradition, to strengthen Him there was sent from Heaven the Archangel Gabriel, whose very name signifies "Strength of God" (Lk. 22: 43).

The Myrh-Bearing Women heard from the Archangel the joyous news about the Resurrection of Christ.

Mindful this day of the manifold appearances of the holy Archangel Gabriel and of his zealous fulfilling of the Divine Will, and confessing his intercession before the Lord for Christians, the Orthodox Church calls upon its children with faith and with fervor to have recourse in prayer to the great Angel.

Troparion of the Archangel Gabriel Tone 4

Supreme Leader of the heavenly Hosts,/ we implore thee that by thy prayers thou wilt encircle us/ unworthy as we are,/ with the protection of the wings of thine immaterial glory,/ and guard us who fall down before thee and fervently cry:/ Deliver us from dangers,/ for thou art the commander of the Powers above.

Kontakion of the Archangel Gabriel Tone 2

Supreme Leader of God's armies and minister of the divine glory,/ prince of the Bodiless Angels and guide of men,/ ask what is good for us and great mercy,/ as Supreme Leader of the Bodiless Hosts.

Kontakion of the Archangel Tone 8

O Archangel, thou art the glorious intercessor and minister/ of the Splendid, Holy, All-accomplishing, Ineffable and Awesome Trinity./ Pray that we may be delivered from all harm and torment,/ that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O protector of thy servants.

May the Lord's faithful bodiless servant watch over you all today, my friends!

16 March 2010

Aristotle, on Ethics and Happiness

Dr. Robert Woods has posted a very fine piece over at Musings of a Christian Humanist on the subject of Aristotle and the Nicomachean Ethics. Astute readers will know that the connection between Aristotle and Christianity, and the operations of and connections between εὐδαιμονία and ἐνέργεια in both are of great interest to yours truly. Check it out--you may learn something.

12 March 2010

Sainted Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome

from the Synaxarion:

Sainted Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, was born in Rome in about the year 540. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were likewise enumerated by the Roman Church to the rank of saints. Having received a most excellent secular education, he attained to high governmental positions. And leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned with all his soul for monasticism. After the death of his father, Saint Gregory used up all his inheritance on the establishing of six monasteries. At Rome he founded a monastery in the name of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and having exchanged his capacious chambers for a narrow cell, he accepted there monastic tonsure. Afterward, on a commission entrusted to him by Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory lived for a long while in Byzantium. And there he wrote his "Exposition on the Book of Job". After the demise of Pope Pelagius, Saint Gregory was celected to the Roman See. But reckoning himself unworthy, over the course of seven months he would not consent to accept so responsible a service, and having acceded only through the entreaties of the clergy and flock, he finally accepted the consecration.

Wisely leading the Church, Sainted Gregory worked tirelessly at propagating the Word of God. Saint Gregory compiled in the Latin language the rite of the "Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts", which before him was known of only in the verbal tradition. Affirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, this liturgical rite was accepted by all the Orthodox Church.

He zealously struggled against the Donatist heresy; he likewise converted to the True Faith the inhabitants of Brittany -- pagans and Goths, adhering to the Arian heresy.

Saint Gregory left after him numerous works of writing. And after the appearance of his book, "Dialogues concerning the Life and Miracles of the Italian Fathers" (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italiorum), the saint became called "Dialogus", i.e. "teaching by dialogue conversations". Particular renown was enjoyed by his "Pastoral Rule" (or "Concerning Pastoral Service" -- Liber regulae pastoralis). In this work Saint Gregory describes from every side the model of the true pastor. There have likewise reached us his letters (848), comprised of moral guidance.

Sainted Gregory headed the Church over the course of 13 years, concerning himself over all the needs of his flock. He was characterized by an extraordinary love of poverty, for which he was vouchsafed a vision of the Lord Himself.

Pope Saint Gregory I the Great, as he is otherwise known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.

11 March 2010

Sainted Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem

from the Synaxarion:

Sainted Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus. From his youth he distinguished himself by his piety and his love for the classical sciences. He advanced especially in philosophy, for which they were wont to call him the Wise. But the future hierarch sought out higher wisdom in the monasteries, and in conversations with the wilderness-dwellers. He arrived in Jerusalem at the monastery of Saint Theodosios, and there he became close with the hieromonk John Moskhos, becoming his spiritual son and devoting himself to him in obedience. They journeyed together through the monasteries, and they wrote down descriptions of the lives and precepts of the ascetics found there. From these jottings was afterwards compiled their renown book, the "Leimonarion" or "Spiritual Meadow", which was highly esteemed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

To save themselves from the devastating incursions of the Persians, Saints John and Sophronios quit Palestine and withdrew to Antioch, and from there they went to Egypt. In Egypt Saint Sophronios became seriously ill. During this time he also decided to become a monk and so he accepted tonsure from the Monk John Moskhos. After the return to health of Saint Sophronios, they both decided to remain in Alexandria. There they were fondly received by the holy Patriarch John the Merciful (Comm. 12 November), to whom they rendered great aid in the struggle against the Monophysite heresy. At Alexandria Saint Sophronios' eyesight was afflicted, and he recoursed with prayer and faith to the holy Unmercenaries Cyrus and John (Comm. 31 January), and he received healing in a church named for them. In gratitude, Saint Sophronios then wrote the Vita of these holy unmercenary saints.

When the barbarians began to threaten Alexandria, the holy Patriarch John, accompanied by Saints Sophronios and John Moskhos, set out for Constantinople, but along the way he died. Saints John Moskhos and Sophronios with eighteen other monks then set out for Rome. At Rome the Monk John Moskhos also died (+ 622). His body was conveyed by Saint Sophronios to Jerusalem and buried at the monastery of Saint Theodosios.

In the year 628 the Jerusalem patriarch Zacharias (609-633) returned from the Persian Captivity. After his death, the patriarchal throne was occupied for a space of two years by Saint Modestos (633-634, Comm. 18 December). After the death of Saint Modestos, Saint Sophronios was chosen patriarch. Sainted Sophronios toiled much for the welfare of the Jerusalem Church as its primate (634-644).

Towards the end of his life, Saint Sophronios with his flock lived through a two year siege of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans. Worn down by hunger, the Christians finally consented to open the city gates, on the condition that the enemy spare the holy places. But this condition was not fulfilled, and holy Patriarch Sophronios died in deep grief over the desecration of the Christian holy places.

Written works by Patriarch Sophronios have come down to us in the area of dogmatics, and likewise his "Excursus on the Liturgy", the Vita of the Nun Mary of Egypt (Comm. 1 April), and also about 950 tropars and stikhi-verses from Pascha to the Ascension. While still a priestmonk, Saint Sophronios made review and corrections to the "ustav-rule" of the monastery of the Monk Sava the Sanctified (Comm. 5 December). And the "tri-odic song" of the saint for the Holy Forty Day Great Lent is included in the composition of the contemporary Lenten Triodion.

10 March 2010

The Holy Martyr Michael

from the Synaxarion:

The Holy Martyr Michael (Maurudisos) of Soluneia was by occupation a bread merchant. For his refusal to accept Islam he was burned by the Turks in the year 1544.

04 March 2010

The Monk James, the Faster

From the Synaxarion:

The Monk James the Faster asceticised not far from the Phoenician city of Porphyrion. For fifteen years he lived in a cave devoting himself to monastic deeds, and he received a gift of wonder-working from the Lord. Under his influence many of the local inhabitants were converted to the Christian faith. News about the ascetic spread everywhere, and then so as not to fall into temptation, the monk went off to another place. Having found himself a new cave, he dwelt at it for thirty years. The devil set terrible traps for the ascetic. James healed a maiden from demonic-possession, but then fell into sin with her. Distraught over this sin, he repented what he had done, and for a long time he hid himself away in the wilderness, bereft of shelter and peace, tormented by the pricks of conscience, and he was on the point of forsaking the monastic life and returning back into the world. But the immeasurable mercy of God, which the sins of this world cannot prevail against and which desireth salvation for all mankind, would not permit the ruin of this soul, sincerely having toiled so many years for its Master. The Lord undid the diabolic intent to destroy the ascetic, and returned him through repentance onto the path of salvation. Wandering about the wilderness, James caught sight of a monastery, and entering it, he confessed his sin in front of the abbot and the brethren. The abbot urged him to remain with them, fearing that he would ultimately fall into despair. But James went off and again for a long time he wandered the wilderness. And finally the All Beneficent Providence of God brought upon his path a holy hermit, filled with grace and wisdom. Lifting the repentance from him, the hermit suggested that James remain with him. But James would not remain with the elder, though encouraged and given hope by him, but rather he secluded himself in a cave and there for ten years offered repentance to God, weeping and wailing, and asking forgiveness for the sin committed. The Lord hearkened to the prayers of the penitent monk and returned unto him His mercy: James again found his gift of wonder-working. To his very death he remained in his cave, wherein he was buried.

03 March 2010

Some Housekeeping Issues

If you look immediately to your right, you'll see that there has been a change in the blogroll format here on the Codex. The reason for this is that, while in the beginning, I intended the Codex to be exclusively focused on the Orthodox spiritual life, lives of the saints, the occasional musing from this sinner on various lessons learned, and so on--it occurs to me that such a one-dimensional presentation, while perhaps beneficial for the sake of some clarity, does little to show the interaction with the post-modern world that is the stated purpose of the blog. So, to facilitate a somewhat more nuanced picture of our engagement with the culture at large--and with failings and brokenness beyond the borders of yours truly's spiritual life--I have decided to include some links to other blogs and sources of information. I want to emphasize that these are links to people and places with which I have some personal engagement; long time visitors to the Codex will know that I have always had a few "non-Orthodox" links in the blog roll. By separating them out, I am not, in any way, trying to denigrate the experiences or lessen the impact of what these people have to say, simply on the basis of their not belonging to our tradition. I do not, universally, agree with everything that they produce on their sites; my inclusion here is not an endorsement, but an engagement. There are things that we all agree on. There are things we disagree on. We move forward by discussion and cooperation.

So, in doing this re-arranging of the blogroll list, my hope is that it will provide more clarity, and promote your engagement with the world around us as well. We need not be insular in order to survive. We are called to be in the world, but not of it--but that doesn't mean we can't examine it, discuss it, understand it, with the hope of changing it through God's grace. If you find anything of value on the linked sites, please let these fine people know that you enjoy their posts. If you disagree, and can discuss your disagreements in an honest and civil fashion, I'm sure that none of them would object to robust discussion.

God be with all of you!

01 March 2010

Thoughts on Yesterday's Gospel, or We Go to Heaven Together and to Hell By Ourselves

I know the topic of corporate salvation is A Very Big Deal and one of those things that cause many Protestants looking into Orthodoxy to cringe. However, what may surprise many is to find that Jesus himself granted forgiveness of sins based on the faith of others. Specifically, if we look at the first Gospel (St. Mark II:1-12) reading from yesterday (the story of the healing of the paralytic) we see just that:
And again he entered into Capernaum, after [some] days; and it was understood that he was in the house. And forthwith many were assembled, so that there was no room to receive [them], no not so much as about the door: and he preached the word to them. And they come to him, bringing one sick with the palsy, who was borne by four. And when they could not come nigh to him by reason of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed on which the sick with the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick with the palsy, Son, thy sins are forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this [man] thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said to them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the sick with the palsy, [Thy] sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, he saith to the sick with the palsy, I say to thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
I have drawn emphasis to the relevant passage above. What we see from the scripture's teaching is that this man who had been sick with palsy was forgiven his sins because of the faith of his friends, and their loving action to do whatever was necessary to put him in the path of the Lord. Now, I'm not saying that people don't have some responsibility for their own salvation (after all, the paralytic man could have refused to believe in his healing, and remained firmly in his bed), but it seems to me that the "ruggedly individualistic" notion of salvation is not scriptural. We are saved by the Church...and that salvation by grace is not mediated just through the enumerated Sacraments, but also through the sacrament of being brought together from all the tribes, nations, language-cultures and political persuasions in the world into one body, one holy nation, one Church. The visible expression of the mystical union is the Sacrament of Communion (which, in mystery, makes this real--that we be one flock with one shepherd). And it seems to me that through this mystical union, we are supported and support one another in faith; indeed, we go to Heaven together, and to hell by ourselves.

Pax vobiscum+