On Having Children in Marriage

Abbot Tryphon very succinctly and beautifully put the role of contraception within marriage.  This is the teaching that we hear at Holy Apostles, as handed down through my seminary formation and lessons from the holy men I know.

 

Marriage, for the Orthodox Christian, is to have as it’s foundation, Jesus Christ, and a commitment to live in full communion with the Church. When a couple are joined together in this mystical (sacramental) union with one another, they become one flesh, and begin their relationship as one. The crowning ceremony in the Orthodox service symbolizes martyrdom of self and a commitment to sacrifice self-will for the good of the marriage.

Marriage is not about sexual gratification, although sexual intimacy is an important component of any healthy marriage. But the intimacy of the marriage bed must be open to the possibility of having children. The Church allows no form of contraception that is abortifacient, and the Fathers of the Church, such as Ss. Athanasius the Great, John Chrysostom, Epiphanios, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Caesarious, Gregory the Great, Augustine of Canterbury and Maximos the Confessor, all explicitly condemned abortion as well as the use of abortifacients…

To read the rest, click here.

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Dinner and Fireside Chat with Abp Michael

This evening, Abp Michael is visiting the Lansing and Ithaca area to spend an evening with our Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) students. This is the second year he has traveled to our little town to spend time with the college students, and we are quite grateful for his leadership, compassion and love. After the steak dinner (we are living the festive life in this fast free week), His Eminence will hold a fireside chat with the young adults. How blessed we truly are to spend an evening with our archpastor.

This dinner is a kick off to a great week of events for the OCF.  On Friday, the head to Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Elwood City, PA for a pre-lenten retreat.

PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE, METROPOLITAN TIKHON Concerning the Meeting of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis

Below is a letter that His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon released a week or so ago concerning the meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Russia and Pope Francis of Rome.  It is a call to firmness of our faith, and to carry out the Gospel in all places to serve the Body of Christ. 

The joint statement from Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis can be read here

To the Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Christ is in our midst!

On Friday, February 12, 2016, the world watched as Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis greeted each other at the Havana airport in Cuba, bringing the leaders of the Church of Russia and the Roman Catholic Church into dialogue for the first time in history.

While some may question the motivation, the timing or the purpose of this event, we, in the Orthodox Church in America, should give thanks to God that we are witnesses to such a historic meeting between two important Christian world leaders. Their personal encounter is a further step in the nourishing of fruitful relationships between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches, relationships already affirmed by the Pope’s previous meetings with His All-Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and Primates of other Orthodox Churches.  Now, the meeting of the Patriarch of Moscow with the Pope of the Catholic Church offers a sign of hope that the Orthodox Churches are walking together on the path of collaboration with the Catholic Church.  As the Orthodox Churches prepare for the Great and Holy Synod being convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in June on the Island of Crete, we acknowledge that all signs of hope, unity, and reconciliation are gifts of God’s mercy and grace.

This most recent meeting can only serve to strengthen the foundation for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, particularly in the face of the many challenges faced by Christianity in the modern world. The Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting will certainly serve as an important document, one that not only outlines those challenges, but provides a direction for a unified Christian response to issues that include the persecution of Christians and other religious groups, the erosion of traditional Gospel values, threats to religious freedom, and the crisis of the family.

At the same time, the Joint Statement also highlights many points that have a practical application to those of us living in North America. For years, the Orthodox Christian faithful here have found common cause with their brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church, joining together in giving witness on a number of moral issues, such as the sanctity of life and social justice, and engaging in theological dialogue, especially over the last 50 years. In this sense, our experience as Orthodox Christians in the United States, Canada and Mexico could serve as an example of hope for those regions in which Orthodox-Catholic tensions are painfully evident.

Friday’s meeting gives evidence to the reality that world religious leaders can set aside differences in order to draw attention to the very real suffering of people around the world, whose freedom to live as their consciences direct is under constant threat or outright persecution. We, Orthodox Christians in North America, ought to heed the call of the Patriarch and the Pope to give witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by calling upon the international community to act urgently to prevent the further extermination of Christians in the Middle East and to end the violence and terrorism in Syria and Iraq by every peaceful means possible.

We should continue to pray, as we have been, for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in regions such as Ukraine; for the release of those kidnapped, especially Metropolitans John and Paul in Syria; and for the victims of violence and their communities in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East as a whole. We also can bear witness, in our own local communities, to the peace and joy of the resurrection and by the remembrance of the words of the statement that “No crime may be committed in God’s name, ‘since God is not the God of disorder but of peace’ [1 Corinthians 14:33].”

Finally, I would highlight the emphasis the Joint Statement placed on the central role our young people have to play in all of these areas. At a time when our deeply held faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel is under threat, in these very disturbing modern times, our young people should become the leaders who help our world focus on the spiritual values preserved as a great treasure by our Orthodox faith.

Friday’s meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, with God’s blessing, may be a milestone in the rediscovery of the shared spiritual tradition of Orthodox and Catholic Christians during the first millennium of Christianity. But it should, above all, be a source of inspiration for each of us in our own journey to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, through a life of prayer, of humility and of love, so that, in whatever simple and undramatic way, we may do our part in fulfilling the Lord’s prayer, ‘that they may be one as You and I are one’ [John 17:21].

With love in Christ,

+ Tikhon
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

THE DIVINE CHILD BY PROTOPRESBYTER ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN

Schmemann with Gifts“The eternal God was born as a little child.” One of the main hymns of Christmas ends with these words, identifying the child born in a Bethlehem cave as “the eternal God.” This hymn was composed in the sixth century by the famous Byzantine hymnographer Roman the Melodist:

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels, with shepherds, glorify him!
The wise men journey with the star!
Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child!
(Kontakion of Christmas)

The Child as God, God as Child…Why does joyful excitement build over the Christmas season as people, even those of lukewarm faith and unbelievers, behold that unique, incomparable sight of the young mother holding the child in her arms, and around them the “wise men from the East,” the shepherds fresh from night-watch in their fields, the animals, the open sky, the star? Why are we so certain, and discover again and again, that on this sorrowful planet of ours there is nothing more beautiful and joyful than this sight, which the passage of centuries has proven incapable of uprooting from our memory? We return to this sight whenever we have nowhere else to go, whenever we have been tormented by life and are in search of something that might deliver us…

It is the words “child” and “God” which give us the most striking revelation about the Christmas mystery. In a certain profound way, this is a mystery directed toward the child who continues to secretly live within every adult, to the child who continues to hear what the adult no longer hears, and who responds with a joy which the adult, in his mundane, grown-up, tired and cynical world, is no longer capable of feeling. Yes, Christmas is a feast for children, not just because of the tree that we decorate and light, but in the much deeper sense that children alone are unsurprised that when God comes to us on earth, he comes as a child.

This image of God as child continues to shine on us through icons and through innumerable works of art, revealing that what is most essential and joyful in Christianity is found precisely here, in this eternal childhood of God. Adults, even the most sympathetic to “religious themes,” desire and expect religion to give explanations and analysis; they want it to be intelligent and serious. Its opponents are just as serious, and in the end, just as boring, as they confront religion with a hail of “rational” bullets. In our society, nothing better conveys our contempt than to say “it’s childish.” In other words, it’s not for adults, for the intelligent and serious. So children grow up and become equally serious and boring. Yet Christ said “become like children” (Mt 18:3). What does this mean? What are adults missing, or better, what has been choked, drowned or deafened by a thick layer of adulthood? Above all, is it not that capacity, so characteristic of children, to wonder, to rejoice and, most importantly, to be whole both in joy and sorrow? Adulthood chokes as well the ability to trust, to let go and give one’s self completely to love and to believe with all one’s being. And finally, children take seriously what adults are no longer capable of accepting: dreams, that which breaks through our everyday experience and our cynical mistrust, that deep mystery of the world and everything within it revealed to saints, children, and poets.

Thus, only when we break through to the child living hidden within us, can we inherit as our own the joyful mystery of God coming to us as a child. The child has neither authority nor power, yet the very absence of authority reveals him to be a king; his defenselessness and vulnerability are precisely the source of his profound power. The child in that distant Bethlehem cave has no desire that we fear him; He enters our hearts not by frightening us, by proving his power and authority, but by love alone. He is given to us as a child, and only as children can we in turn love him and give ourselves to him. The world is ruled by authority and power, by fear and domination. The child God liberates us from that. All He desires from us is our love, freely given and joyful; all He desires is that we give him our heart. And we give it to a defenseless, endlessly trusting child.

Through the feast of Christmas, the Church reveals to us a joyful mystery: the mystery of freely given love imposing itself on no one. A love capable of seeing, recognizing and loving God in the Divine Child, and becoming the gift of a new life.

– Excerpt from Celebration of Faith, Vol. 2: The Church Year by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Metropolitan Tikhon’s Nativity Message

ARCHPASTORAL MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE, METROPOLITAN TIKHON

FOR THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2015

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

To the Honorable Clergy, Venerable Monastics,and Pious Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,

My Beloved Brethren and Blessed Children in the Lord,

It is my joy and privilege to greet all of you on the radiant feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  In some 700 communities large and small sprinkled across the North American continent, from Canada, to the United States and Mexico, we gather together to celebrate the wonder of God’s entry into human history.  For many in our society this message is still as foolish as it was in the first century.  But we continue to stand with the saints beside the manger, the Cross and the empty tomb to proclaim God’s sacrificial love for us and for His Creation.  As we sing on Christmas Day:

I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will make all Thy wonders known
In the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord!
They are studied by all who have pleasure in them!
His work is glory and beauty, and His righteousness endures forever.
—Christmas Day, 1st Antiphon (Psalm 111:1-3)

Truly, “Great are the works of the Lord!”

He sees a world filled with suffering and He Himself voluntarily suffers to make a path to healing.

He sees a world dying and He Himself dies to bring resurrection and unending life.

He sees a world in darkness and He Himself enters that darkness to bring a divine light that can never be extinguished.

He sees a world in bondage to the forces of evil and He submits Himself to that evil in order to destroy it forever.

The God Who is “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible and eternally the same” empties Himself of power and divine privilege.  He becomes a weak, fragile human being in order to share fully in our broken existence and in so doing offers the possibility of a life in communion with Him, with each other, and with all creation.

May our Lord bless each of you, your communities, and your families as you celebrate His Nativity and serve Him.

With love in the New-Born Christ,

+ Tikhon
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Abp Michael’s Nativity Message

Archpastoral Letter for the Feast of the Nativity 2015

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Friday, December 25th, 2015

Dearly Beloved of Our Diocesan Family:

Christ is Born! – Let us glorify Him!

One of the most beautiful prayers ever composed for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was written by Saint Ephraim the Syrian. Ephraim was a Syriac and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century. He wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems and sermons in verse, as well as Biblical exegesis in prose. His works are hailed by Christians throughout the world, and he is venerated by various traditions as a saint. He is especially beloved in the Syrian Orthodox tradition.

From across more than sixteen centuries here are the words of his Prayer for the Nativity Feast:

 Child of Bethlehem, what contrasts Your embrace!

No one has ever been so humble;

no one has ever wielded such power.

We stand in awe of Your holiness,

and yet we are bathed in Your love.

And where shall we look for You?

You are in high heaven, in the glory of the Godhead.

Yet those who searched for You on earth

found You in a tiny baby at Mary’s breast.

We come in hushed reverence to find You as God,

and You welcome us as man.

We come unthinkingly to find You as man,

and are blinded by the light of Your Godhead.

You are the heir to King David’s throne,

but You renounced all of his royal splendor.

Of all his luxurious bedrooms,

You chose a stable.

Of all his magnificent beds,

You chose a feeding trough.

Of all his golden chariots,

You chose a donkey.

Never was there a King like You!

Instead of royal isolation,

You made Yourself available

to everyone who needed You.

Instead of high security,

You made Yourself vulnerable

to those who hated You.

It is we who need You, above anything in the world.

You give Yourself to us with such total generosity,

that it might almost seem that You need us.

There never was a king like this before!

On this year’s Feast of Christmas, it is my hope that all of us realize personally the truth of St. Ephraim’s words: “It is we who need You, above anything in the world.” It is the Lord God Who has given us the gift of life; every breath we draw is from His Holy Spirit. He has blessed us with our health, our strengths, our talents … our family, our life situation, our destiny. He alone forgives our sins, heals our infirmities, grants us communion with His Divinity … it is in Him that all love has its origin, and it is He Who loves us more than we love ourselves.

The miracle of the Incarnation is that “You give Yourself to us with such total generosity, that it might almost seem that You need us.” It is unimaginable that the All-Powerful God would come to earth as a helpless infant in the cold and darkness and poverty of a cave in Bethlehem. It is unthinkable that the Lord of Life would choose to experience death in the flesh for His creatures. And it is unfathomable that the All-Good God would endure suffering and death for us even while we were sinners. No wonder St. Paul wrote of Christ’s coming in the flesh: “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).

It is my fervent prayer that this year, we will choose the real meaning of the Nativity over the commercialism of a cultural holiday. May we celebrate this Christmas in the spirit of the Scripture and tell our children and grandchildren “why this night is different from all other nights.” May we set aside time from opening presents, to participate in the divine services in our parish churches — and share with the angels their hymns of praise to the Infant Savior: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” May we join the shepherds in “glorifying and praising God for all things that they had heard and seen” and then, as they did, make known to others what has been revealed to us — by witnessing to and sharing our faith in the Christ Child with those persons we know who have no church. And, after the example of the Wise Men who followed the star and “presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” to the new-born King, let us offer Him the gifts of our time, our talent and our treasure in His service and to His glory.

May your Christmas and coming new year be filled with all the joy and blessings of the First Nativity … and because of the Gift that we receive, may we commend our whole lives to Christ our God … knowing that “There never was a king like this before!”

With my humble prayers, my archpastoral blessing and my sincere love, I remain

Devotedly yours in the Infant Messiah,

+ MICHAEL

Archbishop of New York and the

Diocese of New York and New Jersey

The Nativity: A Reflection St. Nikolai Velimirovic

St Nikolai Photo.jpgThe Lord Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was first worshiped by shepherds and wise men (astrologers) from the east – the simplest and the wisest of this world. Even today, those who most sincerely worship the Lord Jesus as God and Savior are the simplest and the wisest of this world. Perverted simplicity and half-learned wisdom were always the enemies of Christ’s divinity and His Gospel. But who were these wise men from the east? Continue reading “The Nativity: A Reflection St. Nikolai Velimirovic”