16 Things Orthodox Christians Should Avoid

Avoid This Demonic Toxicity

16 Things Orthodox Christians Should Avoid - St. Tikhon - OrthodoxAndVegan.com

Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk & Friends 16 Things Orthodox Christians Should Avoid

1. Vain Thoughts
“Humility consists in considering oneself to be nothing in all circumstances, cutting off one’s will in all things, accusing oneself of everything, and bearing without confusion that which befalls him from without. Such is true humility, in which vainglory finds no place.”
– St. John the Prophet

2. Remembering Evil
“Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.”
– St. John Climacus

3. Evil Desire
4. Bad Sights
5. Vanity
6. Vile Songs
7. Slanderous Whispers
“He who wants to overcome the spirit of slander should not ascribe the blame to the person who falls, but to the demon who suggests it. For no one really wants to sin against God, even though we all sin without being forced to do so.”
– St. John Climacus

8. Condemnation
9. Blasphemy
16 Things Orthodox Christians Should Avoid - St. Tikhon - OrthodoxAndVegan.com
12. Foul Language
13. Every Idle and Rotten Word
14. Killing
15. Stealing
16. Evil Deeds

If you can avoid these 16 sins, you may find your path to theosis rewarding, triumphant, and meaningful!

Holy Unction in the Orthodox Church

Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday

Bishop Anthony reads the Seventh Prayer at the service of Holy Unction

Last night, on Holy Wednesday, Bishop Anthony was with us to celebrate the service of Holy Unction.

. . .Hearken to our supplication, and receive it as incense offered unto thee; and visit these thy servants, and if they have done aught amiss, either by word, or deed, or thought, either by night or by day; if they have fallen under the ban of a priest, or under their own anathema; or hath been embittered by an oath, and have foresworn themselves: We beseech thee and supplicate thee: loose, pardon, forgive them, O God, overlooking their sins and wickednesses, and all which they have committed knowingly or in ignorance.

-from the Seventh Prayer of Holy Unction

Holy Unction is one of the seven sacraments of the Orthodox Church, most commonly celebrated on Wednesday evening of Holy Week (although it can be done privately at any time throughout the year). This service comes from the apostolic tradition described in the New Testament, James 5:14-15, “…let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven”.
The service of Holy Unction was also recorded by St. Serapion, a fourth century bishop, in the Euchologion of Serapion of Thmuis.

Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday
The priest anoints the faithful on the forehead, hands, etc in the form of a cross saying, “The blessing of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ: for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God, [name], always: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen”

Clean Tuesday, 2016: Body & Soul

This morning I was looking over a copy of The Talanton, the newsletter from St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. Included is a good homily by Metropolitan Savas, you can read the whole homily HERE. I had a hard time picking which part to share, so this is kind of a long excerpt. Worth the read, though.

This is why we go through this period of fasting: to discipline our body, to show the body who is the boss so we are not led by it. But we are riding the body like a horse. This is why we involve our body in prayer; we do not just pray in our heads, but we involve our bodies: we raise hands, bend our knees, kiss the ground, cross ourselves. We know that whatever we do with the body affects the soul. We know that the body’s actions are an expression of this. And we know that we wait for a new heaven and earth. We aren’t expecting to be delivered from the material world – we are expecting a transfiguration of the world. . .
I want to share an extended passage from St. John [of the Ladder] that speaks to this relationship of body and soul. . .

By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what president can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I condemn him I am reconciled with him, before I can punish him I bow down before him and feel sorry for him. How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him? How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature? How can I argue with him when all the arguing of nature is on his side? If I try to bind him through fasting, then I pass judgement on a neighbor who does not fast, with the result I am handed over to him again. If I defeat him by not passing judgement, I turn proud, and I am again a prisoner to him. He is my helper and my enemy, my assistant and my opponent, a protector and a traitor. I am kind to him and he assaults me. If I wear him out he gets weak. If he has his rest he becomes unruly. If I upset him he cannot stand it. If I mortify him I endanger myself. If I strike him down, I have nothing left with to acquire the virtues. I embrace him and I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? Speak to me, speak to me my old fellow, my nature, I cannot ask anyone but you. How can I remain uninjured by you? How can I escape the danger of my own nature? I have made a promise to Christ that I will fight you, yet how can I defeat your tyranny? But this I have resolved, mainly that I am going to master you.

. . .We are living now in a period where we are trying to do just that, master our bodies, for the sake of the health of our soul, and we are in a period where we are in a sense all becoming monks and nuns. We are trying to do at least 40 days of what monks and nuns do throughout the year. You know they are the maximalists of the faith, they have the volume turned way up. They do it all the time, we try and get there every so often, and follow their example, and learn from them. And so this is the time where we, too, turn to literature such as this that feeds our souls as we try to reign in our bodies, and we thank God for the gift of St.John and we ask for his prayers always now and forever and to the ages of ages.

Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple

Entry of the Theotokos icon

Have I mentioned we’re in the midst of the Nativity Fast??? We are. I put up the afore-linked page with the fasting guidelines and forgot to mention it! But a good way to tell the fast started is the celebration of the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple which happens on the seventh day of the fast – November 21.

“The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, also called The Presentation, is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on November 21.

According to Tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken —presented—by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin until her betrothal to St. Joseph. One of the earliest sources of this tradition is the non-canonical Protoevangelion of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James.

Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was led to the holy place to become herself the “holy of holies” of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her. The Church also sees this feast as a feast which marks the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.

On the eve of the feast, Vespers is served and contains Old Testament readings that are interpreted as symbols of the Mother of God, for she becomes the living temple of God. In each reading we hear, “for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord God Almighty.” (Exodus 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35; I Kings 7:51, 8:1, 3-4, 6-7, 9-11; and Ezekiel 43:27-44)

Sometimes Matins is served on the morning of the feast. The Gospel reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56. It is read on all feasts of the Theotokos and includes the Theotokos’ saying: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

Divine Liturgy is served on the day on the feast. The epistle reading is from Hebrews 9:1-7, and speaks of the tabernacle of the old covenant. The gospel reading is taken from Luke 10:38-42 and 11:27-28 together; this reading is also read on all feasts of the Theotokos. In it, the Lord says, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
-Orthodox Wiki

Apolytikion of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, Fourth Mode:
Today is the prelude of God’s good will
and the heralding of the salvation of mankind
In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly
and she proclaimeth Christ unto all
To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud:
Rejoice, O thou fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation!

Freeing the Soul

I have been remiss with my Lenten posts this year. Here’s another gem from Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika:

Elder Thaddeus

“We cannot be saved without fighting against the devil! We are descendants of our parents, from whom we have inherited all those negative traits that are not easy to get rid of. We must suffer heartache in order for our souls to be freed from these mental bonds. Our enemy attacks either directly or else indirectly, through other people. And so we fight – according to the Lord’s providence – and we gradually come to our senses. Without misfortune there is no prayer to God.”

A Sign of Manliness

Icon of St. Maxim the Greek
“For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a shaggy chest – a sign of strength and rule.”
-Clement of Alexandria

I’m still not sure how I feel about chest hair, but science says women are generally more attracted to men with facial hair, and tend to believe bearded men will be better fathers. So dear Clement is onto something, and once again the Church seems to know what is best for us. We should probably listen to her more often.

Sharing, with Elder Thaddeus

2013921 birds in tree

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, 1914 - 2003

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, 1914 – 2003

I always end up going to the women’s book club meetings at church without having read the book. This time I went to order the book club book on Amazon, and Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica was suggested as something I might also like. So I ordered both. And now I’m reading Elder Thaddeus instead of the book club book.

Anyway, here’s a nice little story about Elder Thaddeus:

2013921 beard birdsOnce, Father Thaddeus shared a meal at Vitovnica with a pious visitor from Belgrade. After the meal, the visitor noticed several breadcrumbs in the elder’s beard. When they had both risen from the table, he gently told Fr. Thaddeus that he ought to shake the crumbs from his beard, so that the other visitors would not see them and wonder what kind of monk he was. However, the elder only smiled and said, “It is a pity to throw these crumbs away, when the birds can feast on them!” Then he sat on a bench in the garden, leaned back in his seat, and called to a sparrow sitting on a nearby tree, “Come, little sparrow, come and eat!” The visitor saw with his own eyes how the sparrow flew down and settled on Fr. Thaddeus’ beard, pecking at it until it had eaten the last crumb.

These All-Revered Days

Icon of Christ Enthroned

    O Almighty Master, Who hast made all creation and by Thine inexpressible providence and great goodness hast brought us to these all-revered days, for the purification of soul and body, for the controlling of passions and for hope of resurrection, Who, during the forty days didst give into the hands of Thy servant Moses the tablets of the Law in characters divinely traced by Thee: Enable us also, O good One, to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to preserve inviolate the faith, to crush under foot the heads of invisible serpents, to be accounted victors over sin; and, uncondemned, to attain unto and worship the Holy Resurrection. For blessed and glorified is Thine all-honorable and majestic Name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

    -Prayer just before the dismissal during the Presanctified Liturgy

We Should Look on Everyone as Good

1St. Symeon
“We, the faithful, should look upon all the faithful as one single being, and should consider that Christ dwells in each of them. We should have such love for each of them that we are willing to lay down our lives for him. Nor should we ever think or say that anyone is evil: we should look on everyone as good, as I have already said. Even should you see someone overwhelmed by some passion, execrate, not him, but the passions that fight against him. And if he is mastered by desires and prepossessions, have even greater compassion for him; for you too may be tempted, subject as you are to the same fluctuations of beguiling materiality.”

-St. Symeon the New Theologian,
from One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts, The Philokalia, Volume Four