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We publish Father's writings on his Orthodox Christian Meditations blog, which is enabled for subscription, comments and search. Further down this page you will find other select treasures on Orthodox Spirituality, and links to other sites of interest. We invite you to linger here a while, and to return often.
A Classic Article and Podcasts on the Resurrection
Living in the Light of the Resurrection
Fr Steven C. Kostoff
Christ is Risen!
In May 2008, Fr Steven gave a two-part talk on the Resurrection, at Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, to a retreat of the Midwest Antiochian Women's Association.
This warm and inspiring, richly developed presentation on the Resurrection of Christ was digitally recorded in excellent quality, and made available as a special podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. We rejoice to make it available again here during the Paschal season.
Save it to your computer, smartphone and tablet. Share the joyful message of the reality of Christ's Resurrection with your family and friends!
Indeed He is Risen!
Part 2: Living in the Light of the Resurrection
Be sure also to read Fr. Steven's classic article in defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus:
A "classic" by Archbishop Kallistos Ware
Perhaps one of the best all-around essays on Great Lent was written by Archbishop Kallistos Ware as an Introduction to his translation of The Lenten Triodion (the book that provides the hymnography and scriptural readings for Great Lent). The article has the simple title of "The Meaning of Great Lent," but is already a kind of "classic" as Archbishop Ware offers brilliant insights into the nature of meaning of fasting within the context of our preparation for the great paschal mystery. If you search hard enough, you could probably find this article somewhere on the internet. (If you undertake that search, let me know if you find it!). However, some years back our dear friend Mother Paula (formally Vicki Bellas) created an excellent summary of the most essential points of the article in a very accessible and "handy" version. She was able to convey the content of the article in a "reader-friendly" form so that everyone can gain access to Archbishop Ware's teaching without the full article at hand.
Therefore, to share this with everyone, I am attaching this shortened version from Mother Paula so that you can carefully read through it, gain new insight into Great Lent, and perhaps make provisions for incorporating some of this teaching in your upcoming Lenten efforts. As in all insightful writing on Great Lent, we find ourselves quickly moving beyond the "rules of fasting," and into the deepest realms of repentance, conversion, renewal, etc.
If you have any furthers questions, or would like to discuss anything that you read in this article, please feel free to contact me.
Besides the Bible What Other Book Are You Reading for Great Lent?
Turning again to another "classic" - Great Lent by Fr. Alexander Schmemann - I would like to share what he briefly writes there about "Lenten reading:"
It is also a good time to read a religious book. The purpose of this reading is not only to increase our knowledge about religion; it is mainly to purify our mind
from all that which usually fills it. It is simply incredible how crowded our minds are with all kinds of cares, interests, anxieties, and impressions, and how
little control we have over that crowd. Reading a religious book, concentrating our attention on something entirely different from the usual contents of our
thinking, creates by itself another mental and spiritual atmosphere. - (Great Lent, p. 91)
Too much pop culture? Sports? Politics? Internet reading? A good theological/spiritual book would be the perfect remedy for the over-crowded mind alluded to by Fr. Schmemann.
Speaking of good Lenten reading, there are many excellent choice in our parish bookstore. We will try to have about three copies of Fr. Schmemann's Great Lent on hand in the near future (I believe that we do have one copy available right now). There are many other good choices already available there on theology, spirituality, liturgy, iconography, patristics, etc.
There is also the possibility of simply reading some good literature, like one of the enduring classics of our Western tradition. These enduring classics are read to this day precisely because of what they reveal about "life." There is often a hidden "theology" there that can penetrate or minds and hearts in an imperceptible but satisfying manner. (Of course, the greatest example of such a work would be The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky).
In addition, we have slowly and steadily built up an impressive library catalogued downstairs in the parish library section of our Education Center. Could I assist you in finding just the "right book" out of our library? Please let me know
Orthodox Q&A Forum — This special section enables you to easily send a question or message about any topic related to the Orthodox Church, her practices, dogmas, teachings, how she encounters and responds to the challenges of life in the 21st century.
During certain seasons, such as Pascha, Great Lent, the Nativity Fast, and at other times, these brief messages can become more frequent, and make for a shaft of light in the midst of one's day or week. Fr. Steven's Midweek Meditations, Thursday Theological Thoughts, and Fragments for Friday are the most welcome emails to receive!
Fr. Steven's meditations from late 2007 through the present are archived and easily browsed or searched through the Meditations Blog. Meditations from 2004 through 2007 are now archived on a separate page on this site. Earlier meditations dating back to 2001 are to follow as phase two of the archive project.
Fr. Steven's Guide to the Divine Liturgy
Fr. Steven's book, The Divine Liturgy, Meaning, Preparation and Practice,
is a clear, concise look at the main worship service of the Orthodox Church. Ideal for inquirers and catechumens. Available through the parish bookstore, or
Contact Fr Steven for more details and to order.
Published by Synaxis Press.
Fr. Steven Interviewed on The Illumined Heart Podcast on AFR
Oct 22, 2010
DOWNLOAD NOW: 'Immortality of the soul', or 'Resurrection of the dead?"with Father Steven Kostoff, features Fr. Steven's interview and discussion with host Kevin Allen. The Illumined Heart is one of Orthodoxy's premier internet podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, and each week presents an encounter with an Orthodox Christian we should know, discussing the issues that form, inform, and transform our lives. This is Father Steven's first appearance on The Illumined Heart. AXIOS Father Steven!
Seeds of Wisdom
Updated April 26, 2010
St Gregory Palamas Monastery
TWO VIEWS OF MONASTICISM
Life In A Monastery (an interview by Ancient Faith Radio) - Mother Abbess Gabriella, of Holy Dormition Monastery, Rives Jct MI.
Why Be A Monk? - Abbott Jonah Paffhausen (before he was elevated to Metropolitan of the OCA) (pdf format).
Do Not React - Also by Abbott Jonah; A distillation of the ascetical/spiritual teaching of the Orthodox Church.
Firmly rooted and grounded in the fullness of Orthodox Patristic Tradition, OCIC is one of the largest and oldest sites on Orthodox Christianity. Think of the OCIC as a vast online article repository, with over 700 articles and 6,000 printed pages. This site has been online since 1996 and receives over 36,000 unique visitors per month.
Numerous topical sections, including:
Books Published by the Monastery:
Two Elders on The Jesus Prayer
Recollections of Mount Athos
We warmly thank Archbishop Lazar
for visiting Christ the Savior on November 16, 2008.
A Word from the Holy Fathers
Posted October 26, 2009
Monachos.net provides many in-depth resources on Orthodox patristics, theology and monasticism. This special feature of their website is unique:
"A Word from the Holy Fathers is a start page for your browser, randomly displaying a different set of patristic quotations each time it is loaded. Click here for a full index of short sayings (and to contribute); here for full patristic texts; and here for our radio broadcasts on the Fathers."
On Frequent Reception of Holy Communion
Posted October 13, 2010
Dear Parish Faithful,
One more mailing for the day! Last Sunday's homily dealt with the theme of frequent Communion. Here is a forceful argument in favor by Archbishop Lazar. He makes the point for regular Communion based on the Church Fathers - especially St. John Chrysostom - and the canons of the various church councils.
Synaxis Press Tracts, Nr. 3:
(Canadian Centre for Patristic and Biblical Studies)
HOW OFTEN SHOULD ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS RECEIVE
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
If we search the canons which the Holy Spirit has given us through the Holy Church, and the teachings of our Holy and Godbearing fathers, then we will find that with one accord and as if with a single voice, they direct us to partake of the Holy Mystery not merely frequently, but constantly.
The practice of infrequent Communion, whatever its precise origin, became concrete in some of the local churches as a result of Latin influence (primarily, of course, through the Uniate occupation of Western Russia and the Ukraine - prior to this century, Latins were deprived of frequent communion and were taught to commune only four times a year).
Many of the legalistic arguments of the Latins have been employed by some of our own people in trying to maintain the non-Orthodox practice of infrequent Communion. No one, however, has been able to justify it by Orthodox Christian means. "0, the power of custom and prejudice, " laments St John Chrysostom.
The canons of God's Church answer our question in this manner:
The Holy Apostles have decreed that, "All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scripture, but do not remain for prayer and [partaking oj] the Holy Mysteries must be excommunicated. ... " (c.9 of the Apostles).
According to the explication of the canon in the Rudder, this means that all who are not penitents and who thus remain for the prayers, not departing when the proclamation "Depart!" is heard, must without fail receive Holy Communion. Our Holy and Godbearing fathers gathered in the Holy Spirit at Antioch directed us:
"And those persons who enter the church and listen to the sacred Scriptures, but shun the participation in the Eucharist, ... we decree that these people be outcasts from the Church until they confess and exhibit the fruits of repentance. " (c.2 of Antioch).
The explication of the canon explains that this refers precisely to people who excuse themselves for abstaining from Holy Communion "on account of humility or reverence." Such humility would be feigned since it is contradictory to obedience and such reverence would be false since the greatest act of reverence to the Eucharist is partaking of it.
Again, our Holy and God-bearing father Timothy of Alexandria (ca 370) expresses the universal consensus ofthe Holy Church when he is asked:
"If anyone who is a believer be possessed of a demon, ought he to partake of the Holy Mysteries or not?"
"If he does not repudiate the Mystery, nor otherwise in anyway blaspheme, let him commune, but not every day in the week; for it is sufficient for him on the Lord's Day only. "
In other words, even a person possessed of a demon is to partake of the Holy Mystery every Sunday, while, it is quite clear, the rest of the faithful are to partake every day, where possible.
St John Chrysostom seems to synthesize the thoughts of the fathers and give expression to the concept of the Church conscience on partaking of the Holy Mysteries, in his Homily 3 on Ephesians. Here, he instructs both those who would take communion too lightly and without preparation and those who fail to take Communion at each Divine Liturgy:
"I observe how many partake of Christ's Body lightly and just as it happens, and rather from custom and form than from consideration and understanding.."
The Saint makes this charge not against those who commune regularly, but against those who commune only on a few feast days. He continues:
"When, says one, the holy season of Lent sets in, whatever a man may be, he partakes of the Mysteries, or when the day of the Lord's Theophany comes. And yet it is not the Theophany nor is it Lent that makes a fit time for approaching, but it is sincerity and purity of soul. With this, approach at all times; without it, never. 'For as often, he [Paul] says, 'as you do this, you proclaim the Lord's death,' that is, you make remembrance of the salvation that has been wrought for you, and the benefits which I have bestowed. ' .... And do you, when you draw nigh to a sacrifice at which the very angels tremble, do you measure the matter by the revolution of season? Observe the vast inconsistency of the thing. At the other times, you do not come ... ; but at Pascha, no matter how flagrant an act you may have committed, you come. Oh, the power of custom and prejudice! In vain is the daily Sacrifice [offered}, in vain do we stand before the altar! There is no one to partake. I am not saying these things to induce you to partake under any circumstances, but that you should render yourselves worthy to partake. Are you not worthy of the Sacrifice nor of the participation [in Communion}? If so, then neither are you worthy] of the prayer. You hear the herald say, 'Depart!' As many as do not partake are in penitence. If you are one of those you ought not to partake; ... Why then does he say depart you that are not qualified to pray, while you have the effrontery to stand still? You are not of the number of those who are qualified to partake and yet you are indifferent about it and regard the matter as nothing. "
And here is the point. It is not those who partake constantly of the Holy Mysteries who take them for granted, but it is those who do not partake who count it as insignificant, for, if they did not take the Holy Mystery merely for granted, then they would either prepare themselves to partake, or else depart weeping that they were unworthy to do so, when the deacon proclaims, "Depart!" Those who partake constantly, on the other hand, do not take the Eucharist for granted, but rather count it as the greatest necessity for their lives.
"Look, I entreat you, "Chrysostom continues: "A royal table is set before you, angels minister at the table, the King Himself is there, and do you stand gaping? Are your garments defiled and yet you take no account of it? Or are they clean? Then partake .... For everyone that does not partake of the Mysteries is standing here in shameless effrontery. It is for this reason that they which are in sins are first of all sent out .... You [who are not partaking] are no more allowed to be here than the catechumen is.
"One might go on to other points, and those more awful still; but in order not to burden your understanding, these will suffice. They who are not brought to their senses with these certainly will not be with more. That I may not then be the means of increasing your condemnation, I entreat you not to forbear coming to church, but to render yourselves worthy of being present and of approaching Uor Communion]. "
Finally, our Holy and God-bearing fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, calling upon us to come forth for Holy Communion have taught us:
"The divine Apostle loudly proclaims that man created in the image of God is to be a body of Christ and a temple. Standing, therefore, far above all sensible creation and having attained to a heavenly dignity by virtue of the saving Passion, by eating and drinking Christ as a source of life, he readjusts both his eternal soul and his body and by partaking of the divine Grace he is continually sanctified" (c.1 0 1 of 6;. cf lCor.l2:27; 2Cor.6:16).
Preparation for Communion
Updated November 15, 2009
Dear Parish Faithful,
As we begin a new Church year, it is always helpful to remind ourselves of how we are practicing our Orthodox Faith. At the heart of that "practice" is our preparation for, and reception of, the Eucharist. Therefore, I have attached a document dealing with our preparation, so that it be in a "worthy manner." This article goes into some depth in explaining the meaning and purpose behind preparing to receive Holy Communion. These are meant to be guidelines that assist in creating a "eucharistic discipline" rather than an air-tight set of "rules" that are meant to be legalistically adhered to.
Please pass on any questions or concerns.
Preparing to Receive Holy Communion in a Worthy Manner
A Smile from Eternity
Added July 30, 2009
Dear Parish Faithful,
I had to send along these remarkable photographs and the explanatory texts below. This is an incredible example of what we mean by "falling asleep in the Lord." Have you ever seen anyone in a coffin with such a smile on his face?! No wonder the article is entitled "A Smile From Eternity." All of the eyewitnesses must have been overwhelmed with the certainty that they were burying a saint. The Holy Mountain - Mt. Athos - has a great reputation for sanctity even to this day.
~ Fr Steven
Links to the Articles:
A Smile from Eternity
This warm, brief article describes the funeral of Blessed Elder Joseph and the effect his radiant smile had on all those present. (Note: the website seems to be in Greek, but the article has been translated into English - just scroll down.)
Why is the Smile of Elder Joseph of Vatopedi from Eternity?
As the photos and text in this article show, Elder Joseph did not repose smiling, but rather, his smile appeared some forty-five minutes after his death!