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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fr. Cyril visited community of Bhalwal and offered prayer with faithful.

Fr. Cyril visited community of Bhalwal and offered prayer with faithful.






Monday, January 26, 2015

Giving Thanks Unto the Lord: On the Healing of the Ten Lepers

And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole (Luke 17: 12-19).
Giving Thanks Unto the Lord: On the Healing of the Ten Lepers

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
Now the Holy Church proclaims to us the Gospel of the Savior’s healing of ten lepers.
The Lord Jesus Christ was going to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. At then entrance of one of the villages, He was met by ten lepers.
It was impossible to look without compassion upon these unfortunates, because leprosy is a terrible and contagious disease, which was widespread in those days, causing immense suffering.
Those afflicted by this terrible disease were covered with fetid ulcers. The bodies of the sufferers were subjected to rot and decay. Parts and members of their bodies rotted and fell off. Their faces were made unrecognizable.
These unfortunates, besides their unbearable physical sufferings, also experienced bitter moral torments, for according to the Law of Moses they had to show themselves to the priests who, establishing the validity of the leprosy, had to declare them unclean. Then they were cast out from society, did not have the right to live in cities and towns, and were forced to wander in deserted areas, not even having the right to drink water from rivers and other public bodies of waters, in order to avoid infecting them.
Bishop Nektary of Seattle
Bishop Nektary of Seattle
This is why these ten living dead men, expelled and rejected by all, did not dare to approach Christ but, believing in His power to heal them, called out from a distance: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” The Lord, showing mercy upon them, said: Go, show yourselves to the priests, for only the priests, according to the same Law of Moses, had the right to declare them clean again and to return them to life in society.
Further, the Holy Evangelist Luke relates how, walking along, they were cleansed. Imagine these sufferers, who were doomed to slow decay, who had been rejected by parents, mother, father, children, friends, and society as a whole. They had lost hope for recovery, wandering in rags in desert places.
Imagine them going to Jerusalem, according to the Lord’s word, to show themselves to the priests and noticing that the stench of their ulcers had suddenly disappeared, their pain had subsided, their rotted members had been restored, and they had become normal people, full of strength and health.
Without doubt, the miracle of their healing and the joyful sense of life that always accompanies the restoration of health, gave them the ability to experience vividly the omnipotence of Jesus.
There were healthy, they were clean, and they were brought back to life with all its joys.
It would seem that a natural sense of justice should have encouraged them to return immediately to their Benefactor and – from all their heart, filled with joy and happiness – give thanks to Him for their healing, for the miraculous restoration of their live, and to bring Him love and devotion. And, undoubtedly, the Lord would have accepted their feelings and shone a new light of His grace upon them.
However, the Gospel proclaims that only one of them, seeing himself being healed, returned and, with a loud voice, glorified God and fell at His feet, glorifying Him – and a Samaritan at that.
How touching this Samaritan is; how close to our hearts he is. How good he is in his reverent and saving delight when, seeing himself healed, he did not doubt or hesitate, but hurried to his Savior, glorifying God with a loud voice and now lying prostrate at the feet of his Healer, of his Lord, with tender and filial love thanking Him with his heart and giving Him praise.
Oh, doubtlessly the Lord rejoiced in spirit at the acquisition of this new, once lost sheep.
However, only one of those healed returned to Christ.
But what about the rest?
But the others left Him, perhaps forever.
The Lord grieves over these ten and His grief is meekly expressed in the words: Were not ten healed? But where are the nine? For, if after being healed, in the first minutes of joy did not remember Him, would they remember Him after they had returned to their previous vain lives, to carnal pleasures and cares?
We will not look for the causes of this callous ingratitude of the nine healed Jews. Let us look to ourselves alone with our conscience, honestly comparing ourselves with the men who had been healed.
Do we, at least to some small degree, resemble the thoughtful and grateful Samaritan who fell at the Savior’s feet?
No, of course not!
We are followers of those nine ungrateful Jews and, along with them, we do not thank the Lord for His great goodness and all-good Providence for us sinners.
For the gifts and mercies that the Lord has shown us, the unworthy, are innumerable.
The Lord called us out of non-being, creating us according to His Image and Likeness.
The Lord granted us the greatest divine gift: free will.
He gave us the opportunity of endless perfection, of growing closer to our Creator.
But when we had abused these gifts and voluntarily surrendered to evil, having become enslaved to the devil, God sent His Only-Begotten Son for the redemption of our sins at a precious cost: the cost of His Blood.
If only we would repent!
The Lord has granted us countless earthly, physical, and spiritual goods, leading us by His divine providence to salvation.
We observe the Savior’s good Providential Right Hand in our everyday life, indeed at every step.
Even the fact that we find ourselves in this prosperous and free country; even the fact that we are here in church and present at the Divine Liturgy – is a great mercy of God.
Do we fall down like the grateful Samaritan at the feet of the Savior and commend Him with praise?
But God does not love the ungrateful.
In the Epistle that was read today, the Holy Apostle Paul speaks of the necessity of giving thanks to God, who has called us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light; He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption through His Blood and the forgiveness of sins.
In Holy Scripture we find many more places that speak of the necessity of giving thanks to the Lord for all things.
Thus, the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Philippians says: But in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God  (Philippians 4:6); and to the Ephesians: Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). Addressing the Thessalonians, the Holy Apostle writes: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Thus, one should give thanks unto the Lord not only for joy and pleasure, but also for the sorrows – which are sometimes very grievous – that are sent to us.
For it is by many tribulations that we enter the Heavenly Kingdom.
If we will consider the sorrows that are sent to us in this sense and humbly bear them for the Lord’s sake, offering up thanksgiving for them in prayers, then afflictions, too, will bring spiritual joy.
I recall the late Hieromonk Nikon, who was arrested by the Bolsheviks in Optina and exiled to Turkestan. Suffering from tuberculosis, weak, frail, and emaciated; having undergone beatings, slander, and a cruel, unjust, evil, and deceitful trial; having been sent to this hot region to hard labor – he, this hieromartyr, wrote to his friends that he was boundlessly, with all his heart, grateful to God that He had permitted him to endure this suffering for His Holy Name’s sake.
He wrote that the commandment Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12) applied directly to him, and that he bore all these sufferings according to Christ’s commandments in great spiritual joy and spiritual gladness.
Indeed, we are infinitely far from such holy people, for we are weak in spirit, and do not even dare think of such grace.
We should accept the sorrows that are sent to us meekly and submissively, as deserved; moreover, we should realize that we deserve even greater sorrows for our truly grave sins before God.
Thus, we are truly far from the Samaritan who returned to give thanks unto the Lord. If we give it careful thought, we will see that we are much worse than even those ungrateful Jews who, nonetheless, cried out to the Master Jesus with faith to have mercy on them.
After all, we are all even more afflicted with the leprosy not of the body, but even worse: of the soul.
Our soul is entirely covered with foul ulcers from the fall and countless sins and transgressions.
Our spiritual members are rotten: for pride, self-opinion, gluttony, love of money, malice, fornication, unrighteousness, breaking of the fast, and violations of all God’s commandments have so entered into our everyday life, that we hardly even notice them, and they do not weigh on us.
And how far are we from the ten lepers, for we do not cry out with them: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!
But the Lord meekly awaits our cry and our repentance, and His Holy Church has established holy fasts for this.
Here three weeks of the Nativity Fast have already passed, but we do not notice them. There is still time. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ is approaching. Let us make use of the remaining time, which is favorable for repentance. Let us cleanse our conscience from sinful leprosy by repentance and let us sanctify our soul through the reception of the All-Pure Body and Life-Creating Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; let us live in constant spiritual watchfulness, for no one knows at what hour the Lord will call each one of us.
When the hour of death approaches us, in which will be the summing up of the fruitless lives we have led, and we are on our deathbed; in the hour of death we will recognize the true worth of the sorrows we have experienced and will give thanks under the Lord for them – for the sorrows, for we have no personal ascetic struggles, we have no virtues, but we will hope that the sorrows we have endured will cleanse our sins and propitiate the Righteous Judge at the Dread Judgment.
Let us follow the call of the Savior and the call of the Church. Let us give thanks unto the Lord for his great mercies for our sins: for the joys and sorrows, for the illnesses and even for the grievous bereavements.


Falling at His feet, bringing as a gift to the Child Who desired to be born thanksgiving, repentance, and love – and only after that humility – with warm tears of compunction let us offer heartfelt prayer not only for our own needs, but in the first place for the healing of our Motherland – the grievously-suffering, covered with festers, and the unprecedented leprosy of Communism – calling out with her oppressed children: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us and may the Lord grant us to feel in our hearts the Divine and quiet voice of the Sweetest Jesus: Go, thy faith hath made thee whole. Amen.


Source: http://www.pravmir.com/

St. Seraphim Reminds the Orthodox People of the Meaning of Their Lives

From time to time, the Lord sends His people great soothsayers, great saints, who admonish the people, preparing them for great changes in the life of that people. So too it was with our Orthodox Russian people: venerable St. Seraphim was send by God namely in such a difficult spiritual time, when the Russian land was inundated by various currents – un-Russian, un-Orthodox currents – from the West, from different faiths. There were many various influences that changed the nature of the people’s spiritual life.
sermon.lgAnd so the Lord instructed St. Seraphim, as a form of assignment, to remind the Orthodox people of the meaning of their lives. In his personal life he achieved great spiritual heights; he was truly a member of God’s elect: the Mother of God appeared to him many times, along with other saints. And he devoted himself to great spiritual struggle in prayer and asceticism, preparing himself to carry, according to God’s will, spiritual benefit – a sort of spiritual science – to the people, who came to him in great numbers.
He especially opened the meaning of a Christian life to Nicholas Motovilov; he said, “You have been taught improperly, O theophile. You were taught that the meaning of life is in the doing of good deeds. Well, I say that the meaning of spiritual life is in acquisition of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. That is, the goal of our lives is a relationship with God, a direct relationship, through prayer through the fulfillment of God’s will, through spiritual struggle, though good deeds, which are the means by which to obtain a status such that the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit, settles in our hearts, in our souls – and we will have a true relationship with God. This is the goal of our Christian life.”
Saint Seraphim reminded everyone, through Motovilov, through others who came to him, reminded all of us, that we ought not heed only externalities, those means, while not attaining the goal itself. As our venerable father said, “Fasts, prayer, prostrations, alms, – all this is but a means to that great end, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.
And so, when one, by spiritual struggle, by work on himself, cleanses his soul, his heart, and all within himself, then the Lord will settle in him, as he settled in the great multitude, the assembly of God-pleasers, which were people just as we are, and who became inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, all while still living on this earth.
In this we see also the meaning of the words of the Savior: The Kingdom of God is in you. That is, Christ tells us that we must search for the Kingdom of Heaven not outside of ourselves, but within. When we have a close, prayerful, mystical relationship with the Lord God, then we step into eternity, into the Kingdom of God, which will continue unto the ages of ages.
And so today, celebrating venerable St. Seraphim, we feel joy in our souls, regardless of the feelings or mood we may have had when we entered the church, but the Grace of God, and even the name of St. Seraphim, memories of this joyous elder of the Russian land, implants in us spiritual joy, joy in the Lord, and Paschal joy, as St. Seraphim greeted people with the Paschal greeting. And so we heard today the Paschal hymns, which brought us great spiritual joy.
I wish all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to undertake your spiritual struggle, not putting off this important aspect of our temporary earthly lives, so that we might set our internal life aright, the life of our soul, that we might be prepared to meet the Lord in the presence of St. Seraphim and all the saints who struggled on this earth; and, finally, that you all might have joy in your hearts, joy in this life, and joy in the next.
By the prayers of St. Seraphim of Sarov, may the Lord have mercy and save us, and settle us in the Kingdom of God.


Source: http://www.pravmir.com/

Monday, January 19, 2015

We Orthodox Church of Pakistan strongly condemns senseless and

We Orthodox Church of Pakistan strongly condemns senseless and inhumane attacks on innocent students and educators, today in brutal act of terrorism and killing of innocent students of army public school Peshawar in this terrorist act indeed At least 141 people, most of them children (132), died when Taliban gunmen attacked the school in the morning. The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Our sympathies with the families those lost their love ones and we request to all our Christian brothers and sister please pray for peace in Pakistan and specially departed souls of innocent Students. Lord have mercy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters! Greetings from St. Sergius of Radonezh Orthodox Church Sargodha, Pakistan! I would like to bring into your kind attention that we don’t have proper parish office neither the Church building.

Dear brothers and sisters! Greetings from St. Sergius of Radonezh Orthodox Church Sargodha, Pakistan! I would like to bring into your kind attention that we don’t have proper parish office neither the Church building. We are doing liturgy in tents and feel comfortable doing it as long as we get funds to construct an Orthodox Church for our community. Parish office is an important need as we have to have parish council meetings, keep parish record and maintain parish discipline. Keeping this in mind we have decided to make temporary parish house at our Holy Cross Study Center in St. Sergius Parish. For this we need your kind support for maintenance and to purchase equipment and furniture, e.g. 1.cabinets for books, 2. Table, 3. chairs We are looking forward for your generous support to establish parish office and work to spread the Good News. “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness. your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15) 
Fr.cyril@rocpak.com




Palm sunday, In Orthodox Church (Old Post)

Palm Sunday, In Orthodox church  Sargodha Pakistan



















Sunday, January 11, 2015

Orthodox Spirituality

An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church. These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.


In our Western Hemisphere, the Orthodox Church has been developing into a valuable presence and distinctive witness for more than two hundred years. The first Greek Orthodox Christians arrived in the New World in 1768, establishing a colony near the present city of St. Augustine, Florida. One of the original buildings in which these immigrants gathered for religious services is still standing. It has recently been transformed into St. Photius' Shrine by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The Shrine, named in memory of a great missionary of the Orthodox Church, honors those first Orthodox immigrants. The chapel serves as a national religious landmark, bearing witness to the presence of Orthodoxy in America from the earliest days of its history. The next group of Orthodox Christians to emerge on the American Continent were the Russian fur traders in the Aleutian Islands. They, too, made a great contribution.


The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to America in search of freedom and opportunity. Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift. To the New World they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.


Many Orthodox Christians in America proudly trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the United States can no longer be seen as an immigrant Church. While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in America. In recognition of this, Orthodoxy has been formally acknowledged as one of the Four Major Faiths in the United States. Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all!


There are about 5 million Orthodox Christians in this country. They are grouped into nearly a dozen ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The largest is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has about 500 parishes throughout the United States. Undoubtedly, the Primate of the Archdiocese, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, has been chiefly responsible for acquainting many non-Orthodox with the treasures of Orthodoxy. His selfless ministry, which has spanned more than thirty years, has been one of devotion and vision. Filled with an appreciation of his Hellenic background and guided by a spirit of ecumenism, Archbishop Iakovos has recognized the universal dimension of Orthodoxy. He has acted decisively to make this ancient faith of the Apostles and Martyrs a powerful witness in contemporary America.

EASTERN CHRISTIANITY
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the first Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular favor. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West. While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.

The Orthodox Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Greek language, the word for Gospel is Evangelion which means literally "the good news." The good news of Orthodox Christianity is a proclamation of God's unbounded and sacrificial love for man kind, as well as the revelation of the true destiny of the human person. Reflecting on the joyous message of the Gospel, Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century: The good news is that man is no longer an outcast nor expelled from God's Kingdom; but that he is again a son, again God's subject.

Orthodoxy believes that the supreme treasure which God wishes to share with us is His own life. Our faith begins with the affirmation that God has acted in history to permit us to participate in His love and His goodness, to be citizens of His Kingdom. This conviction is expressed so beautifully in the prayer of the Liturgy which says: "You have not ceased to do all things until You brought us to heaven and granted us the Kingdom to come."

The initiation of love of God the Father is perfectly expressed and embodied in the Person and Ministry of Jesus Christ. The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God. The great teachers and Fathers of the Orthodox Church constantly reaffirmed this conviction by proclaiming that God had become what we are in order that we could become what He is.

Christ is exalted as our Light and our Life. In His Person there is a unity of humanity and divinity which each of us is called to share. In His way of life. there is the model of authentic human life which we are invited to follow. In His victorious Resurrection, there is liberation for us from all powers which can keep us from the Kingdom. Through Christ, then, God the Father has repossessed us and has called us to be His sons and daughters.

THEOSIS

The fundamental vocation and goal of each and every person is to share in the life of God. We have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. The descent of God in the Person of Jesus Christ has made possible the human ascent to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that each Christian is involved in a movement toward God which is known as theosis or deification.

Theosis describes the spiritual pilgrimage in which each person becomes ever more perfect, ever more holy, ever more united with God. It is not a static relationship, nor does it take place only after death. On the contrary, theosis is a movement of love toward God which begins for each Christian with the rites of Baptism and which continues throughout this life, as well as the life which is to come. Salvation means liberation from sin, death, and evil. Redemption means our repossession by God. In Orthodoxy, both salvation and redemption are within the context of theosis. This rich vision of Christian life was expressed well by Saint Peter when he wrote in the early pages of his second Epistle that we are called "to become partakers of the Divine nature." It was also affirmed by Saint Basil the Great when he described man as the creature who has received the order to become a god.

These are certainly bold affirmations which must be properly understood. The Orthodox Church understands theosis as a union with the energies of God and not with the essence of God which always remains hidden and unknown. However, the experience of the Church testifies that this is a true union with God. It is also one which is not pantheistic, because in this union the divine and the human retain their unique characteristics. In this sense, Orthodoxy believes that human life reaches its fulfillment only when it becomes divine.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

The ever-deepening union of each Christian with God is not a magical or automatic process. While Christ has destroyed the powers of sin, death, and evil once and for all, this victory must be appropriated by each person in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Each person is called to join with the lifegiving and liberating Spirit" in realizing the fulness of human life in communion with the Father. The Holy Spirit is the agent of deification whose task it is to incorporate us into the life of the Holy Trinity. However, the Spirit always recognizes our human freedom and invites our active cooperation in perfecting the "image and likeness of God" with which each of us is created.


Our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity, which we know as theosis, takes place within the Church. For the Orthodox, the Church is the meeting place between God and His people. The Holy Spirit and the Church are organically linked. In the second century, Saint Irenaeus reminded us of this by saying: "Where the Church is there is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is there is the Church." The Holy Spirit moves through the life of the Church to reveal our common humanity in Christ and to unite us with the Father. We acquire the Holy Spirit through our celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion, through our participation in the Sacraments, through our discipline of daily prayer, and through the practice of fasting, all of which result in a Christ-like life.


The Holy Spirit, Who is honored as the Lord and Giver of life, is manifest in the life of the Church in order to bring our lives to perfection, and to make us responsible and loving human beings. The fruit of Worship is the gifts of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul identified these as: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control." Certainly, these are the virtues of a Christ-like life. They testify to the fact that the love of God and the love of neighbor are inseparable.


THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE CHURCH

The reality of theosis not only bears witness to the love of God who wishes to share Him self with us but also expresses a very positive view of the human person. Orthodoxy believes that each person has an intrinsic value and importance in virtue of his or her unique relationship to God. The human person is never seen as being totally depraved. The "image of God" which can be distorted by sin, can never be eradicated. Through the life of the Church, there is always the opportunity for fulfillment. When the Sacraments are administered, they are always offered to the individual by name. This action not only reminds us of the dignity of each person but also emphasizes the responsibility each person has for his or her relationship to God.


While Orthodoxy recognizes the value of the person, it does not believe that we are meant to be isolated or self-sufficient. Each person is called to be an important member of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that one cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church. The process of theosis takes place with the context of a believing community.

To be united with God within the midst of the Church does not mean that our unique personalities are destroyed. We are not engulfed by an impersonal force or power. As with all love which is true and valuable, God's love for each of us respects our personhood. His love is not one which destroys. God's love is one which reveals, elevates, and perfects our true selves. By entering into the life of God, we become the persons we are meant to be.

TREASURES OF ORTHODOXY is a series of pamphlets written for the non-Orthodox, especially those who are considering becoming members of the Orthodox Church and who wish to deepen their appreciation of her faith, worship and traditions.
Prepared by Fr Cyril Amer


The Orthodox Church: An Introduction

ORTHODOX
Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which are closely related. The first definition is “true teaching.” The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion, from the days of the Apostles. The second definition, which is actually the more preferred, is “true praise.” To bless, praise, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.

Occasionally, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox Church. This description, dating back to the second century, is embodied in the Nicene Creed, which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures. It also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian faith. It is not unusual for titles such as Greek, Russian, and Antiochian to be used in describing Orthodox Churches. These appellations refer to the cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.

DIVERSITY IN UNITY
The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal, autocephalous, and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her internal organization and follows her own particular customs. However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order. The Orthodox Church acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity. Some churches are rich in history, such as the Church of Constantinople, while others are relatively young, such as the Church of Finland. Some are large, such as the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai. Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a "place of honor" and is regarded as "first among equals." In America and Western Europe, where Orthodoxy is relatively young, there are a number of dioceses and archdioceses which are directly linked to one of these autocephalous Churches. For example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is under the care of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. While the Archdiocese enjoys a good measure of internal autonomy and is headed by an Archbishop, it owes its spiritual allegiance to the Church of Constantinople.

TREASURES OF ORTHODOXY is a series of pamphlets written for the non-Orthodox, especially those who are considering becoming members of the Orthodox Church and who wish to deepen their appreciation of her faith, worship, and traditions.
Prepared by Fr Cyril Amer


Saturday, January 10, 2015

History of the Orthodox Church

An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church. These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.

In our Western Hemisphere, the Orthodox Church has been developing into a valuable presence and distinctive witness for more than two hundred years. The first Greek Orthodox Christians arrived in the New World in 1768, establishing a colony near the present city of St. Augustine, Florida. One of the original buildings in which these immigrants gathered for religious services is still standing. It has recently been transformed into St. Photius' Shrine by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The Shrine, named in memory of a great missionary of the Orthodox Church, honors those first Orthodox immigrants. The chapel serves as a national religious landmark, bearing witness to the presence of Orthodoxy in America from the earliest days of its history. The next group of Orthodox Christians to emerge on the American Continent were the Russian fur traders in the Aleutian Islands. They, too, made a great contribution.

The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to America in search of freedom and opportunity. Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift. To the New World they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.

Many Orthodox Christians in America proudly trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the United States can no longer be seen as an immigrant Church. While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in America. In recognition of this, Orthodoxy has been formally acknowledged as one of the Four Major Faiths in the United States. Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all!

There are about 5 million Orthodox Christians in this country. They are grouped into nearly a dozen ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The largest is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has about 500 parishes throughout the United States. Undoubtedly, the Primate of the Archdiocese, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, has been chiefly responsible for acquainting many non-Orthodox with the treasures of Orthodoxy. His selfless ministry, which has spanned more than thirty years, has been one of devotion and vision. Filled with an appreciation of his Hellenic background and guided by a spirit of ecumenism, Archbishop Iakovos has recognized the universal dimension of Orthodoxy. He has acted decisively to make this ancient faith of the Apostles and Martyrs a powerful witness in contemporary America.

EASTERN CHRISTIANITY
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the first Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular favor. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West. While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.

The Orthodox Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Greek language, the word for Gospel is Evangelion which means literally "the good news." The good news of Orthodox Christianity is a proclamation of God's unbounded and sacrificial love for man kind, as well as the revelation of the true destiny of the human person. Reflecting on the joyous message of the Gospel, Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century: The good news is that man is no longer an outcast nor expelled from God's Kingdom; but that he is again a son, again God's subject.

Orthodoxy believes that the supreme treasure which God wishes to share with us is His own life. Our faith begins with the affirmation that God has acted in history to permit us to participate in His love and His goodness, to be citizens of His Kingdom. This conviction is expressed so beautifully in the prayer of the Liturgy which says: "You have not ceased to do all things until You brought us to heaven and granted us the Kingdom to come."

The initiation of love of God the Father is perfectly expressed and embodied in the Person and Ministry of Jesus Christ. The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God. The great teachers and Fathers of the Orthodox Church constantly reaffirmed this conviction by proclaiming that God had become what we are in order that we could become what He is.

Christ is exalted as our Light and our Life. In His Person there is a unity of humanity and divinity which each of us is called to share. In His way of life. there is the model of authentic human life which we are invited to follow. In His victorious Resurrection, there is liberation for us from all powers which can keep us from the Kingdom. Through Christ, then, God the Father has repossessed us and has called us to be His sons and daughters.

THEOSIS

The fundamental vocation and goal of each and every person is to share in the life of God. We have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. The descent of God in the Person of Jesus Christ has made possible the human ascent to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that each Christian is involved in a movement toward God which is known as theosis or deification.

Theosis describes the spiritual pilgrimage in which each person becomes ever more perfect, ever more holy, ever more united with God. It is not a static relationship, nor does it take place only after death. On the contrary, theosis is a movement of love toward God which begins for each Christian with the rites of Baptism and which continues throughout this life, as well as the life which is to come. Salvation means liberation from sin, death, and evil. Redemption means our repossession by God. In Orthodoxy, both salvation and redemption are within the context of theosis. This rich vision of Christian life was expressed well by Saint Peter when he wrote in the early pages of his second Epistle that we are called "to become partakers of the Divine nature." It was also affirmed by Saint Basil the Great when he described man as the creature who has received the order to become a god.

These are certainly bold affirmations which must be properly understood. The Orthodox Church understands theosis as a union with the energies of God and not with the essence of God which always remains hidden and unknown. However, the experience of the Church testifies that this is a true union with God. It is also one which is not pantheistic, because in this union the divine and the human retain their unique characteristics. In this sense, Orthodoxy believes that human life reaches its fulfillment only when it becomes divine.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

The ever-deepening union of each Christian with God is not a magical or automatic process. While Christ has destroyed the powers of sin, death, and evil once and for all, this victory must be appropriated by each person in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Each person is called to join with the lifegiving and liberating Spirit" in realizing the fulness of human life in communion with the Father. The Holy Spirit is the agent of deification whose task it is to incorporate us into the life of the Holy Trinity. However, the Spirit always recognizes our human freedom and invites our active cooperation in perfecting the "image and likeness of God" with which each of us is created.

Our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity, which we know as theosis, takes place within the Church. For the Orthodox, the Church is the meeting place between God and His people. The Holy Spirit and the Church are organically linked. In the second century, Saint Irenaeus reminded us of this by saying: "Where the Church is there is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is there is the Church." The Holy Spirit moves through the life of the Church to reveal our common humanity in Christ and to unite us with the Father. We acquire the Holy Spirit through our celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion, through our participation in the Sacraments, through our discipline of daily prayer, and through the practice of fasting, all of which result in a Christ-like life.

The Holy Spirit, Who is honored as the Lord and Giver of life, is manifest in the life of the Church in order to bring our lives to perfection, and to make us responsible and loving human beings. The fruit of Worship is the gifts of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul identified these as: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control." Certainly, these are the virtues of a Christ-like life. They testify to the fact that the love of God and the love of neighbor are inseparable.

THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE CHURCH

The reality of theosis not only bears witness to the love of God who wishes to share Him self with us but also expresses a very positive view of the human person. Orthodoxy believes that each person has an intrinsic value and importance in virtue of his or her unique relationship to God. The human person is never seen as being totally depraved. The "image of God" which can be distorted by sin, can never be eradicated. Through the life of the Church, there is always the opportunity for fulfillment. When the Sacraments are administered, they are always offered to the individual by name. This action not only reminds us of the dignity of each person but also emphasizes the responsibility each person has for his or her relationship to God.

While Orthodoxy recognizes the value of the person, it does not believe that we are meant to be isolated or self-sufficient. Each person is called to be an important member of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that one cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church. The process of theosis takes place with the context of a believing community.

To be united with God within the midst of the Church does not mean that our unique personalities are destroyed. We are not engulfed by an impersonal force or power. As with all love which is true and valuable, God's love for each of us respects our personhood. His love is not one which destroys. God's love is one which reveals, elevates, and perfects our true selves. By entering into the life of God, we become the persons we are meant to be.

TREASURES OF ORTHODOXY is a series of pamphlets written for the non-Orthodox, especially those who are considering becoming members of the Orthodox Church and who wish to deepen their appreciation of her faith, worship and traditions.

Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! And the angel said to them,” Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.(Lk2:10-11).


Friday, January 9, 2015

Holy feast of Nativity 2015

With the blessings of His Grace Metropolitan Prokopios Father Cyril visited community of Bhalwal on the Holy feast of Nativity father Cyril share Archbishop Letter of the Nativity of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ with the orthodox community. On account of Holy feast of Nativity in Orthodox Churches especially prayers offered for peace in Pakistan and terrorist victims of Peshawar. 
And the angel said to them,” Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.(Lk2:10-11).