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October 15, 2017
Sunday of the 7th Ecumenical Council
     Fear not, little flock!- only believe, the Lord is with you all days (Luke 12:32). Fear not, little flock- I shall leave you God's Church, the pillar and ground of truth. Live in it; live through it; only it is immovable, neither changing nor deceiving, for the Lord Himself is in it. He guards the holy truth in the catholicity of the Church's decisions. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us (Acts 15:28): conciliar decisions were proclaimed using these words on every occasion and at all times. The seven pillars - the Seven Ecumenical Councils - firmly and unwaveringly support the vault of the Church, while the canons protect God's truth in the world. My dear ones, it is the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council to whom we are obliged to give thanks that our churches, our cells, and our homes are sanctified with holy icons; that living flames glimmer before them in lampadas; that we fall down in prostration before the holy relics; and that the smoke of holy incense lifts our hearts to the heavenly abodes, parting us from earth. The grace of revelation from these holy objects has filled many, many hearts with love for God and animated many spirits that were already quite dead. But all this might not have been, if there had not been a time in the eighth century when the Holy Fathers of the Church - holy hierarchs and monks - stood up in defense of these holy objects. Their struggle, to the shedding of blood, extinguished many bonfires made up of icons, which had been blazing over the course of fifty years. The Seventh Ecumenical Council affirmed that iconography is a special form of revelation of Divine reality; and that through the Divine services and icons, Divine revelation becomes accessible to the faithful, to our domain. Through the icon, just as through Holy Scripture, we not only learn about God, but we come to know God; through the holy icons of the God-pleasers we touch transfigured man, a partaker of the Divine life; through the icon we receive the all- sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. The icon, according to the Fathers, is also prayer. A consecrated icon is itself holy. When we pray before it, the holy words of our prayers and the visible holy image of the icon before us simultaneously transfigure us, directing even us sinners and earthly people to holiness. I will not list examples of God's gifts that we have received through the holy icons and through the holy Mysteries of the Church. They are innumerable. Every day the Holy Church glorifies the icons of the Mother of God and celebrates the memory of the holy God-pleasers. Their icons are placed before us on analogions for veneration. The living religious experience of each one of us, the experience of our gradual transfiguration through them, makes us faithful children of the Holy, Universal, Orthodox Church. This is the true embodiment in the world of the works of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. That is why, of all the victories over a multitude of various heresies, only the victory over iconoclasm and the restoration of icon-veneration was proclaimed to be the Triumph of Orthodoxy. The faith of the Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils is the eternal and immutable foundation of Orthodoxy. But now the terrible waves of the worldwide flood that once destroyed the human race are again covering the world with lies and falsehood, ready to engulf the universe, to destroy faith in Christ, and to distort His teaching. Our only salvation, our ark, is the Holy Church, guided on its way by its heavenly luminaries: the writings of the holy God-pleasers.

October 8, 2017
3rd Sunday of Luke 
"Because the Lord, while not even present, had healed the centurion's servant, He now performs another even more remarkable miracle. He does this so that no one could say, "What is remarkable about the healing of the centurion's servant? Perhaps the servant would not have died in any case." This is why the Lord now raises up the dead man as he was being carried out for burial. He does not perform the miracle by His word alone, but also touches the bier, teaching us that His very Body is life. Because God the Word Who gives life to all things Himself became flesh, therefore His flesh itself is likewise life-creating, and takes away death and corruption. The dead man sat up and began to speak, so that some would not think that his rising was only an apparition. Sitting up and speaking are definite proofs of resurrection from the dead, "how can a lifeless body sit up and speak? You may also understand the widow to mean the soul which has suffered the loss of its husband, the Word of God Which sows the good seed. The son of such a widow is the mind which is dead and is being carried outside the city, that is, outside the heavenly Jerusalem which is the land of the living. The Lord then takes pity and touches the bier. The bier which carries the dead mind is the body. And indeed the body is like a tomb, as the ancient Greeks said, calling the body a burial mound, which means a tomb. Having touched the body, the Lord then raises the mind, restoring its youth and vigor. And after the young man, meaning the mind, has sat up, raised from the tomb of sin, he will begin to speak, that is, to teach others. While he is in the grip of sin, he cannot speak or teach," who would believe him?" (From the Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Achrida and Bulgaria) 

October 1, 2017
2nd Sunday of Luke
"And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise" Furthermore, love every man as yourself - that is, do not wish him anything that you would not wish for yourself; think, feel for him just as you would think and feel for your own self; do not wish to see in him anything that you that you do not wish to see in yourself; do not let your memory keep in it any evil caused to you by others, in the same way as you would wish that the evil done by yourself should be forgotten by others; do not intentionally imagine either in yourself or in another anything guilty or impure; believe others to be as well-intentioned as yourself, in general, if you do not see clearly that they are evilly disposed; do unto them as you would to yourself, or even do not do unto them as you would not do unto yourself, and then you will see what you will obtain in your heart - what peace, what blessedness! You will be in paradise before reaching it - that is, before the paradise in heaven you will be in paradise on earth. ‘The kingdom of God is within you,' says the Lord. ‘He that dwells in love,' teaches the Apostle, ‘dwells in God and God in him.'" (St. John of Kronsdadt, My Life in Christ). 

September 24, 2017
1st Sunday of Luke - Meditation on the Holy Cross
"Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a cross, the sun made dark and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its creator. The temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from his side: the one as from a man, the other as from what was above man; the earth shaken, the rocks shattered because of the rock; the dead risen to bear witness to the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the sepulcher and after the sepulcher, who can fittingly recount them? Yet no one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk: joining us and binding us together." (Gregory Nazianzen - On the Holy Passion, Oration 45.1) 

September 17, 2017
Sunday after Holy Cross
"And moreover, in His very passion and cross, before they had reached the cruelty of death and the effusion of blood, what infamies of reproach were patiently heard, what mockings of contumely were suffered, so that He received the spittings of insulters, who with His spittle had a little before made eyes for a blind man; and He in whose name the devil and his angels is now scourged by His servants, Himself suffered scourgings! He was crowned with thorns, who crowns martyrs with eternal flowers. He was smitten on the face with palms, who gives the true palms to those who overcome. He was despoiled of His earthly garment, who clothes others in the vesture of immortality. He was fed with gall, who gave heavenly food. He was given to drink of vinegar, who appointed the cup of salvation. That guiltless, that just One,-nay, He who is innocency itself and justice itself,-is counted among transgressors, and truth is oppressed with false witnesses. He who shall judge is judged; and the Word of God is led silently to the slaughter. And when at the cross, of the Lord the stars are confounded, the elements are disturbed, the earth quakes, night shuts out the day, the sun, that he may not be compelled to look on the crime of the Jews, withdraws both his rays and his eyes, He speaks not, nor is moved, nor declares His majesty even in His very passion itself. Even to the end, all things are borne perseveringly and constantly, in order that in Christ a full and perfect patience maybeconsummated."(Cyprian of Carthage, "On the Advantage of Patience")

September 10, 2017
Meditation on the Holy Cross
"We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us. Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, There would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ's side, blood and water for the world's cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled. Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation - very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God's suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world. The cross is called Christ's glory; it is saluted as his his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ's glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: "Father, glorify your name". Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it and will glorify it again". Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ's triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ's glory and triumph." (St. Andrew of Crete)

September 3, 2017
Meditation on the Holy Cross
"Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvellous: but the most marvellous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise5, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross7 all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ9. Further, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God's might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God's power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained...The tree of life which was planted by God in Paradise pre-figured this precious Cross. For since death was by a tree, it was fitting that life and resurrection should be bestowed by a tree." (John of Damascus, "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith", Chapter XI, Concerning the Cross)

August 27, 2017
Homily on the Feast of the Beheading of St John, the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord
     "Today is a little Great Friday, a second Great Friday. For today the greatest man among those born of women, John, the Holy Forerunner and Baptiser of the Lord, is murdered. On Great Friday, people murdered God, crucified God. On today's holy great feast, people murdered the greatest of all men. It is not I who chose to use the expression "the greatest." What are my praises of the great and glorious Forerunner of the Lord, whom the Lord praised more than anyone among men, more than any of the apostles, the Angels, the Prophets, the Righteous Ones, the Sages? For the Lord declared of him: Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist... (Мatthew 11: 11). In all Creation, there exists no greater praise. This is why today is a little Great Friday. Consider: senseless people murder the greatest of the righteous. Is he getting in their way? Yes, he gets between the perverse King Herod and the dissolute Herodias. God's Truth, God's immutable Truth gets in the way of the lawless, gets in the way of poor sinners, gets in the way of everyone stupefied by the various passions. Consider: do not Christ's opponents even today still shout "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!?" Even today, do not those who oppose Christ still demand the head of Jesus of Nazareth? They call for His head, not to mention calling for the head of John the Baptist. What is this? Could it be that this world has become a madhouse? People do not want God, they do not want the greatest Righteous One in the whole world. Whom do you want? Whom would you prefer? Whom would you set in Christ's stead? With whom would you replace St. John the Baptist? With yourselves?! О moth! О, tiny mortal insects! Yes, when people become maddened by pride, when out of egotistical pride they lose their reason, they have no need of God, they have no need of God's Truth. They declare themselves to be gods. They present their petty, shallow, false likeness of truth as the great and salvific Truth. They declare their shallow, earthly, perishable images of truth to be the greatest of truths: they posit that we do not need Christ's Truth, that we do not want God's Truth. Yes, people blind in intellect and spirit do not see, and do not want to see, that man, true man, cannot manage without God. Why? Because this world is full of Herods, full of Pharisees. Herods demand the head of John the Baptist, Herods demand the heads of all of the righteous of the world, and Pharisees, the lying scribes, lying sophists of this world, demand the death of Christ, the Incarnate God. Today, in glorifying that great and glorious first Apostle, first Martyr, first Evangelist, Precursor to all true Christians of all time, we bow down before his joyous suffering for Christ's Truth and His Holy Gospel, before him as Apostle and Martyr. Consider, that for already 2,000 years, the One who allowed the lawless king to behead him, has been working countless miracles in the earthly realm, living in it alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years he has been ceaselessly working miracles for all those who turn to him in prayer." (St. Justin Popovich)
August 20, 2017
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Beloved, I offer this passage from the writings of Dr. King as an antidote to the recent events in Charlottesville. Dr. King lived and died by the truths reflected in this extraordinary statement against violence. Were he with us today, I believe he would not waver one inch from his loyalty to non-violent protest against societal evils and injustices. As for Neo-Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists, anyone familiar with the history of Greek immigrants and other minorities in this country, knows why no Orthodox Christian could possibly condone the conduct of these hate filled groups. Yet, Dr. King is right in insisting, that the only way to defeat these failed and sick ideologies, is through the path of love and peaceful protest. Violence is never justified, and in our country should never be an acceptable path to resolving conflicts. Truly, my beloved parishioners and friends, I fear and denounce anyone who for any reason is willing to injure a fellow human being, created in the image and likeness of God. Consider this: if the slave owner could only have seen his slave as an icon of the living God, he would have embraced his brother/sister as a fellow creature loved by the Father, and for whom the Son lived, died and resurrected. I find it ironic, that slave owners were, for the most part, Christians who compelled slaves to adopt their religion
     If only they could have understood that faith without works is dead! People of faith must be heard, they must stand firm against violence and injustice, and always speak out for peace. Otherwise, we are headed for troubled times yet unknown, in a country that continues to sport the universal badge of exceptionalism.
Fr. George A. Alexson

August 13, 2017
Dormition of the Theotokos 2017  
     My Beloved, In the life of the Church we encounter several saints and holy people whose lives inspire us and whose deeds prove to be examples for our everyday lives. But there is no greater saint of the Church nor is there any saint who shares more in our struggles than that of the Theotokos-- the Mother of God. Perhaps it is for this reason that she is "...more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim. " As we commemorate the Dormition of the Theotokos today, we are reminded of the various reasons we honor her and why she is so revered in the Orthodox Church. There are various reasons for which we honor the Mother of God. One of these reasons is that she is the representative of humanity before her Son and her God. God did not desire to intervene and to infringe upon humanity's freedom, even when humanity had fallen. However, it was the pureness of the person of the Panagia and her freely saying "Yes" to God and "Yes" to bearing Christ in her womb that allowed the curse of the devil on humanity to be reversed. It was her free - willed decision that opened the door of salvation to humanity once more. Thus, as the one who gave her entire self freely, she has the special position of being the representative for all of humanity as she continually intercedes on our behalf. Another reason she is so revered by the Orthodox everywhere is because she not only holds the title of the Mother of God, but she also holds the role of mother to all of us as well. One of the most comforting and tender words in all languages is that of "mother". Whereas the role of a mother is usually limited to her own children, the Theotokos took on this role and included all of humanity as her children. It is her to whom we flee when we are afflicted, when we are in pain, and when we are in despair precisely because in her motherly love that nurtured God, she also guards, protects, and nurtures us. Therefore, as we commemorate her Dormition today, we should not only remember her motherly attributes or the favor she has with her Son as she intercedes for all of humanity, but we should principally remember that her devotion to God opened the door to paradise for all of creation. It is to her example that we should strive every day of our lives as we seek to "commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God." Praying the Theotokos continues to guard, guide, and protect you all, I remain,
     With Paternal Love and Blessings, † E V A N G E L O S Metropolitan of New Jersey 

August 6, 2017
St. Ephraim the Syrian on the Transfiguration of Christ  
     ‘And after six days he took Simon Peter and James and John his brother to a very high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white like light'. Men whom he said would not taste death until they saw the image of his coming, are those whom he took and led up the mountain and showed them how he was going to come on the last day in the glory of his divinity and in the body of his humanity. He led them up the mountain to show them who the Son is and whose he is. Because when he asked them, ‘Whom do men say the Son of man is?' They said to him, some Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. This is why he leads them up the mountain and shows them that he is not Elias, but the God of Elias; again, that he is not Jeremias, but the one who sanctified Jeremias in his mother's womb; not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the Prophets, who also sent them. And he shows them that he is the maker of heaven and earth, and that he is Lord of living and dead. For he gave orders to heaven and brought down Elias, and made a sign to the earth and raised up Moses. He led them up the mountain to show them that he is the Son of God, born from the Father before the ages and in the last times incarnate from the Virgin, as he knows how, born ineffably and without seed, preserving her virginity incorrupt; for wherever God wills it, the order of nature is overcome. For God the Word dwelt in the Virgin's womb, and the fire of his divinity did not consume the members of the Virgin's body, but protected them carefully by its nine month presence. He dwelt in the Virgin's womb, not abhorring the unpleasant smell of nature, and God incarnate came forth from her to save us. He led them up the mountain and showed the glory of his divinity before the resurrection, so that when he rose from the dead in the glory of his divine nature, they might know that it was not because of his harsh toil that he accepted glory, as if he lacked it, but it was his before the ages with the Father and together with the Father, as he said as he was coming to his voluntary passion, ‘Father, glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world existed'.

July 30, 2017
The Eighth Sunday of Matthew    
     What does Fr. John command the instructors of children for the discernment of and caution against sin? What does he command the children themselves so that they would know of the danger and consequences of sin? He said, "Warn the children about sin and its consequences!" And he instructed, "Do not leave children without attention with regard to uprooting from their hearts the chaff of sin, wicked, evil, and blasphemous thoughts, sinful passions, inclinations, and habits, from which our lives are also made. The enemy of salvation and the sinful flesh does not spare the children either, and the seeds of all the sins are also in them. Present a picture to the children of the whole danger and sorrowful consequences of their sins, so that they out of ignorance and unreasonableness would not be formed by their elders on the path of life in sinful passions and habits, which multiply and grow with age." Christian upbringing is the first line of defense in the struggle for the salvation of a child's soul. Fr. John, who himself had difficulty learning as a child, was according to the recollections of his contemporaries a remarkable pedagogue. He never resorted to methods of teaching that were often found in schools: neither to excess strictness, nor to the moral humiliation of slow learners. Well known was his warm, soulful relationship to the students as well as to the work of teaching itself. He had no "slow learners". Everyone at his lessons without exception greedily soaked in his every word. They couldn't wait for his lessons to start. His lessons were more of a pleasure for the students than a heavy burden and obligation. It was living conversation, engaging speech, and interesting, attention-grabbing stories. There were often cases when Fr. John would defend a lazy student who had been "condemned" to expulsion, and he would take the child's correction upon himself. A few years would pass, and the child who seemed to be a hopeless case would be raised up as a worthy individual. Christians, first of all, should take care that the children grow to be unwavering in the Christian faith, true children of God, living members of the Church, so that Christ would be formed in their hearts (cf. Gal. 4:19), so that more than anything in earthly life they would love and prefer God, then their neighbor as themselves (Mt. 22:37-40). So that the goal of their lives, in the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, would be the "acquisition of the Holy Spirit" unto the salvation of their souls.

July 23, 2017
The Seventh Sunday of Matthew 
     Fr. John warned that God and parents have entrusted their children to the teacher, and this requires responsibility and a careful relationship to them. He often noted that everything beautiful, individual, and unique has already been placed in the child's heart as in a seed. God also provides everything needed for their growth and development; but for our modest, but extraordinarily difficult and painstaking work-education-we must have love, and care for the children. But as great is the responsibility, so great also is the reward for conscientious work entrusted by God; for children are His inheritance. In them is not only our future, but also our present, and especially the eternal future. "Be strongly vigilant," Fr. John reminds teachers, "that you never disdain in your heart any of these little ones (cf. Matt. 18:10) whom you might dislike for some reason. You are disdaining God's angel, which was assigned to watch over him. You are disdaining God's child; you are disdaining the Lord Himself, the Father of all children, first of all." Thus, whoever violates the least of these commandments out of negligence, considering it insignificant, and teaches others to do the same, will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven (according to St. John Chrysostom's exegesis, "the violator of the law will be the least, that is, the last, cast out and unworthy of the Kingdom of Heaven"5), and whoever keeps and teaches [the commandments] will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matt. 5:19).

July 16, 2017
The Sixth Sunday of Matthew 
St. John of Kronstadt could be abrupt. One day a sixteen-year-old boy who was extremely lazy and morally spoiled, expressed his disbelief before the entire class in the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Fr. John called him godless and a miscreant. Later he summoned him for a separate conversation, after which the boy felt renewed and strengthened in spirit. Some recall how a noblewoman complained to Fr. John about the degradation of religious and moral education of her children. "Their teachers," she said, "taught them everything they need to pass the exams and be clever." "You should say that they pounded them and not taught them," Fr. John corrected her. "When being pounded with spiritual knowledge, they have the same feeling as when they are learning arithmetic and so on. But how about you? Do you take care of their souls? Have you directed them so that besides human approval they would strive for God's approval?" "I suggest it to them according to my strength," the lady answered him. "After all, one can't find the door to one's own child's heart." "You didn't find the door to the heart, so you'll get beasts instead of humans," Fr. John replied. "You have forgotten that the Lord has shown mankind an example in the bird species. A bird first gives birth to an egg, and until this egg has been kept for the proper time in maternal warmth, it remains an inanimate object. It is the same with people. The born child is that egg-with the beginnings of earthly life, but inanimate with respect to his blossoming in Christ. The child who has not been warmed by his parents and family to the root of his soul, to the root of all his feelings, will remain dead in spirit for God and good works. And it is precisely from these children not warmed by love and spiritual care that those generations come into the world, from which the prince of this world will recruit his armies against God and His holy Church."

July 9, 2017
The Fifth Sunday of Matthew 
St. John of Kronstadt considered love for children to be the foundation of a teacher's work-a foundation that is very often denied by modern-day so-called technicians of secular educational sciences and activities. He said to the students of the gymnasium where he taught, "You are my children, for I gave birth to you and continue to give birth in you to the good tidings of Jesus Christ. My spiritual blood-my instructions-flow in your veins. You are my children, because I have you always in my heart and I pray for you. You are my children, because you are my spiritual offspring. You are my children, because truly, as a priest I am a father, and you call me "batiushka" ("little father", an affectionate term for a priest). In Fr. John lived a kind of unearthly, angelic love for children, which inspired him and motivated the entire educational process. It was a special gift of God's grace, which burned in him so strongly that in later years, when he was no longer teaching, he often healed sick children with the power of love and prayer, continually blessing and instructing them in the faith. How often did he weep over sick children, especially if they were spiritually sick! Once he stroked the head of an emotionally ill boy, and another time he kissed a seriously ill girl in the hospital, kneeling before her bed. "My dear, are you in pain? My little sufferer!" Fr. John lamented."

July 2, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Matthew 
"Humility is the thought and conviction of our heart that we are ore sinful than all men and unworthy of the mercy of God. eviling ourselves does not mean that we have true humility. True humility is when someone shames and abuses us publicly, and we endure it and say, "God ordered that brother to shame me for my many sins." We should receive everything as a command from God. When someone shames you, say that God commanded him to do it. When someone takes something of yours, God commanded him to take it, in order to make you a monk. When you are removed from a higher place, God changed your place so that you would change from your passions and bad habits. This is true humility. And the pride is when we trust in ourselves, in our mind, our strength, when we think we are more capable than someone else, better, more beautiful, more virtuous, more pleasing to God. Then it is certain that we are overcome by the ugly sin of pride, from which may God, who humbled Himself for our salvation, preserve us. Let us humble ourselves, brethren, because a proud man cannot be saved. Let us weep for our sins here, so we can rejoice forever in the next life, for after we leave this world everyone will forget us. Let us not hope in men, but only in God..." (St. Paisius of Athos)

June 25, 2017
     My Beloved in the Lord, As we reflect on the events of the devastating and destructive earthquake that struck the island of Mytilene this past week, we pray for those coping with the effects of this terrible disaster. In doing so, we are given the opportunity to reflect on the innumerable blessings that we have been granted by God. He has given us countless gifts and, therefore, it becomes our responsibility to share them with those who are in need, especially the people of Mytilene. The people of Mytilene played a significant role during the Middle East refugee crisis. They had opened their homes, their wallets, and their hearts to refugees because they saw the image and likeness of God in the faces of the immigrants who were in need. Together with our prayers, let us now show our support for the people of Mytilene in their own hour of need by offering them financial assistance so that we may help them recover from this disaster. In this spirit, I ask that on Sunday, June 25, 2017 a Special Tray be passed in all of the parishes of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey so that we may offer a portion of what we have to the people of Mytilene who have lost so much. Furthermore, I ask that a contribution be made from the Parish Councils and the Philoptochos Sisterhood chapters of each parish to assist the people of Mytilene. Let us continue to pray for and help those affected by this natural disaster. Praying that our loving Lord will offer His mercy and compassion to those suffering in Mytilene, I remain,
     With Paternal Love and Blessings, † E V A N G E L O S Metropolitan of New Jersey

June 18, 2017
Fatherhood and Faith: A Divine Partnership 
     Summer comes along and the thought of spending time outdoors with our families and friends brings a warm feeling to our hearts. It's no surprise that in June, then, the beginning of the "official summer season" we take time to honor our fathers since grilling and outdoor activities have come to symbolize men in general but fathers more specifically. For weeks leading up to Fathers' Day, advertising seems to center around dad, mom and kids around the grill enjoying quality family time. My memories of spending time with my father enjoying the outdoors still bring a smile to my face. But is that all there is to honoring fathers on Fathers' Day? Sadly, for many families, it is. We cannot speak about fathers without also speaking of our Heavenly Father, Who loves us so much that "He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then established His Church as "His Body" (Ephesians 1:23) to be the Ark of our salvation. We were baptized into His Body becoming one with the Lord who gave us "the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) Our real, albeit mystical, union with God is what leads us to understand, or at least appreciate, the connection between family, church and heaven. When one is united to our Heavenly Father, one cannot help but discuss every aspect of life from the perspective of union with Him, whether fathers and their families are grilling in the back yard or receiving the Eucharist in Church on Sunday. Let us, for a moment, examine the following words by
     St. Paul referring to the character of our spiritual fathers, the clergy: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence." (1 Timothy 3:2-5) When St. Paul outlined the requirements for a bishop (or priest), he was expressing this truth; that leading the Church was not a separate function of men, but a function of fathers and husbands leading their families to God. (Although today our bishops are ordained from within the celibate clergy, this was not always the case.) How then is it that our fathers, physical and spiritual, lead us to God? Let us begin with the first statement of St. Paul, by replacing the word "bishop" with "father." The only true model of a father is The Father, Who even though His Children and His Bride (the Church) disobeyed Him and continue to disobey Him, has never faltered in His dedication to leading us toward Heaven. Since that first moment in the Garden, God has been working to restore us to Himself. Our Father in Heaven is blameless, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence...of course God is perfect... If we, as fathers, strive to live these traits in our lives, then we shall be perfect, just as our Father in Heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) And that is something worth honoring this Fathers' Day. (Fr Athanasios C. Haros, "Be Transfigured")

June 11, 2017
A Prayer for our Graduates    
     Lord, grateful of Your great benefits which You have so richly bestowed upon us in Your loving-kindness, we bless and give thanks to You and we beseech You to look graciously upon us and these graduates, who have completed their courses of study. Pour into their hearts, minds, and upon their lips, the spirit of wisdom, understanding, piety, and godly fear; enlighten them with the light of Your knowledge, and bestow upon them strength and steadfastness, that they may quickly apprehend and willingly embrace all that they have received which is good and profitable, and in accordance with Your divine law. Grant that they grow in wisdom and understanding. May they prosper in good works for the glorification of Your holy Name. Give them health and long life that they may labor for the building up and glory of Your Holy Church, this nation, and of all Your people. For You are a God, Who is mighty in mercy and gracious in strength, and to You we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
     On behalf of all the members of our Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church, I take this opportunity to congratulate our graduates on this important achievement in their lives. Together with their parents and families, we also celebrate and rejoice in the successful completion of their studies. We want to assure our graduates that, wherever life takes them from here, they shall always be in our hearts, minds and prayers. May our Lord give them wisdom to make good decisions, courage to live their faith daily, and, strength to commit themselves fully to accomplishing whatever goals they wish to pursue. May the peace, joy and love of our Lord be with them always! Fr. George

June 4, 2017
Holy Pentecost     
     We have heard in the Acts of the Apostles how, as the Feast of Pentecost was approaching, Paul the Apostle have started on his way to Jerusalem to be there together with all those who on that very day have received the Holy Spirit. Of all of them he was the only one who had not been present in the High Room where the event has taken place. And yet, God had given him a true, a perfect conversion of heart, and of mind and of life, and had given him, freely the gift of the Holy Spirit in response to his total, ultimate gift of self to Him, the God Whom he did not know but Whom he worshiped. We also are on our way to the day of Pentecost; next week we will keep this event. When Paul was on his way, he thought of what has happened to himself in the solitude of his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus and in the gift of the Spirit mediated to him by Barnabas, and also, what had occurred with the apostles. We also, each of us singly and all of us together should reflect on all that God has given us. He has given us existence and breathed life into us; not only the life of the body but a life that makes us akin to Him, His life. He has given us to know Him, the Living God, and He has given us to meet, in the Gospel and in life, His Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And in Baptism, in the Anointment with Holy Chrism, in Communion to the Body and Blood of Christ, in (a, the) mysterious, silent communion of prayer, in the moments when God Himself came near although we were not even thinking of Him He has Given us so much.
     Let us spend this week, moments at least of it, reflecting on all that was given us, asking ourselves whether we are truly disciples of Christ. We know from Saint Paul what it means to be a disciple; he said that for him, to live is Christ, to die will be a gain, because as long as he is in the flesh he is separated from Christ, Christ Whom he loves, Christ Who has become everything in his life, not only in time but for all eternity. And yet, says he, he is prepared to live, not to die, because his presence on earth is necessary to others... This is the measure of communion he had with Christ. And this is shown so movingly in a parallel between a small phrase in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Gospel; both the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciple say that they are now going back to the Father, that the time of their departure has come and that this departure will be a tragedy. His life in Christ had culminated in such identification with what Christ stood for and beyond that- with what Christ was, who He was that all that was applicable to Christ became applicable to him. Indeed, to him, to live was Christ, and he longed for his death, and yet he had learned from God something more than this longing for freedom, his longing for communion with the God Whom he adored and served so faithfully he had learned that to give is a greater joy than to receive. Despite all he had received and that it was so much, so great, so holy, he was prepared to remain alive. The saints had heard Christ say, ‘No one has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends'; Paul, the other apostles, and innumerable saints after them gave their lives, shed their lives day after day forgetting themselves, rejecting every thought of self, rejecting every concern about themselves, having only thought for those who needed God, who needed the word of truth, who needed love divine; they lived for others; they gave as generously as they have received. And we also are called to learn the joy, the exulting, the exhilarating, the wonderful joy of giving, of turning away from ourselves to be free to give, and also of giving on all levels, the smallest things, and the greatest things. And this can be taught us only by the power of the Holy​ Spirit that unites us to Christ, makes us into one body with Him, a body of people, (one with each other in their total togetherness, one with the God Who is our unity.
     Let us spend this week thinking of all we have received from God and asking ourselves: what can we give? To Him - so that He can rejoice in us, so that He can (know) that He has not lived and died in vain. And what can we give to all those who surround us, beginning with the smallest, the humblest gifts to the closest and ending with giving all we can to those who need more. And then truly Pentecost will come as a gift of life, a gift that unites us, (wells us into one body capable of being on earth to others a vision of the Kingdom, but also a source of life and of joy, so that truly our joy, and the joy of all those whom we meet should be fulfilled. Amen. ( Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh)
 

May 28, 2017
The 318 Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
     The First Ecumenical Council was held in Nicea in A.D. 325 and set a pattern for all later Ecumenical Councils. It primarily addressed the issue of Arianism (producing the original version of the Nicene Creed) and set a universal pattern for calculating the date of Pascha— the Paschalion. It is also referred to as the First Council of Nicea. The council was summoned in the year 325 by the Emperor St. Constantine the Great, who desired unity in the Roman Empire and thus called the Church's bishops together to settle the raging of the heresy of Arianism, the doctrine that Jesus Christ was a created being and therefore not truly the one God. The synod had originally been intended to be held at Ancyra, but its location was moved by Constantine to Nicea (much closer to the imperial headquarters in Nicomedia) so that he might be able to participate more easily.
     The First Council of Nicea assembled according to tradition on May 20 of 325. Earlier in the year, there had already been a council at Antioch, presided over by St Hosius of Cordoba, which condemned Arianism and its followers, even explicitly naming Eusebius of Caesarea (who is believed to have waffled somewhat on the question). When Constantine convened the council at Nicea, he did so primarily out of a desire to have a unified Empire rather than in an attempt to affect Church doctrine. After the initial speeches by the emperor, Hosius is generally believed to have presided at the council, summoned on the scene by the emperor himself, who had retained him as theological advisor. Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes in his Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy that Constantine intended the synod to be "the symbol and crown" of his victory over Licinius and the reunification of the Empire (p. 76). In his opening address, St. Constantine describes disputes within the Church as "more dangerous than war and other conflicts; they bring me more grief than anything else" (ibid., p. 77). Eusebius of Nicomedia first submits an Arian creed for the delegates to consider, and it is rejected immediately. Eusebius of Caesarea then submits a baptismal creed native to Palestine for consideration. It is this latter creed that many historians regard as being the essential framework for the Nicene Creed, though many also regard the creed issued at the earlier Antiochian council to be the basis for Nicea’s creed. The Palestinian creed had included the Biblical phrase "Firstborn of all creation" in its description of Christ, but that phrase does not appear in the Nicene Creed, probably because, taken out of its context in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Colossians, it could be interpreted in an Arian manner. This phrase gets replaced with the famous homoousios, a philosophical term meaning that the Son of God is of one essence with the Father. It is particularly interesting that this term was used, despite it previously having been employed by the heretical Sabellians (notably Paul of Samosata) in the 3rd century during their conflict with St. Dionysius the Great. As with much terminology from philosophy, however, the Church Fathers co-opted homoousios and gave it a new, Orthodox meaning. It was originally introduced at Nicea by Hosius (or possibly even Constantine), then supported by "a small group of bold and far-sighted theologians who understood the inadequacy of merely condemning Arius and the need to crystallize Church tradition in a clear concept" (Schmemann, p. 78). 

May 21, 2017
Christ is Risen! Χριστός Ἀνέστη!
     The joy and light of Pascha continue to fill our hearts as we proclaim to the world that our Lord is Risen, our hope is renewed, and the victory of life is ours through the grace of God. This glorious transfiguration from death to life that we celebrate is affirmed in the commemoration of this Sunday after Pascha as the Sunday of the Blind Man. Today we read from the Gospel of John about a man who was blind from birth. In His great compassion, Christ healed the man revealing the power of the grace of God and leading to our Lord's acclamation, I am the light of the world. (John 8:12) This miraculous event guides us to affirm the calling of Christ to be the light of the world, to have compassion for the needs of others and to give honor and glory to God for the marvelous works that are done in His name. For almost a century this has been the focus of the members of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Today we honor this legacy of compassion and service by observing AHEPA Sunday and offering our gratitude to the members of the AHEPA family. Throughout our Holy Archdiocese, these faithful servants of God are leaders in their parishes, in the institutions and organizations of the Church, and in using the strength and mission of AHEPA to meet vital needs around the world. Through social services, educational programs and scholarships, medical and philanthropic services, and advocacy, the members of AHEPA bring light to many who need hope, compassion to many in need, and give honor and glory to God through their witness of faith in Him.I ask all of our parishes to observe this day as AHEPA Sunday and to recognize the members of AHEPA. May we continue to offer our prayers and support for the faithful service of AHEPA, and in the light of the Resurrection, may we serve in compassion, rejoice in the power of God's abundant grace, and give Him honor and glory for the great works that are done. 
     With Paternal Love and Blessings, † E V A N G E L O S Metropolitan of New Jersey 

May 14, 2017
Prayer to the Theotokos, Mother of All of Us
     Who can worthily bless thee, All-holy Virgin; what lips are capable of hymning thy majesty which surpasseth all conceiving? Most glorious are all the mysteries fulfilled n thee, 0 Theotokos, loftier than thought and word. At the beauty of thy virginity and thy most radiant purity the cherubim did marvel and the seraphim were struck with we; for the miracle of the Childbirth without corruption neither human nor angelic ongue can tell. For from thee the Ageless and Only-begotten Son of God, God the Lord, ineffiably took flesh, was born and lived among men; and thee, as His Mother, ath He greatly magnified, revealing thee as the Queen of all creation and for us the signal refuge of salvation. Wherefore, all that flee under thy protection, being assailed y various sorrows and afflictions, receive from thee consolation and healing in abundance and by thee are saved from dangers. For thou art truly the Mother of all that sorrow and are heavy laden, the joy of the grieving, the healer of the sick, the preserver of youths, the staff of old age, the glory of the righteous, the sinners' hope of salvation and guide to repentance; for thou dost ever help all with thy protection and dost intercede for all that flee to thee with faith and love, 0 thou all-good one. Do thou also help me who am in despair over my deeds, 0 fervent Mediatress for the
Christian race: Intercede thou for me, that I not perish until the end in sins; for I have no other refuge and protection, but thee, the Mistress of my life: Abandon me not, despise me not, but by thy judgments that thou thyself dost know, do thou save me, for blessed art thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

May 7, 2017
St. John Chrysostom Eucharistic Quotes
     "How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment." "It is not the man who is responsible for the offerings as they become Christ's Body and Blood; it is Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The standing figure belongs to the priest who speaks these words. The power and the grace belong to God. 'This is My Body,' he says. And these words transform the offerings." ..."Water and blood are a symbol of baptism and the most holy sacrament [of the Eucharist]. Now the Church is founded on the spiritual renewal by the bath of rebirth and on the most holy sacrament [of the Eucharist], both of which have their origin in the side of Christ. Therefore Christ built the Church from the side of Christ, just as he made Eve from the side of Adam. Therefore St. Paul says, 'We are of his flesh and of his bones.'" "Now we see how intimately Christ has been united to his spouse (the Church); see with what food he satisfies us. He himself is our food and nourishment; and just as a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, Christ also constantly nourishes with his own blood those to whom he has given birth (by Baptism)." "Would you like to honor the body of Christ you receive in the Eucharist? Do not despise the poor when you see him clothed in rags... He who said 'this is my body', has said also 'You have seen me hungry and you did not give me to eat! Whatever you have refused to do for any of these little ones, you have refused it to me also!'" "It is necessary to understand the wonder of this sacrament. What it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one body, and members, as it is said, of his flesh and of his bones... This is effected by the food which he has given us... He has mingled his body with ours that we may be one, as body joined to head."

April 30, 2017
 A Letter on Pascha from an Unknown Inmate of a Soviet Concentration Camp
     A person can really penetrate the mystery of the fall of the first man, the mysterious meaning of the redemption of all creation and the great victory of Christ over the powers of evil only when imprisoned in a Soviet concentration camp for their religious beliefs. Only when suffering for the ideals of the Gospel do we comprehend our sinful weakness and our unworthiness compared to the great martyrs of the Christian Church of the first centuries. Only then do we perceive the absolute necessity of deep humility and submission in the absence of which we cannot be saved; only then do we begin to distinguish the passing image of what is visible and the eternal life of the invisible.
    On the day of Pascha, all of us who had been incarcerated for our religious beliefs were united in the one joy of Christ. Exalting the eternal God, we all were filled with the same feeling, the same spiritual triumph. There was no triumphant Paschal liturgy with the ringing of the bells, there was no opportunity for coming together for worship, for dressing differently for the feast, for preparing Paschal dishes. Instead, there was even more work and even more interference than usual. All who were imprisoned here for their religious beliefs, for different doctrines were surrounded by even more spying, even more danger from the secret police.
     Nonetheless, there was Pascha there - a great, spiritual, unforgettable Pascha. It was sanctified by the presence among us of Christ Himself, it was sanctified by the quiet stars of Siberia and our sorrows. How joyfully our hearts beat when participating in the Great Resurrection! Death has been vanquished - there is no more fear - we have been granted an eternal Pascha! Filled with this extraordinary Pascha, we send you triumphant and joyful news from the prison camp, Christ is Risen! (A letter from a Soviet concentration camp)


April 23, 2017
     But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said, "Except I shall see in His hands - I will not believe.
1. As to believe carelessly and in a random way, comes of an over-easy temper; so to be beyond measure curious and meddlesome, marks a most gross understanding. On this account Thomas is held to blame. For he believed not the Apostles when they said, "We have seen the Lord"; not so much mistrusting them, as deeming the thing to be impossible, that is to say, the resurrection from the dead. Since he says not, "I do not believe you," but, "Except I put my hand- I do not believe." But how was it, that when all were collected together, he alone was absent? Probably after the dispersion which had lately taken place, he had not returned even then. But do thou, when you see the unbelief of the disciple, consider the lovingkindness of the Lord, how for the sake of a single soul He showed Himself with His wounds, and comes in order to save even the one, though he was grosser than the rest; on which account indeed he sought proof from the grossest of the senses, and would not even trust his eyes. For he said not, "Except I see," but, "Except I handle," he says, lest what he saw might somehow be an apparition. Yet the disciples who told him these things, were at the time worthy of credit, and so was He that promised; yet, since he desired more, Christ did not deprive him even of this.
     And why does He not appear to him straightway, instead of "after eight days"? [John 20:26] In order that being in the mean time continually instructed by the disciples, and hearing the same thing, he might be inflamed to more eager desire, and be more ready to believe for the future. But whence knew he that His side had been opened? From having heard it from the disciples. How then did he believe partly, and partly not believe? Because this thing was very strange and wonderful. But observe, I pray you, the truthfulness of the disciples, how they hide no faults, either their own or others', but record them with great veracity.
     Jesus again presents himself to them, and waits not to be requested by Thomas, nor to hear any such thing, but before he had spoken, Himself prevented him, and fulfilled his desire; showing that even when he spoke those words to the disciples, He was present. For He used the same words, and in a manner conveying a sharp rebuke, and instruction for the future. For having said,
     "Reach hither your finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side"; He added, "And be not faithless, but believing." Do you see that his doubt proceeded from unbelief? But it was before he had received the Spirit; after that, it was no longer so, but, for the future, they were perfected.
     And not in this way only did Jesus rebuke him, but also by what follows; for when he, being fully satisfied, breathed again, and cried aloud, "My Lord, and my God." He says, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." St. John Chrysostom.John 20:24-26)