Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saints of Healing: Orthodox Services in the Houston Area

For the healing of soul, mind, and body...

In society today, there are many blessed people who work in fields that offer services of healing for the soul, mind, and body. We have physicians, therapists, psychiatrists, massage therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and counselors. Men and women who offer help/assistance to those struggling with ailments of their soul, mind, and body.

In the Life of the Church, throughout the Church year we commemorate many saints refered to as "holy unmercenaries." They lived pious lives offering great service to their fellow man through prayer and healing without payment. Saints such as Cosmos & Damian, Cyrus & John, Sampson the Hospitable, Panteleimon, Tryphon, Vlassios (Blaise), Luke the Apostle, Spyridon, Artemios, and numerous others.

While many people in society suffer in a variety of ways, it is a great comfort to witness the miraculous abilities of professionals who work diligently to heal and ease those who suffer. Whether one works in a hospital or private practice, examines charts or perscribes medication, listens and offers words of encouragement through counseling and therapy, all can use the great examples of those who have lived a life worthy of Christ the Great Physician.

Christ - the Great Physician
Image Source

With these great healing saints in mind, liturgical services will be held throughout the year on their feastdays. Our hope is that those in such professions as listed above will participate in services supplicating prayful intercessions from these examples of those who help the healing of soul, mind, and body.

Kontakion of the Holy Unmercenaries (Tone 2):
You have received the grace of remedies, spread strength over those in need, glorious, wonderworking Physicians; but by your visitation, cast down the insolence of enemies, healing the world by wonders.

Our first batch of special services begins over the next few weeks:

Tuesday, July 26th @ 7:30p, Akathist to St Panteilemon
Tuesday, August 2nd @ 6:00p, Paraklesis to the Theotokos during the Dormition Fast
Thursday, August 4th @ 6:00p, Paraklesis to the Theotokos
Tuesday, August 9th @ 6:00p, Paraklesis to the Theotokos
Thursday, August 11th @ 6:00p, Paraklesis to the Theotokos

Hope you can join us!

Please check the St. George Houston, TX calendar for the schedule of services throughout the year and join us in worship to our loving and merciful God through the supplications of these "saints of healing."

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vehicle of Choice, a Fiery Chariot?

This was the chosen mode of transportation for the Holy Prophet Elijah (Elias), as he was taken up into the heavens. In commemoration of this great Old Testamental prophet, on his feastday (July 20th) in the Life of the Church, Orthodox Christians receive a special blessing of their own modes of transportations - vehicles, bicycles, airplanes, boats, etc.

Prophet Elijah taken to Heaven in a Fiery Chariot
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Prophet Elijah
Image Source

The Life of the Holy Prophet Elijah can be found HERE. He preached the "good news" of One True God among his people, the Israelites, who had fallen away from their Covenant with God and began to worship pagan idols. The life of the holy Prophet Elijah is recorded in the Old Testament books (3 Kings; 4 Kings; Sirach/Ecclesiastes 48:1-15; 1 Maccabees 2:58). At the time of the Transfiguration, the Prophet Elijah conversed with the Savior upon Mount Tabor (Mt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke. 9:30).

As a side note, enjoy this article with photos about a Russian Orthodox priest blessing the crew and spacecraft (Russian Soyuz TMA-17) HERE.

Enjoy some pictures of parish gatherings for the Orthodox blessing of transportation on the feastday of St Elijah:

Photos Source and Source

May Christ our True God, who didst will to travel into Egypt as a new-born babe, through the intercessions of the holy and glorious Prophet Elijah, bless our vehicles and other modes of transportation and travel with us, all the days of our lives!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trouble in Paradise: Adam, Eve, and Me

Orthodoxy sees Adam and Eve as being created by God with a certain vocation: to gradually become one with God increasing in their ability to share in His divine life (deification). To embrace their God-given vocation would bring life, to reject it would bring death. Their vocation is the vocation of all humanity. Their failure to obey the commandment of God is our own failure to obey. The freedom to obey or reject God belonged to our first parents; for God made man free and sovereign. Adam and Eve were overcome with the same temptation that afflicts all of humanity: to go their own way, to try and realize the fullness of existence without God.

The result of this affliction is death. This is the curse of humanity - to die. Thus to be re-created, Christ the Savior took on our humanity in order to destroy this affliction. As the great Orthodox hymn of Pascha tells us: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" His death and resurrection is our opportunity towards salvation - sharing in His divine life. However, it is not forced upon us, to accept God's grace and love. 

Resurrection of Christ/Descent into Hades
Christ reaching out His hands to Adam & Eve

Image Source

Love is at the heart of all Orthodox theology. The love from God freely given to all is Christ's voluntary death upon the Cross (Tree). The ancestral curse (or original sin) that came into existence through the failure of the First Adam is destroyed by the Second Adam (Christ our Savior). We still live in a fallen world, and our acceptance of the God's grace and love is a process to be sure. But the opportunity to regain our vocation has been given through the Incarnation (God becoming Man), His death and resurrection.

For Western Christianity, original sin as described by Augustine is an inherit guilt felt by all of humanity due to the fact that we are all descendents of Adam. Because Adam, our first father sinned, I am also guilty in his turning away from God. Original sin becomes a legal, jurisdictional delimma for all of humanity.

This approach to the Fall from Paradise is foreign to early Christianity, which Orthodoxy continues to practice and believe. To be sure, our fallen nature is sinful. There is no man who lives and sins not; but my sins are my own choice. I choose whether to draw closer to God or further from Him.

In Orthodox thought, the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise was not punishment done out of anger because of their sin, rather due to compassion. The expulsion from Paradise and from the Tree of Life was an act of love and mercy so that humanity would not become immortal in sin.

Expulsion from Paradise
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In simple terms, Orthodox approach to sin is therapeutic, viewing sin as an illness, while the Western Church tends towards a juridicial model seeing sin as moral failure. Orthodoxy focuses on the process and goal more than the sin. Salvation is a process that requires prayer, fasting, charity, and keeping vigil. A young monk was once asked what they do all day in a monastery, responding, "we fall and rise, fall and rise."

My parish priest/spiritual father once said, "if you're not struggling towards salvation, you're not doing it right!" This approach is crucial to our understanding of pastoral care; we need guidance and encouragement, hence the Sacrament of Confession is a face to face discussion. Humility is not an easy lesson to learn, real transformation is not instantaneous and we are in need of God's help.

Death has caused a change in the way we relate to God, to one another, and to the world. However, the choice offered to Adam and Eve remains our choice: to ascend to life or descend into corruption.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director