Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 30: Holy Apostle Andrew the First Called

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, St Andrew became his closest disciple. St John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, St Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.

He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: "See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches." The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.

Read it all at the OCA website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Photos from St. Matthew's Day in Baton Rouge

We've just posted some photos from St Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church's first Patronal Feastday - see them over at

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Prayers for the upcoming meeting in Turkey

I ask your prayers as Pope Benedict XVI travels to Turkey to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. No one knows what (if anything) will come from this meeting, but the potential ramifications for the future of (post-) Christian Europe are staggering.

Rod Dreher has an excellent editorial in the Dallas Morning News on the visit. Here's a snippet:

It's never far from the Orthodox mind that the West – particularly the Roman Catholic Church – carries significant fault for the loss of Byzantine Christian lands to the Muslim Ottoman empire. The Crusaders sacked Constantinople, as Istanbul was then known, in 1204, fatally weakening Eastern Christian imperial government, which Muslim forces finally overthrew two centuries later. Orthodox memory of this atrocity – for which Pope John Paul II graciously apologized – is long. Yet the hour is late indeed for the Orthodox to dwell on this history, as a resurgent Islam pushes what is left of Christianity in Muslim lands further to the brink of extinction...

Read it all here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Adult Catechism at St Matthew Orthodox Church

The Adult Catechism Class meets at 9:15 AM on Sunday Mornings at St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church in Baton Rouge (see the sidebar for map and location). We're studying Archbishop DMITRI's The Doctrine of Christ: A Handbook for Laymen. Everyone is welcome to attend; children's Sunday School meets at the same time.

The adults will also be looking at the Jesus Prayer.

Check out the church website for explanatory material on the Jesus Prayer from Fr Thomas Hopko.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Banquet of the Kingdom of God

"Man is what he eats."

With this statement the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach thought he had put an end to all "idealistic" speculations about human nature. In fact, however, he was expressing, without knowing it, the most religious idea of man. For long before Feuerbach the same definition of man was given by the Bible. In the biblical story of creation man is presented, first of all, as a hungry being, and the whole world as his food. Second only to the direction to propagate and have dominion over the earth, according to the author of the first chapter of Genesis, is God's instruction to men to eat of the earth: "Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed... and every tree, which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat..."

Man must eat in orer to live; he must take the world into his body and transform it into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. And this image of the banquet remains, throughout the whole Bible, the central image of life. It is the image of life at its cretaion and also the image of life at its end and fulfillment: "...that you eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom."

- Fr Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Leadership at St Vladimir's Seminary

Glory to God for all things!

Fr John Behr and Fr Chad Hatfield have been elected by the St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary Board of Trustees to share in the seminary leadership – Fr John as Dean and Fr Chad as Provost (Chief Executive Officer). As Dean, Fr Behr will preside over the ecclesial and educational life of the seminary, while Fr Hatfield, in his role of Provost, will head the organizational running of the school. Both will report to the Board of Trustees presided over by its President, The Most Blessed Herman, Metropolitan of All America and Canada and Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Read the entire news release on the SVOTS site here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Absence of God

Many years ago a man came to see me. He asked me to show him God. I told him I could not but I added that even if I could, he would not be able to see Him, because I thought--and I do think--that to meet God one must have something in common with Him, something that gives you eyes to see, perceptiveness to perceive. He asked me then why I thought as I did, and I suggested that he should think a few moments and tell me whether there was any passage in the Gospel that moved him particularly, to see what was the connection between him and God.

He said, "Yes, in the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, the passage concerning the woman taken in adultery."

I said, "Good, this is one of the most beautiful and moving passages. Now sit back and ask yourself, who are you in the scene which is described? Are you the Lord, or at least on His side, full of mercy, of understanding and full of faith in this woman who can repent and become a new creature? Are you the woman taken in adultery? Are you one of the older men who walk out at once because they are aware of their own sins, or one of the young ones who wait?"

He thought for just a few minutes then said, "No, I feel I am the only Jew who would not have walked out but who would have stoned the woman."

I said, "Thank God that He does not allow you to meet him face to face."

-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in Learning to Pray

Monday, November 20, 2006

New blog site for the St Matthew Church

We've started a new blog site for St. Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Church in Baton Rouge -

The key word in the address now matches our email address ( and the slightly shorter address will (hopefully) fit into the religion directory in the Saturday newspaper.

I'll continue to maintain TransfigureBatonRouge as a means of outreach and evangelism. The Church blog will be dedicated primarily to information about the congregation, liturgical commemorations, and announcements.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

O Wondrous Day!

Our patronal feastday liturgy was magnificent -- over twenty present, even on a weekday!

Many thanks to Fr Matthew Jackson and our friends from Christ our Saviour Mission in McComb, Mississippi who joined us for the celebration.

Fr Matthew's sermon from the liturgy is posted here.

Many years to Fr Matthew and Saint Matthew the Apostle Orthodox Mission in Baton Rouge!

(photos were taken... we'll post them as they become available)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Celebrate our Name Day November 16!

You are cordially invited to join us for Divine Liturgy at 10:00 AM on Thursday morning, November 16 to celebrate the feast of our patron, St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist, at the Church in Wedgewood Village on Hewwood Avenue in Baton Rouge.

The liturgy will be served by Fr Matthew Jackson, priest-in-charge of Christ our Saviour Orthodox Church in McComb, Mississippi.

Make plans now to attend!

The book and icon shop will be open for browsing after the service.

Click here for a map to the Church.

November 13: St John Chrysostom

Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the Three Hierarchs [January 30], was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military commander. His father, Secundus, died soon after the birth of his son. His mother, Anthusa, widowed at twenty years of age, did not seek to remarry but rather devoted all her efforts to the raising of her son in Christian piety. The youth studied under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians. But, scorning the vain disciplines of pagan knowledge, the future hierarch turned himself to the profound study of Holy Scripture and prayerful contemplation. St Meletius, Bishop of Antioch (February 12), loved John like a son, guided him in the Faith, and in the year 367 baptized him.

After three years John was tonsured as a Reader. When St Meletius had been sent into exile by the emperor Valens in the year 372, John and Theodore (afterwards Bishop of Mopsuestia) studied under the experienced instructors of ascetic life, the presbyters Flavian and Diodorus of Tarsus. The highly refined Diodorus had particular influence upon the youth. When John's mother died, he embraced monasticism, which he called the "true philosophy." Soon John and his friend Basil were being considered as candidates for the episcopal office, and they decided to withdraw into the wilderness to avoid this. While St John avoided the episcopal rank out of humility, he secretly assisted in Basil's consecration.

During this period St John wrote his "Six Discourses on the Priesthood," a great work of Orthodox pastoral theology. The saint spent four years struggling in the wilderness, living the ascetic life under the guidance of an experienced spiritual guide. And here he wrote three books entitled, "Against the Opponents of Those Attracted to the Monastic Life", and a collection entitled, "A Comparison of the Monk with the Emperor" (also known as "Comparison of Imperial Power, Wealth and Eminence, with the True and Christian Wisdom-Loving Monastic Life"), both works which are marked by a profound reflection of the worthiness of the monastic vocation.

For two years, the saint lived in a cave in complete silence, but was obliged to return to Antioch to recover his health. St Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch, ordained him deacon in the year 381. The following years were devoted to work on new theological writings: "Concerning Providence" ("To the Ascetic Stagirios"), "Book Concerning Virginity," "To a Young Widow" (2 discourses), and the "Book of St Babylos, and Against Julian and the Pagans."

In the year 386 St John was ordained presbyter by Bishop Flavian of Antioch. St John was a splendid preacher, and his inspired words earned him the name "Golden-Mouthed" ("Chrysostom"). For twelve years the saint preached in church, usually twice a week, but sometimes daily, deeply stirring the hearts of his listeners.

In his pastoral zeal to provide Christians with a better understanding of Holy Scripture, St John employed hermeneutics, an interpretation and analysis of the Word of God (i.e. exegesis"). Among his exegetical works are commentaries on entire books of the Holy Scripture (Genesis, the Psalter, the Gospels of Matthew and John, the Epistles of the Apostle Paul), and also many homilies on individual texts of the Holy Bible, but also instructions on the Feastdays, laudations on the Saints, and also apologetic (i.e. defensive) homilies (against Anomoeans, Judaizers and pagans). As a priest, St John zealously fulfilled the Lord's command to care for the needy. Under St John, the Antiochian Church provided sustenance each day to as many as 3,000 virgins and widows, not including in this number the shut-ins, wanderers and the sick.

St John began his commentary on Genesis at the beginning of Great Lent in 388, preaching thirty-two homilies during the forty day period. During Holy Week he spoke of how Christ was betrayed, and about the Cross. During Bright Week, his pastoral discourse was devoted to the Resurrection. His exegesis of the Book of Genesis was concluded only at the end of October (388).

At Pascha in the following year the saint began his homilies on the Gospel of John, and toward the end of the year 389 he took up the Gospel of Matthew. In the year 391 the Antioch Christians listened to his commentary on the Epistles of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans and to the Corinthians. In 393 he explained the Epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, Timothy, Titus, and the Psalms. In his homily on the Epistle to the Ephesians, St John denounced a schism in Antioch, "I tell you and I witness before you, that to tear asunder the Church means nothing less than to fall into heresy. The Church is the house of the heavenly Father, one Body and one Spirit."

The fame of the holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the death of Archbishop Nectarius of Constantinople, successor to St Gregory the Theologian, St John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch, and elected to the See of Constantinople. At the capital, the holy archpastor was not able to preach as often as he had at Antioch. Many matters awaited the saint's attention, and he began with the most important -- the spiritual perfection of the priesthood. He himself was the best example of this. The financial means apportioned for the archbishop were channeled by the saint into the upkeep of several hospices for the sick and two hostels for pilgrims. He fasted strictly and ate very little food, and usually refused invitations to dine because of his delicate stomach.

The saint's zeal in spreading the Christian Faith extended not only to the inhabitants of Constantinople, but also to Thrace to include Slavs and Goths, and to Asia Minor and the Pontine region. He established a bishop for the Bosphorus Church in the Crimea. St John sent off zealous missionaries to Phoenicia, to Persia, and to the Scythians, to convert pagans to Christ. He also wrote letters to Syria to bring back the Marcionites into the Church, and he accomplished this. Preserving the unity of the Church, the saint would not permit a powerful Gothic military commander, who wanted the emperor to reward his bravery in battle, to open an Arian church at Constantinople. The saint exerted much effort in enhancing the splendor of the church services: he compiled a Liturgy, he introduced antiphonal singing for the all-night Vigil, and he wrote several prayers for the rite of anointing the sick with oil.

The saintly hierarch denounced the dissolute morals of people in the capital, especially at the imperial court, irrespective of person. When the empress Eudoxia connived to confiscate the last properties of the widow and children of a disgraced dignitary, the saint rose to their defense. The arrogant empress would not relent, and nursed a grudge against the archpastor. Eudoxia's hatred of the saint blazed forth anew when malefactors told her that the saint apparently had her in mind during his sermon on vain women. A court was convened composed of hierarchs who had been justly condemned by Chrysostom: Theophilus of Alexandria, Bishop Severian of Gabala, who had been banished from the capital because of improprieties, and others.

This court of judgment declared St John deposed, and that he be executed for his insult to the empress. The emperor decided on exile instead of execution. An angry crowd gathered at the church, resolved to defend their pastor. In order to avoid a riot, St John submitted to the authorities. That very night there was an earthquake at Constantinople. The terrified Eudoxia urgently requested the emperor to bring the saint back, and promptly sent a letter to the banished pastor, beseeching him to return. Once more, in the capital church, the saint praised the Lord in a short talk, "For All His Ways."

The slanderers fled to Alexandria. But after only two months a new denunciation provoked the wrath of Eudoxia. In March 404, an unjust council was convened, decreeing the exile of St John. Upon his removal from the capital, a fire reduced the church of Hagia Sophia and also the Senate building to ashes. Devastating barbarian incursions soon followed, and Eudoxia died in October 404. Even pagans regarded these events as God's punishment for the unjust judgment against the saint.

In Armenia, the saint strove all the more to encourage his spiritual children. In numerous letters (245 are preserved) to bishops in Asia, Africa, Europe and particularly to his friends in Constantinople, St John consoled the suffering, guiding and giving support to his followers. In the winter of 406 St John was confined to his bed with sickness, but his enemies were not to be appeased. From the capital came orders to transfer St John to desolate Pityus in Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Worn out by sickness, the saint began his final journey under military escort, traveling for three months in the rain and frost. He never arrived at his place of exile, for his strength failed him at Comana.

At the crypt of St Basiliscus (May 22), St John was comforted by a vision of the martyr, who said, "Despair not, brother John! Tomorrow we shall be together." After receiving the Holy Mysteries, the hierarch fell asleep in the Lord on September 14, 407. His last words were, "Glory to God for all things!"

The holy relics of St John Chrysostom were solemnly transferred to Constantinople in the year 438. The disciple of St John, the venerable Isidore of Pelusium (February 4), wrote: "The house of David is grown strong, and the house of Saul enfeebled. He is victor over the storms of life, and has entered into heavenly repose."

Although he died on September 14, St John's celebration was transferred to this day because of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. St John Chrysostom is also celebrated on January 27 and January 30.

Text and icon from the OCA website

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Visiting Priest This Weekend

Fr Justin Patterson will be visiting this weekend to serve Great Vespers on Saturday, November 11 at 5:00 PM and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, November 12 at 10:00 AM.

Sunday School for children and Adult Catechism will be as regularly scheduled at 9:15 AM Sunday morning.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Orthodoxy in Mexico

(The website Directions to Orthodoxy recently posted an article by Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo on Orthodox mission work in Mexico. Missionary outreach into Mexico has been an enduring interest of His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas.)
Last year, after a 14 hour bus ride from the Texas border to Mexico City, Fr. Antonio Perdomo and his two teenaged daughters delivered three large boxes of icons to Orthodox Church in America Bishop ALEJO and Archbishop DMITRI during Vladika DMITRI’s annual Theophany season visit to Mexico. The Hierarchs and Clergy in Mexico received these gifts with great joy and thanksgiving. This year, the Perdomos hope to continue the tradition and to do even more...

Read it all here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wilken on Pelikan as Teacher of the Church

(Several months ago, the esteemed Church historian Robert Wilken wrote a eulogy to his teacher and colleague Jaroslav Pelikan in the journal First Things. I deeply admire the work of both men; the eulogy is a moving witness to the faithful legacy of a great Christian scholar.)

When I walked into the chapel at St. Vladimir’s Seminary on a bright spring morning for the funeral of Jaroslav Pelikan, I saw an open casket in the center of the church. Next to it was a young woman standing at a reading desk chanting a psalm with tears running down her cheeks. As she turned the pages of the psalmbook, her other arm held a young girl standing on a chair to her left. Members of the seminary community had been taking turns through the night reciting psalms as they kept vigil over Jaroslav’s still body.

As I listened to the recitation of the psalms, the eyes of the saints painted on the walls of the chapel looked down on the simple ritual unfolding before them. Soon the building would be filled with mourners, but it seemed that the church was already present to commend Jaroslav to the care of the angels. When people began to take their places, I sensed that on this occasion there would be few reminders of the university world in which Pelikan had lived for so many decades. Besides the Pelikan family, most in attendance were from the local community: students and faculty garbed in the Orthodox inner cassock, called a podryasnik; mothers and wives; women and men carrying infants in arms; two little girls playing quietly on the wood floor close to the casket. The company that gathered that morning was more like a family, the family of the Church, a fellowship united by much deeper bonds than those of the academy. Their words and music and gestures were the solemn liturgy of God’s people who had come to offer praise to the holy, mighty, and immortal God and to celebrate, in the language of the Orthodox Church, a “Divine Service for the Funeral of a Layman During the Forty Days of Pascha.”

It was fitting that Professor Pelikan’s funeral should take place at St. Vladimir’s. He and his wife, Sylvia, had been regular communicants in this chapel, and his final book, a theological commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, was dedicated to “my liturgical family at Saint Vladimir’s” with the inscription, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). But there was another reason a theological seminary was the right place. Though Jaroslav Pelikan had a distinguished career in the university, he was a graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he taught for several years. He always felt at home in a theological community and saw himself, and was revered by others, first and foremost as a doctor ecclesiae, a teacher of the Church.

Read it all here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pondering "Church": Cruciform Ecclesiology

Several days ago, I mentioned Fr Stephen Freeman's new blog, "Glory to God for all Things." He has posted a reflection on the Orthodox understanding of the Church (or "ecclesiology") entitled "Pillar and Ground of the Truth," which I highly recommend.

Here's a quotation:

"The Orthodox Church has perhaps the weakest ecclesiology of all, because it depends, moment by moment, on the love and forgiveness of each by all and of all by each. Either the Bishops of the Church love and forgive each other or the whole thing falls apart. 'Brethren, let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' These are the words that introduce the Creed each Sunday, and they are the words that are the bedrock of our ecclesiology.

"We live in a wondrous age of the Church. Having suffered terrible blows at the hands of the Bolsheviks, we were smashed into jurisdictions (they don’t really start until the 1920’s), and often turned on one another in our rage. Today, the Bolshevik has been consigned 'to the dustbin of history.' Moscow and the Russian Church Outside of Russia are actually going to gather at the Lord’s table together. We still have the spectre of a powerful Patriarch of Constantinople bumping into a powerful Patriarch of Moscow here and there, first in Estonia, then in London, who knows where next.

"But in each and every case the only ecclesiology that will work, that will reveal the Church to be the Pillar and Ground of the Truth will be an ecclesiology of the Cross: mutual forgiveness and abiding love. This will be the Church’s boast: that it became like Christ in all ways; or it will have no boast at all.

"I rejoice that I am alive in such a time as this. We stand at the edge of an abyss. We can embrace each other in joy and forgiveness or fall into the abyss itself (I trust Christ’s promise to keep us from such a misstep - though He has pulled us out of such places more than once). I rejoice because I don’t want anything other than to be conformed to the image of the crucified Christ. Let everybody else be excellent if they need to be. I need to die."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saints, fundamentals, and fighting the good fight...

Once upon a time, I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church at a wonderful little parish: All Saints Church in Anchorage, Alaska.

One of the hymns we sang fairly frequently was worthy of our patronage: "For All the Saints." A particular verse has been on my mind in recent days, even despite my conversion to Orthodoxy (which, according to the Eastern rite, doesn't celebrate All Saints on November 1, but rather on the Sunday after Pentecost):

"And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia! "

I dredge up all of this because of a recent post by Orthodox priest and blogger Fr Jonathan Tobias, who proposes a series of "fundamentals" of faith on his blog, "Second Terrace." Fr Jonathan has a profound sense of the fierce warfare we all endure in our feeble efforts to proclaim the True Faith. His proposal of the fundamentals of the Orthodox Faith is worth pondering.

Here's a snippet. But be warned: Upon reading it, you may want to shout "alleluia," or break forth into song, or perhaps even go searching for a good single malt scotch:

1. The Holy Trinity is the end of theology, the insurmountable height of knowledge. Theology is not the province of intellectuals (especially as defined here). The Church, in testifying to what it knows from experience (not from dialectic), says that the Trinity is addressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not any other linguistic triad.*

2. The Holy Trinity is known in salvation through the Son of God, the Word, Whose Mystical Body is the Apostolic Church, articulated through the ages by Holy Tradition. Only the Apostolic Church can sustain Trinitarian theology and a Chalcedonian economy.**

3. The Church can only do Mystery well, because it is derived from Mystery. The Eucharist is the constitution, the Sacraments are sunrise, wind and rain. The Church is the precinct of Salvation, and the door to forever.***

4. Language survives only when it stays true, when it drinks from the mystical spring of the Faith. Time brooks no falsehood: the speech of the agora withers at sundown, when the markets close.****

5. Faith, the Gospel, the Church, and Salvation History are Real. Because these things are Real, they are Symbolic. Miracles happen: memories grow -- root, stalk and flower. They are not private subjective experiences. They are not psychotherapeutically expedient constructs for individual liberation or consciousness-raising. They are not self-tailored and modified justifications of eccentricities and identity-formation. They occupy no place in any narrative, or brand of historicism.

*Not Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Not Lover, Beloved, and Love. Not Rock, Scissors and Paper. (Somewhere, I think, I ranted about this already.)

**You don’t think so? Where else have you heard sermons on one Person after the union of Two Natures? Where else have you heard the phrase “Three Persons, One Essence”? In this twilight zone of post-America, we need more Christologists and Trinitarians.

***The Church is no good at anything else: like Town Meetings, Lawrence Welk Shows, Amway Pep Rallies, and Unitarian Ashrams. Consultants might spike the traffic count with market analyses and telemarketing and seeker programming, but gains are, 99% of the time, merely lateral moves by malcontents. Besides, anonymity (and freedom from rummage sales) is the main reason for mega-church membership: and anonymity, whether they know it or not, is of the antichrist.

****The inclusivistic, anti-Patriarchal neo-Evangelicals will set, like billy-oh, to the stripping away of “He” from God, and “Man” from humanity. They will rezone anthropology to be more gay-friendly. They will be coached by the spirits of Danton and Robespierre. Of course, they won’t notice that inclusivistic, non-sexist language doesn’t save a single soul. Patriarchalism has, and will. Ask the Mother of God.

*****The Church is the proper judge of culture, as it is, after all, the Pillar and Ground of Truth. That’s pretty fundamental.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wisdom from Saint Isaac of Syria

St Isaac of Syria was a 7th century bishop of Ninevah. His spirituality has been the subject of a scholarly work by Bp Hilarion Alfeyev, whom I greatly admire and whose reflections have occasionally been posted on this site.

The following quotations come from a new blog by Fr Stephen Freeman, rector of St. Anne's Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who visited with us back in the early summer.

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.

Be crucified, but do not crucify others.

Se slandered, but do not slander others.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.

Suffer with the sick.

Be afflicted with sinners.

Exult with those who repent.

Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.

Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.

Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.

Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.

And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.