The Lenten Observance
February 26, 2013
By + Archbishop Dmitri
(On Sunday, February 17, Orthodox Christians entered a four week season of Pre-Lent, to prepare themselves for a spiritually rewarding time of year: the Great Fast. In anticipation we offer the following article from His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri.)
"In the not too distant past, a minister of one of the denominations was quoted as saying: "Almost no one in my Church observes Lent in the traditional way any longer. The people simply cannot find a place for fasting and self-denial in their current lifestyles. They are, however, attracted by the idea of a period of intensive sharing and helping others. This is what we are concentrating on in our Church nowadays. After all, isn't that what Lent is all about?
It is unfortunately true that what this minister says reflects a very popular attitude. There is just no place for Lent in the contemporary way of life, so some Churches have seen fit to adapt themselves to the "realities of modern life," skip the "empty ritual observances," and "make the spring preparation for Easter more meaningful" to their people. These platitudes dominate many discussions of the purpose of Lent
Still more unfortunate is the acceptance (sometimes without realizing it) by not a few American Orthodox of these notions. Perhaps in a country like ours where certain religious and semi-religious ideas fill the air, it is natural for people who do not think things through to be carried along by the trends. This is especially true when what is offered is less demanding
No one will question the fact that the Orthodox Christian Lenten observance is difficult. What is prescribed requires almost a super-human effort -- the dietary changes, the cessation of entertainments, the constant call to self-examination, the reminders of our need to turn away from this world and set our sight on God's Kingdom, the injunction to forgive and love even our enemies. It has little appeal to a society in which self-indulgence is no longer a sinful departure from God's will for man, but a philosophy of life. Orthodox people are inescapably members of such a society, and being Orthodox not just in name, but conscientiously, is really a deliberate rejection of most of what that society offers.
What is missing from so many discussions of Lent and what is of primary importance in the Orthodox concept, is the idea of repentance. In fact, the underlying idea of the Great Fast is exactly that, and the ritual observance is nothing more than a sign of it. By the way, the term Great Fast is still a better name for the period than Lent. We use the latter term, however, for ease of discussion, for fear that many of our own people would not know what we are talking about if we used the other one.
Actually, by rejecting traditional Lenten disciplines, what society and some of its obedient churches and churchmen are implicitly rejecting is the very idea of repentance, because repentance means a change of mind, of direction, of one's way of life, of values. These changes which must come from the heart, arise from a conviction that one does not live as God would have him live. They would not appeal to a self-satisfied and basically self-righteous society. And a society which is convinced that it is good and has no sin to be sorry for is just that, self-righteous.
The radical change of diet that is called for, is a sign of a radical change of lifestyle to which the Christian Faith calls us, even if it means running the risk of being 'odd' to those we work and associate with. The increase in church attendance (during Lent) is an indication of the Christian's longing to be with God, in His house, and with His people. The sharing with and the helping of others, an enormously important part of the observance, is not just a response to some humanitarian concerns, but a response to Christ's new commandment to love one another. All of these characteristics of the Fast are intimately bound together and interdependent. A mere outward observance of these things without the change of heart that they signify, is useless.
The Church is calling her faithful people once again to the observance of the Great Fast. Nothing has changed. Even if someone, moved by a false feeling of compassion for the people, should try to 'lighten the load' and make it easier by reducing the requirements, he is fooling himself and those who follow him. The ideal is still the same -- in this world in which we live -- being in it, yet not of it, as the Lord has characterized His followers. We shall be invited to come back to God, overcome all obstacles so that the One we see is Jesus, to overcome self-righteousness, to repent of our sins against God and against our fellow man, and to make our lives models of self-giving, sharing, and forgiveness -- in a word, of love -- love of God and of our neighbor."
In Memorium: The Repose of Mother Lyubov
February 24, 2013
2013 Diocesan Pastoral Conference
February 12, 2013
The clergy and council of the Diocese of the South gathered for the 2013 Pastoral Conference at St Mary of Egypt Church in Noross, GA. We are grateful to the community of St Mary of Egypt for their hospitality.
To listen to audio recordings of each talk, please stream or download them from the following links.
(Please note the talks might not open to play in Firefox, but they work in Google Chrome)
Serbian House of Studies to be Founded at St. Vladimir\'s Seminary
February 12, 2013
[SVOTS Communications] St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY, and the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade have made a formal agreement to work together with the aim of establishing a Serbian House of Studies on the campus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. The House of Studies has several goals, including the promotion of sustained dialogue and educational exchanges between Orthodox Christians in America and Serbia.
Texas Mission Participates in Local March for Life
February 1, 2013
Fr John Filipovich and 2 parishioners from St Jonah Church participated in the Inaugural March for Life in Alpine, Texas on Saturday, Jan 26. The event was organized by the Knights' of Columbus from Our Lade of Peace Catholic Church. The march was from the Brewster County Courthouse to the parish hall at Our Lady of Peace, just a few blocks from St. Jonah Church. Fr John was invited to speak at the program following the march and spoke of how the relatively small population of Christians in ancient Rome rescued infants that were abandoned to die, and how such seemingly small actions evangelized and ultimately converted the Roman Empire to Christianity. He emphasized that impmortant for Christians today to demonstrate care for the unborn and born, the young and the elderly so that we too, in our small march in Alpine, will lead some to the knowledge of Salvation in Jesus Christ!
Reflections on the National March for Life
February 1, 2013
By Fr John Parker
I walked in a sea of a half-million people. I had never been in a crowd that size—though equally impressive was walking against the tide of 10,000 Muslims prayerfully leaving the old city of Jerusalem on a Friday in Ramadan in 2008. There were people everywhere—the streets were ‘wall to wall’ with marchers. Some climbed trees to see and hear speakers encouraging the crowds in the middle of the Mall, the United States Capitol in the backdrop. Bus after bus dropped off Pro-life supporters who came from near and far to rally for the sanctity of human life, particularly with respect to abortion.
The arctic cold rapidly chilled us all, before the snow showers began about half-way through the four-hour event. The freezing temperatures and stiff wind did not deter. There were groups processing with signs and placards. There were choral groups singing sacred hymns. There was even a marching band! Several groups, including ours, had spontaneous prayer services along the route to the steps of the Supreme Court.
Among the crowds, I heard languages from around the world. I met a young couple who had come from Minnesota—the woman had ridden a bus from Nebraska in previous years. In addition to the 10 or more Orthodox Christian bishops and countless lay people with whom I walked, there was at least one Roman Catholic Cardinal present, dozens, if not hundreds of Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests, pastors from several Protestant denominations including at least one Anglican Archbishop, and scores of young people. With us was an Archbishop from Ethiopia, and seminarians from Jerusalem, Austria, and Romania. In a most remarkable way, the world was present in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 25, for the 40th March for Life
When I saw the front-page photo in the Washington Post that said, “Anti-abortion activists protest in front of the Supreme Court”, I thought to myself, “Does that describe me? Is that what we did? Am I an ‘anti-abortion activist’? Did I protest?” I have never considered myself to be a “protester”; I have never been to a march. Am I an activist?
For me, this being the first March for Life that I have ever seen and in which I have participated, it was a half-day experience of supporting the underpinning concept of the inherent sanctity of human life—the protection of the unborn ‘weakest’ members of our society. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” came to mind. Simultaneously the event was a chance for me to observe, though from the inside, what the March is all about.
Haunting concepts arose. For example, there were folks who made a cogent point, asking: when is a fetus a human life and when is it a blob of tissue? Answer: According to many, it is a blob of tissue when it is unwelcome, unplanned, unwanted, or inconvenient.
Several statistics of the day have struck me to the core. For example, it is widely reported that since Roe v Wade, there have been 55,000,000 abortions in the United States. To put number in perspective—that would be the equivalent of killing every man, woman, and child in the state of South Carolina annually for 12 years.
Each year in the USA there are roughly 1.2 million abortions—more deaths, by 500, than the 9/11 attacks, daily. This would equal the death of every student at Burke high school, five times, every single day.
When confronted with numbers and statistics like this, it is understandable that numbers of people would become what the Washington Post labeled “anti-abortion activists”. (I wonder such media has not accepted the term “Pro-Life”, or why, if it insists on renaming what others have named, that it does call ‘the other side’ “Pro-abortion”.)
Still, though, statistics also reveal a terrible inner-conflict for Christians: for every one finger they point at others, more than 3 point back at themselves. 65% of all aborted children are aborted by self-described Christians. Specifically, 37% are Protestant, and 28% Roman Catholic. If Christians alone would follow the teachings of Jesus, 2275 lives per day would be saved. That would be a Wando High School full of children about every other day.
The March for Life opened my eyes to see the complex intricacies of abortion in the public sphere—a meeting of politics, social agendas, and religion. In a rather blunt way, it also help me to observe on the one hand just how strong the support is to defend the sanctity of life, and on the other hand just how gravely Roe v Wade has impacted our country.
It likewise highlighted for me just how much work Christians have to do under their own Christian roofs. What reasons do Christians offer for their abortions? At the heart of Christianity is an obligation, in faith, to be as equally concerned (if not more so) about responsibilities than about rights. To be bearers, protectors and choosers of life, rather than purveyors of death.
Finally, the March for Life reminded me that Christians, at heart, are ‘pro-choice’ people. From the days of Moses himself, there have been “two ways to live”. There have always been, for all men and women, two choices from which to choose: Good or bad, right or wrong, blessings or curses, life or death.
The vast, vast majority, almost rounding others to nil, of pregnancies (which end by abortion) occur by some impassioned, self-indulgent, out-of-wedlock sexual encounter. Which of us believes that men and women are not free to make such choices? But from the Christian view, if and once “that” choice is made, and a woman is pregnant, rights must be subjected to responsibilities, and life must reign.