It is Time for the Lord to Act

divineliturgy

by Gabe Martini

Some of the most profound words of the Divine Liturgy are rarely heard.

Standing at the south corner of the altar, the deacon quietly utters to the presiding priest:

“It is time for the Lord to act.”

This phrase sets the tone for everything in our worship. We are not performing some sort of magical act that assuages the deity in our favor, but are rather joining in with the liturgy of eternity; the liturgy of his own actions in our favor; the liturgy which has, and is, and ever shall be taking place; the liturgy which is the great thanksgiving—the great Eucharist—of God.

The words of the deacon are taken from Psalm 118 (Ps. 119 in the MT), verse 126:

It is time for the Lord to act;
they turned away from your law.

While not forgetting the first, we must note the second half of this verse, as well.

Read more here

Something We All Really Need: A Personal Request

by Fr. John A. Peck

(P.S. –  it’s not money)

Dear Fathers, brothers and friends everywhere;

Have you ever googled the following terms:

Orthodox, priest, preaching

I have. I do regularly, with a multitude of similar terms, searching and seeking for good photos of Orthodox clergy delivering sermons. There are very, very few – even fewer good shots with focus, capturing the spirit of the event.

fr-maximus-preaching preaching2 Bishop Job
Fr Gary Kyriacou Fr. Matthew Jackson preaching Bishop Gregorios2
frjeromesanderson2 Fr Evan Armatas Fr Seraphim Holland

I won’t tell you how long it took me to find these nine photos. We need more! This Holy Week and Pascha, I’m asking YOU to help me out – help us ALL out – and get some good pictures of your priest (possibly yourself) giving a short homily at Bridegroom services, preaching at Vespers of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and on Pascha itself, including Paschal Vespers.

Please – get out your camera. Get the thing in focus and snap some good pics of your favorite clergyman from his good side. We don’t need more of a priest or deacon with a censer, or at the altar, but preaching from wherever he preaches from. If you are fortunate enough to be near a bishop – get a few dozen photos of him preaching also.

I plan to publish them towards the end of Bright Week, possibly on Thomas Sunday. I’ll include a link to your parish website also. Please help out!

This is a personal request, I realize, but it will make it possible for us to demonstrate visually that preaching is very much an integral part of the Orthodox Tradition – and one that is alive and vibrant. We often take it for granted, which is why we don’t photograph it. I will happily use them in the coming year in Preachers Institute stories, or just post them showing the Apostolic Tradition of preaching the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus in the 21st century!

I’m asking you to photograph it all this week. If you are doing the preaching, please ask your parish photographer to get some photos of you preaching. And send them to me at frjohn ‘at’ preachersinstitute ‘dot’ com, or send me a link to the album they are in via the Contact Form.

Thank you for helping me promote preaching and homiletics in the Orthodox faith, and may the Lord richly bless you for this endeavor.

 – Fr. John

Remarks of Patriarch Kirill on Seminarians

Below is a small portion from Patriarch Kirill’s report presented before an assembly of rectors of Russian Orthodox theological schools. See the full report here.

We constantly speak about obedience in our theological schools. But does not this mask a desire to obtain totally obedient and intimidated individuals incapable of speaking up before authorities under any circumstances? Do we not, along with obedience, inoculate them to act like toadies and cow-towing hypocrites? Can such a person be a spiritually unimpeded and a responsible pastor, a true leader of their flock? We both know too well that often, behind a noble external facade, there lurks hypocrisy, pretense and cynicism. I am now reading some of your reports asking about canonical procedures for coping with certain clerics. I also read correspondence from the laity. I sometimes wonder what kind of priests some of these people are… I read all this with a heavy heart. Somewhere and somehow these priests received their formation. They didn’t drop from the heavens. The majority of these are seminary graduates; some even finished an academy. We both know what hypocrisy and cynicism can be found in Church circles.

We must prepare and educate neither slaves nor rebels, but free and, at the same time, responsible people. Freedom does not mean a lack of discipline. Freedom must primarily be an internal freedom, a freedom in Christ. We must be convinced that all restrictions and burdens placed by sacred ministers are accepted by them consciously and voluntarily. This recognition of the voluntary acceptance of the burden of the Cross must be a characteristic of every priest since, the taking up of the Cross is inherent in the very desire to be a priest.

Discipline must first of all be self-discipline, and obedience to the hierarchy must not be motivated by fear but by a firm and conscious adherence to tradition as a preservation of the Divinely established structure of the Church. This canonical discipline and obedience is not something dreamed up by the present hierarchy. This is a principle from the Lord Himself. It lies in the foundation of Church life and every priest must understand this clearly. Every seminarian must understand this before his ordination, that he is entering upon a path of obedience.

Source: Mystagogy

Let’s Get Real About Priestly Indiscretion

by Fr. Aris Metrakos

This article contains excellent advice for anyone contemplating the priesthood or discerning a vocation in the Orthodox Church (or any ‘church’ for that matter). Fr. Aris nails it.

Aren’t we disgusted with the shocking number of high-profile cases of priests engaged in pedophilia, homosexual activity, and adultery? Some excuse this behavior with the platitudes “a sin is a sin” and “we are all sinners.” Uh, excuse me?

Persons who say “a sin is a sin” don’t live in the real world. My wife is more than forgiving when I snap at her for no reason. I don’t think that she would be that charitable if I were to come home smelling of another woman’s perfume.

I concede that we are all sinners, but clergy relinquish the right to even think of engaging in certain classes of sin. When a priest sins sexually he damages the Church the way that crooked judges, lawyers, and police officers damage the legal system. How can anyone not understand this?

Looking back on my seminary years, nobody ever told me that I shouldn’t put my hand on an altar boy’s private parts, leave my wife for a man, or go to bed with someone other than my wife. Come to think of it, they didn’t tell me not to eat yellow snow, either. The faculty assumed that we all knew better.

There’s a saying about the word assume. If you don’t know it, ask somebody who served in the military to explain it to you. So, rather than assume that seminarians and young clergy know right from wrong with regard to sexual matters, here are some essential rules of behavior for those preparing for and serving in the priesthood:

  • If you are delaying ordination until you find Miss Right, then be willing to wait for the appropriate woman to come into your life. Rushing into marriage with the wrong person is like voluntarily infecting yourself with an incurable illness. Ask any married person — our spouse will either make us or break us. The priesthood poses enough difficulties without having the millstone of the wrong wife around your neck.
  • If you have sexual fantasies about anything other than a woman, get help. If these ideas persist, choose a different career.
  • If your heterosexual fantasies occupy as much of your time as they did when you were 15, see an experienced confessor. If you are married and have persistent sexual fantasies about anyone other than your wife, again, see the confessor.
  • If your marriage needs fixing, then go to counseling. If counseling doesn’t work, you have three options: separation, divorce, or “gutting it out.” Finding a mistress is not an acceptable alternative.
  • Appearances matter. Don’t put yourself in situations where your integrity can be challenged. Don’t stay in the same room with children when no other adults are present. Don’t go swimming with anybody other than other clergy, and certainly not with minors. Don’t meet repeatedly for one-on-one counseling sessions with the same person outside of normal office hours. Don’t meet with a long-time female friend in a hotel room when you are together at a conference. Don’t give rides to a woman or a child unless other people are in the car.
  • It’s not too late until it’s too late. If you are counseling a woman and you are attracted to her, send her to another priest. If you are about to walk into the bedroom of a person who is not your wife, walk away. If you are kissing someone other than your wife — stop, and get on the phone with a priest-friend whom you can trust.

All sexual misconduct is unjustifiable. Some child abusers excuse themselves because they were victims of abuse. Yet plenty of adult survivors of molestations go on to have normal sex lives. Get help. And before you put your hand where it doesn’t belong, remember how bad it felt when it was done to you.

And all sexual misconduct deserves the maximum penalty. When persons on the bench, in the bar, or with a badge undermine the legal system they get locked up for a long time; they are held to a higher standard. Priests who are pedophiles, homosexual predators, and adulterers need to be defrocked — not only to send a message but to protect the Church and her members. Some of them need jail time too.

And why give a wolf in shepherd’s clothing a second chance to ravage the flock? Maybe an adulterous pastor who had one occasion of adultery could be given a second — and last — chance, but only after plenty of counseling and a transfer to the other side of the continent. The rest need to be removed.

The second century priest-martyr Haralambos was dragged by his beard through the streets because he refused to deny Christ. In the 21st century, clerics drag the good name of the priesthood and the Church through the tabloids and the evening news. Sexual sin among the clergy must stop.

Ancient Fears and Modern Man

by Fr. Ian Page

Text: Luke 8:26-39

Date delivered: 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (24/10/2010)

Location: Parish of St. Peter & St. Paul, Clapham, London

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I must confess that I met the idea of preaching upon today’s Gospel with a certain degree of trepidation.
For several reasons, we modern people find ourselves particularly disconcerted by accounts of demonic possession and exorcism.

First of all, in recent times there have been disturbing accounts of so called exorcisms which have been nothing other than mechanisms of manipulation, bullying and downright abuse.

Secondly, the mass media has produced a whole genre of entertainments which seems to consistently glamorise supernatural evil whilst depicting all that is good and wholesome as being rather boring and dull.

There is, however, a third: – and I believe a more profound reason for the unease which I (and I suspect you) feel.

Like it or not, we are all modern people: – that is to say people of the post-enlightenment era: – and as such we live with, an often unspoken assumption that everything is perfectly rational. In other words that it should always be possible, at least in principle, to explain things, to predict events and, in the light of all of this, to remain in control of our lives.

Today’s gospel confronts us with the irrational in a dark and menacing form. The daemons’ clear understanding and confession that Jesus is the Son of God prevents us from conveniently dismissing the episode in the modern categories of mental illness.  We are, rather, confronted by the uncomfortable truth that, what we perceive to be the terra firma of rationality, may in reality be a thin crust overlying the unknown and perhaps the unknowable.

It is disturbing because it means that that the security that we all work so hard to achieve in this life is, in fact, a delusion.  A change in the law: – and a pension fund is raided: – A few months of hyperinflation: – and a lifetimes savings can buy a bag of cherries. A stroke: – and years of formal education can be erased.

A loss of temper and a cherished relationship can be shattered.

The world encourages us at every turn to be ‘self reliant’.

Yet, if we rely upon ourselves, we become more vulnerable than we can possibly imagine.

When we acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the Lord of all Creation: – it is, perhaps all too easy for us to limit the scope of ‘Creation’ to what is familiar to us.

Even if we include the most distant stars and galaxies together with the most minute particles of matter: – we still limit our understanding to those things which are accessible to our minds.

In today’s gospel Jesus demonstrates His Lordship over both the visible and the invisible:-
His Lordship over both the knowable and the irrational.

In doing so He reveals Himself to be the only ground for our well being, our safety, indeed our salvation.
After hearing how the Lord had delivered the man from the legion of daemons:- The locals were frightened and wanted Jesus to go away.

Why?

They obviously weren’t frightened because the daemons were gone.

Perhaps, they weren’t so dissimilar to us moderns after all!

Perhaps, in this mighty act of the Lord, they had caught a glimpse of the true bedrock of reality and saw that it was not the basis upon which they had chosen to build their lives:-  Disconcerting indeed!
May Christ our God:- the Lord and creator of all things, both seen and unseen, be to us the sure foundation.

Amen

Are You the Right Priest in the Wrong Place?

by Rick Warren

The original title of this article was “Are You the Right Pastor in the Wrong Place,” but since Orthodox pastors are also priests, and with apologies to Rick Warren, I thought I’d tweak it. Truthfully, this is a very important reality in pastoral work and often not appropriately considered by we presbyters. I’m quite sure that bishops give this a great deal of thought when making assignments. Why? Because everything is riding on it. Like any marriage, the ‘fit’ between preacher/pastor/priest is and must necessarily be a good one. Rick Warren is not an Orthodox Christian, but this topic is an issue for every pastoral placement.

The reason I posted this is to ask you the question: Do you know what is a good fit for you? If not, perhaps some deep prayer and talking to your spiritual father or bishop would help. It’s okay – it’s not wrong to realize you are the right man in the wrong place.

One of the most important — and often forgotten — ingredients to a growing church is having the right leader in the right place.

It doesn’t matter how good and godly of a pastor you are, if you don’t fit your congregation, it’ll be tough for your church to grow.

Once, we brought a guy from Atlanta to Southern California to start a church. He was a great guy and a great church planter. He’d already started one church and grown it to 200. I thought he could do it again in California. But after about a year the church was going nowhere. They had three to four people in the church. It just wasn’t working.

But I knew it wasn’t the church planter.

So I asked him what he thought the problem was. He was honest and said, “I don’t fit the community.” He’d started the church in a community with mostly wealthy middle-age people who had teenagers. Yet he fit more with young couples and singles just starting out.

That wasn’t Irvine at all. It was Huntington Beach. So we moved him three cities over, and in a year and a half his new church had more than 200.

Right pastor, wrong place.

If you’re going to have maximum growth in your church, the pastor, the congregation, and the community have to be a match. When all three of those line up, you’ve got potential for real growth. If any of those don’t match up, growth is still possible. It’ll just be slower and more difficult. You need to understand that.

When I was in college, I was the interim pastor of a small church with 19 people in it. Everyone in the church was a truck driver — everyone. Those people loved me. They were so kind to me. And I loved them, too. But I didn’t fit. I don’t have a mechanical bone in my body. They needed a pastor who had a little grease under his fingernails. That wasn’t me.

So the best thing I could do for that church was to leave it and let them get somebody who matched them better. That’s not a knock against me or a knock against the church. It just wasn’t a fit.

Are you a good fit with your church?

Source

Sermon of the Month begins Nov. 2010

Submissions are now being accepted for November’s

Sermon of the Month.

Here at the Preachers Institute, we are committed to expanding the opportunities for you, the Orthodox Christian preacher, to expand your repertoire, advance your homiletics education, and hone your preaching skills.

Therefore, in line with those goals, beginning the month of November, the Preachers Institute will be publishing a Sermon Of The Month.

Featured from among the many sermons we receive by email, the Preachers Institute Sermon Of The Month will take the best we receive for that calendar month, and publish, with notes from our editors and contributors why it was chosen.

The monthly winners will be published each month on Preachers Institute, and will remain on the front page until the following month.

You are encouraged to submit each sermon you write and preach.

Here are the guidelines for submission.

There is no charge for entry, so submit early and often.

There are three categories – seminarian, deacon, and priest.

Sermons by bishops will be included in the priest category.

  • Anyone may submit a sermon (provided they give the preacher proper credit);
  • Every sermon must be submitted in electronic format –  .doc files preferred (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .pub, .txt are all acceptable);
  • Include the Biblical text which you are preaching from, Chapter and verse;
  • Include the day, date and location the sermon was delivered;
  • Laymen are encouraged to submit the sermons delivered in their own parish, or in a parish they have visited and personally heard;
  • Sermons by seminarians must be submitted with the approval/signature/initials of the president, dean, or homiletics professor of the seminary. (this can be submitted by email)
  • Every sermon must have been delivered verbally to a congregation, class, or an otherwise live audience. No exceptions.

Remember, the Preachers Institute exists to further the development, education and skill of Orthodox Christian preachers.

You can submit your sermon through our handy-dandy Contact form, or by emailing them to

sermons (at) preachersinstitute.com.

Brother, Can You Spare A Paradigm?

Greatest-Heresy_620

by Fr. Aris Metrakos

This essay was first published June 30, 2006 on Orthodoxytoday.org, and not only uncovers the dangers of old paradigms of priestly identity, but also reveals the only one of value in the Church. We reproduce it here with permission.

Is it time to retire “paradigm shift?”

This overwrought cliché is used to describe everything from new laundry soap to the wireless mouse. Even worse, religious types have taken a liking to it. Clergy and lay leaders are convinced if they could just figure out how to shift their paradigm, the pews and offering trays would overflow. (Do we really need to sit through one more mission statement formulation?) Continue reading Brother, Can You Spare A Paradigm?