Reflection on the Jesus Prayer
A way to attain Unceasing Prayer
On Sunday, October 15th., Matushka Barbara presented a short reflection to about 20 people on a way to "pray without ceasing" in our daily lives by using the "Jesus Prayer."
After a couple of enjoyable "ice-breakers," she shared how she was introduced to it as a teenager & the impact it has had on her since. She talked about its simple format but the effort it requires to make it a way of life. She also talked about the scriptural background for this prayer, its uniqueness as a way to meditate, compared to non-Christian, non-biblical forms of meditation. She specified a couple of techniques, such as the use of prayer beads & the need to breathe correctly while saying it.
The reaction from the listeners seemed to be very positive & a lot of them shared about the importance of prayer in their own lives. In an age when one can be constantly shocked by simply listening to the daily news, the Jesus Prayer enables one to redirect all that comes our way back to Christ.
Thus, it was enjoyable, informative & helpful at the same time! Thank you to Mat. Barbara.
The Musical Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Posted on our Diocesan Website
The muscial, Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, has been posted on our diocesan website! Please click onto: http://nynjoca.org/news_171007_1.html to see the report. We had a "cast party" yesterday afternoon at our church hall. About 30 of the cast & supporting adults turned up. We had a great time of fellowship. Look up our News & Events page to see photos of it. Thank you again to Matushka Barbara, all the supporting adults & cast for the great performances they put on at the end of September.
The Las Vegas Massacre
Please Continue to Pray
It is indeed with sadness that I have to post a message regarding the recent massacre in Las Vegas that has caused so much loss, pain & suffering. Please click onto the message given by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, calling us to pray everyone directly concerned & all of creation: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-issues-statement-on-the-tragedy-in-las-vegas.
These are indeed troubling & dangerous times. As Orthodox Christians, we continue to proclaim Christ's message as clearly as possible but at the same time, judging no-one. We are called to follow Christ by loving everyone, including the killer, praying & interceding for all. Just last Sunday, we had the Gospel from St. Luke, Chapter 6, where Jesus said: love your enemies, do good. I urge everyone to have the faith that Jesus called everyone to have that our prayers will be answered in God's way & at God's time.
May the God of Peace continue to strengthen us all.
Fr. Terence Baz
Praying for Today's World at the Beginning of the Liturgical Year
When we turn on the news, we hear about a lot of threatening issues. This morning we woke up to hear that North Korea detonated a Hydrogen Bomb. Given the irrascibility of that country's president, such a prospect is indeedscary. This is by no means the only threat. We are well aware of the threat posed by ISIS & Al Qaida. Anytime we travel, we are aware of the possibility of an attack on innocent victims. We have recently seen the upsurge of Nazism in this country. We saw the ravages of nature in the latest massive Hurricane in Texas.
Ominous threats are nothing new. The question for us as Orthodox Christians is: how do we respond? There has also been a long standing call from the Church as well: prayer, fasting & almsgiving.
On Friday, September 1st., we celebrated the Indiction Service for the beginning of the Liturgical Year for the Church. This prayer service recognizes the worldly context given above. Thus, its prayers encompass all such calamities. Further, the Orthodox Church tells us that our intercessory prayers are very important in offering back to Christ all that we see & hear about. It is so important that there is no better way to respond to these issues than by prayer! Jesus taught us that true peace can only come from His Living Waters because it is a peace that the world cannot give. In today's world, people are offered any dazzling number of choices but for true peace & stability, the only Way, Truth & Life is Christ.
This message cannot be over emphasized so, don't be afraid to express it to your family members & friends who may ignore this calling from the Church, the Body of Christ. Many of the above issues seem to be beyond our control but to choose to intercede before Christ through His Church is definitely something we can choose & encourage others to join in.
The liturgical cycle also enables us to partake in the other practices: fasting & almsgiving. There are seasons for fasting. For almsgiving, after seeing the horrors of Hurricane Harvey, now is a very appropriate time to respond. Thus, I will be having a special collection next Sunday to give to this cause. The money will be channeled through the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a body that has a well deserved international reputation for helping effectively.
Given that the whole Orthodox Church prays for God's creation at this time, it is worth making a couple of points about what the Orthodox Church teaches about creation. It has always taught that God saw His creation as being good. Further, that this is an ongoing event that continues today & will continue until the Second Coming. Like us, it was affected because of the sin of Adam & Eve but it is still good. On this point, we differ strongly from Protestant Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, who view the world as being bad because of the sin of Adam & Eve & believe that is not deserving of respect. Such groups also view the call to Adam & Eve to have dominion over the earth as an entitlement to plunder it, extracting what ever resources one can for one's benefit & pleasure. The Orthodox Church, in contrast, teaches that in having dominion over creation we must care for it & treat it with great respect. Orthodox monks dedicate their whole lives to prayer & care for creation.
More still, if we do not adhere to God's command to care for His creation, creation will rebel against us, even unleashing its fury against us. For this reason, we must take heed of the warnings that scientists are giving us about pollution, the destruction of the ecosystems & man made global warming, especially from the coal industry. Harvey is the third massive storm to hit this country in the past 12 years & this will not be the end of it! Scientists are also very concerned about the collapse of the polar icecaps because of evidence of increased melting. If this were to occur, the catastrophic consequences would be far greater than the massive storms we are currently experiencing. Those who claim that this is all a hoax, using it as an excuse to wantanly plunder God's creation place us & future generations in grave peril.
Please continue the practices that the Orthodox Church calls us to carry out with your hearts minds & souls lifted up to The Father, Son & Holy Spirit so that God will provide for our needs.
Yours, in Christ
September 1st: the Beginning of the Liturgical Year
Using the Indiction Service to Reflect on the Past Year & Pray for the Year to Come
Today, September 1st., the Orthodox Church celebrates the beginning of the Liturgical Year.
A special service, the Indiction Service is used this day to reflect on the past year & to pray for the year to come. We all have much to pray for & it is good to call on the Church to intercede for all these needs. When we call upon the Church in this way, we do not just pray for ourselves but the prayer extends beyond to the whole cosmos, embracing every level in between. If we pray with heartfelt repentence & faith, loving all those whom we pray for, even our enemies, our prayers will rise up like incense to the Heavenly Kingdom, on behalf of God's fallen creation. Thus, it becomes a wonderful moment in which we can fulfil God's command to Adam & Eve to care for what he has given us.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, Patriarch Bartholemew, in Turkey, has called on the whole Orthodox Church to pray for God's creation on this day & the Orthodox Church has responded. The Roman Catholic Church has also responded, with the Pope Francis beckoning the Roman Church & the whole Christian world to follow suit. Many Protestants Churches have followed suit, making this a world day of prayer for creation.
In an another development, for the first time in many centuries, the Patriarch Bartholemew & Pope Francis, as heads of the Eastern & Western Churches, have put out a joint statement today reflecting on what this moment means in this turbulent world.
We are not only called to pray, but act in charity where we can to those in need. This is obvious to everyone in this country as we have watched the horrors of Hurricane Harvey in Houston & its surrounding districts. If you wish to respond, you can use our own International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to do so. Any money sent to them will be well directed.
It should also be obvious that such massive storms are not simply rare events these days. We have now had 3 massive storms in the past 12 years: this one as well as Katrina & Sandy. The great majority of the scientific community has been warning us that man made global warming is putting us in great peril not only because of more dangerous weather systems but the threat of the polar ice caps collapsing because of evidence of accelerating melting in recent years.
Time will tell but the Scriptures are very clear: God does not give us the luxury of sitting on the fence in regard to His Creation: either we align ourselves with the Holy Spirit's ongoing act of Creation, which is fundamentally good, albeit fallen from the sin of Adam & Eve or, we align ourselves with the forces of chaos that war against it. We must do all that we can to avoid falling prone to those forces.
We will pray part of the Indiction Service on Sunday. If we use this service to make a heartfelt intecession to Christ for all of His creation, we will do what He has called us to do.
Yours, in Christ
After taking a vacation to see family in Australia, I am happy to say that I am back home.
Last week was certainly one for news! Even from across the other side of the world, everyone was talking about the Nazi car attack & the subsequent reactions to it. I knew that with an issue like this, I could not avoid saying something about it in my sermon. Sometimes, events encroach us so much that as a priest, I have to preach what the teachings of the Orthodox Church would say about it. I was relieved to see when I returned to the USA that two very clear statements were issued by the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the USA and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of America. It was also fitting that today's Gospel was the parable of the Servant who Owed Ten Thousand Talents & our need to forgive others. In contrast, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul was defending Barnabus & himself from the pettiness of the Corinthian community. Please click onto these links to read the responses and the scripture readings.
Check the Calendar!
Please keep an eye on upcoming events that can be found on the calendar page. It will be updated as soon as new information is obtained. Fr. Terry
The Orthodox Christian Day of Prayers for the Environment
Patriarchal Message for the New Ecclesiastical Year and the Day for the Protection of the Natural Environment
Aug 26, 2015
Prot. No. 851
By God’s Mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church Grace, Peace and Mercy
From the Creator, Sustainer and Governor of All Creation
Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
“All of creation is renewed by the Holy Spirit, returning to its original state.” (Anavathmoi, First Tone)
“Blessed are you, Lord, who alone daily renew the work of your hands.” (Basil the Great)
Brother concelebrants and blessed children in the Lord,
As everyone knows, September 1st of each year has been dedicated at the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – and recently also by the Roman Catholic Church – as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment. On this day, we especially beseech the supreme God to gladden His creation so that human life therein may be joyful and fruitful. This prayer includes of course the petition that the inevitable natural climate changes may occur and be permitted within tolerable levels both for human survival and for the planet’s sustainability.
Nonetheless, we humans – whether as individual groups or collectively – behave contrary to this very request. For we suppress nature in such a manner that unforeseeable and undesirable changes occur to the climate and environment, which are negatively affected in their normal functions with consequent implications for life itself. The cumulative result of actions by particular individuals as well as by corporate and state activities with a view to reforming the natural environment so that it might produce more resources for those who take advantage of it only leads to the destruction of creation, which was created good by God and thus functions in a balanced way.
Those of us who appreciate the danger of climate change that is only increasing by day for our planet as a result of human actions raise our voice to highlight this crisis and invite everyone to explore what could be done “so that life is not lost for the sake of greed.” (United Nations Declaration)
Therefore, as Ecumenical Patriarch, we have expended years of efforts to inform the faithful of our Church and all people of good will about the grave risks deriving from growing (ab-)use of energy resources, which threatens increasing global warming and threatens the sustainability of the natural environment.
Orthodox Christians have learned from the Church Fathers to restrict and reduce our needs as far as possible. In response to the ethos of consumerism we propose the ethos of asceticism, namely an ethos of self-sufficiency to what is needed. This does not mean deprivation but rational and restrained consumption as well as the moral condemnation of waste. “So if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6.8), as the Lord’s Apostle urges us. And after the multiplication of the five loaves and the satisfaction of five thousand people, excluding women and children, Christ Himself ordered His disciples to collect the remainder “so that nothing would be lost.” (John 6.12) Unfortunately, contemporary societies have abandoned the application of this commandment, surrendering to wastefulness and irrational abuse to satisfy vain desires of prosperity. However, such conduct can be transformed for the sake of creating resources and energy by more appropriate means.
Brothers and sisters, children in our common Lord and Creator,
Human beings have destroyed creation through greed by focusing exclusively on this earth and its earthly benefits, which we endeavor to increase constantly, like the “rich fool” in the Gospel parable. (Luke 12. 13-21) We ignore the Holy Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being. This signifies that the response to the ecological crisis can only be successfully realized in the Holy Spirit, through whose grace our human efforts are blessed and all creation is renewed, returning to its original state, as it was created and intended by God – namely, “very good.” This is why the responsibility of humanity, as God’s co-creator endowed with free will, is immense for any proper response to the ecological crisis.
This earth resembles “an immense pile of filth.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 2015) And impurity implies more than simply material things; it primarily includes spiritual things. There are the impurities that essentially stem from the passionate thoughts of humanity. With firm faith in the Pantokrator and Creator of all creation, we Orthodox Christians are called to carry out the work of an evangelist and missionary with regard to the protection of creation. That is to say, we are called to rekindle the joyful gospel message to the modern troubled world and awaken the sleeping spiritual nature of a humanity diversely and multifariously distressed in order to convey a message of hope, peace and true joy – the peace and joy of Christ.
This is what we believe and proclaim from the most holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne. And we invite everyone to soberness of life, purification of passionate thoughts and selfish motivations, so that we may dwell in harmony with our neighbors and with God’s creation. Finally, we pray with Basil the Great, “who extolled the nature of things”: “Blessed are you, Lord, who alone daily renew the work of your hands. Blessed are you, Lord, who created light and darkness, distinguishing between them from each other. Blessed are you, Lord, who created all things and constructed the shadow of death by blackening the day into night. Blessed are you, Lord, who created humankind in your image and likeness, who made the day for the work of light and the night for human nature to rest . . .” (Psalter and Prayer Book, Pantokrator Monastery, Mt. Athos, 2004)
This is our message, conviction and exhortation to you all: Let us stand well; let us stand in awe before God’s creation.
May the grace and boundless mercy of our Lord, the Creator of all creation, both visible and invisible, be with you all and with the whole world, now and to the endless ages. Amen.
September 1, 2015
+Bartholomew of Constantinople
Fervent supplicant of all before God
ARCHPASTORAL MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year &
The Day of Prayer for the Creation
September 1, 2015
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:
The Holy Dormition of our Most Pure Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
The name of our Church is the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church and the link below outlines the description of this feast for your convenience.
Fr. Terence's Message for the Nativity of Christ 2015
Greetings in the name of Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
We come to that busy time of year, once again, when we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
As Orthodox Christians, we may be tempted to envy all the glamor of this season: the pretty lights & displays, the air waves filled with carols, one movie after another trying to tell us to be jolly & nice and even in the local streets, the visual impact cannot be ignored! I would never want to begrudge seeing the resulting smiles on children’s faces but we must realize that the Orthodox Christian understanding of the Nativity goes much deeper. Further, in comparison to many of the commercial messages forced upon us ours is the very opposite!
The story of the Nativity from the scriptures & our liturgical services is clear: the Virgin Mary, with the protection of her husband, Joseph, search for an inn & settle for a cave with the shepherds, the angels & the wise men to witness the birth of the child Jesus. The beauty of the story embraces heaven & earth as well as all people of “good will” with a promise of great hope & salvation. Even so, this story has another side. There was no time to wait around & celebrate, because the participants had to break apart as quickly as they came together, when they were told in dreams about the hateful intentions of King Herod. He ultimately vented his apprehension of the news on the innocent children of the local district by slaughtering them.
Beyond this story, God’s revelation has given us a background & context to it that the Orthodox liturgical services strongly bring out showing that the event has immense implications. To show how this is the case, let us examine the beginning of the scriptures.
The story of creation in the Book of Genesis compares the state of Adam & Eve before and after they fell from grace by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before the fall, God saw that creation was very good (Gen. 1:4, 11, 13, 18, 21, 24 & 32). God created Adam & Eve in his image & likeness (Gen. 1:27), and they were created to be more spiritual than flesh, for the Lord God blew into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Our fore-parents were on close talking terms with God (Gen. 1:26-28). They were given responsibilities such as tilling the earth & caring for it (Gen. 3:7), naming creation and reporting to God about their work (Gen. 2:19), being caring stewards of the cosmos and having dominion or being custodians over it (Gen. 1:28).
After their fall from grace however, they saw their nakedness (Gen. 3:7), their bodies became flesh-like or denser (Gen. 3:7), they became subject to the ravages of nature (Gen. 3:17) and they were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23-24). Thus, they lost their home and were separated from God. The Orthodox Church also believes that their very makeup was affected. In regard to their being in the image of God, they could still seek him and his goodness but it was much more difficult to be close to him. Worse still, their relationship to God as being in created in his likeness was damaged beyond repair. The effect of this change was that their appetites, such as eating and drinking, became insatiable passions, with greed often taking over (Gen. 4:1-16; Cain & Able). There was a tendency to seek created images instead of their Creator. Creation also fell because it was dependent on us (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20), and it rebelled and was no longer benign & fruitful. We have to work hard for it to be fruitful (Gen. 3:17-19).
When we look at the birth of Jesus, we note that it is with the smelly shepherds & animals, in a manger, in a cave. In his life, Jesus is often seen in the context of his creation: going to the hills to pray, out on a lake where he calms the waters, going to the desert with the wild animals and the plants. In his teachings & parables, he spoke of himself as a shepherd (Mt. 25:32; 26:31; Mk. 6:34; 14:27; Jn. 10:1-16); he talked about the mustard seed full of nesting birds (Mk.4:31-32); rescuing an animal on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:11); him loving Jerusalem like the love that a hen has for her chickens (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 12:34); the sparrows are remembered by God (Lk. 12:6). At the end of his life, he used a donkey to enter Jerusalem and the earth shook & the rocks split (Mt. 27: 51-53). Thus, he was never far from his creation! Thus, there is a great deal to celebrate, not just for us but for the whole of creation!
For St. Paul, this creation & our salvation become one in Christ. Christ is the new Adam (Rom. 5:12-31; 1 Cor. 15:45), a new creation (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:4) and a new man (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10) and this was planned since the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) as a mystery hidden for ages in God (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:10). Thus, the second creation is the culmination of salvation history, restoring creation and bringing it to a higher plain. Thus, not only is creation good (1 Cor. 7:31; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11; cf. also 1 Jn. 2:17) but something in which we can faithfully partake (1 Cor. 10:26; 1 Tim. 4:4; cf. Tit. 1:15; Rom. 14:14 & 20; 1 Cor. 3:21f.) through our life in Christ (Jn. 5:26; 6:48; 14:6; 1 Jn. 1:2; 1 Jn. 5:11).
This will be fully accomplished at the second coming of Christ but his nativity not only heralds all of the above implications but we are called in our own lives in Christ to strive to live in the way that God intended for Adam & Eve: caring for creation and offering it back to Christ through our baptism and priesthood. It is part of the reason we pray, fast and give alms in preparation prior to the celebration. Nor can we ignore the backdrop of those “elemental forces of this world” (Gal. 4:3) that war against it. It manifested itself in Herod’s hatred towards those innocents he slaughtered and we see many instances of hatred and destruction in these current times.
The same holds for those who because of greed, want to abuse and pollute this earth, causing chemical contamination in our food produce, health & water management issues for many societies, the destruction of forests & species, as well as the threatening melting polar ice caps that could cause sea levels to rise. We are called to respond by praying, interceding and doing all we can to make society respect and protect all aspects of God’s creation just as he called Adam & Eve to from the very beginning.
Thus, this season is much more than an interesting story with nice cultural trimmings. It profoundly affects our lives, all those whom we pray for, our whole community & nation, in fact, the whole universe!
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
Address of Metropolitan Tikhon on the Beginning of the Church Year