Reluctant Conversions

Just watched via Hoopla an off-Broadway production I have wanted to see for some time. Seems it is becoming the custom in this pandemic to place any number of good Broadway shows online where they can be streamed on demand (I confess a recent subscription to Disney plus just so that I could see the musical Hamilton).

Max McClean as C.S. Lewis

This show that I saw on hoopla from a Broadway company I have long admired features a bright light of the 20th century who combined with a handful of others saved my spiritual life from bankruptcy. C.S. Lewis the Most Reluctant Convert in England is a crisp monologue performed by the director of an organization called the Fellowship of the Performing Arts. The show logs in at a crisp hour and 15 minutes and packs more deep philosophical yearning and profound spiritual insight than anything Broadway has cooked up for some time.

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The Builder of Aghia Sophia

The following is a repost of an article that appeared on our Diocesan website concerning Aghia Sophia, the ancient Christian temple which for a whole millennium stood for worship of the true and living God worshipped in Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When it was conquered in 1543, it was viciously ransacked, desecrated then rededicated as a mosque for several hundred years. In the past century or so it has served simply as a museum; now by decree of Turkey’s current president, it is reverting again to a mosque. Please pray with me for peace and wisdom to know the proper response to such an important decision.

The Holy Right-Believing King Upravda-Justinian – The Builder of Hagia Sophia

20 July, 2020.  † Metropolitan of the United States, Canada and Australia – Joseph

With the title of Holy Right-Believing King, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has added Emperor Upravda-Justinian in its Calendar of Saints on the date of November 14th.

We recall his life and achievements on the occasion of the recent conversion of the church he built “Hagia Sophia” to a mosque by the Turkish authorities. We ask our readers to pray from the heart to St. Right-Believing Upravda-Justinian to help us in our efforts and struggles. He knows how to do that.

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Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives

The following is a pastoral email shared by the Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Tishel of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. I find it to be a prime example of the command from the Scriptures to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. It is republished here with permission.

Stay Within, Seek the Lord, Save Your Soul.

Spider webs can be used to stop bullets; they also can entrap a fly for dinner. The slogan: stay home, stay safe, save lives is a brilliantly effective slogan, but as a simplistic slogan, it can be misguided unless we unravel it and find its proper spiritual application. Unless we parse it a little: expose it to the UV Light of Christ, boil it to disinfect and analyze its DNA structure, we can’t be sure when it will protect and when it will entrap.

 As a universal command STAY HOME does not work for everyone, of course. People who are sick or immuno-compromised should take this advise to heart. For this idea to be effective for everyone, we should see its application in the monastic sense as it is given to hermits: Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. This is a good idea while we are staying home more. Use the time to go within, pay attention to the inner person, our heart and mind, do more spiritual reading, especially read the Scriptures, repent as the Lord commanded and practice ascetic feats to accomplish this. Practice more interior prayer; spend more time with our families and care for our relations.

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A Living Link to the Apostles

June 30, 2020: 6th anniversary of the repose of Fr. Herman Podmoshensky

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to Reliable men who may also teach others.” St Paul’s letter to Timothy

The famous saying that Christian Life is caught not simply taught relates to this injunction from the apostle to his disciple. I remember a time in my life when I had just graduated college that I eagerly desired to receive such a transmission. Oh, to be entrusted with the sacred kerygma of the living and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ from someone in that line of succession: a man who had heard it from a man who had heard it from another all the way back to the Lord himself. My own fathers In the flesh had all but denied this possibility. A writer of the book called The History of the Evangelical Association, a German pietistic confession that my ancestors followed in the mid-nineteenth century proclaimed about the historical apostolic succession “There remains an unbridgeable chasm between the Roman Catholic Church and our own Protestant one, and who can bridge this unbridgeable chasm?”

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Fishing Stories

Day 3 of our vacation at Cape Cod and by all accounts this was a very good idea. The house we rented from a Family friend is extraordinarily well-organized, with drawers and even light switches labeled. Situated in Chatham Massachusetts, our lodgings sit in proximity to several good beaches, a private freshwater lake, and bikeable roads leading to dedicated rail trails. It is the perfect cure for families tired of being cooped up in quarantine. We simply take our quarantine somewhere else with only a few more added to the mix.

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Serious About Church

The following is from Friday Reflections, an email sent out every week from the editor of Touchstone Magazine published by the Fellowship of Saint James. It describes exactly how I feel about the Church’s proper response to the current coronavirus pandemic. I hope that you find its news about the Georgian Church’s response refreshing and inspiring. Christ is risen!

The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, built between 1995 and 2004
By Roberto Strauss from Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland
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An Outward Desire

Eve of Thomas Sunday, April 25, 2020

We did it! We survived Holy Week, Pascha, and Bright Week mostly from our at home services and through live-stream on TV. The joy of the Resurrection and the growing warmth of spring naturally turns us outward, desiring to share the good news with others. But the continued COVID-19 quarantine still places limits on that desire.

A place in western Massachusetts that was bought by one of our parish deacons and his wife and transformed into a farm, retreat center, and sometime summer camp is now a fully-fledged, full-service spiritual oasis, St. John the Baptist Orthodox Christian Monastery. Our family visits the two monastic fathers who dwell here for a day trip that allows us to fulfill our desire to evangelize while obeying the strict rule of the government not to gather in groups larger than ten (7 + 2= 9).

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The God Who Delivers

Sunday, April 19, 2020 Bright and Saving PASCHA of our Lord Jesus Christ

And who is the God who will deliver you out of my hands?

— Pharaoh, King of Egypt to Moses the Great, Patriarch, Prophet & God-seer

The taunt of this particular Egyptian ruler rings down through the centuries and is rehearsed every Great and Holy Saturday during one of the 13 readings from the Old Testament. But it is more than a taunt or even an honest query: It is the prayer of every person in the grip of some power beyond their making or control.

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Cultivating the Church at Home

April 17, 2020, Great and Holy Friday

“How do you, Father Herman, manage to live alone in the forest, don’t you get bored?” He answered, “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course.”

Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 3, St. Herman

In this forth week of our at-home Coronavirus quarantine, we struggle as a family with where to go and what to do. Our travelogue has been quickly and suddenly restricted to our immediate vicinity, and we labor at how to overcome feelings of isolation and boredom. The saints in heaven and especially the monastic hermits like St. Herman of Alaska can teach us what to do with our boredom, and it does not involve surfing to the next binge-worthy series or reaching for our favorite comfort food. It involves a rediscovery of our blessed habitation, that home which Father Herman called, “the blessed place which will render my soul’s salvation.”

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Holy Week at Home

Saturday, April 11, 2020: Lazarus Saturday

Every year around this time I encourage those of you in my world wide readership that have never been to an Orthodox Church or visited an Orthodox worship service to GO. This year we have the especial privilege and blessing to not have much on our schedule as most are quarantined. I hereby encourage you then to live stream the Holy Week services in very own living room!

Starting today and continuing throughout next week until Pascha (Orthodox Easter) and beyond will be served throughout the world the most sublimely beautiful and divinely inspired worship you have ever seen, heard, felt, smelled or touched, except this year the feeling, smelling and touching will be left to only a few (those few who are left to serve what is being live streamed).

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