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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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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Newly Illumined!

The following is the text of a toast I gave in honor of my parents’ reception into the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday, May 12, Third Sunday of Pascha in honor of the Holy Myrrhbearers and American Mother’s Day. My father was received by Baptism and my mother by Chrismation at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in East Syracuse, NY.

20190512_093841“Nobody knows the trouble I seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.”

These simple, yet profound lyrics from an old negro spiritual express the longing of many a Christian lost in the multitude of denominations and confessions of the Church in this country and in the world. This family alone has experienced not less than 15 in our collective lives. But when I first witnessed the Orthodox Church I could see a church where, “Every generation chanteth hymns of praise to Christ.” Everyone from the smallest infant to the oldest great grandmother, all gather together in one Church. Today this prophecy has been fulfilled in your eyes: Not in a church designed principally for the youth, not in a church designed principally for the elderly, but in the Church where family integrated worship has never gone out of style. Continue reading

Don’t Help Herod

Holy_Innocents__99381.1420682146.1280.1280December 27/January 11
14,000 Holy Innocent Infants slain by Herod at Bethlehem

In the New Testament, Herod sought out Jesus. Instead of directly looking for him, he decided to kill all males under the age of 2. In doing this he killed 14,000 infants, without being stopped by anyone. The poor babies’ mothers could not do anything to help them.

Nowadays, the highest rate of killing young helpless babies is abortion. Approximately 125,000 babies are killed by abortion every day, and 56,993,299 abortions have been made since Roe vs. Wade in America. These mother’s had a choice of whether or not to kill their own children, unlike the babies’ mothers in 1 AD. Continue reading

Throw it on the Street

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Immigrants, who long to come to America, hear stories that the streets are paved with gold. But, because careless Americans leave their own trash right on the street, those immigrants find America more paved with trash than with gold.

Well then, if you are not an immigrant, then you might be a random American watching “Landfill Harmonic” feeling really bad about all the trash in the movie. And you really want to do something about it. Why not do something to help your neighborhood and all the world in beatification?!?! Almost everyday I walk around my Boston neighborhood “Wow, there’s a lot of trash on the sidewalk, because some people are too lazy to pick up their own trash in America”.

While thinking of this I remember the trash cans in Russia. They are a fourth the size of the trash cans in America. So, stop throwing trash away America and think of saving the future by of reusing and recycling! If we people in America and in all the world want to be proud for their country and live in a beautiful place, the least we can do is pick up some trash!

The 12 Days of Christmas

flierWorking up another Boston Byzantine Concert with Charlie Marge. This time, it is local to our nation’s capital in Washington, DC. Though our family is currently living in Syracuse, NY, we are still members of the Boston Byzantine Choir, attending practices by means of live streaming. I LOVE the 21st century, in which you can still play a part in a choir separated from you by hundreds of miles. Hey, if you are local to DC, come and see us in a few weeks for a program highlighting the 12 days of Christmas, Orthodox (byzantine) style. I promise all you theology nerds out there will NOT be disappointed. And for those who cannot drop everything and rush to Washington in the second weekend in December, there is Good News! We will be cutting almost everything we sing on a new CD to be released sometime in the next year in honor of the choir’s 25th anniversary. Stay tuned…

A Not So White Winter

Our whole family loves winter. It is a season of fun. I like winter when it is snowing. I fly outside into a blanket of white. This winter [of 2016-2017] we did not have much snow except one pretty big blizzard. The blizzards’ snow was so deep and fluffy and so fun to play with that we stayed outside for a whole two hours! You could make snow houses, snow men, or slide down on hills. The rest of the days of this winter were much warmer. So the snow melted fast.

Boys and Blizzards

61teuikzunlThe blizzard today in New England gave our own family the chance to read one of our favorite picture books by John Rocco. Blizzard tells the story from the author’s childhood  in 1978 Rhode Island when snow was so high that his family could not leave their front door or even shop for food at the local store. Little Johnny, according to the book, had been reading a survival book that informed him how to strap on tennis rackets to his feet and wax down his wooden sled runners to command 4 feet worth of snow without sinking through it. Continue reading