How do we prepare for Christmas?

on .

You can’t prepare for Christmas and have fun at the same time.
First of all, we should remind ourselves daily about the day when the Son of God himself appeared miraculously on earth as a Baby. Looking at Bethlehem, we must realize how trivial and laughable all our daily routines are in comparison with the splendor of the coming feast. Before the holiday, we should lay aside all kinds of hatred, all malevolence, and do our best to be amiable even with those whom we have broken up with and whose actions we oppose. Let’s remember that kind parents love their disobedient children even if they punish them sometimes. We all are children of our Heavenly Father!
We should observe the fast established by the Church. It is thanks to this fast that we can keep our passions at bay by avoiding both forbidden foods and entertainment. We must by no means disregard the fast even when there are people around us who celebrate the feast of Nativity in their own fashion.
Jesus Christ wasn’t born twice. He was born of Virgin Mary just once. You can’t prepare for Christmas and have fun at the same time, thus essentially trampling on the
traditions and rules set by the Church!
It isn’t a way of celebrating the First Coming of Christ to this earth. It’s a way of pampering our desire to have fun, which doesn’t benefit us at all.
Let us get ready for the day when the choir sings the solemn Thy nativity, O Christ our God, has shown to the world the light of wisdom. That’s when we shall feel the joy of Nativity. That’s when our souls will make it to Bethlehem and our hearts will welcome Christ.
By St. John of Shanghai, “Sermons and Homilies”
Translated by The Catalog of Good De

We must take Orthodoxy beyond the external

on .

We must guard against noticing when another parishioner seems careless in the making of the sign of the cross, while we go about demonstrating for all around us, the proper way. Making sweeping signs of the cross that are done in such a way as to be almost a caricature, following up with profound bows, we can end up distracting fellow worshipers in the process. If we make a public display of our fasting, making sure our non-Orthodox family and friends know how strict we are, we miss the point of fasting. If we struggle to make our icon corner the largest and most complete of anyone in the parish, but never stand before it in prayer, we treat it as nothing more than nice art.

Safeguarding ourselves against the demonic

on .

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (8:26-39) 
Every year around this time, mid-October, we hear this powerful somewhat frightening story in the gospels about a man who is possessed by demons. Modern psychologists and scientists tell us that that was probably some kind of mental illness. They tell us that the people of old were not very sophisticated and did not properly understand these things so they attributed them to superstitions. The problem with all of these theories is that they completely ignore the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth in response to what He has encountered. In addition, these baseless theories ignore what happened to the herd of swine. Something more than psychosis was certainly at work here.

"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

Mathew 28:19