What is the Orthodox Church?

May 28, 2011

A presentation by Fr. William R. Cassis from Holy Trinity — St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of an Orthodoxy 101 series:

The Inner Meaning of the Divine Liturgy: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

May 23, 2011

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, noted author of The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, gave this presentation on the inner meaning of the Divine Liturgy at a clergy retreat in Atlanta on April 4, 2011:

Part One:

Part Two:

Trisagion Hymn: Holy God

May 22, 2011

A couple of recent recordings of parish liturgical singing:

The Trisagion (or Thrice-Holy Hymn) is sung during the Divine Liturgy. Here is a recent recording from Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Safety Harbor, Florida:

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us! (3 times)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen! Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!

For further information: a podcast that discusses St. Nicholas Cabasilas’ comments on the Trisagion hymn.

A hymn of the season of Pascha: “The Angel Cried” from St. Maximus the Confessor Orthodox Church in Denton, Texas:

The Angel cried to the Lady full of grace:
Rejoice, rejoice, O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Thy Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice, all ye people!
Shine, shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord has shone on thee.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion,
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos,
In the resurrection of thy Son!

An Explanation of Byzantine Chant

May 14, 2011

An explanation of  Byzantine chant by Emily Lowe from Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland:

Do You Know Who Loves You?

May 14, 2011

Icons from the Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Denver and the music is by the nuns of St. Paisius Orthodox Monastery in Safford, Arizona.

The Meaning of Ritual

May 14, 2011

By Fr. Paul Jannakos

Anyone the least bit familiar with the Orthodox Church knows that repetition is a key feature of its worship.

We do things over and over again, and then, we do it yet again – one more time. As we find in the Little Litany, “Again and again in peace, let us pray to the Lord.”

For many Americans, this seems excessively pedantic, if not outright silly. As one protestant visitor to my Church asked,

“Why do you people say ‘Lord have mercy’ so many times? Don’t you believe that God hears you?”

The answer, of course, is that we do believe that God hears and accepts the prayer of all those who offer their prayer in faith and in purity of heart. But, because repentance is not an instantaneous event, (though some would like to think so), and because we are so slow to learn the deeper meaning of the prayer,

“Lord have mercy,”

(which is the essential prayer of the Church), we are required by the Holy Spirit to continue saying it until our dying breath. The testimony of the Holy Fathers bears this out.

This is the reason why we repeat so many other things within the life of Church, not only its prayers, but its gestures too. We make the sign of the Cross and bless ourselves by doing so an infinite number of times. Can we ever sign ourselves with the Cross enough? Obviously not, at least for those who are truly serious about picking up and carrying their crosses.

We venerate the icons by bowing before them and kissing them with tender lips and hearts. Will there ever be a time when we have kissed them “enough?” No, of course not. Because it is kind of like saying,

“Will there ever be a time when mothers and fathers can kiss their children enough?”


“Will there ever be a time when husbands and wives have kissed each other enough?”

One need not even answer such a question because it is plain for everyone to see.

Examples of this sort are plentiful even in the so called real world. We human beings do things on a repeated basis not only because it is practical, but because these repeated things convey value and meaning. Which just happens to be what a “ritual” is. Rituals are words, gestures, and motions (very often combined together all at once) that convey worth and significance. Let us illustrate.

Young men who court the women they love offer them flowers – a ritual of admiration. Those who are about to prepare themselves for a job interview dress up in their very best (“for men, no slip on shoes, laces only!) – a ritual of self-worth. At graduation, students dress up in cap and gown and receive a diploma from the hands of their instructors – a ritual of completion and transition. When the President of the United States enters into a room, those in attendance stand up from their chairs – a ritual of respect for the office (not the person) of the presidency. As a child in elementary school, I remember beginning each day in class by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – a Jeffersonian ritual of absolute faith in the principles of democratic government. Examples of this are numerous.

Yet, over the years, I have noticed that when it comes to the rites of the Church, many people are unfairly prejudiced.

“It looks like spiritual robotics to me,”

is what they say, or

“You’re just going through the motions, along with all that religious mumbo-jumbo.”

Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Going through the motions? Religious mumbo-jumbo?

I think it is high time to set the record straight. First by saying that anyone, religious or not, can go through the motions and make it all just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Because it is not the ritual that is dead, but the heart and motive that lie behind it. I’ve been to many baseball games where the singing of the National Anthem (yet another ritual!) is performed in an utterly dreary, perfunctory manner. “Hurry up and get on with it will you, this ain’t no opera!”

So, just because there are some who fail to understand the meaning of the Church’s rites doesn’t mean that the rites themselves are wrong. On the contrary, it is the human beings themselves that are “wrong.” Isaiah the prophet spoke well about this when he said, speaking for the Lord Himself,

“These people, they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13).

The Church bids us to do many things over and over only because “repetition is the mother of learning.” In the gospel, Christ, too, taught his followers how to pray, not by saying, “pray what ever you like, and in your own words,” but by saying,

“When you pray, say (these words), ‘Our Father, Who art in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:5).

As we take this all to heart, we learn how to humble ourselves to the gestures, practices and disciplines that belong to the Church’s being and life. Because the little things we do are important. We respond to the prayers at the Holy Liturgy by saying “Amen,” not just once, but over and over. We make prostrations before the icon of Christ, not just once, over and over. We receive the holy sacrament from the cup of the Lord, not just once, but over and over. We do so because all of these repeated things add up to inner cleansing, healing, and perfection.

Are we anymore ritualistic than the rest of the human race?

I don’t think so. Its just that the rites we practice have a far more nobler purpose.

H/T: The Preacher’s Institute

Blessing Easter Baskets in Uzhgorod, Ukraine

May 4, 2011

Long forbidden during the Soviet era, now thousands come out at Pascha at Midnight to have their Easter baskets blessed. Beautiful images filmed this year outside St John the Baptist Orthodox Cathedral in Uzhgorod, Ukraine:

Witnesses of Jehovah — Movie and Book

May 2, 2011

A bit dated, but a great general introduction to the Witnesses:

[vimeo  http://vimeo.com/20180061%5D

The book by the same name can be read online here or downloaded here.

¡En español!:

For further reading:

Reading Recommendations re: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Update on the Bethel “Generation of 1914”

May 1, 2011

The last of those 16 older Bethelites (workers at the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in New York) pictured on the May 15, 1984 Watchtower have been identified. Previously, we only had the last names of two of the people in that picture.

Watchtower leaders had this group pose for this picture on the cover of their main journal to give credence to their then held belief that those alive from the generation which saw the events of 1914 transpiring (supposedly indicating Christ’s enthronement in heaven as king that year, accompanied by turmoil on the earth) would not pass away before the End of the World. (This teaching has since been revised.) Various friends have helped identify these Bethelites that were pictured and using the Social Security Death Index (a public record) we were able to establish that this representative group from that generation have all passed away. The last member died in 2008.

An updated graphic is below. There is no copyright on this graphic so feel free to re-post and distribute it freely:

For complete coverage, see:

The Bethel “Generation of 1914”

A Memorial to a False Prophecy