18 March 2013

HOW TO: What to do if you are having a baby!

Contact the priest as soon as possible. There are special prayers that the priest reads on the day of the birth, and thus he will come visit the new mother and child in the hospital. If the child is not healthy the priest should be informed about this as well. If the prognosis is poor the child may be baptized in the hospital. In an extreme emergency the child may be baptized by one of his parents. The priest should be consulted in such a situation if at all possible. Prenatal care is key here. If it is known that the child will be born in poor health these sorts of things (baptism in the hospital, etc.) can be planned for.

The priest should again be invited to the home on the 8th day (remember, when counting days since birth, the day OF THE BIRTH is 1, the day after the birth is 2, etc.). On this day the child is given its Christian name. Yes, it is true, you had to put a name on the birth certificate, but the child doesn't “really” receive its name until these prayers are read. The prayers are short. The priest doesn't expect a clean house or a meal, but it is very important that these prayers be read. In Russia before the Revolution the priest often chose the name of the child rather than the parents. The child needs to have a name on the 8th day. If you haven’t chosen a name by that time (this is unusual, but not unheard of) the priest will help you (or will name the child himself).

When should the child be baptized? Certainly not later than about the 40th day after birth. The mother comes to the Church for the first time after the birth on the 40th day and prayers are read especially for her on this day. If possible, assuming good health of the baby, the baptism would ideally be done at this time.

The choosing of Godparents if very important. The Godparents should be chosen with this in mind: that at the untimely death of the parents one of the Godparents would raise the child. Also, Godparents should participate in the spiritual upbringing of the child by making sure that the parents bring the child to Church regularly. Someone may be your good friend, but at the same time not make a good Godparent. The Godparents should be of an upstanding moral character, regular churchgoers, and not living in violation of the Church’s canons. The Godparent must be an Orthodox Christian. One Godparent of the same gender as the child is mandatory, a second (of the opposite gender) is optional.

17 March 2013

Orthodox Christianity Must Be Experienced and Lived!

Tonight my wife chose to attend Forgiveness Vespers for the first time ever. She was not going to go up and ask forgiveness of Father Vasile, but then she saw how everyone was so happy to ask forgiveness of Father Vasile and everyone else, that it touched her heart and she went up. She said, seeing this service, she realized now why in the evening prayers in most Orthodox Christian prayer books, one asks forgiveness of any offenses to their Guardian Angel. It was experiencing this service that helped her understand it, no any reasoning by men.
O Holy Angel, attendant of my wretched soul and of mine afflicted life, forsake me not, a sinner, neither depart from me for mine incontinency. Give no place to the evil demon to subdue me with the oppression of this mortal body; but take me by my wretched and outstretched hand, and lead me in the way of salvation. Yea, O holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my hapless soul and body, forgive me all things whatsoever wherewith I have troubled thee, all the days of my life, and if I have sinned in anything this day. Shelter me in this present night, and keep me from every affront of the enemy, lest I anger God by any sin; and intercede with the Lord in my behalf, that He might strengthen me in the fear of Him, and make me a worthy servant of His goodness. Amen.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America explains Forgiveness/Cheesefare Sunday like this:

The Sunday of Forgiveness, the last of the preparatory Sundays before Great Lent, has two themes: it commemorates Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, and it accentuates our need for forgiveness. There are obvious reasons why these two things should be brought to our attention as we stand on the threshold of Great Lent. One of the primary images in the Triodion is that of the return to Paradise. Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and rising, which has reopened Paradise to us once more (Luke 23:43). So sorrow for our exile in sin is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise.

The second theme, that of forgiveness, is emphasized in the Gospel reading for this Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) and in the special ceremony of mutual forgiveness at the end of the Vespers on Sunday evening. Before we enter the Lenten fast, we are reminded that there can be no true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we are at the same time reconciled with one another. A fast without mutual love is the fast of demons. We do not travel the road of Lent as isolated individuals but as members of a family. Our asceticism and fasting should not separate us from others, but should link us to them with ever-stronger bonds.

The Sunday of Forgiveness also directs us to see that Great Lent is a journey of liberation from our enslavement to sin. The Gospel lesson sets the conditions for this liberation. The first one is fasting—the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of the flesh and matter over the spirit. To be effective, however, our fast must not be hypocritical, a “showing off.” We must “appear not unto men to fast but to our Father who is in secret” (vv. 16-18).

The second condition is forgiveness—“If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you” (vv. 14-15). The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness—the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. To forgive is to reject the hopeless “dead-ends” of human relations and to refer them to Christ. Forgiveness is truly a “breakthrough” of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world.

Types and Anti-types in the Holy Bible

There are a lot of types and antitypes in the Holy Bible. Two of the most obvious are King David the Prophet and the Temple. However I wanted to explore some of the types revealed by Saint Paul in his writings and related types that can help strengthen our Biblical understanding.

Saint Paul was the first to write concerning the types in the Old Testament in 1st Corinthians 10:1-4 talking of the Red Sea as a type of Baptism and God the Son as the Rock in the Old Testament. The passage of Israel through the Red Sea is a type of Baptism. The water spared Israel and defeated their enemy, while Baptism spares us and defeats the enemy, the Devil.
Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that all of our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all had themselves baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they were drinking from a spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was the Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things become types for us, in order that we not become desirers of bad things, even as they also desired.
King David called the God of Israel his rock and redeemer in the Psalm 18(19):15. He is the rock of stumbling in Isaiah 8:14 and Romans 9:33. In the New Testament, faith in Him is also called the Rock in Matthew 16:18 and He is the cornerstone of the Church in Ephesians 2:19-20. He is the rock or stone that the builders rejected in Psalm 117(118):22, Isaiah 28:16, and 1st Peter 2:4-8.
O Lord, my rock and redeemer! 
So if you trust in Him, He shall be as a sanctuary for you, and you shall not come against Him as a stumbling stone nor as a rock of disaster. 
Even as it hath been written: “Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense; and everyone who believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” 
And I say also to thee that art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against her. 
So then ye are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens of the saints and of the household of God, who were built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone, 
The stone which the builders rejected, this became the head of the corner;
Therefore, thus says the Lord: “Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone for its foundations, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
 
To Whom coming, a living Stone--having indeed been rejected by men, but chosen by God--precious, ye also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house,--a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Sion a cornerstone, chosen, precious; and the one who believeth on Him in no wise shall be put to shame.” To you, therefore, who believe, is the honor, but to those who disobey--the “stone which the builders rejected, this became, this became the head of the corner,” and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”--they stumble at the word, being disobedient, in regard to that which they also were appointed.
We recall too, the discussion between Christ and the Samaritan woman where He referred to Himself as the living water (John 4:10) surely not oblivious of Jeremiah’s description of God as the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13).
Jesus answered her and said to her, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who is the One Who saith to thee, ‘Give Me to drink,’ thou wouldest asked Him, and He would have given to thee living water .” 
For My people have committed two evils: They forsook Me, the fountain of living water, and hewed for themselves broken cisterns, unable to hold water.
But what other types are in the Holy Bible that are not spelled out by the New Testament authors?

Another type is found in the meeting of Abram with Melchisedek, King of Salem (Peace), a priest of the Most High who brought out bread and wine to the patriarch. (Genesis 14:18-20) The Christ, as King David the Prophet declares in Psalm 109(110):5, and Saint Paul repeats in Hebrews 5:6 and 7:9-11, will be a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.
Now Melchisedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. He blessed Abram and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hands.” Then Abram gave him a tithe of all.

The Lord swore and will not change His mind, “Thou art a priest unto the age, according to the order of Melchisedek.”
 
Even as He saith also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek”; 
And so to speak, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, hath been tithed through Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedek met him. If indeed then perfection were through the Levitical priesthood--for the people upon the basis of it had been furnished the law--what need was there for a different kind of priest to arise according to the order of Melchisedek, and not one according to the order of Aaron?
The Hospitality of Abraham, the appearance of the three angels at the Oak of Mamre is a type of that symbolizes the Holy Trinity. (Genesis 18:2-3)
So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood before him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “O Lord, if I have now found favor in your sight, do not pass by Your servant.”
Abraham’s son Isaac is a type of the Christ a the incident at Moriah where Abraham is commanded by God to offer up his son as a sacrifice to Him. (Genesis 22:9) The sacrifice of of Isaac on the wood was a type of God the Father offering us His Son on the wood of the cross (John 3:16).
They came to the place where God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the firewood in order; and he bound Isaac his son hand and foot and laid him on the altar, upon the firewood. 
For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life.
The Passover, which the Israelites eat on the 6th day (liturgically Friday) is a perfect type of the Lamb of God, Christ, who is sacrificed for us then is consumed, just like Christ says we must truly eat his body and drink His blood or we have no life in us. (John 6:53-56, Matthew 26:26-28). Moreover, as Moses sprinkled hyssop on the Paschal lamb, so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth (John 19:29). The Gospels also record that, like the lamb of the ancient Passover, not a bone of His body was broken. (Exodus 12:10, 22, 46; Numbers 9:12; John 19:33, 36). The blood of each lamb prevented death. Just like the Paschal lamb, the Early Church insisted that any remaining Eucharistic Communion be consumed by either the Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon.
Then Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, unless ye should eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye are not having life in yourselves. The one who partaketh of My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. The one who eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him.” 
And as they ate, Jesus took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and was giving it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is My blood, that of the new covenant, which is being poured out for many for remission of sins.” 
A vessel therefore full of vinegar was set; and they filled a sponge with vinegar and put around it hyssop, and brought it to His mouth. 
You shall let none of it remain until morning, nor shall you break a bone of it; and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 
Then you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. But none of you shall go out from the door of his house until morning. 
In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall your break one of its bones. 
The shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the rule of Pascha, they shall keep it. 
But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead. they did not break His legs. 
For these things came to pass, in order that the Scripture should be fulfilled: “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” and again, another Scripture saith: “They shall look at Him whom they pierced.”
An Exodus type is the battle of Israel with the Amalekites (Exodus 17:9-13). Moses, standing on the hill above the fray with his arms outstretched. Whenever he held them up, Israel prevailed, and when he lowered them, Amalek won. Because he was weary, Aaron and Hur placed stones under his arms while he cheered on Jesus(Joshua), the son of Nun(Nave).
So Moses said to Jesus, “Choose for yourself some mighty men and go out, and set the army in array against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Jesus did as Moses said to him and set the army in array against Amalek. Then, Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hands, that Israel prevailed; but when he let down down his hands, Amalek prevailed. Now Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and one on the other; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Jesus defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Mount Sinai is a type of Mount Tabor of the Transfiguration. The Sinai experience of Elias(Elijah) as well as Moses images the Lord’s Transfiguration on Tabor which is itself a type or image of the radical transformation of the whole universe at Christ’s Second Coming. Moreover, He who spoke to Moses and Elias through symbols of Mount Sinai of old, saying, “I AM WHO AM”, hath manifested Himself on Mount Tabor to His disciples”. (Exodus 34:29, Deuteronomy 18:15, 3 Kingdoms(1 Kings) 19:8-12) (Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36)
Now when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), he did not know the skin of his face was glorified while God talked to him. 
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you asked from the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let us not hear again the voice of the Lord our God, nor let us see this great fire any more lest we die.’” 
So he arose, ate and drank; and he went with the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, as far as Mount Horeb. There he went into a cave and rested. Behold, the Word of the Lord came to him and said, “Elias, what are you doing here?” And Elias said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord Almighty since the children of Israel have forsaken You. They tore down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” Then He replied, “Go out tomorrow and stand on the mountain before the Lord; and behold, the Lord will pass by, and before the Lord, a great and powerful wind will be rending the mountains and shattering the rocks; but the Lord will not be in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord will not be in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there will be a fire, but the Lord will not be in the fire. After the fire, there will be a sound of a gentle breeze, and he Lord will be there.” 
And after six days Jesus taketh along with Him Peter and Iakovos(James) and John, and bringeth them up alone into a high mountain in private; and He was transfigured before them. And His garments became shining, exceedingly white as snow, such as no fuller on the earth is able to whiten. And Elias appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking together with Jesus. And Peter answering, saith to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” For he knew not what he should say, for they were greatly afraid. And there came to be a cloud overshadowing them. And a voice came to be out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, the Beloved; be hearing Him.” And suddenly, after they looked round about, they saw no one any more, but Jesus alone with themselves.
The brazen or bronze serpent lifted up on a pole by Moses in the desert (Numbers 21:8-9) is everywhere recognized as a type of the passion of salvation accomplished by means of the Cross. Moses struck the rock in unbelief, and this action would keep him from leading Israel into the land of promise. It is unbelief to disobey the Lord’s direction, for He told Moses to take the rod and speak to the rock. However, he struck the rock twice. So he violated the type. This rock represented the spiritual Rock (1st Corinthians 10:1-4). After His Incarnation, He would be smitten once, not twice, for the sins of the world (Romans 6:9-10). From His life-giving cross would come the waters of life, “springing up into everlasting life”. (John 4:14)
“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before them, and it will give its waters; thus you shall bring them water out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as the Lord ordered him.

Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that all of our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all had themselves baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they were drinking from a spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was the Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things become types for us, in order that we not become desirers of bad things, even as they also desired.
 
Knowing that Christ Who was raised from the dead dieth no more; death no longer hath dominion over Him. For the death which He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life which He liveth, He liveth to God. 
“But whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him in no wise shall ever thirst. But the water I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing into eternal life.”
The tabernacle is a type of Mary, the Theotokos, who like the Ark was overshadowed by the cloud of the Holy Spirit. God was present in her too and took his human nature from her. The Mother of God is the living tabernacle of God, which contained the uncontainable.

Jesus of Nun was a type of Jesus the Christ. When he began his government of the people, he began at the Jordan where, Jesus Christ Himself, after His Baptism, started to preach the Gospel. The son of Nun appointed the twelve who divided the inheritance; and Christ sent the Twelve Apostles, the heralds of truth, into the world.

Baptism is the antitype to circumcision. Israel circumcised their children on the 8th day and brought them to the temple on the 40th day along with a sacrifice. The Early Church gave the newly born children their names on the 8th day and Baptized and Chrismated them (Sealed them with the Holy Spirit) on the 40th day when they were presented at the Christian temple and offered a lock of their hair as a sacrifice to God.

This blog post could not be assembled without the assistance of the following books:

The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church Volume 1: God, Creation, Old Israel, Christ
by the Very Reverend Protopresbyter Michael Azkoul

The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World
by the Academic Committee of Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology

The Orthodox Psalter: The Psalterion According to the Seventy
by Holy Apostles Convent

The Orthodox New Testament Volume 1: The Holy Gospels (Evangelistarion)
by Holy Apostles Convent

The Orthodox New Testament Volume 2: Acts, Epistles and Revelation (Praxapostolos)
by Holy Apostles Convent

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