04 April 2022

POLL: The Pandemic & Orthodox Churches

If you are a part of any Orthodox Church (Eastern or Oriental) in the USA, please click on the link below to take part in a large national survey. It's about the effects of the pandemic on parish life, and is funded by the Louisville Institute. Your responses are strictly anonymous. Please also pass this on to any Orthodox friends or relatives; the more participants, the more meaningful the data will be! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PandemicAndYourParishNow

10 March 2022

Help and Pray for Ukraine

Are you wondering how to donate and help Ukraine besides prayer, and don't want your money to errantly end up in the hands of scammers? You can donate money that will 100% go the Ukrainian people, without any executive or administration fees to pay anyone a salary through the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA at https://www.uocofusa.org/news_220224_1 marking your donations with the comment, "LET’S HELP UKRAINE". They have already used this money to get everyday supplies and medical supplies to the people of Ukraine and evacuate an orphanage of children and their teachers to Poland with the donations that they have received so far. If you prefer to donate with Facebook's own platform, you can do so at the Facebook page of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA at https://www.facebook.com/uocofusa.

14 October 2021

Real Cancel Culture

Cancel culture is real and both the left and right are guilty of using it against their perceived enemies. Sometimes it can be used to shutdown a harmful practice, but often times it can also be harmful to the innocent. In my lifetime I remember BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons) trying to shut down D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) in the 1980's due to the Satanic Panic, which has been proven to be a false and unnecessary panic. My Dungeon Master's (referee's) parents bought into it and did not allow their son to play D&D anymore at his house. Instead we had to play a Christian RPG (Role-Playing Game) called Dragon Raid at his house. We still played Dungeons & Dragons at my house, because my parents did not buy into the panic. You can read more about the fraudulent Satanic Panic and attempts to cancel D&D at https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26328105

Recently a priest's blog was removed from Ancient Faith Radio after multiple warnings about not posting about partisan politics. This was not a case of internet opinion charging him before he was in a court of law, but a company that warned a content provider to stop a prohibited activity over and over until they felt they had to remove him. People cried "Cancel Culture" but this is NOT cancel culture. He was removed from one platform, no judgement was made upon him as a bad person, and AFR even offered to help him set up his blog at new platform. AFR only made a statement about it because the priest had made one first, claiming he was cancelled (Which he has now, thankfully retracted). I am not even a fan of AFR, but these are facts, which I will not twist because I like and respect the priest in question. 

However in the modern day, there are actual victims of cancel culture in the world. The problem is that this is done off of accusations, not someone being found guilty in a court of law. In fact, one of these cancelled creators, Zak Smith, actually ended up suing his accusers and was found that he was being defamed and that the accusers had to pay-up and/or post retractions to their accusations. But those facts were not important to the Twitter troll mobs who keep spreading the accusations (only made on social media) and as such, no one will publish Zak's work. Zak, thankfully, makes lots of money from his art, but the TTRPG is missing out by not having his Adventure Campaigns which are also works of art. There are others that are also being cancelled and it is hurting their ability to make a living for them and their family. To this end, I recently interviewed Zak, being a fan or his art and writing and wanting to get the facts of his story from his POV without the interviewer (me) passing judgement. WARNING: This interview has adult language and talks about adult situations. 

We need to be patient and let the facts come out in courts of law when accusations are made and remember, at least in America, that people are considered innocent until proven guilty. We don't need a litany of Heart Queens yelling, "Off with their head" anytime anyone is accused of anything bad. 

01 July 2021

After Almost 20 Years, I Finally Found Book 4 of "The Monastery Builders" Series

For almost 20 years I had been looking for book 4 in The Monastery Builders series, and yesterday, I finally go it! Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait. This is an incredible hagiographical series that I recommend for all Orthodox Christians. They were all published and printed with the blessing of His Grace, ALYPY, Bishop of Chicago, Detroit, and Middle America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Here are links to all five books of The Monastery Builders series. Unfortunately, since it has long been out of print, they are not all available at good prices or even available at all.

  1. The Lives of the Monastery Builders [This brown book was published in 1988] 
  2. The Lives of the Monastery Builders of Soumela [This green book was published in 1991] 
  3. The Lives of the Monastery Builders of Meteora [This blue book was published in 1991] 
  4. The Lives of the Monastery Builders of The Great Cave (Mega Spelaion) [This purple book was published in 1992] 
  5. The Lives of the Monastery Builders of The Holy Mountain Athos [This black book was published in 1992] 

25 June 2021

Rejoice! Book 5 of The Philokalia has Finally Been Published in the English Language!

Philokalia I, II, III, IVPhilokalia V

The Philokalia is a collection of texts written between the fourth and the fifteenth centuries by spiritual Elders and Saints of Orthodox Christianity First published as a compiled manuscript in Greek in 1782, The Philokalia has exercised an influence in the recent history of the Orthodox Church far greater than that of any book apart from the Bible. It is concerned with themes of universal importance: how one may develop their inner powers and awake from illusion; how they may overcome fragmentation and achieve spiritual wholeness; how they may attain the life of contemplative stillness and union with God.

For many years, Orthodox Christians have been awaiting the English translation of the 5th and final book of the Philokalia, the first 4 books having long been translated by Bp. Kallistos Ware and Mother Maria. However, the fifth book of the Philokalia has been translated and published by Anna Skoubourdis and Saint George Monastery in 2021, in both hardcover and paperback, just like the other four volumes published in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Here are the links to all five volumes that are now available: 

This is great news for English-speaking Orthodox Christians everywhere! Glory be to God! 

24 June 2021

The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church has Finally Been Completed!

Back in 1986, The Reverend Father Michael Azkoul, Ph.D. wrote The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church: Volume 1: God, Creation, Old Israel, Christ in 236 pages, which was edited by Hieromonk Gregory of Dormition Skete with the blessing of His Grace, ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) Bishop Alypy of Cleveland. Save for its attacks on Blessed Augustine of Hippo, the author of The City of God, it is a good book that does a really good job of explaining the typology of the Old Testament revealed in the New Testament's Holy Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, and I hoped to see Volume 2: The Church and Volume 3: Mystagogy of The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church in the future. Volume 1's five chapters are: 

  1. Introduction
  2. God: The Holy Trinity
  3. The Creation
  4. The Economy of Old Israel
  5. Jesus the Christ
The second and third books were not to be, as Father Michael Azkoul broke away from the ROCOR and joined the HOCNA (Holy Orthodox Church of North America) while then-Archimandrite Gregory (Gregory Abu Assaly) later departed ROCOR for one of the GOCs (Genuine Greek Orthodox Churches). Interestingly, Father Michael Azkoul in now in one of the GOCs that Archimandrite Gregory was formerly a member of, and now-Archbishop Gregory is the head of his own GOCA (Genuine Orthodox Church of America).

In 2020, Archbishop Gregory completed the volumes of The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church in 602 pages, making it into one book, making a re-edited, reformatted, and revised Part 1 while also adding a Part 2, the later of which consisted of what would have been Volume 2 and Volume 3 in Father Michael Azkoul's original plan. Volume 1 has now been renamed Part 1: God, Creation, and the Economy of Salvation. The chapters to Part 2: The Church are: 
  1. The One Church
  2. Christ and the Church: The Heterodox
  3. The Church of God
  4. Mystagogy I: Holy Baptism
  5. Mystagogy II: The Eucharist
  6. Mystagogy III: The Other Mysteries
  7. The All-Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary, The Mother of God, with All the Saints
  8. The End of the Age
  9. Augustine of Hippo
While the unfortunate attacks on Blessed Augustine of Hippo (commemorated 15 June in the Orthodox Church) remain, besides this, this is a very good book that is a good introduction to Orthodoxy, even better than the far more-errant introductory two volume set, The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, by the then-layman Timothy Ware, now Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). 

23 June 2021

Which Orthodox Christian Prayer Book do you use?

Not too long ago, there were not many choices for an English Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians. But today there are 4 strong prayer books for Orthodox Christians who prefer to use English to pray. There are actually many Orthodox Christian prayer books today, but I can only strongly recommend these four: 

I.) The (ROCOR - Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) Holy Trinity Monastery "Jordanville" Prayer Book in hardcover for $18.69, first published in English in 1960 and revised constantly, is considered the Russian style gold standard. When verses from Holy Scripture are used, they previously used the King James Version and now use A Psalter for Prayer which is a new blend of the KJV and the Cloverdale Edition of the Psalter. It has evening prayers before sleep rather than the service of the compline.

II.) The (OCA - Orthodox Church in America) Saint Tikhon Monastery Press' Orthodox Christian Prayers in imitation leather for $24.95, published in 2019 as spiritual successor to many other lesser-quality OCA prayer books of the past. This newest version improves everything from all the previous OCA versions of the prayer book, and had excellent formatting that means most prayers start at the the beginning of a new page, rather than somewhere in the middle or bottom of the page. It means they made interesting decisions on font sizes to make this work, but in the end, a job well done. When verses from Holy Scriptures are used, they use A Psalter for Prayer. rather than the Psalter of the Orthodox Study Bible like some previous OCA prayer books had. It has both the compline and prayers before sleep as it is made for Orthodox Christians of any jurisdiction. It also has 3 bookmarks sewn into the spine!

III.) The (HOCNA - Holy Orthodox Church in North America) Holy Transfiguration Monastery's Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians in hardcover for $24.99 first published in 1987, it is very similar to the ROCOR Prayer Book, but made for members of Greek parishes. When verses from Holy Scripture are used, they use The Psalter: According to the Seventy. It has the compline rather than evening prayers before sleep. 

IV.) The (GOA - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) Newrome Press' Orthodox Christian Prayer Book in hardcover for $29.99, published in 2016 is the first GOA prayer book to be considered as a good enough book to replace the earlier HTM prayer book. Newrome Press makes beautiful books inside and out. When verses from Holy Scripture are used, they use the Eastern / Greek Orthodox Bible. It has the compline rather than evening prayers before sleep. It also has 2 bookmarks sewn into the spine!

Which one do you prefer, and why? I've used each of them at one time or another and all have their strengths and weaknesses, but they all do the same thing, help you to pray to God. 

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