18 December 2013

The Holy Mysteries of Penance/Confession and Unction

Those coming from a Protestant background may not understand that Confession and Holy Unction are Biblical Mysteries/Sacraments and confession of sins was called for even in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.

The Mystery of Penance/Confession

The Book of Numbers 5:6-7a “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “When a man or woman commits one of the sins that human commit, and actually disregards a neighbor, that soul has committed a trespass. Then he shall confess openly the sin he committed...”

The Book of Nehemiah 9:2-3 “Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God, and they were confessing to the Lord and worshipping the Lord their God.”

The Book of Baruch 1:13-14 “Pray for us too the Lord our God, because we have sinned against the Lord our God. Even to this day the wrath of the Lord and His anger is not turned away from us. And you shall read this book which we are sending you, in order to make a confession in the house of the Lord on the feast days and on the solemn days.”

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 3:5-6 “Then Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all the country round about  the Jordan were going out to him, and were being baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”

The Gospel According to Saint Mark “And all the land of Judea, and all of Jerusalem, were going by out to him; and all were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, confessing their sins.”

The gift of God's forgiveness is received through private prayer, corporate worship, the disciplines of prayer and fasting, penitential services and above all through the sacrament of Holy Confession.

The value of Holy Confession is twofold. First, through this sacramental act of the ordained presbyter/priest and the Christian believer we have the assurance of divine forgiveness, according to the words of Christ:

The Gospel According to Saint John 20:22-23 “And after He said this, he breathed on them, and saith to them, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: if ye forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven too them; if ye retain the sins of any, they are retained.””

Secondly, Holy Confession provides the opportunity to talk about one's deep concerns, to receive counsel and to be encouraged toward spiritual growth, all of which are universally recognized as extremely beneficial to personal life.

Remember that you are confessing to God. The presbyter is there as a witness, and help you not fall back into that sin. You should really be repentant and be willing to change your mind/way as this is what mentanoia means. After confession, the presbyter may give you an epitimion/penance, which may consist of prayers or spiritual reading to help you not fall in to this sin again and realize the seriousness of your sin.

Holy Confession is appropriate whenever an Orthodox Christian feels the need for it. It is also an essential part of our total spiritual preparation during the fast periods leading up to the great feasts of Pascha/Easter, Nativity/Christmas, Dormition, and the Feast of Twelve Apostles. This is a minimum of 4 times a year. However, Holy Confession is especially necessary:

  1. when a serious sin has been committed;
  2. when a habitual sin has overwhelmed a Christian, or
  3. when a Christian has stopped growing spiritually and needs a reexamination of priorities.

We confess our sins to God and the power of forgiveness is God's. However, the gift of God's forgiveness, although assured, is not magical. It does not automatically spare us from spiritual struggle - the continual vigilance against evil and the unceasing warfare against sin. Holy Confession will bear fruits in the Spirit only when the believer hates evil, utterly rejects sin and patiently cultivates positive habits of the life in Christ:

The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans 6:11-13 “Thus reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore let us not sin be reigning in your mortal body, so that ye obey it in its desires. Cease presenting your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as weapons of righteousness to God.”

How can one prepare for Holy Confession? Preparation for Holy Confession is a prayerful examination of feelings, thoughts, words, acts, attitudes, habits, values, priorities, goals, direction, and way of life. This prayerful self-examination includes not only the personal religious life, but also family relationships, social activities, job conduct, business dealings, political commitments and even recreational pursuits, because our entire existence should be lived in under the light of the Holy Spirit is not to condemn ourselves, but to affirm our true selves in Christ who has given us access to God's mercy and forgiveness and who has taught us to live for God's glory.

Pray and think and your confession over several days. Ask God to help you perceive your sins and to make a thorough confession of them. Sometime before the sacrament of Holy Confession, pray Psalm 50(51) & 51(52).

Now, without justification or self-pity, make a prayerful examinations of your conscience regarding all things. As a help, reflect on your life in the light of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Take pencil and paper and specify your sins so that, at the time of the sacrament, you will be able to make a thorough confession from the list, without confusion or lapse of memory.


Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the Lord your God... You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Has God been the source, center and hope of my life? Have I put myself, others or things before God? Have I failed to trust in God's existence, love and mercy? Have I failed to pray to God, to worship Him and to thank Him for His blessings? Have I tried to serve God and keep His commandments faithfully? Have I murmured or complained against God in adversity? Have I praised and glorified God through my words and deeds?

Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself an idol...”
Have I valued anyone or anything above God? Have I given to anyone or anything the love, honor and worship that belongs to God alone? Have I made an idol of any person, idea, occupation, or thing?

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain...”
Have I blasphemed God's holy name in any way? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn vow or promise? Have I entered into an agreement, promise or contract against God's law? Have I cursed or used foul language?

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy...”
Have I worshiped regularly on Sundays and major feast days and have I helped others to do the same? Have I worked unnecessarily on Sundays or major feast days or caused others to do so? Have I spent the Lord's Day in a wholesome and edifying ways?

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and mother...”
Have I loved and respected my parents as I should? Have I neglected them or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused them pain by my words or deeds? Have I treated all my family members with patience and love?

Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.”
Have I caused the harm, injury or death of anyone? Have I wished my own or anyone's harm or death? Have I been cruel to animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily?

Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.”
Have I committed any immoral acts alone or with others? Have I caused others to commit immoral acts? Have I committed immoral acts in my heart?

Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.”
Have I taken anything that was not mine from anyone or from anywhere? Have I cheated anyone? Have I caused others to steal or cheat? Have I tried to find the owners of lost things I have found? Have I damaged or destroyed anything that belonged to another? Have I defrauded anyone of rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I given to the poor and to philanthropic causes in proportion to my means?

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Have I given false testimony against anyone? Have I spoken evil, told lies or spread rumors about anyone? Have I disclosed to anyone the sins and faults of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the name and reputation of another? Have I engaged in idle gossip?

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet...”
Have I looked with envy jealousy or hatred toward the possession talents or achievements of others? Have I desired the downfall or loss of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved that God has bestowed greater blessings on others than on me?


Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”
Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God? Have I been proud arrogant and self-righteous in my ways? Have I been selfish, possessive and self-seeking? Have I sought after status, power, and wealth?

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Have I endured difficulties and afflictions with faith and patience? Have I felt sadness for the sufferings of the poor, the hungry, and addicted; the sick, the lonely and the sinful of the world? Have I truly been sorrowful for my sins and faults?

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Have I tried to serve or rather to dominate others at home, school, work, office, Church and elsewhere? Have I nursed against anyone? Have I been resentful, bitter, unforgiving or insulting and abusive to others? Have I loved my enemies?

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Have I truly yearned for God's will to be done in all things? Have I worked for justice in my family, society and the world in ways with in my reach? Have I tried to cultivate a righteous life through prayer, fasting, worship, receiving Holy Communion and deeds of love toward others?

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Have I shown compassion and help toward the poor, hungry, lonely and needy around me? Have I tried to understand and forgive others? Have I been indifferent judgmental or legalistic?

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Have I loved goodness, purity and holiness? Have I succumbed to evil motives and intentions? Have I given way to impure thoughts, words or deeds? Have I been guilty of bias and prejudice? Have I been hypocritical, pretentious or self-indulgent to sinful passions?

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Do I have God's peace in my heart? Have I been unfairly angry, aggressive or impatient? Have I worked for peace at home, work, Church and in society? Have I been irritable, polemical, or divisive?

Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”
Have I complained when persecuted for God's sake? Have I prayed for my persecutors? Have I failed to defend anyone in the truth for fear of humiliation or persecution? Have I had the courage to stand up for what is right despite criticism, ridicule or persecution?

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are ye whenever they reproach you and persecute you, and say every evil word against you falsely on account of Me; Be rejoicing and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in the heavens.”
Is the joy of Christ in my heart even in trying moments? Have I been pessimistic despondent or despairing? Have I truly delighted in the promise of God's treasures in heaven?

Remember that the presbyter/priest is there as God’s ordained witness, not as a judge, and that there should be no fear in approaching the Mystery.

Your first confession is a lifetime confession, confessing all sins before you were Baptized and Chrismated. After that, your confession will be sins since the last confession only, as your previous sins are forgiven and forgotten.

The Mystery of Holy Unction

The General Epistle of Saint Iakovos (James) 5:14-16 “Is anyone among you infirm? Let him call the presbyters for the Church; and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the one who is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be one who hath committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Keep on confessing your transgressions too one another and praying for one another, that ye might be healed. The entreaty of a righteous man hath much strength when it is energized.”

So Saint Iakovos/James describes the anointing of the sick, providing the apostolic foundations for the sacrament of unction, or more properly, "the oil of prayer" (euchelaion). In keeping with the biblical injunction, the Orthodox order for the celebration of this sacrament calls for a group of presbyters to be present at it but this requirement is only of secondary importance. Nor is it required that the person receiving the sacrament be mortally ill as some have supposed. Bodily healing as well as the forgiveness of sins are the primary purposes of this sacrament and only in cases of imminent death can it be considered a preparation for it.

Orthodox theology has always stressed the unity of body and soul and this means that there can be no sharp dichotomy between physical and spiritual; the readings and prayers used in the rite of unction certainly do not assume that physical healing is assured framework of repentance. The anointing symbolizes ultimate pardon in the face of sickness and even death, physical results of the spiritual disease of sinfulness. Unction itself has frequently been associated with penance as a single action and in some instances it has even superseded penance. The popular public celebrations of unction on Holy Wednesday in many Orthodox celebrations of unction on Holy Wednesday in many Orthodox churches might be incorrectly interpreted as a substitute for actual confessions of sins by individuals in preparation for the pascal Eucharist. Needless to say, anointing is meaningless without true contrition.

30 October 2013

My Tony Romo at the Lead & Succeed 2013 DFW Experience

Yesterday I went to LEAD AND SUCCEED 2013 at the Verizon Theater on the edge of Grapevine and Dallas, Texas. There were some great speakers, and it was nice that the majority were good to point out that possessions become idols and that the reason to get rich is to help others, and that when you help others you find true happiness. The message of forgiveness was taught too, saying revenge was just giving yourself poison and hoping the other person dies from it.

Unfortunately there were some negative aspects. People were supposed to tweet and post on Facebook during the event, but unless you were using a Verizon 4G phone, you most likely did not have any kind of signal. People on T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T were unable to participate. Also, Rick Carlisle spoke, but was booed a lot because he constantly cussed, using F-Bombs, S-Bombs, and such.

Overall it was a mostly pan-Christian message of how to succeed in business, sales, and leadership. It ended with Tony Romo, who actually had one of the most powerful messages of the conference. He told us, when asked about what career goals will mean the most to him, when speaking of his records, that when you are 80, only 3 things will matter. Those three things are, were you a good husband, were you a good father, and are you going to make it to heaven.

If you are interested in going to the LEAD AND SUCCEED 2013 conference, there are 2 more left, one on the west coast and one on the east coast, and with the links I am providing, you can get in at my discounted rate:



Also, since I went, I am able to go to the following upcoming Dallas conferences at the VIP discounted rate, so I wanted to pass the links to share my discounted rates with you:. If you live outside of the DFW Metroplex and are interested in these conferences, click the links anyway and find ones that may be close to your location. There are events in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, California, Texas, and other states as well!

November 2nd-3rd & 8th-10th 

November 8th-10th & 15th-17th 

November 15th-17th & 22nd-24th 

November 22nd-24th & December 6th-8th 

28 October 2013

HOW-TO: Address Orthodox Christian Clergy

When we address Deacons or Presbyters (Priests), we should use the honorific, "Father." Bishops we should address as "Your Grace." Though all Bishops (including Patriarchs) are equal in the Orthodox Church, they do have different administrative duties and honors that accrue to their rank in this sense. Thus, "Your Eminence" is the proper honorific for Bishops with suffragans or assistant Bishops, Metropolitans, and most Archbishops (among the exceptions to this rule is the Archbishop of Athens, who is addressed as "Your Beatitude"). "Your Beatitude" is the proper honorific for Patriarchs. When we approach an Orthodox Presbyter or Bishop, we (if a monastic: make a bow by reaching down and touching the floor with our right hand), place our right hand over the left (palms upward), and say: "Father, Bless," (or "Bless, Your Grace," or "Bless, Your Eminence," etc.). The Priest or Bishop then answers, "May the Lord bless you," blesses us with the Sign of the Cross, and places his right hand in our hands. We kiss then his hand. It is, however, correct to kiss the hand of a Deacon, just as we do that of an Abbot (even if not a Priest) or Abbess of a monastery or a revered monastic, out of respect or as a sign of dedication.

We should understand that when the Priest or Bishop blesses us, he forms his fingers to represent the Christogram "ICXC" a traditional abbreviation of the Greek words for "Jesus Christ" (i.e., the first and last letters of each of the words "IHCOYC XRICTOC"). Thus, the Priest's blessing is in the Name of Christ, as he emphasizes in his response to the believer's request for a blessing. Other responses to this request are used by many clergy, but the antiquity and symbolism of the tradition which we have presented are compelling arguments for its use. We should also note that the reason that a lay person kisses the hand of a Priest or Bishop is to show respect to his Apostolic office. More importantly, however, since both (as well as the deacon) hold the Holy Mysteries in their hands during the Divine Liturgy, we show respect to the Holy Eucharist when we kiss their hands. In fact, Saint John Chrysostomos once said that if one were to meet an Orthodox Priest walking along with an Angel, that he should greet the Priest first and kiss his hand, since that hand has touched the Body and Blood of our Lord. While a Deacon in the Orthodox Church holds the first level of the Priesthood (Deacon, Presbyter, Bishop), his service does not entail blessing the Mysteries. When we take leave of a Priest or Bishop, we should again ask for a blessing, just as we did when we first greeted him. 

In the case of married clergy, the wife of a Priest or Deacon is also informally addressed with a title. Since the Mystery of Marriage binds a Priest and his wife together as "one flesh," [Genesis 2:24; St. Matthew 19:6; St. Mark 10:8.] the wife shares in a sense her husband's Priesthood. This does not, of course, mean that she has the very Grace of the Priesthood or its office, but the dignity of her husband's service certainly accrues to her. [See: A Guide to Orthodox Life] The various titles used by the national Churches are listed below. The Greek titles, since they have English correspondents, are perhaps the easiest to use in the West:

  • Greek: Presbytera (Pres-vee-té-ra)
  • Russian: Matushka (Má-toosh-ka)
  • Serbian: Papadiya (Pa-pá-dee-ya)
  • Ukrainian: Panimatushka (Pa-nee-má-toosh-ka), or Panimatka (Pa-nee-mát-ka)

The wife of a Deacon is called "Diakonissa [Thee-a-kó-nees-sa]" in Greek. The Slavic Churches commonly use the same title for the wife of a Deacon as they do for the wife of a Priest. In any case, the wife of a Priest should normally be addressed with both her title and her name in informal situations (e.g., "Presbytera Mary," "Diakonissa Sophia," etc.). 

Whenever you speak to Orthodox clergy of Priestly rank on the telephone, you should always begin your conversation by asking for a blessing: "Father, bless." When speaking with a Bishop, you should say "Bless, Despota [Thés-po-ta]" (or "Vladika [Vlá-dee-ka], Bless" in Slavonic, "Master, Bless" in English). It is also appropriate to say, "Bless, Your Grace" (or "Your Eminence," etc.). You should end your conversation by asking for a blessing again. 

When we write to a clergyman (and, by custom, monastics), we should open our letter with the greeting, " Father, Bless." At the end of the letter, it is customary to close with the following line: "Kissing your right hand...." It is not appropriate to invoke a blessing on a clergyman, as many do: "May God bless you." Not only does this show a certain spiritual arrogance before the image of the cleric, but laymen do not have the Grace of the Priesthood and the prerogative to bless in their stead. Even a Priest properly introduces his letters with the words, "The blessing of the Lord" or "May God bless you," rather than offering his own blessing. Though he can do the latter, humility prevails in his behavīor, too. Needless to say, when a clergyman writes to his ecclesiastical superior, he should ask for a blessing and not bestow one. 

Deacons in the Orthodox Church are addressed in writing as "The Reverend Deacon," if they are married Deacons. If they are Deacons who are also monks, they are addressed as "The Reverend Hierodeacon." If a Deacon holds the honor of Archdeacon or Protodeacon, he is addressed as "The Reverend Archdeacon" or "The Reverend Protodeacon." Deacons hold a rank in the Priesthood and are, therefore, not laymen. This is an important point to remember, since so many Orthodox here in America have come to think of the Deacon as a kind of "quasi-Priest." This is the result of Latin influence and poor teaching. As members of the Priesthood, Deacons must be addressed, as we noted above, as "Father". 

Orthodox Priests are addressed in writing as "The Reverend Presbyter (or Priest)," if they are married Priests. If they are Hieromonks (monks who are also Priests), they are addressed as "The Reverend Hieromonk." Priests with special honors are addressed in this manner: an Archimandrite (the highest monastic rank below that of Bishop), "The Very Reverend Archimandrite" (or, in the Slavic jurisdictions, "The Right Reverend Archimandrite"); and Protopresbyters, "The Very Reverend Protopresbyter." In personal, verbal address, as we noted above, all Priests are called "Father," usually followed by their first names (e.g., "Father John"). 

Bishops in the Orthodox Church are addressed in writing as "The Right Reverend Bishop," followed by their first name (e.g., "The Right Reverend Bishop John"). Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Patriarchs are addressed as "The Most Reverend Archbishop" ("Metropolitan," or "Patriarch"). Because they are also monastics, all ranks of Archpastors (Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans, or Patriarchs) are addressed by their first names or first names and sees (e.g., "Bishop John of San Francisco"). It is not correct to use the family name of a Bishop—or any monastic for that matter. Though many monastics and Bishops use their family names, even in Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece, this is absolutely improper and a violation of an ancient Church custom. 

All male monastics in the Orthodox Church are called "Father," whether they hold the Priesthood or not, and are formally addressed in writing as "Monk (name)," if they do not have a Priestly rank. If they are of Priestly rank, they are formally addressed in writing as "Hieromonk" or "Hierodeacon" (see above). Monastics are some-times addressed in writing according to their monastic rank; for example, "Rasophore—monk (name)," "Stavrophore—monk (name)," or "Schemamonk (name)." The Abbot of a monastery is addressed as "The Very Reverend Abbot," whether he holds Priestly rank or not and whether or not he is an Archimandrite by rank. Under no circumstances whatsoever is an Orthodox monk addressed by laymen as "Brother." This is a Latin custom. The term "Brother" is used in Orthodox monasteries in two instances only: first, to designate beginners in the monastic life (novices or, in Greek, dokimoi ["those being tested"]), who are given a blessing, in the strictest tradition, to wear only the inner cassock and a monastic cap; and second, as an occasional, informal form of address between monastics themselves (including Bishops). 

Again, as we noted above, a monk should never use his last name. This reflects the Orthodox understanding of monasticism, in which the monastic dies to his former self and abandons all that identified him in the world. Lay people are also called to respect a monk's death to his past. (In Greek practice, a monk sometimes forms a new last name from the name of his monastery. Thus a monk from the Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery [Mone Agiou Gregoriou Palama, in Greek] might take the name Agiogregorites.) 

The titles which we have used for male monastics also apply to female monastics. In fact, a community of female monastics is often called a "monastery" rather than a convent (though there is nothing improper, as some wrongly claim, in calling a monastery for women a "convent"), just as the word "convent," in its strictest meaning, can apply to a monastic community of males, too. Women monastics are formally addressed in writing as "Nun (name)" or "Rasophore—nun (name)," etc., and the Abbess of a convent is addressed as "The Very Reverend Abbess." Though traditions for informal address vary, in most places, any monastic above the rank of Rasophore is called "Mother." Novices are addressed as "Sister." 

There are, as we have noted, some differences in the way that Orthodox religious are addressed. What we have given above corresponds to a reasonably standardized vocabulary as one would find it in more traditional English—language Orthodox writings and among English—speaking Orthodox monastics.

25 October 2013

Top 5 Green Bay Packers Players and Coaches of All Time

Over the last year, I have seen many top 5 lists of Green Bay Packers, but here is my opinion. The top 5 needs to be a top 5 of only players and then top 5 of coaches that includes players who were coaches. The coaches may not have been the best coaches, but they were coaches and a top player, so they go on the coach list. After the 5, I will add an honorable mention, as they are a close contender for a top-5 position. I will not number the top 5, because it is too close to call. I list them in order of when they started their earliest position. I only list players who played 5 years or more for the Green Bay Packers, as many greats played for less, but to me, they needed to play 5 years to be all-time greats. I also will not list Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who is a 3 time Pro Bowler (2009, 2011, 2012), an AP First-Team All-Pro (2011), an AP Second-Team All-Pro (2012), an AP NFL MVP (2011), a PFWA NFL MVP (2011), a Super Bowl champion (XLV), a Super Bowl MVP (XLV), the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year (2010), and the Associated Press Athlete of the Year (2011)) or Head Coach Mike McCarthy (who is a Superbowl champion in 2010(XLV) and NFC Champion (2010)), because they are still playing and coaching, respectively. However, after they retire, they will definitely go on this list, unfortunately knocking someone off.

Top 5 Non-Coaching Players

  • Johnny "Blood" McNally (played Halfback 1929-1936) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers, Duluth Eskimos, Pottsville Maroons, Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers), and Buffalo Tigers. He wore numbers 14, 20, 24, 26, and 55 as a Green Bay Packer. He is a 4 time NFL champion (1929, 1930, 1931, and 1936) and a member of the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team.
  • Paul Hornung (played Halfback 1957-1966) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He had his #5 unofficially retired by the Green Bay Packers in 1967. He is a 2 time Pro Bowl selection (1959, 1960), 2 time first-team All-Pro (1960, 1961), 4 time NFL Champion (1961, 1962, 1965, and 1966), a Super Bowl Champion (I), a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, a NFL MVP (1961), and recipient of the Bert Bell Award (1961)
  • Ray Nitschke (played Linebacker 1958-1972) Entered the Pro Football  Hall of Fame in 1978. He had his #66 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 1983. He is a Pro Bowl selection (1964), a 3 time First-team All-Pro selection (1964, 1965, 1966, a 4 time Second-team All-Pro selection (1962, 1963, 1967, 1969), a 3 time NFL Champion (1961, 1962, 1965), a 2 time Super Bowl Champion (I, II), the MVP of 1962 NFL Championship Game, a member of the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
  • Brett Favre (played Quarterback 1992-2007) Likely will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He will likely have his #4 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 2014. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings. He is a 11 time Pro Bowl selection (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009), 3 time AP First-Team All-Pro (1995, 1996, 1997), 3 time AP Second-Team All-Pro (2001, 2002, 2007), 3 time AP NFL MVP (1995–1997), 5 time NFC Player of the Year (1995, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2007), 2 time NFC Champion (1996, 1997), a Super Bowl champion (XXXI), and a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
  • Reggie White (played Defensive Tackle & Defensive End 1993-1998) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He had his #92 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He also played for the Memphis Showboats, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Carolina Panthers. He is Rated #7 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com, a 13 time Pro Bowl selection (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998), a 10 time First-Team All-Pro selection (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998), a 3 time Second-Team All-Pro selection (1994, 1996, 1997), a Super Bowl champion (XXXI), a 2 time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1998), a 3 time UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1987, 1991, 1995), a 2 time NFL sacks leader (1987, 1988), a1986 Pro Bowl MVP, and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
  • HONORABLE MENTION: Jim Taylor (played Fullback 1958-1962) Entered the Pro Football  Hall of Fame in 1976. He also played for the New Orleans Saints. He had his #31 retired by the NEw Orleans Saints. He is a 5 time Pro Bowl selection (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964), a 6 time All-Pro selection (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966), a 3 time NFL champion (1961, 1962, 1965), a Super Bowl champion (I), an AP NFL MVP (1962), and a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team

Top 5 Coaches & Players that Coached

  • Earl "Curly" Lambeau (played Halfback 1919-1929 & Head Coach 1919-1949) Entered the Pro Football  all of Fame in 1963. He is expected to have his #1 retired by the Green Bay Packers in the future. He also coached the Chicago Cardinals and the Washington Redskins. He is a winner of the 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, & 1944 NFL Championship, and is a member of the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team.
  • Don Hutson (played Split End, Safety, & Kicker 1935-1945 & Assistant Coach 1944-1948) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He had his #14 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 1951. He is a 8× First-Team All-Pro (1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945), a 4 time Pro Bowl selection (1939-1942), a 3 time NFL Champion (1936, 1939, 1944), he is Rated #9 NFL player of all-time by NFL.com, he is a member of the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team, he is also a 2 time NFL MVP (1941, 1942). He holds the NFL record most seasons leading the league in touchdowns (9) and the Green Bay Packers all-time leading Touchdown receptions leader with 99.
  • Bart Starr (played Quarterback 1956-1971 & Head Coach 1975-1983) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He had his #15 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 1973. He is a 4 time Pro Bowl selection (1960, 1961, 1962, 1966), an AP First-Team All-Pro (1966), a 2 time AP Second-Team All-Pro (1962, 1964), the 1966 NFL MVP (AP, NEA, SN, UPI), the "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year (1966), a 5 time NFL Champion (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967), a 2 time  Super Bowl champion (I, II), a 2 time Super Bowl MVP (I, II), a member of the NFL 1960s, and is Rated the #51 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com
  • Vince Lombardi (Head Coach 1959-1967) Entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971. He also coached the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. He is a 4 time Pro Bowl selection (1960, 1961, 1962, 1966), a AP First-Team All-Pro selection (1966), a 2 time AP Second-Team All-Pro selection (1962, 1964), an AP NFL MVP (1966), a UPI NFL MVP (1966), a NEA NFL MVP (1966), the "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year (1966), a 3 time NFL Champion (1961, 1962, 1965), a 2 time Super Bowl champion (I, II), a 2 time Super Bowl MVP (I, II), a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, and he is Rated #51 NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com
  • Mike Holmgren (Head Coach 1992-1998) Likely will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He also coached the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. He is a Super Bowl winner in 1996 (XXXI) and won the NFC championship in NFC (1996, 1997, 2005)
  • HONORABLE MENTION: Forrest Gregg (played Offensive Tackle 1956-1970 & Head Coach 1984-1987) Entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He also played for the Dallas Cowboys and coached for the San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Toronto Argonauts, Cincinnati Bengals, and Shreveport Pirates. He is a 6 time NFL Champion (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971), a 3 time Super Bowl Champion (I, II, VI), a 9 time Pro Bowl selection (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968), a 7 time AP First-team All-Pro selection (1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967), a 1 time AP Second-team All-Pro selection (1959), a member of the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team.
While I believe this list is definitive, the only other person that some Packers fans might say belongs on this list is Tony Canadeo (played Halfback 1941-1952). Entered the Pro Football  Hall of Fame in 1974. He had his #3 retired by the Green Bay Packers in 1952. He is a First-Team All-Pro selection (1943), a NFL Champion (1944), and a NFL 1940s All-Decade Team

But any way that you slice it, Tony Canadeo, Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, Forrest Gregg, Mike Holmgren, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Jim Taylor, Reggie White, Brett Favre, Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, and Johnny Blood are definitely the 15 most important figures in the last 94 years of the Green Bay Packers American Football Club's history in the National Football League (NFL) since 1919 AD.

13 September 2013

ORTHODOXY VS. THE WORLD: Icons vs. Western Art & Byzantine Chant vs. Western Choirs by Photios Kontoglou

Music is of two kinds (as are the other arts also)—secular and ecclesiastical. Each of these has been developed by different feelings and different states of the soul. Secular music expresses worldly (i.e., carnal) feelings and desires. Although these feelings may be very refined (romantic, sentimental, idealistic, etc.), they do not cease being carnal. Nevertheless, many people believe that these feelings are spiritual. However, spiritual feelings are expressed only by ecclesiastical music. Only ecclesiastical music can truly express the secret movements of the heart, which are entirely different from those inspired and developed by secular music. That is, it expresses contrition, humility, suffering and godly grief, which, as Paul says, "worketh repentance to salvation." [2] Ecclesiastical music can also evoke feelings of praise, thanksgiving, and holy enthusiasm. Secular music, on the other hand—even the purest—expresses carnal emotions, even when it is inspired by suffering and affliction. This type of suffering, Paul calls "worldly grief," which "worketh death." [3]

Thus two kinds of music were formed, the secular, which arouses emotion—any kind of emotion—and ecclesiastical music, which evokes contrition. St. John Chrysostom strongly condemns the attempts that were made by some of his contemporaries to introduce into the Church secular music, the music of the theatre and the mimes.

Only the arts which were developed by devout motives since the early years of Christianity have given expression to the spiritual essence of the religion. These alone can be called liturgical, that is, spiritual, in the sense that religion gives to the term spiritual. The "spiritual odes" of which Paul speaks [4] were works of such art. All the liturgical arts express the same thing: architecture, hymnody, iconography, embroidery, and even writing, the manner of walking, and in general the movements and gestures of the priests, the chiming of the bells, and so forth.

That these arts are truly of unique spirituality has been realized by many non-Orthodox, especially clergymen, whose sense-organs have been exposed, from youth on, to formative influences different from those in which Orthodox Christians have been brought up. Nevertheless, they confess that our icons and psalmody evoke in them contrition-of course, when executed by inspired and pious artists.

Thus, the value of the liturgical arts is not merely conventional, but real, extending beyond the limited conceptions that are due to nurture, habit, and taste, since even persons who are not of the Orthodox faith recognize that the arts of the Orthodox Church reflect the spirit of the Gospels and for this reason lift the soul above the earthly realm. And how could it be otherwise, inasmuch as these arts have been developed by sanctified hearts, which felt deeply the liturgical element in speech and music? Liturgical music is the natural musical garb of liturgical speech. Both sprang up together; they are one and the same thing. Essence and expression here have an absolute correspondence, even more exact than that of an object and its reflection in a mirror, for the objects of which we speak here belong to the spiritual realm. The profound and apocalyptic spirit of Christian religion and its mysteries could not be expressed faithfully and worthily except by these arts, which are called liturgical and spiritual, and which were developed by that same profound spirit. Only this music, and none other, uniquely expresses the spirit of our religion, because only this music has an absolute and most exact correspondence with it. This is testified to, I repeat, by certain men whose spiritual upbringing, religious training, phyletic and other heritage have no relation to that of the Orthodox. "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth," [5] and is transmitted to souls by means of sounds which the same Spirit formed, by illuminating the souls of the holy writers of hymns.

The Fathers of the Church ordained that Christians use the voice alone in execution of hymns, chanting as did our Lord Himself and His disciples. St. John Chrysostom says: "Our Savior chanted hymns just as we do." The Apostolic Constitutions forbid the use of musical instruments in the church. From the time of the Apostles, psalmody was monophonic, or homophonic, as it is to this day in our churches [in Greece].

The Western Church, in order to gratify people and flatter their tastes, put instruments inside the churches, disobeying what was ordained by the Fathers. They did this because they had no idea what liturgical music was and what secular music was, just as they did not know the difference between liturgical painting and secular painting. But the Byzantines distinguished the one from the other, and this shows how much more spiritual they were in comparison with the Westerners and how much more truly they experienced the spirit of Christianity. Byzantine music is, in comparison with the music of the West, exactly as Orthodox iconography is in comparison with the religious painting of the West.

How divine, indeed, is the psalmody of the Orthodox Church! It seems sweeter and sweeter each year to the Christian—a new wine that fills the heart with joy and makes it soar to the ethereal region of immortal life.

Byzantine music is peaceful, sad but consoling, enthusiastic but reserved, humble but heroic, simple but profound. It has the same spiritual essence as the Gospels, the hymns, the psalms, the books of the lives of the saints, and the iconography of Byzantium. That is why Byzantine music is monotonous for one to whom the Gospels are monotonous, naive for one to whom the Gospels are naive, circumscribed for one to whom the Gospels are circumscribed, mournful for one to whom the Gospels are mournful, antiquated for one to whom the Gospels are antiquated. But it is joyful for one to whom the Gospels are joyful, filled with compunction for one to whom the Gospels are filled with compunction, enthusiastic but humble for one to whom the Gospels, are enthusiastic but humble, and peaceful for one who experiences the peace of Christ.

Byzantine art is spiritual, and it is necessary that a man have spiritual depth in order to understand its mystical treasures. Byzantine music expresses "gladdening sorrow," [6] that is, that spiritual fragrance which only the spiritual senses are capable of experiencing. Its melody is not unholy, ostentatious, despondent, shallow, tasteless, or aimless; it is meek, humble, sweet with a certain bittersweetness, and full of contrition and mercy. It bestows an unwaning spiritual glory upon souls that have become worthy of the eternal mysteries and the compassion of God. It expresses thanksgiving; it causes the flow of tears of gratitude and spiritual joy. This music is the warmest, the most direct, and the most concise expression of the religious feeling of faithful Orthodox people.

[1] Photios Kontoglou of blessed memory (1895-1965) played a major role in the glorious return of traditional Byzantine iconography to the Greek Orthodox world in the twentieth century. He was also an accomplished chanter and a spiritual writer who inspired countless souls to embrace the unadulterated traditions of the Orthodox faith. This epilogue consists of selections from his writings translated in the book Byzantine Sacred Art by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, who was one of his disciples.

[2] II Cor. 7:10

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vid. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16

[5] Jn. 3:8

[6] Vid. The Ladder, Step 7:9 (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 88, col. 804B)

09 September 2013

The Orthodox Christian Church Temple Explained

We say this prayer upon entering the temple.
+I will come into Your house in the greatness of Your mercy: and in fear I will worship toward Your holy temple.
+Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me, that with a clear mind I may glorify You forever, One Divine Power worshiped in three persons:
+Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The purpose of the narthex was to allow those not eligible for admittance into the general congregation (particularly catechumens and penitents) to hear and partake in the service. The narthex would often include a baptismal font so that infants or adults could be baptized there before entering the nave, and to remind other believers of their baptisms as they gathered to worship. The narthex is thus traditionally a place of penitence, and in Eastern Christianity some penitential services, such as the Little Hours during Holy Week are celebrated there, rather than in the main body of the church. In the Russian Orthodox Church funerals are traditionally held in the narthex.

Later reforms removed the requirement to exclude people from services who were not full members of the congregation, which in some traditions obviated the narthex. Church architects continued, however, to build a room before the entrance of the nave. This room could be called an inside vestibule (if it is architecturally part of the nave structure) or a porch (if it is a distinct, external structure). Some traditions still call this area the narthex as it represents the point of entry into the church, even if everyone is admitted to the nave itself.

In traditional Byzantine architecture, the narthex is divided into two distinct structures: an esonarthex (inner narthex), between the outer porch and the body of the church proper separated from the nave and aisles by a wall, arcade, colonnade, or screen; and an exonarthex (outer narthex) outside the main façade of the church, usually part of a colonnaded or arcaded atrium or quadriporticus (quadrangle). The exonarthex may be either open on the western end or enclosed, with a door leading to the outside. The esonarthex and exonarthex have distinct liturgical functions. For instance, the procession at the Paschal Vigil will end up at the exonarthex for the reading of the Resurrection Gospel, while certain penitential services are traditionally chanted in the esonarthex.

In some Eastern Orthodox temples (churches), the narthex will be referred to as the trapeza (refectory), because in ancient times, tables would be set up there after the Divine Liturgy for the faithful to eat a common meal, similar to the agape feast of the early church. To this day, this is where the faithful will bring their baskets at Pascha (Easter) for the priest to bless the Paschal foods which they will then take back to their homes for the festive break-fast. Traditionally, the narthex is where candles and prosphora will be sold for offering during Divine Services.

The doorway leading from the narthex to the nave is sometimes referred to as the "Royal Doors", because in major cathedrals there were several sets of doors leading into the nave, the central one being reserved only for the use of the Emperor.

On feast days there will be a procession to the narthex, followed by intercessory prayers, called the Litiya.

The nave is the main body of the church where the people stand during the services. In most traditional Eastern Orthodox churches there are no seats or pews as in the West, but rather stacidia (A high-armed chair with armrests high enough to be used for support while standing); these are usually found along the walls. Traditionally there is no sitting during services with the only exceptions being during the reading of the Psalms, and the priest's sermon. The people stand before God. However, many exceptions to this can be found in western countries, especially the USA, where familiarity with Catholic and Protestant churches has led to similarities in church furnishings. It is not uncommon to encounter both pews and kneelers.

The walls are normally covered from floor to ceiling with icons or wall paintings of saints, their lives, and stories from the Bible. Because the church building is a direct extension of its Jewish roots where men and women stand separately, the Orthodox Church continues this practice, with men standing on the right and women on the left. With this arrangement it is emphasized that we are all equal before God (equal distance from the altar), and that the man is not superior to the woman. In many modern churches this traditional practice has been altered and families stand together.

Above the nave in the dome of the church is the icon of Christ the Almighty (Παντοκρατωρ/Pantocrator, "Ruler of All"). Directly hanging below the dome is usually a kind of circular chandelier with depictions of the saints and apostles, called the horos.

The iconostasis, also called the templon, it is a screen or wall between the nave and the sanctuary, which is covered with icons. There will normally be three doors, one in the middle and one on either side. The central one is traditionally called the Beautiful Gate and is only used by the clergy. There are times when this gate is closed during the service and a curtain is drawn. The doors on either side are called the Deacons' Doors or Angel Doors as they often have depicted on them the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These doors are used by deacons and servers to enter the sanctuary. Typically, to the right of the Beautiful Gate (as viewed from the nave) is the icon of Christ, then the icon of St John the Baptist; to the left the icon of the Theotokos, always shown holding Christ; and then the icon of the saint to whom the church is dedicated (i.e., the patron). There are often other icons on the iconostasis but these vary from church to church. The curtain is also drawn and opened at various points in the service.

A direct comparison for the function of the main iconostasis can be made to the layout of the great Temple in Jerusalem. That Temple was designed with three parts. The holiest and innermost portion was that where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. This portion, the Holy of Holies, was separated from the second larger part of the building's interior by a curtain, the "veil of the temple". Only priests were allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. The third part was the entrance court. This architectural tradition for the two main parts can be seen carried forward in Christian churches and is still most demonstratively present in Eastern Orthodox churches where the iconostasis divides the altar, the Holy of Holies containing the consecrated Eucharist – the manifestation of the New Covenant, from the larger portion of the church accessible to the faithful. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition only men can enter the altar portion behind the iconostasis.

A number of guidelines or rubrics govern which icons are on which parts of the iconostasis, although there is some room for variation. In its fullest Slavic development it comprised five tiers of icons:

  1. The bottom tier is sometimes called Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates (from the nave facing forward) is an icon of Christ (often Pantocrator), which symbolizes his Second Coming and on the left side is an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), symbolizing Christ's incarnation, and entrance into this world. Therefore, all things take place between Christ's first and second coming. Other icons on this tier beside those on the doors themselves usually include depictions of the patron saint or feast day to which the church is dedicated, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas, one or more of the Four Evangelists etc. Above this are two interchangeable tiers: the Deisis and the Twelve Great Feasts:
  2. In the center of the Deisis is a large icon of Christ Enthroned. To the left and right are icons of John the Baptist and the Theotokos in attitudes of supplication. They are often flanked by icons of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, then Sts. Peter and Paul, and then any other important Church Fathers that may be desired for inclusion as space allows.
  3. The Feasts tier contains icons of the twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year. Above this, the top two tiers are also interchangeable with each other:
  4. The Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs—the latter sometimes including the twelve sons of Jacob—often to either side of an icon of Our Lady of the Sign; and
  5. The Twelve Apostles, often to either side of an icon depicting the Old Testament Holy Trinity/Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah.
It is also not uncommon to find an icon of the Mystical Supper, which depicts the Last Supper, and by extension the Communion of Saints in the Kingdom of God, somewhere above the Beautiful Gates.

The Sovereign tier is always present, but all the others may be omitted. Preference is given to the Deisis or the Feasts tiers if only some of them can be included. Only the largest and most elaborate iconostases include all five.

Above and behind the iconostasis is the Platytera ton Ouranon (more spacious than the heavens), the icon of Virgin Mary with Christ blessing all. Oil lamps burn before all the icons.

The area behind the iconostasis reached through the Beautiful Gates or Angel Doors is the sanctuary or altar. Within this area is the altar table, which is more often called the holy table or throne; the apse containing the high place at the center back with a throne for the bishop and the synthronos, or seats for the priests, on either side; the Chapel of Prosthesis on the north side where the offerings are prepared in the Proskomedia before being brought to the altar table and the holy vessels are stored; and the Diaconicon on the south side where the vestments are stored.

Orthodox Altars are usually square. Traditionally they have a heavy brocade outer covering that reaches all the way to the floor. Occasionally they have canopies over them. All Eastern Orthodox altars have a saint's relics embedded inside them, usually that of a martyr, placed at the time they are consecrated. Atop the altar table at the center toward the back is an ornate container usually called the tabernacle where the reserved Eucharistic elements are stored for communion of the sick. It is often shaped like a model of a church building. In front of this is placed the Gospel book, which usually has a decorated metal cover. Under the gospel is a folded piece of cloth called the eiliton. Folded within the eiliton is the antimension, which is a silken cloth imprinted with a depiction of the burial of Christ and with relics sewn into it. Both these cloths are unfolded before the offerings are placed on the altar table. Behind the altar is a seven-branched candlestick, which recalls the seven-branched candlestick of the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem. Behind this is a golden processional cross. On either side of the cross are liturgical fans (ripida) which represent the six-winged seraphim. Against the wall behind the altar is a large cross. Hanging from the cross is usually a flat iconographic depiction of Christ (corpus) which can be removed during the 50 days following Pascha (Easter).

None may enter the altar without a blessing from the priest or bishop.

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