Questions & Answers
Q&A
Topics:

Contemporary Issues | Orthodox Life | Potpourri | Regarding Holy Scriptures | Regarding Other Faiths and Religions | Services of the Church


Contemporary Issues (top)

Question:

Why do we need to go to church and worship God? What if we don’t get anything out of it?
Answer:
Orthodox Christians gather together to worship God in order to enter into union with Him and His People (The Church) through the Eucharist (Holy Communion) and other Sacraments, or Mysteries. Through these we receive strength to embolden us as we continue on the road of salvation and anticipate “the life of the world to come.” In our worship, we stand before the throne of God (the Altar), loving one another so “that with one mind we might confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” And in our worship, especially in the Divine Liturgy, we acknowledge and participate in all that Christ has done for us – His incarnation, life, passion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension – while anticipating His second and glorious coming. 

The fundamental purpose of the Church’s liturgical services is the worship of God. Orthodox Christian worship is always “God-centered,” rather than “man-centered;” in other words, it’s not about you, but about God. Worship is not meant to entertain, but to inspire (meaning “in the spirit”) and allows us a unique foretaste of His Heavenly Kingdom. In our worship we strive to please God, not ourselves – and this is a great honor. In essence, worship doesn’t revolve around what you might or might not “get out of it,” it’s all about what you “give” to God.
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Question:

What is our Church’s view on tattooing and body piercing?
Answer:
This is a very good question because it seems that people of every age and background are experiencing the sudden allure of tattoos and body piercing.
The word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word tatay, meaning “to inflict wounds,” and was a form of self-mutilation practiced in association with either the death of a loved one or as a rite of passage at puberty. Body piercing and tattoos were common amongst many pagan cultures – even as far back as 5,000 years ago – until they were formally banned by the early Christian Church because it was considered to be a desecration of the body. Yet even before this, the Hebrews were cautioned by God against this blatant pagan practice. In the Book of Leviticus, God tells the people: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you” (Lev. 19:28). It just doesn’t get any planner than this.
In First Corinthians 6:19-20, Saint Paul teaches: “Do you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Therefore, if our body is not our own, but God’s, then we should make every effort to protect it and maintain it undefiled and pure. We must make every effort to treat our bodies as a temple and dwelling place of His glory.
Many young people will claim that it is their individual right to use their bodies to make fashion and/or personality statements with ink and metal. However, God has called us to a much higher fashion: to be “ambassadors for Christ” and to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God…and do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:1-2).
Christians, therefore, should not transform themselves according to the latest whims and fads of society, but rather conform to and abide by the will of God. Instead of using our bodies for artistic expression, make an expression of faith by maintaining your body pure, spotless, and undefiled as a true example of something which is much more than just skin deep!
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Question:

If someone chooses, is it permissible for Orthodox Christians to be married outside of the church – like in a park, on the beach, or on a mountain?
Answer:
Although there may have been rare exceptions due to circumstances of war, Christian persecutions, or the destruction of a temple, the basic answer to your question is NO; Orthodox Christians are to be married in a Church, and here’s why:
Marriage in the Orthodox Faith is considered a sacrament of the Church and must always be treated with the greatest respect and highest dignity. It is the solemn joining together of man and woman into “one flesh” through union with Jesus Christ and is an important moment in the lives of two Christians who are both seeking salvation.
We seem to live in an era where marriage is often treated and taken way too lightly. Instead of absolute concepts like love, trust, and fidelity, many view it merely as a “temporary arrangement” instead of the “sacred commitment” that it is. The idea that weddings are simply an “event” as opposed to a “sacrament” is underscored every time we hear of couples exchanging vows while they parachute from airplanes, get married underwater, say “I Do” atop their favorite roller coaster, or when we watch a wedding party dance outlandishly down the aisle on You Tube.
The Church understands marriage to be an honorable and solemn covenant between a man and a woman. Christ’s presence at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee confirms this fact and serves as a reminder as to its importance; especially since this is where our Lord also performed His very first miracle!
The rich symbolism found in the wedding service emphasizes the strong and lasting ties that bind husband and wife together. The exchanging of rings, the crowning, the drinking from a common cup, and the procession around the Gospel Book – literally their “first steps” as husband and wife – have far greater meaning than simply being “nice touches” to punctuate an elaborate ceremony. Each of these is a deep, defining, and pivotal reminder that this couple is now united into one mind and one flesh with a single purpose in Christ for all of eternity. The fact that the wedding takes place within the confines of the Temple’s structure – God’s Own House, as it were – only helps to accentuate this fact.
Getting married in Church also becomes a sign of couple’s humility for it keeps the greater focus upon Jesus Christ. In a sense, one might even go so far as to say that the Sacrament of marriage is more about Christ than the couple; for who could be more important than the One in whom the couple are both to be joined? It is as if they come before God, saying, “Lord, this wedding is about You, not us; bless our union and make it holy in Your Name!”
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Question:

Last week we had a “Friday the 13th.” What does the church say about superstitions such as this?
Answer:
People who are afraid of Friday the 13th suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia. This rather lengthy word is comprised of three Greek words: paraskave - meaning Friday, dekatria - the number thirteen and, phobia - meaning fear.
But why do people make such a fuss whenever the thirteenth day of a month coincides with Friday?
Probably because of the superstition which surrounds the number itself. Just like the ancient Romans who feared of the “Ides” (or 15th) of each month (something immortalized by the oracle’s line, “Beware the Ides of March,” in William Shakespeare’s classic play, Julius Caesar), modern man, despite his many advances, still retains something of a superstitious nature. Put quite simply, we apparently fear easily.

The word superstition comes from the Latin word superstitio which means “excessive fear.” The definition derives from super (meaning “over”) and stare (meaning “to stand,” as in a length of time). So the basic meaning is to “stand long over something.” In other words, superstition means to dwell on a situation – especially tragic ones – and try to devise a reason as to why it occurred.

Superstition usually arises when people fail to accept the fact that bad things simply happen. Such persons begin to convince themselves that there had to be a cause and effect for what occurred. This is just another means by which the Devil leads mankind astray and/or is able to discredit God’s power. Superstitions obviously stem from man’s own weakness and lack of faith.
The most apt saying regarding the subject comes from Edmund Burke who said, “Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.” St. Paul himself wrote on this subject back in the earliest days of the Church: “Let no one deceive you with empty words…do not associate with them, for once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:6-11).
In a nutshell, superstition is caused and perpetuated through fear and ignorance.
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Question:

Some reposed members have been laid out in church instead of at a funeral home. Is this something done for “special reasons or circumstances,” or can anyone be laid out in church?
Answer:
Laying a body in state within the church is not an honor reserved for a select few. Any member of the Orthodox Church who is in good standing with their Faith can be laid out in our temple; in fact, I would even encourage it! Not only is this far more in keeping with the historical tradition of the Ancient Church, but the prayerful atmosphere of these surroundings is conducive to assuaging grief and offering comfort to the bereaved. The soul of the deceased loved one would, obviously feel greater peace at being in the House of God, also.
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Question:

What does the Orthodox Church say about organ donation?
Answer:
Although it is definitely our custom to bury the body whole, there is nothing in our Church’s doctrine which prohibits the donation of organs (heart, kidneys, corneas, liver, etc.) after a person’s death. On the contrary, the Lord taught that there is no greater love then to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13). Therefore, I am certain that Christ would surely welcome the sharing of those organs in death, with those whose lives might be prolonged and/or saved by such a magnanimous gesture.
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Question:

Why aren’t we supposed to have weddings on Saturdays? Wasn’t one recently performed on a Saturday?
Answer:
The Orthodox Church has set guidelines regarding the celebration of weddings. According to the Canons marriages are not to be performed:
On the Eves of Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year
On the Eves of Sunday throughout the year
On the Eves of the Twelve Great Feasts and the Patronal Feast of a Church
In all of the Fasts (Great Lent, Apostles’ Fast, Dormition Fast, and the Nativity Fast (Advent)
From the nativity of Christ (Dec. 25) through the Synaxis of St. John (Jan. 7)
During the course of Cheesefare Week
During the course of Bright Week
On the Day and the Eve of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Aug. 29) and the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14)
Although these are indeed the guideposts set forth by our Church and every effort should be made to uphold this tradition, we do not enjoy the luxury of living in an Orthodox Country (e.g. Greece, Russia, Romania, Serbia, etc) where such practices are the cultural norm. Therefore, a type of dispensation or economia is often necessary and practiced as a pastoral discretion in America.
Archbishop Job, of blessed memory, tried very hard to institute a reform to this issue of Saturday weddings throughout the diocese, while at the same time giving some parishes (including our own) a blessing to continue performing marriages on Saturday. Bishop Matthias, on the other hand, has conveyed through our Diocesan Chancellor, Archpriest John Zdinak, and our Dean, Archpriest Andrew Clements, that he does not consider this to be an issue and will allow Saturday weddings to take place within the Diocese of the Midwest.
Historically, one of the main reasons why the Sacrament of Marriage was not to be performed on Saturdays was due to the wedding celebrations which interfered/conflicted with preparations for the next day’s Eucharist (i.e. the reception and dancing); and in the small village parishes where everyone would be invited to a wedding, this often meant that the church would be pretty empty for Sunday services!
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Question:

I recently attended another Orthodox Church where they said You and Your as opposed to Thee and Thou. I found this refreshing. After further thought it came to me that visitors might find it more welcoming; especially non-cradle Orthodox. Has there been any thought of changing this practice at St. Michael’s?
Answer:
In cultures throughout the world there exists both a formal and an informal means of personal pronouns. In other words, a formal and informal way of speaking when addressing an individual via the degree of familiarity you enjoy. This is certainly true in Greek, Russian, Polish (and most Slavic tongues), Spanish, French, and many other languages, including Old English.
If you will recall from period movies and novels (think Shakespeare), Old English would often use “You” and “Your” while addressing someone in a formal setting or towards a personage of rank (royalty, nobles, governing magistrates, etc), as in “Your Majesty” or “Your Lordship.” The informal way of addressing friends and acquaintances was with “thee” and “thou,” as in, “Art thou going to the joisting match on the morrow?”
When our Lord walked the earth, He restored to us the ability to “know” God in a very intimate, personal, almost informal means, as opposed to the austere or distant relationship man ultimately created. This, then, also carried over in how we addressed God in our speech and prayer life. In fact, one of the greatest stumbling blocks for many Jews was this new-found familiarity with God, which was also one of the reasons why they wanted to stone Christ after He called God “Abba,” an informal term of endearment meaning “daddy” or “papa!”
Even though our society no longer differentiates between formal and informal pronouns, I think it is still important that the Church – as the actual keeper of tradition and liturgical language – maintains this particular concept as a constant reminder of the close, personal relationship we enjoy with God; much the same as we continue using the Aramaic terms “Amen!” (meaning “Let it be”) and “Alleluia!” (meaning “Praise the Lord”).
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Question:

What does the Orthodox Church teach about abortion?
Answer:
In the eyes of the Church all life is viewed as being sacred and we
respect life on "both sides" of the birth canal. The Orthodox Church
considers conception to be the very beginning and moment when that life
is formed. In fact, the Church even commemorates the conceptions of our
Lord (March 25), the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 9), and St. John the
Forerunner (September 23).

Based upon the Bible, our Theology, and Dogma, the Orthodox Church
considers abortion to be sinful and wrong. Therefore, a woman who has an
abortion or any individual who performs one is considered to have
committed an immoral act and must confess this during the Sacrament of
Penance.
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Question:

I have heard twice in the recent past where people have referred to Roman Catholics as not being Christians. How can this be? Here is one of the actual conversations. "What religion are you? I'm Catholic. Oh, I thought you were a Christian."
Answer:
This is a simple mistake many people often make while discussing their religious beliefs: confusing religion with denomination. The word religion comes to us from Latin and literally means, "to bind together." This word is used to describe a people or group of people who are bound together by a common thread. Through the years this word has been molded – and even relegated – to categorize spiritual belief.
Therefore, in the broadest sense, the word religion would describe any group who espoused a common spiritual theme (i.e. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc.)
Denomination, on the other hand (and for lack of better terminology) might best be defined as a "subset" of religious belief. By way of example we can state that within the Christian Faith there are [unfortunately] numerous denominations (i.e. Eastern Orthodox Catholics, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Protestants, Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc.)
Therefore, in a hyper-rhetorical context, if you are ever asked what your "religion" is, the correct answer would be to say, "I'm a Christian." Then, if pressed further, you can clearly state, 'I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian."
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Question:

What does the Orthodox Church say about superstitions?
Answer:
Edmund Burke once wrote that, "Superstition is the religion of feeble minds" because, superstitions are often perpetuated through fear and ignorance. The word itself comes from the Latin word superstitio, which  means "excessive fear," and derives from super (meaning "over") and stare (meaning "to stand" or "dwell on"). Thus, the literal translation would mean to dwell upon a situation – especially a tragic one - and devise a reason for why it occurred.

Superstitious people generally convince themselves that there must be ulterior reasons as to why bad things happen; seeking a type of "cause and effect" solution rather than accepting the fact that there are accidents in nature. Giving into silly superstitions, however, is yet another means by which the Devil is able to play upon man's own fears to weaken his faith and discredit God's authority in the process.
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Question:

Is it a sin to have a face-lift or get breast implants?
Answer:
This is a really interesting question, but let's back up a little. Is 
it a sin to exercise and stay in shape; to wear make-up; to get hair 
extensions; to dye ones hair; to wear nice clothes; to use contact 
lenses instead of glasses or to have Lasik surgery to correct ones 
vision? None of these things is necessarily sinful, but collectively 
they can show a pattern of personal prioritizing which can distort our 
focus and distract from God. So the question really becomes, where do we 
draw the line?



If worrying about your physical appearance becomes an obsession, this is 
sinful. If your decision to have a face-lift or breast implants is 
central to your concept of physical beauty, than this, too, would be 
deemed sinful. Doing anything to drastically enhance or alter the body 
for the sake of personal vanity is always sinful because, in essence, 
you are making your appearance an idol and placing yourself above God. 
We should, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" with abject humility and 
everything else will fall into place.



With that being said, however, I do not believe that having surgery to 
correct a horrible facial disfigurement (due to an accident, etc.) or a 
breast implant after having had a mastectomy would be considered sinful. 
However, if these surgeries are meant to conform to the "cult of youth" 
that is so prevalent in today's age then, this is indeed a sinful 
attitude. Remember, growing old might be fraught with aches and pains, 
but acting and looking your age is a venerable quality.
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Orthodox Life (top)

Question:

   As hard as I try to hold on to my faith, I sometimes go through periods of doubt. Can you give me any advice?
Answer:
   Having faith and professing faith are often two separate issues. It is usually far easier to say what it is that one believes rather than to actually believe it in your heart. This is because the very nature of faith presents such a difficulty to the frailty of our human condition; posing a constant struggle that all Christians must grapple with.
St. Paul defines our faith as being, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Therefore, by its sheer definition and utter intangibility, faith seems to automatically dictate that you will undergo moments (or periods) of doubt throughout life.  However, you must remember that maintaining ones faith doesn’t revolves around the suppression of doubt, but rather the overcoming of doubt; and no one can overcome doubt unless they go through it. One might even go as far to say that a person of faith who has never experienced doubt is really not a person of faith, because this is how closely these two polarities have come to be linked.
In the end, there is no easy answer to your question; nor is there a quick solution to the problem. The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a journey marked by daily struggle and suffering; this is why our Lord likened it to the “bearing of one’s cross.” It seems that all of us, including the Saints, must traverse the same dry and arid deserts of doubt in order to reach a lush and fertile oasis of faith before ultimately reaching the hoped-for Promised Land.
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Question:

When should we begin or start our fast prior to receiving Holy Communion?
Answer:
Although the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Jews, and Muslims, all reckon that a liturgical day begins and ends with sunset, most people (apart from those living in monastic communities) prefer to utilize our more modern, standardized practice of determining a day as beginning and ending at twelve o’clock  midnight (12:00 a.m.).  Therefore, when we are preparing ourselves to receive the Eucharist (Holy Communion) at a following morning’s Divine Liturgy, fasting from all food and drink should commence from midnight onwards. This of course also applies to the use of all tobacco products, chewing gum, candy, and/or breadth fresheners.
When fasting for an evening service such as the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, the typical practice is that you fast from your noon meal onward (although a more ancient practice is to fast fully from breakfast time).
This protocol places no impediments upon the practice of good oral hygiene. Those who are preparing to receive the Eucharist may still brush their teeth, rinse with water, and use mouth wash before coming to services.
There also exists in some parishioner’s minds the nagging concern whether it is permissible to take oral prescription medications (with water and in some instances a limited amount of food) or peculiarities regarding those persons who suffer from various ailments such as diabetes. In these instances there can be no hard, fast rule or “blanket answer” covering all situations. If you have a specific question regarding your own unique situation, please discuss this with the priest individually or during your next Confession. In this way a determination will be made upon a case by case basis.
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Question:

What draws someone to become a monk or nun?
Answer:
Monasticism as been a formal component of the Church since the end of the Third Century. It is generally believed to have blossomed in the barren deserts of Egypt through such persons as St. Paul of Thebes (341) and St. Anthony the Great (356). However, it can also be said that certain elements of monasticism began budding forth as far back as Old Testament times. Even most of the prophets – and quite notably St. John the Forerunner – were archetypal figures of this ascetic lifestyle.

The word monk comes from the Greek word monos, meaning “one” or “alone,” and denotes the solitary character of these ancient hermits.

Throughout history many men and women have made the decision to leave or “retreat” from the world  in order to practice their faith without distraction; desiring to devote themselves wholly to a life of prayer. Obviously this type of existence is not meant for everyone, but then again each of us longs or “thirsts” for God in varying degrees.

Through time, other “seekers” heard about these holy men and women who lived alone in the wilderness and desired to follow suit. Some sought out these holy ones for spiritual council and guidance, while others turned to them for encouragement and support. Eventually these monastics banded together to form small sketes or monasteries in order to live a common life in Christ; sort of like a Christian commune.

If you have never visited a monastery, it is truly a worthwhile experience – especially during the Lenten seasons when such pilgrimages are popular. In the Cleveland area we are fortunate to have a number of local monastic communities: St. John the Theologian Monastery near Hiram, St. Herman’s House of Hospitality and St. Mary of Egypt Monastery in Cleveland, Monastery Marcha in Richfield, and St. Gregory Palamas in Hayesville, OH.
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Question:

I realize it’s probably a defect in my character, but I still have trouble being charitable. Can you offer me any advice? 
Answer:
Although I’m certainly no Ann Landers, I can offer you pastoral guidance via the Church’s teachings. Because of a general lack of faith, it might seem that money given in charity is sometimes almost thrown away or lost. Yet this is the very “test” of commitment which St. Paul speaks of in his second epistle to the Corinthians (9:6-15).

Like all acts of charity, donations should be given freely, but with great care and reverence. They should be thought through with a full understanding of the circumstances and offered in a desire to please God. Money should never be given grudgingly, but with cheerfulness because, as the saying goes, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2nd Cor. 9:7).

How and what we give correlates to how we view and respect the Gospel. Charity becomes a measure to our thankfulness and depicts, at least in a physical sense, the love we have for God; manifested by the ability to give of our treasure to a greater Treasure.

In so doing, God will always allow His grace to abound in us. It will multiply and increase in direct proportion to how well we divest ourselves of greed and want. Then, God will not only cause us to have enough in all things, but to also be content with what we do have. All we have to do is trust in God and show the reality of our subjection to the gospel which calls us to be charitable.
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Question:

What can I do to make the Advent Season more relevant and improve my spiritual life?
Answer:
This is a really good question and I’m very glad to hear that you are interested in taking this impending Lent seriously in preparation for our Lord’s Nativity. This type of an attitude is obviously the first step needed in such a situation: to have the desire to love God and grow in your faith.
Here is a list of things we each can do to improve the quality of our relationship with Christ during the Advent Fast:
Read the Bible and Pray daily
Be consistent with your prayers
Be quiet and still; think or mediate upon God
Attend services and come to them on time
Make an effort to keep the Fast – even if only in small ways
Take our Lord’s commandment to “Love on another” seriously
Manifest this love to all – even to those who you might not like
Show respect towards everyone
Act as a Christian should – don’t “react” inappropriately to situations
Be your own person – don’t let others dictate who you are
Be understanding and quick to forgive others
Be quick to ask forgiveness when you have hurt someone
Don’t gossip or spread stories which are damaging to others
Support your Church and its clergy (hierarchy, priests, deacons)
Encourage one another and build one another up (1st Thess. 5:11)
Reach out to those in need
Visit the sick and elderly – even if this means going outside of your “comfort zone”
Offer your talents or expertise to the parish
Be charitable with your finances
Give to those in need
Honor your parish by meeting its financial needs
Slow down your social life during this season: learn to “fast” before you “feast”
Refrain from parties, movies, and other entertainment
Curtail the amount of time you spend watching television
Don’t spend too much time on the computer
Be cautious of the sites you explore on the Internet
Read religious material and at least one religious book
Read good books
Spend time interacting and actually talking to your family and friends
Be humble
When you fall or stumble into sin, be quick to pick yourself up and start over
Don’t give in and refuse to give up!
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Question:

Why do I always feel so ashamed when I come to Confession?
Answer:
On the one hand, we should feel shame while confessing our sins. Shame is an offshoot of guilt, and feeling guilty at ones sin is an important component to repentance; it proves that we recognize our fault and have a desire to change.

St. John Chrysostom, however, reminds us that instead of feeling shame when we repent, we should be more ashamed in the moment when we sin. “Sin is the wound,” he writes, “while repentance is the medicine.” Repentance through the act of Holy Confession not only takes away sin, it revitalizes our relationship with Christ; giving us renewed strength and boldness.
Therefore, rather than feeling shame and guilt during confession, embrace the fact that you are unburdening yourself of those sins so as to experience the ultimate joy of God’s mercy and forgiveness!
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Question:

Fr. John, great sermon on [January 23rd]! Please help us to become better givers.
Answer:
Thanks, that sermon did generate a lot of positive feedback, which made me feel quite good for three very specific reasons. First and foremost it showed that the level of spiritual awareness and maturity of our parishioners is on the rise. That’s an important component to good stewardship. Secondly, since I’m not very adept at talking about money matters, I was pleased to find that not only did my point come across, but that it has challenged many to re-evaluate their own financial commitment. And thirdly, it inadvertently dispelled any notion or misconception that clergy don’t participate in the financial support of a parish. (Actually I think I was more shocked to find out that so many people assumed clergy didn’t need to donate to the parish, than parishioners were to find out that we do!)
As to your request that I offer advice on how to become more generous, I think the answer can only exist within each person’s heart because, as our Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” (St. Matthew 6:21). Financial support of the church is a sacrificial offering to God – a gift of thanksgiving. It is a matter of one’s faith commitment to Jesus Christ, which is often played out somewhere between their bank account and relationship to the Gospel teachings. As for me, all I can say is that I try to lead by example; and in the end, that is always the best teaching tool.
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Question:

“How can we participate in Great Lent and spiritually profit from it?”  #1
Answer:
The first universal precept of any Lenten season is fasting. The Orthodox teaching concerning fasting is somewhat different from the Roman Catholic viewpoint and it is essential to understand it fully. Roman Catholics tend to identify fasting more as a “good deed.” They see in it a sacrifice which earns us “merit.” The question, “What shall I give up for Lent?” is very typical of such an attitude towards fasting, making it a formal obligation, an act of obedience to the Church.
The Orthodox Church’s concept of fasting is more akin to an “ascetical effort.” Fasting is the means of subduing the physical, fleshly human aspect for the spiritual one (i.e. the “natural” to the “supernatural”).  Limitations in food are of course instrumental, but are never seen as ends in themselves. Rather they help to keep us more focused on our spiritual relationship with Christ. Because it is a means of reaching a spiritual goal, it therefore becomes an integral part of a much wide spiritual effort. Fasting, in the Orthodox understanding, includes more than abstinence from certain types of foods. It implies prayer, silence, meditation, an attempt to be charitable, kind, and – in one word – spiritual. As we sing in church, “Brethren, while fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually!”
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Question:

“How can we participate in Great Lent and spiritually profit from it?”  #2
Answer:
Prayer is certainly another important component in our Lenten arsenal. As Christians we must always strive to be in constant communion with God and this is partly accomplished through the act of prayer: being mindful of God, praising God, entreating God, and offering Him thanksgiving. During Great Lent, however, it is a time to increase our prayer-life and to deepen its meaning. The simplest way this can be accomplished is to add the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim to our private morning and evening prayers. It is also good and profitable to set aside certain times of the day for a short, brief prayer or to silently say the Jesus Prayer routinely throughout the course of the entire day: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.” 
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Question:

“How can we participate in Great Lent and spiritually profit from it?”  #3
Answer:
The study of Holy Scripture is essential to the successfulness of our Lenten Journey; so vital in fact that St. Epiphanius of Cyprus wrote, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is self treason.” In other words, if we forsake the reading (study) of Scripture, we are actually planning our own demise! Therefore, at the very least, it is imperative that we read the appointed lessons and texts for the day.
On the church calendar you will find readings for each day of the year. During Great Lent selections from the Old Testament Books of Genesis, Proverbs and Isaiah are read. These readings are usually short and do not take up much time, yet the spiritual benefit and wealth they contain is phenomenal! They can help us acquire spiritual understanding along many dimensions.
It is also advisable to read a few Psalms each day; both in connection with your private rule of prayer (pravilo), and separately. Nowhere else can we find such a concentration of prayerfulness, repentance, and a thirst for God, than in the Psalter.
In addition to Holy Scripture, reading other religious books, such as the Lives of Saints, Church History, Orthodox Spirituality, etc, or even the literary classics is also greatly encouraged. Spiritual gems such as “The Way of a Pilgrim” or Fr. Schmemann’s, “Great Lent,” are also wonderful Lenten reads; since these books take us from our daily life to a higher level of awareness and feed the soul.
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Question:

“How can we participate in Great Lent and spiritually profit from it?”  #4
Answer:
Over the last few weeks I have addressed the topics of fasting, prayer, and spiritual reading. As we now stand upon the very threshold of our Lenten Journey, let me remind one and all that the Lenten Season should also bring with it a change of life.
Every pious and devote follower must embark upon this journey in all manner of seriousness and with the firm intent of making a positive change in their lifestyle; enhancing their relationship with God and putting their way of life into alignment with Christ’s. Immediately this means that we should slow down and re-evaluate what we consider as being important and/or vital to our self. We need to put in as much quiet time, silence, contemplation, and meditation as possible. Radio, TV, movies, newspapers, social gatherings – all these things, however excellent and profitable in themselves, must be cut down to a real minimum. Not because they are bad, but because we have something “far more important” to do – and that “something” is impossible to achieve without a great degree of concentration and discipline.
Because Jesus Christ told us that it is a “narrow path” which leads to the Kingdom of God, we must therefore constrict and focus our efforts to make our life as “narrow” as possible – cutting out all the frills and stripping away all we might otherwise consider indispensible.
This then will not only empty us of all undesirable excesses, but will enable us to fill up the void with God!

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Question:

What are “sins of omission?”
Answer:
Although there are a myriad of sins, all sin can be very easily grouped into two distinct categories: sins of commission (that which is enacted willingly though we know it is wrong) and sins of omission (those which occur when we refuse or fail to act and do what we know is right). In God’s eyes, one group is no better than the other and each is just as wrong.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and Levite who passed by the man beaten up by robbers are examples of committing sin by “omission;” because they didn’t do what they should have done in the moment. By refusing to stop and help the poor man who was injured, they “omitted” an opportunity to get involved and do what God expected of them: to show love, mercy, and compassion towards one another.
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Question:

What do you do when people criticize you for doing good works and helping others?
Answer:

A: There is an old, but rather cynical saying which claims, “No good deed goes unpunished.” It seems that no matter what our intentions or how well-meaning our efforts, the good we do is often scrutinized and criticized by others. Look at Mother Teresa prior to her later years of fame and notoriety: despite her dedicated sacrifices and a life-long commitment to the poor, diseased, and discarded of India, she was constantly chided and be-rated for wasting resources (food, medicine, money) on those who were dying!

Like our much-beleaguered Lord before us, every saint who ever walked this earth had to put up with their detractors. None of them were without opposition from some quarter or other, and St. Peter clearly reiterates this in his first epistle, saying, “it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong” (1st Peter 
3:17). In other words, by continuing to do good works in the face of criticism we do nothing other than walk in the footsteps of Christ, Who Himself, was criticized, brutalized, and suffered crucifixion from those very same critics (sinners) He came to save!

It may be true that no good deed goes unpunished, but even so, by enduring such criticism in Christ-like fashion, the good still gets done and we stand firmly upon the path of righteousness.
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Question:

Even though I try very hard not to, I often feel a need or desire to get back at those who hurt and/or slight me in some fashion. I realize this is not a true Christian mind-set yet, more often than not, I give in to the temptation to “get even;” sometimes by saying something hurtful directly to them, and sometimes by saying something damaging or unflattering about them to someone else. Please give me some guidance…what can I do? 
Answer:
This is a somewhat apropos question to be answered upon this, the 10th anniversary of a fateful day  when many of us wanted nothing other than to hurt someone back and get even for what they did to our country.
The need or desire to “get even” directly stems from the sin of pride, which is the bases or “root” of all sin. Pride is a mighty adversary to conquer, and sometimes I think it would be far easier to face David’s Goliath than to do battle against pride, because at least then your foe would be standing in front of you instead of hiding within you!
However, the conquering pride is exactly why Christ came into the world in the first place. Jesus “emptied” Himself of His glory and took on human form (Philippians 2:6) in order to show us by His Own example how to overcome the sin of pride and be freed from its tyranny.
Therefore, you can begin to vanquish pride simply by following our Lord’s own example. Never repay an evil deed with more evil. Never seek revenge against someone in anger. To do so is the same as if you were to fight darkness with more darkness and cold with more cold. You will never attain positive results. Just as darkness is conquered with light and cold is combated with warmth, so should you fight evil with goodness, lies with truth, and anger with love!
To repay good for good is to be like man.
To repay evil for evil is to be an animal.
To repay evil for good is to be like Satan.
To repay good for evil is to be like God.
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Question:

What is the definition of sin?
Answer:
In Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written) the word for “sin” is amartia, which literally means “to miss the mark.” In archery, this same term is used to describe someone who aims at a target’s bull’s-eye but misses. For Christians, the “mark” for which we strive (or aim) is to live in communion with God, basing our own lives and actions on the life and actions of Jesus Christ. Hence, when we – consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or involuntarily – miss this mark and fall short of our goal, we are said to have sinned.
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Question:

What is a “name’s day?”
Answer:
In the Orthodox Faith it is characteristic for us to be named after a saint. This saint is then said to be our “patron saint,” as St. John the Baptist is in my case. Because each saint has a particular date on the Church calendar upon which they are commemorated, that day becomes our “Name’s Day” (Dyen Angeli or “Angel’s Day” in Russian).
In many Orthodox countries it is customary for the priest to simply ascribe to your child the name of whatever saint happens to be commemorated either on the day of the child’s birth or baptism. This method, however, is not without its flaws. Although born years apart, my great grandfather and his brother both were named Peter because that was the saint which, corresponded to the day of their baptisms.
In this same cultural milieu, it is also very traditional to celebrate a person’s Name’s Day rather than their birthday. A special meal is planned, friends bring flowers and gifts, and there is usually lots of toasting and well-wishing.
However, the most important aspect to celebrating one’s Name’s Day is to know the life of your patron saint, pattern your life after theirs, and to utilize them in your spiritual life as an intercessory to our Lord.
If you do not know who your patron saint is or would like to learn their life’s story, please see Fr. Joseph or myself for this information.
Every church also celebrates a Name’s Day or Temple Feast (Xhramovoi Prazdnik). It might be a feast of Christ, such as Holy Resurrection Church, Epiphany Cathedral, or Nativity of Christ Chapel, of the Virgin Mother, such as Dormition Cathedral, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Church, or Chapel of the Annunciation, or of any number of Saints, such as St. Nicholas, St. Andrew, and St. Theodosius.
In the case of this parish, our Patronal Feast is of the Holy Archangel Michael and All of the Bodiless Hosts of Heaven, which falls on November 8. So Happy Name’s Day St. Michael’s!
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Question:

Which is preferable to enhancing ones spiritual life: prayer or reading Scripture?
Answer:
f your question is designed to find out which one of these choices is “greater” or more profitable to ones spirituality, I’m afraid that I cannot answer your question adequately. Choosing one above the other would be a type of “Catch 22,” because both aspects are equally as important to ones spiritual life. However, I can say that the dynamic of personal and corporate prayer is specifically designed to cultivate a desire to read and study Holy Scripture, and vice versa. In fact, one might even go as far to say that reading and reflecting upon the Word of God is in and of itself a form of prayer. So in the end there can be no choice: each is vital and must be practiced!
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Question:

During an office break we were discussing whether a soldier who lost his right arm/hand in battle could salute by using his left hand. During this same conversation I mentioned that you had once said that a man cannot be a priest if he is missing a finger. Now maybe that was in context that if he is not a yet a priest and is missing a finger he cannot become a priest. But, I recall you saying that he cannot properly give a blessing without all his points. Someone then posed the question, can a priest be a priest if he loses a finger after being ordained? Can he have a prosthetic finger?
Answer:
First of all, anyone in the military who has lost their right 
arm/hand during combat is certainly free to salute using their left. It 
is also true that any candidate for the priesthood must be physically 
"whole;" having no bodily defects, abnormalities, or handicaps of any 
kind. This has been part of the Priesthood's prescribed tradition since 
Old Testament time.

If a clergymen losses a digit or appendage in an accident after he is 
ordained he would obviously still retain his priestly or diaconal 
position by virtue of the ordination itself. However, the severity or 
extent of that injury will undoubtedly determine whether or not they are 
still able to fulfill their vocation properly by functioning in their 
liturgical duties (i.e. distributing Holy Communion, censing, offering 
blessings, etc.).

As far as prostheses go, I think each situation would need to be looked 
at on a case by case basis by the bishop. In other words, a prosthetic 
leg or foot would be totally different in a liturgical setting then say 
a prosthetic arm or hand would.

On an interesting side note: Being from Minnesota, I grew up using a 
chain saw to fell trees and cut wood. Near the end of my seminary 
career, I went home to Minneapolis for spring break and was at my 
brother's house while his father-in-law was cutting down a pretty 
good-sized lilac bush in my brother's back yard. Since I was there, I 
decided to lend a hand and picked up the chain saw to help cut up the 
branches. Before I could turn it on, my brother's father-in-law grabbed 
the chain saw from me and scolded me in Russian, saying, "Give me that, 
you have to say the 'Our Father'!" Basically what he meant was, since I 
was going to be a priest, I couldn't do anything that might jeopardize 
my chances of getting ordained – like cutting off my fingers. I had 
never thought about it before, but I remember saying to myself, "You 
know, Pete's right!"
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Question:

I know that the clergy must consume everything that is left in the 
chalice after the distribution of Holy Communion, but how exactly do you 
go about this?
Answer:
At the conclusion of the liturgy, the priest goes over to the Table 
of Oblation where the chalice now resides and, using the spoon, consumes 
all of the particles that are left inside the cup. He then takes up the 
chalice and drinks the remaining Blood. Following this, it is customary 
to pour very hot water into the cup (and also over the communion spoon) 
while "tilting and turning" the chalice so that the hot water both, 
washes and sterilizes the entire inside of the chalice. The priest then 
drinks this water and dries the cup using a communion cloth and/or a sea 
sponge blessed for this purpose, which then remains inside the cup.

Interestingly, consuming the Chalice is one of the specified duties of a 
deacon. However, if there is no deacon available, this responsibility 
rests upon the priest.
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Question:

How many people belong to the Orthodox Christian Faith?
Answer:
It is estimated that there are about 300 million Orthodox Christians 
in the world today. Most of these live in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, 
Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Middle East. About three million live 
in the United States, with the heaviest concentrations residing in 
Alaska, New York/New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
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Question:

What does the term "locum tenens" mean?
Answer:
Locum Tenens is a Latin phrase that literally means "place holder" and is used to describe anyone who temporarily fulfills the role or duties of another. For instance, because Archbishop Nathaniel was elected to temporarily take over the duties of our retired Primate, he is commemorated during our services as the Locum Tenens of the Orthodox Church in America; and will be until such time as a new Metropolitan can be elected. This election process is slated to occur on November 13 at a Special All-American Council, which will be convened at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma, Oh.
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Question:

How do we go about electing a new Metropolitan? Will the candidates be made known to the people as when we elected our diocesan bishop?
Answer:
Basically the election process for a Metropolitan takes place in the 
following manner: According to the Statutes of the OCA, after the 
vacancy of the Metropolitan is announced, the Church is to gather 
together in Council with a clergy and lay representative from each 
parish. When the election is to begin, every delegate is given a ballet 
and must write down the name of one person whom they would like to see 
lead the Church. Names submitted may be those of bishops, priests, or 
laymen as long as they are in canonical good standing with the Orthodox 
Church. If any one candidate receives a 2/3 majority upon this ballet, 
the election process stops and the Holy Synod goes into the altar to 
discuss and/or approve the nomination. If no one receives a 2/3 
majority, or if the Holy Synod does not approve this candidate, a second 
ballet is cast with each delegate submitting the names of two 
individuals to fill this position. After this vote is tallied, the top 
vote getter's name is submitted to the Holy Synod for approval as our 
next Metropolitan. Therefore, because voting is not restricted to a 
specified number or "pool" of individuals, this process differs greatly 
from when we elected our diocesan hierarch.
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Question:

How often should we come to Confession?
Answer:
The answer to such a question obviously rests with each individual: 
their relationship with God, their level of commitment, and their desire 
to worthily approach the Chalice. And although there is no hard, fast 
rule as to how often one can or should participate in this Sacrament, 
the Church has set four times a year as the bare minimum. Therefore, if 
you are in the habit of only going once or twice a year, you really must 
strive to increase this in order to conform to the Church's standard.
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Question:

What should you do if an icon, prayer book, or Bible is dropped on the ground?
Answer:
Because religious items are blessed and considered holy, they are 
afforded a certain type of honor and dignity, and are treated with the 
utmost regard. Therefore, if any religious items were to be dropped or 
fall, Orthodox piety requires us to immediately pick the item up, make 
the sign of the Cross, and venerate (kiss) it out of respect; all the 
while asking God’s forgiveness – even if the incident was purely 
accidental.
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Question:

I have a number of crosses from the caskets of deceased loved ones. Right now some are hanging on walls and others are just in drawers. What should I do with them all?
Answer:
Perhaps the real question ought to be, "What should I have done with 
them?" The Church has a long-standing tradition that every Christian be 
given a cross to wear around the neck from the time of their baptism. It 
was also a custom for everyone to own a cross – one that could be placed 
on a wall over a bed or adorn an icon corner. Then, after a life of 
praying and bowing down before this cross, it was lovingly placed in the 
casket and buried in the hands of the deceased as both, a symbol of 
victory and means of comfort for the family.



Sadly, since very few people seem to possess such crosses anymore, most 
funeral homes provide them new (at an expense) to grace the departed 
loved one’s casket during the funeral. Ironically, however, before the 
casket is closed and taken to the cemetery, many families choose to take 
these crosses as a type of "keep sake" or memento of the deceased; as if 
that particular cross was the one which the departed person actually 
cherished and/or prayed before during life.



Because it is a pious custom that all Orthodox Christians be buried with 
crosses, icons, and other personal religious items such as their prayer 
book and Bible, if nothing else is to remain with the deceased in their 
casket, at least these crosses should.



And as far as your particular situation with multiple crosses, I would 
either have them buried with you, or divide them up so that they might 
be buried equally among your siblings.
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Question:

How do you make water 'holy' and what purpose does it serve?

Answer:

An age-old joke claims that you can make holy water simply by 
"boiling the Hell out of it." Although this obviously isn't part of the 
process, there is some truth behind that sentiment because, Holy Water 
is indeed water which has been purified and rendered incorrupt – though 
not from boiling, but through prayer. Holy Water is blessed water that 
is sanctified during a special prayer service, which invokes the Grace 
of the Holy Spirit to descend and transform it back to its original 
pristine state prior to the fall of Creation. In other words, it is not 
simply a matter of making "bad water good," but rather, sanctifying this 
water so that its original nature, purpose, and function as a medium for 
communion with God is restored. Therefore, through this blessed water, 
Orthodox Christians are not only able to view water as the source of 
life, but that this Living Water flows directly from God: the True 
Source of Life. And although water may be used to wash and purify, true 
cleansing and purification again, proceed directly from God.

 Holy Water may be used in a variety of ways: You can drink it when sick 
as a type of spiritual medicine. It can be used to fortify or strengthen 
ones faith. Holy Water may be used to anoint or bless one another. 
Clergy use it to bless and sanctify holy objects such as crosses, icons, 
medallions, etc, or to bless and re-sanctify the homes of parishioners. 
Every Orthodox Christian should keep and maintain a jar of Holy Water in 
their household.

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Question:

When I look at the world today, I really wonder about our youth. It 
just seems that so many have forsaken the Christian Faith and are on the 
road to ruin. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer:

I'll begin to answer your question by offering this quote:



"The youth of today love luxury. They have bad manners, and they show 
contempt for authority. They love to chatter instead of study. They 
contradict their parents, gobble up their food and tyrannize their 
teachers."



Interestingly, these words were not written by modern man, but by the 
philosopher Socrates in the year 400 BC! Throughout all generations, it 
seems as though adults look upon the youth and judge them in a similar 
fashion. Perhaps adults need to remember their own adolescence and have 
a little patience with the children and young adults of today. Yet more 
importantly, we must all continue to encourage them and set a good 
example for them to follow because, as Gandhi once said, "We must be the 
change we wish to see in the world."

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Question:

I find it much easier to pray in church during services than at home. Can you offer some guidance on how I can enhance my prayer life during the week?

Answer:

Prayer can be divided into two categories: personal and corporate. 
Both are necessary and complement one another in our relationship with 
God. While prayer might be considered a natural act, is also something 
that must be learned. This means that it requires effort, attention, and 
should be practiced with regularity.



Personal prayer is far more flexible than corporate prayer and can be 
practiced virtually anywhere and at any time. It can have a very 
structured form that is often dependent upon using prayers found in a 
Prayer Book, or it can simply be a spontaneous dialogue between you and 
God and in your own words. However, since the prayers found in our 
prayer books are indeed "time-tested" and have been utilized for 
centuries with great success, using them does help to create a firm 
foundation upon which we might build our spiritual life.



My advice, therefore, would be this: Every morning and every evening 
before bedtime, simply stand before your icon corner and recite the 
Trisagion Prayers. If you can maintain this for a month, add the Creed. 
If you can maintain this rule, add Psalm 51. If this rule can be 
maintained for yet another month, add one of the Morning Prayers from 
your prayer book (such as the Prayer of the Optina Elders) and also one 
from the Evening Prayers. This is how a solid rule of prayers comes to 
be built: prayer upon prayer just as a bricklayer lays brick upon brick.



In addition, make sure to pray before your meals!

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Potpourri (top)

Question:

Why do the priests wear robes?

Answer:

Clerical vestments actually date back to the time of the Old Testament. The most basic reasons why our clergy (Bishops, Priest, Deacons, etc.) continue to wear them is threefoldThe wearing of vestments was ordered by God (Exodus 28).
They serve to designate or “set apart” those who are called to the priestly office.
They provide a means of “covering” the sinful nature of the individual.
Because the priest stands at the head of the congregation as an archetypal image of Jesus Christ to His people, vestments help mask the frailty of the priest’s human nature and transfigure him as the one who imparts the grace of Christ through the Holy Priesthood. In simplest terms, vestments shift the focus from the man to the priest.

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Question:

I have a collection of blessed pussy willows from over the years and would like to dispose of them properly. How should I go about this?
Answer:
Pussy willows, along with any other blessed items such as old prayer books, icons, Bibles, etc, should always be disposed of properly and with great reverence. Normally these items are either burned or buried. Nothing which is consecrated, blessed, or considered to be “holy” should ever be thrown into the garbage. This is disrespectful to the item, as well as to our Faith.
Periodically blessed pussy willows are collected and burned in the woodstove of our Shanty. For those other items such as icons, prayer books, service books, Bibles, crosses, medallions, etc, these are usually collected and kept until a later time when a special fire can constructed at St. Theodosius Cemetery for this purpose.
In addition to disposing of items by such means, sometimes at the passing of a pious parishioner I will ask the family if I can bury these religious artifacts with the deceased. If they are agreeable, the objects are then placed inside the casket and under the lining so as to be out of sight during the viewing.
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Question:

Why do we instinctively look “up” when we pray or think about God? Why does the priest say, “Let us lift up our hearts unto God” and then point upward to denote where Heaven is?
Answer:
The answer is rather simple. In the Book of Genesis we find that although God was the Lord, Master, and Creator of all, He nonetheless allowed mankind to exist upon the same plane because, God walked and talked to them in the Garden. However, after man chose to sin, he “fell” (both literally and figuratively) out of favor with God. This is why we refer to that moment of eating the forbidden fruit as the great Fall; and like any fall, man dropped down in his relationship and stature with God. It certainly wasn’t due to God raising Himself above man; man just lowered himself through sin.

Notice how in Holy Scripture, from that time forward, man’s quest to reconcile and gain back what he lost becomes an almost up-hill climb; perhaps manifested best by Jacob’s vision of a ladder reaching into heaven (Gen. 28:10-17). When man wanted to address or pray to God, he instinctively looked upward – and in many cases climbed upwards (e.g. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Habbakuk). When he wanted to make any offerings, he burned these gifts so that they would rise with the smoke and go up. When he talked about God’s realm, he again naturally pointed towards the heavens.

Therefore St. Paul’s words, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are of the earth” (Colossians 3:2), become an admonition to set our minds on things that are above and is perfectly warranted and justified. So let’s keep climbing the ladder of perfection upwards until we can get back to where we belong!
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Question:

What is a Prayer Rope?
Answer:
A Prayer Rope (Chotki in Russian, Komboskini in Greek) is a loop of knots, usually made of wool with wooden beads interspersed at specific intervals, so that one might keep count of the number of prayers being said. Each knot is made up of either seven or nine separate little knots, which then create a distinct woolen nodule for counting.
Prayer ropes are generally used in conjunction with the  Jesus Prayer (“O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) and most are typically 100 knots in length (although some may be found with fewer knots or with more). The purpose of a Prayer Rope is simply to help one concentrate, keep track of, and create a type of “rhythm” during prayer.
The fourth century monk, St. Pachomius, is credited with devising the Prayer Rope as a means of helping illiterate monks maintain consistency in their prayer rule. Before this, monks would simply drop a pre-set number of pebbles into a bowl as they prayed – a cumbersome and noisy endeavor for those who were practicing silence!
Every monastic (and many lay people) carries their Prayer Rope as a reminder of St. Paul’s admonishment to “pray without ceasing” (1st Thessalonians 5:17).
Another similar counting device formally used in Russia was called a Lestovka (meaning “ladder”). The Lestovka, however, is made out of leather with “rungs” instead of  nodules and probably derived from the practice of St. Anthony the Great, a third century monk, who used to tie knots in leather ropes in order to keep track of his daily prayers.
The Roman Catholic Rosary was adopted from the Eastern Church’s Prayer Rope by St. Dominic in the 13th Century.
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Question:

What is the parish policy regarding clergy honorariums? Do we need to pay for services such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals? What about grave blessings, house blessings, parastas, and visitations?
Answer:
Although there are no actual fees or payments associated with any sacraments or services of the Orthodox Church, it is still customary to make a donation in appreciation to God for the blessings (grace) one has received. These free-will offerings to Christ’s Church should never be misconstrued as a payment as some materialistic-minded persons have assumed, because services and sacraments can not be bought or sold; and mandating obligatory donations for said services also renders any heartfelt gesture or sacrifice to God as meaningless and obsolete.
If someone wishes to extend their love of God by also offering a personal gratuity, gift, or honorarium to the Priest, Deacon, or Choir Master, this is to be done solely at the parishioner’s own discretion.
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Question:

What does the word “canonization” mean?
Answer:
The term canonization denotes the process by which the Church formally proclaims a Christian to be a saint; placing their name into the canon (list) or ranks of saints.
The word canonization is derived from the Greek word kanon, which means “a rule or standard of measure.” Basically then, when the Church canonizes one of its faithful as a saint, we proclaim them “holy” and set them up as a person of God who we should try and emulate or strive to “measure up to.” It must be noted, however, that the service of canonization does not actually make a saint, it merely establishes or sanctions a widely known fact, publically and for all to see.
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Question:

What is meant by the terms “Church Militant” and “Church Triumphant?”
Answer:
The Christian Church is basically divided into two categories: the Church Militant – we here on earth who, are still engaged in spiritual warfare; and the Church Triumphant – those Saints in heaven who have received their just reward.
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Question:

What is the difference between a cross and a crucifix?
Answer:
In essence, a crucifix is simply a cross with a relief of Christ’s body on it. The term cruifix come from the Latin words, cruci fixus meaning, “[one] fixed to a cross.” Therefore, most crucifixes typically contain a three-dimensional representation of our Lord’s body, or “corpus” in Latin, whereas a cross does not.
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Question:

What does the word “economia” mean?
Answer:
Economia or “oikonomia” is a Greek term which means the “good handling and prudent management of a thing, matter, or situation at hand.” In the Eastern Orthodox Church, “ecclesiastical economia” basically conveys the same meaning, but can also denote a discretionary deviation from the letter of the law for pastoral reasons. Therefore, in certain circumstances various disciplinary questions, problems, and issues that arise are often addressed and handled by the clergy (bishops and priests) so as to adhere more to the spirit of the law rather than its strict adherence. Such a unique and charitable pastoral approach stands in stark contrast to the severe legalism (“akribia” in Greek) often found in the Western Church.
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Question:

What is an ‘Archimandrite?’
Answer:
Archimandrite is an ecclesiastical title, which designates a specific clerical rank.  It is a term derived from the Greek words arch – meaning “head or ruler” and mandra – meaning “flock or fold,” and literally means the “shepherd of a flock.” Originally this title was a distinction reserved only for the head of a monastery or monastic community. Nowadays, however, it is often given and bestowed upon a priest-monk as a type of award for years of active or distinguished service.
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Question:

Did John the Baptist really eat bugs?
Answer:
According to the Gospels of St. Matthew and Mark, John the Baptist lived for many years in the wilderness of Judea, subsisting on “locusts and wild honey” (Matt. 3:4 & Mark 1:6).
A locust is a small insect resembling a cricket or grasshopper. They tend to migrate in swarms and can often appear in the sky as an immense black cloud. Because of their destructive force on crops and vegetation, many ancient peoples considered them to not only be, a menace, but a harbinger of God’s wrath as well. Locusts were the eighth plague sent by God to punish Pharaoh.
Although our society typically disparages the eating of bugs, this is not necessarily true throughout the rest of the world. In many countries and cultures insects are often viewed as a delicacy. To the Jews, locusts were considered to be a kosher or “clean food” which was therefore suitable for consumption long before Bear Grylls or Andrew Zimmer made it popular. They are still eaten by many nomadic tribes in the Middle East when other food sources become scarce.
On a side note, the Greek word used for “locusts” (akrides) can also be construed to denote a type of plant or herb and there is even a Palestinian tradition which suggests that St. John ate the pods of a type of carob tree still native to that area. The pods of this tree do somewhat resemble the shape of a locust, but are sweet, chewy, and are affectionately known as “St. John’s Bread.”
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Question:

I recently purchased a cross to wear around my neck and on the back there is something written in Russian. Do you have any idea what it might say?
Answer:
My initial response was to say “Made in Japan,” but I don’t want to turn your question into a joke. Although I would actually need to examine your cross to be sure, by far the most popular wording found on the back of many Orthodox crosses would be the phrase “Save and Protect,” which is a description of what the cross symbolizes for us: salvation and protection. In fact, this expression is so commonly found; one might say it is even standard.
However, on the back sides of many priests crosses (pectoral crosses) is found a verse from 1st Timothy 4:12 which is quite apropos for clergy, since it is both meaningful and instructive: “Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  
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Question:

What does ICXC stand for?
Answer:
ICXC is a traditional abbreviation or “Christogram” (Christian monogram) for Jesus Christ in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It combines the first and last letters of Jesus’ name in Greek, Iusus Christos. These initials are often paired with, or written above, the letters NIKA, which signifies “victory” or “is victorious;” hence the phrase, “Jesus Christ conquers all!”
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Question:

What is a “benediction?”
Answer:
Strictly speaking, a benediction is simply a short prayer or entreaty asking for divine guidance and help. Through time, however, because the benediction was almost always relegated near the end of a service, it has also become synonymous with any closing prayer (dismissal prayer) to a service, meal, or event. The word itself comes from the Latin words bene, meaning “good” or “well” and dicere, meaning “to speak.”
On the other hand, the opening prayer to a service or event is called its “invocation.” This word, too, derives from Latin (invocare) and means “to call upon,” as calling upon God in prayer or for supplication.
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Question:

I know that we generally pray facing towards the east, yet how would one go about finding east in space?
Answer:
On Earth we are obviously bound spatially by the laws which govern our three-dimensional world. We utilize the natural stability of this perspective to pray facing east because this is from where our light source arises each and every morning. In essence, the same God-created sun that provides our physical light also becomes a ready-made symbol of Christ, Who is the Light of the world. In fact, the troparion of Christmas even refers to Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness.”
In space, however, our experience would be severely altered because we would no longer be within our normal purview.  There would not be a clear, two-dimensional plane upon which to necessarily calculate direction as we are used to. You might certainly be able to find our sun, but your orientation would only be relative to your position in space.
However, here are my Top 10 answers to “How Do You Find East in Space?”
10) In space East is spelled “Tsae”
9) It’s by that big Throne - the one with the Cherubim and Seraphim around it
8) Just to the yaw of pitch
7) You can’t, it’s swallowed up by the vacuum of time
6) East is opposite of, and behind West
5) It’s in the direction you used to be traveling in a minute before you got there
4) East is hiding from Orion behind the Big Dipper
3) It was irreparably punctured by satellites and pinched by the Crab Nebula
2) Go through the Milky Way and then ask the cow as he’s jumping over the moon.
1) Space takes East and “Bends it Like Beckham!”
Fr. John (November Archangel)
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Question:

What is Myrrh?
Answer:
Myrrh is a fragrant gum resin derived from a shrub or tree, especially the Commiphora Abyssinica, which is native to southern Arabia and eastern Africa. Egyptian royal tombs dating from the 15th century B.C. contain art depicting myrrh trees. The resin, a highly valued commodity in ancient times, was used to purify corpses (John 19:39) and as an ingredient in “sacred anointing oil” (Exodus 30:23-25), beauty treatments (Esther 2:12), and scents for clothing (Psalm 45:8).
Myrrh was one of the gifts/treasures offered to the infant Jesus by the Magi (Matthew 2:11), and was most probably an ingredient in the oil poured over His head by the woman just prior to His Passion (Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:37-50, & John 12:1-8).
Ironically, at the time of His crucifixion, Jesus was again offered, but refused, myrrh mixed with wine, which was used by the Romans as a type of sedative to calm the condemned and deaden the pain of their ordeal.
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Question:

What are "fetters?"
Answer:
During biblical times, it was common for the hands and feet of  prisoners to be bound in fetters, or shackles – restraints that  curtailed free movement. Similar in purpose to our modern-day hand and ankle cuffs, these confining devices were made out of wood, iron, or  bronze, and wearing them was generally painful. A person whose fetters  were joined by a chain would be even further hobbled.

Besides Christ's being bound at the time of His arrest (John 18:12), there are many instances throughout scripture which depict the use of  fetters. Sampson was "bound with bronze shackles" by the Philistines  (Judges 16:21), the demoniac was "bound with chains and shackles" in the cemetery (Mark 5:2-4; Luke 8:29), and both Peter and Paul were fettered and shackled while in prison (Acts 12:6-7; Acts 16:24-26). In fact, in his closing remarks in his letter to the Church of Colossa, St. Paul writes, "Remember my fetters" (Col. 4:18), as a testimony to his  willingness to suffer for Christ's sake.
Interestingly, the actual chains which bound Peter were carefully  preserved, passed down, and venerated as a type of holy relic by the Early Church. These chains still exist and are commemorated each year on January 16th.
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Question:

How do we go about electing a new Metropolitan? Will the candidates be made known to the people as when we elected our diocesan bishop?

Answer:

Basically the election process for a Metropolitan takes place in the 
following manner: According to the Statutes of the OCA, after the 
vacancy of the Metropolitan is announced, the Church is to gather 
together in Council with a clergy and lay representative from each 
parish. When the election is to begin, every delegate is given a ballet 
and must write down the name of one person whom they would like to see 
lead the Church. Names submitted may be those of bishops, priests, or 
laymen as long as they are in canonical good standing with the Orthodox 
Church. If any one candidate receives a 2/3 majority upon this ballet, 
the election process stops and the Holy Synod goes into the altar to 
discuss and/or approve the nomination. If no one receives a 2/3 
majority, or if the Holy Synod does not approve this candidate, a second 
ballet is cast with each delegate submitting the names of two 
individuals to fill this position. After this vote is tallied, the top 
vote getter's name is submitted to the Holy Synod for approval as our 
next Metropolitan. Therefore, because voting is not restricted to a 
specified number or "pool" of individuals, this process differs greatly 
from when we elected our diocesan hierarch.

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Question:

Can you briefly explain the differences between bishops, archbishops, metropolitans, and patriarchs?

Answer:

First of all, the English word *bishop* is an Anglo-Saxon corruption 
of the term "episcopus," which is a transliteration of the original 
Greek word "episcopos," meaning "overseer." Bishops are the highest rank 
of the Priesthood (the other two being deacons and priests) and have the 
distinction of being both, "overseers" and the final authority in the 
Church.

 Just as there are varying ranks within the deaconate (deacon, 
protodeacon, archdeacon) and the priesthood (priest, archpriest, 
protopresbyter), there is also a gradual ranking among the hierarchs. 
Some of these elevations are bestowed as awards for length of service, 
while others are given to distinguish the responsibilities they perform 
for the Church.

 Traditionally, however, and to explain their roles plainly and simply, a 
Bishop would normally "oversee" a large city and its surrounding area – 
like Cleveland and all of its suburbs. An Archbishop would oversee a 
much larger section consisting of many cities (Cleveland, Akron, 
Youngstown, Toledo, etc.). A Metropolitan would be responsible for a 
entire region – like the entire state of Ohio, while a Patriarch would 
be in charge of a whole country.

 Unfortunately, since all Orthodox Churches in America are not united in 
a common jurisdiction at this time, we cannot rightfully have a 
Patriarch in this country. This is why the highest ranking bishop in the 
OCA is the Metropolitan.

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Question:

What does the word 'church' actually mean?

Answer:

The English term "church," the Russian "tserkvie," the German 
"kirche," the Dutch "kerke," and other similar names, ultimately derive 
from the Greek word "kyriakon," which means, "something belonging to the 
Lord." The word was originally applied to the church building (i.e. the 
"Lord's House"), but soon became synonymous with both, the people and 
the action of the people (e.g. I'm going to church… Church begins at 
10:00 a.m.… I'm helping our church cook a meal for the homeless…).

 The Latin name "ecclesia" and its various derivations in other 
languages, although also applied to the building's structure, is 
actually a Greek word meaning, "an assembly" – as in a gathered unit or 
body of citizens – with the distinct connotation of being self-governing 
or self-ruling. Hence, in Christians terms, the Ecclesia is the "People 
of God."

 The English word temple ("xhram" in Russian), from the Latin term 
templum which, derived from the Greek word temenous, is a far more 
appropriate term to use when referring to a church structure. Therefore, 
instead of saying, "The church gathered in the church for church," it's 
much better to say "The church gathered in the temple for services."

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Question:

What does the word "parish" mean?

Answer:

The word Parish is a term that has been used to designate a local 
Christian community since the very beginning of the Christian age. It 
appears in the writings of the Early Church Fathers and in various 
Canons issued by the Ecumenical Councils. In its original Greek form, 
paroikia means a "temporary" or "secondary" residence (as opposed to 
oikos, which means a "permanent home"). This particular word was 
obviously well-chosen because it reminded those Early Christians (and 
hopefully us, too!) that this world is but a temporary home as we 
sojourn ever onwards towards our permanent residence in God's Heavenly 
Kingdom.

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Question:

What does the term "locum tenens" mean?

Answer:

Locum Tenens is a Latin phrase that literally means "place holder" 
and is used to describe anyone who temporarily fulfills the role or 
duties of another. For instance, because Archbishop Nathaniel was 
elected to temporarily take over the duties of our retired Primate, he 
is commemorated during our services as the Locum Tenens of the Orthodox 
Church in America; and will be until such time as a new Metropolitan can 
be elected. This election process is slated to occur on November 13 at a 
Special All-American Council, which will be convened at Holy Trinity 
Orthodox Church in Parma, Oh.

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Question:

We have a Cross at home and on the upper bar there is a little metal 
plate that has the letters I.N.R.I inscribed upon it. What do these 
letters signify or stand for?

Answer:

When someone was condemned and executed on the cross, an inscription 
of their crime was always posted above their head. In this way, all who 
passed by could see the charges against them, such as murder, theft, 
treason, etc. In the case of Christ, however, since Pontius Pilot found 
Christ guilty of no crime, our Lord's inscription simply read, "Jesus of 
Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19:19-20) which, was written in Greek, 
Latin, and Aramaic. The letters on your cross, therefore, stand for the 
Latin translation, which is, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum."

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Regarding Holy Scriptures (top)

Question:

What is a parable?
Answer:
Our Lord often employed a unique teaching device known as a “parable” in order to instruct His followers. The word parable comes from the Greek word meaning, “an analogy” and was a well-practiced method used to help people grasp certain concepts of varying degrees and levels. The parables Christ spoke were stories and analogies designed to convey messages of deeper meaning and truths to a people who oftentimes had little or no education. With these simple, yet profound story-like examples, our Lord explained to His followers just how God wanted them (and us) to live, practice their faith, and show love for one another. Through His parables, Jesus shows us the greatest truths of our Faith amidst a Gospel message of hope and salvation.

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Question:

Where in the Bible does one find justification for the clergy to forgive the sins of people?
Answer:
Although it is true that no one can forgive sins but God alone, our Lord bestowed this ability – through His Name – upon the Apostles, and in turn, those to whom the Apostles ordained and laid hands on.
In John’s gospel, when the Apostles were gathered together after the Resurrection, Jesus suddenly appeared to them and said: “Peace be unto you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23)
Each Orthodox priest, by virtue of his ordination, becomes a member of the apostolic succession through the laying on of hands. That is to say, Jesus ordained the apostles, the apostles ordained others, and those others ordained still others and so on down through the generations of human history to modern times. Therefore each Orthodox priest traces his ordination back through an unbroken chain which leads directly to the apostles, and thus – to Christ Himself. This is the justification for the clergy to forgive sins within the Sacrament of Confession.

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Question:

I have a Protestant friend who insists that we should not be addressing our priests as ‘Father.’ He quotes the following verse from St. Matthew’s gospel to support his view: “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is Your Father Who is in heaven” (23:9). How did our tradition of calling a priest “Father” begin? And please, explain this verse. 
Answer:
First, let me state that the way your friend is interpreting the above verse is obviously very literal and they are totally missing the point Christ is trying to make.
If someone is so convinced by this particular verse that no one should be called “father,” then they must immediately forbid children from calling their male parent “father” also. They should refrain from using such expressions as, “My father and I went fishing;” and for that matter, will also need to do a lot of rewrites to the Biblical texts because the word “father” is used continually throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Here are just a few examples
“Honor your father and your mother” – Ten Commandments
“Father Abraham! Have mercy on me…” from Christ’s parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man” (Luke 16:24-25).
“Father! I have sinned against heaven and before you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” From Christ’s parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:21).
The Apostle John addresses his disciples as “beloved children” in his epistles, making him a father figure de facto.
The Apostle Paul writes: “I have begotten you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 4:15) and he explains that this is why he had become a father to those who believe: “Though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers.”
Abraham became “the father to all who believe”, writes Apostle Paul (Rom. 4:11), and is often referred to as “Father Abraham” throughout the Bible.
In asking us to refrain from calling any man “Father,” our Lord did not expect us to take this literally. What Jesus meant was, don’t accept any person on earth to be your God in Heaven – much as the Romans did with their Emperors. Terms such as “Rabbi, Father, or Master” were, and still are serious titles of respect and indicate specific positions of duty, responsibility, and trust in the Church. Although no formal documentation exists as to exactly when these terms began to be widely used, you can see by the above scriptural quotations that the Apostles were always considered “Fathers” to the Early Church.
Nobody can be forced to use a specific tile when address a priest. However, in the Orthodox mindset, addressing our clergy as “Father” (or a bishop by, “Master”) is not an imposed law, but something that goes far beyond a rule; it is a familial, family-like notion in much the same manner as intimate words or names are often used among people who love each other.  Although we each have a biological father, the priest is likened unto a “Spiritual Father;” one who re-births us into Christ through Holy Baptism. Therefore, out of love and respect, we treat him as such.
Calling the priest “Father” is also not so much a question of respect for the person, but to the clerical rank and ministry to which that person has been called; acknowledging that he has dedicated his entire life to this holy purpose.

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Question:

Who are the Sadducees?

Answer:

The Sadducees were an ultra-liberal, neo-political religious group of Jews who, like many Christians of today, would decidedly pick and choose what they did and didn’t want to believe with regards to their own religion. They stood in direct contrast to the elite, ultra-conservative Pharisees who read, interpreted, and applied the Scriptures quite literally; practicing their faith upon an extreme “letter of the law” basis.
The Sadducees did not believe in angels, the existence of Hell, and denied the Resurrection – all three of which are firmly rooted in Holy Scripture.
One of the most famous incidents concerning the Sadducees occurs when they approach Christ with an excessively intricate question about the resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-40). Although this question was designed to distort, refute, and ridicule Christ’s teaching about life after death, it actually ended up revealing the absurdity of the Sadducees’ own reasoning and inability to comprehend Holy Scripture.
It is somewhat interesting to note that although the Sadducees and Pharisees were polar opposites, they were each united by one common quest: to plot the demise and death Jesus Christ.

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Question:

In the gospels it says that all sin is forgivable except the sin against the Holy Spirit. What does this mean?
Answer:
Although our Lord’s many miracles validated His ministry and teaching, the Pharisees and other temple leaders still attempted to discredit Jesus’ as the Messiah by claiming that He was “casting out demons by the power of Satan.”

Therefore, by such accusations, the Pharisees were indirectly blaspheming against the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus performed His mighty works. This was considered an unforgivable sin because its only purpose was aimed at distorting the truth.

While Jesus performed His ministry and prepared to fulfill the divine plan by sacrificing Himself for our sins, the Pharisees worked themselves into a near frenzy as they tried desperately to equate Christ’s work with demonic activity. In essence, and much like Pharaoh who also hardened his heart out of pride and envy, they knew the truth but actively worked against it. This was not only blasphemous, but their lies served to lead people away from the truth. Therefore this sin, at least in the eyes of God, was something He deemed unforgivable.

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Question:

What is the ‘Judgment Seat?’
Answer:
We hear the expression “judgment seat” used often in both Holy Scripture (“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God” - Romans 14:10) and within the context of the Divine Liturgy itself (“…a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ”).
The Greek word to describe the place occupied by a judge is bema, which literally means, “step.”

Typically the bema was a raised platform, usually with steps leading up to it, with a seat mounted upon it. The bema can also be compared to the landing upon which a king’s throne was stationed, or the judge’s seat in our court rooms of today which, are still generally on a platform and elevated higher than any other chair in the courtroom. 

Pilate sat on a this exact type of seat when he passed judgment upon our Lord, just as every believer must one day stand before the bema of Christ to be judged. The only difference being, Christ’s judgment is not only based upon law, truth, and righteousness, but upon mercy as well: “As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him Who sent Me” (St. John 5:30).
The raised area in front of the Iconostas is known as the bema (or amvon in Russian).

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Question:

In Jesus’ parable of the “Wheat and the Tares,” what are tares? 
Answer:
Quite simply, tares are unwanted weeds and Jesus uses this parable to illustrate how evil (weeds) can exist alongside good (wheat) in the world.
The Greek word used to describe the tares is zizania, which probably refers to darnel seeds – a type of degenerate wheat that is basically a weed. To the untrained eye, however it actually does resemble wheat, especially in its early stages of growth. Later on, as the wheat and tares come to maturity, the differences are quite apparent – causing one to all of a sudden wonder where these weeds came from!

One peculiarity of darnel seed is that it is frequently subject to a parasite fungus that renders it poisonous to both animals and man. Therefore, this parable, as understood by the agricultural society of the day, perhaps had far greater impact than it might upon us. Nonetheless, it stands as a continuous reminder for us to grow in a good place and watch the company we keep.

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Question:

I was reading the Book of Romans when I happened upon this verse: “I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord” (Rom. 16:22). But I thought that St. Paul wrote this epistle. Am I wrong?
Answer:

A: Although St. Paul is the undisputed author of this epistle, the above verse is an interesting addition written by a man named Tertius, who served as the disciple’s secretary or “amanuensis” (assistant). 

Like many of us who have a secretary, Paul apparently liked to dictate his letters –allowing the spirit to move him freely while someone else transcribed what was spoken.  Near the conclusion he would normally pen a small greeting in his own handwriting which served as a token of the letter’s authenticity; but here he allows Tertius to speak for himself and record his own greeting for posterity.

Another reason why St. Paul may have used a secretary was because he suffered a type of eye ailment which forced him to use rather large lettering when he did write; perhaps something akin to John Hancock’s large writing style. Mention of this is made in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” (6:11)

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Question:

I was reading my Bible and came upon this passage. “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Can you explain this for me?
Answer:
A: Jesus utilizes this quotation from the Prophet Hosea (6:6) during a controversy He has with the Pharisees over Sabbath laws. Our Lord wanted to demonstrate how empty the Pharisees’ blind adherence to the letter of the Law actually was and show that this same Law, along with the writings of the Prophets, were intended for something much deeper than mere ritualistic behavior.

So just what was Christ saying? The key word is obviously “mercy.” The original Old Testament word used in this instance is chesed, which is translated as mercy and usually means compassion towards sinners or the action of God withholding His wrath. This word in Hebrew, however, is pregnant with meaning. It is often used to describe the Lord’s favor, yet can also be interpreted as kindness or, more aptly, “loving-kindness.”

Unfortunately, one difficulty we find is a continued narrowing of this word mercy in our translations. It almost seems as if this term is now restricted to a legalistic uses, i.e. specific acts of charitableness and the withholding of punishment. It is evident that the scope and meaning associated to this word was far broader in the past. When Jesus used it, mercy undoubtedly held far greater meaning than what we have limited it to in English.

The Pharisees could not comprehend Hosea’s chastisement any more than they could rightly understand the higher purpose of the Law. Jesus accuses them of extreme hypocrisy: adherence to form while omitting the substance, feigning allegiance to the Lord while practicing idolatry in their hearts. In essence, the Pharisees tried to do the right thing, but without an iota of love in their hearts.

Christ intimates that the Pharisees were not pleasing God by their rituals and sacrifices because they held no real mercy or compassion for their fellow man. The Pharisees remained highly critical and judgmental towards the failures of others and had no consideration for the weak. They thought themselves holier than everyone else, which in God’s eyes is a detestable trait.
The above verse you inquired about correlates directly to the higher gospel message of love: “A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (St. John 13:34);  something we each should practice during this Advent season. 
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Question:

Why did Christ keep silent before Pilate?
Answer:
In the Gospel of St. Mark it states, “But He kept silent and answered nothing” (14:61). In answering nothing, Christ show His meekness and humility; His total obedience to the Father – following the will of God in all things. In answering nothing, Christ also fulfills what the Prophet Isaiah foretold: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment he was taken away…he makes himself an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:7-8, 10).
One might even say that Jesus remains silent in order to preserve His own integrity; refusing to dignify the mock proceedings and false accusations. Any attempt to protest or extol the truth to this seething mob would have been futile and gone unheard. And besides, as a famous Renaissance poet once wrote, “The dignity of truth is lost with much protesting. Calumnies are answered best with silence.”
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Question:

What is the difference between a Disciple and an Apostle?
Answer:
The word Disciple in Greek literally means “one who is being taught” or “one who is learning.” The word Apostle (Apostolos) on the other hand means “one who is sent.” Therefore, those who were once taught are now being sent into the world to teach
others what they have learned. This is what is meant by the term “apostolic,” which is found within our Creed and is an important element to our theology, ethos, and stewardship. This is also why we celebrate with such enthusiasm the Feast of Pentecost, which reminds us of this all-sacred ministry: “Just as the Father sent Me, so I am going to send you.” (John 20:21)

Each and every member of Christ’s Church has the exacting duty to be both a disciple and an apostle to the Word of God. We must continuously learn and be taught about our Faith so that we can rightly go forth and proclaim it with truth, wisdom, and above all –conviction; drawing others to the Gospel by our own commitment and example.
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Question:

“The Bible tells us to ‘beware of false prophets.’ What exactly is meant by “false prophets” and how would we know they are false?”
Answer:
On numerous occasions Jesus warned us about the many false prophets and false messiahs that were prevalent during His time on earth and in the times to follow:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (St. Matthew 7:15); “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (St. Mark 13:22).
Basically what is meant by false prophet is anyone who claims to be “of God” when they are not: people whose aim it is to deceive true seekers as a means to gain glory, riches, power, and fame.
There were, and continue to be, many who identify themselves as men (and women) of God, but who have plied their ministry as a means to gain control over others physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. These are the ones we tend to find out about, yet many often times only too late and after the fact. These are those who plundered their ministry’s finances, lived extravagantly on other’s wealth, performed immoral sexual acts with their parish members or member’s children, and who entered into their ministry with an ulterior or underlying motive.
The Old Testament provides a tradition about how one can tell a true prophet from a false one. A “three criteria test” was employed and we can probably still use this same method today.
1). A true prophet of God was generally somebody who does not bring good news. They are sent to express God’s anger and call for people to change their ways – often far outside their so called “comfort zone.” Although their message is not always well-received or pleasing to men’s ears, real prophets didn’t enjoy delivering God’s word either. In fact, many of them initially refused or tried to get out of this duty before they actually took up the mantle (read the story of Jonah).
2) Another test of a true prophet is that he is usually hurt by his calling. He suffers for being a prophet. He doesn’t profit or benefit from it; he doesn’t make lots of money from being a prophet. He doesn’t become rich and famous. Think of this the next time you read about those television evangelists with $5,000 suits and multimillion dollar homes with solid gold plumbing fixtures!
3). A third test of a true prophet is that he challenges us rather than makes us feel good about ourselves. A real prophet makes us go outside our comfort zone. The false prophet is somebody who simply tells us what we want to hear; that we’re great the way we are.
However, perhaps the best means of identifying a false prophet comes from the ominous word spoken by our Lord: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree can not bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (St. Matthew 7:16-18)
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Question:

What does St. Paul mean by the expression “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1st Cor.16:20). Are we supposed to kiss one another every time we meet?
Answer:
In the Middle Eastern culture at the time of Christ, a kiss was not only seen a gesture of love and friendship, but was also a way to pay homage to someone; as when the Prophet Samuel kissed Saul after he anointed him the first king of Israel (1st Samuel 10:1).
Kissing on the lips certainly expresses erotic attraction between lovers (“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” Song of Solomon 1:2), but it need not always carry sexual overtones. Relatives and friends routinely kissed one another on the mouth upon greeting or parting (Genesis 29:13), yet it might also signify forgiveness and reconciliation, as when the Prodigal Son returned home and his father “ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (St. Luke 15:20).
Kissing the hands or feet of a spiritual leader or teacher was seen as a sign of respect or reverence, while Judas’ kiss proved to be a tool of deception and betrayal (St. Mark 14:45). Still, the early Christians maintained this gesture to signify the familial atmosphere and love which filled their communities. It was even incorporated into our liturgical worship as the “Kiss of Peace,” exchanged amongst the clergy just prior to the recitation of the Creed.
Years of Christian practice ultimately helped weave this special kiss into the very fiber of Middle Eastern, Greek, and Eastern European cultures. To this day the custom among the Middle East and Greek world is to greet one another with a kiss on each cheek, while the Slavs kiss each other three times.
In our culture, however, since Americans tend to be less demonstrative with regards to outward signs of emotion and affection, this action is often reduced to or reserved for the festal seasons of Pascha and Christmas when we greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” and “Christ is Born!” 
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Question:

Which is preferable to enhancing ones spiritual life: prayer or reading Scripture?
Answer:
f your question is designed to find out which one of these choices is “greater” or more profitable to ones spirituality, I’m afraid that I cannot answer your question adequately. Choosing one above the other would be a type of “Catch 22,” because both aspects are equally as important to ones spiritual life. However, I can say that the dynamic of personal and corporate prayer is specifically designed to cultivate a desire to read and study Holy Scripture, and vice versa. In fact, one might even go as far to say that reading and reflecting upon the Word of God is in and of itself a form of prayer. So in the end there can be no choice: each is vital and must be practiced!
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Question:

What is meant by the term “High Priest?”
Answer:
In Hebrew tradition, the High Priest held the greatest authority over the temple priests and was the only one allowed to perform the holiest and most sacred rite of the year. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest would enter the most sacred room in the Temple – the Holy of Holies – and sprinkle the Ark of the Covenant with goat’s blood to atone for the sins of Israel.
The High Priest was an elected, life-time position reserved only for first-born descendents of Zadok – a descendent of Aaron – and a priest from when Solomon built the first Temple.
Like other priests, the High Priest had to be free from physical defects, but was held to a much stricter standard of ritualistic purity. He could not touch corpses, rend his clothing in grief, or touch impure things. His garments also set him apart from the other priests because, besides wearing the traditional white robes, he also wore a blue outer robe fringed with golden bells, a breastplate with stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, and a ceremonial headpiece with a golden band.
In modern parlance we might refer to the High Priest of the Jewish tradition as an equivalent to the bishops of the Christian Church – like St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, in Lycia who we commemorate on December 6th. Even the ancient trappings of the High Priest’s vesture seem to correspond to the Mantiya, Panagia, and Mitre, which are still worn by our bishops to this day.
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Question:

Why on the Sunday before Christmas do we read all those names telling who was the father of who?
Answer:
To many people, the names found in that gospel lesson might seem about as interesting as reading from a telephone book. Yet, if we give these figures their due attention, we discover that they are much more than just a laundry list of names, they are each integral to the birth of the Messiah.

Two different genealogies (family trees) of Jesus exist in the Gospels: one by St. Matthew and another by St. Luke. Because he is writing primarily to a Jewish audience, Matthew's gospel presents the genealogy of Joseph, beginning with Abraham and moving forward to Jesus (father to son), while Luke, who is trying to appeal to a wider range of readers, gives us the genealogy of Mary, beginning with Jesus and moving backward to Adam (son to father) – proving Christ's link with Adam, the first man.

Though each written from distinct perspectives, the most important aspect to remember is that both family trees trace the ancestry of Jesus through King David; hence Jesus is in fact the heir apparent to the title "King of the Jews" via both sides of His family. According to Messianic Tradition, without this significant link, Jesus would not have qualified as a "son of David" and thus, could not have been the "Christ." Therefore, Jesus' ancestral lineage proves His legal right to inherit and ascend David's throne as the Messiah!
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Question:

My favorite parable is the Prodigal Son, but what does the word "prodigal" actually mean?
Answer:
The term "prodigal" is derived from the Latin word prodigus, meaning "wasteful," and refers to the fact that the younger son in this parable squandered his inheritance, as well as his good character, on loose living. It should be noted that when Christ told His parables, He did not title them. Such designations were assigned at a much later date by those who, undoubtedly were retelling the stories and/or copying the gospels. The reason why this story is affectionately known as the "Prodigal Son" is that, when St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin from Greek (4th century), he titled the story "Filius Prodigus."
In the Eastern Tradition, however, a different title is used. In Church Slavonic (which is much closer to the original Greek in translation) this parable is known as "Bludniya Sin." The word "bludniya" translates as "dissolute," meaning "loose, unrestrained, immoral, debauchee." Thus, a much greater emphasis is placed on the younger son's dubious decision to align with such sinful, immoral behavior as opposed to simply squandering an inheritance.
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Question:

What is a Publican?
Answer:
The word itself derives from the Latin term "publicani" and denotes someone, who subcontracted with the Roman government to collect taxes for them. In essence, publicans and tax-collectors are synonymous.
Because publicans aligned themselves with a heathen government, tended to be corrupt, were worldly-minded, and maliciously squeezed all they could get from the people, they were generally despised and ostracized by the Jews. Jesus, however, interacted quite frequently with publicans, choosing Levi (Matthew) to be one of His disciples (Matthew 9:9-13) and dinning in the home of Zacchaeus – a "chief tax collector" (Luke 19:1-10). Our Lord also utilized the widely perceived dichotomy between Publicans and Pharisees to drive home a very powerful point
about pride, prayer, and repentance (Luke 18:9-14).
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Question:

What does the word "Hosanna" mean?
Answer:
The word itself is derived from the Hebrew phrase "hoshi'a na," which
literally translates as "save now." It was spoken by the Jews as a type
of prayerful supplication or appeal unto God, imploring Him to send them
their Savior (i.e. the Messiah). Because of its repetitive use within
Jewish liturgical worship, over time, the phrase hoshi’a na eventually
became abbreviated into a single word: Hosanna!

This phrase was shouted by the faithful as Jesus made His Triumphal
Entry into Jerusalem ("Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of
the Lord!" St. Mark 11:9) and is still used within every Divine Liturgy
during the Anaphora.
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Question:

Periodically we hear about “lawyers” in the New Testament. Are these lawyers similar to those we have today? And if not, what did they do?
Answer:
The terms lawyer and scribe are generally viewed as being interchangeable within the New Testament. These were educated, literate men who not only studied the Word, Wisdom, and Law of God, but were also responsible for defining and applying this Law within the religious community. They often settled minor religious disputes, wrote letters and documents, and were charged with the all-important task of copying the scriptures. The word for a scribe in Hebrew literally means, “man of letters.”

Scribes were seen as leaders in the Temple and commanded respect because of their learning. They, too, were often called “rabbi” (teacher) by the people, but were not actually part of the priestly order.

The Scribes, along with the Pharisees and Sadducees, were outwardly opposed to Jesus because He often exposed their hard-heartedness and petulant nature in “lording” their learning over the people. They also play a big role in the plot to condemn and crucify Christ.
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Question:

What is a "hair shirt?"

Answer:
A hair shirt is a coarse garment that is generally made from the hide 
of an animal and worn so that the "hair" of that animal rides against 
the skin. The purpose of a hair shirt was not merely intended to be 
clothing, but was actually meant to create a kind of constant discomfort 
or irritation ("itchiness") to the wearer; because wearing a hair shirt 
was usually viewed as being a type of self-imposed penitence for sins 
and wrongdoings. The most common hair shirts were made from camel or 
goat skins and according to the gospels St. John the Baptist wore one: 
"Now John was clothed in camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around 
his waist." (Mark 1:6)

Sackcloth is often equated with hair shirts because these also were a 
type of coarse, shirt-like garment. However, instead of being made from 
animal skins, sackcloth was simply woven from the hair of camels or 
goats and very much resembled burlap. It, too, was meant to create 
discomfort to the wearer. There are numerous references to sackcloth 
through the Old and New Testament writings, and sackcloth garments were 
generally worn in times of mourning or as an act of penance.
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Question:

Does it matter which translation of the Bible we read?
Answer:
This is a very good question and, yes, it does matter which 
translation you read! As an Orthodox Christian, the ideal Bible 
translation would be the Orthodox Study Bible; especially with its many 
notations, explanations, and study aids which were designed to help us 
grow and mature in the Faith.

Perhaps the next best translation would be to use a Revised Standard 
Version of the Bible (RSV) because the language and sentence structures 
are quite readable and easy to understand. In fact, I still use my same 
faithful copy of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (which is also RSV) as I 
did in my seminary days.

In the end, however, one should read a translation of the Bible that 
they can fully understand, relate to, and be "comfortable" with. In 
other words, although the King James' version was a venerable attempt at 
translating the Bible into English and had a major impact upon our 
world, it is now thought of as something of a cultural and literary 
artifact and difficult to read.
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Question:

In reading the Psalms I've often come across the word "Selah." What does this word mean?
Answer:
The word "Selah" is of Hebrew origin, but its exact meaning has been lost to history. It occurs seventy-three times in the Book of Psalms and is also found in the prophecy of Habakkuk. Many biblical scholars believe it to be a liturgical notation meaning to pause or to reflect on the words we have just read or recited. While other scholars believe it to simply be a musical cue informing the cantor or director to either
sing that verse with greater emphasis or to sing a refrain after it, such as "Alleluia." However, despite our best guesses, the actual meaning of this word remains a mystery.
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Question:

What is a Concordance?
Answer:
A Concordance is a type of reference book that has all of the words 
and phrases of the Bible listed in alphabetical order – as well as 
showing their corresponding book, chapter, and verse numbers each time 
they are mentioned. A concordance is a useful study tool, especially 
when trying to look up a particular quotation or in researching a 
specific topic. For instance, if you wanted to find every reference to 
"incense" in the Bible or where the verse "A New Commandment I give to 
you, that you love one another as I have loved you" comes from, all you 
would need to do is look up the key words: incense, new, commandment, 
love, or one.
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Question:

My mom was driving me to school and a song came on the radio which 
she said was made up from verses of the Bible. I don't remember the name 
of the song, but is this true? Is there really a rock song that contains 
lyrics from the Bible?
Answer:
There are undoubtedly many songs which have utilized biblical verses 
within their lyrics, yet the song you are most likely referring to is 
"Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There is a Season)" by a group called 
the Byrds. All of the lyrics to this song (with the exception of, "Turn, 
turn, turn" and the very last verse, "I swear it's not too late") are 
taken directly from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, 
verses one through eight.



Folk singer Pete Seeger originally set these verses to music in 1959 and 
recorded it as an acoustic piece. He added the, "Turn, turn, turn" 
chorus to emphasis how time and seasons change as the earth constantly 
rotates and the, "I swear it’s not to late" in part to offer hope amidst 
the threat of nuclear annihilation during the height of the Cold War. 
Then, with the popularity of the Beatles and the so-called British 
Invasion, the American folk-rock group The Byrds, recorded and released 
an electric version of this song in 1965 which rocketed to number one on 
the music billboard charts.



Interestingly, since the Book of Ecclesiastes is thought to have been 
written by King Solomon about one thousand years before Christ, it makes 
this song to be the only hit single with lyrics that old!
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Question:

Matthew 5:41 says, "...and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Can you explain what this means?
Answer:
During the time of Roman occupation, soldiers were permitted to 
compel any passersby to carry their armor and belongings for up to one 
mile. Although a welcome perk for the soldier, it was nonetheless 
demoralizing to the Jews who considered it a type of degradation. To 
remedy the situation, Christ offers up a simple solution: if forced to 
go one mile, joyfully go two! Therefore, by offering to go the 
proverbial extra mile, Jewish character is restored as they diminish 
Rome's dominance.
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Question:

I've often heard the expression that someone's as old as "Methuselah." Who was Methuselah and exactly how old was he?
Answer:
Precious little is written about Methuselah in the Bible, but we do 
know that he was the son of Mehujael and, according to the Old 
Testament, lived to the ripe old age of 969 years (although we are not 
quite sure what exactly constituted the measurement of years at that 
time). Because of this, Methuselah's claim to fame is that he is the 
oldest person in the Bible, and is therefore the proverbial symbol of 
longevity. Interestingly, at the age of 187, he had his first son, 
Lamech, who was the father of Noah. Methuselah also had many other 
children during his long life. You can read about Methuselah in the Book 
of Genesis (4:18; 5:21-27) and in 1st Chronicles (1:3).
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Question:

Are the constellations ever mentioned in the Bible?

Answer:

Yes... the Book of Genesis tells us that God created the sun, moon, 
stars, and planets on the fourth day of creation and that they were 
given by God as signs to help man mark the seasons (time). And although 
the Bible makes no mention of when these stars and/or groups of stars 
(constellations) were actually named by man, the Bible does make 
specific reference to some of them. For instance, the constellations 
Orion, Big Dipper (the Bear - Ursa Major), and the Pleiades are 
mentioned twice in the Book of Job (9:9; 38:31-32), the Morning Star 
(the planet Venus) is prominent in Psalm 110 and in Paul's Epistle to 
the Hebrews, and most astronomers agree that the beacon which led the 
Three Wise Men to Bethlehem was not actually a "star," but a rare 
occurrence of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction.

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Question:

Who are the Major and Minor Prophets?

Answer:

A prophet is someone utilized by God and designated by Him to be a 
type of spokesperson to "utter forth" His word. Although there are 
numerous men and women who are recognized as prophets (Abraham, Sarah, 
Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Nathan, David, Solomon, Job, Elijah, Elisha, 
Jesse, John the Forerunner, etc.), the Old Testament contains 16 
prophetic books that are traditionally divided into two categories: the 
so-called "Major and Minor Prophets." The Major Prophets are said to be 
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, while the [Twelve] Minor Prophets 
are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, 
Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Orthodox Church, however, 
recognizes the Books of Lamentations, Psalms, and Job as being major 
prophetic works, as well.



Some prophets are called major because their books are longer and the 
content is considered more important. In turn, the others are regarded 
as being minor because their books are shorter and the content is less 
vital. Still, despite such an oversimplification, this two-fold 
distinction was never meant to convey or imply that the messages of the 
Minor Prophets are any less inspired by God than those of the Major 
Prophets. It is simply a matter of God choosing to reveal more 
information through the Major Prophets than He does with the Minor ones.

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Question:

I know that Lucifer is the name of the angel who rebelled against God 
and was cast out of Heaven, but why do we call him "Satan" and/or the 
"Devil?"

Answer:

Just as the Christian Church utilizes various names and/or euphemisms 
to refer to Jesus (Christ, Lord, Truth, Light, Living Water, Door, Vine, 
Bread of Life, Lamb of God, Son of God, Good Shepherd, etc), Lucifer 
also has a number of names ascribed to him by man. Devil comes from the 
Greek word diabolos, which means "slanderer." Satan derives from ancient 
Hebrew and means "enemy" or "adversary." Evil One come from ancient 
Greek and denotes "wickedness, sin, and depravity." And Beelzebub also 
comes from Hebrew and translates as "Lord of flies."

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Regarding Other Faiths and Religions (top)

Question:

There is a new television reality show about a Mormon man who is married to four women. They back up their life-style Biblically claiming that historic figures from Scripture had more than one wife. For instance, Abraham had two wives and so did Jacob; and didn’t King David and Solomon have many wives? If the Church teaches that we are only to be married to one person, yet believe that the Bible is also divinely inspired and “true,” why did God allow those persons to have more than one wife?
Answer:
First of all, this reminds me of a joke: “There once was a man who thought about becoming a polygamist, but then he got married.”
The Bible certainly does contain the eternal “truths” and good news needed for our salvation but, it is also a historical document set within the time frame of its compilation. Therefore, as such a document, it contains the reality of human frailty and sinfulness within its pages also; a case in point being when Abraham and Joseph took multiple wives.

We know that God created the marital relationship to be a very sacred, spiritual union and intended for one man to wed one woman – the two being joined into one flesh. However, because of sinfulness and/or the cultural “excuses” of needing to propagate large families in order to survive, those same God-fearing Patriarchs of the Old Testament ended up taking multiple partners and concubines out of what they thought was, pure necessity.

The word POLYGAMY comes to us from the Greek words “poly” and “gamous,” literally meaning, “many marriages.” Bigamy also comes from the Greek and means, 
“two marriages” or “to be married to two spouses at the same time.”

Concubines on the other hand were not considered to be marriages, but in the truest sense of the word (concubine in Latin means “to lay with”) were simply “baby makers” used to propagate a family or tribe.

Obviously this goes against everything God ordained for us, but it still happened; and because the Bible reports these facts as the Book of Genesis unfolds, yet says precious little against such activity, some people through history have concluded that this was a
natural progression that was “sanctioned” by God. This is why the Muslims, the Mormons, and various fringe cults have, and do, practice polygamy.

However, they also then tend to ignore God’s “corrective” influx in other parts of Scripture. Taking into account King Solomon’s excesses, in Deuteronomy the Old Testament laws forbid kings to take multiple wives (17:17). The Prophet Hosea
utilized the concept of monogamy as a symbol of a good and faithful union between God and His people. During his time, the Prophet Malachi seems to have taken monogamy for granted in his writings (2:14 ff), and even the Book of Genesis tells us that Abraham did
what he did (i.e. using a slave to bear children) because he lacked faith and did not trust God (Gen. 16:1-3). Perhaps this is just one reason why God decided to put Abraham to the ultimate test of faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac!

The “ideal woman” spoken of within the Book of Proverbs, chapter 31, is obviously well within the confines of a monogamous relationship.

When Jesus Christ walked amongst us, He reiterated the God-given ideal of a one man/one woman marital relationship through the Wedding in Cana, with His encounter with the Samaritan Woman by the well, and in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins who were awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom as he came at Midnight.

And for those who make the argument that it is alright because personages like King David did it totally forget that he killed a man to obtain his wife. Is that then OK also? Of course not!
So you see, when we simply pick and choose from the Bible what we wish to accept or believe, it is not God’s Word that we believe in, but ourselves.
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Question:

What was the role of the priest during Old Testament times?
Answer:
Actually, the answer is not that far off from what it is today. The priest’s main duty was to act as an intermediary between God and man. During the time of the Old Testament, their main focus was upon the offering of sacrifices which, were intended to restore the personal relationship between God and the individual; re-establishing the 
threatened covenant between God and His people. Priests received gifts, made offerings, manipulated blood, and led the people in their required ritual. As St. Paul writes in the Book of Hebrews, they were “mediators” (9:15).
The role of the priesthood also included teaching. Priests ensured that the correct ritual was being observed and interpreted for the people what God was saying to them through Scripture, sacramental worship, and with the celebration of feasts. They taught that sacrifices were viewed as acts of repentance, showing a new commitment to obedience.

As well as being teachers the priests were expected to live an exemplary life within the community, scrupulously observing the law they were ordained to uphold. They were to maintain a separation and holiness which reflected God Himself, into Whose near presence they so often came.
In offering the sacrifices the priests were regarded as both representing Israel, standing before God on behalf of His people, and making the offering while the rest of the congregation acknowledged what was being done in their name. In their representative capacity before God, the priests’ duty was to make intercession for those whose 
sacrifices they offered.
Interestingly enough, when priests failed in their above-listed capacity to teach and live righteously, God’s failsafe was to call forth prophets to chastise and bring the people back to God.
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Question:

In today’s day and age it seems that the Orthodox Christian Faith is the only church which actually challenges its faithful. Other denominations don’t go through the rigors of fasting, extra services, etc, so why should we?
Answer:
When a mountain climber, after hanging on ropes over steep and treacherous cliffs and dangerous crevices for days or weeks on end, finally reaches the summit of the highest mountain peak, he automatically becomes an heroic figure; people admire his courage, determination, and endurance.
Yet what about the man who gets to the top of the same mountain by means of an electric lift system? No one admires someone who simply pushes a button to get to the top.
Mankind traditionally respects and admires only great and extraordinary works of effort; feats which require willpower, determination, extreme courage, endurance, as well as great mental and physical sacrifices. We have little to no respect for anything made easy. And given how we have come to define sainthood, I guess that goes for spirituality as well.
Unfortunately we live in an “arm chair” society. We have grown lazy and are constantly searching for short cuts in all areas of life – including how we practice the Christian Faith. Because people often feel that the old road to heaven is far too rough and way too narrow, they seek after much easier routes – ones that might seem easier by appearing wider, smoother, and perhaps even shorter.
Have we forgotten that our Lord specifically instructed us to take only the narrow path because the wide road leads to destruction? Christ, too, fasted, attended services often, read Holy Scripture, and practiced self-discipline – even unto accepting His Father’s will and carrying His own cross to Golgotha!
Keep in mind the ending verses of Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Staying upon the “road less traveled” might seem harder and more difficult, but since this is the same road traveled by our Lord and all His Saints, think of the good company you’ll be in keeping with!
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Question:

Why are non-Orthodox Christians unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church?
Answer:
According to the earliest teachings of the Church, the Eucharist (Holy Communion) can only be administered to those who are Baptized and Chrismated into the Faith. A second century writing known as the Didache instructed believers to “let no one eat or drink from your Eucharist except those who are baptized in the Lord's Name.” In fact, so protective were the early Christians that, there were even restrictions implemented which prevented non-believers from entering churches or attending services.
Then why are those of other Christian denominations not allowed to receive? In the historic understanding of the Church, Holy Communion has always been understood as the goal, the climax and expression of our unity in Christ, the celebration of holding a common belief or “truth.”
Since there are now over 25,000 denominations worldwide, almost each one has a differing view of God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the relationship of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the Orthodox Church does not consider it sufficient to simply express a belief in God, but more importantly a correct belief in order to be admitted to the sacrament.
(Note: by the term “correct” we mean the exact Faith as it has been handed down to us through time – unwavering, adulterated, and unchanged. Remember, many heretics believe in Jesus. Arius, the fourth century heretic, believed in Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons believe in Jesus. Hindus believe in Jesus. But none of these individuals or groups believes in the One Lord Jesus Christ known and proclaimed by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is why we refer to ourselves as the Orthodox Church: ortho, meaning straight or correct; doxos, meaning worship or belief, i.e. “correct belief.”)
Therefore, the practice of restricting who, may or may not receive Holy Communion is not done for triumphalistic reasons (i.e. “we’re better than you”), but for the very important and theological reason of preserving the Truth. In doing so, we follow the most ancient practice of the Church and set forth by the Apostles.
Unfortunately, in our pluralistic American culture, many are tempted to object to anything that excludes others. We are often led to believe that all faiths are equal in their claims and that one denomination is as good as another to the average American (the so call, “I’m OK, you’re OK” syndrome). Yet, if someone started proclaiming that 2+2=5, would you say they’re correct simply because it’s their right to believe such?
The Orthodox Church is NOT just one more Christian “denomination,” but the continuation of the actual original Church as was instituted by our Lord. We have remained unchanged and retained what Jesus Christ and the Fathers of the Church have given us. This Faith, this belief, and this doctrine are what we also celebrate and participate in as we receive Holy Communion.
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Question:

Concerning the recent controversy regarding one of the Republican candidates for president, does the Orthodox Church regard Mormons as Christians?
Answer:
This is a somewhat difficult question to answer given the syncretistic nature of our society. Although Mormons acknowledge Jesus as a son of God, they do not believe in Him as THE Son of God the way we do; in fact, it is only even recently that the Church of Later-Day Saints has begun using the term “Christian” when describing themselves.
Because Mormons do not profess Christ and the Holy Trinity in the same way that the early Church did; because they have reinterpreted both the Old and New Testament to fit their own belief system; because they have forsaken the teachings of the Apostles, Church Fathers, and Nicean Creed; and because they have a whole other book of so-called scripture other than the Bible, the Church of Later-Day Saints can not be truly termed a Christian Church. The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church both agree that the Mormons are apostates (heretics) and are more of a cult than anything else.
Now this is not to say that Mormons are not moral, nice, or even decent people. They just do not have the true profession of faith as to who Jesus Christ actually is and are thus, far outside the Communion of the Christian Faith.
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Question:

I heard that those Amish men who were arrested for shaving off the beards of others did so because it had something to do with the Bible. Is this true?
Answer:
During biblical times a beard was considered to be a handsome feature and a sign of stature. In the Book of Leviticus, God orders the Israelites not to “mare the edges of their beards” (Lev. 19:27) and instructs Aaron and the priests to be especially careful to protect and not shave or trim their beards (Lev. 21:5). This is perhaps one of the main reasons why so many Orthodox Jewish rabbis and Orthodox Christian priests continue to wear beards. However, forcibly shaving someone else’s beard was often preformed as a means of humiliation (2nd Samuel 10:4-5), while shaving your own face might symbolize grief, mourning, or be a harbinger of doom and destruction, as found in Ezekiel 5:1. So although it was certainly wrong of them to do so – yes, there was a biblical correlation to their actions.
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Question:

Can non-Christians such as Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims attain 
salvation?
Answer:
Although Jesus Christ is the definite "Way" leading to salvation and 
the "Door" by which we gain entrance, in the end, the final decision as 
to who does or doesn't enter Heaven is still ultimately up to God. That 
being said, practicing the Christian Faith is obviously the ideal means 
towards reaching this goal. However, we must also confess that as He is 
the One Who proclaims Judgment, God will save whom He wills in 
accordance to each person's own unique situation, understanding, 
actions, and whether or not they showed love towards others.
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Question:

Can a Roman Catholic priest or Lutheran pastor serve at an Orthodox funeral?
Answer:
According to the Guidelines of the OCA, "Non-Orthodox clergy may not 
be invited to participate or offer any form of homily or public 
statement in the temple, or participate in the graveside service. The 
officiating priest, however, cannot control what takes place after the 
Orthodox service of burial has been concluded in a public cemetery."
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Services of the Church (top)

Question:

Why is it not appropriate to come to the Sacrament of Confession on Sunday mornings before Divine Liturgy?
Answer:
Coming to Confession on Sunday morning prior to liturgy has never been the ideal stressed for in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, in this country and in our time, we have slowly eroded the practice of our Faith into little more than worshiping Christ at one service a week; a type of Sunday obligation, as it were. Therefore, since this is the only day most of us attend services, by concession, we have a natural desire to cram and fit everything into it (Confession, Parastas, Moleiben) as a form of convenience.
Although the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) can theoretically be administered any particular time of day or week, Holy Tradition teaches us that it is most effective when practiced in conjunction with evening worship; especially upon the eve of a Eucharistic celebration. By participating in Great Vespers – a service whose very theme centers on the “Creation, Fall, and Redemption” of the world – our heart is allowed to be softened by its prayers, Psalms, and other hymnography; thus making for a more heartfelt and contrite confession experience. And by coming the evening before, more time and attention can be afforded you by the priest – also making this sacrament a much more conclusive and meaningful event. Therefore, Confession should not be looked upon merely as something we simply try to fit in at the last minute and get through, rather it is the extremely important and pious action which should be prepared and planned for well in advance with great meditation.
On another level, coming to Confession on Sunday morning without a good reason (e.g. you are unable to drive and/or must rely on others to bring you to church) is also a burden upon the priest who is trying to prepare to serve liturgy. To put this into practical terms you might more readily understand, it is akin to a child who brings you their clothing at the last minute, just before you’re supposed to leave for a family wedding, and saying, “Mom, can you sew on a button and press this for me?”
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Question:

What is the proper way to enter the church? I see a lot of people doing a lot of different things. What should we actually do?
Answer:
First let me say that this is a really good question because in orthodox worship there is a freedom that exists which allows for personal reverence, expression, and spontaneity which often accounts for varying practices.  There is really no exact right or wrong way to enter the church, but there is a basic principle and guideline to be followed. Our parish temple is indeed a holy place; it is like no other place on earth. Because of this we must enter it “in the fear of God and with faith” as we proclaim during our Divine Liturgy. We should also be spiritually prepared to enter the church: meaning that we must be at peace with those around us and have the sole intent of giving this time to God in prayer. This is part of our stewardship to God – a sacrifice of our time.
Traditionally when one comes through the doors into the vestibule or narthex, they should immediately bless themselves by making the sign of the cross. Hanging up coats, talking with friends, and buying candles, is of secondary importance.
Then, when one is ready to enter into the nave or body of the temple, they must end all conversations, calm their emotions, and lay aside all earthly cares. This is now God’s time, not our own.
Walking in, you should immediately make the sign of the cross and be aware that this is the place where our Lord abides. You should again bless yourself and venerate the icons displayed on the icon stands (analoi) in the back.
One should never sit down until they have venerated the icon which is upon the center table (tetrpod) at the front of the aisle. This particular icon will either depict the patron saint of the parish or the particular feast or festal season we happen to be celebrating.
After venerating this icon, proceed around to the right and venerate the icon of the Christ. Move across to the icon of the Theotokos by stopping to bless yourself and bow towards the Holy Altar.
Because we have four reliquaries, it is the pious custom to also venerate these – paying respect to the relics of these saints.  In order to effectively accomplish this, one might venerate the two relics on the south side after venerating the icon of Christ, and the two on the north side after venerating the icon of the Blessed Virgin.
At this point candles may be lit and then one is fully ready to go to their accustomed spot to prepare inwardly for the Divine Services through prayer.
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Question:

Are we supposed to fold our arms when we come to Communion, and if so, why? I see some people who do, and some people who don’t? What is proper?
Answer:
There is a longstanding tradition in the Church of having the faithful fold or “cross” their arms over the chest as they approach the chalice to receive Holy Communion. This was originally instituted as a means to prevent anyone from doing anything with their arms which, might bump, jar, or disturb the chalice and spoon as the priest distributes the Eucharist. 
Folding one’s arms right over left on the chest helps remedy the chance of any accident and is also a gesture of humility before God; much like the sinful Publican in the parable who beat his breast and asked for God’s mercy or the angels who fold their “wings” as they bow in prayer.
Everyone should practice extra caution by not attempting to bless themselves too closely to the chalice – either before or after receiving Holy Communion – as this might also upset the chalice. If you are holding a small child or lifting a toddler up, be careful to hold their arms and legs tightly so they do no flail them and present a hazard.
Our motto regarding the chalice and the precious Sacrament contained therein should always be: “To Protect and Preserve!”
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Question:

Can anyone force a priest to reveal sins told to him during Confession?
Answer:
Although countless novels and many movies such as “A Prayer for the Dying” and Hitchcock’s classic, “I Confess,” have dealt specifically with this exact same issue, in the end, the basic answer to your question is “NO;” no priest can be compelled to reveal a penitent’s confession. Within the Sacrament of Repentance there exists a “seal” between you, God, and your Spiritual Father. There are no exceptions, nor can there be, to this fact.
Always keep in mind that each confession is made directly to God, for only He, alone, can forgive and remit sins. The priest’s role within this sacred and solemn process is to stand alongside the penitent to bear witness to this event; providing moral support and spiritual guidance necessary to restore us to God’s great and immeasurable love. Then, after the penitent has freely and honestly confessed their sins, and having promised to mend their ways, the priest places his stole (epitrachelion) upon their head and reads the prayer of absolution which, through God’s sacramental presence and ever-flowing mercy, takes away the heavy burden, guilt, and shame of those sins.
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Question:

How late is 'too late' to get to Church for Divine Liturgy in order to receive Communion?
Answer:
In all honesty, let me first state that your question, as worded, is very misleading. It is presented in such a way as to almost condone the fact that being late, in itself, is OK. As Orthodox Christians it is each parishioner’s obligation to make certain that they are in their pews before services begin. This is even alluded to by the fact that the word liturgy actually means the “common work” or “common action” of God’s people. Therefore we must ask ourselves, how can it be a common action if half of those who come are not present when we begin?
Being a realist, however, I understand there are always situations to arise which will make us late for services – most notably, the traffic lights and traffic just around the corner from our parish! Yet, being repeatedly late to services (or worse yet: routinely late) is a sign of great disrespect before God and shows a general lack of humility. In other words, it’s like telling our Lord and Master, “I don’t mind giving you my time, but I’ll show up when I’m darned good and ready, and not before!”
Besides being disrespectful and rude, it is also somewhat presumptuous – perhaps even prideful, to assume that you can just saunter in whenever you feel like it and “join in” with those who are already worshiping; not to mention that this can be very distracting.
With all this said, and to answer your initial question, the general rule is that everyone should be in church on time! However, by a means of concession, if you are not already in church prior to the singing of the Trisagion prayer (“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!”), you should not dare to approach the chalice that day.
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Question:

In our services I often hear the phrase “oneness of mind,” yet how is it possible for believers to be of the same mind? How can we think alike? How can we be unanimous? How can we be in total agreement?
Answer:
Oneness of mind or “like-mindedness,” obviously means to be thinking the same thing, to be in agreement, to be unanimous in thought (from “unun” – one, and “animus” – mind). The New Testament constantly exhorts believers to be of one mind (Philippians 2:2), to be in agreement (2 Corinthians 13:11), and to live in harmony (Romans 12:16).
Perhaps the basic answer to your question can found in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans as he proclaims that all of us should live “in accord with Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5)
When it comes to linear measurement, there needs to be a standard. Could we ever know the length of something if everyone decided for themselves how many inches are in a foot? We might all have our own ideas about measurements, but thankfully there is an exact standard so that all of us can be in agreement as to the length of an inch, a foot and a yard. These standards are set by the National Bureau of Standards in Washington DC. However, when it comes to how we, as Christians, should think and act, Jesus Christ, Himself, is our Standard. If we are to be of one mind, then we must have His mind. Our way of thinking must line up with Christ's way of thought; and His thinking is revealed to us in God’s Word.
All Christians, therefore, must agree with Christ. If I disagree with Christ or if you disagree with Christ or if we both disagree with Christ, then we are not of one mind; and what value is there if we agree with each other, but disagree with God’s standard? Therefore, Christ’s Church must make every effort to align with Jesus and His Word. We must love what He loves, hate what He hates, and think as He thinks. In the days of the Early Church, a believer would have been completely out of place if he were not in agreement with Christ and His Word; should this be any different today? Did the Gospel change? Does Christ change? Of course not!
Even though we are many, we are to be as ONE BODY. Even though we have many minds, we are to have ONE MIND. Even though we have many mouths, we are to be as ONE VOICE: united together in Spirit - worshiping, praising, and glorifying God.
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Question:

I keep noticing on the church calendar that there are a series of “tones” listed for each week. What are these?
Answer:
The Orthodox Church uses eight musical scores or “tones” which are sung in graduating order over the course of eight weeks and then repeated on a regular basis after that. These eight tones, known as the Octoechos in Greek, have existed since the time of the Early Church and most probably originated in Jerusalem or Antioch. Their roots may even predate Christianity, existing to some degree as a testament to ancient Jewish chanting styles. 
In the 8th century, Saint John of Damascus systematically organized these scores into a Book of Eight Tones (Octoechos).  Each tone has its own unique set of melodic formulas, which provide hymnographers a dimension of both structure and diversity as they compose and/or write hymns.
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Question:

Why are children baptized on or near the fortieth day after birth?
Answer:
Following a birth and return from the hospital, it is customary for the mother and child to observe a forty-day period during which they rest and recuperate from the delivery by refraining from leaving the home. This interlude allows the child and parents to bond and also affords the mother adequate time to heal. Traditionally, the first place that the child is then brought to is the Church where it is dedicated to the Lord through the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation.
The roots of this custom can be traced to the Old Testament Book of Leviticus (chapter 12), but the reason why it is still observed probably comes via the example set by Mary and Joseph who brought the Christ Child into the Temple to be formally dedicated or “presented” to God (Luke 2:22-40).
Although there are no hard, fast rules stipulating that this forty-day waiting period must be kept (I have baptized children much earlier and much later due to varying reasons and circumstances) the Church, in its divine wisdom, does encourage us to follow this practice.
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Question:

Why does it say in the marriage service that a wife must be subject to her husband? Isn’t this a little old fashioned?
Answer:
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

The above passages are among the most hated and misunderstood lines of scripture in the entire New Testament. Some men would like to lord these verses over their wives and demand that they fall down in subservience or complete obedience, while women read them and fear that they make the wife out to be inferior to her husband. As it stands neither interpretation is correct and I absolutely detest those who try to misquote them as if to their advantage.

God was not trying to establish the husband as some kind of supreme despot or dictator within the home. Nor was He relegating a wife to a place of servitude. The word, submit originally meant, “yielding to governance or order.” Therefore, a truly spiritual wife would understand God’s order within the home by recognizing that it as a reflection of God’s order in the church. Just as Jesus is the head of the church and we are to submit to His leadership, the husband has been given this responsibility within the household and a godly wife will adhere to this willingly and with humility, as was intended when God created Eve to be the ideal “helpmate” to her husband (Genesis 2:18).

On the other hand, the husband is never to demand submission from the wife. That would NOT be love, but forced servitude or slavery. A good wife must freely choose to be respectful, doing so lovingly and without reservations because she knows that a good/true husband is ready to die for his wife!

In addition, this submission we read of is to her “own husband” only! In other words, women are not subservient to men, nor were they created to be either. They are equals in every way, shape, and form; even within the home. Yet, God has imparted leadership to the husband and he is accountable for the household and will be judged for his actions 
accordingly.

Remember that it is very easy to simply read verses 22-24 and interpret them out of context. However, when they are read sandwiched between verse 21 (“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”) and verse 25 (“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.”), the real meaning becomes crystal clear and beyond debate!
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Question:

My wife and I will be visiting your church for “Friends and Family Day,” and would like to know what the appropriate attire is for the liturgy. Is formal clothing (suite and dress) typically worn?
Answer:
Thank you for your inquiry and I look forward to having you worshipping with us on this occasion.
In our present day and age, it seems that more often than not we live in a very casual type of society; where an atmosphere of “casual dress” and “business casual” are the cultural norm. This prevailing attitude has somewhat permeated even into the life of many churches (one often hears rumors of people in other Christian denominations walking up to the chalice in cut-off jeans, Kiss t-shirts, and tennis shoes). Such an attitude is at odds with our “ethos” or way of thinking/acting.
In the Orthodox Church we try to maintain and hold to the high-calling and expectations of our worship services. Therefore, although one needs not necessarily wear an expensive three-piece suit or formal designer dress, we still expect people to dress appropriately and with the reality that we come to stand and worship in the presence of God. And although God might not care what we wear to church (He did, after all, create us to live naked and without shame), we, ourselves, still should.
Therefore, most men who attend our services generally wear suits or sport coats, and the woman wear dresses (or in some instances, nice pants suits).
A good rule of thumb, however, is to simply “dress your best” without putting on airs or calling attention to yourself. Yet if one is poor and does not own anything better, than come in the cleanest, neatest clothing possible.
Keep in mind that “dressing-up,” especially given our society’s current standards, in effect becomes an offering (sacrifice) of respect to God.
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Question:

What is a catechumen?
Answer:
The term catechumen in Greek literally means, “one who is being taught.” Traditionally a catechumen was one who had not yet been initiated into the Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church. Therefore, a catechumen referred to anyone who was taking instruction so as to be Baptized and Christmated into the Christian Faith. In our modern era, a catechumen more often than not designates someone who is enrolled in a designated program (catechism) to be taught (catechesis) specific material which will prepare them to join or convert to the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith.
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Question:

While on vacation, we once visited a Greek Orthodox Church which used an organ during liturgy. I thought that we were not supposed to use musical instrument such as organs or guitars during our worship service? But then again, when I read the Psalms, they often talk about the use of stringed instruments, cymbals, flutes, etc. Why don’t we use these as part of our worship, it’s in the Bible?
Answer:
Actually, the tradition of the Orthodox Church is to have no musical instruments whatsoever in our temples or to use them during our services. There are unique exceptions, such as you obviously experienced, but these should never be considered the norm. I do know that some Greek or Antiochian parishes use organs, but only as a means of holding chords for the congregation to follow as they sing. Such instruments were – and are – never utilized to perform concert-type arrangements as one finds in many Roman Catholic or Protestant churches.
It is true that various Psalms do mention praising the Lord with stringed instruments, pipes, drums, flutes, etc, although this never crossed over into the Early Church’s formal liturgical worship; nor might I add, were they part of the ancient Jewish liturgical worship either. There are indeed many instances of things mentioned in the Old Testament – such as the sacrificing of animals, for example – which have not been carried over into the New Testament Church, in which Christ becomes the sacrificial lamb and the human voice (acappella) becomes the musical instrument par excellence.
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Question:

What are the “Hours”?
Answer:
Basically the Hours are a series of short services which corresponds to the four watches of the day.
The early Christians continued the ancient Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain times of the day or night. In the Psalms we find expressions like “In the morning I offer thee my prayer”; “At midnight I will rise and thank thee”; “Evening, morning and at noonday will I praise thee”; “Seven times a day I will praise thee”; etc. The Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the first, third, sixth and ninth hour, as well as at midnight (Acts 10:2-3, 9; 16:25).
The Hours themselves are four relatively brief prayer services from the Daily Cycle of Worship that mark the principal periods of the day.
•    First Hour (6:00 – 9:00 a.m.) commemorates Christ before Pilate
•    Third Hour (9:00 - noon) commemorates Pilate’s judgment of Christ
•    Sixth Hour (noon – 3:00 p.m.) commemorates the Crucifixion
•    Ninth Hour (3:00 – 6:00 p.m.) commemorates the death of Christ upon the Cross
Each of these services, which are comprised primarily of Psalms, can be found in the Book of Hours (Horologion in Greek or Chasoslov in Slavonic).
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Question:

What is a Prokeimenon?
Answer:
Prokeimenon is a liturgical term which refers to the verses chanted and sung immediately prior to the reading of the epistle and gospel lessons (although today the prokeimenon verses sung prior to the Gospel are better known as “Alleluia verses”). The word itself is derived from a Greek word meaning “that which goes before” or “proceeds.”
 These verses are always taken from Holy Scripture and generally come from the Book of Psalms. They were specifically selected by the Early Church as a means of providing a joyous segue before listening to the Word of God.
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Question:

What is the Antimension?
Answer:
The Antimension (or Antimens), is a gold satin rectangular piece of cloth upon which is depicted an icon of the Burial of Christ. The four Evangelists are shown in the corners while Sts. John Chrysostom and Basil the Great – the writers of the two liturgies we perform – appear on either side. Its name means “in place of a table” in Greek, literally making it a portable Altar Table and a required element for the celebration of any liturgy.
Sewn into each Antimens is the relic of a saint, thus keeping with the Early Church’s tradition of celebrating the liturgy atop the graves of its martyrs. Our own Antimens holds the relics of St. Herman of Alaska, the first North American saint.
The Antimens also contains wording that lists the name of the temple, its location, the date it was issued, and the ruling bishop’s signature, which constitutes his permission for the community to exist as an Orthodox parish, as well as our ability to celebrate the liturgy.
It is important to remember that in the Early Church, the Divine Liturgy was always celebrated by a bishop. It was only after the Church began to expand and grow that bishops ordained priests to serve as their representatives at other locations, yet only with an explicit blessing. The Antimens is a vestige of this fact and is, as it were, our “permission slip” to celebrate and function as a parish.
When not in use, the Antimens remains upon the Altar table folded within a second wine-colored cloth known as an Iliton, and rests underneath the Gospel Book. During the liturgy it is unfolded and the Eucharist is celebrated atop it.
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Question:

What is the ‘Trisagion’?
Answer:
The word Trisagion literally means “thrice-holy” in Greek, and refers to the prayer, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us;” a prayer we use during the Divine Liturgy and as the basis for our personal daily rule of devotion.
When a disastrous earthquake occurred near Constantinople, people immediately gathered in church to pray and entreat God’s mercy. As they did, one pious little boy heard angels singing this above hymn and told the people to pray using those same words. The Thrice-Holy hymn is quite similar to what the Prophet Isaiah wrote when he envisioned angels in heaven continuously singing: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). This, too, is a hymn we sing at every liturgy during the Anaphora.
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Question:

What is the “Horologion?”
Answer:
The Horologion is a liturgical book used mainly by cantors or church readers which contains the services or offices to be read (chanted) during the different hours of each day. Its name is derived from the Greek word hora, which means “hour” or “time,” and thus means “Book of Hours.” In Russian this book is called a Chasoslov.
The Horologion contains the services for Vespers, Compline, Nocturns, and Matins, as well as the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours themselves. The Great Horologion also often contains morning prayers, evening prayers, the All-Night Vigil, and various Troparia and Kontakia hymns.
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Question:

What is a “Psalter?”
Answer:
The Psalter is a liturgical book which contains the 150 Psalms of King David from the Old Testament. The Psalms are arranged or grouped into twenty sections called “Kathismata” – a Greek word meaning “to sit,” since the people normally sit down while they are being chanted. These Kathisma are also laid out in such a way so that the Psalter can be read in its entirety over the course of one week at the daily services of matins and vespers. During the weeks of Great Lent, however, the Psalter is read through twice.
Besides containing the Psalms, some editions of the Psalter include additional prayers – such as prayers for the departed (because it is the Church’s tradition to read the Psalms over the deceased) and the Nine Biblical Canticles:
Canticle One — The 1st Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19)
Canticle Two — The 2nd Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)
Canticle Three — The Prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Canticle Four — The Prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
Canticle Five — The Prayer of Isaiah (Isaiah 26:9-20)
Canticle Six — The Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:2-9)
Canticle Seven — The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56)
Canticle Eight — The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)
Canticle Nine — The Song of the Theotokos: “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55)
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Question:

What is a Molieben?
Answer:
A Moleiben is basically a special prayer service offered for specific intentions. Each contains psalms, petitions, an epistle and gospel reading, and is about twenty minutes in length. There are Moleibens (prayer services) written for a myriad of situations, such as in times of drought, hostilities (war), before traveling, in times of sickness, etc. There are also Moliebens of Thanksgiving which may be celebrated in conjunction with such joyous occasions as wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
At St. Michael’s we serve a Moleiben for the Ailing and Ill-afflicted on the second Wednesday of each month. Anyone may participate in this short service in which we specifically pray for by name all those who are in need of God’s mercy and help.
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Question:

We sing ‘Alleluia’ in church, but what does it actually mean?
Answer:
Although many people mistakenly assume it to be a meaningless, made-up, sing-song phrase like “zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” Alleluia is actually the anglicized version of the Hebrew word Hallelujah. Singing Hallelujah or Halleluyah literally means “praise God,” and is derived from two words: the verb hallelhu, meaning “to praise” or “to give praise,” and the noun Jah (from Yahwey or Jehovah), meaning “God.” It should be noted, however, that an explicit connotation of “exuberance” exists within its original form that does not necessarily carry over in translation. Therefore, the most accurate definition might be rendered as, “Praise God joyously!”
The Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Old Testament, often substituted the word Kyrios (Lord) for Jah (God), thus creating a propensity among many to simply translate Alleluia as “Praise the Lord.”
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Question:

What does the word “synaxis” mean? I hear it used in church, read it in the bulletin, and notice it periodically on our liturgical wall calendars.
Answer:
This is a really good question because, as you know, the word doesn’t normally show up in everyday conversation. Synaxis literally mean “assembly” or “gathering” in Greek (the word in Slavonic is sobor). It is the term used to describe the first portion of the Divine Liturgy: that time frame from the reading of the Hours just before “Blessed is the Kingdom…” through the singing of the Beatitudes – the segment of the service when the people typically assembled or “gathered together” for worship.
The word is often used to describe a feast day when a large number of saints in common are being commemorated, such as:
•    The Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Michael and all the Bodiless Hosts of Heaven
•    The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles
•    The Synaxis of the North American Saints
•    The Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs 
or refers to the day following the celebration of many Great Feasts, such as Christmas, Theophany, Annunciation, etc. This is because on the second day of a Feast we normally pay homage by “gathering up” those persons who played a prominent or pivotal role in what happened on the day of the Feast itself, such as:
•    The Synaxis of Blessed Virgin Mary on the day after Christ’s Birth
•    The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner on the day after Christ’s Baptism
•    The Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on the day after the Annunciation
The word synaxis is also the basis for a book known as the “Synaxarion,” which contains a collection or “gathering” of saints’ lives from throughout the entire liturgical year.
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Question:

“What are the fasting regulations regarding the evening Pre-sanctified Liturgy?”
Answer:
The most ancient practice was for the faithful to fast the entire day before receiving Holy Communion at the evening Pre-sanctified Liturgy. This is still practiced in monasteries and by some pious individuals. An alternative to this would be to fast from breakfast onwards.
However, the most common and widely adopted practice is for one to begin their fast after the noon meal. This means that after lunch (with a cut off time of 1:00 p.m.) you should fast strictly by not partaking of any food or drink if you wish to receive Holy Communion that evening. Obviously this fast also includes candy, cum, cigarettes, etc.
Regarding the morning Pre-sanctified Liturgy, you should maintain the normal fast – no food or drink – as you would for a regular Divine Liturgy.
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Question:

Why do people turn themselves to follow the priest or deacon while he censes the interior of the church?
Answer:

A: The answer to your question really lies within the reason why we do a censing of the church in the first place. Incense is offered as a sacrifice out of our love and respect to God. Painstakingly made from rare and exotic spices, essences, and oils, its beautiful fragrance reminds us that it is both the best that we have to offer, while its’ seen but unseen aroma represents the presence of the Holy Spirit within our midst.
Besides offering incense to God, we also offer incense to all of those who are created in His Image and Likeness – which is us. Therefore, as the clergy cense the icons of the saints upon our walls, they also turn to cense the “saints” who are in the pews; for we are all called upon to be saints (holy ones) of Christ’s Church.
Turning to follow the priest or deacon as they circumference the interior of the temple is not meant to pay homage to the man who swings the censer, but to participate with him in honoring those saints (icons) as he passes; inwardly acknowledging each for their zeal, commitment, and example.
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Question:

What is the hat you wear during liturgy called?
Answer:
The stiff, cylindrical, flat-topped head-dress I wear during services is called a “Kamilavka,” which in Greek means a, “hat made out of camel’s hair.” Monks routinely wear black Kamilavkas as part of their monastic habit, but theirs also have a long piece of flowing fabric attached, known as a “Klobuk.” The purple-colored Kamilavka is an award issued by the diocesan bishop to priests and deacons as a testimony to their hard work and service. Once a Kamilavka has been awarded, it then becomes part of a priest’s normal liturgical vesture.
A Skuffia is another hat which I often wear – especially during the cold winter months. Its name in Greek means a, “skull cap.” This clerical head-piece is generally worn when one is outside of church or traveling. Whereas the Kamilavka is hard, cylindrical, and flat on top, a Skuffia is made of soft, foldable cloth (usually velvet) and is pointed. A black Skuffia can be worn by any member of the clergy, but a purple-colored Skuffia is an award from the diocesan bishop.
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Question:

Why do we bless and give out pussy willows instead of palm branches on Palm Sunday?
Answer:
Much like our modern day practice of waving flags or banners at festivals, parades, and sporting events, it was a Jewish custom to hold and wave palm fronds at various religious feasts and joyful celebrations. The Early Church continued with this ancient practice by blessing and distributing palm fronds (branches) to the faithful on the Sunday before Pascha in remembrance of those who likewise took up branches during Christ’s Triumphal Entry into the holy city of Jerusalem.
As the Church began to spread further away from the Holy Land and outward towards Europe, not all regions had the luxury of palm trees. In places where cold weather prevented tropical trees from thriving, branches of indigenous trees and bushes were blessed and held by the people.
Because the founders of this parish predominately came to this country from many parts of Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine, etc.), they obviously had no palm trees either. Therefore, in order to mirror this long-standing tradition, they simply utilized one of the first plants to blossom in that region during the spring season: Pussy Willows!
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Question:

Why do we refer to the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection as “Pascha” instead of “Easter?”
Answer:
The term Pascha is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word Pesach, meaning Passover. As was foreshadowed by the Passover account of the Old Testament, Jesus becomes the supreme Passover (Paschal) Lamb sacrificed in a New Covenant for the remission of our sins and the salvation of our soul; laying down His life, lying in a tomb, and rising on the Third Day so that we, too, might have a way to escape or “pass over” from death.
The word “Easter” is of Germanic origin and is derived from the name of the pagan female goddess, Eostre: goddess of the spring month of April. Because the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection almost exclusively falls during that time frame, the Western world unfortunately began to identify the Paschal Feast by the calendar month; thus inadvertently misconstruing the ultimate Christian Feast with pagan terminology.
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Question:

Why don’t we kneel or perform prostrations (poklons) after Pascha?
Answer:
Prostrations and kneeling are most often associated with penance, submission, and obeisance. This is why we practice them with such routine and fervor during the Lenten seasons: those specific occasions to which we are directed to meditate upon and acknowledge our sinfulness and to seek reconciliation with God through repentance (Confession).
However, due to the extremely joyous nature of Paschaltide, and in remembrance of Christ’s saving Passion and Crucifixion for the remission of our sins, we celebrate with exuberance this period in between Great and Holy Pascha and the Feast of Pentecost by not kneeling during prayer (in church or at home). This is in accordance with the twentieth canon of the First Ecumenical Council (325 A.D.), which forbids kneeling on Sundays and the fifty days between Pascha and Pentecost.
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Question:

What is the Feast of Mid-Pentecost?
Answer:
Although it might seem more appropriate to call it Mid-Pascha, Mid-Pentecost is the feast day which marks the exact midpoint in the fifty days between Great & Holy Pascha and Pentecost. The commemoration of this day – which is meant to be a link between these two great Feasts and was designed to strengthen our faith in the Risen Lord and to focus our attention on the coming of the Holy Spirit – can be traced back to the time of St. John Chrysostom. Both St. Andrew of Crete and St. John of Damascus have provided hymnography for its services.
The gospel lesson for this day is from St. John 7:14-30, which tells us that “Now about the middle of the feast of tabernacles, Jesus went up into the temple and taught;” with Christ instructing the scribes and learned men that “My doctrine is not Mine, but His Who sent Me” and that “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”
Because of this particular reading there is a tradition of performing the lesser blessing of waters on this day and to remember the life-giving water which poured forth from the barren stone that Moses struck with his staff in the wilderness during the Exodus. It is also interesting to note the fact that this is the Temple Feast of the great cathedral, “Hagia Sophia,” in Constantinople.
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Question:

Why do we have a Saints Peter and Paul Fast?
Answer:
Within the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church we are provide with a wonderful balance of both feast days and times of fasting. Throughout the course of each year, we are called upon to experience moments of great spiritual joy and celebrate with exuberance, but to also practice periods of humility with solemn penitence and sacrifice.
Besides various one-day fasts, the Orthodox Church prescribes four major fasting periods annually: the Great Fast (Great Lent) before Pascha, the Nativity Fast (Advent) prior to the Birth of our Savior, the Dormition Fast which prepares us for the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin, and the Apostle’s Fast which precedes the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul.
The first three Fasts are fixed and exact in days, while the Apostle’s Fast varies in duration from year to year because its length is based upon the celebration of Pentecost, which occurs fifty days following the date of Pascha. The Sts. Peter and Paul Fast always begins on the Monday following Pentecost Week (i.e. on the day following the Sunday of All Saints).
The Apostle’s Fast is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten fast” because it is possibly the least one followed. Still, it needs to be taken seriously. The fifth century saint, Leo the Great, wrote about this fasting period saying, “After the Feast of Pentecost, fasting is especially necessary to purify our thoughts and render us worthy to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
The ancient Apostolic Constitution, dating back to the forth century , also gives us some important insight into the Apostle’s Fast: “After the Feast of Pentecost, celebrate one week, then observe a Fast, for justice demands rejoicing after the reception of the gifts from God and fasting after the body has been refreshed.”
It is clear, therefore, that from the early days of the Christian Church, it was customary to fast after the joyful days of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
This year, the Apostle’s Fast is only ten days in length. Let us try and do our best to keep this sacred season and prepare for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, all the while remembering that we, too, are called upon to be Apostles for Christ. Therefore, let us accept this spirit-enriching time by beginning the Fast with joy!
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Question:

Why does the priest blow on the child’s face during the baptismal service; and why does he blow on the water in the baptismal font?
Answer:
This is a really good question. The Old Testament tells us that when God created man from the clay of the earth He then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). In the New Testament, after Christ’s Resurrection from the dead, He appeared to His disciples and “breathed on them” saying, “receive the Holy Spirit” (St. John 20:22).
Therefore, during baptism, the priest gently blows upon the child’s face in a cross-wise fashion both in remembrance of God’s creation of man in the Garden of Eden and of man’s re-creation into a New Life through Christ’s Holy Resurrection. This same basic principle also carries over to when the priest blows upon the water in the baptismal font, which is blessed and re-sanctified by the Holy Spirit “moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).
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Question:

What is the significance of the priest moving the cloth over the Gifts while the creed is being recited?
Answer:
First of all, the cloth you are referring to is called an “aer.” It is a large veil that drapes over both the chalice and the diskos as a means of protection from dirt, dust, or insects. Its name means “air” in Greek and perhaps was so named because the connotation behind the word meant pure, clean, fresh air (unpolluted – the type the pagan Greeks believed their gods breathed), which is created and circulated by waving it.
Although there are perhaps a myriad of answers as to why it is ceremoniously fanned over the Gifts during the Creed, the reality is far from a mystery. The liturgical action of waving the aer is simply a remnant of when the priest (and/or deacons with fans) would perform this action as a means to keep insects away from the chalice. Over the years, however, a vast number of spiritually-enhanced explanations regarding this action have claimed that it symbolizes:
The presence of the Holy Spirit which “descends” during the time of the Anaphora
The shroud Christ was wrapped in after His death on the Cross
 The stone which is rolled away from our Lord’s tomb at the time of the Resurrection
 And even something akin to a victory flag being unfurled.
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Question:

Why when we pray the Lord’s Prayer at St. Michael’s do we say “…deliver us from evil” and some other Orthodox parishes say “…deliver us from the evil one?” Is not the latter the proper way to end the Lord’s Prayer and who we want to be delivered from?
Answer:
Although I don’t want to sound critical of the question or appear condescending to the anonymous person who asked it (because I think it is indeed a very good question) it is still nonetheless a perfect illustration of, as one priest put it, “the narcissism of small differences” and usually arises when people lose sight of Orthodox Christianity as a whole, while getting bogged down by minutia and that which is perceived as minor to the Theology and Doctrine of our Faith.
This is exactly what happened to the Pharisees during New Testament times: they went from being a truly prayerful, pious branch of Judaism, to a sect of superior-minded legalistic rhetoricians which endlessly debated every single word and action in Scripture – even to the tithing of herbs from people’s gardens! Their prevailing mindset then caused a type of “we’re right and you’re wrong” attitude which proved divisive, misleading the Jews and guiding them further away from God’s whole.
This particular question regarding the ending of the Lord’s Prayer, however, basically comes about when we try and pit a translation against itself. The Lord’s Prayer, as it has been handed down to us from the original Greek states, “apo tou ponirou,” which can be translated as either “from the evil one” or “from evil.” Therefore, both ways of ending the Lord’s Prayer would be deemed appropriate. They obviously each convey the same essential meaning, and in my opinion, neither one should be termed more correct or “proper” than the other (although I have heard many people making cases for both). In the end, it’s not wrong to pray it either way – just make sure you pray it often and with great fervor! 
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Question:

Why do we commemorate the day of Christ's circumcision?
Answer:
The reason is two-fold: first, the Christ child is circumcised according to the Law of Moses, thus fulfilling the ancient tradition passed down through the Covenant made between God and Abraham. Secondly, it was upon this day – the eighth day of birth – that a child received his or her name: "And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb" (St. Luke 2:21). Interestingly, or perhaps - more appropriately - "providentially," Jesus is the Aramaic version of the Hebrew name, Joshua, which means, "Savior."
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Question:

What does the word "Plaschinitsa" actually mean?
Answer:
The Plaschinitsa is the winding sheet used during the services of Great and Holy Friday and Saturday which, depicts an icon of our Lord being taken down from the Cross (although some simply have the lone, full figure of our Lord lying in repose). The word itself is of Russian origin and means a "shroud" (as in "burial shroud"). Its root, plasch, means an outer cloak or mantle. The Greek word used for this same icon representation is "Epitaphios," which literally means "on the grave" or "on the tomb." This is also from where we get the English word "epitaph."
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Question:

What does the word "Axios" mean?
Answer:
In Greek, Axios literally means "worthy" (or more rightly "[he is] 
worthy") and is always chanted/sung during the ordinations of a deacon, 
priest, bishop, and/or whenever clerical awards are bestowed. 
Historically, since it was the congregations' role, and not the bishops, 
to elect worthy men to Holy Orders, this term was shouted by the people 
as a unanimous affirmation and assent to the candidate's character (i.e. 
"He is worthy to be a priest," etc.).


When our new Metropolitan was elected this past Tuesday at the special 
All-American Council held in Parma, Bishop Tikhon was presented to the 
body of delegates who immediately confirmed his election by responding 
boldly with, "Axios! Axios! Axios!"
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Question:

What specific times should we make the sign of the Cross during services?

Answer:

Just as the Cross is one of the oldest Christian symbols, blessing 
yourself or “making the sign of the Cross” (i.e. literally tracing the 
Cross upon your person) is one of the Church’s earliest liturgical 
actions. Crossing yourself is an external expression to the worshipper’s 
inward feeling of devotion and conveys a wordless confession of faith: 
the thumb and two forefingers of the right hand joined together 
symbolize our belief in the Holy Trinity, while the other two fingers 
pressed against the palm represent the two natures (God and man) of 
Christ.

 During Orthodox worship the faithful routinely make the sign of the 
Cross at special moments throughout services, such as at the opening 
doxology (“Blessed is the Kingdom…” or “Blessed is our God…”), each time 
the Holy Trinity is evoked (“Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to 
the Holy Spirit…”), before and after the reading of Scripture, etc. Yet 
the faithful are also free to Cross themselves at other times, whenever 
the spirit of prayer fervently moves them. And although there are 
distinct moments when you will see the entire congregation making the 
sign of the Cross together, there are also times when you will perhaps 
only see a few individuals making such devotions. In essence, outside of 
those specific times listed above, there is great latitude and freedom 
as to when and how often an individual may choose to make the sign of 
the Cross.

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Archangel Michael Orthodox Church