“If you are called to be in the monastery, you better not go [into missions], and if you are called to go, you better not be in the monastery.” How these words came from the mouth of an Orthodox Christian deeply involved in missions, I cannot understand.
In context, it was clear that this viewpoint came from someone who sees monasteries as merely a place to provide spiritual health to parishioners in the world, maybe something like a retreat center. Even if that was all monasteries were, then we should we not start monasteries wherever we are involved in mission so that the host people can also have the benefit of that spiritual guidance? But it is not a well thought out viewpoint; it is (as a best case scenario) an accidental misunderstanding of monasticism and the various vocations of the Christian faith, likely from a leftover Protestant, Romo-phobic viewpoint.
Continue reading “A Problematic Viewpoint of Monks in Missions”
At the center of the gospel passage in Luke 17, about the ten lepers is the idea of thanksgiving. In the Old Testament Law, we see different kinds of sacrifices brought to the Tabernacle, and one of those is a thank-offering. The word “eucharist” means ‘thanksgiving’, and the connection between our thanksgiving/eucharist and the thank-offerings of the Old Testament is no mere coincidence. There is a direct connection.
Under the Law, there were also sin offerings: in a sense these are offerings that need to be given for the sin of the people. But a thank-offering is a free will offering, an offering to God out of our gratitude. And that is what we offer in the liturgy, as well.
But this extends beyond the Liturgy. Christ dwells among us, indeed he dwells in us, and our heart is his altar. The priest in the church offers sacrifices on behalf of all the people, but each of us are priests of the altar of our hearts.
Continue reading “The Ten Lepers and a Life of Thanksgiving”
Here are some stories of what happens beyond the death of this body, and not mere stories, but ones passed down to us from the experience of the saints.
A great place to start is to read the life of St. Theodora of Constantinople. But there are several more which are well worth mentioning…
Continue reading “A Few Glimpses beyond Death”
Not too many years ago a book, Heaven Is for Real, came out about a three-year-old boy dying, going to heaven, and coming back to life. It certainly generated quite a lot of interest and has been widely read (and viewed, after being adapted into a movie). The story, retold by the boy’s father from what he gathered in conversations with his son, has received mixed reception. From my own perspective, it seems most folks are ready to receive it as a genuine experience, especially with some excellent proofs, like the boy seeing his mother and father in separate hospital rooms as he was dying on the surgical table, talking to a miscarried sister that his parents had never told him about, and recognizing a mid-life photo of his grandfather. (The soul looking on the situation of its own body immediately after death, is a very common thread…even in the story of a friend of my own.) A few folks, however, are quite vocal about their denouncements of the boy’s experience in heaven, mainly based on a comparison of his story with what we find in the Scriptures.
Continue reading “Is “Heaven Is for Real”, for real?”
Now…finally…we make it to one of the best examples to help bring clarity to our questions about what happens after we die. I have shared several warnings: warnings about those who were not dead for long and have limited knowledge of life after death, warnings that our preconceptions can cloud our reasoning in these matters, and warnings that we should not try to over-simplify such matters. All of those warnings still apply. We must be careful not to over-analyze any of these experiences.
With that said, the experience of Venerable Theodora of Constantinople is particularly useful to us. For one, she died (and stayed dead), her soul left her body, she traversed everything between here and place of her soul’s repose till the last day. The obvious question is how we know this story: she appeared to another spiritual child of her own spiritual father, who recorded it for our benefit.
Continue reading ““Do the People on Earth Know What Awaits Them?””