Life & Faith

Nativity Epistle of 1962 By Saint John, Archbishop of Shanghai

"Thou, Who art the God of peace and the Father of compassions, didst send unto us the Angel of Thy great Counsel, granting us peace."

The Angel-Messenger of the pre-eternal Counsel of the Holy Trinity comes to the earth. This is not an ordinary messenger; it is the Only-begotten Son of God Himself. He brings peace to men. "Peace be unto you," he said more than once to His disciples. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," He says to the apostles at the Mystical Supper, "not as the world giveth, give I unto you." And appearing after His Resurrection, again He says: "Peace be unto you." "For he is our peace," the holy Apostle Paul says concerning Him: "He came to the earth to reconcile man unto God by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And having come, He preached peace to those afar off and to those near, because through Him we both have access unto the Father."

Spirituality for Busy People

For those who think administrators are no more than "empty suits," with nothing to teach us spiritually, the early medieval Pope Gregory I ("the Great") is the great counter-example. Gregory (ca. 540-604) was a contemplative mystic at heart who struggled all of his days with the conflict between busyness and intimacy with Christ. And this struggle gave him great pastoral sympathy for a group of people who had become "second-class citizens" in Christendom: married layfolk. His meditations on the busy life-the life he associated both with Jesus' friend Martha and Jacob's wife Leah-led him to formulate a spiritual theology that blasted monastic elitism and freed busy laypeople to enjoy the contemplative life.

Some reflections on Confession - Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

1. For each conscientious priest confession is without any doubt one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of his ministry. It is here, on the one hand, that he encounters the only real object of his pastoral care: the human soul, man, as he stands sinful and miserable, before God. But it is here, one the other hand, that he realizes to what degree nominal Christianity has pervaded our Church life. The basic Christian notions of sin and repentance, reconciliation with God and renewal of life, seem to have become irrelevant. If the terms are still used, their meaning is certainly quite different from that, on which our whole Christian faith is based.

Fast and Liturgy - Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

The liturgical rules of the Orthodox Church prescribe that the Divine Liturgy is to be celebrated after Vespers on certain fast days. These days are: Thursday and Saturday of the Holy Week, the eves of Christmas and Theophany and the Feast of the Annunciation. Likewise the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is always celebrated after Vespers. If we bear in mind that our Typikon determines the time for Vespers according to the sun and not by the clock, then the prescribed time for these evening Liturgies should be approximately from two to five in the afternoon.