Category Archives: love

Children are not things.

It’s a short step from the belief
that every child should be wanted
to the belief that a child exists
to satisfy our wants.

— Leon R. Kass

A PRAYER FOR THE SANCTITY OF UNBORN LIFE

O our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who in the beginning fashioned man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life so that he became a living soul, Who knowest the time of life and name of each even from his mother’s womb, Who numberest even the hairs of our heads, and Who keepest a watchful eye over every living thing in Thy creation, do Thou now look upon Thy creation which Thou hast fashioned according to Thine own image, and grant to those who are in their mother’s wombs and to their mothers the protection that Thou gavest Thine own Virgin Mother when she carried Thee, and fill them with the Holy Spirit even as Thou once filled Elizabeth such that John the Forerunner leaped in her womb at encountering Thee.

As Thou becamest incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became true man, hidden within the veil of Thy mother’s flesh, joining Thy divinity with our humanity, join Thyself now with us and all Thy human creation through Thy grace. As Thou didst enter into the womb of Thy Mother, be present also in the wombs of all mothers, with them and with their children. Protect them from all assaults of the evil one and his foul spirits, that in due time all may come unto Thee, as Thou didst say, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

O Thou Who at Thy birth heard the weeping of Rachel in lamentation, who would not be comforted for her children were no more, crying out at the slaughter of the innocents by the wicked Herod for Thy sake, hear also the weeping of all those who lament the deaths of Thy little children, who cry out for Thy love and peace in the midst of terror and inhumanity.

As Thou once granted true contrition of heart to David and to Manasseh and to Peter, Who sinned against Thee, grant true repentance to all who in malice or greed or desperation or hopelessness or ignorance sin against Thee and Thy creatures in the untimely taking of their lives. Receive their tears as the tears of the Publican, which flow from the depths of their hearts, as Thou didst receive David, who had taken life unjustly, and Manasseh, who had permitted the worship of idols, and Peter, who thrice denied Thee. Receive them as the Prodigal, with eagerness and rejoicing, clothing them with the robe of holiness and glory and celebrating with them the feast of faith.

Speak words of justice into the hearts of our rulers, that they may be guided by divine wisdom in protecting and nurturing life in every good way. Give strength and love to those who minister to all who suffer in desperation and need, granting through them every spiritual and earthly blessing. Protect the widows and orphans and the abandoned, be father to the fatherless and hope to the hopeless, raise the young, protect the bond of marriage in peace and concord. Remember the forgotten and bring them to mind in all of us who pray unto Thee. Grant eternal rest to the fallen, and raise them up at the last day.

O Christ our God, Who knowest all in our depths and receivest the supplications of Thy servants Who call out to Thee in our own transgressions and imperfection, hear this our humble prayer and give us all Thy divine blessing from on high, for Thou art ever glorified with Thy Father Who is from everlasting and Thine all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

St. John’s faith in word and deed.

Earlier this month we were reminded of the popularity of St. Nicholas in the Orthodox Church around the world. If you took a vote for the favorite saint, he would win. Another, more modern saint, who lived in the 19th century, is also remembered in December: St. John of Kronstadt. I see that he had some of the same qualities as St. Nicholas. This article tells how generous he was to the poor. Here is a small excerpt:

He would shop for food, go to the pharmacy for prescriptions, to the doctor for help, many times giving the poor his last few coins. The inhabitants of Kronstadt would see him returning home barefoot and without his cassock. Often parishioners would bring shoes to his wife, saying to her, “Your husband has given away his shoes to someone, and will come home barefoot.”

He seems to have had the gift of exhortation; he truly loved people, whether the upper classes or the criminals who were exiled to Kronstadt at the time, and would spend hours at a time in the shacks of the latter, “talking, encouraging, comforting, crying, and rejoicing together with them.”

His popularity has not waned, judging from the fact that between 1990 and 2016, “more than 60 new churches or altars in Russia alone were dedicated to him,” his flat in Kronstadt became a registered museum, his biography was published in a highly respected series, and monuments to St. John have been placed in cities not only in Russia and gifted to Orthodox communities around the world, including in Washington, D.C., in 2019.

This monument to him was installed last year in his home village of Sura, Arkhangelsk Province, in northwestern Russia, which in 2010 had a population of 727:

Because of his zealous love and spirit of encouragment, one can find many helpful quotes from the saint, and I have posted a few in the past. Here I pass on an exhortation from St. John that is a good reminder to us in the current era, of ultimate reality:

“There is nothing impossible unto those who believe; lively and unshaken faith can accomplish great miracles in the twinkling of an eye. Besides, even without our sincere and firm faith, miracles are accomplished, such as the miracles of the sacraments; for God’s Mystery is always accomplished, even though we were incredulous or unbelieving at the time of its celebration. ‘Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?’ (Rom. 3:3). Our wickedness shall not overpower the unspeakable goodness and mercy of God; our dullness shall not overpower God’s wisdom, nor our infirmity God’s omnipotence.”

-St. John of Kronstadt

Patiently pulling out the thorns.

Today marks three years since the repose in the Lord of Elder Ephraim, at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, where he had lived most of the time since he founded it in 1995; it was one of seventeen Orthodox monasteries he established in North America. If you’d like to know more, any of these articles would be a good start:

Geronda Ephraim (from St. Anthony’s) or Ephraim (Moraitis) of Philotheou

Oh, and this one is lovely, featuring more stories from his life and photos of his funeral: Elder Ephraim has reposed.

It was encouraging to read in the St. Anthony’s article especially about his mother’s work — including prayer, above all — in helping to form the soul of this man, whose life in many ways has been a powerful gift to the world.

Here is a quote from Elder Ephraim that a friend sent today:

“Since you follow the Savior Christ… your greatest duty is to bear all suffering, whether it comes from nature, indolence, sin, or people. Since we desire to live a Christ-like life, we are obligated to submit to God’s will because all things come from God. And since they are from God, and thus are the divine will… Shall we not obey? Shall we not cry out with the blessed Job, ‘As it seemed good to the Lord, so it has come to pass. Blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21).

“Through patience and thanksgiving, then, we show obedience to the divine will… Therefore, let us struggle; let us make our souls keen by working them over the whetstone of patience, in order to carry out a work pleasing to God. Afflictions, illnesses, distresses, trials – none of these will separate us from the love of Christ. For we have already been taught that narrow and difficult is the way which leads those who walk along it into the life without sorrow…

“Along the difficult way – that is, the trial of sickness and so forth – the thorn of doubt, of impatience, of cowardice comes to rend the garment of the soul. What is needed, therefore, is to pull out this thorn through faith, hope, and patience, having Jesus Christ as a model. Throughout His earthly life, he had many afflictions, and his All-holy soul was oppressed by many thorns, and so He exclaimed, ‘In your patience, you will gain your souls’ (Luke 21:19).”

+Elder Ephraim of Arizona, Counsels from the Holy Mountain

 

Love is rest.

LOVE IS REST

Love is rest.
Actually, the only rest humans have.
And nothing is as exhausting.
And it is freedom.
And yet, nothing binds us as securely.
Therein lies love’s paradox.
Without love, it is as if one carried a burden
All the time and was prisoner to his loneliness,
No matter how free he is in his aloneness.

-Eeva Kilpi