Tag Archives: Fr. Thomas Hopko

He lived daily with the Lord.

St. Nicholas is one of the “favoritest” saints in the Orthodox Church. I have read about him many times and don’t usually remember much. I didn’t grow up hearing about him as the real historical not-Santa-Claus person that he is, or knowing that there was such a thing as St. Nicholas Day, and since I became Orthodox I haven’t succeeded in implanting him in my heart in any satisfying way.

But we both live by and in the love of Christ, so he must be in my heart in spite of my neglect. I will pass on to you (again) what blessed me some years ago, from The Winter Pascha:

The extraordinary thing about the image of St. Nicholas in the Church is that he is not known for anything extraordinary. He was not a theologian and never wrote a word, yet he is famous in the memory of believers as a zealot for orthodoxy, allegedly accosting the heretic Arius at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea for denying the divinity of God’s son.

He was not an ascetic and did no outstanding feats of fasting and vigils, yet he is praised for his possession of the “fruit of the Holy Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). He was not a mystic in our present meaning of the term but he lived daily with the Lord and was godly in all his words and deeds. He was not a prophet in the technical sense, yet he proclaimed the Word of God, exposed the sins of the wicked, defended the rights of the oppressed and afflicted, and battled against every form of injustice with supernatural compassion and mercy.

In a word, he was a good pastor, father, and bishop to his flock, known especially for his love and care for the poor. Most simply put, he was a divinely good person.

-Fr. Thomas Hopko

My discussion with the bumper stickers.

As I was pulling into a parking lot yesterday morning I was behind another car long enough to read three bumper stickers in slow succession, in this order:

I began to debate the first point and wonder if it were satire, when I saw the second, and concluded, No, it was a believer in Christ who stuck on the quote from the Bible…. Then I saw the last, and couldn’t figure out how it followed from the first extra-Biblical idea.

I went on to spend my afternoon with a friend whom I love dearly, and was thankful not to spend much time discussing with a phantom mind these points which, no matter how you arrange them, don’t make a very logical or appealing systematic theology. But I don’t want to leave you with this disheartening bit of slogan-and-sound-bite “communication.” I reread an old article by Romanos, who fell asleep in death in 2016, titled merely: Salvation, in which he points out that,

“Loving God will always bring you to Him, but thinking about God at best brings you to the threshold of love, at worst locks you into a mental prison. The invisible God becomes visible through love, but the visible God, our brother and sister, can become invisible through doctrine.”

And he quotes Archimandrite Vasileios in several paragraphs of which I’m giving you only the last:

…while the Jews of Christ’s day were so eager for theological discussions, He let them go unanswered; ‘But He was silent.’ For He did not come to discuss, He came to seek out and save the one that had gone astray (Matthew 18:11). He came and took on our whole nature. He entered into us, into the shadow of death where we are, and drew us to the light.

Christ is risen! In truth He is risen!

Update: A reader just pointed out to me that Father Thomas Hopko actually recorded a series of podcasts about the mistaken ideas in the statement “Relax – God is in Control.” The last one is here.

St. Justinian’s Hymn

I always look forward to the time in during Divine Liturgy when we sing St. Justinian’s Hymn. I don’t have to wait long, as it comes only a few minutes into the service.  Nov 14 is the day we commemorate St. Justinian (along with St Gregory Palamas, St. Justinian’s wife St. Theodora, and the Apostle Philip), so I thought it a good day to share this hymn with you.Justinian contemp mosaic

St. Justinian reigned as Byzantine emperor for nearly forty years during the sixth century. He was responsible for the construction of the glorious Hagia Sophia, and though he may not have written the ancient hymn affirming the Incarnation, he did command that it be sung every Sunday.

I love the way our choir sings this part of the Liturgy, and I always try to sing along. I found two examples on YouTube that most resemble the way I know it:

here and here.

The words are simple but so fundamental to our faith:

Only begotten Son and Word of God,
Thou Who art immortal
And didst deign for our salvation
to become incarnate
of the Holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
without change becoming man,
and who was crucified O Christ God,
trampling down death by death;
Thou who art one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
save us.

You might be interested in this series on the Divine Liturgy in which Fr. Thomas Hopko gives a lecture about the theology of “Only-Begotten Son.”

And finally, an icon of the Incarnation:

Mystical Supper

mysticalsupper02

On Thursday of Holy Week (today) we commemorate the first eucharist as the Lord Jesus instituted it, what we Orthodox call The Mystical Supper. On the Orthodox Wiki discussion page I found that someone had asked for clarification of what the Real Presence is, according to Orthodoxy; it seemed confusing to them. Then various people gave input. One said that it may be confusing because it is a Mystery. [Think smiley face] It is a common joke in or on the Church that this is a facile answer.

But it points to the true nature of the faith, that our relationship with God is not purely intellectual. We do not know Him by putting together all the facts we’ve learned; He doesn’t reveal Himself through our intellects alone, or even primarily.

Fr. Thomas Hopko says, “The mystery of the holy eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the eucharist — and Christ himself — is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Jesus has told us, is ‘not of this world.’ The eucharist — because it belongs to God’s Kingdom — is truly free from the earth-born ‘logic’ of fallen humanity.”

The page on The Holy Mysteries, what we call the sacraments, is very good! It starts right out with this perspective and reality about the Church that I love:  “…the Orthodox Church considers everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical.” I suppose this is why “There has never been a universal declaration within the Orthodox Church that there are only seven sacraments.”

I knew that, but I learned some other things, more historical and not so mystical, reading these pages today: “While the Synoptics do give the Last Supper as a Passover seder, John’s Gospel (which the Church privileges over the others) has it happen before the Passover.” The contributors all seemed to agree on these points though they differed on their theological significance.

On a more personal note, while I am grieving the death of my husband, I’ve been so grateful that we are in Holy Week, with its numerous opportunities to participate in this sacrament, this mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven — and truly, in all the abundant graces of the Church. It’s not facts that have been sustaining me, but His Real Presence.