Monday, April 27, 2015

Orthodox Prayer

Prayer is the way we develop a loving relationship with God. In the Orthodox Church we have a 2000 year history of Daily Prayer as well as our Liturgical and Sacramental life. Prayer is something that takes time to develop like anything else. It takes us many years just to learn to speak. We had schooling to learn how to speak properly and to write. The Church provides a depth of guidance about Prayer. 

Our Parish maintains the most searched site on Orthodox Prayer. If you search on Google it will appear with the top ranking.  It contains many articles from the Church fathers and others on daily prayer, the Jesus Prayer and much more. You will find the basics as well as helpful information for those more spiritually advanced in their prayer life.

We just revamped the website with a flexible design to make it more readable on smartphones and tablets. Check it out and explore the path to a fulfilling prayer life. 

"He who is able to pray correctly, even if he is the poorest of all people, is essentially the richest. And he who does not have proper prayer, is the poorest of all, even if he sits on a royal throne"  
- St John Chrysostom

Let us know what you think. Your comments would be appreciated.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai Needs Your Help

St. Catherine’s monastic community is the oldest in the world. The current Monastery walls were built in the sixth century. Situated on the holy ground where Moses encountered God at the Burning Bush, Saint Catherine's Monastery has, through the years, represented Orthodox Christianity's tradition of sanctity to broader society (see below for more on this). 

 However, due to the humanitarian crises of the wider region and the depressed Greek economy, it has lost major sources of income that enabled the Monks to carry out this mission and maintain the Monastery for future generations. There are no local Orthodox communities in the autocephalous Archdiocese of Sinai to support St. Catherine's. 

 Given the tenuous economic situation at St. Catherine's, Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery (FMSM) was founded to support the Monastery’s continued expression of the timeless values of Orthodox spirituality. In addition to information on how to donate and news, the website,, has many photographs, as well as information about the relevance of the St. Catherine's to the world (Sinai Today page). People can also submit questions on any topics they like (Q&A page), and we will send them to the Monastery and post answers. 

 FMSM is an IRS approved not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charity. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. The board and staff consist entirely of volunteers who are recognized by St. Catherine's and include a Monastic associated with the Monastery. All donations go to the Monastery, though on credit card donations, there is a small, standard credit card fee. 

 His Eminence Archbishop Damianos of Sinai and abbot of the Greek Orthodox monastery relays the following: 
 The great and difficult journey into the desert is something desired by all who value inner peace. Hence, the monks consider the continued operation of the monastery a duty not just to themselves, but to the visitors who reach this wilderness from all corners of the world, hoping to experience the stillness that exists between the soul and God amidst such beauty sanctified by the divine Presence.  While the Sinai monks have no wish to burden others, even very modest contributions go far in Egypt. Together with the prayers of the faithful, these will sustain the Monastery in its spiritual goals, which value the peace of one’s neighbor as much as one’s own. 
 For those who are interested, this is from the Sinai Today page about the Monastery ( 
 Most are drawn by the Monastery's location on Mount Sinai, or Horeb, which was retained in local memory as the site of the miraculous events of Exodus, where the holy Prophet Moses encountered God at the Burning Bush and then received the Ten Commandments. The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai, as St. Catherine’s is officially named, also houses the world’s greatest collection of Byzantine icons, as well as a famous collection of ancient manuscripts second only to that of the Vatican. 
 For the student of religion or spiritual seeker, the Sinai Monastery stands at the apex of revelation where the New and Old Testaments meet, for the brilliant radiance of Moses’ countenance upon his descent from Sinai prefigures the way of divine Grace to come in the New Testament.  
 As seen through the prism of Sinai’s ancient spiritual tradition, the ultimate significance of the events of Exodus emerges in the New Testament era. Given their own experiences of the purified soul’s participation in God, the Fathers of the early Church were able to discern essential aspects of Christian theology in Moses' experiences of God, first at the Burning Bush and then on the Holy Summit of Sinai. Thus, the tradition of the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament revealed on Sinai finds its fulfillment in the way of love taught by Christ, the journey whose stages are clearly set out in Saint John Climacus of Sinai’s Ladder of Divine Ascent and reflected in the life of the Great-martyr Catherine of Alexandria, whose relics are preserved in the Holy Monastery. 

 For anyone interested, donations by credit card can be made at and those by check should be made out to Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery and mailed to: Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery PO Box 231953 Encinitas, CA, 92023-1953 USA 
Thank you very much!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mindfulness Meditation or Prayer?

Feeling stressed and burdened with hectic schedules many are flocking to meditation training programs. A recent article in our local newspaper reported the following:
Meditation, primarily a 2,500year-old form called mindfulness meditation that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment, has gone viral.The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit; stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity.
Orthodox Christians have a surer way of finding a joyful way of life. Instead of mindfulness meditation the Orthodox Church teaches the way of prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. When this is based on a faith in Jesus Christ and participation in the full sacramental life of the Church, we will find a greater peace than can ever be found with mindfulness meditation.

Being mindful, or watchful as Orthodox Christians say, is important for our spiritual well being. To be watchful we must have a mind that is under control and not simply being swayed from east to west, from heights to depths, based on the surrounding stimulus it receives from our senses. The form of prayer that has been taught since the time of Christ is to repeat over and over with sincerity, "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner." This is not a mantra. This is a short prayer that affirms our faith in Christ, it recognizes how far we are from the way of life He has taught us, and we ask for His help and forgiveness. By repeating it over and over each morning and evening for at least 15 minutes every day then expanding to 30 minutes, the prayer becomes programed into our physical being through the interconnection of the neurons in our brain. Eventually it becomes a prayer that is with us continually linking all our actions with the will of God.

We begin by praying it verbally and then when God allows, we find we can say it in our mind only with few distractions. The discipline of sincere prayer is to develop the ability to reject the distractions, the thoughts that try to keep us from prayer. This takes effort and time. But instead of putting time into a mindfulness meditation practice, put your time into prayer. You will find you will get greater benefits.

Unfortunately many will say such spiritual disciplines are only for monastics. But the reality is that if we are to be able to follow the teachings of Christ, we need God's help plus our efforts to control our bodily passions. This is why the disciplines like the Jesus Prayer and fasting are emphasized in the Orthodox Church. Most importantly we must to learn to become watchful, to control what thoughts we allow to affect our body's action. If we can learn to control our mind with God's help, then we will receive more of God's grace to do all things He commands.

For information on the Jesus Prayer
For information on the Ten Point Program for an Orthodox Christian way of life.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

We Are God's Children Through His Resurrection

Imagine what a great event has taken place. Humankind once enjoyed the ideal place to live but lost it and became subject to the passions of a physical life where death always looms in our mind. Losing a perfect life in Paradise humans became self-centered and sinful unable to fulfill the ideals God planned for them. We are all made in His image and called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to love God with our whole heart and soul. But fearful of death and sinful, we struggle to fulfill this ideal. We may appear rich on the outside, we have a large house, fine clothes, a beautiful automobile, but on the inside our souls are unclean.

After a long period of time from the event of our creation, and after many attempts to prod us to reclaim our place in Paradise, a great day came. A king came, not an earthly king, but the true king of the universe, He who created all we know out of nothing and Who directs the universe. This king we lovingly know a Jesus Christ.

Christ is the king who saw our unclean state of our soul and our suffering and self-centered way of life. He had compassion for His creation and cleansed us with His priceless blood He shed for us on the Cross and clothed us anew with the robe of resurrection, and made us His children.

A good child is one who loves his parents and who obeys their instruction. A good parent loves and cares for His children. Christ and His Father, who is our father, are the perfect parents and want to raise us as their perfect children. In this way, God is glorified.

When Christ was resurrected after His cruel crucifixion we were raised from darkness to light and from a miserable state to paradise. Here is how Holy Scripture describes th effect of His Crucifixion and Resurrection: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe" (John 1:12).

Christ seeks all of us. He does not want to discriminate. When we believe in Christ and are baptized we become true children of God. We are transformed and protected by His grace. We are nurtured in His Church as we strive to become like Him, to become good children and glorify His name. This is a path that is open to everyone no matter what their nationality, no matter what time they live, no matter what their language, nor their sex. All can become His adopted children.

With the Resurrection and our faith we become a Child of God! We no longer have the fear of death which most people in the world fear. Knowing the future of our resurrection if we follow Him, death offers no fear. Christ has conquered death by His death and Resurrection. We have become a blessed child of God. Now, we too can have eternal life with Him and return to Paradise.

Let's give thanks for this great blessing that has been given to us through His death on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection. We worship and we glorify Him now and forever unto the ages of ages.

Christ is Risen! Truly He has Risen!

Friday, April 3, 2015

30 Steps to Heaven

The 30 Steps to Heaven as outlined by saint John Climacus provides a powerful way to examine your spiritual state. The last two steps provide a beautiful vision of what is possible for all of us if we are able to master the previous rungs on the ladder he describes.

This Lent we conducted a series of discussions based on the commentary by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou: Thirty steps to Heaven.

Here is a link to the slides used in our discussion series: