Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 146:7-10 To Think Spiritually is to Believe Concretely

(The LORD) Secures justice for the oppressed [calling all to salvation], gives food to the hungry [communion]. The LORD sets prisoners free [crushing down death by death]; the LORD gives sight to the blind [wisdom]. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down [exalts the penitent]; the LORD loves the righteous [those who keep the statutes]. The LORD protects the stranger [catechumen], sustains the orphan [those without faith] and the widow [those who have lost faith], but thwarts the way of the wicked [anyone who would turn a chosen one away]. The LORD shall reign forever [King of Kings], your God, Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah! – Psalm 146:7-10
Compelled by our association with the fatih we must assist in the good work by feeding the hungry by nurishing the soul, freeing the prisoners through our corporate intercessory prayer, giving sight to those who are spiritually blind by admonishing one another in psalm and approaching righteousness in our own living, and growing God's church by welcoming the stranger (to the faith).We take from this life only what we invest in our spiritual relationship to God and to one another.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be the Church Be Well Versed

Hagiographos Elias Damianakis, Archon Maestor

We are the Church so to be the Church be well versed. We are not called to ignorance but to the knowledge of God. There just is no substitute for reading The Word. Podcasts, audio tracks, Christian radio, lectures and workshops all enrich our understanding and the broader Christian community but they are not replacements.
To cozy up with a well read Bible is about as good as we are going to find it. Even the church fathers and elders will only clarify what has already been established. Now please don't interpret my commentary as some refashioned sola scriptura or a lopsided adoration. This is simply a reality that everything else seems to clarify and frame the text. What good is the context without the content. Exercise your soul and invigorate your spirit everyday with Bible readings. Cozy up not just with a good book but The Good Book. I venture to say reading daily even the smallest verse will vastly improve the quality of your life and your relationship with God the Great I Am. If we wait to find time we will soon realize that time has run out. That we have allowed the cares of this life to choke off our spiritual body. Remember Orthodox brethren we ARE the Bible Belt.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Euthanasia or A Good Death: Fr. Stanely Harakas Orthodox Ethics

Since the long suffering of my father-in-law with emphysema advanced care directives, DNR, POA, health care agents and alike became the dreaded conversation and even the unspoken preoccupation. The discussions themselves were veiled in superstition and may have been perceived as the ultimate betrayal. Honest questions regarding the Church position and private ethics about what actually constitutes appropriate medical inventions at all cost to keep the (person) body alive and the juxaposed position of comfort measures only for someone who has no hope for improved health can divide families. When is a 'good death' distinguished from euthanasia? What is unreasonable or invasive?

 Father Stanely Harakas the premier Orthodox mind and person on the subject draws clear distinctions and is helpful for families and individuals going through end of life issue and even post mortem as we (they) move through the mourning and grief process. Guilt, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and loyalty can cloud sound judgement and understanding I firmly assert that Father Stanely who himself personally has had to address such issues is the foremost authority.
Fr. Harakas:
The traditional definition of physical death is "the separation of soul and body." Such a definition is not subject to objective observation. Thus it is not within the province of theology to determine the medical indications of death and the onset of the dying process. However, in reference to the terminally ill person, certain distinctions can be made. Physical life is generally understood to imply the ability of the person to sustain his or her vital activities. Physical death begins when interrelated systems of the body begin to break down. Death occurs when the systemic breakdown becomes irreversible. It may well be that physical life and death are events in a continuum in which it is impossible to discern when the dying process actually begins. Nevertheless, the bias of the Church and the traditional bias of the medical practitioner (cf. Oath of Hippocrates) is to do everything possible to maintain life and hinder the onset of dying and death. The medical use of drugs, surgical operations, and even artificial organs (mechanical kidneys, lungs, hearts, etc.) are considered legitimately used when there is a reasonable expectation that they will aid the return in due time to normal or close to normal functioning of the whole organic system.
The special case arises in that it is now medically possible to keep the body "alive" with a complex array of artificial organs, medications, transfusions, and the like. Under these conditions it may not be feasible to expect, with any degree of probability, the restoration of the organic functioning of the body. When, especially, there is no evidence of brain activity in conjunction with the systemic breakdown, we can safely say that the patient is no longer alive in any religiously significant way, and that, in fact, only certain organs are functioning. In such a case there is no moral responsibility to continue the use of artificial, means. It is of interest that the Prayer book of the Eastern Orthodox Church includes a whole service devoted to those in the process of dying. In the case of the individual whose death is prolonged and attended by much "struggling to die," the key sentence in the prayer calls upon God to separate the soul from the body, thus giving rest to the dying person. It asks God "to release your servant (name) from this unbearable suffering and this continuing bitter illness and grant rest to him" (Mikron Euchologion, p. 192).

However, it must be emphasized that this is a prayer directed to God, who, for the Orthodox, has ultimate dominion over life and death. Consequently, the preceding discussion in no way supports the practice of euthanasia. Euthanasia is held by some to be morally justified and/or morally required to terminate the life of an incurably sick person. To permit a dying person to die, when there is no real expectation that life can sustain itself, and even to pray to the Author of Life to take the life of one "struggling to die" is one thing; euthanasia is another, i.e., the active intervention to terminate the life of another. Orthodox Christian ethics rejects the alternative of the willful termination of dying patients, regarding it as a special case of murder if done without the knowledge and consent of the patient, and suicide if it is permitted by the patient (Antoniades, II, pp. 125-127). One of the most serious criticisms of euthanasia is the grave difficulty in drawing the line between "bearable suffering" and "unbearable suffering," especially from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, which has taken seriously the spiritual growth that may take place through suffering (Rom. 8:17-39).

Ethical decision making is never precise and absolute. The principles that govern it are in a measure fluid and subject to interpretation. But to elevate euthanasia to a right or an obligation would bring it into direct conflict with the fundamental ethical affirmation that as human beings we are custodians of life, which comes from a source other than ourselves. Furthermore, the immense possibilities, not only for error but also for decision making based on self-serving ends, which may disregard the fundamental principle of the sanctity of human life, argue against euthanasia.

Generally speaking, the Orthodox Church teaches that it is the duty of both physician and family to make the patient as comfortable as possible, to provide the opportunity for the exercise of patience, courage, repentance, and prayer. The Church has always rejected inflicted, and unnecessary voluntary suffering and pain as immoral; but at the same time, the Church also has perceived in suffering a positive value that often goes unrecognized in the "logic of the world."

The only "eu-thanasia" (Greek for "a good death") recognized in Orthodox ethics is that death in which the human person accepts the end of his or her life in the spirit of moral and spiritual purity, in hope and trust in God, and as a member of his kingdom. True humanity may be achieved even on a deathbed.

From: For the Health of Body and Soul: An Eastern Orthodox Introduction to Bioethics

Thursday, April 28, 2011

English Subtitles, Endnotes, Footnotes, Drafts All is Vanity

Life had become inundated with footnotes, endnotes and drafts. Our Church life is overrun with subtitles and parenthesis and brackets. Every thought and declaration a revision of some prior edition. Each seeking to outdo, out clarify, out pray.

Countless hours are spent in a fatal attempt to legitimize editions by demonizing sages, customs  and discrediting the original (the gold standard). These keepers of the way who maintain the path paved the way with crimson blood of the martyrs are to be embraced not banished or slandered for being loyal to sacred traditions and canons. If the copy or translation contained the essentials of the original endless notations would be unnecessary. It is essential to make the concerted effort to bring the wisdom to believers though education not negation.

Bring the Traditions and the Bible in the vernacular of the people certainly as one would to babes but then broaden and deepen understanding by including the original reference. Distancing personal revelation from the keepers of the faith is precarious if not suicidal.  This is the problem with harvesting our clerics from first generation converts who are vested in remaining authentically 'whatever they were before'. I fail to understand why clerics would not see it as their obligation to their vows to learn the language of the Church and to encourage their flock to learn what they can. They choose rather to insert themselves into artificial arguments of morality and ethics the lesser issues of man. Focus rather on healing and illumination. It is a prideful ethnocentrism if you will permit the broad usage of the term to cling to their traditions of linguistic affections and secularism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bondservant Reclaim Your Dignity

Vanquished are the days when man did not waver from obligation

Lost is the era where the mind of man expressed Christian dignity
Loyalty the ultimate inconvenience to self-interest and ambition.

The path of conscience has become the way of ease and slothfulness
Vanity and pride corrupt; separating man from his bond and conversion.
Jargon and rhetoric expel honor; and the Christian from his station.

This theology of prosperity and liberation has entangled and enslaved.
Duals have lost their civility with legal charters of double minded men.
Oaths dismissed and contracts rendered subvert rather then asure.
This disorientated citizenry now without liberty a slave to egotism.
Impulsively cast to and fro and exiled from the Kingdom by obstinacy .
Prisoners of vice and greed; mankind now feeble-minded, frail and homeless.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the omnipresence of God and alienation

This theme has been surfacing a lot during Lent. The conviction on the omnipresence of God is a deep consolation and abiding comfort which often can only be understood as an act of faith as it were. There are times when we all have an inability to relate, connect or feel imbued with His presence even during a formal service. While discipleship is a constant goal in life it can be derailed only by my own ineptitude or fatigue. I am learning in praxis the value of vigils and fasts but am grossly lazy.

God is everywhere and fillest all things at all times TRUE but it is in relation to His nature and not mine. He is inaccessible at times because I am unable to find Him within me buried beneath shortsightedness and sin. Prayer fatigue or attention deficit disorder of the major kind. So far removed from my original state that I could confuse this detachment as part of my true nature. This is a very common condition which is why I share it in this forum. I don't find it rational to pressume that talking aloud to God in my car that I am actually connecting with God. it seems more like a talking to myself in fact to think otherwise seems anthropocentric (and delusional) as if God exists in relation to me. I see God around me but not in me always. To experience and acknowledge these thoughts of  alienation is to begin to persue a prayerful watch. I try to attach myself to Him and dedicate myself to His church but I don't feel Him in the objective sense as readily as I would like. I have come to believe that there is a distinction between a preoccupation and a relationship. Now I think I know that prayer is not by nature emotive but from whence comes the confirmation that I have indeed gone out to meet Him? This is not about doubt it is about process.