St. Apollinaris of Ravenna †79

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna

July 23 is the Feast Day for St. Apollinaris of Ravenna.

 St. Apollinaris is counted as an intercessor of persons who suffer from epilepsy and gout. He was from Antioch, Syria. The Apostle Peter ordained him and sent him to Ravenna as this city’s first bishop. There, he healed the blind son of a soldier (which would make him also an appropriate intercessor for persons with visual impairments).  Pagan priests aroused the people against him, and he was severely beaten. Later he was tortured and boiled in oil. Surviving this, he was exiled to Illyria, where he evangelized and saw many conversions. But he again was attacked by the pagans and sent back to Italy, where he suffered imprisonment and another beating. He died July 23, 79  A.D.


Orthodox Church in America: Hieromartyr Apollinaris the Bishop of Ravenna 

Picture from


toward better accessibility for visually impaired persons

Recently Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green, wife of Archpriest Gregory Matthewes-Green, the spiritual Father and Pastor of the parish of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, interviewed Tim Mehok of Saints Peter & Paul OCA Church in Lorain, Ohio. Tim has visual impairments, and he has some insights as to how parishes can improve their service to people with visual impairments. This is a 21 minute audio interview from Ancient Faith Radio from March 10, 2011:

Ancient Faith: Visually Impaired Persons

Tim mentions a lot of practical issues, such as the fact that people with visual impairments need help with transportation, since they can’t drive. He also mentions how helpful bells on the censers are.

There was also discussion concerning the value of 3-D icons which have a tactile element. There are parishes in Russia which are addressing this, but of course the need is everywhere. Here is one of  them: 

  Incendiary: Icons for the Blind

Tim mentioned some online resources which could make websites accessible to persons with visual impairment: 

GWMicro Freedom Scientific 35 Secrets of Being a Special Needs Parent

To access: 35 Secrets of Being a Special Needs Parent

This website is an online gathering place for parents of children with disabilities. The 35 secrets are helpful sayings by these parents, some encouraging and some a reckoning with the challenge such parents face. And some are a combination of the two. This is just one of many posts on The posts are both encouraging and informative. on the site; The posts are both encouraging and informative. The site can  also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and also Pinterest


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Incense is therapeutic for most of us

  . . .  but not for those who are allergic to it.  My godson’s wife is allergic to incense, and cannot participate in our worship services because of it.

Such situations calls for some creative adjustments. Our parish priest comes to their home and hears her confession and administers the awesome mystery of the divine Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood, to her, personally. She greatly misses worshiping  in Church, though.

Now I’m not suggesting that we stop using incense in our services, but if the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America can give their blessings for special monthly liturgies for people with developmental disabilities, perhaps there could also  be special liturgies crafted for persons who cannot tolerate incense as well? Here’s a profile of the Challenge Liturgy Ministry: Ministry Profile: Challenge Liturgy 

I did talk by phone to the priest at this Church and incense has not been an issue for them.

Perhaps incense-free services- even occasional ones- would cross a line. I don’t know. One could not have Orthodox worship without icons- this has been spelled out in the seventh ecumenical council- but I’m not aware of similar Church canons concerning the use of incense.

Icons visually demonstrate that Christ was truly incarnate in the flesh. Since our Church proclaims the fullness of the Faith, our worship is correspondingly full, involving all five senses- hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell. “O taste and see that the Lord is good!”  This is normative.

But as St. Paul says, “to the weak I became weak . . .”

Christ’s saying, “The Sabbath is for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” also comes to mind, but the analogy falls short, for Divine Liturgy may be for man from God’s standpoint, but from our standpoint, the Divine Liturgy- the Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) – is directed toward God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the heavenly worship described in the book of Revelation does involve incense.

Here is a discussion on and  in regard to incense and allergies:,32105.msg507423.html#msg507423

Here is another discussion on the Ancient Way-  Eastern Orthodox section of Christian forums entitled the Allergic to Incense. One of the respondents writes,

. . . . I knew an Orthodox Priest who recently passed away who would not use incense (with permission from his Hierarch) due to his allergy and heart problems.  . . . He was of the [Russian] Patriarchial Orthodox Church (MP).

If an allowance can be made for a priest who is allergic to incense, wouldn’t it follow that an allowance could be made for occasional incense-free liturgy-  four times a year on a Saturday, perhaps- for lay people who are also allergic?  But that is a decision for our God-loving bishops to make.  Source: 

Personally, I would miss the incense if it were not there. But this is not about me.

 There are icons for the blind and sign language being used in Orthodox Churches in various places, but this is addition, not subtraction. See & 

I asked a Parish Priest I know if this post would be acceptable, given what is being suggested. He thought it would be acceptable, and added a word of his own:

 Incense, it seems to me, is part and parcel of our liturgical tradition and cannot simply be dispensed with.  Nevertheless, exceptions can be periodically made for pastoral needs, as in the case of this woman.

I should also add this:  Remember that many churches are now live-streaming the Liturgy.  (I know St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge, MA, does so.  The Liturgy celebrated there is exceptional, with equally exceptional preaching by Fr. Anthony Hughes.)    This woman could regularly avail herself of this mode of liturgical participation (no incense problem there!) and receive the Eucharist regularly from her priest, as she is apparently already doing.  The occasional incense-less Saturday Liturgy would be a complement to this set-up.

Here is the website for St. Mary’s live-streamed services:

Now, to the benefits of incense: (Source of Picture) 

Trinity Youth Services

Trinity Youth Services, in Colton, California,  provides housing and opportunities for healing and growth to over 300 emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth. They also train and work with foster parents to provide a more permanent home for these children.

The effort was begun in 1966 through the vision of three Orthodox Christian priests from the Los Angeles area.

A quote from their website in regard to their work with children and youth with special needs:

Many of the children in our care, who range in age from birth to twenty-one, have suffered from abuse, trauma, neglect and/or abandonment. As a result, they often develop emotional and behavioral challenges. To assist children in confronting and triumphing over these challenges, each Trinity residential program offers a full range of services – therapeutic, recreational, educational and vocational, as well as independent living skills. Our trained and experienced staff works closely with our children using proven individual and group therapies, evidenced-based practices. Each program has a recreational program that includes athletics, arts and crafts, games, multi-media and other enriching activities.

The children in care have special needs as a result of exposure to violence, drug and alcohol abuse and unsafe living conditions. Trinity Youth Services provides residential treatment for children with emotional and behavioral challenges. Trinity offers a structured environment with a highly effective therapeutic regimen, including individual and group therapy, as well as on-site therapists.

To access their website: & Rules about priests with dementia is a highly informative Orthodox Christian website which provides patristic, monastic, and liturgical resources. There is also a community page, and on that page are numerous discussions concerning the practice of our Faith. One member of the community asked, “Are there any rules that indicate what should happen to a priest who, later on in his life, acquires dementia or any other mental disability?” Fr. Raphael Vereshack, one of the moderators of the site, provides an answer:

Rules about priests with dementia


Picture from Monastic Studies / The origins and motivations of monasticism

The Apostles James and Paul agree: Every valley shall be exalted

St. James, St. Paul, & St. Peter, too!

St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 addresses the harmonious functioning of local Parishes, in which, all the gifts of each member- bestowed through the Holy Spirit of God- work together so that mutual love may be complete and fully operable among all. According to apostolic teaching, not one person is to be neglected; nor are his gifts to be overlooked.

But there is an acknowledgement of the reality that some are stronger and some weaker, some more presentable and others less presentable.  Here is how St. Paul addresses this:

20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. First letter of St. Paul to  the Corinthians 12:20-26

St. Paul declares that the weaker or unpresentable members are to receive greater honor, in order to prevent division, in order that the weaker members are cared for equally and not neglected because they are less useful and perhaps less interesting to converse with in the opinion of some.  

It is not unusual for Church members, after Divine Liturgy, to gravitate to those with common interests during coffee hour, the time for social interaction after the service. St. Paul is encouraging us to also relate to those whose interests are different, and to those who through human weakness or some other reason are less accomplished and interesting than those to whom we gravitate.

St. James, in chapter one of his letter, also writes of this:

9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

St. James, in agreement with St. Paul”s call for greater honor for the weaker, calls for the more “lowly” among us to exult in their high calling, and those with abundant material blessings (the rich) to focus on the development of humility, excusing others while strictly scrutinizing themselves. St. James, more pointedly, writes to those who are well off in chapter two:

 1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

In this passage we discover the reason the lowly brother is to exult: he is more likely than one who is rich to be granted an abundance of faith. He cannot rely on deceitful riches. But the rich person can;  is it not still true, two thousand years later, that the rich are more likely to pursue lawsuits to advance their interests? They have the resources to hire the best lawyers and press a case to a length beyond the resources of those with less. They may claim gains from such uses of human justice systems, but the poor person who relies on divine justice will inherit a far greater gain.

Yet it is not always so with the rich; to assume this, a poor man would also become a judge with evil thoughts. Are we not all to assume the best of others?

All of this speaks to persons with disability in our Parish Churches. In their specific disabilities, they are less able, or gifted, than those members who are not disabled in that way, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. And so we honor such with “greater honor,” greater care and affirmation,

Was it not the same for the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna, and with material wealth in Church, as Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15?

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. {from Exodus 16:18}

As the prophet Isaiah writes,

Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth

Here is a resource toward the implementation of these things:

Some Practical Suggestions for Parish Ministry to People with Special Needs, by Fr. Stephen Plumlee: 

The Holy Scriptures from 
Icon from: The Hilltop Shepherd’s Watch 

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