Archive for May, 2007

Partnership III

 Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

From the Russian Orthodox Church, “The Department for Church Charity and Social Service of the Moscow Patriarchate”:

 ( a=newz2&id=170 ) [click on “English” at top on the right; then click on “News” 14/4/07]

14.04.2007 — Deaf children from Mordovia attend service with gesture translation in Moscow church

A group of deaf children from a boarding school in Saransk returned home 12 April after spending two days in Moscow.


Svetlana Revochkina – a lecturer from the Saransk special boarding school said that the pilgrimage to Moscow was arranged by the Mordovia department of the ‘Russian Foundation for Charity and Health.’ Aid was provided by republican enterprises and organizations within ‘Children are our joy’ program.

The children visited Vorobyevy Gory, Alexander Garden, Poklonnaya Hill, Red Square and the Armory Museum.

The children also attended the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and prayed during the service with gesture translation in the Church of Tikhvin icon of Mother of God in the former Simonov monastery. The children received communion and participated in the religious procession.

DECR Communication Service


10.04.2006 — Hand-language is used during divine services at a church in Yaroslavl

The parishioners of the Church of the Prophet Elijah at the Kuznechikha village near Yaroslavl are special and divine services are conducted here especially for the deaf.

On the Day of the Annunciation, deaf children and their teachers came to the Elijah Church from a special boarding school in Rybinsk. It was the children’s first attendance of a church service, the Yaroslavia television and radio station has reported.

The Church of St. Elijah is so far the only church in Yaroslavl and its region to adapt church services for the deaf. Regrettably, many of those who come here cannot hear the church music, but now they can understand the sermons, Father Antony, rector of the church, said.


30.03.2006 — Dictionary of church gesture vocabulary for people of feeble hearing was published in Kiev

    The work experience of gesture-translation practice used in Orthodox churches of Russia and
Ukraine was unified and compilated by the publishing house «Glas». The newly published manual comprises about 600 gestures represented by sound both in Russian and Ukrainian and supplied with cue titles. Each word is supplied with the definition of its lexical meaning. The manual includes two variants of gesture-language prayers: simultaneous and adapted ones as well as fragments of the Divine Liturgy translated into gesture-language with the lexical patterns from the manual.

    The manual-dictionary contains recommendations on how to improve the gesture-language used in divine services and make it more effective.

    With the help of the published dictionary interpreters translating sounding speech by means of the finger language will be able to help believers of feeble hearing to really «hear» the worship service texts; the manual will also make it possible to provide assistance and support in social rehabilitation of such people in the church and facilitate communication with other Orthodox believers.

    The purpose of the authors of the manual was not to unify all gestures but to suggest several variants of applicable gestures to correspond to definitions and notions the dictionary contains. Interpreters translating gesture language are free to choose a variant to illustrate the meaning of a certain word.

    The dictionary was published in VHS, CD and DVD-media.


partnership II

A Parish, A Mission, A Bakery …

WELCOME to St. Silouan the Athonite, a mission parish of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Established in 2004 by our God-loving Metropolitan, Nicholas of Amissos, we are “one body and one spirit in Christ” with St. John the Compassionate Mission.

St. John the Compassionate Mission is an Apostolate of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in co-operation with local Orthodox churches of Greater Toronto serving anyone in need since 1987.

Mission Statement

Our purpose is to be and to build an inclusive community through the gifts and the needs that each of us brings. This Community of Love is a place of healing and nourishment occurring through awakening the God-given dignity and value of each person, while responding to each person’s needs.

St. John’s Bakery is one of Toronto’s finest and most unique artisan bakeries. The bread we bake is made in the French style using recipes that come from a small village bakery in the French province of Brittany. We use certified organic flour, much of it supplied by Ontario Mennonite farmers. Our bakery is located in St. John the Compassionate Mission in the Toronto neighbourhood of Riverdale. We serve as a training ground for people on the margins of society seeking some work experience. Bakery workers have included refugees, people struggling with addictions, people with emotional troubles or mental illness, single parents struggling with poverty as well as the mentally handicapped.

partnership (1 of 3)

From the OCA website Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries’ Community Service Section:

The Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Livonia, Michigan has “adopted” five men with disabilities who live at a local adult foster care home into their community. Here’s the story by their parish priest, Fr. Michael Matsko:

St. Gregory theTheologian’s Oration “On the Love of the Poor” with commentary (3 of 3)

The Three Holy Hierarchs (L to R): St. Gregory the Theologian, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great

“Some among us … develop vain and empty theories … They dare to say, ‘The suffering of these people is God’s work, just as prosperity is God’s work in us. … let them be unfortunate. It is God’s will. These people only talk about loving God when they feel the need to guard their pennies.” …. I, for one, am hesitant to explain this life’s trials as punishment for vice, or all human comfort as a reward for piety, … what seems to be unfair to us has its fairness in the plan of God. …. Some, … who detect great poverty on the part of Providence … although they think that the things beyond our senses are governed by it, they shrink from bringing it down to our level, who need it most. (14.29-33)

These were some of the wrong notions people in St. Gregory’s day concocted to ease their consciences for ignoring the suffering around them. One can detect a certain resemblance to non-Orthodox beliefs concerning predestination,  and also the prosperity gospel, that have a wide following in our day in the former view. The second notion resembles Deism, God as a clockmaker, who made the clock and then let it alone; this was widely held in the 18th century, and many of the founders of our country (U.S.A.) have been said to have taken this view. In any case, the attitude, “Get ahead, and don’t look back at the people left in the dust” seems to characterize the popular notions of “success” these days. Against such people, St. Gregory says,

“Let us admire those who are victorious through suffering  … Job … Lazarus … [and] learn to be dismissive of unjust riches, for whose sake Dives [the rich man] rightly suffers in the fire and begs a little drop of water for refreshment, and to praise a grateful and philosophic poverty, in which Lazarus is saved and enjoys rest in Abraham’s bosom. For this reason, to, then, kindness toward our fellow human beings and compassion toward the needy seem to be necessary: that we might restrain those who have such an attitude toward them, … making cruelty into a law turned against our very selves.

And so kindness is also an answer to error. St. Gregory goes on to quote the Holy Scriptures for support for his exhortations: Psalms 9:13, 26 & 35, 11:6, 36:26, 40:1, 111:5 (Septuagint Version- one ahead of the Hebrew) Proverbs 3:28, 15:27, 17:5, 19:17, Isaiah 1:18 & 58:7-8, Matt. 5:7, Rom. 12:8, Gal.. 2:8-10,   Heb 6:6, and especially St. Matthew 25:31-46, in which

“that ‘left hand’ has instilled fear in me, and the ‘goats'”  (14:35-39) He concludes, with St. Matthew 25 in mind:

If you believe me at all, then, servants and brothers and sisters, and fellow heirs of Christ, let us take care of Christ while there is time; let us minister to Christ’s needs, let us give Christ nourishment, let us clothe Christ, let us gather Christ in, let us show Christ honor … since the Lord of all ‘desires mercy and not sacrifice … let us give this gift to the needy, who today  are cast down on the ground, so that when we are all released from this place, they may receove us into the eternal tabernacle, in Christ Himself, who is our Lord, to whom be glory for all the ages. Amen.

St. Gregory the Theologian, who with St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, are called the Cappadocian Fathers, were most noted for being champions of the Divinity of Christ and the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity. But they also, with St. John Chrysostom, were and are champions of mercy, kindness, and attention to those in the Church and in society who had special needs. To be an Orthodox Christian is to be in agreement with these Holy Fathers, both in doctrine and in practice. May the fire of their convictions also be kindled in us, now and ever, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

from Gregory of Nazanzius, Brian E. Daily, S.J. Routledge, 2006. Pp. 95-97

Icon from: St. Juan Diego Reads, Sunday, January 29, 2012

St. Gregory the Theologian’s Oration “On Love of the Poor” (2 of 3)

St. Gregory the Theologian

St. Gregory’s specific example of the poor are the lepers. The shunning lepers endure, even by their families, has been based on fear of getting the disease from them. Nevertheless, St. Gregory rightly condemns the inhuman way in which they were driven away even from water sources. St. Gregory notes that despite their condition they are made in the image of God and have been baptized into Christ just as everyone else in their Christian region has.

“And what about us, … disciples of the gentle and kindly Christ, who … ‘bore our weaknesses’ … so that we might be rich in divinity? What about us, who have received such a great example of tenderness and compassion? How shall we think about these people, and what shall we do? Shall we simply overlook them? Walk past them? … Surely not, my brothers and sisters! This is not the way for us, nursed as we are by Christ, who brings back the one gone astray, seeks out the lost, strengthens the weak; this is not the way of human nature, which lays compassion on us as a law, even as we learn reverence and humanity from our common weakness. (14.13)

While Orthodox Christians in the Western Hemisphere would like a unified American Church, an Orthodoxy that would speak to America, rather than to traditional ethnic loyalties, it would be unfortunate if we failed to screen out the cultural baggage which is already here, the kind of values that make the evening TV offerings- especially the commercials- such a wasteland. Inadvertently, such values can creep into our Church life.  Materialism- the craving for more, more, more- is one such false value.  Or, for another instance, if we allow ourselves to be image-conscious, we may choose, for the sake of appearances, to exclude people with certain disabilities who are part of our local parish from roles for which they are capable, roles that God has fitted them for. They would sense this and suffer because of  it. And as St. Paul says, “if one member suffers, all suffer.” St. Gregory writes, sarcastically, on such attitudes:

We simply must be- or be thought to be- people of refined tastes, furnished well beyond our needs; it is as if we were not ashamed … not to be slaves of the belly and the regions below it! … this spiritual sickness … comes from our choice [and] goes with us when we are brought to the next [life].  (14.17-eighteen)

I am called to distinguish myself from the large, expansive lifestyles the advertisers try to drum into my head. I am called rather to receive the Kingdom of God like a child, with simple trust and wholehearted delight. And to preserve this simplicity, I need to downsize as needed. How about you?

Shall we not finally come to our senses? Shall we not cast off our insensitivity- not to say our stinginess? Shall we take no notice of human needs? Shall we not identify our own interests with the troubles of others?  … nothing human is lasting … The prudent ones, then are those who do not rely on present circumstances, but make their treasure in what is yet to come, and whoo … love that human kindness that never passes away.” (14.19)

Let the one who … flourishes in the best of circumstances support the one who is bowed over beneath the worst.” (14:26)

In the context of St. Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ, this is not simply a call to charitable giving. This is a call to partnership in the Faith with, among others, people with disabilities.

from Gregory of Nazanzius, Brian E. Daily, S.J. Routledge, 2006. Pp. 83-90

Icon from Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music: May 9: Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople, 389

St.Gregory the Theologian’s Oration “On the Love of the Poor” with commentary (1of 3)



St. Gregory the Theologian begins, “brothers and sisters, poor with me– for all of us are needy of divine grace … accept my words on love of the poor that you may be rich in God’s Kingdom.”

We all have weaknesses- disabilities, if you will- none of us can achieve the likeness of Christ on our own, we are but individual members of Christ’s Body (1 Cor. 12); and divine grace must be sought prayerfully for all our efforts. St. Gregory continues, listing the various virtues, seeking

the supreme virtue and award it first place.” (14.1)

He begins with

faith, hope, and love, these three” (1 Cor. 13)

and after listing many others, he says they are

all summed up by ‘contemplation’ and ‘action.’ Each is … one path to salvation … there are many dwelling places with God. (John 14) … And if, following the commandment of Paul and Christ Himself, we must suppose that love is the first and greatest of the commandments, I must conclude that love of the poor, and compassion and sympathy for our own flesh and blood, is its most excellent form. … we must open our hearts … to those suffering evil for any reason at all, according to the Scripture, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.’” (Rom. 12) (14.2-6)

How does he come to this conclusion? Later, he will bring forth a passage from the Scriptures [Matthew 25:31-46] as the basis for his claim. A little later he makes a statement:

For most people, only one thing causes misery: something is lacking.” (14.9)

Would a person with a disability then necessarily be in misery? As St. Gregory said from the very beginning, we are all poor; we are all gifted –by God– in some ways and lacking in others. Nobody “has it all.” But all are declared to have a place and a role in the Body of Christ, according to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. “Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 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, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it, or if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it.” (12:22-26)

We must ask ourselves if we are living up St. Paul’s vision of parish Church life in regard to our weaker members, particularly people with disabilities. While the Orthodox Faith is the fullness of the Faith, I for one regularly fall short of it in practice.We weep with those in physical pain and also with those whose emotional pain we understand, but do we not often fail to sense the heartaches of people- brothers and sisters in the Faith- to whom we have a hard time relating? And this fear of “the other, the different, the deficient” creates barriers. Those who suffer this “misery [from what] is lacking” includes people with disabilities, especially those with invisible disabilities. And we often fail to find these folks the roles that they can fill. And they are sensitive to this lack of esteem.

Perhaps we do weep with them, but fail to rejoice with them in what they can do. A disability would be a lesser misery if the greater honor that St. Paul called for upon “those members of the body which seem to be weaker” were being bestowed. But if it is not, it becomes a greater misery.

This is a call for a closer attention to a conscious assignment of appropriate roles for the “weaker” members in the local parish.

from Gregory of Nazanzius, Brian E. Daily, S.J. ed. Routledge, 2006. Pp. 76-80

A Parish Effort

St. Luke Parish Celebrates Fourth Year At The Garden Center

St. Luke Parish Celebrates Fourth Year At The Garden Center.

Each month Father Andrew and parishioners from St. Luke Parish take time to visit the residents of The Garden Center For The Handicapped. After the reading of the Gospel for the day, Father Andrew gives a short sermon often with some interesting props. Today he brought with him a stop light. After confiming with the residents that red means stop and green means go, he went on to explain that the Bible is like a stop light. It tell us to go and love your neighbor, go to church, go and do good for others, etc. It also tells us to stop being angry, to stop hurting one another, to stop killing etc. He asked everyone to think about the Bible and what it tells us to do and not to do when we see a stop light.


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