Archive for December, 2007

more from St. Ephrem

“In Thee will I begin to speak, Thou Head that didst begin all created things. I, even I will open my mouth, but it is Thou that fillest my mouth. I am the earth to Thee, and Thou art the husbandman. Sow Thy voice in me, Thou that sowedst Thyself in the womb of thy Mother. . . .” (Hymn 10)

In December when the nights are long, rose unto us the Day, of Whom there is no bound! In winter when all the world is gloomy, forth came the Fair One Who cheered all in the world! In winter that makes the earth barren, virginity learned to bring forth. In December, that causes the travails of the earth to cease, in it were the travails of virginity. . . .

Glory to that Voice Which became Body, and to the Word of the High One Which became Flesh! Hear Him also, O ears, and see Him, O eyes, and feel Him, O hands, and eat Him, O mouth! . . .

It was by Power from Him that Mary was able to bear in Her bosom Him that bears up all things! It was from the great storehouse of all creatures, Mary gave Him all which she did give Him! She gave Him milk from Himself that prepared it, she gave Him food from Himself that made it! He gave milk unto Mary as God: again He sucked it from her, as the Son of Man. Her hands bare Him in that He had emptied His strength; and her arm embraced Him, in that He had made Himself small. The measure of His Majesty who has measured? He caused His measures to shrink into a Raiment. She wove for Him and clothed Him because He had put off His glory. She measured Him and wove for Him, since He had made Himself little. . . .

The sea when it bore Him was still and calmed, and how came the lap of Joseph to bear Him? The womb of hell conceived Him and was burst open, and how did the womb of Mary contain Him? The stone that was over the grave He broke open by His might, and how could Mary’s arm contain Him? Thou camest to a low estate, that Thou mightest raise all to life! Glory be unto Thee from all that are quickened by Thee! . . . (Hymn 3)

Yea, O Lord, Thy Birth, has become mother of all creatures; for it travailed anew and gave birth, to mankind which gave birth to Thee. Thou wast born of it bodily; it was born of Thee spiritually.-All that Thou camest for to birth, was that man might be born in Thy likeness.-Thy Birth became the author of birth to all. Refrain: Blessed be He Who became a youth and to all gave youth! . . .

Though Thy Birth had sufficed, for Adam’s sons as for Adam;-O Mighty One Who didst become a babe, in Thy Birth anew hast Thou begotten me!-O pure One Who wast baptized, let Thy Washing wash away our filth-O Living One who wast buried, may we gain life in Thy death!-I will praise all of Thee in Him that fills all. Refrain: Glory to all of Thee from all of us! (Hymn 16)

– from St. Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns of Nativity, from

Theotokos Foundation (Greece)

Here’s a ministry to persons with disabilities which is named after the Most Holy Theotokos, who surely

The Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

watches over them and intercedes with her Son our Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. In their own words,

The Theotokos Foundation in Athens, Greece, offers services to children and young people with intellectual disability and other developmental disorders as well as giving support to their families. . . . The mission of the Foundation is the education and training of children and young people aged 2½ -32, with the aim of facilitating their full participation in society.

The Programs: Educational/   (Pedagogical) Department/  Pre-vocational Training/  Vocational Training/  Supported Employment ”Ergaxia”/  Transition Program/  Enrichment Programs




the Theotokos: harp & King’s palace

“She saw the Magi:  her songs increased at their offerings; “Lo! Thy worshippers have surrounded me, yea thy offerings have encircled me.  Blessed be the Babe who made His Mother a harp for His words:

“And as the harp waiteth for its master, my mouth waiteth for Thee.  May the tongue of Thy Mother bring what pleases Thee; and since I have learnt a new Conception by Thee, let my mouth learn in Thee, O new born Son, a new song of praise. Icon Of The Mother Of God Of The Sign

“And if hindrances are no hindrances to Thee, since difficulties are easy to Thee, as a womb without marriage conceived Thee, and a belly without seed brought Thee forth, it is easy for a little mouth to multiply Thy great glory.

“Lo! I am oppressed and despised, and yet cheerful:  mine ears are filled with reproof and scorn; and it is a small thing to me to bear, for ten thousand troubles can a single comfort of Thine chase away.

“And since I am not despised by Thee, O Son, my countenance is bright; and I am slandered for having conceived, and yet have brought forth the Truth who justifies me.  For if Tamar was justified by Judah, how much more shall I be justified by Thee!” (Hynm 10) . . .

The Son of the Most High came and dwelt in me, and I became His Mother; and as by a second birth I brought Him forth so did He bring me forth by the second birth, because He put His Mother’s garments on, she clothed her body with His glory. (Hymn 11) . . .

A King’s palace she was by Thee, O Son of the King, and a Holy of Holies by Thee, O High Priest!” (Hymn 12)

From St. Ephrem the Syrian’s “Hymns of the Nativity 10-12.

Icon (a weeping icon!) from

Christmas Meditation


Lord, What shall I offer you on your birthday in return for your infinite love? I have neither gold nor silver, neither myrrh nor frankincense.  

My house is without a roof. I have no room for you; not even a manger.

My soul is even darker than the clouds of my passion.

My eyes are too dim to look beyond the horizon of myself.

Help me behold your bright star; “For in thy light we shall see light.”


You have been knocking on my door for thirty-nine years, but I never dared let you in because my garment is not white as snow.

Forgive me if I do not invite you to my table, for my table is full of everything you despise. I have denied you more than Peter.

I have doubted you more than Thomas.

I have betrayed you more than Judas.

My hands are empty. My lips are not clean to sing your praise.


The only thing I can offer you on your birthday is myself.

Drown me in the ocean of your love.

Feed me with your heavenly bread, for the bread of this world will never satisfy my hunger.

Quench my thirst with your divine fountain, for the water of this earth will never satisfy my thirst.

Give me your eyes to see what you see, your ears to hear what you hear and your heart to love what you love.

Take me with you to Mount Tabor and let me bathe in your eternal light.


“Create a clean heart in me. Cast me not away from Thy face. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.”

Teach me how to pray in simple words, for only through prayers I may overcome my loneliness.

Help me to care for the needy, the oppressed, the orphans, the sinners and the despised whom you love.

As I kneel before your manger with love and humility I beseech you to listen to my prayers.


I wish I were at the Royal hours service instead of nursing a body still recovering from a cold. But alas, I have energy only for one 24 mile trip to York and 2 hours of chanting. My fundamental disability, however, as his Eminence Metropolitan Philip has said, is my lack of likeness of the eyes and ears of my heart to those of our Lord Jesus, which reduces the quality of my care for others. Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved!

from St. Ephrem the Syrian

St. Ephrem the Syrian

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

A Nativity Hymn

(6) Your mother is a cause of wonder: the Lord entered into her

and became a servant; He who is the Word entered

– and became silent within her; thunder entered her

– and made no sounds; there entered the Shepherd of all,

and in her He became the Lamb, bleating as He comes forth.

Praise to You to whom all things are easy, for You are almighty

(7) Your mother’s womb has reversed the roles:

the Establisher of all entered into His richness,

but came forth poor; the Exalted one entered her,

but came forth meek; the Splendrous one entered her,

but came forth having put on a lowly hew.

Praise to You to whom all things are easy, for You are almighty

8. The Mighty one entered, and put on insecurity

from her womb; the Provisioner of all entered

– and experienced hunger; He who gives drink to all entered

– and experienced thirst: naked and stripped

there came forth from her He who clothes all!

Praise to You to whom all things are easy, for You are almighty

from “The Harp of the Spirit,” tr. Sebastian Brock. Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 1983. Hymn 11, pp. 35-36

“The Word became flesh” (John 1), putting on insecurity. Remaining the Almighty, the “All-abled,” as it were, He put on limits. These limits are a participation in the universal human condition. We all have abilities and we all have limits, weaknesses, disabilities. The Son of God not only has sympathy with us in these, He’s with us in them. “God became man, that man may become God. [divine]” (St. Athanasius the Great)

The Challenge Liturgy

“The Challenge Program is a liturgy-centered program that invites disabled individuals, and their families, to participate in a monthly Divine Liturgy that is conducted in a supportive and accepting environment and in a manner that is appropriate to their needs. A Challenge Liturgy is held on the third Saturday of every month. . . .

It is a dynamic, growing program presently serving about fifty families, many coming from neighboring Queens/Long Island parishes. Participation by members of other parishes, including other Orthodox jurisdictions, is encouraged and transportation is provided, when needed. . . . “

Read more at the website of the Long Island, NY Greek Orthodox Parish, Archangel Michael Church which hosts the Liturgy:

And, to access “A Divine Liturgy for Physically & Mentally Challenged
Orthodox Christians,” the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s profile of the ministry, click here:

I have also found a photo from an online 2004 Orthodox Observer of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America with the folks involved in the Challenge Liturgy at the Archangel Michael Church in Roslyn, NY. After having celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the Saturday of Lazarus, which inaugurates the Orthodox Paschal Holy Week, he joined the group for their monthly Challenge Liturgy fellowship.

One of the parishioners remarked that day, “although these parishioners do not have perfect minds and bodies, they are perfect in spirit and love and have immeasurable value.”

The picture of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios with the Challenge Liturgy parishioners and the caption describing the day can be found at – at the bottom of Page 4.

For a more ind-depth profile of the ministry, go to

an Orthodox family conference

On August 21, 2007, in Fathers are crucial, I wrote this:

“The goal of socializing children with disabilities into life in society and in the Church was addressed by the late Dr. John Boojrama of blessed memory in his book “Foundations for Christian Education.” (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press) Dr. Boojrama identifies the father’s spiritual health and the health of the parent’s relationship as the key factors in successful socialization of all family members. And this certainly applies to families with members who have disabilites as well. So one would think that it would be easy to find Orthodox Christian resources that focus on supporting the spiritual health of fathers (of families). But I am not finding this. Am I missing something?”

Well I was missing something. The Orthodox Christian Conference on the Family was held at New Ostrog, the Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America. The conference was held under the auspices of The Saint Maximos Centre for Orthodox Studies. Two of the papers from that conference are available at the following web address. ( The Family as the Bearer of Tradition by Rev. Fr. Andrew Jarmus & Reflections on the Spiritual Vocation of the Family by David J. Goa) More of the papers will be forthcoming. Here’s the site:


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