Archive for June, 2008

Father Ernie

Here is a story, a brief picture of an Orthodox Christian Priest, who, in addition to serving Parish communities for as a priest for the last twelve years, has also been active in service to persons with disability. He has a son who has Down Syndrome, who serves with his father in the altar. Here is that part of Father Ernie’s story:

Meet Rev. Fr. Coulouras, “Father Ernie”

Father Ernie . . .During the 1970’s Rev. Fr. Coulouras was the director of Camp Paul for Exceptional Children (now the Paul Center for Learning and Recreation), a camp for children with special needs, for five years. He helped raise funds to build a handicapped accessible in-ground pool, solicited help from the Nashoba Valley Technical High School to build cabins and replace tents, and was one of four volunteers to put up their own homes as collateral to purchase additional camp property. Rev. Fr. Coulouras has been on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board for Camp Paul for over 20 years.After serving three years as camp director, Rev. Fr. Coulouras’ youngest son, “Johnnie” was born with Downs Syndrome. Johnnie attended Camp Paul until the age 21, and today faithfully serves at the altar of St. George with his father. . . .

for the rest of the story, click on: (on this website click on “About Us“)

The Paul Center- click on:

Father David Kirk, 1935-2007

Fr. David in NY

Fr. David Kirk

In the last years of his life he was, to some degree, physically disabled by a chronic illness. Concerning this situation he wrote this thank you note to an Emmaus House supporter:

This is a very reflective time in my life which makes me be thankful for all things, beautiful or sad, all that I have seen, heard, received. Thankful, as I have to do so much sitting with my illnesses, for the winter wind that caresses my face and for the trees that nod to me at my window. Maybe God lets us be a little disabled so that we may see more deeply so much that we once walked by. Which means to thank the Lord for always being there, and you personally for being there for us. (Road to Emmaus, Vol. IX, No. 2 (#33), p. 62)

from Road To Emmaus Journal (click to access)

click on the following websites for more on Fr. David:

In Communion » Remembering Fr. David Kirk (source of picture)

In Communion » Fr. David Kirk’s Legacy of Hope

Father David Kirk, Memory Eternal – The Byzantine Forum

Rev. David Kirk, 72, Crusader for New York City’s Disenfranchised

A Priest for the Poor – Restoration

the tree of life


the Bread of life,

the Light of the world,

the Good Shepherd

and the Door,

the Resurrection

and the Life,

the Way, the Truth, and the Life,

the true Vine. (without Whom we can do nothing)

We in He (the Tree of life) bearing much fruit- together we can

The King of kings and Lord of lords made our humanity His Own

through the Theotokos,

bearing our infirmities

that we may share

in His Glory

and His Life

of Holy Love.

Jesus wept.

“Not My will,

but Thine be done.”

These are the words

He lived down here.

Glory and honor

to the Name

of the Father

and the Son

and the Holy Spirit

-the Lord Jesus Christ-

our fullness of joy



by ephrem gall

summing up “Living stones: socialization”

That last post was rather long; it was meant as a further exploration of the legitimacy of the word “socialization,” which an Orthodox Christian homeschooling Mom questioned here: Bourgeois Baby: “What about socialization?”

Ultimately, as Orthodox Christians we are in the process of discovering- unwrapping- the inexpressible gift of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- one God- that we are to be one with Him and one another as our Lord Jesus Christ (and the Holy Spirit) is one with the Father. (St.. John 17)

This gift of His uncreated Grace comes to us like the wind, in many ways, some of them unexpected (St. John 3); this Grace also comes to us through the Most Holy Theotokos in the form of the Incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who remains incarnate, seated at the right hand of the Father. And by the Holy Spirit Christ’s tangibility is continually made manifest through the sacraments of the Church- baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, holy unction, confession and repentance, ordination, marriage, as well as the innumerable sacramentals of the Church- all the means by which the Lord lovingly touches us, spirit, soul, and body.

As St. Paul writes, we are one bread, one body, as we partake of His Body and Blood, (1 Cor. 3) just as the Shepherd of Hermas writes of one tower, the House of God. We learn to lay aside our preferences and say “Thy will be done,” to God’s will and our neighbors’ interests. We are given strength to forsake our ways, which only disable us for the purpose for which God made us: to show forth His likeness, to bring Him glory thereby, and to be one with Him and each other.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as Persons, do not manifest any individualistic independence- there is one Divine Mind and one Divine Will in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one. And our sanctification and deification consists in participating in the Divine energies that our God has manifested in His creation – becoming one with Him not only in purpose, but in our very being, in ways beyond our conception. With Christ the Only-Begotten Son, we become adopted sons of God. We become persons- in the true sense of the word- in Him! We may be given varying gifts, but they are given for a common purpose, for loving service. (1 Cor. 12)

Socialization is a word for the process of becoming one with one another in our communities, primary or otherwise, in this life, in the Church, and forever. Our tendency toward willful independence is checked first and foremost in the family, and in the Church, in favor if loving interdependence.

In any case, while the word “deification” cannot be found in Holy Scripture, many scriptural passages, especially 2 Peter 1:4, show that this term, with longstanding usage in Orthodox theology, has  scriptural roots.

And similarly, 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and 1 Peter 2:5 (the “living stones” analogy) provide a scriptural grounding  for the word socialization(at least as it is used by respected Orthodox theologians like Dr. John Boojamra).

Language is a dynamic thing, and the meaning of a word can depend on its context. Perhaps “socialization,” as used in some secular contexts, is far from scriptural, as the aforementioned Orthodox homeschooling Mom warns. Time will tell if it will be accepted by the Church in a lasting way according to the definition that such as Dr. Boojamra gives it in his book “Foundations of Orthodox Christian Education,” which was the major basis for my own thesis. (Click on “About“)

living stones- socialization revisited, in relation to deification

The Shepherd of Hermas’ tower and Chapter III of Georgios I. Mantzaridis’ The Deification of Man both speak to the social aspects of our salvation in its ultimate sense: deification, “becoming partakers of the divine nature” (in the Divine Energies, not the Holy Trinity’s Essence.)

Again I will reproduce, from Joseph Paterson’s blog Mind in the Heart a portion of George Florovsky’s “Two Sides of Catholicity” (on the Shepherd’s reading of the living stones):

. . . No multitude, every member of which is isolated and impenetrable, can become a brotherhood. Union can become possible only through the mutual brotherly love of all the separate brethren. This thought is expressed very vividly in the well known vision of the Church as of a tower that is being built. (Compare the Shepherd of Hermas). This tower is being built out of separate stones-the faithful. These faithful are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). In the process of building they fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone. This is a symbol of unity and wholeness. But notice, only smooth square stones could be used for this building. There were other stones, bright stones, but round ones, and they were of no use for the building; they did not fit one into the other, were not suitable for the building and they had to be placed near the walls. (Hermas, Vis. 3:2:6,8). In ancient symbolism “roundness” was a sign of isolation, of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction — teres atque rotundus. And it is just this spirit of self-satisfaction which hinders our entering the Church. The stone must first be made smooth, so that it can fit into the Church wall. We must “reject ourselves” to be able to enter the catholicity of the Church. We master our self-love in a catholic spirit before we can enter the Church. And in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished…..In catholic transfiguration personality receives strength and power to express the life and consciousness of the whole. . . .

{On the Shepherd of Hermas }

All of us, according to this vision, are in the “process” of being “smoothed” and “squared” to “fit into the other” and “joined” so as to be the “one” Church. We must freely, of our own will, lay aside self-satisfaction and master our self-love- which are DISABLING attitudes in the Kingdom of God- “rejecting ourselves” and losing our lives in order to save them for eternal life.

Whether or not one considers oneself to be “disabled,” this struggle is universal. The Holy Fathers say that to truly know oneself (as a sinner, poor, blind, pitiable, and naked!) is a greater gift than to be able to do miracles.)

. . .in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished. . . .

In chapter III of Mantzaridis’ The Deification of Man,”The Moral Aspect of Deification,” St. Gregory of Palamas is quoted as saying, “When God does not operate within us, all that we perform is sinful.” (p. 63)

Mantzarides adds, “And even when he strives to attain virtue, he ends up in arrogance and self-adulation.” (p. 63)

According to Orthodox tradition and to St. Palamas, the imitation of Christ is the ‘cooperation’ of the man regenerate in Christ with the author of this regeneration; . . . (p. 64)

Empowered by grace, we freely embark on the self-denying path to glory.

And this healing and purifying process is not a matter of knowledge, but of obedience and of the continual “falling down and getting up” of confession and repentance. (p. 68-69)

Mantzarides quotes St. Gregory Palamas’ summary of the Lord’s commandments:

A firm reverence and love for Him, the purity and self-control of our body, love for one another, not to desire anything at the expense of our neighbor or to harm him in any way, but to help him as much as possible, and in short to act towards one’s neighbor as one would like to be treated by him. (p. 70, from Oikonomos, p. 283)

Love of God is the root of all virtue . . . . Love of God bears fruit in the form of love for one’s neighbor, which is the “sign” of the believer’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the starting-point of all social virtue. (p. 71)

And so this salvation as deification, so mysterious and suspicious to non-Orthodox Christians, turns out to come down to (with the participation in the Divine Grace of the Church’s sacraments) the basics: obedience to the golden rule!

(Backing up to note the sacramental aspects- especially baptism, confession, and participation in the Body and Blood of Christ), Mantzarides’ connection of the sacramental and the social is summed up in a paragraph:

We have seen how through communion in the sacraments of Christ man partakes of His uncreated grace and is united with Him into one body and one spirit. This immediate and personal link between every believer and Christ calls for a genuine unification and communion between believers themselves. In this way a new relationship, beyond words and beyond nature, is set up between man and Christ. This is the Church.

And so we’re back to the tower of the Shepherd of Hermas. It is true that Mantzarides does not use the word “socialization” to describe the social aspects of the process of deification. Personally, I believe that the use of this term by the late Dr. John Boojrama of blessed memory, the former head of the Education department of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and professor at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in his book Foundations For Christian Education, functions adequately as a descriptor of this social aspect of deification. But perhaps there are alternatives.

But now that we have revisited the term, here is a review of a pertinent book by a Roman Catholic homeschooling Mom, Alice Gunther: Haystack Full of Needles: A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization Bliss on the Hill: The Mystery Revealed At Last from the blog Bliss on the Hill (click on underlined phrases to access)

But let’s look again at the “tower” analogy, as well as St. Paul’s description of how this tower (the Body of Christ) should work in 1 Corinthians 12, from which another apt term for the process may be possibly derived:

In the process of building {the living stones} fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone.

We are saved together; we become “one stone,” {as well as “one bread and one body” (1 Cor. 10:17); as Jesus said, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, . . . (John 17:23a)} My heart thrills at the thought of it all!

St. Paul (depicted with St. Peter on the left) writes,

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Cor 12:12-14)

So just as we are one, we are many, and very diverse in our gifts.A body needs- variously- feet, eyes, hears, a nose, etc. to function normally. (vv. 12-27) St. Paul speaks literally of Church functions based on this figurative image in vv. 27-31.

And he also states unequivocally, “those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (12:12:22b) This certain includes persons with disabilities.

And since we all are seeking the Lord Jesus Christ and deification in and through Him, this social aspect of deification calls for this extended consideration of the matter, in some detail.

St. Paul goes on to show the “more excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13: Love– with all its qualities. And he goes on to contrast love to knowledge. He reminds us, “we know in part . . . But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1 Cor. 13:9-10)

St. Paul does not assign a term to sum up this Church Body, loving, one and many. The image he has, by the Holy Spirit, developed is simply too grand to encapsulate into one technical term. Besides, “Knowledge puffs up, love edifies.” (1 Cor. 8:1b)

The people I live with in our group home are not verbally gifted- they are developmentally disabled. But they are equally made in the image of God, and they have their gifts; more than that, they are loved by God equally, even if they have not been granted great talents.

These texts tell me that defining the social aspects of deification is not really the important thing; rather, experiencing this Divine process under the guiding hand of our merciful Father and Shepherd, together, in wondrous, silent contemplation, thankfully and with high praises, with a contrite heart, and, most of all, love– this is what matters.

Joseph Paterson’s post: icon of St. Gregory Palamas from:!C6310623C4F38BE2!113/

Orthodox Christian counselling & spiritual therapy

I would like to present two Orthodox Christian resources I’ve found which make a beginning at addressing  the need for counselling and spiritual therapy in the U.S.A.  the  website of Erik Bohlin. His site has many links to spiritually beneficial writings which focus on aspects of spiritual healing, such as this appendix to C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain :  & this homily by Priest Andrew Kencis: Fettered by Fear

See also his Home Page

Another site: The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion

One of the Fathers said it: “to know one’s self (and one’s sins) is greater than the ability to do miracles.” According to our Standard, the Lord Jesus Christ, we all fall short. We all have dis-ability issues- even as we are all made in the image of God, which gives us the possibility of regaining our likeness to God, so that by the power of His Divine Energies, our abilities may be guided by Him toward the purposes of His eternal Kingdom.

And these are people who want to help us towards these holy goals.

On Autism: Khorea Frederica, her daughter Megan, and Megan’s son Adam

I am on Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green’s email mailing list. I recently received an email in which she alerts me of an Ancient Faith Radio podcast that she did with her daughter Megan concerning her son Adam (almost 6), who has the diagnosis of being Autistic. Here’s a copy of her email with the web addresses of the podcast and two more resources on autism:

Today’s podcast is about autism, which is so much in the news lately. I am interviewing my daughter Megan about her son Adam (almost 6), who has a diagnosis of autism.

Her toddler Michael was sitting on her lap, and tries to get into the conversation. When the recorder, with its foam ball windscreen, comes his way, he tries to take a bite out of it.

I wrote a column about Adam and autism for Beliefnet a year or so ago, and was blessed by the response. I have become convinced that this is a genuine increase, and not just better diagnosis; school teachers tell me that they are definitely seeing more of these children than they used to. I wonder what life will be like when they become adults, 20 years from now, and we are encountering them everywhere. Click: “Loving a Child with Autism”

Temple Grandin, a woman with autism, has written some terrific books about what it is like for her, and in particular how it provides her with a mind she thinks is more like an animal’s, which enables her to understand animals. I particularly liked her book, Animals in Translation.”
(Click on title to access.) (You can read some of the book at that link.)

[Editor’s note: Here is her home website, the source of the picture: click:
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist and an author who writes with compassion about his patients with autism, brain injury, and other conditions. In An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales he profiles 7 of his patients, including Temple Grandin and other autists. (Most interesting to me: a surgeon with Tourette’s!) See 
Frederica Mathewes-Green


[Editor’s note: Here is her home website, the source of the picture: ]


Blog Stats

  • 122,708 hits
June 2008
« May   Jul »

%d bloggers like this: