Archive for November, 2010

The Orthodoxy of Down’s Syndrome- who decides? A response

The blog post below was by Tony Jones: http://tonyj.net/about/

Here’s the post: The Orthodoxy of Down Syndrome- who decides? http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/01/the-orthodoxy-of-down-syndrome.html#preview

I felt the need to respond, even thought the conversation was old. The word “Orthodoxy” for non-Orthodox Christians means various things, none of which are exactly what we Orthodox Christians mean. Here is the post: http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/01/the-orthodoxy-of-down-syndrome.html#preview

My interpretation of his definition of Orthodoxy just from this post would place it in relation  to how Protestants understand the saving knowledge of Christ, with the truth about salvation as the central and most essential aspect of “Orthodoxy.” Most Protestants believe that saving faith necessarily involves a cognitive grasp of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross, which for most of them would mean understanding and adherence to the substitutionary atonement theory.

Tony, who has a brother with down syndrome, is questioning what the level of cognitive grasp one needs to have to be considered one who believes. He is lowering the bar, though not to the “comatose.”

Another Protestant  theologian I have given consideration to in this weblog, Hans Reinders, deals this issue in terms of “who is human?” and includes the profoundly disabled who have no cognitive function to speak of.  See  https://armsopenwide.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/hans-s-reinders-receiving-the-gift-of-friendship/ 

If you scroll to the end of the comments, you will find mine, posted on December 28, 2009. I didn’t take days to think it over; I responded quickly. I think my time was limited, and I felt the call to say what I said. I didn’t get into the substitutionary atonement theory; I just pointed out the  mystical awareness given not only to infants and all those who have not and will not attain the abstract stage of cognitive development, but also to the unborn St. John the Baptist.

This is grace, and there are two dimensions in regard to God’s grace in this matter that I would identify. There is the uncreated grace given to all who have been endowed with life- to all human beings made in the image of God. And then there is the great grace that flows from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, given in baptism and chrismation; this illumination is saving uncreated grace- to be exercised unto life eternal.

(And Orthodox Christians are generally silent on the outcome of the lives of the unbaptized. We run far away from judging anyone’s eternal destiny, for we have been directed to strive toward the goal of enduring to the end ourselves. I speak as the chief of sinners.)

What I principally meant by “the various means the Church has engaged in to rule out heresies, and errant individual Bible interpretations” is that this process of clarifying truth and error for Orthodox Christians centers around a valid episcopy and presybtery- in succession and in profession- able to defend the Faith in word and in council according to the gifts they have been given through ordination, as well as  the general  priesthood of the laity, who are also involved in the informed giving of the “Amen,” an essential “seal” of these matters. As Father Ted Pulcini has put it, in regard to our personal responsibility for the Christian Tradition,

In Orthodoxy, it is not an authoritative magisterium which safeguards the Faith; it is the faithful themselves! For the faithful to be able to assume this responsibility — and privilege — they must immerse themselves in the life of the Spirit through prayer, sacramental participation, and spiritual training.

This quote is from What is Orthodoxy?-TO BE AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Is to experience the Apostolic Faith … by the Reverend Dr. Theodore Pulcini, who, by the way, was my thesis advisor and the one who recommended that I undertake this Orthodox Christian disability website: http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/whatisorthodoxy.php

And here are two posts which speak to the Orthodox Christian understanding of salvation, in reference to the substitutionary atonement theory:

1. Father Michael Langley Communicatum Idiomatum: Salvation by Participation http://holynativity.blogspot.com/2010/02/communicatio-idiomatum-salvaton-by.html

2. Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green- The Meaning of Christ’s Suffering http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-meaning-of-christs-suffering.html

And as to the “emerging Church” concerning which Tony Jones is a consultant, here’s another post by Khorea Frederica: Emergent Church and Orthodoxy: http://www.frederica.com/writings/the-emerging-church-and-orthodoxy.html

Actually, its about the Orthodox Church experience, in comparison to the “western” (Protestant and Roman Catholic) varieties of Christianity.  

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Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

Thank You, Lord, for our daily bread- what we need, when we need it, from Your loving hand. On Thanksgiving and forevermore.

The CD Akathist of Thanksgiving, sung by the choir of the St. Ignatius of Antioch Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Madison, Wisconsin (not as a performance but as a prayer) was written, some say, by Archpriest Gregory Petroff  Metropolitan Tryphon in a Soviet Prison Camp, where he passed through the shadow of death into the eternal loving Presence of God. In the midst of great terror and privation, he found within the illumination to grasp “the beauty of the universe … the festival of life … the bread of eternal joy.” Here is an excerpt:

“Glory to you, for every sigh of my sadness … for every moment of joy … for the fragrant lillies of the valley and the roses … for the morning dew, shining like diamonds … I kiss reverently the footprint of Your invisible tread … for the last rays of sunlight … for rest and the gift of sleep … for providential encounters with people … for the love of relatives, the devotion of friends … for our tireless thirst for You … Who have broken the spirits of darkness … for the genius of the human mind … for the life-giving strength of work … Who grant my wishes when they are good … for Whom there is no such thing as a hopeless loss … Who send failures and sorrows to us so that we might be sensitive to the sufferings of others … Who have raised love higher than anything on earth or in heaven … for providential coincidences … for the guidance of a secret inner voice … for revelations in dreams and when awake … Who destroy our useless plans … Who humble pride of heart to save us … for the unfathomable life-giving power of grace … Who have raised up Your Church as a refuge of peace for an exhausted world … Who breathe new life into us with the life-giving water of Baptism … Who restore the purity of immaculate lillies to those who repent … Glory to you, inexhaustible abyss of forgiveness … Who led us to heaven … Who have loved us with love immeasurable, deep, Divine … Who have surrounded us with light, and with hosts of angels and saints … Glory to You , all Holy Father, Who have willed us Your Kingdom … all Holy Son, the Way the Truth, and the Life …all Holy Spirit and life-giving sun of the future age … Glory to You for everything, O Divine Trinity, all bountiful … unto ages of ages.”

Thanks be to God, Who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:57) To order copies of this CD or to read the Akathist of Thanksgiving in its entirety see this website: www.SaintIgnatiusChurch.org

see also   http://www.saintignatiuschurch.org/akathistcd.html#PROMOTIONAL POSTER

Some claim Metropolitan Tryphon wrote the Akathist in 1934. Ode 6: http://frted.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/glory-to-god-for-all-things-ode-6-illustrated/

Rev. Nicholas Georgiou: “Give Thanks”

(Or, perhaps, “a sacrifice of thanksgiving”)

An excerpt

. . . . A beautiful story is told about a sheep that hurt its leg. The sheep limped and never wandered more than a few feet away from the shepherd. A stranger looked at the sheep and asked, “Why is the sheep limping? Why doesn’t the sheep ever leave the shepherd’s side?” The shepherd explained that the sheep was partially deaf and could not hear his voice so it was always walking into danger. Many times the sheep was rescued from near disaster. The shepherd finally decided to inflict an injury on the sheep’s leg. The sheep limped, but it stayed closer to the shepherd for protection and guidance. God allows His sheep to experience certain difficult situations (limps) in life to be used as an opportunity to grow closer to Him. St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians states: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’ … For Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, For when I am weak, then I am strong.” St. Paul had a “limp” and God did not remove it. God’s love allowed the pain to remain to keep  St. Paul “limping” at the Shepherd’s side, where he could find strength for his weakness.

The entire sermon:

One afternoon a woman was shopping at the mall. She was tired from all the shopping, so she bought a small bag of chocolate chip cookies and put them in her shopping bag. She sat down at one of the crowded tables in the food court and began reading the newspaper and sipping her coffee. Across the table from her, a man was reading a magazine. After a few minutes, she reached out and took a cookie. As she took the cookie, the man sitting across from her also took a cookie out of the same bag! This really bothered the woman, but she did not say anything. A few minutes later, she took another cookie. Once again, the man took another cookie from the same bag! Although the woman was very upset, she still did not say anything. After taking a few more sips of coffee, the woman, once again, took another cookie. Again, the man took another cookie from the same bag. Now, the woman was extremely upset because she realized that only one cookie was left! Before the woman could say anything, the man took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her one half and ate the other half himself. The man smiled at the woman, put his magazine under his arm, and walked away. As the mad, extremely flustered woman steamed out of the food court, she folded her newspaper, opened her shopping bag, and discovered her own, unopened bag of chocolate chip cookies!

Some of us are similar to the woman in the story. God gives us gifts and blessings, and we are not aware of them. We get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life and forget. When things seem to be going poorly in our lives, we forget to thank God for His blessings. The recent financial turmoil and uncertainty have greatly affected people. We may have a loved one that is ill or has passed away recently. Maybe our relationships with our spouse, children, or parents are challenged. When we do not receive what we want, we may get angry, scared, frightened and even upset with God. How should we treat these difficult, challenging times? Remember, the Lord uses these challenges in life to bring us closer to Him. These difficult times can be used as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with the Lord. 

A beautiful story is told about a sheep that hurt its leg. The sheep limped and never wandered more than a few feet away from the shepherd. A stranger looked at the sheep and asked, “Why is the sheep limping? Why doesn’t the sheep ever leave the shepherd’s side?” The shepherd explained that the sheep was partially deaf and could not hear his voice so it was always walking into danger. Many times the sheep was rescued from near disaster. The shepherd finally decided to inflict an injury on the sheep’s leg. The sheep limped, but it stayed closer to the shepherd for protection and guidance. God allows His sheep to experience certain difficult situations (limps) in life to be used as an opportunity to grow closer to Him. St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians states: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me but He said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ … For Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, For when I am weak, then I am strong.” St. Paul had a “limp” and God did not remove it. God’s love allowed the pain to remain to keep  St. Paul “limping” at the Shepherd’s side, where he could find strength for his weakness. God’s purpose in adversity is to make us lean more on His saving arm. Our spiritual strength or power lies in our crying out to God for help. At every Divine Liturgy, the priest prays the Anaphora Prayer. This is a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for us. It helps us put our problems in perspective. First, we thank God for bringing us “into being out of nothing.” Then we thank God because when we fell “He raised us up again.” We thank the Holy Trinity “for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us.” Lastly, the prayer offers thanks for the Liturgy which we are able to celebrate. This Thanksgiving, despite the difficult physical, emotional, or financial situations we are experiencing, we are reminded: “in everything give thanks.” 

(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
 
-Rev. Nicholas Georgiou, Presbyter

Living Orthodox Christian disability resources

St. Brigid

 The vision presented by SCOBA’s Disability and Communion“which I’m confident the new Council of Bishops will own and affirm, will require people trained and competent in disciplines that directly relate to the service of persons with disability in order to implement this vision in our Parishes and regional organizations. (On the blog roll to the right, at the top, you will find this statement.)

St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Goleta, California, has people with this expertise, who are themselves Orthodox Christian disability resources. Presently this Parish runs the St. Brigid Fellowship  for homeless people in Isla Vista, California,  http://www.stathanasius.org/site/content/stbrigid  providing material helps, guidance, and referrals to homeless men, women, and children, some of whom have mental health issues.

Here’s an article about the ministry in the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s In Communion Magazine: http://www.incommunion.org/2008/12/07/one-parishs-engagement-with-its-homeless-neighbors/ (the source of the icon above)

Dig a little deeper into their Parish website and you will find that Fr. Nicholas Speier holds a Lifetime Teaching Credential in Special Education. Also, one of their catechists, Genevieve Jennifer Ferraez, has taught special education, worked with children with learning disabilities, and has therapy experience with traumatized children. She as a Masters in Social Work with an emphasis in developmental psychology. http://www.stathanasius.org/site/content/catechists

So if one desires to begin a ministry working with people with disabilities, or, if our leaders wish to glean the expertise of our people to develop something, this would be one place to call or email. Access the websites listed and you will find addresses and phone numbers. http://www.stathanasius.org/ 

Adam

Here’s a story about an extended Orthodox Christian family and the richness of their life together, especially as it pertains to one of their youngest members, Adam, who is autistic. It is written by his grandmother, an Orthodox Christian Priest’s wife, Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green, who is  a gifted and prominent professional writer and speaker. This gift makes this true story particularly vibrant in the telling.

From the Winter 2008 issue of In Communion

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/young-adam

DISABILITY COMMITTEE

 http://files.thecathedral.goarch.org/cathedralvoice/01-04.pdf (P. 6-7)

from The Cathedral Voice: DISABILITY COMMITTEE

By Phaedra Vasiliki Damianakos

As Christians, from birth, we are pledged to follow the words of Jesus and to devote our lives to loving and nurturing the lives of our fellow man. Jesus said, “If you love not man, you love not God.” On the surface, this statement seems obvious and easy to understand. But, what is “man”? Is it also “woman”? the sick, the elderly, needy children and their families or the disabled? When we are baptized, we were initiated into a religion of helping others, man or woman. We must help Jesus carry the heavy that He labored to lift. In some ways, the definition of the “sick” and that of “disabled” overlap. As Americans, however, we realize that “disability” in our country is strictly embraced by the law and that is underscored, by law. The disabled are also part of our human family and part of our Greek Orthodox family. They are Americans. As the law mandates, the disabled must be included as part of the larger activities of society.

At the wheelchair-accessible Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the church would like to form a group to welcome disabled persons to our parish. We would like to learn who those people are so we can give assistance to them or provide information, in any way we can. We would like them to know that the disabled are welcome into our church as Jesus loved the disabled and cured many of them, too. Could we have articles written on disability for the “Orthodox Observer” or have a special liturgy once a year for the disabled on a day designated as “Disability Day” in our church? Have a committee to uplift spirits and encourage the downhearted who carry the heavy burden of disability? The church asks that you volunteer for this much-needed committee in the Cathedral. Please call the church office at 212 288-3215

Disabilities, baptism, & communion, by Fr. Ernesto in Cuba

The Post: http://www.orthocuban.com/2009/10/disabilities-baptism-and-communion/  

 

Fr. Ernesto

Fr. Ernesto Obregon, an Orthodox Priest from Cuba, after reading a post from a Protestant pastor whose congregation struggled with their principles in regard to the matter of baptizing a 15-year-old youth with autism, gave some thought to the Orthodox Christian approach to the his situation. He refers to the document published last year when SCOBA  issued a statement , and then makes some further comments on the matter, focusing on the Lord’s kenosis (emptying of Himself, St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians chapter 2). 

A most interesting blog, I must say. Read the About Me section to learn Fr. Ernesto’s story. Check out the Archives. He does apologetics, comparative theology, politics. Lately he’s been running with a metaphor he feels has a good bit of wider application- tight shoes, the kind women sometimes wear that deform their feet, all for the sake of fashion. Here’s the first post with this theme, by Fr. Orthoduck: http://www.orthocuban.com/2010/09/the-power-of-culture/ And Fr. Orthoduck (a ha ha) takes the thought here: http://www.orthocuban.com/2010/09/tight-fitting-shoes-and-ecumenical-councils/ He speaks of, among other things,  the formative power of culture, and how every culture to some degree twists and deforms God’s truth to some degree or another. And then he runs with the tight shoes. (Ouch!) The theme, I mean.    

Read the whole thing, so this excerpt does not serve to distort his meaning. I myself am going to subscribe.   

 


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