Archive for March, 2013

On a Christian Attitude to Disabled People, by Jordan George from the 2012 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival

Given at the 2012 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival

from

 DEAR FRIENDS Volume 19 Issue 4 St. John Greek Orthodox Church—Sterling Heights, Michigan April 2012, Page 8

(unfortunately, no longer accessible online)

2012 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival
by Jordan George (Junior Division)

Topic #1

Many times in the New Testament, we see Jesus caring about the blind, the paralyzed, and others with physical disabilities (for example, Matthew 9:2 and 9:27–29). Following Christ’s footsteps, discuss the Christian attitude toward disabled people. Alexander Graham Bell, Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Walt Disney—these are familiar, talented people who each had a disability. If these people lived during the time of Jesus, they would have been cast out as sinners.

The Original Sin that was committed by Adam and Eve brought about many things from the devil, including death and disability. The mindset of the people during Jesus’ time was different. In John 9:2-3, Jesus’ disciples asked,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

St. Matrona of Moscow is an example of a person born blind who God used to display His works. Jesus came to teach the world how to live in order to gain eternal salvation. So what did He teach us about the disabled?

Everyone is familiar with His instruction in Mark 12:31 to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Essentially, our
Christian attitude is to love all, including the disabled.
How can we serve and care for the disabled? Pray. As St. Seraphim of Sarov, who suffered from dropsy, said,

our Lord Jesus Christ is the “True Physician” of our souls and bodies.

A relative of mine was diagnosed with a crippling disease. His wife has pushed him out of her and his kids’ lives
and his parents are caring for him. This situation illustrates that we must also pray for the caregivers and for those who abandon the disabled.

Jesus spent much time visiting and healing the disabled. In Matthew 9:12, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who
need a doctor, but the sick.” However, Jesus did not find physical and mental infirmities as constituting true sickness. Rather, He found those with souls wounded by passions such as pride, self-love, and greed disabled.

One example of this is The Rich Man and Lazarus. In this Bible story, the rich man ended up going to Hell and
the beggar, Lazarus, who was covered in sores and only asked the rich man for food, ended up going to Heaven. In
John 9:39, Jesus said, 

For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Apparently, the rich man, who was physically healthy, was blind in Jesus’ view because he ignored Lazarus
when he could have helped him. Hence, Jesus taught us that we should help the disabled when presented with the opportunity, and in doing so, through accepting Christ and doing His good works, we are helping our salvation. In Luke 14:13-14, while dining in the home of a Pharisee, Jesus said,

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and
you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Disabilities do not hinder salvation but are sometimes used by God to strengthen individuals. Accordingly,
those disabled must never have self-pity but remember Philippians 4:13: “[We] can do everything through him
who gives [us] strength.”

We all, disabled or not, must strive for eternal salvation and try to keep our souls healthy by following these three
steps: Purification – freeing one’s self from evil and living a pure life; Illumination – spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of one’s faith; and Theosis – becoming one with God. These can be achieved by following the teachings of our Orthodox Church, which our Church Fathers refer to as a “Hospital” for our wounded souls.

In conclusion, some disabilities are obvious while others are not revealed. I challenge all of us to follow James
1:22: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only”. Let us pray for God to guide us to those with disabilities who are in need of prayers and friendship. As St. Paul said in Galatians 6:2, we must “[c]arry each other’s burdens, and in this way [we] will fulfill the law of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival- Questions for Reflection toward a Presentation on the Christian Attitude toward disabled people

Greek Orthodox Christian teenagers each year are given an opportunity to shine at the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival. They are given a choice of a number of topics for the Oratorical Festival, one of dealt, in the 2012 contest, with attitudes toward persons with disability.

The winner was Athena Eleftheriou, and her oratory can be read in an article from the April 8, 2012 Northeast Cobb Patch, written by her mother, Marilyn, Eleftheriou.  Click here to access the article, and Athena’s oratory: Northeast Cobb Girl Wins St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival 

The Oratory Guidelines for this particular topic:
St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival 2012
Topics, Tips, and Resources
Junior Division (Grades 7–9)
1. Many times in the New Testament, we see Jesus caring about the
blind, the paralyzed, and others with physical disabilities (for
example, Matthew 9:2 and 9:27–29). Following Christ’s footsteps,
discuss the Christian attitude toward disabled people.
A. Read the Church’s teachings:
Matthew 4:23–25, 8:1–13, 9:27–38, and 12:9–14; Mark 2:12; Luke 13:10–13
B. Consider the direction your speech might take. Here are some examples:
• Select several healing stories in the Bible and discuss whom it is that Christ heals.
What is the Church’s attitude toward the disabled? Talk about how the Church in
general and your local church are helping the disabled, and ways in which they
could be of further help.
• What is “disability” in the Bible? How does our society define the term? Who are the
disabled, according to Christ? Who are they in your eyes?
• We are created in the image and likeness of God. How does one carry that image
despite a physical disability?

Service Dogs Inside the Church?

Emmy

  Someone from my Parish asked me some time ago why the Orthodox Church doesn’t allow service dogs in our Churches. In this weblog an Orthodox Christian who has a service dog weighs in on the issue. It’s not a precise and full answer, but it is an  answer that brings a sense of resolution in that it comes from someone who has a stake in the matter.  

For this answer, see the comments (the sixth one, by turtlemom3):

http://turtlemom3.wordpress.com/service-dogs/ 

Here’s the part of the comment which addresses the situation in the Orthodox Church (which is only part of her response to a person from another Christian group who has a personal issue in regard to the use of service dogs in their church:

… I know in the Orthodox Christian Church, there is a pretty hard and fast rule about dogs being inside the Church – because of certain sacramental and canonical considerations. While they don’t make a lot of sense to those of us who have service dogs, I respect their stand, and don’t bring Emmy with me when we go to Church – I don’t want to banish her to the Narthex.

I’m publishing this quote because Turtlemom’s experiences in these matters are a valuable resource in regard to persons with disability in the Orthodox Church.

It is a sign of Christian maturity that she can say what she does without understanding the whys and wherefores of the policy.  

Orthodox Christians do not need to “master” situations with their minds to be at peace with their Church. Life in Christ is in so many ways such a wondrous mystery that we can, as St. Paul says, “give thanks in all circumstances,” even those contrary to our wills, for we know, ultimately, that God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Update- A recent (12/23/12) clarifying response to a query by me from Turtlemom: 

I deeply regret being so late responding to your comment on my post, and coming here to comment on some of your posts.
You mentioned the Canon forbidding dogs from Orthodox Churches. This was decided when dogs were not clean, not well thought of, There were Old Testament Biblical proscriptions about dogs, and Revelation says dogs will be prohibited from Heaven.
Yet, dogs are a creation of God, just as bears (St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Seraphim of Sarov), and ravens (St. Elijah). Just as hinds (St. Basil the Elder and St. Macrina), and lions (Saint Mammes); otters (St. Cuthbert); stag (St. Eustathios); leopards (Abune Gebre Menfes Kiddus); snakes (Abba Aregawi). There are numerous other examples.
As far as dogs and saints, there is Paul the Hermit who was accompanied by a wolf.
A blog by a woman who has researched the Orthodox Church and animals:
http://members.tripod.com/~Near_to_God/ – especially the post:
http://members.tripod.com/~Near_to_God/AllThings.html 
In our parish, a blind woman brings her guide dog to services. There is no scandal as the dog leads her up to receive Holy Communion.
Much about dogs in church depend upon the individual priest and bishop. [Italics not original to the quote.]
Anyway, that’s what I’ve gleaned. I have not taken my service dog to church because I am physically unable to attend services. But, should I become able to attend, I will take Emmy. She is the soul of discretion and good behavior – as are most service dogs. 

This clarification might seem to contradict the former statement, but the fact is, the Orthodox Church is not primarily about law, but grace. The canons of the Church are meant to provide the people of God with a structure that will lead them to salvation, avoiding harmful practices. But they are not rigid rules. Our hierarchs exercise what is called economia in regard to them, interpreting them for each person and situation so as to further spiritual growth for the people involved.  

Just as our Lord Jesus, as recorded in St. John’s Gospel, chapter 8,  dealt mercifully with the woman caught in the act of adultery (the people seeking to stone her to death pointed out to him that they were simply about to do what the Law says), so our holy Bishops seek the salvation of the persons under their charge in their interpretation of the Church’s canons.

St. Gregory Palamas on the Paralyzed man

St. Gregory Palamas

 St. Gregory, viewing the text according to its typological meaning, is addressing all of us who are aware of how our sins have paralyzed us in our God-given quest for Christlikeness. Just as there is hope through Christ for the dilemna of disability, there is hope for us all to conquer the paralyzing effects of sin and reign with Christ- through the Cross.

If die with Him, we shall reign with Him.

Here is the homily: 

http://sgpm.goarch.org/Monastery/?p=109

This is not to say that we bypass the concerns of people with disabilities. For just as Christ literally addressed the paralyzed man’s situation, the Body of Christ is enabled by Him to address similar situations. Perhaps not with immediate healing,  but nevertheless, with brotherly love. Chapter 12 in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians explains how this works. An illuminating portion (though I recommend the whole letter for context!):

“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)

Icon from https://caelumetterra.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/the-sunday-of-st-gregory-palamas/ 

Did Dostoevsky’s “Prince Myshkin” have Asperger’s Syndrome?

Fyodor Dostoevsky

There was a time in my life when I was searching for life’s meaning, and I would go to the classics section of the book store at the mall and buy a few of the ones that captured my interest. They were labeled classics because of their enduring themes and artistry; they provoked thought. But most of them did not provide me with the “key” I was seeking. That is, until I discovered the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read three of them: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov.

 The Idiot features a main character which is Dostoevsky’s unique version of what is familiar in Russia as the holy fool, a persons whose bizarre or quirky behavior masks deep holiness, so that others would not necessarily accord the person a kind of deference which would create barriers to natural relationships (which happens when we put on a “best face” in the presence of someone official or special).

The character’s name is Prince Myshkin. His “quirk” is his extraordinary kindness, a kindness that leads to very profoundly heavy personal costs.

The website listed below is a resource and community center for people with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and the discussion reveals that the people of this community sense a certain kinship with character of Prince Myshkin.

Read the discussion for yourself: http://www.wrongplanet.net/postt139197.html

Image from: http://boris-books.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-resuming-idiot-by-fyodor-dostoevsky.html

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