Archive for November, 2014

Orthodox Christian Thanksgiving

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

from the Crafty Contemplative

Orthodox Christians take the imperative “pray constantly” very seriously, and rejoicing and giving thanks are aspects of it.

John Sanidopoulos two years ago in his weblog addressed the United States of America’s Thanksgiving holiday in terms of it’s appropriation by Orthodox Christians. He briefly gives a history of Thanksgiving in America and a summary of our way of participation in it, as well as a number of resources which also address Thanksgiving. One of them is the Akathist of Thanksgiving which has been shared here every Thanksgiving since this weblog has existed. To access the post: 

And recently, Fr Stephen Freeman put Thanksgiving in Orthodox Christian perspective with his post A Life of Thanksgiving on  his weblog Glory to God for All Things: 

The Akathist of Thanksgiving:

image from 

Embracing All God’s Children: Orthodox Theology Concerning Disability and Its Implications for Ministry with Special Needs Youth in the Orthodox Church

Wendy M. Cwiklinski: Embracing All God’s Children 

Mr. Rogers

Downloaded form Cwiklinski_Final_Paper_4-11-2014-libre, 61 pp.

Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski’s thesis “ Embracing All God’s Children: Orthodox Theology Concerning Disability and Its Implications for Ministry with Special Needs Youth in the Orthodox Church” begins with stories, and proceeds to a definition of both disabilities in general and also invisible disabilities. Providing Scriptural and patristic support for the importance of blessing and caring for children, she notes the ambivalent attitudes toward children, especially those with special needs, in society.  She quotes Thomas Reynolds, who notes, “Despite being loved into being by God, people with disabilities are excluded or trivialized as social nonentities in ways that mar their sense of being created in the image of God.” (pp. 10-11) Cwiklinski defines and discusses various forms of invisible disabilities, and illustrates inclusion with stories from L’Arche, a place community “with” persons with intellectual disabilities , which “bears witness to the reality that persons with intellectual disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality,and friendship.” (p. 18)

Cwiklinski cites leaders from the pages of Holy Scripture who had disabilities, and yet succeeded in their God-given ministry. She then tackles erroneous theologies and beliefs which serve to hinder inclusion of children in our Church and in sociey. The wonderful mindset and ministry of Mr. Rogers, the creation of all human beings (including “the least of these My brethren”)  in the image of God, and our call to community, as set forth in the Scriptures, such as St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12, are discussed. The Orthodox Church baptizes infants, and allows them to receive the body and blood of Christ; “there is no intellectual impediment to membership.” (p. 39) Contemporary concerns, such as the widespread practice of aborting unborn children, are addressed; “Fr. John Breck gives us the pastoral imperative for the Church: ‘Today, as fully as in Byzantine times, the Church must act as the conscience of society, through evangelization and moral persuasion.’”  (p.43) Cwiklinski asks, “What does that perfection entail? It does not meet any standard of worldly or material success,no IQ level or accountability for all of one appendages or faculties, but an embrace of God’s Will.” (P. 46-47)




Some Greek Orthodox Church Efforts toward Support and Inclusion


Of special note is the last listing, which is a personal story. The others are Archdiocese and Parish Ministries. 

Greek Respite Centre – Greek Orthodox Community of St George, South Brisbane, Australia

Sts. Peter & Paul Greek Orthodox Church, Glenview, IL: Inclusion Liturgies- 2014 see also (The Metropolis of Chicago: Inclusion Liturgies)

ESTIA- Disability Services, New South Wales, Australia St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Elmhurst, IL, USA (source of image)

St. Nektarios Greek Orthdox Church’s Community Aged Day Care Centre, Wollongong- Illawwarra District, Australia

Greek Orthodox Manor, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA

Greek Orthodox Mission in India

Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of St. Nicholas, Flushing, NY: A Support Group for Children with Disabilities (and their families)

How A Handful Of Greek Orthodox Church Members Moved Mountains For An Irvington, New Jersey Special Needs Family





From the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church: “Diaconia: Assistance to disabled children”

From the Department of external church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate [Russian Orthodox Church] – Round Table “Education for change and diaconia”:

Diaconia: Assistance to disabled children

There are three articles:

Down’s Syndrome Association

The Life-Giving Source Orthodox Center helping disabled children

Center for Therapeutic Pedagogy

And there is MUCH more on this Round Table website if you want to learn more about the ministries of the Russian Orthodox Church and their understanding of the foundations of Christian ministry.


Picture from Fr. Stephen Smuts 

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom †407Today, November 13, is the Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom in the Orthodox Church.

“He was expected to entertain; he did not. He cut his budget, and that of the clergy and widows, directing the funds to hospitals. . . .


What madness is this . . . one man defecates in a silver pot, another has not so much as a crust of bread.” He apologized for that comment a few days later. . . .

(On 1 Cor. 1:26-28: “26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

“persons of great insignificance [are chosen] to pull down boasting.” . . .

He counsels us all: “Become . . . a self-ordained steward of the poor. Thy benevolent mind assigns thee this priesthood.” . . .

As to why brethren would be called “least” he says, “the lowly, poor, and outcast” are the sort the Lord most greatly desires to “invite to brotherhood.” (Matt. 25) . . .

St. John was severe with those who lived luxuriously at the expense of others. “I am bursting with wrath” at those who would rent out their own children for dancers and chariot races and then are stingy with the needy. “Stretch out a liberal  to the needy . . .escape the intolerable pains of hell.” . . .

Also: “Mourn heavily, that thou mayest have continual cheerfulness.” He also recommends speaking freely of one’s defects and downplaying one’s achievements:. . . .

Along with prayer goes generosity in almsgiving, which is our crowning good deed and the means of our salvation.” (citing Cornelius, Acts 10) . . .

Giving must be attended “with sincerity and much sympathy.”

Let us not consider how to leave our children rich, but how to leave them virtuous.”

St. John advises, “. . . the best thing, that in your lifetime you give the larger half of your goods to the poor.” (in light of the poor widow and her two mites)

On the day of baptism, the wealthy, accomplished man stands side by side with the poor man and the person with a disability; he knows his bond with them, and does not look down on them, for together they are yearning to put on Christ.

Alms may be done not only by money, but by acts [such as] kindly standing by [or lending] a helping hand” . . . but exceed material help; “acquaint him with heaven, help him don the robe of righteousness, and be sure to wear your own.”

“What is ‘helps?’ (1 Cor. 12:8-10) (He answers) “to support the weak . . . this too is the gift of God.”

By face-to-face involvement, one becomes “a loving and merciful soul, . . . a fountain for all his brethren’s needs.”

Learning a trade or profession is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches. “A pattern of life is needed . . . character, not cleverness; deeds, not words.”

St. John recommends each home have a room set aside for a homeless or disabled person . . . “by this means, the family receives Christ. . . . greater are the benefits we receive than what we confer“.

Only in toil can our minds and bodies find contentment.” (Applies to giving all people useful roles, not just giving things.)

(from St John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application in Resources: to read (online theses)

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

Arms Open Wide

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…

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

Arms Open Wide

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…

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