Archive for December, 2014

“all my senses”

Rublev’s Christ the Savior

” … Xenia Grant, a woman with autism (and a Facebook friend!) articulates the


importance of finding a spiritual home in the Orthodox Church:

‘ … as a person with autism, the Liturgy appealed to all my senses. For my eyes, there were icons of the saints, the Theotokos, and Jesus. For my nose, there was the incense that the priest used. For my eyes, there was the music, because the entire service is sung. And for my mind, there was the theology, history, and lives of the saints, the Theotokos, the apostles, Jesus, and the Bible. I also like the vestment the priest wears.‘ (Grant, 2000, p. 245)”

Gospel Reading

from Religious and Spiritual Issues in Counselling Applications Across Diverse Populations, by Mary Thomas Burke, Jane C. Chauvin, Judith G. Miranti, Inc NetLibrary Google Books: Religious and Spiritual Issues in Counseling 


On Behalf of All: An Orthodox Reflection on the 12 Days of Christmas

to read: An Orthodox Reflection on the 12 Days of Christmas, by Gabriel Vincent 

3. Holy Prophet David

The Theotokos with Christ,

3. St. James 

Holy Proto-Martyr Stephen  

Sts. Joachim & Anna

St. Joseph the Betrothed

the prophet Malachi

The Nativity


seventy apostles

the holy innocents

the circumcision of Christ

from St. Ephrem the Syrian

St. Ephrem the Syrian

St. 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

see also the webpage New Advent: The 19 Hymns of the Nativity by St. Ephrem the Syrian 

“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)

L’Arche Newsletter: Nov./Dec. 2014

This is L’Arche International’s very first e-newsletter, consisting of 10 articles, and also a list of employment opportunities. (There are two leadership positions posted and if you click on Read More and scroll to the end, they direct you to more opportunities: Here under Get Involved ) Some of the articles: Visiting the refugee camps in Iraq , L’Arche Kenya at the UN Enable Film Festival , Launch of the L’Arche International Online Art Exhibition , and Watch the ‘Love and Belonging: Jean Vanier at L’Arche’ documentary.  You will find some excellent art work as well as some very thoughtful, meaningful videos. Here’s one of the videos:   

To access the newsletter: L’Arche Newsletter: Nov./Dec. (2014) 

Pravmir: a conversion from atheism to faith via people with disabilities

The most holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary

From atheism to faith

through a conviction concerning the sanctity of life gained by

Fyodor Dostoevsky

working with people who were profoundly handicapped: 

Read Simeon Cowie’s story on the webpage below:

from Pravmir: What Have I Done??



Professor Lavendios G. Dellassoudas: Church and Social Integration of Disabled People

by Kostas Adamos

from the THE GREEK ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL REVIEW Vol. 45, Nos. 1-4, 2000, 32 pp.

To access: Church and Social Integration of Disabled People


A scholarly article on the social integration of persons with disability through the agency of the Orthodox Church, with supportive research data. There are comprehensive analyses of various practical needs of persons with disability: housing, vocation, technical support, recreation,  spiritual.

One can find Dr Dellassoudas’ conclusions and recommendations on page 26.  The Church needs “to move from the stage of  multi-faceted support to that of contribution to the effort of disabled people to achieve self-reliant development in the social setting, always in line with individual skills and abilities … .”

painting from Spiritual Formation on the Run


The prophetic role of persons with developmental disability

Wolf Wolfensberger † Feb. 27, 2011Wolf Wolfensberger, in the book The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger, by William C. Gaventa & David L. Coulter, Haworth Pastoral Press, 2001:

Mentally retarded people play a uniquely prophetic role in this age.

Wolfensberger pioneered normalization and social role valorization in the field of mental retardation. He feels this age has made an idol of technology, and that it is not only out of control, but now has the potential to destroy the human race in numerous ways.

The systems we are creating escape the human capacity of management. [He sees it as another version of the Tower of Babel, one] God is about to confront.

God will do this through the simplicity and gentleness of mentally retarded people, whose lives are the very antithesis of the idol of progress. He tells some astonishing stories which he sees as prophetic, such as the very severely retarded man, who, beyond his level of capability, said, “This is my body.”

God has chosen the foolish things of the world [. . .] to bring to nothing the things that are (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

(from “St John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application” by William Gall)

MORE OF WOLFENSBERGER’S INSIGHTS ON THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE GIVEN BY PERSONS WITH COGNITIVE DISABILITIES , from “Disabled Christianity” a blog by Jeff McNair, Special Ed professor at Cal Baptist University (Aug. 23, 2005):

The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger 1 & 2

“So I asked myself, what are the prophetic signs which appear to be unique or very special to our day, which are very different from what they have been at other times. . . Where and how is the Spirit active today in a way that is different from the way it may have been in other eras?
As I posed these questions to myself over the past few years, I began to read both the signs of dysfunctionality and of prophecy in a different and clearer fashion, and I read one very, very powerful prophetic message, coming from mentally retarded people. For instance, I considered that it should not be unexpected if divine messages about the present patterning of offenses should come from people who, in their roles and identities, are exactly the opposite of what our era idolotrates. Who and what is the opposite? The opposite is a person who is not intellectual, not scientific, not technological, and not academic; who does simple instead of complex things; who cannot cope with complexity, and technology which passes him by; and who, possibly, is despised for lack of modernity and intellectuality. Is that not the retarded persons of our age?
But if it is, is there any evidence that God has thrust retarded people into a prophetic role? I submit to you that there is indeed . . .

The article goes on to list 10 signs to substantiate the possibility that persons with cognitive disability are indeed carrying a prophetic message.

-Mentally Retarded Persons are Becoming Much More Public and Visible
-Retarded People are Becoming Internationally Known
-Non-Handicapped and Handicapped Persons are Sharing Their Lives, Often Living Together
-Retarded Persons are Gentling Others
-The Prophetic Manifestation of the Presence of God via Retarded People
-Retarded People Speaking in Tongues
-Retarded People may Withstand Their Culture
-Retarded People May Be Parodying Intellectualism
-The Dance of Spiritual Joy
-Retarded People Are Beginning to Be Persecuted and Martyred

(The “speaking in tongues” refers to instances when persons with cognitive disability who usually speak very little and even then very unclearly say something very clearly that is profound, such as “This is my Body.” The martyrdom referred to is the high percentage of unborn children found to have disabilities that are aborted. Some of these prophetic signs remain unclear to me. A more thorough re-reading Wolf Wolfensberger would probably help clear some of them up.)

From my prior reading of the book I do remember that many of these impressions Wolf received that people with developmental disability are prophetic to our age came from experiences with L’Arche community gatherings. L’Arche is a worldwide community, Roman Catholic in origin but now encompassing many other kinds of Christians (including a few Orthodox Christians) in which people without developmental disabilities share their lives with those with developmental disabilities- living together.

This is not an Orthodox mission, and there are no Orthodox missions like it that I know of , though in the monastic vision of St. Basil the Great, which included service to needy people, there would be a place for something like it. Until it happens, in the meantime, the challenge remains to incorporate the gifts of people with disabilites- prophetic or otherwise- into our parish families.

The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger 


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