Archive for December, 2015

Arms Open Wide to Persons with Disability

 

our Lord Jesus Christ

The Lord Jesus said, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed.”(Luke 14:13-14a) St. John Chrysostom had much to say about this in his sermons. And St. Paul also addresses this same call in relation to Church life: “The parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor. 12:22)

My wife  and I have been direct support professionals for persons with intellectual disability for Friendship Community in Lancaster County, PA, for many years. There have been joys all along the way, but there have also been struggles.  But we have pressed with this life, strengthened from above to do it. Thanks be to God.

In 1999, accumulating questions on the confusing array of the ways various Protestant churches “stand on the Bible” led me to explore the Orthodox Church, and to visit St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church with my wife. In the following year, these questions were put into the perspective of the Apostolic Tradition by Fr. Peter Pier, and we were received into the Church by chrismation on Lazarus Saturday, 2000.

Finishing the Antiochian House of Studies’ St. Stephen’s Course in 2005, the opportunity to pursue the Masters of Arts in Practical Theology beckoned me; I felt that our years in the group home ministry and Orthodox theology intersected in a way that called for expression. And so with God’s help I wrote “St. John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application.” To access:   https://ocdresources.files.wordpress.com/2007/03/st1johnchrysostomandthesocializationof.pdf 

St. John Chrysostom was, as Fr. Georges Florovsky noted, “the Prophet of Charity,” a champion of the poor, of those who struggle in this world. All the fiery, golden words he preached on this theme have direct application to persons with disability. He emphasized in no uncertain terms that our attention to weak and struggling people is crucial to our life in Christ and our “good defense before [His] fearful judgment seat.”

The thesis draws out specific aspects of Church life in respect to persons with developmental disability- liturgical worship, family support, Christian education, and the incorporation of gifts. The words of John Boojrama and other leading lights of our Faith are weighed in light of this specific ministry imperative. The thesis brings out how “the liturgy after the Liturgy,” our continuing sense and practice of Church family life in the hours and days between services, will show the genuineness of our unity in Christ’s Body and Blood. The Lord Jesus indicated in St. Matthew 25:31-46 that how we respond to those who are different or in difficulty- persons with disability being the case in point- is a key to His final evaluation of us.

One of my recommendations in the thesis is that an Orthodox Christian website addressing these issues should be developed. Fr. Ted Pulcini, the first reader of the thesis, encouraged me to develop one. Beginning with a prayer, it took shape, and came to be: “Arms Open Wide: Orthodox Christian Disability Resources.” ( https://armsopenwide.wordpress.com )

Christ stretched out His loving arms on the Cross for us; His arms are open wide for persons with disabilities and their families. Beyond the list of websites, ministries, and writings are the Inspiration and Posts pages. “Inspiration” consists of select verses from Holy Scripture and quotes from St. John Chrysostom; “Posts” are occasional, short writings, related to the subject for the most part. Comments are very welcome. May the Lord use this site to encourage many to press on toward reflecting the likeness of Christ, with arms open wide to persons with disabilities and to all.

See also St. John Chrysostom: The Prophet of Charity, by Archpriest Georges Florovsky 

A father describes his life with his daughter who is autistic

Source: Koinonia for Exceptional Orthodox Christian Families: A Father describes what autism is like 

Bill Boundroukas has a daughter who is autistic. He shares his experience as a father of an autistic daughter in regards to the autistic way of viewing the world, as he sees it. 

He learns “important lessons” from his daughter; autistic children can teach us “myriads of things.” An excerpt from his post, which he wants to be shared: 

I promise you if you’re patient, and kind that they will take you by the hand and teach you some important lessons. God’s sent these paradigmatic messengers to teach us a myriad of things. They reveal that nothing is ordinary in this world. Everything is an extraordinary blend of His will and His love. You will learn to praise God in all things. You will worship the hidden miracles and wonders found in simplicity. They will teach you that every moment is a precious miracle. You will understand that a simple high five is equal to complex Aristotelian logic. You will cherish everything and see God’s image in everyone. They will reflect His beauty in so many ways. Their struggles will be your treatises to patience, kindness, endurance, strength, sacrifice, dependency, humility, hope, forgiveness, commitment, faith, and love. You will have so many new heroes to emulate. I promise you these heroes will never let you down. In fact, they will show you how love truly moves this world. They will be your guides in paradise. 

Another daughter, another father; “love moves this world”

The full post:

This is one of my longest posts ever, but I would appreciate that you read, and share it. Next month is Autism awareness month. Why should we care about Autism awareness. I care because my beautiful daughter Katerina has Autism. You should care because it’s an opportunity for you to see, hear, and feel the world in a new way. How do you start to do this. You start by asking what is Autism. Autism is not a disease. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. I am going to attempt to give you a glimpse of what Autism looks like to me. Try and imagine being stuck in the worst traffic with the gas light blinking empty and you don’t have your cell phone or your wallet, or imagine shopping in a crowded mall and everyone is looking at you and laughing. You don’t understand why, and then you realize that you have left your house naked. Your anxiety would be unbelievable. How fast would you run home or to your car. Imagine waking up from a scary dream where your screaming and no one can hear you. How would it feel when you realized its not a dream. You try to communicate and no one can understand you. Even a simple request like give me more requires hours and days of observation and training in order for it to be fulfilled. Imagine wanting to play with someone and no one even looks at you. What would you do to the first person who wanted to play with you. Imagine how these feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and frustration would mold your view of the world. These feelings are what many people with Autism go through daily. Many people with Autism have sensory issues. When I first heard the words sensory issues, I really didn’t grasp what these words mean. I’m going to try and show you a few examples of sensory issues. Have you ever experienced that creepy crawling feeling running up and down your legs and arms, and you can’t shake it off. Imagine your hands or your feet falling asleep and your unable to stop the numbing feeling in your hands and feet for hours or maybe days. Your mother dresses you in a beautiful church dress and it feels like scratch paper rubbing on your skin. You try everything to take it off but to no avail. Remember what I just wrote, and when you see a person with autism pushing, running, bouncing, tugging, scratching, screeching, and crying, I want you to feel everything I just described. When you see people with Autism waving or shaking their hands give them room. Don’t explode, laugh, shake your head, or make stupid comments. You and I will never truly understand their epic struggle. Instead, be patient and kind. Ask them or their care giver how you can help. When they don’t respond to your questions, don’t get frustrated and annoyed. They’re also frustrated and annoyed that you can’t understand them. They may have auditory processing disorders which makes ordinary noises so unbearably loud that they might not be able to hear you. Wait for them to regulate themselves. I promise you if you’re patient, and kind that they will take you by the hand and teach you some important lessons. God’s sent these paradigmatic messengers to teach us a myriad of things. They reveal that nothing is ordinary in this world. Everything is an extraordinary blend of His will and His love. You will learn to praise God in all things. You will worship the hidden miracles and wonders found in simplicity. They will teach you that every moment is a precious miracle. You will understand that a simple high five is equal to complex Aristotelian logic. You will cherish everything and see God’s image in everyone. They will reflect His beauty in so many ways. Their struggles will be your treatises to patience, kindness, endurance, strength, sacrifice, dependency, humility, hope, forgiveness, commitment, faith, and love. You will have so many new heroes to emulate. I promise you these heroes will never let you down. In fact, they will show you how love truly moves this world. They will be your guides in paradise. Let them recognize you here on earth. You want to hear them say to St. Peter he or she is with me. Autism is a very heavy cross to carry, and the special people who carry it develop great strength to endure. If you are looking to find Christ, I promise you that you will see Him glimmering in their eyes, smiling in their smile, and giggling in their giggle. You will feel Him in their perfect hugs and kisses. Your frail, broken mind might want to ask the why God question. I’ve decided that I don’t know whether Autism is caused by the Devil, fallout stemming from the fall of man, or beta rays from the planet krypton reflecting off my sinful ass. It doesn’t matter. There is no purpose to ask the why God question. All that matters is that you listen to your heart. If you do, you will know what you can or cannot do to raise awareness. I spent the last four hours writing this post you can share it with you friends. If it helps one person, it was the best four hours of my time. My final thought is that I have mistakenly believed that I can shape and mold my daughter to this world in reality she shapes and molds me. I want to thank you ahead of time for reading to the end of this post and sharing it.

picture from Cailyn’sDad.wordpress.com (Cailyn is also autistic.)

Fr.Ted Bobosh on “Why we need Christmas”

8cb55-panagiaI found some very meaningful insights concerning Christmas (and a disability resource) on Fr. Ted Bobosh’s blog .

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: (A .  Adam and Abel; B.  Blessing, Berith, Baptism; C.  Covenant and Creation; D.  David, Demons, Death; E. Eternal, Eve, Evil; F.  Forgiveness) Click below to access:

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: A « Fr. Ted’s Blog

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: B « Fr. Ted’s Blog

See ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: C

The ABC’s of Why we need Christmas: D

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas: E Eve and the Ever-Virgin

The ABC’s of Why We Need Christmas:  F   Forgiveness

Fr. Ted’s post on “Embracing the Sojourner,” explores how we all ourselves are strangers and sojourners, and how the Apostolic Tradition calls us to welcome aliens, travelers, and strangers when such opportunities present themselves. He also refers to book entitled Brokenness and Blessing by Frances Young, a Protestant biblical scholar, who, in the book, shares what she has learned from her mentally and physically handicapped son in terms of the matter of coping with our own and other’s (even in our own family!)  “sense of being a stranger. Click here to access: Embracing the Sojourner « Fr. Ted’s Blog

 

from the Facebook Page of Fighting the Good Fight with Faith and Love:

Old Testament Reading for the Vespers/Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great on the Eve of the Nativity of Christ – Micah 4:6-7; 5:2-4:

“In that day,” says the Lord,
“I will assemble the lame,
I will gather the outcast
And those whom I have afflicted;
I will make the lame a remnant,
And the outcast a strong nation;
So the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
From now on, even forever.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”

Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren
Shall return to the children of Israel.
And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
And they shall abide,
For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth

Posted by Fighting the Good Fight with Faith and Love on Thursday, December 24, 2015

Enter ye all into the joy of the Lord

I bring you a word which speaks of our identification with the Divine Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, Who has become flesh- human- for us and our salvation. Is this not the central act of all human history, that God humbled Himself to our lowliness to save us, to enable us to unite ourselves to Him and, in a presage to glory, to become like Him in His movement downward to self-emptying, lowly service, as a lifestyle to be lived twelve months a year? The word is from His Grace Archbishop Lazar, Abbot of New Ostrog, in his Nativity Epistle, Nativity of Christ, 2008

“Ye rich and ye poor…enter ye all into the joy of the Lord.”

This year, as we approach the Feast of the Incarnation of God, we might reflect on the beloved Paschal Sermon of Saint John
Chrysostom. In it, he invites all, those at every level of society and in every spiritual condition, to “enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Let us recall that the proclamation of Christ’s birth came first to the poor, the disenfranchised and humble of this world. The shepherds in the fields often had no better place to take shelter and sleep than in the manger caves at the edge of the hill upon which Bethlehem stands. It was these lowly outcasts who came first to venerate the Christ, the creator of heaven and earth Who now took upon Himself their lowliness and humanity. Only afterward did the Magi come. They were among the elite and wealthy of this world, and Christ came for them also, yet their journey was longer and more arduous, for they had first to learn humility and patience in order to be able to recognise in the child in this poor manger the King of Glory.

He received the lowliness and humility of the shepherds, and took upon Himself their passions and sins. He accepted the gifts of the Magi, and also accepted upon Himself their struggle and spiritual burdens. Both the one and the other were in a condition of alienation. The Magi were gentiles, men born without the promise, outside of the Covenant. The shepherds were on the fringe, among the poorest and most dispossessed of Judean society.

Throughout His earthly healing ministry, Christ would embrace the alienated, the sick and suffering and the sinful, while in no wise rejecting the rich and the powerful, who might respond to the call to humble themselves and come to a true understanding of the Covenant and the Law. From the blind beggar  Bartimaeus to the noblemen Joseph of Aramathea and Nikodemus, Christ would take upon Himself the sins and passions of all, bear them to the Cross and restore man’s unity with God. Even there on the Cross, He embraced the outcasts of this world, dying the death of the most wretched, in the company of two brutish bandits.

So often in our North American society, we approach the Christmas season in the spirit of a saccharine sentimentalism. Christ is portrayed as a cute, freshly washed infant in a tidy manger with well-groomed animals round about. His mother is a pretty, neatly coiffed young woman, and a handsome, strapping young father – Joseph — stands attentively nearby.

Far too often, we do not find a sense of awe and reverence at this event which shook all creation, interjected into the symmetry of the cosmos, and seized the universe, impelling it onward toward its final destiny of transfiguration and glory. Yet, the very purpose of the Nativity Fast is to prepare us spiritually to open our hearts and become truly present to this great mystery. But there is still more. The fast itself and the message of the Incarnation of God in the midst of the humble and outcast is intended to prepare us to open our hearts to the same. We think of the charity and giving of this season, but forget that the giving of gifts and the distribution of food at the mid-winter solstice and New Year predates Christianity and is common to believers and unbelievers alike.

I would like to call upon Orthodox Christians, during this season, to add a perspective to their charity and to their contemplation of the Feast. Preparing ourselves through fasting and prayer, let us with a spirit of awe and repentance, offer to those in need not only because of Christ’s warning preserved for us in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Let us offer what we can, remembering that Christ was received first of all by the poor and the dispossessed of this world. Christ’s ministry was carried out primarily among such as these. Neither with condescension nor pity nor condemnation did Christ walk in their midst and break bread in the homes of sinners and outcasts. Rather with His presence he acknowledged their humanity, restored their human dignity and invited the attention of all to the image of God in each person on all levels of society and in every nation. He invited the hearts of those who would be His followers to love their neighbour and to open with love to “the other.”

But to recognize “the other” as our neighbour, as “equal to me” in human dignity and God’s love, to see in the lowest and most downcast, a reflection of our own “self,” I must first clothe my own ego in the robe of humility. Training ourselves in self-discipline and self-control, “de-centering” our world view from focus on ourselves, are necessary in order to attain to a loving understanding which makes room for “the other” in our hearts. Of what benefit is it so say that we follow Jesus Christ but pay so little heed to how He lived His earthly, Incarnate life? We are called upon as Orthodox Christians to make the principles of Christ’s life incarnate within each of us.

Brothers and sisters, let us be cautious that we do not allow our periodic charity and goodwill, our seasonal good deeds to become a substitute for a life in Christ. If we have sincere joy in the celebration of His Incarnation — the dawning of our own salvation — let us also find true joy in affirming the dignity and worth of the dispossessed and alienated in our society so that we can be followers of Christ in truth as well as in words. In this, we shall truly fulfill the will of the Father, acknowledge the Gospel of the Son, receive the comfort of the Spirit and inherit everlasting life.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

From the New Ostrog Monastery via the Orthodox Peace Fellowship mailing list. To access:

ORTHODOXY IN THE 21st CENTURY: 2008 Nativity Epistle

(Icon from the blog Experimental Theology )

Th Feast Day of St. Servulus of Rome †590

St. Servulus on the right

Yet another pre-schism western Saint counted as an intercessor for persons with disabilities, St. Servulus was disabled himself. He suffered paralysis from cerebral palsy;  it was said he could neither sit up nor feed himself. He would pass along alms he received to others. From the alms he did keep, he bought books on the Scriptures, and asked others to read to him. He also learned some hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and often sang them. His last words were, “Do you hear the great and beautiful music in heaven?”

He was from Rome. St. Gregory the Great spoke of him, and his virtues. (See the Glorious in His Saints source below) At his funeral, it was said that a sweet frangrance arose from his body.

Through the intercessions of St. Servulus, O Lord, have mercy on us.

Sources:

An Orthodox Christian Source: 

St. Gregory Orthodox Church: St. Servulus of Rome (Feast Day- December 23)

Irondequoit Catholic (article by Father Robert F. McNamara):

http://www.irondequoitcatholic.org/index.php/St/Servulus

Glorious in His Saints

http://mirabilisinsanctis.blogspot.com/2009/12/st-servulus-c.html

Icon (a mosaic in the apse of the Cathedral Church in Trieste, Italy)- a photo posted by David Nice in I’ll Think Of Something Later

http://davidnice.blogspot.com/2010/06/triestine-temples.html

Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund: Belskoye-Ustye

A Russian Orphanage

This mission (ROOF) seeks to provide opportunities for orphans in Russia. There is Russian Orthodox Christian involvement in ROOF. The orphanage featured below is for children with disabilities, it is officially a”‘Psycho-neurological’ institution.” These kind of Russian institutions are very poorly funded by the state, and provide bare minimum care to the children. ROOF invests in Belskoye-Ustye and greatly enriches and improves the quality of life for the children, improving the physical environment and initiating stimulating activities for them so they can have the opportunity to grow as persons. Consider supporting ROOF. Give the website a look; explore it. To access the page pertaining to this particular orphanage: Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund: Belskoye-Ustye 

picture from: doug rhodehamel 

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