Archive for December, 2016

OrthodoxAdultAutists: A Letter to the Church

This is a letter from a woman named Monica, an autist. It is a challenge, a plea, to the Orthodox Church to take responsibility for people with autism, mental illness, and developmental disabilities. She writes,

. . . . Church is inclusive in that there are no statements made regarding salvation of people with brain differences, people with mental problems, people whose IQ scores do not reach triple digits etc. Quite the opposite, it is frequently stated that the Church believes that Gods mercy most certainly extends to people such as us, and He’ll know what to do with us.

I fully agree, He certainly will. Yet by stating that God will know what to do with us, you make it abundantly clear that you do not. By stating that because of a disorder, there’s no responsibility for our salvation on our part, and God will know what to do, you basically absolve yourself of responsibility as well.

God will know, we can be sure of that and freely depend on His mercy. Yet what are you doing in the meantime? . . .

She continues:

. . . . We want to grow closer to God, . . .  we just don’t always do well with the available tools, and need a hand finding those that do work. We want to be a part of the Church, and part of our churches. We need your help.

Please read the entire letter; it’s not long. Really, it sums up everything Arms Open Wide is about- developing our Orthodox Christian understanding of how to serve and involve in our Church life, our Divine-human life, the life which is life indeed, both those among us as well as those out there who may well come to be among us who are different, and those who are disabled.

To access:

A Letter to the Church

From our Holy Bishops: Disability and Communion

 Pictured: Attendees of the Standing Conference of the Orthodox Bishops of America at St. Sava Cathedral, New York, NY, May 2, 2006

Disability and Communion is the most official statement on the matter (June 25, 2009) our American Orthodox Christian Bishops have put forward.

 The Orthodox Church of America’s website reprinted the statement, and, at the bottom of the post, put forward some good questions to reflect upon in regard to personal interaction with persons with disability, both within the Parish Church, and in daily life. 

Picture from 

– On Tuesday, May 2, 2006 the St. Sava Cathedral in New York was honored to host the annual SCOBA Meeting, the gathering of the hierarchs of all canonical Orthodox Churches in America. Attending this event were: Greek Orthodox Archbishop Dimitrios, Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Christopher, Romanian Orthodox Archbishop Nicolae, Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Anthony, Bulgarian Metropolitan Joseph, Antiochian Orthodox Bishop Basil (filling in for Metropolitan Philip), representative of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) V. Rev. David Brum and the general secretary of SCOBA Bishop Dimitrios Xantos.     


Depression and Orthodox Christian Psychotherapy: A doctoral dissertation

Author: Archimandrite Andrew (Vujisić) of Tralles

This is probably the most in-depth Orthodox Christian writing contained in this resource weblog on the traditional Orthodox Christian Way in regard to the healing of  the mind, heart, and body of those with the disabilities of depression and anxiety – which includes just about all of us at one time or another, though for some these maladies are chronic, entailing a continual struggle.

Dig in!


To access: 


“the Mighty One entered, and put on insecurity”

Syriac Nativity Icon

An excerpt from St. Ephrem the Syrian’s Nativity Hymn 11, translated by Sebastian Brock, the distinguished Oxford Syriac scholar (The Harp of the Spirit, Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, 1983).

(icon from Iconography of the western Syriac Churches)

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.


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 hue.
Praise to You to whom all things are easy, for You are almighty.


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.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

icon from The Feast of Mor Ephrem

Saint Naum the Miracle-worker of Ohrid †910

St. Naum

St. Naum is called upon to intercede with the Lord for people with mental disorders.

St. Naum of Ohrid (or Preslav) followed in the footsteps of St. Cyril and Methodius, missionaries to the Slavic lands, who translated liturgical texts from Greek into the language of the people, Slavonic. As they lived before the schism with Rome, St. Naum accompanied St. Cyril and Methodius to Rome, where God worked many miracles through them, so that the Pope came to see their translation work as a work of God. On their way back to their mission field, the Slavic lands, they traveled through Germany, where they opposed a number of heresies, and were tortured and imprisoned. Freed through an earthquake from God, they proceeded to Bulgaria, where St. Naum traveled about with fellow disciple St. Clement distributing the Bulgarian translation of the Holy Scriptures and preaching the Way of Christ. His feastday is December 23.

Sources: St Nahum of Ochrid, the Disciple of Sts Cyril and Methodius, Equal of the Apostles & A List of Saints Called upon for … Mental Disorders

There is a Monastery on the shore of Lake Ohrid named after him: St. Naum Monastery on Ohrid Lake, Macedonia

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

Wendy M. Cwiklinski: Embracing All God’s Children 

Mr. Rogers

To access:


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 society. 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)




A Sensory Garden

Winter does not look like the perfect season for starting a new garden. However . . .  

Alyona Ovlashevich, who works in The Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs while studying towards a degree in landscape design, came up with the idea of a sensory garden on the territory of the home.  . . .

‘There is a vacant plot of land on the territory of the boarding home. It caught my attention some time ago,” Alyona says. “We are going to improve it and transform it into a sensory garden next spring. I am certain that it will bring a lot of positive feelings and new discoveries to our children!’ . . . 

Nature plays an important role in the children’s upbringing and education. . . . The children will be able to look at the beautiful plants, smell their scents, touch the plants and even taste some of them.  . . .

Read the entire story of this Sensory Garden, which was written by Tatiana Shimko:

A Garden for Children with Special Needs  

from the Website Catalogue of St Elisabeth Convent 

(your purchases will help support the Convent, which is devoted to continual prayer and works of mercy)



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