St. Augustine on Prayer

Here are some short quotes of St. Augustine on prayer which I find very uplifting, followed by a short prayer to the saint who wrote them:

Holy prayer is the column of all virtues; a ladder to God; the support of widows, the foundation of faith; the crown of religious; the sweetness of the married life. (Auct. Serm. ad. Fratres in eremo apud St. Aug. Serm 22)

Prayer is the protection of holy souls; a consolation for the guardian angel; an insupportable torment to the devil; a most acceptable homage to God; the best and most perfect praise for penitents and religious; the greatest honor and glory; the preserver of spiritual health. (Aug. ad. Probam)

“Oh holy Saint, for many years you knew the torment of sin. You relished it, and held up heresy as though it were a great pearl, you loved unchastity and loathed the Church as something sacriligious. But the Lord, through his great divine mercy captured your heart from the bonds of sin, he lifted you out of the muck and mire, causing you to renounce your former heresy and to obediently be baptized. The Lord thought it good for you to become a shepherd of his flock, teaching his Gospel to your sheep, and ruling over them in love and charity.

Where once you were unchaste, you became a pillar of abstinence,
Where once you provoked the Lord, now you have become a shining star of obedience,
Where once you had been far off, now you are in the presence of the Most High God,

Therefore we honor you, oh great Doctor of the Church, defender against destroying heresies, and strong protector and shepherd of your flock and we do cry to you:

Rejoice, you once far off, for the prodigal has returned
Rejoice, oh pillar of the faith, for the Lord of Truth is with us.
Rejoice, oh ever obedient and shepherding one, For our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God
Rejoice, defender against heresies, for the sword of Truth, which is Christ, defeats all foes,
Rejoice, bishop of the Church, for the Light of the Holy Spirit shines forth from you,
Rejoice, oh penitent in soul, for your penance has won you a great pearl
Rejoice, for God is great in his Saints, and worthy to be praised.

To God be all dominion, power, and glory, Of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages.

Holy Protector and defender of Christians, Bishop Augustine, fervently pray for us, that the Lord may deliver us from all vices and all evil passions and may bring us unto eternal rest with his saints; that we may attain the goal of reaching that heavenly city, the city of God for which you longed for in life, and which in repose you now see. Most penitent, pillar of abstinence, pray that our hearts would throw off the shackles of sin, and embrace God, in whom we find our rest.

Amen

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude Met. Jonah on Nativity ’09

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy,
Monastics, and Faithful of
The Orthodox Church in America

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We rejoice in the coming of the Savior, the Advent of the Son of God into this broken world. His Nativity anticipates and prefigures His Second and Glorious Coming again in the flesh, not clothed in the swaddling bands of humility, for but a few years; but in the radiant vesture of the Kingdom to reign forever.

For us Orthodox Christians, the Nativity of Christ is the Winter Pascha, and our celebration is rooted in the liturgical life of the Church; the world’s “Xmas” hymns go on and on, oblivious, rather intentionally, to the point of the celebration. While we enjoy the worldly celebration, the family time, the gifts and giving, these are empty if we miss the central celebration itself: the services of the Nativity, culminating in receiving the Holy Mysteries. We can have Christmas without the Nativity, as does the world; but for Christians the Feast of the Nativity is Christmas!

We pray and fast to prepare ourselves for forty days before Christmas not only to be obedient to the Church, but to prepare ourselves to receive the Mystery of Communion. Will this Christmas be unto salvation, discerning and receiving His Body–that same Body born of Mary and laid in the Manger, the Son of God who has taken flesh and likened himself to us, so that He might liken us to Himself? Or do we judge ourselves, unaware or oblivious to the Mystery of Christ’s assumption of our nature. We pray and fast to open our spiritual eyes, so that we can see Christ, discern Christ, know Christ–not just as a historical figure who taught nice things, but as God who has come and will come again.

The traditional Christmas carols talk about Baby Jesus lying in the manger. Let us contemplate this mystery during this season, a mystery that at that time only His Mother really understood: that this little infant, no different than any other, would become the Savior of the world, and redeem mankind, indeed all of creation, from death. What infinite potential, the potential of a man fulfilling the Divine Likeness, and manifesting God in His flesh, was invested in that little child. Who would have thought that a child born in the most destitute poverty and anonymity would become the criterion of judgment for the whole world?

We can also contemplate this same mystery in the life of every child. Who knows what the destiny of that child will be? Who can tell if he or she will become a point of hope for the whole world? That same infinite potential, the potential for deification, the potential for a life transfigured by God, the potential for a life that will bring joy and peace, or beget such a child?

The Feast of the Nativity is not only the contemplation of God taking human flesh. It is also the great celebration of humanity, that God so loved as to become one of us, that through that One, joy and peace and salvation may be given to the whole world. Let us treasure the life of every child, who is the image of Christ born of the Virgin, and remember the great calling which he or she, and each of us, has in God. Let us also remember that the ultimate fulfillment of that calling is found in the transformation of our very flesh, in which God became incarnate, that having become man for our sake, He enables us to partake of His Divinity on that glorious day of His coming again in the flesh.

With love in the Newborn Lord,

SIGNATURE
+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

On the Death Penalty

I apologize to all for not posting recently. I’ve been in the finals season at school and am finally close to being done! (YAY!) Also, on Saturday I was Chrismated with my fiance Michelle. I chose the name Benjamin Augustine in honor or my given Christian name (and the great patriarch) and also Augustine without whom I would not be in the Orthodox Church, and without whose prayers, I would certainly fail. Michelle chose to keep her name as it is a perfectly good name, the female form of the Archangel Michael.

Anyways, I have been thinking much as of late on ethical issues, especially my opposition to the death penalty. In weighing of the convictions of my conscience with the teachings of my church, I came across this resolution passed by the 1989 All-American Council:

RESOLUTION ON THE DEATH PENALTY

August, 1989.

WHEREAS Orthodox Christians should be called to go beyond the political, social, and legal issues raised by capital punishment and recognize and address the deeper moral, ethical, and religious questions of the supreme value of human life in a manner consistent with our opposition to abortion and mercy killing, and in all such questions involving life and death the Church must always champion life; and

WHEREAS in an effort to further the respect for all human life and to witness to the redemptive nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who Himself prevented the legal execution of a woman (John 8:3-11) and realizing that premature death resulting from the application of the death penalty can prevent the rehabilitation, reconciliation, and redemption of the offender; and

WHEREAS, while we recognize the necessity to punish those guilty of violent crime, we also recognize that there is no humane way to execute a human being;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America supports the abolition of the death penalty in this and all countries and does urge our elected and appointed officials in those states where prisoners are still executed to introduce and support appropriate legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Council requests all governors of states where the death penalty is still in force to halt all further executions according to the power of their office, but that legislative provisions be made for life imprisonment without possibility of parole for those subject to the death penalty;

FINALLY, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox church in America supports and encourages religious bodies, organizations and human rights groups which seek the abolition of the death penalty.

Orthodox Church in America

I will, sometime in the coming week put forth what I see as a Christian response to the Death Penalty and the overarching issues involved herein.

I covet your comments and ideas
-Benjamin Augustine