Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

“Imagine That” is now available on Kindle

Posted in Theology, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 6 December 2015

Imagine That… 

Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion 

a book by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

 

This work examines the use of mental imagery in private devotion in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions of prayer. The research is based on the writing of the saints of the two Churches, as well as on the analysis provided by some of the best theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church. The core of the argument is that the two traditions followed significantly different paths in their approaches to spiritual life. These differences exist in many aspects of devotion, but can be exemplified by the favorable view of the use of imagination in Roman Catholic prayer and the caution with which it is approached in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The difference in devotional paths and the standards of prayer that have been canonized through the glorification of saints by each Church may present a much bigger challenge to the dialogue between the two Churches than heretofore has been acknowledged. This work highlights the reality and significance of the differences between the two traditions and urges the continuation of the research within the framework of the dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

Published with the blessing of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, Russian Orthodox Church.

 NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE KINDLE EDITION

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ISBN: 1-4392-2993-7

EAN13: 9781439229934

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Since the times of the Early Church, Christians have been very discriminate about their prayer and in whose company they choose to pray. Already in the Apostolic Canons (Canon 65, for example), a document arguably dating back to the end of the second century, both lay people and clergy are prohibited from praying with heretics under the threat of excommunication. Apostolic Canon 45 mandates: “Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended…” Similarly, Canon 33 of the Council of Laodicea (ca. 363-364 A.D.) says that “one must not join in prayer with heretics and schismatics.” Yet common prayer is one of the central goals of the contemporary ecumenical movement, including the ecumenical dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Seemingly in defiance of the ancient canons, Catholic and Orthodox hierarchs have routinely joined each other in prayer, to the joy of the proponents of such practices and to the dismay of opponents.

Those working to make common prayer more common argue that the belief in one true God unites the different branches of Christianity and even those outside of the larger Christian community, thus all prayers ascend to the same divine destinations. Opponents often assert that heretics do not pray to the same God, but to the devil instead (cf. John 8:44). Thus, joint prayer is viewed as impossible (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15) or having the risk of accidentally addressing the wrong “authority”.

There is another point of view: if prayer is viewed not simply as locution or interlocution, but as an experience that is transformative for the devotee, even as a way or a mode of life, then it becomes easier to understand why those who doubt each other’s orthodoxy are so cautious about praying together. It is not the risk of accidentally addressing the “wrong” god that becomes central to warnings against praying with heretics, but the risk of being influenced by a way and a mode of life with which one may disagree, in other words, it is the risk to one’s spiritual health. (Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, Introduction)

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Life as Liturgy: Making Life Whole

There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy

Break the Holy Bread, Master: A Theology of Communion Bread

Imagine That…: Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion

Prayer: A Personal Conversation with God? What is prayer and why we pray.

Fasting for Non-Monastics [Kindle Edition]

Morning and Evening Prayer Rules in the Russian Orthodox Tradition

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: Parallel Slavonic-English Text

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Follow this link to see all books and articles by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov: https://www.amazon.com/author/sveshnikov

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What Pornography Does to the Human Brain (VIDEO)

Posted in Practical Matters, Reflections by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 30 March 2015

According to surveys, nearly one-third of Orthodox Christian teens are unsure whether pornography is right or wrong. This is approximately the same number as that of teens who are unsure whether premarital sex is right or wrong. This is very telling in two ways. First, teens who are unsure about premarital sex are probably also unsure about pornography. And second, while the Church makes its position very clear–premarital sex and pornography are wrong–it needs to do a better job of explaining why. In this short paper, I would like to step away from the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ After all, Christ did not come to bring us laws and legislations. Sins are not right or wrong because someone issued a regulation. Instead, I would like to talk about things that are good for you or bad for you.

The Church teaches us that sexual intimacy is an important part of the sacrament of marriage: there, it has its rightful place; there, it helps the two become one; and there, it fulfills all of its functions–from the expression of love and commitment to the co-creation with God in continuing the human race. Marriage is a sacrament with the “principal and ultimate goal [of] the spiritual and moral perfection of the spouses.” As with any sacrament, that which is sacramental, should not be used for profane purposes. Imagine that a priest throws a party in the holy altar, and then on Sunday, after having picked up the trash, he serves the Divine Liturgy there. Or, he uses the chalice to drink his coffee in the mornings, and then on Sunday he uses it for the Eucharist. Even on an intuitive level we understand that this would be blasphemy. And yet, it is the same with our bodies. The Apostle Paul teaches that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and it belongs to your spouse for the fulfillment of the sacrament of marriage (7:4)–whether we are married now or will one day be married. Imagine your love for your spouse as a cup filled to the brim, and you want to give all of it, the fullness of it to your beloved. If you start bumping into strangers along the way or allowing them to take some of what you are carrying, then you will not be able to preserve the fullness of your love, and will hand to your beloved a cup half-empty, if not altogether unworthy of a sacrament.

All of this can be said about premarital sex in general, but what about pornography? Pornography is just as bad as premarital sex, but more dangerous. When a person engages in a sexual act with another person, both are aware that they are giving up a part of themselves; and the more partners a person has, the more fractured he or she becomes. But pornography camouflages itself as something unreal, virtual, something that is one’s private business, something that does not hurt anyone. Our culture tells us that we are free to do whatever we want, as long as it does not hurt anyone. Let us heed this advice and remember that ‘anyone’ means us as well. Let us make sure that whatever we do does not hurt us physically or spiritually.

Christ said: “…every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). The reason Christ equates looking lustfully, the very definition of pornography, with adultery, a physical act, is because we are not some bags full of disconnected parts–body, soul, mind, spirit, will, etc.–but whole and interconnected beings. If we have a toothache, our mind may become irritable; and if our mind is anxious, our whole body may ache. This is why when we allow pornography to enter into our eyes and our mind, our entire being is affected. The “virtual” sin of pornography most often leads to very physical masturbation. And once something is seen, it cannot be unseen–it imbeds itself in the mind, the memory, the subconscious. We would not want to share our spouse and our marriage bed with a bus-load-full of porn actors and actresses. But in reality, this is what we do when our minds are polluted with pornorgaphy and we enter into the sacrament of marriage bringing all those “passengers” along. On second thought, porn ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’ perform sexual acts for money, and there is another term for that–prostitution. The Apostle Paul says that “he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her” (1 Cor. 6:16). These are very powerful words. This means that when we commit adultery in the heart–watch pornography–we become one with that prostitute, instead of our spouse. This is not only destructive to the sacrament of marriage, but also to our own souls: with how many prostitutes can one become one before the soul is completely broken, damaged, fractured, and polluted?

Ways to Fight Against Pornography

  1. Avoid those television shows, movies, magazines, and websites that arouse sexual passion. It is much easier to fight against sin while it is still a little worm than to battle it once it becomes a fire-breathing dragon.
  2. Do not underestimate the brute power of sexual desire. People have killed and died under the influence of the sexual passion. Do not play with fire or you risk being burnt.
  3. Remember that demons, including those of lust, are best resisted through prayer and fasting. Pray often and ask God for help. Keep the real fast, not a vegan diet.
  4. Keep your eyes and your mind on our Savior and His Most Pure Mother. If you spend time on the computer or watch television–place an icon next to the screen. If looking at what is on your screen and in the eyes of Christ at the same time makes you uncomfortable or ashamed, then something is wrong with what is on your screen. Do something about it! (There is an OFF button on every device.)
  5. Seek healing in repentance. Once something is seen it cannot be unseen. But God can heal and restore the soul. Remember: repentance is not feeling bad about something. It is a firm decision to turn away from sin and turn to God. It is a decision to fight against sin, not merely feel bad about having committed it. It is a sacrament of reconciliation with God, not a formality of entering a guilty plea on a heavenly court docket.

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Study Notes: 12 MAR 2015

Posted in D.Min. Study Notes, Women in the Church by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 12 March 2015

Notes of the study of liturgics

On whether the Apostle Paul’s comments about women are politically incorrect

NB: these are only random thoughts which are not necessarily correct.

In Orthodoxy, we see God not so much as a judge who punishes criminals, but rather as a physician who heals the sick. Thus, when God gives a punishment, it is not meant as torture but medicine. This medicine may be bitter, and the medical procedure may be painful, but pain is not the goal. For example, when a surgeon takes a knife and cuts into a man to remove cancer, he is not doing this because he enjoys hurting men, but rather because he wants to heal them: “He did not actually curse Adam and Eve, for they were candidates for restoration” (Tertullian).

Furthermore, when we look at the medicine, we can guess at the diagnosis. For example, if I know that you take antihistamine, I may guess that you have allergies. If I know that you take ibuprofen, I may guess that you have some inflammation.

So, when we look at the kind of medicine that God gave to Adam and Eve, we may begin to make guesses about their afflictions. To Adam God said: “You will work hard” (Gen. 3:17-19). Perhaps, Adam was lazy? Perhaps, instead of cultivating the garden of his soul, he let it get overgrown with weeds? Perhaps, he did not fertilize it enough with virtues? To the woman God said: “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” (16). It is immediately after that that Adam called his wife’s name–that is to say, he asserted authority over her (20). This, of course, is a reversal of what God had said prior to sin: “A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.” Since Adam did not have a mother and father (and, presumably, was not expected to leave God), this was the social order for their descendants (2:24). And yet what happened after the fall is the exact opposite: the woman leaves her father and mother (her family) and cleaves to her husband. And the visible symbol of this is that she changes her family name and takes on her husband’s family name.

If such is the medicine–submission to her husband–what, then, was Eve’s illness? Perhaps, she aspired to rule over Adam? This is not immediately clear to us from the text, but since we are studying worship, let us look at the fall through that lens. Certainly, the story of the fall is not about a stolen apple (or pomegranate).

Who is so foolish as to think that God, in the manner of a gardener, planted a paradise in Eden, toward the east, and … that a person could be a partaker of good and evil by eating what was taken from the tree? … I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries. (Origen)

Adam and Eve were to partake of the fruit, which is communion with God, but they needed to prepare themselves first. They needed to till the garden of their souls and partake of the fruit as a gift from God. Instead, they chose to steal it. Eve saw the fruit and thought three things: it is good for food, it is delight to the eyes, and it gives knowledge. She fell into the “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). It is as if one were to go up for communion in church and think within himself: “Hmmm… This is a pretty chalice, I wonder if it is an antique. The wine is quite tasty (now, the bread could be better). And I am glad that everyone is looking at me; they think that I am so spiritual.”

So, rather than partaking of the fruit as a sacrament, with due preparation and from the hands of God, Eve just took it of her own human will, and “she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). In other words, she communed him, she asserted her role above Adam. Instead of Adam receiving the fruit directly from God, Eve asserted her role as an intermediary between Adam and the fruit–it was in her possession, she usurped the right to distribute it.

If such was Eve’s illness, it makes sense that God gave her the medicine that He did, and that the Apostle Paul said what he said about Eve having been deceived in the garden. Thus, it is not about political correctness at all, but rather, it is about medicine. If someone were to ask us to undress, we would think such a request odd and politically incorrect. But when a doctor asks us the same thing, we just do it, because we know that it is for our benefit. And we patiently subject ourselves to various procedures, poking and probing, pills, mixtures, needles, etc.–all the things we would never tolerate from anyone except a physician.

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On whether women epitomize humanity and men epitomize divinity

The problem is that divine nature is different from human nature. By nature, we are not the same as God. But for men and women, nature is the same–the one human nature. By nature (ontologically), men are the same as women. This nature is manifested in two different forms–male and female–and in many different persons (or, rather, through many different hypostases), but it is one and the same nature. This is why the Apostle says that in Christ, there is neither male nor female. That is to say, both males and females by nature have equal access to communion with Christ, salvation in Christ, theosis, sanctity, etc. Women are not “lesser” creatures. They certainly do not “epitomize” humanity while man “epitomizes” divinity. One could argue that as a general rule, men seem to rely more on rational thinking while women seem to rely more on intuition or the feeling of the heart. But this only proves that women are closer to the spiritual world, since the spiritual world is not understood by the rational mind and is instead experienced through the heart.

If men are to be icons of the divinity and women are to be icons of the humanity, then we may find a bit of difficulty in tracing the two different paths to salvation. If we propose that all men somehow naturally are icons of the divinity (what does that even mean?), and all women are somehow equally naturally born as icons of the humanity, then we may have a hard time explaining this concept with any degree of intelligibility. And if we propose that men and women are born the same, but then for the sake of salvation men have to represent divinity while women must try to represent humanity, then that makes even less sense and presents an even larger theological difficulty (at least, in my mind).

Furthermore, this goes against the Scripture. Note that when Paul speaks about men being like Christ and women being like the Church, he is essentially (ontologically) talking about the same thing. Christ is both divine and human, and so is the Church. There is no Christ without His Body, which is the Church. There is no Church without Christ. Without Christ, a “church” becomes a Bible-study club or a Christian song concert. The Church, in order for is to be the Church, has to be fully human and fully divine. Christ and His Church are “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably” united into one. What is even more fascinating, in Eph. 5:31, Paul introduces this concept by re-establishing the original order of Gen.: a man will leave his father and mother–it is almost as if he were trying to say that the Son of God left His Father and cleaved to His Church to become one flesh with Her.

Finally, the priest may be an icon of Christ’s divinity for the people, but at the very same time he represents the people or Christ’s humanity before God, he is also an icon of the Church. When he turns to the laos and says, “Peace be unto all,” he bestows Christ’s blessing on them. Yet in the very next minute he turns to the Theos and offers prayers for and on behalf of the people.

In other words, I would have a difficult time justifying a concept of women being icons of humanity and men being icons of divinity, or even comprehending this concept. But perhaps, I do not fully understand your argument? What precisely do you mean when you say that, “The man is essentially a microcosm within humanity of God, whereas the woman is the ultimate representation of humanness. As such, humanity in relation to God is feminine. God in relation to humanity is masculine.” What exactly do you mean by this? If it is feminine to be meek, and humble, and to serve, rather than to be served, if it is feminine to obey the will of the masculine, and to love, then Christ is… the perfect example of femininity! His interaction with His Church is expressly feminine. Eve are created a helper, a servant for Adam? (Gen. 2:20) Then she is an image of Christ, because Christ is the Servant (see Isaiah 52-53, Matt. 8:17 and Acts 8:34-35), He is the one who washes feet (John 13). By the way, in this context, to become an icon of Christ is to strive toward what is commonly misunderstood as feminine traits, not masculine ones.

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What to watch during Lent

Posted in Fasting, Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 20 February 2015

Here are some videos to watch during Lent. I will keep adding new ones as I find them.

Also, check out the new post, “What to watch during Lent 2”

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Dr. Jay Gordon: No one needs meat for health

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Following up on one of the most influential documentaries of all time, Forks Over Knives, comes Forks Over Knives – The Extended Interviews. This video includes never-before-seen footage from the film’s expert interviews, covering several themes in greater depth and addressing important issues that weren’t touched on in the movie. Forks Over Knives – The Extended Interviews covers more than 80 topics.

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In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

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Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn argues that heart attacks, the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide, are a “food borne illness” and explains why diet is the most powerful medicine.

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Celebrated Cornell University professor T. Colin Campbell Phd, presents the overwhelming evidence showing that animal protein is one of the most potent carcinogens people are exposed to.

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Olympic gold medal winner Carl Lewis describes how his best athletic performances came after he eliminated all animal products from his diet.

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He’s VEGAN — James “Lightning” Wilks, an MMA fighter best known to many for winning The Ultimate Fighter TV challenge, US vs. UK. James holds a Black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a Brown belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu. Listen to James relate decision to go 100% plant-based.

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A fateful blizzard on a drive to Tahoe led to a conversation about food and nutrition, which inspired bodybuilder Joshua Knox, a Google employee, to go vegan for a week. One week turned into a 1.5 year lifestyle experiment with bodybuilding and diet.

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Prayer: A Personal Conversation with God? [Kindle Edition]

Posted in Articles, Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 5 May 2014

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Prayer: A Personal Conversation with God?

What is prayer and why we pray

AVAILABLE NOW ON KINDLE

Please follow this link to read it:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K57YSDI

Follow this link to see other books and articles by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov: https://www.amazon.com/author/sveshnikov

 

 

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Fasting for Non-Monastics [Kindle Edition]

Posted in Articles, Fasting, Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 27 December 2013

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AVAILABLE NOW ON KINDLE FOR $1.44:  

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K5B0GF8

INTRODUCTION

A curious phenomenon can be observed in the interactions between pastors and their parishioners at the beginning of each major fast of the Church. Pastors attempt to call their parishioners’ pious attention to the spiritual heights of fasting: the fighting against sin, the conquering of passions, the taming of the tongue, the cultivation of virtues. In turn, parishioners pester their pastors with purely dietary questions: when fish is allowed, whether soy milk or soy hotdogs are Lenten foods, whether adding milk to coffee is breaking the fast, or whether there is some dispensation that can be given to the young, the elderly, those who study, those who work, women, men, travelers, the sick, or those who simply do not feel well. In response to the overwhelming preoccupation with dietary rules to the detriment of the spiritual significance of fasting, some pastors, seemingly out of frustration, began to propose in sermons and internet articles that dietary rules are not important at all: if you want yogurt during Lent, just have some as long as you do not gossip; if you want a hamburger, then eat one, as long as you do not devour a fellow human being by judging and backstabbing. Unfortunately, such advice rarely helps eradicate gossip, judging or backstabbing. Rather, it seems to confuse people into thinking that since they have not yet conquered these and many other vices in their hearts, they do not have to fast from hamburger either. Thus, I would like us to discuss the very topic which fascinates so many lay people: what the fasting rules are and how they are to be followed by those of who have not taken the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

(more…)

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There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy

Posted in Articles, Practical Matters, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 16 April 2013

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

A new book by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

There Is No Sex in the Church!:

On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

This work is a collection of essays written over the years on topics related to human sexuality and gender issues within Russian Orthodox Christianity: marital sex, homosexuality, ritual impurity, and others. In an introduction to one of the sections, the author writes:

“…Having written a couple of opinion papers touching on the difficulties of discussing matters of human sexuality in the context of the Russian Orthodox Church, and having pointed out the existence of a wide spectrum of opinions on what Christians should do in bed—ranging from the strictest and almost total prohibition of any form of sexual behavior with possible exceptions for the most penitentiary of position and then only a few times in a lifetime specifically for the purpose of procreation, to an attitude of total permissiveness brushing off any questions with assertions that the marriage bed is undefiled and whatever married people do in their bedroom is all blessed—I have, quite naturally, been asked to clarify my own position on what should and should not be allowed… I should like to discuss three topics: 1) the idea that a husband and wife should attempt to live “like brother and sister,” that is to say, abstaining from sex altogether or limiting it only to specific times and forms necessary for procreation; 2) the idea that a husband and wife can do whatever they want as much as they want in the privacy of their bedroom and none of it is the Church’s business; and 3) a possible middle ground which does not reject the joy of the married state moderated by a certain measure of ascetic discipline of the body and the soul…”

WARNING 

This book deals with adult subject matter and is intended for adult readers. If you are offended by the discussion of human sexuality, this book is not for you. Some sections of this book contain very graphic language and reader discretion is strongly advised.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Contents: (more…)

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Thinking Out Loud About Gay Marriage

Posted in Articles, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 3 April 2013

Not long ago, I was invited to participate in a discussion on gay marriage on a radio program of Oregon Public Broadcasting. The occasion seemed timely enough—a proposition to legalize gay marriage was on a ballot in Washington, a neighboring state. A few days later, I found out that the main guest on the program would be Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Robinson had published a new book which was being introduced on the show. Naturally, the author received most of the airtime. The host, Dave Miller, did allow me a few minutes in which to represent my point of view—hardly enough to even begin to develop an intelligent argument. The issue of gay marriage, however, is most certainly here to stay. Thus, I have decided to put down a few thoughts on the digital equivalent of paper…

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

A new book by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy

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An Interview About Gay Marriage on OCN

Other Books by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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Life As a Sacrament

Posted in Practical Matters, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 24 December 2011

Русский: Жизнь как Таинство

A talk given at St. Herman Orthodox Youth Conference on 24 December 2011 in Ottawa, Canada

Introduction

We all know of the sacraments of the Church and recognize them as certain events or milestones in our Christian lives: we get baptized, we prepare for confession and Communion, get married, and some may get ordained to the holy priesthood…  These important markers provide us with the time and place to be face-to-face with God, to unite with Him within His Holy Church, His Body.  But what about the rest of our life?  Well, we pray for a few minutes in the morning and also in the evening.  But what about the rest?  All too often, our lives are fractured: there is the Christian part—Church sacraments and services, prayers and readings; and there is the secular part—school, work, a party at a friend’s house, a movie on Friday night—and the two parts seem to be as far apart as the east is from the west.  Indeed, what is so spiritual about cooking breakfast?  Or, how can one be (or not be) a Christian while brushing one’s teeth?  The very mechanistic separation between Church and the rest of life seems to be as commonplace in modern Christianity as the separation of Church and state.  But can there be another model?  Is there a way to reconcile the broken pieces of the modern fractured life and to live one whole and simple Christian life?  Here, we will discuss the meaning of the word “sacrament,” the role that sacraments play in our life, and also some ways in which we can guide and shape our everyday life toward a greater connection with God and His Church. (more…)

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Funerals and Memorial Services

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 14 November 2011

Russian: Отпевание и панихиды 

Translated from Russian by Fr. Michael van Opstall

The final hours before death

The leaving behind of the earthly life full of suffering, and the translation into eternity is the most solemn moment in the life of any Christian. However, friends and relatives, sometimes removed from Christian traditions, bear the death of a loved one with great grief. They often lose their orientation and leave the important job of the setting an Orthodox Christian on his final path in the hands of a funeral home. (more…)

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On the Blessing of Homes On Theophany

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 18 January 2011

Russian: Об освящении домов крещенской водой

Why Bless a Home?

The Orthodox Church teaches that we do not have two separate lives–a secular one and a spiritual one–but one human life, and that all of it must be holy.  We must not be Christians for just a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, spending the rest of our life godlessly, that is to say, without God.  The person who has united with Christ in the sacrament of baptism cannot be a part-time Christian, but must be faithful to Christ everywhere and at all times–in church, at work, at home, in relationships with other Christians, and in those with non-Christians–we must be faithful to Christ in the fullness of our life.

The Holy Orthodox Church teaches us that a temple is not only a building in which we worship, but that we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16); that the Body of Christ is not only that of which we partake at the Divine Liturgy, but that we are the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).  And just as the Gifts of the Eucharist are treated with reverence and kept in sanctified vessels in the altar, so should every Christian’s life be full of reverence and sanctity not only during a church service, but likewise outside the walls of the temple.  A Christian’s home must become a small temple, work–labor for the glory of God, and family–a small Church. (more…)

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There Is No Sex in the Church!

Posted in Articles, History, News, Practical Matters, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 January 2011

This paper explores the attitudes within the Russian Orthodox Church toward marital sex by putting the issue into historical,theological, and pastoral contexts.  It strives to begin a dialogue between the laity, married clergy, and monastic hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church about one of the important aspects of every Christian marriage–marital sex.

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

A new book by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

There Is No Sex in the Church!: On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender In Orthodoxy

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Other Books by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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Support our church! Make a small donation today!

To donate through PayPal, click here

Or mail a check to Russian Church, PO Box 913, Mulino, OR 97042

Click this link for the donation page

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Nativity Fast and Thanksgiving Turkey

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 23 November 2010

Russian: http://osergii.wordpress.com/

Published on Orthodoxy and the World

In two days, on November, 25, America is going to celebrate Thanksgiving Day which has a very significant role in American families because it is one of the few times a year that the family gets together. Thanksgiving Day is also called a Turkey day because it usually involves a meal with turkey or at least a more elaborate meal. Most American Orthodox Christians started the Nativity Fast on November, 15. How can an Orthodox Christian navigate these family gatherings, often with family who are not Orthodox, and still keep the Nativity fast? (more…)

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Rauschenbusch’s “The Social Principles of Jesus” and the Identity of Western Christianity

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 10 July 2010

It is said that Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was “the leading spokesman for the theology of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism” (from the introduction by Pelikan, 586).  Although a Baptist minister, Rauschenbusch apparently rejected biblical literalism in favor of historical criticism—a method of biblical analysis that originated in Rauschenbusch’s fatherland in the first half of the nineteenth century.  This method, quite popular even today, allowed Rauschenbusch to see the Gospel through the prism of the contemporary understanding of history, which in the age of social revolutions was dominated by the struggles of the lower classes.  In a series of books and essays, Rauschenbusch applied principles he believed were found in the Gospel as calls for social reform that continue to ring true for many modern Christian theologians.  In “The Social Principles of Jesus,” Rauschenbusch’s last essay published in 1918, the author attempted to use his reading of the Gospel as a foundation for social philosophy.  It is this reading, however, that, in our view, makes the foundation rather shaky.

The problem is in the fact that Rauschenbusch’s historical analysis turns Jesus into a failed Jewish revolutionary, and the Church into a piece of corrupted machinery with aimlessly spinning wheels (587-8).  Of course, Rauschenbusch curtseys to the traditional notions of Christ’s divinity in the opening paragraph of the essay, but immediately announces His losing in the “great spiritual duel … between him and the representatives of organized religion” (586).  As such, however, neither Jesus nor His Church can serve as a foundation for anything, except perhaps something like Vladimir Lenin’s “we will follow a different path.”[1] (more…)

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Varietal or Generic? On William James’ “The Will to Believe.”

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 9 July 2010

For approximately a millennium, from the era of the first few Ecumenical Councils and through the Reformation, Christian faith was guided by a rather small number of established traditions.  This was not the case in the first few centuries of Christendom, as many competing views on core Christian teachings were vetted, and theologians sought ways of talking about new concepts and doctrines.  The result was not only the development of uniquely Christian ideas, such as the full humanity and divinity of Christ, but also the crystallization of a new theological language.  This new language gave new definitions to already existing philosophical terms and developed many new ones.  And as Christianity struggled to give precise definitions to such terms as hypostasis or ousia, among many others, strong traditions of Christian theology were established in part through the precision of language and clarity of thought.  Thus, the formation of traditional Christian theologies can be seen as the result of the polemic between the greatest thinkers that Christendom could produce.

A very similar process appears to have been restarted in the West, as post-Reformation Christendom fell apart into various creeds and theologumena.  And just as fitting definitions were sometimes elusive in antiquity, the language employed by modern thinkers is sometimes marked by a lack of clarity.  Apart from the issue of inclusivity—a type of thinking that purposefully avoids rigid definitions on the basis that someone is sure to disagree—some modern Christian theology often lacks definitions as if unintentionally.  Perhaps, this murkiness is due to a more intuitive understanding of faith that does not rely on reason as heavily as did the medieval scholastics.  More likely, however, this is due to a more simplistic approach to faith, rejection of the old dogmas, and a renewed process of finding “new and improved” definitions.  In this sense, in the last four hundred years Western Christian thought has been going through a process of discovering its own beliefs not unlike that of the first five centuries of Christendom.  Whether this is an ascent on the eternal spiral of human self-discovery, or the West’s attempt at reinventing the wheel is a topic for a different paper.  It suffices to say here that while some of the ideas born by modern Christian theologians do excite the taste with their freshness, many others fail to find their way out of the graveyard of ancient heresies. (more…)

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The Problem of the Central Persona in Eliot’s “The Waste Land”

Posted in Articles by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 2 July 2010

I must admit that faced with the task of writing a short paper on “The Waste Land,” I agonized over the difficulty of pinpointing a topic—the poem seems bizarre, to say the least, and defies standard analytical thinking.  I was certainly glad that I did not have to study the poem in school; although my wife, who did, could not recall either a line or a theme from the work.  Perhaps, like esteemed critics of old, I too approached the poem “structurally looking for underlying mystic, symbolic, or formal coherence” (Davidson 6). (more…)

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On Tithing

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 July 2010

Russian: http://osergii.wordpress.com/

The Church is the Body of Christ, and just as Christ united in Himself human and heavenly nature, in the Church the heavenly is united with the earthly.  The Church is not only comprised of apostles, saints, and holy monks, but also of us—exactly in as much as we submit our earthly selves to the heavenly—”I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20); in as much as we live in Christ.  As the Lord builds His Heavenly Church through the saints, He builds the Earthly Church through us. (more…)

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On the Significance of the Ritual of the Russian Orthodox Church Surrounding Death and Dying for the Grieving Process of the Bereaved

Posted in Articles, Practical Matters, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 7 June 2010

Presented at the Pastoral Conference of the  Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church

San Francisco, California, 18 March 2008

Imprimatur: † Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America

Introduction

For them that mourn and grieve who look for the consolation of Christ, let us pray to the Lord! (From the Great Litany during the Panikhida or the Requiem Service)

This workshop was designed to be presented to the clergy of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad during the Spring 2008 Lenten Conference in San Francisco, California.  The purpose of the workshop is to provide the clergy with another tool in their work with grieving parishioners and their families as well as to raise the level of awareness of the stages of the process of grieving and the healing properties of the Church rituals which may be explored in relation to the grieving process.  As Lundquist writes in Ethnic Variations in Dying, Death, and Grief: Diversity in Universality, “death [in the dominant culture of the U.S.] is frequently treated as a taboo topic in conversation” (32).  This cultural conditioning of Orthodox Christians living in the U.S. goes against the millennia-old tradition of the Church Who reminds Her children that death is the ultimate culmination of the earthly life of every human.  The conversation about death, therefore, must be continued and supported within the Church which teaches, “in all you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin” (Sirach 7:36 NRSV).  The participants of the workshop were invited to look at the meaning of Church rituals not only as the expression of Her beliefs concerning the fate of the reposed, but also and primarily, for this exercise, as a pastoral tool in helping the bereaved to transform the period of grieving and loss into a period of spiritual development and gain. (more…)

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Blessed Augustine’s View of Self

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 21 May 2010

It has been asserted that Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) has had enormous influence on the formation of Western thought and Western civilization.  Some, as F.J. Sheed, for example, have even argued for St. Augustine’s “towering importance in the history of mankind” (Augustine 323).  It is not my goal in this paper to examine whether St. Augustine’s importance was indeed towering in the history of all mankind.  Nor do I wish to examine Jasper’s assertion that St. Augustine is “by far the most important hermeneut of the early Christian church”[1] (Jasper 39) from the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Both issues, however, are of utmost importance to our discussion, but the authors’ statements and my implied questions are merely rhetorical.  One fact cannot be denied: St. Augustine indeed played a prominent role in the formation of the Western mind.   

Sheed notes that St. Augustine’s was “the one light that shone steadily” for the seven centuries between St. Augustine’s death and the twelfth century, when “first-rate thinkers were once more in action in the Church” (Augustine 324).  Despite the lack of an obvious reference to the Western Church, the context of Sheed’s remark leads me to believe that he would not challenge a hypothesis that the East was nourished by its own lights, while being somewhat shaded from the rays of St. Augustine’s “enormous intellect” (Augustine 324) by the cultural and ecclesiastical divide between the two parts of the Roman Empire.  Although, even in the West, such theologians as John Scotus Eriugena, whom Sheed apparently considers a second-rate thinker, were studying the Eastern Fathers (Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, the Cappadocians, and others, in Eriugena’s case), and were not blinded by the illustrious Augustine.  In his discussion on the issue of the filioque, the Irishman apparently was not convinced by the Doctor’s arguments and preferred to search for answers, alas!—self-admittedly, in vain, elsewhere.  

Herein lies the area of my interest: if the East and the West are different (and I choose to presuppose that they are), and if the ecclesiastical, cultural, theological, and even intellectual divides have not been healed, despite centuries of pontifical[2] efforts, then it may be possible to find some early signs, some symptoms of the early stages of the looming Great Divorce, in the persona of St. Augustine of Hippo who “single handed… shifted the center of gravity” for the West (Martindale, qtd. in Augustine 324).  I do not wish to imply that St. Augustine’s work was the sole source of the estrangement between the East and the West—this matter is too complex to be addressed in a short paper.  But if St. Augustine’s influence in the West was as great as it is touted to be, then “cut off from its intellectual sources” in the East (Augustine 324), cut off from the ecclesiastical life within the Grace of concensus patrum, the West may have inherited not only the greatness of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, but also his individuality, peculiarities, oddities, and (ready?!)… flaws (!).  Quite apart from looking for straws in St. Augustine’s eyes—thankless pursuit indeed—I shall embark on a voyage of celebrating some of the differences in his and “the Easterns’” (as Pius IX referred to us in his [in]famous epistle) view of self. (more…)

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On The Parable of the Talents/Minas

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 5 May 2010

“He Put Before Them another Parable” (Matt. 13:24)

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. (Matt. 13:34)

Of all the passages in the Gospels, some of the best known and most often retold are probably the parables of Christ.  The stories of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich man and the Beggar Lazarus, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Talents and others have not only given rich homiletic material to preachers from across the full spectrum of Christian denominations, but have served as staples of Christian children’s education for many generations of the faithful and have become part of the collective cultural make up that has shaped the Christian world.

Perhaps due to this assimilation and acculturation of the Parables of Jesus within the Western mindset, many preachers and Sunday school teachers tend to forget the fact that Jesus was not an American televangelist and that his audience did not live in the American Suburbia.   Relatively recently scholars began the colossal work of putting many familiar stories into their proper first-century Palestinian context.  The shear amount of material uncovered by the historical social sciences will be enough for schools of theologians to sift through for years and decades to come.  Yet, as Richard Rohrbaugh writes in his recently published work The New Testament in Cross-Cultural Perspective (2007), very little work specifically on the parables of Christ “has taken into account recent efforts to use the social sciences in New Testament interpretations.  That is certainly the case with the parable of the talents…” (109) (more…)

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More to the Point: Should Nuns Light Their Icon Lamps?

Posted in Women in the Church by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 28 April 2010

As a continuation of the discussion started in my previous paper, “On ‘Ritual Impurity’: In Response to Sister Vassa (Larin),[1] I now would like to address some of the issues that have been raised in greater detail.  The problem that has been posed by Sister Vassa is as follows:

When I entered a convent of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in France, I was introduced to the restrictions imposed on a nun when she has her [monthly] period. Although she was allowed to go to church and pray, she was not to go to Communion; she could not kiss the icons or touch the Antidoron; she could not help bake prosphoras or handle them, nor could she help clean the church; she could not even light the lampada or iconlamp that hung before the icons in her own cell: this last rule was explained to me when I noticed an unlighted lampada in the icon-corner of another sister.[2]

The conclusion at which Sr. Vassa arrives after a study of early Church writings and contemporary opinions expressed by a handful of ecclesiastical bodies is that the rules surrounding “ritual impurity” are “a rather disconcerting, fundamentally non-Christian phenomenon in the guise of Orthodox piety.”  In my previous paper, I raised some very general concerns about Sr. Vassa’s methodology in addressing the issue of ritual impurity in the Orthodox Church.  In this paper, I wish to attempt to find some constructive ways forward…

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On “Ritual Impurity”: In Response to Sister Vassa (Larin)

Posted in Women in the Church by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 27 April 2010

I recently read an interesting paper by Doctor Sister Vassa (Larin) concerning the issue of ritual impurity in the Orthodox Church. This topic is extremely important both because the bodily functions that give rise to this issue have been around presumably since the fall of Adam and Eve and because they are not likely to go away any time soon, save for an imminent parousia.  Namely, Sister Vassa explores the attitudes in the Church toward menstruation, although the issue of ritual impurity is broader than that, and I shall return to this point.

In a sort of deconstruction of the Orthodox tradition with respect to menstruating women’s participation in the liturgical life of the Church, Sister Vassa briefly examines the evidence of this tradition and conflicting opinions from various sources—the Old Testament, the Protoevangelium of James, writings of the Church Fathers—and notes some of the recent developments which point to the instability of the tradition.  The conclusion to which Sister Vassa arrives is that ritual impurity “finds no justification in Christian anthropology and soteriology.”  But is this really so?  I believe that a few comments made by Sister Vassa deserve further examination.

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The Lion’s Song

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 12 March 2010

It has been noted that, according to Genesis 1:3, light has been created by God[1]  before the heavenly “lights,” the sun, the moon, and the stars, were created three “days” later (1:14-19).[2]  In fact, even “vegetables” were “brought forth” by the earth before the sun existed to make them ripe.  The nature of the light that was created on the first day as well as the entire account of the creation of our world found in Genesis has occupied the thoughts of some of the greatest minds of humanity.  This intense interest in the creation story is easy to understand: our views on the origins of the world and humankind have a great effect on our understanding of our purpose and destiny. (more…)

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Mental Imagery in Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 March 2010

See also: Imagine That…: Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion

Deutsch: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/mentale-einbildungskraft-im-gebet/

 Just as there can be a properly trained voice, there can be a properly trained soul.[1]
 

—Fr. Alexander Yelchaninov

This presentation is based on the research that I undertook for a book titled Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, published in paperback in February of 2009 with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco.  The work is an analytical comparison of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox attitudes toward mental imagery.  In this presentation, I wish to focus specifically on the Orthodox tradition of prayer. (more…)

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On the Spiritual Significance of Fort Ross

Posted in History by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 26 February 2010

Russian: http://osergii.wordpress.com/

What we have, we protect not, and, losing it, we weep. 

A great deal has been written and said about the possible closing of Fort Ross on the Pacific Coast of California to the public, and about the cultural and historical significance of this southernmost Russian 19th-century settlement on the North American continent. Indeed, Fort Ross was and continues to be a symbol of the Russian presence on the West Coast of North America, and it played a key role in the history of the Russian exploration of Alaska and the Pacific coast of Oregon and northern California. But for an Orthodox Christian, the history of the Ross settlement is first of all tied to the history of the spreading of Orthodoxy in the United States, which for us has become a second home. (more…)

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“You, Brood of Vipers!”—Or What to Say to People Who Have Come to Be Baptized

Posted in Articles, Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 22 February 2010

See also “On the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”

It is usually understood that when John the Baptists thundered “You, brood of vipers!” (Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7) he was speaking to Pharisees and Sadducees and that this was not a very nice thing to say.  Indeed, Matthew makes it quite clear to whom John was speaking and that they—the Pharisees and Sadducees—were not good people (see Matt. 23:15, 23, 25, 27, 29).  Yet, what we know about the Pharisees is that they were very pious, religious, seekers of God, attempting to fulfill all of the religious rules and customs (Roetzel 39), and that their belief system in many aspects was very close to that of later Christianity (Brown 80).  Additionally, John said those words to the people who came to be “baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6). [1]

In this paper, I shall explore the possible meaning of the phrase “you brood of vipers” found in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke (3:7), where John is addressing the crowds.  Are we “much perplexed by his words and ponder what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke1:29)?  What did the author try to express and convey to the community by putting these words in the mouth of John the Baptist?  Was this an insult, a warning, or praise?  What would the intended reader of this passage learn from it? (more…)

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Repentance and Confession

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 February 2010

Русский: Покаяние и исповедь

Português: Grande Quaresma : Tempo de Confissão e Arrependimento

In order to understand what repentance is, one must first think about what sin is.  Most often, people liken sin to breaking God’s law or transgressing against God’s commandment.  Undoubtedly, such a characteristic of sin has its basis in the Old Testament.  But just like all Old Testament things, this is only a shadow or a symbol of that which has received a deeper meaning in the New Testament. (more…)

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Maslenitsa —A Pagan Holiday?

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 8 February 2010

Русский: Масленица—языческий праздник?

One often hears that Maslenitsa[i] is a pagan holiday and that it is not good for Christians to participate in such festivities.  Is this so?  There is not a simple answer to this question and many similar questions that meet at the intersection of Christianity and pre-Christian pagan culture and customs.  The answer to this question is complex.  That is to say, it consists of several parts.

(more…)

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On the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 February 2010

This paper is a development of the study on the Gospel of Luke started in the previous work titled “You brood of vipers!–Or What to Say to People Who Have Come to Be Baptized.”

In almost two thousand years of Christianity, we have learned to understand the Holy Christian Scriptures in our own particular way.  We have learned to apply the Scriptures to our own time, our own situation, and to derive meaning particular to what we believe.  In our prayers we may ask God to grant us “the humility of the Publican” from Christ’s parable (Luke18:9-14) and compel each other to “flee the proud speaking of the Pharisee” (Lenten Triodion 106).  The very words “Pharisee” and “pharisaic” (“pharisaical”) can be used in a derogative way by some Christians to describe “hypocritical censorious self righteousness” (Brown 79, fn 19), apparently drawing on passages such as Matt. 23:15, 23, 25, 27, 29.  But did the author of the Gospel of Luke and the early Christian community put the same meaning in those words?  Did they understand them in the same way that we so often do? (more…)

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The Sovereignty of God

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 13 January 2010

Among the Western thinkers of the Cold War Era, Iris Murdoch (Jean Iris Murdoch, 1919-1999) holds a very special place of honor and distinction.  It is not the fact that she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire,—there have been scores of distinguished women before and after Murdoch; and in 1987, she was one of nine.  Nor was it that she was truly intelligent, for although the truly intelligent may be more rare these days than the Dames Commander, they nonetheless abound even among Murdoch’s contemporaries.  What sets Murdoch apart is the rarest quality of all—honesty, primarily with herself, which cannot but captivate and humble her reader. (more…)

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Morning and Evening Prayer Rules in the Russian Orthodox Tradition

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 22 December 2009

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Introduction

My interest in the history of the Morning and Evening Prayer Rules came from a somewhat unusual source: in more than seven years of serving as a parish priest, I have regularly heard it confessed by a large number of people that they fail to complete all of their daily prayers.  What is meant by these confessions is that some penitents regularly cut short the Rules contained in the Orthodox Prayer Book.  It must be noted, however, that there appear to be no standard rubrics for the composition or length of Morning and Evening Rules, nor is there a mention of the “sin of the shortening of the Prayer Rule” either in the daily confession of sins contained at the end of evening prayers, or in the Rite of Confession contained in the Book of Needs.  To be sure, one of the prayers in the evening rule does mention being “neglectful of prayer,” but this likely refers to one’s general attitude toward prayer, rather than to a modification of the Prayer Rule, although there can certainly exist a causal relationship between the two.  At least two issues immediately arise from this situation: 1) whether shortening the generally prescribed Prayer Rule should be viewed as a confessional issue; and 2) by whom and when the Prayer Rules were compiled. (more…)

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On Church Etiquette

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 10 December 2009

Russian: О церковном этикете

“…all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40)

Every human society, or as sociologists would say, “social group,” has its own specific rules of behavior and etiquette.  These rules can be very different, but this does not mean that one group’s etiquette is better than that of another.  Quite simply, in Russia, for example, when meeting someone, it is customary to wish each other good health (“Здравствуйте!”), but in the United States to ask “How are you?”

The Orthodox Church is the sacramental Body of Christ, but at the same time, it is a group of people who are united not only spiritually, but also socially.  This is why the Orthodox Church has developed its own rules of etiquette.  Unfortunately, many of us grew up in an unchurched soviet or post-soviet society and came into the Church at an age when our parents and grandparents were no longer telling us how to behave ourselves, as they did when we were younger.  This is why it is up to us to observe and learn the rules and customs of the Church and of our parish. (more…)

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Questions and Answers About the Nativity Fast

Posted in Interviews, Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 9 December 2009

Russian: http://osergii.wordpress.com/

Português: http://cetroreal.blogspot.com/2010/11/como-se-preparar-para-santa-natividade.html

Published by Orthodoxy and the World

Pravmir: The Orthodox Church prepares the faithful for the Nativity of the Lord by the 40-days fasting period. The secular world has its own spirit of Christmas preparation: parties, presents, Christmas markets, early decorated stores… How not to be involved by the secular pre-celebration of Christmas and to keep the fast not only in food, but in spirit as well?

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov: First of all, I would warn against building too high a partition between the “Christian world” and the “secular world.”  In the true sense of the word, there is no such thing as the secular world; there is only one world–that which was created by God and corrupted by sin.  Trying to “flee from the world” may be a lofty aspiration indeed, but one that in its purest form would require us to abandon our employment, family, relationships, oh, and probably the internet as well.  Yet it is unthinkable that the Church would want all of us to become monastic hermits—Christians would simply die out within a generation or two! (more…)

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Reflections on Female Spirituality

Posted in Women in the Church by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 13 November 2009

Every man, at least every married man, is faced with the task of deciphering female psychology.  Popular wisdom provides plenty of evidence to the many differences between men and women, but more scholarly works are equally plentiful.  Additionally, a large body of feminist thought has now provided insight not only into the unique psycho-emotional makeup of men and women, but also into differences in male and female worldview and spirituality. 

The following are very unscientific reflections and observations of one man on just a few ways that expressions of female spirituality may be seen through a male prism, or, as they like to say nowadays, window of understanding…

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On the Role of Women in the Church

Posted in Articles, Practical Matters, Theology, Women in the Church by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 13 November 2009

The issue of women in the Church has been raised many times during the history of Christianity, beginning with the very first decades of the Church’s existence.  That is why, when in the twenty-first century one asks about the role of women in the Church, one does not speak of this role—Christ Himself spoke about it and the Apostle Paul wrote about it in his letters—but the continuing problem of the relationship between genders in the family, society, and the Church.

In Church consciousness, this problem is usually expressed in terms of bearded men in black possessing administrative authority which they withhold from women, even if the latter choose to glue on a mustache and don a black robe.  From the point of view of modern Western culture—to which not only immigrants making their lives in the United States belong, but also in a significant way Orthodox people living in the European part of Russia—there is clear evidence of the discrimination of the Church against women only because they were born women.  This is why it seems somewhat strange to me that I, a bearded man in a black robe who possess some limited administrative authority in my parish—a small part of the Church, have been invited to tell women about their place in the Church…

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