Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

“A more perfect union”: Thoughts on the Election Day

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 8 November 2018

I went to vote last Tuesday. Many people did. And as I cast my vote, I remembered something that happened a very, very long time ago—almost too long ago to remember, something that almost seems as if it were from a different life.

I was a child growing up in the Soviet Union. It was an election day there as well. I was too young to vote, but an election day was a big deal, and I recall that very clearly.

It was late in the evening, and my parents were talking about getting ready to go to the polling place before it closed. The place was very close—only about 300 meters-or-so away, at the school where I attended.

While they were talking about getting dressed, our doorbell rang. It was the police officer assigned to our precinct. No, he was not rude, he did not shove an AK47 into my parents’ faces. In fact, I remember him being very polite and professional. Nonetheless, the police came to our door because my parents had not yet voted. They had to go.

As we all entered my school’s auditorium where the polling place had been set up, I remember it being festive, brightly lit, with red (of course, red!) carpets and table cloths, and with a large red box that had a gold emblem of the Soviet Union on the front (that easily-recognizable round one, with amber sheaves of grain surrounding the map of Eurasia from sea to shining sea).

I remember the ladies, the poll workers, all dressed up, one blond with a hairdo that she had clearly paid a lot of money for earlier that day at some salon, smiling and being very happy and polite. At least, I thought they were happy and polite. They gave my parents their ballots and directed them to a private booth. I suppose, my parents wanted to give me a lesson in civic duties as they showed me their ballots, let me touch them, and explained what the different parts were.

The ballots were printed on thick, fancy paper, with gold embossed letters and emblems at the top—much, much fancier that what I was given on Tuesday at my local polling place in Portage, Wisconsin. In very high quality jet-black ink, printed on the ballot, was one name of one candidate and a box to check next to his name. I very clearly remember that, as I remember my father smirking meaningfully when he showed it to me. Apparently, that was how it almost always was.

I was too young and it was too long ago for me to remember now what kind of an election it was or who was on the ballot. But the next day it was announced that the candidate won by a landslide—with almost 100% of the electorate voting to elect him. I am not quite sure why it was ‘almost’ 100%, except that to announce on national news that it was 100% would have been awkward and incredible. Maybe, some people just didn’t check the box rightfully assuming that it did not matter.

This was a “long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” I was young, there are surely things I do not remember correctly. But let us not forget what we have here in the United States, let us not take it for granted, and let us not become complacent. No our union and our system are not perfect. I always made fun of the phrase from the Preamble “a more perfect union”: “How can something be more perfect? It is either perfect, or it is not.” But now I see the wisdom of those who chose to use this term over any other. The ultimate perfection is likely unattainable—not by us, not in this life. But what we have is so good in comparison to so many other systems that it could be called “as perfect as we could make it, and we can make it even more perfect, if we work at it.” (There is a reason why caravans are moving toward the United States, not away from it—not even to Canada, not after Obama was elected, and not after Trump was elected.) Perfection—not heavenly perfection, but our, earthly, often less perfect, perfection—can indeed be a sliding scale. Things can indeed be more perfect, as long as we remain of the proper scale (unlike men, not all scales are created equal) and keep moving in the right direction. We should not stop; we should keep trying to make our union “more perfect… and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Advertisements

Comments Off on “A more perfect union”: Thoughts on the Election Day

Death to Halloween! (Very Scary!)

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 29 October 2018

It is that time of year again when Orthodox and some other Christian writers attempt to warn people about the evils of Halloween. They assert—and I have done no less in my much younger days—that Halloween is a pagan holiday, and thus everyone who participates in its celebrations by default participates in the ancient Gaelic harvest festival called Samhain (“summer’s end”). As I grew older I saw that the people who dress up as princesses and Marvel super heroes have about as much to do with devil worship (for this is often the claim) as people who send each other Christmas cards or Easter candy have to do with worshiping Jesus Christ. This is all that I will say about it, and it may be a topic for another time. For myself, I still do not see any need to celebrate Halloween any more than I do the Chinese New Year, the Parinirvana Day, Eid-al-Adha, or Yom Kippur. But I am no longer interested in writing pseudo-pious articles linking my neighbors’ children to devil worshipers for merely dressing up in costumes any more than I am interested in condemning Russian Orthodox Christians for making (and partaking of!) pancakes on Maslenista, since pancakes are an ancient pagan symbol of the cult of the Sun (round, yellow, hot—reminds of anything?).

However, the grinches of Halloween (of whom I am chief) just might see the death of it after all. And no, it is not our fiery blog posts and inspirational sermons that are killing the evil practice of carving pumpkins and exchanging miniature candy bars. No, the butcher of Halloween is the modern phenomenon of super-sensitivity and hyper-offendedness. It is insensitive to dress up as a princess because this is a class misappropriation and may offend real princesses. Likewise, one should not dress up as a prince or a knight, unless the same is in fact a prince or a knight. No more Count Dracula costumes—they may be insensitive towards ethnic Transylvanians and persons bearing the noble title of count. Definitely, no Cowboys or Indians—for very obvious reasons. The Little Mermaid costume may offend persons with sirenomelia. A pirate costume is insensitive to people who have been victims of real pirates. (And it may also offend Somali-Americans due to the Western stereotyping of Somali pirates in the MSM.) Certainly, no more skeletons, zombies, or any other costume with reference to injury or death, because they may trigger traumatic experiences in some people. And no, no more children dressed as teddy bears, cats, or any other animal—speciesism and misappropriation! No more black capes. Period. They offend Orthodox clergy. Obviously, nothing sexy due to the abomination of objectification! No more nurses, nuns, witches, firemen, or clowns. I should not have to go on; the pious reader will understand the principle by which any costume is inappropriate unless worn by the very actual person it pretends to portray.

Halloween decorations are no less harmful in our culture. Heads carved out of pumpkins risk offending people who are sensitive to all of the recent beheadings committed by Islamic terrorists. Fake hanging corpses are unacceptable because they trigger the historical trauma of lynching. Spiders and spider webs are offensive to people with arachnophobia; and the fake RIP tombstones are insensitive to those who recently lost their loved ones. No more scarecrows in the yard, because they may scare people who are scared of scarecrows. There simply is not a single piece of Halloween decoration that is not insensitive or outright offensive to someone!

It is very possible that in our lifetime, the greeting “Happy Halloween!” will finally be replaced with the neutral “Happy holidays!” and everyone will walk around dressed strictly as themselves, exchanging carrot and celery sticks. (Candies are offensive to people without dental insurance and may be a conspiracy of the dental lobby.) Perhaps then, Orthodox bloggers with stop writing about the horrors of Halloween and focus instead on the memory of the Evangelist Luke or Saint Joseph of Volotsk, whose memory we celebrate on October 31 (those on the new calendar will have a pick of several of the Seventy Disciples.)

Tagged with:

Comments Off on Death to Halloween! (Very Scary!)

#MeToo Two

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 6 October 2018

As the Kavanaugh saga unfolds (he has not yet been confirmed as of the moment of this writing), a few more thoughts and observations can be added to my previous post which is quickly becoming outdated. (Alas! Such is the nature of social commentary—it becomes outdated almost before it can be posted.) Ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends have been enlisted in the battle on both sides, false accusers have come forward and have been debunked, and someone even volunteered to take the blame for the assault on Christine Blasey by claiming that it was he, not Brett Kavanaugh, who attempted the assault in 1982. Of course, if true, this will be an accusation against Christine Ford for making a false accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. This nesting-doll-style carousel appears to follow the pattern on the first #MeToo-er, Asia Argento, who accused Harvey Weinstein, was then herself accused by another actor, who was then himself accused by an ex-girlfriend… “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) And while it is best not to comment on the substance of the allegations, since most of us know nothing of this matter that our favorite website of network did not tell us, a couple of thoughts do come to mind.

It is interesting that our society has divided into those who believe Christine Ford and those who believe Brett Kavanaugh. I always thought that matters of faith and belief are reserved for the realm of religion. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Since when have Ford and Kavanaugh become prophets to be believed, or their testimonies become foundations of faith? Of course, it is understood that 36 years later there is little-to-none direct evidence (at least, none that could not be easily challenged). But the problem with turning to religious concepts of belief is that for the faithful, direct evidence is never very important. If it can be shown, for example, that the percentage of pilgrims who receive healing by visiting a holy relic, an icon, or a shrine is much smaller than the normal placebo effect in most medical trials, this would not affect the faith of the pilgrims or the spiritual significance of the relic or a shrine. Those are simply two different realms, different dimensions of human experience. It now appears that Ford and Kavanaugh have become objects of pseudo-religious fervor that cares little about objective reality and operates in the realm of subjective pseudo-spiritual experience. Ford and Kavanaugh are no longer relevant as persons; they have become banners in a war of sexes, placeholders in a pro- and anti-abortion debate, or something entirely different. Whatever it is, it may be helpful to recognize that this new social reality has acquired a religious dimension and as such is immune to logic, reason, or common sense.

Another curiosity is the absolute lack of a very important conversation. A 15-year-old girl drinking at a party with 17-year-old boys who are already, in her own words, “stumbling drunks”—is there a teachable moment here? No, I do not want to “blame the victim.” The 15-year-old Christine Blasey was not to blame for whatever happened, nor was she expected to have perfect judgment at that age, especially after drinking. No 15- (or17-) year-old can be expected to have perfect judgment. Unlike our politicians or the media, as a Christian minister, I may be able to (maybe not—we’ll see) get away with saying that this is another lesson that parents can teach their children. “Do not tolerate abuse”—yes. “Speak up”—yes. But also, if you are 15 and invited to a drinking party with 17-year-olds—don’t go. If you accidentally find yourself at a drinking party with 17-year-olds, and they are becoming “stumbling drunks”—call your parents. Yes, even if they get upset. It is better to be grounded for a month than to deal with PTSD for the next 36 years. I think that every parent who has a daughter knows what I am saying here. Perhaps, it is time to revisit a more traditional and old-fashioned approach to parenting, when 15-year-old girls and 17-year-old boys do not attend a party without some adult supervision. If you are a 17-year-old boy, and your friends are drinking, ask the 15-year-old girl if she would like you to walk her home or call her parents. I want to reiterate that this comment is in no way to blame Christine Blasey for getting groped or to excuse the behavior of her assailant. This is not at all a comment about blame but about basic safety. I may feel that I have a God-given right to stroll through any dark alley in South Chicago at 2 a.m., and that no one should ever blame me for doing so. Basic safety concerns, however, will prevent me from enjoying this God-given (and constitutional) right of mine without an overwhelmingly compelling reason. Some things are just common sense. Is this defeatist, and should we be demanding a brave new world in which a 2 a.m. stroll through a dark alley is just a walk in the park? I do not think so. It is good to envision a world without the flu, and it is also good to exercise prudence and prevention until such a world is achieved. It is good to “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come,” but it is also good to be fully aware of the Augustinian “but not yet” corrupting each and every one of us. This conversation may be as important for girls and boys as the one about consent, responsibility, and respect for one another.

Tagged with: , ,

Comments Off on #MeToo Two

#MeToo

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 18 September 2018

I am a firm believer that everyone should generally limit his or her comments to his or her area of expertise. I have written on numerous occasions about the strange fascination among some Orthodox Christians with marital or child-rearing advice coming from monastics who have never themselves been married or raised any children. This rather odd tradition seems just as absurd as would seeking advice on leading a good monastic life from a married lay person. And so, in this brief note prompted by the unfolding scandal surrounding the confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, I will do my best to avoid expressing any opinion on politics, which is clearly not my area of expertise.

What caught my attention in this political performance of “advice and consent” was the revelation of possibly-inappropriate behavior, possibly sexual in nature or, at least, with possible sexual overtones by Kavanaugh when he was in high school. Not to condone or excuse any illegal or abusive behavior (yes, for obvious reasons, I will make this and several more disclaimers throughout), but the very idea of a teenage boy behaving inappropriately or even sexually-inappropriately somehow does not sound entirely implausible.

Whether anything of this sort did or did not happen, or whether whatever happened (if anything did happen) rose to the level of criminal or abusive behavior is, very obviously, not for me to know or comment about. But I do find it relevant in the present moment in our society to ask the following question: if Brett Kavanaugh did in fact behave inappropriately as a teenager at a party 36 years ago, does this invalidate the rest of his life’s conduct and achievements and disqualify him from becoming the next Supreme Court Justice? Because, if it does not, then this allegation becomes irrelevant at this point and should be addressed quite separately from the confirmation process. The very same question can be asked about every single person whose career was put on the chopping block by the #MeToo movement. I think most people agree that Harvey Weinstein is a creep, but is Asia Argento’s allegation against Weinstein invalidated (along with all of her acting career) by the fact that #SheToo may have had sex with an actor, and an underage one at that? Is Garrison Keillor’s nearly half a century of creative work suddenly worthless to our culture because he may have (and probably did at least once in the last 76 years) had an incident of improper behavior? Should David Foster Wallace’s works be banned because he was a misogynist? Should we stop teaching Einstein’s theory of relativity because he, Einstein, was a racist, as his travel diaries reveal? Should India be converted back to being a British colony because Mahatma Gandhi, before he was a mahatma, volunteered to advance British colonialist aspirations in Africa during the Boer War? Dostoyevsky had a felony conviction. Tolstoy was a wealthy one-percenter and a heretic. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway were drunks. The Apostle Paul was a co-conspirator in hate crimes against a religious minority, and Saint Peter denied Christ—not once, not twice, but three times! (As they say, once is an accident, twice a coincidence…)

In my mind, these are not idle questions in an era when Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House children’s series and Albert Einstein are accused of racism. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington owned slaves. So did the Prophet Muhammad, who also consummated his marriage to the 9- or 10-year-old Aisha when he was 53 years old. The Buddha was a clueless and spoiled rich kid who married his cousin, got her pregnant, and then abandoned her and the baby in search of enlightenment. The Reverend Martin Luther King had numerous extramarital affairs. Pope Francis may have known something about a cardinal’s abuse of seminarians earlier than he now admits. In fact, considering that each pope was a priest and a bishop before becoming a pope, who knows what else may in time be revealed about Francis, Benedict, or JPII. Mother Teresa was the biggest client of the Vatican Bank with billions in deposits, which apparently never made it into the “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

It would be rather silly to fantasize that Orthodox bishops and patriarchs are too much better than the average human being. Between the stories about everything from bad pastoral work and abuse toward priests and their families to the lack of chastity, to involvement in financial and political intrigues—and these are just the issues on the surface, out in the open, without digging too deep—all appears to point to the idea that our own hierarchy is mostly made up of averagely-flawed humans. Once again, I want to reiterate that any cases of criminal, illegal, or abusive behavior should be prosecuted by the proper authorities (which rarely includes Twitter). But can we ever expect any religious, political, cultural leader or any person whatsoever to be completely perfect and lacking anything embarrassing or inappropriate in their entire life? Can anyone live long enough and never-ever make any mistake? If it is now becoming acceptable to go back to one’s teenage years, as is the case with Brett Kavanaugh, and question one’s behavior at a high school party, can anyone at all be found without blemish? Quite apart from the fact that #MeToo has long turned into #He/SheToo–it is no longer raising awareness but, rather, leveling accusations–if we dig deep enough into anyone’s life, will we not find something that at least someone will find objectionable? If the Apostle Paul called himself a “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15—what was he hiding?), can any one of us be found to be anything but?

This avalanche of #MeToo revelations should not only lead to much-deserved punishments for those who have committed crimes or acted in an abusive manner, but it should also bring a sense of humility to all, as accusers find their own sins written in the dust on the ground (John 8:8)—albeit, in 140 characters or fewer. To be sure, we are called by our faith to confront others for the purpose of correcting them (Matt. 18:15). But as for condemning and casting stones—let us leave this task to those without sin. (Once again, this is not in any way to imply that criminal or abusive behavior should be left without prosecution—“For the authority does not bear the sword in vain!” [Rom. 13:4]) It is okay to acknowledge that Keillor is a good writer, even if he put his hand on a woman’s back. It is okay to be inspired by King’s sermons and to value his civil rights legacy, even if he struggled with infidelity. It is okay to like Esenin’s poems, even if it is likely that he wrote none of them while sober. And it is okay to allow for the possibility that Brett Kavanaugh may be a good judge, despite what he may have done at a high school party 30 some years ago, as abominable as it may have been. In fact, in Christianity, we allow for the possibility of redemption. A man who may have acted inappropriately or even criminally 36 years ago may have changed his life, turned it around, left the “sins of his youth and his ignorance” behind (Ps. 25:7), and proved this with his life by not returning to his old ways in the past three decades. As Christians, we sometimes believe in this kind of stuff. Saint Augustine was a drunkard, a partier, and fathered at least one illegitimate child whom he abandoned, along with the child’s mother. Saint Mary of Egypt was a prostitute. Saint Matthew is said to have been an abusive tax collector and an embezzler before he met Christ. Saint Olga slaughtered an entire tribe in a fit of revenge. Her grandson, Saint Vladimir of Kiev, offered human sacrifices and is responsible for producing the first Christian martyrs in Kievan Rus. And the first person in paradise was a repentant thief (highway robber/terrorist/rebel/enemy of the state/freedom fighter—take your exegetical pick).

This is in no way to assert that Brett Kavanaugh has repented and should be canonized a Catholic saint (he is a practicing Catholic, regularly attends mass and volunteers at Catholic charities). I have no way of knowing what he did or did not do, and whether or not he repented before God for what he may or may not have done. But this is to assert that in Christianity, we insist that a man is not always defined by his past sins and failures, and that his contributions to society and humanity are not automatically negated by a past indiscretion, a lapse in judgment, or even a crime.

I do not know whether Kavanaugh is a good judge. I am not a good judge of judges. I know very little about politics (and Supreme Court nominations have become primarily a political act.) But I know that there is one person who never raped or abused women, children, or seminarians, never owned slaves, never committed adultery, never got drunk at a high school party—who is completely without sin. If we are in search of someone who is without a #MeToo incident, we should look to Christ. If #MeToo helps us stop some creeps and punish some criminals, right some wrongs—great! But if this movement also helps us realize that humanity is deeply flawed—to its very core, that all are corrupted by sin, that we need a savior—this too would be a good thing to come out of this movement. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man…” (Ps. 146:3) But put your trust in Jesus Christ, “who committed no sin, nor any deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)

Comments Off on #MeToo

Sex and Contraception in a Christian Marriage

Posted in Practical Matters, Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 2 July 2018

Nota Bene: This is a discussion of human sexuality, including sex, contraception, and other related topics. If you are offended by such topics, you may choose to exercise abstinence and refrain from reading any further. On the other hand, if you choose to engage in further reading, some context for this discussion may be found in “There Is No Sex in the Church”—a collection of essays by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov published in 2013.

The question of contraception within marriage is not new by any means. Perhaps the earliest biblical mention of birth control comes from the story of Onan and Tamar in which coitus interruptus was used to prevent conception (Gen. 38). No doubt, this time-honored method of contraception has been employed by couples since the time of Onan–approximately, three-and-a-half thousand years ago[1]–and to the present day. Other contraceptive techniques were also used throughout the centuries and are continued to be used in present times (a pious reader above a certain age, no doubt, will be able to imagine some of the sexual techniques that are incompatible with conception).[2]

In recent decades, humans have been enjoying “better living through chemistry” (as well as a better understanding of physiology), and a wide variety of contraceptive pharmaceuticals and devices have appeared on the market. These new advances in contraception have been employed both by non-Christian couples (who are not the subject of this discussion) and Christian couples alike—with or without the blessing of the Church. The stance of the Orthodox Church on every type of sexual behavior which differs in any way from the so-called “missionary” position was quite clearly formulated by monastics and celibates in the Middle Ages.[3] Regardless of whether mediaeval monastics and celibates should ever be viewed as experts on spousal intimacy, medical advances (as well as many other factors) of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries forced the Church to re-evaluate its positions on sex and contraception within a Christian marriage. As Breck notes, “Orthodox bishops and priests today usually acknowledge that married couples may need to practice a form of family planning that includes some method of birth control.”[4] (more…)

Comments Off on Sex and Contraception in a Christian Marriage

frus·tra·tion

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 24 June 2018

frus·tra·tion

frəˈstrāSH(ə)n

noun

–the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something

Why are men so preoccupied with heaven and hell? Especially, hell? Why are so few preoccupied with Jesus? They have some incoherent notion of wandering around in heaven, along streets of gold, in and out of pearly gates, from mansion to mansion, visiting their dead relatives, with absolutely nothing else to do for the whole eternity. The notion becomes only slightly more coherent with respect to hell: worms, fire, frying pans, demons with horns and tails and forks, etc. They will tell you all of the warning sings of the coming of the antichrist–including his nationality and hair color–but few are watching for the signs of the coming of the Christ.

Where is the man who just wants to be with Jesus–not in heaven, not out of hell, but with Jesus? Where is the man who says, “I do not want heaven, I do not care about hell; I want Jesus”? Where is the man who is ready to follow his Lord to the moon and back, even to the edge of the earth? Where is the man who says, “If in order to be with Jesus, I must go to hell, I will gladly go there and be burnt a thousand times–just to be with my Lord”?

What a consumerist attitude–“Accept Jesus in order to avoid the fires of hell and inherit life in heaven!” “For God so loved the world” that He came all the way to earth in order to be with us, all the way to poverty, to hunger, to thirst, to weariness. He came to serve, to wash feet, to be rejected, tempted, tested, arrested, beaten, tortured and killed. If, in order to find His lost sheep, Jesus had to descend into the very abyss itself, did He not do that? Did he not choose His beloved over the comforts of heaven? Sure, He is eternally risen, but He is also eternally crucified. And men respond by “accepting” Him in order to gain eternal comforts and to avoid eternal discomforts?!

Imagine a man who plans to get married, and instead of saying to his beloved, “I want to be with you because I love you,” he says, “I want to be with you because I want to have my meals cooked, my house cleaned, my socks washed, and I want to have sex regularly.” Even we, fallen humans, do not say this to our beloved. In our best moments, we say, “I want to be with you because I love you–for better or for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness or in health…” Why do men not extend the same idea of love toward God, and are instead obsessed with getting stuff out of God–as if He has not given enough already?! Scared of hell?–accept Jesus! Want eternal retirement in heaven?–accept Jesus! Problems in life?–Jesus will fix them!

This is not to say that there is no heaven or hell or problems. But this is to say that when God says, “I love you,” do men really have to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Comments Off on frus·tra·tion

Eugenics in the U.S.

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 July 2017

I looked up some information on eugenics in the U.S. for one of my classes. That the U.S. had an active national eugenics program before Nazi Germany ever existed is well-known and not too interesting in and of itself. One part of this program, naturally, involved selective breeding of humans who were considered to be good specimens. But the other part was forcible sterilization of those who were unfit for procreation. The standards, charts, numbers and measurements to determine who was unfit can be easily looked up. It suffices to say here only that those people were usually disabled, poor, less intelligent (as determined by an IQ test) or incarcerated.

What is interesting to me is that California and Oregon, the two states one would typically associate with some social justice sensibilities, had the most prolific forcible sterilization programs. The last known one to have been carried out under what used to be known as The Oregon Board of Eugenics took place in 1981. California, where two thirds of all forcible sterilizations in the U.S. took place, did not stop the practice until 2010. Curiously, Texas did not have a single forcible sterilization (at least, none on record). Law protecting individual freedoms there were so strong, that they protected the disabled, the poor, the less intelligent and even the incarcerated from being forcibly sterilized.

Comments Off on Eugenics in the U.S.

“A friend is revealed in times of trouble”

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 July 2017

Much has been written about original sin. The Scripture is quite laconic about what happened. Adam and Eve–they!–stole a piece of fruit. Surely, the original sin was not theft. Many correctly say that it was disobedience. But there has to be more–much more!–to the story. Making a rule just for its own sake, for the sake of obeying or disobeying it, seems petty. There are some beautiful, mystical explanations of the nature of the original sin offered by Father Kuraev and others, and I quite like them, but there is one aspect of it that has captivated my attention for a couple of days now.

In one sense, the original sin was the killing of God in self. He, who from the creation of man was ever-present with him was cast out, the presence was killed. This is symbolically represented by the discovery of nakedness. It is a common opinion of the learned theologians that until the sin, God’s glory (that is to say, His presence) covered Adam and Eve as if with a garment. After the sin, the presence of God was no more, and they saw their nakedness.

When Cain killed Abel, he killed the presence of God in the other. What bothered Cain was not that God did not regard his offering but that He regarded Abel’s. Whatever it actually means that God “regarded” Abel’s sacrifice, it implies some kind of attention, active presence. Once again, man wanted to be left alone, without God. The presence of God proved intolerable and needed to be destroyed.

This act of killing God’s presence–this original sin–continued through the killing of the prophets and eventually of Christ Himself. The same desire to be left alone, the same intolerance for the presence of God, the same insatiable drive to be our own gods–nothing changed. And it still has not.

For a very short while, at the very dawn of the Church, the faithful could say: “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” This is long gone. The Church is now terrified of the Second Coming, Her prayer has long been “Don’t come, Lord Jesus! Not now, not in our time.” She no longer–and has not for a long time!–prays for and eagerly awaits a speedy judgment of this world, its end, the end times. Instead, the Church prays and longs for the peace, stability and prosperity of this world and for the delay in the Second Coming of Jesus.

When Jesus came the first time, man did what he had always done with the presence of God–he killed Him. Man wanted to be left alone, he wanted to be his own god. He had a perfectly good altar, like Cain. He offered sacrifices in proper order and with proper prayers, like Cain, I am sure. Even if he believed in God’s presence, he understood that it inhabited that large stone box he called the Temple–it was not with him, in his home, in his life, in his being. Man put God in a box and hired guards-priests- to keep Him there. But when God came to man’s town, to his village, to speak to man face-to-face, to eat supper with him, to touch him–man could not tolerate such an intrusion and so he killed God.

This sin–the killing of God in His Son–is much more grave than the killing of God in self, as did Adam, or the killing of God in other, as did Cain. I have no good reason to believe that man today–today!–would not do the same as he did two millennia ago. Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor is not about the Catholics, or not exclusively about the Catholics. It is a commentary on the Adam and the Cain in every man.

Rosanov once had a frightening insight: the tragedy is not that Jesus had enemies, but that He did not have friends. His enemies conspired to kill Him, but His betrayer was a disciple! His enemies came with weapons, but His disciples were asleep! His enemies mocked Him, but a disciple denied ever knowing Him! In Orthodoxy, we have a tradition of identifying ourselves with John. “Behold, your Mother!”–we believe that these words said to one disciple apply to all disciples and to us. What fanciful thinking! Why identify with this particular disciple? Judas was also a disciple, and so was Peter, and so were the rest who ran away and locked the door behind them! No, we are not heirs of just one disciple; we are heirs of all of them. We carry the nature of Adam, and Cain, and Judas, and also of Abel, if we have not slaughtered him in ourselves, and also of John, if we have not run away from the Cross and locked the doors in fear. The saints saw this; that is why they cried and repented so much.

Comments Off on “A friend is revealed in times of trouble”

Have you fed the hungry lately?

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 2 January 2016

At the Second coming of Christ, He will reward those who fed the hungry, visited the sick and the imprisoned, clothed the naked… We all know this Gospel passage. As Christians, we try to get involved in prison ministries and soup kitchens–and this is very important and well-deserving of our efforts. But pay close attention: when Christ addresses the righteous, they are genuinely surprised: “When have we ministered to you Lord?” Do you think that anyone involved in a soup kitchen can be genuinely surprised at Christ’s words? It is more likely that they will say: “Yes, Lord, I ministered to the hungry as if they were You, and I saw Your image in each of their faces.” The ones who are surprised are not the ones who were involved in Christian ministries and visited the prison inmates because it was a Christian thing to do. They are the ones who ministered to the needy out of a profound sense of oneness with them. If your child is hungry, you feed him because you are family, not because it is a Christian thing to do. When your brother is in prison you go there not because you participate in a Christian ministry or because you enjoy visiting inmates; in fact, you may hate going there, but you go anyway–because he is family. When we treat others as family, we do not expect to be rewarded for feeding them or visiting them in prison, we do not expect any reward for this and will be genuinely surprised to get any. If we let a stranger in not because he might turn out to be an undercover angel but merely because he is a fellow human being, he is family, then we have understood that to call God ‘Father’ means to call a stranger a ‘brother’–not in a “churchy” way, but quite literally.

Comments Off on Have you fed the hungry lately?

“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

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE PAPERBACK

ISBN: 1-4392-2993-7

EAN13: 9781439229934

+

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)

+

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

+

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

Comments Off on “Imagine That” is now available on Kindle

“Life as Liturgy” Now Available on Kindle!

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 8 November 2015

Life as Liturgy: Making Life Whole

by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

“…Thus, the problem of modern life can be identified more precisely not only as the absence of newness or transformation in the lives of most of the faithful, but also as the presence of a fracture which is seemingly caused by the very Orthodox praxis that is meant to heal and make our lives whole. The solution to this problem cannot lie in any one specific area. I do not think that our focus should be to urge people to take communion more and more often or to come for more and more church services. I also do not think that reading the Bible more or adding more akathists to one’s daily prayer rule is the solution. As wonderful and helpful those all of those things are, focusing on them, in my opinion, is the mistake of “placing the cart before the horse.” I think that our task as Christians is not in adding one religious observance or any number of them to our lives, but a full transformation of our lives from which prayer and the study of Scripture, frequent communion and the genuine desire to attend more church services flow naturally and organically…”

To order the Kindle Edition for just $4.49, please click herehttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B017QQOV82

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

+

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

+

Comments Off on “Life as Liturgy” Now Available on Kindle!

What to watch during Lent 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 15 August 2015

Blessed Dormition Fast to you and yours! 

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

Also, check out the videos in the previous post, “What to watch during Lent 1”

+

BBC Horizons: “Eat, Fast & Live Longer”

Note the discussion of the “5/2” pattern about half-way through the documentary. Isn’t this what the Orthodox Church has been teaching for two millennia–fasting two days every week? 

Comments Off on What to watch during Lent 2

Worried about getting enough iron during Lent? Read this!

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 May 2015

Why an iron fish can make you stronger

  • 17 May 2015

When Canadian science graduate Christopher Charles visited Cambodia six years ago he discovered that anaemia was a huge public health problem.

In the villages of Kandal province, instead of bright, bouncing children, Dr Charles found many were small and weak with slow mental development.

Women were suffering from tiredness and headaches, and were unable to work.

Pregnant women faced serious health complications before and after childbirth, such as haemorrhaging.

Ever since, Dr Charles has been obsessed with iron.

Anaemia is the most common nutritional problem in the world, mainly affecting women of child-bearing age, teenagers and young children.

In developing countries, such as Cambodia, the condition is particularly widespread with almost 50% of women and children suffering from the condition, which is mainly caused by iron deficiency.

The standard solution – iron supplements or tablets to increase iron intake – isn’t working.

The tablets are neither affordable nor widely available, and because of the side-effects people don’t like taking them.

Lump of iron

Dr Charles had a novel idea. Inspired by previous research which showed that cooking in cast iron pots increased the iron content of food, he decided to put a lump of iron into the cooking pot, made from melted-down metal.

Children holding an iron fish in Cambodia
Half of the villagers who used the iron fish in cooking were no longer anaemic after a year
The lucky iron fish
The iron fish is modelled on a species commonly eaten in Cambodia

His invention, shaped like a fish, which is a symbol of luck in Cambodian culture, was designed to release iron at the right concentration to provide the nutrients that so many women and children in the country were lacking.

The recipe is simple, Dr Charles says.

“Boil up water or soup with the iron fish for at least 10 minutes.

“That enhances the iron which leaches from it.

“You can then take it out. Now add a little lemon juice which is important for the absorption of the iron.”

If the iron fish is used every day in the correct way, Dr Charles says it should provide 75% of an adult’s daily recommended intake of iron – and even more of a child’s.

Trials on several hundred villagers in one province in Cambodia showed that nearly half of those who took part were no longer anaemic after 12 months.

‘Better than tablets’

Prof Imelda Bates, head of the international public health department at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says the iron fish is a welcome development.

“These sort of approaches are so much better than iron tablets, which are really horrible.

“If it’s something that is culturally acceptable and not too costly, then any improvement to anaemia levels would be of great benefit.”

Around 2,500 families in Cambodia are now using the iron fish and the Lucky Iron Fish company has distributed nearly 9,000 fish to hospitals and non-governmental organisations in the country.

What pleases Dr Charles most is the fact that villagers appear to have accepted the smiling iron fish, which is 3in (7.6 cm) long and weighs about 200g (7.1 oz).

An iron fish being stirred into soup in Cambodia
Cambodian villagers are encouraged to boil up water with the 3in iron fish in the pot

One woman and her daughter, who are part of a current trial in Preah Vihear Province, told the BBC they would use it during cooking.

“I’m happy, the blood test results show that I have the iron deficiency problem, so I hope will be cured and will be healthy soon.

“I think all the people in Sekeroung village will like the fish, because fish is our everyday food.”

Scale of anaemia

The World Health Organization estimates that two billion people – over 30% of the world’s population – are anaemic, mostly due to iron deficiency.

It says stopping iron deficiency is a priority – for individuals and countries.

“The benefits are substantial. Timely treatment can restore personal health and raise national productivity levels by as much as 20%,” it has said.

And it emphasises that it is the poorest and most vulnerable who stand to gain the most from its reduction.

But there are other forms of anaemia. It can also be caused by vitamin B12 and A deficiencies, parasitic infections, such as malaria, and other infectious diseases.

That is when it gets complicated, says Prof Bates.

“Anaemia is a multi-factorial problem. It’s the end product of many different health issues.

“And measuring whether people have enough iron or not in their bodies is very difficult in developing countries,” she said.

As a result, she says, knowing how many people really are iron deficient isn’t easy to work out.

Rice diet

In those with iron-deficiency anaemia, the cause is often poor diet. And that’s the case in Cambodia, Dr Charles says.

“They have a really poor diet – a big plate of white rice and maybe a small cut of fish.

vegetables and fruit
Spinach is not as rich in iron as red meat

“That’s their two meals a day. And it’s just not meeting their nutritional requirements.”

What’s missing from their diet are iron-rich foods, particularly red meat. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are not as rich in iron and mustn’t be overcooked if they are to offer any benefit at all.

The Lucky Iron Fish project has a plan to get fish to every part of the world that needs them, including countries like Canada, the US and Europe.

So should everyone be putting recycled metal car parts in their soup?

According to the experts, there is no reason not to – although levels of anaemia are far lower in developed countries, and there is easier access to iron-rich foods which can make all the difference to pregnant women and vegans, for example.

We could all eat iron filings instead, of course, but they wouldn’t taste half as nice.

A line

What does iron deficiency do to the body?

Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition where a lack of iron in the body leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells.

Iron is used to produce red blood cells, which help store and carry oxygen in the blood.

If there are fewer red blood cells than normal, your organs and tissues will not get as much oxygen as they usually would.

This means you can suffer from tiredness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and a pale complexion.

If left untreated it can make people more susceptible to illness and infection.

Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable. Anaemia is thought to contribute to 20% of all deaths during pregnancy.

Source: World Health Organization

Comments Off on Worried about getting enough iron during Lent? Read this!

Исцеление слепорожденного

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 May 2015

Священник Сергий Свешников

English: The Healing of the Man Born Blind

Христос воскресе!

Уже недолго осталось нам слышать эти удивительные слова с церковного амвона.  Подходит к концу всецерковное празднование величайшего торжества, этого спасительного делания Божия.  Вместе с ангелами на небесах мы пели воскресение Христово; встретившись со Спасителем, вместе с апостолом Фомой восклицали: «Господь мой и Бог мой!»; вместе с мироносицами мы бежали к пустому гробу, неся Воскресшему нашу боль, нашу печаль, нашу скорбь, и услышали в ответ радостное благовестие; как расслабленного, воздвигал нас Христос из греховной смерти к чистой жизни; и, как некогда самарянке, бросившей свой глинянный кувшин у древнего колодца и побежавшей возвестить горожанам о пришествии Мессии, Христос и нам предлагает оставить мутную воду мирского и греховного и напиться из неиссякаемого Божественного источника, текущего в жизнь вечную.

View original post 533 more words

Comments Off on Исцеление слепорожденного

“See, you are well! Sin no more…”

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 3 May 2015

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool … which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years… Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked…
Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” (John 5:2-14 RSV)

Often, when we hear this passage, we immediately recognize that there is a connection between sin and illness. Commenting on this passage, the Fathers note that the paralytic may have committed some sin for which he was then punished with a bodily affliction (see, for example, Saint Theophylact of Ohrid). And equally as often, we misunderstand the nature of this connection. We envision a child who is spanked by the parent for being naughty, and we think that when we do something bad, God “spanks” us with an illness. Perhaps, this image works well so some people and keeps them from being naughty, just as a child can be fearful of the punishment. This is also how the ancient Jews understood their relationship with God: if they did something bad, God punished them, and if they did something good, He rewarded them. But as the Apostle Paul said to the Hebrews, children get milk, but those who are mature eat solid food–a deeper understanding of the teaching (Heb. 5:11-14).

The Church teaches us a deeper truth about the connection between soul and body, the spiritual world and the material, sin and bodily illness. Secular education trains us to separate the physical world from “personal belief.” It teaches us that the physical world is real, and that the spiritual world is not, and that is why scientists do not study it. But this is not how God created the world–a “real” physical world and some separate fantasy land to entertain our imagination. God created one world with both the physical and the spiritual dimensions. Spirits do not live in a spiritual world; they live in the one created world in which the spiritual and the physical interact with each other. Likewise, humans do not live only in a physical world. We have body, soul, and spirit, and we live in both the physical and the spiritual dimensions at the same time.

As humans, we are not a mechanical composition of separate parts, but a wholesome organism. Just as the Holy Trinity is not three separate Gods but One, in the same way, body, soul, and spirit are not three separate pieces but one human nature. In an organism, what happens to one member affects all others. If I have a toothache, I will also be grumpy; and if my soul is joyful, the toothache may go away or become more tolerable. But this connection is not limited to our teeth and emotions. A spiritual illness or injury may affect our mind and even our body.

God did not invent commandments just for the sake of inventing something. Just as any good parent strives to protect his child, God warns us about the dangers of breaking the laws of the spiritual part of our world. If a parent tells his child not to jump off a roof, it is because the child might break a leg; and if a parent warns the child not to stick his finger in an electric outlet, it is because the child might get electrocuted. If the child ignores the parent’s advice and breaks a leg, can we blame the parent for punishing his child with a broken leg for disobeying the parent’s commandment? And if we disobey the laws of the spiritual world–which are just as real as the laws of physics–and get hurt, can we blame God for punishing us? The state of our spiritual health directly affects the whole of our nature. Breaking spiritual laws may directly affect our mind, or body, or both!

We are made aware of this direct connection between body and spirit when we fast. Through the exercise of the discipline of the flesh, we are trying to elevate the spirit and affect the soul. We do not fast because we want to lose weight, nor do we make prostration because we want to get some physical exercise. Rather, we do both because we know that what we do to our body affect our soul.

The Apostle Paul made this connection very clear when he noted that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). When Corinthians, following the teachings of Plato and other Greek philosophers, argued that they can remain spiritual while giving in to the passions of the flesh, Paul insisted that there cannot be a mechanical division, that the flesh and the spirit are two parts of one indivisible human nature (12-13). But Paul was not the only one to outline this principle. Ancient Romans wondered whether there could be a healthy spirit in a healthy body, and a well-known saying proclaims that cleanliness is next to godliness–once again, tying the material to the spiritual. The Christian monastic tradition refined this proverb to highlight not just any cleanliness, but the purity of the body and of the life of the body.

So, does God smite us with ailments of the flesh? He, certainly, could, if this would be for our salvation. But it seems to me that more often than not, we suffer injury to our flesh because we fail to heed the loving advice and warning that God offers to us. When God says “Thou shalt not,” it is a warning meant to keep us safe. Let us obey spiritual laws as we obey physical ones. Let us keep ourselves from sin to avoid injury to our souls, mind, and bodies. Let us remember that sins of the flesh destroy the soul, and that sins of the soul can affect the health of our flesh. So, let us keep far away from every sin; and if we happen to fall, let us hear the call of Christ: “Rise up and walk, but sin no more, that nothing worse befall you!”

See also: The Sunday of the Paralytic: “Do you want to be made well?”

Comments Off on “See, you are well! Sin no more…”

The Third Sunday of Great Lent: The Veneration of the Cross of Christ

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 14 March 2015

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Русский: Третье воскресенье Великого поста: Поклонение Честному Кресту Господню

Today we have reached the midpoint of Great Lent; we have travelled half of our path to the Holy Pascha of our Lord.  Having come to the center of Lent, we piously venerate the life-giving Cross of Christ.  In the synaxarion for today we read that since the Cross is the Tree of Life, and this tree was planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, in the same way the holy fathers placed the Tree of the Cross in the middle of Great Lent, reminding us of Adam’s fall.  At the same time we are delivered from the fall through the tree, for partaking of it we no longer die, but inherit life.

View original post 716 more words

Comments Off on The Third Sunday of Great Lent: The Veneration of the Cross of Christ

Is It Good to Watch TV?

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 24 December 2014

Most people today consume a lot of various media content. This may be in the form of television shows, movies, music, books, magazines, the internet, and, perhaps some other forms of media of which only teenagers are aware. Most people are aware that some content–such as pronography, for eample–is not compatible with the Christian faith, even if they are not sure why this is. But in many other cases, it may be difficult to determine whether a movie or a song is appropriate, or whether it is compatible with the Christian faith. I hope that the following points will prove helpful in this matter.

YOLO

That is correct: you only live once. Somehow, this very helpful reminder has become a license to do things that one would otherwise be prudently-hesitant to do. But this catchy phrase should really remind you that there is a limited amount of time that you have in this earthly life. We rarely value this time, even though on a smaller scale, we all understand what it is to have a large task and very little time to finish it. We all know what it is like to work against a deadline (think of writing a paper the night before it is due). It is the same in our lives: we are working against a deadline. This deadline is our physical death, and the task is truly great–we must prepare for life with God. And this means that we must have our priorities in an order that will help us complete this great task. Now think of how much time you can spend watching useless television shows, movies that excite your senses in the moment but leave you with nothing worth having two-and-a-half hours later, or browsing other people’s lives on social media, instead of living your own. If you spend only one hour each day on this (many people spend a lot more!), that is an entire day missing out of your month, or an entire week out of a year. Maybe this does not sound like much, but it amounts to an entire year by the time you are fifty–a whole year completely wasted! If you were given a year to do whatever you wanted, would you really just sit on a couch watching TV and “liking” other people’s FaceBook posts? So, this is the first problem: television wastes a lot of time that can be much better spent living the life that God gave us for a specific purpose: to learn to be with Him.

You Are What You Eat

We often have a lot of good sense about what we eat. If something is fresh and healthy we eat it. If something is rotten or poisonous, we stay away from it. And we know that if we eat something poisonous, we will become ill and can even die. Why, then, do we not have the same good sense about our brains? Why do we allow things that are poisonous to enter into our minds? What we allow to enter into our minds through the eyes and ears can be even more dangerous than bad food. Bad food can only afflict our bodies; bad television can corrupt our minds and souls. Well, is it ok to watch something that is only “a little” bad? Is it ok to eat food that is only a little spoilt? We would not do that. We would not take the chance of getting sick. Why not apply the same wisdom when it comes to our minds? Once you see something, you cannot unsee it. Your stomach can vomit, but your mind is not so easily cleansed.

Many television shows and movies are not produced for our benefit. Their goal is to earn money for those who produce them. And producers will appeal to every base and sinful passion in order to keep our attention. There is a reason why shows are steadily becoming more sexualized and violent–sex and violence capture and keep people’s attention. But they also introduce sin into our minds. This sin in the form of thoughts and memories remains in our brains long after the show is over, and buries itself deeper into our being. In this we see that “we are not just struggling with bad habits, pornographic television, and the various weaknesses of our bodies. We are also struggling with evil spirits, and we must take the fallen angels and this struggle seriously.” Media influence on our minds is tremendous. Often people will believe a lie just because they saw it on TV, become accustomed and desensitized to sin just because “everyone” in movies is doing it, or go and buy something that they had no idea existed, but an advertisement told them that they deserved it and had to have it.

What to Do About It

  1. As Christians, our primary goal is life with God. Make a rule to spend at least as much time on your spiritual life as you do on entertainment. This spiritual life has many different expressions: prayer, reading from the Scripture, participating in church services, or helping and supporting other people. But it is important that in fifty years, you will not have spent an entire year of your life sitting in front of a screen, but instead working on your relationship with God.
  2. Guard your soul at least as well as you guard your stomach. Be vigilant about what you put into your mind at least as much as you are vigilant about what you put into your body, and even more so, because your soul is at stake. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Php. 4:8).
  3. Try technology-free days. Perhaps, once-a-week, perhaps, once-a-month, but try turning off your television, telephone, computer, whatever other device and engaging with the world which God has so beautifully fashioned. The best time for limiting technology distractions and time wasted is our fasting periods. In Russian, the word for ‘fast’ is the same as the word for ‘guard.’ Be on guard, guard your soul from those who want to exploit the weaknesses of your nature for their personal gain and from demons who want you to be as filled with filth as they are.

Comments Off on Is It Good to Watch TV?

Useful Information For Those Who Fast

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 15 June 2014

Greetings on the beginning of the Apostles’ Fast 2014! Here is some useful information for those who keep the fast. I will try to add a new item every one or two days.

  • Spirulina has more protein than beef! 100 g of beef has only 26 g of protein, but 100 g of spirulina has 57 g of protein.
  • One serving of steamed goosefoot (aka lamb’s quarters, chenopodium album, лебеда садовая) contains 60% of the vitamin B1, 40% of the vitamin B6, 60% of the calcium and 70% of the magnesium daily recommended intake.
  • Fasting For Non-Monastics (click here)
  • 100 g of kale contains 15% DV of calcium and 8% of iron. It even has 4.3 g of protein!
  • If you do not like to eat kale plain, here are a couple of recipes for smoothies from simplegreensmoothies.com:

Recipe 1

2 cups kale, fresh
2 cups water
2 cups pineapple
1 banana
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Blend kale, water and coconut oil until smooth. Next add the remaining fruits and blend again.

* Use at least one frozen fruit to make the green smoothie cold.

Recipe 2

2 cups kale, fresh
2 cups water
3 bananas
1/4 avocado

Blend kale and water until smooth. Next add the remaining fruits and blend again.

* Use at least one frozen fruit to make the green smoothie cold.

  • Quinoa, which is also a chenopodium (goosefoot, лебеда), is a lenten source of complete protein (8 grams in a cup of cooked quinoa) and an excellent source of iron (15%), magnesium (29%) and vitamin B6 (10%).
  • 1 cup of cooked buckwheat (гречневая каша) contains 6 grams of complete protein (and this is in addition to 20% of iron, 20% of vitamin B6, and 98% of magnesium!).
  • A good explanation of what makes a complete protein can be found herehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_protein
  • Incomplete sets of amino acids eaten within 24 hours are combined in the body to make complete protein. For example, rice for lunch and beans for supper will provide the body with complete protein just like rice and beans eaten together.
  • Soy beans contain complete protein. 1/2 cup of firm tofu has 10 grams, and 1/2 cup of soy tempeh–15 grams of complete protein.
  • “And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, and put them into a single vessel, and make bread of them.” This recipe from Ezekiel 4:9 makes a complete protein.

 

 

to be continued…

Comments Off on Useful Information For Those Who Fast