Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

On the Government Shutdown

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 January 2019

Most people who know me know that I work for the U.S. Department of Justice which is currently affected by the government shutdown. So, if you personally did not know anyone affected by the shutdown, now you do. Sure, it is very difficult to go without a paycheck and quite possibly without two or more paychecks in a row. Unlike federal employees who are actually furloughed–that is to say, they do not go to work–and can get temporary jobs, apply for unemployment, etc., I and my co-workers still have to go to work every day–we just do not get paid. Eventually, there will be back-pay. Grocery stores and gas stations, however, still seem to want money today for the bread or the gasoline that I need to buy today.

To be sure, it is likely that most of us will be okay, and there are people in the U.S. right now who are suffering a lot more than most federal workers. Nonetheless, there is a moral question in many people’s mind about the propriety of the President, who still gets his paycheck, even if he does not actually need it, and the Congress, each member of which also continues to regularly receive his or her paycheck, holding my bread and gasoline hostage. As a simple illustration, imagine a husband and a wife who have a disagreement about whether or not to build a fence around their yard; and while they are arguing over the issue, they starve their children, while themselves continuing to eat three square meals a day. Imagine a mother stuffing her belly with porridge and telling her children that they will not get any food until daddy builds the fence; and a father who lazily chews on his fifth slice of pizza and sips on a pint of beer while telling his starving children that they should not even come to the kitchen until mommy drops her silly talk of a fence because fences are immoral. Would it not make more sense for the White House staff and the Congress and their staff (who are usually their family members, friends, and close associates) to suspend their own pay while they are deciding whether a fence is more moral than a wall?

I have written before that writers should avoid topics that are beyond their area or expertise. Certainly, I am not an expert on immigration, but since this issue affects me personally, and since the question of morality has been raised, I feel justified in offering some thoughts on possible fixes.

First, it is probably as much common knowledge as it is common sense that for the President and the Congress this issue is not about money or morality. The amount of money involved, while enormous by any normal person’s scale, is only a tiny fraction of the overall federal budget–about one tenth of one percent. And regardless of their theatrical-style posturing, neither the democrats not republicans have the right to claim any type of moral authority or superiority in our society. The only reason they get away with their theatrics is the partisan blinders created by the bitter social divide coupled with a puzzling ignorance of the population.

To oversimplify the arguments, one side appears to insist that the U.S. has a moral obligation to accept and care for the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning” to migrate to the U.S., while the other side appears to reject this obligation. There are, of course, many nuances, such as election politics, labor politics, welfare politics, and many others that create a complex web of competing interests and policy decisions. It would be foolish of me to even attempt to untangle that web, but what about the argument that all of us, with the notable exceptions of Native Americans, are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants (and even the Native Americans immigrated to North America from somewhere a few thousand years ago)? This, of course, is true. On the other hand, most of the early immigration to the U.S. was different from the present-day immigration in one very important way–there was no welfare system prior to the Great Depression. In other words, an immigrant landing on Ellis Island in 1901 could not necessarily expect or demand food stamps, free lunches, section 8 housing, medicare, or free public education for himself or his children. Thus, an immigrant in 1901 could count on family, community, charity, hard work, and luck, but not on welfare. The situation today is somewhat different. And it may be that this very difference is at the center of some descendants of immigrants rejecting the idea of an obligation to support illegal immigration or legal economic migration.

The people who do not want to support economic migration, probably, just do not want to pay for all of the welfare and many other supports for migrant families. Imagine, for example, a migrant family with three children moving to Los Angeles, where teaches are presently on strike over low pay and large class sizes. Estimating conservatively, it costs around $10 thousand per year to educate one child in the public school system. In other words, it will cost $30 thousand per year or $300 thousand over 10 years to educate the three migrant children. Considering that the children’s parents are not likely to make so much money that they pay $30 thousand a year in taxes, and that most large corporations pay little-to-no taxes, it is up to the other working people in LA and elsewhere to cover this and many other costs. I do not know whether this math is correct, but I imagine that this is the type of argument that some people are making, albeit, not always publicly. They argue that building a wall on our border makes as much sense as building a fence around one’s house.

On the other hand, the argument that a wall on the border is immoral does have some validity, despite the likely disingenuousness and hypocrisy of some politicians’ using it. A wall on a county’s border is not so much similar to a fence around one’s house as it is to a wall around a town. Sure, I have the right to control who comes into my living room, but should I have the right to control who comes into my town? What if you wanted to move from one town to another, and the people there did not let you in? Should they have the right to drive you out? Who should have the right to tell another human being where he or she belongs or does not belong? Sure, a master can tell a slave that the slave must stay in one field and may not go to another. But who has the right to tell a free person where he or she must live? One may have been born in LA, should he not have the right to move to Idaho? Or, one who was born in Wisconsin, should he not be allowed to move to New York city? It may be reasonable to think that those who pay taxes in the U.S. should have a say in whether that money goes to pay for housing and medical care for Honduran migrants, but should they have the right to tell the Hondurans to go back to Honduras? Morally, in my opinion, this is a valid question to ask.

Undoubtedly, this line or reasoning opens the door to questioning other ways our tax dollars are spent. Should we vote on whether to invade Syria before our government invades, or whether to meddle in Venezuelan elections before we actually meddle? Should we have a say in how much of our tax money goes to subsidize mega corn producers? Some of these questions will not have a good answer–mostly, due to the size of our electorate. But what if some things could be done?

What if we envisioned a direct-democracy mechanism by which some of the migration issues could be addressed? For example, a migration fund could be established for the purpose of supporting economic migrants. Those who find it morally obligatory to support free economic migration can do so through such a fund. Food, housing, medical care, job training, transportation–the costs of supporting a migrant family who wishes to move to the U.S. can be calculated and covered by the fund. Those who object to such expenditures would not have to donate to the fund. This, of course, also means that those who want to build the wall would be free to donate to a different fund that supports this cause. As the recent experiment with crowd-funding the wall showed, organizationally, it is doable. Notably, wall supporters donated less than 0.5% of the amount requested by the President. But I do not believe that migration supporters are too much more eager to pay for their cause. Nonetheless, in a country of more than 300 million, direct financial contributions could be a half-way decent measure of true public support. Besides, it does not have to be a “winner takes all” approach. Those who want to welcome economic migrants would still be able to support a thousand families, even if their goal was to support a million. And those who want to build a wall still get to fund twenty miles of it, even if they wanted fifteen hundred miles built.

Many federal workers would also donate to various causes! We already donate to all kinds of charities through the Combined Federal Campaign, and we would donate even more! But not yet. For now, we are struggling to provide shelter and food for our children, and engage in “creative accounting practices” just to buy gasoline in order to keep going to work, even though we are not getting paid. So, here is another possible solution. If the President and all Congress members took their combined monthly salaries, they could send a $20 gas card to every federal worker who is working right now without pay. If the salaries of congresspersons’ friends, relatives, and business associates–also known as “congressional staff”–were also withheld for a month, there may be up to $300 in gas money for each federal worker to continue to come to work.

 

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Quo vadis?

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 31 December 2018

As the New Year approaches, many of us think about what is lacking in our lives and what we want to change. One of the most common attempts of resolving the dissonance between our real life and the one we want to have consists of the so-called New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions are notoriously broken and abandoned in the very first weeks of January, but this points to flaws in their implementation, rather than in the idea itself. The main idea—namely, that if one wants to change something in one’s life, one must do something about it—is very much correct. This idea is both intuitive and supported by life experience. If, for example, I want to leave the room, I must get up from my chair and begin to make steps toward the door—one step at a time. If I stay the course, it is guaranteed that I will make my way to the door and, in fact, leave the room. (more…)

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A Brief Note on Fasting and How Christianity May Have Influenced Our Relationship with Meat

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

While many Orthodox Christians have already celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25 along with Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, by most estimates, many more Orthodox around the world (most, in fact) continue to observe the Nativity fast in preparation for the Christmas celebration on January 7. And by most estimates, the Orthodox of any calendar persuasion fast for more than two hundred days each year. (more…)

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“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. (more…)

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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?). (more…)

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#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. (more…)

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#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. (more…)

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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…)

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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?”

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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.

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“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. (more…)

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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.

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“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

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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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“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

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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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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”

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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? 

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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

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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.

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“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?”

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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.

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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.

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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…

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