Saturday, November 23, 2019

How does a priest discourage the faithful from attending church through priestly indifference?

The tragedy of being a priest without Divine Grace

by Nikita Kafkiou

Mr. Kafkiou tells us: “The personal relationship of man with God is not a given, nor is it guaranteed to be stable, progressive or constant. A priest may start off in life with spiritual enthusiasm for his priestly calling. But after a few years, it is possible for him to feel completely removed from the Grace of God. Human weaknesses, the difficulties of married life, the uncertainties of daily life are able to knuckle under the most dedicated faithful priest. The only possible way for a priest to live a spiritual life is for him to accept his unworthiness and to submit his feelings to the love of Jesus Christ. If a priest cannot bring himself to bring before Jesus his pain and defeat, he will end up being completely lost. For a priest to find spiritual maturity he must realize that this journey is a one way street. If a priest does not progress spiritually he will be ripped to shreds. If the priest falls away from God because of his spiritual failures, he will become worldly. Instead of a liturgist he will end up being simply an actor.

A priest who is burdened by the darkness of his spiritual downfall no longer has the disposition or the burning desire to deal with liturgical details of Church life. In many of our Orthodox Churches on Sunday mornings and feast days the gathering of the faithful feels like they are attending a theatrical performance. During the celebration of Church services the faithful do not feel a sense of peace. Instead of charging up their spiritual batteries they experience psychosomatic turmoil. His emotional life is tortured and his spiritual being is scandalized.

In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to comment directly on certain acts and behavior of a spiritually burdened priest which upset sensitive and well-intentioned Church goers. I am listing fifteen contemporary ways with which our Church turns people off.


1. Acoustics: 
(Please remember, once again, that the author of these statements is making them with tongue in cheek). 
 Turn up the volume on the PA system so that nobody feels comfortable and cannot feel a sense of compunction. Also place speakers outside the Church building in order to upset the neighbors. This will also allow Church goers listening to the service outside the Church not to find a sense of peace. Do not allow professional people install the PA system. The priest should be concerned that the final acoustical system should remind one of a gypsy who navigates our neighborhoods with his cart selling carpets and potatoes.

2. Lighting. 
The priest should make sure that the chandeliers are turned on for the services. And if for some reason the chandeliers are not lit make sure that you have a powerful floodlight that reminds people of a police searchlight during a police investigation. You should allow the cantors to have a bright light shining on their heads so that they can read their service books.

3. Sermon.  
Make sure you give the sermon before Holy Communion (before the invitation: “With the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near.” Make sure your sermon is long. It should avoid talking about real life issues and zero in on social, moral and political issues. You should also emphasize the moral downfall of contemporary society. You should offer moral advice to the congregation in an alarming way. Make sure that you express your exasperation with the prevalence of sin in our contemporary world. Emphasize the egocentric tendency of middle class people wanting to live the good life. While doing this you should also compare this way of life with the ascetics of the Church who live in the wilderness. Try to convince people in your sermon that the reason they are not progressing spiritually is because they are not trying hard enough. Make sure to speak with a loud voice—menacing voice so that the people will believe what you are saying.

4. Typikon—Rubrics. (The liturgical order of services).  
The priest should be indifferent to the liturgical order of services. The liturgical rubrics are not something foundational. Cut and paste the service the way you desire it to be. Do not read the Psalms and the readings from the Old Testament because the faithful do not understand this ancient language. Give directives to the cantors not to chant the whole of “Κύριε έκέκραξα» during the vesper service and also omit most of the odes in the matins service. Do things in a hurried and most convenient way for you.

5. Behavior.  
The priest should make sure that during the course of the services that he should navigate around the altar nervously. The priest should do everything with a sense of indifference and without feeling deeply what he is doing. When you face the congregation in the Royal Entrance or when you are about to incense the people make sure you check out who is in Church. You can also look upon the congregation with a sense of indifference.

6. Vestments.  
During the Divine Liturgy the priest should wear vestments with bright colors and a lot of phony jewels. Make sure that you look spectacular. Understand how important you are and that you are truly the pride of the Church by the way you are vested.

7. Commentary. 
  During the highlights of the Divine Liturgy such as the Cherubic Hymn, the Consecration of the Holy Gifts or before dispensing Holy Communion, make sure to admonish the people about their proper conduct in Church. If a child cries, make sure you make it known to the mother in a stern way to either remove the child or keep it quiet.

8. The Cleanliness of the Icons.
  Do not bother with the cleanliness of the icons during Sunday services and for the feast days. Allow the accumulation of saliva and lipstick to remain on the protective glass of the icons so that the faithful will feel a sense of disgust while reverencing them.

9. Candles and Incense. 
Make sure that you offer only the cheapest candles you can purchase for the candle stand in the narthex. These candles look like soap. Also price them according to their size. The priest should stock only the cheapest incense money can buy. Place the kernels of incense on the charcoal shortly before you start to incense the altar and the icons. Do this so that by the time you come to incense the people the censer will be giving off only smoke without the fragrance of incense. Do not add any more kernels of incense while you are incensing.

10. Intoning the Petitions.
  When intoning the petitions shout them out in an inarticulate voice so that no one can understand what you are saying. Chant in such a way that you sound like someone singing in a night club. Forget that you are offering your prayers to God and make sure that you sound good to your audience and to yourself. When you read the prayers make sure you annunciate only the vowels and skip the consonants. It is important to say what you are chanting or reading not the way you are expressing them. Remember that no one cares and or understands what is being said. Project the intensity of your voice in a boisterous way believing that this will elicit spiritual compunction from the faithful.

11. During the Divine Liturgy.
  Make sure that you use wine that is of average quality. And fill the chalice with a lot of hot water so that the taste of the wine will be lost. While dispensing Holy Communion make sure the communion spoon contains very little consecrated wine (the Blood) and no consecrated bread (the Body). And while dispensing Holy Communion do not say the name of the communicant. Be very indifferent to the fact that you are holding in your hands God Himself. While serving the Divine Liturgy make quick and nervous movements. Dispense the Body and Blood of the Lord in a casual and indifferent way as if you are serving desert. Make sure that the Divine Liturgy continues to be chanted while you are dispensing Holy Communion so the faithful can hear “we have seen the true Light” even before they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. At the end of the Divine Liturgy dispense the antidoron (the pieces of altar bread) with both hands. While doing this the cantors should stop chanting so you can hear the chatter of the people in the Church. Make sure you avoid reading the prayer of thanksgiving while consuming the consecrated elements in the chalice before you leave the altar.

12. Beggars. 
 Make sure that on Sundays and Feast Days that you allow the beggars to stand at the very entrance to the Church. This allows the faithful to get a taste of poverty, misery, horror, lies and indignation. In this way, those who attend Church infrequently acquire a clear connection with God so that they can identify their attendance at Church with negative feelings.

13. Money.
 Make sure that you use every opportunity you get to ask the congregation for money. Place large containers in the narthex that clearly display how the money will be be used. Pass trays during the Divine Liturgy. Make sure that these trays are passed during the holiest moments of the Liturgy so that the faithful will give more money. Make sure that there are fees for weddings and baptisms. When the priest visits homes to perform the services of holy unction or blessing of water the priest should accept an honorarium without hesitation. You should believe that you are worthy of being compensated for these services that you offer. You should not forget that the majority of the faithful believe that priests are not money hungry.

14. Problematic Co-workers. 
The priest should make sure that he appoints self-centered and ill-tempered council members. Make them understand that they are the leaders. Impress upon them that they have special powers. Remind them to police the faithful in the Church. Now and then you, the priest, should have disagreements with the council members in front of the faithful.

15. Automobile. 
The priest should buy a very expensive automobile so that the faithful will be scandalized. You should make your choice of an automobile based on the argument that even Jesus did not walk around but used a beautiful donkey for transportation. With an automobile like this the faithful will be reminded of Palm Sunday and Jesus Christ.

16. Iconography. 
If there are any bare walls in Church, the priest should get bids from iconographers and fill these spaces with inexpensive icons. Make sure that these icons do not display a sense of creativity but they are simply copies of icons.

17. The Altar Bread.
 Place baskets of altar bread in the narthex of the Church. The pieces of bread should be large pieces and make sure that this bread is purchased by the faithful at a local bakery. If the priest does this he will not be burdened with handing out the bread himself. This will also allow him to avoid coming into personal contact with the faithful of the parish.

-Dear People,

I found this article on the Greek internet and it fascinated me about Church life in Greece and why people do not attend Church frequently in that country. It is fascinating to me because, as an Orthodox priest in America, I am always concerned about issues that keep our faithful from attending our Churches. It is very important to realize as you read about these issues that turn people off about attending Church that some of these issues do not apply here in America. As you read the article, those of you that live in the USA will know which are unique to Greece. As I translated the seventeen reasons that discourage our faithful from attending Church services, it is very evident that the person who wrote this article writes about these issues with tongue in cheek. Every one of the reasons that he writes about are written mockingly. In other words he wished that priests would not do the things that he writes about. As I read about the negative things that priests do in our Churches that make them uninviting to our faithful, I came to the conclusion that only by being totally committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can a priest avoid the pitfalls that destroy his calling. Mr. Kafkiou says that when a young priest loses his enthusiasm and idealism about the priesthood he most always ends up being nothing more than an actor. I pray that I will be able to get across to you the spirit of what this man is trying to say about the parish priest.

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, June 24, 2014, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Postscript—after sharing this with my presbytera, she tells me that it is silly and that I not share it. Something within me says that I should share it.

Translated from the Greek by:

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, June 24, 2014,

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Time is Money ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

Time is the currency with which we acquire eternity. 
The ancients would say, “time is money.” 
Indeed, time is a currency of incalculable value. We do not need even one dollar to purchase eternity; all we need is one minute. 
How did the thief on the cross acquire Paradise? He did so with one minute. 
Actually, it took him less than a minute to confess Jesus Christ, to seek His mercy, and to utter with sincere repentance, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.”
 This is why the Apostle Paul exclaims, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
 Behold, the greatest purchase of all time! 
Let us rush to acquire Paradise. 
We have the means. 
It will be the best investment of our life, because Paradise is forever.
Ioasaf, who went on to become a saint of our Orthodox Church, was the son of the King of India.  Saint Barlaam instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him. One of the many things Righteous Barlaam taught him was the following:
“In a certain land, the citizens had the custom of electing as their king a foreigner who would come to visit their city. The unsuspecting visitor would accept their offer because he was unaware of their customs and practices. They would crown the visitor and enthrone him king for a certain period of time, only to dethrone him a short time later, without a warning, and exile him to a desolate region. 
Since they never revealed to the stranger that within six months to a year they would strip him of his regal title and send him into exile, the visitor ruled the land assuming that he would reign forever, until the end of his life. The thought of exile would never even cross his mind, and,unmindfulof the citizens’intent to banish him, he never prepared for such a calamity.
During one such trip to the city by a particular visitor, a good and virtuous citizen who saw the foreigner approached him and told him in secret, “My fellow countrymen who dwell in this city are planning to make you a king. You should realize, however, that after a short period of time they will exile you. So, now when you become king and while you have all the goods accessible to you, see to it that you send food, provisions, and other useful items to that deserted region, so that when they banish you to that land you will have them there waiting for you, and youwill be able to live comfortably.” 
“Oh! Thank you very much for telling me,” replied the guest.Indeed, by following the advice of that good citizen, this man sent an abundance of provisions to the land of exile. And so, when the time came and the citizens banished him, he went their gladly and henceforth lived comfortably, because he had sent many goods there beforehand. 
 “Similarly,” explained St. Barlaam to Ioasaph, “Man comes into this present life, and, fooled by the world, he believes that he will reign and live many years; death, however, appears unexpectedly and sends him to eternity. 
 The Church, another good citizen, comes to advise man and points out to him, “Look, you are not going to be here very long. You will depart for the next life , which is eternal. 
Make sure, now that you are here and capable, to do good works and send them there to the next life. Thus, when you die and the world ejects you from the earth, you will find these items there. God will repay you thousand times over, and you will henceforth live joyfully.”
The time of our present life is the opportunity to sow. 
Eternity is the time of harvest.
 Tell me what you sow, and I will tell you what you will reap. 
Do you sow faith, love, and tears of effort and repentance?
 You will reap the joy of eternal Paradise. 
The Lord confirms this: 
“You shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life”(Mt. 19:29). 
St. Paul also emphasizes this in his epistle to the Corinthians:
 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Cor. 4:17).
Elder Ephraim of Arizona 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ ( Saint Gregory Palamas )

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ (Ex. 20:8): that which is called the Lord’s day, because it is consecrated to the Lord, who on that day arose from the dead, disclosing and giving prior assurance of the general resurrection, when every earthly activity will come to an end. And you must not engage in any worldly activity that is not essential; and you must allow those who are under your authority and those who live with you to rest, so that together you may all glorify Him who redeemed us through His death and who arose from the dead and resurrected our human nature with Himself…

On this day you should go to the temple of God and attend the services held there and with sincere faith and a clean conscience you should receive the holy body and blood of Christ.

Saint Gregory Palamas

Friday, November 8, 2019

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. ( Saint Silouan the Athonite )

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. 
The soul taught by the grace of God to pray, to love and to be sorry for all creation, and above all to the man for whom (the Lord) fell on the cross and was in deep pain for all of us.

Saint Silouan the Athonite

Sunday, November 3, 2019

St. Theodota and the Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian...

Saint Theodota was the mother of Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia. They were all natives of Asia Minor. Her pagan husband died while her children were still quite small, but she raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian and their mother St Theodota were natives of Asia Minor (some sources say Mesopotamia). Their pagan father died while they were still quite small children. Their mother raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. They even treated animals. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Freely have you received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8). The fame of Sts Cosmas and Damian spread throughout all the surrounding region, and people called them unmercenary physicians.

Once, the saints were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whom all the doctors had refused to treat because of her seemingly hopeless condition. Through faith and through the fervent prayer of the holy brothers, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia got up from her bed perfectly healthy and giving praise to God. In gratitude for being healed and wishing to give them a small gift, Palladia went quietly to Damian. She presented him with three eggs and said, “Take this small gift in the Name of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearing the Name of the Holy Trinity, the unmercenary one did not dare to refuse.

When St Cosmas learned what had happened, became very sad, for he thought that his brother had broken their strict vow. On his deathbed he gave instructions that his brother should not be buried beside him. St Damian also died shortly afterward, and everyone wondered where St Damian’s grave should be. But through the will of God a miracle occurred. A camel, which the saints had treated for its wildness, spoke with a human voice saying that they should have no doubts about whether to place Damian beside Cosmas, because Damian did not accept the eggs from the woman as payment, but out of respect for the Name of God. The venerable relics of the holy brothers were buried together at Thereman (Mesopotamia).

Many miracles were worked after the death of the holy unmercenaries. There lived at Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchus. One day he went on a journey, leaving his wife all alone for what would be a long time. He prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the Enemy of the race of mankind took on the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends, and planned to kill the woman. A certain time went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place intending to kill her. The woman, seeing that disaster threatened her, called upon God with deep faith.

Two fiercesome men then appeared, and the devil let go of the woman and fled, falling off a cliff. The two men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked, “ My rescuers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?”

They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened to her. Glorifying God, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers and tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life.