Gladsome Light Dialogues – An Orthodox Blog

A journey through our Orthodox faith as we live it every day

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A Union for the Kingdom

June 26th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Greek-Orthodox-WeddingIn case you havent been following the news the Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of the recognition of same-sex unions throughout United States. Does this come as a surprise? Absolutely not! We knew it was just a matter of time. But how did we get here? How come that we need a court of law to decide what marriage is?

Before we start pointing fingers at the state for changing our understanding of marriage we have to admit first that even in Christianity there are different views of what actually marriage is. Most Christians would agree that marriage is a union between a man and a woman that mutually agree to spend their lives together but looking deeper we see a divergence of opinion on several aspects. The one that is most relevant to the current situation is the disagreement on the sacramentality of the marriage union.

The Roman Catholic Church and The Eastern Orthodox Church agree that marriage is one of the Sacraments of their respective Churches. The reformed however starting with Luther begin to dispute this idea. “The most remarkable difference between Catholic [and Orthodox for that matter – author’s note] and Lutheran theologies is Luther’s denial of the sacramentality of marriage” In Luther’s own words: “Die Ehe ist ein eusserlich weltlich Ding” – marriage is an outside worldly thing. “[1] It is during his times that the state started to be tasked with the recording of marriages which in his view were regarded as binding contracts between two willing parties in the presence of witnesses.

Luther’s actions however stream from deeper roots because even in the Roman Catholic Church that he separated himself from marriage was and still is also regarded more as a covenant between husband and wife who effectively become the ministers of the sacrament to each other. Marriage is not something accomplished by God through the power of priesthood but a mutual agreement with the priest as a witness.

“…the [Roman] Church teaches that in a Catholic wedding the sacrament of matrimony is not conferred on the spouses by the priest or deacon who officiates. It is conferred by the spouses themselves who administer it to each other when they exchange their consent. As canon 1057.1 observes a marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of two people who are legally capable of getting married. In other words the Catholic cleric who must be present at a Catholic wedding does not actually marry the two spouses because they marry each other. Instead the relevant canons of the code repeatedly assert that the cleric simply “assists” at the marriage.” [2]

We can see here the Church taking a passive role in the Western Christianity understanding of marriage. The Church does not unite but only witnesses a self-performed union. This has paved the way for Napoleon to reform marriage and de-link it from any religious ceremony making the civil union performed by lay agents of the state as mandatory and the religious ceremony optional. As such in most European states civil union is mandatory nowadays and religious marriages take a secondary and discretionary role.

In the United States that imported their culture from Western Europe for most part the priests ministers rabbis etc. along with judges of peace and other lay categories all function as agents empowered by the state to perform civil unions. For the state marriage is but a contract between parties and it is not necessarily concerned with the religious views (or lack thereof) of those acting as its agents the state is concerned with secular matters. With all the power invested in the state in what concerns marriages we can understand why the state feels it has all the right to define and redefine these secular matters based on political will. I wont  touch here on matters of constitutional authority and democratic power these are separate issues we should address some place else.

As such the re-definition of marriage we witness now might not have started with the recent LGBT movement although the cultural revoluntion beginning in the sixties has a lot to do with the current state of affairs but we could rather say that it has already started many centuries ago when the union between a man and a woman was dogmatically and sacramentally abridged to a legal agreement between two willing parties. This has opened the opportunity for the state increasingly secular and devoid of any religious roots to take hold of marriage and do with it whatever the current cultural trends are telling it to do.

As an Orthodox Christian I believe that the unique perspective of the Orthodox Church on this matter might be of help for all Christians at this crossroad moment particularly because the Orthodox sacrament (or better mystery) of holy matrimony does not carry the meaning of a legal contract. We agree with the Roman Church that marriage is a Sacrament but we differ on who is the actual minister of marriage. A joint statement of Orthodox and Roman bishops recognizes this aspect: “Orthodox theologians often have insisted that the priest is the proper minister of the Sacrament whereas Roman Catholic theologians more often have spoken of the couple as ministering the sacrament to each other”[3].

Why is this difference so important? “By considering the institution of marriage as a legal contract one begins the process of transforming the whole sacrament into a juridical issue and transforming the Church into a mundane legislator.”[4]

For the Orthodox the Sacramental Marriage has never been considered a contractual matter but a union sealed by God through the power He invested in His priesthood. The Marriage Service […] makes it clear that the bridegroom and the bride are united not by themselves but by God: “For by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife” (Marriage Service).” [5] The Church is not a passive witness but the Priest “ordains” the couple as rulers of their home kingdom united through this sacrament with the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church unites her members without confusing between legal and sacramental matters and therefore leaves no room for misunderstandings and redefinitions. By keeping marriage as a Mystery the Church can continue to define it as She wants: a union unto salvation and not a mere legal affair.

Morality would never succeed to be mandated by the law morality is the freedom to do what God knows and has revealed through Christ that is good for us in spite of any cultural pressure. Today’s secular society can redefine the civil aspect of the marriage they have taken hold off but they won’t be able to re-define what we deeply know that marriage is: a union between a man and a woman towards salvation and fulfillment of their human potential through ultimate union with God. Is not a union in sin it is a union in Christ.

Many are and will continue to disagree with us and even hate us for it. This is again nothing new Christ started a revolution against the consequences of fall we only continue in His footsteps. “If the world hates you you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world but I chose you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you. If they kept My word they will keep yours also. “ (John 15:18-20


[1] Nicu Dumitrascu ed. Christian family and the contemporary society Blumsbury 2015 p122



[4] Source:

[5] Encyclical Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on Marriage –

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Equal to the Apostles

May 21st, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Constantine-signBlessed be the providence of God that makes all things evolve towards the order that best suits our progression in the Kingdom of heavens. All that God chooses to happen is for our edification in Him and for our development into His divine mold. This year for instance we celebrate the Holy Ascension (a moving feast) in the same day with the celebration of the Sts. Constantine and Helen (a fixed feast). One may say it is just random, at the end of the day even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

Let me explain my train of thoughts in this particular instance. The Ascension of our Lord commemorates the… Continue reading


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From Hearsay to Social media – a Tale of Rumor Spreading

May 19th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

pillow“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” – Socrates

There is a story that circulates in Christian and Jewish circles about gossip. I was not able to track its origins but the story goes like this.

“There was a woman that liked to talk about other people’s affairs and spread unkind words around. One day however she felt remorseful and went to the priest to confess her sin. The priest listened to her confession and asked her if she truly understood the consequences of such hearsay activities. She uttered a rather unconvincing yes. Reading between the lines, the experienced priest offered her a penance, a small feat, he said, that will… Continue reading


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The Icon of the Kingdom

March 5th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

St. John the Baptist GOC, Euless, TX - AltarEvery year, in the first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate our Orthodox heritage. It is a wonderful festivity involving a touching procession with icons, lifted up high, around the church and ending in the declamatory proclamation of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy.  Since we do it every year, it became so engrained in our fiber that we rarely stop to ponder about what does it really mean to us. It is important to know, after all, what we celebrate; otherwise it makes no sense to go on with a party that we know nothing about.

So let me start by asking you a simple question. What is Orthodoxy to you? A place called… Continue reading


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Blessed is the Way – On Suffering Death and Resurrection in the Orthodox Church

February 3rd, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Judgement 001This is a talk I gave on January 31st at the NTOM conference “Falling Asleep in the Lord: An Orthodox Perspective on Dying, Death and Grief” at St. Demetrios Greek orthodox Church in Fort Worth.

Blessed is the way in which thou shalt walk today, O soul, for a place of rest is prepared for thee (Prokeimenon of the Apostle, Funeral Service)

Reverend Brothers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When confronted with the reality of death most people reveal a deep-seated fear of such an event beyond any human control. This is especially acute nowadays when the science of medicine has made great strides in curing diseases that only a century… Continue reading


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The Sunday of the Romanian Saints – a universal celebration of all the Saints

June 23rd, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

An icon of all Romanian Saints

An icon of all Romanian Saints

By Prof. Dr. Rev. Dumitru Staniloae

Romanian Christianity has given fruit to many and wonderful saints, even though, the humility characteristic to our nation, or other unfavorable historical circumstances in which they lived in, have not allowed our Church to canonize but a very few of them and only in 1955.

The Romanian saints were real and they have been recognized by popular piety, even though the Church has not formally canonized them and has not dedicated them certain calendar days; this is why their deeds have not been praised through special church hymns.

Actually, for the longest time, the saints have been… Continue reading


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Free time and information overload

May 9th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

5558879546_7f028b3207_bMost probably the inventors of the internet, which modestly started as a small information sharing network, did not hope, even in their wildest dreams, that in less than 50 years their invention will evolve into what is today the greatest information exchange that ever existed. The library of Alexandria? Child play! Think about all that goes through the internet today: websites, e-mail, news, TV, social networks, entertainment, financials, do-it-yourself, phone calls, video calls, encyclopedias, e-books, maps and we’re just scratching the surface. All you want is there waiting to be found at the literal touch of a finger. Nobody asks anyone anything before they “google” the information.

With an internet connection at hand one feels like a kid in a… Continue reading


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Are we religious or are we faithful?

April 2nd, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

Pascha_multitudesI read a very interesting article a few weeks ago that caught my undivided attention. The title was very daring to begin with: “Religious people are dangerous” and, on top of that, it was written by an Orthodox Bishop, so that made it even more thought-provoking.  The following passage summarizes it best: “You who go to church, how has the Church benefitted you? As we said yesterday, we went to the shrines, you saw the fathers, you saw the holy relics, you saw Mount Athos, you saw the Panagia in Tinos, you saw everything, and now we have returned. Ultimately of what benefit will all these things be? Have our hearts transformed? Have we become more humble people? Are we… Continue reading


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We remember and we honor because it matters

March 8th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

20140308-235337.jpgSunday of Orthodoxy 2014

We all take Orthodoxy for granted and we forget all about Synods, Saints and Holy Fathers. We are mostly ignorant that torture, prison, exile, even death were things experienced by previous generations, even close to us, just to keep the faith. Persians, Turks, Communists, even modern secularists all tried to break the faith but all failed.

However the greatest danger comes always from within: heresies. The most dangerous are things that seem right, are apparently well intended but are actually not. In the First ecumenical council one iota (the letter i in Greek alphabet) made the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy (homoousios vs homiousios).

The last ecumenical council argued over what a kiss represents. What do I believe when I venerate an… Continue reading


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The Great Fast – by Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

February 28th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

Metropolitan Isaiah – photo courtesy of Vladimir Grigorenko

As we enter into the holiest period of the year in preparation for the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we ask ourselves, “Why should we follow the discipline of fasting, which in essence is abstinence?” What is the purpose of it? Obviously the purpose is that we may be ready to meet our Lord and to receive His promise of eternal life in His Kingdom.

We realize, according to Holy Scripture, that we were created to live forever; and that we will live eternally after the return of Christ to the earth, with our resurrected bodies reunited with our souls. The… Continue reading


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