Gladsome Light Dialogues – An Orthodox Blog

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

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The Icon of the Kingdom

March 5th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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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 home? A link to the old country? A train station in the pursuit of the most exciting religion? Something your parents make you do on Sunday morning? A badge of honor for the most righteous denomination? A place with free baklava or pirogues?

If you already feel a little uncomfortable don’t! Relax. This is not a test. Whatever brings you to church every Sunday is part of what Orthodoxy is. But it is also important to remember that we cannot confine the meaning of Orthodoxy to a single item however important that item might be for us. Orthodoxy is not only one thing it is much more than we can ever imagine. With every feast with every celebration we uncover another meaning of it and we become richer in the knowledge and the practice of our faith.

The Sunday of Orthodoxy the Church uncovers one of the most important aspects of Orthodoxy by remembering the victory of the protectors of the Holy Icons at the last Ecumenical Council. This is significant as icons are found everywhere in Orthodoxy. We have them in our churches at home in our prayer corners in our cars even in our wallets. Orthodox people love icons because they love God and His saints that are represented in them. But you probably already knew that.

There is more however to say about the subject. When we enter in a church adorned with icons we are overwhelmed with the feeling that we are in the nether world. All the saintly persons depicted on the walls seem to come forth from the Kingdom and join us in our realm praying with us. Through their icons their reflections in the world they are present with us right here and right now. The Kingdom of heaven feels “at hand” and we have just walked in.

Entering a church with proper iconography is like opening a photo album with pictures of your family. Everything you see in there makes you relive the best moments you spent with them. Your childhood your parents and grandparents; your good and not so good memories come to life through the pictures you eagerly scan with your eyes.

Orthodoxy should be for us our true family. Every icon should tell us the story of one of our relatives. How they followed God how they taught His word to others with the price of their lives how they endured tribulations to be able to worship Him how they spread love around them as Christ Himself did first. Every icon has a story every icon is more than a dead piece of wood although it is but for those that know the family stories it is their life.

Give your family album to a stranger and he will put it aside with a sigh. I dont know anyone in these pictures he will say. How can one appreciate the great stories of your people if one does not know them? You can try to tell him a few good funnies he might politely smile a few times but he wont appreciate it as you do because these are not his people.

But you do know all of them. When you enter the Church the icons tell you so many of their stories. You look at the icon of St John the Forerunner and you remember how he dared to baptize Christ in the Jordan. You look at St Katherine’s icon and you remember how she made fools out of the wise of the world you look at the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos and you remember how she gave birth to Christ in a humble manger in Bethlehem you look at Christ Himself and you cry as you remember how He gave up His life for yours but you again rejoice when His glorious Resurrection comes to mind.

You want to share these stories with the world but the world does not want them. They even forgot they are actually part of our family as we all people of all cultural ethnic and religious backgrounds have been created in God’s image. The world has made new friends and forgot its past. The new friends are cooler and they brought with them all sorts of new glistening proposals so all the glorious stories of the past have slipped into oblivion. It is even difficult for them to remember that there was a family at some point that there was a loving Father that gave up His Son so we would have life.

The world has lost its family album but we have preserved it. The glorious faces of the past have faded their stories forgotten but we have kept it all alive. We keep their memories on through icons and hymns; we venerate their glorious past that continues to be contemporary through the eternal Kingdom. Our icons are not dead; they are a living reflection of the heavenly where the choir of all the saints rejoices in Gods presence. We honor them because we are them and they are us: one Church one people one Kingdom. They are icons and we are icons of the same God.

This is Orthodoxy to live in Communion with God and through Him with all that bear His glorious image. I am an icon of the Almighty you are as well and together we form the icon of the Kingdom. Glory be to the Father that no one has seen to the Son that is His icon and showed Himself to us in the flesh and to the Holy Spirit that illumines our hearts so we can see Him as He truly is. Amin.

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

February 3rd, 2015 by Fr. Vasile
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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The Tao of Whatever and the Abolition of Man

February 25th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile
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Entrance in JerusalemLiving in a multi-cultural, post-modern world brought to us by the new era of rapid communication, we are more and more exposed to cultures that are, or at least seem to be, very remote from our own. Although many of them are in fact foreign, there are times when we find in them something that strikes a sensitive chord with us. Take for instance the concept of “Tao,” found in the homonym religious movement, Taoism, but also in Buddhism, Confucianism, and even in Eastern Martial Arts.

An easy explanation of Tao would be a path or way of life. James Legge, a famous researcher of Chinese culture, described Taoism as “the exhibition of a way or method of… Continue reading

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Honey what shall we do with our kids on Halloween?

December 10th, 2013 by Fr. Vasile
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Romanian Traditional New Year Dress-up

Romanian Traditional New Year Dress-up

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. (1 Co 10:23)

Spending all my childhood and early youth in native Romania, I have to admit that I am not (yet) emotionally involved with all the major American Holidays. I am working on it, especially since my family has been naturalized a few years ago, but I find myself a bit of a stranger around these days. This fact, however, offered me the opportunity to research their meaning with fresh inquiring eyes and to not just take them for granted. I take for… Continue reading

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A Cure for Depression from St. Silouan the Athonite

December 10th, 2013 by Fr. Vasile
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st-silouan-and-elder-sophrony-in-sept-1933The greatest plague of the 21st century is not AIDS, nor cancer, nor the H1N1 flu, but something that affects much more people in ways we can barely start to understand: depression. Reportedly one in ten Americans suffers from one or the other forms of this malady. The rates of anti-depressant usage in the United States are just as worrisome. A recent poll unveils that one in eight Americans is using them. Prozac, Zyprexa, Cymbalta are not strange alien names anymore, but familiar encounters in almost every American household. Even children approach the usage rates of adults. These are very high and paradoxical numbers in a country where all are free to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”… Continue reading

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