Friday, February 27, 2015

Lent! Wonderful Lent!

Great resource for our kids

Cheese-Fare Sunday: On Great Lent and on Why we Fast

Even though Cheese-Fare Sunday is behind us, I think that this homily is still nice to share since we just started the Great Lent this week.
Homily on Cheese-Fare Sunday
On Great Lent and on Why we Fast
By: Bishop Nikiforos Theotokis
      These three virtues – fasting, almsgiving, and forgiveness, are taught to us today, as we read the Holy Gospel for this Sunday.  Believe it or not, these three virtues go hand in hand. Today’s gospel shows how hatred and greed grab the fruits of fasting.  In vain, is he who fasts but has hatred for his brother.  In vain, is he who doesn’t reach out his hands to eat, yet, won’t reach his hand to offer almsgiving to he who is in need.  When someone combines fasting with almsgiving and forgiveness, he is offered to Christ as “one who is dressed in gold.” 
      Since tomorrow starts the battle of the great period of the fast, all who struggle hope and pray that their effort will not go to waste.  That is why our Mother Church, with much enlightenment, has set forth Mathew’s gospel, chapter 6, stanzas 14-21, as the gospel of the day.  He who piously listens to this gospel, and with much toil diligently carries out what Christ has commanded, his fasting will rise to the throne of God Himself, as if incense, and will compel God’s mercy upon him.
      As I have stated earlier, today’s gospel focuses mainly on fasting, since tomorrow is the beginning of Great Lent.  Satan, my beloved Christians, who from the beginning hated the humans and led them to damnation, does not stop even until today, to lead us astray and into many traps, so we won’t see the Face of God.  Back then, he used the serpent as a tool, and talked Adam and Eve into believing that fasting was damaging to them, and prevented them from become Gods.  Today, however, he talks directly into the hearts of men, thru their thoughts.  He either tells them that fasting is harmful for their health, or that fasting is not an order from God.  He makes them believe that they can eat whatever they want, when they want, and how much they want.  He tricks most people into believing that fasting will bring on sickness.
      However, for those who don’t heed his advice and carry out the fasts of the Church, he has different plans.  He will simply inflict many temptations upon them, and will somehow try and find a way to make them lose their crowns they’ve gained from the fast.  There are two different types of arrows he hurled towards the fasters’ hearts.  One brings forth a lie, and the other one, fear.  Most of the time, he will also shoot another arrow into them which brings on inattentiveness, to make them lose everything they’ve gained from fasting, also. 
      Let us hear a couple of excuses from those that ignore and despise of fasting:
      Some say, that fasting is not a commandment of God’s.  The desert-dwellers and the ascetics made it up, because nor did Christ say we have to fast and nor did the Apostles.  Therefore, fasting is not mandatory, even though it’s a good thing, and he who doesn’t fast, does not commit sin.  By saying this, they comfort whatever is left of their conscience, and don’t even fast on Wednesday and Friday, which is base.  Forget the other fasts which our Mother Church has set forth.  Those are out of the picture.  The sad part is that they don’t only hurt themselves, but they scandalize other fellow Christians, also.  It doesn’t make any sense to me, though.  They, themselves, say that fasting is a good thing.  Why don’t they at least do something good for themselves?
      Oh, you blind and ignorant men, who disregard the fasts!  Woe to you!  I have nothing to gain by telling you to fast.  Have you ever read the scriptures?  Don’t you know what the first commandment God ever gave to Adam and Eve was?  He ordered that “You shall not eat from the fruit of this tree!”  How simple can things be?  What does, “You shall not eat” mean?  Isn’t that another way of saying you should fast?  And what does He say after that? “The moment you eat from the fruit of this tree, you will die.”  Now, how much further can I break this down for you?  It’s very plain and simple- I don’t believe I have to repeat this.  After hearing this, how can you now say that fasting is not a commandment from God?  How can you go about eating whatever you want and not fasting, now that you know you will be eventually brought to death?  What will you say to God, on that fearful day of the Great Judgment?
      We also have those who do not fast, believing that their body will lose its health.  These people, the Church Fathers comment on as being uneducated, ignorant, and faithless.  These people start off by saying that what we call a fast is not in essence a fast.  They say that true fasting is when someone does not eat anything.  Henceforth, they can’t fast because they can’t go for a long time without any food. 
      The word for fasting in Greek, is “Nee-stee-a” (Nhsteiva).  The actual translation of this word is, “lack of food.”  So, when one eats nothing at all, or eats only one item, or eats only one type of food, it is referred to as fasting.  It’s very simple.  When one eats only boiled greens, then he is fasting because he lacks all other types of food. 
      These people say they will get sick, simply because they don’t want to fast.  Let’s take a look at the ascetics and the hermits.  They did have lifelong fasts, and look at them!  They were extremely healthy, and the majority of them lived to be well over 100 years old.  When someone gets sick, the doctors prescribe medication and some type of “fast” for the patient to get better. 
      Then, these people bring up another argument.  They say, “Ok, we agree, but how can someone eat the same food for 48 days?  After three or four days, we won’t be able to even look at the same food again.”  Again, the answer to this argument is very simple.  Would you like to know who can eat the same food for 48 days?  He who is hungry!  Most of the time, us gluttons eat before we are hungry, or drink before we are thirsty.  That’s why we are always looking for something new to eat during the fasting periods.  Just wait till you get very hungry, and you will see how tasty and fresh that bread tastes.  Wait till you are ready to drop from thirst, and see how refreshing that water tastes in your mouth.  You’ll think it’s as sweet as nectar.
      Now, they bring forth another argument, which might be the strongest.  They say, “Alright, say we do what you say.  Now, we have another problem.  We are very weak and cannot finish up our work, and therefore cannot feed our families.  Is that what God wants?” 
      Well, of course you’re going to be weak!  You’re fasting! That’s the whole point of fasting!  Fasting brings forth a certain weakness, which in essence is a type of spiritual strength.  This strength gives you power over your carnal battles!  It literally destroys every type of bodily movement.  This is why we fast- to weaken our bodies urges.  It brings forth a healthy weakness.  When someone gorges himself and gets heavy, you should be informed that he is actually going thru a tuff time, physically.  He has no strength at all. It brings forth many sicknesses which many times lead to death.
      Have you ever seen some of those poor people who live out in the forests?  They don’t have much food, but they are so lean, muscular, and healthy.  Then compare it to one who lives in the city with every type of food at his disposal.  Their bodies are fat and grotesque, they have no strength, and they have a putrid smell to them. 
      Have you ever taken a good look at the eyes of a pig?  They actually point down, to where their food is usually at.  This is how you are spiritually, if you are scared to fast so you don’t get sick.  Why don’t you look in the sky for once, and not down?  You have very little faith if you think that the strength will come from food and not God.  When you fast, according to how the Church Fathers have established, then you have nothing to fear, for God is with you.  Food, and the strength it brings forth, your body and its state of health, is all under Gods jurisdiction.  He has the final say.  You have nothing to fear.  If you truly believe in my words, then start the joyous journey of the fast.  Bring the faith of God into your heart, so the fear of sickness can flee from it. 
      For all those who joyously enter the arena of fasting, I would suggest for them to be very watchful.  For, Satan shoots his flaming arrows towards them, trying in every which way, to steal any crowns they have acquired thru the fast.  He tends to imbed into their nous, a type of clumsiness or inattentiveness.  What tends to happen is that they focus so much on the fasting, that they neglect everything else.  That’s why sometimes you see people fasting, and all sorts of temptations come upon them.  Then, they don’t react to situations in a logical or mature way, and it gets worse, and then more people are involved in it.  To put it simply, it becomes a huge mess, and everyone gets involved, and one judges another.  That’s when we lose all grace we previously had, and Satan sits there and laughs at us.  It’s sad, because when someone doesn’t fast, well, they at least enjoy filling up their stomachs.  But, when someone fasts, but is clumsy, he doesn’t do what’s right, he causes all these problems, judges everyone, and to top it off- doesn’t even get to eat. 
      The virtues, my beloved brothers, are united with one another, as if in a chain.  When one part brakes, the whole chain is useless.  If one virtue is absent from you, then all the others are somewhat useless, because they have all the power only when united.  This is why Saint James wrote, “If one fulfills all the commandments, except one, then he is guilty for neglecting them all.”  The demons never eat- they are constantly fasting, but to no avail. 
      When fasting is in conjunction with all the other virtues, then our bodies will be controlled, our nous will be in the heavens, and that is when we will have a lot of spiritual strength.  Fasting has the power to transform lions into sheep, as we saw with Prophet Daniel.  Fasting can take the heat of a flaming furnace and change it into coolness, as we saw with the three children of Babylon.  Fasting can even change God’s mind!  We saw that when the Ninevites fasted, and prevented God from destroying them.
      When you fast, you must keep away from judging your brother, if you want to keep the Grace of the Holy Spirit within you. You must not lie or slander.  In addition, you must be watchful with your eyes.  Do not look at anything scandalous or which may bring you thoughts later on, and generally try to keep your mind away from all types of evil thoughts.  In addition, try to keep all the poor in your neighborhood in mind.  Help whoever you can, either with food, money, or by word.  When you obey these instructions, you are not far from the forgiveness of your sins, and the healing of your soul.  That is when the glory of our God wraps around you, and when you pray for something, even before you are finished praying, God has already answered your prayers.
      Blessed are those Christians who fast during this period of Great Lent!  Blessed are those who with fasting, reach the time of our Lord’s passion!  Blessed are those who thru fasting, cleanse themselves, and are made worthy of communing the Immaculate Body and Blood or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  They are truly blessed, because they are found worthy to reach the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, completely wrapped in God’s Grace. 
      Lord our God, we all want to have these blessings.  We all want this great gift.  We beg of you, in the name of Your only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He who fasted for 40 days, He who lived thru that frightful passion, He who was nailed to the Cross, and died, and after 3 days rose again.  Make us worthy to keep this fast, and with the blessings that the fast brings upon us, let us worship our resurrected Lord and Savior.  Great is the Glory of God, Amen.   

What is Orthodoxy?

“Orthodoxy is not only the sum total of dogmas accepted as true in a purely formal manner. It is not only theory, but practice; it is not only right Faith, but a life which agrees in everything with this Faith. The true Orthodox Christian is not only he who thinks in an Orthodox manner, but who feels according to Orthodoxy and lives Orthodoxy, who strives to embody the true Orthodox teaching of Christ in his life.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Prayer. For everything. For your hens.

Elder Cleopa always counseled people, "When your mother, your child, your husband, anyone, is sick, first call the priest, not the doctor! The Church has prayers for everything imaginable, and those prayers are very effectual. Turn to those prayers first, then proceed. If you are building a house there is a prayer for beginning this project; traveling — there are prayers; studying — there are prayers...." One way in which we witness the benefit of those prayers right here at the Monastery involves our flock of free-range chickens: many of the people who live nearby ask us why the chickens have not fallen prey to these the many predators that roam the surrounding forest. The answer: every year, on the feast of St. Blaise (Feb. 11), protector of domestic animals, we process to the henhouse with the priest, singing the troparion of the hieromartyr, and the flock is blessed. If, at some point a hen or two disappear (which has happened about three times in six years), we keep the rest of the flock locked in their pen for a few weeks, while we continue to pray to St. Blaise to again protect them.


A True Christian

I really like this post from
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all,
but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one,
not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin,
each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself
and accept punishment in their place,
do not destroy their character.
- St. Isaac the Syrian

Monday, February 9, 2015

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I have been asked how I make my chicken noodle soup, from scratch. This is why I placed this post and I hope it will inspire other moms out there to make the same nutritious soup with no pre-made chicken broth etc.
½ organic grass fed chicken - with bones
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh parsley
1 tbsp dry oregano
1 cup tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 cup organic noodles (could be gluten-free)
Directions: Fill half way a large soup pot with water, place on medium to high heat. Wash well all the veggies, chopped them. Wash your chicken and cut into small pieces, as possible. Place the veggies and the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for one and a half hour. Add spices, tomato sauce and noodles. Simmer for another 30 minutes. 
Note: May replace the zucchini with peas or green beans. The noodles can be replaced with 1 cup of rice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Great Lent is almost here! Make plans for vegan recipes now

 With the Great Lent knoking at our door, I would like to recomend a vegan, gluten-free, no oil, no salt e-book of recipes from The Gerson Institute, even if the holiday season is over. This being said, another „holiday” season is upon us with the start of the Triodion a week ago: the spiritual pilgrimage for Pascha!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Another Buckwheat Salad

This salad, does not need lots of descriptive words. The buckwheat (add as much buckwheat as you would like) was roasted just as in the recipe below. Add seeds as desired or create your own favorite combination!