Tuesday 29 April 2014

I want to be Orthodox – why do I need to be baptised?

You are becoming attracted and even convinced by the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church as far as you understand them. It seems as though the next step is to become a member of the Orthodox Church. But looming up in the distance is the confusing requirement of baptism. Surely as folk who have been Evangelical Christians we have already been baptised? Why does the Orthodox Church ask us to be baptised again?

These are good questions. And all good questions deserve a serious answer.

Monday 28 April 2014

A Syrian monk as educator

John of Ephesus is an important source for information about the non-Chalcedonian communion during the 6th century. He was born in about 507 AD in the area which is now the eastern border area of Turkey, and was at the time under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Amida in Mesopotamia, the present day Diyarbakir. As a young boy he was placed in the monastery of the Maro the Stylite, who saved his life as an infant. He joined the community in due course and entered into a period of exile with the other brothers as they were driven from place to place by the Imperial authorities.

Sunday 27 April 2014

The Orthodox Tradition and the Councils of the Church

I would like us to spend a short time considering the Councils of the Church and their relation to our Orthodox Christian Tradition. There is a limit to what can be said in forty minutes and I will certainly not be describing the details of the hundreds and thousands of councils which have taken place over the history of the Church. Instead we will especially consider what councils are for and how they preserve the Tradition of the Church.

Thursday 24 April 2014

The Prayer of the Heart

Let us now consider together the unceasing prayer of the heart which is the object of Orthodox spirituality, representing as it does that perpetual living in the presence of God which is our life and salvation. Within Orthodoxy the heart is the place where each of us may meet God within us. It is the centre of our being and to pray with the heart is to pray truly. The prayer of the heart is unceasing prayer since it is not the action of the mind or will but the disposition of one’s whole being towards God.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Natural disasters in the Sixth Century Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua.

Despite the apparently universal human need to look back to a golden age of long summers, full churches, and ecumenical unanimity, the reality of human history is replete with examples of chaos and catastrophe in every age. There has never been a century, or even a decade, when there have not been devastating storms, calamitous earthquakes and overwhelming floods and tsunamis. These have been a regular feature of all human societies whether Christian or non-Christian, orthodox or heretic, and have therefore demanded an attempt at theological explanation from the Churches long before this present age.

Thursday 17 April 2014

An Introduction to the First Council of Ephesus

The first ecumenical council which took place at Nicaea in 325 AD, was particularly concerned with the Arian controversy. This heresy had denied that the Word of God was properly God, and considered him some lesser and created divine being. Later, the second ecumenical council took place at Constantinople in 381 AD, in the context of a great many councils being called here and there, by the continuing followers and opponents of Arian ideas. This second council not only finally excluded all Arian thought from the Church, but also insisted that the Holy Spirit was also divine in the same sense as the Father and the Son, so that the Holy Trinity was a unity of three consubstantial Divine Persons.

A Conversation about Unity with the Eastern Orthodox

From a conversation...

I have also found myself questioning whether the dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Church will find any formal fruition in my lifetime.  I have to say but I grow both less hopeful and more hopeful as my experience of corresponding with Eastern Orthodox Church members becomes more extensive. Back in 1994 when I first became Orthodox I rather naively believed but all that was required for reconciliation would be a better explanation of our own faith.  But in fact it has become clear that there is a significant group within Eastern Orthodoxy who do not wish to understand what we believe, and cannot countenance reconciliation and union between our two communions under any circumstances, other than perhaps the complete and abject submission of each one of us to the Eastern Orthodox historical and theological narrative. On the other hand, I am in contact with more and more generous hearted and intelligent Eastern Orthodox who do understand that there is no substantial or significant difference in our faith and practice.

Some thoughts about Penal Substitution

It seems to me, from my study of St Cyril and St Severus (which I am not suggesting is comprehensive), that the Anselmian notion of Penal Substitution is very far from their own Orthodox teaching. Indeed I do not believe it is Orthodox at all.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

A Preliminary Conversation on the WiIl of Christ with an Eastern Orthodox Monk

I am most grateful for the emails you have sent, and which provide a useful set of criteria with which to consider the topic of the will in Christ. I am especially glad that you have taken time to consider some of the obstacles to understanding which might be presented, and have explained your own understanding of this subject so clearly and precisely. It does help, because when I engage with some Eastern Orthodox online I find myself presented with views which appear to be heterodox, even by Eastern Orthodox theological authorities, or else reduce themselves to a polemical insistence on counting two wills rather than one.

Sunday 13 April 2014

The first British Orthodox Liturgy in Stoke

The first British Orthodox Liturgy celebrated at St Paul's Church of England, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, was a more wonderful experience than I could have imagined. Though even on the three hour drive up from Maidstone to Stoke I suffered from a degree of anxiety that I had forgotten something important. The sun was shining for the drive up, and I was able to spend much of the time in prayer for the event and those we hoped would attend. Without any traffic problems I arrived at St Paul's, Burslem at about 9:15 and started to unpack my traveling liturgy kit and set it up in the Church.

Homily for Lazarus Saturday

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is my privilege to be able to address you on this occasion of the first celebration of the British Orthodox Liturgy of St James here in Burslem, Stoke on Trent. I am grateful that His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim and other clergy and ecumenical guests have increased the significance of this event by their presence and participation in the worship today.

Today we are seeing four local people become catechumens, ordinary English people from the streets around this church building. A catechumen is one who is receiving instruction in preparation for membership of the Orthodox Church. There are now five people who have decided to make just such a commitment here in this town. In a few months’ time the first baptisms will take place as God wills.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Missionary Report - 8th April

It's a busy time. It seems that God is working his purposes out in many places where I am serving all at once. Most importantly over the next few days, on Saturday, 12th April, the very first British Orthodox Liturgy will take place in Stoke on Trent at St Paul's Church of England, Burslem. I have been in touch with a number of interested evangelical Christians in the area for some months, and in just a few days four will be made catechumens at the Liturgy, bringing the number of those preparing for baptism and chrismation into the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate to five.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Homily for Sixth Sunday of Lent

In our Gospel reading today we find the account of another of the miracles of our Lord. We might remember that last week we considered the man who had been sitting at the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years, waiting for a miracle. On this occasion we have just read about a man born blind who was granted his sight.

Last week we reflected on how we are often called to wait for the Lord to act, and can sometimes fail to be aware that He is standing before us, ready to perform a miracle in our lives, because we have a predetermined view of how we expect the Lord to act for us. I believe that there are a variety of equally useful lessons for us to learn from this miracle.