The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexiy II, has died. The patriarch died on Friday morning, aged 79. patriarch_aleksii2

He had been sick for some time. Alexiy II was credited with helping restore the moral authority of the Russian Orthodox Church after decades of repression under communism, no easy tak I should think.

Alexiy II became its head in 1990, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union.

He brought the scattered branches of the Russian Orthodox church back under the control of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was shocked by the death. “I respected him deeply,” he said.

Born Alexei Rediger to a Russian Orthodox family living in Estonia in 1929, the future patriarch rose swiftly through the ranks of the Church after studying theology in St Petersburg.

By the age of 32 he was a bishop, by 35 he was an archbishop.

He served as the Moscow Patriarchate’s chief administrator and the deputy head of the Church’s external affairs department before being elected as its head.

O Master, Lord our God, Who in Thy wisdom hast created man, and didst honour him with Thy Divine image, and place in him the spirit of life, and lead him into this world, bestowing on him the hope of resurrection and life everlasting; and after he had violated Thy commandments, Thou O Gracious lover of mankind, didst descend to the earth that Thou mightest renew again the creation of Thy hands. Therefore we pray Thee, O All-Holy Master give rest to the souls of Thy servant, Alexiy, in a place of brightness, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, and, in that they have sinned in word, or deed or thought forgive them: For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting and Thine All-Holy and good, and ever giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

gb_christmas_wreathWhen I was a child Christmas Eve was special time.

The milk and mince pie were carefully placed by our fireplace, oh and not forgetting for Rudolph; I didn’t want to upset Father Christmas or his reindeer.

 After all he was the one coming with all the gifts and I had been a good for the whole year… well most of the year anyway!

The presents would be wrapped in a multitude of bright colours, the red of Santa’s coat, the green of the Christmas tree, with silver and gold, shinning and glistening…always beckoning me ever closer in those dark, still, early hours of Christmas day.

I had helped my mum put the decorations up. After hours of licking and sticking, the paper chains finally crissed crossed the ceiling.

Then my dad scrambled up into our dark, and I have to say somewhat scary attic. It was mysterious and creepy darkness with cobwebs and spiders.

After fumbling around for some time dad would bring down some large dusty brown boxes with the words ‘xmas stuff’ scrawled on the side. I knew what treasures lay within.

Our Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room – it looked huge. Its tip leaned ever so slightly to the left with the weight of the gold star. Was it real gold I’d wondered?

We hung baubles after bauble, old and new. The chocolates hung temptingly in their shiny foil, but no – I mustn’t, Santa was coming – I wanted my presents and I was good, honestly!

And then we put out our little nativity scene, Mary, Joseph, two sheep, one cow, three wise men, two shepherds and my brothers contribution…a cowboy on a horse!

And of course Jesus in his manger, in the middle, between his mum and dad, it was after all his birthday.

And then it was time for bed, not that I could sleep….

I heard someone complaining the other day that Christmas is for children and they are right. Christmas is for children and we are all children of God. And we await the coming of Jesus with the awe and wonder of that child on Christmas Eve.

The word ‘advent’ is Latin for ‘a coming or arrival’.dscf0040-11

The idea behind it is that God came to earthly life and lived among us, which is news to stop the presses for. It’s something to celebrate, rejoice, because just by being in it, God was giving the supreme blessing to the created world. But this birth led to an execution of this same God on behalf of us, and then the greatest news that death will not end it all. So it’s not something you just go rushing into. We need to take stock of what that baby Jesus was here for. When we see the baby and the birth, the adult Jesus and His execution are also in sight.

And with this comes symbolism used by most churches.

So we will focus the simple Advent candle.

The Candles symbolize that Jesus is the Light of the World.

There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually tapers. There are variations in the colouring of the candles, often there are three purple and one pink candle. Occasionally, all of the candles are purple. The central candle is usually a large white pillar candle.

The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day. When you light the candle it is customary to read a few verses of scripture that relate to meaning of the candle. Often the person who lights the candle recites a short statement of belief and faith as the candle is lit and then everyone unites in prayer.

The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope)

The first candle is sometimes called the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope candle.

The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way)

The second candle shows that Christ is the Way. Christians are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way out of darkness.

The Third Candle (The Candle of Joy)

The third candle indicates that the only lasting Joy to be found in life on earth is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last.

The Fourth Candle (The Candle of Peace)

The fourth candle reminds that Jesus comes to bring Peace to both the world and to people’s hearts. Without Christ there is no peace in this world.

The Fifth Candle (The Christ Candle or Christmas Candle)

The fifth candle represents Christ himself who is born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfilment of prophecy as represented in Christ’s birth and hope in the final fulfilment when Christ comes again and Christians join him.

 

 

Afrvertical Podcasts…well they are notoriously hit and miss in my opinion.

Anyway, so recently I have been looking around for something decent to listen to as I try to lose a few pounds and so far this is the best Orthodox. Ancient faith Radio…

‘Ancient Faith Radio exists to supplement the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church with on line audio programming of music, prayers, readings, lectures and interviews.

We offer two 24 hour internet based Orthodox radio stations but we also provide an extensive list of downloadable Orthodox Podcasts. This ministry was founded at All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago but is now part of Conciliar Media Ministries which in turn is under the auspices of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.

Technology has opened the door for a worldwide radio ministry featuring the teachings and music of the historic Orthodox faith. This is a pan Orthodox ministry seeking to serve and support all jurisdictions with clear and concise expressions of the faith.

We say we are “timeless Christianity 24 hours a day” reflecting both the eternality and the daily presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in our midst. Christ is truly in our midst and He truly ever shall be!’

I am currently enjoying the podcasts of The Illumined Heart and Our life in Christ, they are very interesting and not tacky in anyway.

I would highly recommend these podcasts.

I have been listening to Father John Corapi (a Catholic convert as opposed to a cradle Catholic!) on ‘how to make a good confession’.

Our church does not do confession in the Catholic sense…However it gave me a very good understanding on the sacrament of reconciliation (formerly confession).

One point which I thought was interesting was this: If we are to be forgiven for our sin we must have healing as well. If you think of a nail in a plank of wood, when that is removed it leaves a wound in the wood and that is the same with us, when sin is removed it leaves a space which can be occupied by other sin – thus the need for healing to go with confession.

So if you have a healing service then I would guess you would need to spend some time in confession before healing can take place…actually as far as I am aware we should confess our sins before we take communion but I digress.

http://www.fathercorapi.com/popularproducts.aspx?UserID=261087&SessionID=3tYnJAprfmIuVb2BOztj

and here is a multitude of sacramental documents etc.

http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/sac.htm

The theology of my church does not agree with some of the Catholic ideas (purgatory for instance!) but where else do we turn to learn about such things that are not practised within our own denomination.

0001-0411-0919-5036_ruler_inches_and_centimeters Something that I have been thinking about for a time is a rule of faith. The benedictines and most monastic orders have them, but I have very much like the Rule of St Benedict.
And so my church is currently looking to introduce this is a slightly different way. We would like to introduce it as mission, a personal mission possibly as a primer to baptism but also as a help to spiritual growth.
These are my suggestions thus far:

I have approached looking ahead to it being used as a baptism primer and for furthering spiritual growth/discipline and discipleship of all.

Connecting to God on a daily basis

A Daily Office and Bible reading

A different daily quote to contemplate or ponder

Daily Format

I have considered an online format but on reflection I think we should print our own books. This can be done quite cheaply at http://www.bookprinting.org.uk/  or a similar site. This has the advantage of being to carry it and freely access it anywhere.

I also suggest adding:

Three sections of teaching notes

Christians Classics list

Web resources list

Room for notes

Daily Prayers (Daily office)

One Daily Office per day consisting of:

The principal prayer – the opening prayer of the day

Daily reading from scripture

The confirmation of the Trinity

Declaration of Faith

Lord’s Prayer and Amen

Duration

Forty days which is in keeping with Jesus time in the Desert/Moses on the mountain/Jews in the desert and is a time period of transformation in scripture. 6 weeks and 2 days – for instance it could run from on Sunday Jan 11th and that means it would run through to feb 27th.

Teaching

All teaching session should be over a simple meal

After church on a Sunday

The teaching should cover all basic areas of belief

Serving

All should serve each week

People would need to be placed in different ministries to understand service and serving

Giving

All people should be giving, that includes financially, time and energy

It should be with a joyful heart

Percentages may make it feel it’s about money or people are in some way having to pay for the course which may detract from the spiritual aspect of it.

Small Groups

All people should be a member of a small group

Mentorship

Initially this could be divided among the three leaders.

For baptism primers I would suggest one on one

Those who have done it before to do it with those who are preparing for the sacrament of baptism

Finishing up

A day away at an abbey/convent for some quiet reflective time and a chance to share for all members

A meal together the night before the baptism

 
 

 

 

NewMonasticism An interesting paper  I cam eon across browing recently.

‘Some of these resemble “third order” societies—whose members have a primary church commitment outside of the order, but who live according to the order’s Rule. Others function as primary church groups—ie. the community functions in all respects as a church, including pastoral care, the ministry of word and sacrament etc. Some are now well established and others comparatively new.

There is variety and diversity, not unlike in the type of monasticism present in Celtic Ireland and Britain.’

http://www.icmi.org/pdf%20files/Newmonasticism.pdf