If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments

A non-Orthodox friend recently commented that it seemed to him that being Orthodox is more about avoiding sins than doing good deeds. Non-Orthodox people probably do find Orthodox Christianity very different to what they are used to – this is particularly true when we are fasting. Having said that, fasting involves a lot more than just reading food packets. During fasts we struggle to keep not only the food fasting regulations but also increase our church attendance, spiritual reading and almsgiving. 

The Orthodox Church particularly emphasizes almsgiving because through it we show love for our neighbour. Likewise, we avoid sins because we are striving for perfect love. St. Paul teaches: ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal’ (1. Cor. 13:1). Christ calls us to love our enemies and those who persecute us (cf. Matt. 5:44), and not to confine our love only to those from whom we expect love in return: ‘…

How to make a prostration

The approach of Great Lent is a good time to make sure that we know how to make a full prostration properly. On most Sundays we make the Sign of the Cross and touch the ground – this is known as a 'small prostration'. A full prostration involves lowering our whole body to the ground so that our head almost touches the floor as demonstrated in the video below:

We make full prostrations (both in church and in our private prayers) when the Prayer of Saint Ephraim is read during Great Lent; we also make them on the Sunday of the Cross (the Third Sunday of Great Lent).
Making a full prostration is not physically that hard, but often people make it more difficult than it needs to be. There is no need to 'take a knee' when making a prostration. Going down in two stages by kneeling on one knee followed by the other actually makes a prostration more difficult.
Those of us who wear long garments in church need to push our bottom up quickly when rising from the prostration to av…

Is Fasting Optional?

Some ‘Orthodox’ Christians say that fasting is optional, but there can be no genuine Orthodoxy without asceticism (lit. ‘training’) carried out in accordance with the traditions of the Church. St. Paul mentions this necessary discipline in his First Letter to the Corinthians: ‘I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified’ (1. Cor. 9:27).
Fasting is part of the ascetical life of the Church which we are called by Christ to live when He says: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ (Luke 9:23).
The Roman Catholic Church dropped compulsory fasting many decades ago and the Catholic development of a personal, optional approach to fasting could well have influenced some within Orthodoxy. It is certainly much easier to choose what to give up and when!
Most modern Protestants reject fasting because they believe that keeping the Gospel command…

The Dates of Christmas and New Year

Quite a few of us explain to our non-Orthodox friends that we celebrate Christmas on 7th January. In fact, we don't! We celebrate Christmas on 25th December – it's just that the secular world (newspapers, schools, banks etc.) call this day 7th January.
This confusion occurs because the western secular world uses the Gregorian calendar and the traditional Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and is now thirteen days ahead of the Julian calendar.
England only moved on to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Parliament having decided that Wednesday 2nd September 1752 would be followed by Thursday 14th September 1752. The change of the calendar actually became an issue in the 1754 General Election with Tory opposition politicians demanding a return to the traditional Julian calendar, but the Whig government defending the decision to change to the new, Gregorian calendar. This dispute is referenced in the William …

Anglican Women Bishops: A view from the Orthodox Church

The recent announcement that the Sarah Mullally DBE (right) had been nominated to be the new Anglican Bishop of London caused quite a stir, but it was only to be expected considering that the first women priests were ordained in the Church of England over twenty years ago and the first woman bishop was consecrated in January 2015.
How does this concern us? We are not  interested in doing a 'hatchet job' on the Church of England in this article. We are just trying to explain why the Orthodox Church only ordains men to be priests or bishops. We will also briefly consider some of the reasons why the Church of England has found itself in this situation so we can avoid this faulty reasoning in our everyday lives. Our question is therefore: ‘Why does the Orthodox Church only ordain men?’ rather than: ‘Why does the Orthodox Church not ordain women?'
The answer to our question is found in the Tradition of the Church. The Early Church only ordained men to the priesthood and we cont…

A Miraculous Deliverance From Certain Death

The astonishing story of Master Sergeant Vasiliki Plexida’s miraculous escape from death in a military helicopter accident was widely reported on Greek television earlier this year.

The miracle occurred on 19th April 2017 when the twenty-six year old Vasiliki was travelling in a military helicopter over a mountainous area in Northern Greece. The helicopter, flying low in thick fog and near-zero visibility, hit high voltage power cables and crashed.

After the helicopter crashed, presumably with all lives aboard lost, a friend of Vasiliki called the convent of the Panagia Akroteriane in Serifos (left) at which Vasiliki was a regular worshipper.  On being informed of the accident, the Abbess reassured the caller that Vasiliki would miraculously survive.

And this came to pass. Due to the helicopter’s low altitude, the accident happened in a split-second. As the helicopter hit the ground Vasiliki made the Sign of the Cross and called on the Mother of God for help.

Vasiliki then saw the The…

Muslims are not all bad people!

The title of this short article is a recent quote from the England cricket Moeen Ali and not something that we have written ourselves! It is particularly relevant today with the news of the terrible massacre of Muslims in Egypt by fellow Muslims. In fact, the phrase 'fellow Muslims' is not correct because ISIS do not acknowledge any other form of Islam.
Islam is not a unified religion by any means. In some areas of the Indian subcontinent, for example, Muslims worship the locally venerated Hindu gods such as Shitala (the smallpox goddess); some worship holy trees. Arab and Bedouin Muslims in the Holy Land reverence sacred trees which they believe to be sanctified by the saints whose tombs they grow near.
So when someone blames 'Muslims' for a terrorist atrocity we might ask ourselves 'which Muslims?' Using the word 'Muslim' in this context is pretty unhelpful as the war in Syria is, to a large extent, a conflict between incompatible forms of Islam. We can…