Habemus Altare

Thus, a beginning for a modern Lent is to repent from the modern world itself. By this, I mean renouncing the notion that you are a self-generated, self-authenticating individual. You are not defined by your choices and decisions, much less by your career and your shopping. You begin by acknowledging that God alone is Lord (and you are not). Your life has meaning and purpose only in relation to God. The most fundamental practice of such God-centered living is the giving of thanks.

Renounce trying to improve yourself and become something. You are not a work in progress. If you are a work – then you are God’s work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in” (Eph 2:10).

Do not plan to have a “good Lent” or imagine what a “good Lent” would be. Give up judging – especially judging yourself. Get out of the center of your world. Lent is not about you. It is about Christ and His Pascha.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, “A Modern Lent
Both purgatory and indulgences are intercorrelated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church, and when they were enforced and applied, they brought about evil practices at the expense of the prevailing Truths of the Church. If Almighty God in His merciful loving-kindness changes the dreadful situation of the sinner, it is unknown to the Church of Christ. The Church lived for fifteen hundred years without such a theory.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Death, the Threshold to Eternal Life
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, ‘You are a saint,’ the other, ‘You won’t be saved.’ Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins.
In order to walk, one must take a first step; in order to swim, one must throw oneself into the water. It is the same with the invocation of the Name. Begin to pronounce it (Jesus) with adoration and love. Cling to it. Repeat it. Do not think that you are invoking the Name, think only of Jesus himself. Say his name slowly, softly and quietly…. In time you will find that the name of Jesus will spontaneously come to your lips and almost continuously be present to your mind.
Father Lev Gillet

In the Orthodox Churches of the East, the Samaritan Woman, traditionally known as Saint Photini, is commemorated on February 26.
According to Eastern tradition, after her life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus at Jacob’s Well narrated in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the Samaritan Woman was baptized on the day of Pentecost and received the name Photini (Latin, Photina), meaning “the enlightened one”. She thereafter labored in the spread of the Gospel in various places, finally receiving the crown of martrydom in Rome with her two sons and five sisters during the Neronian persecutions.
In Greek sermons from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries, she is called “apostle” and “evangelist”, and in Orthodox tradition is called, like Mary Magdalene, isapostolos: equal to the Apostles.

In the Orthodox Churches of the East, the Samaritan Woman, traditionally known as Saint Photini, is commemorated on February 26.

According to Eastern tradition, after her life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus at Jacob’s Well narrated in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the Samaritan Woman was baptized on the day of Pentecost and received the name Photini (Latin, Photina), meaning “the enlightened one”. She thereafter labored in the spread of the Gospel in various places, finally receiving the crown of martrydom in Rome with her two sons and five sisters during the Neronian persecutions.

In Greek sermons from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries, she is called “apostle” and “evangelist”, and in Orthodox tradition is called, like Mary Magdalene, isapostolos: equal to the Apostles.

Let us give diligent heed to the study of Scripture. For in the tumult of life it will save you from suffering like those who are tossed by troubled waves. The sea rages, but you sail on with calm weather; for you have the study of the Scriptures for your pilot; this is the cable which the trials of life do not break asunder.

Let our soul weigh anchor in the reading of Scripture. For the study of Scripture is a haven without waves, a tower that is unshakeable, a glory that cannot be wrested away from anybody, a weapon that cannot be defeated, a joy that does not pall. In reading Scripture, the soul is relieved from harm, and enjoys much calm and peace.

So great is our preoccupation with material things that we feel no shame when, on breaking the Savior’s commandments, we are rebuked even by those whom we despise because they still live ‘in the world’; for they now teach us instead of us teaching them. When we are quarrelling, they remind us that ‘the servant of Christ must not engage in strife, but be gentle to all men’(2 Tim. 2:24); when we are disputing about money and possessions, they quote to us the text, ‘If anyone…takes away your coat, let him have your cloak also’(Matt. 5:40). They ridicule and deride us because of the incongruity between our actions and our vocation. Indeed, is it ever right to engage in disputes in order to protect our property? Suppose that someone destroys the boundary of our vineyard and adds it to his own land: someone else lets his animal loose in it; and someone else diverts the water supply from our garden. Must we then lose all self-control in such situations, and become worse than madmen? But in that case our intellect, which should be engaged in the contemplation of created beings, must now give its attention to lawsuits, turning its contemplative power to worldly cunning, so as to defend a quantity of unnecessary possessions.
St. Neilos the Ascetic, in the Philokalia

At the time of the Great Schism (division) between Eastern and Western Christendom in the year 1054, the Anglican Church sided with the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem in rejecting the novel claims of the Bishop of Rome to a primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Catholic Church. In response, the Pope blessed the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, to invade England and force the Church there into submission to Rome. This was accomplished in 1066, with the Norman invasion. William conquered England, seized the throne, replaced all but one of the native British bishops with Normans, and forced the Anglican Church to submit to papal authority. For the next four and a half centuries the English Church maintained an uneasy, sometimes beneficial and sometimes stormy, relationship with the papacy.

With the separation of the Roman Patriarchate in the West from the other four ancient Patriarchates, the Catholic Church, which had remained united for a millennium, was divided into two. The Catholics of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem are called Orthodox Christians or Orthodox Catholics, meaning correct doctrine and worship, because they have not changed, and their Church is known as the Orthodox or the Orthodox Catholic Church to this day. The Church in the West was known as the Roman, or the Holy Roman, Church. The Anglican Church, ecclesia anglicana, was part of the Orthodox Church until the Norman conquest in 1066. The last Anglo-Saxon king, King Harold, who died in battle against the Normans on October 14th, 1066, is known as a “passion bearer” because he died to defend Orthodox England, and is considered a saint by many Orthodox Christians in the West.

Lanfranc, a Lombard Abbott, helped gain William of Normandy the support of his barons for the invasion of England by casting it as a crusade to bring the English Church into submission to the papacy. For doing this he was awarded the position of Archbishop of Canterbury after the conquest.

David Howarth, in his 1066 The Year of the Conquest, explains: “The invasion should not be seen as a merely secular conquest; its highest aim should be, or appear to be, the reformation of the English church. It should become a crusade, a holy war to bring back an errant church to Rome. Lanfranc himself, or the Norman church as a body, was willing to bring accusations against the church of England” (p. 100).

Howarth continues, “Perhaps its principal sin was merely to be different: much of its scholarship and all of its pastoral work were in English instead of Latin, and it was easy for other churchmen to suspect that schisms and heresies were hidden by such a barbarous language. But finally, whatever was said against it, the fact remained that the English then were a devoutly religious people and were satisfied on the whole that their church provided for their spiritual needs” (ibid.). And it should be noted that the English Church not only did its pastoral work in English rather than Latin, but that it had married deacons and priests as well as celibate monks and nuns.

In 1534, the Anglican Church was finally able to renounce papal supremacy and end centuries of papal control that had been uncanonically established by force of arms. In that year, Convocation, the governing body of the Church of England, declared that “the Bishop of Rome hath not, by Scripture, any greater authority in England than any other foreign bishop.”

Fr. Victor E. Novak, an ACNA priest, in “Orthodox Anglicanism and Christian Reunion: The Time Is Now

This entire article is a fascinating history of the Anglican Church and the Orthodox churches. Even if I disagree with the author’s conclusions, it goes to show just how close we were at one point to reaching communion with each other. 

The drive for evangelism in its modern form was always somewhat heretical. The gospel was mutated into a Churchless Christianity, devoid of sacrament and structure. This minimized gospel was easily and quickly adaptable to various cultural needs, but for the same reason, completely vulnerable to cultural forces. Evangelism is a gospel imperative, but the “making of disciples” entails their full enculturation into the Christian faith and not a single experience. Walking the aisle does not make you a Christian – it requires walking the way of the Cross. Mission is equally a gospel imperative, one that the Church has slowly and steadily fulfilled. Some areas where the Church was once planted now require the Church to be replanted. Some places, such as America, where a gospel has been preached, [are] almost entirely ignorant of the gospel – this will be proclaimed in time by the Church…

A Christianity that is largely without doctrine and sacrament is a Christianity of slogan and extravaganza. A “Churchless” Christianity is simply, a heresy. It is a strange reading of the New Testament with conclusions as novel as they are effective. It is also destructive of the long term health of the Christian faith. Many who grow tired of its slogans and extravaganza do not turn elsewhere – they turn nowhere. The fastest growing religious group in America is the unchurched.

The truth and richness of the Christian faith is only found in the deep-woven fibers of the historic Church. The life of sacrament, rooted in a thoroughly Christianized network of families, parishes and monasteries, is the normative existence of the Christian faith. This is the faith that converted the Roman Empire and the barbarian ancestors of people like myself. From it grew a great civilization, one that has been challenged and dismantled at many points, but which has yet to disappear.

It is probably the case that only a vibrant fullness of the Christian Church, that is itself sufficiently mature to be the bearer of a Christian ethos, is capable of surviving the onslaught of modern secularism. A Christianity of slogan and style will find itself swept away by more attractive slogans and styles. The promise of God regarding the gates of hell is given only to the Church – not a parachurch movement.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, “America and the Perversion of Christianity

If someone has no intention of raising a child in Christ—if they have no intention of attending church, praying as a family in the home, teaching the Bible, encouraging questions about the faith, and giving their children every opportunity to experience the life of the Church—then they should in no way bring their child to be baptized.

When we decide to baptize a child we make the most solemn of promises to God. We are promising to do everything in our power to bring that child to Christ, and this is a promise that we can only make if we are doing everything we can to draw near to Him ourselves. Children take seriously what we take seriously. If they grow up in a home in which conversations about Christ, prayer, and reading from the Bible and the lives of the saints are part of normal daily life, they will feed off this as much as the food we put on their plates at the dinner table…

As a priest, I see just how real the life of faith is to children when they approach the chalice to receive communion. It is in their eyes, and I am humbled. When they see that we are excited and involved, they will become excited and involved. Raising a child in Christ is simple. Just be a child yourself in Christ. Take it seriously. Children take faith very seriously, and we should either honor that faith ourselves or we shouldn’t baptize them.

Fr. John Hainsworth, “Infant Baptism: What the Church Believes