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Social Media Survival

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In Sunday School a few weeks ago we discussed the Facebook data harvesting scandal. We came to the conclusion that it really isn’t a big deal for Orthodox Christians. We should be asking bigger questions about our Internet, social media and mobile phone use.

It is very important that before posting anything on social media we ask ourselves the question: ‘Is this Orthodox?’ At the very least we should ask ourselves: ‘Is this anti-Orthodox?’ Christ says that ‘by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned’ (Matt. 12:37). This applies just as much to our social media posts as it does to what we say with our mouths.
Some of us think that social media makes us popular and wins us new friends. It actually does the opposite! Although social media makes us feel connected with people, it actually isolates us from the real world. We can see this clearly by opening our eyes to what is happening around us. People go out with friends but ignore them and use their …

What is anti-Semitism?

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The general idea of political demonstrations is to challenge governments. Recently, Parliament Square in Westminster was filled with people protesting against the opposition Labour Party – a unique event in modern politics. Labour Members of Parliament were joined by ordinary voters to protest against their own party’s support for anti-Semitism.
Normally we don’t discuss politics on this blog because, although Genuine Orthodox Christians are traditional we are not necessarily politically conservative; we vote according to our Orthodox conscience. However, the growing acceptance of anti-Semitism, particularly among young Labour Party voters, should concern us – the issue is far more important than politics. Today, in our universities, masked black-clad agitators invade meetings  and even confront Members of Parliament (right). The historical parallels with the fascists in 1930’s Germany are chilling.
The evil of anti-Semitism is foreign to Orthodoxy. As we are now preparing to commemora…

Holy Apostle Aristobulus, First Bishop of Britain

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Most English school children know that Saint George is England's patron saint, but few (except for those living near St. Albans) would know that Saint Alban was Britain's first martyr. How many of us Orthodox Christians would be able to name Britain’s first bishop? 
On 15 March (which is 28 March on the New Calendar) we commemorate Saint Aristobulus the first bishop of Britain who was numbered among the Seventy Apostles sent out by Christ to preach the Gospel: 'After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come' (Luke 10:1).

Saint Aristobulus was the brother of the Holy Apostle Barnabas and a companion of the Apostle Paul who sent him to Britain to spread the Gospel of Christ. Like his teacher Saint Paul, Saint Aristobulus endured much suffering for the faith of Christ, being beaten, dragged through the streets and tortured by the pagans. Nevertheless, he endured…

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?

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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

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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 …