The Blog

Testimony Regarding Tattoos

When I was in high school I really wanted to get a tattoo and a body piercing. So, during high school I got a body piercing (in my bellybutton). Shortly after I graduated from high school I got a tattoo. Neither action was well thought-out, but more of a spur of the moment thing. In fact, I’m grateful that the man who did my tattoo wouldn’t do what I originally wanted. He told me to go home and really think about it until I knew what I wanted and where I wanted it. If he would have done whatever I wanted at that moment, I would be even more regretful at this point. So, I ended up getting something I thought I would want for the rest of my life on my ankle. Now, about five years after I got my tattoo I have a scar where my body piercing was and a tattoo that I wish I didn’t have.

I got a navel piercing and tattoo to be different and cool. After a while of having both, I didn’t care much about showing them off. It really surprised me in a way when people would point to me and ask me about my tattoo. It started to annoy me that when certain people noticed my body piercing or tattoo, I suddenly had become more cool in their eyes. I felt like they liked me more, only after they had found out that I was the type of person who would have a body piercing or tattoo.

Shortly after I got my tattoo, I realized that a lot more people from many different groups of society were getting body piercings and tattoos. The trend of tattoos and body piercings was becoming popular among more and more people regardless of what “group” they were in (i.e. the “rebellious” crowd, as well as the more average straight-laced group of people).

After a few years I got sick of my body piercing because so many other people were doing the same thing. Then it came down to deciding whether I wanted metal or a scar. I chose the scar.

Here’s why:

After I was touched by the Lord I was told by a friend that body piercing and tattoos were wrong because the Bible said so. I was immediately defensive and confused. I wanted to follow the Lord and do what was right in His eyes. So, while I was with my friend one time we decided to look it up in our NIV Bibles for ourselves. We found Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

We couldn’t find anything that directly said you should not pierce your body. In fact, I was surprised to see in certain parts of Scripture that women wore nose rings in the Old Testament. For instance, Abraham’s servant gave Rebekah a nose ring as a gift when he knew he had found the right wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:34-51 NIV). I believe, however, that nose rings were common in their culture, just as common as earrings have been in American culture for a long time. Therefore, there is not the same reasons behind Rebekah wearing a nose ring as someone in America might have today. It would be as simple as her being given earrings today.

I decided to pray about whether it was right for me to have a body piercing and tattoo. During the time I was praying and seeking God about this the Lord led me to Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

I was also convicted by 1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

I felt that I had harmed my body by tattooing it and piercing it. I passed out when I got my body pierced and came close to passing out when I got my tattoo. Basically, I went through a lot of pain to look cool. I felt that it was wrong for me to have pierced and tattooed my body, especially because of the reasons behind both–vanity and pride. Between vanity and pride and harming my body that the Lord had created I knew that I had sinned. Now I can see that I was not honoring God with my body by piercing it and putting a permanent mark on it. Although I was able to remove my piercing, my tattoo is not something that I can just wash away. It is on my leg to stay.

I know the Lord has forgiven me. His grace and love are so amazing. I was living a sinful, ungodly life and then I found the Lord. Jesus died for us all and God raised Him from the dead so that our sins can be forgiven and that we may be cleansed of our iniquities. Now, we can enter into an amazing love relationship with Him. God did this all through Jesus! The point of this testimony is to share how I was convicted of sin in my life. It doesn’t matter what the sin was. We all need to repent and follow the Lord. If we love Him, we will obey Him.

John 14:15 NIV: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

1 John 5:3-5 NIV: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Contributed by a young Christian girl who asked to remain anonymous.

Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Yourself

The medical term for belly button is umbilicus.

Those who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day drink half a cup of tar a year.

Humans are the only animals capable of drawing a straight line.

On average, an individual grows over 450 miles of hair in a lifetime.

When a person smiles, 17 muscles are engaged.

Human DNA contains 80,000 genes.

Men shorter than 4.2 feet and women shorter than 3.9 feet are considered dwarfs.

White blood cells live in the human body for 2 to 4 days, while red blood cells live up to 3 to 4 months.

Every human bends their finger 25 million times in a lifetime.

Human heart is equal in size to a human fist. Average weight of an adult’s heart is approximately 0.5lbs.

Human body contains four minerals: apatite, aragonite, calcite, and christobalite.

Human brain generates more electric impulses in a day than all telephones of the world combined.

The loss of vision caused by exposure to bright light is called snow blindness.

Total weight of bacteria living in the human body is 4.4lbs.

Human brain produces 100,000 chemical reactions per second.

Babies are born without kneecaps, which form only at the age of 2 to 6.

The area of human lungs’ surface is equal to that of a tennis court.

At birth, a baby’s brain contains 14 billion cells, and this number does not increase till death. On the contrary, after the age of 25 it decreases by 100,000 cells per day. Reading a page of text in a minute kills approximately 70 cells. After the age of 40, the brain degradation is accelerated, and after 50, neurons shrink and brain volume reduces.

The human small intestines are 8.5 feet long during life. After death, when the muscles of the bowel walls relax, it may reach over 19 feet.

An average human has approximately 2 million perspiratory glands. An average adult person loses 540 calories with a liter of sweat. Men perspire 40% more than women.

The right lung holds more air than the left one.

An adult person makes approximately 23,000 breaths a day.

In a lifetime, the female body produces 7 million egg cells.

The human eye is capable of differentiating 10,000,000 hues.

There are approximately 40,000 bacteria in the human mouth.

It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

The human spine contains 33 to 34 spinal bones.

Women blink twice as often as men.

The smallest cells in the male body are sperm cells.

The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue.

There are approximately 2,000 taste buds in the human body.

Babies are born with approximately 300 bones, and adults have only 206 bones.

Human body contains enough fat to produce seven pieces of soap.

Nerve impulses in the human body travel with the speed of approximately 90 meters a second.

42,368,000 – a number of heartbeats a person experiences in a year.

Men suffer from color blindness 10 times more often than women.

Nearly half of all human bones are located in wrists and feet.

When in doubt, medieval doctors diagnosed patients with syphilis.

People with blue eyes are more sensitive to pain than others.

Fingernails grow 4 times faster than toenails.

A person changes skin approximately 1,000 times in a lifetime.

There are over 100 viruses causing runny nose.

There are nearly 46 miles of nerves in an adult’s body.


MANY PEOPLE TODAY EQUATE “SPIRITUALITY” with one’s personal inner life. Spiritual seekers are advised to “listen to their heart” to find peace and clarity, often without any reference to God – or at least to the God revealed in the Scriptures – or to a community such as the Church. Their approach is more individual rather than communal, more mind-centered than encompassing one’s entire being, and often more concerned with self-help than with living in union with God.

As Eastern Christians we stand in a tradition that first of all understands spirituality as mankind’s relationship to God through the operation of the Holy Spirit. At its root this relationship is based on an event which joins the material and the spiritual: the Incarnation of Christ. The Word of God took flesh, became human in order to unite us with God. Because He is truly and perfectly man, the risen Christ is now glorified in His body, seated at the right hand of the Father.

The body as well as the spirit is important in Christian life. As St Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6: 19-20). We are not meant to ignore or belittle the body because we are Christians. The body is not an enemy but a partner and collaborator with the soul in the work of our sanctification. The body, as well as the spirit, is meant to be transfigured in Christ and so we are called to glorify God in it.

The first way in which we glorify God in the body is by accepting and affirming its freedom from the control of sin and death. United to Christ in baptism, we have already been given a share in that freedom, which will be completely realized in the life of the world to come. As long as we are in this life, however, we must work along with Christ-in-us to maintain the body’s freedom from the influence of sin.

And so one way in which we glorify God in the body is by the Church’s ascetic tradition, which focuses on freeing the mind and the heart from attachment to the things of the senses. Christian asceticism is not anti-physical but seeks to liberate the body from the lure of the sensual so that the physical may be sanctified.

The Church Fathers considered that the most basic ascetic practices focus on controlling the passions or cravings of the body for food and drink and for sexual release. This is not because they are our greatest inner enemies – pride and vanity have that dubious distinction – but because it is easier to conquer our physical cravings than our spiritual impulses. This is why St Paul, in 1 Corinthians, singles out the power of gluttony and lust as the enemy’s first line of attack on the believer. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (v.15). How can you surrender to the first assault the enemy mounts against you? If we cannot put aside fatty foods on Wednesdays and Fridays, much less during the Fasts, how can we even begin to deal with things like spiritual laziness (sloth) or pride that afflict us in our innermost hearts?

We live our life in Christ in our bodies as well as in our spirits and so the Eastern Churches have insisted that the body join the spirit in worshipping the One who created us as both physical and spiritual. We bow, we kneel, we make the sign of the cross, we prostrate, we kiss, we eat and we drink. We glorify God in the body by entering body, soul and spirit in the worship of the Church.

One way we glorify God in our bodies at worship is by standing for prayer. In some churches people are directed to stand or sit at different times during the service. Sitting, however, is the stance taken by an audience rather than a participant, whether it be at the theater or at worship. Worshippers are an “audience” during readings or a sermon; during prayers and litanies they are participants and more fittingly stand rather than sit.

Two bodily gestures in Eastern worship not common in the churches of the West are the metany and the prostration. In the metany we make the sign of the cross and bow from the waist, extending our right hand until our fingers touch the ground. In the prostration we kneel on both knees and bow until our forehead touches the ground. Both gestures indicate our complete submission to the King of all.

Making metanies and prostrations requires a certain amount of free space around the worshipper. In older churches abroad any seating (benches or stalls) was located around the church walls leaving the center of the church free for worshippers. In churches with Western-style pews worshippers often move out into the aisles to make prostrations.

During the Church’ fasts we have ample opportunities to glorify God in the body through more frequent church services and through fasting. Eastern Christian fasting incorporates two ways of using our bodies in worship. In ascetic or total fasting we do not eat or drink anything. Period. This kind of fasting is in the spirit of Deutronomy 8:3, quoted by Christ to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Traditionally people fast this way before receiving Holy Communion. Clergy who will serve the Liturgy – and in some Churches whoever will receive the Eucharist – are expected to fast from sexual activity as well. It is also customary to fast totally for a certain period on all fast days. Thus many fast this way until noon during these seasons.

The second type of fasting, also called abstinence, is fasting from certain foods (typically meat or dairy products). In many Eastern Churches people fast totally until noon and then, when they do eat, they abstain from meat and dairy. Since fish is considered “meat without feet” it is not generally consumed on the stricter fast days.

In this kind of fasting we glorify God in the body by limiting ourselves to what has been called the “food of paradise.” In the Genesis story of creation humans were created to be vegetarians. God is depicted as telling Adam and Eve: “I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Gen 1:29). It was only after the flood that God told Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Gen 9:3). By restricting ourselves to the food of paradise we are saying that we value above all things the communion with God that our first parents had.


OUR NATURE HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED in Christ… our nature is being transformed in Christ… our nature will be transformed n Christ. At first glance this may seem like a grammar exercise about verbs. In fact it is a summary of theology: exploring the magnitude of the mystery which is Christ is us.


The focus of our Christmas celebration is most often on the Gospel narratives of Matthew and Luke. They speak of the trip to Bethlehem, the angels and shepherds, the magi and the star. But from the earliest days of the Church believers have seen the birth of Christ containing, as it were, the whole life and death of Christ as a seed. His acceptance of our human nature necessarily includes His acceptance of the cross and death, and His renewal of mankind by His resurrection. In the same way our decision to have children must include the decision to accept the Terrible Twos, the Traumatic Teens, and all that follows.

For many religious people, when something holy comes into contact with something profane the holy thing becomes defiled. This principle is found in Judaism and Islam and accounts for the ritual washings and similar practices in these religions. The message of the Gospel, however, is that when the Holy One, the Son of God, comes into contact with something profane it is the profane thing which is changed. It is sanctified by contact with the holy. God is not defiled by His fallen creation; His creation is transformed when He enters into it in Christ. As described by St Gregory of Nyssa, “The Word in taking flesh was mingled with humanity, and took our nature within Himself, so that the human should be deified by this mingling with God: the stuff of our nature was entirely sanctified by Christ, the first-fruits of creation” (Against Appolonarius, 2).

By taking on our humanity the Word of God assumes all that we are, except sin, so that we can become by grace what He is by nature, children of the Father. Our nature is transfigured in Him. It is divinized or deified. As St Gregory the Theologian boldly expressed it, “He took our flesh and our flesh became God, since it is united with God and forms a single entity with Him” (Third Theological Oration).

Our society, and contemporary culture in general, is committed to the value and freedom of the individual. We recognize that each person has worth in himself or herself and this is good. But a stress on individualism inevitably leads to the separation of peoples from one another. At worst, people are alienated from society, from God, from one another. At the least, we find it hard to see the communal dimension to the incarnation: that the entire human race is irrevocably changed because the Son of God has come into it.


“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). These final words of Christ to His disciples before His ascension affirm His continuing presence with us. His physical presence was limited in time; His spiritual presence will last as long as time itself will last.

The focus on Christ’s spiritual presence is His Body, the Church. It is the mystery or sacrament of the risen Christ, which – like all sacraments – reveals His presence behind a veil. The Church is the world being transformed in Christ; at the same time it is Christ transforming the world.

The faithful, insofar as they are living a life of repentance, seeking to model their lives on Christ’s, are the world being transformed. The faithful, insofar as they celebrate Christ’s presence in the Scriptures, in baptism, the Eucharist and the other mysteries – including the mystery of love for others – are Christ transforming the world. The saints are those who witness by their lives that we can be transformed and transform others in Him.

Christ’s presence in the Scriptures was at first practically limited to its public reading in the assembly. People would listen carefully so as to memorize what they heard. Only the wealthy could afford hand-copied Scriptures for their personal use. In addition Books of Scripture, particularly the Gospels, would be richly adorned, carried in procession and offered for veneration, reminding believers that Christ was truly in them. Since the invention of printing the Scriptures have become increasingly available; as a result we may not be as quick to recognize the divine presence in a paperback Bible as in the Gospel on the holy table.

What enables us to experience the presence of Christ when we read the Scriptures – or, for that matter, when we assist at the Liturgy or other mysteries? St Isaac the Syrian offers the following advice: “Never approach the words of the mysteries that are in the Scriptures without praying and asking for God’s help. Say, ‘Lord, grant me to feel the power that is in them.’ Reckon prayer to be the key that opens the true meaning of the Scriptures” (Ascetical Treatises, 73).

Even more hidden to us is the presence of Christ in others. This presence calls silently for us to acknowledge Him, a call that we often are too deaf to hear. Some, like Mother Teresa and others like her, can hear that call and they become the light and salt of the Gospel sayings. The presence of these saints with their acute hearing of Christ’s voice is one of the signs that Christ is transforming the world even now.


“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). St Paul expresses here his hope in the final transformation of “all who have loved His appearing.”

Like St. Paul we await our ultimate transformation at Christ’s return. As the Church celebrates Christ’s appearing in the flesh (the Nativity) and His appearing in power at the Jordan (the Theophany), we are reminded that Christ’s first coming would find its ultimate fulfillment only in His second coming.

From the Catecheses of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“In His first coming He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger. In His second coming He is clothed with light as with a garment.

In His first coming He bore the cross, despising its shame; He will come a second time in glory accompanied by the hosts of angels.

It is not enough for us, then, to be content with His first coming; we must wait in hope of His second coming. What we said at His first coming, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,’ we shall repeat at His last coming…


withouthands 2BY BR. DANIEL F. STRAMARA, JR.

When Russian Ambassador Gromyko first met with U.S. Secretary of State Schultz , what do you think they shared? Snapshots. Pictures of their grandchildren!

We all like sitting around and looking through old family albums, discovering our roots. It helps us establish our identity. It’s the same when we look at Christ, the Son of God, and realize that we are His brothers and sisters.
We find our identity and fulfillment in the family of God. If we don’t take a good look at God our Father and Jesus our Brother, will we really know who we are? Will we know what it means to be created in His likeness?

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the Image of God, the divine ikon . Did you know that you are to be a living ikon? Just what is an ikon and should Christians
have them? In this article we hope to touch on these questions and the importance of becoming images of Christ.

We all see ourselves in those we love; of course, more so physically in relatives. This is even true of God. “God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good” (Genesis 1:31). But most pleasing to God of all His artistic masterpieces is mankind. That means you! Do you know why? Because: “God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

It’s as if we’re God in miniature! Now, of course, we aren’t the same as He is, but we are made in His likeness: “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature he made him.” (Wisdom 2:23)

So we’re all just ‘naturals’ when it comes to being Godlike, even if that ‘talent’ seems buried. God can’t help but love us; we’re His kids. He looks at us and sees Himself. We make His heart skip a beat. He’s proud of us, and He just loves showing us off to the rest of His creation, especially the angels. But they can’t quite figure it all out: why He keeps on loving us; why He puts up with a bunch of rebellious kids. Sometimes I wonder too why He puts up with me. But He does. Not only that; He helps me change and become more like Him.

H ow? Well, first of all He sent His Son, the one He joyously thundered about from heaven: “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on Him” (Matthew 3: 17). You see, He just can’t help Himself. He sent His Son to be an example for us. “This, in fact, is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and left an example for you to follow the way He took” (1 Peter 2:21).

To be a Christian, then, is to follow in Christ’s footsteps. The word for ‘example’ in the text from Peter is hypogrammatos in the Greek. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? But it’s a very simple word. Do you remember your kindergarten blackboard? On the top of it was the alphabet printed in clean cut, white lettering, and you had to trace underneath the same letters, stroke for stroke. Well, that’s exactly what a hypogrammatos is – a chalkboard with the alphabet on top for kids to practice
how to write.

The Father wants us to be schooled in the wisdom of His Son. He asks us to try and try again until we can trace His Son’s footsteps, walk in His shoes.

But tracing the pattern of His life, becoming like Jesus, isn’t something we do on our own. No, He holds our hand and guides us as we try to copy Him: “Any who did accept Him He empowered to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

This power comes from the Spirit. “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is. there is freedom. All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). It is by spiritually contemplating the Lord that we are made like Him. The word translated by ‘gazing’ actually means to look into a mirror. Now this mirror, like the image, is Christ, the Wisdom of God.

The author of Hebrews picks up on this when he says, “This Son is the reflection of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of the Father’s being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3). We get our English word ‘character’ from the Greek word used in this passage, which means ‘exact representation’. Have you ever played in candle wax, dipping your fingers in it to make a mold? When you peel the wax away, an impression of your fingerprint remains in it.

This is what the Greek word ‘character’ means The Jerusalem Bible translates it as “perfect copy”.

When life gets us hot under the collar, that’s usually when the Lord tries to impress His image on our lives. He has His finger on us. He’s giving us ‘character’. He’s making us into a ‘perfect copy’ of His Son. “We know that by turning everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love Him, with all those that He has called according to His purpose. They are the ones He chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of His Son, so that His Son might be the eldest of many brothers” (Romans 8:28-29).

This process is what the early Church called theosis or deification: becoming like God.The apostle Peter teaches, “That divine power of His has freely bestowed on us everything necessary for a life of genuine piety, through knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and power. By virtue of of them He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these you who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

This is the good news of the Incarnation! The divine nature took on human nature, in order that we might participate in the divine life.

It is because of the mysteries of the Incarnation and Resurrection that we are sure that we too can be transfigured. When God became man, taking on flesh, He sanctified created matter. Matter, after all, is not evil. In fact, when God had finished creating everything, Hesaid, “It is very good”.

Creation is God’s masterpiece of love. “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning He had meant us to live it” (Ephesians 2:10). Several times Paul tells us that Christ is the image of God. The word ‘image’ in Greek is ikon. From apostolic times Christians have made images, ikons of Christ. Ikons are plaques or sacred objects bearing paintings of Christ, the Mother of God, angels or saints. They represent the real essence of a person. Jesus Christ is literally the Ikon of God, the exact physical representation of the invisible God. We are called to be living ikons of Christ. To see Jesus is to see the Father. To see us, we hope, is to see Christ.

P rayer and faith in God’s grace is what allows Christ to dwell more fully in us. Holy images (ikons) can help us in our becomingrepresentations of the divine life. Ikons aren’t supposed to be portraits of saints, but something like caricatures, except that they portray the good points, not the bad. They are symbolic depictions of their holiness and way of life. By lookingat an ikon and meditating on the life of the person itrepresents, we can be inspired to be transformed into the image of Christ.

Saints, recognized by the Church, are people who have had their lives changed by Christ. They have been born again into the heavenly family, transformed into the image of Christ. We are all called to be saints, holy ikons of Christ.
Ikons, like other holy objects, are instruments of grace and healing, God’s grace works through the symbols and the object itself.

Ikons of saints are somewhat like relics, The grace of God in the saint is in the ikon. Many people have been healed by touching ikons in prayerful faith. It is the Holy Spirit who has sanctified and empowered the holy objects. He heals through the physical dimension as well as the nonmaterial, because in God’s becoming man the created order has been redeemed and made holy.

Now that doesn’t mean we worship the ikonor the saint. Worship and adoration are reserved for God alone. But we should honor and pay respect to the saints. Who hasn’t given a standing ovation to some prominent person? How much more so we should honor and pay recognition to those outstanding people of faith who have run the race well. St. Paul said, “Take me for your model, as I take Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:1). If we follow Christ, how can we not help but end up walking
with and following others who have already followed Christ? Paul again says, “My brothers. be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us” (Philippians 3:17).

Some might object, though, that meditating on or praying in front of an ikon is idolatry. This objection has been raised before. Over three hundred bishops gathered together in 787 at what is now known as the Second Council of Nicaea. They discussed the matter, and this is what they concluded: it is holy and good to pay honor and reverence before an ikon of either Christ, the Mother of God, angels or saints; but to God alone belongs worship and adoration.

Here are some of their reasons. Scripture says, “You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). But five chapters later God says, “For the two ends of this throne of mercy you are to make two golden cherubs; you are to make them of beaten gold” (Exodus 25:19). God also commanded Moses to fashion a bronze serpent in the image of the biting snakes. What! Has God contradicted Himself? Of course not! The difference is the next verse after the command not to make images: “… you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:5). Images and works of art aren’t evil; worshiping them is. If God truly became man, we can surely paint pictures of Him.

Our lives will be sanctified and transformed the more we contemplate Jesus, the Ikon of God in the flesh. Prayerfully meditating on the lives of the saints before their ikons will likewise inspire us to also become living images of the Divine Life, for the transforming power of God rests upon the ikon. This is our calling: to share the image of the God-Man (cf. Romans 8:29).

Let us, therefore, revere one another and see the image of God in our fellow human being. And if we think it is hard to find it in some, let us help them discover it. Imagine it! We can see God every day if we choose to. Why don’t you show  someone a token of appreciation for being a sign of God’s love in your life?

And the next time you look in a mirror, take a good look and realize you are the image of God being changed from glory into exceeding glory!


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Icons play an important role in the spiritual life of Byzantine Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. An icon is not merely a picture of Christ or of a saint, much less a religious decoration, but an expression of the most fundamental realities of our faith and a making present of the heavenly reality they depict.

The first reality of faith expressed in icons is that the Word of God truly and completely became one of us in Jesus Christ. He was not simply manlike: He was truly human, like us in all things except sin as the Scripture says. Our icons of Him proclaim the truth of His humanity while stressing His divinity as well. As St John of Damascus noted, “Of old God, the incorporeal and uncircumscribed, was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh, I make an image of the God who can be seen.” This is why icons are not symbolic designs (depicting Christ in symbol, as a lamb, for instance, is forbidden in Byzantine tradition) but realistic images of the One who is truly one of us.

In the Scripture we are promised that the Lord “will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of His glorified body·” (Philippians 3:21). And so the second reality to which icons point is that of the glorified body of the new creation.

Icons are realistic images, but they do not seek to depict the flesh of our fallen human nature, but the glorified bodies of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Sanctity is possible, the icon proclaims, and will fill even our bodies with the light  of the Spirit of God. This is why the iconographer does not strive for the natural realism of a photograph. This would only reproduce the physical reality of this world.

Rather his intention is to suggest spiritual beauty, transfiguration, deification. It also explains why the figures in icons are usually heavily draped with clothing. Naturalistic art exposes the flesh, glorying in physical beauty. In icons it is generally only the face and the eyes and – through them the soul – which are shown. In Byzantine icons the physical presentation is meant to be colored by the spiritual reality just as the body of Christ reflects divine glory in a physical way.

The icon has nothing in common with the decorative art we have in our homes, offices, or subway stations meant to adorn our living space. Icons are meant to call us to prayer, to an encounter with the Lord whom they reveal. This is why we pray before icons and fill our churches with them. We carry them in procession, bow before them and kiss them. A Byzantine church, in which all the walls are covered with holy icons, pulls us out of the mundane world of this age and into the life of the world to come. We see the effect of the grace of the Holy Spirit which we receive in the holy mysteries when the believer lives in this light of that grace.

The most customary manner of reverencing an icon in church is as follows: make one or two metanies then kiss the icon and then make a final metany, place your candle in the stand and move away. It is the custom in many places to kiss the  feet on an icon of Christ, the hands on an icon of the Theotokos, and the forehead on the icon of a saint.

Our use of icons is not restricted to the church building. God is with us wherever we are, and so it has become customary for Eastern Christians to proclaim His presence in their homes and workplaces by setting up icons. In particular the family prayer or icon corner is the focus of a household’s Christian identity and the place in the home where family prayer is conducted.

Customarily a corner is chosen which faces east and there the family’s sacred objects are gathered. Most common are the icons of Christ and the Theotokos, the holy cross, and the icons of the patron saints of each member of the family. The icon corner usually includes a lectern, shelf or small table upon which are placed a cross, the holy Scriptures, and a small incense burner. Many people also keep containers of holy oil, holy water, and antidoron (blessed bread) as well as other blessed objects (pussy willow, palm, flowers, etc) on the table in their icon corner.

In addition to the icon corner many people place a special icon of the Theotokos near the door of the house. People venerate this icon, known as the ‘Doorkeeper’, on leaving or entering the house to ask for blessing on their comings and goings. It is also common to place in the dining room the icon of the Hospitality of Abraham, which represents the Trinity in the form of the three angels who dined with Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18). Icons of the family members’ patron saints are often put in their bedrooms as well.

Since icons are considered to be sacramental, revealing the special presence of the holy ones depicted in them, candles or oil lamps are kept burning before them. The faces of true icons are painted in such a way as to reflect the light of the lamps, just as the person depicted in the icon reflects the grace of the Holy Spirit within them.

A hanging lamp suspended from the ceiling or from a bracket over the principal icon in the icon corner in the most traditional way to adorn the icons. Some people leave a candle burning in their icon corner all the time. Others light the lamp and burn incense on occasion, such as on Sundays or the Great Feasts. Still others burn the lamp when they are praying, or when in need of a special blessing or protection.

Icons are often blessed simply by being placed on the holy table during the Divine Liturgy. There are also specific prayers for the blessing of icons, appropriate to the subject of the icon (Trinity, Christ, Theotokos, saints) as well as a general prayer which may be used for any icon. The priest would say the prayer then sprinkle the icon with holy water. Everyone would then venerate the newly-blessed icon. If a bishop is blessing the icon, he anoints it with chrism rather than with holy water.

O Master, infinite in Your divine nature, You condescended in these latter days to become incarnate and finite: for in assuming our body, You accepted all its properties. Wherefore we represent Your likeness and embrace it with the Model in mind. Through it we ascend to You and, following the divine tradition set by the apostles, we draw from it the grace of healing. The grace of truth has shone forth and the predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled: for behold, the Church has put on the incarnate likeness of Christ, the new world of icons transcending adornment. As the tabernacle of the Covenant held the presence of God, so do icons show forth the presence of the One we worship and revere. By venerating them we never go astray. It is a glory for us to kneel in true worship of the incarnate Christ. Let us then embrace His icon, O believers, and cry out, “O God, save Your people and bless Your inheritance!” – (Vespers, Sunday of Orthodoxy)



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First—because our faith is light. Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8:12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.

Second—in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).

Third—in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matt. 5:16).

Fourth—so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself complete­ly as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and sal­vation and everything that only boundless heavenly, love can bestow.

Fifth—so that terror would strike the evil pow­ers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Crea­tor. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.

Sixth—so that this light would rouse us to self­lessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will.

Seventh—in order to teach us that just as the vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit with­out the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours are, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.

Eighth—in order to remind us that before any­thing else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3). And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth would shine within us. From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us.

May the Light of Christ illumine you as well!

By: Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

Worshipping in the House of the Lord

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How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes it faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God! Psalm 83:2-3

For Old Testament Jews the temple at Jerusalem, about which the above words were written, signaled the special relationship they had with God. The Lord, the only true God, had chosen them as His people and dwelt in their midst in this temple.

For Christians the dwelling place of God is not a building. Rather it is the people of God itself, the Church community, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the church building represents and makes visible for us this relationship we have with God. The design and iconography of the Byzantine church building in particular strives to represent in a visible way this relationship ‘from God’s side,’ as it were. Surrounded by the saints (represented on the walls), under the headship of Christ (represented in the dome) and by virtue of His incarnation (represented by the icon screen), we have been brought to stand before the throne of God (represented by the Holy Table) to receive a share in His life.

Just as the design of the Church building recalls what God has done to bring us to intimacy with Film, what we do in that building signifies our side of the relationship. By our worship in the church we recognize God’s saving and forgiving love for us. We acknowledge that we owe Him our very lives and that we belong fully to Him, that it is to Him that we commend ourselves, one another and our whole life’.

In the original Greek of the New Testament the word worship is proskineo, which means ‘to bow in respect or submission.’ It is a physical action, drawn from the ceremonial of royal courts, meant to express the attitude of our hearts before the King of all. This connection has been maintained in the Eastern Churches where to worship still means to bow down before the Lord. This bow has been made a specifically Christian action in Byzantine practice by joining to it the sign of the cross This action, a deep bow coupled with the sign of the cross, is the distinctive action of Byzantine worship which we call the metany. Used continually in both private and liturgical worship, it expresses our dependence upon God’s saving love and our confident assurance that He continually bestows it.

In Byzantine practice worship is not a matter of watching someone else reverence God, but of actually doing it ourselves. Eastern Christians traditionally express their relationship with God by performing the metany and other gestures of worship whenever they pray at home or in the church building. Since these gestures are not common in Western religious or secular culture, the following guide is offered. It is not meant to straightjacket your piety, but rather to enable you to enter fully into our Eastern experience of the worship of the Lord.

In making a metany, bow from the waist while extending your right hand until your fingertips touch the ground; then rise and make the sign of the cross, saying the prayer “O God, be gracious to me, a sinner.”


We generally enter the church through the narthex or vestibule, the place of preparation, then proceed into the nave. In many churches the narthex contains one or more tables where candles may be obtained and the offerings collected. In addition to monetary offerings, it is customary in many places for people to offer the consumables used in the divine services: holy bread, wine, oil or incense.

It is also the practice in some churches to record prayer intentions at a table in the narthex. People write the names of those for whom they wish prayer in a book or on pieces of paper which are given to the priest for mention in the service. In some churches people may obtain altar bread in the narthex and offer it along with their prayer intentions as well.

In most churches one or more icons are placed in the narthex, at the door of the nave, or in the middle of the church for veneration. The most customary manner of reverencing an icon is as follows: make one or two metanies then kiss the icon and then make a final metany, place your candle in the stand and move away. It is the custom in many places to kiss the feet on an icon of Christ, the hands on an icon of the Theotokos, and the forehead on the icon of a saint.

It is customary to make three metanies on first entering the nave of the church to reverence the presence of God before venerating other icons or going to your place.

Whether or not a service is in progress, refrain from all unnecessary conversation in the nave of the church. People who come early to church generally do so for moments of spiritual preparation. If you wish to hold a conversation with someone before the service, please go to the narthex, the hall, or outside to do it.


Of all the prayer gestures used in Byzantine worship, the most frequently employed is the sign of the cross. The customary times of its use in our prayer are:

  1. The opening doxology of any prayer or service;
  2. Whenever the Holy Trinity is glorified by name:
  3. Whenever we are blessed by a sacred object, such as the cross, the Holy Gospel, the chalice or an icon;
  4. Whenever any of these sacred objects is carried before us in procession;
  5. In some churches, whenever we are blessed or incensed;
  6. In some churches, whenever we wish to intensify our prayer by an expression of personal fervor (e.g. when saying “I believe…” or personalizing the petition of a litany).
  7. At the Divine Liturgy, after the words of Christ (“Take eat… take, drink…” ) are said.

Besides its use on first entering the church, the metany is also frequently employed in worship, as follows:

  1. Whenever invited to by the clergy (e.g. “Come let us worship and bow down…”);
  2. Each time the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty One ) is said;
  3. After the reading of psalms, at the words “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia: glory to You, O God!”;
  4. Whenever we approach to receive Communion, or to receive or venerate a sacred object.
  5. After the epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) at the Divine Liturgy.

Another gesture frequently employed is praying with raised hands. Often mentioned in Scripture, this has remained the most characteristic prayer posture in all religions of the Middle East. It is most generally used in our Church’s worship whenever the Lord’s Prayer is recited. At the Divine Liturgy in some churches people also raise their hands at the words “We lift them up to the Lord” before the anaphora.

Entrances or processions are frequently held in Byzantine worship, bringing the Gospel Book, the holy gifts, or icons into the midst of the congregation. As mentioned above, it is customary to make the sign of the cross when these objects are carried past us. In some places people may reach out and touch the object or the garment of the priest carrying it as well. It is generally the custom to turn and face the procession as it passes, so as not to turn our backs on the liturgical rite.

Frequently whenever the Holy Gospel is read, some worshippers will come forward to stand under the sacred book as a sign of devotion. In some churches the Gospel Book is presented to these people for veneration after the reading.


It is folly not to approach Holy Communion with great awe, purified by prayer and fasting according to our ability (cf. 1 Cor 11:26-31). At the time of Communion, we come forward with the right hand crossed over the left and held to the breast. While the person in front of you is communicating, make one or two metanies. If the priest does not know you by name, mention it as you approach so that he can repeat it in the Communion formula. Then open your mouth widely and do not attempt to say anything else (amen, thank you, etc.) while the priest administers the holy mysteries to you.

In the Melkite Church Communion is generally given by intinction: the holy bread is dipped into the chalice and placed in your mouth. The mouth must be fully open; the tongue may be extended or not. Most Byzantine Churches administer Communion with a spoon. When receiving in this manner, the tongue should not be extended, nor should the communicant close his mouth until the spoon has been removed.

If the priest is carrying a communion cloth, wipe your lips with it after communicating, then step aside and again make a metany before going back to your place.


At the end of the Divine Liturgy it is customary for the priest to distribute the remainder of the holy bread which had not been consecrated. This bread, called antidoron, may be consumed at this time or taken home to be eaten during one’s private prayers or shared with a family member unable to come to church. It becomes a way of expressing our unity with the worshipping community even when we cannot attend the Liturgy.

After other services and, in some churches after the Liturgy as well, the holy cross or an icon may be presented for veneration. In either case, approach the priest, make one or two metanies, venerate the cross and/or receive the antidoron, and kiss the hand of the priest who gives it. Then step aside, make another metany and depart.

Article from Diocese of Newton (Eastern Catholic Church)


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THE BOOKS OF CHRONICLES describes how King contributed great resources toward the building of a temple and describes his reason in prayer to God: “All things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.” (1 Chronicles 29:14) For David, all is of God; we are simply returning to Him what He has entrusted to us.

Our great act of thanksgiving as Christians is the Eucharist where we join Christ as He offers Himself to the Father for our salvation. As the holy gifts are raised up in offering, the Church unites itself to Christ’s oblation in language similar to David’s: “We offer You Your own of what is Your own, in all and for the sake of all.”

We are called to apply the same sentiment to our daily lives, making of them an act of worship. Our lives as Christians are meant to reflect that all we have is a gift of God given, not for our self-gratification, but for the service of the One to whom they really belong. The way of life which sees all that we are and all that we have as set apart for God and His purposes we call stewardship.

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26), Jesus speaks of a householder entrusting certain sums to his servants in his absence. Upon his return the master calls for an accounting, commending those who used these talents to build up their master’s holdings. As with the servants in this parable, what has been given to us is not really ours; it is simply entrusted to us and we are account-able for the care of what we have received.

In the Gospel the Lord tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Christ calls us to reorder our priorities, to place all of creation in a proper perspective in light of the Kingdom of God, where all else pales compared to our relationship with God. We are to “commend ourselves, one another and our whole life” to God.


The Gift of Life – Life itself is our most basic gift. Thus we frequently glorify God as the “Giver of life” and as “the Lover of mankind.” We are called to work as stewards of life, the gift of God, by treating our own life with respect, not squandering what we have been given.

Believers are also called to take concrete action and, whenever possible, to cooperate with others, working to affirm God as Lord of life from conception to natural death for all God’s children.
Our Relationships – We have been created in the image of God, the communion of the Holy Trinity. For us to reflect that image in us, our dealings with our spouses and children, our parents and extended family, and all those whom God has placed in our life should mirror God’s love for us. Our willingness to extend forgiveness for the offences we may suffer at their hands validates what we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us and we forgive.”

The Material Creation – In Genesis, God is depicted as placing the first man in the garden “to till it and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). Humanity is first and foremost the recipient of the material creation and also its steward. While primitive peoples often have a more respectful relationship with the earth, modern society has more frequently been its users and abusers.

The Gospel – Believers have received an even more precious blessing than life. Through faith and baptism we have the gift of communion with God in Christ.
We express our stewardship of the Christian life by participating in the Church’s work of evangelization: sharing that life with those who have not yet received it and with those in whom it has become weak. As Christ told a man He had healed, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19).

Our Church – The liturgies, theologies and particular customs of our Churches contribute something unique to all the Churches, but only if we observe them as authentically as possible. Like any other gift, our Tradition is meant to be cherished and used, not just for ourselves, but in the service of the One who has given it to us.

The material resources of our churches may often be shared with other Christians as well, particularly newer immigrants seeking to worship in their own tradition.

Our Individual Gifts – “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). The Scriptures frequently speak of the particular gifts individual believers have received, not to build themselves up, but “for the good of all” (1 Cor 12.7). There is hardly any gift which cannot be employed in the service of Christ and His Body.

Many people were raised to believe that working in the Church was the business of the clergy and religious. The clergy have specific charges in the Church, but their primary purpose in the community is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), to see to it that the Church is in truth a priestly people, faithfully fulfilling its mission in the world.

Our Material Resources – More than 15% of what Jesus spoke about in the Gospels was about our money, our wealth. For Jesus, money and possessions and their proper use was highly important to our spiritual growth. He encouraged us to entrust everything to God and not worry about tomorrow (Mt 6:33).


In the Scriptures we find several principles which can govern the way we offer back to God what is His. They generally speak about material goods, but also can be applied to other aspects of our sharing with God and His people:

First Fruits – The Old Testament speaks of offering to God the “first fruits” of our possessions, thus recognizing Him as the provider of all we are and all we have. By giving God our “first fruits” we insure that we are putting Him first in our lives.

Proportional Giving – “All shall give as they are able, according to what the Lord your God He has given you” (Deuteronomy 16:17). Here people are charged to give in proportion to how God has blessed them.

Our Abundance – St Paul establishes another principle: God will provide us with enough for our needs; anything over that – our abundance – is for doing good (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:8-9). In two prayers at the mystery of crowning the priest asks God to pour out this blessing upon the couple “… that, having sufficiency in all things they may abound in every work that is good and acceptable to You.”

Stewardship – the care of all that we are and have in trust for the One who has given it to us – is nothing less than the imitation of God’s love in action. St Gregory the Theologian phrased it this way: “Give something to God to thank Him that you are able to do good to others and are not one of those who need to be assisted, and that others gaze at your hands and not you at theirs… Be a god for the unfortunate, imitating God’s mercy.”

“Being a god” is the ultimate end of stewardship. “The most divine in a human person is precisely this: to do good. You can become god without any labor – do not miss your chance to reach deification.” (St Gregory the Theologian, Discourse 14:26; 17, 10)