Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inauguration of First ROCOR Parish Office in Pakistan


The Orthodox Mission in Pakistan continues to grow and thrive, thanks be to God. May the Lord and His Most-Pure Mother, the Archangel Michael and St Sergius of Radonezh, continue to guide and protect Fr. Joseph Farooq and his faithful flock.

Related:


Inauguration of First ROCOR Parish Office in Pakistan
Pravoslavie — July 29, 2015

With the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, Saint Michael the Archangel Orthodox Mission in Pakistan celebrated the establishment of the first ROCOR parish and proper worship space for the Orthodox faithful in Pakistan. They are thankful to the Lord Who is gracious and that the mission work is expanding with every passing day and the number of Orthodox faithful is also increasing day by day. The ROCOR parish in Pakistan is working under the kind protection of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand under the omophorion of and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion.

July 26, 2015 was a very important and historical day for the Orthodox congregation in Pakistan. The inaugural ceremony of the ROCOR parish took place with the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion. In attendance on this auspicious day were all the Orthodox faithful from Sargodha and surrounding areas, as well as others who wish to embrace holy Orthodoxy.

The Orthodox youth and parish council played an active role in setting up the worship space and parish house in displaying the beautiful icons of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Mother of God and various saints on the walls. With much honor and pleasure they hung the pictures of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion and a picture of the both of them in a meeting in Moscow. With these pictures the faithful say the parish office really feels the presence and blessings of the hierarchy in the Holy Russian Orthodox Church.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov: Epistle on Islam and Muslims

The writings of the saints of the Church remind us of the urgency of the divine imperative to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all, including with our Muslim neighbors. 

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (†1867)

Church hierarchs and teachers who speak in vague and pious words of Christians and Muslims being the "two lungs of one Eastern body," or of "co-existing peacefully" within a "loving dialogue" are evading the commandment of the Savior and Lord to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (MT 28:19).

The words of the saints come from a living faith, and from piercing awareness of the nearness of death and eternity. Their words may seem harsh or stern to us, in our weakened and timid state. All the more reason for us to stir ourselves up to evangelical fervor, and to be mindful that, in the words of Metropolitan Tikhon of the OCA, "We are here, in North America, called to be apostles and martyrs for Christ."


Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov (April 30)
+ + +
Epistle on Islam and Muslims
(selected from the saint's letters)

Vainly and erroneously you think and say that virtuous... Muslims will be saved, that is they will join intercourse with God! Vainly you consider the contrary notion a novelty, a brief error! No! Such is the eternal teaching of the true Church, both Old Testament and New. 

The Church has always confessed that there exists one means of salvation: the Redeemer! She has confessed that the most virtuous of the fallen really do descend to Hell. Did the righteous of the True Church, the illumined from whom shone the Holy Spirit, the prophets and wonderworkers, believers in the Redeemer's coming but with the demise of the anticipated coming of the Redeemer, descend to Hell so that, as you wish, the Muslims who neither recognize nor believe in the Redeemer receive, because they seem to you good people, that salvation which is delivered solely-- solely, I repeat to you, by means of -- belief in the Redeemer?

Christians! Know Christ! -- Witness that you don't know Him, that you denied him in claiming the possibility of salvation without Him for some kind of virtue! Claiming the possibility of salvation without belief in Christ denies Him and, maybe not consciously, falls into the grave sin of blasphemy. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Metropolitan Tikhon: 'The way of the Church is the way of sacrifice and martyrdom'

"We are here, in North America, called to be apostles and martyrs for Christ."


On July 20, the presiding hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, delivered a significant address to the OCA's 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia.

What would he say to this important gathering? Especially in our days of such turmoil, "men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth" (LK 21:26).

Thanks be to God, His Beatitude presented the message of the Cross and Resurrection. He wasted no time, but from the very beginning "launched out into the deep," renewing our calling as Orthodox Christians. In a manner of speaking, he "rebuked the raging sea," confronting it with calm strength founded upon the Rock. And from such a beginning, having secured his listeners' attention, he set forth his vision.

I recommend listening to the address while having the text before you, and following along. It is lengthy, about an hour and a quarter, but very worthwhile. Text, pdf and audio are available here.

Here are just a few key excerpts, followed by some remarks by Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot of St Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery:



THE APOSTOLIC WORK OF THE CHURCH
ADDRESS OF THE METROPOLITAN TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA
EIGHTEENTH ALL-AMERICAN COUNCIL
ATLANTA, GEORGIA — July 20, 2015 
[...] 
It is only through prayer, and the life that flows from prayer, and the virtues that are engendered by prayer, that we can reach our goal; and our goal is not the passing of resolutions or the compiling of minutes; our goal is not to debate issues or share our opinion; our goal is not to get to the end of this week or even to set the agenda for the next triennium. 
Our goal is to seek God above all, and to let this desire illumine our work together, so that we might make our own the words of Saint Herman of Alaska: 
“And I, a sinner, have tried to love God for more than forty years, and I cannot say that I perfectly love Him,” … “at least let us make a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this very moment, we shall strive above all else to love God and to fulfill His Holy Will!” 

THE WAY OF MARTYRDOM 
We gather in Council at a time when the world, as it is wont to be, is enshrouded in military conflict, economic hardship, civil war and persecution. Even if we remain somewhat shielded from these global realities in our own North American context, we nevertheless feel the weight of these worldwide struggles even as we wrestle with our own challenges in the economic, political, spiritual and moral spheres. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mosques and Massacres

Orthodox Christians may wish to study and share this fine summary of the linkage between mosques and outbursts of Muslim jihad terror attacks. We must face and admit the undeniable fact that there is murderous evil at the core of Islam. It is commanded in the Quran, was lived by Muhammad, is preached in the mosques, and is the cause behind the new age of martyrdom we have entered into.

RelatedChallenging Mosque Expansions - The Time is Now (Includes direct links to four recent studies showing 80% of mosques in the U.S. teach offensive jihad and Islamic supremacism) 

Mosques and Massacres
by William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine — July 28, 2015



On June 26, Saif Rezgui walked on to a beach in Tunisia and opened fire on German, British, and Irish sunbathers in front of the Imperial Marhaba resort hotel, killing 39 and wounding dozens more. If various world leaders are to be believed, the massacre had nothing to do with Islam. In response to the attack which left thirty British citizens dead, Prime Minister David Cameron said the terrorism “is not in the name of Islam. Islam is a religion of peace.” A day later, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott assured the world that “what’s being done by Daesh [the Islamic State] has nothing to do with God, it has nothing to do with religion.”

There was one notable exception to the usual nothing-to-do-with-Islam mantra. Immediately after the attack, Tunisia’s prime minister, Habib Essid, ordered the closing of 80 mosques.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Report: Muslim Persecution of Christians, May 2015

Raymond Ibrahim's monthly report highlights anti-Christian/pro-Muslim bias in the U.S. government; documents how the U.S. State Department repeatedly bars Christians from testifying about persecution.

by Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute —July 24, 2015


The St Catherine of Siena Church and its statue of
Christ in Mississauga, Ontario were vandalized by
Iqbal Hessan, a 22-year-old Muslim man.
During the height of one of the most brutal months of Muslim persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department exposed its double standards against persecuted Christian minorities.

Sister Diana, an influential Iraqi Christian leader, who was scheduled to visit the U.S. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.

She was to be one of a delegation of religious leaders from Iraq — including Sunni, Shia and Yazidi, among others — to visit Washington, D.C., to describe the situation of their people. Every religious leader from this delegation to Washington D.C. was granted a visa — except for the only Christian representative, Sister Diana.

After this refusal became public, many Americans protested, some writing to their congressmen. Discussing the nun’s visa denial, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said:

This is an administration which never seems to find a good enough excuse to help Christians, but always finds an excuse to apologize for terrorists … I hope that as it gets attention that Secretary Kerry will reverse it. If he doesn’t, Congress has to investigate, and the person who made this decision ought to be fired.

The State Department eventually granted Sister Diana a visa.

This is not the first time the U.S. State Department has not granted a visa to a Christian leader coming from a Muslim region. Last year, after the United States Institute for Peace brought together the governors of Nigeria’s mostly Muslim northern states for a conference in the U.S., the State Department blocked the visa of the region’s only Christian governor, Jonah David Jang.

According to a Nigerian human rights lawyer based in Washington D.C., Emmanuel Ogebe, the Christian governor’s “visa problems” were due to anti-Christian bias in the U.S. government:

The U.S. insists that Muslims are the primary victims of Boko Haram. It also claims that Christians discriminate against Muslims in Plateau, which is one of the few Christian majority states in the north. After the [Christian governor] told them [U.S. authorities] that they were ignoring the 12 Shariah states who institutionalized persecution … he suddenly developed visa problems…. The question remains — why is the U.S. downplaying or denying the attacks against Christians?

The testimony of another nun, Sister Hatune Dogan, also made in May, indicates why the State Department may not want to hear such testimonials: they go against the paradigm that “Islam is peace.” According to Sister Hatune:

What is going on there [Islamic State territories], what I was hearing, is the highest barbarism on earth in the history until today… The mission of Baghdadi, of ISIS, is to convert the world completely to the Islamic religion and bring them to Dar Al Salaam, as they call it. And Islam is not peace, please. Whoever says ISIS has no connection to Islam or something like this is, he’s a liar. ISIS is Islam; Islam is ISIS… We know that in Islam, there is no democracy. Islam and democracy are opposite, like black and white. And I hope America will understand. America today has the power that they can stop this disaster on the earth, with other Western countries.

The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme.


Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches

Pakistan: Three separate incidents involved attacks on churches:

1) On May 28, in the city of Chakwal, south of Lahore, Muslim men destroyed a Protestant church and beat six Christians, including the pastor. Some of those wounded had to be hospitalized. A few days earlier, Pastor Suhail Masih and his companions had been accused by local Muslims of carrying out “proselytism and conversions of Muslims,” according to a preliminary report.

2) Javed David, head of Hope for the Light Ministries in Lahore, and his associates, have been receiving death threats since February. The latest incident occurred in April, but became public knowledge only in May. According to David:

I had been to church in Sheikhupura to attend a meeting with colleagues. It was 8 o’clock in the evening when we left to return to Lahore. We were about to reach the main road when a motorbike drove up and blocked the way. Maybe they were following us. The two bikers were wearing a helmet (sic). One of them came up to my window and spoke to me. “We know what you are doing here,” he said. “Stop building churches. Convert to Islam, which is the true religion. Otherwise we will make a horrible example of you.”… [On another] occasion too, I was going home when a motorcycle stopped in front of me. The driver knocked on the window and threw in a piece of paper. I did not open it before I got home. It said, “This is an Islamic nation. We cannot allow church building. Either you convert to Islam or you leave this country! Stop building churches or you’ll pay the consequences!”

3) On May 29 in Faisalabad, around 2 a.m., a gang of Muslims on motorcycles attacked a church near the Sadar police station. They opened fire on the church and set its main gate on fire, damaging its windows. According to church cleric Dilawar Masih, “Though no human loss was reported in this incident, attackers gave a clear-cut message that Christians and their places of worship are not safe and they may be attacked any time by the terrorists.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bishop Mark of Berlin: A Voice in the Wilderness

Orthodox Bishop Mark (Arndt) is that rare example of a Christian hierarch speaking the truth about Islam.

by Ralph H. Sidway


Islam is at its core anti-human... Reading the Quran, you will see that all of this [extremism] lies at the foundation of Islam. One must look truth in the eye: this is all anti-human, it is directed against humanity...  
Yes, there were times when Muslims tried to live in peace with their neighbors, they even acknowledged that we Christians are people, too. But for many, those times have passed, and now they reveal who they really are.   
— Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, ROCOR (Full interview below.)

Some readers may be familiar with the refusal of Roman Catholic bishops to address the global issue of Muslim persecution of Christians and Jews (and other non-Muslims) and its grounding in the Quran and the example of Muhammad. The prime example may be that of Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester Mass., whose infamous quote reads more like a parody from the Onion every day:

Talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims.

Pope Francis of course leads this disturbing trend, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium including the emphatic affirmation that authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

It seems many Muslims have failed to read that particular epistle.

Sadly, things are not much different in the Orthodox Church. The world's second largest Christian communion, comprising between 225 and 300 million members (source), retains a dwindling remnant in the Middle East, the "cradle of Christianity," and is one of the main bodies suffering most from the resurgent global jihad.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Eleven Turkish Muslims baptized into Orthodox Church

Their anonymity has been preserved for obvious reasons.

Mystagogy via Pravoslavie — July 17, 2015

Eleven Turkish citizens, among them a famous Turkish actor, were baptized in May 2015. The baptism was celebrated by the Metropolitan of Attica.

The [original] 13 muslim men and women (between the ages of 30 and 40) were impressed by the beauty of the Orthodox monuments of the island [of Chios], and on their return to Turkey, they decided to read and generally learn about Orthodox Christianity.

This led to them asking a priest to undertake their catechism with the intention of converting to the Orthodox religion.

OCA All-American Council: 'AAC delegates express solidarity, support for suffering in Middle East'

Council statement another missed opportunity for a strong Orthodox Christian stance against Islamic jihad and Muslim persecution of Christians.

While a welcomed gesture, this statement could have been so much stronger, and could have, thereby, provided an inspiring example of the very theme of the AAC: "How to Expand the Mission." As worded, it projects a cautious image of timidity and uncertainty of the Orthodox Church's voice and role regarding the challenge posed by the global resurgence of Islamic jihad.

Read the report from the OCA website, then see my comments below.

AAC delegates express solidarity, support for suffering in Middle East
OCA, July 23, 2015
After the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy early Thursday morning, July 23, 2015, and during the AAC’s fifth Plenary Session, delegates to the 18th All-American Council adopted a resolution expressing the Orthodox Church in America’s solidarity with Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East and calling on governments to do everything possible to ensure their safety. 
Presented by Dr. Paul Meyendorff and adopted by acclamation, the text of the resolution reads as follows. 
“Whereas recent developments in the Middle East have caused great suffering to Christians in the area, leading to numerous deaths, desperate living conditions and mass movement of refugees, we, gathered at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, express our solidarity and support for all suffering peoples in the area, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we call on our respective governments to take vigorously all possible political and humanitarian measures to ensure their safety and the survival of Christianity in the lands where it first took hold.”

What is missing?  At least three key truths:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Oldest Qur’an fragments in the world discovered in the UK? Maybe, maybe not

Robert Spencer has written a superb analysis of some of the key problems with this story that many of you have likely seen already. 

Oldest Qur’an fragments in the world discovered in the UK? Maybe, maybe not
by Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch — July 22, 2015

This BBC article is circulating widely, but it raises more questions than it answers, and reveals more about the wishful thinking of the academic and media establishments than it does about the Qur’an.

The article is riddled with academic and journalistic sloppiness. We’re told that the radiocarbon dating shows, “with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.” Very well, but does the ink date to that time as well? We are not told. Parchment was often reused in the ancient world, with the earlier text erased and written over, and so if a parchment dates from 645, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the text does.

However, it is impossible to discover any more details from this shoddy BBC presentation. The best photo of this manuscript that the BBC provides shows clear traces of another text underneath the main text. It is not clear from the photo whether that is the text from the other side bleeding through on the photograph, or even if there is any text on the other side; nor does the BBC tell us whether or not the parchment shows signs of having been a palimpsest — that is, a parchment that was used more than once for different texts. There is also some red ink in the top lines of the manuscript in the photo but not in the succeeding lines. Has the red ink faded from the other sections, or is it itself evidence of the ink fading? Or is it a later hand filling in areas that had faded away (and possibly altering the text)? The BBC doesn’t tell us, yet this is an extremely salient point. Another recently discovered and much-touted fragment of the Qur’an, now in Germany and dated from between 649 and 675, shows clear signs of alteration, raising the possibility that the Qur’anic text was altered over time. If this is a possibility also for the University of Birmingham manuscript, the BBC should tell us so. But it doesn’t.

The Tubingen Quran manuscript, dated
from 649-675, showing clear signs of alteration.
What’s more, if the text along with the parchment really dates from between 568 and 645, it may not be a fragment of the Qur’an at all. The Qur’an, according to Islamic tradition, was compiled in its definitive form in the year 653 by the caliph Uthman, who ordered all variant texts burned and the canonical version distributed to all the provinces within his domains. As I show in my book Did Muhammad Exist?, however, there are numerous reasons to doubt this story. The principal one is that if the entire Islamic world had copies of the Qur’an by the mid 650’s, why is it that not until the latter part of the seventh and early part of the eighth century do mentions of the Qur’an begin to appear? The Dome of the Rock inscriptions date from 691; they are made up of many Qur’an verses, but out of their Qur’anic order and some with notable changes in wording. Who would have dared to change the words of Allah? And the first clear reference to the Qur’an as such occurred around the year 710—eighty years after the book was supposedly completed and sixty years after it was supposedly collected and distributed. During a debate with an Arab noble, a Christian monk of the monastery of Beth Hale (of which there were two, one in northern Iraq and the other in Arabia; it is not known in which one this monk lived) cited the Qur’an by name. The monk wrote, “I think that for you, too, not all your laws and commandments are in the Qur’an which Muhammad taught you; rather there are some which he taught you from the Qur’an, and some are in surat albaqrah and in gygy and in twrh.

By this point Arab armies had conquered a huge expanse of territory, stretching from North Africa, across the Levant, Syria, and Iraq, and into Persia, and yet those eight decades of conquest had produced scarcely a mention of the book that supposedly inspired them. And when the Qur’an finally was mentioned, it appears that the book was not even in the form we now know. Surat albaqrah (or al-Baqara) is “the chapter of the Cow,” which is the second, and longest, sura of the Qur’an. The eighth-century monk thus quite clearly knew of a Qur’an that didn’t contain this sura; he considered surat albaqrah to be a stand-alone book, along with gygy (the Injil, or Gospel) and twrh (the Torah). It is unlikely that the monk simply made an error: who ever mistakes a chapter of a book for a separate book?

So if this is a fragment of the Qur’an as it now stands (and what portion of the Qur’an is it, anyway? Neither the BBC nor its quoted academics tell us), and yet it could date from as far back as 568, two years before Muhammad is supposed to have been born, it might not be a fragment of the Qur’an at all. It could instead be a portion of some source that later became part of the Qur’an, as did Surat al-Baqara.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Special Request: For an Orthodox Priest and his Family in Great Need

Please consider helping to support Fr. Matthew Harrington and Matushka Anna and their family during this time of crisis. Rather than merely link to the GoFundMe site, I wanted to share Rod Dreher's full post, as Fr Matthew's story is a profound one of deep conversion, of brokenness, of mission, and of taking up one's cross and following Christ. Fr Matthew's story needs to be shared, because it is so authentic. Through his and Matushka Anna's crosses, through their suffering, and through our prayers and help for them, we all may learn and grow into the likeness of Christ together. . .
_______

As posted at Pravoslavie: We would like to post on our site a plea from Rod Dreher, Orthodox blogger at The American Conservative, concerning the current pressing need of his priest Fr. Matthew Harrington and his family, as his wife faces a dangerous and costly surgery for the birth of their fourth child. Please consider contributing as you can, through prayer and donations.


A CLERGY FAMILY IN GREAT NEED

by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative — July 19, 2015


If you’ve been following this blog for the past two or three years, or if you’ve read How Dante Can Save Your Life, you will have read about my priest, Father Matthew Harrington. As pastor of St. John the Theologian Orthodox Mission, he’s a terrific priest, and helped me tremendously through my own spiritual and emotional struggles, as I recount in the book. Here’s an excerpt from How Dante telling you a little about who he is:

St. John the Theologian is Father Matthew’s first parish. When Father Seraphim Bell, a Walla Walla, Washington, priest who is Father Matthew’s own spiritual father, dispatched the newly ordained Matthew to us, he told me that the former police officer was a naturally gifted pastor “because he has suffered.” 
After we had known each other a while, I asked Father Matthew what Father Seraphim had meant by that. I knew that Father Matthew had been raised by his grandparents and had never known his father. And I knew that he had been a police officer. One afternoon, sitting alone with him in the fellowship hall, I asked him to tell me his story. 
“I was a very capable police officer, but I always felt like I was being punished for doing my job,” he said, squaring his shoulders under his black cassock. “I would arrest some city bigwig for drunk driving, and my boss would fuss at me. Why? It really aggravated a sense in me of deep mistrust of authority. 
“And there were other things that are normal in police work but that started to get to me. I would think, ‘Why did that guy try to kill me? Why couldn’t I have saved that person?’ As I progressed in police work, I felt more and more of a sense of being orphaned. It all came out of self-pity, but those are real, hard emotions that being a cop coughed up.” 
“Tell me about the breaking point,” I said. 
“It was the second-to-last call I ever took,” he told me. “It was a little girl. She lived right by a big aqueduct, and fell in and drowned. I never saw her body, but by then I was so emotionally fragile that the pictures by themselves shook up me up pretty bad. She had on these pink sandals with flowers on them. 
“That was a Saturday. The next morning, I went to liturgy, and in front of me was a little girl wearing the exact same shoes,” he continued. “I came undone. That was the end of my career. It really was. My wife knew. I knew. It was just how I navigated the exit.” 
Father Matthew’s last deed as an active police officer was to chase two suspected thieves who were escaping on bicycles. They dropped their bikes and slipped away. Enraged by this, he took out his knife and cut their tires. 
“Just like that,” Father Matthew said, shaking his head. “Then I realized that I had become what I was fighting. I couldn’t be a cop anymore. I talked to my chief and told him I couldn’t go on. I wasn’t a bad cop, and I wasn’t a malicious cop, but I was a suffering cop, and I needed out.” 
Father Matthew and his wife, Anna, had discovered the Orthodox Church through the parish pastored by Father Seraphim. As the young police officer’s emotional life disintegrated under job pressure, the congregation held him up. 
“What I thought was a strong wall cracked, and I fell apart,” the priest told me. “They didn’t judge me when they saw me bawling through vespers and liturgy, just bawling.” 
“Wait,” I said. “You? You cried in front of all those people?” 
Tall and stern, with a piercing gaze, Father Matthew is not the kind of man you imagine crying in public, if at all. Though he wears a cassock now (“my dress,” he snarks), this priest does not look like the sort of cleric fat-mouthing heretics would want to mess with. 
“Yeah, I cried,” he said. “I was broken. I still am broken. I can’t watch war movies or anything like that. It’s a humbling experience to know that you’re in the prime of your life and you’re broken.” 
Meeting Father Seraphim had made all the difference in his life. “He tells it like it is,” said Father Matthew. “He made me face myself, and all my pride and anger. Man, was I ever angry. Orthodoxy allowed me to come out of that.” 
“Dante would call it a dark wood,” I said. “So is that why you became a priest?” 
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It was a response to the love I received from Christ through the Church. If anything, my time in the civil service showed me that the only way I could help people was to heal my own heart. I had to seek the fullness of life in Christ, to be able to see the divine light in anyone. Otherwise, all they’re getting is the blind leading the blind.”

Starting tomorrow [July 20], Father Matthew and his wife Anna are going to face the biggest challenge of their lives. Anna—the priest’s wife is called “Matushka,” meaning “little mother,” in the Russian Orthodox Church—will be admitted to the hospital for a high-risk, extremely complicated surgery, to give birth to their fourth child, a daughter they will name Irene. Theirs is a clergy family, one that serves a very small mission church. We in the congregation are giving all we can, but it won’t be remotely enough to meet all the medical needs of the Harringtons. Friends of the Harringtons outside our parish have set up a GoFundMe for those who would like to help them. From the GoFundMe site:

Due to complications with Anna’s pregnancy, Irene’s delivery will require her month-early arrival (July 21) by a complex surgical procedure. She will also be born with a special condition called hemifacial microsomia that includes pronounced spinal scoliosis. 
Matushka Anna stopped working at the end of April due to these medical struggles. While the members of the Parish of Saint John the Theologian lovingly support Father Matthew financially in his priesthood , the Harrington family also depended on Matushka Anna’s income to fulfill their needs. The Harringtons are facing major financial hardship. Anna will not physically be able to work, and baby Irene will require her attentions full-time. Irene will likely need future surgical procedures and the attentions of specialists to care for the many possible complexities of her condition. This includes medical care and may include travel to major hospitals in other areas of the United States. 
Matushka Anna’s condition is delicate in the sense that the procedure she will undergo is complicated and will require a week or so long hospital stay and her recovery will be longer than expected. The family has never been known for anything but grateful acceptance of even the most challenging situations, but these new tests have involved selling Matushka’s car, delaying almost all purchases, and belt-tightening to an extent which we, both friends and those who have been affected by Father, as well as those who appreciate voices of his variety, need to step up and do what we can.

I can vouch for the fact that the Harringtons lived a very modest life since they arrived to start our tiny mission church. Theirs has become much more modest since Mat. Anna had to quit her job. The family has the spiritual resources to face this challenge, but the financial aspect is going to be an enormity. I don’t post things like this often, but because Father Matthew’s work among our little congregation has touched many of you, via this blog and my Dante book, I thought you would like to know that the need for prayer and other forms of assistance is great with this family. Please do what you can.

* * *
For updates on Father Matthew and Matushka Anna, please see Rod Dreher's Twitter page.