Some good listening from Fr. Lazar Puhalo, who seems to be in not the best of health these days, unfortunately:
Bad news for the Orthodox Christian community residing in Lebanon. From The Daily Star:
BEIRUT: Following a surprise meeting chaired by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Rai Friday, rival Christian leaders called for adopting an electoral law that provides fair representation for all sects, in an apparent retreat from agreeing to the controversial Orthodox electoral proposal.
“It was agreed and stressed that it is necessary to adopt an electoral law that provides the best and fairest representation for all Lebanese sects,” said a brief statement issued after the meeting.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun; Amin Gemayel, the head of the Kataeb Party; and Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh attended the meeting at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate.
Lebanese Forces sources told The Daily Star that the party’s leader Samir Geagea was not present at the meeting for “mere security reasons,” as the time and place of the meeting were leaked to media ahead of time.
The statement said the patriarch and the leaders, including Geagea, would continue talks over the matter.
The meeting comes days after representatives of the LF, Kataeb, Marada and FPM met at Bkirki and agreed to support the electoral draft law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering. It would enable every sect to elect its own MPs under a proportional representation system with the entirety of Lebanon as a single district. The draft law is opposed by the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party.
But in remarks published by a local newspaper Friday, Rai indicated that Bkirki was not fully behind the Orthodox Gathering proposal. “Bkirki does not support an Orthodox or Maronite [electoral] proposal; it supports only a Lebanese proposal,” Rai said.
Meanwhile, after four days of futile deliberations, a parliamentary subcommittee discussing electoral draft laws approved the minutes of its meetings and is set to resume talks Monday.
During a morning session, the subcommittee discussed draft laws that would modify the number of MPs, the final item on its agenda.
“The subcommittee finalized the discussion of the draft laws it received from joint parliamentary committees, including the number of MPs,” Western Bekaa MP Robert Ghanem said.
“The minutes will be officially read in the session that will be held Monday afternoon … we will then try to look for common points and agree on one electoral law,” added Ghanem, who is chairing the subcommittee’s meetings. The subcommittee discussed three draft electoral laws, including the Cabinet’s proposal, which would divide the country into 13 medium-sized districts under a proportional representation system. Also considered were a draft law presented by Aoun’s bloc, similar to the Orthodox proposal, and a third one presented by Christian parties from the March 14 coalition, which would divide Lebanon into 50 small districts under a winner-takes-all system.
For the second session in a row, Baabda MP Alain Aoun from the FPM did not attend. Aoun suspended his participation in the subcommittee’s meetings Thursday after March 14 subcommittee members rejected his demand that the minutes of the meetings be approved straightaway, and that the subcommittee recommend that Parliament vote on the Orthodox proposal, which was supported by the majority of blocs during the meetings.
March 14 lawmakers argued that minutes would be approved once the number of MPs, which is the final item on the agenda, is discussed.
Speaking to a local radio station, Aoun said he wanted to review the proceedings of Friday’s meeting in order to decide whether to participate in Monday’s session, adding that his decision to boycott the meetings was backed by his bloc.
A source close to Speaker Nabih Berri told The Daily Star that Aoun had the right to boycott the subcommittee’s sessions, adding that his absence would not disrupt its work. The source said it was possible that Aoun rejoin the subcommittee’s meetings starting Monday.
But Future Movement MP Serge Torsarkissian, also a member of the subcommittee, lashed out at Aoun’s boycott, calling it an election-related charade to show that the FPM was the most supportive of Christians’ rights.
“It is clear that the absence of my colleague Alain Aoun was coordinated with other March 8 groups,” he said. “Unfortunately, this wasted time … confused Christians … and was a bit of folklore ahead of elections to try to prove to Christians that the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies are the only groups concerned about the rights of Christians.”
“No draft law can be passed without the consensus of all groups … we are all eager to preserve the rights of Christians,” Torsarkissian added.
For his part, Metn MP Sami Gemayel hoped that Berri would call for a parliamentary session soon to put the three draft laws to a vote. “Today, we finished our work as a subcommittee, and Speaker Nabih Berri should set a date for a general assembly session [to pass a draft electoral law],” Gemayel said.
Gemayel called for the electoral law to be developed transparently, not in secret dealings, which he said has been the case over the past 23 years.
“There is one thing we are not ready to let drop: our demand for proper representation … we are no longer willing to go to elections with this  law,” he said. “Let our allies and rivals put forward proposals that provide … fair representation, or else we stick to the Orthodox proposal.”
The winner-takes-all 1960 law, a version of which was used in the 2009 elections, is opposed by March 8 and March 14 groups alike.
The subcommittee, which is tackling the most controversial elements of a new electoral law, also discussed whether to increase the number of MPs.
According to a lawmaker who attended the meeting, March 14 MPs of the subcommittee along with Metn MP Hagop Pakradounian from Aoun’s bloc and PSP MP Akram Shehayeb supported increasing the number of lawmakers by six: one Sunni, one Shiite, one Druze, two Syriacs and Catholic.
Gemayel has proposed a draft law to increase the number of MPs by two, one Druze and one representing the Syriac sects, which currently do not have their own MP, but are part of the Christian “Minorities” seat.
Future Movement MP Nabil de Freij’s draft law would increase the number of MPs by four: one Syriac Catholic, one Syriac Orthodox, one Sunni and one Shiite.
Under the government’s draft electoral law, six MPs representing expatriates would be added to the current 128. Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan proposed that the number of MPs be reduced to 108, as agreed upon in the 1989 Taif Accord.
Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said after the session that his party supported the Cabinet’s draft law.
Shortly after the session began, Adwan left the meeting and paid a visit to Berri, while the rest of the subcommittee members wandered in the corridors, saying they were taking a break for “Friday prayers.” Fatfat said jokingly that Adwan went to perform Friday prayers.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Berri at his Ain al-Tineh residence, Adwan praised the speaker for supporting any draft electoral law Christian parties agree on.
“We praised Speaker Berri’s stance to support the Orthodox proposal which comes in line with his stance to support any draft electoral law that Christians agree on,” he said. “The speaker supports this draft law because he supports lifting injustice inflicted on Christians [as a result of the 1960 law],” Adwan added.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2013/Jan-12/201939-christian-rivals-scrap-orthodox-plan.ashx#ixzz2HuM9GDRW
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
On New Year’s Eve we feel the mystery of time more powerfully than at any other time. We feel, in other words, that its flow – in which we live and in which everything constantly vanishes as the “past” and constantly places us face to face with the unknown future – essentially contains within itself the main question that everyone is called to answer with their lives.
“Vain gift, chance gift – life, why have you been given me?” asks the poet [Pushkin] in his immortal line. Indeed, it is enough for one moment to turn away from the cares that absorb us, enough mentally to stop the ceaseless waterfall of time, disappearing into the abyss, in order for the question “Why is life given and what is its meaning?” to rise from the depths of the subconscious, where we normally hide it from ourselves, and stand before us in all its implacability.
I was not, now I am, and I will not be; thousands of years passed before me, and thousands will come after… On the surface of this unimaginably infinite ocean I am but a fleeting bubble, into which a ray of life flashes for a split second, just to be extinguished and disappear then and there.
“Vain gift, chance gift – life, why have you been given me?” What, in comparison with this only honest, rueful question do all the loud theories mean that seek to answer this with tiresome theoretics of a “bright future”? “We will build our new world. He who was nothing will become everything” [from The Internationale]… The most naïve, gullible, and dull-witted person cannot but know that all this is a lie. For both the very one “who was nothing” and the one who “will become everything” will disappear from the face of the earth, from this hopeless mortal world.
Therefore, regardless of whatever we were taught by pathetic prophets of a pathetic happiness, only one real question stands eternally before man: does this ever-so-brief life have any meaning? What does it mean, when compared with the boundless abyss of time, that this flash of consciousness, this ability to think, rejoice, and suffer, this extraordinary life that, however seemingly futile and random, is still looked upon by us as a gift?
Now the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s. And as long as it strikes life for twelve short seconds stops and pauses, and everything as it were focuses on what is now to begin, posing and responding to the same torturous question: what is this – another step towards a meaningless end and disappearance, or the unexpected flashing of a ray of renewal and new beginnings? In response come words from an infinite loftiness and an infinite profundity: That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth… And of His fulness have we
received, and grace for grace (John 1:9-12, 14, 16).
These are the words of the Evangelist John the Theologian in the very beginning of his Gospel. They are thoroughly imbued with the joy, confidence, and love of a man who has seen the light of true life, about which it is said that it shines in darkness and was not overcome by the darkness (John 1:5). Listening attentively to them, the very same joy, the very same confidence, and the very same love begin to be kindled in our own souls. Time is powerless if this light shines above us. Life is not vain, life is not chance, but is a gift from on high, from God, about Whom the same John the Theologian said that in Him was life, and this life was the light of man (John 1:4). And every man that comes into this world is once again set alight, is once again gifted this life, and the love of God is addressed to each one of them, and to each one of them is addressed God’s commandment: “Live!” Live, in order to love! Live, so that your life will be filled
with love, light, wisdom, and knowledge! Live, so that in your life darkness, meaninglessness, and eventually death itself will be overcome! For eternity already shines through this world and through this earthly life. This gift of life in the world and with the world is given us that eternal life with God and in God may become part of us.
Yes, suffering, doubt, trials, the bitterness of separation – all these have fully become part of our lot. How often we are weakened in this battle, and give up, and fall, and change! How often we are scared and lonely, how often we lose heart when we see how evil and hatred are triumphing in the world! But the One Who gave us this life and granted us freedom taught us to discern good and evil; He gave us the loftiest of all gifts: love. For He said, and continues to say: In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). We, too, can overcome in this very world, and in it our lives can shine with that same light that once flashed forth and continues to shine – that light that the darkness has not overcome.
The clock strikes… Let this mysterious future come to us; for, whatever it might bring with it, we know and believe that God is with us, that Christ has not orphaned us, that He is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23). Here are the marvelous words of Vladimir Soloviev:
Death and time reign on earth,
Do not call them your masters;
Everything, whirling about, disappears in the haze
The only thing fixed is the sun of love.
Yes, this is our calling, our freedom as children of God: not to call “masters” those things whose dominions have been destroyed, and not to close ourselves from access to the Sun of love, faith, and hope.
The holiday will soon be over, and routine, labor, fatigue, and depression will begin. But let us not permit the daily routine to overpower ours souls! Just as sunlight penetrates through closed shutters, so too let the light of Christ, through this mysterious holiday, become present in our daily lives, rendering our entire lives an ascent, a communion with God – a difficult but joyful path to eternal life. For the Apostle John said: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
By Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Because some plugins died on me, I have been unable to update the way I used to. That should now be fixed.
Today’s Daily Blessing from Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one. The God of peace and the Teacher of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should thus pray for all, even as He Himself bore us all in one.
Saint Cyprian of Carthage (190-258), Martyr, Feast Day September 16
Hail! Life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of godliness, door to Paradise, succor of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee every corruption is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of devils, glory of martyrs, true ornament of Saints, haven of salvation, bestowing on the world great mercy!
Hail! Cross of the Lord: through thee mankind has been delivered from the curse. Shattering the enemy by thine Exaltation, O Cross all-venerable, thou art a song of true joy. Thou art our help; thou art the strength of kings, the power of righteous men, the majesty of priests. All who sign themselves with thee are freed from peril. Thou rod of strength under which we like sheep are tended; thou art a weapon of peace round which the angels stand in fear. Thou art the divine glory of Christ, who grants the world great mercy.
Hail! guide of the blind, physician of the sick and resurrection of all the dead. O precious Cross, thou hast lifted us up when we were fallen into mortality. Through thee corruption has been destroyed, and incorruption has flowered forth; we mortal men are made divine and the devil is utterly cast down. Seeing thee exalted by the hands of bishops on this day, we exalt Him who was lifted high upon thee, and we venerate thee, plenteously drawing forth from thee great mercy.
from Vespers for the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, September 14
We must recognize, therefore, that all upright men have been graced by good works, and that even the Lord himself took delight in the glory his works gave him. This should inspire us with a resolute determination to do his will and make us put our whole strength into the work of living a Christian life.
Pope Saint Clement of Rome (d. 101), Martyr
Often we hear in the scripture a particular story that catches our attention and influences our lives. Sometimes that story will stay with us and become a touchstone of our lives. For me, the childhood of the Prophet Samuel is just one of those stories. The child Samuel was born in answer to the fervent prayers of his mother Hannah, who had been barren and without children. She promised to God that if He would grant her a child, that she would give the child to the service of the Lord. God heard her prayer and she gave birth to the infant Samuel. As soon as he was weaned, she sent Samuel to serve the priest Eli in the temple of the Lord. Now Eli had two sons of his own, Hophni and Phineas who also served as priests in the temple. These two young men, however, cared only for their own pleasure and abused their place as priests, stealing from the people who came to offer sacrifice and taking whatever pleased them for themselves. Eli begged his sons to repent and to cease their evil ways, but they did not listen. The child Samuel, on the other hand, grew and pleased both God and man.
As Eli grew old, he lost his vision and on his behalf, Samuel cared for the lamp in the temple so that it would not go out. For this reason Samuel slept in the temple near the ark of the Lord. One night he awoke to hear a voice calling his name. Samuel got up and ran to Eli saying, “You have called me, here I am” But Eli replied that he had not called and sent Samuel back to sleep. Again Samuel awoke hearing a voice calling his name – but again Eli denied that he had done so and sent him back to sleep. A third time, Samuel awoke hearing the same call. At this, Eli recognized that it was the voice of the Lord and that God Himself was calling to Samuel. Eli then instructed Samuel to go back to sleep and if he should again hear this same call to remain where he was and reply, “Here I am. Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Indeed it happened again as before and when Samuel awoke hearing the voice, he replied as Eli taught him saying, “Speak Lord for your servant heareth.” At this the Lord gave to Samuel a prophecy concerning the fate of the priest Eli and his household. God said that because Eli knew that his sons did evil and served only themselves but did not stop them, the household of Eli would come to an end and another would be set in his place as the priest for there would be no male in his household to take his place. The next morning Eli asked Samuel what the Lord had told him and Samuel related the prophecy of the failing of Eli’s household. Eli, accepting the word of the Lord said simply, “It is the Lord: let Him do what is good in His sight.” From this time on Samuel was marked as the chosen prophet of God and throughout all Israel he became known as such.
There came a time that the enemies of the Hebrew people attacked. The Hebrews advanced to fight against their enemies and with them the Ark of the Lord was brought by the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. Despite the presence of the Ark, the Hebrews were defeated and the sons of Eli were both killed bringing an end to his line. Upon hearing this news, Eli, already 98 years old was striken with grief, fell over and died.
Now let us consider the call of the Lord to the child Samuel. He heard a voice which he mistook for Eli and came running saying, “Here I am”. He did not hesitate and even the third time, still he came to Eli, ready to serve. When finally Eli instructed him to stay and respond to the voice of God, Samuel again did not hesitate, but as soon as he heard the voice of the Lord he responded, this time saying “Speak Lord for thy servant heareth.” We are all called to serve God. We may not hear an actual voice as did Samuel, but each of us are, in one way or another, called by God. When we recognize this call, do we respond as did Samuel – responding with the willingness to follow God saying, “Here I am, speak Lord for thy servant heareth” or do we put off our response, trying to fulfill our own desires first and so neglect the call of God. Or perhaps we willingly respond, but soon get distracted and lose our way. Or even like the priest Eli who lost the place of his family in the temple because he could not discipline his sons, we serve God, but are unable to fulfill our service because we are unable to discipline our own human will.
The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas were called by God through their forefather Levi to serve as priests before the altar of the Lord in the temple. They were called, but chose not to serve God but to serve themselves instead. They used their position to take whatever they wanted for their own pleasure, indulging themselves rather than serving the Lord. For some, this is how we respond to the call of God. They hear the call and perhaps even pretend to follow that call – but choose instead to serve themselves. Instead of saying to God, “Here I am, speak for thy servant heareth,” they pushed aside the call of God, listening instead to the call of their own passions and desires.
As the prophet of the Lord, Samuel was sent by God to anoint the chosen king of the Hebrew people. First he sought out Saul and set him as king over all the people. King Saul began as a good and God-fearing ruler, however, he was distracted by his place as king and forgot the service of God. King Saul was overwhelmed by the rule of his kingdom and forgot that just as it was by the hand of God that he had received his kingdom so he could only rule by relying on the help of the Lord. Instead he began to depend upon himself and he lost his way. As a result, God called Samuel again to anoint a new King, the Prophet and King David. Although David as a man was far from perfect, he never forgot that he was the servant of God and because he depended on the help of the Lord, he was blessed by God throughout his life.
In these men, the priest Eli, his sons Hophni and Phineas and King Saul we see those who were called by God but who failed to respond to that call. In the Prophet Samuel we see their antithesis – the one who was called and who responded without hesitation or reservation and who served God throughout his life.
When God calls you, how will you respond? Will you be like Eli and fall short because you are unable to discipline your own will? Will you be like the sons of Eli and serve God only in appearance, but in truth serving only your own base desires and passions. Will you be like King Saul – starting out to serve God but losing your way by depending upon your own strength rather than on the grace and strength of God. Or will you be like Samuel, constantly alert to the voice of the Lord, responding without hesitation or reservation. If we take one thing from the life of this prophet, let us take his unfailing response to the call of God, saying to God, “Here I am. Speak for your servant heareth.”
Archpriest David Moser
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great (540-604), Doctor of the Church, Feast Day September 3
If the bond of peace is broken, if the rights of fraternal charity are violated, if truth is altered or disguised, it is often envy that hurries a person on to crime. What happiness can such a man enjoy in this world?
Saint Cyprian of Carthage (190-258), Martyr, Feast Day August 31