Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio

This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small mission community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!

The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.

We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!

Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM

We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sincere Thankfulness - And Fervent Prayer

This is written after penning an article for this week's bulletin, having read 'shallow' responses to on-the-street queries asking, "What are you thankful for?"

The balance of the bulletin was taken up by a plea from His Grace Bishop Daniil, asking for free-will, from the heart donations to be given to His Holiness, Patriarch John X as he comes to America to enthrone Metropolitan Joseph as Primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

All one need do is go to the Orthodox news pages on this very day to find how very lucky we remain here in our God-protected (for now) land.  Read the articles here:

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/75473.htm

and here:

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/72825.htm

and many others like them, and see what other Christians are enduring in the world around us.

And what has been our response as a people?  We can't speak for other parishes, but locally we've added petitions in the litanies to ask for our Lord's intervention to shelter those who are being persecuted for their faith in Iraq, in Syria, in Saudi Arabia, in Gaza, in Jerusalem, and even here in the US.  There are also those who are suffering from the ravages of war in Ukraine.  See the article here:

http://singac.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=326%3Amartyred-ukrainian-m-p-priest-vladimir-kreslyansky&catid=56&Itemid=288

of Archpriest Vladimir Kreslyansky, who died praying for God's deliverance of his people!

It is right and proper for us to give thanks to God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us.  But it is even more right and proper for us to offer prayers of intercession for those who are not as fortunate as we are, whose very lives are hanging in the balance in a world seemingly gone mad.

And so this year, let us mingle our sincere thanksgiving to the Lord with an even more sincere plea for His mercy to be poured out in abundance, to stop the terrible attacks against Christians in general, but against Orthodox Christians who by choice or by necessity remain in regions where they live under the threat of warring factions who seek their removal or destruction.

May God have mercy on us all!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The History of the Trisagion

We all know the hymn:

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!


We sing it at every Divine Liturgy.  It is prayed in the context of every Orthodox service.  It serves as the petition to God for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, for there we even say that "We said a Trisagion for your beloved one" to comfort those who have lost a loved one.


But how many know the origin of the prayer?

To find out, we need to go back to the year 447.  During the reign of Emperor Theophilus, the city of Constantinople was plagued by persistent earthquakes for nearly four months.  The Emperor, and then Patriarch Proclus, called the people together into procession to pray to God for their safety.  While they were so gathered, the shaking of the ground increased dramatically.  The crowds witnessed a young boy ascending into the air, and all cried out with one voice, "Lord, have mercy!"

When the boy descended again, he was taken to the Patriarch.  He told of hearing choirs of angels singing, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!"  He told the Patriarch that a voice commanded him to tell the Patriarch that the people gathered should make supplication to God in this way.  And so the Patriarch instructed the people to begin to chant the hymn.

And, immediately the ground stopped its shaking.  And, the child died!

The Empress Pulcheria asked the Patriarch to include this hymn thereafter into the Divine Liturgy, and it is for this reason that we find it there today.

Oh - do not weep for the child.  His being called by God was a double blessing.  In the first, he was granted grace to see and hear the glories of heaven.  And, for his purity, his faithfulness, and his obedience, he was again given grace to dwell within those joys immediately!

The only instances in Church use when the prayer is omitted are on Feasts of the Cross, where the precedence of the Cross of Christ itself replaces the hymn with:

Before Your Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Your Holy Resurrection we glorify!


The use of the hymn within the Divine Liturgy is accompanied in some traditions by an exhortation from a deacon (when one is available to serve) that occurs after the "Glory... Now and ever" that separates the chanting of hymns three times from its chanting a final time.  That exhortation is a command:


Dynamis!


The Greek word "dynamis" translates to "power" or "force."  It is the root of the English word "dynamic."  In this context, those who are singing the hymn are encouraged to not just "sing" the hymn, but to mean it, to allow the words of the hymn to penetrate to the core, to the "nous" - and thereby to glorify God with these divine words, gifted to us by God!


When one serves the Divine Liturgy with our beloved Metropolitan Joseph, it is a special joy to approach this time in the Liturgy with him.  For it is here that he comes forth to bless the people with dikiri and trikiri.  But it is also the hymn itself which is the focus.  Our Metropolitan becomes not just the main celebrant, but he becomes "choir director of the gathered clergy," urging all who are at the altar to not just sing - but to shout this most excellent of prayers!

Today, we celebrate the prayer''s birthday.....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Seeking God's Will, and Acting in Faith

Those of us at St. Herman's held a Congregational Meeting this past Sunday.  We began the meeting as we do all such meetings, invoking the Holy Spirit to "Come and abide in us" and to thereby guide our hearts and our discussions to follow the will of God.

It was an important prayer, because there lay before us two (2) separate and very different opportunities that could provide for the growth of our little community, and both of which in their own way are answers to our now nearly ten years of prayer for a "permanent home" for our mission.

We need not go into detail about the opportunities, but as the spiritual father to this community, it is very edifying (we'll refrain from any use of words associated with 'pride') to watch between 15 and 20 members of our community honestly engaged in trying to discern God's will.  

As the Building Committee entered the meeting, there were three alternatives that we found present in these two opportunities.  We could make an offer to buy a particular existing building.  We could make an offer to lease that same building.  Or we could make an offer to buy a large plot of land for well under market value.

But as the meeting progressed, it became incredibly clear that we had ignored a fourth option - that of allowing the Lord to say to us, "Do none of these - be patient, and wait."

As the meeting progressed, I believe at the group's combined following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a decision was postponed.  "Let's re-convene next Sunday again, and give ourselves a week to pray about this."  That was the wisdom of 15 to 20 faithful gathered in a 625 square foot chapel inside the Hudson City cemetery.

And it was a Spirit-inspired decision!

Now, as we find ourselves within this next week, how do we in fact try to discern if any of these opportunities are in fact the will of God?  Or, is the Lord truly attempting to tell us, "Be patient!"?

Here are some things I found to attempt to help myself, as your spiritual father, to reach a point of assuring that my own focus is truly to seek His will, and not my own:

1)  A disciple of St. Joseph the Hesychast said: "We observed that the Elder never embarked on anything without first praying. We would ask him about something in the future or for the next day, and his reply was that he would tell us tomorrow. He would do this so that he could pray first. So, when you want to find out the will of God, abandon your own will completely, together with every other thought or plan, and with great humility ask for this knowledge in prayer. And whatever takes shape or carries weight in your heart, do it and it will be according to God's will.

2)  Saint Silouan of Mt. Athos said, "If you are distressed over anything, it means that you are not fully surrendered to God's will, although it may seem that you are living according to His will."

3) Psalm 55:22 - "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.  He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."

4)  1Peter 5:6-7 - "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exult you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."

5)  Mat 21:22 - "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

6) Saint Barsenuphius said, "Here is the luminous teaching of our Savior: 'Thy will be done!'  Whoever sincerely pronounces this prayer leaves his own will and puts all things in the will of God."

7) Abba Macarius was asked, 'How should we pray?'  The old man said, 'There is no need to make long discourses.  It is enough to stretch out the hands and say, 'Lord, as You will, and as You know, have mercy!'  And if the conflict grows fiercer, say, 'Lord, help!'  For He knows well what we need, and He shows us His mercy.'

8)  Saint John Climacus taught, 'All who ask and to not obtain their requests from God are denied for one of the following reasons:  they ask at the wrong time;  they ask in vanity or unworthily;  if they received they would become conceited;  or after obtaining their request, they would become negligent.

9)  Saint Nilus of Sinai said, 'How many times have I prayed for what seemed to be good for me, not leaving it to God to do as He knows best?  And how often, having received what I prayed for, I found myself in distress because I had not asked for it to be according to God's will.'

10) Abba Agathon said, 'In order to pray, we must struggle until our last breath.  If we do not find prayer difficult, perhaps it is because we have not yet truly started to pray.'

Monday, July 28, 2014

Making a Habit of Prayer

At little St. Herman's, we've spent the last several weeks looking at prayer.  We looked to the New Testament for examples, then to the Old.  We looked to the Holy Fathers.  This past Sunday, we looked to one who has been an inspiration on the topic of prayer to the priest at St. Herman's - Metropolitan Anthony.

In his several books one can learn innumerable lessons on the topic, and all of of great value.  But it is a writing that we found on-line at mitras.ru/eng/ that struck us for this past week's homily.  Here are the words of Metropolitan Anthony:

Life and prayer must be made one.  Get up in the morning, stand before God and say, 'Lord, bless me, and bless this day that is beginning.'  Then treat the whole day as a gift of God and consider yourself as God's envoy in this unknown which is the new day.  This simply means something very difficult:  that nothing which happens today will be alien to the will of God.  Everything without exception is a situation in which God will have placed you in order that you should be His presence, His love, His compassion, His creative intelligence, His courage...  And on the other hand, every time you encounter a situation, you will be the one whom God has put there to perform the office of a Christian, to be a particle of the Body of Christ and an action of God.  

If you do that, you will easily see that at every moment you will have to turn to God and say, 'Lord, clarify my intelligence, strengthen and direct my will, give me a heart of fire, help me!'  At other moments you may say, 'Thank you, Lord!'  And if you are wise and know how to be thankful, you will avoid the folly that is called vanity or pride, which consists of imagining that one has done something that could have been left undone.  It is god who has done it!  It is God who has given us this marvelous gift of having this to do.

And when, in the evening, you present yourself again before God, and make a quick examination of the day, you will be able to sing His praises, glorify Him, thank Him, weep over others and weep over yourself.  If you begin to connect your prayer to life in this way, the two will never again be separated, and life will be like a fuel which at every moment is feeding a fire that becomes richer and richer, more and more burning, and which little by little will transform you yourself into that burning bush that is told about in Scripture.

The above is only the close of the article titled, "Prayer Today."  There's much omitted for the sake of space in this blog posting.  But how often in prayer do we neglect to see ourselves as God's instruments for answering the prayer of others?  How often do we seek His will and mean it - whatever it means for effort or inconvenience in our day?  How often are we focused on His agenda for the day, and not our own?

Can we begin to pray, 'Lord, bless me, and bless this day that is beginning,' and then live up to whatever challenges He gives us, recognizing them not as troubles or trials, but as that which He has appointed to help me find my way to His salvation?  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Joys of Managing Internet Media

We all use the tools, and we all have had both really wonderful experiences and really horrible ones associated with dealing on-line media and issues.

This past week, as we were searching for potential property for our parish, we found that our parish was not listed on Google Maps.  So, we went on-line searching for exactly HOW we get that listing to be included in their on-line tool.

There were a number of links, and we clicked several of them, only to find that we were repeatedly re-directed to a Google+ page that told us that our account was suspended.  Digging further, we found the following:
1) You need to log into Google+ using an established account to make a request like a change to Google Maps
2) Google+ has "naming conventions", and they apparently either accept you, or if they reject you it is the ether equivalent of having your birth certificate revoked

In our case, the "offensive name" that caused our account to be rejected as "Father Basil" - given as a "First Name" in the account.

Well, this seems like it'll be straightforward to fix.  Let's use Google+'s "standard appeal process".  Quick and painless!  Just provide a link or three that shows that the name you're defending is in fact your common name, and used by you elsewhere, and we'll get this all straightened out post haste.

That was last week.

Today, the good people at Google+ sent us the following (copied from their e-mail to us):

Hello,

After reviewing your appeal, we have determined that your name does not comply with the Google+ Names Policy.

We want users to be able to find each other using the name they already use with their friends, family, and coworkers. For most people this is their legal name, or some variant of it, but we recognize that this isn't always the case, and we allow for other common names in Google+ --- specifically, those that represent an individual with an established online identity with a meaningful following. If you haven't already done so, you can provide us with additional information regarding an established identity by re-submitting an appeal that includes references to where you are known by this name either in online or offline settings.

Note that if you're trying to set up a page for a business, band, group, or other organization, please sign up with your own name and then create a Google+ Page. If you're trying to add an alternate name (such as a nickname, maiden name or name in another script), please sign up with your full name; you can add this alternate name (which will appear alongside your full name) once you've signed up.

You may re-appeal with additional information, if you have not already done so. If you're already using Google+, your current name will continue to be used.

The Google+ team.


So, let us understand.  We're not allowed to be called "Father Basil" - is that what you're saying?

Not to be outdone by Google-'s humor, we offered the following to them, in return:

Dear Google- Team:

After reviewing your response to our appeal on rejected naming, we have determined that your policy does not comply with our faith’s historical means of addressing clergy, now used for roughly 2000 years.

We want parishioners and those searching for the Church to be able to find us using the names they already use to address us as clergy.  For most Orthodox Christians, this is our ecclesiastical name, and no variants are allowed.  But we recognize that some aren't so enlightened as to recognize this means of showing respect to the office ---  specifically those who may have never attended Divine Services.  Let us invite you when you’re in Hudson!  Come and see!  When you arrive, you’ll know who I am by calling out, “Hey, Father Basil!”  I’ll be the one who turns and says, “How can I help you, my child?”

The Church is technically not a business.  We do not use the Internet for non-Church related activities.  It is not a “social media tool” to us – it is a means of evangelizing.  Ergo we have no desire, tendency, need, or inclination to seek some kind of SECOND “personal page” to require us to keep TWO on-line entities managed.  The name we've selected is not an “alternate name” – it is who we are at the core of our being.

We found this on a blog (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/in-a-switch-google-plus-now-allows-pseudonyms/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0): “We want to build a product that is for humanity at large, and we recognize people have many notions around identity and ways to represent themselves,” said Bradley Horowitz, a vice president of product who works on Google Plus. “We want to be as inclusive as possible while still ensuring the integrity of the system and the community.”

Hmmm…..  Sounds counter to your appeal rejection, at least to the uninformed…..   Then there’s:
http://ducknetweb.blogspot.com/2013/01/im-sorry-your-google-plus-name-does-not.html

If you consider this a “re-appeal”, fine.  If not, know that we’ll not be using the massive might of Google+, Google-, Google^2 or GooglePlex to promote our activities.

Christ did it for 2000 years and He never touched a keyboard…..  I guess we just need to follow His example.

In Christ,

Father Basil Rusen
The Saint Herman of Alaska Eastern Orthodox Church “Team”

(and yes, the REAL church name IS Saint Herman of Alaska…..)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Was Christ Married?

This past week, news reports have been flooded with renewed information about a 'fragment' (text on papyrus the size of the palm of your hand) that says that Jesus was married.

And the world is all aflutter!

Why?  Because here lay yet another opportunity to defame the One whom the Church declares as God in the flesh, a chance to disprove divinity, a means by which people can transform the Holy into the unholy.

Is it coincidence that this occurs during Holy Week?  Not a chance!

In fact, those who are promoting the idea, and those who are reporting it with such joyous fervor are brethren with the Pharisees whom our Lord silenced first two thousand years ago, and who were re-silenced again last evening within the context of the service of Bridegroom Matins.

Yes, I said "Bridegroom".  In the news world, it's called "a teaser".  You'll have to read on, now, won't you?

In the encounter with the Pharisees, these men (like today's 'journalists') were certain that they had the Lord 'cornered' - "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Mat 22:17)  You can almost read their minds.  "Now we've got Him!  If He says, "Pay!", the people will turn on Him, for they hate the Romans.  And if He says, "Don't pay!", we'll turn Him over to the Romans for speaking against the government!!!  This is great!!!!

What they didn't see, what they couldn't understand, is that God can't be "boxed in" by human thought.  "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the coin.... Whose image is this?... Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's!"

Whoa!  They didn't see that coming, did they?  Read Matthew 22.  It's better than the front page of any paper, or even the 'religious page'!!!

Those promoting today's news stories are certain that they have "cornered" Christians into a region from which they cannot extricate themselves.  "See - here's proof that Christ had a wife!!"  Proof that comes from a document that was written 6 to 8 centuries after Christ walked the earth, mind you - but PROOF!!  Ignore the fact that those who wrote it neither knew (in the first person) those being written of, NOR was the writing "Divinely inspired", as the Church holds for that which has been set aside as Holy Scripture.

But let's not denigrate the authors without giving ear to that which is written.  Perhaps, in fact, these were Holy men trying to share spiritual wisdom with their brethren.  And please, don't attack based on a sexist perspective with the statement.  It means only monks writing to other monks.

So, what could the words possibly mean, if they're NOT incorrect?  What were the words EXACTLY?  In one part of the fragment, it translates to, "And Jesus said to them, 'My wife,'"  And the text then ends and begins anew in the next segment of the fragment, saying, "She will be able to be My disciple."

Well, what could be more condemning to thinking that God the Son led a virginal life, than these fragmented words?

Let's go back to Bridegroom Matins.  The central theme of the service is this hymn:

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight.  And blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching.  And again unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.  Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom, but rouse yourself, crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy are You, O our God!' Through the prayers of the Theotokos, have mercy on us!

Christ is the Bridegroom.  Who is His bride?  His Church!  This is no strange "new" theology.  Go back to Saint Paul, and the people of Ephesus, in whose Epistle we find the lesson used at every Orthodox wedding, which reads:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the Church.  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. (Eph 5:22-32)

Was Christ married?  Absolutely!  To Mary Magdalene (whom the 'reporters' desire with all their hearts to prove)?  Not a chance!  Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church!  He is and every shall be!

Whoa!  They didn't see that coming, did they???

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Asking Forgiveness From All!

As we come to the Sunday of Forgiveness, let me offer my request with deepest humility that you forgive me of any and all sins and offenses by which I have angered or offended any.  Know that we write this, having forgiven all!  May this season of the Great Fast fill each of you, and your families, friends, and homes, with the greatest of spiritual blessings, growing ever closer to that perfection to which our Lord calls us all.

To that end, let us offer here some words that may encourage all during this season of the Great Fast.

Wisdom of Sirach 17:20-27  Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins, and pray in His presence and reduce your offense.  Return to the Most High and turn away from wrongdoing, and hate an abomination exceedingly.  Who will praise the Most High in Hades, as do the living and those who give thanks?  Thanksgiving ceases from a dead man since he is no longer alive; only the living and the healthy will praise the Lord.  How great the mercy of the Lord is, and His atonement for those who turn to Him!

Wisdom of Sirach 28:1-7  He who seeks revenge will find it from the Lord, and He will surely punish his sins.  Forgive a wrong done by your neighbor; then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Can a man preserve wrath against his neighbor and still seek healing from the Lord?  Can he show no mercy toward a man like himself and still beg God for mercy for himself?  If he being flesh keeps his anger continually, who will atone for his sins?  Remember the end of your life and cease from enmity; remember destruction and death and stand fast in the commandments.  Remember the commandments and do not vent your wrath against your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High and overlook faults.

From Saint Augustine:  The fact that your enemies have been created is God's doing.  The fact that they hate you and wish to ruin you is their own doing.  What should you then say about them in your mind?  Lord, be merciful to them.  Forgive them their sins.  Put the fear of God in them.  Change them.  Then, you are loving in them not what they are, but what you would have them become.

From Saint John Climacus:  Do not stop praying as long as, by God's grace, the fire and the water [i.e. fervor and tears] have not been exhausted, for it may happen that never again in your whole life will you have such a chance to ask for the forgiveness for your sins.

Saint Mark the Ascetic:  He who seeks forgiveness of his sins loves humility, but if he condemns another he seals his own wickedness.....  The sign of sincere love is to forgive wrongs done to us. It was with such love that the Lord loved the world.

Saint Maximos the Confessor:  A man who has been assiduous in acquiring the fruits of love will not cease loving even if he suffers a thousand calamities. Let Stephen, the disciple of Christ, and others like him persuade you of the truth of this (cf. Acts 7:60). Our Lord Himself prayed for His murderers and asked the Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing (cf. Luke 23:34).

Saint John Cassian:  If we remember that thief who, for a single confession, was taken into Paradise, we shall realize that it was not for the merit of the life he lived that he obtained so great blessedness, but that it was his by the gift of God, Who had mercy on him. Or let us think of David, the king, whose two such grievous and awful crimes were wiped away by one word of penitence. Neither here do we see that the merit of what he did was equal to obtaining pardon for such great offense, but the grace of God did the more abound when on the occasion of true penitence He did away with all that weight of sin for one single word of genuine confession.

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich:  Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and sick brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Prayer

By Alexander Solzhenitsyn



How easy it is to live with you, O Lord!
How easy it is to believe in You.
When my spirit sinks
Or scatters in confusion,
And the very smartest people
Cannot see further than this evening,
And do not know what to do tomorrow,
You send down clear certainty to me
that You exist and that You care
And will ensure that not all the paths of goodness will be blocked.
On the peak of earthly glory
I look back in surprise on the path I have taken
Which I would never have been able
to invent for myself,
An incredible path
Through hopelessness
From which I was yet able
To send humanity a reflection
of Your rays of light.
And for as long as it is necessary that I keep
Reflecting them,
You will let me do so.
And what I do not finish—
well, then,
You have assigned to others the task.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Time for Action!

As Orthodox Christians, we have had two of our Hierarchs kidnapped and held by insurgents since April 23, 2013 (as of this writing on 14Jan14, that is 266 days that these holy men have been held captive.  For what?  Recently 'demands' for their release were made by the Turkish sponsored "North Storm Brigade", which include demands by Chechen rebels to release two officials and 70 prisoners held in Russia, French demands to release twelve French people held in Syrian prisons, Turkish demands to release 25 officers held in Syria, and an unidentified state's demands to release twelve others held in Syria.

In addition to these horrors, on December 17th, twelve nuns from the Saint Thecla convent in Maaloula, Syria were also 'detained', 'kidnapped', taken from their monastery.  While conflicting stories about them have emerged (such as "they were removed to protect them from those who seek to attack the monastery), they are nonetheless held in a place unknown by persons unknown against their will.

In response to these atrocities, the US Government, with all of its power and authority, had done exactly nothing.

I am forwarding the message below to all of my elected representatives at the national level.  Let me urge you to pray about this, and then if the Spirit moves you to act as well, please do so.

For those who choose to act, you can find e-mail addresses for your elected senators and representatives here:

http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

When you click the link, you will be taken to a page permitting you to select US Senators or US Representatives (among the several choices).  You'll need to go to both if you choose to fully engage all of your elected representatives.  Once on the following page, simply click your state (for Senators) and their e-mail addresses will appear.

For congressmen, it's a little more complicated.  You can find your representatives here:

https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50872/getLocal.jsp

Once found, our "enlightened" representative system does not allow you to contact them with an e-mail address.  Seems too many e-mails would be generated by "non-constituents", and so they hide behind a federal page that forces you to enter your "ZIP PLUS 4" address.  If you don't know the last four digits of your nine digit ZIP code, you WILL NOT GET INTO THE SYSTEM!!  So, you can send snail mail, or you can find your 9 digit code here:

https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction!input.action

Now - to the message.  Copy it, and place your own name at the bottom before sending - if you are so moved.  And I pray that you will be!

-----------------------------------

Dear (Senator/Congressman/Congresswoman):

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

We greet you with this traditional Orthodox greeting that is offered to all who share in the recognition that our Lord is Sovereign, and we are all His servants.  We daily pray for all elected officials, like yourself, with prayers such as this:  "Be mindful, O Lord, of the President of our country, of all civil authorities, and of our armed forces everywhere, especially those serving in battle zones.  Be mindful of our country, of the city in which we dwell, and of every city and countryside.  Grant them all peaceful times, that we may lead calm and peaceful lives in all Godliness and sanctity."

That Godliness and sanctity has been broken by the actions of a few who seek only destruction through terrorism.

On April 23rd 2013, two Orthodox Bishops were kidnapped near Aleppo in the northwest of Syria.  Metropolitan Paul of the Antiochian Archdiocese of Aleppo, and Mar Gregorios Yohanna of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo were taken in a gunfire attack on their car as they traveled in this district.  The deacon cleric who was their driver was shot and killed in that attack.  As of this writing, these two Orthodox hierarchs have been held hostage now for over 266 days!

Then, on December 3rd 2013, twelve nuns and perhaps a few others were kidnapped, or at least forceably removed, from their convent of Saint Thecla in Maaloula, Syria.  Amongst those in the group are said to be one nun who is over 90 years old, and the youngest is apparently in her "mid teens".  These women are being held by unknown people in an unknown location, and the only information to surface is that "they are safe."  From whom?

And in what is now nearly nine months of captivity for the bishops, and one month for the nuns, the total response from our own government has been a deafening silence.

We write to beg you to do anything and everything possible to assure the safety and well being of both groups, and to ultimately secure the release of these people.  In an encyclical from His Holiness Patriarch John of Antioch, we read these words:  "Our appeal to the international community:  Although we are grateful for all the feelings of solidarity, we no longer need denunciation, condemnations, or 'feelings of concern' about the assault on human dignity that is occurring, because all this is engraved in the conscience of every one of us.  Today, however, we need concrete actions, not words.  We do not want voices of condemnation from decision makers, whether regional or international, but rather efforts, pressure and action leading to the release of those whose only fault was their clinging to their monastery and refusing to leave it."

As Orthodox Christians, we find the actions of such people unconscionable.  And we find it equally unconscionable for a society built upon the principle of fighting oppression wherever it may exist to have gone nine months without taking any action whatsoever.

We call on you now, therefore, to act!  You, and all our federal representatives, to stand fearlessly and with one voice declare, "This is far enough!"  We call on you to do that which is right and just, and to secure the freedom of our brothers and sisters who are in such grave danger at the hands of mad men.  We call on you to restore Godliness and sanctity to the lives of these captives, and thereby to our own.

In Christ,

Father Basil Rusen
Pastor,
Saint Herman Eastern Orthodox Church
Hudson, Ohio  44236