Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Guide to the Orthodox Life

This marvelous book by Fr. David Cownie and Pres. Juliana Cownie introduces the practical aspects of Orthodoxy brought into the life of the family with chapters on Daily Life, Church Ettiquette and the Orthodox Cycle of Life. It includes practical instructions such as maintaining an oil lamp as well as the theological meaning of our actions like the sign of the cross. You can purchase the book through amazon, or print it for free from the the links generously provided by the Orthodox Information Center

Below is an excerpt from Daily Life, about the sign of the cross:

Because the Sign of the Cross has such a powerful effect on demonic powers, people often experience a sense of self–consciousness when attempting to make it. Our weak flesh also rebels against outward manifestations of faith. But this can be overcome quite easily, if we only strive to train ourselves and come to understand the tremendous power of the Cross, in which, Saint Paul tells us, we should glory. 
To make the Sign of the Cross, we place the thumb and the first and second fingers of our right hand together, representing the Three Persons or Hypostases of the Holy Trinity. Next, we fold the fourth and fifth fingers against our palm, representing the two Natures of Christ, Who came down from Heaven to the earth, in order to save mankind. Holding our right hand in this way, we touch the tips of the three fingers to our forehead, our abdomen, the right shoulder, and the left shoulder. We then put
our hand down to the side of our body. 
Properly executed—and one should be careful to make it slowly and with care—the Sign of the Cross has tremendous spiritual power. This is because we are not only affirming our faith in Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross at Golgotha, but confirming our belief in the Holy Trinity and the Human and Divine Natures of Christ, that is, the basic dogmas of the Orthodox Faith.
And from Church Ettiquette, this beautiful quote is included from St. John of Kronstadt on the lighting of candles in church:

The candles burning on the altar represent the non–created light of the Trinity, for the Lord dwells in an unapproachable light. They also represent the fire of Divinity which destroys our ungodliness and sins. The candles lit before the icons of the Saviour signify that He is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9); at the same time, He is a Fire which engulfs and revives our souls and bodies. 
The candles lit before the icons of the Theotokos are a symbol of the fact that she is the Mother of the Unapproachable Light, and also of her most pure and burning love for God and her love for mankind.  
The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy Apostles, martyrs, and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.

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