God, Why Do “Bad” Things Happen?

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The earthquake in Nepal, the deliberate plane crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, 9/11, the relative who was diagnosed with cancer, the friend who died in a fire, the horrible boss, mean professor, financial woes, difficulty finding a partner, or simply a bad day: it feels like “bad” things happen all the time, from the personal problems we face in our daily lives, to the large scale calamities in this world. The first thing many often ask is, “Why God?”

Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of very difficult times in life, and over time I developed a framework to understand God’s place in all the difficulties. By God’s grace, that frame of mind has sustained my belief in a loving God in whom I trust, but there are unfortunately too many of us who eventually turn away from God when the tribulations we see around us become unbearable, and usually it is because people have a hard time answering the question, “Why God?” (For an accompanying PDF lesson, click here) Continue reading

Marijuana: Is It Still All That Bad? An Orthodox Christian Viewpoint

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[UPDATE 9/2/15]

A lot of people correlate “Coptic” with marijuana use, with that name being marred by the unfortunate circumstance of it being used by a rogue group COMPLETELY UNRELATED to the ancient patriarchate of Alexandria which promotes marijuana use. That group is called the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and they have zero affiliation with the church of Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Church.

[Original Post]

A non-Orthodox frequent visitor of our parish tried his best to convince the priest and myself that smoking marijuana should not be regarded as a sin and he should be able to continue using it after being baptized. With all the hoopla in the media today (and in particular I’m thinking of CNN’s Sanjay Gupta—see here), I thought it appropriate to address this matter as I addressed it with our visitor.

He joined in the chorus of praise for marijuana use, citing the common claim that “it’s not as bad as people used to say it was.” (From what I can deduce from a variety of sources, his statement isn’t all that inaccurate, but it doesn’t mean marijuana causes no harm whatsoever.) But then his argument started to take a very strange direction, as I recall it, whereby he somehow connected marijuana with the “tree of life,” and he insisted that the reason the Coptic Church is the right place to find Christianity is because of its use of Myron oil (used in the administration of its Mysteries/Sacraments), which he believed included a special recipe concoction similar to that used by the Jews of the Old Testament whenever oil was employed, and the key shared ingredient was marijuana.

My priest asked me to get involved, which I did, and provided below is a summarized and edited version of the response I gave to our visitor years ago (and do note that this is an Orthodox Christian viewpoint; I do not claim this stance for every Orthodox Christian Church out there, but would expect most to agree to a large extent):

Continue reading

Explaining the Resurrection “Play” Enactment and Procession in the Coptic Rite: by H.G. Bishop Youssef

ResurrectionReenactment Ever wondered what the symbolism is behind the “Resurrection play” in the Coptic Rite. During the Feast of the Resurrection, there is this special moment where something that normally never happens happens. Although the Church is supposed to resemble heaven and therefore always have the lights on, during a particular segment the Liturgy of the Word of that feast, all the lights turn off (except for some or all lights inside the sanctuary), and the curtain (or door) of the altar is closed. Then the presiding clergyman, standing inside the sanctuary, engages in a melodic dialogue with two deacons outside (and yes, according to H.G. Bishop Youssef, it should be two, and he explains why). To understand the meaning behind all of this, let us first turn to the official source for liturgical text for the Coptic Diocese of the Southern U.S. (the Coptic Reader App), we learn the following: Continue reading

Don’t like going to Pascha until Wednesday night when it gets “good”: Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Similarities of the Significance of Pascha from Sunday–Wednesday

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Let’s be honest. In our minds, many of us split Holy Pascha Week into two:

  • The not-so-important stuff until Wednesday Morning, and then
  • The important part beginning Wednesday night when Judas betrays Christ, followed by Covenant Thursday where we have the washing of feet and partake in the Mystical Supper with Christ, and then of course Great (or “Good”) Friday.

Many of us will only attend just Great Friday services, or at best will just attend “the important part” beginning Wednesday night.

So let’s try to make Sunday night through Wednesday more significant. (Note: For a PowerPoint Lesson to go along with this, click here to download) Continue reading

Jesus, Why Die This Way? 5 Thought-Provoking Questions Asked and Answered by St. Athanasius

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As we approach Holy Pascha (Passover) Week, I wanted to share a little-known series of questions posed in the widely popular writing by St. Athanasius, “On the Incarnation” (in parts 4 and 5). It really makes you think, and the answers are quite fulfilling.

See for yourself: Continue reading