January 1, 1808

Ad Orientem has a reminder for us all that this January 1 is an important anniversary in the history of the United States and humanity. On January 1, 1808, exactly 200 years ago, the importation of slaves to America was outlawed. We still have a long way to go as recent events have shown us, but this New Year’s Day is a good time to celebrate the progress we’ve made.

Saint Isaac on the Commandments

The purpose of the advent of the Saviour, when He gave us His life-giving commandments as purifying remedies in our passionate state, was to cleanse the soul from the damage done by the first transgression and bring it back to its original state. What medicines are for a sick body, that the commandments are for the passionate soul. – Saint Isaac of Syria

Born Again

The Firstborn, Who was begotten according to His nature, underwent yet another birth outside His nature, so that we too would understand that after our natural birth, we must undergo another (birth) outside our nature. As a spiritual being, He was unable to become physical until the time of physical birth. And so too physical beings, unless they undergo another birth, cannot become spiritual. The Son, Whose birth is beyond investigation, underwent another birth which can be investigated. So, by the one we learn that His majesty is limitless, and by the other we realize that His goodness is boundless. For His majesty increases without bounds, Whose first birth cannot be imagined by any mind, and His goodness overflows without limit, Whose other birth is proclaimed by every mouth. – St. Ephrem the Syrian, “Homily on Our Lord”

Elder Joseph on continuous prayer

“Just as a man dies when he stops breathing, so, too, does the soul die without continuous and endless prayer. It dies because that living flesh which is beginning to be conceived by the perpetuity of the prayer falls asleep, and the passions are rejuvenated. For the enemy does not sleep, but fights continuously. And just as an infant which is conceived in its mother’s womb suffocates and dies if it ceases to breathe, the same thing happens with spiritual conception if the noetic work ceases.” – Elder Joseph the Hesychast

On the Holy Innocents

Nets and snares were fashioned, then, For the young fawn of the Virgin and Mother of God, But the trap was broken and the fawn escaped, tearing the snare. With His mother, like a blameless deer, He fled Into Egypt, as Micah once said. O Thou Who art everywhere and Who rulest over all, where dost Thou flee? Where dost Thou lead? In what city Shalt Thou make Thy dwelling? What house will contain Thee, what place will support Thee? No part of creation anywhere is invisible to Thy sight, But all things are laid bare to Thee, Thou art the Maker of All, O Christ. Why, then, dost Thou flee, Holy One? Because of Thee, Herod mourns as he weeps That his power will soon be destroyed. – Kontakia of Romanos, On the Massacre of the Innocents (Flight into Egypt).