Welcome to our relaunched Q&A Blog, featuring Questions and Answers about the Orthodox Christian Church, its teachings, beliefs and practices, how it views and interacts with modern (or rather, post-modern) culture, other Christian confessions, non-Christian religions, cults, etc.
To submit a question to Fr. Steven Kostoff, please visit our web form on our parish website.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Orthodox Q&A Forum Relaunched!

Dear Parish Faithful, and Friends in Christ,

Our parish webservant has posted a new announcement on our parish website: Orthodox Q & A Forum Returns. Once you click on the link, a form is provided through which you may ask your question. As you will read there, you may remain anonymous or not - that will be your decision. I would like to share the answers with the entire parish, so the answers will be posted on the website, as well as on this newly refreshed and relaunched Orthodox Q&A Forum blog. I may use some of these questions for future post-Liturgy discussions. It may take some time in getting to any questions, or perhaps some research may need to be done. Please be patient for an answer. Again, questions should be related to issues within the over-all life of the Church; from the theological to the practical. No question is “too simple,” for any question leads us back to the Gospel and the worldview that we embrace as Orthodox Christians.

In preparing for my class at Xavier, I came across these words of a nineteenth c. Russian Orthodox bishop. This is Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (+1867), who was eventually canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. In speaking of the importance of theological education, he said the following:

“In Christianity, nobody is allowed to remain completely unlearned and ignorant. Did not the Lord himself call himself teacher and his followers disciples? Before Christians began to be called Christians, all of them without exception were called disciples. And why did the Lord send the apostles into the world? First and foremost in order to teach all the peoples: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.’ If you do not wish to teach and enlighten yourself in Christianity, you are not a disciple and follower of Christ.”

Commenting on the this approach of Met. Philaret, Fr. George Florovsky wrote the following:

“Philaret was not afraid of stimulating thought, although he was aware of the temptations this could cause. This was because he believed that these temptations could be overcome and vanquished only through creative activity … Philaret always underscored the necessity of theologizing as the sole irreplaceable foundation of an integral spiritual life.”

I invite you to submit your questions, and follow along with our relaunched Q&A Blog as we follow this healthy approach of St Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow!

Fr. Steven

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Response to "March For Life" Meditation

Dear Parish Faithful,

I would like to share a response from Alexis Callender to this morning's Fragments for Friday. There is an excellent application of theology to the "abortion issue" in what Alexis wrote. Finding the source of the issue in "free will" and the privilege/gift of "choice" is also the source of a sound Orthodox approach.

Fr. Steven


Good Morning Fr. Steven,

I came across a quote yesterday that I found interesting and perhaps “applicable” in some fashion with regard to the events taking place this weekend as they pertain to The March for Life. If I may paraphrase, it reads something like this: “Freedom to choose is our privilege. Multiple choice is the problem.”

There are many ways one can “read into” this quote. I took from it the following: God has created us in His image and likeness and has given us the gift of free will. This is the very basic foundation of creation as put forth in Genesis – the beginning. Since the beginning, we have also been given multiple choices - between right and wrong, good and evil, etc. However, I do not see it as a problem, per se. As an Orthodox Christian, I view it as a “test”. Through tests and trials our faith and knowledge are strengthened. Christ through His incarnation humbled Himself and took on our human form so that He could walk among us, teach us and reveal Himself to us. Subsequently we are enabled to learn to be that which we were designed and destined to be. As long as the Evil One reigns on the earth, temptation will exist and we must make our choices. Therefore, daily we are tested and daily we pass or fail, we fall down and we get back up again. As a loving and gracious Father, God allows us these failures and successes so that we may learn, “the Way, the Truth and the Light.” It is a process that begins at birth and continues “even unto our last breath.” To quote, Fr. Michael Azkoul, “The knowledge of free will comes by faith and experience.”
So how does this apply to the issue of abortion? With regard to this issue, it is a known fact that I am opposed, I believe it is a murderous act and should have never been legalized. As somewhat of a ‘realist’ though, I know that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will not go away or simply vanish. How then do we stop it? Can we stop it? Or, do we simply just accept it and try to carry on as best as we can? Humbly again, I suggest we get to the root cause and start there.

First, we have to look inwardly at our own sinfulness and strive to center ourselves in Christ for all things. If one truly strives for a Christocentric (sp?) existence, multiple choice is not a problem…the decisions become quite clear. If we continue in this manner, His Light will shine forth so that others too may see…“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5: 14-16).

Second, as you stated, we have to be careful to not pass judgment and point our fingers with harshness and bitterness and become prideful. If we are created in the image and likeness of God, we too have to do our best to show, love, mercy and compassion in the same way that God graciously bestows these things upon us. I am not suggesting that we be passive in our stance, but rather we express it with love and a deep conviction to show mercy and see Christ in all people. “Never look down on anyone. You do not know whether the spirit of God prefers to dwell in you or in them.” (From the Sayings of the Egyptian Fathers).

Third, treat all life as sacred. Simply put, God created us. “For you possess my heart O Lord; You took hold of me from my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and my soul knows this very well. My bone You made in secret was not hidden from You. And my substance was in the lowest parts of the earth; Your eyes saw me when I was unformed, and all men shall be written in Your book; they shall be formed day by day, when yet there was none among them. ” (Ps 138: 13-16)

The three are intertwined and work harmoniously.

Abortion like other sins will always be present, but that does not mean we as Orthodox Christians simply accept this. We have been given free will and freely we must choose to do what is “meet and right”. Just as sin is ever present, so too is the Holy Spirit, “ever present and filling all things”. It is our choice then to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us to prayerfully, compassionately and lovingly bring those who have stepped into “darkness” back into “light”. “With You there is nothing that cannot be put aright. You are Love. You are the Creator and Restorer.” (Kontakion 10 – Akathist Glory to God for All Things)

Humbly, I might suggest to the writer of the quote to re-word it as follows: “Freedom to choose is a gift from God. It is how we utilize this gift that matters.”

In Christ

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ask Father Anything!

Dear Parish Faithful and Friends in Christ,

Following Vespers this past Saturday evening, some of our Church School teens were present for a session called "Ask Father Anything." I thought we had a very good meeting that was lively and interactive. (We "allowed" some adults to be present who also kept the conversation going at times). The questions were quite good, some "deep" and probing; others of a more practical nature. The quality of the questions and the interest shown by our teens was very encouraging.

Here are some examples of the themes we discussed based upon the questions formulated by our teens:

• Is there a propensity toward evil and acts of violence within our human nature? How do we respond to violence?

• How can we know the truth about our Faith? How can we evaluate the claims made by different religions?

• Is there a place for Orthodox missionary work?

• How can we witness to our schoolmates, peers, etc. about being an Orthodox Christian?

• What is the nature and meaning of fasting?

• Discussion of some of the terms of an Orthodox vocabulary.

Feel free to ask and comment on these and other questions via the comments feature of this blog. I will look forward to our next session, and our online discussions as well!

Fr. Steven

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chris Hillman of The Byrds on his Journey to Orthodoxy

Dear Parish Faithful,

This is from Bill Leara. For those (of us) from this generation who remember something about it and its "style," this may prove to be of some interest. The now-classic song from The Byrds, "Turn, Turn, Turn is taken, of course, from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Fr. Steven

Hi Fr., did you listen to this interview? The bass player from The Byrds is now an Orthodox Christian!


Turn, Turn, Turn

October 09, 2009 Length: 41:43

Chris Hillman, Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer and original member of the legendary sixties band The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Desert Rose Band, reminisces with Illumined Heart host Kevin Allen about his 40 years in the music business and the spiritual journey that led him to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Total Cost of Abortion - In Clear Opposition to Abortion

Dear Parish Faithful,

Here is another response to Wednesday's Midweek Morning Meditation from Alexis Callender that I thought to share with everyone:


Dear Fr. Steven,

As you well know, my stance on abortion is clear – I am opposed. As an Orthodox Christian, I can back my statement in four basic points:

1. God gave us life; therefore, life is sacred.

2. To state differently is anti-Orthodox and above all else, anti-Christ. (One simply cannot view it differently and still state emphatically or with wholeness of heart…”I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible…..”)

3. Scientific data has clearly shown time and again that at the time of conception, there is a life form.

4. Abortion terminates life; therefore, it is a murderous act.

This brings about another point in the abortion matter, the term “pro-choice”. I have to suppress an outburst of laughter and try very hard not to roll my eyes when I hear someone state that “while I would personally never choose to have an abortion nor encourage another to have one, I certainly would never infringe on a person’s right to choose that course of action.” The statement is as ridiculous as you or I saying “while I would never choose to intentionally cause or take the life of another or encourage another person to do so, I would certainly never infringe on a person’s right to choose that course of action.” To some this may be an “apples to oranges” comparison. However, if you consider the fact that abortion ends life and it is intentional - albeit coercion, disparity and distortion of the process and outcome may be factors in the decision - a life has been taken. Further, it is important to remember that choice, like life, is a gift given to us by God. We have free will to choose right and wrong. With every choice there is a consequence … for every action a reaction. In my humble opinion, “pro-choice” is just another term to soften view of an ugly reality … if you are “pro choice”, you believe that abortion is ok, maybe just not for you. All the legal terms, flowery pink pictures and kind gentle voices cannot cover up or sway the attention from the “500 Ton Gorilla” in the room. Unless, of course, you “choose” to ignore it. It is important to point out though that “choosing not to look” does not make it go away.

As Orthodox Christians, we are responsible to prayerfully and dutifully try to “right this wrong”. However, we have to be careful in our approach by first “putting on Christ” before responding. It is so easy to get caught up in our zeal that we may allow the trickery of the Evil One to “distort” our endeavors with the sins of judgment and pride. With this in mind, I have to remember that only God may judge and that I too am being judged in the way that I deal with these issues and respond. I have to remember to ask “for a door of enclosure about my lips” when anger sets in and (as stated above) to suppress a cynical burst of laughter and eye roll at my opposition. I must also remember that all is from God and that all can only be forgiven by God with true repentance. With Him, all things are possible… in His time, according to His Holy Will.

“That which is broken cannot be restored, but You can set aright those whose conscience has become decayed; You restore the soul to its former beauty in those who have lost it beyond all hope. With You there is nothing that cannot be put aright. You are Love. You are the Creator and Restorer. To You we sing praise: Alleluia.” ~ Kontakion 10 – Akathist of Thanksgiving, Glory to God for All Things by Archpriest Gregory Petroff (+1942).

In Christ,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Total Cost of Abortion - A Reflection

Dear Parish Faithful,

I have received a fair share of responses to yesterday's meditation concerning the effect on women of having an abortion. Here is an interesting one from Marian Davis that I would like to share with you.

Fr Steven


Fr Steven,

I am glad to read these kinds of truths rather than the political rhetoric that constitutes the "abortion discussion" for the most part. Though I have known several to many women who have chosen to have abortions over the years, never have I known someone who fit the popular "convenience" explanation. Desperate, alone, young and lacking in life experience and problem solving skills, no means of self support (scarier for middle class young women), intense pressure form parents, boyfriends and even husbands, yes.

During a discussion of these issues long ago, when I was a student at YDS, I remember a wise comment made by a Buddhist woman. She said she didn't OPPOSE abortion, she just winced at the choice because of its inevitable consequences for all. One doesn't, she said, step into the River of Life and choose to move against the current without harming oneself in fundamental ways...As the article suggests, she saw abortion as an illusory solution whose inevitable consequences would unfold in time, most intimately in the heart, soul, life of the woman...It harms men too--but they are less likely to notice.

Marian Davis

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Health Care Debate: An Orthodox Contribution

Dear Parish Faithful and Friends in Christ,

Reform of our current health care system is very much in the news - and provoking a great deal of polemical reaction and heated debate. I struggle with understanding all of the inter-related issues that need to be considered in assessing the proposed overhaul - or, at least, reform - of the health care system as it exists. I have noticed that there is not a great deal of talk and needed concentration on preventative health care, including the very foods we consume in great quantity that potentially lead to poor health in the first place. Since the claim exists that a great deal of health care costs are consumed by preventable diseases, including many cardiovascular diseases, it seems that we should concentrate on "disease prevention" caused by our own careless habits in how we take care of our over-all health. "Eating healthy" can easily fit into an Orthodox understanding of asceticism and an Orthodox anthropology that considers the body to be the "temple" of the Holy Spirit, and thus something we need to care for. Also, our fasting discipline easily lends itself to "eating healthy" - abstaining from all of that red meat, heavily-sugared "desserts," etc., for sustained periods of time - which is just one more reason we should embrace fasting when called upon to by the Church. It is a practice that strengthens us both spiritually and physically. This is all quite independent of our political positions and our acceptance or rejection of the current administration's attempted reform of the current health care system.

I did come across a very interesting article with the following title: "Big Food vs. Big Insurance - The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care." This article is certainly more political and social than theological; but it raises some of the issues that I just mentioned from a different perspective and seemed to me to be a meaningful contribution to the entire debate. The author also raises the unsettling and uncomfortable issue of obesity within America, and the unpromising future about combating that health issue, especially in relation to a powerful food industry that is not driven by health considerations. If the title interests you, here is a link to the article.

Fr. Steven