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.

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

9/11 Anniversary: A Brief Memorial

Dear Parish Faithful and Friends in Christ,

Today is the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, together with a fourth airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania. As a nation, we simply refer to that day as "9/11." Everyone old enough must remember that traumatic day with clarity. "Life goes on," and we move on with it, but we want to respectfully remember all of the innocent victims of those attacks and their continually-grieving families. I recall a blind Greek Orthodox man from Chicago retell the tragedy of his brother dying in the World Trade Center to the children of the Hogar back in 2004 - in fact it was my daughter Sophia who translated what he was saying into Spanish for the children - and how they listened in hushed silence. There were thousands of such personal stories that make the sense of loss from that day both more direct and poignant.

Memory Eternal!

Fr. Steven

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thirst for Transcendence: Another Response

Dear Parish Faithful,

Just received this from our beloved friend, Sister Vicki. She offers some comments on last week's meditation about the apparent loss of faith - or at least the practice of ones' faith - among today's college students. I am sure she wouldn't object in my sharing it with you. As she mentions at the end, Steve and Pat Pride were at the monastery last weekend and spent some time with her.

Fr. Steven


Good morning Fr. Steven, evlogeite!

Hope and pray all is well. I read your last Thursday's med. about college students views on church and faith..Yes our society continues to change and without parents modeling and teaching the faith our kids are wandering out there. Certainly in most universities (faculty etc.) no one is going to speak the truth to students unless the adults themselves know the truth.

You have a very important mission with your students, to teach them about what the Gospels say and about our Lord and the church. I pray you can bring some hope and joy to your students. You are planting seeds now and when the Lord wills and when the students have the desire, they will hear and act.

Some of us attended the Missions and Evangelism conf. at AV last weekend. I was only there for one day (sat.) You may want to listen to two of the talks on, Campus Evang. and Working with Youth which were given by a young Greek Orth. priest from Lancaster, PA. (Fr. Hector) They are on the Ancient Faith Radio.
They are worth listening to. Fr. Hector explains what is was like to be on the huge campus of Penn State back in the late 90's.

Sunday Sept. 20 the is OCF Sunday. OCF is in need of funding right now.

We are having a few days of rest this week, thank God and will cont. to have guests through early Oct. Then....Lord willing , Mo. Galina and I will travel to Greece. The planning is slow and tedious right now, please pray that it will come together and that our contacts in Greece will come through. I'll let you know our dates later.

As you know , Pat and Steve were here last Sun. We had a nice visit.

Say hi to Presv. God be with you, and may our Lord grant you wisdom and hope as you preach the Good News! Don't be discouraged. Pray to St. Cosmas of Aiotolia.

Yours in IC XC,
Sr. Vasiliki

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thirst for Transcendence: A Response

Dear Parish Faithful,

This week's "Thursday's Theological Thoughts" generated a good deal more response than usual, and I appreciate reading and thinking over those responses, all of which were quite interesting. I thought to choose at least one as representative and also for some of the insights for an evolving dialogue with the contemporary world and the contemporary student.

Fr. Steven


Dear Father Steven,

Father Bless.

This is quite intense, but very typical of my generation, the "Slackers" or "Generation X", and has trickled down to Generation Y.

Ten years ago I was a non-traditional college student. I often had casual conversations with a friend of mine on the meaning of life. It was mostly rhetoric, centered on some of life’s great mysteries. My friend suggested I enroll in a Philosophy class because it introduces the same topics. As it turns out, philosophy was a great beginning to begin to learn what many great thinkers have tackled in answering. It was validating.

I really feel that students today are much like students of the past, who enjoy deep discussions about the meaning of life. So perhaps for many students they have yet to deal with the first question to philosophy: Do you believe in the existence of God? The second question is equally as hard: If God is All-Knowing, All-Loving, and Omnipresent, why does evil exist in the world?

Philosophy, in my opinion, is a gateway into critically thinking about God in a safe environment. If people were required to take a philosophy class and/or through casual discussion groups in place on or off-campus, it would possibly ignite a desire into theology by taking the first step into discovering deeper aspects of their mind. This is the beginning of truly seeking God with all mind, heart, and soul. Could it be required to take a philosophy class before students attend your theology class? Perhaps this is wishful thinking...

I was inspired by the way my professor presented the topic, opened the door into my mind to challenge my thinking. The teacher wouldn't tell us whether she was religious until the last day of class. Looking back, I can see the logic behind it and I admire her for it. At the last day of school, she smiled and shared with us, “I am Catholic.” I will always be grateful for her style. It serves as a model for my approach to people and life to this day.


Jennifer Haynes