Monday, March 28, 2016

Lives Transfigured

Fr. Thomas Hopko at Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit, Lenten Retreat 2010.

Dear Parish Faithful,

I wrote last week reminding the parish that the one-year anniversary of the repose of Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko was commemorated on March 18.  In fact, at yesterday's memorial service following the Liturgy we remembered Fr. Tom together with Archimandrites Roman (Braga) and Afanasy.  Fr. Hopko spent his retirement years in a home right by the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA, and became an integral part of the community for many years through serving and teaching.  Whenever visiting the monastery through the years, it was always great to see Fr. Tom and sometimes serve with him in the monastery's chapel.

Mother Alexandra
The monastery publishes a fine journal on a quarterly basis, entitled Life Transfigured.   The latest issue was dedicated to the foundress of the monastery, Mother Alexandra, the former Princess Ileana of Romania.  This dedication is in recognition that the twenty-fifth anniversary of her repose in the Lord occurred this last January.  The entire issue is made up of short essays or articles that she had written over the years in both Europe and the United States.

As Mother Alexandra established the monastery in 1962 (I believe) she becomes one of the great pioneers of Orthodox monasticism in North America, certainly of women's monasticism.  A very fond memory for both Presbyter and myself was that of hosting Mother Alexandra in our home when she came to lead a retreat in the small mission I was serving in London, Ontario, Canada, before coming to Cincinnati.  She left having made a great impact on our community there.  Born into royalty, Mother Alexandra was a woman of great cultural and spiritual refinement.  Yet, through her profound Christian faith, she was also deeply humble and aware of the equality of all human beings before God and our need to repent of our sins.

Yesterday, we read aloud in the church her short but moving meditation on the First Commandment.  Based on the words of Christ as recording in the Gospel according to St. Mark:  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all they strength.  This is the first commandment;" she began her meditation with the following memorable words:

"How many Christians really fulfill this commandment? How many other persons or things come first?  How many people realize, O Lord, that You do not come between them and other loves, but quite the contrary, other loves and cares come between them and You!  The greater our love for God the more our love for home, parents, children and friends grows.  How many even of those that have embraced some form of religious life are conscious of this factor in their spiritual thoughts?"

She closed this meditation with the following prayer that must have been of her own composition:

O! my Lord God, fill my empty heart with Thy love,
revive my flagging spirits. Make me strong through
Thy strength, making me compassionate by Thy
compassion; now that at last I am an empty shell
I pray Thee fill me utterly with Thy love so that my
love may faithful reflect Thy for me and all mankind.

A further meditation in this issue is entitled "Regret and Repentance."  I would like to share this short meditation with everyone, noting its deep lenten significance, perhaps as we prepare for the Sacrament of Confession:

There is a great deal of difference between regretting sins we have committed and feeling true contrition about them, repenting of them.

To regret, actually means to be sorry for a loss, or distressed about an event.  This, of course, is no bad start in relation to sin, because in sinning we have indeed lost a great deal more than we realize.  With each sin, big or small, we fall away from grace.  Also, sins have an uncomfortable  way of having visibly uncomfortable consequences, events for which we most certainly are sorry.

But this is a long way from real contrition that brings repentance.  True repentance is not only grief in the unfortunate consequences of our thoughts or actions, a hatred for what we have done, but also deep sorrow for the impulse that gave birth to sin.  It awakes the desire to do penance, to make good, to purge ourselves.  We become conscious of the stain upon the soul.  That is why the 50th (51st) Psalm is given such predominance in all our services, for it is the real prayer of repentance:  "cleanse me from my sin, for I acknowledge my transgression:  and my sin is ever before me."  Repentance also includes the hope of forgiveness, the knowledge that God can wipe out the stain:  "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."

Yet David, when he wrote this, had not the assurance that we have, that if we repent, we are forgiven.  "This is My blood of the New Testament which is shed for you for the remission of sins."

Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confession to give you an opportunity, even many opportunities, to heal the diseases that afflict the soul.  When did you last repent and go to confession instead of just being sorry?

Going back twenty five years to the repose of Mother Alexandra, we realize that we have lost many great figures of Orthodoxy in that time span.  Yet, they are still with us "in spirit" as we trust by the mercy of God they now reside in the Kingdom of heaven and pray for us. And we have their written legacy in the form of their writings to nourish us as we are hopefully on that same path.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Annunciation: 'Today is revealed the mystery…'

Dear Parish Faithful,

Every year during Great Lent, we celebrate the Great Feast of the Annunciation to the Most-Holy Theotokos on March 25.  This beautiful “festal interlude” allows us to again marvel before the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. 

At His conception “without seed” the “Word became flesh.” He will be born in nine months time, but the actual incarnation is marked when He entered the womb of the Virgin Mary—when she was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit. Since her Son is the pre-eternal Son, Word and Wisdom of God, she becomes the Theotokos—literally, the “God-bearer”.

In an extraordinarily fine passage, the 14th century Saint Nicholas Cabasilas explains the role, not only of the Holy Trinity in this great mystery, but also that of the Theotokos, thus revealing to us the meaning of synergy, or of cooperating with God.

“The incarnation of the Word was not only the work of Father, Son and Spirit—the first consenting, the second descending, the third overshadowing—but it was also the work of the will and the faith of the Virgin,” Saint Nicholas writes.  “Without the three divine persons this design could not have been set in motion; but likewise the plan could not have been carried into effect without the consent and faith of the all-pure Virgin. Only after teaching and persuading her does God make her His Mother and receive from her the flesh which she consciously wills to offer Him. Just as He was conceived by His own free choice, so in the same way she became His Mother voluntarily and with her free consent.”

Feast Days are not just theological ideas. They are days of worship, because it is in worship that we actualize and participate in the reality being commemorated: “Today is revealed the mystery that is from all eternity” we sing on the Great Feast of the Annunciation.  We celebrate the Feasts Days of the Church liturgically so that we can gather as the Body of Christ and rejoice together over the saving events that manifest God’s mercy and grace to the world.

On this feast let us praise God for the awesome mystery of the Incarnation. This Feast "disappears" quickly - March 26 is the Leavetaking - precisely because it is Lent.

As to yesterday evening's Vesperal Liturgy, we had very good participation  and good fellowship in the church hall to follow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fr. Thomas Hopko and The Orthodox Faith

Dear Parish Faithful,
I am a few days behind, but last Friday, March 18, was the one-year anniversary of the falling asleep in the Lord of Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko. After one year, many of us, at least, now realize how much we miss Fr. Hopko's presence among us as a teacher and guide.  That is certainly my experience, since I have known Fr. Hopko since the mid-70's.  We talked on the phone frequently, and I always appreciated his insights into the most contemporary of issues that we are dealing with today. 

In an obvious attempt to co-ordinate two events, St. Vladimir's Press (SVS Press) has re-issued in a new format and with a significant expansion of some of the material, Fr. Hopko's famous "Rainbow Series" of books.  This was a four-volume introduction to the Orthodox Faith, with each separate volume printed with a particular cover color:  Vol. I Doctrine (blue); Vol. II Worship (purple); Vol. III (Bible & Church History (orange); and Vol. IV Spirituality (green). Hence, the "Rainbow Series." 

I have used these book extensively over the years; and some in the parish who were catechized by me will remember them, especially Vol. I.  The new books are now much more attractively-formatted, and the text is accompanied with a series of beautiful pen-and-ink icons by Fr. Andrew Tregubov.

The Preface has been written by Metropolitan Tikhon.  His Beatitude writes very appreciatively:

"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the series The Orthodox Faith, one of the earlier publications written by Fr. Tom, the first volume of which came out in 1971.  This deceptively labeled "elementary handbook" on the Orthodox Church has been used by thousands, from casual enquirers to catechumens to lifelong Church members, as both a catechesis and basic reference tool on Orthodox Christianity."  (p. 11-12)

His Beatitude then adds:

"And so, it is more than fitting that these books be given an update in design and content after so many years of faithful service.  Fr. Tom had plans to revise and update all four volumes of this series.  But alas, with his final illness and death in March, 2015, this was not to be." (p. 12)

And concluding his Preface, His Beatitude writes:

"My hope is that these volumes will continue to inspire those who have made use of them over the years and will serve as an introduction to the Orthodox Faith for a new generation of seekers and learners who are willing to enter into the experience of God following the example provided by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko and his words." (p. 13)

As just one of innumerable examples of Fr. Hopko's clear, direct and insightful style, here is his short description of what the Divine Liturgy actually is:

The Divine Liturgy is not an act of personal piety.  It is not a prayer service. It is not merely one of the sacraments.  The Divine Liturgy is the one common sacrament of the very being of the Church itself. It is the one sacramental manifestation of the essence of the Church as the Community of God in heaven and on earth. It is the one unique sacramental revelation of the Church as the mystical Body and Bride of Christ.

Since this is an excellent introduction to the Orthodox Faith; and since these volumes can be read repeatedly and serve as reference volumes; I would highly recommend them for any personal Orthodox library.  (We will have a set in our own parish library).  The volumes will eventually be made available for download in digital formats. And a question and discussion forum with points of reflection is being created on the OCA website.  Please visit:

Memory Eternal to the Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko!

+ + +


In addition to this welcome news of the new edition of The Orthodox Faith Series, Ancient Faith Radio has made available its 2015 special edition of Ancient Faith Today with Kevin Allen:

In this touching two-hour remembrance, Kevin Allen welcomes three friends who knew Fr. Thomas Hopko as a friend, a colleague, and a priest. You'll also hear tributes from his listeners from all around the world. Our thanks to Dr. Al Rossi, Dr. Peter Bouteneff, and Mother Christophora for sharing on the program.

Remembering Fr. Thomas Hopko (available to download or play in browser)

Monday, March 21, 2016

'We Offer Thee Incense, O Christ our God...'

Dear Parish Faithful,

The prevailing theme on the First Sunday of Great Lent - The Sunday of Orthodoxy - is that of the image:  "We venerate Thy most pure Image, O Good One ... "  The specific basis for this emphasis is, of course, the Orthodox victory over the iconoclasts - "icon-smashers" - of the 8th - 9th centuries.  This victory is dated to the year 843 when a Synod of Constantinople definitively reject the Iconoclast heresy that denied the legitimacy of the Icon of Christ, and by implication, of the saints. The icon was restored to its proper place within the liturgical and personal lives of the faithful after being banned for over a century.  And the theological basis for the icon is the Incarnation - the enfleshment of the Son of God as our Lord Jesus Christ.  The invisible God is made visible when the eternal Son of God "becomes flesh."  (JN. 1:1-18)  As St. John of Damascus put it:

Of old God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. Now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among humans, I make an image of the God who can be seen. 
I do not worship matter but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation.  I will not cease from worshipping the matter through which my salvation has been effected.  
(The Orthodox Faith)

If there was no Incarnation there could be no icon, for God is invisible and intangible.  That is why no images of God were allowed during the time of the Old Testament as St. John so eloquently explained.

Since we are made "according to the image of God," each human person is actually an "image of the Image," for the Son of God is the eternal Image/Icon of the eternal Father; and we are created according to His Image.  If we grow more Christ-like during or earthly lives, then we are transformed into the very likeness of God.  That is our true human vocation.  This has practical and liturgical implications that I would like to remind everyone of.  It is precisely because we are "images of the Image" that we are censed more than once during the Liturgy and other liturgical services. In my booklet, The Divine Liturgy - Meaning, Preparation and Practice, I wrote the following by way of explanation of why the censing is done during the Liturgy:

The people gathered are members of the Body of Christ.  The laity (from laos, "people of God") are worshippers "in spirit and in truth" (JN. 4:24) - not spectators to be passively edified. As the people of God, we are reverently censed by the bishop, priest or deacon at various moments of the Liturgy, just as are the altar table, the sanctuary, and all the icons.  Whenever censed, we respond with a humble bow of acknowledgment to the celebrant.  As the holy ones and the holy things of the Church are censed, so are we. To thus bow in acknowledgement is to accept the truth that we are created "in the image and likeness of God" (GEN. 1:26-27), and therefore called to the same holiness as are the saints, the Mother of God, and of our Lord Himself - the true "Holy One of God" (JN. 6:69). 
Thus, the act of censing is not a mere "liturgical prop" or "ancient" (and perhaps by implication, irrelevant) tradition.  For this reason, when the nave is being censed by the celebrant (or deacon), we should patiently and attentively wait until the censing is completed before coming forward to venerate the icons and light our candles. In so doing, we acknowledge the importance of this liturgical action and we will not grow indifferent to its significance in our worship.

In the Church we are treated with the dignity, honor and respect that is befitting our human nature. Certainly not the case in the world! And that dignity, honor and respect is found in the fact that we are created by God with an eternal destiny. It is our task to live up to this high calling.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The First Week: 'No one crowned is despondent...'

Exchanging Forgiveness - Beginning the Fast

Dear Parish Faithful,

"So let us acquire the disposition that we have been taught, not looking gloomy on the days of fasting we are currently observing but cheerfully disposed toward them, as is fitting for the saints.  No one crowned is despondent; no one glumly holds up a trophy.  Do not be gloomy while you are  being healed.   It is absurd not to rejoice in the soul's health, and rather to sorrow over the change in food and to appear to favor the pleasure of the stomach over the care of the soul.  After all, while self-indulgence gratifies the stomach, fasting brings gain to the soul.

- St. Basil the Great, "First Homily on Fasting"

The link below will lead you to a meditation that I shared with the parish in 2013. That was three years at this point in time. It is a reflection on the Great Canon of Repentance that we always chant on the first four evenings of Great Lent.  However, since neither the service nor the text of the Canon has changed in these last three years (!); and since our human nature has most probably not undergone any major changes either (!), I believe that it may remain "relevant" to us today.

So, just in case anyone may be interested...

The Great Canon: The Bible Alive and Speaking to Us

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Taking Lent Seriously

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

The gateway to divine repentance has been opened. Let us enter eagerly, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ, Who has called the world into the heavenly Kingdom. 
Let us offer to the King of all a tenth part of the whole year, that we may look with love upon His Resurrection.

— Sessional Hymn, Matins of Cheesefare Week

Great Lent is the "School of Repentance."  It is roughly equivalent to an "annual tithe" in which we offer ourselves back to God so as to be received with love, as was the prodigal son.  As such, Great Lent is a gift from God, guiding us toward a way of life we may be reluctant to assume on our own, suffering as we often are from spiritual apathy or a simple lack of focus. 

Great Lent is also goal-oriented, for it leads us on a spiritual pilgrimage of preparation toward the “night brighter than the day” of Pascha and the Risen Lord.  Great Lent is “sacred” and “soul-profiting.”   It is a key component in the Orthodox Way of living out the Christian life to which we have been committed in holy Baptism.

During Great Lent we will recover the essential practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  These practices are the tools that can assist us in returning and remaining close to God.  Liturgical services unique to Great Lent immerse us in a way of communal pray that is solemn and penitent, but which also lighten and unburden the soul through the mercy and grace of God so abundantly poured out upon us through these inspired services.  You leave the church tired in body perhaps, but brighter inside – in the mind and heart. 

Great Lent invites us to see our neighbors as children of God and of equal value in the eyes of God, and thus deserving of our attention, patience and care.  Charity can be distributed through material means or through an encouraging and warmly-spoken word.  Great Lent liberates us from the excessive appetites of our bodies through the discipline of fasting.  Our diet essentially becomes "vegan" as we seek to be less weighed down by a body overly satiated with food and drink.  This is healthy for both soul and body.  The human person does not live by bread alone as the Lord taught us, as He Himself fasted in the desert for forty days. 

We also fast from entertainment, bad habits, obsessions, useless distractions, vulgar language and the like.  We try to simplify life and redeem our new-found time through more focused and virtue-creating tasks.  If approached seriously, perhaps we will be able to carry some of this over into the paschal season – and beyond.

What can we do?  How do we not squander this time set aside for God?

  • Prayer - Make provision to be in church for some of the Lenten services.  Start with the first week of Great Lent and the Canon of Repentance of Saint Andrew of Crete.  Assume or resume a regular Rule of Prayer in your home.  Read the psalms and other Scripture carefully and prayerfully.  Pray for others.

  • Charity – Open your heart to your neighbor.  If you believe that Christ dwells within you, then try to see Christ in your neighbor.  Make your presence for the “other” encouraging and supportive.  Restrain your “ego” for the sake of your neighbor.  Help someone in a concrete manner this Great Lent.

  • Fasting – Set domestic goals about the manner in which you will observe the fast.  Test yourselves.  Resist minimalism.  If you “break” the fast, do not get discouraged or “give up,” but start over.  Assume that your Orthodox neighbor is observing the fast.  Seek silence.  Allow for a different atmosphere in the home.

Jesus set the example of fasting for forty days.  We imitate Him for the same period of forty days.  If it was hard for Him, it will be hard for us —  but not as hard as it was for Him.  Jesus went to the Cross following His “holy week” in Jerusalem.  We follow Him in our holy week observance and practices.  Jesus was raised from the dead following His crucifixion, death and burial.  We seek the resurrection of our spiritual lives here and now as we await our own death at the appointed time and the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

“Taking Lent seriously” — Father Alexander Schmemann’s phrase — is a concrete sign of taking God seriously.  Our surrounding culture is not serious about taking anything too seriously.  When serious issues arise, however, people have a difficult time dealing with them.  Yet Jesus was very serious, especially when it came to issues of life and death – and God and salvation, and so forth. 

Great Lent helps us to focus on these very themes, thereby making it meaningful and important for our lives.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Judgment Sunday: 'The end draws near, my soul…'

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Judgment Sunday:  “The end draws near, my soul….”

We have now come to the third of the four pre-lenten Gospel readings as we draw nearer to Great Lent, beginning on Monday, March 14, this year.  This third reading will be that of the Discourse on the Last Judgment (MATT. 25:31-46). Here is a fine, albeit short, summary from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s introduction to the Lenten Triodion of the meaning and placement of the Sunday of the Last Judgment—celebrated on March 6, 2016.

The two past Sundays spoke to us of God’s patience and limitless compassion, of His readiness to accept every sinner who returns to Him. On this third Sunday, we are powerfully reminded of a complementary truth: no one is so patient and so merciful as God, but even He does not forgive those who do not repent. The God of love is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come as our Judge. ‘Behold the goodness and severity of God’ (Romans 11:22). Such is the message of Lent to each of us: turn back while there is still time, repent before the End comes. In the words of the Great Canon: 
"The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; Yet thou dost not care or make ready.  The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door.  The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower."  
This Sunday sets before us the 'eschatological' dimension of Lent: The Great Fast is a preparation for the Second Coming of the Saviour, for the eternal Passover in the Age to Come. (This is a theme that will be taken up in the first three days of Holy Week.) Nor is the judgment merely in the future. Here and now, each day and each hour, in hardening our hearts toward others and in failing to respond to the opportunities we are given of helping them, we are already passing judgment on ourselves.

What are some of the “opportunities we are given” to help others by expanding our hearts in order to embrace their needs?

These “opportunities” are proclaimed in the Gospel reading appointed for the Sunday of the Last Judgment—Matthew 25:31-46:  to give food to the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, and to come to those in prison.  These are the acts of mercy and charity proclaimed by the glorified Son of Man that will be at the basis of our judgment when we – together with “all the nations”—will be “gathered” before Him.

The glorified Son of Man is our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to the imagery of the parable, He will “come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne” (v. 31).  As the judgment unfolds, there is a separation between the “sheep at the right hand” and “the goats at the left” (v. 33).  Our response to the “opportunities we are given” to serve Christ by serving those in need is expressed in a particularly profound manner by the Lord: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (v. 40). 

Repeated failure to avail ourselves of these opportunities to serve others in need has harsh consequences according to Christ: the shrinking of our hearts in this world; and the final separation that leaves one a “goat” in the world to come.  Yet, the consequence is self-inflicted; and not a rigid juridical pronouncement.  Is our faith acting through love (Galatians 5:6), or does our faith never develop beyond the theoretical stage?  These are choices that we make based upon the gift of self-determination bestowed on us by God.  In the words of St. John of Kronstadt (+1908):

The books of our consciences either justify or condemn us, and all that is left to us is to listen to the just, eternal sentence of the Judge of all. Let us hasten, through sincere repentance and charity, to obliterate from our consciences all of our sins, voluntary and involuntary, and to write in our consciences every good deed.

In every parish, various possibilities arise that present these opportunities to serve others.  To minister is to serve; and that is the basic meaning and goal of all parish ministries.  As a parish attempts to embody the Gospel beyond its walls, those ministries directly connected to the teachings of Christ in Matthew 25:31-46 should include the following.

  • Establishing a food and beverage pantry that feeds local residents in need.
  • Offering financial assistance that feeds, clothes and educates needy children and orphans.
  • Visiting those who are hospitalized or home-bound.
  • Initiating a prison ministry that includes visits to inmates, preparing food items, etc.
  • Providing Christmas gifts for poor and needy families, especially those with children.
  • Collecting and distributing clothing to the needy, and especially the homeless.
  • Befriending the lonely, those without families, and others who have no one upon whom they can rely in times of need.

Inevitably, questions arise concerning the extent to which each parish member will participate, support and embrace such ministries.  Are these ministries a part of our Christian stewardship of time, talent and treasure?  Are our hearts “in it”or “out of it?”  How do we coordinate the proclamation and teaching of the Gospels – heard at every Liturgy – within our lives as lived out as members of a concrete community?  Does our self-absorption minimize our care for the “other?”  Do we truly believe that we will be judged as Christ declares in the parable?

These very questions can form the basis for a “preparation for Confession” during Great Lent.  We usually find ourselves examining how well we fasted or failed to fast during that holy season.  Yet, in addition to prayer and fasting, almsgiving and charity are essential for a holistic embodiment of an “evangelical” – i.e. Gospel-based – way of life.  Perhaps such self-examination will prepare us for the ultimate examination before the Son of Man, when everything will be revealed in absolute clarity.  Of this, we are reminded during Vespers for the Sunday of the Last Judgment as we sing, “But, O Savior Who alone lovest mankind, King of the ages, before the end comes, turn me back through repentance and have mercy on me.”

Fr. Steven

What is this struggle?

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

St Theodore the Studite (Nov. 11)

I have attached Mother Paula's excellent summary of Archbishop Ware's classic article on "The Meaning of the Great Fast."  You will find a wide-ranging approach to Great Lent that is truly "holistic" and takes us way beyond the fasting discipline that teaches us restraint in our food and drink.  Please read this carefully when you are able to give it your attention.

I would also like to include a short, but truly excellent exhortation from St. Theodore the Studite (+826). Although a rather severe ascetic himself as a monastic from the Byzantine era of the Church, you will also notice his comprehensive and "holistic" approach to Great Lent as he emphasizes the lenten struggle as no less than aimed at "purity of heart," only achieved by a wide-ranging practice of the virtues.

What is this struggle?  Not to walk according to one's own will. This is better than the other works of zeal and is a crown of martyrdom; except that for you there is also change of diet, multiplication of prostrations and increase in psalmody are in accord with the established tradition of old. 
And so I ask, let us welcome gladly the gift of the fast, not making ourselves miserable, as we are taught, but let us advance with cheerfulness of heart, innocent, not slandering, not angry, not evil, not envying; rather peaceable toward each other, and loving, fair, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits; breathing in seasonable stillness, since hubbub is damaging in a community; speaking suitable words, since too unreasonable stillness is profitless; yet above all vigilantly keeping watch over our thoughts, not giving place to the devil. 
We are lords of ourselves; let us not open our door to the devil; rather let us keep guard over our soul as a bride of Christ, unwounded by the arrows of the thoughts; for thus we are able to become a dwelling of God in Spirit.  Thus we may be made worthy to hear, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." 
Quite simply, whatever is true, whatever noble, whatever just, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report, if there is anything virtuous, if there is anything praiseworthy, to speak like the Apostle*, do it; and the God of peace will be with you all.

* cf. Philippians 4:8.