In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing a few days ago, I thought I would offer a brief translation of a lecture circulating in Greek about the Elder Porphyrios and how he helped to save the crew from the Apollo 13 lunar mission. It is not a word for word translation, just a basic one. Unfortunately many details are left out, but the spiritual child of the Elder passed on this information because he believed it to be a miracle of God through the Elder.
The Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasios speaks here about an interesting relationship between what happened to the Apollo 13 lunar mission and Elder Porphyrios of Athens. Apparently when disaster struck mid-mission due to a technical malfunction and the mission had to be aborted and the crew safely returned back to earth, there was a meeting held with some top astronomers and scientists on how to save the crew, among whom was a spiritual child of the Elder. Before he left he went to get the Elder's blessing and explained to him what happened and how he had to travel to the United States to help take care of the problem. The Elder told him that when he got to the United States he should allow all the other scientists to speak first to give their opinions to resolve this issue, though their opinions would be wrong. Then the Elder told his spiritual child to speak last and told him exactly what to say in order to save the crew. Believing he had to be obedient to the Elder, he did as was told. The NASA scientists listened to his advice and the crew was saved.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
[In todays society to think positive means more often than not to be self-affirmative. Self-affirmation however, while it can be a means towards success in a capitalist system which aims towards the acquisition of wealth, is a selfish attitude that builds self-esteem in a negative way and causes more psychological damage than healing. The study below seems to affirm this truth.
I spent four years working as a salesman. My managers would encourage us to listen to CD's about self-affirmation and how attitude affects the wealth you make and the overall success you have in life. During sales meetings we would sometimes study such capitalist-friendly Bibles as Dale Carnagie's How To Win Friends and Influence People or Norman Vincent Peale's Think and Grow Rich. On my blackberry I would get quotes from these authors as well as the "great" men and women of history about the methods they learned that helped them reach "success" in life and avoid "failure".
Does this stuff work to make people materially successful? Yes, I believe they do help. But these same people are also the most aggressive, pushy and lying salesmen I knew. They became so convinced in their heads that they were absolutely entitled to success, that they would do just about anything to acquire it. The self-affirmation they learned made them nothing but self-absorbed, self-seeking and all around selfish at the expense of others. Don't get me wrong, they were all very nice and friendly when not in sales mode and I enjoyed their company, but get them in front of a customer and they transformed into some of the most desperate and greedy people I knew. And if I also didn't live up to that standard as a salesman, then I couldn't expect to maintain my quotas and thus eventually my job. As a result, over a period of four years I worked four different sales jobs that eventually I was either layed off from or I walked out of. When you sell something people don't need and have to convince them that they do need it, then ethics is usually thrown out the door - no matter how much that sales person thinks they are doing something positive for others. In the end, the only one being benefitted is themselves and this is justified by supposedly helping others.
There is another form of positive thinking that is healthy however. As Christians we are encouraged to have a positive and optimistic outlook on life, to see the good in others rather than the bad or negative, and to glorify and thank God for all things whether they be positive or negative in our lives. Such positive thinking discourages the arrogance of self-affirmation and cultivates within us humility, compassion, love and other such virtues. While self-affimation serves the god mammon, humility and love serve the true God.
It is for this reason that Elder Paisios always taught the necessity for christians to be positive thinkers - to only see the good things in life and be blind to every evil. He would teach: "We must have positive thoughts, otherwise none of the spiritual fathers - not even the Saints - can help us." I encourage everyone to read his biographies and writings to see the many illustrations by which he did this. "This is our aim," he would say, "to totally submit our mind to the grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His grace." The consequences of not having positive thoughts, taught the Elder, is psychological problems. He says: "When our soul lives carelessly without watching over its thoughts, it will consequently fill up with dirty and sly thoughts. As a result, people start developing psychological problems which gradually pile up."
Ultimately we are to get rid of our thoughts altogether, whether they be positive or negative. Elder Paisios elaborated on this, saying:
"Almost all of us consider our thoughts to be simple and natural, therefore, we spontaneously rely on them. On the contrary, we should neither trust nor accept them. We must not have any thoughts in our mind or heart, neither positive ones, nor negative ones, for this space inside us belongs to the grace of God. We are obliged to keep it clean, not only of our various thoughts but also of the slightest and most elusive slip of the mind. We can only achieve this, if we fervently love Christ and unhesitatingly trust Him. As a result, we humble ourselves, and divine grace, naturally, will be revived inside us, for it is only granted to the humble ones; 'God opposes the proud, but give Grace to the humble'" (1 Pet. 5:5). -J.S.]
Positive Thinking Can Make Things Worse, Study Finds
Article from: Agence France-Presse
July 03, 2009
REPEATING positive statements such as "I am a lovable person" or "I will succeed" makes some people feel worse instead of raising self-esteem, a study says.
"From at least as far back as Norman Vincent Peale's (1952) The Power of Positive Thinking, the media have advocated saying favourable things to oneself," said the study by Canadian psychologists, which was published in Psychological Science today.
It cites a popular self-help magazine that advises its readers to: "Try chanting: I'm powerful, I'm strong, and nothing in this world can stop me," but says the practice doesn't work for everyone.
Positive self-statements make people who are already down on themselves feel worse rather than better, according to the study conducted by psychologists Joanne Wood and John Lee of the University of Waterloo and Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick.
For the study, the psychologists asked people with low self-esteem and people with high self-esteem to repeat the phrase: "I am a lovable person," and then measured participants' moods and feelings about themselves.
What they found is that individuals who started out with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating the positive self-statement.
"I think that what happens is that when a low self-esteem person repeats positive thoughts, they probably have contradictory thoughts," Dr Wood told AFP.
"So, if they're saying 'I'm a lovable person,' they might be thinking, 'Well, I'm not always lovable' or 'I'm not lovable in this way,' and these contradictory thoughts may overwhelm the positive thoughts."
Although positive thinking does appear to be effective when it's part of a broader program of therapy, on its own it tends to have the reverse effect of what it is supposed to do, said Dr Wood, urging self-help books, magazines and TV shows to stop sending a message that just chanting a positive mantra will raise self-esteem.
"It's frustrating to people when they try it and it doesn't work for them," she said.
The basic problem is determining what is actually adaptive behaviour. For example, was rape really adaptive in prehistoric times? The theory is yes, because the guy could spread his selfish genes more often. However, in a tight-knit community, it might be an easy way to get killed.
Begley observes that one hindrance to a scientific assessment of evolutionary psychology has been the moral outrage it provoked. Moral outrage enables the purveyor of silly or pernicious ideas to don the mantle of science, invoke Galileo, and delay the day of reckoning (to distinguish truth from fiction).
Is it true that men are genetically adapted to prefer women with a waist to hip ratio of 0.7? That depends on what other qualities are important. Could Barbie work 10 hours a day under a hot sun?
Are men programmed to neglect or kill their stepchildren? Many such claims relied on social work data gathered for other purposes, and often poorly or prejudicially gathered.
The brave warrior gets the girls? Not necessarily. An analysis of the family histories of 95 Amazon warriors showed that women avoid the "badass" guy, who is typically a disaster as a husband, and may trigger a counterraid that gets his family killed.
Begley notes that a growing new approach, behavioral ecology, makes much more sense than evolutionary psychology (BE). BE posits that evolution created the core of human nature as variability and flexibility - the ability to adapt behavior to the environment quickly - and that there is no universal human nature.
Begley points out that behavioral ecology is beginning to spark much more interest. Behavioral ecology includes the recognition that no one level of adaptiveness exists for a behaviour pattern. For example, is it really true that men are primed by evolution to be big spenders? In many cultures today, that’s the mark of a fool. Do we really know how it was in prehistoric times? Was it the same for all groups? To determine adaptiveness of a behaviour, one must look carefully at a specific environment, not make up stories about how a behaviour might have been adaptive.
I have qualms with this approach, because I think that some features of human nature are universal, other things being equal. The desire for approval comes readily to mind. What there isn't are modules in the brain, created by selfish genes, that can be accounted for by the ways in which the behaviour was adaptive in the Pleistocene era.
But qualms aside, it is nice to see the subject finally leave the realm of mythology and back into the lab.
I encourage you to read the article here.
Why We Need Earthquakes
Without them, the planet couldn't support creatures like us.
The problem of theodicy—why bad things happen to good people—predates Christianity. Writing around 300 b.c., the Greek philosopher Epicurus framed the problem this way: God is believed by most people to be infinite in his power and also in his goodness and compassion. Now evil exists in the world and seems always to have existed. If God is unable to remove evil, he lacks omnipotence. If God is able to remove evil but doesn't, he lacks goodness and compassion. So clearly the all-powerful, compassionate God that most people pray to does not exist.
This old critique has been revived by Bart Ehrman in God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer. Theologians over the centuries have responded to questions about the existence of evil by pointing out that man, not God, is the author of moral evil. Evil in this view refers to the bad things that people do to each other. Moral evil is the necessary price that God pays for granting humans moral autonomy.
Yet while human freedom may account for moral evil, it cannot account for natural evil, or more accurately, natural suffering. Ehrman's book is full of examples, to which we can add recent tragedies such as the earthquake in China last spring and the 2004 tsunami that killed tens of thousands in Southeast Asia.
Christian apologists such as C. S. Lewis have attempted to account for natural disasters by showing how they draw people together, or how they provide moral instruction to the survivors, or how they turn our eyes to God. Ehrman asks, but couldn't God have found better ways to achieve these worthy objectives? Rejecting as implausible and offensive the usual responses to innocent suffering, Ehrman has stopped calling himself a Christian.
A fresh way of looking at the problem of natural evil and suffering comes from Rare Earth, a 2003 book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee that traces the myriad conditions required for life to exist on any planet. In a sense, the authors—an eminent paleontologist and an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle—are discussing the "anthropic principle," which specifies the degree to which our planet appears fine-tuned for complex life. The concept is often used in Christian apologetics to show that our intelligently designed universe seems to point to an intelligent designer.
Ward and Brownlee ask: Why do natural disasters such as earthquakes, seaquakes, and tsunamis occur? All three are the consequence of plate tectonics, the giant plates that move under the surface of the earth and the ocean floor. Apparently our planet is unique in having plate tectonics. Ward and Brownlee show that without this geological feature, there would be no large mountain ranges or continents.
While natural disasters occasionally wreak havoc, our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth. Without plate tectonics, earth's land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.
Plate tectonics also help regulate the earth's climate, preventing the onset of scorching or freezing temperatures that would make mammalian life impossible. In sum, plate tectonics are a necessary prerequisite to human survival on the only planet known to sustain life.
Ehrman and others may not find this convincing. They might ask, "Why didn't God devise a world that didn't require plate tectonics and consequently one that wouldn't have to put up with earthquakes?" In other words, surely God could have made a universe that operated according to a different set of laws.
Ward and Brownlee's answer to this is as simple as it is devastating. Such a world could have produced life, but it surely could not have produced creatures like us. Science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure.
Our planet requires oxygen and a warming sun and water in order for us to live here, and we appreciate this, even though we recognize that people can get sunstroke and drown in the ocean. So, too, it seems that plate tectonics are, as Ward and Brownlee put it, a "central requirement for life" as we know it.
This is not to suggest, as the scientist and philosopher Leibniz once argued, that ours is the best of all possible worlds. But ours may be the best of all feasible worlds, at least as viewed from a human perspective. This recognition will not stop people from bemoaning the next earthquake, but it should at least stop us from blithely assuming that the Creator could have done a much better job.
Dinesh D'Souza, a former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, is author of What's So Great About Christianity and other books.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 2A
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 2B
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 2C
[I wanted to make people aware of an interesting website by The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA) that will seek to present American Orthodox history without jurisdictional biases. More information about this Society is below and you can take a look at their website here. This site will hopefully uncover much about the Orthodox presence in the New World that has not been compiled before.
I would further encourage those interested in the history of Orthodoxy in America to listen to a podcast by Matthew Namee on this issue here. - J.S.]
The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas
Anyone who has made a comparative study of the history of Orthodox Christianity in North America has probably quickly surmised that there is something of a historiograpical problem. That is, the writing of the history of Orthodox Christianity in America has been plagued with jurisdictional squabbles, claims to primacy and other agendas, often with little attention to what primary sources actually yield up as the story contained within them. Myths and ideology have often dominated these histories, rather than a close reading of historical documents.
With the formation of the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA), the membership desires to begin to shift the approach to studying and writing the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas (and elsewhere, of course, should members desire it) to reflect an earnest engagement with primary sources. There is no jurisdictional agenda attached to SOCHA, and there is no specific ideology or philosophy which members are required to share, excepting only the basic integrity crucial to historical study and the honesty required to have one's premises challenged and revised should the evidence warrant it.
This site hosts essays, links to podcasts, book reviews, tidbits discovered in the course of research, photographs, and more. Stay tuned.
[From the last post we read how the Russian Prime Minister Putin is a bit elusive in speaking openly about his faith, presumably for political reasons since he is often accused of trying to work with the Russian hierarchy to establish his supposed Tsarist rule on Russian society. Now Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announces that students of Russian schools will be required to take religious classes from their choice of religion listed below or even a secular ethics class. The purpose is to give students a sense of morality following Soviet atheistic rule which made morals and ethics to have no foundation. In the recent past it was discussed that there would only be a choice between Russian Orthodox classes or no classes for the students to decide, now some sort of ethical foundation of any tradition or philosophy listed below is required. This is to be looked upon as a positive since many students are not properly knowledgeable of their religious tradition and will give them an opportunity to become acquinted with their tradition as well as open society in the future to inquiries and debates on these topics. - J.S.]
Russian Pupils to Have Choice of Religion, Ethics
July 21, 2009
Barvikha, Russia - Russia's president has announced a pilot project in which schoolchildren will have to take classes in religion or secular ethics.
Tuesday's proposal is part of a Kremlin effort to teach young Russians morals in the wake of a turbulent period of uncertainty following the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union.
President Dmitry Medvedev said preteen students at about 12,000 schools nationwide would take the classes. They will be offered the choice of studying the dominant Russian Orthodox religion, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism; or an overview covering various faiths; or secular ethics.
The offer of a choice appeared aimed to ease concerns that Russian Orthodoxy will be forced on schoolchildren as the church gains influence and tightens ties with the state.
Russian president supports religion education in schools
BARVIKHA, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday expressed his support for a proposal to teach religious education in Russian state schools.
He also backed the suggestion that chaplains should be employed in Russia's armed forces.
"I decided to support both proposals," the president said at a special meeting on the subject. The proposals had been made by religious leaders from Russia's main faiths.
The president said a pilot project would be launched in 18 Russian regions until 2012, and later across the whole of Russia. The first lessons, to involve 256,000 children and 44,000 teachers, could begin next spring.
"It could be the basics of Orthodox or Islamic culture, as well as Judaism and Buddhism. Students and their parents should make this choice for themselves," he said.
A course on Russia's four largest religions, as well a course on secular ethics will also be available as an option, Medvedev added.
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill expressed his support for the idea, but stressed that the course should be optional.
"Experience shows that only a voluntary insight into such ideas, namely religious ideas, is beneficial," he said.
Religious education took place in Russian schools up until the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of the officially atheist Soviet system.
[Americans know very little about Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's Orthodox Christian beliefs. Here is a fascinating interview of Vladimir Putin by Larry King. Vladimir Putin talks about his Miracle Cross. Here is the original CNN transcript.- J.S.]
Vladimir Putin and his Miracle Cross - Calls it a Revelation
July 20, 2009
KING: There is much talk about Vladimir Putin and religious faith. I'm told that you wear a cross. Is that true? Are you religious? What are your feelings in this area?
PUTIN (through translator): I prefer -- I would prefer not to develop on that subject in detail. I think such things are sacred for everybody. Everybody's belief is not to be shown off, it's inside a man's heart. As regards to wearing cross, earlier I never had it -- once my mother gave it to me when I visited Israel. I was there two times. First on an official invitation of the minister of foreign affairs of that country. The second time, I liked the country, and I traveled there with my family as a tourist.
So my mother gave it to me to have a blessing there at the Tomb of the Lord. I did so and now it's with me always.
Incidentally enough, there was a story about this cross and since then I have always decided to have it on my body, now in the Dacha close to St. Petersburg, there was fire on the Dacha, it happened because of the fact that something went wrong with sauna.
Prior to entering sauna, I took off the cross before entering the sauna, and then with my friend we jumped out naked, since it was so unexpected. And I cherish that cross very much, it was my mother's cross, and the fire was really in earnest at the time. So I was thinking about whether perhaps it could get even remnants of it, it was an aluminum-made cross, a very simple thing.
I was surprised completely when one of the workers, just muddling through those ashes of the remnants, found that cross intact. And the house fell, that was a surprise, a revelation, and therefore I always now keep it with me.
KING: Do you believe there is a higher power?
PUTIN (through translator): I believe in human beings. I believe in his good intentions. I believe in the fact that all of us have come to this world to do good. And if we do so, and if we do so together, then a reward is awaiting for us. And both with regards to our relations as people to people, or inter-state relations. And most important, we will achieve the ultimate goal, comfort in our own heart.
KING: Thank you Mr. President.
PUTIN (through translator): Thank you.
KING: Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, thanks for joining us.
Monday, July 20, 2009
[Bishop Savas is a very close personal friend of mine and he, of all the bishops and priests I know, is most qualified for the position in directing the revived Office of Church, Society and Culture. Below is a very good interview with His Grace describing this important new ministry for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. And keep an eye out for his new blog coming soon called Living in the Logosphere.
I also kindly request that when you read this article that you go to the link here and give the best positive review for it. This Greek News website has been overly critical of the Greek Archdiocese in the past and they need to know that we appreciate a positive article that enhances the ministry of the Greek Archdiocese rather than cause divisions and slanders. Thank you in advance! - J.S.]
Bishop Savas & the Office of Church and Society
Monday, July 20, 2009
In February, 2009, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America named His Grace Bishop Savas of Troas as Director of the Office of Church and Society. Bishop Savas, who has been a Bishop for seven years and has served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese for the past nine years, is also overseeing the Archdiocesan Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (AACST) and working closely with the Archdiocesan Youth Department.
Bishop Savasʼs charge is to develop programs and ministries that promote a creative Orthodox Christian engagement with the societal and cultural realities that affect the very fabric of the Orthodox community today. He will be addressing matters of current relevance such as the effects of online social networking, the popularity of so-called “reality” television and video games, and the resurgence of atheism.
Archbishop Demetrios cited Bishop Savasʼs “extensive education, mature grasp of current issues, deep appreciation of, and engagement with contemporary culture, and above all great love for Christ and His Holy Church” as exceptional qualifications for his new position and expressed confidence that Bishop Savasʼs appointment will be fruitful, especially for the young, “who look to the Church for assistance in meeting the challenge of living lives that are both fully and authentically Greek Orthodox and fully and authentically, twenty-first-century American.”
Bishop Savas shared his thoughts about his new position, his new blog titled “Living in the Logosphere”, pop culture, and the Internet with the GreekNews.
GN: Your Grace, In February, Archbishop Demetrios relieved you of your responsibility as Chancellor of the Archdiocese and assigned you to direct the Office of Church, Society and Culture. Some would say that was a demotion. What are your feelings about your appointment?
BS: I served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese for nine years, from December 1999 until the end of 2008. The late Fr George Bacapoulos was the only person who held that position longer than I in the 90-year history of our Archdiocese! As you can imagine, itʼs a very difficult position, involving priests and parishes in need and/or conflict, investigations, lawsuits. I used to describe my office as “The Complaint Department”. Itʼs not the sort of thing one wants to do forever. Iʼm deeply honored that His Eminence entrusted such a sensitive and vital ministry to me for so long a time, and I am profoundly grateful that he has now provided for me an opportunity to serve the Church in a more creative capacity.
GN: Please tell us something about your new office.
BS: The Office of Church, Society and Culture is actually the revival and adaptation of the Department of Church and Society, which was an important part of the Archdiocese from the ʽ60s through the 80ʼs. Archbishop Demetrios felt strongly about resurrecting that department to explore means of reaching out to the great numbers of Orthodox Christians who stand on the borders, as it were, of a full-blooded commitment to the Church.
You may recall that the theme of last yearʼs Clergy-Laity Congress in Washington, DC, was “Gather My People to My Home”. His Eminence and the Holy Eparchial Synod firmly believe that God has charged us to bring the world into the Church. To that end, my new directive is to promote a creative Orthodox Christian engagement with contemporary social and cultural realities. My office is charged with the task of developing and implementing programs and ministries that will assist those persons, and particularly young adults, who look to the Church for guidance in meeting the challenge of living lives that are both fully and authentically Greek Orthodox Christian and fully and authentically 21st-century American.
GN: I understand that one of the initiatives of your office is an upcoming blog.
BS: Yes. The word “blog”, of course, is a neologism, short for “weblog.” Itʼs a type of website with regular entries and that exists in a variety of types. I kept a personal, travel-diary-type blog when I spent two months in Florence, Italy, late last year, as a way of sharing my thoughts and experiences with friends and family. The blog I am preparing to launch for the Office of Church, Society and Culture will have a different, less personal, less whimsical character. It will provide commentary on a variety of topics that have an impact on our lives as contemporary Orthodox Christians in America, ranging from the political to the environmental, from bioethical issues to trends in popular culture. One of the things that sets a blog apart from say, a newsletter, is that it provides readers the opportunity to leave comments, to interact with the content. And I say “content” because it wonʼt be just text; it will include videos and podcasts as well.
GN: Whatʼs the difference between this sort of engagement—on-line, with possibly controversial questions—and other forms of religious education or pastoral guidance offered by the church? What do you see as the advantages and risks of using blogs and social networking technologies to take our faith into the marketplace of ideas?
BS: Blogs and social network technologies are the new marketplace of ideas and we ignore them at our own risk. They are where people go, especially young people, to find out about their world. On the other hand, there are significant risks involved in engaging people on line. Itʼs no secret that a cultural war is raging all around us. We have become a very polarized society, and weʼve taken to shouting our differences at each other over the airwaves. Cybershouting is made easier by the fact that people can hide behind avatars or pseudonyms in cyberspace. In other words, they can snipe at others anonymously. So thereʼs a scary dimension to expressing yourself on the Internet because people don't necessarily have to account for their behavior.
GN: How will you deal with the problem of masked identity on your blog?
BS: People will have to register with their real names. This might cramp some people's style, but those are the people that we wouldn't want to appear on the blog anyway. Iʼll be the blogʼs gatekeeper, as it were, giving thumbs up or thumbs down on whether a comment appears or not, so it's not going to be a free-for-all.
GN: When will the blog be up and running? How can we find it?
BS: Thereʼll be an announcement on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website (www.goarch.org) in the coming days, that will provide people with a link to the address.
GN: What is the name of the blog?
BS: “Living in the Logosphere”. Iʼve decided to call it that because I want to set this blog apart from the rough-and-tumble of the blogosphere, that virtual space where hundreds of millions of people are posting their opinions and reacting, often heatedly, to the opinions of others. I want the Logosphere to be a kind of metaphor for the Church. Itʼs where the Logos, the Word of God, the reason for everything, the Life of the world, reigns over all. Itʼs another way of saying “The Kingdom of God.”
GN: You mentioned that the blog will provide commentary on a wide range of topics, from politics to pop culture. Will you be addressing all of the topics personally?
BS: Mine wonʼt be the only voice you hear in “The Logosphere”. I'm the contributing editor, but there will be far better qualified voices than mine addressing topics like Church-State relations, bioethics, and green issues. My own expertise, such as it is, is on culture: film, literature, music, and thatʼs where I'll largely be focusing my energies, evaluating what passes for entertainment today and helping people discern what is of lasting value or where dangers might lie. I am not a mindless kind of celebrant of whatever pop culture puts out there but neither am I a reflexive critic in the sense of being a denouncer who says “no good can come of this”, because I've experienced a lot of good from pop culture. I think that both ends of the spectrum are extreme and untenable positions; we have to have a more nuanced stand toward popular culture.
GN: You have taught a course titled “Looking for God in Popular Culture” at St Vladimirʼs Orthodox School of Theology recently.
BS: Yes, it was a seminar that I taught with my koumbaro, Dr. Peter Bouteneff, with whom I studied at Oxford. We argued the case that Godʼs voice, His presence, His will, can be discerned even in the unlikely world of popular culture: in popular movies, television shows, novels, music, trends – you name it.
GN: Thatʼs not a case you often hear Orthodox theologians make. Theyʼre generally more critical of popular culture, arenʼt they?
BS: Itʼs true that some people think of the world of pop culture as a wasteland, but I take it as a teaching of the Church that God is “everywhere present and fills all things.” Itʼs not as if the people who create pop culture have never heard of the Gospel; some of them take it very seriously and have responded to it very deeply and authentically, and have expressed that belief in their work in powerful and inspiring and surprising ways. I also contend that some artists are communicating the Truth in spite of themselves, without realizing that theyʼre doing it. People might think of pop culture only as a form of distraction, an unhealthy temptation analogous to eating junk food. Iʼm not saying that pop culture should be our only sustenance. Of course youʼve got to eat some real food, but if you know where to look for it some genuine nourishment can be found in pop culture. Some may say that the effort isnʼt worth it, that weʼre looking for diamonds in the dung heap, but a diamond is a diamond, wherever you find it. Itʼs also my firm belief that God is sending us there, to that “wasteland,” to “the highways and the by-ways,” as Jesus Himself put it in the parable of the wedding feast, to find people to gather into His home.
Maybe, but I have not seen this reported anywhere else and was curious for more information on it. If anyone has any information, please let me know.
Top Ten Movies of 2009
10. Public Enemies - The only negative about this movie is that it does not give enough background information to fulfill its ultimate purpose of making John Dillinger a sympathetic figure and instead does it through a few historical inaccuracies. It gets its high mark for filming in many of the actual historical locations. It also has three of my favorite actors in film today whose abilities highly elevate this film - Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard.
9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - As much as I love the X-Men series, I will have to give this latest installment the highest praise. A very entertaining film with a surprisingly tight story and lots of action.
8. Coraline - A beautifully done 3-D animation sci-fi/fantasy film with a gothic edge. Dakota Fanning does a masterful job in bringing out the troubled emotions of Coraline.
7. I Love You, Man - Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are very funny in this movie and make for a classic comedy duo. I laughed throughout the movie and it was intelligently well made.
6. Hangover - This is a rare film that mixes raunchiness with intelligence to make it the funniest movie of the year. It is perfectly cast to give a unique chemistry between the four main characters, and the outrageousness of the story is mixed with a reality that makes it plausible and believable.
5. Star Trek - A highly anticipated film by Star Trek fans of the original series, as I am, that does not disappoint. Perfectly cast and great story with effects, it takes the Star Trek franchise to another level.
4. Drag Me To Hell - The best horror movie of the year so far and a film that stars the director above everybody else. Only Sam Raimi could make such a great horror film in the spirit of Evil Dead 2 that has just as many laughs as it does scares. An excellent story line and production that is well acted and contemporary while remaining nostalgic of the great horror films of the 1970's.
3. Up - For this computer animated film to be on my list of top 3 films is a big deal since I hardly ever see animated films in theatres, but I find it hard to resist a good 3-D film. This is not just good however, but excellent. It contains one of the best opening montages in movie history and beautifully crosses the generations to make this movie as entertaining and lovable for adults of all ages as it is for children. And I highly commend this film for making an old man the hero of this children's story.
2. The Hurt Locker - An intense war film set in Iraq that is not to be missed. The realism and authenticity of the film is so staggering, you are left wondering if this movie was actually filmed in Iraq (it was filmed in Jordan 3 miles from Iraq). The authenticity of the film is accentuated by the fact that they used actual Iraqi displaced war refugees to play the Iraqi's.
1. Sin Nombre - This gets a 10 on all my categories above and in my opinion is the Slumdog Millionaire of 2009. This is a true classic masterpiece yet beautifully simple.
Honorable Mentions For Top Ten Movies of 2009
- Bruno - Though many hated this film and were offended by it, I cannot deny the extreme hilarity of the film. From beginning to end the film is funny and I found it to be an excellent commentary on the prejudices of society and the narcissism involved in trying to be famous. What I find a lot of people denying in reviewing this film is the reality it depicts and the fact that reality is much much worse than anything depicted in this film. Shocking, but great!
- Notorious - A surprisingly amazing film about famed rapper Notorious B.I.G. that is well acted and draws you in.
- Taken - A great over the top action film that also depicts the harsh realities of human sex trafficking.
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter series and this does an excellent job in the evolution of this story line. It does an excellent job showing the children going through puberty and maturing. There is no climactic ending, but fulfills its purpose in building anticipation for the next film and conclusion.
Worst Movie of 2009
1. My Life In Ruins - This movie is horrible to say the least. It is a comedy that is not humorous at all. As a Greek, in many ways I found it offensively bad and does a terrible job in describing the authenticity of the Greek people. And the only time it mentions an Orthodox Church is when they visit one on their tour and all they do is make fun of everything in there. It shows kefi (a hard to translate word that expresses passionate enthusiasm and a party spirit) to be the soul of the Greek people, which I would disagree with, but in the end this kefi is taught by an overweight American tourist who plays a sort of guru figure throughout the film. He teaches this by having sex with a younger woman inspiring everyone else to have sex as well. Bruno has more class than this film. The only positive in this film is the scenery.
Runner Up For Worst Movie of 2009
- He's Just Not That Into You - I expected something good from this romantic comedy that had some great actors, but in the end it does not deliver and there is not a shred of intelligence or humor in it. The script does great injustice to an excellent cast.
Posted from: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/
On the 20th of July demonstrations will be held around the world against the continuing illegal Turkish military occupation of Hellenic land. In Cyprus the student organizations of EFAEFP and EFEN have taken the lead and are organizing this year’s demonstration. There will be a rally on the 20th of July at 6:30pm from Platia Eleftherias Square leading to the Ledra roadblock in Nicosia. In London the Cypriot community will be holding their annual protest in front of the Turkish Embassy (43 Belgrave Square, London SWIX 8PA) on July 19th from 2:45pm with a march through Central London and a Rally at 4.30pm (to be attended by senior Cypriot officials) in Trafalgar Square:
And in Washington DC, The Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA) will be having an ‘All night vigil in Washington D.C. to mourn the missing and murdered Cypriots of the barbaric Turkish invasion of July 20, 1974’, in Sheridan Circle facing the bedroom window of the Turkish Ambassador on the eve of July 20th, 2009:
Please send us news on all the demonstrations which are going on around the world so we can post them.
We refuse to forget the Turkish Crimes committed by the Turkish invasion on 20th July 1974. Our sacred Hellenic land has been under barbaric Turkish occupation for too long. Every patriotic Hellene who cannot forget and will not forget Turkey’s Crimes against Hellenic people should participate.
In the words of Cypriot student activist Paris Stylianides: "We have reached melting point. Hellenism is striving to survive on this island….”
And in further Hellenic Patriotic News, here follows four (4) important news and research articles on the Cyprus Cause:
(1) Our friends in Cyprus have a new site that has just opened on 15th July solely for English texts. It is run by patriotic young people. Please bookmark them. Their blog offers truth on the latest developments concerning Cyprus! PART OF THE ‘FREEDOM FOR CYPRUS NETWORK’, please link to it on your blogs, sites, and message boards:
(2) An important Memorial tribute to a fighter for EOKA 1955-59 who paid a heavy price not for what he was doing but because of the subservient attitude of certain GREEK and GREEK-CYPRIOT elements within the London Community…that has already been published in TA NEA of London.
The article is available also for download in the attachments, along with
(3) An invitation to an upcoming event in Cyprus sent to us by the patriotic “Movement for FREEDOM AND RULE OF LAW IN CYPRUS” to mark July 20th that will include speeches by Neoclis Sarris on the long legacy of Turkish inhuman barbarism.
Finally we also offer first hand research by London-based Greek-Cypriot journalist Fanoulla Argyrou on interesting historical findings in the British archives, below and in the attachments:
(4) CYPRUS IS GREEK FOR 3,000 YEARS SAYS BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENCE!
AN ANSWER TO ALL THOSE WITH CRIMINAL INTENT TO FALSIFY HISTORY AND TURKIFY CYPRUS.
Finally we also offer first hand research by London-based Greek-Cypriot journalist on interesting historical findings in the British archives, below and in the attachments:
Few countries can trace the course of their history over 10,000 years, but in approximately 8,000 BC the island of Cyprus was already inhabited and going through its Neolithic Age. Of all the momentous events that were to sweep the country through the next few thousand years, one of the most crucial was the discovery of copper – or Kuprum in Latin – the mineral which took its name from “Kypros”, the Greek name of Cyprus, and generated untold wealth.
The island’s strategic position, its copper deposits and its timber attracted the first Greeks who came to the island over 3,000 years ago at the end of the Trojan wars. They settled down, bringing in with them and establishing the Greek identity.
Over the centuries Cyprus came under the sway of various rulers including the Egyptians. Assyrians, Persians, the successors to Alexander the Great and the Romans, before Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire. Later came the Crusaders, the Frankish Lusignans and Venetians, Ottomans and British.
Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, for the first time in 3,500 years, but the Greek identity of language and culture has been retained.
Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA)
2578 Broadway #132
New York, NY 10025
New York: Tel. 917-699-9935
The Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA) is a grass-roots, not-for-profit movement created to support genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of Cyprus.
To be added to CANA’s Action Alert e-mail distribution list, or to introduce CANA to a friend or colleague, please forward the pertinent name and e-mail address, with the subject heading “Add e-mail to CANA distribution list”, to email@example.com
You are encouraged to forward this action alert to five or more individuals who may have an interest in our e-distributions or in CANA’s mission.
You may post any CANA article, press release or action alert on the internet as long as you credit CANA and the author(s).
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Macrina was the eldest sister of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa. As a young virgin, Macrina was betrothed to a nobleman. When her betrothed died, Macrina vowed never to enter into marriage saying: “It is not right for a maiden once betrothed to a young man to seek another: according to the law of nature there must be only one marriage as there is but one birth and one death.” She further justified this by her faith in the resurrection, considering her bridegroom not dead but alive in God. “It is a sin and a shame,” says Macrina, “for a wife not to safeguard her faithfulness when her husband travels to a distant land.” After this, together with her mother, Emilia, she received the monastic tonsure in a convent, where they lived a life of asceticism with other nuns. They lived from the labors of their hands devoting a greater part of their time to godly thoughts, prayer and the constant uplifting of their minds to God. In time her mother died and, afterward her brother Basil. Nine months after the death of St. Basil, Gregory came to visit with his sister and found her on her death bed. Before her death, Macrina lifted up her prayers to God: “You, O Lord, Who gives rest to our bodies in the sleep of death for a time, will again awaken them [the bodies] at the last trump. Forgive me and when my soul divests itself of its bodily attire and presents itself before You, pure and without sin, grant that it may be as incense before You.” After that she traced the sign of the cross on the forehead, eyes, face and on her heart and gave up her soul. She found rest in the Lord in the year 379 A.D.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich , The Prologue from Ochrid
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 1A
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 1B
Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine - PART 1C
Friday, July 17, 2009
The Miracle of Saint Marina for Andrea Vassiliou of Cyprus
In October of 2000, a family from Limasol, Cyprus, named Vassiliou received the following miracle.
In Greece they are well known from the televised requests they made in order to find a donor for their young boy Andrea, who suffered from leukemia. The donor was indeed found and the parents began preparing for their trip to Houston, Texas in the U.S.A where the bone marrow transplant was going to be performed. Meanwhile, they also prayed and begged Jesus Christ to save their boy.
Before they left for the U.S.A the parents heard of St. Marina's miracles and they called the monastery of St. Marina located on the island of Andros in Greece to ask for her blessing. The Elder of the monastery, Archimandrite Fr. Cyprianos, promised that he would pray to St. Marina. He also wished the parents for St. Marina to be with Andrea in the operating room, to help him. With Elder Cyprianos' blessing and with strong faith that St. Marina would help indeed, the Vassiliou family went to the U.S.A.
After the necessary pre-operation tests that Andrea had to undergo, he was taken to the operating room. A short time before the operation was to begin, a woman came to see the surgeon who would be operating on Andrea. She said that she was Andrea's doctor and asked to be allowed to observe the operation. The conversation that ensued proved that the woman was indeed a doctor. However, the surgeon replied that 'outside' doctors were not permitted to be present in the operating room and that his medical teams' policy was that no doctor other than those on the team be involved in such delicate operations. The persistence of the woman however, convinced the surgeon to allow her in the operating room. But before, he asked her to leave her coordinates [presumably, credentials] at the administration desk. The unknown doctor did as told and then entered the operating room with the surgeon. During the operation, she gave several directions regarding the progress of the procedure. The operation went well and in the end the surgeon thanked the woman and exited the operating room.
Andrea's parents immediately went to inquire about the outcome of the surgery and the surgeon replied that all had gone very well, adding that he could not understand why they had brought Andrea to him when they had such a fine doctor. The parents were surprised and responded that they had not brought any doctor with them. The surgeon insisted, however. He also told them that when he came out of the operating room Andrea's doctor had remained there for a little longer with the rest of the operating team and therefore, she would probably still be around. He recommended that they look for her. The search, however, proved pointless, as the "woman doctor" was nowhere around. The Vassiliou couple then concluded that it must have been a doctor from Greece or Cyprus who had decided to travel to the U.S.A and contribute to the delicate operation. They expressed the wish to know who she was so that they may be able to thank her, and at the surgeon's recommendation they then went to the administration desk to ask for her coordinates.
It was with utter surprise that they read that the unknown woman had signed with the name "Marina from Andros". Tears of gratefulness and joy filled their eyes as they recalled that the Elder at the monastery had said to them that he wished Andrea to have St. Marina in the operating room to help him. Andrea's parents shared with the media their joy both for the successful operation and Andrea's recovered health and for the miracle they received. The Vassiliou family made the vow that the entire family will be present at the saint's monastery every year on the saint's feast day (July 17) and Elder Cyprianos reports that the family has been making the annual trip from Limassol to Andros every summer to thank Saint Marina for saving Andrea.
Miracles performed by the Saints have never ceased to take place in the Orthodox Church. With these miracles, may our Lord Jesus Christ help us build our faith.
The telephone number to St. Marina Monastery on Andros is 2282024074.
The Miracles of St. Marina in Andros, Greece (Greek)
More miracles of St. Marina can be heard here.
At this link, below the video that is posted above, there are three audio recording from 2007 of a radio talk show in Greece called “Όπου γης” which can be heard on the site Πειραϊκή Εκκλησία 91,2 FM. The first audio is an interview with Fr. Cherubim who knows the Vassiliou family from Cyprus describing the above miracle of St. Marina for the young boy Andrea. The other two describes a miracle of St. Marina for a woman named Irene Yfanti who was healed of cancer - the first being an account she wrote of her miracle and the second an interview with Irene Yfanti herself.
The Miracle of Saint Marina for Irene Yfanti in Athens
Regarding the miracle of Irene Yfanti, the following took place:
The miracle took place in July of 2006. Irene was 28 years old and the mother of a 3 year old. She first visited St. Marina's in Andros in June 2006 after doctors found troubling signs that she may have cancer.
Irene's mother had been healed a year earlier of breast cancer during the Divine Liturgy while on a visit to Andros, and made sure to bring her daughter to Elder Cyprianos at St. Marina's in order to get his comforting advice. The Elder said that she would need surgery but to be calm because St. Marina would be with her. She returned to Athens and was checked at St. Savas Hospital. The results were that she had thyroid cancer.
Because the cancer was spreading, surgery had to be performed immediately. They travelled again to Andros. Elder Cyprianos told the worried mother: "St. Marina healed you of cancer. Do you think she will abandon your daughter?" He then gave the mother a piece of cotton that had been dipped in holy oil from the miraculous icon of St. Marina and ordered that her daughter keep it on her throughout the surgery. He then gave them some sweets before their departure saying: "When you come back again, you will bring the sweets." They returned to Athens.
As the surgery was being performed, the following miracle took place. The surgeon reported afterwards that at times his hand was guided in the surgery and at one point guided him to an infected area previously undetected by the doctors. It was in a well hidden area and he removed that successfully. In fact, the entire surgery was successful and the doctor reported saying that if he had not been guided to find that undetected piece, Irene would have had to undergo a second surgery to remove it.
Five hours after the surgery something started to go wrong as she was in recovery. She started to feel a numbness and extreme pain throughout her body. As the symptoms got worse, she was again brought into surgery. While strapped up with tubes, she could hardly move or speak due to the numbness, and worst of all her breath was fading. She wanted to ask the doctors for more oxygen, but she was unable to because of the tubes and the numbness.
Eventually Irene felt detached from her body and found herself in a place of extreme darkness, unable to feel any pain. She moved her arms, but the darkness was so great that she could not even see her hands move in front of her face. It was a lonely and hopeless place, she later reported. She wanted to pray for God to help her, but she said she could not pray because it was a place that seemed absent of God's presence. Feeling no real sense of time there, she believed she was there for hours and days on end and came to the conclusion that she died and was likely in hell for her sins. This made her feel very hopeless and in despair, until she heard a voice. She then screamed: "St. Marina, I can breathe!" Upon saying this she felt pulled back into her body.
Irene then woke up and saw herself surrounded by about 6-8 doctors and machines all around her. She could breathe normally and felt no pain. She had fully recovered and is today cancer free. The surgeons present told her that she had died and come back - one even said "Irene is risen!"
The Life of Saint Marina the Great Martyr
The Church of Saint Marina in Thissio
Saint Marina: The Protectress of Nephrology
The Supplication Service to St. Marina
Παρακλητικός Κανών Αγίας Μαρίνας
Marina was born in Southern Anatolia, specifically from Pisidia in Antioch, at the end of the third century during the reign of Claudius II (268-270). She was the only daughter of noble pagan parents.
When she was five years old her mother died (some sources say she died shortly after childbirth), and since her father, Aidesios, was too busy carrying out his duties as a pagan priest to care for her properly, he turned her care over to a woman who happened to be a Christian.
This nanny lived in a small town about fifteen miles from where Marina was born. Away from her father’s idols and blasphemous practices her nanny taught her about the Christian Faith. As Marina increased in age, more so did she advance in knowledge, understanding, and compassion. Her faith in the Living God was so great that she desired the difficult path of Martyrdom. She told her father that she wished to become a Christian and to never marry so as to live a life of virginity. Her father despised her for her faith and disowned her as his daughter.
A new governor named Olymbrios was elected for the region and in time began a persecution against all Christians in the area. One day he caught a glimpse of the very beautiful fifteen year old Marina with her nanny. The Imperial Governor Olymbrios, seeing her great beauty, desired her for his wife. When asked her name, homeland, and faith, Marina answered: "My name is Marina; I am the offspring of Pisidia; I call upon the Name of my Lord Jesus Christ." Upon learning that she was a Christian, Olymbrios tried to dissuade her by flatteries, and by threats of torture.
"Nothing Will Separate Me From Christ"
Marina frankly replied to the man: "Have no vain hope for me, O governor, that I might cower before any number of torments. Nothing will separate me from Christ - neither affliction, famine, fire, sword, nor any other harsh tribulation - not even a violent and very painful death. Think not that you will entice me with honors, gold or other wealth, because all these things are perishable and temporal.
"The soul, by the grace of God, is immortal and desires eternity. For this reason, we, the Christians, wisely disdain these fleeting luxuries and enjoyments. We endure the sorrow and distress of the day that we might attain to everlasting life and eternal rest after our repose. If you think that I lie, here I am, try me, so you will know by deed the truth. Strike me, slay me, burn me, suffocate or test me with ten thousand torments. As much as you will worsen the punishment, so much more will Christ glorify me in the future life and blessedness.
"Many times in this life Christ grants us a small consolation as a pledge of that future exaltation. He draws us out of the depths of the sea, or rescues us from fire, or saves us from other torments, to your shame and condemnation. Therefore, I do not sorrow in this transient life. Readily I give my body to death, for my deathless God and Master, as the Sinless One, out of love for me, was crucified."
This rejection infuriated the governor and he put her to harsh torture so all the beauty of her body was disfigured. Not only the public sorrowed and wept and suffered due to her troubles but even the governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. As broken up and destroyed as her body was, more so was her soul renewed and brighter.
Unshaken, she prayed with thanksgiving that the Lord count her worthy to be tormented for His love. As they tortured her, the Saint was looking up to heaven, and prayed: "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O My God, I trust in you; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on you be ashamed. Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. Show me your ways, O Lord. Teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. On You I wait all day. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses, for they have been from of old. For I withstand these pains because I confess Your holy name. Send Your mercy and compassion to me so my grief will become joy."
As the Saint was chanting and praising the Lord, the soldiers were beating her so severely that her flesh was torn and her blood flew profusely. The Archangel Michael, then, appeared to her and said to her: "Great is your faith, Marina. Have more strength, for it is by your good confession that your soul will survive, and you will gain the holy baptism."
The ruler ordered that Marina be thrown in prison. While she prayed there the Archangel Michael again came to comfort her and healed her of all her wounds. Seeing this the governor was amazed. He told her that he was sure then that she was a great magician. She said: "I am not a magician, but I am a worshipper of Jesus Christ. Now your defiled helpless idols have been exposed.”
The ruler was enraged. He ordered to saw her flesh with iron saws, and to cut her skin with knives. When he thought that she was dead, he ordered his soldiers to put her body back in prison until she rotted. Archangel Michael appeared to her again, strengthened her, and repeated what he said to her before. He, then, Crossed her, cured her and disappeared.
The Hammer of Saint Marina
A malicious demon, beholding that his servant, Olymbrios, could not vanquish one young woman and make her fall down before the idols of demons, became desperate and wished to test her himself. Taking on a dark and dragon-like guise, a demon appeared to Marina in the prison to frighten her. Fearlessly Christ's athlete seized him by the hair and, finding a hammer, beat him to the ground, completely humbling him. A great light appeared and illuminated the entire prison. All of Marina's wounds were completely healed and not even a trace of scarring remained on her body. It is for this reason that Saint Marina often holds a hammer and is sometimes depicted beating on a demon in her icons.
The demented governor tortured her the next day by fire and water but Marina endured it all as if not in her own body. The ruler gave his orders to tie her to a pole and burn her. They did. Then he ordered that they tie her hands and legs, and put her in boiling water. When she was in the water, St. Marina looked up to heaven and said: "O God who dwells in heaven, I ask You to untie me, and to make this water a baptism for me. Dress me with the robe of salvation through it. Take away from me the old man and put on me the new man. Make me, with this baptism, worthy to inherit the life eternal, and make my faith steadfast.” A great earthquake then shook the place, Marina’s ties were loosened, and she immersed herself in the water three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. She came out of the water praising God. A voice came from heaven, and all the people who were gathered there heard it. The voice said: ”You are blessed, Marina. You were baptized, and became worthy of the crown of virginity.” Many of those who witnessed these events declared their faith, became Christians and were baptized. The ruler ordered all of them to be killed. They were beheaded, and gained the wreath of martyrdom. It is estimated that they numbered in the thousands.
Seeing that he could not overcome the Saint, the wicked governor finally sentenced Marina to death by beheading. She was beheaded at the age of fifteen in the time of Diocletian (284-305), but is numbered with the armies of martyrs, and remains alive in soul and power in heaven and on earth.
The sufferings of the Great Martyr Marina were described by an eyewitness of the event, named Theotimos.
Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great Martyr Marina were in the Panteponteia Monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Now they are in Athens, in a church dedicated to the holy Virgin Martyr. Her venerable right hand was transferred to Mount Athos, to the Vatopaidi monastery. However, atop Mt. Langa in Albania overlooking Lake Ochrid, there is a monastery dedicated to St. Marina with a portion of her miraculous relics. Countless miracles have occurred and still occur in this monastery, whose witnesses are not only Christians but many Muslims as well. So much did the Turks have respect for this holy place that they never dared disturb either this holy place or the property of this monastery. At one time a Turk was the guardian of the monastery.
Saint Marina is especially invoked for deliverance from demonic possession and cures innumerable diseases including cancer.
The right arm of St. Marina on Mt. Athos
Saint Marina As A Role Model For Young Women
What a role model for Orthodox Christian young women today! This 15 year old girl was raised a pagan, had a mother that died when she was young, her father shunned her for accepting Christ and desiring virginity, she rejected a life of marital happiness and love to live for Christ and abide in His love, she further rejected all the fame and fortune and worldly comforts associated with nobility, for her strong resolve in following Christ she was tortured brutally, she endured a demonic manifestation and temptations courageously, and finally she was tortured and martyred ruthlessly yet with a joyful heart with a desire to imitate the Saints.
Most teenagers today would probably find the early tragedies of Marina's life demoralizing, but her love for Christ overcame all her insecurities and strengthened her against all the temptations every teenage girl faces. She could have lived any type of life she wanted, but she chose a path that brought her supreme joy that no worldly happiness could ever surpass.
And now Saint Marina lives forever and is one of Orthodoxy's most powerful and beloved Saints. She still answers prayers, cures illnesses by the grace she received in enduring bravely for Christ, and is a notable vanquisher of demons. Saint Marina was no damsel in distress, but a true female heroine.
Before there was a Hollywood female heroine, there was Saint Marina the Vanquisher of Demons. Those are fiction, but her story is real and her miraculous icons and relics are a testimony to this besides her many visitations to the faithful. Her superpower was her faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit. There could be no better female teenage role model, as she herself imitated the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary who it is said also bore Christ at the age Saint Marina was martyred.
Maybe most young women won't have to go to such extreme tortures for their faith, but to be a faithful Christian in our society today will innevitably invite public ridicule, peer pressure, misunderstanding, unflattering stereotypes, insults and all sorts of temptations. Even in the midst of these types of "tortures", the example of Saint Marina can be a model on how to courageously endure and be strong. Young Marina's confident faith and great love for God should serve as an inspiration to look beyond all vanity of this life and focus on that which truly matters.
Hymns to Saint Marina
Άπολυτίκιον. Ήχος πλ. α'. Τον συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Μνηστευθείσα τω Λόγω Μαρίνα ένδοξε, των επίγειων την σχέσιν πάσαν κατέλιπες, και ένήθλησας λαμπρώς ως καλλιπάρθενος· τον γαρ άόρατον έχθρόν, κατεπάτησας στερρώς, όφθέντα σοι Άθληφόρε. Και νυν πηγάζεις τω κόσμω, των ίαμάτων τα χαρίσματα.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O Glorious Marina, once betrothed to the Logos, you relinquished all worldly concerns and brilliantly gave struggle as a virginal beauty. You soundly trounced the invisible enemy who appeared to you, O Champion, and you are now the world's wellspring of healing grace.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Adorned with the beauty of Purity, O Virgin; crowned with the stigmata of martyrdom; stained with the blood of your struggles; and brilliantly radiant with healing wonders, piously, O Marina, you received the trophy of victory for your struggles.
Life of Saint Marina in Greek with beautiful icons
A wonderful website dedicated to Saint Marina can be found here (http://www.agia-marina.org/). It is all in Greek, but has her complete Supplication Service, many icons, and information on churches dedicated to St. Marina.
Astonishing Contemporary Miracles of Saint Marina on the Island of Andros
The Church of Saint Marina in Thissio
Saint Marina: The Protectress of Nephrology
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
"We do not support at any time that microbes from the new influenza can be transferred through the reception of Holy Communion," said Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki this past week according to Romfea.gr.
The Metropolitan further stated: "In accordance with scientific opinions, the microbes, if they exist, die upon impact with silver." The spoons used in Orthodox churches for Holy Communion are made of silver.
Noting the illogical thinking behind the controversy, he further argued: "It's as if we were to say to not use silverware in homes or restaurants out of fear that the influenza may be transferred."
He further maintained that his Metropolis would be guided by the Holy Synod and the Health Department for preventable measures without causing panic.
The logic of the Church on this matter has always been the question: How can that which is transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Precious Body and Blood of Christ for the purpose of giving life and healing to the Church be also the cause of illness and death through germs and microbes? Pandemics have existed throughout the centuries, but the Fathers of the Church never even considered addressing the common reception of Holy Communion in the Canons nor of excluding the faithful who are ill from praying in the same church as the healthy. Illnesses and death, according to the Apostle Paul, can only be transferred through Holy Communion to those who receive unworthily in a sinful state, but there is no example that this could be the means of transfer from one person to another. For this reason, that there is no justification to make changes in the Divine Liturgy, changes should not even be considered.
It is true that certain Papal and Protestant churches have enforced changes as precautions against transferring germs. For Orthodox however this is an act of faithlessness in the divine energies of the Holy Spirit which transform the bread and wine into the "medicine of immortality". Is not to deny the power and works of the Holy Spirit considered blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mk. 3:29)?
With today being the feast commemorating the discovery of the miraculous skull of Saint Matrona of Chios, as well as the current debate that is going on today in Greece and throughout the Orthodox world as to the possibility that germs and sicknesses can be transferred through the common reception of the Holy Eucharist, I thought the following miracle was appropriate to put an end to the nonsense.
Saint Matrona of Chios is very much revered on its small neighboring island of Psara, with its mere 400 or so inhabitants and over 60 churches. There is a miraculous icon there of St. Matrona which is responsible for working many miracles for the faithful. There is also a small chapel dedicated to the Saint in Psara in an area known as Saint Kioura (another name for St. Matrona). Near this chapel there used to be a monastery dedicated to St. Matrona in an area known as Fidolakkos (or Φιδόλακκος, which means "Snake Pit"). As the name suggests, this place had many snakes.
During one Divine Liturgy at this monastery a small snake fell into the Holy Communion cup from the ceiling after its consecration. The priest saw this and desperately wondered what to do. He could not let the snake go because it was covered in the blood of Christ. He therefore emboldened himself to eat the snake. The grace of the Divine Gifts allowed for nothing to happen to the priest. However for doing what he did he wanted to make sure this never happened again. He therefore prayed fervently to the Lord that all snakes disappear from Fidolakkos and the island. The result is that ever since not one snake has ever been spotted on the island.
This story is well known among Psara's 400 or so inhabitants. Outsiders like to test this tale, so when they bring snakes from neighboring islands and release them on Psara they always die within 3-4 meters. Many people take the dirt from Fidolakkos and bring it back to their homes or anywhere there is a problem with snakes and spread out this dirt and the miracle transfers to that area as well.
To conclude, germs and influenza are threatened by Holy Communion and not Holy Communion by germs and influenza!