I also include below an audio excerpt of a speech delivered by L. Ron Hubbard showing the friendship he had with Aleister Crowley. Scientology is based on many teachings of Crowley.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I also include below an audio excerpt of a speech delivered by L. Ron Hubbard showing the friendship he had with Aleister Crowley. Scientology is based on many teachings of Crowley.
Convincing evidence seems to indicate a possibility that Christopher Columbus, the official European discoverer of America, was a Greek-speaking Romaios from the Greek island of Chios. By Romaios we mean that his origins were as a citizen of the Eastern Roman Empire. In fact, he may have been a Prince as a relative of the Palaiologos family, and raised in Constantinople during its final years before its fall to the Ottomans in 1453. This would have also possibly made him an Orthodox Christian originally.
We do know for a fact that the reason Columbus was able to discover America was because of the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople and the Black Sea, which had been the quickest trade route with India and now closed to the West. Since the Ottomans hated the West, they were no longer allowed to use this trade route and thus Columbus was commissioned to discover a new trade route to India from the West rather than the Ottoman-occupied East.
Also, it is a myth that the majority of people in Columbus' day believed the world was flat. That the world was round and spherical was a common belief among the Greek-speaking Romans, and after the fall of Constantinople this knowldge was quickly spread to the West where it was also maintained among the more educated. But could Columbus have had something to do with the spread of the knowledge of Byzantium to the West like many of his contemporaries?
So did a member of the Palaiologos Dynasty discover America and do Americans celebrate such a man on Columbus Day? Read the links and watch the videos below to form your own opinion.
Christophoros Columbus: A Byzantine Prince from Chios, Greece
Was Columbus Greek?
Christopher Columbus - Was He Greek?
Christopher Columbus Signature
Timeline of Columbus' Life (notice the time gaps and question marks)
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The 26 Holy Zographou Martyrs were burned alive in 1282 on Mount Athos by a Latin army serving the Roman Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos. Their memory is celebrated on October 10th and September 22nd.
In 1274 Michael VIII Paleologos entered into union with the Pope of Rome with the infamous Union of Lyons during the Council of Lyons, in the hope that an alliance would strengthen his empire from the encroaching presence of the Bulgars and the Serbs. The union was not popularly received and the Emperor threatened to enforce the treaty by force if necessary, issuing a 1278 edict to that affect.
The monks of Mount Athos were solidly opposed to the union and sent a letter to the Emperor enumerating the heresies of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. They urged the Emperor to put aside the union, reject heresy and return to Orthodoxy. They specifically pointed out that the primacy of the Pope, his commemoration in the churches, celebrating the Eucharist with unleavened bread, and the insertion of the "filioque" ["and from the Son"] into the Creed, could not be accepted by Orthodox, and they asked the emperor to change his mind. "We clearly see," the letter said, "that you are becoming a heretic, but we implore you to forsake all this and abide in the teachings that were handed down to you.... Reject the unholy and novel teachings of a false knowledge, speculations, and additions to the Faith."
The emperor despised the monks of Mt. Athos for their opposition. Since he did not want to provoke the Greeks, he decided to vent his spite upon the Athonite Slavs. Crusaders, who had been expelled from Palestine and had found refuge in Romania, declared to the Emperor their readiness to establish the authority of the pope by fire and the sword. Michael employed Turks and Tatars as well. And exactly because some monks did yield under the pressure of promises and tortures, two monasteries were lost to the Latins: Lavra and Xeropotamou. The monks in these two monasteries accepted the Latin intrusion with a subservient fear. The army attacked and killed monks in many of the Slavic monasteries. They hanged the Protaton, and having killed many monks in Vatopaidi, Iveron and other monasteries (some were hanged, others drowned, others beheaded at Karyes on Mt. Athos), the Latins attacked Zographou. When Abbot Thomas of Zographou learned of the impending attack by inspiration, he told the population that those who wished to save themselves should flee, and that those who wished for martyrdom should stay in the monastery. The majority of the Zographou monks left the monastery, but the most steadfast, twenty-six in number, remained within the monastery tower. The twenty-six men who remained and locked themselves in the monastery tower were: Abbot Thomas, monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Michaeas, Cosmas, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Sabbas, James, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Minas, Joasaph, Ioannikios, Paul, Anthony, Euthymios, Dometian Parthenios and four laymen.
The Latins were soon outside the Monastery. Initially they motioned to the monks to have the gates opened to let them in: if they acknowledged the Primacy of the Pope they would have nothing to fear but his mercy plus a lot of gold. The monks replied to them from the top of the tower: "And who told you that your Pope is Head of the Church? From where does this teaching of yours come? For us, Head of the Church is only Christ! It is easier for us to choose death rather than give in and defile this holy place by your violence and tyranny; we shall not open the gates of the Monastery! Leave now!" The Latins replied with rage: "Die then!"; and gathering wood around the tower lit a large fire to burn them alive.
The holy martyrs sang hymns to the Mother of God while the tower burned, and gave their souls to God on October 10th, 1282. In December of the same year, the dishonorable Emperor Michael died in poverty, when the Serbian King Milutin rose up against him in defense of Orthodoxy.
The Miraculous Icon of the Theotokos and the Abbots Revelation
By God's providence, the greatest number of miracles and heavenly manifestations occur during the martyrdom of His servants. On the day that the Latins set out for the Monastery of Zographou, an old monk had an obedience in a vineyard half an hour's distance from the monastery. At the prescribed time, he read the Akathist before the icon of the Mother of God. However, when he began to pronounce the word `Rejoice!' a voice came to him from the icon: `Do thou also rejoice, O elder! Flee from here now, or misfortune will befall thee; go and tell the brethren of the monastery to lock themselves in, for the God-opposing Latins have attacked this, my chosen Mountain, and are already near.' The frightened elder fell to his knees and cried out in fear: `How can I leave thee here, my Queen and Intercessor?' At this he again heard the voice: `Do not worry about me, but go quickly!' The elder went to the monastery immediately to warn the brethren (which is the meaning of the name “Proangellomeni” that is given to this icon). But when he reached the monastery gates he beheld that same icon of the Mother of God. In a miraculous manner, the icon had preceded him to the monastery. The amazed elder related all that had been revealed to him to the abbot and the brethren. At that, all of them glorified God and the Mother of God. The miraculous icon of the Virgin which they had with them was found unharmed in the ruins of the tower and was placed on the sanctuary screen of the Chapel of the Dormition of the Theotokos (on top of the Katapetasma, where the Despotic Icons (i.e. of Christ) are normally placed) , where, though painted over due to restoration work, it still is today. The Bulgarians monks of Zographou called it “Chairovo”, that is, “Our Lady of the Hail”, and in the Liturgies in the chapel, the Salutations are read instead of a communion hymn. The place where the miraculous revelation to the elder took place is known till today by the name Cherovo.
The Miracle of October 10, 1873
Once, during the celebration of the Feast of the 26 Martyrs of Zographou, on October 10, 1873, there was an all-night vigil. It was a moonless night. In the middle of the night, while the monks were chanting and reading the lives of the holy martyrs in the church, a noise was suddenly heard, and over the church a fiery pillar appeared, extending from earth to heaven. It was so bright that things at a distance could be seen as though it were midday. This wondrous manifestation lasted for about a quarter of an hour and then disappeared.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Martyrs of Zographou
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Heroes of Zographou, knights of truth,
Sacrificed themselves for the Orthodox Faith,
And shamed the proud, shameless Latins,
As their souls rose up to the Kingdom of God.
The tower's flames mounted up to heaven,
As the monks in the fire sent up praise to God!
Heaven with its angels beheld that spectacle,
As the criminals crawled about like worms below the tower.
In the flames, Abbot Thomas, a true parent,
Encouraged his brethren, and began the Psalms:
He who glorifies the Lord does not fear death,
And he who dies for God will not perish.
The sacrifice is offered, and the altar of oblation remains:
The bodies were burned, the souls flew off,
And by that sacrifice, Zographou increased in glory
With magnificence eternal and true.
St. George the knight, cherishes his knights
As the Mother of God cherishes all heavenly citizens.
In these knights of righteousness, the Church rejoices:
They are her children, her fruitful branches.
Moscow Patriarchate: One more time the Shroud of Turin is proved to be a fake does not affect the Church's position
Moscow, 6 October 2009, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church does not intend to change its view of the Shroud of Turin after a group of scientists at the University of Pavia, Italy, stated that the Shroud was a fake.
"The scientists make their research and arrive at different conclusions, however, the Church is not in the position to approve or disprove anything. This is the authority of scientists who use different methods which always are limited in their capacities," head of communication service of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Relations Priest Georgi Zavershinski said Tuesday to Interfax-Religion.
According to him, the Church's attitude to scientific discoveries and achievements always takes into account that "eventually, anything may change, and the research work may continue, and today's conclusions may be challenged."
Thus, Father Georgi noted that the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Shroud "remained unchanged, along with its standpoint on the previous research which had proved that the Shoud of Turin is not a fake."
Fr. Georgi favours the veneration of the Shroud by believers. "The existence of the Shroud has led many people to God, and this is only beneficial for the Christian Church in Europe," the priest said.
In this video Romanian Orthodox Elder Justin Parvu of Petru Voda talks about the diabolical nature of our times and what Orthodox Christians need to do to remain faithful to Christ and Orthodoxy.
Elder Justin Parvu (born 10th of February 1919) is one of the last standing Romanian Orthodox "lighthouses", survivor of the Communist extermination prisons (between 1948 and 1964) and considered by many one of the greatest living Romanian Elders.
Listed below are a portion of these prophecies, some of which have taken place and some not. Those familiar with the prophecies of St. Kosmas Aitolos will notice a few similarites, most notably what seem to be prophecies describing the future telephone (2), airplane (8), television (20), and the restoration of Constantinople to the Greeks (13). However some of the prophecies are difficult to interpret today because we don't know the exact year they were given nor the exact context. St. Joachim lived between 1786-1868.
Below is a list of twenty-five prophecies with my brief commentary.
Prophecies of St. Joachim "Papoulakis" of Ithaka
1. He prophecied long before that King Otto would be banished from Greece.
King Otto was made the first modern king of Greece in 1832 under the Convention of London, whereby Greece became a new independent kingdom under the protection of the Great Powers (the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire).
Throughout his reign, Otto faced political challenges concerning Greece's financial weakness and the role of the government in the affairs of the church. The politics of Greece of this era was based on affiliations with the three Great Powers, and Otto’s ability to maintain the support of the powers was key to his remaining in power. To remain strong, Otto had to play the interests of each of the Great Powers’ Greek adherents against the others, while not aggravating the Great Powers. When Greece was blockaded by the Royal Navy in 1850 and again in 1853, to stop Greece from attacking the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War, Otto’s standing amongst Greeks suffered. As a result, there was an assassination attempt on the Queen and finally, in 1862, Otto was deposed while in the countryside. He died in exile in Bavaria in 1867.
2. "The world shall be girded by a thread."
This is a word for word exact prophecy of St. Kosmas Aitolos (1714 - 1779). Elsewhere St. Kosmas prophecied: "A time will come when people will speak from one distant place to another, as though they were in adjoining rooms - for example, from Constantinople to Russia." The traditional interpretation for these prophecies are the telephone wires which have encircled the globe.
3. "You will see the fruits of the earth increase and you will rejoice. But suddenly they will be destroyed and you will be saddened for this."
Though vague as far as being able to tell when this is to happen, the important lesson of this prophecy is to teach the people not to trust in their prosperity.
4. "The Turks one day will go to the Kokkini Milia (Red Apple Tree)."
This again is a shorter version of the more expanded prophecy of St. Kosmas Aitolos, which says:
"The Turks will leave, but they shall return and will come as far as Hexamilia. In the end, they shall be driven away to Kokkini Milia. Of the Turks, one third will be killed, another third will be baptized, and the remaining third will go to Kokkina Milia."
Kokkini Milia was a region which the imagination of the enslaved Romaioi (Greeks) placed in the depths of Asia Minor and beyond, where also it was reputed to be the original home of the Turkish people. It is there that they hoped to push back their oppressors, i.e., where they originally came from. This was nearly done in the early 1920's, until the Greeks became surrounded by the Turks in Ankara and defeated. According to Elder Paisios the Athonite, who expanded much on this prophecy, this has yet to be fulfilled and could happen within our generation.
One popular legend of the Romaioi (Greeks) is that this will be done by the resurrected Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologos, who has been, according to the legend, encased in marble since May 29, 1453. There is even a popular song about this called "The Petrified King":
"I sent two birds to Kokkini Milia to tell the news. One bird got killed, the other got hurt, none of them returned. For the petrified king no cry, no yell. But he is sung to the kids like a fairy-tale by grandmother. I sent two birds to Kokkini Milia, two swallows, but they stayed there and they became a dream. After years of tears there they stayed...for the petrified king...."
These prophecies go back to prophecies of the later Roman Empire, such as those known as the so-called Oracles of Leo the Wise and Revelations of the Prophet Daniel. See Donal M. Nicol, The Immortal Emperor, p. 101.
5. "The klephts will leave the mountains and descend to the bazaars."
Klephts, which originally meant theives, were Greek bandits and warlike mountain folk who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Due to the development of Turkish-Greek relations in the War of Greek Independence, though the word still means literally "thieves", it assumed a positive meaning for Greeks of that era.
This prophecy could mean that the klephts, who committed their crimes of theivery in the mountains, would one day commit crimes of theivery in the market-place and bazaars.
6. "A time will come when Sodom and Gamorah will rise up, in which the young will say to the old: 'Be quiet so I can speak, get up so I can sit.'"
St. Joachim foresaw a time in the future in which there would be great disrespect of youth towards their elders and horrific selfishness. In many ways we see such things taking place within our own generation.
7. "You will kick money on the road and will not bend to get it."
This prophecy could refer to many things, such as people being too lazy or even too fearful. For example, St. Kosmas said: "People will end up naked because they will become lazy." Others may interpret this prophecy to predict a cashless society which some believe is a sign of the end times. But St. Kosmas refers to something else when he writes: "It is sad for me to say it to you: today, tomorrow we will endure thirst and great hunger such that we would give thousands of gold coins but still will not find a little bread." And the prophecy of St. Joachim sounds familiar with another prophecy of St. Kosmas: "If they find silver in the road, they will not bend down to take it. But for an ear of wheat, they will kill each other trying to take it first."
This prophecy may have been fulfilled during the time of World War 2 and the Greek Civil War which followed at which time thousands of Greeks perished due to starvation.
8. "Boats will be raised up into the air."
Though this prophecy could be interpreted literally, the language here speaks of "boats" as a traveling vessel. Thus St. Joachim here foresees a large traveling vessel that can hold many people traveling through the air. Of course, this can be nothing but aeroplanes.
St. Kosmas had a similar prophecy saying: "You will see men flying in the sky like starlings, and throwing fire on the earth. Those who will live then will run to graves and will cry out: 'Come out you who are dead so that we the living may enter.'"
9. "The war will begin in a small principality. It will end in Constantinople."
This seems to refer to the great war which is yet to come, when the Greeks will take back Constantinople.
10. "A time will come when an officer with a blonde beard from the Holy Mountain will ask for me."
This is similar to number 25 below, and may refer also to the finding of St. Joachim's relics. But it could also have referred to something within his own lifetime.
11. "You will go from here to Leuki in order to see a person."
St. Kosmas also writes: "After the war, a man will have to run half an hour to find another human being to join him in fellowship."
Leuki is a community in the island (and municipality) of Ithaka, Greece. Its population in 2001 was 56 inhabitants. A mountainous village at the edge of Niritou, it is 13 kilometers northwest away from Vathi.
12. "Those who will live after the war will eat with golden spoons."
St. Kosmas similary said: "Fortunate is he who will leave after the great war. He will eat with a silver spoon...". The war possibly refers to the future war when the Greeks take Constantinople. Nonetheless, prosperity will follow the war.
13. "Constantinople one day will be Greek with Constantine the six-fingered as king."
This refers to Emperor Constantine Paleologos, the last emperor of Byzantium, and the prophecy of his resurrection. But the six-fingered marble king is likely Ioannis Vatatzis, an emperor of Byzantium, who was six-fingered and was also known as "the great gracious". More about this can be read here.
14. "Flat land will fall upon thick forest and will eat it."
St. Kosmas also said: "People will be left poor because they will not have love for the trees."
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia writes on this subject when he speaks of Elder Amphilochios Makris:
"My own sense of human responsibility towards nature was strikingly enhanced, some forty years ago, when I was a deacon at the Monastery of St John the Theologian on Patmos, and I came to know the spiritual father of the island, Archimandrite Amphilochios (Makris). He had a particular affection for trees. 'Do you know', he used to say, 'that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment: Love the Trees.' Whoever does not love trees, he was convinced, does not love Christ. 'When you plant a tree,' he told us, 'you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God's blessing.' Nor did his love of trees remain merely theoretical. When the local farmers came to him for confession, he used to give them as a penance (epitimion) the task of planting a tree. His influence has transformed the visible appearance of the island: hillsides which, a hundred years ago, were bare and barren are today thickly covered with pine and eucalytpus."
15. "From North Germany the Cross will shine."
This may refer to the suffering during World War 2 or even the sign of the Cross which will appear in the heavens before the second coming of Christ.
16. "Thiaki (Ithaka) will become a monastery as well as half of Kefallonia."
This seems to foretell a spiritual awakening on these two neighboring islands.
17. "Woe to the Eptanisa! You will shake like the leaves of a tree."
The Eptanisa are the seven islands in the Ionian Sea, otherwise known as the Ionian Islands. The group is made up of Kerkira, Paxoi, Lefkas Kefallonia, Ithaki, Zakinthos, Kithira, and numerous islets.
One interpretation of this could be how in 1815 the Ionian Islands, known as the "United States of the Ionian Islands," were placed under British protection. The British ceded the islands to Greece in 1864 after considerable popular agitation on the islands.
More likely however it refers to the tragic events which occurred between August 9-14 in 1953 when a series of devastating earthquakes hit the Ionian Islands. In Keffalonia alone, for example, 600 people died and the injured and homeless were in their thousands. As it was the middle of the day and people were cooking, fires also broke out and raged through the towns. 70% of all constructions were demolished; towns and villages were rebuilt to new plans, with strict anti-seismic specifications, so that there is now little risk of a ceiling tumbling. The tragedy brought wide international response and support, especially from the United States, Britain, France, Sweden and Norway, who sent aid for the victims with generosity and speed. At that time also, many desperate Kefallonians left their island to seek a better life abroad.
18. "People will live like the whiteflies."
This may refer to the fact that whiteflies cause massive destruction to crops and spread viruses.
19. "You will not reach out your hand to the fruit because it will be leperous."
I'm not sure if this referred to a specific person in the past or if it foretells the spread of future disease, though leperosy is controlable in our days.
20. "The soap boxes will speak."
This seems to foretell the invention of television. St. Kosmas makes a similar prophecy: "The time will come when the devil puts himself inside a box and starts shouting, and his horns will stick out from the roof-tiles." The horns in St. Kosmas' prophecy are interpreted to mean the antennas.
21. "A time will come for envy to be picked out from the wheat."
I'm unclear on the interpretation of this, and even the translation.
22. "Your grandchildren will live through a war."
By grandchildren St. Joachim probably foresees the 20th century and possibly the two World Wars, among the many others.
23. "In this place there will be built a large church" (in the village of Stavros).
Stavros is a village often visited by St. Joachim and where his relics lie today in the Church of St. Barbara. In the village’s principal square, the Church of St. Barbara stands like a sentinel.
24. "The yellow race will govern the world."
Typically the Asians are referred to as "the yellow race".
25. “A priest from the Holy Mountain, with a red beard, will take me up and be the first to bring me to the people.”
Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, a biographer of St. Joachim, says of this prophecy: "This prophecy indeed came true in the person of the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi!"
"In 1991, the Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, and fathers of the Monastery went to Ithaki and, with the help of the inhabitants of the island, identified the place of the Saint’s grave. They arranged with the Metropolitan Bishop of the diocese for the translation of the Saint’s relics on May 23 of the following year, 1992. News of this forthcoming event soon became known to the people of Ithaki, as well as to the faithful throughout all of Greece.
"Abbot Ephraim, with two fathers from the Monastery, went to Ithaki on the appointed date. With the blessings of His All-Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch; with the assistance, solidarity and cooperation of Metropolitan Nikiphoros of Levkas and Ithaki; and with the ardent help of the officials and residents of the island, they were able to carry out the translation of the Saint’s relics."
To be continued...Part 14
Friday, October 9, 2009
How does one prove that Christ is God? We should not try to answer this question by using the argument of the creation of heaven and earth, because the unbeliever will not accept it. If we tell him that He raised the dead, healed the blind, expelled demons, he still will not agree. If we tell him that He promised us resurrection from the dead, the kingdom of heaven, and ineffable goods, not only he will not agree, but also he will laugh at us.
How then shall we lead him to the faith, especially when he is not spiritually developed? Surely, we shall do this by resting on truths which are acceptable both to us and to him without any dispute or shadow of doubt.
We shall start from the fact that Christ planted the Church in the world. What is the point then that we absolutely agree upon? It is the fact that Christ planted the Church. It is by this means that we shall reveal the power and prove the divinity of Christ. We shall see that it is impossible to regard the dissemination of Christianity in the whole wide world in such a short period of time as a human work. And indeed, when Christian ethics invites people who have bad habits and are slaves to sin to a higher life. And yet, the Lord managed to liberate from such things not only us, but the entire human species.
Christ’s superbly wondrous achievement is the Church. He achieved this without using arms, without spending money, without mobilizing armies, without causing wars. He achieved it by starting only with twelve disciples, who were insignificant, uneducated, poor, naked, unarmed… It was with such human resource that He succeeded in persuading the nations to think correctly, not only in the present life, but also in the life which is to come. He managed to nullify the ancestral laws, to uproot ancient customs, and to plant new ones. He managed to detach man from an easy way of life and to lead him to a difficult one. He managed all these things, although all fought against Him, and He had to endure a degrading crucifixion and an ignominious death!
This superbly wondrous achievement is not human. Surely, such things do not occur to human beings. What occurs is the exact opposite. In other words, as long as they are alive and prosper their work progresses. When, however, they die, what they created is destroyed along with them. This is endured not only by the rich or the leading ones, but also by the chief governors. This is so, because their laws are abolished, their memory is obliterated, and their names are forgotten, while their intimate associates are pushed aside. These things occur to those who originally governed the nations by a mere nod, and led to war grand armies; to those who condemned to death and recalled the exiled. To the Lord, however, it was the exact opposite that occurred.
It is superbly wondrous because it was achieved by the Crucified Christ. Before the crucifixion the state of his work looked pitiful. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest of the Disciples fled in order to save their lives, while many believers abandoned Him. He was left alone among enemies. And yet, after the slaughter and the death, so that you may learn that the Crucified Christ was not a mere man, all things became brighter, jollier, and glorious. Peter, the head Apostle, who before the crucifixion did not bear the threat of a maidservant, but after so many heavenly teachings and his participation in the divine mysteries said that he does not know the Lord, the same one after the crucifixion preached Him to the ends of the world. Innumerable martyrs were sacrificed, because they preferred to be put to death than to deny Christ, as the head Apostle had denied Him after being intimidated by a young maiden.
The amazing submission of the world to the Crucified Christ and His Apostles: Now, all the lands, all the cities, the deserted and the inhabited places, confess the Crucified Lord. On Him faith is placed by kings and generals, archons and consuls, slaves and freemen, unlettered and educated, the barbarians and the various nations of humanity. Even that small and insignificant tomb that received the blood stained and tortured body of the Lord is more valued than a thousand royal palaces and more venerable even to kings. What is even a greater paradox is the fact that what happened to the Lord also happened to His disciples. Because, those who were despised and imprisoned, those who were atrociously tortured and underwent innumerable martyrdoms, the very same ones, after their death, were more honored than the kings. Where do we see this? In Rome, the emperors, the consuls and the generals put aside all things and run to venerate the tombs of Peter the fisherman and Paul the tent maker. In Constantinople, those who bear diadems on their heads, wish to be buried next not close to the tombs of the Apostles but at the entrance of their temples. And so the kings become the doormen of the fishermen! Indeed, they are not ashamed for this, but boast about it, not only themselves but also their descendants.
Christ’s prophesy about the Church and its speedy fulfillment. When Christ’s disciples were only twelve and the Church was not in any one’s thought, when the Jewish synagogue was still flourishing and the impious idolatry dominated almost the entire world, the Lord had prophesied: “On this stone (i.e. on Peter’s confession of faith) I will build my Church, and the powers of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Do you realize the truth of this prophesy? Do you see its fulfillment? Think how important a fact is the spreading of the Church almost to the entire earth in a very brief span of time. Think how the life of so many nations changed and led to the faith so many peoples, how it abolished ancestral customs, how it liberated from age-long habits, how it scattered like dust the domination of pleasure and the power of sin, how it extinguished like smoke the foul smell of the sacrifices, the idolatrous ceremonies, the abominable feasts, the idols, the pagan altars and temples, how it erected sacred altars everywhere, in our land and in the lands of the Persians, the Scythians, the Africans and the Indians. What I say? Even in the British Isles, which are beyond the Mediterranean, in the ocean, the Church was spread and erected altars.
The superbly wondrous liberation and change that the Church induced in the world: The work of liberation of so many peoples from age-long shameful habits, as well as the change in the manner of life from an easier to a more difficult one, is indeed wondrous, or rather superbly wondrous. It is a proof of divine operation (energy), even if no one had opposed it, even if peace had prevailed and many had assisted. Because this spreading of the Church did not only come into collision with ancient habit, but also with pleasure, the happy manner of life. In other words, it had two powerful opponents, which tyrannized humanity: habit and pleasure. Whatsoever people had received, from centuries ago, from their fathers, their grandfathers and their ancient ancestors, even what they had received from the philosophers and the rhetoricians, all these things they agreed to despise, an attitude extremely difficult. Besides, they had to accept a new manner of life, which was indeed much more difficult; because she removed them from luxury and attached them to fasting. She removed them from avarice and led them to lack of property. She removed them from profanity and led them to chastity. She removed them from aggressiveness and led them to gentleness. She removed them from envy and led them to friendship. She removed them from an easygoing and pleasurable life and led them to a life of difficulties, hardships, and full of sorrows. Indeed she led to this life those who had been accustomed to the life of luxuries. Surely, those who became Christians were not people who lived in some other worlds and did not have sinful habits, but were those who had rotted in them and had become more flexible than clay. It was them that she called to follow the hard and ragged road. And it persuaded them to follow it!
The superbly wondrous work of the Twelve Apostles in the spreading of the Church. How many were persuaded? Not two, not ten, not twenty, not a hundred, but an innumerable crowd. And how many did she use to persuade them? She used two men, uneducated, uncultured, unknown, poor, without property, without bodily strength, without glory, without illustrious ancestry, without rhetorical eloquence. She used twelve men who were fishermen, tent makers, whose mother tongue was foreign; because, they did not speak the same tongue with the idolaters. They spoke Hebrew, which was different from all other languages. It was with them that the Church was built up and spread to the ends of the world. This is not the only wondrous fact, but there is also the fact that these few, these poor, these uneducated and despised men, who set out to change humanity, did not pursue their work without disturbance. They were confronted with innumerable wars from every side. They were opposed by every nation and in every city. But why do I speak of nations and cities? War was raised against them even on every house. Their teaching separated on many occasions the child from the father, the daughter in law from the mother in law, the brother from the brother, the servant from the master, the citizen from the ruler, the man from the woman, and the woman from the man. In every family not all believed simultaneously,, and so the Christians suffered daily harassments, ceaseless enmities, a myriad of deaths. All fought them as common opponents and enemies. They were pursued by kings, governors, citizens, freemen, slaves, crowds, cities. They did not pursue only them, but –how terrible– even the neophyte catechumens, i.e. those who just believed.
The victory of the Apostles and the Church is due to the power of the Crucified but also Risen Lord. It caused horror and wrath to the idolaters the thought of abandoning their pagan altars, of despising their bloody sacrifices, which all their fathers and ancestors practiced, and of believing in the Lord; of believing in Him who took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and stood trial before Pilate, and suffered numberless tribulations and degradations, underwent a dishonorable death, was buried and rose again. It is indeed a paradox, that, while the sufferings of the Lord were indisputable, -inasmuch as many had seen the lashings, the biting, the spitting, the slapping, the cross, the mocking, the entombment– it was not the same with the resurrection. The Lord, after his resurrection, manifested Himself only to the disciples. In spite of this fact, they spoke about the resurrection and persuaded the peoples and built up the Church. How did they do it? They did it with the power of the Lord, who sent them to preach his Gospel to the nations. It was He who opened to them the way. It was He who facilitated their difficult task. Had they not been assisted by the divine power, the spreading of Christianity would not have even begun.
The persecutions against the Church did not inhibit its expansion. The reason was that while the tyrants were forearmed against the Church, while the soldiers interposed their arms, while the mobs raged like a wild fire, while the bad habit was lined up in opposition, while orators, sophists, the rich people, ordinary citizens and leaders were aroused in enmity, the word of God, being stronger than the flame, turned the thistles into ashes, cleansed the fields and sowed the word of the preaching. Some of the believers were thrown into the prisons, others were exiled, others had their property confiscated, others were assassinated, and others were torn to pieces. In spite of the fact that Christians were treated as common criminals, suffering patiently every kind of punishment, humiliation and persecution, more and more people joined the Church. Indeed, the new believers not only were not discouraged by the tortures which they saw the older believers undergoing, but became more eager! They run by themselves, without constraint, showing gratitude to their torturers. They became more fervent in the faith, seeing the torrents of the blood of the believers.
The expansion of the Church in spite of the persecutions proves the incomparable and unconquerable power of Christ. Did you see the incomparable power of Him who achieved all these wonders? How is it possible that people who are undergoing such horrid martyrdoms feel no sorrow? And yet, they rejoiced, and were elated! This is what St. Luke the Evangelist adduces as an example, when he says about the Apostles that “they left from the council rejoicing, because they were proved worthy to be ill-treated for the shake of Christ” (Acts 5:41). While no one can build even a wall with stones and plaster when is persecuted, the Apostles built up the Church throughout the world while sufferings persecutions, imprisonments, exiles and deaths as martyrs. They did not build her up with stones, but with souls –which is much more difficult; since it is not the same to build a wall as to persuade perverted souls to change their manner of life, to abandon their demonic madness and to follow the life of virtue. They achieved this, because they had with them the unconquerable power of the Lord, who had prophesied; “I will build up my Church, and the powers of Hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18).
Consider how many tyrants fought the Church and how many persecutions they raised against it… Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and their successors right down to Constantine, were all idolaters. All of them –some more moderately, and some more harshly– fought the Church. Even if some of them did not raise persecutions, nevertheless, their attachment to idolatry motivated those who wanted to flatter them to oppose the Church. In spite of all this, the evil schemes and attacks of the idolaters were dissolved as cobwebs, scattered like dust, vanished like smoke. Besides, what were planned against the Church became the occasion of great benefits for the Christians. The reason was that such plans created choruses of martyrs, who constitute the treasure, the pillars, and towers of the Church.
The wondrous fulfillment of what Christ prophesied about the Church reveals most clearly his true Godhead. Do you see the wondrous fulfillment of this prophesy? Indeed, “the powers of Hell cannot prevail against her.” Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come. No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church. If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices. How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles? Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church. No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think.
Translated and edited by Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh
(This article represents selections from St. John Chrysostom’s treatise To Jews and Greeks, a demonstration, that Christ is God… (PG 48, 813-838)..)
Sts. Pelagia the Martyr, Pelagia the Righteous and Thais: Three Different Responses to Sexual Immorality
The feasts of three Saints on October 8 are lessons of repentance and guides for all Christians, though especially females, on how to flee the sin of sexual immorality.
First we have Pelagia the Virgin-Martyr of Antioch. She was a fifteen year old teenager and home alone one day when soldiers came knocking on her door. Having been accused of being a Christian and thus compelled to offer a sacrifice to the gods, she was ordered to be placed under arrest. Telling the soldiers that she wished to change her clothes before they took her, she went back in and climbed to the roof of her house and plunged to her death.
During the time of St. John Chrysostom her feast was being very much celebrated outside of Antioch where this took place, and on this occasion he delivered a homily that explains her actions and how Christianity has given women the strength to face all manners of violence and temptations:
"Even [Christian] women now poke fun at death and girls mock passing away and quite young, unmarried virgins skip into the very stings of Hades and suffer no ill effects. All of these blessings we experience because of Christ, born of a virgin. For after those blessed contraction pains and utterly awe-inspiring birth, the sinews of death were unstrung, the devil's power was disabled and from then on became contemptible to not just men but also women, and not just women, but also girls....
It's for this reason that blessed Pelagia too ran to meet death with such great delight that she didn't wait for the executioners' hands nor did she go to court, but escaped their cruelty through the excess of her own enthusiasm. For while she was prepared for tortures and punishments and every kind of penalty, even so she was afraid that she would destroy the crown of her virginity. Indeed, that you might learn that she was afraid of the sexual predation of the unholy men, she got in first and snatched herself away in advance from the shameful violence. None of the [Christian] men ever attempted any such act at all. Instead they all filed into court and displayed their courage there. Yet women, by nature vulnerable to harm, conceived for themselves this manner of death. My point is that, were it possible both to preserve one's virginity and attain martyrdom's crown, she wouldn't have refused to go to court. But since it was utterly inevitable that one of the two would be lost, she thought it a sign of extreme stupidity, when it was possible for her to attain each victory, to depart half crowned. For this reason she wasn't willing to go to court or to become a spectacle for lecherous eyes, or to give opportunity for predatory eyes to revel in the sight of her own appearance and crudely insult that holy body. Instead she went from her chamber and the women's querters to a second chamber - heaven....
Don't simply pass over what happened, but consider how it's likely that she was raised as a gentle girl, knowing nothing beyond her chamber, while soldiers were posted against her en masse, standing in front of the door, summoning her to court, dragging her into the marketplace on weighty sorts of grounds. There was no father inside, no mother present, no nurse, no female attendant, no neighbor, no female friend. Instead, she was left alone in the midst of those executioners. I mean, how isn't it right that we be astonished and amazed that she had the strength to come out and answer those executioner soldiers, to open her mouth and utter a sound, just to look, stand, and breathe? Those actions weren't attributable to human nature. For God's influence introduced the majority. Most assuredly, at the time she didn't just idly stand around, but displayed all her personal qualities - her enthusiasm, her resolve, her nobility, her willingness, her purpose, her eagerness, her bustling energy. But it was as a result of God's help and heavenly good goodwill that all these qualities reached maturity....
In addition to what's been said, I marvel as well at how the soldiers granted her the favor, how the woman deceived the men, how they didn't work out the deception. After all, one can't say that no one effected anything of the sort. For many women, it seems, gave themselves up to a cliff or hurled themselves into the sea or drove a sword through their breast or fastened a noose. That time was full of numerous dramas of that kind. But God blinded the soldier's hearts so that they wouldn't openly see the deception. That's why she flew up out of the middle of their nets....
Lot's of people who've tumbled from a high roof havn't suffered any ill effect. Others, in turn, despite suffering permanent disability to some part of their body, have lived for a long time after the fall. But in the case of that blessed virgin God didn't allow any of these options to happen. Instead, he ordered the body to release the soul immediately and received it on the grounds that it had struggled sufficiently and completed everything. For death wasn't caused by the nature of the fall, but by God's command. From that point the body wasn't lying on a bed, but on the pavement. Yet it wasn't without honor as it lay on the pavement...For this reason, then, that virginal body purer than any gold lay on the pavement, on the street."
In this case, therefore, we have a young girl preserving her virginity by throwing herself to her death and lying in cold blood on the pavement rather being subject to having to lay in the bed of a soldier and possibly preserve her life.
On this day we also celebrate the feast of another Pelagia, who initially lived a very different life from the first Pelagia. St. Pelagia the Righteous was not righteous her whole life, but only became so following her repentance and complete abandonment of her former way of life. She also was from Antioch and a famous actress/dancer in the city. Being a pagan of great beauty she lived a life of unrestrained immorality and partying. James the Deacon, her biographer, writes the following:
"And as we sat, certain of the bishops besought my master [Bishop] Nonnus that they might have some instruction from his lips: and straightway the good bishop began to speak to the wealth and health of all that heard him. And as we sat marvelling at the holy learning of him, lo! on a sudden she that was first of the actresses of Antioch passed by: first of the dancers was she, and riding on an ass; and with all fantastic graces did she ride, so decked that naught could be seen upon her but gold and pearls and precious stones. The very nakedness of her feet was hidden under gold and pearls, and with her was a splendid train of young men and maidens clad in robes of price, with torques of gold about their necks. Some went before and some came after her, but of the beauty and the loveliness of her there could be no wearying for a world of men. Passing through our midst, she filled the air with the fragrance of musk and of all scents that are sweetest. And when the bishops saw her so shamelessly ride by, bare of head and shoulder and limb, in pomp so splendid, and not so much as a veil upon her head orabout her shoulders, they groaned, and in silence turned away their heads as from great and grievous sin.
But the most blessed Nonnus did long and most intently regard her. And after she had passed by still he gazed and still his eyes went after her. Then, turning his head, he looked upon the bishops sitting around him. 'Did not,' said he, 'the sight of her great beauty delight you?'
They answered him nothing. And he sank his face upon his knees, and the holy book that he held in his good hands, and his tears fell down upon his breast, and sighing heavily he said again to the bishops, 'Did not the sight of her great beauty delight you?'
But again they answered him nothing. Then said he, 'Verily, it greatly delighted me, and well pleased was I with her beauty, whom God shall set in presence of His high and terrible seat, in judgment of ourselves and our episcopate.'
And again he spoke to the bishops. 'What think you, beloved? How many hours hath this woman spent in her chamber, bathing and adorning herself with all solicitude and all her mind on the stage, that there may be no stain or flaw in all that body’s beauty and its wearing, that she may be a joy to all men’s eyes, nor disappoint those paltry lovers of hers who are but for a day and tomorrow are not? And we who have in heaven a Father Almighty, an immortal Lover, with the promise of riches eternal and rewards beyond all reckoning, since eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard nor hath it ascended into the heart of man to conceive the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him — but what need is there of further speech? With such a promise, the vision of the Bridegroom, that great and splendid and ineffable face, whereon the Cherubim dare not look, we adorn not, we care not so much as to wash the filth from our miserable souls, but leave them lying in their squalor.' "
Deacon John further relates how one day Bihop Nonnus was preaching in a church concerning "the judgement to come and the eternal blessedness in store". Pelagia was in the church that day. He says:
"Now it befell, by the guiding of the Divine compassion, that to this very church should come the harlot of whom he had spoken to us. And for a marvel, she to whom never had come a thought of her sins and who never had been inside a church door was suddenly stricken with the fear of God, as the good Nonnus reasoned with the people. And despairing of herself she fell to sorrowing, her tears falling in streams, and she in no way able to check her weeping. There and then she gave orders to two of her youths, saying, 'Stay in this place, and when the good bishop Nonnus comes out, follow him and ask where he lodges and come and tell me.' The young men did as their lady had bidden them. They followed us and came to the basilica of the Blessed Julian the Martyr, where was our hospice or cell. And then they went back to their lady and said, 'He is lodging in the basilica of the Blessed Julian the Martyr. Upon this, she straightway sent a diptych by the same two, on which these words were written:
'To Christ’s holy disciple, the devil’s disciple and a woman that is a sinner. I have heard of thy God, that He bowed the heavens and came down to earth, not for the good men’s sake, but that He might save sinners, and that He was so humble that He drew near to publicans, and He on whom the Cherubim dare not look kept company with sinners. And thou my lord, who art a great saint, although thou hast not looked with the eyes of the flesh on the Lord Christ Himself, who showed Himself to that Samaritan woman, and her a harlot, at the well, yet art thou a worshipper of Him, for I have heard the talk of the Christians. If indeed thou art a true disciple of this Christ, spurn me not, desiring through thee to see the Savior, that through thee I may come at the sight of His holy face.'
Then the good bishop Nonnus wrote back to her:
'Whatsoever thou art is known unto God, thyself, and what thy purpose is, and thy desire. But this I surely say to thee, seek not to tempt my weakness, for I am a man that is a sinner, serving God. If in very deed thou hast a desire after divine things and a longing for goodness and faith, and dost wish to see me, there are other bishops with me: come, and thou shalt see me in their presence, for thou shalt not see me alone.'
She read it, this harlot, and filled with joy came hurrying to the basilica of the Blessed Julian, and sent word to us that she was come. On hearing it, the good Nonnus called to him all the bishops who were in the place, and bade her come to him. She came in where the bishops were assembled, and flung herself on the pavement and caught the feet of the blessed Nonnus, saying, 'My lord, I pray thee to follow thy master the Lord Christ, and shed on me thy kindness and make me a Christian. My lord, I am a sea of wickedness and an abyss of evil. I ask to be baptised.'
Hardly could the good bishop Nonnus prevail on her to rise from his feet, but when she had risen he said: 'The canons of the Church, provide that no harlot shall be baptised, unless she produce certainty that she will not fall back into her old sins.'
But on hearing such a judgment from the bishop, she flung herself again on the pavement and caught the feet of the good Nonnus, and washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair, crying, 'Thou shalt answer to God for my soul and on thee shall I charge all the evil of my deeds, if thou dost delay to baptise me in my foul sin. No portion mayst thou find in God’s house among the saints, if thou makest me not a stranger to my sin. Mayst thou deny God and worship idols, if thou dost not this day have me born again, bride to Christ,and offer me to God.'
Then all the bishops and clergy, who were there gathered, seeing her that was so great a sinner uttering such words in her desire after God, said in wonderment that they had never seen such faith and desire for salvation as in this harlot. And straightway they sent me, deacon and sinner, to the bishop of the city to explain the matter and beg his sanctity to send back one of his deaconesses with me. And when he heard me, he rejoiced mightily, saying, 'Verily, father revered, such work as this awaited thee. I know that thou wilt be as my mouth.' And he sent with me the lady Romana, chief of the deaconesses.
Coming in, she found her still at the feet of the good bishop Nonnus, and hardly could he persuade her to rise from his feet, saying,'Daughter, arise, that thou mayst be shriven.' And then he said to her, 'Confess all thy sins.'
She made answer, 'If I were to search my whole heart I could find in myself no good thing. I know my sins, that they are heavier than the sands of the sea: the waters of it are too scant for the mass of my sin. But I trust in thy God, that He will loosen the load of my wrongdoing, and will look upon me'...
Then the good bishop Nonnus again asked her, 'Thine own name is Pelagia?' She answered, 'Yea, lord.' And thereupon the good bishop exorcised and baptised her, and set upon her the sign of the Cross, and gave her the Body of Christ. Her godmother was the holy lady Romana, chief of the deaconesses, and she took her and went to the place for the catechumens, for so long as we should remain there. Then said to me the good bishop Nonnus, 'I tell thee, brother deacon, let us rejoice today with the angels of God, and take oil beyond our custom in our food, and drink wine with joy of heart, for the salvation of this girl.'"
We thus have here in the person of St. Pelagia the Righteous, a woman who willingly, though out of ignorance, gave herself over to a prodigal form of life, come to great repentance for her sins and abandoned completely her former life to follow Christ with her whole heart. St. John Chrysostom speaks concerning this Pelagia also saying of how she previously lived her life and went on to live a life of virtue:
"Heard ye not how that harlot, that went beyond all in lasciviousness, outshine all in godly reverence. Not the harlot in the Gospels do I mean, but the one in our generation, who came from Phœnice, that most lawless city. For she was once a harlot among us [in Antioch], having the first honors on the stage, and great was her name everywhere, not in our city only, but even as far as the Cilicians and Cappadocians. And many estates did she ruin, and many orphans did she overthrow; and many accused her of sorcery also, as weaving such toils not by her beauty of person only, but also by her drugs. This harlot once won even the brother of the empress, for mighty indeed was her tyranny.
But all at once, I know not how, or rather I do know well, for it was being so minded, and converting, and bringing down upon herself God's grace, she despised all those things, and having cast away the arts of the devils, mounted up to heaven.
And indeed nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the stage; nevertheless, afterwards she outshone many in exceeding continence, and having clad herself with sackcloth, all her time she thus disciplined herself. On the account of this woman both the governor was stirred up, and soldiers armed, yet they had not strength to carry her off to the stage, nor to lead her away from the virgins that had received her.
This woman having been counted worthy of the unutterable mysteries, and having exhibited a diligence proportionate to the grace (given her) so ended her life, having washed off all through grace, and after her baptism having shown forth much self-restraint. For not even a mere sight of herself did she allow to those who were once her lovers, when they had come for this, having shut herself up, and having passed many years, as it were, in a prison. Thus shall the last be first, and the first last; thus do we in every case need a fervent soul, and there is nothing to hinder one from becoming great and admirable."
And last, but certainly not least, we celebrate today Righteous Thais, the former harlot of Egypt. Written by an anonymous author yet found in The Lausiac History of St. Palladius, the following extraordinary story of repentance is told:
There was a certain harlot called Thais and she was so beautiful that many for her sake sold all that they had and reduced themselves to utter poverty; quarrels arose among her lovers and often the doorstep of this girl's house was soaked in the blood of young men.
When Abba Paphnutius heard about it, he put on secular clothes and went to see her in a certain city in Egypt. He handed her a silver piece as the price for committing sin. She accepted the price and said, 'Let us go inside.'
When he went in, he sat down on the bed which was draped with precious covers and he invited her, saying, 'If there is a more private chamber, let us go in there.'
She said, 'There is one, but if it is people you are afraid of, no one ever enters this room; except, of course, for God, for there is no place that is hidden from the eyes of divinity.'
"When the old man heard this, he said to her, 'So you know there is a God?'
She answered him, 'I know about God and about the eternal kingdom and also about the future torments of sinners'.
'But if you know this,' he said, 'why are you causing the loss of so many souls so that you will be condemned to render an account not only of your own sins but of theirs as well?'
When Thais heard this, she threw herself at the feet of Paphnutius and begged him with tears, 'Give me a penance, Father, for I trust to find forgiveness by your prayers. I beg you to wait for just three hours, and after that, wherever you tell me to go, I will go, and whatever you tell me to do, I will do it.' So Paphnutius arranged a meeting place with her and she went out and collected together all the goods that she had received by her sins and piled them all together in the middle of the city, while all the people watched, saying, 'Come here, all of you who have sinned with me, and see how I am burning whatever you gave me.' The value of it was forty pounds.
When it was all consumed, she went to the place that the elder had arranged with her. Then he sought out a monastery of virgins and took her into a small cell, sealing the door with lead and leaving only a small opening through which food could be passed to her and he ordered her to be given daily a little bread and a little water by the sisters of the monastery. When Thais realized that the door was sealed with lead, she said to him, 'Father, where do you want me to urinate?' and he replied, 'In the cell, as you deserve.' Then she asked him how she should pray to God, and he said to her, 'You are not worthy to name God, or to take his divine name upon your lips, or to lift up your hands to heaven, for your lips are full of sin and your hands are stained with iniquity; only stand facing towards the east and repeat often only this: 'You who made me, have mercy upon me.'
When she had been enclosed in this way for three years, Paphnutius began to be anxious, and so he went to see Abba Antony, to ask him if her sins had been forgiven by the Lord or not. When he arrived, he recounted the affair to him in detail, and Abba Antony called together all his disciples and they agreed to keep vigil all night and each of them to persist in prayer so that God might reveal to one of them the truth of the matter about which Paphnutius had come. Each retired to his cell and took up continuous prayer.
Then Paul [the Simple], the great disciple of St. Antony, suddenly saw in the sky a bed adorned with precious cloths and guarded by three virgins whose faces shone with brightness. Then Paul said to them; 'Surely so great a glory can only be for my father Antony?' but a voice spoke to him saying, 'This is not for your father Antony, but for the harlot Thais.' Paul went quickly and reported what he had heard and seen and Paphnutius recognized the will of God and set off for the monastery where the girl was enclosed.
He began to open the door for her which he bad sealed up, but she begged to be left shut up in there. When the door was open he said to her, 'Come out, for God has forgiven you your sins.' She replied, 'I call God to witness that since I came in here my sins have always been before my eyes as a burden; they have never been out of my sight and I have always wept to see them.' Abba Paphnutius said to her, 'God has forgiven your sins not because of your penances but because you have always had the remembrance of your sins in your soul.' When he had taken Thais out, she lived for fifteen days and then passed away in peace.
When I read the inspiring life of St. Thais, I think of that last statement: "God has forgiven your sins not because of your penances, but because you have always had the remembrance of your sins in your soul." It makes me wonder of how often we fail to remember our sins following our repentance, causing us to lose the humility which is born from repentance. Because ultimately it is not mere repentance that saves, but the fruits of that repentance which are humility, love and mercy.
So on October 8th we celebrate the lives of three Saints: one virgin teenager who gave her life to preserve her virginity, one famous actress/dancer who had willingly lived a licentious life but bore the fruits of repentance, and one harlot who knew the judgements of God yet continued in immorality until she obediently lived out her penance for her sins away from the wandering eyes of men. All were confirmed Saints of the Church having been manifestly approved by God by displaying their great love for Him who inspires virtue in every humble soul.
[The irreligious among the Greeks like to tell a lot of crooked priest jokes. I must admit some of them I find kinda funny. Here is one I just received in email I thought I'd share. - J.S.]
Mitsos lived above his restaurant with only his beloved pet dog called Stavros for company.
One day Stavros the dog died and Mitsos went to his local priest and asked, "Father, my dog Stavros died. Could you do a Trisagion for the poor animal, he was like a son to me?"
Father Nikos shook his head, "I'm afraid not; we cannot have services for an animal in the church. But, there's an English church on the next block. God knows what they believe in. Maybe they'll do something for your dog?"
Mitsos said, "I'll go right away Father. Do you think $5,000 is enough to donate to them for the service?"
Father Nikos exclaimed, "Kyrie Eleison! Vre Mitsos, why didn't you tell me the dog was Greek Orthodox?"
Thursday, October 8, 2009
As part of Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril Theological Library's Second Annual Conference titled "Understanding the Holy Trinity," the Reverend Father George Dion Dragas, a protopresbyter in the Greek Orthodox Church and professor at Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts, delivered two lectures on the Holy Trinity. They are linked below.
Introduction to the Holy Trinity, Part 1
Patrology Series Part 2- Section 1
Patrology Series Part 2- Section 2
Patrology Series Part 2- Section 3
Patrology Series Part 2- Section 4
A certain girl from Syros came to the Convent of the Transfiguration to visit her sister, who was a nun. The nun had previously been informed that her sister had fallen into a serious sin. When she learned that the girl was outside the doors of the convent, the nun screamed at her, "Go far away from here. Since you are defiled, you will defile the convent and the nuns." Instead of feeling pity for her sister, and trying to lead her to repentance, the nun and some of the other nuns struck the poor girl and told her to go away.
The wretched girl cried, "I have made a mistake. Forgive me!"
The nun shrieked, "Go away, or I will kill you to wash away the shame you have brought to our family."
"Have you no pity, my sister, don't you share my pain?"
"No," the nun shouted, "you are not my sister, you are a foul harlot."
"Where shall I go?" she sobbed.
"Go and drown yourself," was the heartless reply.
The poor girl fled from the convent, bleeding and wounded, intending to kill herself. At that very moment, St Arsenius was on his way to visit the convent. Seeing the girl in such a state, he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she had been led astray by corrupt men and women. Realizing her sin, she went to the convent to ask her sister for help
"See what they have done to me, Elder. What do you advise me to do? Shall I drown myself, or leap off a cliff?"
"I do not advise you to do either, my child. If you wish, I shall take you with me and heal the wounds of your soul and body," he said gently.
"Where will you take me?" the miserable girl asked.
"To the convent, my child."
"I beg you not to take me there, Elder. My sister and the other nuns said they would kill me if I came back."
The saint replied, "Do not be afraid. They will not kill you, because I shall entrust you to Christ, and no one will be able to harm you."
"Very well," she said, "If you entrust me to Christ I will not be afraid of them, for Christ is more powerful than they."
St Arsenius led her to the convent, consoling her and encouraging her to repentance and confession. After hearing her confession, he made her a nun. Then he called all the nuns into the church and severely rebuked those who wounded the girl. He reminded them of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and of how Christ had come to save sinners. He often associated with sinners, showing them great love and mercy.
"You, however, have done the opposite. Though you knew that her soul had been wounded by the devil, you did not feel sorry for her. You did not embrace her and try to save her from further sin, but you attacked her and beat her. Then you urged her to kill herself. Now I, your Spiritual Father, tell you that you are not nuns, you are not Christians, you are not even human beings. You are devoid of compassion, affection, and sympathy. You are murderesses! Therefore, I forbid you to receive Holy Communion for three years, unless you recognize your sin. Repent and confess, weep and ask forgiveness from God and from me, your Spiritual Father, and from the other nuns who did not participate in your sinful behavior."
The nuns began to weep bitterly and they repented. Thus, he lessened their penance and forgave them. He gave the girl's sister the penance of not receiving Holy Communion for a whole year. Because the other nuns had shared in this sin, he would not permit them to receive Communion for six months.
(From Constantine Cavarnos, Modern Orthodox Saints, Vol. 6: St. Arsenios of Paros. Belmont, Mass.: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1978.)
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
How did this Greek, Themi Adamopoulos, come to choose to help the needy? Why did he renounce fame in order to seek a more peaceful yet sacrificial existence?
Themi was born in Egypt to Greek parents and raised in Melbourne, Australia. He was a child of the 60's and once went to his mother saying “religion is the opiate of the masses" giving her a taste of his Marxist views. His pious mother was terrified by his confession and upon hearing it made the sign of the cross and turned to prayer before her iconostasis.
Regarding Themi's views on religion and God during this time, he says:
"Like any 'normal radical', I believed that there was no God. I was very much affected by the Nietzschean 'God is dead' school, yet I could not see my way past the following contradiction: on the one hand, I held to the critique of rationalism, the idea being that there is only a myth of rationality and that at bottom everything is subjective; but on the other hand when it came to God I applied rational critiques. That was my philosophical contradiction. The perspective I had, then, was the traditionally Marxist view that there was no God and that Christianity was basically "the opium of the masses", a tool of the bourgeoisie to oppress the proletariat by the myth of the kingdom of heaven.
"I was drawn into this spiritual radicalism. I wanted to know more about this new frontier. Was it true what Nietzsche, Russell and the logical positivists had told us, that there is no God? Was it true what the Marxists told us, that the only reality we could know was political reality? I personally was drawn towards exploring these questions. In a way the New Left had its scouts to seek out the new frontiers of reality and existence, and then to report back and say, 'Hey listen! This is good! We need to incorporate a spiritual dimension into our Utopian society of the future.' So in a way I appointed myself a spiritual scout to go and find out what exactly this was all about. I began, then, to experiment with my concepts of reality, questioning everything and seeing whether or not there were truths in Buddhism, in Hinduism, and in Christianity. I would therefore go to Hare Krishna temples and Hindu shrines, I would explore transcendental meditation, and I would even read St. Augustine's City of God and the Bible."
At the time Themi was in the first year of the School of Business Science at the University of Melbourne, though he did not complete his studies for this major. Political Science and Philosophy were more reflective of his interests at the time, as he revealed in his interview for Neos Kosmos.
Parallel with his student life, he began adding little by little toward his brilliant career in the area of music. Being influenced by the music of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, he formed the group The Flies.
He said of this period in his life:
“I thought that after 'beatles' had so much success, why not 'flies'? The climate was right and we took advantage in the extreme. We had great success.
“We put on concerts in all of the larger cities in Australia, always in jam-packed concert halls. The pinnacle was when we were invited to play with the Rolling Stones in their first tour of Australia in 1965 at the Palace Theatre. Being right there next to Mick Jagger…it was unbelievable, but true!"
The band The Flies included Themi Adams (as he was then known) on bass, John Thomas on guitar, Hank Wallis on drums, and (originally) Ronnie Burns as lead singer. The following account provides an interesting picture of the band:
"[The Flies] were one of the very first bands in Melbourne to catch on to the new 'beat' style and gained attention as 'Victoria's top Beatle-alikes', even down to their matching suits and very long mop-top hair. A shambolic, noisy bunch at the best of times, the quartet achieved considerable popularity on the booming Melbourne dance circuit, with a repertoire of Brit-vasion standards from the catalogues of The Searchers, The Hollies and Herman's Hermits and others, along with some of the 'bluesier', more raucous Beatles numbers like 'When I Get Home' and 'You Can't Do That'." (Paul Culnane, "Ronnie Burns", from the Milesago website)
Fr. Themi goes on to explain:
"During this period I came under the influence of popular music. It was the time of the English pop music explosion and I formed a group in my spare time imitating the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. We became rather successful. In fact, in a sort of curious way I pride myself in having belonged to the first long-haired group in Australia, long hair being then the symbol of the new revolution of the youth. We produced records, we even had Top 10 hits, and we had a fan club - I would get letters every day, with messages written on the envelope such as: 'Postman, postman, don't be slow! Be like Themi: go, man, go!' We would practice in the garage of Ronnie Burns' mum's house; I even met Ian 'Molly' Meldrum."
Of course, his fame did not detract from his concern for the social issues of his day. He took part in the mobilization of young people to stop the war in Vietnam, he was concerned about human rights and the protection of those in jeopardy, he supported the women’s rights movement, and he studied intently different religious beliefs trying to find an answer to the existential questions which troubled him.
"The discovery of Christ came during this period of experimentation, consciousness-alteration, and self-analysis. Eventually, I underwent what you might call a 'Christian mystical experience'. But I wasn't looking for it, and by inclination I would've preferred a Buddhist kind of explanation of reality, as that would have fitted in much better with the culture and trends of the day. But I found that this Christian experience was overwhelming, and I really had no choice in the end but to be honest to myself and to what I was feeling even though it might not have been so popular among my peers. So, through these 'mystical experiences', I came to believe in Christianity as the authentic road to God and the ultimate truth.
"Given my background, I immediately turned to my peers on the New Left with the pronouncement that Christ is the truth. This, however, did not go down too well with them! But I was coming from the perspective that this was a genuine discovery, just as we had discovered, say, the writings of Marcuse or Nietzsche or Marx. But at that time Christianity was equated with the Methodist Church of Australia or the Church of England or with churches that had a history of oppression, and Christianity was also associated with such things as holy wars and crusades. So I was really out on a limb, but I didn't let go. For I had found a side of Christianity that seemed to be ignored - viz., the existential, mystical and sensitive side of Christianity."
“In 1972 I abandoned everything - academic career, titles, aspirations, dreams - and returned to Orthodoxy. I saw the works of Mother Teresa and despite my university position which provided a good salary, I felt poor, very poor.
"I began then a new life. Having the baggage of my academic past, I began to study theology. I received my degree from the Catholic theological school Corpus Christi. Then with the guidance of Archbishop Stylianos I studied at Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston. At the same time, I studied Hebrew and Ancient Greek at Harvard University. Then I received my Doctorate in Theology from Princeton University and returned to Australia where, from 1988 until 1998, I taught at Saint Andrew Theological School in Sydney, while also teaching theology and the Coptic language (an ancient Egyptian language) at the University of Sydney.
“As an academic, I had a future. I was not however content. I was following the work of Mother Teresa and I was made aware of an enormous void within me. I was not with the poor. I did not need to struggle in the least for myself. Inside of me grew a desire to be near the poor and to do whatever possible to make their life more humane. I felt that all my education lead to this path. This was the essence. I then sought the blessing from His Eminence to begin a mission in Africa.
“In 1999 I began my work in Kenya at the command of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Alexandria and all of Africa, Peter, after I was consecrated a deacon, priest and then archimandrite. There the first Orthodox college was founded which is called the Orthodox Teacher’s College of Africa.
“I believe that education is the greatest weapon mankind has in life. If you want to help your fellow man, teach the skill to fish and do not just give him a prepared fish. At the college we are preparing young people to become teachers at the preschool and elementary levels. In the installment of such programs we are also introducing the branch of Sociology."
The next step in the enormous undertaking of the mission he has before him is “to build a preschool and elementary school for the very poor children, who are not able to go to school because their feet are bare and their stomachs empty."
He is quick to provide for the children as much as possible things such as clothing, shoes and food (in no particular order), and next in importance is the welfare of the women. Fr. Themi says: “Women are the greatest victims in Africa. They are the heart of the family. The man if he is able has two or three wives and produces children with all of them. The woman is the one selling her body for a piece of bread, so that her children might not suffer from hunger. For this reason I opened a Sewing School, where the women learn a trade and earn their bread honorably."
From Kenya, in 2007, the new Patriarch Theodore, who followed closely the work of the mission and the humanitarian Fr. Themi Adamopoulos, gave to him the order to go to West Africa, to Sierra Leone. There a civil war lasting a full twelve years had destroyed the place, and has left the most horrific scenes. Children mutilated, faces and bodies disfigured, people who live on the streets and breathe their last breath there. Death is part of the their daily life. It “lives” there beside them and among them.
“There we are building a village for 100 disabled people who begged on the streets, and the police pursued and persecuted them everywhere. We started with the Church of Saint Moses the African in the region of Waterloo, then a trade school of carpentry and sewing, and then homes, a clinic and a school. In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, we founded the first school for 1,200 children which has 60 teachers. Next year we will create an Orthodox college for the poor. There are children who have merit, but they do not have the means to go to even Elementary School. We ought to help”.
The women in the prisons of Freetown are those who grab his constant attention and he will care for their rehabilitation after their discharge. “If they do not have a respectable job, it is not possible for them to not end up again there. So I make sure they can have a sewing class inside of prison and upon their release I give them a sewing machine."
His next step was to give arms and legs to the amputee children: “It is the most horrible sight, the most tragic victims of the war. By next year I hope to open a clinic where artificial hands and feet will be provided for thousands of children and youth to give them a new life and return back to them their dignity. Today they are begging and are harassed by the police."
This great work is supported financially by two large philanthropic organizations in Australia, “Paradise Kids for Africa” and “Light of the World Australia”, which has commissions in all of the cities in Australia for the same purpose.
Also, in Greece, specifically in Thessalonica there is great support from the Christian Brotherhoods. One of them is “Saint Kosmas Aitolos”.
It is too bad Fr. Themi isn't the famous idol he once was to his fans, because the work he does now is far more significant and deserves much more praise and support.
"Now after a lifetime of experiences this is who I am. A servant of the Most High God and a Servant and Apostle to the Poor and Oppressed."
To donate to the Orthodox Mission to Sierra Leone, visit here.