This is an update from a previous report here.
On Saturday, 12 September 2009, Metropolitan Amphilochios of New Zealand ordained the first native of Fiji, Bartholomew, to the diaconate in the Holy Monastery of the Archangels in Thari on Rhodes.
He will return to his native land to undertake a mission among his people.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
by Clive Leviev-Sawyer
Oct 27 2009
A few months after Bulgaria approved changes to its Family Code to allow fast-track divorces, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is planning to increase its fee for recognising a divorce in canon law.
According to a report in mass-circulation daily Trud on October 27 2009, the Sofia metropolitinate of the church plans to increase the fee for approving a divorce from 12 to 30 leva.
Churches marriages and divorces in themselves have no legal effect in Bulgaria. Article 46 of the Bulgarian constitutions says that "matrimony shall be a free union between a man and a woman. Only a civil marriage shall be legal".
However, the church does not allow divorcees to re-marry without official church approval. If approvals are given, the church will allow a person to re-marry up to three times after the first divorce.
While, after the fall of communism, church marriages became more fashionable in Bulgaria, not every civil divorce is matched by an approach to the church for its sanction.
According to Trud, an average 100 dissolutions of religious marriage are issued in Sofia a year, and the numbers are even lower in small eparchies: 39 in Varna and only six in Vratsa in 2008, the newspaper said.
On June 11 2009, Bulgaria’s Parliament approved changes to the Family Code opening the way for fast-track divorces.
Before the change, divorce by mutual consent could be applied for only after three years of marriage. The amendments approved by Parliament allow for divorce a day after the wedding.
Epic Muhammad Movie in Pipeline
An epic movie about Islam's Prophet Muhammad is in the pipeline, backed by a producer of the Lord of the Rings.
2 November 2009
American Barrie Osborne, who also produced The Matrix, told Reuters the film would be an "international epic" aimed at "bridging cultures".
In accordance with Islamic rules, the Prophet cannot be depicted on screen. Images of the Prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
The $150m (£91m) English language film should go into production in 2011.
Qatari media company Alnoor Holdings, which is behind the plans, said it wanted to attract the "best international talent" for the film.
"The film will educate people about the true meaning of Islam," Osborne said.
Raja Sharif, vice president of international projects at Alnoor, told Reuters he expected to conclude deals next year.
See also: Prophet Muhammad Movie in the Works, But Will It Be Blasphemous?
By Alessandra Rizzo (AP, November 3, 2009)
Rome, Italy - Europe's court of human rights said Tuesday the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and education freedoms, prompting an angry reaction from the Catholic Church and government officials in Rome.
The ruling could force a review of the use of religious symbols in government-run schools across Europe. Saying the crucifix could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils, the court rejected arguments by Italy's government that it was a national symbol of culture, history, identity, tolerance and secularism.
The Italian government immediately said it would appeal, with one minister saying the court should be ashamed and a conservative senator calling the ruling "absurd." Italian bishops said they were perplexed by the decision from the Strasbourg-based court.
"The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked," the Italian Bishop's Conference said in a statement.
The court ordered the government to pay a euro5,000 ($7,390) fine to Soile Lautsi, the mother of two children who claimed public schools in her northern Italian town refused eight years ago to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms.
The seven-judge panel, however, stopped short of ordering Italy to remove the crucifixes, which are common in Italian public schools. The ruling can still be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights' Grand Chamber of 17 judges, whose decisions are binding.
Lautsi, who is of Finnish origins, had maintained that the crucifix violates the secular principles the public schools are supposed to uphold, and the right to offer her children a secular education. She filed her case with the European Court of Human Rights in July 2006, after Italy's Constitutional Court dismissed her complaint. Her efforts to rid public schools of religious symbols in a country that is predominantly Roman Catholic had not been welcomed.
In its ruling, the court said the presence of the crucifix "could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion." It added that the presence of such symbols could be "disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists."
The court said secular, state-run schools must "observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education," where attendance is compulsory.
Lautsi and her husband, Massimo Albertin, said they were satisfied.
"We believe the ruling is a positive signal from Europe to Italy, which seems to increasingly lose its secularism," Albertin was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency from his home in Albano Terme. "The crucifix creates discrimination."
Still, the government maintained the crucifix is a symbol of Italian and European history and tradition
"In our country nobody wants to impose the Catholic religion, let alone with a crucifix," Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said. But she added that "it is not by eliminating the traditions of individual countries that a united Europe is built."
Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he wanted to see the ruling and the reasons behind it before commenting.
Vatican Denounces Ruling on Crucifixes
(AP, November 4, 2009)
Rome, Italy - The Vatican yesterday denounced a ruling by the European court of human rights that said the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and education freedoms.
In a decision that could force a review of the use of religious symbols in government-run schools across Europe, the court ordered Italy to pay a $7,390 fine to a mother in northern Italy who fought for eight years to have crucifixes removed from her children’s public school classrooms. The Italian government said it would appeal.
Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity, not one of exclusion.
He said a European court had no right intervening in such a profoundly Italian matter.
“Religion gives a precious contribution to the formation and moral growth of people, and it’s an essential component in our civilization,’’ he said. “It’s wrong and myopic to try to exclude it from education.’’
The Strasbourg-based court said the crucifix could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils, rejecting arguments by Italy’s government that it was a national symbol of culture, history, identity, tolerance, and secularism.
But although it fined the government, the panel stopped short of ordering Italy to remove the crucifixes, which are common in Italian public schools. The ruling can still be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber, whose decisions are binding.
Healthcare Provision Seeks to Embrace Prayer Treatments
A little-noticed measure would put Christian Science healing sessions on the same footing as clinical medicine. Critics say it violates the separation of church and state.
By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger
November 3, 2009
Reporting from Washington
Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare."
It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill -- Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.
Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
"We are making the case for this, believing there is a connection between healthcare and spirituality," said Davis, who distributed 11,000 letters last week to Senate officials urging support for the measure.
"We think this is an important aspect of the solution, when you are talking about not only keeping the cost down, but finding effective healthcare," he said.
The provision would apply only to insurance policies offered on a proposed exchange where consumers could shop for plans that meet standards set by the government.
But critics say the measure could have a broader effect, conferring new status and medical legitimacy on practices that lie outside the realm of science.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and agnostics that promotes separation of church and state, said the opportunity to receive payment for spiritual care could encourage other groups to seek similar status.
"This would be an absolute invitation to organize," Gaylor said.
The Christian Science Church, which was founded in Boston in 1879, has pushed throughout its history to secure official recognition for its paid prayer practitioners. Their job, as outlined by the church's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was to pray for healing and charge for treatment at rates similar to those of medical doctors.
In the early 20th century, the church sought recognition from state regulators so the practitioners would not be prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. Criminal courts have convicted Christian Scientists in cases where children have died after visiting prayer healers instead of receiving conventional medical care. The church says no such incidents have occurred for two decades.
About 90 years ago, private insurance companies began paying for Christian Science prayer treatments, but more recently, managed-care insurers declined reimbursements, insisting on paying for care that produced proven medical results.
The Internal Revenue Service allows the cost of the prayer sessions to be counted among itemized medical expenses for income tax purposes -- one of the only religious treatments explicitly identified as deductible by the IRS. Some federal medical insurance programs, including those for military families, also reimburse for prayer treatment.
The spiritual healing provision was introduced in the House by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), whose district includes a Christian Science school, Principia College.
Two committees in the House voted to include the measure in their versions of the overhaul, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) stripped it from the consolidated House bill last week after a few members argued it was unconstitutional.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, said the provision raised serious questions about government support of religion.
"I think when Congress mandates that health companies provide coverage for prayer, it has the effect of the government advancing religion," he said.
The legal issue, however, may not be cut and dried.
Michael McConnell, who heads the Stanford University Constitutional Law Center, said that "as long as patients are the ones who choose, and religious choices are given no legal preference or advantage, the proposals would appear to be consistent with constitutional standards."
In the Senate, the provision is included in a version of the bill drafted by the health committee. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is considering whether to include it in the consolidated bill he will send to the Senate floor.
Kerry's spokeswoman, Whitney Smith, disputed that insurers would be forced to cover prayer. Instead, she said, "the amendment would prevent insurers from discriminating against benefits that qualify as spiritual care if the care is recognized by the IRS as a legitimate medical expense. Plans are free to impose standards on spiritual and medical care as long as both are treated equally. It does not mandate that plans provide spiritual care."
Hatch said, "I offered this amendment because I believe that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, should have access to healthcare."
But Dr. Norman Fost, a pediatrician and medical ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, said the measure went against the goal of reducing healthcare costs by improving evidence-based medical practices.
"They want a special exception for people who use unproved treatments, and they also want to get paid for it," he said. "They want people who use prayer to have it just automatically accepted as a legitimate therapy."
Christian Science leaders say many critics misunderstand their faith. Christian Scientists do not reject medical care, church leaders said. Instead, they promote spiritual healing and do not interfere with decisions about whether to pursue medical help.
Davis has been trained as a practitioner and still occasionally treats the sick.
"We'll talk to them about their relationship to God," he said. "We'll talk to them about citations or biblical passages they might study. We refer to it as treatment. It's an affirmation of their relationship with God, and the understanding that comes from their prayer, of their relationship with God."
During the day, Davis may see multiple patients and pray for them at different moments. He charges them $20 to $40 for the day, saying, "I think that it would be considered modest by any standard."
The church, which has seen a steady decline in adherents, does not reveal membership numbers. It claims between 1,700 and 1,800 congregations in more than 60 countries.
Davis said the church consulted legal experts to develop legislation that was constitutional and consonant with the overall goals of healthcare reform. It also hired a major Washington law firm, Mayer Brown, to lobby for the provision.
"We think this is an important aspect of the solution," Davis said, arguing that Christian Scientists are leading the fight for all who believe in spiritual healing. "We don't believe there should be hurdles between an individual and spiritual treatment that could be the most important solution to healthcare in this country."
I received the following important question in an email recently for which I have been given permission to reprint, along with my answer, below:
I am having difficulties with a particular issue; the issue of understanding Evolution and its place in the Eastern Orthodox church today.
I am a "cradle" Orthodox and so my experience, through the Orthodox church, on this topic has been that "Christ is not a decendant of monkeys/apes". I have been taught to be loyal to these matters and I have always considered it disrespectful to even want to consider Christ as an ape. Infact, Elder Paisios has boldly stated that it is "blasphemous" to think in this way (this comment can be found in his Epistles). I place much trust in these Saints and Elders of our church, since I have also experienced their divine wisdom first hand and so this is the line of thinking I have comfortably adopted without questioning it using man's rational mind.
What I have come to understand is that our modern day Church is infact divided on this matter. There are two groups, those who are compatabilist or those who are incompatabilist (cf. OrthodoxWiki for an explanation of terms).
Not dwelling on Patristics (since I am not a theologian), I can think of a modern day example of Father Seraphim Rose who holds the position of an incompatablist (ie. he does not support the idea that Christ is a decendant of a monkey).
My dilemma is, and what is eating me I suppose, why does the administrative Orthodox church not hold a position on this matter when it is clear that many of our Saints do? Is there "room for everyone on this matter" (as a new convert boldly stated to me) when only one group can be right. In Orthodoxy (or even philosophy) there can only ever be One Truth so both groups can not be right and, like I mentioned I prefer to place my trust in divine revelation than man made proofs.
I understand from Scripture that, being challenged by the Pharisees as to whether he is from the devil or from God, that Christ announces that a house divided can not stand ... so then, why is our Orthodox church allowing itself to be divided on this topic please?
Further, for someone like myself, who places a huge trust and emphasis on the enlightened words of not just ordinary Orthodox but amazing saints like Elder Porfyrios ... am I sinning for standing up and defending Christ's image? I have been called an ideologist (which I am not).
I hope I make some sense, once upon a time the Church had no answers with regards to the Arian controversy and was divided. Then God revealed through miraculous means that their could only be "one truth" (on that matter) through miraculous means ... This topic for me IS a modern day controversy and though some people think - what does it have to do with salvation, I wonder how important it is to defend the "Tree of Life" from the "Tree of Death" (Darwinism and its variations).
Your thoughts are appreciated.
I completely agree with your evaluation of this topic. It is true the Orthodox Church has no "official" position on this topic, but the reason for this is because the topic is within the realm of science and not theology. Scientific theories are adopted one day and dropped the next based on the evidence, and if the Church was to take a position on the topic it could lead to the same danger that condemned someone like Copernicus or Galileo in the West for disagreeing with an official position of the Church on a scientific matter. In the Orthodox Church, we have avoided such controversies and have always adapted with the scientific theories of the day. Both science and theology are in the business of teaching truth and its conclusions can never contradict one another. The former is based on the evidence while the second on revelation. The former deals with the creation while the latter deals with the Creator.
However, science is one thing and philosophy is another. The problem with modern science is that it has as its foundations not mere science but in fact a certain philosophical worldview. This is what Darwinism is precisely - it is a philosophical worldview through which scientific evidence is understood. The danger in using science like this is that it creates a story, or even myths if you will, that are not based on evidence but on mere conjecture and imagination. So if the Church were to take a position, I would encourage it to condemn the use of philosophical presuppositions when evaluating scientific evidence.
Unfortunately very few, if any, Orthodox theologians are studying this topic to be able to even write about it. The reason I make some posts on it in my weblog is because I do want Orthodox to be more aware of these issues. It is one of many topics I plan to tackle more formally, God willing. I feel very passionately about it because when I was in 9th grade I followed the logical conclusions of my High School Biology class and ended up being an atheist. When I finally came back to Faith I vowed that I would study the depths of this topic and unmask it, which I have been and will.
Regarding the theory of Evolution, I should mention that the great majority of Orthodox scholars believe in Theistic Evolution. In their fear of opposing the science of the day, they have in turn subjected our theology to the interpretations and conjectures of scientists by doing this. And as I mentioned earlier, what they are in fact doing is intermingling Orthodox theology with Darwinian philosophy - not science. This is very grievous to me, and as you mentioned, it is not the view supported by the Saints. St. Nektarios actually wrote a book on Darwinian Evolution and he is one of the first Christians to offer a critique on this topic in the early 20th century. I recommend also the booklet Biological Evolutionism by Dr Constantine Cavarnos, a former Harvard professor of Philosophy, who also evaluates Darwinian theory as a philosophy which contradicts Orthodoxy and lacks any scientific support.
Though I am sympathetic to Creationism, I would prefer not to be called a Creationist either. Creationism in some ways does also what Darwinism does, but instead of a philosphy, Creationism mixes theology with science. Thus this also limits both theology and science. It is also too literalistic when it comes to Scriptural interpretations and such exegetical methods are not adopted or endorsed by the Church Fathers in the strict sense. Creationism is basically a reaction against Darwinism and a product of Fundamentalist Protestantism.
If I were to put my support anywhere, though on a somewhat limited scale, it would be the Intelligent Design movement. Though very misunderstood by its critics and by Orthodox theologians like Metropolitan John Zizioulas who critiques it, it actually does not stray from Scriptural and Patristic interpretations of how we can evaluate our origins (it was actually the type of science adopted by the Church Fathers). It also does not take a theological position of any sort. What people don't realize is that before Darwinism, the scientific method was primarily one of Intelligent Design. It basically attributes the irreducible complexity of the universe to a designer, whoever that designer is. It does not make use of Scripture or any sort of revelation, since science should not draw upon any sources of revelation or even philosophy. Darwin actually set out to prove ID was wrong after the death of his daughter made him angry against God and caused him to become a skeptic. Darwinism thus became a critique of ID. Since the 1990's ID has been making a major comeback since the evidence in fact supports the theory of irreducible complexity, most notably at the cellular level. The Darwinist arguments these days are merely rhetorical.
So yes, when it comes to scientific issues, we are as fish swimming upstream as far as guidance from the Church comes these days. But if we separate science from both philosophy and theology, as well as separate theology from both science and philosophy, we can honestly evaluate where the evidence lies. What is most important is that the truths of Orthodoxy can never be compromised by true and honest science.
Hope this helps a bit.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
OF HIS ALL HOLINESS
B A R T H O L O M E W
“A CHANGELESS FAITH FOR A CHANGING WORLD”
Center for American Progress and Georgetown University
Gaston Hall of Georgetown University
(November 3, 2009)
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
* * *
Progress is often equated with change. So let us acknowledge this: it may appear strange for a progressive think tank to sponsor a lecture by the leader of a faith that takes pride in how little it has changed in 2,000 years. The fact is that our first instinct in Orthodoxy is to conserve the precious faith that has been handed down to us in an unbroken line from Jesus Christ through the Apostles. In the case of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, the First See of the Orthodox World, it has been handed to us through St. Andrew the Apostle, to whose See we are the 270th successor.
But even though our faith may be 2,000 years old, our thinking is not. True progress is a balance between preserving the essence of a certain way of life and changing things that are not essential. Christianity was born a revolutionary faith – and we have preserved that. In other words, paradoxically, we have succeeded in not changing a faith that is itself dedicated to change.
Let us, as the lawyers would say, make a disclaimer: By calling Christianity revolutionary, and saying it is dedicated to change, we are not siding with Progressives – just as, by conserving it, we are not siding with Conservatives. All political factions believe God is on their side – as Abraham Lincoln said of the Union and Confederacy, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.”
The only side we take is that of our faith – which today may seem to land us in one political camp, tomorrow another – but in truth we are always and only in one camp, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
John Podesta, in his wonderful book, “The Power of Progress,” gives a very lucid account of American progressivism. Its core beliefs are boundless opportunity for all… equal access to education, good jobs, fair pay… and the freedom to pursue one’s dreams. It also encompasses personal and national security… respect for the environment… and harmony among nations.
Although Orthodoxy has never taken up the banner of progressivism per se, we have taken up many causes over the centuries that are progressive by definition – and today we will discuss three of them in particular:
2. Philanthropy, specifically in the form of healthcare; and
Let us begin with a Christian concept that has led to some of the most significant changes of the last century that were not delivered at the barrel of a gun – quite the opposite. It is the Christian concept of nonviolence, even and especially in the face of evil.
We said earlier that Christianity is a revolutionary faith. The highest law of all was to love God and one another
Now we all know the political and theological revolution that followed – the Roman Empire eventually adopted Christianity, which spread like a cleansing fire and rose to dominance in Europe, Asia Minor, Northern Africa, and beyond. We do not always pay as much attention to the revolution in thinking that helped achieve this dominance.
In the early years, citizens of Rome saw Christ’s followers persecuted, tortured, brutalized, and murdered in huge numbers, throughout the Empire. In most cases, they did not resist the evil that was done to them – but rather, they went willingly to their painful deaths. Why? Of course they had faith – a giant faith, a faith rarely seen in human history. But many in the pagan world had faith, and yet, when threatened, they resisted. The world had never before seen anything like the willing martyrdom of these early followers of Christ.
The world had never before seen it simply because it was a completely new and radical idea introduced by Jesus and described in Matthew 5 (38-39, 43-44):
“You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, resist not evil: but whoever smites you on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…. I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Now if that is not a revolutionary concept, we don’t know what is. And the proof lies not only in the rapid spread of Christianity among the Romans who witnessed these martyrs and were awestruck by their example. The proof can be seen in our own time, in the civil rights revolution that in less than 50 years brought America from Bull Connor to Barack Obama. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s doctrine of nonviolence in the face of evil that made the movement unstoppable by any human force. It is one of the most powerful ideas known to man – and yet it did not come from man, in fact for human beings it is completely counter-intuitive – our first instinct is to strike back, not turn the other cheek.
We Orthodox Christians will forever hold in our hearts the late Archbishop of America Iakovos of blessed memory, who shared the faith, courage, and humility of those early Christian martyrs and joined hands with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965. But there is another Orthodox link in this chain...
Dr. King was extremely conversant with Christian theology, and yet at a critical juncture early in the civil rights movement, he began to doubt the power of love to resolve social problems. A chance conversation about Gandhi led King to study the Mahatma’s successful use of nonviolence to gain freedom for India – and that restored Dr. King’s belief that love was powerful enough to gain civil rights for African-Americans.
That story is well-known --- what you may not know is that Gandhi’s inspiration was an Orthodox Christian whose name will be familiar to you – Leo Tolstoy – who in 1893 wrote a seminal book not about Christian ideas, but rather how to put those ideas into practice, especially the ideas expressed in Matthew 5. “The Kingdom of God Is within You” was translated into English in 1894 and the same year a copy came into the possession of a young Hindu lawyer in South Africa. Gandhi found the book “overwhelming” and after launching his campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience in India in 1906, could often be seen carrying Tolstoy’s writings with him into jail. The two men corresponded until Tolstoy’s death in 1910, and in fact the last long letter Tolstoy wrote was to Gandhi.
Tolstoy had his own inspiration not only in the New Testament but also in the works of others who took seriously the injunction of Jesus to “resist not evil,” including the American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the pacifist Adin Ballou. But it is safe to say that, in the hands of Orthodox Christians such as Tolstoy and Iakovos, the doctrine of nonviolence helped lead to some remarkably progressive achievements.
Let us move on to a topic that is extremely timely – because of the healthcare debate in this country – to healthcare the concept of philanthropy in its most essential meaning, from the Greek, “love of human beings.”
How many people know that the modern hospital originated in the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire?
It is widely acknowledged that the first hospitals were created in Cappadocia, which is now part of Turkey, sometime around 370 A.D. by St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea. There had been a tradition since Antiquity of maintaining hostels for those without food or shelter, or travelers on a long journey. St. Basil was apparently the first to add doctors and staff to look after the sick.
Later that century, our revered predecessor on the Ecumenical Throne, St. John Chrysostom, opened hospitals in Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire. It is important to note that these institutions were funded by the Emperor and by the Church, respectively – in other words, they were public institutions, free of charge and created for the public good.
By the end of the sixth century, hospitals could be found throughout the empire. They were usually maintained by the Church, in keeping with the parable of the Last Judgment in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (25:35-36):
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
Byzantine hospitals began as institutions for the poor, but by the seventh century they began to service the wealthy, including relatives of the royal family.
These were well-organized institutions – doctors made daily rounds of patients, except on Christian holy days… nurses or physicians’ assistants looked after patients’ needs and carried out doctors’ orders… while orderlies carried out the less skilled chores such as cleaning and so on.
At least one Byzantine emperor, Manuel I Commenus, was a trained physician himself. During his reign from 1143 to 1180, he personally treated patients in the Empire’s hospitals.
In summary, it is clear that we owe the Byzantines the development of the modern institutions we call hospitals. But what may be more important, we owe to them the view that every member of society, from the greatest to the least, deserved the best quality healthcare available at the time. This is obviously relevant today, and as the U.S. debates the best way to provide healthcare for its citizens, we hope and pray that the Byzantine-Orthodox approach provides a model worthy of emulation.
Just as every human life is a gift from God, to be treated with love and respect, so is all the rest of Creation – which is why the Orthodox Church has also been a leading voice for healing the environment.
We have followed with great interest and sincere concern, the efforts to curb the destructive effects that human beings have wrought upon the natural world. We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of humanity’s disregard for the survival of God's creation.
Our predecessor, the late Patriarch Dimitrios of blessed memory, invited the whole world to offer, together with the Great Church of Christ, prayers of thanksgiving and supplications for the protection of the gift of creation. Since 1989, every September 1st, the beginning of the ecclesiastical calendar has been designated as a day of prayer for the protection of the environment, throughout the Orthodox world.
It is fair to ask: Beyond any platitudes, what can Orthodox Christianity contribute to the movement to protect the environment? Fortunately, we have a very specific answer: We believe that through our unique liturgical and ascetic ethos, Orthodox spirituality can provide significant moral and ethical direction toward a new awareness about the planet.
Our sin toward the world – the spiritual root of all our pollution – lies in our refusal to view life and the world as a sacrament of thanksgiving, and as a gift of constant communion with God on a global scale.
We believe that our first task is to raise the consciousness of adults who most use the resources and gifts of the planet. Ultimately, it is for our children that we must perceive our every action in the world as having a direct effect upon the future of the environment. At the heart of the relationship between man and environment is the relationship between human beings. As individuals, we live not only in vertical relationships to God, and horizontal relationships to one another, but also in a complex web of relationships that extend throughout our lives, our cultures and the material world.
Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of existence; a complex fabric that we believe is fashioned by God. As human beings, created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26), we are called to recognize this interdependence between our environment and ourselves. Moreover, human beings participated in Creation by giving names to the things that God created. There is no escaping our responsibility for the environment.
There is also an ascetic element in our responsibility toward God's creation. This asceticism requires voluntary restraint, in order for us to live in harmony with our environment. By reducing consumption – known in Orthodox theology as “encratia” or self-control – we ensure that resources are left for others in the world.
We must challenge ourselves to align our personal and spiritual attitudes with public policy. Encratia frees us of our self-centered neediness, that we may do good works for others. We do this out of a personal love for the natural world around us. We are called to work in humble harmony with creation and not in arrogant supremacy against it. Asceticism provides an example whereby we may live simply.
Asceticism is not a flight from society and the world, but a communal attitude of mind and way of life that leads to the respectful use, and not the abuse of material goods. Excessive consumption issues from our estrangement from self, from land, from life, and from God. Consuming the fruits of the earth unrestrained, we become consumed ourselves, by avarice and greed. Excessive consumption leaves us emptied, out-of-touch with our deepest self. Asceticism is a corrective practice, a vision of repentance. Such a vision can lead us from repentance to return, the return to a world in which we give, as well as take from creation.
We are of the deeply held belief that many human beings have come to behave as materialistic tyrants. Those that tyrannize the earth are themselves, sadly, tyrannized. We have been called by God, to “be fruitful, increase and have dominion in the earth” (Gen 1:28). Dominion is not domination – it is an eschatological sign of the perfect Kingdom of God, where corruption and death are no more.
If human beings treated one another’s personal property the way they sometimes treat their environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social. We would impose the judicial measures necessary to restore wrongly appropriated personal possessions. It is therefore appropriate for us to seek ethical and even legal recourse where possible, in matters of ecological crimes.
It follows that, to commit a crime against the natural world, is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation… for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands… for humans to injure other humans with disease… for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances… these are sins.
In prayer, we ask for the forgiveness of sins committed both willingly and unwillingly. And it is certainly God’s forgiveness that we must ask, for causing harm to His creation.
Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment which was blessed with Beauty and created by God. Then we may also begin to participate responsibly, as persons making informed choices in both the whole of creation, and within our own souls.
It is with that understanding that we have called upon the world's leaders to take action to halt the destructive changes to global climate that are being caused by human activity. This common cause unites all humankind – just as the waters of the world are all united. To save one river is to save all rivers and all oceans. God created heaven and earth as a united whole, and we must take a holistic view of creation. For us in the Patriarchate, “Ecumenical” is more than a name – it is a world-view and way of life.
We hope the three examples we have chosen – a nonviolent pursuit of social change… care for the health and welfare of all in the community… and respect and love for the environment as God’s creation – illustrate some of the ways in which one of the most conservative members of the Christian family has played a role in some very progressive causes.
But we also hope we have made clear that neither these causes, nor the conservative causes we may undertake – none of these things define the Church of God, no matter what any human being may assert. The Church encompasses all of God’s creation – and indeed, that is our key theme for today – we are all connected, and that connection is God.
The Lord fills all of creation with His Divine presence in one continuous connection from the substance of atoms to the Mind of God. Let us work together to renew the harmony between heaven and earth, and transfigure every detail, every particle of life. Let us love one another, and lovingly learn from one another, for the edification of God's people, for the sanctification of God's creation, and for the glorification of God's most holy Name. Amen.
A church built in Lydda during the reign of Emperor Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George. This consecration occurred on November 3. By the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the Saint in Lydda was in existence. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
Highly venerated icon of St. George
The chains of St. George
Tomb of St. George
Below is a video of the Church of St. George in Lydda
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
As we the faithful flee for refuge unto thee, O George, and thy protection and thy speedy help, we now entreat, O prizewinner of Christ Saviour, that we who hymn thee be delivered from the snares laid by the enemy and from every kind of peril and adversity, that we all may cry: Rejoice, O holy Great Martyr George.
For prior links about Saints George, see here and here.
The Site of the Sacred Monastery
The sacred and historic Monastery of the Great Cave in the martyric and much-suffering region of Kalavryta is three hours distant from the city by foot or fifteen minutes by automobile. It is a palace built by God to which, like clouds and like doves with nestlings, crowds of the faithful come in order to worship the image of the all-holy and grace-filled countenance of our Mistress and Queen of all, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, which was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, and to seek the grace of the Mother of God. This monastery is that blessed land which scatters abroad spiritual perfumes and scents of heavenly sweetness, because it possesses this treasure of great price.
For this reason, every soul which loves God longs to apprehend in every way this beautiful religious monument which is an unfailed fountain of consolation and strength. Furthermore, for all those who approach with faith, there results a refreshment of soul, joy of the heart, illumination of the eyes, sweetness for the mouth, help for the helpless, deliverance for those in need, guidance for the fortunate, and establishment of the virtuous.
Symeon and Theodore
The blessed fathers Symeon and Theodore, who discovered the holy icon, were brothers according to the flesh. They were born, according to the Synaxarion, at the beginning of the fourth century in Thessalonika, the bride of the Thermaic Gulf and the capital of martyric Macedonia. It is also argued they lived in the ninth century however, since the details of their life only seem to fit with this time period.
They had the good fortune to be the children of a pious and holy family, which was diligent to rear them with all care and planted in them divine love and an inclination to strive continually for perfection and the exercise of the virtues. Since they had been educated in a manner pleasing to God and had acquired the character of the first man Adam, they subjected completely the carnal and earthly will to the knowledge and commandments of Christ. They studied rhetoric, philosophy, and poetry but principally applied themselves to understand the doctrine of theology. They succeeded in forming in themselves the figure of the ideal Christian who combines harmoniously in his life religion and virtue. Their principal goal was how to become pleasing to God and to gain Him. The angelic life of the monks of the desert aroused and literally enraptured within them the desire to abandon all worldy dreams of vanity and withdrew to the desert. Looking only to the true and eternal life, they were clothed with the habit of the monastic and angelic life.
Desiring greatly that spiritual mount where ascends and stands he "whose hands are innocent and is pure of heart", they ascended in the beginning Mt. Olympus where they remained a good time. From there they went to Mt. Ossa and later reached beautiful Mt. Pelion, thus "running with patience" that good race which they had entered. Living in continual prayer and study of the divine words and looking only to "Jesus, the author and finisher of our Faith", they became temples of the Holy Spirit and most pure abodes of God. They also never ceased to glorify the Mother of our Lord, the immaculate Theotokos, whom they invoked as an intercessor to her only-begotten Son and God for the sake of themselves and the world.
After they had exercised themselves in the contest for virtue in the aforementioned mountains for a long time, they then visited Mt. Athos where they came to know many illumined hesychasts and men of the desert. From these unique, living figures of perfection they gathered many elements useful for the life according to God. Later, being urged on by longing for the divine, they travelled to worship those places where God walked, Jerusalem and Mt. Tabor.
They travelled to and venerated all the places where the feet of the God-Man, our Savior, walked and where were accomplished the mysteries of universal salvation. Moreover, they travelled to Sinai, that mountain walked upon by God, and where "the Lord spake" to Moses the God-seer "face to face as one speaks to his own friend". They kissed there with tears in their eyes the holy earth of that mystic bush that burned yet was not consumed prefiguring the great mystery of God's dispensation. They visted all the shrines that exist in those places which are tokens of God's manifestations there, conversed with venerable elders in the desert round about, and so experienced indescribable joy. Finally, after they had returned by divine command to Jerusalem, they received the great office of the priesthood from the most sacred Maximus, bishop of the Holy City Jerusalem.
While the blessed pair were living there, each one seperately was deemed worthy to see the same vision in a dream and to receive from above the same divine and sweet command. The Queen of Heaven, mary the Mother of God, appeared unto them, crowned with divine glory and splendor and escorted by the apostles Paul, Andrew, and Luke. They ordered the brothers to go to Achaia to find the icon of the Virgin Mary sculpted in relief by the Evangelist Luke, and which, by the goodwill and grace of her Son, is an exact likeness of her divine countenance. When the brothers awoke, they narrated everything to the most sacred Maximus. After glorifying God, they departed from Jerusalem for Achaia, which had been spiritually sown, watered, and cultivated evangelically by those same three venerable and divine men, the holy Apostles Paul, Andrew and Luke.
1. A historical study published in 1985 by Panselinos Editions of Mt. Athos, titled The Thessalonian Saints Symeon and Theodore, First Dwellers of Athos and Patrons of All Greece, written by El. Anagnostaki and the Hieromonk Justin, places the birth and activity of the Saints in the ninth century, during the Iconoclast Controversy. There is no record of the Monastery before this time as well, and it would still place them as the first recorded monastics of Mount Athos. However, there may be some sort of tradition that did originate in the fourth century, or, as is sometimes the case, the Synaxarion may have confused the lives of these two Saints with someone else.
2. Bishop Maximus III of Jerusalem (333-348). The naming of Bishop Maximus is one argument that supports the fourth century date for these Saints.
[An interesting study. I wonder what these figures would be for the Orthodox. I think statistics would vary from region to region in the Orthodox world more than the West. Otherwise everything would be determined from Russian practices, who hold the majority. - J.S.]
A Question for the Holiday Season: Which Saint Has the Best Cash Flow?
Nov 1st 2009
Earlier this week, Forbes magazine released its list of the top-earning dead celebrities. Although the list highlighted French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent as the biggest name among those who have shrugged off the mortal coil, it was dominated by entertainers, including Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and -- surprisingly -- Rogers and Hammerstein. But what of those who toiled in less lucrative professions? With All Saints Day 2009 finally here, we decided to take a peek at the Christian saints who continue to inspire devotion -- and, yes, cash flow -- long after their passage into the great beyond.
The trouble is that, unlike celebrities, most saints aren't focused on worldly things like profit. While some churches and religious sites charge admission or solicit donations, most are free. For that matter, although religious tracts and books can be copyrighted, the likeness rights of saints generally aren't licensed, which means that tallying the specific earnings of individual saints can be almost impossible.
Even so, it is possible to make a few educated guesses. The most popular saint for the faithful is undoubtedly Jesus' mother. In addition to direct veneration of the Virgin Mary, which inspires sales of numerous medals, statues, candles, scapulars and other items, her visitations in Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, and Guadalupe continue to draw devoted pilgrims from around the world. She has been the subject of thousands of books and pamphlets, and her likeness adorns an almost infinite array of items.
Saints Hit the Big Screen
One interesting measure of profitability is film gross While many saints, including St. Bernadette, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Beckett, have inspired highly profitable films, the winner in this particular category is probably St. Joan of Arc. The central figure of at least 16 films, the history of Joan of Arc films dates back to almost the beginning of the film industry: the first Joan of Arc movie was produced in 1895. Her last major depiction, 1999's The Messenger, was directed by Luc Besson and starred Milla Jovovich. It grossed over $14 million in the United States.
But what of the lesser-known saints? Phil Dinovo, of Patron Saint Medals.com, pointed out that two of the most popular religious figures are St. Jude and St. Rita, both of whom are associated with desperate causes. For that matter, St. Michael and St. Christopher -- both of whom are associated with the military -- have drawn a great deal of devotion, especially over the past eight years. Given the state of the real estate market, one can only imagine how many distressed homeowners are burying St. Joseph statues in their yards in the desperate hope that his intervention will help them sell their homes.
Dinovo also offered a few surprises. St. Francis of Assisi, who is generally associated with animals, is very big with pet owners, who often have their animals' names carved on the back of the medals. Similarly, St. Gerard, who is invoked by pregnant women in hopes of a safe delivery, is very popular. Other saints wax and wane in popularity, depending upon the season: for example, St. Hubert -- associated with woodsmen -- is often invoked during hunting season.
Joan of Arc's cinematic victories aside, the most popular saint -- apart from Mary -- is probably Christopher, who is invoked by bachelors, teamsters, epileptics, gardeners, porters, sailors, and toothache sufferers. However, his most powerful association is with travel, and thousands of people wear St. Christopher medals or prominently place them in cars. While the Catholic Church removed him from the calendar of saints in 1969, the rumor that his sainthood has been stripped is untrue; he continues to be an acceptable saint for veneration. Good thing, too: his close association with travel makes St. Christopher one of the few religious figures whose medals can be purchased in auto parts stores.
A Famous Heartthrob
Ironically, two of the most prominent saints have strange or confusing associations. Saint Valentine, the alleged inspiration for Hallmark's biggest holiday, is actually exceedingly obscure: although many early Roman saints were named Valentine, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the identity of the holy man loosely associated with February 14th. He could be one of three people: a Roman priest, an Italian bishop, or an African martyr. Alternately, he might have never existed.
The association between romance and Valentine's day is also somewhat confusing: although Valentine has been given shared custody of lovers, their original patron saint was St. Raphael, Archangel. For that matter, Valentine isn't really associated with any of the other Valentines day activities: letter writers probably fall within St. Francis de Sales' purview, while candy-makers have St. Macarius and florists are under the protection of St. Dorothea of Cappadocia. In fact, although February 14th has been a Christian love holiday since the 14th century, it is probably a carryover from Lupercalia, a Roman pagan festival that honored the wolves who suckled Romulus and Remus. As part of the holiday, early Romans would indulge in various fertility and mating rituals.
Starting in the late 1700's, February 14th became a day to anonymously exchange love notes; chocolate and roses entered the equation in the mid-1900's. In the face of a modern flower-and-confectionary industry that pushes 58 million pounds of chocolate and rakes in $448 million in candy sales every year, the fact that early Christian martyrs named Valentine had nothing to do with the holiday is relatively unimportant.
The Most Famous Saint of All
The same could be said of the most famous saint of all: Saint Nick. While many people already know that Coca-Cola and cartoonist Thomas Nast share responsibility for the modern image of Santa, common wisdom holds that Father Christmas was originally inspired by St. Nicholas of Myrna. A 4th century Greek bishop who was famously generous to the poor and paid dowries for three pour poor-but-pious maidens, his connection to Christmas may lie in the fact that he is the patron saint of children and merchants (as well as sailors, fishermen, merchants, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, pharmacists, archers, and pawnbrokers). More appropriate Christmas saints might include St. Martin of Tours, the preferred saint of drunken partygoers; St. Claude de la Colombiere, the patron saint of toymakers; and either St. Dorothea of Cappadocia or St. Hubert, who would be good choices for Christmas tree growers.
In a historical lens, the modern Santa Claus bears far more relation to various Slavic and Germanic gods, including the Norse God Odin, who was closely associated with the Yule festival. For that matter, Santa Claus and his dark companion the Krampas could easily fit into the Slavic tradition of Czernobog and Byelobog, the dark and light gods of winter and spring. Still, paganism gave way to Christianity over a thousand years ago, so it is hardly surprising that menacing European idols have been cast aside in favor of a round-faced, jolly present-giver.
As popular as St. Nick is, it's interesting to note that most religious medals and images of saints are made in China; for that matter, so are most plastic flowers, toys, teddy bears and religious statues. Regardless of the saint, the irony may be that the biggest beneficiary of saintly devotion may be a country where the most popular religion is Buddhism.
Planned Parenthood Director Leaves, Has Change of Heart
Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson's life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned.
Nov 2, 2009
Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson's life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned. Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure.
"I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Johnson.
She handed in her resignation October 6. Johnson worked as the Bryan Planned Parenthood Director for two years.
According to Johnson, the non-profit was struggling under the weight of a tough economy, and changing it's business model from one that pushed prevention, to one that focused on abortion.
"It seemed like maybe that's not what a lot of people were believing any more because that's not where the money was. The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that," said Johnson.
Johnson said she was told to bring in more women who wanted abortions, something the Episcopalian church-goer recently became convicted about.
"I feel so pure in heart (since leaving). I don't have this guilt, I don't have this burden on me anymore. That's how I know this conversion was a spiritual conversion."
Johnson now supports the Coalition For Life, the pro-life group with a building down the street from Planned Parenthood. Coalition volunteers can regularly be seen praying on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. Johnson has been meeting with the coalition's executive director, Shawn Carney, and has prayed with volunteers outside Planned Parenthood.
On Friday both Johnson and the Coalition For Life were issued temporary restraining orders filed by Planned Parenthood.
Rochelle Tafolla, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson issued the following statement: "We regret being forced to turn to the courts to protect the safety and confidentiality of our clients and staff, however, in this instance it is absolutely necessary."
The temporary restraining order contends that Planned Parenthood would be irreparably harmed by the disclosure of certain information, but does not bar Johnson or Coalition For Life volunteers from the premises.
As of Sunday evening, neither Johnson nor Carney had seen the complaint filed against them that prompted the restraining order.
A hearing about the order has been set for November 10.
See news report here.
See also: Planned Parenthood Director Quits After Watching Abortion on Ultrasound
Monday, November 2, 2009
On the 19th of May this year, a meeting occurred between students of Moscow theological schools and the Abbot of the Athonite Monastery of Vatopaidi, Archimandrite Ephraim. The Vice Dean for Education, Abbot Bassian (Zmejev) received and greeted this respected guest.
This was not the first meeting of this kind, since Abbot Ephraim had already noticed immense interest in Russian people for Athonite spiritual experience.
THE EPOCH OF ORTHODOXY
Today we live in really hard times; man is trying to exist in an extremely boisterous atmosphere – in an obscure and meaningless atmosphere. Modern Europe has nothing much to do with Christianity, since European people received a fake Christianity. The Europeans refuse to believe in God preached by their parents, and their souls find no rest. They are trying to find something deeper. In other words, they are trying to find Orthodoxy. They can learn Orthodoxy from those who properly worship God. The main task of seminaries and theological academies is to witness an Orthodoxy that people are searching for. Studying in theological schools, we have to express gratitude to our Lord, because He made us worthy of finding the school with rich spiritual Tradition; He made us worthy of living in an Orthodox milieu; He made us worthy of having joy in outer freedom, and what is even more important – in inner freedom, i.e. freedom of the heart.
THEOTOKOS – PATRONESS OF MONKS AND ASCETICS
The meeting with Father Ephraim occurred on the feast day of St. Micah, pupil of St. Sergius of Radonezh.
It is well-known that St. Micah was a witness of St. Sergius’ vision of the Most Holy Theotokos. That vision expresses Her special care for monks. On Mount Athos, numberless and very frequent are events when She teaches, comforts, supports and brings brothers to reason. The Most Holy Theotokos is respected as Patroness of all Athonites and all monks in general. That is why St. Gregory Palamas called Her the first nun after Her Son, who is unceasingly praying for us. It is not by accident that She, having recognized the fullness of divine grace, prayed for Mount Athos to become Her Garden. She rejoices to see monks and their spiritual prosperity. The Most Holy Theotokos rejoices to see people labouring for their salvation. Studying of theology calls upon a very cautious attitude toward one’s life, so that we can gain Her protection.
A VIEW OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
As for spiritual life, it is of extreme importance to keep chastity and sobriety, so that our mind can constantly be with God. Only in that way can we keep His Commandments through which our Lord Jesus Christ is being revealed. When we keep His Commandments, the sin is being cast aside and replaced with our thirst for God. When man yearns for God, he is constantly trying to keep the Commandments and to pray. His mind is enlightened with godpleasing prayer; he is starting to see his own sinfulness. Being in that state, the mind does not fall into despair and does not lose its courage, but starts to repent and eradicate sin. Repentance brings grief, which is not melancholy, but joyful sorrow. Man than starts to cry. Those tears are a gift of Holy Spirit. When one has such tears, he avoids committing sins by deed, and then by words or thought. Through contemplation, his mind turns to God. Not only does he see his own sinful life, but he clearly sees the influence of Divine Providence. That is the state when man turns from the beginning degree of faith to the degree of visible faith. Everyone who follows that path will feel the fulfillment of Christ’s promises.
The Orthodox Church is not a Church of some ideology, thinking or philosophy. It is the Church of spiritual experience. When a man dedicates himself to God, he yearns only for His Kingdom and His justice, and others will be added.
QUESTIONS OF STUDENTS AND FATHER EPHRAIM’S ANSWERS
About Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi – pupil of Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi is a man of God. His mind is so fortified in God that he does not speak about anything which is of this world. Having enormous love towards God, he longs to die.
What is the Difference Between the Monk - Professor Relationship in Seminaries and Theological Schools?
In theological schools there can not be so much obedience, as in monasticism. The dean of a school is not an elder (spiritual father). But students have to respect him and to fulfill his commandments. Unlike monks, students can not have obedience according to his heart. Furthermore, obedience to one’s authority must not be hypocritical; one must not reproach authority in his heart.
On Russian Spiritual Chant
Contemporary Russian chant is not ancient. Old unison Russian chant is more prayerful. Byzantine chant is more pleasant and spiritual. But, chant is of secondary importance; the most important is – a clean heart.
On the Jesus Prayer Loudly Uttered
Such practice is being kept on Mount Athos and in the Monastery of Vatopaidi as well. Elder Joseph the Hesychast used to say that in this way the mind can easier accept its meaning. It helps a monk to keep his attention. Uttering of this prayer reduces or completely removes inquietude: “lips simply move your mind”. Then comes the moment when man can not say the prayer with his lips, since it transforms in a more perfect form – prayer of the heart.
On Conflicts between Greek and Russian Monks on Mount Athos
Because of man’s infirmity, some conflicts really did occur. There are some silly Greeks, and silly Russians. As Father Ephraim said, these kind of people collide, but there is love among Russian, Serbian, and Greek people and all inhabitants of Mount Athos. There is real life in Christ also.
What Do Athonite Monks say about the Last Days?
Well, nowadays it is modern to speak about antichrist. Satan attacks from the left and from the right: he advises man either not to take care of the end times, or he tries to convince him that the end of time comes tomorrow. People apt to think about the End Times are afraid of everything, and that can bring only spiritual harm. A great number of such advice is not godpleasing. A true Christian has to take care about the moment of his death – our death is our Last Day. Be devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Church that keeps the Tradition will inform us about the antichrist, and She is the One that will tell us what to do.
What are Characteristics of a Modern Priest?
Well, his love towards Christ must be endless. Elder Paisios used to say: “If a priest is truly pious and not avaricious, he has eighty percent chance to be successful; but if he loves God, than his chances are one hundred percent guaranteed.”
How Can One Actuate Children to Love Christ?
That can be achieved by condescension, patience and prayer. Elder Porphyrios used to say: “Let us not speak much about God to our children. They can not stand many words. The point is to tell God about our children.” Our youth will have much use from modern monasticism. Regardless of whether one will become monk or not, in a true monastery atmosphere, young people turn to God for a pretty short period of time. They simply think about many things.
On the Spiritual Life in the World
Neither marriage nor monasticism is our purpose; theosis is our purpose. There is no so-called monastic or worldless spirituality. Patristic teaching is one and refers to all. The only difference between the two is the physical relationship that exists in marriage. Everything else is the same. Everyone must face (ascetic) struggle. Everyone can do prayer, services, liturgy, confession and Holy Communion. Asceticism is common for the whole Church. There are families that pray together; they read the Lives of the Saints in their dinning rooms; children seek blessing from their parents; and they kiss their hands. In a word, such families live like monks.
On the Novitiate on Mount Athos
Divine Providence calls someone to become a monk. For that reason novices are being separated, so they can overcome their trials. If monasticism is their way, they stay. Sometimes enthusiasm and outer feelings can induce man to become a novice, but those cannot endure the monastic way of life. A spiritual elder is the one who helps that inward and spiritual progress in a person.
On Holy Communion and Prayers Before Holy Communion
There are some monks that confess every day. Monks receive Communion four times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On other days, there is a strict fast – food is prepared without oil; and on Saturdays food is prepared with oil. In our monastery, sometimes even ten liturgies are served every day and every monk knows when he can receive the Holy Communion. In Greece, Holy Communion has nothing to do with Holy Confession. If a man did not commit deadly sins that can not be absolved, then he can receive the Holy Communion. Holy Communion comes from love of the heart; it is straining of one’s heart. A prayer before Holy Communion is the Canon Before Partaking Holy Communion. Indeed, canons do exist, but their fulfillment must not be taken as a law. As for preparation before Holy Communion, there must be no constraint. The same can be said for the fast. A man is obliged to fast according to the fasting period prescribed by the Church; there is no special fasting rule for the receiving of Holy Communion.
On Miracles Nowadays on Mount Athos
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Some time ago a miracle occurred in the Bulgarian Monastery Zografou. Namely, an icon was miraculously taken by the Holy Martyr George to one of the Monasteries churches. But the greatest miracle is – the Church with Her Holy Mysteries.
On Russian Saints who are Venerated on Mount Athos
Well, there are many of them that are venerated on Mount Athos: St. Paisios Velichovsky, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Silouan the Athonite, St. Maximus the Greek (who lived in Vatopaidi), St. Luke of Simferopol, Righteous John of Kronstadt. On Mount Athos there are numerous relics and icons of Russian Saints.
On Iconography – monastic or lay work
Generally speaking, iconography is a monastic occupation; according to condescension, the laity can also be iconographers. An iconographer must fast, must pray and keep vigil. Of course, iconography is not forbidden for pious lay people. There are many lay persons who work in Vatopaidi; for example, they do the wood carving. All in all, there is one thing that is important; and that is to have the fear of God.
About Archimandrite Sophronius Saharov
Father Sophronius is absolutely a man of God. Some Athonite monks like to call him the ”new Gregory Palamas”. As for Father Sophronius, my personal experience witnesses that he was a blessed man, full of divine grace.
On St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
In Vatopaidi Monastery, the works of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov are read. St. Ignatius is a man of prayer, soberness; in a word, he is a ”complete Athonite monk”. We can say that, because Mount Athos is not a place; it is a way of life. Therefore, everyone can be called an “Athonite monk”.
By W. Scott Poole
October 30, 2009
The Devil created by American culture is made in the image of American culture; our beliefs about Satan are part of a theological narrative that has shaped religion, pop culture, and even, in some cases public policy.
Ten Questions for W. Scott Poole on Satan in America: The Devil We Know
What inspired you to write Satan in America? What sparked your interest?
I’ve joked that I wouldn’t have had to write a book about Satan if my parents had let me go see Ozzy back in 1985. I’m not sure I’m entirely kidding since I grew up in the 1980s when, as I describe in the book, the culture was seized with what scholars call “the satanic panic.” Evangelicals’ insistence that dark powers are at work everywhere in the culture has always had a huge fascination for me, and this book gave me the opportunity to trace the background of that fascination.
What’s the most important take-home message for readers?
I hope readers come away with two things. First, that American popular religion and popular culture have tended to influence one another in very strange, but very real, ways. The 1973 film The Exorcist has had enormous influence over how everyone from Pentecostal “deliverance ministers” to Roman Catholic priests understand exorcism. Billy Graham, in a famous sermon in 1974 where he insisted that demonic presences lived in the very celluloid of the film, went on to describe demonic possession in exactly the same way the film had done.
Second, I hope to point out that America’s historic sense of its own innocence and righteousness, and the concomitant belief that its enemies represent the demonic Other, helps explain our historic obsession with Satan. The book’s examination of the strange byways of American belief about the Devil is really a brief filed against the whole notion of American exceptionalism, the idea that we are somehow exempt from the terror and the moral complexities of history.
Is there anything you had to leave out?
Yes. In fact, my original conception was a book almost twice as long. My publisher felt, obviously, that a three-hundred-page book would be much more accessible than the almost six hundred pages I envisioned. This means I didn’t get to spend as much time on Satan in American literature as I had hoped (though there are long sections on important figures like Hawthorne and Twain).
I think that I probably would have also, in a longer book, spent even more time on folklore, especially urban legend. I did manage to include a discussion of the Jersey Devil that connects those stories to misogynistic assumptions about women and their bodies. Readers will also find a discussion of the Proctor and Gamble legend that still gets recycled, the bizarre rumor that an unnamed P&G executive appeared on a talk show (at one time the claim was it was The Phil Donahue Show, later it became Oprah) and asserted that P&G gave part of their profits to the Church of Satan. This falsehood has circulated for a couple of decades and really has only abated in the last few years. There are lots more of those urban legends out there and I wish I had had the space to fit them, and an analysis of them, into the book.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?
Darren Oldridge, a major scholar of the European witch hunts, published a book recently called Strange Histories that details some of the more peculiar beliefs held by people in the medieval and Renaissance periods and tries to explain them in their historical context. He says at one point that the book is not to be read as a “freakshow of misconceived opinion.” I feel the same way about my work. I’m fearful that it will be read by some educated liberals as simply a catalog of bizarriana rather than a study of a theological narrative that has shaped American religion, pop culture, and even, in some cases public policy.
The book makes the case that a significant number of Americans believe in the same Devil believed in by Puritan preachers and 19th-century evangelists. This cannot be dismissed. Its essential to understand why this is so, what historical conditions gave rise to this phenomenon and what does it tell us about the United States.
Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?
I had several groups in mind, all of which I think will be interested and challenged by the book. For example, I am fascinated by the growing number of pop culture addicts who want to examine how their interest in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and the fantastic in general connects to theology, popular religion, and the sacred more generally. There is a real and growing audience out there for this approach as evidenced by Gary Laderman’s book Sacred Matters, Joseph Laycock’s very interesting study Vampires Today, and sites like John W. Morehead’s Theofantastique that examines the borderlands between theology, horror, and the sacred.
I also aimed the book at scholars of American religion in general. I think that they will find it useful to pair the book with some of the new cultural studies of Jesus in America by Stephen Prothero or Richard Wrightman Fox. I think that scholars of American religion will find that looking at beliefs about the Devil opens up a new way of seeing old topics, from the Great Awakening to the twentieth-century decline of mainline churches.
Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?
All three. The more you learn about how the Devil has been used in American history, the more pissed off you will be. I really try in the book to argue that beliefs about the American Devil are linked to constructions of true womanhood; true religion and fervent patriotism have ended in hatred, oppression, marginalization and persecution. This stuff should piss you off and if it doesn’t, to paraphrase the old saying, you are not paying attention.
I do think that those who enjoy and consume vast quantities of pop culture will get a lot of pleasure out of this book (while they are possibly getting pissed off as well). Fans of everything from the blues to Buffy the Vampire Slayer will enjoy the weird angle on their favorite cultural obsessions.
What alternative title would you give the book?
I wanted to call it American Satan: A Secret History. I thought this conveyed the sense that this is a cultural history rather than a theological work of some kind (its my great fear that some will think the book is the latter). My publisher really pushed for the title change and I understand why—it’s striking and conveys the sense that the Devil created by American culture is made in the image of American culture.
How do you feel about the cover?
I do love the cover. I hope readers note that there is a Highway 666 that runs through several western states. Not surprisingly, hosts of urban legends have grown up around it.
Is there a book out there you wish you had written?
Definitely Stephen Prothero’s American Jesus: How the Son of God became a National Icon. I obviously love this kind of national history, and it amazes me is how he manages to write not only a history of Jesus in American culture, but really a new kind of history of American religion that is challenging enough for scholars but also accessible to undergraduates and the general public. It’s an amazing work. Frankly, anything Prothero has ever written would be my pick.
What’s your next book?
I plan to continue my collaboration with dark powers. In fact, I am, hopefully, not yet done with Satan. I am in very early talks with an accomplished documentary filmmaker about turning the book into a film or perhaps a documentary series. It’s too soon to pass along any details, but I am hopeful.
For my next book, I plan to examine the role of the monster in American history and try to consider what American beliefs about monstrosity tell us about things like American conceptions of sexuality, disease, religion, and race. I’ve given some thought to focusing primarily on popular culture—maybe a focus entirely on film.
November 1, 2009
By Mary Abdelmassih
Assyrian International News Agency
Egypt (AINA) -- Egyptian security forces have intensified their presence in the Upper Egyptian town of Dairout, in anticipation of a recurrence of Muslim violence against Christians. Copts expressed their fear over leaflets entitled "These have to Die!" which are being distributed to all Muslims in Dairout and neighborhoods, enticing them to "burn, vandalize and clean the country of these evil immoral infidels."
Reports from Dairout, 313 km south of Cairo, confirm that Christian Copts are afraid to leave their homes and have stayed indoors since violence against them erupted on October 24, 2009. This collective punishment of Copts was caused by an illicit sexual relationship between a Muslim girl, Hagger Hassouna, and the Christian Romany Farouk Attallah. It was rumored that he sent videos of them intimately together to cell phones in Dairout before fleeing. This prompted the Hassouna family to kill his father, Farouk Attallah, on October 19, 2009, in revenge. Four of the Hassouna killers were detained by prosecution, leading to Muslim riots against the Copts (AINA 10-27-2009) .
According to Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Assosiation (MECA), Muslim-owned businesses are now displaying stickers with 'Allah Akbar' (Allah is Great) to differentiate between them and Coptic-owned businesses, as a form of pre-planning for a forthcoming wave of Muslim violence.
Handwritten leaflets (Arabic) have been circulated among Muslims in Dairout for the last two days; they call on Muslims to unite to take revenge for their religion and honor, claiming that Hagger Hassouna is innocent and that she was forced into vice, and "all Jews and Christians should come to learn that Muslim honor is precious." The fliers state that Muslims are the masters of the world since beginning of times until the present day, and entices them to "burn and vandalize and clean the country of the evil immoral infidels."
It also calls on Muslims to take revenge for the "rings of prostitution" which are the churches and in particular the church in the village of Ezbet Hanna. Those specifically named to be killed are Reverend Pavlos of the Church of the Virgin Mary, Coptic lawyer Gamal Youssef, two brothers who own an optometry practice, and a Copt who owns a beauty saloon and photography shop.
Muslims are asked to die for their honor and they will be rewarded with eternal paradise. "Do not say it is a matter of just a girl, no, it is a public and a serious issue, it is the biggest issue, it is Islam's issue." A transcript of the the leaflet (in Arabic) is published on Copts United website.
A video that surfaced yesterday entitled "Revenge for Honor," showing a half-naked girl, assumed to be a Copt, is being distributed all over Dairout on cell phones. Ezzat Aziz of Copts United reported on the contents of the video of the assumed Coptic girl by saying "Details of the video shows the fear experienced by the girl as four Muslim men were undressing her." According to Aziz the video seemed to have been shot in a secluded house and the girl was threatened to get undressed and was begging her captors to let her go as she was tired. She was half-naked, but refused to take off the rest of her clothes. The men repeatedly asked her if she "knew the Dairout Girl."
Comparing the videos, Aziz said that the first (of Hagger Hassouna) shows "a girl who knew what she was doing" while the second (of the assumed Coptic girl) was of "a girl forced to undress." Aziz did not say whether the Coptic girl was named in the video, but he mentioned that the four men forcing her to undress proudly gave their full names.
Coptic websites have refused to publish the video of Hagger Hassouna, saying it would be incompatible with Christian ethics.
On Saturday, October, 31 the four Muslims accused of killing Farouk Attallah are expected appear in court again. A repeat of the Muslim mob violence which took place on October 24 is anticipated should prosecution extend their detainment once again.