Sunday, November 15, 2009
On the Nativity Fast
Guidelines for the Nativity Fast
The Nativity Fast Focuses on Almsgiving
How to Avoid Christmas Depression: The Eastern Orthodox Nativity Fast May Prevent Post-Holiday Blues
American Christmas and Orthodox Nativity
Encyclical for the Nativity Fast
The following sermons by St. Leo the Great were delivered during the Nativity Fast to prepare the faithful for Christmas and Theophany. These sermons were delivered during the "tenth-month," i.e. December. This coincides with our modern fast season of Advent. December still means "tenth-month," but is the actual twelfth month because of the addition of July and August, added later.
On the Fast of The Tenth Month, I
On the Fast of the Tenth Month, V
On the Fast of the Tenth Month, VI
On the Fast of the Ten Month, VIII
How did the contemporary Nativity Fast come to be?
The first mention of a preparatory period before Christmas is mentioned in a decree of the Council of Saragossa (380). The Council Fathers stated that every Christian should daily go to church from December 17 until the Theophany (January 6th). At the Synod of Mac (581) in Gaul (present day France) it was decreed that from November 11, the day of St. Martin, until December 24 every Christian should fast three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
Our pre-Nativity period of preparation developed rather late. Scholars do not agree about the exact time it began. Some hold that it began in the sixth century. Others believe it began in the seventh or eighth century. The present liturgical pre-Nativity season was finally established at the Council of Constantinople (1166). The Council decreed that the fast would begin on November 15 and last until December 24 inclusive. Thus, there was created another 40 day fast.
The pre-Nativity fast is often called "Philip's Fast" because it begins on the day after the feast of St. Philip. The fast was introduced to prepare the Church for a worthy celebration of the great and holy day of the Birth of Christ. The regulations for the fast were far more lenient than the Great Fast before Pascha. Only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were days of strict fasting without meat, dairy products or oil (in Slavic countries). On Sundays fish was permitted. Lay people were at first permitted to eat fish on other days, too, until the monastic rigoristic influence prevailed.
It is interesting to observe that the famous 12th century Byzantine canonist Balsamon expressed the opinion that it would be enough if the lay people fasted only one week before Christmas. In 1958 a modern Greek author, Christos M. Enislides, welcomes Balsamon's suggestion and believes that the best solution would be for the Church at large to abstain from meat and dairy products for 33 days; during the last seven days of the fast everybody should observe the strict fast. But for now this is a mere proposition and should not be seen as the rule.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Dies
15 November 2009
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, has died in Belgrade, the Church has announced.
The 95-year-old patriarch, who became leader of the Church in 1990, was admitted to the city's military hospital two years ago.
He died on Sunday morning. Though he reportedly suffered from heart and lung conditions, the Church did not specify the cause of death.
Most of Serbia's population of seven million people are Orthodox Christians.
Pavle was a respected theologian and linguist, known for personal humility and modesty.
After the fall of communism and rise of Serb nationalism, the Church regained a leading role during his rule.
Serbian Orthodox Church Head Pavle Dies at 95
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC
15 November 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia – Patriarch Pavle, who led Serbia's Christian Orthodox Church through its post-Communist revival and the turbulent 1990s marked by ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, died Sunday. He was 95.
Pavle, who took over the church in 1990, had been hospitalized for two years with heart and lung problems. He died of cardiac arrest in his sleep, the church and the Belgrade Military Hospital said.
Bells tolled from Serbian churches after the news of Pavle's death and the state-run television aired documentaries about his life. Serbia's government proclaimed three days of national mourning starting Monday.
A respected theologian and linguist also known for personal humility and modesty, Pavle took over the dominant Serbian church just as the collapse of communism ended years of state policy of repressing religion. He also headed the church during the turbulent years of the Balkan wars in the 1990s and the collapse of former President Slobodan Milosevic's regime in 2000.
President Boris Tadic said Patriarch Pavle's death is a "huge loss" for the nation. Tadic said Pavle was "one of those people who by their very existence bring together the entire nation.
"His departure is my personal loss too," Tadic said, explaining he had often consulted with the patriarch about crucial national decisions.
Tadic added that Patriarch Pavle was respected worldwide by both the Orthodox Christian churches and the pope.
The news about patriarch's death was first announced by influential Bishop Amfilohije, who has served as the acting head of church during most of Pavle's hospitalization. State TV showed Amfilohije breaking into tears as he told a gathering of believers that Pavle had died. A sobbing Amfilohije then said a prayer for the Patriarch.
The church said its highest body, the Holy Synod, is expected to meet early Monday and possibly announce when Pavle's successor will be chosen. According to church procedure, at least 40 days will have to pass after Pavle's death for a new patriarch to be elected.
There have been reports of a power struggle within the church over who will succeed Pavle. The favorite for the post among several candidates is Amfilohije, a hard-liner known for his anti-Western and nationalist stands.
Pavle often spoke against violence in the ethnic wars Orthodox Serbs fought in the 1990s against Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims during the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II.
"God help us understand that we are human beings and that we must live as human beings, so that peace would come into our country and bring an end to the killing," Pavle had appealed — mostly in vain — in 1991 as fighting raged between Serbs and Croats over disputed territories in Croatia.
"It is only the will of the devil that is served by this war," the patriarch was quoted as saying in 1992 but stopped short of naming names, notably not going explicitly against Milosevic.
The Serbian Church eventually broke with its tradition of formal neutrality in 2000, openly urging the Serbian strongman to step down after the regimes humiliating defeat in 1999 following NATO bombing that ended Milosevic's crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo.
The church's demand for Milosevic's resignation — which he ignored — helped lead to the popular revolt that eventually ousted the autocratic president in October 2000. Milosevic died in 2006 during his trial on war crimes charges at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
The patriarch then launched a damage-control campaign for Kosovo, struggling to rally international support for protection of ancient Serbian churches and monasteries that came under attacks by Kosovo's mostly Muslim ethnic Albanians.
Critics, however, faulted him and other Serbian religious leaders for failing to be equally vocal when Serb troops previously destroyed Catholic churches and Muslim mosques in Croatia and Bosnia, or launched major ethnic-cleansing campaigns against non-Serbs in the Balkans.
Pavle was born as Gojko Stojcevic on Sept. 11, 1914, in the village of Kucani, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time and is now in Croatia.
From 1944 to 1955, he was a monk at the Raca Monastery in central Serbia. From 1950, he lectured at the Prizen Seminary in Kosovo — the position which he retained until his election as the patriarch on Dec. 1, 1990.
Bishop Lavrentije said the Patriarch's death is no reason to be sad because the Patriarch always had sought to reach out to God. Lavrentije said Pavle "has been more in heaven" than on earth.
"The Serbian people now have someone to represent them before God better than anyone else," Lavrentije said.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There was a strong tradition upheld regarding the location of the relics of the Holy Apostle Philip following his martyrdom. The earliest testimonial to the Apostle Philip's final resting place being at Hierapolis comes from a letter by Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, to Victor, bishop of Rome (c. 189-198). An extract from this letter, written c. 190, has been preserved by Eusebius:
"For in Asia, also, great luminaries have fallen asleep, who shall rise again on the last day during the parousia of the Lord when He comes with glory out of heaven to gather all the saints, (including) Philip, of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis and his two daughters, elderly virgins, and another of his daughters who after living in the Holy Spirit rests in Ephesus."
A second century follower of the heretic Montanus named Proclus adds to Polycrates' testimony regarding the existence of tombs of the Apostle Philip and his daughters. In the account of his debate with Gaius, he writes:
"After him there were four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, in Hierapolis in Asia; their tomb is there and that of their father."
It should be explained that Proclus was leader of the Montanists in Rome, and this may account for the discrepancy regarding the details of how many dughters of the Apostle Philip were actually buried in Hierapolis. Polycrates, living nearer to Hierapolis and being bishop in the city where one of St. Philip's daughters was said to be buried, is considered a much more reliable witness as far as the details are concerned. However, it is also possible that Proclus did know this detail, but for apologetic purposes embellished the truth a bit.
Why would Proclus embellish the truth? Because it was in his best interest as a leader of a movement that based itself on the prophetic powers of Montanus and his two closest disciples Prisca and Maximilla, also known as "the Three". Montanus originated his movement at Hierapolis where Papias was bishop at the time and it flourished throughout the region of Phrygia. Montanus in many ways may have seen himself as another Apostle Philip with his prophetesses "living in the Spirit", as Polycrates put it. The Montanists traced their prophetic tradition to Philip's daughters and back even further to other prophets, and the Martyrium must have played a significant role in the life and witness of the "New Prophecy" in Hierapolis.
However, scholars have long speculated why the above two testimonies of Polycrates and Proclus identify the Apostle Philip with the four prophetess daughters. After all, the New Testament accounts are very clear that it was not the Philip the Apostle with four prophetess daughters, but Philip the Evangelist, one of the first seven deacons, who had four prophetess daughters (Acts 6:1-7; 21:8-9). If indeed this were Philip the Apostle, then the fact that he died with his "two daughters" who were "elderly virgins" would be somewhat of a contradiction with the more reliable testimony of Clement of Alexandria, who says his daughters married: "Or do they also scorn the apostles? Peter and Philip had children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage" (Miscellanies, 3.6.52). Though Clement here does not say how many daughters Philip had nor is he clear if he had them all married or just a few. It may be possible both Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist had four prophetess daughters, but it is more unlikely that the testimonies of Polycrates and Proclus have blended two traditions either out of confusion or deliberately.
Because of this confusion most scholars today dismiss the idea that it was the Apostle Philip who was martyred and venerated in Hierapolis, and prefer to believe the testimonies of the above two witnesses that lend more credence to the fact that it was Philip the Evangelist who was martyred and venerated in Phrygia. Others who do regard Hierapolis as being indeed the place of martyrdom and veneration of the Apostle Philip point to the possibility that Philip the Apostle may have also had virgin daughters who followed him that may have been prophetesses. Though these are both valid theories, I don't believe either are entirely factual.
To understand possible alternative theories we would need to dig a bit deeper into the evidence. So far we know of a tradition of a certain Philip and his daughters being buried in Hierapolis existing early on and this is a reliable testimony to its truth. We also know that in the second century Montanism originated in Hierapolis as a sort of "charismatic" movement within the early church which emphasized the gift of prophecy. What we don't know yet is the fact that Montanism continued to exist in isolated areas of Phrygia, where it flourished until the eighth century. What is also important is how long the Martyrium of the Apostle Philip lasted and how long his relics lay there.
The Martryium to the Apostle Philip was built either in the late fourth century or early fifth century. It may be possible that it was built by Emperor Theodosius who, in a vision, received from St. John the Theologian and St. Philip the Apostle the assurance of victory over the tyrant Eugenius, the morning before the battle, in 394, as Theodoret relates. However its existence as a shrine where the relics of the Apostle Philip could be venerated lasted no more than a century or so. It has been commonly explained that this was due to the great number of earthquakes which frequently struck the region of Phrygia. We know it was destroyed by fire from the archaeological evidence, but what brought on this fire is unknown. However this does not account for it not being rebuilt during the peak of medieval Roman power. What seems more likely, or at least in combination with the frequent earthquakes, is that the shrine of the Apostle Philip may have been overtaken by Montanists and became a means for Montanism to continue flourishing in the region of Phrygia. After all, in the sixth century, at the orders of the Emperor Justinian, John of Ephesus led an expedition to Pepuza (approx. 20 miles from Hierapolis, Pepuza was called by Montanus the "New Jerusalem") to destroy the Montanist shrine there, which was based around the tombs of Montanus, Prisca (Priscilla) and Maximilla. Was there possibly a connection between this shrine and the shrine of the Apostle Philip? Is it possible the relics of the Apostle Philip were removed at this time by order of Emperor Justinian to give them a better home in Constantinople, and in turn the Martyrium destroyed by the same emperor to prevent the spread of Montanism? After all, the burning of a structure primarily built of stone is unlikely to have been accidental. It is strange that a martyrium devoted to keeping alive the memory of one of twelve apostles would have been destroyed so soon, unless that martyrium were deemed to have been tainted in some way by heretics and schismatics. This is only speculation, but I leave it open as a possible theory because what we do know is that while the Martyrium of Philip burned to the ground never to be rebuilt, his relics were brought to Constantinople and housed there, probably in the Church of the Holy Apostles, for a short time.
The interesting thing is that we have no testimony about the relics of St. Philip's daughters being housed in the Martyrium. They may have been there, but we just don't know and nothing about their relics are ever mentioned beyond the two testimonies quoted above. This fact leaves us with a number of questions and possibilities. Personally, I do not believe the Philip martyred in Hierapolis was Philip the Evangelist, but do in fact believe that it was indeed the Apostle Philip as tradition strongly hands down. All the testimonies we have reference this Philip venerated in Hierapolis as being the apostle, while a strong tradition holds that Philip the Evangelist became bishop of Tralles in Lydia and died there in his old age; most likely with his four daughters. There is also archaeological evidence in the necropolis of Hierapolis, such as the inscription of Eugenios the Archdeacon who, though a probable Montanist, is described as being "in charge [of the church] of the holy and glorious apostle and theologian Philip". One possibility however could be that the relics of two of the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist were brought to Hierapolis by Montanists from somewhere, since they wanted their patrons near them in the city Montanism originated. If this is the case, it may have been the Montanists who confused the two Philip's in order to have that charismatic continuity between Philip the Evangelists prophetic daughters and their own movement which they ascribed to the Holy Spirit in their native Phrygia. Another possibility could be that the two women known as Philip the Apostle's daughters were in fact his two daughters, but they had nothing to do with Philip the Evangelist's four daughters. Though they may not have accompanied Philip the Apostle on his apostolic journey's, they may have come following his martyrdom either as virgins or widows to continue their father's mission. To give credibility to this possibility, we should mention that in a passage in Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.39) he quotes Papias (whose writings only appear in fragments mainly within Eusebius) stating that Philip the Apostle's daughters were still alive in his time telling stories of the apostles: "That Philip the Apostle lived at Hierapolis with his daughters has already been mentioned, but it must now be told told how Papias, who knew them, heard a wonderful story from Philip's daughters. He tells of the resurrection of a corpse in his own lifetime...." Interestingly Papias, through Eusebius, does not mention anything about Philip's daughters being four in number nor of being prophetesses, though he does mention they had the power to raise the dead.
Yet, another possibility as to who the two daughters of the Apostle Philip could have been is taken from the tradition of his preaching in Hierapolis and his martyrdom from the Synaxarion. We are told in this testimony that Philip was accompanied by the Apostle Bartholomew and Philip's sister, Mariamna, who was a virgin. We also know that in Hierapolis Philip is said to have helped convert about 100 virgins from paganism to Christianity. Furthermore we are informed he and his companions helped bring about a conversion in the wife of the ruler of that region, who requested of her pagan husband to live a chaste marriage. Could it be that those virgins converted by Philip the Apostle were considered spiritual daughters of his and two of them, possibly even his sister and the wife of the leader of the region in his time, were preserved next to him and confused with the Apostle's physical daughters? It's a possibility, but still mere speculation.
The evidence and all these possible explanations merely point to one probable fact: that the Martyrium of Philip housed the actual relics of the Apostle Philip. We also know at some point his relics, with no mention of his daughters, were taken to Constantinople. By the sixth century the date of his martyrdom, together with that of the Apostle James the Less, appears as May 1, but that is actually the date of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome, which Pope Pelagius I (556-561) began to construct at the time of the removal of the bodies of the two apostles (or a significant part of them at least, since later testimonies reveal portions of the relics of the Apostle Philip still in Constantinople) from Constantinople, probably in 560, and which was completed by Pope John III (561-574) with possible economic aid from the Eastern Roman viceroy Narses. The tradition of the presence of significant relics of Philip in Rome was confirmed by a survey which took place in 1873. Up to that date a reliquary containing his right foot, almost intact (and another reliquary containing the femur of James the Less) was preserved in the Basilica of Santi Apostoli while the bodies of the two apostles were venerated under the central altar. Excavations in January 1873 brought to light a conglomarate of plaster and bricks under which lay two slabs of Phrygian marble (possibly from Hierapolis) exactly alongside, bearing a Greek cross (with equal arms) carved in relief, and below them, perpendicularly beneath the altar, a loculus in which there was a small chest containing some bones, most of them fragments or flakes, some teeth and a quantity of compacted material consisting of decayed bone, and also residues of fabric that subsequently analyzed proved to be wool with a valuable purple dye. The tests on the finds were done by a scholarly committee including pathologists, physicists, chemists and archaeologists (among others, Angelo Secchi, Giovanni Battista De Rossi and Pietro Ercole Visconti), and a detailed report was written and published. It was possible to make out that the remains belonged to two distinct adult males. To one, Philip, more slender in build, were attributed the bones surviving intact (in particular fragments of a scapula, a femur and skull) and also the foot kept in the reliquary; to the other of more robust build, in particular a molar (belonging to James the Less). It was not however possible to attribute to either of the two individuals the remaining fragments because of their state of decay. The archaeological context undoubtedly dated to the sixth century, and therefore the building constructed by Pelagius I and John III. The survey thus confirmed the accuracy of the report on the removal of 560. The quantity of the relics suggests that part of them were dispersed in the removals (at least two for each apostle) from the East to Rome. In 1879, after a certain period on display for the veneration of the faithful, the relics found under the altar were placed in a bronze coffer within a marble sarcophagus set up in the crypt of the church, below the place where they were found. The relic of the foot was left out, in a reliquary, which is not currently on display to the faithful.
According to a recent story, a Peace Corps volunteer, Tom Bissell, went in search of the various resting places of the twelve apostle of Jesus. When he came to Rome he lamented the sorry state of the relics of two great apostles:
"...the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome, which holds relics of Sts. Philip and James, draws few pilgrims. When he visited, Bissell said, the church was frequented mainly by street people coming for charity.
Bissell said the local priest at Holy Apostles told him he was the first person in his eight years there who ever came asking about Sts. Philip and James. Their bones, after earlier sojourns in the ancient cities of Hierapolis and Constantinople, are preserved in a crypt below the main altar."
Though the relics of the Apostle have fallen into relative obscurity in Rome, this is not the case on the island of Cyprus. A portion of the skull of St. Philip the Apostle reached Paphos, specifically the village of Arsos, following the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204. It was transferred to Cyprus specifically on July 31, 1204, hence its annual feast day which is celebrated by the faithful till this day. A church dedicated to the Apostle Philip was built in this village to house the miraculous skull (which has four imperial seals on it, among which is that of Emperors Theodosius the Great and Heraclius), and today is considered one of the areas oldest monuments. A section of this piece of the skull was distributed to various places. When Constantinople was restored to the Romans in the late thirteenth century the relic of the Apostle was transferred to another village in Paphos, known as Arsinoi, for security reasons. The reliquary containing the relics was stolen in 1735, so in 1770 Metropolitan Panaretos of Paphos had another reliquary made which is the same we see today. For purposes of greater security, in 1788, the silver reliquary containing the skull of the Apostle (along with a crown that was made for the skull in 14th or 15th century Constantinople) were transferred to the ancient Monastery of the Holy Cross in Omodos where it remains till this day. Also to this day, many miracles occur by the grace of God coming through this skull.
by Panagiotis K. Chrestou
The Causes of the Hesychastic Dispute and the Chief Actors
The causes of the dispute are: that the anti-hesychasts identified the levels of philosophy and theology, whereas the hesychasts distinguished them; that the anti-hesychasts made theology the object of investigation, whereas the hesychasts used it as a means of therapeutic experience; that the anti-hesychasts did not accept the existence of common notions, whereas the hesychasts did so; that the anti-hesychasts as rationalists based knowledge on the capacities of the human mind, and regarded the knowledge of God to be impossible because of God's transcendence, whereas the hesychasts believed that the knowledge of God is possible through His energies which shine forth, even though He remains unknowable with regard to His essence (κατά την ουσίαν).
Barlaam fought the hesychasts because he sought the renewal of theology with the assistance primarily of Plato and secondarily of Aristotle. Becoming isolated in Byzantium, on account of his quarrelsome attitude, he did not succeed in his objective, which he did not pursue any further when he subsequently returned to the West. His followers also failed.
It was the hesychastic Gregory Palamas, however, who accomplished theological renewal through the construction of his own system of theology and mysticism. This was actually the positive implication of practical hesychasm, which Palamas used as his starting point in his reaction to Barlaam and his followers. Thus, hesychastic theology became for Byzantium, from the point of view of influence, what scholastic theology was for the West, although in essence it was an antipode to the Western synthesis. Distinguishing essence and energies in God, as the Cappadocians did, but more clearly than them, Palamas declared that God was a person who remained unknown as far as His essence was concerned, but who revealed Himself with regard to His energies. Identifying these uncreated energies with the general notions, Gregory Palamas found a way to defend by means of them the partial knowledge of God, which is complemented by faith.
The Theology of Gregory Palamas
Man's demands, however, are not satisfied by theology either in its scholastic cataphatic form or in its negative apophatic form, or even its peculiar Palamite form, because in all these forms theology is "λόγος" (discourse), as Palamas himself came to discover and, hence, to seek afterwards the vision (θεωρία) which is above "λόγος". Theology as simple knowledge and understanding of God cannot be the end of a movement toward God, and apophatic theology as an immersion into the dark cloud (γνόφος) is not what the Christian ought to search for, who is obliged to move beyond it, to communion with God, the so-called divine contemplation (θεοπτία), which is so exceedingly higher than theology, as possessing something that is higher than simply knowing it. "Theology is as distant from the vision of God in light and as separate from being in touch with God, as knowing is from obtaining something."* At first glance, it seems that here we have to do with a mere difference of words; that what the mystics used to call theology (θεολογία) Palamas now calls divine vision (θεοπτία). Yet, it should not be forgotten that words usually leave their indelible marks on the realities they signify. Palamas does not reject "theology" but minimizes its significance. Practicing (ήθος) and being in touch with God are detached from the theologian, but they remain constant characteristics of the one who pursues the vision of God (θεόπτης).
* Gregory Palamas, On the Hesychasts, 1, 3, 42.
(From Chrestou's Greek Orthodox Patrology: An Introduction to the Study of the Church Fathers, pp. 189-190.)
Friday, November 13, 2009
[I am reposting this from last month since Vlad has been so kind as to complete the translation of Fr. Staniloae's "Introduction", and has provided additional information about the text. I have added these excerpts to that posting as well. - J.S.]
[On October 3rd I posted a few texts by the Rev. John Parker in which he set out to prove, against most scholarly opinions of the late 19th century, that the writings of St. Dionysius the Areopagite are authentic 1st or early 2nd century writings written by the author they are ascribed to. The only Orthodox scholar I was aware of that defended this patristic thesis was Fr. John Romanides, who even though he wrote nothing to my knowledge on the subject, nevertheless defended it in passing in an audio lecture I have in which he comments sarcastically: "Modern theologians call St. Dionysius a 'pseudo' as if he is a liar or deceiver, which they make him out to be". It was brought to my attention at that time by Vlad Protopopescu that the eminent Romanian Orthodox theologian Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae also defended this thesis in his last writing before his falling asleep in the Lord, which happened to be his translation of the entire Corpus Areopagiticum. According to Vlad, this was a thesis he defended in the academia but it was quickly dismissed without consideration. Since one of my many goals is to liberate St. Dionysius from the fetters of the academics who dismiss him as a neoplatonic wannabe, I asked Vlad to translate the "Introduction" to Fr. Dumitru's translation in which Fr. Dumitru defends the apostolic dating of the Corpus Areopagiticum. To put the "Introduction" in its proper context, Vlad has informed me of the following:
"It should be mentioned that Fr. Staniloae answered to very specific issues, namely to the translations made in Romania of The Celestial Hierarchy, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, The Divine Names, and The Mystical Theology made by Fr. Cicerone Iordachescu, who was a Professor and on the Faculties of Theology at Chisinau and Cernauti, and in collaboration with Theofil Simensky, a Professor of Classical Languages at the University of Iasi (both before WWII); also to a French translation by Maurice de Gandillac in 1943. My view is that Fr. Staniloae held these opinions since that time (which he expressed in his various courses at the Theological Academy of Sibiu, where he was a professor until 1947 and subsequently on the Faculty of Theology in Bucharest where he offered a course on 'Ascetics and Mystics' until 1949 when the chair of 'Ascetics and Mystics' was abolished). It is very likely that the 'Introduction' to the translation was compiled mainly from notes and last talks, which will account for the apparent "outdatedness" that his critics made much about."
He also says concerning the only passage in the "Introduction" which he did not translate, since it answers a particular theory of one of Fr. Staniloae's students:
"In the 'Introduction' Fr. Staniloae addresses also a recent theory emitted by a Romanian doctor Fr. George Dragulin. According to Fr. Dragulin the real Dionysius was Dionysius Exiguus. Fr. Staniloae, who was the director of the thesis, dismisses it gently, although shows some 'sentimental' sympathy. Dionysius Exiguus was born in Scythia Minor (Dobrogea of today) and the thesis was rather an exercise in national pride. In fact Fr. Staniloae sticks to his guns. Fr. Staniloae's purpose was to combat the idea that one can affirm that Dionysius shows a pantheistic philosophy, as the learned Professors asserted. He quotes the thesis of Fr. Dragulin only to show that he affirms the perfect Orthodoxy of Dionysius who combatted Neoplatonism. Fr. Staniloae's argument is precisely the challenge of Dionysius to the philosophies of his day, which were 'Platonic'."
I am grateful to Vlad and I pray this translation serves to enlighten doubters and faithful alike concerning the apostolic or post-apostolic authorship of these highly revered texts of Orthodox patristics. - J.S.]
Vlad Protopopescu - Sydney
Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Complete Works of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, "Introduction":
I. The Alleged Neoplatonic Pantheism of the Areopagitic Writings
We can say that the presentation of Dionysius as a pantheist has encouraged in the western Christian world a separatist and secularist vision of the world in relation to God, which in turn reinforced the philosophies of the world as the unique reality… This understanding was the reason why in the West, Dionysius was suspected as encouraging pantheism, whereas in the East he always enjoyed a great authority as a source of Christian spirituality.
In regards to the alleged pantheistic mark of the areopagitic writings, which would therefore have them written after Plotinus and Proclus, we deem necessary to prove their Christian character. That will allow us to show the uncertainty of a date after Proclus for the writings, and as unfounded the exclusion of the possibility that they have been authored by Dionysius from the Areopagus of Athens who was converted by the Holy Apostle Paul to the Christian faith. This possible conclusion will be enhanced by some other facts, no less conclusive than those adduced by the deniers of the authorship of Dionysius of the Areopagus.
II. The General Christian Content of the Areopagitic Writings and Their Principal Components as a Basis for Their Attribution to Dionysius the Areopagite
We cannot notice in all the areopagitic writings any concern with the defense of the Holy Trinity, any concern with the defense of the teaching about the Christ as hypostasis in two natures, any concern with nestorianism or monophyisitism. This suggests that they had been written neither after the First Ecumenical Synod, nor after the Second, the Third or the Fourth, i.e. between the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the sixth. Of course one cannot say that there is no teaching about the Trinity or about Jesus Christ. Also lacking are the developments about the Holy Trinity from the writings of St. Athanasius the Great, St. Basil the Great or St. Gregory Nazianzen. There is no concern with the union of the two natures in the unique hypostasis of the Word from the writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria…
The theme of the Dionysian writings is the defense of the teaching about God in Trinity as different from the world, in other words a defense of the Christian faith in general against the philosophical thinking of the time, but using its vocabulary. Was a rejection of the pantheistic philosophies at the end of the fifth century still necessary? Who could have been keener to win the intellectuals, formed in the mould of the pantheistic philosophies than a philosopher himself? Could he have remained idle since becoming a Christian and not use his gifts in an activity for which he was qualified? He could have put together those writings around the year 100 AD, when the opposition against the Christian teachings was taking shape.
One can raise today the same objection raised by an Orthodox theologian in 533 during his polemic with a Severian Monophysite: How can we be sure that these writings belong to Dionysius of Areopagus, when we cannot see them used by the Fathers since? To this objection one can answer: The writings were not offering any arguments for the defence of the Holy Trinity or of the teachings about Christ. They must have been, perhaps, less copied and they were used in more restricted circles. In general, the Fathers were not perusing too much the writings of the preceding Fathers, but almost exclusively the Holy Scriptures.
But how does the author of the Areopagitica defend the Christian Faith, using the philosophical language of the time?
a. He makes a clear distinction between the being (trans. n. – in Romanian fiinţa) of all things among which we live and the One above being. In Greek being is derived, like in Romanian, from the verb to be: it is actually the participle of the verb to be (trans. n. – a fi, fiinţă). That is, that being is the same as existence. The author of the Areopagitica uses for God the term the one above being, not in the sense of the highest being, but in the sense of beyond existence. He is not simply existence, but is beyond existence, because all things that exist, as we know them, must have a cause. God is beyond existence because He has no cause, but is the cause of everything. That points to a total difference between God and the world. The author makes an “existential” difference between everything that exists and Him – this gives Him the power to be the sole cause of everything. Dionysius defends the idea of God as totally different from the world, in contrast with pre-Christian philosophies.
b. The author borrows from Plato the idea of the identity of existence with good. Existence itself is a good. The highest existence is the highest good. But Plato does not draw the conclusion that the good implies an eternal relation between Person and Person, as the author of the Areopagitica does.
But God is not simply goodness, but is above goodness. It is goodness caused by nothing and the cause of all goodness .This is a different kind of goodness than the one known by us. The goodness of God is from itself, and is one with perfect freedom.
The stages of existence, dependent of one another, the higher ones obliged to sustain and raise the inferior ones in existence, therefore in goodness, and the inferior ones attracted by the superior ones, are all in a state of dependence between themselves, but also of God who is above all goodness, good in itself, the perfect good. This is the foundation of the celestial and world hierarchies and of their relations. The obligation (of the superior hierarchies) towards the inferior and the attraction of the inferior (ones) towards the higher give an internal basis to the relations between the members of the hierarchies. Dionysius asserts thus not only the existence of a God different from the visible world, but also the existence of a hierarchical order superior to this world, a thing rejected by ancient philosophy.
According to Dionysius, the hierarchy of the entire creation links not only the angelic world with the earthly one, but also all the orders of the angelic world with those of the earthly world. In this hierarchical vision, all the inferior steps receive divine illumination from those above and the superior ones have the duty to communicate these illuminations to the inferior ones. Only the supreme angelic order receives illumination exclusively from God. But that does not mean that God is in direct relations only with the hosts of the supreme order (Thrones, Cherubims, Seraphims), nor that He is separated from the hosts under them. The orders that follow the first one live also in God, but as united with the first. The first order communicates their knowledge of God to the inferior ones. Not even men can feel the relation with God without a relation with other people, and therefore, albeit unconsciously, with the angels.
Everything that exists in the world is a unit. But there are different degrees of unity between them and an overall unity between all. But these units are composed and dependent on one another and of the One who has nothing composed and is not united involuntarily with others, but is the One by itself and independent of all. He is the Uncaused Cause of all units in the world and of the unity between themselves. The things of the world show that they are dependent on the One who is above everything - that we know as units.
This One, who is also the supreme good by itself, is not opposed to love. His Unity is a living unity, not opposed to the Trinity. His Unity is a unity of love. He is a living One or the One full of love in Himself. Through love He goes eternally out of Himself, remaining eternally in Himself. God remains in Himself and goes out of Himself in Himself eternally, but when He so desires, He goes out of Himself into other things, producing them by creation and wanting to draw them close to Him.
His procession out of Himself does not oblige Him to proceed into the things that are different from Himself. He does not go out of Himself in Himself, as Trinity, in order to create things, as Fr. Cicerone Iordachescu said. Therefore proodoi cannot be translated as “emanations” as was done by Fr. Iordachescu.
c. All these attributes of the divinity places Him above understanding. God cannot be characterized by the characters proper to the world. He is neither existence, nor goodness, nor unity, nor understanding… But negation of these attributes has not the meaning of nothingness, but the superior meaning of things above what is proper to the world. The author of the writings stresses very often this fact.
The man attaining sainthood lives in God, rather than explaining Him through rational concepts.
d. Another “existential” difference between God and the world is asserted by the author of the Areopagitica when he considers God as non-passive, not exposed to relations and passions, whereas the world, by its very dependence of God, is passive and subject to relations and possibilities of passions. But the passivity of world components has different degrees. The angels are passive, because they are dependent in their being on God, but at the same time they have a responsibility towards Him. But responsibility unites in itself dependence and freedom. They can, therefore, contend against their dependence or responsibility towards God, as some of them have done. An inferior degree of creatures, humans, have not only the dependence from God united with the responsibility towards Him, but also a purely passive part, the body, with its processes and passions. But man can, through his responsibility towards God, fill his body with the divine powers [energies] and make it participate in the freedom of the spirit. An even inferior degree of creatures has only the passivity of the senses, deprived of consciousness - these are the animals, and the plants. But they have as their reason to exist the sustaining of the physical life of man. At the very bottom of this category is the simple matter of the earth and the minerals, which are purely passive, but also necessary for the life of man.
In pantheism, everything is dependent on everything. There is nothing independent above the whole and everything, because the essence from which everything is emanated is itself subject to a law.
The author of the Areopagitica makes therefore a categorical distinction between God and the world. But he also links firmly the world to God. This can be seen from the fact that, on the one hand, God goes out of Himself conferring being upon the things different from Him, and on the other hand He goes out through “processions” (proodoi) to the things in order to “bring” them back to Him, to fill them with the gifts of His goodness. Those who saw a pantheistic character in the writings have confused these two kind of acts or “processions” of God. But, if there is no difference between them, why would God continue to raise to Him and in Him the things brought into existence by Him? The author uses different terms for the bringing into existence of the things of the world, of the angels and man, which he calls paragein (to give existence) and for the gifts which he bestows subsequently to the created things in order to rise them to Him, which he calls proodoi. It is wrong to confuse the terms.
But the creative act, as well as the acts of enrichment of the creatures through ever increasing gifts, show the creatures inseparably united with God. Although the author speaks of distinctions or separations between the creatures, and between the creatures and God, he does not exclude a certain inseparability between Him and creatures, even when they close themselves to the waves of goodness and superior life which come from Him; because things could not exist if they were not maintained in existence by the Cause who is above all existence. It is impossible to think of a total separation of the world from its Cause.
A very important component of the theme of the relation of God with the world, which is central to the Dionysian writings, is the fact that all things different from God are brought into existence to serve as symbols through which we see the works of God. They have thus a certain capacity to receive in themselves and to transmit through themselves the works of God. Actualizing the things and the human gestures as symbols, they are sanctified and made the means of sanctification of ones through the others. That confers a liturgical character to their existence.
In the earliest Christian times the liturgical life – hymns, sanctifications, blessings - was extremely rich. From its rich extension in the Apostolic Constitutions or the Liturgy of St. James, the Liturgy became shorter until it crystallized in the shape of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The fact that the areopagitic writings point to a very rich liturgical life of the Christian communities is another proof of their antiquity. The Orthodox East, the faithful keeper of the apostolic tradition, persists to this day the practice of multiple acts of sanctification, along with the conscience that God is present in all His sanctifying works. Dionysius has influenced the theological explanation of this active presence of God in everything by His works or by His uncreated energies, which are different from his being. We see this in the works of St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Gregory Palamas. The West, rejecting this distinction, as we can see in the opposition Barlaam made to St. Gregory Palamas, and unable to admit a union of men and the world with the essence of God – because that would confound everything with God - has persisted in the conscience of a God distant from the world and people, with a church led by a vicar (a deputy of the absent Christ) and/or has fallen into the extremes of a pantheist mysticism (Eckhart, Jacob Bohme), or in the philosophies that affirm that this world is the only reality.
In the East, as in the areopagitic writings, the Son of God took on human nature in order to make it the medium of our divinization, of our sanctification, which sustain us on the path of a more controlled and holier life. That is why all Fathers, including Dionysius, use the bold terms ‘divinization’, ‘gods’, and of course ‘by grace’… St. Gregory Palamas has found in the writings of Dionysius most of the arguments in his defense of the assertion of the hesychast monks that through the incessant prayer of Jesus they see in their hearts Jesus in light. One can see this in the multiple quotations from Dionysius. Generally speaking the writings of Dionysius have been in the Orthodox world the grounds for the affirmation of the active presence of God in the life of the Church and in the world.
III. Other Indications That Seem to Point to the Post-Apostolic, even Apostolic Age of the Dionysian Writings
In The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Dionysius said that Baptism and the Liturgy were performed by the bishop assisted by a few priests but many deacons. In general older people were baptized, but not children. This situation was proper to the early Church, when churches were founded in cities, where bishoprics were founded and the first faithful were older people.
The bishop is also shown performing the burials. Another sign that the writings belong to the early Christian times, when Christians were persecuted, is the mention of the ‘therapeutes’ (doorkeepers or porters), sort of sextons, usually not married, who were guarding the doors of the places of assembly. This service was no longer required in the 5th-6th centuries when the time of persecutions had passed.
Another objection against the antiquity of the areopagitic writings is that in the sixth chapter of The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Dionysius described the consecration of monks, which appeared only in the fourth century. But we know that St. Anthony the Great became a monk in the third (he was born in 255). Was he following an older tradition? It is not unlikely that there were a few Christians who chose the purity of a life of solitude… Maybe they were the therapeutes of the Dionysian Epistles, a term that St. Maximus the Confessor translates plainly as “monachos”. (f.n. The linking of the therapeutes of Philo of Alexandria with the first Christian community in Alexandria was made already by Eusebius of Cesareea. St. Jerome affirmed that the monks of his time were perpetuating the life of the therapeutes. John Cassian made the same affirmation ascribing an apostolic origin to the institution. That means that the monastic institution is as old as Christianity itself!)
This is a very poor and general summary of the richness and profundity of the areopagitic writings that our translation is far from rendering it faithfully. Because the language itself is so subtle and complex that nobody can render it satisfactorily. In French they have been translated eleven times… This is the reason that we undertook to offer a new translation (f.n. In Romanian, besides those of Fr. Cicerone Iordachescu and Theofil Simensky.) striving to express it in Romanian terms more traditional and spiritual, avoiding as much as we have been able the neologisms of French origin (f.n. Much too current in modern Romanian). This is the reason why we disagree with Fr. Cicerone Iordachescu, when he says: ‘The writing of Dionysius reminds us of the dialectic of Plato and Hegel, without possessing the genius of those great masters of human thought.' We deem that the thinking of Dionysius is far more satisfactory than Plato’s or Hegel’s.
In conclusion, in view of all the arguments offered, we want to keep the name of Dionysius the Areopagite as the author of these writings. Even if the author was someone living at a later time but he took the name, we respect his will and declare him worthy of the appellation of Saint, as all the Church Fathers did.
As a contribution to the understanding of the Areopagitic writings, we have also translated the Scholia of St. Maximus the Confessor. Hans Urs von Balthasar thought that the Scholia did not belong to Maximus, but to John, bishop of Scythopolis in Galilee in the first half of the sixth century. But Otto Bardenhewer believed that they belonged to St. Maximus. I think that his opinion is far more probable.
Russian Church is Probable to Suspend its Dialogue with German Lutherans
Moscow, 12 November 2009, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church is ready to suspend the dialogue with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany after woman bishop Margot Kaessmann has become its leader.
“We planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our dialogue with the Lutheran Church in Germany in late November or early December. The 50th anniversary of the dialogue will become the end of it,” head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk was quoted as saying by the Kommersant daily on Thursday.
Archbishop Hilarion reminded that Orthodoxy did not accept female priesthood.
“We can develop the dialogue, but this raises lots of simple protocol questions. How will the Patriarch address her or meet with her?” the Russian Church representative said.
Kaessmann, 51, a divorced mother of four daughters, was elected head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, which unites over twenty Lutheran and Reformed Churches, during the Synod held on October 28.
Russian Lutherans supported the Moscow Patriarchate official’s statement and agreed that a female episcopate is a sign of crisis in the Western society.
“We don’t have women bishops as introducing such an institute is not a Biblical action,” general secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (Russia) Fr. Alexander Prilutsky said.
Update from February 24, 2010: Germany's Protestant head quits after drink driving arrest
"Muhammad wrote many ridiculous books" - St. John of Damascus
[Following a mediocre (my opinion) visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to America in which he was often heard to walk a very fine line between Orthodoxy and an extreme compromise, we see in the news story below such a fine line continued to be tread, maybe even misstepped, by his gifting a Koran (Quran) to a Muslim. The Patriarch is obviously a smart man, but this act makes me question how well-rounded his knowledge really is. First he holds up Leo Tolstoy as an Orthodox Christian (which he was not), and now he dares to publicly give a gift of a book obviously inspired by the devil himself (Muhammad claimed it was dictated to him by the Archangel Gabriel, which Orthodox have always interpreted to be a demon and, as St. John of Damascus says, "a forerunner of Antichrist") to a man deluded by its demonic teachings? What kind of Orthodox witness is this? It makes one wonder where his boundaries truly lie. Would he give a Satanic Bible to the High Priest of the Church of Satan? I've read and studied both and see no difference between the two as far as their origins are concerned. I'm not against Orthodox giving Muslims gifts, but I'm perplexed as to how uncreative his gift giving is and why he could not just at least give a Bible since Muslims believe in the Bible too (a reasonable compromise). Anyway, I can rant all day about this, so I'll hold my peace...for now. - J.S.]
Constantinople Patriarch gives Quran as a present to Chairman of the Caucasus Muslim Board
Baku, 9 November 2009, Interfax - Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople gave the Quran as a present to the chairman of the Caucasus Muslim Board Allahshukur Pasha-zade for the 60th anniversary.
The book was handed to the Sheik in front of delegations of local Orthodox Churches, Vatican, and Islamic communities worldwide at a solemn jubilee ceremony held in Gulistan palace in Baku.
The head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Representation at the European Union Metropolitan Emmanuel of France handed the Quran to Pasha-zade and highlighted that this present was a sign of special respect from Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Man Accused of Attacking Greek Orthodox Priest Talks to Bubba the Love Sponge
By Alexandra Zayas
Friday, November 13, 2009
St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA — Jasen Bruce, the Marine reservist who has remained silent since police accused him of hitting a Greek Orthodox priest with a tire iron Monday, spoke publicly for the first time Thursday — with Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Bruce, 28, talked with the shock jock on his syndicated morning show. He repeated his lawyer's account that the priest sexually attacked him, spoke of initially being heralded as a "hero" by police and declared his heterosexuality in the face of online pictures that show him flexing his muscles while wearing little clothing.
Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Laura McElroy said police are still investigating and don't want to give a blow-by-blow response to Bruce's account. But "his credibility is in question as part of our investigation," she said.
Police say the bearded, robed priest got incorrect directions from his global positioning device, left Interstate 275 and found himself driving around the Channel District. He followed a row of cars into the Seaport Channelside condominiums and approached Bruce, who was bent over the trunk of his car. He tapped on his shoulder before uttering, in broken English, the words "help" and "please."
Police say that's when Bruce hit him with the tire iron, chased him for three blocks and pinned him to the ground, telling a 911 operator that he was chasing an Arab terrorist who tried to rob and sexually attack him.
According to Bruce
This is Bruce's account:
"I turned around and there was a man standing within 2 feet from me. Originally, I thought he was possibly a homeless guy about to ask for directions. But not more than a few seconds went by and the man reached out (and) grabbed my genitalia. … I proceeded to put my hands on him to back him off. …
"He put his hands on my neck … I dropped to the ground … got out of this guy's hold, and since my trunk was open I proceeded to grab a tire iron, and I gave him two warnings."
At this point, Bruce says, he called 911 and told the priest not to take a step closer. He took a step closer, Bruce said, "so I defended myself. "This guy did not even flinch. … He put his hands up, took two more steps toward me, and that's when I proceeded to defend myself again. …
"This time, the guy ran. I'm thinking I'm not going to let this guy go. He knows where I live. … I have a family to defend."
Bruce said he circled the Grand Central condominium twice and ended up in front of the Powerhouse Gym on Kennedy Boulevard. He said he kept telling the priest, "Stay right there."
"That's when he turned around and lunged at me. And that was the last time I defended myself, which finally took the guy down. Simultaneously, the police pulled up."
Police dispute points
Bruce said police called him later, when they found the priest's car, and said they wanted Bruce to come down and give them details. He said the police let him search the priest's car, and that they found a suitcase. The police feared opening it, but Bruce put his ear up to it, he said. And he shook it.
They asked, "What did this guy say to you again?" And he responded, "Some type of akbar stuff." They asked if he knew what that meant, Allahu akbar, an Arabic phrase for "God is great" that witnesses said was recently uttered by the Fort Hood shooting suspect. Bruce responded, "That's what they say before they blow you up."
He said the police stepped back and allowed Bruce to open the suitcase. Without commenting on the specifics, McElroy said that police would never allow someone to touch evidence.
Other things Bruce said in the interview: He doesn't use steroids, though a Greek Orthodox church spokesman calls the attack " 'roid rage." He modeled, but didn't pose for gay porn, though Web sites have posted photos of him in suggestive poses. He and his mother have received death threats.
McElroy, the police spokeswoman, said she heard the radio interview. "It's certainly his right to give his account," she said, "but we are focused on our investigation. … We said all along that his accounts didn't add up."
One item she said she could talk about: Bruce told police he was scheduled for deployment to Iraq in January. "That," McElroy said, "turned out not to be true."
The priest has told those close to him that he forgives Bruce for attacking him, but that he was shocked by the sex allegation.
Police will collaborate with the State Attorney's Office to determine whether the attack should be classified as a hate crime, McElroy said. She said police have still not determined when they will release the 911 tape.
When asked whether the Times could interview Bruce, his lawyer Jeff Brown said, "No. Not after the coverage you guys gave."
When asked what reasoning went into the decision for Bruce to speak to Bubba the Love Sponge, Brown replied, "No comment."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this last portion of my lecture I would like to focus upon what I perceive to be several areas in which Saint John Chrysostom’s life and teachings may render the 21st century Christian particular assistance. The Church finds Herself in this new millennium faced by unique particularities, which demand an articulate word from the Holy Fathers to guide us through the unique challenges of post-modern life.
The Sanctification of City Life in an Age of Global Urbanization
We live in a historic moment in time. Sometime in the next few months demographers predict that, for the first time in recorded history, more than ½ of the human population will live in cities. The next 25 years are expected to witness a radical increase in what has already been decades of high speed urbanization. This increase will be most acute in developing countries, and much of it will not be a move to mega-cities but to cities of 500,000 persons or less. With such intensive populations relocation and the growing number and importance of the world’s cities comes tremendous sociological, political and economic consequences. This is particularly true if the growth is unplanned growth, such as is taking place in Dhaka, Bangladesh - where 3.4 million of the city’s 13 million people live in slums. In 1987 I visited Dhaka and witnessed the immense flood damage and human destruction that was the fruit of radical and unplanned urbanization. Health crises, access to water, poverty, all of these are concentrated in cities, and yet these same cities are the way out of such trials for most. Urbanization is one of the central issues of the 21st century. Much attention is now being given to the physical realities of urbanization, but still little to the spiritual realities. Churches, clergy, spiritual and charitable resources, these are all immediate and just as concrete needs of urbanization.
Here is where Saint John Chrysostom’s witness shines so brightly and holds forth such importance for us today. Chrysostom was a city boy. Born and raised in one of the leading cities of the Roman Empire, Antioch, and finished his life in Constantinople. He did not lead a life detached from the surging city crowds. He knew human traffic. He loved it and sought to save it. St. John considered Christians to be saviors of the city, guardians of the city, patrons of the city, and teachers of the city.  Besides his own practical experience of the city, from his Hellenic intellectual inheritance Saint John possessed a tremendous appreciation for the πόλις as the very center of civilization.  No Father of the Church has left us a more articulate vision for the sanctification of the city than Saint John Chrysostom. It is our Christian task to plumb his depths in crafting a responsible vision for Christian ministry in this urban context.
As we do so we should note a number of things. Chrysostom believed that the Church sanctifies all. Cities should be full of churches. Chrysostom built them and served in them, and he believed that there was absolutely no substitute for urban Christians participating regularly in the divine services of the Church. The chaos and buzz of urban life is regulated and sanctified and elevated by participation in the morning and evening prayers offered in God’s temples. Chrysostom expected to see his people in church many times during the week, and many of his famous homilies were not delivered on Lord’s Day gatherings but during week day prayers. Chrysostom also believed that the key to sanctifying the city was to sanctify the home. The quality of home life will determine the quality of city life. All legitimate work should be embraced as true vocation, and it is the duty of the clergy to help the faithful appreciate their employment as a means to serving the Lord God.
City Christians must also, according to the Saint, make regular pilgrimage outside the hubbub of the city to the shrine of the sacred martyrs, and the desert dwellings of the holy monastics. The practice of regular pilgrimage is of great importance for those who live in the dense and pressure filled dwelling of the city. And though we should visit the hermits outside the city, we should also establish within the city a strong monastic presence. To make the city a monastery was Chrysostom’s dream. Though we have just a small number of monasteries in our land, yet even most of them are far outside the city. Chrysostom experienced something quite different, and just as traditional. Saint John promoted and invested in the perfection of city monasticism. Where was Saint Olympias’ convent but in the center of Constantinople? Where was Monk Isaac’s monastery but in the center of Constantinople? City monasticism provides both a refreshing reminder of our heavenly ambitions to city dwellers, and a strong force in the concrete and political expression of Christianity in our urban centers. Chrysostom exerted great energy to fight what he deemed a demonic and sensuous city culture and to Christianize it. He was not content to merely observe, let alone participate in, the endless stream of illicit entertainments and spiritual distractions that the great cities in this fallen world inevitably produce. He attacked the pagan forms of wedding celebrations, the sensuous theatre, the public excesses, the race track, and the immodesty of the Roman bath house.  Saint John Chrysostom can greatly assist us in our quest to sanctify city life in this age of radical urbanization.
The Supreme Importance of Churchmanship in an Age of Radical Individualism
Our unity in the Church, according to Chrysostom, is a supernatural wonder. In the Church we experience an intimate union with Jesus Christ. This reality of being “in Christ” is the most used image by the great Apostle Paul in describing the Christian life. The Christian life is a Church life, for it is by Holy Baptism that we are incorporated into Christ and His Church. As Christians we possess a unity far greater than that of earthly organizations. We share a common womb, a common mother in the Church, a common Father in God, a common table from which we eat our food of everlasting life, a common language of doxology, a common quest, a common animating spirit, a common ethic, and a common destiny. This unity is expressed each Divine Liturgy, according to Saint John Chrysostom, in our partaking of the Holy Eucharist in which partaking we are actualized together as the Body of Christ. This is the reason that we celebrate the Holy Liturgy with one single holy chalice. The singular sacred cup bears witness to our unity. Even should we distribute Holy Communion in multiple chalices we do not bless multiple chalices. We consecrate one alone, and then we bring other empty chalices and fill them from the one sacred chalice.
Our experience of Church is transformative. The sacredness of our community is testified to by what actually happens when we gather together around the holy altar. Divine services are the single most powerful agent in personal holiness. “Nothing contributes to a virtuous and moral way of life as does the time you spend here in church.”  There is grace behind every action of the Holy Liturgy. Chrysostom often waxes eloquent concerning the liturgical movements of the service. When the deacon exclaims “Stand upright,” he is addressing our souls primarily, and not just our bodies. The preaching sanctifies. The Holy Eucharist enlivens and flames leap from our mouths, blood is painted on the doorposts of our bodies and the angel of death passes over us. Nothing is more precious, more central, more transformative and miraculous, in our human existence than life in the Church.
With the gift of this sacred community come sacred obligations to every Christian. True sacred fellowship is the power of the Church. Listen to the words of Chrysostom,
“Let us prefer the time we spend here in church to any occupation or concern. Tell me this. What profit do you gain which can outweigh the loss you bring on yourself and your whole household when you stay away from the religious services? Suppose you find a whole treasure house full of gold, and this discovery is your reason for staying away. You have lost more than you found, and your loss is as much greater as things of the spirit are better than things we see. Attendance in the divine services greatly encourages your brothers and sisters in the faith and spiritual battle ... the Church went from 11 to 120 to three thousand to five thousand to the whole world and the reason for this growth was that they never left their gathering. They were constantly with each other, spending the whole day in the temple, and turning their attention to prayers and sacred readings. This is why they kindled a great fire. We too must imitate them.” 
Chrysostom taught that the communal responsibilities of Christian people far exceeded their merely needing to be faithful participants in the divine services. He called upon them to take responsibility for each other, and to function as an authentic family. If a faithful Christian is friends with a lazy Christian, the faithful one should go to the lazy one on Sunday, and literally drag him along to liturgy. While commenting on Psalm 50 Chrysostom stated that if an immoral Christian was seen by other congregants getting into the communion line the faithful should report this immediately to the priest so he can exclude him from communion. If a faithful Christian hears his brother blaspheme he should strike him in the mouth, and “sanctify his right hand.” The picture of communal responsibility is clear, and in our individualistic live-and-let-live context, appears extreme. But Chrysostom holds membership in the Church very high and assumes that there are many communal responsibilities associated with it designed by a loving God to work for the salvation of the entire community. And the responsibilities do not lie solely with the laity. The clergy must be serious pastors. They must not leave their sheep diseased or in danger. An example of such serious pastoring can be found in Chrysostom’s own life as a priest at the time of the tax riots in Antioch. Saint John preached a series of 21 sermons during the tense days following the riots. During this series Chrysostom sought to reform his people from the habit of swearing. No less than 15 times did Saint John address the subject in a period of just a few weeks, sermon after sermon. He knew his people were growing very weary of him preaching with the same focus, yet they had not ceased their bad habit and Chrysostom refused to pretend that they had and move on. Finally, he acknowledged their grievances and assured them that he could move on very quickly if they wished. They only needed to stop swearing and then he would move on. It was completely in their hands. He was a faithful physician, and not a professional or a show-man. He insisted on bettering his patients. The result was that swearing decreased and Chrysostom moved on, but a most important point about life in the Church had been expressed by the Saint. The life we lead in the Church is a life centered on personal change.
Brother and sisters, many of our Orthodox people do not have an authentic experience of what true ecclesial life is. We do not appreciate the miracle of life in the Church, and we content ourselves with an empty and alienating individualism. An evil spirit of “it’s just me and Jesus, baby” has permeated much of American Christianity today to our nation’s detriment. Our faith teaches us that there is no dichotomy between Jesus and the Church. Our Savior is not a floating head to be communed with apart from His sacred Body. Churchmanship is at an astonishing low in our times. Saint John Chrysostom stands at the throne of God ready to illumine us and our people about the miracle of sacred community, and to save us from the death of self-worship.  This age of individualism and religious game playing is a time for serious pastoring, revived churchmanship, and sacred obedience to the Church.
The Call to Trust the Lord in an Age of Acute Anxiety
More people visit doctors for anxiety than for colds. Anxiety is a predisposing factor for major depression and suicide attempts. Another area in which anxiety levels can be measured is in the prevalence of drug treatment for anxiety and depression. The common use of Prozac, so common that in recent times some one-fourth of the adult American population had been treated with it, is a major signal. Depression is an epidemic in our society. We live in an age of melancholy.
Many of our contemporary spiritual elders, such as Elder Paisios the Athonite, have addressed the anxiety of modern man. Elder Paisios taught that modern man is afflicted with three unique pains: divorce, cancer, and mental anxiety and illness. Out of his great love for his fellow man, Father Paisios wished to bear some of the burden. He could not bear the pain of divorce since he was not married, and he did not want to suffer mental anxiety and illness because it would affect his prayer. So he prayed for and received cancer, and taught modern men how to bear it for God. He wrote that cancer, with its typical drawn out process of killing its victim, has led untold numbers to repentance and has populated Paradise.
We have become an anxious people because our sins have increased, and our faith has waned. The 20th century was a century of acute anxiety because it was a century of hideous violence and unbridled licentiousness. Several years ago, in an effort to understand the 20th century better, I read Sir Martin Gilbert’s three-volume History of the 20th Century. His masterful work left me with a profound awareness of the 20th century as the most violent hundred years in the history of mankind. This is a judgment made by the World Wars and atrocities against human rights that filled the century. When the new abortion holocaust, which has taken the lives of more than 50 million unborn children in the last 34 years, is taken account violence becomes the defining motif of the century. Violence was the particular sin of Noah’s age that provoked the wrath of the Lord God to bring the universal flood upon mankind. Certainly the Almighty cannot be pleased with the last hundred years, a century that many would like to forget.
We Christian believers must address our culture’s worry head-on. We are called by Jesus Christ to witness by our confidence and trust in Him in an anxious age.  We must live a life of serene trust in the Lord, the life of faith, and call our fellow man to such a trust. Saint John Chrysostom can be of great assistance to us in this calling. Chrysostom’s life was full of earthly sorrows: the loss of his father as an infant, and of his mother and sister as a young man; physical illnesses; tormenting passions; a turbulent and unstable civil and ecclesiastical ethos; kidnapping and displacement; immense pastoral responsibilities; sustained opposition; false accusation by his brother bishops at the Synod of the Oak; imperial trickery; banishment and death in exile. Yes, it sounds like a Saint’s life does it not? One large cross upon which the Saint resolved to stay.
In the midst of these very sorrows Chrysostom found tremendous joy, and lived through them all by trusting confidently in the will of God. His most precious writings on this subject of faith in time of anxiety are, no doubt, those that were written by him while in exile. Here we have words crafted out of the very heat of the furnace, and we see the triumph of his faith. Two treatises particularly I would like to call to your attention. These two treatises were composed by Chrysostom in exile, not long before his death, in order to comfort his dear friend the Deaconess, Saint Olympias, who was suffering from extreme depression due to her spiritual father’s banishment.
The first is a small work, some fifteen pages, entitled That No One Can Harm the Man Who Does Not Injure Himself. In this beautiful work, Chrysostom teaches that there is only one thing in life to fear, only one thing to be anxious about. That one thing is sin. It is the only thing we should fear, and if we do fear it, then we will never have to fear anything else at all because the good God will see to it that nothing harms him who puts his trust in Him. I commend to each of you the reading of this profound treatise. The second work is longer, perhaps 100 pages (and needing its first English translation), entitled On Providence. In this more extended treatise, Chrysostom provides numerous justifications from reason and the creation to put one’s complete confidence in the governance of the Lord God, reminds his readers of the security of being a child of the one God, Who is the Father Almighty. God has the heart of a Father for us, and the resources of the Almighty to put a Father’s heart into action. There is no suffering endured in faith by the believer which will not be redemptive. And lastly, Chrysostom calls upon believers to remain in reverent silence before human outcomes and developments that are beyond our comprehension. Confident silence is the best response to events which we cannot understand. It was with such faith, such serene trust in the Lord God, that Chrysostom came to his end,lay down, received the Holy Gifts, made his Cross, and uttered his final words, with which I will conclude my lecture: “Glory to God for all things.”
15 Homily 1 on the Statues, NPNF, p. 343. He expected Christians by their zeal for God and His law to strike fear in their perverse fellow citizens. Chrysostom expected the Jews and Greeks to tremble at the shadows of the Christians for fear that they might rebuke their blasphemy and immorality.
16. This is most clear in his Homilies on the Statues delivered in A.D. 387 at the time of the tax riot. Throughout these homilies Chrysostom appeals to his congregation’s pride of belonging to such an esteemed πόλις, calls to mind the distinguished history of Antioch, and calls upon his listeners to prove themselves worthy of the city’s greatness by their virtue.
17. The replacement of the public bath with the private bath is largely a fruition of Christian vision and of the preaching of Chrysostom and other Holy Fathers of his age. Ward, Roy Bowen (1992). ‘Women in the Roman Baths,’ in Harvard Theological Review, 85:2.125-47. Principles from the Christianization of public baths ought to be applied today to the recent outcrop of coed gymnasia, which share many of the same features of the old Roman public bath.
18. Cat, ill 3, 17.
19. Homily 12 On the Incomprehensible Nature of God.
20. Homily 11 On the Incomprehensible Nature of God.
21. For those who wish to explore more fully Saint John Chrysostom’s ecclesiology and immense vision of church life I recommend Protopresbyter Gus George Christo’s (2006), The Church’s Identity Established through Images according to Saint John Chrysostom, Rollingsford, New Hampshire: Orthodox Research Institute.
22. Twenge (2000), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 79, No. 6, 1007-1021.
23. Twenge’s article does not address the holocaust of abortion in the last 34 years. Mother Theresa of Calcutta powerfully articulated the point as no other that as long as a society sanctions the most violent crime possible, the murder of an infant in the womb by its own mother, no chance exists for controlling other violent crimes.
24. Genesis 6.
25. Perhaps now more than at any time in the history of the Church the three petitions for peace of the Great Litany that opens the Divine Liturgy resonate with great power among the congregants.
26. When I was new in the priesthood and disturbed by the many sorrows I had become privy to, a certain pious nun, Abbess Victoria of St Barbara Monastery, used to counsel me, “Father, if we could live through 4th century Antioch, we can live through anything.” It was a great encouragement.