by Peter S. Lopukhin
Two hundred twenty-five years ago, on November 20th, 1778, Prokhor Moshnin, a tall, blue-eyed, light red-haired youth, the son of a Kursk builder-contractor, entered the Monastery of Sarov. He was leaving the worldly life because he wished to live constantly and wholly in God. He “loved Christ from his youth” and when yet a boy ten years of age was touched by the grace of the Lord: he was healed by the Mother of God, through her miraculous Icon of the Sign. This icon is now with us, in the Russian Diaspora.
Years passed. The youth Prokhor passed through all the monastic obediences, and eight years later was tonsured a monk with the name Seraphim; later, he was ordained to the rank of hierodeacon, and finally, when he had reached the age of 34, he was elevated to the rank of hieromonk, on the very day, the 20th of November, when he had entered the monastery. He withdrew to a cell in the forest wilderness and began the great, mystical life of a hermit, a man of silence, a stylite. But seventeen years after this, he returned to the monastery and began the new, even more difficult struggle of a recluse, which he bore for ten years. In 1820, he opened the door of his recluse’s cell, but lived for several more years in silence, after which, finally, he began his ultimate struggle of elder, teacher and comforter of the Russian people.
But on January 2nd, 1833, he left Sarov and the people entirely and departed to the Lord God. He serenely, blessedly, fell asleep during prayer, kneeling before the image of the Mother of God. Peacefully did “wretched Seraphim,” as that humble hieromonk of the Monastery of Sarov called himself, leave us, in bast sandals or leather stockings, in a sackcloth cassock, with a leather mantle on his shoulders, a brass cross on his breast, bent over, leaning on a hatchet. Seventy years after his repose, on July 19th, 1903, around his grave gathered, perhaps for the last time, Holy Russia, with its pious Tsar. It gathered there reverently to bow down and kiss the holy relics of “wretched Seraphim.” In ecstasy, Holy Russia chanted “Christ is risen!” and glorified the venerable Seraphim, the beloved chosen one of the Mother of God, who had acquired the love of Christ, the great ascetic and prophet, wonder-worker and theologian, comforter and healer, man of prayer who wept for the Russian people.
Many times did people come to him, and we would teach them attentively and carefully, like a mother, about the kingdom of God, life in God, the meaning of life on earth, and through those with whom he conversed with such love he now tells us that we should live in continual fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit. Faith in God is faith in what He is, and that He is love; and also that there exists an invisible, divine world, eternal and more real than the visible world, and in assuming its nature man prepares himself for life everlasting: “he will not come to judgment, but will pass from death to life.” Man must come to know this world, to become aware of it every time he is touched by it. This touching comes like a good gift, and the venerable Seraphim called this touch “grace.”
The meaning of life, in his words, consists of the acquisition of grace, so that, more and more frequently, and finally as an exalted attainment, we may be ever with God the Holy Spirit, abiding in Him always, becoming His child, a fellow heir with our Lord Jesus Christ. “But how can I know if the divine world has touched me? How can I learn to recognize the grace of the Holy Spirit?,” they would ask the venerable one; and he would point directly at the person he was conversing with and say: “We are in the midst of grace right now,” and he taught them and us that it is recognized by spiritual peace, because the heart is warmed by perfect love, by peaceful, humble, spiritual compunction. “They always said to you, reverend sir, that the meaning of life consists of doing good deeds, keeping the fasts, going to church; but this is not how they taught you,” said the venerable one; and he explained that “these works are only the means for living life in God; these works are merely the oil in the lamp which the flame burns, only the wares we trade in; to amass the capital of grace we must perfect those virtues from which the fire of love will burn more brightly.”
This is the meaning of life, and this is what guided the venerable one. The peace of God, the fire of divine love, the venerable one loved with all his soul, and to live in it and only in it the saint departed for the monastery, for the wilderness hut, for the recluse’s cell; and while he was thus making himself steadfast in spirit, he did not wish either to see or speak with men, avoiding all contact with them. We can conjecture that he so carefully and humbly approached his final struggle as elder, consoler and healer of the people because he had tested himself as to whether he could live with men and among men without breaking his fellowship with God.
When the venerable one ended his reclusion, the faithful, Holy Russia, began to descend upon him from all the ends of the land. He stood before it as a living witness to the peace of God, one who shared therein, a living bearer of the fire of grace and the light of divine love. He received the people with a kiss, blessing them and saying, “Christ is risen!,” and calling them “my joy, my treasure.” In the bright light of love, tender, burning love for the people, his image stands forth in our heart. But while rejoicing in this his love, we must remember that in this feeling there lurks the danger that we will oversimplify his image and liken it more closely to ourselves, to our shallow, short-sighted understanding. Do we not, in rejoicing in his love, begin to forget that this was the love of Christ?
Yes, the last years of his life he lived with us and among us; but let us not forget that for thirty years before this he was not only not with us, but with all his loving closeness to us did not want to speak or even to see us. He is not only “ours,” because he was not raised in our midst. He came to us not because he had any need of us: he came to us for the sake of Christ. In the vision he received during his illness, the Mother of God came to him and aid, “This man is one of us.”
We ought never to forget this. On the day when the doors of his cell were opened, there stood before us both a man and a denizen of heaven, because he lived in the divine world, and from thence he brought his own greetings, his own love and care for sick, weeping and loving hearts. His love, compassion and joy are in no way similar to the analogous moods of ordinary men who are good, yet of the soul, not the spirit. Such men easily fall into sentimentality. In the saint there was not the slightest trace of this feeling. He imposed upon people such struggles, the fulfillment of which, as for example the struggle of voluntary poverty on Manturov, for many long years elicited tears and sufferings from those close to him.
Yet the venerable one was not troubled by such tears. Hearing of the sufferings of the fool-for-Christ’s-sake Pelagia Ivanovna, how neither beatings, nor torments of which it is difficult to hear, were able to break her resolve to be a fool-for-Christ’s-sake, he rejoiced in her strength, but did not embitter her with afflictions. The venerable one not only did not approach life like an ordinary man. He lived as though the laws of natural life had lost their power over him. At a distance of seven miles, he saw how a girl was giving alms, and he prayed, falling prostrate on the ground. This is revealed to us by a witness to this miracle, and we are determined to believe that it was given by the Lord to teach us to glorify the saint in a fitting manner.
Yet this picture of the venerable one will not be complete if we do not consider his encounter with a young officer, traditionally held to be one of the Decembrists, when the saint angrily pushed his hands away: “You plotted such a thing, and now you come to me for a blessing? Get away from me!,” he said to him. This meeting is an encounter between revolution and Holy Russia more than a hundred years ago. And how wrathful Saint Seraphim was, seeing the beginning of that villainy! This was a collision of two world views. “One thing is needful: seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” says the icon of the venerable one. “Nay,” the face of the officer replies to him, “what is secondary to you is what is most important for us. What you must hold to, we fashion ourselves, in our own way. You submit yourself and your life to God; we do not submit ourselves to anything or anyone.”
This movement prevailed in Russia for a hundred years. The Tsar was slain; the Patriarch was tortured; the people enslaved. But why did this have to be so? Where was the Holy Russia which so loved the venerable one? Its history and life were pushed into the background by secular Russia. This was also Russia, but not profoundly so: a Russia of the soul, not the spirit; of the secular world, not the Church. The venerable Seraphim was a contemporary of Pushkin, Lermontov, Tiutchev, and others. Studying their lives, one would never know that the venerable Seraphim lived at that time, and that Holy Russia, many millions strong, knew him and journeyed thousands of miles to meet him. The writers and poets did not know him as a living man; but seventy years passed, and all of Holy Russia came together with the pious Tsar to kiss his bones and chant in ecstasy, “Christ is risen!”
This secular, soulful Russia, is not alien to the Church. In the writings of Pushkin and Lermontov there are moments of religious inspiration; but all of these are lacking in depth. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “He who is not against you, is for you.” Who will say that this Russia was against? Nay, but on another occasion the Lord also said: “He who is not with you, is against you.” This means that if at the moment when the confession of the Faith is required, a man or society or nation does not have the strength to say, “Yes, I am with you, Lord!” They have apostasized from Him, they are against Him. Soulful, shallow Russia, spiritually indolent, lukewarm, and not fiery, was unable to say this “Yes.”
The venerable one foresaw the great storm and trials of Russia, and said that the Lord would save Russia. He said that, in the eyes of the Lord, there is no better national life than that which is governed by a pious, Orthodox king, that for such a Russia do all the martyrs, righteous ones and saints pray. Of such a Russia did the venerable one speak in spiritual ecstasy, leaping about and clapping his hands, as King David did before the Ark of the Covenant. Such a Russia does not now exist. Or have these men of prayer turned away from us? But what do they want from us? They want what the venerable Seraphim desired and taught. He expected faith from us; he wanted, first and foremost, that we seek the divine world, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, as Christ said in the Gospel (Mt. 6:33). He wants us to submit to this goal ourselves, our thoughts and desires, so that in our life we are not guided by our senses, by our passions and sympathies, but on the contrary, that we eradicate or recast them according to the voice of the righteousness of God. He expects struggle from us, expects commitment to God, expects that we will be fiery, and not lukewarm, spiritual, and not merely soulful. The Lord God has need of men! The righteous pray for us; the venerable Seraphim prays for Russia, and the Lord wishes to save it; but He has need of men, and all the more of Orthodox men, because without them Orthodox Holy Russia cannot be established.
The venerable one calls us to the straight path which is faithful and without compromise. Let us follow him. And when questioned, “Are you with the Church? Are you on the side of righteousness?,” let us answer steadfastly in the affirmative, “Yes!” This is the first and only thing needful, and everything else “will be added unto us,” says Christ.
The content, in brief, of a speech delivered in Belgrade at the solemn assembly of the Brotherhood of Saint Seraphim, on January 15th, 1933.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
How do you respond to those who say that Christ the Miracle-worker cannot fit in our logic? Simply reply: You fit into His logic. In His logic, all eternity fits and all the nobleness of time and, then, if you wish, a place will be found even for you. If a barrel cannot fit into a thimble, you can fit a thimble into a barrel. Blessed Clement of Alexandria says; "Philosophers are children until they become men though Christ. For truth is never thinking only." Christ came to correct man and, therefore, men's logic. He is our Logos and our Logic. That is why we must direct our reason toward Him and not Him toward our reason. He is the corrector of our reason. The sun is not regulated according to our clock, but our clock is regulated according to the sun.
Friday, January 1, 2010
By Fr. George Dion Dragas, PhD, DD, DTh., Protopresbyter
“And when the eight days were fulfilled
for His circumcision, He was given the name JESUS,
as He had been already named by the angels,
before He was conceived in the womb of His mother (Luke 2:21)!”
“When Christ was circumcised, the Law was incised.
And when the Law was incised, Grace was inserted!” (The January Menaion)
1. Preamble: The 1st of January is primarily The Despotic Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, whereby we commemorate an event which took place eight days after Christ’s birth in the flesh at which Christ received his name Jesus (=Savior). This Feast conjoins The Despotic Feast of Christmas, i.e. of the Birth of Christ (25th of December) with The Despotic Feast of the Theophanies or Lights, i.e. of the Baptism of Christ (6th of January), and constitutes with them the so-called festal period of The Dodekaemeron (The Twelve Days). Initially these three Despotic Feasts of The Dodekaemeron were included in one ancient feast, The Feast of the Theophanies (6th of January), the theme of which was the revelation of the One God in Trinity in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The selection of the 6th of January for this Feast seems to have been caused by the fact that it was already a festal day in the old Roman calendar as the day of the winter solstice (equal day and night) when the duration of the day began to increase and against that of the night which began to diminish proportionately. The Roman idol worshipers celebrated on that day the birth of the invincible sun as the god of the physical light which supports the physical life of the world. The Christians responded to this challenge by celebrating the coming of Christ into the world and putting forth Christ as the sun of righteousness who grants the uncreated Light of the One true God in Holy Trinity which enlightens every human being that comes into the world. Later on the 25th of December was established as the day of the winter solstice and of the birthday feast of the visible sun. The response of the Christians to this new challenge of the idol worshipers was the transference of The Feast of the Birth of Christ (Christmas) to this date, while the 6th of January was retained ever after as The Feast of the Baptism of Christ. It was inevitable that The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ would eventually follow The Feast of Christmas eight days afterwards.
The oration On the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ by St. Andrew of Crete (660-740), who is known from his amazing hymns and sermons, explains to us the meaning of this Despotic Feast, which belongs to the entire work of the revelation of God and our salvation, accomplished by the incarnate Son and Word of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because this oration is too dense, we present it here in a more analytical and exegetical way.
2. The Despotic Feats and the Events of the Life of Christ: St. Andrew begins by noting “that it is good and God-pleasing that we glorify God and celebrate all those things which Christ our Savior accomplished in His earthly life, because He accomplished them not as a mere man but as a God-man.” Whatever Christ did, says the holy father, “constitute amazing miracles, because they have a divine-human (theanthropic) basis and a divine-human character. This is why they are unique and saving. Indeed, they could not have been anything else (!), because Christ is truly God who became truly man.” And He did all these things, because He wanted “to reveal himself to us human beings who had been alienated from Him and were ignorant of him; and also to endure as true man all that is human so as to fulfill all the commandments of the divine law which had been given to us by God, with the ultimate aim of exchanging these things with better and more perfect ones.” The verb “exchanging,” which St Andrew uses here, characterizes the entire work (the incarnate economy) of Christ, which is a saving exchange. By his incarnation God assumed all that we have and exchanged them all with others, full of grace and truth. He wanted to do and did so out of love for humanity and because only in this way He could restore to our humanity its real and natural condition, as He had originally designed it Himself as true God. God’s becoming man was God’s antidote to man’s apostasy which made him loose his way in life and become alienated from the divine grace. God became man in order to deify us human beings with His divine-human person.
3. The Despotic Feast of the Circumcision of Christ: The circumcision which Christ underwent eight days after his birth in the flesh and His seedless coming forth from the Virgin Mary, reveals this exchange which leads to the deification of humanity. We celebrate this event by means of a special feast, because it truly constitutes, as St. Andrew says, “a supreme miracle.” Why? Because through this the divine-human Christ “not only fulfilled the law, but also revealed simultaneously the way of surpassing it, as He revealed the true dimensions of our salvation.” In his oration St. Andrew of Crete gives us in a synoptic way these dimensions of salvation which the incarnate God offers us.
4. The Meaning of the Circumcision of Christ: True man and True God! By undergoing circumcision and receiving a human name, according to the Jewish context within which He was born, Christ proved that He was true man, although He preexisted as true God, infinite and incomparable as He always was. He became man within a specific space-time conditioned, religious anthropological context and followed the path and prescriptions pertaining to the human nature and its relation to God its creator. His circumcision, says St. Andrew, “reveals that He is no longer only Son of God but also Son of the Virgin. He is and remains literally Son of God, just as the Father is literally Father because He begets the Son, and the Holy Spirit is literally Spirit because He proceeds from the Father, and so these three divine persons, the Father, the Son and the Spirit constitute one God and there is in them one Godhead.” Christ, however, “is the Son of the Virgin and exactly for this reason He is also comprehensible and accessible to us human beings.” His becoming man does not mean that He ceased being God. It rather means, that “He became our man, authentic, true and perfect man, whom we can now approach with courage not only as Master and Creator but also as our Savior because He is with us. He assumed our nature, followed its true path, and led it to its perfection. And now He offers it to us as an exchange and antidote so that we too may become true, authentic and perfect human beings as He is.” This is how Luke presents Him in his Gospel narrative, which St. Andrew recalls, because he wants to show this divine-human (theanthropic) miracle which Christ presents, i.e. God’s becoming man (inhumination) and man’s deification (theosis) in Christ.
5. The Birth and Circumcision of Christ in the Gospel according to Luke: “And it came to pass, immediately after the departure of the angels to heaven, that the men, i.e. the shepherds, said among themselves: let us go as far as Bethlehem to see what this event is about which we heard, and which was made known to us by the Lord. They hurried, then, and came and found Mary and Joseph and the infant laying in a manger. Seeing this then, they understood the meaning of the words which had been announced to them in relation to this child. But also all the others who heard remained stunned by what the shepherds announced to them. Mary, however, kept these words inside her, because she placed them deep into her heart. Then the shepherds returned to their place, glorifying and praising God for all the things which they heard and saw, as they had been told before. And when the eight days were fulfilled for His circumcision, He was given the name Jesus, as He had been already named by the angels before He was conceived in the womb of his mother!”
6. The Great Importance of the Gospel Narrative of Luke: “Luke is great indeed,” says St. Andrew, “because he explains to us the great and wonderful mysteries which are related to the person, the life and the work of Christ!” In the last analysis, St. Andrews says, on the basis of the ancient ecclesiastical and patristic tradition, that “the Gospel of Luke actually originates with the Apostle Paul, who speaks with pride about this when he writes according to my Gospel in his epistles.” And the holy father continues: “If we did not have this Gospel, we would not have known that the Virgin received the Good news,” i.e. she learned the amazing news concerning the identity of her son; “that John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets, was born a little before Christ so that he might become the Forerunner of Christ” according to the divine plan of the salvation of humanity; “that our Savior Christ was registered civilly as a man” along with his mother and Joseph who testified to His birth; “that Christ was born in a cave of Bethlehem;” “that the shepherds who happened to be present at that specific area also heard the good news of the gospel, i.e. were informed about the miracle of the incarnation,” and declared it as first eye-witnesses; “that the hymn,” which is the typical feature of Christmas, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good-will, was first sung by the angels;” “that this peace was demonstrated through the census that was carried out by the edict of Augustus;” “that Symeon the High Priest declared the gospel of the coming of Christ and that Anna the prophetess confessed it and confirmed its significance;” “that as a specific man traced his ancestry, through Joseph, the betrothed spouse of the Virgin Mary, and by virtue of affinity, to David and finally to Adam and to God himself.” The same also applies to “most of the events of His life, including especially those of the suffering, those that refer to Herod and Pilate, to the thieves and all the rest which are mentioned by the Evangelists.”
7. The Circumcision of Christ and the Name which He received then: The circumcision of the newly born Christ does not only denote His true humanity, but also His divine-human person. This is revealed especially in the Name, which was given to the newly born Christ and was already predetermined by God. “To what Name,” asks the holy father, ”does Luke refer, when he says, 'that he was named by the angel before he was even conceived in the womb of his mother?'” “The same Evangelist,” says the Saint, "explains this when he presents the angel to Mary 'You will give birth to a son and you will call His name Jesus. And he will be great and will called Son of the Most High.'” The same says Matthew at the point where he refers to the faithless Joseph and how he was persuaded by the angelic vision which he saw in his dream: “Because, when his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and before they slept together, she was found to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Joseph, however, her spouse, who was just and did not wish to expose her, wanted to expel her secretly. But as he was contemplating this, an angel of the Lord appeared in his dream and said to him: 'Joseph, son of David, do not hesitate to take your wife, because her child that she will birth to, is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.'” And immediately he adds the following: “And all this took place so that the word of the prophet might be fulfilled: 'Behold the Virgin shall conceive and will give birth to a son, and you shall call Him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.'” “Do you see,” says the saint, “how the words of the prophet agree with the words of the evangelist?” Because the interpretation of the phrase “God is with us implies the salvation of the people – i.e., that the Master comes to live with the servants? The name Jesus also says the same with the angelic oracle; because Jesus means the person who out of sympathy does everything ion order to save on the basis of the economy.“
8. The name Jesus as the main Message of the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ: What the present Feast, then, primarily offers us is the revelation of the true identity of Christ. As St Andrew tells us, “The Feast gives us its deeper meaning because it shows us that the one grace (of the incarnation) presents to us another (that of the economy of salvation) and unites them with the knowledge (of the Savior), enlightening us with the special brightness and glory of His person.” “Already,” says the holy father, “we celebrated the event of His birth, and came to realize that it was ineffable, and to recognize that the Virgin mother gave birth to her son in a seedless manner. But now we are called to turn to the Son who was born without hesitation or fear. Today’s Feast calls us to understand Him from the Name which He took for our sake.” This is the name Jesus which means Savior, Emmanuel, God with us, i.e. He who came to reconcile, to familiarize and to assimilate us, human beings, with God, and so to grant to us eternal salvation.
“This is exactly,” says the saint, “what the shepherds understood when they drew near the newly born infant of Bethlehem, because they were prompted by what was revealed to them by the angels. At the beginning they were seized with fear, although the angel reassured them by saying, 'Do not be afraid.'” And yet they were afraid, because “with the presence of the angel, the glory of the Lord shone around them,” and as Luke points out, “they were seized by a great fear.” But then, the angel revealed to them the identity of the newly born infant and alleviated their fear. “I bring you good news of great joy which the entire people will receive, because today in the city of David your Savior was born, who is called Christ the Lord.”
9. The Power of the Name of Jesus: The power of the Name of Jesus which Christ received at His circumcision is what St. Andrew stresses through a dialogue which he conducts with the angel of the Gospel!
“What are you saying, O Angel? Has the Name Jesus such power?"
"Yes," says he "because the Name Jesus denotes the Savior, who is Christ the Lord, God and man, Ruler and Merciful. This is why I ordered the shepherds to have courage, and to Joseph to give Him this Name on the Eighth Day, and so I made Him accessible to all human beings. I received this order from the newly born who wanted me to present Him in appropriate language. Joseph too, would not have stood by the side of the mother of the infant fearlessly and with yearnings, had I not given him the order to look after his woman as a man. I did the same in the case of the shepherds. I made them run to him as to a Master and Benefactor and Lord, and I persuaded them to glorify Him and approach Him as the Jesus who underwent circumcision on the Eighth Day and was pleased to received this Name. So then, seeing Him identifying Himself with you naturally and essentially, you must have the courage to approach Him without hesitation. And because you realize the magnitude of His condescension to you, you are bound to glorify Him for the grace of this Day.”
It is significant that in this dialogue the Name Jesus is conjoined to the Eighth Day. This is why the saint goes on to explain synoptically but carefully the deeper soteriological meaning of this Day in his last and most dense paragraph.
10. The Eight Day is a transition from an infantile state to personal perfection; because on this Day, according to the Jewish religious prescriptions, an infant becomes a child, comes of age, acquires a specific personality. The holy father distinguishes the first 7 days following the birth of an infant from the 8th, saying that “the 8th is a complement to the 7 and the beginning of the future.” Why? Because, according to the Jewish religious context, the eight day constitutes an important milestone for each newly born human existence, inasmuch as it completes the infantile age and opens the age of maturity which leads to completion (perfection). “The 7 days complete the infant, but the 8th day perfects it by including it among the perfect human beings.” And how is this done? “It is done,” says the holy father, “by means of the Name which is given on the eighth day.” The naming, in other words, offers an infant a specific personal identity; it makes it from an anonymous infant, an eponymous human being. It recognizes solemnly its natural right to be a specific name-bearing (personal) existence, a wholesome, perfect, i.e. perfectly constituted human being amongst other specific human beings. In the formulation provided by St. Andrew, “the 8th Day is the starting point or coming of age, because the infant, which has completed its (physical) constitution in the seven days (of its creation), is now registered (by its personal name) as a pupil who is to take mentoring lessons,” and thereby be molded into a particular personality. The Eight Day, then, is most significant because it changes all that belongs to infancy. The week of the 7 days (of creation) brings with it the infantile growth. The Eighth Day, however, brings in the perspective of (personal) perfection. It is clear that perfection refers here to the personal identity, which every infant acquires when it receives its name. But why should naming be connected with circumcision on the eighth day?
11. The Circumcision of the Eighth Day denotes transposition from a carnal to a spiritual condition: The sacramental, liturgical act of circumcision (cutting) of a small particle of the body entails the rejection of a carnal (idolatrous) condition into which every human being is born, while its replacement by the naming entails a human being’s entrance into another spiritual condition which leads to perfection. St. Andrew refers to Abraham and his father Thara in order to clarify these two conditions. Thara represents the carnal condition of idolatry which views the material carnal world within which man is born as the main point of reference for his life and for this reason it turns it into his god. Abraham represents the spiritual condition which regards the Maker of the world as the main and crucial point of reference for man’s life and makes man a member of the people of God and prepares him for his final completion and perfection. So the holy father says: “Because nature was going to be kneaded with idols by Thara, the father of Abraham, it was necessary that a people from Abraham should be set apart for the Maker by means of a seal, until His coming, which man needed in order to be renewed. Circumcision rejects a residue of the flesh and provides a seal of the eight day which refers to the future things.”
12. The replacement of the circumcision of the eighth day by baptism and the eternal life which Christ granted to man through his resurrection on the eighth day: It is crystal clear that the eighth day and the future things refer to the coming (Incarnation and Inhumination) of the Maker, which marks the final phase of the restoration and salvation of humanity according to His will, i.e. the coming of Christ. As the holy father says, “Circumcision denotes that the Presence of Christ will supplant and replace the circumcision of the flesh by the regeneration which is granted by the Holy Spirit (through Baptism). The seal of the circumcision of the flesh was given in order to specify a people of God (Israel) because of the presence of idolatry and in order to abolish the idol worship. After the abolition of the idols, however, circumcision itself will also be abolished.”
This is exactly what Christ did, as the holy father goes on to explain: "He gave us on the Eighth Day (of his resurrection), God’s eternal covenant (lawgiving) to humanity, replacing the previous seven covenants (or instances of lawgiving) which were preparatory, by this one." As he says expressly, “The old things were symbols of the new ones.” What are these “old things”? The seven covenants are those connected with the following lawgivers: 1) Adam, 2) Noah, 3) Abraham, 4) Moses, 5) David, 6 Ezra, and 7) John the Baptizer. “Christ is the eighth lawgiver after Adam,” who marks the last transposition of man from the temporary cases of lawgiving to the last and perfect one which leads to man’s perfection and enjoyment of eternal life. Here are the words of the saintly father, “Adam is the first to receive a law. Noah was the second, and Abraham, the third. Moses was fourth, and David, the fifth, because he legislated about the doxologies for the kings and the tabernacles. Ezra was the sixth because he gave the Deuteronomy and settled various customs. Then, John the Baptizer appeared as the seventh, because he preached the baptism of repentance to the people and the cleansing of sins by means of the water. Jesus Christ is the eighth, last and greatest lawgiver, as Moses says: 'The Lord God will raise among you a Prophet from your brethren like me, and you shall listen to Him, because whichever soul fails to obey this Prophet will be extinguished.' Only He is able to fulfill all that has been legislated through me because they were taken from Him and He will be fully anointed with the Holy Spirit and legislate all that is divine and spiritual pertaining to the spirit (mind) as Lord and Creator, although he is also from us (according to the flesh).”
Being God and man, Christ has “kept Sabbath,” i.e. fulfilled and abolished all those things which the ancient law specified for the flesh. On the Eight Day of His Resurrection he became the universal legislator of the entire world. Not only of the Jews, but also of the nations, offering to all without distinction the anointment and perfection of the Holy Spirit and thereby calling them all with His own name, Christs (i.e. Christians). He replaced the circumcision of the flesh by the rejection of all the carnal and passionate thoughts and also by the enlivenment of every good work and good act which lead to the kingdom of heaven. He is truly “the Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father, the mighty God, the Ruler, the Leader of Peace, the Father of the age to come,” whom we commemorate, exalt and worship with the Despotic Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.
Apolytikion of the Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ (Tone 1)
Without change you took a human form, by nature being God, O most compassionate Lord; and fulfilling the Law, you willingly accepted circumcision in the flesh, that you might banish shadows, and strip away the covering of our passions. Glory to your goodness; glory to your compassion; glory to your ineffable condescension, O Word!
 According to the ever memorable Greek liturgist Ioannes Fountoules, the Feast of Christmas was first introduced in Rome in 330 and afterwards in the East in 376. This is confirmed by St. John Chrysostom, who says in his “Oration on the Birthday of the Savior” on December 25, 386, that this Feast was introduced in the list of feasts of the Church 10 years earlier.
 Luke 2:15-21.
 Rom. 2:16, 16:25, I Cor. 15:1, Gal. 1:11, 2 Tim. 2:8., etc.
 Luke 1:26-38.
 Luke 1:57-80.
 Luke 2:1ff.
 Luke 2:7,12,16.
 Luke 2:8-18.
 Luke 2:13.
 Luke 1:79.
 Luke 2:25-36, 37-38.
 Cf. «του Θεού» in Luke 3:38 and also the entire genealogy of Christ in 3:23-38.
 Luke 2:21.
 Luke 1:31-32.
 Matth. 1:18-22.
 Is. 7:14, Μatth. 1:22-23.
 Luke 2:10.
 Luke 2:9.
 Luke 2:11.
 Deut. 18:15,19.
 Is. 9:6.
(I have edited some grammar and structure from the original. And with regard to the day for the celebration of Christmas, I want to refer the reader to this link which helps to expose some of the mythology promoted in this article that Christmas replaced a pagan celebration. - J.S.)
A tale of Photios Kontoglou
(Describes a visit of St. Basil on the eve of his feast, years after his repose. Translated from the Greek original.*)
The Nativity Feast having passed, St. Basil took his staff and traversed all of the towns, in order to see who would celebrate his Feast Day with purity of heart. He passed through regions of every sort and through villages of prominence, yet regardless of where he knocked, no door opened to him, since they took him for a beggar. And he would depart embittered, for, though he needed nothing from men, he felt how much pain the heart of every impecunious person must have endured at the insensitivity that these people showed him. One day, as he was leaving such a merciless village, he went by the graveyard, where he saw that the tombs were in ruins, the headstones broken and turned topsy-turvy, and how the newly dug graves had been turned up by jackals. Saint that he was, he heard the dead speaking and saying: “During the time that we were on the earth, we labored, we were heavy-burdened, leaving behind us children and grandchildren to light just a candle, to burn a little incense on our behalf; but we behold nothing, neither a Priest to read over our heads a memorial service nor kóllyva, as though we had left behind no one.” Thus, St. Basil was once again disquieted, and he said to himself, “These villagers give aid neither to the living nor to the deceased,” departing from the cemetery and setting out alone in the midst of the freezing snow.
On the eve of the New Year, he came upon a certain hamlet, which was the poorest of the poor villages in all of Greece. The freezing wind howled through the scrub bush and the rocky cliffs, and not a living soul was to be found in the pitch-dark night! Then, he beheld in front of him a small knoll, below which there was secreted away a sheepfold. St. Basil went into the pen and, knocking on the door of the hut with his staff, called out: “Have mercy on me, a poor man, for the sake of your deceased relatives, for even Christ lived as a beggar on this earth.” Awakening, the dogs lunged at him.
But as they drew near him and sniffed him, they became gentle, wagged their tails, and lay down at his feet, whimpering imploringly and with joy. Thereupon, a shepherd, a young man of twenty-five or so, with a curly black beard, opened the door and stepped out: John Barbákos—a demure and rugged man, a sheepman. Before taking a good look at who was knocking, he had already said, “Enter, come inside. Good day, Happy New Year!”
Inside the hut, a lamp was suspended overhead from a cradle that was attached to two beams. Next to the hearth was their bedding, and John’s wife was sleeping. As soon as St. Basil went inside, John, seeing that the old man was a clergyman, took his hand and kissed it, saying, “Your blessing, Elder,” as though he had known him previously and as though he were his father. And the Saint said to him: “May you and all of your household be blessed, together with your sheep, and may the peace of God be upon you.” The wife then arose, and she, too, reverenced the Elder and kissed his hand, and he blessed her. St. Basil looked like a mendicant monk, with an old skoúphia, his rása worn and patched, and his tsaroúchia [a traditional leather slipper, usually adorned with a pompom at the end of the shoe] full of holes; as well, he had an old empty-looking satchel. John the blessed put wood on the fire. Straightway the hut began to glisten, as though seemingly a palace. The rafters seemed to be gilded with gold, while the hanging cheesecloth bags [filled with curing cheese] looked like vigil lamps, and the wooden containers, cheese presses, and all of the accessories used by John in making cheese became like silver, as though decorated by diamonds, as did all of the other humble things that John the blessed had in his hut. The wood burning in the hearth crackled and sang like the birds that sing in Paradise, giving off a fragrance wholly delightful. The couple placed St. Basil near the fire, where he sat, and the wife put down pillows on which he could rest. Then the Elder took the satchel from around his neck, placing it next to him, and removed his old ráson (outside cassock), remaining in his zostikó [inner cassock].
Together with his farmhand, John the blessed went out to milk the sheep and to place the newborn lambs in the lambing pen, and afterwards he separated the ewes that were ready to birth and confined them within the enclosure, while his helper put the other sheep out to graze. His flock was sparse and John was poor; yet, he was blessed. And he was possessed of great joy at all times, day and night, for he was a good man and he had a good wife. Anyone who happened to pass by their hut they cared for as though he were a brother. And it is thus that St. Basil found lodging in their home and settled in, as if it were his own, blessing it from top to bottom. On that night, he was awaited, in all of the cities and villages of the known world, by rulers, Hierarchs, and officials; but he went to none of these. Instead, he went to lodge in the hut of John the blessed.
So, John, after pasturing the sheep, came back in and said to the Saint, “Elder, I am greatly joyful. I wish to have you read to us the writings about St. Basil [i.e., the appointed hymns to the Saint]. I am an illiterate man, but I like all of the writings of our religion [once again, the hymns and services of the Church]. In fact, I have a small book from an Hagiorite Abbot [i.e., from Mt. Athos], and whenever someone who can read and write happens to pass by, I get him to read out of the booklet, since we have no Church near us.”
In the East, it was dimly dawning. St Basil rose and stood, facing eastward, making his Cross. He then bent down, took a booklet from his satchel, and said, “Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.” John the blessed went and stood behind him, and his wife, having nursed their baby, also went to stand near him, with her arms crossed [over her chest]. St. Basil then said the hymn, “God is the Lord...” and the Apolytikion of the Feast of the Circumcision, “Without change, Thou hast assumed human form,” omitting his own Apolytikion, which states, “Thy sound is gone forth unto all the earth.” His voice was sweet and humble, and John and his wife felt great contrition, even though they did not understand all of the words. St. Basil now said the whole of Matins and the Canon of the Feast, “Come, O ye peoples, and let us chant a song unto Christ God,” without reciting his own canon, which goes, “O Basil, we would that thy voice were present....” Thereafter, he said aloud the entire Liturgy, pronounced the dismissal, and blessed the household. As they sat at the table, having eaten and finished their food, the wife brought the Vasilopeta [a sweet bread or cake baked in honor of St. Basil on the New Year] and placed it on the serving table. Then St. Basil took a knife and with it traced the sign of the Cross on the Vasilopeta, saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He cut a first piece, saying, “for Christ,” a second, afterwards, saying, “for the Panagia,” and then “for the master of the house, John the blessed.” John exclaimed, “Elder, you forgot St. Basil!” The Saint replied, “Yes, indeed,” and thus said, “And for the servant of God, Basil.” After this, he resumed: “...and for the master of the house,” “for the mistress of the house,” “for the child,” “for the farmhand,” “for the animals,” and “for the poor.” Thereupon, John the blessed said, “Elder, why did you not cut a piece for your reverendship?” And the Saint said, “But I did, O blessed one!” But John, this blissful man, did not understand.
Afterwards, St. Basil stood up and said the prayer, “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under the roof of the house of my soul.” John the Blessed then said: “I wonder if you can tell me, Elder, since you know many things, to what palaces St. Basil went this evening? And the rulers and monarchs—what sins do they have? We poor people are sinners, since our poverty leads us into sin.” St. Basil said the same prayer, again—with tears—though changing it: “O Lord my God, I have seen that Thy servant John the simple is worthy and that it is meet that Thou shouldest enter into his shelter. He is a babe, and it is to babes that Thy Mysteries are revealed.” And again John the blissful, John the blessed, understood nothing....
* This well-known and charming short story by Phótios Kóntoglou has appeared in several versions, both in Greek and in what are, unfortunately, largely poor English translations. Kontoglou’s Greek is quite difficult to translate, since he uses many words common to the dialect of Greeks in Asia Minor. Though some of these words are actually derived from ancient Greek, in general they are part of a language spoken today by less literate Greeks. Thus, there is a tendency to render them in English slang, which detracts from the power of Kontoglou’s Greek and his writing and imagery. At other times, translators fail at finding the middle ground between stilted literal translations and translations which add so much to the original Greek texts that Kontoglou’s characteristic literary style is lost. I have used, here, the Greek text published by Harmos Publications (Athens, Greece, 1994) in its collection Diegémata ton Christougénnon, and have tried to capture in my rendering the style, simple eloquence, and sensitivity of the author’s story as it reads in Greek—Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Greek PM, Bilderberger, at Copenhagen: “We are Observing the Birth of Global Governance”
December 20, 2009
Addressing the COP 15 summit last Thursday, 5-time Bilderberg attendee, president of the Socialist International, and current prime minister of Greece, George Papandreou, stated that “at this time, we are observing the birth of global governance.”
After this statement we continuously hear parroted by members of the Bilderberg Group, he added: “We must, however, agree to an obligation and be committed to carrying this out.”
The interesting thing is that Papandreou published a version of the same speech on his own website, but with an altered -but certainly more revealing- text:
“This is global governance in the making. But we must agree, and agree to a binding commitment.”
He also admitted he was not there only as Prime Minister of Greece:
“The Socialist International, which I also represent here, has proposed, among other measures, funding through an international carbon tax, green bonds or transaction taxes, transforming foreign debt into equal funds to be used by poor countries for climate change adaptation.”
Papandreou attended the Bilderberg conferences of 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005. So it may not come as any surprise that the Papandreou calls for global governance to “stop climate change”- which is of course as absurd as calling for the planet to stop turning. It’s interesting to note here that earlier this year Papandreou authored an article for The Nation titled "The Challenge of Global Governance” in which he openly stated: “While I am pleasantly surprised that socialism is back in vogue, I am also mindful that it must be reinvented, too.”
“(…) we are calling for greater financial transparency, more robust regulation, the closing of tax havens, and the creation of a World Finance Organization to enforce global standards.”
In between Bilderberg meetings, on May 8, 2003, the Prime Minister showed us a glimpse of the master plan, namely:
“Creating a new Europe, means creating a new concept of identity for Europe itself, for all the countries in it and to a certain extent for the world too. Europe has a unique dimension here. What is happening in this globalizing world. We are seeing the difficulties of integration into the world system, into a global village. We are seeing a difficulty in creating global governance.”
The plan of the Socialist International as well as their sugar-daddies, the Bilderbergers, is to remove any difficulties they may encounter while setting up their world government.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Why is it necessary to listen to the Church and not listen to one man who thinks against the Church, even though he might be called the greatest thinker? Because the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, and because the Church is guided under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Because the Church represents the realm of the Holy, a grove of cultivated fruit trees. If one rises up against the realm of the Holy, it means that he is unholy and why then listen to him? "The Church is an enclosure," says the all-wise John Chrysostom. "If you are within, the wolf does not enter; but if you leave, the beasts will seize you. Do not distance yourself from the Church; there is nothing mightier that the Church. The Church is your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is higher than the heavens. The Church is harder than stone. The Church is wider than the world. The Church never grows old but always renews itself."
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
By Christos Yannaras
The author Christos Yannaras with his familiar, meaningful expressiveness locates the root of humanity’s problems in the social, political, environmental and religious spheres.
The so-called “ecological” problem is but the organic offspring of a specific civilization, that is to say, of a generalized way of life - the consumer’s way of life. “Consumerism” does not merely imply a bulimic behavior; it represents a “stance” towards life. The person who has a consumer’s “stance” usually identifies life with the need and the demand for misappropriation, for possession, for domination. He does not know how to commune or to share; he is totally unsuspecting of the joy that can spring from self-transcendence, from self-offering, and from amorous selflessness.
Consumerism is the manifestation and the consequence of self-centeredness. Self-centeredness is a term with a broader inference; it implies that the individual is the center of life, and not the joy of community relations; it means to buttress one’s ego and to not risk any self-sacrifice. A product of self-centeredness – even before consumerism – is the absolute and self-evident priority of an individual’s rights.
Nowadays, we think, we speak, we comprehend (co-apprehend) amongst ourselves on the basis of individual rights; it seems unthinkable and unrealistic to regard relations as a primary need, and as a first priority the participation in a community, the constituting of a “polis”.
When speaking literally, we should never use the expression “a civilization of self-centeredness” – “civilization” and “self-centeredness” are two incompatible and contradictory meanings. “Civilization” (poli-tismos) is the offspring of a “city”, whereas self-centeredness is to be trapped in one’s innate instincts.
“Polis” (city) does not merely imply an expanded settlement of inhabitants; it is actually the by-product of a common feat, where each individual transcends his personal self-interest in lieu of the pleasure derived from community relations. An entrapment in one’s innate instincts denotes the direct opposite, i.e., the armoring of the ego by each individual, and the prioritizing of one’s self-preservation, one’s domination and one’s pleasure. Self-centeredness is a phase of primitivism; it is a perseverance to primitive irrationality, whereas “civilization” means to be liberated from one’s subjugation to his instincts and to prioritize logical relations.
When an achievement known as “polis” has been realized, and “politics” have produced civilization (politismos), people will no longer be content to merely share common needs; they will no longer co-exist to merely serve their personal interests through the apportioning of labor. They will proceed to place goals of truth – i.e., goals that pertain to existential veridicality – and they will also aspire to the evaluating of qualities; they will then commonly share a culture (education) as an uppermost necessity. They will therefore never deign (as there will be no need) to armor any individual rights. The honor of being a citizen (politis) - of participating in the “feat of upholding truth” which is politics - more than amply covers the security promised by collective “contracts” – by that primitivism called “individual rights”.
The ancestry of today’s ecological menace will surely be wanting, if we were to ignore the religious source of the consumerist self-centeredness that gave birth to the ecological nightmare. This religious ”womb” has specific historical coordinates: it is located in the utterly underdeveloped “barbaric” tribes who, from the end of the 4th up to and including the 6th century, overran the Western Roman Empire and disintegrated it, thereafter creating the meta-Roman Europe with its rearranged populations.
These tribes hastened to become “Christianized”, because at the time, to become Christian was tantamount to entering civilization. However, the invaders’ degree of illiteracy and underdevelopment was such that did not allow for a reliable assimilation of Christianity (much like our own time, with the “urbanization” of first or second-generation “nouveaux riches“, who abandoned their rural lives). The barbaric tribes altered the ecclesiastic event; they turned it into a natural religion that catered to the instinctive demands of the natural persona’s religiosity.
Self-centeredness is the typical characteristic of every natural religion; it was also the typical characteristic of the “Christianity” cultivated by the new denizens of Europe. Faith, from the feat of self-transcendence and loving self-surrender that it is, was re-shaped, into individual “convictions”, thus buttressing the ego by means of intellectual concessions and psychological certainties. Ascesis, from the feat of self-denial for the sake of participating in the ecclesiastic communion of life that it is, was changed into a moralistic, personal discipline towards laws and coded commandments, for the sake of armoring the individual with the certainty of “merits”.
Salvation lost its etymological meaning; It came to be perceived as an eternal safeguarding of one’s ego. Personal faith, personal morality, personal salvation….the Church ceased to signify an event of any sort – a “eucharist” congregation, a mode of existence, or a body whose members partake of life, in the likeness of the Triadic God Who is “love per se”.
The Church became a religion - an ideology, complete with institutions designed for effectiveness and enforcement, with dogmas and a legalistic monitoring of the fidelity of the individual’s adherence to the dogma and a faithful observance of its codified morality through the individual’s behaviour. Total oblivion is displayed to the fact that in the Church, the pioneers who show the way are those who have forsaken their ego: robbers, prodigals, tax-collectors, whores…. and that the Saints of the Church are an open embrace for everyone. They are never censuring prosecutors who inspire guiltiness.
The new world of the European West eventually spurned the distorted, tyrannical-to-man Christianity, after a painful historical series of revolts and protesting. Except that the revolts were against the superficial symptomatology of a tyrannical religiosity – they never actually sought (nor did they detect) its central axis, which is none other than the primitivism of “atomocracy”
Thus, within the new (the innovative) “model” of a generalized way of life that the West gave birth to, amazing achievements of technology, of effectiveness in institutions, of progress in knowledge were established (or, more correctly, hovered) atop the precariousness of atomocracy’s primitivism.
A civilization (politismos) that is “pre-political” (ignorant or unsuspecting of the achievement of a “polis” and the “feat of truth” of politics) will subjugate every pursuit to impressiveness, to hedonism, to a deceptive languor in the individual. In place of individual faith is an idealogicalized, primitive atomocracy; in place of individual morality is a self-destructive utilitarianism; in place of individual salvation is a frosty “hope” for a nihilism of individuality.
This “politismos” (civilization) celebrates Christmas by reversing the terms and the reasons behind the Feast – in exactly the same way that it is striving to solve the ecological problem: without reversing the terms and the reasons that gave birth to the problem…
 Polis : the original, ancient Greek term denoting a polarization, a concentration of citizens (polites) in one place. Latin: civis, civitas - civilian.
 Civilization (=Greek, “politismos”), is a product of the term for civilian (=Greek , “politis”), which is derived from the term for city (=Greek, “polis”)
 Ascesis (= Greek, personal labors aspiring to spiritual profit)
 Salvation, in Greek “sotiria”, from the root verb “sozo” (to save-salvage) and “sozomai” (to be saved-salvaged), which means to become whole, integral; to attain the fullness of my existential possibilities.
 Eucharist, in Greek “efharistia” = thanks, offering of thanks
 Atomo-cracy (in Greek, “atomo”= the individual, “-cracy” = the rule of)
Source: Newspaper “KATHIMERINI - SUNDAY EDITION” 23-12-2007
Fr. Daniel, it should be remembered, preached to Muslims and helped convert dozens of Muslims to Orthodoxy. For this he received death threats from Muslims daily, including those publicly displayed on his blog.
There is a reward out for one million rubles leading to the arrest of the murderer of Fr. Daniel.
Metropolitan Ambrose of Kalavryta has expressed his deep sadness over the fact that Pope Benedict XVI gave Christmas greetings in the "Macedonian" language (see video above).
"Who will inform him that there DOES NOT exist a Macedonian country, a Macedonian nation, or a Macedonian language?" the Metropolitan asked.
His sadness lies in the fact that the Pope undermines the principles and beliefs and history of the Greek nation when he does such things, and further laments that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Holy Synod of Greece have been silent about it.
Through the blessing of Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All of Africa, Metropolitan George of Zimbabwe conducted today, December 30th, three hundred and twenty-seven baptisms for catechumens in the parish of St. Nektarios in Harare.
The majority of the converts were youth and young adults who had completed a catechism class over the past 12 months.
Following the lengthy baptismal service, clothes and shoes were distributed to over a thousand men, women and children who belong to the parish.
Those attending the baptismal service were Protopresbyter George Saganis from Athens, and the African priests Fr. Raphael Gada, Fr. Augustine Moketsi, and the newly-ordained Deacon Demetrios Nyandebvu.
See also: The Holy Archbishopric of Zimbabwe
In "Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453)," four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.
Oribasius, a 4th century physician to the Emperor Julian the Apostate, described lycanthropy in his work Synagogae Medicae:
"On Lycanthropy. Persons affected by lycanthropy go out at night time and wander among the tombs. You can recognize them from the following signs: they are pale with dry, dull and hollow eyes, without tears, the tongue extremely dry and without saliva. They are very thirsty and their legs are covered with scars from frequent stumbling. You must know that lycanthropy is a type of melancholy that must be treated by bloodletting until fainting, and offering an appropriate diet and baths with sweet water. Purgation by the hiera of colocynth must be applied twice or three times, and then use the viper theriaca and the other healing methods for melancholy. When the disease is approaching, you must sedate the patient by the use of wet compresses and administration of opium, rubbing the ears and the nostrils, a somniferous method."
Other medical writers also give similar symptons to this disorder. Michael Psellus, an important 11th century Byzantine philosopher and historian, briefly describes the illness in verse in his work Carmen de Re Medica:
"Lycanthropy is a status of melancholy
Meaning at the same time misanthropy.
You recognize the affected man
Running around the tombs at night time
Pale, dry, sad and careless of his appearance."
Even the 14th century writer, Johannes Actuarius, has a similar description of the disease:
"Lycanthropy is a kind of melancholy making the affected persons wander at night-time, visiting the tombs and the deserts like wolves, and come back in the morning as their human figure and stay at home. In any case, they have ulcerated legs and feet because of falls on stones and thorns; they have dry eyes and tongue and feeble vision. Some patients fear death while others desire it. Some patients avoid speaking and remain silent and sad while others try to converse with people."
The writers of the article note that these Byzantine physicians saw lycanthropy as a type of melacholy or mania, and that change into an animal was the patient's delusional fantasy. Byzantine medical writers often dealt with mental disorders in their works, including epilepsy, frenzy, dementia, melancholy, mania, lethargy, insomnia, depression and paranoia.
The article also compared these views with those from Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods, where it was seen as some kind of divine curse or demonic possession, and reacted by killing people who acted like wolves. Others believed they were heretics like witches, leading some authorities to go on campaigns to arrest and execute them. One 16th century French judge was responsible for burning over 600 witches and werewolves.
The article notes that a Byzantine emperor, Justin II (AD 565–578), may have suffered from this mental disorder. From the first years of his reign, Justin showed signs of a severe psychiatric illness, which included walking around the palace barking or mewing, and imitating dogs’ and cats’ behaviour. The emperor also threw objects out of the palace windows during his explosions of wrath and on one occasion demanded that Orthodox Patriarch wear a woman’s hat.
The article "Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453)", by E. POULAKOU-REBELAKOU, C. TSIAMIS, G. PANTELEAKOS1 and D. PLOUMPIDIS, is found in Volume 20, Issue 4 of the journal History of Psychiatry (2009).
See also: Lycanthropy in Byzantine Times
MOUNT ATHOS: Failing Light
Monday, April 28, 1941
The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos. The motorized Nazi hordes rumbled across the Salonikan peninsula, but they did not invade its 40-mile-long eastern cape where the holy and historic Mount towers in misty beauty above monasteries perching like fabulous castles on crags above the sea. Surrounded by flower-scented glens and gorges, veiled with pine and cypress and chestnut, are great Lavra Monastery, Vatopédi, Simöpetra, bastioned Dionysiou (which proudly possesses the brain and right hand of Saint John the Baptist) and many others, each with its fusty library and gilded Byzantine church.
Last week Adolf Hitler gave no hint of what he proposed to do about this great religious prize which was his for the taking—the autonomous ecclesiastical republic of Mount Athos, 1,000-year-old capital of Greek Orthodoxy, governed by a council consisting of one monk from each of its 20 stony retreats.
The 5,000 bearded, black-robed Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Rumanian monks who live on Mount Athos arrived there for many reasons—religion, disappointment in love, political conspiracy, seeking sanctuary against political or criminal punishment. They include several former Greek lunchroom proprietors who fled the clatter of U.S. civilization. They live in two kinds of monasteries: cenobite (communistic) and idiorrhythmic (allowing private property, which reverts to the monastery). Many of them lead a truly monkish life of prayer and Church scholarship, a shabby life without bathing or toothbrushing, with a meatless diet and only brief snatches of sleep, because "sleep inflames the body." They live on contributions and on the making and selling of wine, farm products, religious paintings and trinkets. Some are so ignorant or unworldly that they have heard only vaguely of Adolf Hitler—"a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews—a fulfillment of prophecy."
But in recent years the world has been altogether too much with Mount Athos to please its pure in heart. For one thing, the world's sad economy has impoverished the religious life even more than need be. Joseph Stalin has stopped the steady flow of Russian funds into Mount Athos, and war and world depression have sharply cut all other income. The ancient sins of luxury have been increasingly apparent both outside and inside the holy ground. Vigorous young monks are rare. "We need young men today more than ever," one Athonite has said, "but they prefer to fatten their ephemeral bodies and clothe them in silk shirts and ties."
On the Mount itself, one of the wealthier monasteries has permitted itself all manner of worldly indulgences—central plumbing, mirrors, electric lights, newspapers, motorboats, wine-pressing machinery (instead of the industrious barefoot method). An alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole "Great Academy of the Greek Clergy." The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.
Today many Greek laymen regard Mount Athos as a senile, decadent, insufferable vestige of its past. If Adolf Hitler decides to dim this "Lighthouse of the Aegean," this greatest of world monastic experiments, he may well be doing only what the Greek Government would presently have done itself.
GREECE: Flight from Mt. Athos
Monday, July 13, 1942
Peter the Athonite came first to Mount Athos in the 9th Century and lived there for 50 years, battling devils and beasts in a cave high above Homer's wine-dark sea. Then came Euthemius and Joseph, who sought eternal bliss by moving about on their hands and knees eating grass. All this was centuries after Xerxes' legions invaded Greece, and, of course, centuries before Nazi Panzer divisions.
From the time of Peter the Athonite to Adolf the paper hanger, the great rocky promontory of Athos, jutting into the Aegean like a prong of Poseidon's three-forked scepter, has been a place of refuge -for men only. No woman has knowingly been allowed to desecrate by her presence the huge cluster of monasteries atop the Holy Mountain, where bearded, black-cowled priests withdraw from worldly pleasures in the spiritual home of the Greek Orthodox Church. Even female cats and dogs and beasts of the field are barred, "so that their mating may not furnish an outlandish spectacle to souls which detest all forms of indecency. . . ."
Last week, from three priests who fled to an even more ancient home of Christian religion, there came the first account of what Europe's new barbarians had done to the cloistered life of Mount Athos. For some 90 days & nights the priests had navigated nearly 1,000 miles of island-cluttered seas, and at last beached their 15-ft. open boat on the sands near Haifa in Palestine. There they told how ruck-sacked Nazi youths in peacetime had accepted the monasteries' humble hospitality and returned as soldiers to pillage and defile. Great iron bells that for centuries sounded matins and vespers had been carried away, to be melted down for the Nazi war machine. Priceless icons, illuminated manuscripts handed down from Byzantine emperors, and religious treasures* had been gathered as loot and shipped to Berlin. These things had driven them, sick at heart, from beloved mountain valleys thick with arbutus and carefully laid out for the husbanding of vineyards and olive groves within sight of the slopes of Mt. Olympus and the plains of Troy. At the islands where their boat touched, peasants fed them and gave them shelter.
Greek Orthodox Church officials, believing the perilous voyage of the priests was divinely guided, ordered that their fragile boat be taken overland and placed as a shrine in the waters of the river Jordan, a trumpet's blow from Jericho.
But German bombs last week struck in Haifa and there was a clash of great armies in the land of Egypt.
Possibly these were omens that the new shrine might soon, in 1942, have no more power to stop warring men than had the words of Him who, some 1,900 years ago, had gone up from the multitude and proclaimed: "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."
*Most famed of Mount Athos' religious relics: the camel-hair girdle which legend says the Virgin gave to doubting Thomas; pieces of the True Cross; the skull of St. Basil the Great; the brains of St. John the Baptist; the three gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
If I were to rely on my own sensibilities, I would say this is not the Theotokos and is more likely a deceiving spirit or something else that an investigation could probably uncover. Purposeless visions of the Holy Virgin are against Holy Tradition and according to the Saints of Orthodoxy are rare and solely reserved for those who can accept such visions in the utmost humility. Why would Christians undermine the unique nature of such true visions by claiming that so many thousands of people can have visions of the uncreated glory of the Virgin? Plus, why would the Virgin want to become a Youtube celebrity anyway?
I personally lean towards this supposed "vision" as being a hoax, mainly by observing the video posted above which allows for it to be recreated. Towards the end of the video the light dissolves into a singular point as if it has its origins in that point which seems to be attached to the top of part of the church through a rod (view this at the 4:32 mark). I think this just may be an interesting case of laser or some other light technology.
Also, if this "vision" were authentic, why then doesn't the Holy Virgin walk around the roof and bless people from all four corners or something. She just stagnantly remains in that single space and dissolves into a point that is attached to the building by a rod.
Such things make Christians lose their credibility, and I have to side with the Muslim and skeptic opinion here, unfortunately, that it is a hoax.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Turkish Archaeologist Makes Seasonal Plea for Santa Claus
December 28, 2009
Archaeologist Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeologicial research in the Turkish town of Demre, has asked his government to demand the return of the bones of St Nicholas to his home town.
The 3rd century saint, on whom the tradition of Santa Claus was modeled, gained a reputation for performing miracles and for his acts of charity when he was the bishop of the Greek city of Myra.
On his death he was canonized as St Nicholas, and his remains were buried in thee Mediterranean town of Demre. In the 11th century, Italian sailors took the remains to the port town of Bari, where they are still kept.
Professor Cevik maintains that Nicholas had made it clear during his lifetime that he wished to be interred in his home town, and that the Turkish government should negotiate with its Italian counterpart to honor the saint’s wishes.
28 December 2009, Monday
A scholar from Akdeniz University has called for the return of the bones of St. Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, from the Italian city of Bari, where his bones were taken after being stolen, to Antalya’s Demre district, where the saint died and was buried.
Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Professor Nevzat Çevik, who leads archeological research in Demre, said St. Nicholas is a well-known Christian saint and that he has become very popular in Europe, adding that many churches have been built in Europe in his honor.
“The saint was born and spent his life in Anatolia,” Çevik said. Historical sources say St. Nicholas were born in Patara, a previous name of Antalya, and died in 343 in Demre. The saint’s bones were stolen by Italian craftsmen in 1087 and brought to Bari, where they were interred in a church dedicated to him.
Çevik reiterated St. Nicholas’s remarks in which he said, “I was born here, raised here and I will be buried here.” The professor added that “we should respect the wish of St. Nicholas. The bones should be brought back to his grave in Demre.”
Çevik has also urged state authorities to take steps to contact their Italian counterparts. “The ministries should work to move the bones back to Turkey.” The scholar also emphasized the significance of St. Nicholas’s grave in terms of tourism and said that the number of tourists visiting the church in Demre will drastically increase when the bones are returned.
Antalya Museum Director Cumali Ayabakan told Anatolia that Christians visiting the church in Demre have complained about the absence of Santa Claus’s bones and said an empty grave means nothing to them. “If the bones can be brought to Turkey, they will be returned to the original grave,” he added.
Christmas Decoded? What New Discoveries in Nazareth Tell Us About Jesus
December 22, 2009
Just in time for holiday deadlines, Israeli archaeologists announced Monday they had uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.
Digging not far from Basilica of the Annunciation, where tradition says the angel Gabriel visited Mary, archaeologists found remains of a wall, a hideout, and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof.
Researcher Yardena Alexandre also found clay and chalk vessels used by Galilean Jews of the time -- an indication the home belonged to a simple Jewish family.
The findings suggest Nazareth was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.
"From the little written evidence available we know that first century Nazareth AD was a small Jewish village located in a valley," Alexandre said, adding that "until now a few Jesus-era graves were revealed, but never have we unearthed the remains of contemporary residences."
So what does this new discovery tell us about Jesus?
The answer is not very much. We still have no evidence that Jesus was ever in Nazareth or in Bethlehem, the two towns featured in the Christmas story. In fact, one of Alexandre's statements is classic archaeological hyperbole fed to a gullible press: "It was likely Jesus and his childhood friends would have known the house." Oh, really? Based on what?
If anything, this new discovery shows how minor a place Nazareth was and draws new light to a central paradox of the Christmas narrative: Why would a pregnant mother from the Galilee travel as far south as Bethlehem to have a child? The given reason of a census is hardly persuasive. (The most logical answer is that King David is from Bethlehem and since the Hebrew Bible states the messiah should come from the line of David, a Bethlehem birth would bring the new baby into David's home region.)
While this week's findings tell us little about Jesus, they do highlight a number of often overlooked features of Jesus' world.
1. Jesus was a Jew, and his life story makes sense only when understood in the context of Jewish ritual. Two of the more striking finds in Nazareth this week were clay and chalk vessels, which were used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.
2. The Jesus story was deeply political. The hideout at the Nazareth house, for example, is likely related to the growing tension between Jews and Romans in the late first century B.C.E., a showdown that colors Jesus' birth story -- and especially his death narrative.
3. The Bible is grounded in the history and landscape of the Ancient Near East. The Bible is full of details of time and place that would have resonated deeply to people at the time, but are often lost on us today.
Discoveries like the one in Nazareth titillate the press because they promise something they can't deliver: If one feature of the Bible is true, the entire thing must be true. The real truth is that even if we found a house in Nazareth with the names Mary and Joseph on the mailbox and a birth announcement of a baby Jesus carved into a wall, we'd still never find proof that God spoke to Mary, conceived a child, and sent forth a messiah into the world.
That's not a subject for science. That's a matter of faith.
And that's exactly as it should be.
As 2009 comes to an end, so does the delirium of “Darwin Year.” From “Darwin Day” on February 12 (Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday) to November 24 (the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species), Darwin’s disciples spared no expense (using mostly taxpayers’ money) in their exuberant celebrations, even though most of Darwin’s ideas were mistaken and his contributions to science were insignificant compared to those of hundreds of others—including (to name just a few) Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Albert Einstein in physics; Robert Boyle, Antoine Lavoisier and Willard Gibbs in chemistry; and Carolus Linnaeus, Georges Cuvier and Gregor Mendel in biology.
What Darwin promoted was not empirical science but materialistic philosophy. As historian Neal C. Gillespie wrote in 1979, “It is sometimes said that Darwin converted the scientific world to evolution by showing them the process by which it had occurred,” but “it was more Darwin's insistence on totally natural explanations than on natural selection that won their adherence.” (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, p.147) The Darwinian revolution was primarily philosophical, and Darwin's philosophy limited science to “the discovery of laws which reflected the operation of purely natural or ‘secondary’ causes.” Furthermore, “there could be no out-of-bounds signs... When sufficient natural or physical causes were not known they must nonetheless be assumed to exist to the exclusion of other causes.”
But the assumption that everything can be explained by natural causes is characteristic of materialistic philosophy. This is why atheists want to establish Darwin Day as a secular alternative to Christmas.
The U. S. “Public” Broadcasting System (PBS) has a long history of promoting materialistic philosophy disguised as empirical science. In 1980, PBS brought us Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part Cosmos series, which featured Sagan—in the name of Science—assuring us that “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
In 2001, PBS broadcasted the seven-part series Evolution. The first episode featured atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett praising “Darwin’s dangerous idea,” which according to Dennett “eats through just about every traditional concept”—including the concept of God. (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, p. 63) At the time, the Discovery Institute published a scene-by-scene viewer’s guide that documented the flawed science and anti-religious bias of the series, yet PBS’s Evolution is still being used to indoctrinate students in U. S. public schools. My son’s high school biology teacher used it; her favorite episode was the fifth, “Why Sex?”, in which an evolutionary psychologist confidently claimed that artistic achievements such as Handel’s Messiah are produced by “our sexual instincts for impressing the opposite sex.”
Now PBS is about to jump on the departing Darwin Year bandwagon with another special, “What Darwin Never Knew,” scheduled to air on December 29.
According to PBS, the special will offer “answers to riddles that Darwin couldn't explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed ‘evo-devo’—are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature's great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Scientists are finally beginning to crack nature's biggest secrets at the genetic level. The results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights while revealing clues to life's breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined.”
“Confirming the brilliance of Darwin’s insights…” Oh, really? Darwin was completely wrong about the nature of inheritance; it took Gregor Mendel (who was unconvinced by Darwinism) to set things straight. Darwin was also wrong about the origin of variations; he (like Lamarck) thought that they came from use and disuse. When Darwinists finally embraced Mendelian genetics in the 1930s and molecular genetics in the 1950s, they assumed that embryo development is controlled by a genetic program encoded in DNA. Accidental mutations in DNA, they believed, could then alter the program and modify embryo development to produce the raw materials for evolution.
In the 1980s, however, biologists discovered that many of the genes involved in embryo development are similar in many different types of animals—from fruit flies to humans. Since differences in development were supposedly due to differences in genes, the similarities seemed paradoxical, but a new discipline called “evolutionary developmental biology,” or evo-devo (pronounced eevo-deevo) attributed them to inheritance from a common ancestor. Now evo-devo is all the rage among Darwinists.
Yet the paradox remains. If the developmental genes of insects and mammals are similar, then—as Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti puts it—why is a fly not a horse?
The standard Darwinian answer still attributes differences to DNA mutations. But biologists have now generated all possible developmental mutations in fruit flies, and the evidence shows that there are only three possible outcomes: a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly. Not even a new species of fruit fly, much less a horse fly or a horse. Evo-devo has not come close to cracking “nature’s biggest secrets.” In fact, there is growing evidence that DNA contains only a small part of the program for embryo development.
No matter. PBS falls back on what Darwin himself thought was the best embryological evidence for his theory: similarities in the embryos of vertebrates (animals with backbones). “It seems to me,” Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “the leading facts in embryology, which are second to none in importance, are explained on the principle of variations in the many descendants from some one ancient progenitor.” And those leading facts, according to him, were that “the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar.” Darwin even believed that early embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.”
On the website for its December 29 special, PBS offers an interactive “Guess the Embryo” exercise featuring four different vertebrate embryos: an 8 day-old mouse, a 5 day-old quail, a 17 day-old turtle, and a 40 day-old bat. The purpose of the exercise is to convince viewers that “embryos of different species can appear startlingly similar to one another.” A discerning viewer, however, will notice that the turtle embryo already has a rudimentary shell on its back—thus distinguishing it clearly from the others. A discerning viewer might also notice that the bat embryo bears little resemblance to the mouse embryo, even though both are mammals.
What viewers may not know—and PBS does not tell them—is that the interactive exercise shows embryos midway through development. The earliest stages are systematically omitted. Perhaps this is because in their earliest stages vertebrate embryos are striking different from each other. They follow a pattern that embryologists call the “developmental hourglass”—wide at the top, narrow in the middle, and wide at the bottom. In other words, vertebrate embryos start out very different from each other, become superficially similar midway through development, then diverge again as they mature. Like Darwin’s German disciple Ernst Haeckel, PBS distorts vertebrate development to make it seem to provide evidence for Darwin’s theory.
The American people deserve better from their “Public” Broadcasting System.