See all 23 videos here.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
See all 23 videos here.
Venerable John also practiced a life of silence and earned the gifts of prophecy and clairvoyance, for which he received the designation of prophet. His place of birth is unknown. During an 18 year period up to his death, he lived near the Elder Barsanuphius. Knowing the date of his demise and in response to Abba Elianus’ request, he postponed his death for two weeks in order to instruct him how to run the cloister.
Saints Barsanuphius’ and John’s instructions have been preserved in the form of questions and answers (over 800 +) posed by individuals of various callings — Archbishops, priests and laity.
Saint Barsanuphius instructed Abba Seridus to record all his answers without having any fear of making mistakes, as the Holy Spirit would direct him to chronicle everything correctly and in sequential order.
Once certain of the Fathers besought Saint Barsanuphius to pray that God stay His wrath and spare the world. Saint Barsanuphius wrote back that there were "three men perfect before God," whose prayers met at the throne of God and protected the whole world; to them it had been revealed that the wrath of God would not last long. These three, he said, were "John of Rome, Elias of Corinth, and another in the diocese of Jerusalem," concealing the name of the last, since it was himself.
On Prayer and Knowing the Will of God.
6. How can you be moved in prayer, reading and singing of Psalms? In prayer, the feeling comes from recollecting your sins. The praying person must bring to mind his deeds, how sinners that have committed similar sins will be judged, and the terrifying words of the Judge: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41).
During the uttering and singing of prayers, the feeling comes when the person compels his mind to be attentive to the words and grasp with all his soul the power that is enclosed in them. If despite this, that feeling is still absent within you, do not weaken but persevere patiently because merciful, generous and long-patient God will accept our endeavors. Always remember the Psalmist’s words: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry" (Psalms 40:1). Act in this way and have trust that God’s mercy will visit you.
8. How many times does one pray in order to receive advisory thoughts as to what course of action to take? If you are unable to ask an experienced elder, you then have to utter your prayer on the given subject three times. After this, examine your heart and if it leans by even a hair’s breadth — act accordingly. This type of communication is noticeable and fully understood by the heart.
8. How do you pray three times: at different intervals or all at once? Sometimes you can’t defer them. If you have spare time, pray three times over three days. But if there are urgent circumstances like that with the betrayal of Christ — where He went away three times to pray and uttered the same words each time — then use that as your guide.
8. When you intend doing a God-pleasing deed and a contrary thought opposes it, this lets you know that the intended act is truly pleasing to God. Pray and observe, whether during prayer your heart corroborates the goodness and this goodness grows and does not lessen, and accordingly, whether the opposing thought increases or not. Know that every good deed definitely has bitter opposition from the devil’s jealousy, while a good deed through prayer gains ascendancy over it. If an ostensibly good deed is implanted by the devil and then be opposed by him, — then prayer will weaken this illusory good deed, together with its illusory opposition. In this instance, it is apparent that the reason why the devil opposes the thought he himself had implanted, is to beguile us into accepting his concept as good.
8. When in thinking about something, you see confusion in your thoughts, and after calling upon God this confusion remains — even slightly — then know that what you are thinking of doing has been motivated by the deceiver. Then, under no circumstances are you to do this — because nothing is pleasing to God that is done with confusion. In a situation where there are opposing thoughts to this type of confusion, then there is no need to immediately regard the matter as evil. Examine the subject, is it good or evil — if evil, then leave it and if it’s good, carry it out and reject the confusion.
On Repentance, Temperance, Meekness, and Sorrows
23. You ask how to lay the beginnings of repentance. If you wish to begin repentance, look at the woman sinner: she washed Christ’s feet with her tears (Luke 7:38). Tears wash away the sins of every person. But a person acquires tears by internal efforts, through the diligent study of the Holy Scripture, through patience, meditation on the Last Judgment and eternal shame, and through self-denial, just as the Lord said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mat. 16:24). To deny one’s self and to take up the cross — means to sever your own will in everything and regard yourself as nothing.
24. Regarding temperance in food and drink, the fathers teach to partake of both in lesser quantities that is required, i.e., not to fill your stomach fully. Each individual has to determine his own measure in both food and wine. Moreover, the measure of restraint is not limited to food and drink, but extends to talking, sleep, clothing and to all the senses. There must be its own measure in all of this.
27. If upon starting a conversation you realize that it is sinful — terminate it by saying: "No, we won’t talk about this," or, having remained silent for a few moments, say: "I have forgotten what I wanted to say," — and switch the conversation to a different non-sinful topic.
28. Do you wish to free yourself of sorrows and not be burdened by them? Expect bigger ones — and you will calm down. Remember Job and other Saints — what sorrows they had endured! Acquire their patience and your spirit will be consoled.
On Humility, Vile Thoughts, and Discretion
30. Let us always have recourse to humility, for the humble lies on the ground, and where would one who lies fall? Whereas a person that has ascended to a great height, can easily fall. If we changed and reformed, it is not from us but is God’s gift, for: "The Lord lifts up the humble."
30. You must regard yourself as the greatest sinner among sinners, who has done nothing worthwhile before God, and reproach yourself at all times, everywhere for everything.
31. To the question on whether we should argue with thoughts that perturb us, I will answer: Don’t argue, because the enemies precisely want this to happen, and seeing our altercation will not cease their attack. It is better if you prayed to the Lord, opening your feebleness before Him, and He will not only drive out these thoughts but will eradicate them completely.
36. It is more beneficial to humbly pose questions than to persist with your own will, because the Lord Himself helps the asker what to say — for the sake of his humility and righteousness of heart.
On Love for Your Neighbor, Mercy, and Non-Condemnation
42. Do not grow despondant in sorrows and physical labors, which you have to perform within the society, because this also means that you have laid down your soul for your brothers (1 John 3:16) — and I hope the reward will be great for this labor. Just as the Lord placed Joseph to feed his brethren during the famine in Egypt (Psalm 32:19), He placed you to serve society. I am just repeating the words of the Apostle: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:1).
43. When you want to do a charitable act but a thought not to give creates doubt, test your thought, and if you find it being suggested through stinginess, then give — increasing the amount that you originally intended.
45. You are troubled by thoughts that incite confusion in others and find yourself confused. Know my brother, that if somebody offends you in word or deed, that person himself will be offended one hundred times worse sometime later. Be forbearing in everything and beware of ascribing your will to anything. Examine your thoughts attentively, so that they do not infect your heart with the murderous poison of anger, and that they do not tempt you into accepting a mosquito as a camel, or a pebble for a cliff. Because then you will be like a person who has a plank in his eye yet looks at the speck in another’s.
On Hypocrisy and Teaching
53. Sometimes, silence is better than any convincing and instructive conversations. Let us utilize words in moderation, remembering: "In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression" (Prov. 10:19). So as not to fall into conceit and self-praise, let us remember that in not practicing what we preach, we preach toward our own condemnation.
Divine and tuneful harps of the Holy Spirit's myst'ries, sounding forth sweet hymns of discernment which soothe all those in sorrows: ye moved men to cast off passion's yoke and trample upon Satan's loathsome head. Wherefore, Godlike Barsanuphius and wise John, deliver us who now cry out: Glory to Him that hath given you grace. Glory to Him that hath blessed you. Glory to Him that hath saved many through your sacred words of counsel.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
O Great Barsanuphius and John, thou marvellous Prophet, all the hidden secrets of men and God's dispensation brightly shone in the clear mirrors of your most pure hearts; and with beams of grace divine, ye cast out sin's shadows from the souls of men; O Fathers, lights of discernment, entreat the Lord for us all.
By Bishop John (Christodoulou) Kalogeraki of Amoriou
The work titled The Photian Schism of Fr. Francis Dvornik was welcomed with great enthusiasm by Byzantinists, because Photios had, by the judgments and opinions of fanatic heterodox theologians and historians, been erroneously discarded. Historians beforehand portrayed the Patriarch Photios as the cause of the schism of the Church between West and East. Thanks to this treatise, which was published in 1948, the outstanding personality and enormous worth of the great and wise Patriarch of the Orthodox Church was recognized.
That which characterizes the aforesaid work is the thorough knowledge and exhaustive examination of the sources and bibliography, as well as its methodological interpretation and the clarity of explaining its subject. It contains an index of abbreviations, anecdotes, manuscripts used by the author, three appendixes, a rich catalogue of manuscripts, an excellent bibliography, and at the end an index of names and subjects.
Having said this there are a few issues of secondary importance for which I have reservations and have another opinion on. I especially wanted to highlight the following:
1. The title of the work The Photian Schism is unfortunate and inaccurate, because the title gives the impression that in reality Patriarch Photios was the "Father of the Schism". It should be emphasized that contemporary scholarship has proven that Patriarch Photios was not the cause or motivator behind the schism of the Church. Rather Patriarch Photios is considered the Apostle of Unity for the Church. It would have been preferable for the book to have been titled either The Patriarch Photios or The Schism Between the Western and Eastern Churches.
2. The author observes that the trial of the Patriarch of Constantinople by the delegates of the Papal See of Rome proves by example the recognition of the Primacy of Authority of the Pope of Rome and the right of the Pope of Rome to judge an Ecumenical Patriarch.
3. On page 122 Fr. Dvornik writes that Patriarch Photios should not have brought up the issue of the Filioque against the Synod of 867 since the Pope of Rome found in 862 Photios' Confession that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone as Orthodox.
The above reservations or misgivings however are not meant to erase the fair spirit of the author, which is revealed throughout the entirety of the book. This should be much more honored when we consider that the same subjects, relating to the schism of the Western and Eastern Church, were often considered a slippery slope for Roman Catholic authors.
The honorable work of Fr. Dvornik is memorialized for this amazing wake-up call. I am empowered to say that it is the basis for anything regarding the study of Photios and the schism, because the sources which were used by Fr. Dvornik must be known. This work, The Photian Schism, is the result of many laborious years of work.
In conclusion, the present work of Fr. Dvornik is a work of toil and enthusiasm for which the author is worthy of praise by all.
From the book titled Analysis and Critique of the Work "The Photian Schism" Authored by Professor Francis Dvornik by Bishop John (Christodoulou) Kalogeraki of Amoriou.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Through the Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII, ch. 42), the Church of Christ has received the custom to make commemorations for the departed on the third, ninth, and fortieth days after their repose. Since many throughout the ages, because of an untimely death in a faraway place, or other adverse circumstances, have died without being deemed worthy of the appointed memorial services, the divine Fathers, being so moved in their love for man, have decreed that a common memorial be made this day for all pious Orthodox Christians who have reposed from all ages past, so that those who did not have particular memorial services may be included in this common one for all. Also, the Church of Christ teaches us that alms should be given to the poor by the departed one's kinsmen as a memorial for them.
Besides this, since we make commemoration tomorrow of the Second Coming of Christ, and since the reposed have neither been judged, nor have received their complete recompense (Acts 17:31; II Peter 2:9; Heb. 11:39-40), the Church rightly commemorates the souls today, and trusting in the boundless mercy of God, she prays Him to have mercy on sinners. Furthermore, since the commemoration is for all the reposed together, it reminds each of us of his own death, and arouses us to repentance.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Only Creator who out of the depths of wisdom lovingly govern all things and upon all bestow what is accordingly best for them, give rest to the souls of Your servants, for they have placed their hope in You, our Author and Maker and God.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Give rest, O Christ, among the Saints to the souls of Your servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no grieving, but life everlasting.
- Reading from Greek Orthodox Church of America website
Short preview of a "A Pilgrim's Way", a documentary made about the Romanian Orthodox church. It begins with lay life in Bucharest and then travels to a monastery, and ends by meeting some of the great Romanian church fathers. It is 73 minutes long and will be released soon.
February 5, 2010
Evolution News and Views
Life arose without design or direction from any intelligent agent. Would you believe it did so in a sun-warmed ocean surface? No? Would you believe an earth-heated vent at the bottom of the same ocean? Would you believe an office microwave that hasn’t been cleaned since the Bush Administration?
The past week’s startling news of backpedaling from the “primordial soup” theory rang a bell, though I wasn’t instantly able to say whose comedy routine it put me in mind of. Hm, was it Monty Python? ScienceDaily carries the story:
"For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a “primordial soup” of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the “soup” theory has been overturned in a pioneering paper in BioEssays which claims it was the Earth's chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which kick-started early life."
"Textbooks have it that life arose from organic soup and that the first cells grew by fermenting these organics to generate energy in the form of ATP. We provide a new perspective on why that old and familiar view won't work at all," said team leader Dr Nick lane from University College London. "We present the alternative that life arose from gases (H2, CO2, N2, and H2S) and that the energy for first life came from harnessing geochemical gradients created by mother Earth at a special kind of deep-sea hydrothermal vent -- one that is riddled with tiny interconnected compartments or pores."
So isn’t this interesting. A theory long held to be more or less bulletproof is suddenly rejected in favor of something rather different. I thought that kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen? Of course, the story was familiar in part because intelligent-design advocates, and others, have long pointed out inadequacies in the soup concept.
In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer writes about how back in 1985 he came across Thaxton, Bradley and Olson’s The Mystery of Life’s Origin, which “provided a comprehensive critique of the attempts that had been made to explain how the first life had arisen from the primordial ocean, the so-called pre-biotic soup.”
The soup-spilling team writing in BioEssays concentrates on the source of energy needed to power life into existence. Was it from UV radiation, as J.B.S. Haldane theorized in 1929? Or from a hydrothermal vent? This overlooks a much trickier problem: the source not of the relevant energy but the relevant biological information. As Meyer remarks in Signature, origin-of-life scenarios that “just transfer the information problem into the chemical soup itself” fit into a “clear pattern. Every attempt to explain the origin of biological information either failed because it transferred the problem elsewhere or ‘succeeded’ only by presupposing unexplained sources of information.”
Anyway, the lame retreat from a stance previously thumped with tremendous vigor sounds Pythonesque but no, a quick Internet search reveals it’s actually from Get Smart. Along with “Missed it by that much” and “Sorry about that, Chief,” “Would you believe…” was a repeated line from the classic 1960s TV show. It always introduced Agent Maxwell Smart’s attempt to climb down from an earlier, bolder claim in favor of increasingly pitiable ones: “I happen to be an expert in karate, Judo and tempura. Would you believe that I can break eight boards with one karate chop? No? Would you believe three boards? Would you believe a loaf of bread?”
But enough nostalgia. Read the ScienceDaily article here.
February 5, 2010
Evolution News and Views
A popular Darwinian meme is that humans and chimp genomes are ninety-something percent identical. It varies a bit, but usually hovers close to 99%. The meme hides all sorts of assumptions, of course, but the take home lesson for the headline reader is plain enough: we’re almost exactly the same as chimps.
Though the 99% number has received some qualifiers, and has even been referred to as a “myth” in Science, the basic idea remains firmly entrenched in the media collective consciousness.
But evidence seems to be piling up that the similarities are not nearly what has been advertised. Geneticist Richard Buggs has reflected on this, and has even predicted “that when we have a reliable, complete chimpanzee genome, the overall similarity of the human genome will prove to be close to 70% (and very far from 99%).”
It will be interesting to see how Buggs' prediction holds up over time. If he’s right, this will be one more switch from “meme” to “myth” in the Darwinian ledger.
I should confess that I haven’t followed this debate closely, simply because I don’t think that the meme, even if true, really shows much. Here’s what I mean. Some years ago, a reporter called the Discovery Institute asking for a comment on a new study showing a 75% genetic similarity between human beings and a nematode (if I remember correctly). The reporter asked me what I thought about the discovery that we were 75% identical to a nematode. I suggested that there was a difference between our genomes being quite similar to the nematode’s, and human beings being quite similar to nematodes. That didn’t seem to connect, so I said: “Well, why doesn’t the story cause you to reassess the assumption that we’re basically identical with our DNA? If somebody told me we were 100% chemically identical with chimps, I would conclude that we must be a lot more than mere chemicals, since chimps and humans are quite different. Now since humans and nematodes are obviously quite different, while our genomes are similar, doesn’t that suggest that genetics tells us less about ourselves than we had assumed?” I'm pretty sure my comments didn’t make the story.
Friday, February 5, 2010
The last three issues of The Censer carried an article of unusual brilliance and perception. Father Jonah Mourtos, who is in charge of St. John's parish in Taiwan, shared with us his experiences and views on Chinese and Eastern society and religion after spending about two years in Taiwan. His article "Aspects of Fear in an Asian Context" (The Feeling of Fear in Chinese Society), which makes many perspicacious points about Eastern and Chinese culture and beliefs from the viewpoint of an Orthodox thinker, is like a breath of fresh air across a sea of learned and usually very polite tomes authored by Western or Christian scholars on East Asia and its traditions.
Father Jonah does not mince his words. He comes to the point and in most instances tries to call a spade a spade. The love he has for the people he is scrutinizing is evident, though, as one has to care deeply to observe deeply and feel deeply. And I, as an Asian, cannot but applaud his conclusions which are both helpful and Orthodox. We live in a missionary diocese, and in time, with thinkers like Father Jonah, hopefully the development of an Orthodox theology of mission will become more complete.
These words are written with hopes to fuel and enliven the thinking processes which have begun with Father Jonah's observations. In this issue and subsequent issues of The Censer, one would hope to see views and contributions from different people on the subject of the Orthodox message and practice and their impact on and interaction with East Asian civilization. It is written, "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom". St. Paul, unmistakably also, teaches that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free". Our task is to bring the uniqueness of the Christian message to peoples who have been following other paths so they may have the option of choosing a life and a way which is free from senseless fear. Coming to know the one true God will give us a spiritual wisdom which frees us from ignorance and fear.
Is fear unique to Chinese or East Asian civilization?
Certainly not. A conscientious consideration of the world's major religions and belief systems shows that fear is everywhere. If anything, it is less pronounced in Chinese Confucianist civilization than in some others. Nevertheless it is there. What is unique is its absence, or rather lack of a place, in Christian civilization, which incorporates Judaic and Greco-Roman elements.
Of the world's six or seven major belief systems, Christianity is the only one which teaches the banishment of fear through joy - the joy of the Resurrection, the supreme manifestation of the power of love.
And this is the main message of Orthodoxy. The Mourtos article refers to fear affecting its author upon exposure to certain manifestations of Tantric (Lamaistic) Buddhism. This is a good case in point. Next to Christianity, Buddhism is probably the most peaceful religion in the world. Experienced Asia hands never fail to observe, usually with approval, the mild, compassionate and peaceful character of the Buddhist faith and of its practitioners. Indeed, the supreme patriarch of Tantric Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetans, Mongolians and Manchus alike, is one of the distinguished winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. His patience and principled rationality in dealing with the Communist armies and authorities which have come to control his land is legendary and widely ad mired.
Yet the element of fear mentioned in the Mourtos article is real. In the Buddhist religion evil does not prevail over good, but demonic images abound in its Tantric manifestation. There are even deities that are usually identified in terrifying images of anger. In painted or crafted images, and even in religious song and dance, one is reminded of the power and presence of demons.
This helped to expose Tibetan culture to the Marxist propaganda of liberation. Standard Marxist literature to this day proclaims that Tibetans were freed from enslavement by fear and by tyrannical feudal and clerical overlords, who blinded them intellectually and sometimes physically to keep them in check.
Tantrism (the quest for religious enlightenment through the repetition of incantations) as a religious approach is not restricted to Buddhism. It originated in India, where a number of religions sprang up on the soil and foundation of Hinduism.
The Hindu sensitivity to life is shown in its encouragement of vegetarianism. Of course there could be the element of selfinterest (the Mourtos article points out that the doctrine of reincarnation, which is common to all the Hindubased religions including Buddhism, is a "cycle or terror") as clearly one would not want to have one's deceased grandmother for a meal. Nevertheless the sensitivity to all animal life is not in dispute. In spite of this, Hinduism is not without its fair share of demonic images. In fact Shiva, the Destroyer, is one of the three main deities in the Hindu pantheon. His cult enjoys a greater following than that of Brahma, the Creator deity. It is The Censer reasoned that Destruction leads to new life. It is also believed that Shiva's wife, the goddess Kali, enjoyed animal sacrifices - blood sacrifices which in the Christian religion was ended with Christ.
Most Christians do not think about the issue, but fear does occupy a place in other major religions. There could be a number of reasons for this. First we must acknowledge that fear has played a part in Christian belief. It was in fact one of the hottest subjects of theological debate in centuries past. Theologians who regarded themselves as representing the true Gospel message assailed believers who practiced good works out of fear of the fires of hell or a vengeful Judgment Day. These theologians taught that salvation came solely through faith in Christ, not through earthly good deeds that went towards pardons and remission from the punishment of hell. They said true and sincere belief in Christ (and not a hypocritical mouthing of it) would orient the person towards behavior that leads him Heavenward, away from hell. Fear of hell has no place and hell does not come into the picture. In our age, a clear understanding of soteriology might teach that while faith in Christ is indispensable for salvation, Christian belief and practice would include sensible choicemaking for the avoidance of evil and hell. The Orthodox Church, with her age-old compassion for Man and his human weaknesses, would emphasize the help and healing that God gives to man through the sacraments and forgiveness, freeing man from the guilt-ridden, fear-driven creature that he can become without the grace of Christ.
The place of fear in the non-Christian religions may reflect a difference in orientation, and a dif ference in approach. Orientation, in that Christians have always taken an affirmative attitude towards the world and Creation (a very easily perceived difference may be found in Buddhism, whose soteriology is mainly negativist or even nihilist). The positive Christian understanding of the universe may be seen in their interpretation of the Genesis account of the Creation: when God completed His work of creating the universe, it is recorded, "Behold, it was very good." Christians today often lament that the world is not in good shape, but it only proves the point: they believe it ought to be in better shape. The oftenunconscious subtext of this lament comes from the tradition that the world has deteriorated from its original mint condition, because of something Christian theologians call "the Fall."
This is why Christ God came to fix the problem, in the first place. For two thousand years, Christians have believed that the problem is smaller than the solution, because the solution is the Divine Economy, the Salvific Plan, of their God. In the Christian religion, therefore, problems have solutions, Good triumphs over Evil, and fear is replaced by joy. The same cannot be said of other religions in which, as the Mourtos article pointed out, reincarnation (and consequently the dominance of fate) is a central belief. The same cannot be said of secular systems that dismiss the supernatural (Marxism or Confucianism, for example), in which the destiny of Man is delimited by the end of earthly life, or is unknowable. The same cannot be said even of religions which may be Abrahamic in lineage, but in which the main manifestation of God is His power, but not His love.
The Christian religion also has a unique approach in its teachings. Every single one of today's major religions arose in Asia. Among them, Christianity came out of Palestine and became the dominant religion in Europe. The New Testament was written in Greek, a European language. Christian teachers and thinkers from generation to generation have always had a unique approach to the interpretation and understanding of their faith. This has a lot to do with the Greco-Roman stamp and heritage of the Christian Church, which are characterized by an attitude of rationality and enlightenment. This went hand-in-hand with the affirmative attitude of the Christian faith to the universe and Creation. For the Christian religion, the Supernatural and the Holy Mysteries are not to be feared; rather, they are to be respected and venerated as a Help to Mankind. God is good, and the lover of Mankind. God is knowable, revealing Himself as the Son of Man. God is reasonable, and the teacher of Mankind.
From its earliest days, therefore, the Christian Church understood its religion in a manner that was free from irrational fear. In the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the dominant influence of the Hellenistic world at that time, a perfect marriage of faith and doctrinal teaching had taken place. Earlier, the pagan pantheon of Greece and Rome had run out of steam because of its amoral and shallow spiritual base, left behind by a highly developed civilization of philosophical and legal learning. This Greco-Roman philosophical and legal learning craved for something more sophisticated, which it found in the irresistible new Judao-Christian religion spreading across the Empire.
In short, when the Church grew to want to better understand herself and her teachings, Greco-Roman philosophy arrived at a point when it needed something truly profound and worthwhile to understand. It was consequently a natural marriage, and quite possibly conceived in Heaven, because its fruits have benefited Mankind to this day.
Academic theology is not enough for salvation. Read especially the ascetic Fathers. From them you will learn true theology, the right attitude of the mind and heart where God is concerned.
Pure prayer is not given to those who study a lot. In that sense, the path of academic theology is hardly effective, and can rarely lead to pure prayer.
God can touch the spirit of man and give him, directly and immediately, knowledge of Himself. There is a great difference between this knowledge and that which is acquired in theological schools. It can be very dangerous to do theology without having an existential experience of life in the spirit of Christ. One risks, in fact, turning the study of theology, especially in its apophatic forms, into a subject like philosophy or poetry. One risks adopting a false attitude, thinking oneself superior, and that is enough for perdition. In our life in Christ, it is another kind of inspiration that we must seek.
Theological science, which is taught in academic institutions and has become an intellectual specialisation open to all, does not give knowledge of God. Knowledge of God comes from life in God, which is born in the deepest place of the heart.
One can be a great scholar, with academic qualifications, and yet remain completely ignorant about the path of salvation.
Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov). Words of Life. (Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1998). Selected “Extracts from spiritual talks,” from pages 40, 41, and 42.
Egypt Restores Monastery Touting Religious Harmony
Feb 4, 2010
ZAAFARANA, Egypt – Egypt's chief archaeologist unveiled on Thursday an extensive renovation of the oldest monastery in the world, touting the work at the 1,600 year-old-site as a symbol of peaceful coexistence between the country's Muslims and Christians.
It's the message Egypt's government has been emphasizing ever since a lethal drive-by shooting at a church a month ago in a southern town: No troubles here — dismissing new worries over sectarian divisions between Egypt's mainly Muslim population and the large Christian minority.
"The announcement we are making today shows to the world how we are keen to restore the monuments of our past, whether Coptic, Jewish or Muslims," he said, referring to the dominant Christian sect in Egypt.
"The incident in Upper Egypt can happen between two brothers," said Hawass when asked if there was any connection between the Jan. 6 shooting and the timing of his announcement at the monastery. "I want everyone to forgot this incident."
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities spent eight years and $14.5 million dollars to carry out a comprehensive restoration and conservation of the ancient monastery, situated in the rugged desert mountains near Egypt's Red Sea coast.
It was in this remote spot, at the end of the 3rd century that renowned Christian ascetic St. Anthony took up a residence in a cave, with little more than a spring and some palm trees to sustain him.
Upon his death in A.D. 356, his followers built cells and created the world's first Christian monastery, which now houses 120 monks, the burial place of four saints, and ancient church paintings dating to the Middle Ages.
Monks say the restoration and discovery of the cells of the monks sheds important light on the early years of monasticism and bolsters the country's long monastic tradition.
"For the monastery itself, this is very important, we have found a missing part of our history with this restoration, for there is nothing written about the beginning of the monastery," said Father Maximus, who oversaw the renovation.
In the government-sponsored project, workers renovated the fortress-like ancient wall surrounding the monastery, several outbuildings, and its two main churches — the 15th century Church of the Apostles and the 4th century Church of St. Anthony.
A modern sewage system was also installed for the monastery, which receives a million visitors every year.
"The monastery has become a very important retreat for spiritual relaxation for visitors, especially when they visit the cave of St. Anthony," he said.
For Hawass, the high profile director of Egypt's antiquities department, the completion of the project was an opportunity for Egypt to show its critics the depths of its tolerance.
"I believe today is important because it can answer all the questions of the people all over the world and it can show how the Muslims can stay here eight years restoring and making impressive work," he told journalists while touring the site.
The drive by shooting in the southern Egyptian town of Nag Hamadi on Jan. 6, Coptic Christmas Eve, killed six Christians and a Muslim guard, shocking Egypt's Christians and bringing widespread condemnation internationally over sectarian relations in the country.
Egyptian officials insist the shooting was a purely criminal act, without sectarian motives. Authorities categorically deny there are any problems between Muslims and Christians and say there is national unity, with all groups living in harmony.
The state often maintains that attacks against Christians, especially in poverty-ridden southern Egypt, are isolated, criminal incidents, often related to disputes between clans.
But Youssef Sidhom, the editor of the weekly Coptic newspaper Al-Watani, dismisses the government stance on the Jan. 6 attack.
"Targeting Christians coming out of church on Christmas eve, this cannot be fully a criminal affair, it is a criminal sectarian affair," he said. "We have to face for once our bitter heritage that has accumulated during the last four decades, making such hostilities more frequent than before."
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population of 79 million, complain of discrimination, saying they have insufficient representation in parliament or the security forces and that education and media don't reflect their community. They also point to restrictions requiring security officials' permission to build or even repair churches.
"When the state wants to renovate a Jewish temple, an ancient church or an ancient mosque, no one can stop the state. The problem comes when we want to renovate a church, things get tough and we have to apply to the security apparatus to approve it," Sidhom said.
Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. government's Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the State Department is "very worried about increased violence against Christians in Upper Egypt."
"There are quite a number of laws in Egypt which blatantly discriminate against Christians and other religious minorities in a way that creates a climate where people don't respect Christians," he told Fox News on Jan. 28.
In its splendid isolation at the foot of mountains surrounded by the crisp desert air, the monastery seems far away from troubles elsewhere. In a sign of its turbulent past, one of the restored buildings is a tall tower only accessible by a wooden drawbridge, where the monks would take refuge during assaults by hostile Bedouin tribes in the Middle Ages.
"We are living in the same land, drinking the same water — we are Egyptians, all of us. What is going on is something not normal," said Father Maximus about the shooting in Nag Hamadi.
A fearful thing is sin, and the sorest disease of the soul is transgression, secretly cutting its sinews, and becoming also the cause of eternal fire; an evil of a man's own choosing, an offspring of the will.
For that we sin of our own free will the Prophet says plainly in a certain place: "Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, (and become) the strange vine" (Jer. 2:21)? The planting was good, the fruit coming from the will is evil; and therefore the planter is blameless, but the vine shall be burnt with fire since it was planted for good, and bore fruit unto evil of its own will. For God, according to the Preacher, "made man upright, and they have themselves sought out many inventions" (Eccl. 7:29). "For we are His workmanship," says the Apostle, "created unto good works, which God beforehand prepared, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). So then the Creator, being good, created for good works; but the creature turned of its own free will to wickedness.
Sin then is, as we have said, a fearful evil, but not incurable; fearful for him who clings to it, but easy of cure for him who by repentance puts it from him. For suppose that a man is holding fire in his hand; as long as he holds fast the live coal he is sure to be burned, but should he put away the coal, he would have cast away the flame also with it. If however any one thinks that he is not being burned when sinning, to him the Scripture says, "Shall a man wrap up fire in his bosom, and not burn his clothes" (Prov. 6:27)? For sin burns the sinews of the soul, and breaks the spiritual bones of the mind, and darkens the light of the heart.
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Second Catechetical Lecture
Ouija boards are considered by many to be something not to be dabbled with - should these really be sold in toy stores ?
Some believe ouija boards can be used to contact the dead or to summon demons but toy stores around the world still sell them to children as young as 8. Should stores stop selling them as toys or are they as harmless as they seem ?
Ouija Board a Controversial Toy for Tots
Toys R Us is selling Ouija boards, promoting them as acceptable for children as young as eight years old.
The pink edition of the Ouija board is listed for girls eight-years-old and up while the regular version is designated for all children eight and up. Stephen Phelan, communications manager of Human Life International, checked the website and reports that the findings are disturbing.
"It is just troubling that these things are treated as casually as any other game, like Monopoly or anything else on this Toys R Us site -- and I think it's something Christians should be aware of and really not support," he states.
He further believes that Christians have an obligation to fight against it. "If you go to the comments section on the Toys R Us [web]site, you'll read comments from people who talk about being obsessed with it, talk about missing school for it, talk about the spirits they spoke to on the other side and how creepy it was," Phelan describes.
The communications manager adds that the primary groups that deny the evils of the Ouija board are the ones who deny the spirit world entirely. He goes on to say Christians have a biblical mandate.
"We're supposed to deal with the truth only," he notes. "We're supposed to have nothing to do with dark spirits. We're not supposed to dabble in anything that would compromise our souls, and that's exactly what this does."
The manufacturer of the product is Hasbro.
For an introduction on who Benjamin Creme is, I quote this section from Wikipedia along with links:
Benjamin Creme (b. Dec 5 1922 Scotland) is an artist, author, self proclaimed esotericist, and owner of Share International magazine (his regular newsletter and website).
He asserts that the second coming prophesied by many religions will come in the form of "Maitreya". Maitreya is the name Buddhists use for the future Buddha, but Creme claims that Maitreya is the teacher that all religions point towards and hope for . Other names for him, according to Creme, are the Christ, the Imam Mahdi, Krishna, and the Messiah. Creme says Maitreya is the "Avatar for the Aquarian Age" and is currently living in London.
Creme has made a number of predictions and announcement for the imminent appearance of Maitreya based on his claims of receiving telepathic messages. These have failed to come true, leading to him being considered a figure of amusement in the press.
In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers
By SCOTT JAMES
February 4, 2010
New York Times
Raj Patel’s desk sits in a dusty, cement-floored nook in his garage, just beyond a parked gray Prius, near the washer and dryer. They are humble surroundings for a god.
“It is absurd to be put in this position, when I’m just some bloke,” Mr. Patel said.
A native of London now living on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Mr. Patel suddenly finds himself an unlikely object of worship, proclaimed the messiah Maitreya by followers of the New Age religious sect Share International.
He was raised as a Hindu and had never heard of the group. He has no desire for deification. But he may not have a choice.
Mr. Patel’s journey from ordinary person to unwilling lord is a case of having the wrong résumé at the wrong moment in history. For this is a time when human yearning to find a magical cure for the world’s woes can be harnessed to the digital age’s instant access to a vast treasure-trove of personal information.
I have known Mr. Patel for four years — he keeps an office down the hall from mine. He is charming, and as a graduate of Oxford, Cornell University and the London School of Economics, he is considered brilliant, although he is self-effacing. He readily admits to being imperfectly human.
People began to believe otherwise on Jan. 14 in London when Benjamin Creme, the leader of Share International, who is also known as the Master, proclaimed the arrival of Maitreya. The name of the deity has Buddhist roots, but in 1972, Mr. Creme prophesied the coming Maitreya as a messiah for all faiths called the World Teacher.
Mr. Creme did not name the messiah, but he revealed clues that led his devotees to fire up their search engines on a digital scavenger hunt that would lead them to The One.
About this time Mr. Patel was publicizing his new economics book, “The Value of Nothing.” With blogging, biographies and talk show appearances, the details of his life and views permeated the Internet ether. Crowds packed his readings, his book debuted on the New York Times best-seller list, and he appeared on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.
The Maitreya clues — his age (supposed to be born in 1972; Mr. Patel was), life experiences (supposed to have traveled from India to London in 1977; Mr. Patel was taken on a vacation there with his parents that year) race (supposed to be dark-skinned; Mr. Patel is Indian) and philosophies — all pointed to him. Some believe Maitreya will have a stutter. When Mr. Patel tripped over a few words when talking with Mr. Colbert, it was the final sign.
“It became a flood,” said Mr. Patel, referring to a torrent of e-mail messages that asked: “Are you The One?” He removed the contact information from his Web site, but dozens of pages, discussion groups and videos have emerged online proclaiming his holiness.
Mr. Patel has emphatically and publicly denied being Maitreya. Bad move. According to the predictions, “Maitreya will neither confirm, or will fail to confirm, he is Maitreya,” said Cher Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Share International.
Ms. Gilmore said Mr. Creme would not say if he believed Mr. Patel was the messiah.
Ben Shoucair, 24, a college student from Detroit, does not need more convincing. He said he saw Mr. Patel in a dream, and then was stunned to find a YouTube video and discover his vision was real. Last week, Mr. Shoucair and his father spent $990 on last-minute tickets to fly to San Francisco to be in Mr. Patel’s presence at a book promotion.
Reached by phone this week, Mr. Shoucair said meeting Mr. Patel had made him “happy.” He said the Maitreya evidence was irrefutable. “It puts it all on Raj Patel at this time in history.”
Mr. Shoucair seemed amazed when told that Mr. Patel did not believe he was the messiah and had never heard of Mr. Creme. “See how deep the spiritual world is,” Mr. Shoucair said.
Mr. Patel said of their pilgrimage: “It broke my heart. They’d flown all the way from Detroit.”
Share International’s beliefs are rooted in the Theosophical movement popular in Britain in the late-19th century; it later evolved into New Age beliefs, said Ted F. Peters of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Messiahs have been declared before, only to disappoint.
“It’s incredibly flattering, just for an instant,” Mr. Patel said of his unwanted status. “And then you realize what it means. People are looking for better times. Almost anything now will qualify as a portent of different times.”
Thursday, February 4, 2010
"The people who are in darkness and under the shadow of death."
By living in Taiwan during the founding of the Orthodox Church there, my love for the Chinese people has deepened. I had this feeling as a university student, and by the grace of God, I am able to remain here and officiate the Divine Liturgy. As a result, the grace and the love of God are perceptible in Taiwan.
Having had discussions with various people from Taiwan, whom I met at various times, I realized their unhappiness. This became even more obvious after a remark made by a friend, after he saw wedding photos in some shop windows. I have to explain here that a Chinese wedding takes place in a restaurant; they just eat together, no singing or dancing. The bride changes dresses several times to show that she is rich. The significance of these details will come into play later.
Within the wedding ceremony, there is no concept of mystery. They bow to their ancestors. However, they do take artistic photos before or after the wedding, dressed as brides and bridegrooms, with the most famous sights of the city or countryside as the background.
"But they don't smile!", said my friend, surprised. "There is so much fear deep inside them." Indeed, I have looked at so many wedding photos and they are all the same. This was my first experience with fear in Taiwan.
Little by little, fear started intruding more visibly into my heart, from several hidden places that had been broken and hurt before and had not yet quite healed. I am Chinese now, you see. I love these people so much, I love this place. It feels so familiar that some people continually tell me that I am a reincarnated Chinese. I just smile kindly and explain to them that there are other reasons, too, which can make someone feel this way, apart from being reincarnated. Fear indeed established itself in my heart when I visited the exhibition of Tibetan Buddhism at the Museum of Religions. There my polite friend, the museum's guide, explained about the exhib its: "You see these drums? They are made of the skulls of little children and the membrane is made of their skin. These trumpets are made of human bones, and this lama's uniform is made entirely of human skin and bones, from dead people, of course." I felt something cold and bad. Even afterwards, at the exit, where small commemoratives were sold, something stopped me from buying one. I asked, "What is this little comb made of?" -" Of human bones, of course", the lady said, "everything is made of dead people." -" O. K.", I said, "never mind, I'll buy something another time."
I remembered the verses of T. S. Elliot: But our lot crawls between dry ribs to keep our metaphysics warm (Whispers of Immortality). Then, as if a veil was drawn from in front of my eyes, many things inside me started becoming clear.
Fear governs Chinese society and, generally speaking, Eastern societies. Fear is everywhere. First of all, there is the fear of ghosts. Ghosts are everywhere, and many people have told me that they have seen them. In a hotel, for example, it's very likely to hear someone shouting "ghost!". Everybody will believe it, they will panic, they will burn paper money and will beg the ghost not to hurt them. The phrase "please, don't do any harm to me..... please accept these......" is very typical. At first, I didn't believe them, but now, I am not so sure anymore. I remember the biographies of the martyrs and especially the biographies of the saints of the desert and how the monastery of the Great Lavra was built, on Mount Athos, by St. Athanasios, and so on. Yes, this is a country where evil dominates. Yet, thanks to the people who help the Orthodox mission, the Divine Liturgy takes place here and the grace of God comes to this place.
What are these ghosts? People who died violently, people whose relatives didn't offer them the proper sacrifices. Those who were buried on the wrong date or whose grave is wrongly oriented or upsetting to several devils -out of the many- of the Chinese pantheon. It is obvious how unbearable the domination of nature on the human fate is here. The so- called feng shui (geomancy)- that is the proper combination of the properties of a building, its orientation, illumination, the position of the door or the window, etc.- must be in harmony with the powers which regulate the universe, such as the yin and the yang. Thus, nature dominates the human fate inexorably and it can destroy people's lives without any reason and without any sense.
Going more deeply, to the family, we see the real drama. You must offer the proper sacrifices to the ancestors, about every two weeks. Every family has a special table for this reason at home. If you don't offer your sacrifices in the right way, the soul of the father or the mother will become a hungry ghost and will give you a hard time. It seemed unbelievable to me, a classical Greek thinker. We can’t imagine that the souls of our dead people will try to harm us, even if we don't remember them, or commemorate them correctly. On the contrary, when we are in trouble, we call out to them; we empty our pain to them. Afterwards, I thought that it could be a subconscious reaction of the children towards their ancestors, because of their attitude.
In the Chinese family, there is no private life, you see. "Family" is above everything and everyone, and parents control their children’s life, "padre padrone." They decide what you are going to study and whom you will marry. If they don't like him/ her they turn them down and expect you to marry someone else. Polygamy not only used to be the rule in the past here, but it still is common and wives get to know each other. And, of course, to kiss or stroke children is forbidden. After all this, the parents, hungry ghosts that suck out their children's lives in this world, are projected to be - subconsciously, since nobody dares to do so consciously - ghosts in the other life, too.
Fear is also expressed through the admiration of power. Although I did not want to believe this at the beginning, I accepted it when I visited a temple which is devoted to the founders of modern Chinese democracy, Dr. Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek. Their statues were on the altar and people offered sacrifices to them because they had power. Of course, they were definitely important men, but they were not gods. As I was told, in China, many people worship Mao as God, despite the efforts of the government to prevent this. They even pray to dogs and devote temples to them. They worship anything with power, because power counts here.
Gradually, I am trying to uncover the dark and cold story of Chinese fear. Behind all these, the fear of death is hidden. Even when you die you need money and thus they put a lot of money in the pockets of dead people. When you are alive, you must make preparations for your funeral. It has to be a good one and take place at the right time because otherwise, you will become a ghost and torture all those people that you used to torture anyway, during your life on Earth. (The dead person can be kept at home, in the coffin, for 3- 4 months.) Also, you must find and even adopt a boy if you don't have a son, because only male children have the right to bury you. Thus, buying and selling children is very common. If you are an unmarried woman and you die, then a wedding, involving your ghost, takes place. They throw money into the street and the first male person who picks it up is obliged to marry the ghost in a proper wedding ceremony.
In my opinion, the most dramatic element of this fear is the lack of love. It is unbelievable that in such a civilization the expression of love is so rare. It is considered to be very bad, even rude, to say "I love you", even to the person you are going to marry! In fact these words are never said. I attended a university where I learned Chinese. When we learned the word "love", we were also told that Chinese people don't use it. In Japan this word was imported from China, in the 5th century, as it did not exist before then. Why is it that we hear the phrase in songs, soap operas, and TV commercials? Maybe it is because Chinese people don't dare express their emotions. There is neither dancing nor singing. Psychology should have a lot to say about this prohibition and the compulsory behavior of not expressing yourself in China. What about karaoke? It's strange, a kind of prescribed way of sing ing in a limited context, in a closed room. People almost never just sing out spontaneously. Imagine the reaction of the poor taxi driver when our Orthodox Reader Olga and I are in the car and start to sing!
In Taiwan, especially, there is a deep fear of the future. They are afraid that Communist China will attack and destroy everything. This is why they try, by any means, to find a second passport to flee abroad. Very often, this nightmare does not allow you to think longterm about the future of family and/ or business. Marriage here is understood more as a fulfillment of a requirement, as obedience to parents, a financial agreement or a means of survival. It is much less a communion of love between two people, at least as love defined by Christianity. Here, the persons are really closed to themselves; they suffocate from fear of death and insecurity and, eventually, they close themselves off from this life in a grave.
How can you love, then? Persons who are afraid and think only of themselves are literally dead Individualism is death and death leads to fear. As a result, the person lives in the dark, creating vicious circle of death. As St. John the Evangelist says: "The perfect love dismisses fear.... because he who is afraid does not become perfect in love". Yes, there is no love in Chinese society. To be precise, it has never existed, in the Chinese way of thinking. Only Mo Tse, a philosopher who lived around 479- 381 B. C., spoke about universal love, which is different from Christian love. It has a clearly utilitarian character, and is necessary for peace in society and among states. However, this idea has never been accepted. It was also opposed by Confucianism and, generally speaking, was rejected by Chinese society.
When the Chinese people talk about "love", they don't mean what we mean. They have in mind a relationship of profit. They don't even love their god or gods. The way they pray has been a earthshaking experience for me: "Oh, my god, give me money and I will give you a percentage! Help me to win in the lottery and I will give you a part of the money or I will send a woman to dance for you" or something similar. Last year, they brought to Taiwan a small piece of a Buddha's finger for worship, from China. Thousands of people passed by to genuflect. However, I saw a newspaper article in which the head monk who accompanied it said: "Please, don't ask Buddha to help you win in the lottery, ask for peace, etc." People here don't love any god, they can't even think of such a thing. (I am talking about the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people, who believe in a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, ancestor- worship and superstitions.) These people use their god( s) because it seems to them that they can take advantage of the power the gods have. They invoke god, promising several things, in order to flee from the fear of fate.
This lack of love is tragic. Of course, they try to control fate, through fengshui, that is, geomancy or earthpredictions, the power of crystals, etc. Perhaps the fact that they don't have a relationship of love with their god( s) can explain why the demons and gods in their temples have such ugly and repulsive countenances. Another is their deep guilt that cannot be expressed and cured since they ignore confession. Thus their fear is deepened and they try to buy redemption by donations to the temples. It is the fear of punishment and hell and the threatening faces of the demons in the temples that keep people in fear. The more spiritual people ask only for peace and harmony, because they know what living in fear means. They don't know anything about love. They don't ask to love god. They cannot even imagine it. Besides, according to Confucius and Buddha, seeking god has no meaning. It is not right to wish to find out who god is and, eventually, you will never find out, because searching is wrong. People should care about the present, about today and how they can live better and they should not be interested in something they can't understand. Thus, to love someone you don't know does not have any meaning.
Moreover, this fear becomes deeper because of the hidden psychological consequences of reincarnation, which is the theory that dominates the Far East. I pay for sins that I don't remember and that I committed in another life. I live in a cycle of reincarnations; this law governs my life ruthlessly, because I can't change it. I have to pay. There is no forgiveness and remission. This circle of terror can never be broken. I have my body, but I can't love it. As a Chinese person, I cannot love it since it doesn't have any value. Only the soul has value, yet it is imprisoned in the body.
The influence of reincarnation is one of the most important reasons for the lack of love in Asian people. That is, when a human heart loves, it says to the other person, "I love you forever". But, how can you imagine loving anyone forever, when you know that soon you will be reincarnated into a woman, a man or an animal, and then how many men, women and animals will you love? What is the quality of your relationship, then? Behind all this, the absence of the "person" becomes obvious. This concept does not exist in Chinese society and, generally speaking, in the Eastern societies. Nevertheless, this is the revelation of our God, of the Holy Trinity. It is the revelation of the "person", because only if I am a person can I truly love. For the Eastern people, god is not love; god is anything that has power and that I can take advantage of. Even in Buddhism, which is considered to be the most spiritual expression of the East and which talks about love, there are the so called bodhisattva – those who refuse to become buddhas before they save the world. The notion of love is emotional and not deeply ontological/ existential, because the person -the hypostatic principle/ element, according to Fr. Sofronios- doesn't exist. You must save yourself, this is what matters only, by being absorbed by nirvana (by eliminating yourself in nirvana). The person does not exist, it is just an entirety of continuously changing characteristics. Since there is no person, there is no love.
Feeling love is different than being love. Our God is love, because He is a communion of three persons. He is the Father, not because He loves us, but only because He has a Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Buddha did not know anything else other than the human way of life -people in contrast with each other- and he created his theory. However, there is another way of being, the Trinitarian way, the way of being in communion. This is our deepest contribution and missionary method to the Chinese people. Chinese people talk about unity and think of Christianity as a fragmentation, but they live under the heavy shadow of the law of nature and particularly under dualism, the yin and yang theory and energy theories, which don't have any sensible sup port/ basis. The only unity is the communion of persons, which is shown by Trinitarian theology. Because for the Chinese people, the truth is not a person; it has become a mixture of strange, contradictory theories.
The theology of divine light is the only salvation of the Chinese and, generally speaking, Eastern way of thinking, which is really stuck in nature, especially in Japan. It is not harmony, which is the reason that everything is beautiful in nature, but the presence of God, the presence of the divine light. This light changed the clothes of Jesus Christ to light, too, on Mount Tabor, as well as the bush on Mount Sinai. The divine light is the only salvation from the Far Eastern fear of hell, of the horrible hell of the 18 stages (bad teachers are sent to the last stage), because for us, the divine light is the fire of hell.
We have a lot to give to the people of East, even this late in time. When I am asked why I came here, when some Protestant friends of mine ask me why I don't do missionary work (that is to knock on doors, holding the Holy Scriptures, and saying to people "if you don't believe in God, you will go to hell"), I answer that I don't want to convert/ proselytize people, but to give the meaning of love and freedom to them. Only Orthodox theology can offer this. Only in the Divine Liturgy can someone become love and spread it to the others afterwards. Thanks to "St. Kosmas", the Divine Liturgy takes place in Taiwan, in our little church devoted to the Holy Trinity. This is the most important thing in a mission and is why I share my conclusions and my humble thoughts with you. I need your prayers. I live among so many temptations and battles, because of my own mistakes and sins, and in such loneliness.
It was reported recently that the Church of St. Nicholas would be turned into a museum. But the question was asked: If the church is going to be restored, why make it into a museum and not an active church?
90% of the residents are in favor of the church being restored. 5000 residents of Bodrum are Muslim and live there year round. One million tourists visit in the summer. Yet, there is no church in the area for all these tourists.
The church was three centuries old. When the Orthodox residents were removed during the population exchange of 1923, the church became a storage place. Before being destroyed in the 1960's, Bodrum started to become a popular tourist destination. There was a debate within the government to keep the church to give tourists a sense of its past. Eventually it was decided that the church was of no significant historical value and thus destroyed. However when the dynamite exploded the central part of the church remained and the awful looking building one sees in the photographs was built around it.
The mayor of Bodrum, Mehmet Kocadon, wants to now destroy this building and restore St. Nicholas and place the Center for Adult Education in another location. Kocadon faces one major issue however: the justification to rebuild this church and gain the license to do so. It is for this reason that he has requested that it become a museum and not an operating church.
See also this piece about another church in Bodrum to be restored (and most likely turned into a museum).
Whence is it that evil thoughts come forth from the heart, and defile a man? Doubtless, because the laborers are asleep who should be keeping watch, so as to safeguard and preserve the fruits of good seed that is growing up. For unless we have weakened in our vigilance, by gluttony and by sloth, defiling the divine image, that is, corrupting the good seed, the sower of tares [the devil] would not have found a way to creep up on us, nor would he have sown within us tares worthy of the fire; that is, "evil thoughts which come forth from the heart and which defile a man".
"Wilt thou that we go and gather it up?" Thus speak the Angels, ever prepared with eager devotion to serve the divine will, as they see our inactivity and sloth, and the infinite forbearance of God. But they are forbidden, lest they uproot the good wheat together with the tares, that is, so that the sinner may not be cut off while in his mind there is yet a possibility of repentance; lest innocent children be destroyed together with their parents, who though perhaps yet in their parents' loins, nevertheless with God, who sees all things, they already are.
For the ranks of the Angels, fellow servants of creation, know not the things that as yet exist not. But God both knows and has wrought because of these very circumstances. For He did not cut off the evil-doing Esau, who had not yet begotten; lest together with him Job might also perish, who from him took descent. Nor did he slay Matthew, who had given himself to the exacting of the tribute, so that He might not thus impede the preaching of the gospel. Neither did He destroy the harlots who served lust and immodesty, lest models of repentance might be wanting. He avenged not Peter's denial, because already He beheld his burning tears of repentance. Nor did he strike down with death the persecuting Saul, lest the ends of the earth be deprived of salvation.
All tares therefore that await the time of the harvest, and do not change themselves into fruits of repentance, are being made ready for the great fire, since they have flowered wholly into fruitlessness. But they whose roots are deep, whose ears of corn are abundant, who are bending over at harvest time with the weight of fruit and all but calling for the sickle of the harvesters, these Christ orders to be carried by the Angels to the heavenly seats, to share their joy, to reign with Him, and be sharers of His immortal happiness, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.
by St. Isidore of Pelusium (Letter 322 - To Timotheos)
Just as it is not safe to travel through an uninhabited land with a belligerent person, so it is not very easy to have an educated conversation with an ignorant person. The former will unleash his full force on you when you are alone if something is said or done not to his liking, while the latter, unless everything said is dumbed down to his lack of education, will single out for disgrace and ridicule everyone intelligent in the world, including learned philosophers and virtue-loving men. Frequently, people’s lack of letters tends to spread and at the current time you will find it preeminent everywhere. Even the Church is not without its share of it as well as the State and even the empire itself cannot be governed without it. Because of this, our troubles grow and the spirit of slavery has taken hold through the empire. So be very patient with the unlearned person, because you gladly abstain from the mindless, being mindful of our Lord.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Impose upon yourself some form of penance [Epitimia] for the sins of others. If you have judged someone or punished someone, impose upon yourself a form of penance. You should also suffer voluntarily for the sins of sinners. This is pleasing to God. This mystery was known by the saints who condemned themselves for the sins of others. Even non-Christian peoples perceived this mystery. There exists this custom in China: when an executioner beheads a criminal who is sentenced to death, he then approaches the judge and informs him that the verdict was carried out. The judge then reimburses him with a silver coin because he killed the criminal and orders that the executioner be whipped forty lashes because he killed a man. Christian saints profoundly understood the mystery of sin and human injustice. For the saints, all human sin has as long a history as there is distance from us to Adam.
The elder changed many lives. I once met a man who told me that he used to make a great deal of money showing pornographic films. He was very suspicious of Christianity, and, when he first heard of Elder Paisios, he supposed that he was a charlatan and decided to go to Mount Athos with two of his friends to "expose that monk".
When they arrived, the elder received them in his yard, saying, "Sit down and let me serve you something." The elder served the other two gentlemen first, and then stood in front of the first man and turned the plate upside down, letting the sweet fall in the mud.
"I dropped it," he said, "but that doesn't matter. Pick it up and eat it anyway."
The fellow was insulted: "How do you expect me to eat it when its filthy?"
The elder sternly replied, "And why do you give people filth to eat?"
Stunned, embarrassed, and in some fear, the man got up and left, but he went back again the next day and spoke with the elder. He told me he felt then as though the ground were shifting under his feet. The conversation was brief.
"What am I supposed to do?" he asked.
The elder responded, "First of all, shut down your business, then come back and talk to me again."
He returned to Thessaloniki, closed the business, and began to look for new work.
After about a month he went to speak with Father Paisios, who told him to go to confession and taught him to put his life in order spiritually. I admired the man when I heard this - at just one call to repentance he had changed his life and followed Christ, just like Matthew the tax-collector in the Gospel (Matt. 9:9).
From the book titled The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis; p. 75.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
January 28, 2010
Dr. Bouteneff discusses a pair of books about Father Arseny, Fr. Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father and Fr. Arseny: Cloud of Witnesses, both of which his mother translated from Russian into English.
Listen to the podcast here.
In the area of Monastiraki in Athens, across from Hadrian's Library, lies hidden a small church named Agiou Elissaiou (St. Elisha).
It was in this church that St. Nicholas Planas (1851-1932) liturgized daily with the two famous Greek authors from Skiathos, Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911) chanting in the right choir and Alexander Moraitidis (1850-1929) in the left choir.
You can see a video featuring this church here.
"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." - Adam Curtis
A Letter by the Blessed Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos on the Matter of Ecumenism and Schismatic Old Calendarist Zealotism
Athens, the 22nd July 1971
Dearest Fr. Nicodemos,
Rejoice in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
More than a month has passed since I received your letter. I delayed responding to it, due to an overload of obligations. I beg for your understanding.
I shall reply somewhat briefly, with my promise to revert, in the event that your holiness should require new clarifications.
First of all, dearest Fr. Nicodemos, I am obliged to tell you a bitter truth, which will seem more than absurd to you and will amaze you. Until this day, I have been avoiding, for the sake of oikonomia, to formulate this position, or have expressed it in shadowy terms; however, as things have already reached a point that can go no further and certain select persons, who unfortunately have a terror-stricken conscience, have gone over to the Old Calendarists and have become victims of a relentless propaganda against the Church, it is time that the truth be told, straightforwardly and unreservedly.
Well, Fr. Nicodemos, all those who, out of fear of Ecumenism, accede to the Old Calendarists gain nothing whatsoever, except that by fleeing from one heresy, they accede to another. Of course they themselves are not conscious that they have acceded to a heresy, but that does not change things in the least.
Do not think that I am unfair or immoderate. I will prove that my argument is absolutely true. Please take note.
What is a heresy, dear Fr. Nicodemos? It is an adulteration of the Faith! But what is an adulteration of the Faith? Is it the breaching of Dogmas? That too is an adulteration of the Faith, but it is not only that. An adulteration of the Faith is also the elevating to the status of a Dogma of the Faith those things that are not. That is to say, if someone were to render a secondary thing, even if a good one, as a Dogma of the Faith, as a condition for salvation, then that someone automatically becomes a he-re-tic!
Do you want an example? Well, you have the famous Eustathians! What did they do? Did they breach any Dogmas of the Faith? Which one? Perhaps the one pertaining to the Holy Trinity? Perhaps the one pertaining to the two natures of the Lord? Perhaps the one pertaining to Angels? Perhaps the one on the Devil, etc., etc.? No! They did not violate any Dogma.
But then what did they do? They "elevated" certain secondary things to the level of Dogmas of the Faith, to conditions for salvation: celibacy, and abstaining from meat. The Church had said that although these two things were good and holy and commendable, they were NOT conditions for salvation. They were NOT dogmas of the Faith. "NO!" said the outraged Eustathians! "Whoever does NOT abstain from marriage and meat, CANNOT be saved!"
What happened after this? During the Council of Gangra, the Church declared them as heretics and pronounced a string of anathemas against them.
Dear Fr. Nicodemos, the uniformity in dates of feasts may be a good and holy thing (even though it was never fully upheld in the Church), but it is NOT a Dogma of the Faith - it is NOT a condition for salvation.
"No!" the Old Calendarist remonstrators cry out! "The disruption of feastday uniformity (Question: When did the Church EVER have absolute uniformity in the dates of feast days?) has deprived the Church of God's Grace, and has rendered Her Sacraments VOID (listen, and shudder!) and that subsequently, the New Calendarists are also exempt of Grace - in other words, exempt of salvation. (!!!)
This hideous declaration, brother Nicodemos, constitutes a monstrous heresy and a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those poor wretches have elevated into Dogmas of the Faith and conditions for salvation certain elements relating to....calendrical and feast days!
Of course, no one regards the existence of two calendars in the space of the worldwide Orthodox Catholic Church as a good thing. The change in the Calendar was unfortunate; very unfortunate. But from that point, up to the point of recognizing calendars as Dogmas of the Faith and hinging the authority of the Sacraments and the attainment of salvation from them, the distance became abysmal. The Old Calendarists could have continued to observe the old calendar, but at least continued to preserve their communion with the Church [like the majority of Mount Athos]. That would not have entailed any danger. Instead, they went as far as severing themselves from the Church, for fear of losing Grace and salvation!!!
I am not ignorant of the fact that there are Old Calendarists who do not accept such blasphemies, but what is the use, if there are others, and in fact leaders, who support those heretical views?
Now listen to a dialogue that I had with a choice young man, who had acceded to the Old Calendarists:
-Why did you depart from the Church of Greece?
-So that I wouldn't be in communion with heretic ecumenists.
-Are all the Bishops of Greece ecumenists?
-No! No! But they are in communion with the ecumenist Patriarch, so I don't want to be in communion with persons who are in communion with heretic ecumenists.
-Do you believe that the calendar is a Dogma of the Faith, and that the New Calendarists are exempt from Grace and are in need of re-Chrismation, like those who have returned from heretics?
-God forbid! I in no way believe that nonsense by the Old Calendarists. I acceded to them, for the sole purpose of avoiding even an indirect communion with heretic ecumenists!
-But in no way did you avoid communion with another heresy, because the assertion by the Old Calendarists (that the change in the calendar deprived the Church of Grace) is not a simple piece of nonsense, as you mentioned previously. It is a grave blasphemy and heresy.
-But I don't believe in those things!
-And yet, you are in communion with people who do believe those things!
-What else can I do? I am forced to tolerate them, for the sake of providence.
-Then why didn't you tolerate, likewise for the sake of oikonomia, those Bishops of Greece who were in communion with the Patriarch?
-Can you see what kind of quandary you were drawn into? You acknowledge that most of the Bishops of Greece are Orthodox, but you refuse every communion with them because they are in communion with the Patriarch. In this way, you are not accepting communion with ecumenists, even indirectly, but you are accepting a direct - a clearly direct - communion with people who preach another kind of heresy: one that claims salvation is dependent on...calendars!!! So, how exactly have you benefited??? But even so, you should not imagine that you have actually avoided indirect communion with ecumenists.
-And how is that?
-Listen, you poor victim of cunning propagandists: the Old Calendarists will yell until their lungs explode, that even common prayers with the Patriarch (and others who are similarly minded to him) will render us alike to them, even if we don't believe what they preach. Well, if they at least remained consistent to this position of theirs....but consistency is not one of their fine points!
Go dear friend to an Old Calendarist Hermitage, especially the one in Lykovrisi outside Athens [St. Irene Chrysovalantou], and you will see whole busloads of New Calendarists disembarking, all arriving there to attend the Liturgy! I have heard that the New Calendarist church-goers on Sundays by far outnumber the Old Calendarists! In fact, the periodical issued by the said Hermitage has occasionally expressed its request to the "pilgrims" who wish to attend services there to come dressed modestly - men, women and children. However, it makes no mention whatsoever that New Calendarists should not attend there at all; No! The only thing it stresses and is satisfied with is the avoidance of improper attire. This achieved, nothing else is examined. This achieved, the New Calendarists are most welcome to common attendance and common prayer!
I also know of many instances of Old Calendarist Priests who have unconditionally accepted New Calendarists into the Sacraments of Confession, and even of Holy Communion. In other words, we have here an offering of the Sacraments to persons who at other moments are characterized by the Old Calendarist leaders as being "far from the truth and salvation", simply because they belong to the Church of Greece, which is in communion with the Patriarch! What a mess, and what an anomaly!
So, if those who are like-minded to you are in common prayer and communion with us, who are in common prayer and communion with the Patriarch, then you are still in indirect communion with the Patriarch! So, what did you gain? You have not avoided indirect communion with ecumenists, and you have also been led into a direct communion with persons who preach another kind of heresy!
These are the things that were said with that young man at the time. I am repeating them, so that you can extrapolate certain conclusions, dear Fr. Nicodemos.
And here are some brief answers to your questions:
1. It was a huge "blunder" on the part of Philaretos, when he recognized the Old Calendarists in Greece. He most probably fell victim to bad counsel. Some information has reached my ears that he has regretted doing what he did, after having met the Old Calendarists in Greece. But time will tell. I believe that there will be developments.
At any rate, in my opinion the Church of Greece is anything but heretical; the decision reached by Philaretos' Synod is not only lacking in authority, but also, inasmuch as it is an entirely anti-canonical intervention in the internal affairs of another co-believing Church, it has triggered canonical responsibilities for the said Synod.
2. If Philaretos had believed that the Church of Greece had fallen into heresy, then he could have intervened. However, it was his duty not to recognize the Old Calendarists (who, although not ecumenists, nevertheless preach another kind of heresy as I mentioned earlier, ie., that salvation is dependent on calendars), but instead, to ordain Priests (or even Bishops) anew, to man the Church of Greece. Those Priests could follow the old calendar, but not preach the aforementioned heretical view, and they would also accept communion with those faithful who followed the new calendar, exactly as Philaretos does.
3. The present situation (common prayers, innovations, etc.) does not justify the "crossing of boundaries". Only a Church that falls into heresy can give the right to "extra-territorial" Bishops to intervene.
4. If an Orthodox Synod condemns someone, it is not permitted for the Synod of any other Local Church to acquit him. If this should happen, the second decision is void. In other words, if a Clergyman of the Church of Greece is condemned by it and he appeals to another Church - for example, the Church of Serbia - and asks to be judged by it, the Church of Serbia will reject his demand, stating that it is entirely unauthorized to respond and that only the Church of Greece has such jurisdiction. However, if the Church of Serbia were to respond to that demand and judge the Clergyman in question, then its decision - for having been issued in spite of Canons - is void in every way and also incurs canonical responsibilities.
If the misdemeanours of that Clergyman do not constitute an impediment to Priesthood and he later repents for them, then the only one who is authorized to reinstate him is again the Church of Greece. It has never been permitted to an Orthodox Church to intervene in the internal affairs of another.
Of course it is an entirely different matter, if one Local Orthodox Church requests assistance from another Local Church or Churches in order to solve an internal problem that it may have. In that case, it is not considered an arbitrary intervention, but rather solidarity support.
Only an Ecumenical Synod - as the supreme Authority - is entitled to intervene in the internal affairs of a Local Orthodox Church and regulate them according to its discernment. For instance, if a Clergyman of a Local Church (in fact its Primate) believes he has been unjustly condemned, it is possible for him to resort to petitions towards other Local Orthodox Churches, and after narrating his undeserved adventure, ask for justice to be rendered. In the event that the other Churches find his complaints valid, they can go as far as convening a Great Synod, whose decision will be binding for everyone. Unilateral intervention by one Local Church into the internal affairs of another one is inadmissible.
But it is understood that all of the above apply to Local Orthodox Churches, and not to heretics.
5. The word "void" - when in reference to Sacraments - at times characterizes the entirely unsubstantial (that is, nonexistent) Sacraments, and elsewhere, the existent ones which however have been performed anti-canonically. This depends on what inference we give to the word "void".
6. A returning "zealot" can, through lenience, become re-accepted, even with a simple Confession before a Spiritual Father. If that zealot is a Clergyman, he must ask his proper Bishop for his reinstatement, through the canonical procedure. Changing posts (going from one Old Calendar group to another) "from time to time" indicates an obvious inconstancy; unfortunately, this is a customary tendency with Old Calendarists.
7. Undoubtedly, one cannot be dedicated to "both the one side and the other" simultaneously. It is an entirely different matter if, by resorting to oikonomia, the one side shows tolerance to the other, in the hope of finally drawing them towards the straight path.
8. If someone is very simpleminded and cannot perceive certain things, but does not persist in his fallacious positions by being opinionated, stubborn etc., and is merely simpleminded, it is quite possible for him to acquire bounteous Grace from God. God's judgments are unfathomable.
There have been cases in which wise persons of the Church had fallen into fallacies; and yet, the God Who examines the heart and not the appearance, did not judge them as undeserving of His favour. The great Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa, was not without certain dogmatic fallacies. And yet, he is a saint and a Father of the Church. Likewise, the divine Dionysios of Alexandria, when theologizing on the Son, had not expressed himself with dogmatic accuracy, which is why he had, inadvertently, given many footholds to the Arians who thereafter invoked him. Because of this, Athanasius the Great was compelled to write an entire treatise on Saint Dionysios, in order to elucidate his dogmatically pointless expressions.
9. We can of course have congenial relations with "zealots"; but we are not permitted to receive Sacraments from them. However, if they are, as you write, in communion with our Church, then the situation is different. But, honestly, are there "zealots" who are in communion with our Church?
10. Unfortunately, the return to the old calendar is not an easy thing in the Church of Greece. It may even be impossible. But even if it were possible, do not ever imagine that all the Old Calendarists would then submit themselves to the Church. Most of the Old Calendarist Clergymen prefer to be unrestrained and would never acquiesce to be under a yoke and under control. They would find a thousand and one "arguments" to justify their persevering in mutiny. They would say for example that the Bishops are Masons, and the suchlike. I am well acquainted with many Clergymen of the Old Calendarists. One of the leaders of an Old Calendarist group had said to me several years ago: "I dare not impose even ten days of restricted duty to any of my clerics. They will 'go to the others', they tell me..." (he meant to another Old Calendarist group). From this, you can get an idea of what kind of willingness for canonical discipline exists among the Old Calendarist Clergy - with the exclusion of a few exceptions.
11. The positions outlined in the "Epistolary Diatribe" apply only if our Church is Orthodox, and not heretic. To "wish it health" is a very broad statement. We cannot ask for absolute health (canonical, administrative, moral, etc.) of the Church, since it is comprised of imperfect and sinful people. It would be ideal if it could enjoy health in all its aspects, but is that possible? So, as long as it is Orthodox and not heretic, we can consider this as being sufficient. Far be it for me to characterize the Church of Greece as...heretic!!! If others are so comfortable in undertaking such a scary responsibility (that is, to characterize an Orthodox, Local Church as "heretic"), let them do so.
12-13. The Orthodox should undoubtedly NOT pray together or have any other religious ties with heretics (Papists, Protestants, etc. - The same applies in the case of schismatics). But if one were to pray together, or be otherwise in communion with, heretics, they would of course be violators of the Holy Canons and deserving of ecclesiastical penalties; however, they would not be considered as heretics automatically. It is quite possible that in such cases, one can believe in an Orthodox manner, disapprove of all other teachings, and yet, not consider religious contacts with heterodox as something bad. This kind of person is, I repeat, a formidable violator of sacred Canons, but he is NOT a heretic. However, if this is not enough for him, and he also preaches heretic beliefs, then the whole issue is entirely different. This behaviour would render him a heretic. He is a heretic, because he is preaching heretical beliefs - even if he has no communion whatsoever with other heretics.
However, there are two kinds of heretics: Those whom the Church has put on trial and has convicted and excised from Her Body, and those who have neither been convicted as yet by the Church, nor have left the Church of their own volition, but instead have remained in the Body of the Church. One such case is the case of the Patriarch. Patriarch Athenagoras has preached heretical beliefs. But he has not been convicted yet by the Church, nor has he renounced the Church and removed himself from Her. He has remained inside the Church and continues to minister inside the Church and consequently, he is still a channel of Grace; He performs Sacraments.
What can we do?
a) Pray for him to recover and repent.
b) Protest against him and keep struggling. If someone's conscience cannot tolerate the commemoration of his name, he has the right, by proceeding even further, to cease commemorating him, in compliance with Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Synod. However, this is the furthermost step that he can take, if he does not want to reach the point of schism or mutiny. In other words, when ceasing to commemorate him, he will not commemorate another Bishop; instead, he will wait, as mentioned earlier in my "Epistolary Diatribe", with a calm conscience, for the judgment of a Synod.
Another problem: How will those who cease a commemoration behave towards the Patriarch? Because those who are in communion with the Patriarch are two categories: (a) those that have the same views as him (as do Iakovos of America, Meliton of Chalcedon etc.) and (b) those that disagree with his views (as do almost all the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece). They will behave towards the former (category a) the way they behave towards the Patriarch, but to the others (category b), even if this category is in communion with the Patriarch, they cannot behave similarly; in other words, they cannot go as far as ceasing to commemorate them (category b). According to the sacred Canons, it is not permitted to avoid communion with them. The Holy Canons give the right to cease commemoration, only of a Bishop or Patriarch who preaches heretic teachings. They do not give the right to also cease the commemoration of those who - albeit Orthodox - tolerate him.
This point is to be observed very carefully! We have a duty to discern between the two situations: There is a difference between one who preaches heretical beliefs, and one who believes and teaches in an Orthodox manner but for the sake of dispensation (oikonomia) tolerates and maintains communion with him.
Also, there is a difference between one who preaches heretical beliefs but does not remove himself from the Church (nor is excised by the Church), and one who leaves the Church on his own initiative (and founds his own "church" or accedes to another, heretical or schismatic one), or who has been excised by the Church, pursuant to a trial and conviction. It is with the second kind that every Orthodox must have no communion whatsoever. However, communion with the first kind (until he has been convicted) is left, by the sacred Canons, to the discretion of each Orthodox faithful.
In other words, we have the right, that has been provided by the sacred Canons, to cease a commemoration, but we are not bound to do so. As a consequence, if one were to utilize this right and cease a commemoration, he has the right to do so, and should not be censured by the others. If, upon weighing various factors, another were to deem preferable to not utilize this right, but instead await a "Synodic diagnosis", he will not be reprehensible, let alone be regarded as deserving excommunication! One could apply here, adjusted accordingly, the words by the Apostle Paul: "Let not the one who commemorates debilitate the one who does not commemorate, nor the one who does not commemorate judge the one who commemorates" (Rom.14:3).
Then, you might ask, what do we gain by avoiding commemoration of the Patriarch, if we are going to be in communion with, say, the Bishop of Druinoupolis, who does commemorate the Patriarch? Will we not be thus "polluted", by being in indirect communion with the one who preaches heretic beliefs?
However, the cessation of commemoration "prior to a Synodic diagnosis" and conviction was not intended for averting "pollution" (by the heresy that is being preached)! No, my brother! If that were its meaning, then the Canons would not have merely provided the right to cease a commemoration (for reasons of heresy) "prior to a Synodic diagnosis"; they would have instituted an explicit and clear prohibition, at the risk of very severe penalties if it is not observed.
The cessation of commemoration for reasons of heresy "prior to a Synodic diagnosis" has a different meaning. It is a strong, but also a last resort protest of the Orthodox conscience; it provides an outlet for those who become scandalized, and at the same time aspires to creating a disturbance, so that the Church might hasten to settle the matter.
There is no danger of becoming polluted, either by commemorating the Patriarch (if he has not yet been convicted), or, even more so, if we accept to be in communion with those who commemorate him. Statements to the contrary are nothing more than foolish "zealotisms".
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem was not polluted, even though he had been ordained a Bishop by the Metropolitan Akakios of Caesaria, who, albeit a self-declared Arian (and in fact the leader of a portion of Arians), continued to remain and to minister in the Church. Saint Anatolius had also been ordained a Bishop (and as a matter of fact, Patriarch of Constantinople), by the Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria, who was a Monophysite and a mighty protector of the heresy leader Eutyches, but who had not yet been convicted by the Fourth Ecumenical Synod. So, if an ordination by Bishops preaching heretical beliefs (but not convicted Synodically and still remaining in the Church) does not pollute, then neither does the commemoration of them pollute, and even less so does communion with persons who tolerate them for the sake of oikonomia and who continue to uphold the commemoration thereof.
The Old Calendarists, albeit "not comprehending, either those things that are said, or what they are reassuring", assert completely opposite things. (see also the book by Theodoretus Mavros). This being the case, those poor wretches must also be "polluted". Why? Because, as mentioned previously, they too (despite their theoretical proclamations - or, more correctly, in a vociferous and tragic contradiction to them), have in practice accepted communion (through common prayers and the administering of Sacraments) with persons who belong to the Church of Greece, which is in communion with the Patriarch! Hence?????
If they wanted to be consistent, they should not be accepting church attendance by even one single member of the Greek Church (let alone accept them for Confession or Holy Communion), if they haven't previously declared that they have departed from the Church of Greece and have acceded with repentance to their "church". Instead, these groups fearlessly and unhesitatingly attend church together, pray together, and participate together in Sacraments, with entire crowds of "New Calendarists" in their Old Calendarist Temples, and even in their monastic Retreats.
Do all these things sound like moral consistency? Are they morally permissible? Are they canonically acceptable things? Are they, finally, actions of honesty? They may quite possibly say that they are doing this "for the sake of dispensation" (oikonomia). But then why create schisms and divisions and partitions and wounds in the Body of the Church? If, by going to the Old Calendarists, they will be again praying together with those who are in communion with the Patriarch, why not remain in the Church of Greece and tolerate "for the sake of dispensation" the Patriarch and those who are aligned with his beliefs? In this way, they would be "dispensationally" tolerating only one heresy: Ecumenism; but, by going over to the Old Calendarists, they would be tolerating two: Ecumenism (given that Old Calendarists pray together with New Calendarists who are in communion with the Patriarch), and Greek Old Calendarism, which preaches the heresy that calendars and feast-dates are conditions for one's Salvation!
I am specifically saying "Greek Old Calendarism", because I have no intention of condemning the per se old calendar which so many Orthodox Churches observe, but the heretical exaggerations that the Greek Old Calendarists have mindlessly embraced. Apart from the other reasons, this is why I am so afraid and terrified of mutinies and schisms - their lot is unavoidably this: they finally end up supporting positions that are entirely heretical!
These, most beloved Fr.Nicodemos, are the things that I wanted to write to you and your sacred and God-loving Escorts. And I have written to you "out of much grief and a restrained heart" (2 Cor.2:4). The entire state of the Orthodox Church is currently a very grievous one. Perhaps, in the end, certain serious adventures will not be avoided.
Let us be attentive! With humility, with prayer, with fasting, with solemnity, let us ask for enlightenment by the Lord, on how we must tread during the oncoming developments. The Church is faced with double trouble: on the one hand, there is satanically-driven Ecumenism, and on the other hand, there is soul-devastating Fanaticism, which eventually leads to horrific blasphemies and heresies and obscures the truth. Let us be fearful of both and flee from both. We must not deviate to the right or to the left. Let us walk along the middle and "royal" path, which is the path of unadulterated Orthodoxy that knows how to safeguard precision (akrivia) and is also aware of the displays of dispensation (oikonomia).
Rejoice, brother! And I shall again say "rejoice!" Rejoice, in the midst of every grief and every affliction. For Jesus "surrendered Himself for our sins, and was risen for our vindication" (Rom.4:25).
I beg you all to beseech the Lord to have mercy on my wretchedness also, for I am in a diverse struggle. I grieve about everything. "On the outside, battles; on the inside, fears." (2 Cor. 7:5 - interpretation by P.Trembelas).
Always willing for every kind of assistance, and invoking prayers by you all, I remain, with profound love and honour, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Source: Taken from the book: The Two Extremes - Ecumenism and Zealotism.