Sunday, March 14, 2010
The following interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Naupaktos was recently published in Σφήνα and addresses the most pressing issues the Church of Greece is currently dealing with:
What is your opinion regarding the abolition of religion classes in the schools as well as the abolition of morning prayers?
Neither lessons in religion or prayer should be abolished by the schools.
This is not only because the Constitution and the existing laws forbid this, which clearly state that education "has as its purpose the ethical, spiritual, professional and physical nurturing of the Greek people, the development of the national and religious conscience, and their formation in free and responsible citizens" (Article 16), but also because if the responsible State doesn't care for the "religious sentiments" which exist in children, then they will be exploited by others, with the result that "destructive cults" of various sects will filter in with unpredictable results. For this reason the responsible State must view this issue seriously.
What is your opinion on the abolition of oaths? Are we heading towards a nation of atheism or multiculturalism?
Christ advised categorically: "Do not swear" (Matt. 5:34). Christians should not take oaths and violate the command of Christ, nor should they pressure others to do so.
There are many ways to establish honesty, seriousness, and sincerity. These may be helped by faith in God.
To the question about "heading towards a nation of atheism or multiculturalism", I am inclined towards the latter, even though they don't correlate with my alternative questions, which end up most of the time being pseudo-dilemmas.
Every nation has its own particular cultural lifestyle and the relationship of every nation with its religious communities is measured analogous to the tradition of the land, as it is foreseen in the Treaty of Lisbon.
Are you in favor of the Greek citizenship to immigrants?
The Standing Holy Synod has decided on the issue, that it is the responsibility of the State, but it should take the necessary measures and establish the appropriate conditions in compliance with European legislation in trying to avoid distorting the social and cultural cohesion. The State must civilize the people and the Church must make them its members.
How, in your opinion, can the problem of illegal immigration be solved?
I do not have a particular opinion on this issue. We must give priority to the experts. What I know is that the State should move in between the general principles of maintaining social cohesion and the sensitivity to human suffering.
This is a balancing act. From the news I notice that in the end the illegal immigrants are victims of unscrupulous individuals, thus they are suffering beings.
What is your opinion on the separation of Church and State?
The phrase "separation of Church and State" doesn't express me in any way, because no organization and no person can live separated from the State or to live as a state within a State.
That which is characterized as separation already exists, since why else is there the work of the State and on the other hand the work of the Church. Although there are some points of friction, they can be completely settled calmly and in a serious manner.
So we should not talk about separation of Church and State, but correct relations between ecclesiastical and civil administration for the good of the citizen and society.
Do you believe there is a return from Interfaith Dialogue? And what is happening today?
There were and are many interfaith dialogues, but the only good that comes out of them is that there is an understanding between religious leaders and this could possibly improve on some points that cause friction.
But I think that Interfaith Dialogue can not be part of a political objective, because in this case religion would play political games, nor should we secularize the Orthodox faith and reach a syncretism which is the aim of the 'new age', where everything is gathered and mashed together.
Can the environment be saved and how?
The Orthodox Church believes that the environment went wild because of the sin of the First-Created and it is "violated" by the greediness of people, and its renovation is achieved by the restoration of man to his previous glory.
I believe the Saints can change the environment, as their lives show, since the Saints were reconciled with the environment.
I do not have the hope that politicians and the United Nations will improve this, as the biggest polluters are the most powerful and richest countries which have large interests, as was evident recently in Copenhagen.
These days there is a lot of talk about the "appeal". What is your opinion?
The "appeal", namely the appeal of recourse to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is one of the main canonical rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which the Church of Greece has commitments to comply with. Generally we should fully respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Parallel to all the issues there is the canonical principle of "oikonomia", namely leniency.
The canons provide for both akriveia (exactness) and oikonomia (leniency). The Church mostly applies oikonomia, instead of akriveia, since the bishops according to the Apostle Peter are to be "good economists of God's varied grace" ("καλοί οικονόμοι ποικίλης χάριτος Θεού") and according to Basil the Great are "the economists of the churches of God" (οι οικονομούντες τάς Εκκλησίας του Θεού).
We believe that God also will judge us according to His mercy and His love for mankind.
Source. Translated by John Sanidopoulos
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
More than once, brethren, the fact has been mentioned that on each Sunday in the Great Fast (i.e., Lent) there are other commemorations besides that of the Resurrection. Thus, on this day, the Church glorifies the righteous John of the Ladder, one of the greatest ascetics, which the Church, in speaking of them, calls "earthly angels and Heavenly men."
These great ascetics were extraordinary people. They commanded the elements; wild beasts willingly and readily obeyed them. For them, there were no maladies they could not cure. They walked on the waters as on dry land; all the elements of the world were subject to them, because they lived in God and had the power of grace to overcome the laws of terrestrial nature. One such ascetic was St. John of the Ladder.
He was surnamed "of the Ladder" (Climacus) because he wrote an immortal work, the "Ladder of Divine Ascent." In this work, we see how, by means of thirty steps, the Christian gradually ascends from below to the heights of supreme spiritual perfection. We see how one virtue leads to another, as a man rises higher and higher and finally attains to that height where there abides the crown of the virtues, which is called "Christian love."
Saint John wrote his immortal work especially for the monastics, but in the past his "Ladder" was always favorite reading in Russia for anyone zealous to live piously, though he were not a monk. Therein the Saint clearly demonstrates how a man passes from one step to the next.
Remember, Christian soul, that this ascent on high is indispensable for anyone who wishes to save his soul unto eternity.
When we throw a stone up, it ascends until the moment when the propelling force ceases to be effectual. So long as this force acts, the stone travels higher and higher in its ascent, overcoming the force of the earth’s gravity. But when this force is spent and ceases to act, then, as you know, the stone does not remain suspended in the air. Immediately, it begins to fall, and the further it falls the greater the speed of its fall. This, solely according to the physical laws of terrestrial gravity.
So it is also in the spiritual life. As a Christian gradually ascends, the force of spiritual and ascetical labours lifts him on high. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "Strive to enter in through the narrow gate." That is, the Christian ought to be an ascetic. Not only the monastic, but every Christian. He must take pains for his soul and his life. He must direct his life on the Christian path, and purge his soul of all filth and impurity.
Now, if the Christian, who is ascending upon this ladder of spiritual perfection by his struggles and ascetic labours, ceases from this work and ascetic toil, his soul will not remain in its former condition; but, like the stone, it will fall to the earth. More and more quickly will it drop until, finally, if the man does not come to his senses, it will cast him down into the very abyss of Hell.
It is necessary to remember this. People forget that the path of Christianity is indeed an ascetical labour. Last Sunday, we heard how the Lord said: "He that would come after Me, let him take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Me." The Lord said this with the greatest emphasis. Therefore, the Christian must be one who takes up his cross, and his life, likewise, must be an ascetic labour of bearing that cross. Whatever the outward circumstance of his life, be he monk or layman, it is of no consequence. In either case, if he does not force himself to mount upwards, then, of a certainty, he will fall lower and lower.
And in this regard, alas, people have confused thoughts. For example, a clergyman drops by a home during a fast. Cordially and thoughtfully, they offer him fast food (i.e., food prepared according to the rules of the Fast), and say: "For you, fast food, of course!" To this, one of our hierarchs customarily replies: "Yes, I am Orthodox. But who gave you permission not to keep the fasts?" All the fasts of the Church, all the ordinances, are mandatory for every Orthodox person. Speaking of monastics, such ascetics as St. John of the Ladder and those like him fasted much more rigorously than the Church prescribes; but this was a matter of their spiritual ardour, an instance of their personal ascetic labour. This the Church does not require of everyone, because it is not in accord with everyone’s strength. But the Church DOES require of every Orthodox the keeping of those fasts which She has established.
Oftentimes have I quoted the words of Saint Seraphim, and once again shall I mention them. Once there came to him a mother who was concerned about how she might arrange the best possible marriage for her young daughter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: "Before all else, ensure that he, whom your daughter chooses as her companion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Christian, whatever he may consider himself to be." You see how the greatest saint of the Russian Church, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a man who, better than we, knew what Orthodoxy is, spoke concerning the fasts?
Let us remember this. Saint John Climacus has described the ladder of spiritual ascent: then let us not forget that each Christian must ascend thereon. The great ascetics ascended like swiftly-flying eagles; we scarcely ascend at all. Nonetheless, let us not forget that, unless we employ our efforts in correcting ourselves and our lives, we shall cease our ascent, and, most assuredly, we shall begin to fall. Amen.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Turning my eyes carefully upon myself and watching the course of my inward state, I have verified by experience that I do not love God, that I have no religious belief, and that I am filled with pride and sensuality. All this I actually find in myself as a result of detailed examination of my feelings and conduct, thus:
1. I do not love God. For if I loved God I should be continually thinking about Him with heartfelt joy. Every thought of God would give me gladness and delight. On the contrary, I much more often and much more eagerly think about earthly things, and thinking about God is labor and dryness.
If I loved God, then talking with Him in prayer would be my nourishment and delight and would draw me to unbroken communion with Him. But, on the contrary, I not only find no delight in prayer, but even find it an effort. I struggle with reluctance, I am enfeebled by sloth, and am ready to occupy myself eagerly with any unimportant trifle, if only it shortens prayer and keeps me from it. My time slips away unnoticed in futile occupations, but when I am occupied with God, when I put myself into His presence every hour seems like a year. If one person loves another, he thinks of him throughout the day without ceasing, he pictures him to himself, he cares for him, and in all circumstances his beloved friend is never out of his thoughts. But I, throughout the day, scarcely set aside even a single hour in which to sink deep down into meditation upon God, to inflame my heart with love of Him, while I eagerly give up twenty-three hours as fervent offerings to the idols of my passions. I am forward in talk about frivolous matters and things which degrade the spirit; that gives me pleasure. But in the consideration of God I am dry, bored and lazy. Even if I am unwillingly drawn by others into spiritual conversation, I try to shift the subject quickly to one which pleases my desires. I am tirelessly curious about novelties, about civic affairs and political events; I eagerly seek the satisfaction of my love of knowledge in science and art, and in ways of getting things I want to possess. But the study of the Law of God, the knowledge of God and of religion, make little impression on me, and satisfy no hunger of my soul. I regard these things not only as a non-essential occupation for a Christian, but in a casual way as a sort of side-issue with which I should perhaps occupy my spare time, at odd moments. To put it shortly, if love for God is recognized by the keeping of His commandments (“If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” says our Lord Jesus Christ), and I not only do not keep them, but even make little attempt to do so, then in absolute truth the conclusion follows that I do not love God. That is what Basil the Great says: ‘The proof that a man does not love God and His Christ lies in the fact that he does not keep His commandments’.
2. I do not love my neighbor either. For not only am I unable to make up my mind to lay down my life for his sake (according to the Gospel), but I do not even sacrifice my happiness, well-being and peace for the good of my neighbor. If I did love him as myself, as the Gospel bids, his misfortunes would distress me also, his happiness would bring delight to me too. But, on the contrary, I listen to curious, unhappy stories about my neighbor and I am not distressed; I remain quite undisturbed or what is still worse, I find a sort of pleasure in them. Bad conduct on the part of my brother I do not cover up with love, but proclaim abroad with ensure. His well-being, honor and happiness do not delight me as my own, and, as if they were something quite alien to me, give me no feeling of gladness. What is more, they subtly arouse in me feelings of envy or contempt.
3. I have no religious belief. Neither in immortality nor in the Gospel. If I were firmly persuaded and believed without doubt that beyond the grave lies eternal life and recompense for the deeds of this life, I should be continually thinking of this. The very idea of immortality would terrify me and I should lead this life as a foreigner who gets ready to enter his native land. On the contrary, I do not even think about eternity, and I regard the end of this earthly life as the limit of my existence. The secret thought nestles within me: Who knows what happens at death? If I say I believe in immortality, then I am speaking about my mind only, and my heart is far removed from a firm conviction about it. That is openly witnessed to by my conduct and my constant care to satisfy the life of the senses. Were the Holy Gospel taken into my heart in faith, as the word of God, I should be continually occupied with it, I should study it, find delight in it and with deep devotion fix my attention upon it. Wisdom, mercy, love, are hidden in it; it would lead me to happiness, I should find gladness in the study of the Law of God day and night. In it I should find nourishment like my daily bread and my heart would be drawn to the keeping of its laws. Nothing on earth would be strong enough to turn me away from it. On the contrary, if now and again I read or hear the word of God, yet even so it is only from necessity or from a general love of knowledge, and approaching it without any very close attention, I find it dull and uninteresting. I usually come to the end of the reading without any profit, only too ready to change over to secular reading in which I take more pleasure and find new and interesting subjects.
4. I am full of pride and sensual self-love. All my actions confirm this. Seeing something good in myself, I want to bring it into view, or to pride myself upon it before other people or inwardly to admire myself for it. Although I display an outward humility, yet I ascribe it all to my own strength and regard myself as superior to others, or at least no worse than they. If I notice a fault in myself, I try to excuse it, I cover it up by saying, ‘I am made like that’ or ‘I am not to blame’. I get angry with those who do not treat me with respect and consider them unable to appreciate the value of people. I brag about my gifts: my failures in any undertaking I regard as a personal insult. I murmur, and I find pleasure in the unhappiness of my enemies. If I strive after anything good it is for the purpose of winning praise, or spiritual self-indulgence, or earthly consolation. In a word, I continually make an idol of myself and render it uninterrupted service, seeking in all things the pleasures of the senses, and nourishment for my sensual passions and lusts.
Going over all this I see myself as proud, adulterous, unbelieving, without love to God and hating my neighbor. What state could be more sinful? The condition of the spirits of darkness is better than mine. They, although they do not love God, hate men, and live upon pride, yet at least believe and tremble. But I? Can there be a doom more terrible than that which faces me, and what sentence of punishment will be more severe than that upon the careless and foolish life. that I recognize in myself?
From The Way of a Pilgrim
30 hurt in Muslim-Christian clashes in Egypt
13th March, 2010
Thirty people were injured when clashes broke out between Christians and Muslims in a rural area in northern Egypt, media reports said.
Fighting erupted late Friday in the north-western governorate of Mersa Matrouh over a fence Muslims said had been built to take over a piece of land to build a church, the BBC reported.
The al-Bashayer news website said 18 of the injured were Coptic Christians. Police cordoned the area after arresting suspects, and angry people from both sides were throwing stones at cars and nearby shops, it said.
Clashes between Egypt's Christian and Muslim populations are rare, but tensions do periodically erupt over disputes about women's issues or the construction of houses of worship.
The Mersa Matrouh unrest was the first time such clashes had erupted in northern Egypt. Fighting previously had taken place in southern Egypt, where a large number of Christians live.
In the worst sectarian attack in years, eight Christians and one Muslim police officer were shot to death Jan 6 when gunmen opened fire on Christians leaving a Coptic Christmas Eve Mass in the town of Nagaa Hamadi, 650 kilometres south of Cairo.
According to government figures, Christians account for roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population, but many Egyptian Christians said they believe the real figure is higher.
See also: Calm Returns to Egyptian Town After Riots
The laws of thought are fundamental axiomatic rules upon which rational discourse itself is based. The three classic laws of thought are attributed to Aristotle. These three laws are samples of self-evident logical principles. Everyone should memorize these laws.
1. The Law of Identity (Whatever is, is.)
The law of identity states that an object is the same as itself: A = A.
- Parmenides the Eleatic (circa BC. 490)
"Now 'why a thing is itself' is a meaningless inquiry (for—to give meaning to the question 'why' — the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident — e.g., that the moon is eclipsed — but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical, unless one were to answer, 'because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this.' This, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics
2. The Law of Non-Contradiction (Nothing can both be and not be.)
The oldest statement of the law is that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e.g. the two propositions A is B and A is not B are mutually exclusive.
"It's plain that the same thing won't be willing at the same time to do or suffer opposites with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing."
- Plato, The Republic
"It is not possible to say truly at the same time that the same thing is and is not a man."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics
"Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned."
- Avicenna, Metaphysics
3. The Law of Excluded Middle (Everything must either be or not be.)
The Law of excluded middle is the principle that for any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is.
"It is impossible, then, that 'being a man' should mean precisely 'not being a man', if 'man' not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance.... And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call 'man', and others were to call 'not-man'; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics
"Every judgment is either true or false."
- Leibniz, New Essays
Where Some Envision Czar’s End, Church Sees Building Site
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
March 12, 2010
The New York Times
MOSCOW — Visitors from around the world have turned an isolated ravine in central Russia into a pilgrimage site in recent years. They arrive to gaze at the unadorned earth where the Bolsheviks, in one final act to defile the dynasty that they toppled, are believed to have dumped the remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family in July 1918.
But now the site is being threatened by an unlikely opponent: the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, which to this day has not acknowledged that the bones retrieved there over the last two decades are those of the royals.
The church wants to build a large Russian Orthodox cemetery and cathedral at the site, effectively obliterating its historic and archaeological value, according to professionals who have worked at the site and experts on the royal family. The church hopes to begin construction in April, when its leader, Patriarch Kirill I, visits for a groundbreaking for the project, in Yekaterinburg, in the foothills of the Ural Mountains.
The project will not include memorials or other references to the remains because the church does not believe they are genuine, a position that flies in the face of an overwhelming scientific consensus based on extensive DNA testing by major laboratories in Russia, Europe and North America.
“The results of our studies provide unequivocal evidence that the remains of Nicholas II and his entire family, including all five children, have been identified,” a team of prominent Russian, American and Canadian researchers wrote last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
After conducting its own inquiry, the United States Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory reached the same conclusion last year.
The church’s seemingly inexplicable stance has bewildered the experts, particularly because the remains have been so closely scrutinized by so many.
But it is a longstanding conflict. In 1998, for example, when the bones of Nicholas and most of his family were interred in the crypt of the czars in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, the church would not endorse the ceremony because of its concerns.
The most recent DNA studies have been aided by a surprising breakthrough. In 2008, investigators came across a blood-stained shirt that Nicholas wore when he was attacked during an attempted assassination in Japan in 1891. The shirt had been stored in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the blood provided samples of his DNA.
Nevertheless, scientists and archaeologists said the church seemed determined to move forward with the project, and that there was little chance of stopping it.
“The church hates these remains and wants to destroy any evidence of them,” said Vladimir Solovyov, one of the Russian government’s most famous criminologists, who has long spearheaded the research into the bones. “It is difficult to understand how, two decades after they were first discovered, the church continues to deny them.”
Mr. Solovyov and other experts said that while bones had been removed from the site it was highly likely that other remains, as well as artifacts related to the royal family, were still buried at the site.
Local officials have declined to impede the project. Under Communism, the church was brutally persecuted, but since the Soviet Union’s fall it has grown increasingly influential, especially at the regional level.
The dispute over the site is an unanticipated twist in the tale of the demise of the Romanov family in the final days of the Russian Revolution.
Bolshevik guards knifed and shot to death the czar, his wife, five children, a doctor and three servants in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles east of Moscow, where they were held after the czar abdicated.
To prevent royalists from discovering the graves and making martyrs of the family, the guards first discarded the mutilated bodies in a mine shaft, then moved them to a ravine off a main road.
The remains lay there untouched for decades. In 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, it was announced that they had been located.
Church officials immediately expressed skepticism. They questioned why the bones of only 9 people were found at the site, when 11 were killed. The remains of the czar’s son, Aleksei, and one sister were missing.
In 2007, a group of amateurs located the remains of Aleksei and his sister in a separate spot at the site. Recent DNA inquires have confirmed those findings, though there is some debate about whether the sister is Maria or Anastasia.
Church officials nevertheless said questions persisted about whether the bones were authentic, as well as how the Romanov family was killed by the Bolsheviks. They said a church panel was conducting a new inquiry into the evidence.
The issue has become entangled in separate questions about whether the murders of the czar and his family have been adequately examined and whether they were a criminal act or one of political persecution. Church officials said the government had failed to delve properly into those matters.
The church canonized the czar and his family in 2000. Russia’s Supreme Court formally rehabilitated them in 2008, ruling that they were the victims of “unfounded repression.” Citing that decision, family heirs have called upon prosecutors to reopen an inquiry into the murders in order to establish exactly how they were carried out. Prosecutors refused last year, saying that too much time had passed.
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for Patriarch Kirill I, said government officials and scientists needed to provide more information about their inquiries.
“Many people still have questions, the crime has not been completely investigated, the case was closed without detailed consideration of all the theories about the guilt or lack of guilt of a number of people,” Father Chaplin said.
“This is what causes many people to have doubts” about the authenticity of the remains, he said.
Scientists said they had disclosed all their work, stressing that recent inquiries had been published in widely respected journals, available on the Internet. They countered that the church’s refusal to acknowledge the remains stems from its resentment over not being asked to take part in the original excavation in the 1990s.
Currently, there are crosses and small memorials at the ravine to mark where bones were found.
Father Chaplin said the early stages of construction would not affect those exact spots.
“It is possible to carry out archaeological excavations quite fast on this territory, on this small part, so that in the future it can be used for the cemetery,” he said.
But Sergei Pogorelov, a government archaeologist who has long worked at the site, said the entire area should remain a preserve. He said it would take many years for archaeologists to ensure that they had examined all the surrounding land.
Mr. Pogorelov accused the church of clinging to its doubt about the bones because it did not want to concede that its suspicions in the 1990s were unwarranted.
“It is very hard for the church to admit its mistakes,” he said.
“This site will be destroyed as a place of any significance,” he said. “This is the history of our country, and it will be ruined.”
THE CITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Constantinople, wondrous city near the Bosphorus blue,
With your glory, whose glory can be measured?
You were an awesome battleground of spiritual warriors,
Blasphemous heretics and saints of God.
As through a sieve you sifted throughout the centuries long
And declared apostates and servants of God.
By many sins you are soiled, and by filth of sinners,
You are consecrated with the abundance of the blood of martyrs.
Who could enumerate the spiritual heroes,
And all heavenly visions and your mysteries, all?
The angels of God often swooped down upon you,
And men, as angels, to heaven were raised.
The Mother of God, many times, within you appeared,
To deliver those in danger, the sick to heal.
The flock of wonderful saints, over you, hover
And the prayers of your children, to the Most High, bear.
O, how many saints were your children!
As many as there are lilies next to lilies and saints next to saints!
History and calendar, in red, you wrote,
By your effort even the great Symbol [The Creed] was written.
And about you, in such a way, this could be said:
Among the many cities, a red letter you are.
With Holy Faith, you enlightened the universe
From paganism and heresies, the world you healed.
Tortured much, but not slain, you have not yet passed.
That is why we all celebrate you! Confessor, that you are!
Throughout the earth and in the heavens, your glory echoes;
Everyone baptized, a great gratitude owes you.
At the basis of the secularization process stood three elements, namely:
1. The isolation of Divinity into the transcendent sphere.
2. The stated autonomy of creation and reason.
3. The domination exerted by human beings upon the world.
Rev. Academician Dumitru Popescu pased away last night. His dead body will be laid tomorrow, 11 March 2010, at the chapel of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of “Patriarch Justinian” of Bucharest, the church of “Saint Ecaterina”, as Rev. Prof. Ştefan Buchiu, dean of the Faculty of Theology of Bucharest informed the “Basilica” News Agency.
The decease occurred at Saint John Hospital of Bucharest.
Rev. Prof. Ştefan Buchiu has also offered more information on the personality of the great academician, for Trinitas Radio station: “Rev. Acad. was a great personality of the Romanian Orthodox Church and first of all of the Romanian Orthodox theology. He illustrated, just like his great predecessors as Rev. Stăniloae, Rev. Chiţescu and others, the specific character of the Romanian Orthodox theology, especially in the comparisons to the theologies of the other Christian Churches and confessions. He was the rector and dean of the Faculty of Theology of “Patriarch Justinian” of Bucharest. He prepared many generations teaching Dogmatic Theology, so that today the majority of the disciples he formed are professors of Dogmatic Theology at the Faculties in our country. His theological work is remarkable and it was very appreciated both in the country and abroad. The fact that he has become corresponding member of the Romanian Academy tells a lot about what his personality represented, especially in the dialogue between theology and culture. Maybe these themes have been dealt with for the first time in the Romanian theology after 1990. On the other hand, he continued and promoted the thought of our great theologian Rev. Dumitru Stăniloae whose disciple he was, and prepared the Orthodox Theology to be in permanent dialogue with the other theologies emphasising the relationship between spirituality and the mission of the Orthodox Church”.
Friday, March 12, 2010
by Saint Symeon the New Theologian
In the midst of that night, in my darkness,
I saw the awesome sight of Christ
opening the heavens for me.
And He bent down to me and showed Himself to me
with the Father and the Holy Spirit
in the thrice holy light --
a single light in three, and a threefold light in one,
for They are altogether light,
and the three are but one light.
And He illumined my soul
more radiantly than the sun,
and He lit up my mind,
which had until then been in darkness.
Never before had my mind seen such things.
I was blind, you should know it, and I saw nothing.
That was why this strange wonder
was so astonishing to me,
when Christ, as it were, opened the eye of my mind,
when he gave me sight, as it were,
and it was Him that I saw.
He is Light within Light, who appears
to those who contemplate Him,
and contemplatives see Him in light --
see Him, that is, in the light of the Spirit.
And now, as if from far off,
I still see that unseeable beauty,
that unapproachable light, that unbearable glory.
My mind is completely astounded.
I tremble with fear.
Is this a small taste from the abyss,
which like a drop of water
serves to make all water known
in all its qualities and aspects?
I found Him, the One whom I had seen from afar,
the One whom Stephen saw
when the heavens opened,
and later whose vision blinded Paul.
Truly, He was as a fire in the center of my heart.
I was outside myself, broken down, lost to myself,
and unable to bear the unendurable brightness of that glory.
And so, I turned
and fled into the night of the senses.
Every teacher, that he may edify all in the one virtue of charity, ought to touch the hearts of his hearers out of one doctrine, but not with one and the same exhortation.
Differently to be admonished are these that follow:
Men and women.
The poor and the rich.
The joyful and the sad.
Prelates and subordinates.
Servants and masters.
The wise of this world and the dull.
The impudent and the bashful.
The forward and the faint-hearted.
The impatient and the patient.
The kindly disposed and the envious.
The simple and the insincere.
The whole and the sick.
Those who fear scourges, and therefore live innocently; and those who have grown so hard in iniquity as not to be corrected even by scourges.
The too silent, and those who spend time in much speaking.
The slothful and the hasty.
The meek and the passionate.
The humble and the haughty.
The obstinate and the fickle.
The gluttonous and the abstinent.
Those who mercifully give of their own, and those who would fain seize what belongs to others.
Those who neither seize the things of others nor are bountiful with their own; and those who both give away the things they have, and yet cease not to seize the things of others.
Those who are at variance, and those who are at peace.
Lovers of strife and peacemakers.
Those who understand not aright the words of sacred law; and those who understand them indeed aright, but speak them without humility.
Those who, though able to preach worthily, are afraid through excessive humility; and those whom imperfection or age debars from preaching, and yet rashness impels to it....
Differently to be admonished are the wise of this world and the dull. For the wise are to be admonished that they leave off knowing what they know; the dull also are to be admonished that they seek to know what they know not. In the former this thing first, that they think themselves wise, is to be overcome; in the latter, whatsoever is already known of heavenly wisdom is to be built up; since, being in no wise proud, they have, as it were, prepared their hearts for supporting a building. With those we should labor that they become more wisely foolish, leave foolish wisdom, and learn the wise foolishness of God: to these we should preach that from what is accounted foolishness they should pass, as from a nearer neighborhood, to true wisdom.
No one, not even the Lord Himself, can easily instruct the proud. No one wants to give instructions to him who cries out that he knows everything. "For great is the power of God; by the humble, He is glorified" says the wise Sirach (Ecclesiasticus - Sirach 3:19), David also speaks about God saying, "He guides the humble to justice, He teaches the humble His way" (Psalm 25:9).
The proud person is he who wants to teach everyone and he himself does not want to be taught anything by anyone. The humble is he who does not wish to teach anyone but continually desires to be taught regardless by whom. An empty spike [ear] of grain raises its head above the entire field and the full spike [ear] of grain hangs down with bowed head.
O proud man, if only your Guardian Angel would somehow remove the veil from your eyes and show you the endless open sea of all that you do not know, you would kneel before every man before whom you have exhibited pride and kneel before every man whom you have belittled. You would cry out lamenting, "Forgive me, forgive me! I do not know anything!"
Often times, to the humble and pious the time when they are about to die is revealed, but the death of the proud comes unexpectedly and without warning. St. Gregory Dialogues speaks of a bishop, Carpus, who daily celebrated the Divine Liturgy and how suddenly someone appeared from the other world and said, "Continue to do what you are doing in serving me and may your legs never grow tired or your hands weakened. On the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God [August 15], you will come to Me and I will give you your reward in My Heavenly Kingdom, together with all of those for whom you have prayed at the Divine Services." After a year, on the feast of the Dormition, Bishop Carpus celebrated the Divine Liturgy of God, sought forgiveness from his priests, and gave up his soul to God. His face glowed like the sun.
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue
12 Mar 2010
Talk of the Devil came cheap in medieval Christianity. No mystery play was complete without an appearance by God's great adversary, all horns, cloven hoof and sulphur breath, while every church would boast a depiction of the 'Harrowing of Hell', a graphic warning to worshippers of the everlasting torment in the bowels of the earth that awaited unrepentant sinners.
But modern mainstream Christianity has apparently pensioned off Old Nick as an embarrassing reminder of a past when it used too much stick and not enough carrot in spreading the Good News. You have to go back to 1972 to find a Pope offering any detailed reflection on Satan. Paul VI described him as 'not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting'.
So the remarks by 85-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth, for decades the chief exorcist in Rome, have taken many by surprise. Far from being superstitious medieval nonsense, Amorth has said in promoting his new book, Memoirs of An Exorcist, the Devil is 'lodging in the Vatican' and can be seen in the activities of paedophile priests, over-ambitious clerics and 'cardinals who don't believe in Jesus'.
Even Amorth's title sounds as if it belongs more to Hollywood blockbusters than the contemporary life of the Catholic Church which makes only the most fleeting of references in its encyclopaedic Catechism, published in 1993, to the Devil as the 'seductive voice' who tempted Adam and Eve (article 391). But despite its official silence about Lucifer, the fallen angel who was ejected from heaven and will, according to the Book of Revelation, roam the earth until the final day of Judgement spreading evil and lies, the Vatican has never dismantled its medieval network of exorcists in every diocese. It just prefers not to mention them – until Father Amorth blew their cover.
When I was researching a biography of the Devil in the 1990s, I contacted each Catholic diocese in England and asked to speak to their official exorcist. Most denied such a figure even existed – though the Vatican plainly requires that one does – and those that did own up said they couldn't give me his name. 'It's not something we do anymore,' I was told more than once. '99 per cent of people who claim to be possessed need referring to psychiatrist.'
In Rome, of course, they are less coy about such matters, and that is where I finally got to meet Father Amorth. He's a giant of a man with a deeply lined bulldog face who was working out of a subterranean office in an anonymous church building on the outskirts of Rome. 'Our language may be more discreet today,' he told me, referring back to the Devil's medieval heyday, 'but the idea remains the same.' He had, he said, carried out more than 50,000 exorcisms, but added that the centre of Catholicism was unusual because it was special focus for Satan's schemes. Only 84 of the 50,000, he added, had been genuine cases of possession, but then he described, in that very room the day before, exorcising 'the demon of the media' from a young man who had, as a result, vomited fragments of radio equipment. At a distance, it sounds almost comical. At the time, I was so disturbed I brought the interview to a rapid conclusion.
Amorth, of course, is a deeply traditional figure, out of step with many in the church – though not, apparently, either Pope Benedict who, the chief exorcist says, believes in the reality of the Devil, or John Paul II who, it has been reported by Cardinal Jacques Martin, who headed his household, in March 1982, carried out an exorcism himself on a young woman.
What echoes back down the centuries, though, in what Amorth is now claiming, is not only the longstanding belief in demonic possession, but the logic behind it. For the Devil has always been a useful way of the Church doing two things. First the Devil puts a face to the otherwise intangible reality of evil. This proved so successful that even in our secular times we still demonise particular criminals and hold them up as the face of evil – Myra Hindley being a good example, especially the picture taken of her at the time of her trial.
The second is that belief in Satan allows us to externalise and therefore disown things we don't like. They are not a part of us – as Freud and Jung pointed out – but rather something that temporarily takes possession of us and can, with the help of an exorcist, be banished. So paedophile priests and faithless cardinals are not, in Amorth's analysis, a sign of corruption and moral decay at the very heart of the Church, but the result of the wiles of an external evil spirit trying to destroy it.
The lure and the emptiness of that logic was best summed up during my research by a young woman at a prayer group I observed in London. She had had a bad week, she told her fellow believers, because 'the Devil made me spend all my money'. She thereby conveniently absolved herself of all responsibility or any need to address or even own her own compulsions.
Perhaps it is that possibility that the Devil offers to shuffle the blame off onto an external demon that makes the Church so reluctant finally to bury this medieval ghoul. It has long pretended to have pensioned Satan off, but its exorcist network shows it hasn't. The dilemma, though, goes deeper. For the Devil is at the very heart of the New Testament narrative, tempting Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness.
If the Church is now to start trying to explain away that key character by saying that Satan was only really a face of evil, then it throws the whole emphasis on the truth of the gospels into question. If you start dwelling on the fact that you only have to add a 'd' to evil to get devil, you soon notice that by taking an 'o' away from good, you end up with God.
Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald. His book, The Devil: A Biography, is published in paperback by Arrow.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
March 11, 2010
The New York Times
Last week, the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck called on Christians to leave their churches if they heard any preaching about social or economic justice because, he claimed, those were slogans affiliated with Nazism and Communism.
This week, the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader in Washington, D.C., called on Christians to leave Glenn Beck.
“What he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show,” Mr. Wallis, who heads the antipoverty group Sojourners, wrote on his “God’s Politics” blog. “His show should now be in the same category as Howard Stern.”
Mr. Beck, in vilifying churches that promote “social justice,” managed to insult just about every mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, African-American, Hispanic and Asian congregation in the country — not to mention plenty of evangelical ones.
Even Mormon scholars in Mr. Beck’s own church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in interviews that Mr. Beck seemed ignorant of just how central social justice teaching was to Mormonism.
The controversy began when Mr. Beck said on his radio show: “I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.
“Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I am going to Jeremiah Wright’s church,” he said, referring to the incendiary black pastor who led the church attended by the Obama family members when they lived in Chicago. “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, ‘Excuse me, are you down with this whole social justice thing?’ ”
Religious bloggers, from the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the liberal Jesuit magazine America, to Joe Carter, at the conservative magazine First Things, took Mr. Beck’s decree as possibly an attack on Catholic teaching, and definitely an affront to Christianity.
Father Martin wrote on the Huffington Post: “It is not enough simply to help the poor, one must address the structures that keep them that way. Standing up for the rights of the poor is not being a Nazi, it’s being Christian. And Communist, as Mr. Beck suggests? It’s hard not to think of the retort of the great apostle of social justice, Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, ‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.’ ”
Mr. Beck himself is a convert to Mormonism, a faith that identifies itself as part of the Christian family, but which is nevertheless rejected by many Christians. Two Mormon scholars said in interviews that social justice is integral to Mormon teaching too.
Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, said in an interview: “My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every L.D.S. congregation I’ve been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that’s Beck’s definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team.”
Philip Barlow, the Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said: “One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice. It’s ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices. “A lot of Latter-day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church.”
Mr. Barlow said that Mr. Beck’s comments were particularly ill-timed because just this year, the church’s highest authority, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, issued a new “Handbook of Instructions” to church leaders in which they revised the church’s “three-fold mission” and added a fourth mission statement: care for the poor.
Friday 12th March, 2010
The U.S. State Department says Israel is recognizing Jewish sites only as religious sites.
Christian and Muslim churches and mosques are not recognized by the Jewish state, and thus have no protection from future redevelopment by property developers.
The State Department raised the concern in its yearly human rights survey. It says the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law has been imposed on 137 Jewish sites only, meaning Christian and Muslim sites are "neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property development."
"The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance; however, community mosques, churches, and shrines faced threats from developers and municipalities that Jewish sites did not face," the report says.
Pope Benedict prayed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when he visited the Holy Land in May last year.
The State Department survey states, "Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee faced regular threats of encroachment from government planners who wanted to use parts of the properties for recreational areas."
Major Protestant denominations that have been in the country for many years, such as the Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Baptists, and Lutherans, among others, are not recognized by Israel, the State Department report said.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2010) — Has another mystery in the history of Israel been solved? Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Bible Studies at the University of Haifa has identified Khirbet Qeiyafa as "Neta'im," which is mentioned in the book of Chronicles. "The inhabitants of Neta'im were potters who worked in the king's service and inhabited an important administrative center near the border with the Philistines," explains Prof. Galil.
Khirbet Qeiyafa is a provincial town in the Elah Valley region. Archaeological excavations carried out at Khirbet Qeiyafa by a team headed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Mr. Saar Ganor have dated the site to the beginning of the 10th century BCE, namely the time of King David's rule. A Hebrew inscription on a pottery shard found at the site, also dating back to the 10th century, has recently been deciphered by Prof. Galil and indicates the presence of scribes and a high level of culture in the town.
The genealogy of the Tribe of Judah dated to the same period is recorded in 1 Chronicles. The last verse of this genealogy, 1 Chronicles 4:23, mentions two important cites: Gederah and Neta'im, both of which were administrative centers, since they were inhabited by people who work "in the king's service": "These were the potters, the inhabitants of Neta'im and Gederah, they dwelt there in the King's service." Gederah has been identified by A. Alt with Khirbet Ğudraya, near the Elah Valley, but Neta'im, which is mentioned only once in the Bible, remained unidentified.
American scholar Prof. William Albright, a leading archaeologist, proposed associating Neta'im with Khirbet En-Nuweiti', which is also located near the Elah Valley, based on the phonological similarity between the two names. Archaeological surveys at Khirbet En-Nuweiti', however, revealed that it was only inhabited during Hellenistic and Roman-Byzantine times, and not during the Iron Age.
Prof. Galil's identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa with Neta'im is based on the proximity of Khirbet Qeiyafa to biblical Gederah/Khirbet Ğudraya; on the archaeological findings -- including impressive fortifications -- dating from the time of King David's rule and indicating that this was an administrative center; and on the preserved name of nearby Khirbet En-Nuweiti'.
"The archeological findings at this site, the discovery of the earliest and most important Hebrew inscription to be found to date, and the understanding, based on the biblical text, that members of the Tribe of Judah inhabited the town and worked in the king's service, testify to Khirbet Qeiyafa -- Neta'im -- being an important administrative center in the border region of the Kingdom of Israel during the time of King David's reign. The existence of this fortified administrative center relatively far from the center of the kingdom testifies to a conflict that broke out between the Israelites the Philistines after David was victorious over the House of Saul and all of the Tribes of Israel were unified under his leadership. It is further proof of a large and powerful kingdom during the days of King David," Prof. Galil concludes.
New Study Debunks Myths About Vulnerability of Amazon Rain Forests to Drought
ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2010) — A new NASA-funded study has concluded that Amazon rain forests were remarkably unaffected in the face of once-in-a-century drought in 2005, neither dying nor thriving, contrary to a previously published report and claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"We found no big differences in the greenness level of these forests between drought and non-drought years, which suggests that these forests may be more tolerant of droughts than we previously thought," said Arindam Samanta, the study's lead author from Boston University.
The comprehensive study published in the current issue of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters used the latest version of the NASA MODIS satellite data to measure the greenness of these vast pristine forests over the past decade.
A study published in the journal Science in 2007 claimed that these forests actually thrive from drought because of more sunshine under cloud-less skies typical of drought conditions. The new study found that those results were flawed and not reproducible.
"This new study brings some clarity to our muddled understanding of how these forests, with their rich source of biodiversity, would fare in the future in the face of twin pressures from logging and changing climate," said Boston University Prof. Ranga Myneni, senior author of the new study.
The IPCC is under scrutiny for various data inaccuracies, including its claim -- based on a flawed World Wildlife Fund study -- that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically and be replaced by savannas from even a slight reduction in rainfall.
"Our results certainly do not indicate such extreme sensitivity to reductions in rainfall," said Sangram Ganguly, an author on the new study, from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute affiliated with NASA Ames Research Center in California.
"The way that the WWF report calculated this 40% was totally wrong, while [the new] calculations are by far more reliable and correct," said Dr. Jose Marengo, a Brazilian National Institute for Space Research climate scientist and member of the IPCC.
by St. Theodore the Studite
For the Fourth Friday of Great Lent
Brethren and fathers, the day of Pascha is drawing near, since with God’s help we have passed the mid-point of the fast. But are we pressing forward to reach the Pascha that comes and goes? Have we not achieved this year after year? The present Pascha too will pass, for there is nothing lasting in the present age, but, "All our days pass like a shadow", and our life travels like a rapid rider, until it has driven us to the final boundary of life. ‘What’, someone says, ‘is Pascha not to be desired?’ Of course, it very much is to be desired. How could it not be? But we accomplish Pascha every day. And what is this? Cleansing from sins, contrition of heart, tears of compunction, a clean conscience, the "death of the parts of us that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire", and any other evil that is at work. One who has been found worthy in all this does not easter and celebrate a much longed for feast to the Lord just once a year, but, we may say, does so each day. Someone, on the other hand, who does not have all the foregoing, but is held fast by the passions, cannot celebrate. For how can someone celebrate whose god is their stomach? Or who is aflame with fleshly lust? Or melted by the heat of jealousy? Or drowned by the love of money? Or enslaved to vainglory? Or caught up by the other passions. No one could possibly say that someone with a high fever was at rest, or that someone shipwrecked was making a good voyage. It simply isn’t possible. It is impossible for someone who has become dark to be enlightened, or for someone possessed by sins to celebrate. But for you, brothers, we are confident of better things, ones that promise salvation. For our way of life is nothing other than preparation for a feast. Look at the reality: psalmody succeeds psalmody; reading, reading; study, study; prayer, prayer, like a wheel drawing us and joining us to God. How truly excellent is this way of life, how supremely excellent! How blessed this life and thrice-blessed! So then, since we have been shown the sought for Pascha, my honoured brothers, let us make it our aim, and, as far as we can, celebrate it every day, through the death of the passions and the resurrection of the virtues, in imitation of the Lord, "because he too suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps". And I say this, not so we become judges of the others — "for each has their own load to carry" — but so that, conscious of the grace that has been given us by God, we may give thanks to the Giver, glorify the Benefactor, repay the Master, who has not only granted our present blessings, but also, to those who genuinely serve Him to the end, He will also give those that are in His promises, that eternal and heavenly Pascha. May we all attain it, by the grace and love for humankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
 Psalm 143:4.
 Colossians 3:5.
 Cf. Philippians 3:19.
 The ordinary Greek word for ‘preparation’, paraskevi, in Christian Greek also means Friday, in particular Good Friday, the ‘preparation’ for Pascha.
 1 Peter 2:21. The critical editions have the second person throughout.
 Galatians 6:5.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
By Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem
These brief Lives are traditionally included in the introductory sections of the liturgical Gospels of the Orthodox Church in Greek and Church Slavonic. St Sophronius I was Patriarch of Jerusalem (634-638; feastday March 11) and as a patristic writer is also known as Sophronius the Sophist. His extant writings, including liturgical hymns, poetry, accounts of lives and miracles of the saints, and dogmatic works, have been published in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca. He is also co-author, with John Moshcus, of the Lemonarium, a classical collection of accounts of the ancient desert fathers.
The Life of the Evangelist Matthew
Matthew, also known as Levi, tax collector turned apostle, was the first to compose the Gospel of Christ, in Judea in the Hebrew language for those of the circumcision who believed. It is unknown by whom it was later translated into Greek. The Hebrew text is preserved to this day in the library of Caesarea that was most diligently assembled by the Martyr Pamphilus. The Nazarenes of Berroia in Syria, who use this text, gave me permission to copy it. From this, one is easily convinced that where the evangelist makes use of the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, either himself, or in the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, he does not follow the authority of the Seventy (i.e. The Septuagint), but of the Hebrew text. It is from the latter that these two passages come: "Out of Egypt have I called My Son" (Mt 2:15) and "He shall be called a Nazarene" (Mt 2:23).
The Life of the Evangelist Mark
Mark was the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and, at the urging of the brethren in Rome, Mark wrote his short Gospel, following exactly what he had heard Peter tell. When Peter saw it, he gave it his approval, and directed that it be read in the Church, as Clement says in Book VI of his Outline. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, makes mention of this same Mark. Peter, in his first Epistle, refers to Rome metaphorically by the name “Babylon”: "The church that is at Babylon, chosen together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son" (I Pet. 5:13). Taking with him the Gospel which he himself had written, Mark went to Egypt, and was the first to preach Jesus Christ in Alexandria, where he established the Church. So highly did he excel both in teaching and in a life of steadfast endurance, that all those who came to believe in Christ, followed his example. And Philo [an Alexandrian Jewish philosopher of the first century AD], the most eloquent of the Jews, was so impressed when he saw the first church in Alexandria while it was still made up primarily of Jews, that he wrote a book about the life of those Christians, praising, as it were, his own race. Luke relates that the believers in Jerusalem held everything in common; likewise Philo preserved the memory of what he had seen occurring in Alexandria under the guidance of Mark. Mark reposed in the eighth year of Nero’s reign [63 A.D.]. He was buried in Alexandria, where Ananias succeeded him as bishop.
The Life of the Evangelist Luke
Luke, a physician of Antioch, was not unacquainted with Greek culture, as is shown by his writings. He was a companion of the Apostle Paul and followed him in all his journeys to foreign lands. Luke wrote the Gospel to which Paul himself refers when he says, "And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches" (II Cor. 8:18). And in his letter to the Colossians he says, "Luke, the beloved physician, greets you" (Col. 4:14). And to Timothy he says, "Only Luke is with me" (II Tim. 4:11).
Luke wrote another excellent book entitled The Acts of the Apostles, a history which ends with Paul’s two-year stay in Rome, that is, in the fourth year of Nero’s reign. This leads us to believe that The Acts of the Apostles was written in Rome. The tale of the journey of Paul and Thecla, and every other fable, such as the baptism of the lion, should not be counted among the canonical Scriptures. For it is not possible that he who was inseparable from the Apostle should not have known of this act among all his other acts. Tertullian also mentions a certain elder in Asia at that time, a companion of the Apostle Paul, who, when it was proven in the presence of John that he was the author of this book, confessed that he had written it out of love for Paul. Some say that this is why Luke does not mention himself as the author. Whenever Paul says in his own Epistles, "according to my Gospel" (Rom. 2:16, etc.), it is clear that he means the Gospel written by Luke. But Luke learned the Gospel not only from the Apostle Paul, who was not with the Lord in the body at that time, but from the other Apostles as well. He himself clearly states this at the beginning of his work, saying, even as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses. Therefore he wrote the Gospel as he had heard it. But he wrote The Acts based on what he himself had experienced. Luke’s relics were taken up and carried to Constantinople, together with the relics of the Apostle Andrew, in the twentieth year of the reign of Constantius.
The Life of the Evangelist John
John, "the beloved disciple" [see Jn. 13:23], was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James, who was beheaded by Herod after the Passion of the Lord [see Acts 12:1-2]. John was the last of the Evangelists to write a Gospel. At the request of the bishops of Asia, he wrote his Gospel to combat the teachings of Cerinthus and other heretics, and especially the newly appeared doctrine of the Ebionites, who claimed that Christ did not exist until Mary gave birth to Him. This prompted John to expound on Christ’s divine generation. There is another reason why he wrote. After examining the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke from beginning to end, John confirmed that they had recorded the truth [in contrast to authors of other, so-called gospels then in circulation]. Then he composed his own Gospel, focusing on the final year of the Lord’s earthly ministry and on His Passion. John omitted most of the events of the previous two years because these had already been faithfully recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. A careful study of the four Gospels will resolve the apparent discrepancies between John’s narrative and the narratives of the other three Evangelists. John also wrote an epistle, which begins, That which was from the beginning. This epistle is accepted as John’s by all ecclesiastical and scholarly authorities. The other two epistles bearing his name—the first, beginning, "The elder unto the elect lady"; and the second, "The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius"—are considered by some to be the work of a certain John the Elder, whose tomb (one of two bearing the name John) still exists in Ephesus to this day. Others, however, maintain that these two epistles are also the work of John the Evangelist. We will say more about this in the Life of Papias, the disciple of John. Now in the fourteenth year of his reign, the emperor Domitian initiated the second major persecution of Christians (Nero’s persecution was the first). John was banished to the island of Patmos and there wrote the Apocalypse, later translated by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. After Dometian was murdered, his decrees were annulled by the Senate on account of their inhuman cruelty. Nerva ascended the throne, and John was allowed to return to Ephesus, where he lived until [101 AD, the fourth year of] Trajan’s reign. During this time, John founded and built up churches throughout Asia. In the sixty-eighth year after the Passion of the Lord, John reposed in great old age near Ephesus.
The Hieromartyrs Pionius and Limnus, the Holy Martyrs Sabina, Macedonia, and Asclepiades suffered during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Decius (249-251). They suffered at Smyrna, a mercantile city on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. The Church in Smyrna was founded by the holy Apostle John the Theologian (May 8 and September 26), and was made glorious by its martyrs and confessors.
St Pionius knew that he and his companions would be arrested on February 23, the anniversary of St Polycarp's martyrdom, and a feastday for the Christians of Smyrna. The day before they were arrested, St Pionius entertained Asclepiades and Sabina in his house. Taking three lengths of woven chains, St Pionius placed them around his neck, and around the necks of the other two. He did this to show that they were all determined to be led off to prison rather than eat food sacrificed to idols.
The holy confessors were indeed arrested on February 23. After a brief interrogation they were dragged off by Polemon the verger in order to sacrifice to the idols and eat forbidden foods. They were brought to the forum, where a great crowd had gathered.
St Pionius addressed the people, chiding them for laughing and rejoicing at those Christians who had agreed to offer sacrifice. He quoted Homer to the pagans (Odyssey 22, 412) and said that it was shameful to gloat over those who were about to die. He reminded the Jews in the audience of the words of Solomon: "If your enemy falls, do not rejoice over him, and do not be glad when he stumbles" (Proverbs 24:17).
Polemon attempted once again to persuade Pionius to obey the law and offer sacrifice to the idols.
"If only I could persuade you to become Christians," he replied.
The men laughed at him, saying that he did not have the power to do that, because they knew they would be burned alive if they converted.
St Pionius said, "It is far worse to burn after death."
St Sabina laughed when she heard this. Then Polemon threatened to put her in a brothel, but she said she believed that God would protect her.
Under questioning, St Pionius stated repeatedly that he was a Christian, and could not sacrifice to the emperor or to the idols.
Before Polemon came to Sabina to question her, St Pionus told her to say that her name was Theodote. This he did so that she would not be returned to her former mistress Politta, an immoral woman. In an effort to turn her from Christ, Politta bound St Sabina and cast her out on the mountains. She was secretly helped by the brethren, and hid in St Pionus's house most of the time. That is how she came to be arrested.
Sts Sabina and Asclepiades were questioned, and they said they were Christians who worshiped Jesus Christ. Then they were thrown into jail.
In prison St Pionius and his companions met Limnus, a priest of the Church of Smyrna, and his wife Macedonia from the village of Karine. They had also been imprisoned for confessing Christ.
Many believers visited the holy confessors in prison, offering them whatever they could, but the saints did not accept it. The jailers were angry, because they used to keep a portion of the gifts given to prisoners for themselves.
The holy martyrs were brought to the marketplace, and were urged to offer sacrifice. When they refused, they were taken back to prison. On the way, they were beaten and mocked by the crowd. Someone said to St Sabina, "Why couldn't you have died in your own city?"
St Sabina retorted, "What is my native city?"
Terentius, who was in charge of the gladiatorial games, said to Asclepiades, "After you are condemned, I shall ask that you compete in the games given by my son."
"That does not scare me," he said.
After many torments, the holy martyr was brought to the amphitheatre on March 11, 250. Since he still refused to offer sacrifice to the idols, St Pionius was sentenced to be burned alive. He was nailed to a cross upside down, then they stacked wood around him and lit the fire under his head. When the fire subsided, everyone saw the body of the saint was unharmed. Not even the hairs of his head had been singed. His face was radiant, and shone with divine grace. When, at last, the fire was extinguished and when everyone thought that Pionius was dead, he opened his eyes and cried out rejoicing, "O God, receive my soul," and expired. After his victory in the contest, St Pionius received an incorruptible crown of glory from the Savior Christ.
St Pionius transcribed the Martyrdom of St Polycarp of Smyrna (February 23) from an older copy made by Isocrates (or Socrates) in Corinth. This document in turn was transcribed from an earlier manuscript written by Gaius, and was based on the recollections of St Irenaeus of Lyons (August 23), who knew St Polycarp. St Polycarp appeared to Pionius in a vision, telling him to search for the text of Isocrates. St Pionius collected the material which was nearly worn out with age, thus preserving the account for later generations. Now St Pionius rejoices in the heavenly Kingdom, glorifying the Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages.
HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINT PIONIUS
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Pionius speaks while being tortured:
O, citizens of famous Smyrna,
Fellow townsmen of Omar, the well known,
I know that which all of you know,
Not one of you know, that, what I know:
The sweet pleasure of dying, I know
And sweeter yet, hoping in Christ.
I know that death will destroy me not
But just the body, to separate from the soul;
For me, I know that the angels are waiting
In the mansions of the Heavenly King,
And angels, prophets and saints,
Many armies of those chosen by God,
And the wonderful martyrs for Christ.
I know that I am returning to my homeland,
From whence I came here.
The goal of my suffering, I do know,
(You know not why you are torturing me!)
Seethe, O malice, and against me rage!
With outstretched arms, the Savior awaits me,
Strike me, all of you, with greater tortures.
The more difficult the suffering, the sooner the dawn,
The quicker the death, the more joyful the soul.
"No good works are accomplished by our efforts alone but by the power and will of God. Nevertheless, God demands effort on our part in conforming to His will." These are the words of Saints Barsanuphius and John. Few words but much said. We are obliged to labor, to cultivate and to prepare every good thing, and if some good will take root, grow and bring forth fruit, that is up to the power and will of God. We plow the furrows and God sows, if He wills it. We cleanse the vessels of the Spirit and God pours the Spirit into these vessels, if He wills it. He can do anything if He wills it. And He will do everything that responds to the highest wisdom and suitability, that is, to His plan of man's salvation. In interpreting the words of our Lord, "So be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (St. Matthew 10:16), St. John Chrysostom writes that our Lord gave this commandment to His disciples that "they themselves should cooperate in some way, so that it will not to appear that all effort is of Grace alone and for them not to think that they received the wreaths of glory for nothing." And so, both of them are indispensable for our salvation: our effort and the power of God's Grace.
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue
Over 1/2 Million New Members to be received into the Holy Orthodox Church
By Fr. Johannes Jacobse
AOI Blog - March 9, 2010
After months of catechetical and pastoral follow-up, the Archiepiscopal Vicar, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić), traveled to Guatemala in January 2010 and received Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos of the independent Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de Guatemala (ICOG), into the Orthodox Church. At that time, guidelines were also established to facilitate the reception of the ICOG’s 527,000 members, which are overwhelmingly indigenous. The former ICOG has 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, 12 clergymen, 14 seminarians, 250 lay ministers, and 380 catechists. It also has an administrative office on 280 acres, a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers, and a monastery on 480 acres. Fourteen students from Guatemala are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program.
In February 2010, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) returned to Guatemala and met with clerics and others who assist in the Church’s pastoral work and outreach. He discussed mission and ministry priorities, and economic development with Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. He met and encouraged the faithful who collaborate in the diverse ministries in Guatemala, visited schools and institutions, and spoke at length with seminarians regarding matters related to the Orthodox faith, especially the importance of the development of an Orthodox phronema, praxis, and liturgical life. His Right Reverence inspected places of worship, liturgical vessels, vestments, etc. in order to assess the needs of the Church in Guatemala. Twelve full sets of vestments for Priests were given to Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. Catechisms were distributed to the lay ministers and catechists.
In his talks with the clergy and faithful of the ICOG, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) reiterated the message of St. Paul: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your nous (mind), that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1-3). He stressed the importance of formulating an Orthodox worldview through prayer, fasting, repentance, struggle against sin and overcoming the passions, participation in the Holy Mysteries, and the reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers. His Right Reverence conducted impromptu question and answer sessions everywhere he visited. Interest and excitement permeated the discussions.
The Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) also visited Holy Trinity Monastery (Antiochian Orthodox Church), where he held lengthy discussions with Abbess Inés and Mother María, and later prayed at the magnificent monastery Church, where he blessed the Russian iconographers of the Prosopon School of Iconology. He traveled to Guatemala City and visited the orphanage, Hogar Rafael Ayau, meeting, embracing, and blessing the children, and later having lunch with them. He held meetings with ‘Orthodox seekers’, who represent another 800,000 souls, regarding the straight and narrow path of reception into Orthodoxy. His Right Reverence will return to Guatemala after the Holy and Great Pascha of the Lord for follow-up meetings and discussions.
Yes, It Really is a Capitalist Plot
by Diana Johnstone
March 4, 2010
For Europe’s poorest countries, European Union membership has long held out the promise of tranquil prosperity. The current Greek financial crisis ought to dispel some of their illusions.
There are two strikingly significant levels to the current crisis. While primarily economic, the European Economic Community also claims to be a community, based on solidarity -- the sisterhood of nations and brotherhood of peoples. However, the economic deficit is nothing compared to the human deficit it exposes.
To put it simply, the Greek crisis shows what happens when a weak member of this Union is in trouble. It is the same as what happens on the world scale, where there is no such morally pretentious union perpetually congratulating itself on its devotion to human rights. The economically strong protect their own interests at the expense of the economically weak.
The crisis broke last autumn after George Papandreou’s PASOK party won elections, took office and discovered that the cupboard was bare. The Greek government had cheated to get into the EU’s euro zone in 2001 by cooking the books to cover deficits that would have disqualified it from membership in the common currency. The European Treaties capped the acceptable budget deficit at 3 per cent and public debt at 60 per cent of GDP respectively. In fact, this limit is being widely transgressed, quite openly by France. But major scandal arrived with revelations that Greece’s budget deficit reached 12.7 per cent in 2009, with a gross debt forecast for 2010 amounting to 125 per cent of GDP.
Of course, European leaders got together to declare solidarity. But their speeches were designed not so much to reassure the increasingly angry and desperate Greek people as to soothe “the markets” – the real hidden almighty gods of the European Union. The markets, like the ancient gods, have a great old time tormenting mere mortals in trouble, so their response to the Greek problem was naturally to rush to profit from it. For instance, when Greece is obliged to issue new bonds this year, the markets can blithely demand that Greece double its interest rates, on grounds of increased “risk” that Greece won’t pay, thus making it that much harder for Greece to pay. Such is the logic of the free market.
What the EU leaders meant by “solidarity” in their appeal to the gods was not that they were going to pour public money into Greece, as they poured it into their troubled banks, but that they intended to squeeze the money owed the banks out of the Greek people.
The squeezing is to take the forms made familiar over the past disastrous decades by the International Monetary Fund: the Greek state is enjoined to cut public expenses, which means firing public employees, cutting their overall earnings, delaying retirement, economizing on health care, raising taxes, and incidentally probably raising the jobless rate from 9.6 per cent to around 16 per cent, all with the glorious aim of bringing the deficit down to 8.7 per cent this year and thus appeasing the invisible gods of the market.
This just might propitiate both the gods and German leaders, who above all want to maintain the value of the euro. The financial markets will no doubt grab their pound of flesh in the form of increased interest rates, while the Greeks are bled by IMF-style “shock treatment”.
And what about that great theater of human rights and universal brotherhood, the European Parliament? In that forum everyone gets to speak for a carefully clocked 1, 2, or 3 minutes, but when it comes to the most serious matter, the budget, the authoritative voices are all German.
Thus the chairman of the EP’s special committee on the economic and financial crisis, Wolf Klinz, has called for sending a “high representative” of the EU to Greece, an “economies commissar” to make sure the Greeks carry out the austerity measures properly. The Greek crisis can allow the EU to put into practice for the first time its “Treaty instruments” concerning “supervision of budgetary and economic policy”. Interest rates may go up because of “risk”, but there is to be no risk. The pound of flesh will be delivered.
There was no such supervision of the financial fiddling which caused this mess. The EU statistics agency Eurostat recently discovered and revealed that in 2001, Goldman Sachs secretly (“but legally”, protest its executive officers) helped the right-wing Greek government meet EU membership criteria by using a complicated “currency swap” that masked the extent of public deficit and national debt. [See Andrew Cockburn and Marshall Auerback, on this site.] Who understands how that worked? I think it is fair to guess that not even Angela Merkel, who is trained as a scientist, understands clearly what went on, much less the incompetent Greek politicians who accepted the Goldman Sachs trickery. It allowed them to create an illusion of success – for a while. Success meant being a “member of the club” of the rich, and it can be argued that this notion of success has actually favored bad government at the national level. Belonging to the EU gave a false sense of security that contributed to the irresponsibility of incompetent political leaders.
Having euros to buy imported goods (notably from Germany) pleased rich consumers, while the euro priced Greek goods out of their previous markets. Now the debt trap is closing. The traditional way out for Greece would be to leave the euro and return to a devaluated drachma, in order to cut imports and favor exports. This way, the burden of necessary sacrifices would not be borne solely by the working class. But the embrace of EU “solidarity” is there to prevent this from happening. German authorities are preparing to lay down the law to the Greeks, after reducing the income of their own working class in order to benefit Germany’s export-oriented economy.
Austerity measures are the opposite of what is needed in a time of looming depression. Rather, what is needed are Keynesian measures to stimulate employment and strengthen the domestic market. But Germany is firmly attached to the export model, for itself and everyone else (“globalization”). For a country like Greece, which cannot compete successfully within the EU, exports outside the EU are crippled by its use of a strong currency, the euro. Bound to the euro, Greece can neither stimulate its domestic market nor export successfully. But it is not going to be allowed to extricate itself from the debt trap and return to its traditional currency, the drachma. Poverty appears to be the only solution.
There is discontent within the German working class at their country’s policies aimed at shrinking wages and social benefits for the sake of selling abroad. In an ideal “social Europe”, workers in Germany would come to the aid of workers in Greece by demanding a radical revision of economic policy, away from catering to the international financial markets toward building a solid social democracy. The reality is quite different.
The Greek financial crisis exposes the absence of any real community spirit in the EU. The “solidarity” declared by the country’s EU partners is a solidarity with their own investments. There is no popular solidarity between peoples. The EU has established a surrogate ideology of internationalism: rejection of the nation-state as source of all evil, a pompous pride in “Europe” as the center of human rights, giver of moral lessons to the world, which happens to fit in perfectly with its subservience to United States imperial foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond. The paradox is that European unification has coincided with decreasing curiosity in the larger EU states about what happens to their neighbors.
Despite a certain amount of specialized training needed to create a Eurocrat class, the general population of each EU member is only superficially acquainted with the others. They see them as teams in soccer matches. They go on holiday around the Mediterranean, but this mostly involves meeting fellow tourists, and study of foreign languages has declined, except for English (omnipresent, if mangled). Mass media news reports are turned inward, featuring missing children and pedophiles ahead of even major political events in other EU member states.
Northern European media portray Greece practically as a Third World country, peripheral and picturesque, where people speak an impossible language, dance in circles on islands, and live beyond their means in their carefree way. The crickets in the Aesop fable, scorned by the assiduous ants.
Media in Germany and the Netherlands imply that IMF-style shock treatment is almost too good for them. The widening polarization between rich and poor, between and within EU member states, is taken for granted.
The smaller indebted countries within the EU are amiably designated by the English-speaking financial priesthood as the PIGS – Portugal, Italy (perhaps Ireland), Greece, Spain – an appropriate designation for an animal farm where some are so much more equal than others.
Diana Johnstone is author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at email@example.com