Thursday, March 25, 2010
By Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos
The feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is a feast of the Lord and of the Mother of God (Theotokos). It is a feast of the Lord because Christ who was conceived in the womb of the Theotokos. It is a feast of the Theotokos because it refers to the person who aided in the conception and Incarnation of the Word of God, that is, the All Holy Virgin Mary.
Mary (the Theotokos) has great value and an important position in the Church, precisely because she was the person whom all generations awaited, and she gave human nature to the Word of God. Thus the person of the Theotokos is associated closely with the Person of Christ. Furthermore, the value of the Virgin Mary is not only due to her virtues, but also mainly to the fruit of her womb. For this reason, Theotokology is very closely associated with Christology. When we speak of Christ we cannot ignore her who gave Him flesh. And when we speak of the Virgin Mary, we simultaneously refer to Christ, because from Him she draws Grace and value. This shows clearly in the service of the Salutations, in which the Theotokos is hymned, but always in combination with the fact that she is the mother of Christ: "Rejoice, for you are the throne of the king. Rejoice for you bear Him Who bears all things".
This connection of Christology and Theotokology shows in the lives of the Saints as well. A characteristic mark of the Saints, who are the real members of the Body of Christ, is that they love the Virgin Mary. It is impossible for there to be a Saint who does not love her.
The Annunciation of the Theotokos is the beginning of all feasts of the Lord. In the dismissal hymn of the feast we chant: "Today is the beginning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery from the ages..." The content of the feast refers to the Archangel Gabriel’s (the angel associated with all events having to do with the Incarnation of Christ) visit to the Virgin Mary (with God's command) informing her that the time of the Incarnation of the Word of God had arrived, and that she would become His mother (see Luke 1:26-56).
The word "annunciation" is comprised of two words, good and message, and denotes the good notification, the good announcement. This refers to the information that was given through the Archangel that the Word of God would be incarnated for man's salvation. Essentially this is the fulfilment of God's promise, given after the fall of Adam and Eve (see Gen. 3:15), which is called the proto-evangelion (i.e., the first gospel). For this reason the information of the Incarnation of the Word of God is the greatest notification in history.
According to St. Maximos the Confessor, the gospel of God is the intercession of God and the comforting of men through His incarnate Son. Simultaneously it is the reconciliation of men with the Father, Who gives the unborn theosis as a reward to those who obey Christ. Theosis is called unborn because it is not born but rather is revealed to those who are worthy. Consequently, the theosis that is offered through the incarnate Christ is not a birth, but a revelation of the enhypostatic illumination to those who are worthy of this revelation.
The good announcement, the gospel, the Annunciation, is a correction of the events, which occurred at the beginning of man's creation, in the sensorial Paradise of Eden. There, from a woman the Fall and its results began; here, from a woman all good things began. Thus, the Virgin Mary is the new Eve. There was the sensorial Paradise; here, the Church. There, Adam; here, Christ. There, Eve; here Maria. There, the snake; here, Gabriel. There, the whispering of the dragon-snake to Eve; here the greeting of the angel to Mary (Joseph Vryenios). In this manner the transgression of Adam and Eve was corrected.
The Archangel Gabriel called the Virgin Mary "full of grace." He told her: "Rejoice, O thou who art full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28-29). The Virgin Mary is called "full of grace" and is characterised as "blessed" since God is with her.
According to Saint Gregory Palamas and other Holy Fathers, the Virgin Mary had already been filled with grace, and was not just filled with grace on the day of the Annunciation. Having remained in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, she reached the Holy of Holies of the spiritual life, theosis. If the courtyard of the Temple was destined for the proselytes and the main Temple for the priests, then the Holy of Holies was destined for the high priest. There the Virgin Mary entered, a sign that she had reached theosis. It is known that in the Christian age, the narthex was destined for the catechumens and the impure, the main church for the illumined, the members of the Church, and the holy of holies (altar) for those who had reached theosis.
Thus, the Virgin Mary had reached theosis even before she received the visitation of the Archangel. Toward this goal, she used a special method of knowing God and communing with God, as Saint Gregory Palamas interprets in a wonderful and divinely inspired manner. This refers to stillness, the hesychastic way. The Virgin Mary realised that no one can reach God with reasoning, with the senses, with imagination or human glory, but rather only through the intellect. Thus she deadened all the powers of the soul that came from the senses, and through noetic prayer she activated the intellect. In this manner she reached illumination and theosis. And for this reason she was granted to become the Mother of Christ, to give her flesh to Christ. She didn't have simply virtues, but the god-making Grace of God.
The Virgin Mary had the fullness of God's Grace, in comparison to (other) people. Of course, Christ, as the Word of God, has the whole fullness of Graces, but the Virgin Mary received the fullness of Grace from the fullness of Graces of her Son. For this reason, in relation to Christ she is lower, since - Christ had the Grace by nature, whereas the Virgin Mary had it through participation. In relation to people, however, she is higher.
The Virgin Mary had the fullness of Grace, from the fullness of Graces of her Son, prior to the conception, during the conception and after the conception. Prior to the conception the fullness of Grace was perfect, during the conception it was more perfect, and after the conception it was very perfect (St. Nikodemos the Haghiorite). In this manner the Virgin Mary was a virgin in body and a virgin in soul. And this physical virginity of hers is higher and more perfect than the virginity of the souls of the Saints, which is achieved through the energy of the All-holy Spirit.
No human is born delivered of the original sin. The fall of Adam and of Eve and the consequences of this fall were inherited by the whole human race. It was natural that the Virgin Mary would not be delivered from the original sin. The word of the Apostle Paul is clear: "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). In this apostolic passage it shows that sin is considered to be a deprivation of the glory of God, and furthermore that no one is delivered from it. Thus, the Virgin Mary was born with the original sin. When, though, was she delivered from it? The answer to this question must be freed from scholastic viewpoints.
To begin with we must say that the original sin was the deprivation of the glory of God, the estrangement from God, the loss of communion with God. This also had physical consequences, however, because in the bodies of Adam and of Eve corruption and death entered. When in the Orthodox Tradition there is talk of inheriting the original sin, this does not mean the inheriting of the guilt of the original sin, but mainly its consequences, which are corruption and death. Just as when the root of a plant dies, the branches and the leaves become ill, so it happened with the fall of Adam. The whole human race became ill. The corruption and death which man inherits is the favourable climate for the cultivation of passions and in this manner the intellect of man is darkened.
Precisely for this reason the adoption by Christ through His Incarnation of this mortal and suffering body, without sin, aided in correcting the consequences of Adam's sin. Theosis existed in the Old Testament as well, just as the illumination of the intellect also did, but death had not been abolished; for this reason the god-seeing Prophets all went to Hades. With Christ's Incarnation and His Resurrection, human nature was deified and thus the possibility was given to each person to be deified. Because with holy Baptism we become members of the deified and resurrected Body of Christ, for this reason we say that through holy Baptism man is delivered from the original sin.
When we apply these things to the case of the Virgin Mary we can understand her relationship with the original sin and her being freed from it. The Virgin Mary was born with the original sin; she had all the consequences of corruption and death in her body. With her entrance into the holy of holies, she reached theosis. This theosis though was not enough to deliver her from its consequences, which are corruption and death, precisely because the divine nature had not yet united with the human nature in the hypostasis of the Word. Thus, at the moment when, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the divine nature was united with human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary first tasted her freedom from the so-called original sin and its consequences. Furthermore, at that moment that which Adam and Eve failed to do with their free personal struggle, occurred. For this reason, the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation reached a greater state than that in which Adam and Eve were prior to the fall. She was granted to taste the end of the goal of creation, as we will see in other analyses.
For this reason for the Virgin Mary Pentecost did not have to happen, it was not necessary for her to be baptised. That which the Apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost, when they became members of Christ's Body through the Holy Spirit, and that which happened to all of us during the mystery of Baptism, occurred for the Virgin Mary on the day of Annunciation. Then she was delivered from the original sin, not in the sense that she was delivered from the guilt, but that she obtained the theosis in her soul and body, due to her union with Christ.
In these frameworks Saint John of Damascus' saying that on the day of the Annunciation the Virgin Mary received the Holy Spirit, which cleansed her and gave her power receptive of the Word's divinity, simultaneously a birth-giving power, should be interpreted. That is the Virgin Mary received from the Holy Spirit a cleansing grace, but also a grace receptive and able to give birth to the Word of God as a man.
The response of the Virgin Mary to the information of the archangel that she would be granted to give birth to Christ was expressive: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be to me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38). Here the obedience of the Virgin Mary to the saying of the archangel shows, but also her obedience to God, for an event that was odd and strange for human logic. Thus her logic is submitted to God's will.
Some maintain that during that moment all the righteous people of the Old Testament, but also all of humanity awaited with anxiousness to hear the Virgin Mary's response, fearing that she might refuse and not obey God's will. They maintain that because every time when man is in such a dilemma, precisely because he has freedom, he can say the yes or no, as furthermore occurred in the case of Adam and Eve, the same thing could occur with the Virgin Mary. However it was not possible for the Virgin Mary to refuse, not because she didn't have freedom, but because she had real freedom.
Saint John Damascus makes a distinction between a natural and an opinionated will. One has an opinionated will when he is distinguished by the ignorance of a thing, by the doubt and in the end the incapability of selection. This refers to a wavering as to what to do. One has a natural will when he is lead in a natural manner, without wavering, without ignorance, to the realisation of the truth.
So it seems, that the natural will is associated with "wanting", whereas the opinionated will with the "how to want", and furthermore when it is done with doubts and wavering. Consequently the natural will comprises the perfection of nature, whereas the opinionated will comprises the imperfection of nature, since it presupposes a person who does not have knowledge of the truth, is not certain about what he must decide.
So even though Christ had two wills, due to the two natures, the human and divine nature, nevertheless he had a natural will, from the viewpoint we are studying here and of course, He did not have an opinionated will. As God He always knew the will of God the Father and there was no doubt and no wavering in Him. The Saints experience this by grace also, especially by the Virgin Mary. Because the Virgin Mary had reached theosis, for this reason it was impossible for her to reject God's will and not yield to the incarnation. She had perfect freedom, and for this her freedom always acted naturally and not unnaturally. We because we have not reached theosis have an imperfect freedom, the so-called opinionated will, for this reason we waver as to what to do. Her question "how shall this be to me, because I know no man" (Luke 1:34), shows humility, the weakness of the human nature, but also the strangeness of the matter, because there were miraculous conceptions in the Old Testament, however not seedless ones.
On the day of Annunciation we have a direct conception of Christ with the power and energy of the All-holy Spirit. In one theotokion we chant: "At Gabriel announcing to you the rejoice O virgin, with the voice the Master all was incarnated". This means that several hours and days for the conception to occur did not intervene, but it occurred precisely at that moment.
The archangel Gabriel told Joseph, the betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos. "Do not fear to take Mariam your wife. For that which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Math. 1:20). The Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ as a human, but the conception was of the Holy Spirit.
Basil the Great interpreting this phrase, and mainly the "is born of the Holy Spirit", says that every thing which comes from something else, id denoted by three words. The one is "by creation", just as the whole of creation was created by God with His energy. The other one is "by birth", as the Son was born before all ages of the Father. The third is "naturally", just as energy comes out of every nature, that is brilliance from the sun, and more generally the action from the one doing the action. As regards the conception of Christ in the Holy Spirit the true expression is that Christ was conceived with the energy of the Holy Spirit "by creation", and not by birth or naturally.
Saint John of Damascus teaches that the Son and Word of God conjoined for Himself, with the pure and most clean bloods of the Theotokos, flesh which is alive with a logical and noetic soul, not by seed, but created by the Holy Spirit.
Of course, when we speak of the conception of Christ in the Theotokos' womb with the power and creative energy of the Holy Spirit, we should not isolate the Holy Spirit from the Holy Trinity. It is known from patristic teaching that the energy of the Trinitarian God is common. The creation of the world and the recreation of man and of the world occurred and occurs with the common energy of the Trinitarian God. Consequently, not only did the Holy Spirit create the master's body of Christ, but also the Father Himself and the Son, that is the whole Holy Trinity did. The formulation of this truth is that the Father favoured the incarnation of His Son, the Son and the Word of God Himself worked His incarnation and the Holy Spirit effected it.
The conception of Christ in the womb of the Theotokos occurred with silence and secrecy and not with noise and disturbance. No one, neither of the angels nor of men was able to understand at that moment these great things which were performed. The Great Prophet David prophesied this event saying: "May he be like rain that falls on a fleece, like showers that water the earth!" (Psalm 71:6). Just as rain that falls on a fleece of wool does not cause noise or any corruption, the same thing occurred also during the annunciation and the conception. Christ with His conception did not cause noise or any corruption in the virginity of the Virgin Mary. For this reason the Virgin Mary was and remained a Virgin before the birth, during the birth and after the birth. These are the three stars, which the iconographer forms always on the forehead and the two shoulders of the Virgin Mary.
The union of the divine with the human nature in the hypostasis of the Word, in the womb of the Theotokos, comprises the direct theosis of the human nature. That is, from the first moment when the divine united with the human nature there is the theosis of the human nature. The saying of Saint John Damascene is characteristic: "at the moment of flesh, at that moment the flesh of God the Word". This means that a duration of time did not intervene after the conception for the human nature* to be deified, but this happened immediately at the time of the conception.
A consequence of this event is that the Virgin Mary must be called Theotokos, since she gave birth truly to God, Whom she bore for nine months in her womb, and not a man who had the Grace of God. For this reason the Virgin Mary is called Theotokos, precisely because she conceived Christ in the Holy Spirit.
This must be stressed because in times of old a great theological conversation occurred as to if the Virgin Mary ought to be called Theotokos and not Christotokos. The Christological dogma has a consequence in the theotokological discussion. The Virgin Mary is a Theotokos, precisely because she conceived Christ in the Holy Spirit.
This must be stressed, because in times of old a large theological discussion occurred as to whether the Virgin Mary should be called Theotokos, due to the existence of heretical teachings. In addition, the final validation of the teaching that the Virgin Mary gave birth to God, and that immediately with the adoption of the human nature there exists its theosis, occurred in the 3rd Ecumenical Synod. The heretic Nestorios, using philosophical terms and human pondering, supported that the Virgin Mary was a human and for this reason it was impossible for her to give birth to God. The babe who was in her was not God, but a human. God simply "passed through" or "passed along with" through the Theotokos. Of course, there was a problem in his theology about the relationship between the two natures of Christ. Nestorios believed that the flesh of Christ was imply united with the nature of the Godhead. The Word was not God, but was united with man and dwelt inside him. With such presuppositions he named the Virgin Mary Christotokos and not Theotokos.
However Christ is a God-man, perfect God and perfect man, and every nature acted "with the other communion" in the hypostasis of the Word. We will see this topic when we will speak of the birth of Christ. Here though it must be underlined that human nature was deified immediately with its union with the divine nature in the hypostasis of the Word, in the womb of the Theotokos. For this reason the Virgin Mary is and is called Theotokos, since she gave birth to God humanly.
The direct theosis of human nature by the divine nature of the Word does not mean that the qualities of human nature are abolished. This shows that the conception and carrying in the womb, but also the birth of Christ occurred by nature and supernaturally. Supernaturally, because it occurred creatively by the All-holy Spirit and not by seed. Naturally, because the carrying in the womb occurred in the manner in which the infant is carried in the womb.
There is however one point which must be underlined. In every infant there are a few stages, until the time for birth comes. To begin with there is the conception, subsequently after a period of time the depiction of the members of his body, afterwards little by little they are developed, and according to the level of his development movement follows. Finally, when it is completed, he comes out of the womb of his mother.
Whereas in the divine infant we do have an increase little by little, nevertheless a period of time did not intervene between the conception and the depiction of the members. Basil the Great literally says: "immediately what was conceived was perfect in the flesh, not the shape formulated little by little". We must see this from the viewpoint that the members of His body were depicted immediately, he was created a perfect man, but nevertheless he was not found in the formulation of the nine months. He was developing little by little, although His body had been comprised from the beginning.
The conception of Christ occurred by the All Holy Spirit in the womb of the Theotokos creatively and not by seed, because Christ had to undertake the pure nature that Adam had before the transgression. Of course, Christ adopted a possible and mortal flesh, as it became after Adam's transgression, to defeat corruption and death, but it was however utterly pure and spotless, as it was prior to the transgression. Thus, Christ's flesh from a viewpoint of purity was as Adam's body was prior to the transgression, while from a viewpoint of mortality and corruption it was the body of Adam after the transgression.
Consequently the conception occurred through the Holy Spirit, because the manner in which man is born today (through the seed) is after the transgression. According to Saint Gregory Palamas, the movement of the flesh towards birth is not completely delivered from sin, because, whereas God has placed the intellect to rule over man, it acts "unsubmittedly" in the duration of the movement of the flesh. Thus, the pure nature of Christ has a relationship with the creative and not the conception by seed.
Precisely this event is very closely associated with the fact that the conception, carrying in the womb and birth of Christ by the Virgin Mary was effortless, painless and without pleasure. So Christ, was conceived, carried in the womb as a babe and was born without pleasure, without toil and without pain. He was conceived seedless for two basic reasons. Firstly, to undertake the pure human nature, and secondly, to be born without corruption and painlessly.
The Virgin Mary as she conceived Christ without pleasure, in the same way held Him for nine months in her womb without toil and without weight. She did not feel weight, despite the fact that the divine infant was developing naturally and had the weight of a developing embryo. Thus the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah was fulfilled: "Behold the Lord is sitting upon a hollow cloud" (Is. 19:1). With the term "hollow cloud" is meant the human flesh, which was so very light that it did not cause any weight and toil to the Virgin Mary during the time of the nine month carrying in the womb.
The seedless and 'pleasureless' conception of the Virgin Mary and the effortless carrying in the womb is closely associated with the incorrupt and painless birth of Christ. According to Saint Gregory Nyssa there is a close relationship between pleasure and pain, since every pleasure has pain connected with it. Adam felt pleasure and pain followed to the whole human race. Thus also now through freedom from pleasure joy comes to the human race. The birth of Christ did not corrupt the virginity of the Theotokos, precisely as the conception did not occur with pleasure, and the carrying in the womb did not occur with weight and toil. There where the All-holy Spirit acts "the order of nature is overcome".
The duration of the carrying in the womb of the Virgin Mary is a foreshadowing of the ceaseless communion that the Saints will have in the Kingdom of God.
It is known and a given fact that the mother who has a babe in the womb has a close and organic relationship with him. Contemporary scholars have proven that the infant is very much influenced not only by the physical state of his mother, but also from her psychological make up. And because the divine infant was conceived of the Holy Spirit, but grew up in the natural manner, that is He had a communion with the Virgin Mary's body, for this reason there exists a close relationship between Christ and the Theotokos. Naturally, we must see this from the viewpoint that the Virgin Mary gives her blood to Christ, but also Christ gives His Grace and blessing to her. So Christ being carried in the womb did not cease simultaneously being at God's throne united with His Father and the Holy Spirit.
The human nature was united with the divine nature without alteration, unconfusedly, indivisibly, inseparably, immediately from the moment of conception. This means that first the Virgin Mary tasted the goods of the divine incarnation, theosis. That which the Disciples of Christ tasted during Pentecost, and we during Baptism, at the time of the mystery of the divine Eucharist, when we commune of the Body and Blood of Christ, and that which the Saints will live in the Kingdom of the Heavens., the Virgin Mary lived from the first moment of the conception and carrying in the womb.
Consequently Christ for nine whole months, day and night, nourished with His sanctified blood the Virgin Mary. This is a foreshadowing of the ceaseless divine Communion and of the ceaseless relationship and communion of the Saints with Christ which will occur mainly in the next life. For this reason the Virgin Mary is a foreshadowing of the future age. From this viewpoint she is Paradise.
Saint Nikodemos the Haghiorite, speaking of the Annunciation of the Theotokos proceeds to a personal and existential approach of this event. Because, it does not suffice for us to celebrate only externally the events of the divine incarnation, but we should approach them existentially and spiritually. For this reason he gathered many passages of Saints in which mainly there is speech about this existential approach.
The saying of the Prophet Isaiah is characteristic "we were with child, we writhed, we have given birth. We have brought forth a spirit of salvation upon the earth" (Is. 26: 18). According to the interpretation of the holy Fathers the seed is the word of God and the intellect is the womb and the heart of man. Through faith the word of God is sewn in the heart of man and makes it pregnant with the fear of God. This is the fear that man not remain far from God. Through this fear the struggle for cleansing the heart and the obtaining of virtues begins, which resembles a pain, childbearing pains. In this manner the spirit of salvation is born, which is theosis and sanctification.
The forming of Christ in us happens with spiritual pains. The Apostle Paul says: "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" Gal. 4:19). Travails are the ascetical struggle, and formation is theosis and sanctification.
According to the holy Fathers (Saint Gregory Nyssa, Saint Maximos the Confessor, Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Niketas Stethatos etc.) that which happened physically in the Virgin Mary, this happens spiritually to each one whose soul is virginal, that is, is cleansed of the passions. Christ, who was born once in the flesh, wants to be born, always in the spirit, by those who wish, and thus He becomes a babe, forming Himself in them through the virtues.
The spiritual conception and birth becomes understood from the fact that the flow of blood stops, that is the desires to commit sin cease, passions are not active in man, man hates sin and constantly wants to do God's will. This conception and birth is obtained with the implementation of the divine commandments, mainly with the return of the intellect in the heart and with the ceaseless monologistic prayer. Then man becomes a temple of the All-holy Spirit.
The Annunciation of the Theotokos is an annunciation of the human race, the information that the Son and Word of God incarnated. This universal feast must aid in a personal feast, in a personal annunciation. We must accept the preludes of our salvation, which is the greatest notification in our life.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"
We have become accustomed each year on the 25th of March, when we celebrate the anniversary of our national rebirth, to address ourselves to events which are related to the freedom of our nation or, more specifically, to the creation of today’s Hellenic State.
From a pre-fabricated chauvinism prepared by the great powers, we learned to speak of the epic-making of our forefathers of 1821, which tie them in a direct line with antiquity!
In reality we have celebrated this liberation of ours for many years without examining very well what we celebrate. There is something paradoxical here. Do we celebrate our liberation? But which liberation? That of the ancient Hellenes? That is, of our forefathers of the 4th century B.C.? And after that? What became of us during the ensuing years? Where were we? Are we a nation with an ancient and modern history only? What were we doing the years in between?
Here we find ourselves confronted with a falsification of history. When Constantinople, the empress of all cities, fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks, it was not antiquity that was conquered, but the capital of Romanism, to wit, the capital city of the Roman Empire. And the area we live in is a piece of this empire.
We accepted a strange historical compromise. Did we accept that the City was not our capital? - the Imperial City of Romanism which resulted from the marriage of Hellenic and Roman antiquity? Even today the Ecumenical Patriarch still bears the title Archbishop of New Rome, i.e. Constantinople. In Turkish the Ecumenical Patriarchate is called “Rum Patrikhanesi”, which means Patriarchate of the Romans. This is because the Turkish sources say, and correctly, that when the Turks conquered the City they conquered the heart of Romanism.
We never learned these truths. Our school books teach histories with inaccuracies, written by foreigners like Arnold Toynbee and adopted by some “enlightened intellectuals”, or rather Greeklings. It seems that the great powers wanted to hide this counterfeiting of history from the Romans, and for this reason they led Regas of Velestino to his death in 1798. A glance at the Manifesto and the Charter of Regas demonstrates clearly what we mean by freedom of our nation from the Ottoman Turkish yoke. When Regas wrote Roumeli, the Turkish word for “Land of the Romans”, he meant the whole of the Balkans, because they belonged to the Roman Empire.
Professor John Romanides of the University of Thessaloniki recently published a book entitled Romanism, Romania, Roumeli in which he uncovers these truths which seem stranger to many because they learned a false history in school.
Born of Cappadocian parents, and a Roman to the core, Prof. Romanides was raised and educated in the USA. He became a professor there, and it was there he first encountered falsification of our Roman history. He searched for explanations and expediencies, he studied source and reached certain conclusions, and eventually revealed in this book the historical fraud which began around the 9th century AD and is still being perpetrated today.
Searching through texts he found that two great men, Argyres Ephtaliotis and our own Mesolongite Costes Palamas, had already denounced this forgery as early as 1901. In discussing this with the author I found the materiel very interesting and concluded that these truths should be brought to the attention of the public. I put the question to the Board of Directors of the Costes Palamas Society, who gladly undertook to organize a lecture in Mesolongi, in the heartland of Western Roumeli; where our distinguished speaker would bring to light the opinions for our national poet.
So with great joy I find myself in the exceptionally honored position of presenting to you the speaker who with special pleasure accepted the invitation to present his work, “Costes Palamas and Romanism,” first to us here in Mesolongi, thus paying a debt of honor to the Romans of the Romans of the Great Exodus and at the same time celebrating the 150 anniversary of some of the struggles of Romanism, struggles and yearnings which as it appears have not yet been extinguished.*
- Basil A. Lampropoulos, Reporter for the Akropolis, Athens
* The above introduction was written to be used as an introduction to this lecture during a “newspaper assignment in Constantinople New Rome (Istanbul), March 5, 1976. The printed lecture came out in Greece on March 21, 1976, the day the lecture was delivered in the ceremonial chamber of the Mesolongi City Hall, and was presented to the audience with the signature of the author and the seal of the Society of Costes Palamas - The Publisher.
Read the entire lecture of Fr. John Romanides: Romanism and Costes Palamas
The Georgian Orthodox Church is marking the day of restoration of Autocephaly today.
The Georgian Church obtained Autocephaly from the Antioch in 457 and the Russian empire abolished it in 1811. Since then the Russian synod was ruling the Georgian Christian Church by its exarches. The Georgian Church returned to its Autocephalous status on 25 March 1917 and its independence was recognized by every Orthodox Church in the world, however, only verbally. Due to the activities of Ilia II, Georgia`s Catholicos Patriarch, Autocephaly was officially announced and recognized by all Orthodox churches.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
by St. Theodore the Studite
It was spoken on the day of the Annunciation.
Brethren and fathers, the Annunciation is here and it is the first of the Feasts of the Lord, and we should not simply celebrate as most do, but with understanding and with reverence for the mystery. What is the mystery? That the Son of God becomes son of man, using the holy Virgin as the means, dwelling in her and from her fashioning for Himself a temple and becoming perfect man. Why so? "That he might ransom those under the law," as it is written, "and that we might receive sonship" [Gal. 4:5]; that we may no longer be slaves, but free; no longer subject to the passions, but free of passions; no longer friends of the world, but friends of God; no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. "Those who walk according to the flesh, think the things of the flesh; those who walk according to the spirit, the things of the spirit; for the thought of the flesh is death; but the thought of the spirit, life and peace. And so the thought of the flesh is hostile to God, for it is not subject to the law of God. Indeed it cannot be. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" [Rom. 8:5-8]. In brief this is the power of the mystery, and this is why we should celebrate spiritually and behave spiritually, with holiness and justice, with love, with gentleness, with peace, "with forbearance, with goodness, with the Holy Spirit" [2 Cor. 6:6], so that as far as we ourselves are concerned we do not render the dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ empty and ineffectual.
Not only that, but we should both pray and grieve for the world. Why so? Because the Son of God came to save the world, and the world rejects Him. Tribes and languages reject Him; the barbarian nations reject Him, those who have had his holy name invoked upon them reject Him, some through abandoning the faith, others through their evil lives. What should He have done and did not do? Being God He became man, "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, the death of the cross" [Phil. 2,8.]; he gave us His body to eat and His blood to drink; He allowed us to call him Father, Brother, Head, Teacher, Bridegroom, Fellow-heir and all the other titles which there is no time to mention now. And still He is rejected, and still He bears it. "For," He says, "I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world" [John 12:47].
What then is there to say, brethren? That the genuine disciples are grieved by the rejections of their fellow-disciples, thus showing love both for the teacher and for the disciples. So too, genuine servants suffer in the same way from the desertions of their fellow-servants. This is why the great Apostle orders that "we should offer supplications, prayers, entreaties, thanksgivings on behalf of all mankind, for kings and for all in high positions" [1 Tim. 2:1-2]; and elsewhere he says this on the subject, "I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience bears witness with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have a great grief and unceasing anguish in my heart; for I have prayed that I might be anathema to Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" [Rom. 9:1-3]. You see the power of love? You see the height of friendship? Moses shows it too when he says to God, "If you will forgive them their sin, forgive; if not, wipe me out of the book which you have written" [Exodus 32:32]. So we too, as genuine and not counterfeit disciples, should not only look to what concerns ourselves, but we should grieve and pray for our brothers and for the whole world; for by so doing what is pleasing to the Lord we shall become inheritors of eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
We divide theology into neptic and social, and we regard some Fathers as belonging to the first and others as belonging to the second category. But in the teaching of the Holy Fathers this division is not seen. To be sure, outwardly, from the way in which each one has worked, a division can be seen between the neptics and socials, because some Fathers had a particular flock and did their work there, and others were in the desert, praying constantly. Even from this aspect, however, there cannot be a perfect division, because even the Fathers who worked pastorally lived neptically, and the hermits worked in a missionary way, in the sense that they were magnets for many men who approached them to learn ""words" of salvation. Thus the hermits indirectly did pastoral work.
Beyond this, the teaching of the saints is not divided into social and neptic. When the Fathers speak of social topics, they look at them within the true theology of the Church, which is ascetic. And when they speak of neptic topics, they do it in order for people to be able to be purified and then to attain real communion with God and men. Besides, we know very well that in the Church the theologians do shepherding and the pastors do their work theologically.
We are accustomed to seeing the Three Hierarchs - Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Chrysostom - as social Fathers. But this does not correspond with reality, because the Three Hierarchs in their writings also explain the whole neptic teaching of the Church.
The fact that there is a close link between nepsis and communion, between neptic and social Fathers, and that the Holy Fathers shepherd their flocks theologically is seen from the homilies written by St. Gregory Palamas to his flock in Thessaloniki. Anyone who reads these homilies will discover that shepherding is theology and theology is truly a fruit of the knowledge of God, but also a path for man to reach deification.
From The Mind of the Orthodox Church, Ch. 6
Virtue and religion are, from a historical point of view, intimately bound up. We discard religious insights at our peril.
24 March 2010
There is an intimate link between religion and morality. It's not fashionable to say so: many argue that talk of a link – and talk is all it is – should be stopped. After all, individuals can clearly be good without God, and religious individuals hardly stand much scrutiny as paragons of virtue. However, there's something more subtle to tease out here, and support for a connection is coming not from preachers or prelates, but science.
The source is neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. As these new sciences explore the nature of morality, they tell a story that goes something like this. Many animals, perhaps most, don't live in isolation; they co-operate. Even bacteria work together for the sake of the group. There is good reason to think that this co-operation gives rise to behaviour that can be called altruistic: it's good for others but not necessarily for the individual. The story develops further when it's observed that higher animals, like chimps or dogs, don't just behave in ways that might be called altruistic, but have social emotions too. They feel shame; they empathize; they take pleasure in pleasing others.
The implication for the human animal is that our morality is based upon an evolved set of predispositions. When we take pride, feel guilty, act honestly, show trust, we too are following social emotions that make us feel good. No doubt, this is the origin of the powerful intuition that the good life is a happy life.
Cognition has a role to play here, as there are often quite complex trade-offs to assess when different values conflict. But as the economist Herb Gintis puts it, morality is not categorical; reasoning tends to come after the event. Rather, "morality is just things we like", he says. Moreover, because ethics is based upon feelings, we are often far from consistent in our moral behaviour. The oft-cited trolley problem shows as much, as do experiments which suggest that when we perform a virtuous act, that'll often excuse the subsequent indulgence of a vice too.
Now, sometimes this story of the origins of human morality becomes confused. It can carry philosophical errors. One is the genetic fallacy – the notion that to know the origins of something is also to know of its worth. That can't be right because whilst there are plenty of examples of cooperation in nature, which we assess as morally positive and nature "rewards" with pleasure, there are also plenty of examples of competition in nature; that competition can be violent, morally dubious, though still rewarded with pleasure. So, rational considerations must ultimately decide what counts as good.
However, there is a deeper challenge to ethics that stems from the science. For if you follow the philosopher Immanuel Kant, then it's not just that feelings should not determine morality, but further that if it feels good then it can't be moral. An evolutionary account of ethics undermines that categorical approach.
But the new science does not undermine an older conception of morality, namely virtue ethics. In fact, virtue ethics not only saves appearances, it shows how our capacity for moral reflection and self-examination plays a critical role.
Virtue ethics is not primarily interested in whether some isolated action is good or bad in itself, but in what kind of person someone is becoming – of which their actions are but a product. It seeks to understand the conditions that nurture good character, skills and habits. As Aristotle knew, pleasure plays a key role in this: it is one mechanism that rewards good behaviour. However, virtue ethics does not stop at what feels good.
Rather, it aims at what is good, regardless of the evolutionary rewards. Whilst always conscious of our animal nature, Aristotle believed we can surpass that nature – never completely, but often substantially. It takes a lifetime of effort, training and practice to do so. But as we have the capacity to discover the evolutionary story of morality, so we also have the capacity to transcend the constraints of that story, to a degree. Understanding is the beginning of change. Alongside the question of pleasure, Aristotle discusses the moral virtues that so interest the scientists too. But he also adds others, like prudence and restraint – the virtues that require self-reflection. These are known as the cardinal virtues, those upon which any distinctively human morality hinges. In summary: the ethical life for the human animal is a question of what he called practical and rational intelligence, and is learned by engaging in life.
So what's religion got to do with it? Link the evolutionary story with the insights of virtue ethics, and it's clear that living a good life requires training – the cultivation of those virtuous habits, the gradual erosion of personal inconsistencies. Moreover, it's a journey powerfully influenced by the stories we tell ourselves about what makes for the good we pursue – the stories that speak to our humanity and inspire us to keep at it. It's why moral heroes and morality tales are so important. They address our reason and feelings; they shape the moral emotions.
It is those heroes and tales that religions provide in abundance; they are otherwise called saints and parables. Is there a secular source of them nearly so copious as religious traditions? They're often complex and ambivalent, mirroring our own struggles to live well. But when we try to separate morality from religion, and assert that faith should have no part to play in the discourse, we should at least be aware of what the new science and virtue ethics tells us: we could be discarding a resource of immense value for our moral lives.
While warning of a 'perversion of the gospel,' the radio commentator mangles recent American religious history.
Setting off waves of debate in recent weeks, conservative radio host Glenn Beck advised his listeners on March 2 to leave their churches if they found signs of commitment to “social justice” or “economic justice.” Beck called such language “code words” and “a perversion of the gospel,” and he linked it to totalitarian regimes. Christians across the political spectrum called Beck out on his misreading of the gospel and of the American religious landscape. Beck’s grasp of history was just as shaky, but he did not catch as much flak on this point. A better sense of recent American religious history helps to explain both the appeal of Beck’s rhetoric in certain circles and its fallacy.
The “social” half of Beck’s key phrase entered religious discourse around the beginning of the 20th century, with the Social Gospel movement. A response to the suffering, displacement, and dramatic inequity of wealth brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the Social Gospel advocated a shift toward more holistic salvation. One of the theological architects of the movement, Walter Rauschenbusch, spent part of his early career as a pastor in the squalid Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, and he came away convinced that human problems ranged much farther than the need for individual conversion. His books included Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907), an exhortation for Christians to move beyond sedate, Victorian piety and embody Christ’s message in a desperately needy world.
The Social Gospel met resistance on many fronts. The movement’s leaders drew heavily on new academic disciplines like psychology and sociology, at times privileging these scientific insights over Scripture. The movement also flirted with Marxism, as, for example, in Washington Gladden’s book Christianity and Socialism (1905). Many American Christians were not prepared to exchange their image of Jesus as gentle and nurturing — the characteristics most emphasized by late 19th-century art and literature — for the image of Jesus as a social reformer, even a revolutionary.
The Social Gospel caught hold in many seminaries and denominational hierarchies, particularly in the sector of American Protestantism that would later be called the mainline, but more conservative Protestants generally spurned or ignored it. As the fundamentalist-liberal controversy boiled over in the 1920s, emphasis on the Bible and on individual salvation, the hallmarks of fundamentalism, became divorced from social concerns. The separation was not complete, as fundamentalists engaged the world through all kinds of missionary and outreach efforts, while liberals continued to read the Bible and love Jesus, but intense skepticism regarding the other side’s motives was mutual. Certain terms, book titles, and institutional affiliations did become “code words” in this charged atmosphere, as caricature often replaced dialogue.
The “justice” half of Beck’s formulation came later, with the civil rights movement of the 1950s. Earlier Social Gospel advocates opposed injustice, but they were less likely to seek judicial solutions to broad social problems than were civil rights activists. As the famous photographs of fire hoses turned on unarmed protesters attest, civil rights met much fiercer resistance than the Social Gospel, frequently (though by no means exclusively) from the same fundamentalist-evangelical wing of American Protestantism that fought the earlier movement. These Protestants by and large did not see affirmative action, school busing, and related efforts as justice, but rather as unwarranted federal encroachment into private lives.
And so, if the phrase “social justice” communicates a combination of the Marxist follies of the Social Gospel and the identity politics of civil rights, conservatives, as Beck assumes, are going to run the other way. But this is not what the phrase means to very many people. In recent decades, evangelicals have taken up many Social Gospel and civil rights impulses, both domestically and abroad. Evangelicals have confronted urban crises and weighed in on public policy. They have shown concern for underprivileged members of society and sought to increase diversity in their churches and schools.
The thing is, evangelicals tend to call these impulses by other names, obscuring their connections to liberal crusades. Instead of the Social Gospel, evangelicals speak of redeeming culture. Instead of civil rights, evangelicals talk about “the least of these.” Conservative Protestants have not adopted either the Social Gospel or civil rights wholesale by any stretch, but there is enough overlap in concern (if not necessarily in proposed solutions) that “social justice” is hardly anathema.
Beck is decades out of date in his characterization of conservative Protestant thinking. In 1973, a document titled “The Chicago Declaration” launched Evangelicals for Social Action and the evangelical left more generally. A few years later, in 1977, a more conservative group of evangelicals issued “The Chicago Call,” a very different document that nonetheless also showed deep concern for social issues. It included a “Call to Holistic Salvation,” stating the following:
Wherever the church has been faithful to its calling, it has proclaimed personal salvation; it has been a channel of God’s healing to those in physical and emotional need; it has sought justice for the oppressed and disinherited; and it has been a good steward of the natural world. As evangelicals we acknowledge our frequent failure to reflect this holistic view of salvation. We therefore call the church to participate fully in God’s saving activity through work and prayer, and to strive for justice and liberation for the oppressed, looking forward to the culmination of salvation in the new heaven and new earth to come.
Evangelicals figured out how to pursue evangelism and social justice years ago. Hopefully Beck will get the memo.
Elesha Coffman is assistant professor of history at Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. She regularly contributes to the Christian History blog.
Krishnaite Who Cut Krasnoyarsk Priest's Head Could Have Been Killed By Taiga Bear
Moscow, 24 March 2010, Interfax - Ruslan Lyuberetsky who brutally killed the Rector of the Trinity Church in the village of Tura near Krasnoyarsk in 2000 could have fallen victim to a bear in Taiga.
On March 21, 2000, Lyuberetsky killed Hieromonk Grigory (Yakovlev) in the church, cut his head and put it on the altar. The criminal was detained the same day and told he acted on Krishna's instructions, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily has reported on Wednesday.
The court found Lyuberetsky insane and he was sent to psychiatrists of the prison hospital. However, some time later he was discharged. Hunters found high boots and bloodstained clothes in Krasnoyarsk Taiga in fall 2009. Local residents claim these things belong to Lyuberetsky. Insomniac bears were wandering around the wood exactly at that time.
People in Tura still remember Fr. Grigory. Parishioners come to the tomb of the former Rector of the Trinity Church each year on March 21, the day when he was killed.
Hieromonk Grigory Yakovlev, the rector of the church in the town of Tura, Krasnoyarsk Region, was murdered on March 21, 2000 in the church of the Holy Trinity. The murderer, Ruslan Lyubetsky, 26, severed the priest’s head and placed it on the holy table. The same day he was arrested. He said it was ‘the god Krishna’ who made him do that.
To read more about the murder and Hieromonk Grigory, see here and here.
By Anthony McRoy
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe — namely, Easter — was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.
The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.
Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization — expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people — that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so.
But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.
A Celebration With Ancient Roots
The usual argument for the pagan origins of Easter is based on a comment made by the Venerable Bede (673-735), an English monk who wrote the first history of Christianity in England, and who is one of our main sources of knowledge about early Anglo-Saxon culture. In De temporum ratione (On the Reckoning of Time, c. 730), Bede wrote this:
"In olden times the English people — for it did not seem fitting that I should speak of other nations' observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation's — calculated their months according to the course of the Moon. Hence, after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans, [the months] take their name from the Moon, for the Moon is called mona and the month monath. The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath … Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month" and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance."
The first question, therefore, is whether the actual Christian celebration of Easter is derived from a pagan festival. This is easily answered. The Nordic/Germanic peoples (including the Anglo-Saxons) were comparative latecomers to Christianity. Pope Gregory I sent a missionary enterprise led by Augustine of Canterbury to the Anglo-Saxons in 596/7. The forcible conversion of the Saxons in Europe began under Charlemagne in 772. Hence, if "Easter" (i.e. the Christian Passover festival) was celebrated prior to those dates, any supposed pagan Anglo-Saxon festival of "Eostre" can have no significance. And there is, in fact, clear evidence that Christians celebrated an Easter/Passover festival by the second century, if not earlier. It follows that the Christian Easter/Passover celebration, which originated in the Mediterranean basin, was not influenced by any Germanic pagan festival.
What's In a Name?
The second question is whether the name of the holiday "Easter" comes from the blurring of the Christian celebration with the worship of a purported pagan fertility goddess named "Eostre" in English and Germanic cultures. There are several problems with the passage in Bede. In his book, The Stations of the Sun, Professor Ronald Hutton (a well-known historian of British paganism and occultism) critiques Bede's sketchy knowledge of other pagan festivals, and argues that the same is true for the statement about Eostre: "It falls into a category of interpretations which Bede admitted to be his own, rather than generally agreed or proven fact."
This leads us to the next problem: there is no evidence outside of Bede for the existence of this Anglo-Saxon goddess. There is no equivalent goddess in the Norse Eddas or in ancient Germanic paganism from continental Europe. Hutton suggests, therefore, that "the Anglo-Saxon Estor-monath simply meant 'the month of opening' or 'the month of beginnings,'" and concludes that there is no evidence for a pre-Christian festival in the British Isles in March or April.
There is another objection to the claim that Eosturmonath has anything to do with a pagan goddess. Whereas Anglo-Saxon days were usually named after gods, such as Wednesday ("Woden's day"), the names of their months were either calendrical, such as Giuli, meaning "wheel," referring to the turn of the year; metereological-environmental, such as Solmónath (roughly February), meaning "Mud-Month"; or referred to actions taken in that period, such as Blótmónath (roughly November), meaning "Blood Month," when animals were slaughtered. No other month was dedicated to a deity, with the exception (according to Bede) of Hrethmonath (roughly March), which he claims was named after the goddess Hrethe. But like Eostre, there is no other evidence for Hrethe, nor any equivalent in Germanic/Norse mythology.
Another problem with Bede's explanation concerns the Saxons in continental Europe. Einhard (c. 775-840), the courtier and biographer of Charlemagne, tells us that among Charlemagne's reforms was the renaming of the months. April was renamed Ostarmanoth. Charlemagne spoke a Germanic dialect, as did the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, although their vernacular was distinct. But why would Charlemagne change the old Roman title for the spring month to Ostarmanoth? Charlemagne was the scourge of Germanic paganism. He attacked the pagan Saxons and felled their great pillar Irminsul (after their god Irmin) in 772. He forcibly converted them to Christianity and savagely repressed them when they revolted because of this. It seems very unlikely, therefore, that Charlemagne would name a month after a Germanic goddess.
So why, then, do English-speaking Christians call their holiday "Easter"?
One theory for the origin of the name is that the Latin phrase in albis ("in white"), which Christians used in reference to Easter week, found its way into Old High German as eostarum, or "dawn." There is some evidence of early Germanic borrowing of Latin despite that fact that the Germanic peoples lived outside the Roman Empire—though the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes were far very removed from it. This theory presumes that the word only became current after the introduction of either Roman influence or the Christian faith, which is uncertain. But if accurate, it would demonstrate that the festival is not named after a pagan goddess.
Alternatively, as Hutton suggests, Eosturmonath simply meant "the month of opening," which is comparable to the meaning of "April" in Latin. The names of both the Saxon and Latin months (which are calendrically similar) were related to spring, the season when the buds open.
So Christians in ancient Anglo-Saxon and Germanic areas called their Passover holiday what they did — doubtless colloquially at first — simply because it occurred around the time of Eosturmonath/Ostarmanoth. A contemporary analogy can be found in the way Americans sometimes refer to the December period as "the holidays" in connection with Christmas and Hanukkah, or the way people sometimes speak about something happening "around Christmas," usually referring to the time at the turn of the year. The Christian title "Easter," then, essentially reflects its general date in the calendar, rather than the Paschal festival having been re-named in honor of a supposed pagan deity.
Of course, the Christian commemoration of the Paschal festival rests not on the title of the celebration but on its content — namely, the remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection. It is Christ's conquest of sin, death, and Satan that gives us the right to wish everyone "Happy Easter!"
Anthony McRoy is a Fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies and lecturer in Islamic studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, U.K.
On Monday at 1PM the funeral of Elder Moses, the abbot of Hilandari Monastery on Mount Athos, took place. The funeral was served by Metropolitan Amphilochios of Mavrovouniou and was attended by many, including representatives from each monastery of Mount Athos and the abbots Ephraim of Vatopaidi, Gabriel of Pantokratoras, Nikodemos of Philotheou and Chrysostomos of Esphigmenou.
You can listen to the homilies of Metropolitan Amphilochios and Abbot Gabriel here.
See more photos here.
About 250-300 years ago this icon was in one of the men's monasteries of Tver and was presented by the Superior to Cosmas Volchaninov in gratitude for his fine work in the monastery church. This icon was passed on from generation to generation, but a certain impious grandson of Cosmas removed it and placed the icon in an attic.
His bride endured many insults from her husband and his relatives. In despair over her marriage she resolved to commit suicide in a deserted bath-house. On the way there a monk appeared to her and said, "Where are you going, unhappy one? Go back, pray to the Theotokos of The Clouded Mountain, and you will live in peace."
The agitated young wife returned home and revealed everything, not concealing her interrupted intention. They searched for the monk, but they did not find him, and no one had seen him but her. This took place on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.
They found the icon in the attic, cleaned off the dirt and set it up in the house in a place of honor. In the evening, the parish priest served the all-night Vigil before the icon. From that time, Vigil was served in the house every year on this day.
For more than 150 years the icon was in the Volchaninov family. Katherine, daughter of Basil, the last of the Volchaninov line, married George Ivanovich Konyaev, taking with her the icon of the Mother of God as a precious inheritance. Moliebens and all-night vigils were served in the Konyaev house on March 24 and November 7 (perhaps this was the day when the icon was transferred from the monastery to the house of Cosmas Volchaninov).
In 1863 near a cemetery church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God it was decided to build a chapel in honor of St Tikhon and St Macarius of Kalyazin. The then owner of the icon, George Konyaev (who died in 1868 at the age of 97) wanted to donate the icon of the Theotokos to the church. He asked the clergy to build another chapel for the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God of the "Clouded Mountain."
He also said, "I feel the very best place for it is the temple of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, since the place on which the church was built, in former times was called a Mount, since it was the highest place in the city. The inhabitants took their possessions to the Mount and saved themselves from ruin during a flood. Let the icon, The Clouded Mountain, remain on this mountain with your blessing, and let all who are buried here be veiled with Her mercy." On July 15, 1866 the icon was transferred into the new chapel, which was consecrated by Bishop Anthony of Staritsk the following day.
On the icon the Most Holy Theotokos is depicted standing on a semi-circular elevation, a mountain; on Her left arm, the Divine Infant blesses with His right hand. Upon the head of the Mother of God is a crown, and in Her hand a mountain, on which are seen above churches with cupolas and crosses.
This icon should not be confused with the "Stone of the Mountain not cut by Hands" Icon on the iconostasis of the cathedral of the Transfiguration at Solovki. The latter depicts the Theotokos in half-length, holding Her Son in Her left hand. In Her right hand, She holds a ladder and a stone with the image of Christ's head (the King of Kings). Instead of the usual stars on her head and shoulders are the heads of angels. The title of the icon is derived from Daniel 2:44-45.
Two companions, John and Sergius, vowed to adopt each other as blood brothers before an icon of the Holy Mother of God in this monastery. John was a wealthy man, and he had a five year old son Zacharias. John became very ill. Before his death, John commended his son to the care of Sergius and bequeathed a large amount of gold and silver to him for safe keeping so that Sergius would hand it over to his son Zacharias when he reached maturity.
When Zacharias reached maturity, Sergius denied that he received anything from the deceased John. Then Zacharias said, "Let him swear before that very icon of the All-Holy Mother of God, before whom he entered into a blood-brother relationship with my deceased father; and if he swears that he did not receive anything from my father John, then I will not seek anything from him." Sergius agreed.
When Sergius swore this, he wanted to approach and venerate the icon, but a force held him back and would not allow it. Sergius then began to cry out in a crazed manner to the Holy Fathers, Anthony and Theodosius; "Do not allow this unmerciful angel to destroy me!" That was the demon that attacked him by God's permission.
After that, Sergius showed them all the money that John entrusted to him. When they opened the chest, they discovered that the amount had doubled. This amount was doubled by God's Providence. After receiving the money, Zacharias gave it to the monastery and was then tonsured a monk. Zacharias lived for a long time and was made worthy of the great gifts of God and was translated peacefully into eternity.
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue
March 24, 2010
Why a walk on Moscow Tverskaya Street should be called a “Pride Parade”? Why are proud of using their genitals the way they use them? If you are a smart, ambitious man, albeit, with not quite traditional inclinations (like, say, Lord Mandelson, a key player in the British government), why don’t you just work, succeed and live with people like you? Why do you have to parade, irritating others?
Yet, the story currently unfolding in the heart of the Roman Catholic Church makes you think: “The weird parade goers may be better than those who hide in their cells, secretly defiling our kids.”
According to the official data of the Vatican, within the last nine years approximately three thousand of cases of teenagers’ abuse were revealed in the US (80% of all cases), Germany, Ireland, and Austria. Quoting Mathew 18:6: “ But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck , and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea .” It seems there may be not enough millstones. The attempts of the ch urchmen to classify the crime are disgusting. They say that only 10 % of the incidents are classified as pedophilia, while the majority of offences are “ephebophilia,” i.e. contacts with adult (over 15 years old) student of catholic schools.
It was not the fear of God’s wrath that motivated the Vatican to open up, but mass complaints and court filings. For instance, in Ireland many victims of pedophile priests demand that Pope Benedict XVI takes decisive measures against the head of Irish Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, who was shielding the priest Brandon Smith (who was imprisoned and died in jail) while the latter was “conducting services” for 25 years.
The scandal that broke out in the US a few years ago reached Ireland last year, and this year is threatening Germany. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s older brother, is not a pedophile, but confessed that in the beginning of his career he slapped the Regensburg choir boys on the cheeks on a number of occasions. In 1980, when the law was enacted prohibiting any physical abuse towards children, he allegedly stopped slapping them. Yet, there is evidence from witnesses saying that he kept throwing chairs at the choir boys after the law came in effect. Now the 86- year old Georg is hiding from the media in a monastery. There are increasingly more questions to his younger brother, the Pope.
What did he know about the crimes of churchmen in the period from 1977 through 1982, when he served as Archbishop of Munich and Freising? (In 1980, one of local priests, Father Peter Hullerman, forced an 11-year old boy to perform oral sex. He was sent for a treatment and later was reestablished in office by the current Pope. The Father then re-commenced his work and became a recidivist). Why does he not fire the American Cardinal Bernard Law who is awaited by the jury court in Boston?
Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that "There is only one way for society to come clean and that is truth and clarity about everything that has happened… There's no way to make complete reparations for that." The hopes that the pillars of the Roman Catholic Church will come clean on their own are getting slimmer.
The letter to Irish priests signed by Benedict XVI on Friday says that he was hoping to help them to repent, heal the wounds and start a new life. The letter will hardly likely help the situation, neither will Brady’s resignation. If another scandalous episode from the Pope’s “Bavarian period” surfaces, tectonic movements will be impossible to avoid.
Before his election in 2005, Josef Ratzinger was named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office , the historical Inquisition. He was the one to receive all messages about priests abusing children. Some believe that Benedict XVI was the one to blame for the situation. Four years ago, the BBC showed a documentary called “Sex crimes and the Vatican.” The documentary said that, once in office, Benedict XVI sent out a secretive new edition of Crimen Sollicitationis of 1962 to all churchmen. The document contained rigid instructions on how to not allow sex scandals leave the walls of the church. The Vatican, and not the authorities, was endowed with the “exclusive right” to investigate all sex related crimes. Virtually all interests of church were put ahead of safety of children. Priests were recommended to make the victims keep silent by threatening to excommunicate those who disobey.
Archpriest Alexander Makarov, senior priest of Preobrazhenskaya church located in the village of Zaprudnya, the Moscow region, who I met 18 months ago in a radio program and happen to respect, is a diplomat. I asked him whether the scandals of the Roman Catholic Church cast a shadow on all Christian confessions. His answer was: “Do not demonize Catholics and single them out as a “species” of believers who are prone to sin. Everyone seeking closeness to God has temptations. Every confession offers it own ways of fighting the sin. It looks like Catholic asceticism has certain shortcomings."
Is celibate a shortcoming? Its introduction to the Roman Catholic Church is a consequence of Neoplatonic belief that bodily needs must be oppressed in favor of spiritual journey. “Sexual abstinence is a significant deed, and there are not that many people who are able to deal with it. The decision to take the gown is made at a young age, when a person thinks everything is possible. That is why the Orthodox Church does not mandate celibacy for those willing to serve God,” Father Alexander is convinced.
I would not want to state that pedophile and/or disguised gays with mean intention join the Roman Catholic Church. I am, however, convinced that the more pretentious the morality is, the more sordid the desires hidden under it. Once I was told a joke about a rabbi and a Catholic priest dining at the same table. “Try this wonderful pork,” teased the Priest. “Only at your wedding,” answered the rabbi.
Cyprus Archbishop Visits KKTC Monastery For First Time Since 1974
March 23, 2010
Cyprus’ Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, crossed over into the Turkish Cypriot side of divided Nicosia (Lefkoşa) on Monday morning, walking through the Ledra Street (Lokmacı Gate) crossing, which was opened in April 2008.
Chrysostomos’ first stop in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) was the St. Barnabas Monastery in Gazimağusa (Famagusta), the Anatolia news agency reported, adding that the archbishop was accompanied by KKTC Tourism Minister Ersan Saner during his visit to the monastery.
Chrysostomos was scheduled to meet with Greek Cypriots living in Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso), a town in the Gazimağusa district, and visit the Apostolos Andreas monastery located on the Karpaz (Karpass) Peninsula later in the day, Anatolia said, while noting that restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery is currently being planned.
The Greek Cypriot media highlighted that this would be the first visit by the Cyprus archbishop to the Apostolos Andreas monastery since 1974, when Turkey sent its troops to Cyprus following a Greek-inspired coup on the island. The island has been ethnically divided since then.
The same Greek Cypriot media reports also said that Chrysostomos was expected to visit the İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in mid-April and is expected to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during this visit.
Earlier this month, the Xinhua news agency cited a high-ranking official from the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus as saying that Erdoğan had recently sent a personal letter to Chrysostomos in which he had given his personal approval for the conservation and restoration of the historic monastery of St. Andrew, or Apostolos Andreas, in the Turkish Cypriot north.
Xinhua had highlighted that it was the second time in a week that the Turkish prime minister made a good-will gesture toward Greek Cypriots, referring to the fact that the previous week, Erdoğan had met with Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists in İstanbul. At the time, he told the journalists that he was genuinely interested in finding a quick solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem along lines agreed to in talks between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.
To see pictures of the Archbishop's visit to Saint Andrew's Monastery, visit here.
In PG the title adds ‘In Memory of the Godly Platon’.
by St. Theodore the Studite
Given on Wednesday of the 5th week of Great Lent
Brethren and Fathers, everyone who is starting something, whether it be word or action, at the beginning has affliction and difficulty, but at the conclusion of the struggle joy and happiness. So a farmer sows with tears, as we sing, but reaps with gladness [Cf. Ps. 125:5]. The soldier as he sets out to war is depressed, but as he returns from war he is filled with joy. So we too now that we have come near the end of our abstinence, no longer remember the mortification of our former struggles, but we rejoice at our present ones and glorify the Master.
Would that you may excel in noble struggles for the time ahead. For I testify to you that you have come through the time of the fast in the right spirit, without conflict, without disturbance, obediently, in good order, each one fulfilling his service properly. And thanks be to the powerful God who has empowered you to achieve this completion. Let us then take this example, brethren, and at the completion of life here, whenever each of us rests from his works, "When Christ our life appears" [Col. 3:4.], "When He hands over the kingdom to God the Father", as it is written, "when He has abolished every rule and every authority and power" [1 Cor. 15:24]; because then the saints will have no sensation of their sufferings and struggles for the sake of virtue, but will enjoy a pleasure without sorrow and ineffable.
And who are they? The glorious fathers and prophets before the Law and under the Law, those like Abraham, those like Moses; in the time of grace, the blessed Apostles, the victorious Martyrs, the whole choir of the Saints. Among them and before them the great Forerunner, whose imitator our venerable father Platon, whose memory we are celebrating today, was counted worthy to become by denouncing the adulterous Emperor. And since the disciples of a good teacher should themselves be, as the tree is known by its fruit, I beg and implore you, by the same rule, that we too may follow in the same tracks that he and the rest of our fathers and brethren followed, not abandoning our ascetic discipline nor the confession which lies before us. For you have certainly all heard what the wretched Alexander has done; he has denied his obedience and his confession. And what caused him to suffer this but that fact that he had been on his own. How do I blame those who are on their own and had become a lover of money like Judas. Both of them betrayed the Lord of Glory, the one to the Jews, the other to those who think like the Jews, the Iconoclasts. Rightly the Apostle cries out: "The love of money is a root of all evils, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains" [1 Tim. 6:10].
I want next to rebuke some of you not unreasonably. Why so? Because, since he was a lover of power and a lover of rank, the poor fool, you connived with him, as a joke in fact, by voting for him as priest; and he, maimed by the devil, turned the game into reality. Oh how the poor wretch has suffered! He has suffered shipwreck in the faith [Cf. 1 Tim. 1:19. One of those mentioned by St Paul was also called Alexander.], he has lost the merchandise of virtue, he has grieved us too lowly as we are, he has caused as much scandal as he can to the Church of God. But may our good God, who brings from the deep of destruction the soul that has been submerged, call him back finally from his fall when he has at last repented; may He pardon you for your rashness and idle speech, and may He save us all for His heavenly kingdom, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
1. St. Platon was St Theodore’s spiritual father. He denounced the illicit marriages of Constantine VI. This resulted in the banishment of the two saints in 809. St Platon’s feast is on the 4th April.
2. The Greek word used here, is common in the sense of ‘solitary’, but here it means a monk who is isolated, without other brothers. The community was scattered at this time in semi-exile and St Theodore clearly had problems with monks who wanted to live on their own with all the attendant dangers.