Saint Nikephoros, the "most luminous star of the Church of Christ," who delighted the hearts of the faithful "with divinely inspired teachings," was born around 1750 at Kardamyla on the Greek island of Chios, and his family name was Georgios, or Georgos. When he was still very young, he became sick with a pestilential disease. His parents vowed that if he recovered, they would offer him to the Mother of God to serve Her at the famous Byzantine Monastery of Nea Moni, which was dedicated to Her. He did get well, and so the parents took him to the monastery, where he was placed under the guidance of the venerable Elder Anthimos Hagiopateritis.
Later, he was sent to the city of Chios to be educated in its schools by the priest Fr Gabriel Astrakaris and Fr. Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis (a Jew who had become an Athonite monk and later direcotr of the school). St Nikephoros remained close to these priests throughout the period of his education in the city, where he developed a love for learning, and a respect for those who taught others. He also met St Athanasios Parios (June 24), who was the Director of the school in the city of Chios. The greatest influence on his life was St Makarios of Corinth (April 17), whom he met even before he met St Athanasios. St Makarios was at Chios in 1780, left for a time, then returned in 1790. St Nikephoros saw St Makarios frequently, and learned much from him. After finishing his education, St Nikephoros returned to the monastery and was ordained a deacon.
When St Athanasios Parios reorganized the school of Chios, he appointed Nikephoros as one of its teachers. At the same time, he was also given a blessing to preach the the gospel at Nea Moni and elsewhere.
While serving as a teacher, St Nikephoros was called to become the Abbot of Nea Moni. Until 1802, the monks had managed the monastery's affairs without any audits. In that year, however, the monastery was fined 600,000 piasters, and some of the monastery's estates had to be sold to pay the amount. Suspecting that the affairs of the monastery were not being properly administered, the citizens asked that Fr Nikephoros be made Abbot. They knew he despised worldly possessions, and so they had full confidence in him. They also decided that an audit of the monastery accounts would be made every year.
It was not easy for St Nikephoros to assume this burden, for he was not familiar with the many responsibilities of a Superior. He would have preferred solitude and study, but he applied himself to his new duties. During the next two years, he tried to resolve conflicts, and to raise the moral spirit of the monks by teaching and by personal example. There were many people above him and below him who did not appreciate his efforts, however, and they plotted against him. Unaccustomed to quarrels and intrigues, he was unable to complete his two year term in office. Therefore, he left and sought refuge in the Hermitage of St George at Resta.
Although he was unable to govern these monks, St Nikephoros did excel in his personal life, and in guiding many people to virtue. He also composed church services and hymns to various saints, including Sts Niketas, John, and Joseph (May 20), and St Matrona of Chios (October 20).
The companions of St Nikephoros at Resta were a retired priest (who had also been a teacher) called Fr Joseph, and St Makarios of Corinth. Fr Joseph had lived on Mount Athos for a while, then settled on Chios. He also composed church services, including one to the New Martyr St Nicholas the New (October 31), which had been published in Venice in 1791. In 1812, St Athanasios Parios retired as Director of the schools of Chios, and joined St Nikephoros and the others at Resta.
St Nikephoros devoted himself to spiritual struggles, study, and writing. He also engaged in physical work of an agricultural nature. He planted olive and fig trees, cypresses, and pines. He also encouraged others to plant trees, for he understood that a lack of trees led to poverty, and that by planting trees one's material resources could be improved. The saint would sometimes tell those who came to him for Confession to plant so many trees as a penance.
In 1805, on his deathbed, St Makarios entrusted St Nikephoros with the task of completing and publishing his book THE NEW LEIMONARION. This book contained the Lives and church services of various martyrs, ascetics, and other saints. It is remarkable in that three saints collaborated on this book about saints, St Makarios, St Nikephoros, and St Athanasios Parios.
By writing so many saints' Lives and church services, St Nikephoros showed that he considered them important and beneficial. Not only did he provide the biographical details about these saints, he also expressed the Orthodox view of God and man, the beauty of the virtues, and spiritual concepts such as theosis (divinization), inner attention, ceaseless prayer, purification, and asceticism in general.
Like St Makarios of Corinth, St Nikephoros was also known as a trainer of martyrs. Those who abandoned Christianity and embraced Islam, and later repented of their actions, went to him to confess their sin. He helped them to prepare to wash away their apostasy by shedding their blood as martyrs. Mindful of the Lord's words, "Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father Who is in heaven" (Mt. 10:33) they believed that only after a public reaffirmation of their faith in Christ before the Muslim authorities (which inevitably resulted in a sentence of death) could their sin be forgiven.
St Nikephoros prepared them with prayer, fasting, prostrations, and by encouraging them to remain strong when they went to their deaths. Thus fortified, they endured the most horrible tortures with astonishing courage. Not only did the martyrs themselves receive grace and forgiveness from God, but their example encouraged others to remain firm in the Orthodox Faith.
In addition to those whom he prepared personally, many others were also inspired to martyrdom through his published Lives and services to the martyrs.
Although St Nikephoros had the grace of working miracles, this is not the only reason that he is venerated as a saint. His holy life and character are also important considerations. A saint is one who is free from all vice and possesses all the virtues through divine grace. The people of Chios recognized that St Nikephoros was humble, gentle, free from anger, and filled with love for others. That is why, even in his lifetime, they regarded him as a saint.
St Nikephoros was of medium height, with a pale and gentle face, and a large black beard. Although St Nikephoros probably reposed in the summer of 1821, his Feast Day is designated as May 1. He died in a home near the Church of St Paraskeve, where he sometimes stayed overnight when he was unable to get back to Resta. His body was brought back to Resta, and was placed in a grave where both St Athanasios Parios and the Monk Nilos Kalognomos had once been buried.
The holy relics of St Nikephoros were uncovered in 1845 when the monk Agathangelos of Hydra saw in his dream the place of his burial, and they were brought to the Metropolitan Church of Chios By Metropolitan Sophronios of Chios (later Patriarch of Alexandria). Many years later, the Guild of Tanners asked for the relics and placed them in the Church of St George. In 1907, an icon of St Nikephoros was painted (posted below), and a church service was composed in his honor.
From the Writings of Saint Nikephoros
- Fortunate is the man who has come to have God as his helper and to have his hopes in Him alone. Let the Devil bear malice towards him, let all men persecute him and plot against him, let all his adversaries fight against him - he never fears anyone, because he has God as his helper. He remains always a victor, always glorified, always happy, always rich, always cheerful and joyful, even if he happens to fall in extreme poverty and into a great many adverse and grievous circumstances of the present life. For inasmuch as he hopes in Almighty God, he does not despair, he is not sorrowful, is not anxious, but expects help from Above. Fortunate, then, is such a man and worthy to be deemed happy, just as the Prophet-King David regards such a man as blessed, saying: "Blessed is he whose helper is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Such were all the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Holy Ascetics and all the Saints from the beginning of time.
- Although God's saints have no need of glory and honor from men, since they enjoy heavenly and divine glory, living in eternity according to Solomon, and their souls are in the hand of God, and their names are recorded in the book of life, nevertheless it is our indispensable duty to write their lives and achievements for their glorification and honor, and consequently to praise them and pronounce them blessed, as faithful servants of God, or rather as genuine friends of His. For according to Basil the Great, the honor that is given to the best of fellow-servants is proof of goodwill towards our common Lord. This is especially true if these good servants of God are not simply saints, if they did not simply struggle for their own salvation, but were also public benefactors, who struggled for the salvation of many, and made myriads of efforts towards this end.
One local story still told of St Nikephoros is that, one day while he was away from the hermitage, his milk goat was stolen. He returned home to find his disciple angry and sorrowing over the loss. St Nikephoros calmed him saying: "Don't be angry. The thief may have been a poor man. We had the goat long enough, let someone else have her now." No sooner had he finished consoling his disciple than the theif arrived in tears, and confessed that he had slaughtered the goat but found it impossible to sell the meat. St Nikephoros freely forgave him the theft, saying: "Now go back and you'll sell the meat." On arriving home, the man's wife told him that it had already been sold.
Apolytikion in Tone Four
Thou hast been shown to be, O Nikephoros, a most luminous star of the Church of Christ, an exceedingly rich meadow of His truth, and a melifluent clarion, delighting the hearts of the faithful with divinely inspired teachings. Wherefore intercede with Christ God for the salvation of our souls.
Today all of Chios honoreth Nikephoros who did take up the cross of Jesus courageously, drawing the Orthodox towards salvation, chanting with the righteous and the holy ascetics odes, songs and hymns, to offer glory to God in the highest.
Let us honor with hymns the divine Nikephoros, the offspring of Chios and glory of the Monastery of Nea Moni, who did shine among priests, monastics and teachers, hymnographers and the wise.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Saint Nikephoros, the "most luminous star of the Church of Christ," who delighted the hearts of the faithful "with divinely inspired teachings," was born around 1750 at Kardamyla on the Greek island of Chios, and his family name was Georgios, or Georgos. When he was still very young, he became sick with a pestilential disease. His parents vowed that if he recovered, they would offer him to the Mother of God to serve Her at the famous Byzantine Monastery of Nea Moni, which was dedicated to Her. He did get well, and so the parents took him to the monastery, where he was placed under the guidance of the venerable Elder Anthimos Hagiopateritis.
Glykeria singing "Diaspora" live at the Gabby Awards at the Merle Reskin Theater in Chicago on June 19, 2009. Original video shown at the awards ceremony.
Did NASA really land on the moon?
Did the government cover-up involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?
Is Elvis still alive and kicking? What about Michael Jackson?
Was John F. Kennedy assassinated at the hands of multiple shooters?
Do the Freemasons control the United States?
A small but fervent group of people believe there is more than was included in historical records about the aforementioned events. Conspiracies, they call them. And every generation has its own.
Some of them turn out to be true, after all: Pearl Harbor was a Japanese conspiracy and Nixon’s Watergate break-in was a coverup.
But with so few that turn out to be true, why do people believe in conspiracies? Here are four reasons:
1. Patternicity, or a tendency to find meaningful patterns in random places;
2. Agenticity, or the bent to believe the world is controlled by secret unknown agents with intentions;
3. Confirmation bias, or the seeking and finding of confirmatory evidence for what we already believe;
4. Hindsight bias, or tailoring after-the-fact explanations to what we already know happened.
A conspiracy theory takes flight when all of these are concocted into a heady mix of conviction. It’s called "conspiratorial cognition."
But research has been thin on precisely why some have a conspiratorial dispensation.
Back in 2007, Patrick Leman wrote in New Scientist that belief in conspiracy theories is on the rise thanks to the distribution power of the Internet.
Take the JFK conspiracy, for example: In 1968, two of every 10 Americans believed it to be true. In 1990, nine of 10 Americans believed it to be true.
"Conspiracy theories can have a valuable role in society. We need people to think 'outside the box', even if there is usually more sense to be found inside the box.
Take the Iran-Contra affair, a massive political scandal of the late 1980s. When claims first surfaced that the US government had sold arms to its enemy Iran to raise funds for pro-American rebel forces in Nicaragua and to help secure the release of US hostages taken by Iran, it certainly sounded like yet another convoluted conspiracy theory. Several question marks remain over the affair, but President Ronald Reagan admitted that his administration had indeed sold arms to Iran."
On the other hand, distrust contributed to an inflation of the East-West fears during the Cold War, as well as continued belief by some that HIV (which causes AIDS) was created in a lab and distributed by the U.S. government to limit the growth of the African-American population.
Some points to ponder:
People who believe in one theory are more likely to believe in others.
There is a strong association between income and belief levels: the better-off are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories. (Perhaps this can be chalked up to education or at least the fact that they don't feel as victimized by society and angry about their situation in life.)
Instability makes most of us uncomfortable; people prefer to imagine living in a predictable, safe world. Some conspiracy theories offer accounts that feel “safe” or “predictable.”
Conspiracy theories often mutate over time in light of new or contradicting evidence.
To the paranoid, it seems everything that doesn't work the way they like it becomes a conspiracy. We must beware of extreme interpretations of events and over-speculation.
Conspiracies usually require a big newsworthy event on which to peg it.
But Michael Shermer drives the point home when he writes:
“The more elaborate a conspiracy theory is, and the more people that would need to be involved, the less likely it is true.”
Friday, April 30, 2010
In time the blessed maiden wed. But, the newlywed caught the covetous eyes of a certain Turk in the neighborhood who fell in love with her. He schemed to bring her over to fulfill his wicked intention. Since he was unable to persuade her he slandered her to the judge of Proussa, pretending that she declared a willingness to become a Muslim. The judge immediately imprisoned the Saint.
Argyre’s husband considered it more favorable to have the case transferred to the court at Constantinople. However the Saint’s accuser also appeared there and falsely charged her, maintaining the same allegations against the Martyr. Argyre affirmed that she had no knowledge of ever uttering a word denying the Faith, and stated she was a Christian and a Christian she would die.
Consequently, by the judge’s order, they beat the Saint and afterwards confined her to prison. Eventually they conducted a second examination, and again they smote, punished, and jailed Argyre. These events occurred repeatedly throughout the next seventeen years. O, her courageousness!
Even inside the prison the Saint met with constant troubles and insults from the Turkish women inmates who were in detention because of their criminal actions. The devil incited them to harass Argyre through excessive affliction and torments. Nevertheless, the ever-memorable one withstood everything magnanimously, by the love and yearning she possessed for her Bridegroom Christ.
Perhaps you wonder whether this was all? But in addition to this, she herself subjected her body to fasting, bore every trial and underwent hardships just as the other multitudes of Christian women who were also prisoners with the Saint in that very jail. The heart of blessed Argyre was filled with exceeding joy and such thankfulness, since she was imprisoned for Christ, that she thought discomforts were conveniences. Such was the case that when the pious Christian, Manolis Kiourtzibasis, the maker of fishing nets, succeeded in having the charge against her withdrawn so she could be at liberty, Argyre did not assent to the reprieve but regarded the prison to be the king’s palace, Thus, incarcerated and in bonds for Christ, she ended her life receiving the imperishable crown of martyrdom in the year 1725 (April 5).
Then the Christians took possession of her holy relics and buried her in a place called Haskoy. At the uncovering of her relics after three years her sacred body was discovered whole and intact, emitting an unspeakable fragrance. O, the wonder! The priests and Christians received it with great devotion and placed her within the Church of Saint Paraskevi by permission of the then most holy Patriarch Paisios. To this day, her hallowed relics exist and are venerated by patriarchs, archbishops, notable people, and all Orthodox Christians, to the glory of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In 1955 a riot ensued in Constantinople and thousands of Greeks were forced to flee from their homes by the Turks. Among the victims was St. Argyre whose relics suffered a second martyrdom by being burned after the church was damaged. The faithful salvaged the relics and brought them to Mytilene where they lie to this day. The transfer of her relics is what is celebrated every year on April 30. Her regular feast day is on April 5.
St Argyra's name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre).
THE NEW MARTYR ARGYRA 1688-1721 by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You put to shame tyrants by your tortures, O pure one, and you were shown forth, O much-suffering one, as strong as a diamond. O glorious martyr of Christ, you showed forth in struggles for Christ the Savior, love and zeal and unquenchable longing, Who worthily glorified you, O Argyre.
A devout elder lay on his death bed. His friends gathered around him and mourned him. With that, the elder laughed three times. The monks asked him: "What are you laughing at?" The elder replied: "I laughed the first time, because all of you are afraid of death; the second time, for none of you are prepared for death; the third time, because I am going from labor to rest."
Behold, how a righteous man dies! He is not afraid of death. He is prepared for death. He sees, that through death, he passes from the difficult life to eternal rest.
When the nature of man imagines itself in its original state in Paradise, then death is unnatural, the same way that sin is unnatural. Death emanated from sin. Repented and cleansed from sin, man does not consider death annihilation, but the gate to life eternal.
If, at times, the righteous prayed to God to prolong their earthly life, that was not because of love for this life nor because of the fear of death but solely that they would gain more time for repentance and cleansing from sin in order that they may present themselves before God, more sinless and more pure. Even if they showed fear before death, that was not out of fear of death but the fear of God's judgment. What kind of fear then must the unrepentant sinner have before death?
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich
[Written over a month ago, but still worth a read. - J.S.]
March 20, 2010
The National Herald
Kudos to whoever wrote President Barack Obama's speech at the White House's Greek Independence Day celebration last week. (For video and text of his full remarks, see TNH's website). It was right on the money, so to speak, with the central theme revolving around the Greek virtue of "philotimo."
A time honored tradition, philotimo represents a unique characteristic of the Greek mindset. Many of the ills plaguing Greece and the Hellenic Diaspora today could arguably be attributed to a present day shortage of that all-important philotimo.
How else could can one explain the fact that there are so many rich Greeks living in such a fiscally impoverished country? How else does one explain the fact that Greece reportedly ranks second in Europe in imports of Porsches, or the fact that it recently okayed a deal with a German company to accept the submarine "Papanikolis," which it been blocking since 2006 on the grounds that it was defective; and that this decision came just days after German politicians and media began calling for Greece to start selling its islands to pay off debts to creditors! And what of the fact that there are so many wealthy Greeks in America - including at least six in Forbes magazine's latest list of America's richest 400 - but no official fund to support Greek schools and Greek language education? Is this altogether unrelated to the absence of philotimo among the community's leadership, or the rest of us who simply follow their lead? Or perhaps the fact that Leadership 100 routinely gives millions to the Archdiocese's Theological School in Brookline, but won't set any curriculum standards demanding of graduates even an elementary understanding of the Greek language. Even this newfound sensitivity to flus, germs, and other infectious diseases when receiving the sacrament of holy communion has put a dent in our Orthodox philotimo. It used to be that even the most unchurched Orthodox Christian could at least boast about the faith's adherence to the longstanding tradition of sharing the common cup - a practice that has withstood outbreaks and epidemics of tuberculosis, leprocy, plague, etc. for approximately two thousand years.
Sadly, our people's virtues (the richest language in the world, philotimo, group solidarity,...) seem much more susceptible to the corrosive effects of time than our shortcomings (civil strife, gossip, stubborness,...).
It is almost as if there is something incompatible with prosperity and philotimo. Most of the honorable accomplishments made by Greeks seem to be achieved during periods of dire economic hardship.
Consider an interesting story from the homeland, fitting for the coming celebration of Greek Independence. The particulars of the story vary from speaker to speaker, but the message is clear. Sometime during the Greek War of Independence - most likely 1826 - when the revolution was in great need of finances, Georgios Gennadios, a teacher of Greece, gave an extremely powerful and moving speech in the city of Nafplio. The speech affected the locals so much that even the poorest woman, known as "Psorokostaina," gave up her lone possessions - a silver ring and a coin - for the cause of the revolution. The villagers, moved by her enormous philotimo, all started contributing as well.
The word "Psorokostaina" (literally meaning the "mangy wife of Kostas") went on to become a synonym for the poor, small, fledgling nation that was Greece. Although the term came to have a derogatory meaning, its origins were altruistic. The real "Psorokostaina" - Panoria Aivalioti - despite her poverty, used to take in orphans, and later volunteer her services caring for them when an orphanage was built in her area.
Another version of her story goes that when Greece's first Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias saw her begging in the streets, he went to offer her some money. As soon as she realized who he was, she instead offered all the money that she had collected to him to aid Greece's troubled finances. (Yes, modern Greece has been in debt since its founding, sigh)
While destitute in material goods, Psorokostaina was rich in philotimo. And like her, Mother Greece, as well, was able to overcome all the hardships that history had in store for her, through philotimo. In fact, it seems that during the country's most challenging times, the people rise to the occasion and their philotimo leads them to do great and heroic things.
Only a few short years after the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922, when destitute Greece had to take in over 1 million refugees, the famous 'generation of the 1930s' was about to provide Greece and its tattered people with a spiritual reawakening whose effects are still being felt today. Similarly, following the Nazi occupation that left the country in ruins, nobelists like Elytis and Seferis began to spring up.
Greece has known poverty all its life. If anything, the current financial crisis may purge some of the hubris and nouveaux riche decadence, and help the people remember that economic hardship is sometimes a springboard for spiritual profit.
It's not more loans or bailouts that we Greeks need, it's rediscovering our philotimo.
April 28, 2010
We apologize for this improbable headline to draw attention to two stories making the rounds: new claims about Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, and new claims about life on Mars. Headlines on these topics show up periodically in the news. What do the subjects have in common? How do they differ? Do the most recent instances affirm tradition or break new ground?
Claims about Noah’s Ark are usually made – though not exclusively – by some Bible-believing Christians (also some Muslims and Jews), while claims about life on Mars are typically made (though again, not exclusively) by some evolutionists. There is nothing about the Biblical story of Noah that prevents an unbeliever from being interested in claims about a boat on Ararat, and there is nothing that prevents a Christian from accepting the possibility of life on Mars. Nevertheless, advocates are generally divided along those ideological lines, and critics equally divided along the opposing lines: evolutionists are often boisterous in their ridicule of “Arkeologists” (while some Christians are, too), while Bible-believers often ignore or sneer at claims about life in outer space (while some evolutionists do, too).
The latest Ark claim burst onto the scene April 25 with a press conference and a website (noahsarksearch.net) showing detailed pictures and video of a wood structure allegedly found inside a cave high on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. It seemed too good to be true. Instead of the usual vague shapes of rock that might resemble a ship from some angles, here was unmistakeable artificially-manipulated timber shaped into rooms and structures found above timberline. Unless the eyewitnesses were all liars, it seemed straightforward. One of them said he was 99.9% sure it was Noah’s Ark. Some creation organizations snatched up the tantalizing news with cautious optimism; others, having been burned in the past, seemed to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. CMI put out a short press release with daily updates, but expressed the “need for caution—in both directions....” The story made Fox News, ABC News and other leading news organizations. Skeptics like those at the James Randi Foundation were were quick to moan “not again!” with dismissive vituperation against what they perceive as Christian gullibility. Alan Boyle in his Cosmic Log at MSNBC positioned the claim in the tradition of reports that surface occasionally, remarking that “a boatload of skepticism is in order.” Then on April 27 a letter from Dr. Randall Price surfaced. He is a Biblical archaeologist and member of a rival search team. His letter, reproduced at Bible Places Blog, claims that the site is a cleverly-devised hoax. The timbers were hauled up there from the Black Sea, he claims, by Turks who misled the Chinese into thinking they were the remains of Noah’s boat. Nevertheless, that claim does not answer all the questions. Some diehards are questioning Price’s motives, because he lost money on the deal and may not be impartial because he has his own search going on. They also doubted his first-hand knowledge of details mentioned in the letter. Subsequent to Price’s hoax allegation, World Net Daily posted a lengthy article sharing some of the diversity of opinions about the claim, and so did the Christian Science Monitor. The rest of this story is TBD.
What’s lively on Mars? News about Martian microbes tends to come around more frequently than Noah’s Ark reports. This month has been no exception. In a way kind of mirroring the Chinese Ark story, there was a short-lived headline that NASA had new evidence of life on Mars posted by The Sun, a British tabloid, which NASA quickly denied as “positively false” according to Clara Moskowitz on Space.com. More serious sources kept hope alive, though. New Scientist updated notions with optimism: “Life on Mars, if it ever existed, may be easier to find than previously thought,” an article said, announcing that common Mars rocks can preserve life after all. “New research on terrestrial rocks suggests that a type of rock common on Mars can preserve fossilised microbial life, rather than erasing evidence of it as previously thought.” But that’s only a possibility, not a discovery. The possibilities for unique Martian life were dimmed somewhat by PhysOrg’s report from the American Society for Microbiology that “Earth microbes may contaminate the search for life on Mars.” This is another in the “too late” category: our landers may have already contaminated the Red Planet with our own germs. (In a sense, then, if Earth were destroyed, Mars could be a kind of Ark preserving at least some organisms; but that’s hardly a justification for the tabloid headline to this entry.) James Urquhard announced a headline on New Scientist sure to give fodder to cartoonists: “Look for Mars life with laughing gas.” Scientists at the University of Georgia think that nitrous oxide could provide an atmospheric biomarker for future missions hunting Martians: “This could be an easy way to ‘sniff’ around the surface of Mars looking for pockets of sub-surface brine that might be hotspots for extreme microbial life.” It goes without saying that the relatively new science of “astrobiology” has ambitions beyond Mars. Europa, Titan, and Enceladus are all hot targets, and the sky’s the limit: millions of dollars have been spent on missions like Kepler, the Space Interferometry Mission, Terrestrial Planet Finder and other stepping stones to the discovery of life among the stars. And then there’s SETI: privately funded, but just as eager to find an unseen, hoped-for reality.
Two hunting parties: Arkeologists and Astrobiologists. Both get excited over each tantalizing hint of success. Both have outspoken critics. Both have yet to find definitive proof of their reason for being. Both are convinced that proof would clobber their critics with the superiority of their theological or philosophical views. One can only wonder what would happen if Noah’s Ark and life on Mars were found simultaneously. At least it would be a good day for sociologists.
April 29, 2010
Research published in Nature over the past few months is showing a much greater genetic distance between humans and chimps than previously thought, while revealing a closer one between humans and Neanderthals.
A Nature paper from January, 2010 titled, "Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure and gene content," found that Y chromosomes in humans and chimps “differ radically in sequence structure and gene content,” showing “extraordinary divergence” where “wholesale renovation is the paramount theme.” Of course, the paper attributes these dramatic genetic changes to “rapid evolution during the past 6 million years.”
One of the scientists behind the study was quoted in a Nature news article stating, "It looks like there's been a dramatic renovation or reinvention of the Y chromosome in the chimpanzee and human lineages." The news article states that “many of the stark changes between the chimp and human Y chromosomes are due to gene loss in the chimp and gene gain in the human” since “the chimp Y chromosome has only two-thirds as many distinct genes or gene families as the human Y chromosome and only 47% as many protein-coding elements as humans.” According to the news piece, “Even more striking than the gene loss is the rearrangement of large portions of the chromosome. More than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome, and vice versa, whereas this is true for less than 2% of the remainder of the genome.“
But not wishing to offend the “myth of 1%”, the Nature news article carefully adds, “The remainder of the chimp and human genomes are thought to differ in gene number by less than 1%.”
While this research takes us genetically further from apes, a more recent report in Nature news takes us genetically much closer to Neanderthals. Titled, “Neanderthals may have interbred with humans,” the article explains that “A genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 people from around the world indicates that such extinct species interbred with the ancestors of modern humans twice, leaving their genes within the DNA of people today.” According to this new article:
"[I]t may help explain the fate of the Neanderthals, who vanished from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. 'It means Neanderthals didn't completely disappear,' says Jeffrey Long, a genetic anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, whose group conducted the analysis. There is a little bit of Neanderthal leftover in almost all humans, he says."
Given the high degree of skeletal similarity between humans and Neanderthals, the notion that we interbred is nothing new. They have been called a possible "race" of our own species, as studies have found their body shape is highly similar to that of modern human variation. Indeed, the discovery of "morphological mosaics" indicates that they likely interbred with modern humans. The finding of a modern-humanlike hyoid bone in a Neanderthal implies that they may have had language capabilities.
Textbooks often depict Neanderthals as primitive, bungling brutes with a vaguely human-like form (see above)—an attempt to instill the ape-to-human icon in students. But as Time Magazine reported in 1999, there’s increasing evidence showing that this evolutionary interpretation was wrong, and Neanderthals were essentially “all just people”:
"The real message, [a Washington University paleoanthropologist Erik] Trinkaus believes, is that to people living in the Stone Age, Neanderthals were just another tribe. 'They may have had heavier brows or broader noses or stockier builds, but behaviorally, socially and reproductively they were all just people.'" (Michael D. Lemonick, "A Bit of Neanderthal in Us All?," Time Magazine (April 25, 1999).)
Some ID proponents might disagree with me on this particular point, but it’s my view that Neanderthals were a race of human beings that ultimately went extinct. Either way, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Neanderthals do nothing to bolster the case that humans evolved from more primitive hominids.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Amongst the Montenegrin people there is an innumerable amount of stories of miracles through the holy relics of Saint Basil of Ostrog. One of the most interesting stories amongst them is the story of the United States Senator William (Bill) Barr.
His wife was Dr. Dojna Galic Barr, a prominent American psychiatrist with a Montenegro heritage, who published a book named Blue Pigeon where she documented the visit of her husband to the Monastery of Saint Basil.
The Republican Senator from Illinois survived an assassination attack in 1970. Five sticks of dynamite were placed beneath his green "Cadillac" limousine and exploded when the driver turned the key to start the ignition. This occurred on June 2, 1970 and when it happened all news and radio stations were briefly cut off to broadcast the news of this assassination attempt. The Police Department immediately began an investigation and it was for a long time held up on file, but it was never discovered who was behind this heinous act and eventually investigations ceased. Police suspected that it involved someone who was bothered by this admired politician, who had lead a group of five fellow senators in the investigation to allow blacks to live in an urban complex along with whites, which bothered many racist individuals.
Senator Barr was wounded and the doctors where not able to save his right leg. The remaining pain created much difficulty for him and the doctors where unable to help with the pain of the amputated leg or the constant fever and other related medical issues such as the constant burning through his muscles. Doctors tried all possible methods to control the pain: hypnosis, acupuncture, drugs such as morphine and several operations. Nothing worked.
According to the Senator, one night he had an unusual dream in which he visited a small white church on the cliff of a mountain. The dream kept reappearing night after night, and an old man with white hair and beard and a language he did not understand walked him from room to room of this church while at the same time healing ill people in the church with his touch. He told his wife about the dream, but neither him nor her understood it.
While he was looking for medicine that could help him with his pains, the Senator was informed by a doctor of a maker of modern prosthetics whose heritage was from Yugoslavia and lived in Lansing, Michigan. Unfortunately he had died but was succeeded by his son named Jane. During a visit to the man's office he noticed a picture of a small white church and an icon of a white haired Saint Basil on the reception wall. He eventually received the prosthesis and was able to walk almost normal, but was still in severe pain.
Senator Bill decided to visit Jane again to find out more about Saint Basil, since he was haunted by this saintly figure. From Jane he found out everything about Ostrog and decided to visit the monastery. Jane agreed to go with him with a group of prosthetic patients.
He made this trip in 1980 together with the group of other patience who lost limbs. In the days before the trip the Senator fasted in a strict Orthodox manner for forty days and learned the "Our Father" in the Serbian language with the help of his Orthodox wife, and he read about Saint Basil and his miracles. During his stay in Montenegro he walked up to the Upper Monastery daily with much pain because he was strangely attracted to the place. It should be noted that this walk lasts about an hour and is uphill. He stated that these visits could not compare to anything else in life and he neither cared how difficult it was nor how long. Every day the pains became less and less, especially as he kneeled in front of the relics of Saint Basil.
Later, he said: "I admit, I was a skeptic...I thought it may be just a superstition. But this is a phenomenon that is impossible outside the Church. I saw blind, deaf, dumb patients carried on stretchers, children and adults, all climb uphill to the monastery either on foot or in a car. I believe in God's miracles, for I am a witness."
While in Ostrog William Bill Barr was moved towards Orthodoxy through Saint Basil of Ostrog. He vowed to devote his life to helping people with amputated body parts all over the world, and spread the knowledge of the benefits of the new discoveries in modern prosthetics.
He returned home from his trip with no pain at all and with a great faith in his heart and soul, and three icons - one for his wife, one for the house, and one that he kept always on his key chain.
As he had promised at the shrine of St. Basil, Bill Barr founded an Institute in which the best doctors and nurses in prosthetics worked. He also organized mobile clinics throughout America, Africa and the Middle East. He especially helped youth that were victims of terrorist attacks. In his humanitarian campaigns he would often fly as the pilot. From one mission he was not to return home however.
One day Dojna was informed by telephone from Washington that a helicopter carrying a clinic crashed and burst into flames. Among the victims were Senator Bill and Jane. Only portions of their body parts were recovered. Among the recovered items given to Dojna was the key chain with the icon of Saint Basil.
For more about Saint Basil and his Monastery, see here.
Above is a video of Dr. Dojna Galic Bar in which she talks about nostalgia towards Serbia, about her husband (she doesn't mention the story about St. Basil of Ostrog), her life in the States, and about the various recognition and rewards she has received for two of her novels. She also talks about French sculptor and graphic artist Camille Claudel, who, unfortunately has little recognition in the world of her beautiful artwork and was estranged from her family, which led to her mental illnes and confinement in an asylum. Mrs. Galic-Bar also talks about her apolitical views, hence, mentions Barack Obama, the danger of terrorism, and the sin of black slavery in the history of the U.S. She states how she and her husband condemned the segragation of blacks in the USA and the pain it caused, and how her late husband Bill Bar, as a white man, protested for their rights and liberation while being a senator. (Many thanks to Sladjana Vukcevic for this summary)
Serbian Church glorifies Father Justin Popovich, Father Simeon of Dajbabe
The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has released this communique on April 29, 2010:
At its afternoon session on April 29 of this year, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church unanimously adopted the recommendations of the responsible diocesan bishops and added to the diptychs of the saints of the Orthodox Church the names of Archimandrite Justin Popovich spiritual father of the Chelije Monastery near Valjevo of blessed memory (1894-1979), hereafter known as our Venerable Father Justin of Chelije, and Simeon Popovic, abbot of the Dajbabe Monastery near Podgorica (1854-1941), hereafter known as our Venerable Father Simeon of Dajbabe.
The liturgical commemoration of our Venerable Father Justin will be on June 1 on the Old Calendar (June 14 according to the New Calendar), and the commemoration of our Venerable Father Simeon will be celebrated on March 19 on the Old Calendar (April 1 on the New Calendar).
The festal glorification of these newly-canonized God-pleasing ones will take place at the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy of the Holy Assembly of Bishops next Sunday, May 2, at St. Sava Church on Vracar in Belgrade, beginning at 9:00 AM.
O our Venerable and God-bearing Fathers Justin and Simeon, pray to God for us!
See pictures here.
Message from Ecumenical Patriarch Secretariate in Mexico
In conformity with the canonical responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the diaspora, and sharing the vision of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW, the Holy Metropolis of Mexico is pleased to announce that, in an unceasing and continuing mission outreach ministry effectively being pursued by the Holy Metropolis of Mexico for these past twelve years, with active ministries in Haiti, Cuba, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, and following months of catechetical and pastoral preparation by the Mitered Archimandrite Andrew (Vujisić), Archiepiscopal Vicar for the Holy Metropolis, and upon the written request and petition of Messrs. Andrew Girón and Michael Castellanos, leaders of a religious community in Guatemala, the heretofore Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatemala (OCCG), has been canonically received into the Holy Metropolis of Mexico.
In announcing this exciting development, His Eminence Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS of Mexico expressed his great pleasure in welcoming the OCCG which was received in its entirety, including their former clergy, seminarians, lay ministers, catechists and affiliated membership into the canonical family of the Orthodox Church. Following their official reception, the leaders of OCCG, Messrs. Andrew Girón and Michael Castellanos traveled to Mexico City where on the weekend of March 19-21, they were ordained to the Holy Priesthood, receiving the title of Archimandrite.
The OCCG has an approximate membership of 527,000 faithful and catechumens, overwhelmingly indigenous, with 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, with 12 (formerly OCCG) clergymen and 14 seminarians, who are assisted in their pastoral ministry by 250 lay ministers and 380 catechists. The administrative offices of the OCCG are located on 280 acres of land, with a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers. Additionally, the OCCG has an established monastery located on 480 acres of land. Fourteen students from Guatemala, with full scholarship, are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program. The seminary is fully accredited by the Holy Metropolis’ Department of Education.
The reception of the former OCCG into the canonical fold of the Orthodox Church, is in accord with the ministry of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico which, since 1996 has been answering the command of our Lord to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). By directive of Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS, Mitered Archimandrite Andrew (Vujisić) has now assumed the arduous task of preparing qualified men and women, indigenous to Guatemala and the Latin American culture and experience, for leadership roles in the Orthodox Church, thus advancing apostolic diakonia and outreach into the broader region, and creating an environment, that while fostering respect for indigenous cultures, will develop a proper knowledge and understanding of the Orthodox faith, leading our new Guatemalan family to a spiritual and sacramental life, an Orthodox phronema, and orthopraxia.
Mexico City, April 7th 2010
FROM THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY METROPOLIS
Telephone: (011) 52 55 5294 4460, Fax: 52 55 5294 2678
Fr. Deacon Daniel Williamson
Archbishop Demetrios Visits Ecumenical Patriarchate and Athens
Apr 29, 2010
GOA Press Release
NEW YORK – Archbishop Demetrios of America made a five-day trip to Constantinople and Athens. He arrived in Phanar on Friday, April 23 – the feast of the St. George the Trophybearer – in order for his visit to coincide with the visit of His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The next day, the Archbishop was present at the official welcome of the Patriarch of Jerusalem and his delegation of Hierarchs and clergy who had come from the Holy Land for the re-opening of the Jerusalem Patriarchal Metochion of St. George in Neochori. After the formal reception of His Beatitude, the Archbishop participated in a meeting with the two Patriarchs and other Hierarchs aiming at a final resolution of pending issues related to the Palestinian-Jordanian communities in the United States, which concluded successfully.
On Sunday, April 25, the Archbishop attended the Divine Liturgy with His All Holiness. The Liturgy was celebrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and his synodia in the Metochion of St. George. In the afternoon, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a special meeting with the Archbishop reviewed the arrangements for the forthcoming Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America.
The next day, the Archbishop traveled to Athens. On Tuesday April 26, the Archbishop visited in succession His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitris Droutsas, and Foreign Affairs Chief of Protocol Ambassador Aikaterini Boura (formerly the Consul General in New York). In all the above cases the Archbishop had substantive discussions concerning Greece and the Omogeneia in the U.S. The Archbishop, during the same day, also had two meetings with the advance teams that prepare Ionian Village for the summer sessions.
Upon his arrival in New York yesterday, Archbishop Demetrios was informed about some false reports in the Media referring to information of a supposed resignation. His Eminence stated categorically that the reports were baseless and patently false. The Archbishop further added that there is no discussion about any resignation whatsoever. He said that he is looking forward in the coming years to the continuation of the sacred and vital mission and work of the Holy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, with the same faith, zeal, methodical planning and love, especially in view of the difficulties confronting our contemporary world.
Charles Paul Freund
From the February 2000 issue of Reason
The last mystery surrounding the infamous anti-Semitic pamphlet Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion--the identity of the 1904 hoax's author--finally has been solved. According to the Russian historian Mikhail Lepekhine, the Protocols were concocted by a Russian propagandist named Mathieu Golovinski as part of a monarchist scheme to persuade Czar Nicholas II that the capitalist modernization of Russia was really a Jewish plot to control the world. Golovinski's handiwork--24 subversive "protocols" that purport to be the minutes of a secret "Zionist" conclave--was to become a bulwark of anti-Semitic paranoia and an essential text of Nazism. The Protocols remain dear to credulous paranoids throughout the world.
Historian Lepekhine discovered Golovinski's authorship in Russia's long-closed archives and published his findings last November in the French newsweekly L'Express. Golovinski had been linked to the work before: The German writer Konrad Heiden identified him as an author of the Protocols in 1944.
The Protocols have been known to be a forgery since 1921, when The Times of London revealed that they had been largely copied from an 1864 political tract by a Frenchman, Maurice Joly. That work was a commentary on French politics and had nothing to do with Jews. Golovinski, working with such mystical anti-modernizers as the Holy Brotherhood, combined Joly's fantasy elements of world domination with earlier anti-Jewish and anti-Masonic material to produce "evidence" of an overarching Jewish-Masonic plot. Late-Imperial Russia was awash in documentary forgeries, domestic spying, and counterspying, with revolutionaries and the Czarist secret police often involved in complex duplicities. Golovinski himself changed sides after the 1917 revolution, becoming a Bolshevik propagandist.
Of course, a parallel universe of Protocol-believers has continued to claim that the Protocols are authentic, and that any evidence to the contrary is the real forgery. The leading proponent of this view was probably Nesta Webster, who wrote prolifically in the 1920s about purported Jewish conspiracies, and whose anti-revolutionary zeal may have stemmed from her belief that she had been guillotined by French revolutionaries in an earlier incarnation.
The Protocols remain widely sold in the Middle East, are readily available in Japan, and have lately become quite popular in the Balkans. In the U.S., reprints can be found in many Afrocentric bookstores. The Protocols were reprinted in their entirety in William Cooper's popular 1991 conspiracist work, Behold a Pale Horse, though Cooper instructed readers that "any reference to 'Jews' should be replaced with the word 'Illuminati.'"
"That which is set in motion by the Holy Spirit becomes an eternal movement, living and holy; when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in a man, he who was previously only earth and dust receives the dignity of a prophet, an apostle and an angel of God." -St. Gregory Palamas
Professor Ivan M. Kontzevitch was one of the 20th century's greatest students of Orthodox sanctity, which was encapsulated in his excellent book The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia. His magnum opus, this book is a priceless sourcebook of all that he felt important to say about the prayer of the heart, communion with God, asceticism, and eldership. In it he combined careful honest scholarship with a first-hand knowledge of saints with whom he had been in contact while in Russia including the holy elders of Optina Monastery.
One particular elder whom Professor Kontzevitch came to know personally and was his spiritual father was the last elder of Optina Monastery before the 1917 revolution, Elder Nektary of Optina. In fact, Professor Kontzevitch's brother, Bishop Nektary of Seattle, was named after Elder Nektary and also had him as a spiritual father, and the mother of these two brothers, Nektaria, was a nun who had the Elder as a spiritual father as well. She witnessed the destruction of Optina Monastery and many other horrors of the Soviet system (her coffin was found above Elder Nektary's in Optina when his relics were discovered in 1992).
The book The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia is not only interesting for its contents, but is also a book which can be judged by its cover. It not only depicts many illumined fathers from whom the uncreated light emanates, but it is also in a peculiar color purple. We are told in the book by the author that this color was chosen with a purpose. He had seen Elder Nektary immersed in God's uncreated light, and this was the color that comes closest to it.
When he in reclusion, Elder Nektary’s spiritual preceptors blessed him, after ten years of exclusive study of spiritual literature, to read secular authors and to study the secular sciences, obviously with the aim that he acquire that knowledge which would enable him to help lead the restless souls of the groping intelligentsia to salvation. He studied science, mathematics, history, geography and classical literature, both Russian and foreign. He spoke to his visitors about Pushkin and Shakespeare, Milton and Krilov, Spengler and Hegart, Blok, Dante, Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. In his only hour of rest after dinner he would ask to have read aloud Pushkin or some fairy tales—either Russian or the Brothers Grimm.
Starets Nektary became close to Constantine Leonti Bolotov, a scholar who became a monk living in Optina, and who used to read his original literary works to him. He studied painting under this academic and throughout his life maintained an interest by sketching icons and closely following new developments in trends and techniques. For example, his sketch of the Annunciation was made in the final year of his life at Optina.
Having a talent for painting, this art was especially close to Starets Nektary. He used to declare, "Currently, the art of painting is on the decline. Previously, before commencing a painting a painter used to prepare himself – both internally and externally. Before sitting down to the task, he would prepare all the necessary items: canvas, paints, brushes etc... and would then paint not only a few days, but years, and sometimes a whole lifetime, like painter Ivanov’s ‘Appearance of Christ to the People’. Great masterpieces were created in those days. Today, painters work hurriedly, without thought or feeling… For example, when painting a spiritual work, it is necessary for the light to emanate from an angel rather than it fall upon him."
The Starets badly wanted a painting to be done of Christ’s Birth. "It is necessary for the world to remember this enormous event. After all, it happened only once in the entire history!… The shepherds are dressed in short frayed clothing, facing the light with their backs to the viewer. And the light should not be white but slightly golden, be totally whole – not as rays or clusters – and only the far corner of the painting should be darkened, so as to remind us that it was night. In order to make it quite clear that this beauty was not human but heavenly and not of this world" added the elder with particular emphasis, "the light from the angels’ configurations must be soft, barely discernible." Another time the Starets mentioned to a girl: "Why were the shepherds worthy to see the angels that night? – Because they were vigilant."
Once the elder was shown an icon, depicting Christ’s Transfiguration, where the light from Mount Tabor contrasted with the dark ganglionic trees in the foreground. The Starets ordered their erasure, explaining that "where there is light from Tabor, there is no room for darkness… When there is this light, every nook and cranny is illuminated."
Regarding fine arts, the Starets had the following to say: "One can apply himself to the arts just as one would to any other activity, for example: carpentry or rearing cows. But everything has to be done as though in God’s view. There are major and minor arts. The minor one can be like this: there is sound and light. An artist is a person that is capable of comprehending these barely discernible colours, shades and inaudible sounds. He interprets his impressions onto canvas or paper. The results are painting, notes or poetry. Here, it is as though the sound and light are extinguished. Only colour remains from the light. The book, notes or painting are in their own way, crypts of light and sound. Along comes a reader or viewer, and if he is capable of creatively reading or viewing, then the resurrection of purpose occurs. Then the circle of the art is completed. In front of the viewer and reader’s soul, the light erupts and the sound becomes worthy of his hearing. Consequently, an artist or poet has nothing much to be proud of. He is only doing his part of the work. It is futile of him to think that he is the creator of his works – there is only one Creator, while people only destroy the word and images of the Creator and then, receiving His power, enliven them. However, there is a greater art – the word that is enlivening and inspirational (e.g. Psalms of David). The path to this art lies through the artist’s personal deeds – it is a path of sacrifice and only one from many achieve their aim… All the verses in the world are not worth a single line of a Psalm… Pushkin was a very intelligent man but was unable to live his life correctly."
These and other observations of Father Nektary were the fruits of his internal, spiritual experience. Having become Starets, he began to share with his visitors that which he acquired through reading and contemplation.
Starets loved to quote from "Hamlet": "There are many things on earth, friend Horatio, that our wise men have not even dreamt of." He was talking about how it is essential for a writer to ponder over every word: "Before beginning to write, dip your pen into the inkwell, seven times."
Recognizing the importance of the theatre as a source of influence on the community, Starets Nektary advised the artists to keep a sense of proportion in the game. He once refused to bless a young woman, aspiring to join the theatre. When asked about his refusal, he responded: "She will not be able to overcome the temptations and will become immoral… Modesty is of great worth; it is none other than a virtue of chastity. If a person safeguards his chastity (which is easily lost by the intellectuals) he safeguards everything."
The Life and Ministry of the Holy Apostles Jason and Sosipater and the Virgin-Martyr Kerkyra
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Jason was born in Tarsus, as was the Apostle Paul himself, and Sosipater in Achaea. The first was nominated by the Apostles as Bishop of Tarsus and the second as Bishop of Iconium.
Travelling and preaching the Gospel, these two apostles came to the island of Corfu, where they succeeded in building a church dedicated to St Stephen the Protomartyr and in bringing some unbelievers to the Church.
The king of the island [Kerkylinus] threw them into prison, where there were seven robbers already imprisoned: Satorninus, Jakischolus, Faustian, Januarius, Marsalus, Euphrasius and Mamminus. The apostles brought all seven of them to the Christian faith, making wolves into lambs. The king commanded that these seven be put to death in boiling pitch, and they thus received the wreath of martyrdom.
When, after this, the king was in process of questioning the apostles, his daughter Kerkyra, looking through a window, saw the torture of these men of God and, discovering the reason for it, proclaimed herself a Christian and gave all her jewels away to the poor. The king was filled with wrath against his daughter and shut her up in a separate prison, then, failing to turn her from Christ, ordered that the prison be burned down. The prison burned to the ground, but the maiden remained alive. Seeing this wonder, many of the people were baptized. The furious king ordered that his daughter be bound to a tree and killed with arrows.
Those who had come to believe in Christ fled from the terrible king to a nearby island and hid themselves. The king set off in a boat to arrest them, but his boat overturned in the sea and thus the unrighteous perished, as Pharaoh aforetime.
The new king accepted the Christian faith and was baptized, receiving the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater freely preached the Gospel and strengthened the Church of God in Corfu to great old age [some say Sosipater was martyred before the death of Jason by being burned to death], and there finished their earthly course and went to the courts of the Lord.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostles, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Being illuminated with the teachings of Paul, ye became luminaries unto the whole world, O thrice-blessed ones; for ye ever shine upon the world with miracles, O Jason, thou fountain of healings, and Sosipater, thou glory of the Martyrs of Christ. O God-bearing Apostles, ye protectors of them that be in need, entreat God that our souls be saved.
Nothing can be kept secret from our Omniscient God. At every moment, to Him is known all that is being done in the world; both in the external as well as in the internal, spiritual world. Not one intention, not one desire, not one thought of his can man conceal from God. How can you hide from God that which you cannot hide from men; from holy men!
One day, Tsar Ivan the Terrible came to church to pray to God. In the church, Blessed Basil, "the fool for Christ," stood for prayer. It is true the Tsar was in church physically, but his thoughts were on the Hill of the Sparrow, a short distance from Moscow, upon which he had begun to construct a palace. Throughout the liturgical services the Tsar thought about how he could extend and complete his palace on that hill. After the services the Tsar noticed Basil and asked him: "Where have you been?" Basil replied: "In church." Basil then immediately asked the Tsar: "O Tsar and where were you?" "I, also, was in church," answered the Tsar. To that the discerning saint replied: "You are not speaking the truth Ivanushka for I perceived how, in your thoughts, you were pacing about on the Hill of the Sparrow and building a palace."
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich
1000 Ex-Scientology Church Members Have Left And Spoken Out
April 27, 2010
Just in time for Scientology leader David Miscavige's 50th birthday (this Friday, April 30th, Happy Birthday Dickhead), internet activist group Anonymous has released a list of 1000 people who've left the Church — and spoken out against it.
While some of those who've left still follow the tenets of Scientology, all are now free of the oppressive, bankrupting, immoral, family separating, labor law breaking, government spying, member abusing, abortion-forcing cult. In a press release issued by Why We Protest, the details of this major milestone are highlighted.
"...The stories told by these ex-members are similar to the revelations made recently by former members speaking out against Scientology in highly visible stories in the New York Times, the St. Petersburg Times, and most recently, in a five-part series on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. According to the Church of Scientology, these former members are "liars" and "apostates" with an agenda to destroy the church. Anonymous wonders whether Scientology will also call all 1,000 of these former members liars."
I remember when the wave of criticism grew from a few outspoken critics, like Arnie Lerma, Mark Bunker and Gerry Armstrong, to a massive body of masked and unmasked individuals who decided it was time to take the Church of Scientology to task. Since then, a grassroots movement has helped add their voice to those who've been abused by this government sanctioned ponzi scheme/cult, that enjoys tax benefits no other religion gets, may have killed members, has driven members to suicide or bankruptcy and uses famous celebrities to create a facade of legitimacy built on bilking innocent people for millions upon millions of dollars.
In honor of this monumental occasion, I am posting the original video which inspired me to look deeper, closer and with greater scrutiny at a religion that most deem as simply kooky, but is much, much more sinister than you can imagine.
For those who've left, you have my respect. For those still stuck in their Scientology nightmare, there is hope...and help. Please, take the first step to free yourself and join your 1000+ brothers and sisters. Smell the fresh air of freedom that awaits you.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
In the first video she yells: ""I hate you, Orthodox. Orthodoxy is the most disgusting religion. All other religions will go to hell... We like when you cross yourself in a wrong way... You all think that Nad'ka (disrespectful form of "Nadezhda", which means "Faith" by the way) is crazy. But she is not. If any of you will offend her, you will answer before God for this. She is blessed. She is blessed and got a blessing to go to the churches to make you wiser... The whole country soon will know her... She (Nadezhda) will pray for those who drink and they will stop being alcoholics, those who she will sign with the cross will be healed..." and then at the 2:09 mark of the video she continues: "She was blessed for this, by this Kol'ka, who I hate!"
And then you see this woman falls and the words on the screen say: "Servant of God Nadezhda". And then she gets up and walks to the Elder and he blesses her with holy oil.
In the second video below, it opens with a scene of the grave of the elder, but then goes to normal. The voice of the evil spirit then says:
"She came here and brought these six fools with her also... I hate this Nad'ka... I curse her! (repeats it several times)... Why did she come here today? (crying) I don't want this! You all soon will bow before our master - Antichrist. Soon it will be his power. Soon you will bow before him! Repent, sinners!..." (Nadezhda crosses herself at times while it shouts out of her body).
At the 0:53 mark on the video, Nadezhda is looking at the Elder and the evil spirit says: "I don't want them to live! I don't want it!"
You can barely hear the voice of the Elder saying to another woman: "Don't be afraid. Let her shout." Then it looks like he is saying "Lord have mercy".
The demon continues to shout: "I hate when women wear scarves! It is better to wear hats in a demonic style! All women in hats, you all will go to hell... they put on men clothes and think they are beauties! You all will go to hell... you all will answer before God."
The video then stops and an old woman on the screen appears, apparently this was from a documentary about Elder Nikolai to make episodes only about this incident.
In the beginning of the third video below you can see a Russian newspaper and an article about Blessed Pelagia.
The demon shouts: "Those who don't believe in Blessed Pelagia, will go to hell... And those priests who don't bless people to read her (about her?... it says "her", but it is unclear if it means she had writings) they go to hell and take other people with them... Those who don't venerate Blessed Lyubushka (loving form of Lyubov which means "Love" - some other Saint of our times, I guess), will go to hell... Repent, sinners, repent! Who are you to judge them?"
Then you can see on the screen the words: "Servant of God Nadezhda", who is standing before the Elder and continues to shout: "I hate you Kol'ka! Why did you bless Nad'ka to open the eyes of the people? Why does she need to go to the temples? Let her work! I don't want to take anything from you! I hate those who love Nad'ka... and love those who hate her and laugh at her... (crying) I don't want... don't want... to sit in her! It would be better if I could come out!!! And entered into someone else... How could I know she is such a fool!!!"
It should be noted that Nadezhda was an Orthodox woman who went to go see the Elder when this happened to her, hence the way the demon speaks about its situation.
The fourth and last video in the series below shows Nadezhda standing before the Elder, saying: "Let them go to hell! Let them not know the truth! Let them be fooled! Let them watch TVs, play on the computers! Let them die! Let them go to Hell! Hell!"....
The last video below is from the same period as the first video.
In the beginning the evil spirit shouts: "I hate you, Orthodox. Orthodoxy is the most disgusting religion. All other religions will go to hell..."
When the Elder closes the door, that old woman who was reading the prayers says: "Did you hear? Our Orthodox faith is the only true faith. All other religions will go to hell..."
Demon: "Don't teach! I am tired of you Val'ka! (Val'ka is a disrespectful form of name Valentina)... She is disgusting! She teaches everybody, teaches! Let them go to hell! Let them not know the truth! Let them to be fooled! Let them watch TVs, play on the computers! Let them die! Let them go to hell, hell! All of them! To hell!"
Then you can see the door opens a little bit and the women see the Elder standing there... he was there during the whole time... then one woman says something to Val'ka and the demon starts shouting; "Why do you say Nad'ka (Nadezhda) is good! It is me who is good!"
The demon on the video is roaring, as he is very angry that he can't do any evil things now and he is suffering. Sometimes in the videos above after shouting he starts crying: "I don't want it! I don't want it!" It seems like he doesn't want to do what he is doing, because it works for good and opens the eyes of the people. This demon hates everybody, and talks to everybody or about anybody with no respect and in a very "village" style, in a style of simple uneducated Russian people, who live in villages or very small towns. It doesn't say any cuss words... at least they are not on the video.