Freedom is good when the person can use it appropriately. Otherwise it is a disaster.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Freedom is good when the person can use it appropriately. Otherwise it is a disaster.
"On Wednesdays and Fridays, especially during the four fasts, eat once a day, and the angel of the Lord will remain with you."
- St. Seraphim of Sarov
"Do not ever violate the fast on Wednesday and Friday. This fast is commanded by the Church and is well explained. If you have ever in your life violated this fast, pray to God that He forgives you and sin no more. The holy and pious men do not consider themselves dispensed from this fast either during a journey, much less even in sickness. St. Pachomius met some men carrying a corpse and he saw two angels in the funeral procession. He prayed to God to reveal to him the mystery of the presence of the angels at the burial of this man. What good did this man do that the holy angels of God accompanied him in procession to the grave? According to God's Providence, both angels approached Pachomius and, in this manner, explained to him: 'One of the angels is the angel of Wednesday and the other is the angel of Friday. Seeing how this man always, even until death, fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays so we are honorably accompanying his body. As he, until death, kept the fast, so we are glorifying him.'"
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich
See more here.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Jun 4, 2010
David B. Hart
As I write this, the first two of what I expect will be three theatrically morose sighs have just issued from my lips; they’re all quite inaudible to you, I know, but they would wrack your heart with pity if you could hear them.
The occasion of my misery is the release of Alejandro Amenábar’s film Agora, which purports to be a historical account of the murder of the female philosopher Hypatia by a Christian mob in the early fifth century, of the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, and (more generally) of an alleged conflict that raged in the ancient world between Greek science and Christian faith. I have not actually seen the movie, and have no intention of doing so (I would say you couldn’t pay me to watch it, but that’s not, strictly speaking, true). All I know about it is what I have read in an article by Larry Rohter in the New York Times. But that is enough to put my teeth on edge.
Not that I entirely blame Mr. Amenábar. The story he repeats is one that has been bruited about for a few centuries now, often by seemingly respectable historians. Its premise is that the Christians of late antiquity were a brutish horde of superstitious louts, who despised science and philosophy, and frequently acted to suppress both, and who also had a particularly low opinion of women.
Thus, supposedly, one tragic day in a.d. 391, the Christians of Alexandria destroyed the city’s Great Library, burning its scrolls, annihilating the accumulated learning of centuries, and effectively inaugurating the “Dark Ages.” Thus also, in a.d. 415, a group of Christians murdered Hypatia (young and beautiful, of course, as well as brilliant), not only because of her wicked dedication to profane intellectual culture, but also because of the frowardness with which she had forgotten her proper place as a woman.
This is almost all utter nonsense, but I have to suppose that Amenábar believes it to be true.
This does not, of course, exculpate him of his own silly contributions to the story. Apparently, there is a scene in the film in which Hypatia is forced to wear a veil, of a sort vaguely reminiscent of a burqa, which makes about as much sense in a film about late antique Alexandria as a scene set in a singles bar specializing in Hawaiian drinks.
And then, it seems, there is a scene in which Hypatia ventures the heliocentric hypothesis, which—to anyone familiar with the neoplatonism to which she was devoted or the Aristotelian-Ptolemeian cosmological system in which she was trained—is worse than ludicrous. But, again, these little “artistic” touches are only minor additions to a picture that is already so grotesquely distorted that they hardly matter.
The tale of a Christian destruction of the Great Library—so often told, so perniciously persistent—is a tale about something that never happened. By this, I do not mean that there is some divergence of learned opinion on the issue, or that the original sources leave us in some doubt as to the nature of the event. I mean that nothing of the sort ever occurred.
Rohter almost gets the matter right when he remarks that “Roman-era chronicles, as well as later works, suggest that at least part of the library was destroyed when Julius Caesar invaded Egypt in 48 b.c., and that Christians were responsible only for the damage done in Hypatia’s time to a secondary ‘daughter library,’ which may also have been attacked by Muslim conquerors in the seventh century a.d.” But, in fact, there is not a single shred of evidence—ancient, medieval, or modern—that Christians were responsible for either collection’s destruction, and no one before the late eighteenth century ever suggested they were.
The Great Library of Alexandria is one of the more fascinating mysteries of late antique civilization. It enters history already as something largely legendary. Even Strabo, who died around a.d. 23, knew of it only as a tale from the past. We know that it had been built as an adjunct to the Great Museum in the Brucheium (the royal quarter of Alexandria) in the first half of the third century b.c. Its size, however, is impossible to establish.
The estimate in ancient texts varies wildly, between 40,000 scrolls—for the ancient world, an astounding but still plausible number—and 700,000—which is almost certainly impossibly high. And, as of yet, archaeologists have failed to find the remains of any building sufficiently large to have sheltered a collection on either scale.
Whatever the case, as Rohter says, various ancient sources report that the library was destroyed, either in whole or in part, during Julius Caesar’s Alexandrian campaign against Pompey in 48 or 47 b.c. If any part of it remained in the Brucheium, it would probably have perished when the museum was destroyed in a.d. 272, during Aurelian’s wars of imperial reunification. It was certainly no longer in existence in 391.
Rohter is right that there was perhaps a “daughter” library, which may have been located in the grounds of the Serapeum—the large temple of the Ptolemies’ hybrid Greco-Egyptian god, Serapis—placed there either in the late third century b.c., or in the late second century a.d., when the Serapeum was restored and expanded. At least, there is good evidence that scrolls were at certain points kept among the temple complex’s colonnades.
And, in fact, the Serapeum was destroyed in 391. After a series of riots between the pagan and Christian communities of Alexandria—Alexandria was the most extravagantly violent city of the antique world, and riots were something of a revered civic tradition—a number of Christian hostages had been murdered inside the Serapeum, which led the Emperor Theodosius to order the complex demolished (though he excused the murderers, inasmuch as the Christians they had killed were now considered martyrs, and any act of vengeance would have detracted from their witness). And so a detachment of Roman soldiers, with the assistance of an eager crowd of Christians, dismantled the complex—or, at any rate, the temple within it.
As it happens, we have fairly good accounts of that day, Christian and pagan, and absolutely none of them so much as hints at the destruction of any large collection of books. Not even Eunapius of Sardis—a pagan scholar who despised Christians and who would have wept over the loss of precious texts—suggests such a thing. This is not surprising, since there were probably no books there to be destroyed.
The pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, describing the Serapeum not long before its demolition, had clearly spoken of its libraries as something no longer in existence. The truth of the matter is that the entire legend was the product of the imagination of Edward Gibbon, who bizarrely misread a single sentence from the Christian historian Orosius, and from it spun out a story that appears nowhere in the entire corpus of ancient historical sources.
Which brings me to Hypatia. I do sometimes wish the poor woman’s memory could be left in peace. She’s been the victim of such sordidly sentimental nonsense over the past few centuries that it’s almost impossible to appreciate her for what she was, or to disentangle the tragedy of her death from the ideological rants that typically surround its telling.
She was, all the evidence suggests, a brilliant lecturer in Platonic thought, a trained scientist, and the author of a few mathematical commentaries. Despite the extravagant claims often made on her behalf, however, there is no reason to believe she made any particularly significant contributions to any of her fields of expertise.
She was not, for instance—as she has often been said to have been—the inventor of either the astrolabe or the hydrometer. It is true that the first extant mention of a hydrometer appears in a letter written to Hypatia by her devoted friend, Synesius of Cyrene, the Christian Platonist and bishop of Ptolemais; but that is because Synesius, in that letter, is explaining to her how the device is made, so that she can arrange to have one assembled for him
At the time of her death, she was probably not even the beautiful young woman of lore; she was in all likelihood over sixty.
She was, however, brutally murdered—and then dismembered—by a gang of Christian parabalani (a fraternity originally founded to care for the city’s poor); that much is true. This was not, however, because she was a woman (female intellectuals were not at all uncommon in the Eastern Empire, among either pagans or Christians), or because she was a scientist and philosopher (the scientific and philosophical class of Alexandria comprised pagans, Jews, and Christians, and there was no popular Christian prejudice against science or philosophy).
And it was certainly not because she was perceived as an enemy of the Christian faith; she got on quite well with the educated Christians of Alexandria, numbered many among her friends and students, and was intellectually far closer to them than to the temple cultists of the lower city; and the frankest account of her murder was written by the Christian historian Socrates, who obviously admired her immensely. It seems likely that she died simply because she became inadvertently involved in a vicious political squabble between the city’s imperial prefect and the city’s patriarch, and some of the savages of the lower city decided to take matters into their own hands.
In the end, the true story of Hypatia—which no one will ever make into a film—tells us very little about ancient religion, or about the relation between ancient Christianity and the sciences, and absolutely nothing about some alleged perennial conflict between Christianity and science; but it does tell us a great deal about social class in the late Hellenistic world.
Think of it as an ideal Marxist allegory. It may seem unimaginable to us now that Christians from the lower classes in late antique Alexandria could have conspired in the horrific assassination of an unarmed woman and a respected scholar, but, as it happens, that was how Alexandria was often governed at street level, by every sect and persuasion.
In the royal quarter, pagans, Christians, and Jews generally studied together, shared a common intellectual culture, collaborated in scientific endeavor, and attended one another’s lectures. In the lower city, however, religious allegiance was often no more than a matter of tribal identity, and the various tribes often slaughtered one another with gay abandon.
The chasm between the two worlds could scarcely have been vaster. Hypatia was a victim of what might fashionably be called a social contradiction—one that none of the science, philosophy, or religion of the time had ever done anything to resolve.
David B. Hart is a contributing writer of First Things. His most recent book is "Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies".
Archbishop Slams Turkey As Pope Visits Cyprus
Cyprus Leaders Criticize Turkey During Pope Visit
Pope On First 'Pilgrimage' To Divided Cyprus
The message below, whose title of "Sacred Concern and 'Ecumenical' Dialogues" was given by the periodical as a selected segment of the address by Ecumenical Patriarch to the members of the Parish Community of Saint Therapon of Mytilene, Lesvos Island, when they visited him at the Patriarchate, on Sunday, the 18th of August, 2002.
by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
...With reference to the pious concern and cautiousness that you have humbly and politely expressed in your letter, Fr. Athanasios, with regard to certain initiatives by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches on the so-called "ecumenical dialogues" with other Christian dogmas and monotheistic religions, I would like to reassure you and to stress that we do not deviate from the guideline of our Fathers.
On the occasion of the feast-day of our Holy Mother the Theotokos, I had made reference during the Vespers for August 15th to the blessed John of Damascus, who is one of the Fathers and authors of our Church that had preoccupied themselves especially with the Most Holy Theotokos, the dogmatic teachings and the opening towards Muslim theologians. During the time of the blessed Damascene, Islam was in a period of flourishing, and even of aggressiveness. Even in a historical environment such as that, the blessed Damascene did not hesitate to embark on a dialogue with the Muslims, in order to make a "statement on the hope within us". Several centuries later, Saint Gregory Palamas - another important personage among the Holy Fathers of our Church - also had dialogues with Muslims and had written about Islam. Saint Mark of Ephesus - one of the more recent saints of our Church, whom our so-called "conservative" brothers regard as a standard-bearer and project him as a norm - had not hesitated to travel to the West and converse with the Catholics. Saint Mark was not finally convinced, and had, rightly, not signed the pseudo-union of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439), as he had acted according to his conscience. He did not, however, hesitate, nor did he avoid discussions with the Catholics, which is exactly what the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Orthodox Church are also doing nowadays.
The inter-Christian dialogues with the Catholics, the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the Reformers, the Old Catholics are not conducted only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also by the individual, autocephalous and autonomous sister Churches, under the coordination and the leadership responsibility of the Patriarchate. It is my belief that the Orthodox Churches that are involved in discussions with the heterodox and other religions have not betrayed their faith. Pray that God enlightens us as well as the theologians who are involved in the inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, so that we might give a proper witness that will enlighten our brothers who are in a fallacy. And may we indeed succeed in illuminating them and enlightening them, to the degree that they will eventually decide to come to the Upright Faith. That is our prayer, our aspiration and our desire!
Sent to parishioners, September - November 2002
The graves of Saints Zoticus, Atallus, Camisius and Philip were discovered in 1971.
Lesser Scythia (modern Romania), between the Danube and the Black Sea in the northeastern territory of the Roman Empire, was a place of exile or death for Christians who refused to worship the pagan gods. During the persecutions of Decius (249-251), Diocletian and Maximilian (284-305), and Licinius (308-324) thousands of people died there from cold, hunger, or torture. The relics of those who endured martyrdom because they openly proclaimed their faith in Christ were taken by Christians and buried in secret places. Accounts of the lives and sufferings of these holy martyrs were written and preserved so they would not be forgotten. When the persecutions ended, the relics were moved from their temporary resting places and placed in special crypts (martyria). Churches were built over these crypts, and the ruins of some of them may be seen today in Dobrogea.
In September 1971 a creek overflowed its banks near the village of Niculitel in the county of Tulcea, revealing one of the oldest of these martyria. The crypt, which is made of bricks, is divided into two rooms, one on top of the other. In the upper room, the relics of four martyrs were found in a single wooden coffin. All had been decapitated. The heads of three martyrs were found atop their necks, while the head of the fourth martyr was resting on his chest. An inscription on the left wall reads: "Christ's martyrs." The names of the four martyrs (Zoticus, Attalus, Camasius, and Philip) were scratched into the right wall.
According to the records which have been preserved, these martyrs were tried by the Roman authorities of Noviodunum (modern Isaccea) and sentenced to death. They were beheaded, then buried at Niculitel. The exact date of their martyrdom is not known. Some believe that they were slain early in the fourth century during the persecutions of Diocletian or Licinius. Others, however, think the four men may have been martyred north of the Danube during the persecution of the Gothic king Athanaric (370-372) against the Christians.
About a hundred fragments of the bones of two men (aged between 45-50) were found in the lower crypt. It is thought that they died during the persecution of Decius, and then their relics were reinterred at Niculitsel around 370-380. The names of these martyrs are not known.
The Syrian Martyrologion and St Jerome's Martyrologion give June 4 as the date of the martyrs' execution. The Synaxaria list these four martyrs along with six others: Eutychius, Quirinus, Julia, Saturninus, Ninita, Fortunio. Twenty-five others were also beheaded with these martyrs, but are not named.
The relics of these holy martyrs were moved to the Cocos Monastery in 1971, where they are venerated by the faithful.
Read more about the discovery of this shrine here.
See pictures of Cocos Monastery here and here.
See pictures of the martyrs crypt here.
See pictures of the relics in procession and veneration here.
More pictures here.
Your Holy Martyrs, Zoticus, Atallus, Camisius and Philip, O Lord, through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, And shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through their intercessions, Christ, our Lord, save our souls!
Crypt of the Martyrs
Inscription of the names of the martyrs in the crypt
Relics of the Martyrs
Akathist to the Holy Martyrs
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Hospitality, a virtue which by God is commanded,
Until now, by it, many souls were drawn to Paradise.
Abraham the Wonderful showed infinite hospitality,
Immeasurable and cordial and not hypocritical.
And King David greatly respected hospitality,
That is why, the life of King Saul, he strictly guarded.
And when the Ancient One [Christ] appeared, older than the aged Abraham,
From the Lineage of David, when darkness hid,
Then, Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus,
Showed hospitality these hospitable virgins:
Hosted the Greatest One since the sun flows,
With Hospitality, each one of them heavenly paradise attained.
With hospitality, perfect in heart and food,
Hospitality most worthy in word and in deed.
And the Lord Most-rich, abundantly repaid,
And, this hospitable home, when death saddened
Jesus, the deceased brother to the sisters, resurrected,
And, to them, eternal glory spread throughout the entire world.
This is the reward of hospitality from God Himself,
The Lord loves the Hospitality of a sincere heart.
Holy Church boasts of Martha and Mary,
Teaching that we are also guests at the table of the Lord.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Holy Mountain, January 23, 1969
Reverend Father Haralambos,
In as much as I see the great uproar which is happening in our Church because of the various movements in favor of unification, as well as the interaction of the Ecumenical Patriarch with the Pope, I was pained as Her child, and considered it good, besides my prayers, to send a small thread (which I have as a poor monk), that it too may be used as a means of stitching together the multipart garment of our Mother. I know you will show love and share it only with your religious friends. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to ask forgiveness from everyone for being bold to write something when I am neither holy nor a theologian. I trust everyone will understand me, that my writing is nothing more than an expression of my deep pain for the unfortunate stance and worldly love of our father, Patriarch Athenagoras.
It appears he loved another modern woman — which is called the Papist Church — because our Orthodox Mother has not made an impression on him at all, for She is so modest. This love, which was heard from Constantinople, caused a sensational impression of sorts among many Orthodox, who nowadays live in an environment of such meaningless love, in cities across the entire world. Moreover, this love is of the spirit of our age: the family will lose its divine meaning from just such kinds of love, which have as their aim breakup and not union.
With just such a worldly love the Patriarch takes us to Rome. While he should have shown love first to us his children and to our Mother Church, he unfortunately sent his love very far away. The result, it’s true, delighted the secular children who love the world — who have this worldly love —, but completely scandalized us, the children of Orthodoxy, young and old, who have fear of God.
With sadness I must write that among all the unionists I’ve met, never have I seen them to have either a drop or shred of spirituality. Nevertheless, they know how to speak about love and union while they themselves are not united with God, for they have not loved Him.
I would like tenderly to beseech all our unionist brothers: Since the issue of the union of the Churches is something spiritual, and we have need of spiritual love, let’s leave it to those who greatly love God and are theologians, like the Fathers of the Church — not the legalists — who have offered up and continue to give themselves in service to the Church (instead of just buying big candles), and who were and are lit by the fire of love for God rather than by the lighter of the church sacristan.
We should recognize that there exist not only natural but also spiritual laws. Therefore, the future wrath of God is not averted by a convocation of sinners (for then we shall receive double the wrath), but by repentance and adherence to the commandments of the Lord.
Also, we should know well that our Orthodox Church does not have even one shortcoming. The only apparent insufficiency is the shortage of sober Hierarchs and Shepherds with a Patristic foundation. “Few are chosen.” This should not, however, be upsetting. The Church is Christ’s Church, and He governs Her. It is not a Temple built by the pious from rocks, sand and mortar, which is then destroyed by the fire of barbarians; the Church is Christ Himself. “And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44-45)
When He needs to, the Lord will bring forth the Mark of Ephesuses and Gregory Palamases, so as to bring together all our scandalized brethren, to confess the Orthodox Faith, to strengthen the Tradition, and to give great joy to our Mother, the Church.
In times past we see that many faithful children of our Church, monastics and laymen, have unfortunately broken away from Her on account of the unionists. In my opinion, separation from the Church each time the Patriarch makes a mistake is not good at all. From within, close to the Mother Church, it is the duty and obligation of each member to struggle in their own way. To cease commemoration of the Patriarch; to break away and create their own Church; and to continue to speak insultingly to the Patriarch: this I think, is senseless.
If, for this or that occasional deviation of the Patriarchs, we separate ourselves and make our own Churches — may God protect us! — we’ll pass up even the Protestants. It is easy for one to separate, but difficult to return. Unfortunately we have many “churches” in our times, created either by big groups or even just one person. Because there happened to be a church in their kalyve (I am speaking about things happening on the Holy Mountain), they figured they could create their own independent Church.
If the unionists gave the Church the first wound, the aforementioned give the second.
Let’s pray that God will illumine all of us, including our Patriarch Athenagoras, that union of these “churches” will come about first; that tranquility would be realized within the scandalized Orthodox fold; so that peace and love would exist among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Then let’s think about union with other “Confessions” — and only if they sincerely desire to embrace Orthodox Dogma.
I would further like to say that there does exist another, third group, within our Church. They are the brethren who remain as Her faithful children, but who don’t have spiritual concord between themselves. They spend their time criticizing one another, and not for the general good of the struggle. The one monitors the other (more than himself) to see what he will say or write so as to ruthlessly nail him. However, if this person had said or written the same thing, he’d certainly have supported it with numerous passages from the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers.
Great harm comes of this; for while the one injures his neighbor, the other strikes him back before the eyes of all the faithful. Often times, disbelief is sown in the souls of the weak, because they are scandalized by such people. Unfortunately, some from among us make senseless claims against the others. We want them to conform to our own spiritual character. In other words, when someone else doesn’t harmonize with our own character, or is only mildly tolerant — or even a little sharp — with us, immediately we jump to the conclusion that he is not a spiritual person.
We’re all needed within the Church. All the Fathers, both the mild and the austere, offered their services to Her. Just as the sweet, sour, bitter and even pungent herbs are necessary for a man’s body (each has its own flavor and vitamins), the same is true of the Body of the Church. All are necessary. The one fills up the spiritual character of the other, and all of us are duty bound to endure not only the particular spiritual character, but even the human weaknesses we each have.
Again, I come sincerely asking pardon from all for being so bold to write. I am only a simple monk, and my work is to strive, as much as I am able, to divest myself of the old man, and to help others and the Church, through God, by prayer. But because heartbreaking news regarding our Holy Orthodoxy has reached even my hermitage, I was greatly pained, and thus considered it good to write that which I felt. Let’s all pray that God grants His Grace, and may each of us help in his own way for the glory of our Church.
With much respect to all,
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: Eastern Orthodox Church Looks to Both Past and Future
June 3, 2010,
An exclusive interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.
This interview comes days after His All Holiness paid a visit to Bulgaria for the opening of new churches in the Burgas region where he was welcomed by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Shortly after that, on May 24, 2010, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was in Moscow where he performed a service together with Russian Patriarch Kirill on the occasion of the Day of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the authors of the Slavic script.
What would you say are the major, basic characteristics that continue to distinguish today Eastern/Greek Orthodox Christianity from the other Christian churches?
It is sometimes best to discern similarities and common ground, rather than differences and distinctive features among Christian Churches. There is often more that unites us than separates us, and we should not be complacent in a defensive presence of Orthodox Christianity in the world.
Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church has a profound wealth in its spiritual tradition, which retains a more cosmic, liturgical and mystical world view.
This is why current issues of global concern, such as the ecological crisis, are of utmost importance to us inasmuch as they underline how doctrine and ethos are integrally related. The way we worship and pray to God reflects the way we lead our lives and treat our planet.
What is the most unique thing about the tradition of Eastern/Greek Orthodox Christianity? What should members of the other Christian churches or other religions know about it?
The Orthodox Church is often seen as a traditional Church. And, while it is true that we preserve many elements from the early Apostolic community, which witnessed the Resurrection of our Lord and the Pentecost of the Church, we are also a Church that seeks to dialogue with the present.
In this regard, we are a Church that looks both to the past (with the treasures of the Church of the Fathers) as well as to the future (with an expectation of the heavenly kingdom, as we profess in the Nicene Creed). This all-embracing theology and all-encompassing spirituality is “always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that lies within us.” (1 Peter 3.15)
There is a widespread impression that Western churches are generally more pro-active with respect to social causes and initiatives. What is the main attraction and the main message of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 21st century, the rapidly changing time of the Global Age?
In many ways, there is truth in that widespread impression, and it would be helpful for us as Orthodox Christians to be prepared also to learn from our Western brothers and sisters.
As we observed earlier, it is more helpful and beneficial for us to work together in a spirit of healthy ecumenism, rather than work in an isolation that resembles a closed ghetto-like community. From as early as the third century, the West emphasized the role of the Church in the present world, excelling in law, ethics, and the worldly institution.
By contrast, the East stressed the heavenly (or eschatological) dimension of the Church, presenting unparalleled models and examples of mysticism and spirituality. So both East and West can learn from one another.
The Orthodox Church can reveal how the Holy Spirit and the Divine Liturgy are able to inspire all aspects of the earthly Church – including the organizational leadership of the Church and the social standards of the people.
Is it correct to say that the Orthodox Christian religion is a key trait of a Greco-Slavic Civilization, as it is often described by western scholars?
While it is true that Orthodox Christianity was the cradle of civilization on the Eastern world – both Greek and Slavic – the unfortunate truth is that the Western world has neglected its Byzantine roots.
It is a sad reality that Western historians have been dominated by the importance and influence of the Renaissance, while overlooking the fact that Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Empire to New Rome, Constantinople, in 330AD as well as the fact that all seven Ecumenical Councils of undivided Christianity were held not in Greece or Rome, but in the East, in what is now Turkey.
Nevertheless, more recent scholarship has embraced a more comprehemsive view of history. As shown in Dr. Runciman’s great books, the memory preserved by the Mother Church of Constantinople through the centuries was the memory of an Orthodox ecumenical civilization. However, it is not easy to turn around a tide of historical prejudice.
Greeks and Bulgarians used to have more powerful medieval empires, which boosted Orthodox Christianity. What is the role of these two nations today as far as Orthodox Christianity is concerned? Is it fair to say that Russia is the leading Orthodox nation nowadays?
We should remember that the situation of the first millennium no longer prevails in our world, and we should not live in such a manner that reflects those circumstances. Moreover, while the original system of Pentarchy emanated from respect for the apostolicity and particularity of the traditions of these ancient Patriarchates, the autocephaly of later Churches grew out of respect for the cultural identity of nations.
Thus, today, we have reached the perception that Orthodoxy comprises a federation of national Churches, frequently attributing priority to national interests in their relationship with one another. Yet, secular forces have never been the primary focus or foremost definition of Orthodox ecclesiology.
Our criteria of ecclesial identity and unity are not the measures of this world – of numbers and wealth – but derive instead from the Holy Spirit, as this is revealed in the Church Councils and the Holy Eucharist.
We do not, as during Byzantine times, have at our disposal a state factor that guaranteed – and sometimes even imposed – our unity. Nor does our ecclesiology permit any centralized authority that is able to impose unity from above.
Our unity depends on our ecclesial conscience. The sense of need and duty that we constitute a single canonical structure and body, one Church, is sufficient to guarantee our unity, without any external intervention.
This is precisely why we have to date convened five meetings (Synaxes) of Heads of Orthodox Churches throughout the world, while we have at the same time insisted on advancing preparations for the Holy and Great Council of our Orthodox Church.
We have been blessed with a recent official visit to Russia at the invitation of His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and we have, therefore, witnessed the vital rejuvenation as well as the complicated adversities of the Russian nation.
From your position as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople you have sought to promote peace among Christians, Muslims and Jews. What are some of your successful initiatives in that respect? In an age of rising sectarian violence, what can religious figures of your rank do to help bring about peace and understanding?
In addition to the bilateral academic dialogues that we hold on a regular basis with both Jews and Muslims (since the early 1970s), the initiatives that we have promoted in recent years include: the Peace and Tolerance Conference (Istanbul, 1994); the Conference on Peaceful Coexistence between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Brussels, 2001); the Conference on Religion, Peace and the Olympic Ideal (Athens, 2004); and the second Peace and Tolerance Conference (Istanbul, 2005).
These gatherings, and others like them, have proved both pioneering in purpose and historical in substance. For they opened our eyes to the diversity of cultures and religions that comprise our fragmented global world. It is our firm conviction that all religious leaders can benefit from such meetings inasmuch as they widened people’s awareness of racism and fundamentalism, while assisting in distinguishing between religious tolerance and religious absolutism.
I've been noticing a trend recently away from this mantra of being 'spiritual but not religious' in pop culture, but it still is the prevailing way of professing one's theism in society to show that one's religion is secularized and individualistic. Until pop culture veers away from it, then maybe society will follow. For example, this past week on The Larry King Show, Lady Gaga was asked if she was religious or spiritual, and she responded by saying she was religious, having been raised Catholic and holding to a belief in Jesus, though she also claimed to be working out what it all meant since she disagrees with the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality. But as I have been posed this question many times in the past few years as to whether or not I am spiritual or religious, my usual response these days is to say, "I am an Orthodox Christian" or sometimes I may say, "Both" along with it. What I find is that this usually opens up the discussion away from the presuppositions that the prevailing either/or mantra squeezes one into. Regarding organized religion, see my posts here and here.
Are There Dangers in Being 'Spiritual But Not Religious'?
By John Blake
June 3, 2010
"I'm spiritual but not religious."
It's a trendy phrase people often use to describe their belief that they don't need organized religion to live a life of faith.
But for Jesuit priest James Martin, the phrase also hints at something else: selfishness.
"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," says Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York City. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"
Religious debates erupt over everything from doctrine to fashion. Martin has jumped into a running debate over the "I'm spiritual but not religious" phrase.
The "I'm spiritual but not religious" community is growing so much that one pastor compared it to a movement. In a 2009 survey by the research firm LifeWay Christian Resources, 72 percent of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they're "more spiritual than religious." The phrase is now so commonplace that it's spawned its own acronym ("I'm SBNR") and Facebook page: SBNR.org.
But what exactly does being "spiritual but not religious" mean, and could there be hidden dangers in living such a life?
Did you choose "Burger King Spirituality"?
Heather Cariou, a New York City-based author who calls herself spiritual instead of religious, doesn't think so. She's adopted a spirituality that blends Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs.
"I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist, or Catholic, or Muslim," she says. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."
BJ Gallagher, a Huffington Post blogger who writes about spirituality, says she's SBNR because organized religion inevitably degenerates into tussles over power, ego and money.
Gallagher tells a parable to illustrate her point:
"God and the devil were walking down a path one day when God spotted something sparkling by the side of the path. He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand.
"Ah, Truth," he said.
"Here, give it to me," the devil said. "I'll organize it."
Gallagher says there's nothing wrong with people blending insights from different faith traditions to create what she calls a "Burger King Spirituality -- have it your way."
She disputes the notion that spiritual people shun being accountable to a community.
"Twelve-step people have a brilliant spiritual community that avoids all the pitfalls of organized religion," says Gallagher, author of "The Best Way Out is Always Through."
"Each recovering addict has a 'god of our own understanding,' and there are no priests or intermediaries between you and your god. It's a spiritual community that works.''
Nazli Ekim, who works in public relations in New York City, says calling herself spiritual instead of religious is her way of taking responsibility for herself.
Ekim was born in a Muslim family and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She prayed to Allah every night, until she was 13 and had to take religion classes in high school.Then one day, she says she had to take charge of her own beliefs.
"I had this revelation that I bow to no one, and I've been spiritually a much happier person," says Ekim, who describers herself now as a Taoist, a religious practice from ancient China that emphasizes the unity of humanity and the universe.
"I make my own mistakes and take responsibility for them. I've lied, cheated, hurt people -- sometimes on purpose. Did I ever think I will burn in hell for all eternity? I didn't. Did I feel bad and made up for my mistakes? I certainly did, but not out of fear of God."
Going on a spiritual walkabout
The debate over being spiritual rather than religious is not just about semantics. It's about survival.
Numerous surveys show the number of Americans who do not identify themselves as religious has been increasing and likely will continue to grow.
A 2008 survey conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, dubbed these Americans who don't identify with any religion as "Nones."
Seminaries, churches, mosques and other institutions will struggle for survival if they don't somehow convince future generations that being religious isn't so bad after all, religion scholars warn.
Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College in Massachusetts, says there's a lot of good in old-time religion.
Religious communities excel at caring for members in difficult times, encouraging members to serve others and teaching religious practices that have been tested and wrestled with for centuries, Walters says.
"Hymn-singing, forms of prayer and worship, teachings about social justice and forgiveness -- all these things are valuable elements of religious wisdom," Walters says. "Piecing it together by yourself can be done, but with great difficulty."
Being a spiritual Lone Ranger fits the tenor of our times, says June-Ann Greeley, a theology and philosophy professor.
"Religion demands that we accord to human existence some absolutes and eternal truths, and in a post-modern culture, that becomes all but impossible," says Greeley, who teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.
It's much easier for "spiritual" people to go on "spiritual walkabouts," Greeley says.
"People seem not to have the time nor the energy or interest to delve deeply into any one faith or religious tradition," Greeley says. "So they move through, collecting ideas and practices and tenets that most appeal to the self, but making no connections to groups or communities."
Being spiritual instead of religious may sound sophisticated, but the choice may ultimately come down to pettiness, says Martin, the Jesuit priest, who writes about the phrase in his book, "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost Everything)."
"Religion is hard," he says. "Sometimes it's just too much work. People don't feel like it. I have better things to do with my time. It's plain old laziness."
Continued from Part Two
Soon after the St. Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology was founded in Paris on April 30, 1925, Florovsky was invited by Dean Sergius Bulgakov to join the faculty as Professor of Patristics. Florovsky’s interest in Patristics dates from his days in Odessa, but he only began to study this field seriously in 1924 when he was in Prague. In Patristics, it must be noted, Florovsky discovered his true vocation. Henceforth Patristic thought was to become his intellectual home, the foundation of his world view, the standard by which he would judge and find wanting the course of Russian religious thought and of Orthodox theology in general. In fact, Patristic theology became for Florovsky the criterion for all authentically Orthodox theology and for an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the Sacred Scriptures of the Church. Patristic theology was also the source of Florovsky’s many later contributions to and criticisms of the Ecumenical Movement. It was through his ongoing research of the original sources and his constant teaching of Patristics that Florovsky actually mastered the field. Throughout his lifetime he taught and wrote about the pre-Nicene Fathers, the golden age of the Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Byzantine theologians up to the fifteenth century, as well as the history of Russian theology. For a man of his scholarly stature and erudition, it is astonishing to note that Florovsky was an autodidact in theology and had never earned a theological degree in the strict sense. All of his many subsequent doctoral degrees were honorary, bestowed upon him, deservedly no doubt, by countless institutions of higher learning that acknowledged his singular achievements everywhere he went and worked throughout his long life.
It was during the pre-war years of the 1930s that Florovsky did a great deal of research in various European libraries and produced his most important writings. Most notable among his writings of this period were his Fathers of the Fourth Century7 and The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth to the Eighth Centuries.8 These two volumes reflect the in-depth study of the Fathers and the salient characteristics of Florovskian scholarship: judicial analysis of primary material, richly detailed factual documentation, succinct and penetrating generalizations, a broad historical perspective, a terse and compelling style, and always an extensive bibliography that invariably included his very latest reading. These works placed Florovsky at the front ranks of Patristic scholarship. While praise for their erudition and power was unstinting, they also clearly pointed out that “everything was not stable and whole from the very beginning” in the life of the early Church, as she struggled to define and defend her faith. The fact is that these writings became a turning point in modern Orthodox theology, as the sequence of events in the life and work of Florovsky clearly demonstrate.
In 1932 Florovsky accepted ordination to the priesthood of the Orthodox Church. This important decision came rather naturally for him, given his early background in a clerical family, and his responsibilities as a priest and as a pastor provided many opportunities to enrich his theological work through the liturgical life of the Church, which he so profoundly appreciated from his youth. Moreover, his experience as a priest of the Church, imbued by the spirit of worship and pastoral service, freed him from the strictures of a school theology and added a powerful dimension to his theological work and witness. In 1935 Florovsky delivered an important lecture on “The Tasks of Russian Theology” at St. Sergius Institute that critically outlined the history of Russian religious thought. A year later in Athens, Greece, he delivered at the First Congress of Orthodox Theological Professors two additional important papers: “Western Influences in Russian Theology” and “Patristics and Modern Theology.” Through these two lectures Florovsky challenged his colleagues by calling on all Orthodox theologians to overcome the so-called “pseudomorphosis” of Orthodox theology that had come about in past centuries, under both Roman Catholic and Protestant prevailing influences.
It must be remembered that the fateful Schism of 1054 had left the two major geographical areas of the Church to go their own separate ways for a very long time. The Western Church developed through Scholasticism and the Renaissance to the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, to the Enlightenment and finally to the modern age. The Eastern Church underwent a series of historical misfortunes, brought about by the militant expansion of Islam in the Middle East and the Balkans, with the final collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453. While the Christian Empire came to an end in the East, the Orthodox Church actually survived there for four centuries under Islam. In the Russian lands to the north, the Orthodox Church even flourished, notwithstanding the Western influences she experienced. Not too long after the Balkan countries gained their independence from the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, Russia itself experienced the Bolshevik Revolution, ushering in the anti-Christian Communist rule which gradually engulfed the countries of central and eastern Europe except Greece.
Out of this broad historical background and unlike most of his contemporaries, who drew their inspiration and influence from the more current trends in Western Europe, Florovsky reached back into the past history of Russia and beyond into the tradition of Byzantium and the Greek Fathers of the undivided Church in the East. It was from this early and normative tradition of the Church that Florovsky not only drew his inspiration but also actually established his now famous theological framework known as “the neo-Patristic synthesis.” In the long historical journey of Christendom the writings of the Fathers had to a large extent become dead historical documents, and Florovsky wanted to revive them from within, to recover the mind of the Fathers and the existential questions with which they struggled in their own time to develop their own theological synthesis. Following the Fathers, in a neo-Patristic synthesis, always means moving forward, not backwards; it means fidelity to the Patristic spirit and not just the Patristic letter. Fathers and teachers of the Church are those who, in the measure of their humility before the truth, receive the gift of expressing the catholic consciousness of the Church, and we learn from them, not only their personal opinions or conceptions, but also the catholic testimony of the Church.
By calling for a return to the Fathers of the early Church, Florovsky also called for an authentic re-Hellenizing of Orthodox Christianity. This does not mean at all an ethnic Hellenism, nor the Hellenism of antiquity with its anti-Christian elements, but a Christian Hellenism, one that has been baptized, transfigured, and incorporated into the very reality of the Church as an eternal and perennial category of Christian existence. When Christianity ventured out into the pagan world, she encountered Hellenism. The Good News of the Gospel and later the dogmatic theological definitions of Christianity became expressed and fortified precisely in the categories of a Christianized Hellenism. Biblical prophecy found its actual consummation precisely in Christian Hellenism. The truth of the Old Testament was already incorporated in the New Testament, and the New Testament as a Greek Book was already the beginning of a Hellenic synthesis that has become an inseparable part of the Church. The theological definitions of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils only completed an ongoing process of synthesis that has become an inseparable and essential element of the Church. Any attempts to escape from Christian Hellenism invariably become backward relapses into the untransfigured and pre-Christian Hellenism of antiquity, which was in time actually transcended and assimilated by the Patristic synthesis of Christian Hellenism that makes up the world of Orthodox Christianity.
The powerful and pioneering call of Florovsky for a creative “neo-Patristic synthesis” in Orthodox theology was heard with keen interest by Orthodox theologians in 1936, particularly by Greek Orthodox theologians, who began to take Florovsky’s thought seriously and to bring about an astonishing renewal in Orthodox theology that is continuing to the present time. Florovsky, however, cautioned that for Orthodox theology to recover its independence from Western influences it is not enough simply to return to its Patristic sources and foundations. Returning to the Fathers does not mean abandoning the present age, escaping from history, or quitting the field of battle with contemporary problems. The Patristic experience must be rediscovered, preserved, and brought into life for the present time and conditions. Independence from the influences of the now non-Orthodox West should not be an estrangement from it. A radical break with the West would provide no real liberation. It is not enough to refute or reject Western errors or mistakes; they must be overcome and surpassed through a new and creative act of encounter. Orthodox theology has been called upon to answer non-Orthodox questions from the depths of her catholic and unbroken experience, and to confront Western Christianity, not with accusations but with the testimony and the truth of Eastern Christianity. And this precisely has been the fundamental focus and abiding legacy of the thought and work of Georges Florovsky throughout his lifetime.
See here, here, here, here, here, and here.
In 1979, Elder Paisios moved from the Precious Cross Hermitage to the Panagouda Cell of Koutloumousiou. It was June 3rd, and the Elder, because of the move, had not yet unpacked his liturgical books and did not know exactly the date or the celebrating saint. He performed the services with the prayer rope, and when he began to pray to the Saint of the day, his mind was busy trying to remember who the Saint was. Then in the chapel, two Saints appeared, one in front and another behind. The one behind was St. Panteleimon, whom the Elder recognized and would say that he resembled a lot to the icon venerated at the Skete of St. Panteleimon. The first was unknown however. Because of his bewilderment, the Saint himself responded: “Elder, I am Loukilianos”. The Elder was not paying attention well and asked: “What was that? Loukianos?” “No, Elder. I am Loukilianos.” And immediately the two Saints disappeared. The Elder was moved and found the June Menaion to confirm if St. Loukilianos was celebrating. In reality it was the day of his commemoration.
Life of Saint Loukilianos
Saint Loukilianos (Lucillian) was a pagan priest during the reign of the Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275). In his old age he became persuaded of the falseness of the pagan religion, and with all his heart he turned to the faith in Christ the Savior, and was baptized.
Under the influence of his preaching many pagans were converted to Christianity. Then certain Jews, seeing that he was spreading faith in Christ, reported Loukilianos to the Nicomedia prefect Silvanus, who urged the old man to return to idol-worship. When he refused, they smashed the saint's jawbone, beat him with rods and suspended him head downward, and then they locked him in prison. Here he met four youths who were confessors of Christianity, Claudius, Hypatius, Paul and Dionysius. St Loukilianos urged them to stand firm in the Faith, and to fear neither tortures nor death.
After a while they brought them to trial and then threw them into a red-hot furnace. Suddenly, rain fell and extinguished the flames, and the martyrs remained unharmed. The governor sentenced them to death, sending them to Byzantium to be executed. The holy youths were beheaded by the sword, and the holy martyr Loukilianos was nailed to a cross with many nails.
The holy virgin Paula witnessed the contest of the holy martyrs. She had dedicated herself to the service of those suffering for Christ. She provided food to Christian prisoners, washed their wounds, brought medications, and also buried the bodies of martyrs. After the death of St Loukilianos and the four young men, she returned to Nicomedia and continued with her holy service. The holy virgin was arrested and cast into a furnace, but by the power of God she remained unharmed. Then they sent her off to Byzantium, where the holy martyr was beheaded.
Later a church was built in their honor in Constantinople.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let all of us entreat Christ the Lord's holy Martyrs, for they make supplication for our souls' salvation; with faith and with longing, therefore, let us draw nigh unto them, for they overflow with the divine grace of healings, and they drive away the ranks of demons in terror, as guardians of the Faith.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
By your faith, you shone like a radiant star in the dark night of error; you fought the good fight and slew the crafty enemy, O Loukilianos. Together with venerable Paula and the four martyred children entreat Christ our God to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
You attained the dignity of the martyrs of Christ through the torments that you courageously endured, O Loukilianos. Together with Paula and the four martyred children, you sing to the Creator: "Like sheep we are slaughtered for love of You, O Savior."
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
June 2, 2010
Belgrade, Serbia - The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) continues to be racked by dissent, as monks in two monasteries have openly rebelled against the church leadership, the daily Blic said Wednesday.
Monks from monasteries the Crna Reka and Holy Archangels launched their rebellion in support of Bishop Artemije, the former head of the Kosovo eparchy whom the SPC replaced because he had ignored orders and was implicated in corruption scandals.
The monks said they were set to abandon their monasteries despite orders from the SPC to remain in place.
The influential Bishop Amfilohije, the provisional administrator of the Kosovo eparchy, which also covers a part of south-western Serbia, met the monks in Crna Reka at an unspecified date but had failed to reach a settlement.
"They ... were told that the Church cannot allow pseudo-zealotry, sectarianism that undermines the unity of the Church," the Kosovo eparchy said in a statement.
The Kosovo eparchy has been in focus not only because of the secession of Kosovo in 2008, but also because of alleged financial abuse. The allegations have so far led to the criminal indictment and arrest of Artemije's right-hand man, Simeon Vilovski.
Monks at the Crna Reka monastery caused outrage last year when they disclosed they were "curing" drug addicts by torturing them.
For context, see here and here.
The following is a letter which was written by Fr. Seraphim Rose to Fr. Alexey Young — now Hieromonk Ambrose. It was on the problem of certain people not accepting converts who were received into the Orthodox Church through either Chrismation or Confession, but insisted that all must be Re-baptized.
In this letter Fr. Seraphim emphasizes the fact that converts can be received into the Church through either Confession or Chrismation, and denounces the view that such a reception makes a convert an "irregular" or "incomplete" Orthodox Christian. He further points out that it is a matter which should be left to the priest and bishop to decide how one is to be received, and not the business of anyone else.
This letter especially addresses a common problem within Orthodoxy today that is often found among the more fanatical Orthodox, especially in monastic communities here in America and abroad: the rebaptism of converts who have already been received through Confession or Chrismation. This is a great evil being done in the Church today, often done in secret without the permission of a bishop, and influenced by the baseless presumptions of schismatics who care little for the unity and welfare of the Church.
Jan. 28/Feb.10, 1976
We forgot to ask you how LM is getting along in your community. Is she getting a longing for big-city life? She told me that she and JK are not getting along, and she thinks it must be jealousy. But could it be that J just can’t stand L’s type —outspoken, always right, still reflecting something of the hothouse atmosphere of the “Boston” approach?
I’ve written and talked to L about this hothouse approach to Orthodoxy — filled with gossip, knowing “what’s going on,” having the “right answer” to everything according to what the “experts” say. I begin to think that this is her basic problem, and not Fr. Panteleimon directly.
An example: she is horrified that T was received into the Church [from Roman Catholicism] without baptism or chrismation. “That’s wrong,” she says. But we see nothing particularly wrong with it; that is for the priest and the bishop to decide, and it is not our (or even more, her) business. The rite by which he was received has long been approved by the Church out of economy, and probably in this case it was the best way, because T might have hesitated much more at being baptized. The Church’s condescension here was wise. But L would like someone “to read Vladika Anthony the decree of the Sobor” [on this subject]. My dear, he was there, composing the decree, which explicitly gives the bishop permission to use economy when he wishes! We don’t like this attitude at all, because it introduces totally unnecessary disturbance into the church atmosphere. And if she is going to tell T now that he is not “really” a member of the Orthodox Church, she can do untold harm to a soul.
Another example: L was very pleased that Q was baptized [after having been a member of the Russian Church Abroad already for several years]: Finally he did it “right”! But we are not pleased at all, seeing in this a sign of great spiritual immaturity on his part and a narrow fanaticism on the part of those who approve. Saint Basil the Great refused to baptize a man who doubted the validity of his baptism, precisely because he had already received communion for many years and it was too late to doubt then that he was a member of Christ’s Church! In the case of our converts, it’s obvious that those who insist or are talked into receiving baptism after already being a member of the Church are trying, out of a feeling of insecurity, to receive something which the Sacrament does not give: psychological security, a making up for their past failures while already Orthodox, a belonging to the “club” of those who are “right,” an automatic spiritual “correctness.” But this act casts doubt on the Church and her ministers. If the priest or bishop who receives such people were wrong (and so wrong that the whole act of reception must be done over again!), a sort of Church within the Church is created, a clique which, by contrast to “most bishops and priests,” is always “right.” And of course, that is our big problem today — and even more in the days ahead. It is very difficult to fight this, because they offer “clear and simple” answers to every question, and our insecure converts find this the answer to their needs.
At times we would like to think that the whole “Fr. Panteleimon problem” in our Church is just a matter of differing emphasis which, in the end, will not be so terribly important. But the more we observe, the more we come to think that it is much more serious than that, that in fact that an “orthodox sectarianism” is being formed at that expense of our simple people. Therefore, those who are aware of all this must be “zealots according to knowledge.” The Church has survived worse temptations in the past, but we fear for our converts lest in their simplicity they be led into a sect and out of the Church.
God is with us! We must go forward in faith.
1. This letter is from “Letters from Father Seraphim”
2. The references in this letter to "Boston" refer to the schismatic Old Calendar Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA. The references to "Fr. Panteleimon" refer to the same monasteries' founder and spiritual father.
The Athos Monastic Community was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century and was under Turkish rule until the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, at which time it was liberated by the Greek army. The following article by Prof. Patrinellis places Mount Athos in its historical and political context.
The new reality that emerged from the Balkan Wars made it necessary to redraw the political map of Macedonia. The international position of Mount Athos, however, was seen as a problem sui generis, and the territory constituted an apple of discord, particularly between Greece and Russia—which, it must be remembered, had never abandoned its aspirations to the role of protector of the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. During the negotiations preliminary to the signing of the Treaty of London in 1913, as well as at the Ambassadors’ Conference held there that same year, Russia produced a whole string of alternate proposals for the future status of Mount Athos: internationalisation, neutrality, joint sovereignty or joint protectorate under Russia and the other Orthodox Balkan states. While the reaction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek government, which needed Russian support in other areas, was half-hearted, the Athonite Community (with the exception of the Russians) declared by official resolution that it would employ every means to resist the adulteration of the traditional autonomy of the Holy Mountain and ‘Greek sovereignty over it’. While the issue was left unresolved at that time, there was a tacit acceptance of the existing de facto Greek sovereignty over the Athonite peninsula.When the issue was raised again after the end of the First World War, conditions had become more favourable for the Greek side: on the one hand there were far fewer Russian monks on the Mountain, and on the other the new Bolshevik regime in Russia displayed little interest in the matter. With the Treaties of Neuilly (1919), Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923), Greek sovereignty over Mount Athos was officially recognised.
All that remained was to settle the legal dispositions of Greece’s relations with the Holy Mountain and to draw up an internal rule for the governance of the monastic community. In 1924 a five-member committee of eminent Athonites prepared a ‘Charter for the Holy Mountain of Athos’, which codified regulations and administrative dispositions stemming not only from written sources (Typika, chrysoboulla, sigillia, regulations, etc.) but also from tradition and customary usage. This Charter was approved that same year by the Athonite Assembly known as the ‘double Synaxis’. On the basis of this official text the Greek state drafted a Legislative Decree, which the Greek Parliament passed into law in 1926. At the same time, the 1927 Greek Constitution contained special articles (included in each subsequent constitution) on the general principles governing the status of Mount Athos.
These were the official documents defining the Athonite Peninsula’s relations with Greece and with the Church, as well as the competence of its administrative institutions, the Holy Synaxis and the Holy Epistasia. They also regulated relations between monks, between monk and monastery, between monastery and dependency, etc., in order to prevent friction and disputes.
The Greek State is represented by the Governor of Mount Athos, who answers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and who, together with the deputy governor, resides in Karyes. He ensures that the Charter is respected, attends the sessions of the Holy Community in an advisory capacity, and presides over local public services (police, customs, etc.).
Finally, with regard to the administration of justice, it should be noted that disciplinary matters and minor disputes between monks or monasteries are adjudicated initially by the individual monastic authorities, in the second instance by the Holy Community and in the third by the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Misdemeanours and minor infractions are settled by the local police authorities, while criminal offences and land disputes between monasteries are in the jurisdiction of the competent courts in Thessaloniki.
Ch. G. Patrinellis
Professor of Modern History
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
It is with the deepest sorrow and spiritual anguish that we have been informed by His Beatitude the Archbishop during the convening of the Holy Synod on the 4th of May 2010, of the visit of the Pope upon the Orthodox soil of our saint-bearing island of Cyprus, which will be taking place pursuant to an official invitation that the President of the Republic of Cyprus extended to him as the Head of the State of Vatican. We have duly expressed our opposition - Synodically - to this visit, and have declared that we shall not participate in any event related to it, because our conscience does not permit it, inasmuch as the Pope is not just any political leader, but the leader of the heresy of Papism. The reason for this is that the Papists, with their adulteration of the proper Ecclesiology, have turned the Church of the living God from the Body of Christ to "a terrestrial political organization", a worldly organism and a state which has secular powers, the way that the Vatican is....
Exploiting the opportunity of this visit, the Pope had asked that his second status also be projected, as the religious leader of the Roman Catholics. That is why he requested and secretly secured through his diplomatic services (as was proven eventually) the approval that he was given - which unfortunately we were informed of only recently, without previously being asked if we consented.
We simply became the audience of that decision, with which we of course disagreed, but alas in vain, since everything had already been finalized and predetermined in advance, unbeknownst to us. The only item that my humble person had agreed to was an encyclical to be dispatched to the Christian flock, in order to prevent any scandalizing and turmoil in the conscience of the faithful, with serious repercussions and unforeseen reactions. It is a pity, watching the supporters of Ecumenism extending compliments and diplomatic politeness to heretics, to the point of praying together with them, despite the explicit prohibition by the sacred Canons, while simultaneously confronting the reactions of the faithful members of the Church (who are agonizing over the outcome of the theological dialogues and are scandalized seeing Orthodox clergy keeping company and praying together with various heretics) with sarcastic smiles and abundant disdain, as though they (the faithful members) are the enemies of the Church.
That is why we consented to the decision to send out a relative encyclical to the Christian flock, in which it would be mentioned that the Pope's visit was in response to an invitation by the President of the Republic, and that during his visit, there would be no theological dialogue taking place, while simultaneously pointing out the delusions of the Roman Catholics and the preservation of Unia. Unfortunately however, we came to realize afterwards, when reading the edited text - which, may it be noted, was sent to us six days after the Synod had convened - that its contents did not correspond to the positions that we had expressed synodically in order to consent to the issuance of the encyclical.
The Roman Catholics once again proved to be excellent diplomats. As made evident in the daily Press, they had arranged the Pope's schedule in such a manner that - by means of worship congregations, especially the one that will take place in the closed stadium of Nicosia where Roman Catholic clergy from the Middle East will be present - confusion will ensue among the pious Orthodox of Cyprus, who are not in a position to discern the Uniates. Seeing them participate in the ritual, dressed in Orthodox vestments, it is certain that they will be misled and scandalized, by perceiving them to be Orthodox clergy. It is also not precluded that many foreign Press agencies - also fooled by the external appearance of the Uniates - will erroneously transmit the news that it is common prayer with "all of the Eastern Orthodox Churches". The attempts of the Vatican to exploit the opportunity and present the Pope as the leader of Christianity and the entire world is very obvious.
With displays such as this, it is our humble opinion that the heretical Papists are not assisted in becoming aware of their delusion, but instead are encouraged to preserve their intolerance and remained fixed in their cacodoxies, thus provoking the religious sentiment of the Orthodox. The persistence therefore in the precision of the Orthodox dogma should not be misconstrued as fanaticism or religious intolerance. If only the heretical Papists would see their errors, spit out their delusions, return to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and accept the undivided, Apostle-delivered Truth, the way it was formulated in the eight first centuries and safeguarded to this day by the Orthodox Church.
The argument that this visit will supposedly assist in the solving of the Cyprus issue can only cause us pain and immense concern. Let the governors be careful to not intervene in the matters of the Orthodox faith and exert detrimental pressures, supposedly for the sake of national interests, because the only thing they will achieve is the loss of Divine Grace, which will result in precisely the opposite of what they are pursuing. "Be not persuaded by potentates, by sons of men, for in them there is no salvation" (Psalm 146:3), the Scripture characteristically mentions. Every time the Orthodox beseeched the Papists - and in fact mixing the matters of the Faith with politics - in order to supposedly obtain Papal help and protection, the exact opposite results were achieved. Those who harbor the illusion and cultivate the idea to the faithful people that by making partners of the heretics they will solve contemporary social or national issues and that the much-coveted union between the Orthodox and the members of other confessions will be achieved with secular criteria, should be aware that the Pope regards the said union with the Orthodox Church as an establishing of the Papal institution in the East and the submission of all the Orthodox, who will thereafter be under his pastoral jurisdiction as Uniates. History teaches us that the Pope has never hastened to aid and support the Orthodox. We share in the agony for the future of our suffering island, but we also humbly believe that Cyprus' vindication will not be achieved by encouraging contemporary syncretism, but rather with the help of almighty God, as has repeatedly been proven within History.
The immediate objective of the Pope is that he be accepted as the universal religious leader of all Christians, and the ultimate one is to be acknowledged as the leader of all religions. The invocation of the Lord's words "that they may all be one..." (John 17:21) for the purpose of laying the foundations for ecumenistic openings has no theological basis, unless it is supported by "the unity in the Faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit", otherwise it will be overlooking the prerequisites placed by Christ Himself: "...just as we are one" (John 17:22).
The Orthodox Church has never ceased to beseech the All-merciful God "for the union of all". It is the sedate, cleansed nous and the incessant Prayer that attract the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit and assist in the partaking of the uncreated Grace of God; not the communication skills and public relations. May the Lord shed His light upon us all, so that we might 'correctly preach the word of His truth'....
Source: Newspaper "Orthodox Press" - issue dated 5/28/2010
ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — Can you help you? Recent research by University of Illinois Professor Dolores Albarracin and Visiting Assistant Professor Ibrahim Senay, along with Kenji Noguchi, Assistant Professor at Southern Mississippi University, has shown that those who ask themselves whether they will perform a task generally do better than those who tell themselves that they will.
Little research exists in the area of self-talk, although we are aware of an inner voice in ourselves and in literature. From children's books like "The Little Engine That Could," in which the title character says, "I think I can," to Holden Caulfield's misanthropic musings in "A Catcher in the Rye," internal dialogue often influences the way people motivate and shape their own behavior.
But was "The Little Engine" using the best motivational tool, or does "Bob the Builder" have the right idea when he asks, "Can we fix it?"
Albarracin's team tested this kind of motivation in 50 study participants, encouraging them explicitly to either spend a minute wondering whether they would complete a task or telling themselves they would. The participants showed more success on an anagram task, rearranging set words to create different words, when they asked themselves whether they would complete it than when they told themselves they would.
Further experimentation had students in a seemingly unrelated task simply write two ostensibly unrelated sentences, either "I Will" or "Will I," and then work on the same task. Participants did better when they wrote, "Will" followed by "I" even though they had no idea that the word writing related to the anagram task.
Why does this happen? Professor Albarracin's team suspected that it was related to an unconscious formation of the question "Will I" and its effects on motivation. By asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation.
In a follow-up experiment, participants were once again parsed into the "I will" and "Will I" categories, but this time were then asked how much they intended to exercise in the following week. They were also made to fill out a psychological scale meant to measure intrinsic motivation. The results of this experiment showed that participants not only did better as a result of the question, but that asking themselves a question did indeed increase their intrinsic motivation.
These findings are likely to have implications in cognitive, social, clinical, health and developmental psychology, as well as in clinical, educational and work settings.
"We are turning our attention to the scientific study of how language affects self-regulation," Professor Albarracin said. "Experimental methods are allowing us to investigate people's inner speech, of both the explicit and implicit variety, and how what they say to themselves shapes the course of their behaviors."
Research like this challenges traditional paradigms regarding public service messages and self-help literature designed to motivate people toward healthier or more productive behavior.
"The popular idea is that self-affirmations enhance people's ability to meet their goals," Professor Albarracin said. "It seems, however, that when it comes to performing a specific behavior, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives."
The trio published its research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, in the April 2010 edition of the journal Psychological Science.
"This work represents a basic cognitive approach to how language provides a window between thoughts and action," said Dr. James W. Pennebaker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas. "The reason it is so interesting is that it shows that by using language analysis, we can see that social cognitive ideas are relevant to objective real world behaviors and that the ways people talk about their behavior can predict future action."