1. One cold winter's night, the saint heard that a local priest's wife was ready to give birth but that her husband had no money to make the house ready or even to buy coal to warm the room for her labor. St. Panagis went out to gather alms for the family and took them to the young priest. When the priest went to buy the coal, the shop-keeper was astonished the coins that the priest put as his own. When the priest told him how he had come by the money, the coal-man shook his head and said: "Our Father Panagis! He has second sight. I had the money so well-hidden, I don't know how he could have known where to find it."
2. Andreas Megaloyennis, a Kefallonian whose daughter later became the abbess of the Lixouri women's monastery, was very nervous and irritable in his youth. One day he quarreled with his mother, and in his rage, struck her. Angered and in pain, his mother shouted at him: "I curse you!" Andrew gathered his clothes and jumping on his horse, rode to Lixouri. On the way he saw St. Panagis and dismounted to ask his blessing. The saint began to bless him, but then pulled back, saying: "This is a cursed hand - go back to your mother, beg her forgiveness and then you can come back." The young man shamefacedly went back to ask his mother's forgiveness, but she replied angrily: "It's fine for Fr. Panagis to tell you to return, but I won't forgive you." After three days, however, she relented, and when Andreas went back to Lixouri, St. Panagis, without being told what had transpired, said: "Praise God and don't ever touch your mother in anger again."
3. During Fr. Panagis' life there was a woman in Lixouri who had four daughters. Her husband was a hard man who treated her badly, always berating her for not having given him a son. One day, she decided that as a consolation she would take her daughters to get a blessing from Father Panagis. She dressed them in their best clothes and put a beautiful ribbon in the hair of the youngest. When they arrived at the house they found a crowd of villagers waiting to see the priest. Their turn finally came, and the mother said: "Father Panagis, I've brought my daughters for a blessing". As he blessed the first girl, he said, "Welcome, Dionysina", to the second, "Welcome Georgina", and to the third, "Welcome, Spyrina", thus prophesying the names of their future husbands. But he didn't want to bless the youngest one, and the mother became frightened. She asked, trembling: "Father, is my daughter going to die? Why won't you bless her?" Then the saint stood up and said to the child: "Bless me, Ama" [an old formal term for "Mother"]. The child's mother was troubled by these strange words, but Fr. Panagis took the ribbon from the girl's hair and said: "You don't need this, Igoumeni [Abbess] of Lepethon". And truly, the three older daughters were married to husbands with the very names the saint had foretold, while the youngest daughter became a nun, and later an abbess at the Monastery of Lepethon with the name Evgenia.
For more on the life and miracles of Saint Panagis, see here and here.
Ἀπολυτίκιον Ἦχος α’. Τῆς ἐρήμου πολίτης.
Ληξουρίου τὸν γόνον, Ἱερέων τὸ καύχημα, τῆς Κεφαλληνίας φωστῆρα νεοφανῶς ἀνατείλαντα, ὑψήσωμεν ἐν ὕμνοις Παναγήν, τὸν μύστην τῆς Τριάδος τῆς σεπτῆς, ἐμφανῶς κεκοσμημένον προφητικῶ τοῦ Πνεύματος χαρίσματι, διὸ τὸν δοξάσαντα αὐτὸν λαμπρῶς ἀντιδοξάσωμεν, ἶνα εὔρωμεν χάριν καὶ πταισμάτων τὴν συγχώρησιν.
Monday, June 7, 2010
1. One cold winter's night, the saint heard that a local priest's wife was ready to give birth but that her husband had no money to make the house ready or even to buy coal to warm the room for her labor. St. Panagis went out to gather alms for the family and took them to the young priest. When the priest went to buy the coal, the shop-keeper was astonished the coins that the priest put as his own. When the priest told him how he had come by the money, the coal-man shook his head and said: "Our Father Panagis! He has second sight. I had the money so well-hidden, I don't know how he could have known where to find it."
From Season 1, Episode 31 with a running time of 24:49.
The outlaws rarely have attacks of conscience, but when they discover solid gold plates belonging to Queen Eleanor have been stolen, something has to be done. The Byzantine treasure is too 'hot' for them to hold. - Hulu.com
For more on Robin Hood, see my post Fr. John Romanides on Robin Hood and Orthodoxy.
04 June 2010
Plans for building a very large and controversial cathedral in Bucharest are still alive, with the Orthodox Church intending to borrow around €200 million in a syndicated loan to start construction by the end of this year, local press reports.
Church project manager Nicolae Noica said the church put up its forests, churches and other property to guarantee the loan for the new building, which will be called the Cathedral for the Salvation of the People. He stressed that the money would be reimbursed from the collection plate and donations and not from the state budget.
Financial analyst Bogdan Baltazar says the church will not have problems in attracting the loan. "The Orthodox Church is a very credible and stable institution in Romania. Furthermore, it has a lot of assests which can be used for guaranteeing the loan."
More than 85 percent of Romania's population of 21 million belong to the Orthodox Church. The new facility will take its place among other archictectural giants in the capital city. Bucharest is already home to the second-largest building [the former Ceausescu palace] after the Pentagon, the largest hotel and the largest shopping mall in southeastern Europe.
This appears to be a controversial move by the more naive, but it should be perfectly reasonable when one considers the fact that in order for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to ensure its future survival in Constantinople, it is necessary that options widen for the future choosing of Patriarchs who by Turkish law are required to be Turkish citizens. These bishops who are choosing to become Turkish citizens are simply doing it out of love and loyalty towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Tampa Native Metropolitan Nikitas To Become A Turkish Citizen
June 4, 2010
The National Herald
BOSTON — Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellia, the Director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkley, Calif. traveled to Istanbul to receive his Turkish citizenship. Metropolitan Nikitas (Lulias) is the first – and for the moment only – Orthodox bishop in the United States to have put in an application for Turkish citizenship. Speaking to The National Herald for Istanbul, Metropolitan Nikitas justified his decision to go ahead with process as follows. “If it’s about strengthening the Patriarchate, I’ll do anything.” He qualified his statement by adding “I left behind my home and my parents and went to serve our Patriarchate and Orthodoxy in Asia for ten years.” Metropolitan Nikitas was the inaugural Metropolitan of Hong Kong, before leaving his post in early 2007.
“I have not yet received my citizenship, but Turkish authorities requested that I come and fill out some paperwork,” he explained. He also noted that “they’re treating us wonderfully, and they visited the Patriarchate.”
When asked if any other Orthodox bishops in America will be receiving Turkish citizenship, he replied “I don’t know if any of the hierarchs from the Archdiocese have filed an application.” He also noted that “since I do not belong to the Archdiocese of America, but directly to the Patriarchate, I did not ask, because I don’t want to cause any problems or misunderstandings.” Metropolitan Nikitas continued by saying “and since the Patriarchate mailed me the paperwork, I thought it correct to respond. Since I’m with the Patriarchate, shouldn’t I help it? Shouldn’t I support it?”
When asked what he would do if the Turkish ambassador in Washington, DC requested him to come down on March 25th and demonstrate against Greece, he replied that “I’ll tell him that I have other duties to attend to, and that I teach at the university and cannot make it.”
In response to the question of whether taking on Turkish citizenship creates any problems with his conscience, Metropolitan Nikitas answered that “on the one hand, yes; but then again, doesn’t the Patriarch have the same citizenship?”
Of course, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was born in Turkey, while Metropolitan Nikitas was born in Tampa, Fl. However, as the Metropolitan points out, “I’ll do anything for the Patriarchate. I was born in the United States, but I received my Greek citizenship, and I also hold permanent residency in China.”
Metropolitan Nikitas told TNH that he is not looking to succeed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. “I didn’t want to become a Metropolitan or a Bishop. I would have been happy just staying in my parish and serving the people of God. At this time, I hold not administrative position. I just want to be an hierarch of our Patriarchate, nothing more.”
When asked his opinion if the Metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America would be allowed to become Turkish citizens as well, if they so desired, his response was “go ask them.”
Metropolitan Nikitas’ decision comes after a request made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, following the current Turkish government’s assent to his request to grant Turkish citizenship to canonical bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate living outside of Turkey. This includes bishops living in patriarchal jurisdictions in Greece like Crete and the Dodecanese, as well as bishops from Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Asia.
TNH has learned that none of the hierarchs from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – including Archbishop Demetrios – have applied for Turkish citizenship, for now at least. The reason for this delay is largely due to the fact that they fear that the matter will be publicized and that the Greek American Community will react harshly to this move.
TNH first reported on this issue back in November 2009, during Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to the United States. Essentially, any bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who desire Turkish citizenship may apply for it to ensure their full participation in the administrative affairs of the Patriarchate – including the right to be candidates for the position of Ecumenical Patriarch and to vote in this election. This development was announced by Patriarch Bartholomew himself, during a dinner with Archbishop Demetrios and the other bishops of the Archdiocese on Sunday Nov. 1, 2009 at the Carlyle Hotel in New York.
During his visit to the U.S., Patriarch Bartholomew brought along the paperwork for the Archdiocese’s bishops to fill out, which he gave to Archbishop Demetrios to pass along to the other Metropolitans.
In addition to Metropolitan Nikitas, TNH has learned that the following hieararchs were called by Turkish authorities to sign paperwork for the processing of their applications.
From the Church of Crete: Metropolitan Eugenios of Ieraptyna, Metropolitan Nektarios of Petra, Metropolitan Andreas of Arkalochorion, and Metropolitan Amphilochios of Kissamos.
From the Dodecanese: Metropolitan Ambrosios of Karpathos and Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Symi.
From Western Europe: Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy, and Metropolitan Michael of Austria (who is also an Austrian citizen).
From South America: Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires, a U.S. citizen.
From Asia: Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia, formerly of Korea.
From Oceania: Metropolitan Amphilochios of New Zealand.
TNH’s sources say that approximately forty bishops have sent in their applications. The previous fifteen were the first to be called.
It was with much sadness that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received news of the murder of Catholic Bishop Luigi Padovese on June 1, 2010. Responding to the questions of reporters on the island of Imvros, where the Patriarch was when he received the news, on whether or not he feared for his own life, the Patriarch said he was not afraid and believed in God's providence, Who protects us, together with the saints who pray for us.
A question which persists till this day is whether or not Pope Marcellinus, after offering incense to pagan idols during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, indeed repented and was later martyred, or died naturally.
Two sources, Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia, examine the issue and explain why the history of this Pope is indeed curious. The earliest sources seem to hide his sin, while later sources seek to exonerate him. St. Nikolai Velimirovich, in his Prologue for June 7, relates the following version of the life of Pope Marcellinus, which is the exonerated version of the tale:
THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR MARCELLINUS, POPE OF ROME
Marcellinus was the predecessor of Pope Marcellus on the Roman throne. When Emperor Diocletian summoned him and threatened him with torture, Marcellinus offered sacrifice to the idols for which the emperor presented him with a precious garment. But Marcellinus bitterly repented and began to lament day and night because of his denial of Christ as Peter the Apostle once did. At that time, an assembly of bishops was held in Campania. The pope dressed in sackcloth poured ashes over his head and entered the assembly and, before all, confessed his sin begging them (the bishops) to judge him. The fathers said that he should judge himself. Then Marcellinus said: "I deprive myself of my priestly rank, for which I am not worthy, and even more, do not allow my body to be buried after death but let it be thrown to the dogs!" Having said this, he pronounced a curse on the one who would dare bury him. After that, Marcellinus went to the Emperor Diocletian, threw down the precious garment before him and confessed his faith in Jesus Christ and scorned the idols. The enraged emperor ordered Marcellinus to be tortured and afterwards they killed him outside the city together with three good men: Claudius, Cyrinus and Antoninus. The bodies of these three men were buried immediately but the body of the pope lay there for thirty-six days. Then, St. Peter appeared to the new pope Marcellus and ordered that the body of Marcellinus be buried saying: "He who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
It is a horrible thing to kill a man. There are no words to describe the horror which lays hold on the murderer. While a man is preparing to kill another man, he thinks that to kill a man is the same as killing an ox. When he carries out his preconceived crime then, all at once, he realizes that he has declared war on heaven and earth and that he has become an exile and cut off from both heaven and earth. The victim does not give him peace neither day nor night.
A known criminal came to Zosimus on Sinai and begged him to tonsure him a monk. Zosimus clothed him in the monastic habit and sent him to the monastery of Venerable Dorotheus near Gaza to lead a life of asceticism in the Cenobia. After nine years the tonsured criminal returned to St. Zosimus, returned his monastic habit and sought his secular clothes. To the question why are you doing this, the criminal replied that for nine years he has fervently prayed to God, fasted, kept vigil and fulfilled all acts of obedience and that he feels that many of his sins were forgiven but that one of his sins torments him continually. At one time, he killed an innocent child and that child appears to him day and night and asks him: "Why did you kill me?" Because of that he decided to leave and to turn himself in to the authorities that they may execute him and thus to repay blood for blood. Dressing in his former clothes, he went to the town of Diospolis where he acknowledged his crime and was beheaded. Thus, by his blood, he washed away his bloody sin.
Among the saints exists a very sharp [acute] conscience. That which average people consider a minor sin, the saints consider to be a great transgression. It is said of the Abba Daniel that on three occasions robbers captured him and took him into the forest. Fortunately, on two occasions he saved himself from slavery but the third time when he wanted to escape, he struck one of them with a stone, killed him and fled. This murder preyed on his conscience as heavy as lead. Perplexed as to what he should do, he went to the Alexandrian Patriarch Timothy, confessed to him and sought advice. The patriarch consoled him and absolved him from any epitimia [penance]. But his conscience still worried him and he went to the pope in Rome. The pope told him the same thing as did Patriarch Timothy. Still dissatisfied, Daniel visited in succession the other patriarchs in Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem confessing to all of them and seeking advice. But, he remained unsatisfied. Then he returned to Alexandria and declared himself to the authorities as a murderer. The authorities arrested him. When the trial was held before the prince, Daniel related everything that had happened and begged to be killed in order to save his soul from eternal fire. The prince was amazed at all of this and said to him: "Go, Father, and pray to God for me even though you kill seven more!" Dissatisfied with this, Daniel then decided to take a leperous man into his cell and to serve him until his death and when this one dies to take another. Thus he did and so, in this manner, quieted his conscience.
Psychic healer Anatoly Kashpirovsky once held the entire USSR under his televised spell. But after 15 years in self-imposed exile, following claims that his shows had caused a wave of suicides, he is back – and as controversial as ever.
6 June 2010
"Let's get one thing straight. Your level of understanding is this big," Anatoly Kashpirovsky announces, after striding on stage at north Moscow's Cosmos concert hall, indicating the space between his thumb and forefinger. "But mine is 1,000 times greater."
The 2,000-strong crowd looks suitably impressed. But then, having just shelled out the rouble equivalent of up to £60 a ticket and another £20 for one of Kashpirovsky's "remote healing" DVDs, they are clearly expecting to witness something out of the ordinary.
They will not go home disappointed. (Although, it must be said, some will go not home at all, but rather to hospital, suffering from nausea and intense headaches.)
His terse introduction over, Kashpirovsky, who at 70 boasts the appearance and energy of a man two decades younger, launches into an almost hour-long monologue, taking in subjects as diverse as self-programming, Genghis Khan and unsightly vaginal moles.
As fascinating as all of this may be, I can't help feeling that most of the audience would rather he just cut to the chase and laid on the healing touch that once made him the most talked-about man in the Soviet Union.
As the Soviet system began to collapse under its own weight in the late 1980s, a widespread underground belief in magic and the paranormal flooded into the mainstream, turning society on its head. The pinnacle of this scramble for new ideas to replace the certainties that Marxism-Leninism had once provided saw the incredible spectacle of extrasensory experiments carried out on state TV, prime-time viewing spots devoted to psychic healing sessions.
Where once there were screenings of Communist Party congresses and rhythmic gymnastics, now there were men with hypnotic eyes and soothing voices promising to cure the entire country of its ailments. The nation was entranced.
Kashpirovsky, who first came to public attention during a televised broadcast of a Kiev healing session in October 1989, was the most famous of these Kremlin-approved psychics. At the height of his celebrity, the former weightlifter and qualified psychiatrist regularly topped polls to find the most popular public figure, easily beating the still sober Boris Yeltsin into second place. His live appearances at venues from Moscow to Vladivostok saw crowds sobbing and writhing to his command, a mass casting-out of demons, Soviet-style.
"They idolise me,'' Kashpirovsky said of his countrymen at a 1989 joint news conference with a foreign ministry spokesperson. "I can reverse what was once thought irreversible. I tap the inner resources of the body."
Such high-level patronage led to immediate and widespread comparisons with the mad monk Grigory Rasputin, the mystic healer whose malign influence over the royal family played a large part in the collapse of the Russian monarchy and the rise of the Bolsheviks.
This, then, was no Uri Geller-type spoon-bending novelty. If the Israeli psychic's shows were something of a joke for most people in the west – a few moments of entertainment before the big match – Kashpirovsky's appearances were a genuine cultural and social landmark, his name a byword for all that was bizarre and unfathomable during the final years of the Soviet Union. Indeed, by pointing to another reality beyond the party line, the Ukrainian-born healer may well have even contributed to the downfall of the "Evil Empire".
Clad entirely in black, his piercing eyes staring into apartments across the vast territory of the USSR, Kashpirovsky "treated" millions, his voice both reassuring and oddly threatening.
"For those of you with high blood pressure, your blood pressure will lower… whoever has hip injuries, they will heal…" he droned, his litany of the suffering and the saved a potent lullaby that plunged the nation into a communal trance.
Who cared if the country was collapsing around them, if the shops were almost empty, and the threat of separatist violence in the Caucasus was moving ever closer? The USSR turned on, tuned in and switched off.
"The streets would empty whenever Kashpirovsky came on," journalist Katya Murzina tells me. "I was just a kid, but I remember we all talked about his shows at school. Everyone was convinced he really could heal the nation.
"We had never seen anything like this on TV before," she goes on. "You have to remember, there were basically no adverts on Soviet TV. Everything was taken at face value. So if state TV presented him as possessing these incredible powers, most people believed it."
Kashpirovsky's great rival was Alan Chumak, a white-haired figure for whom the word eccentric could have been invented. During his show, after a brief matter-of-fact introduction, Chumak would silently and slowly, like some Soviet Zen master, move his hands for half-an-hour or so, "charging" with healing energy the jars and saucepans full of water that his millions of viewers had placed around their flats.
"On Fridays Chumak will help viewers to overcome their allergies," a helpful announcement for one of his shows stated. "People with stomach problems should tune in later."
The post-Soviet period saw Kashpirovsky's star fade quickly, as claims that his mass hypnosis sessions had driven hundreds if not thousands of people out of their minds grew stronger. In 1995, after a brief flirtation with politics during which he was elected to the state Duma, Kashpirovsky left Russia for the US, where he reportedly found work treating immigrants from the former USSR.
In his absence the Russians' centuries-long passion for the occult and the paranormal mushroomed, with all manner of psychics and sorcerers popping up to offer so-called "magical services".
Behind the facade of today's Russia is a bizarre place unknown to most westerners, a world where businesspeople turn to urban witches for solutions to their problems and lawyers consult psychics to predict the results of upcoming cases. Although it's hard to get exact figures, there are an estimated 100,000 professional occultists and psychics in Russia, with the business worth at least $15m in Moscow alone.
But Kashpirovsky's hold over Soviet society remains, for many people here, something they would rather forget. His manhandling of their psyches has left some uncomfortable memories. Indeed, a recent opinion poll showed that while almost 90% of the Soviet Union watched Kashpirovsky's healing sessions, only 13% of Russians old enough to have done so will admit to having tuned in.
Nevertheless, despite warnings by health officials over Kashpirovsky's "record of causing serious harm to the nation", the man-in-black returned to Russia's TV screens in late 2009 as the host of a show dedicated to "paranormal investigations".
And then, this spring, he announced the restart of his mass healing sessions, including his first public appearance in the Russian capital for some two decades. With Russia struggling to emerge from a period of economic downturn and public discontent with the ruling Putin-Medvedev tandem at unprecedented levels, there was something undeniably symbolic about the return of the man whose rise to fame coincided with the collapse of the USSR.
Or was there more than mere coincidence to the timing of Kashpirovsky's second coming? There are those, among them Kashpirovsky's one-time professional colleagues in the field of human psychology, who believe that the psychic healer's comeback is an attempt by the authorities to placate Russian society, to divert attention from falling living standards and rising state brutality. But, if so, this plan may well turn out to be a double-edged sword.
"Kashpirovsky's reappearance at a critical moment for society is no coincidence," Boris Yegorov, head of the ethics committee of the all-Russian league of professional psychotherapists, tells me. "But his mass healing sessions are being permitted by people who know nothing about the psychology of the masses. They are counting on being able to calm people down, to remove some of the tension in society. But the authorities have lost touch with reality and are simply encouraging aggression," he adds. "When the public's hopes for Kashpirovsky are not justified, they will turn on those in power."
Kashpirovsky is reluctant to give face-to-face interviews, preferring to communicate via emails. Ahead of his return to Moscow, with the psychic in the middle of an Israeli tour catering to the vast number of immigrants from the former USSR, I fire off a letter giving him a chance to answer his critics.
"These are the ravings of crazy people," he replies, his fury losing none of its edge over the internet. "There will always be unrighteous critics. Their weapons are lies and slander. Their overwhelming motive is envy and their own inadequacy."
He never was one for pulling either his figurative or literal punches. I once saw a Russian talk show where he had attacked a fellow guest who was giving him a hard time, scrapping on the floor like an ageing street fighter. For the man who had kicked open the doors to a new, stranger reality for the Soviets, somehow it just didn't seem becoming.
While modern Russia has changed beyond recognition since Kashpirovsky's glory days, the country's passion for the esoteric is stronger than ever. But was the man who started off the whole craze impressed with his successors?
"This was all given a kick-start by my televised operations and programmes. After this, the public split into two parts – one half wanted to treat and the other half to be treated."
I liked that image: 50% of the nation seeking someone to psychically heal, the other 50% desperate to submit their cancers, growths and warts to extrasensory probing.
"This is coming to its inevitable end though," he continues. "This is down to the new saviours' inability to come up with the goods."
Was this a touch of jealousy? Or envy? Did he miss the days of glory, the years of Soviet-wide fame when his shows could empty streets?
Bizarrely, Kashpirovsky is not the only Russian psychic to have been the subject of political conspiracy theories. In 2005, prospective presidential candidate Grigori Grabovoi ("My first act will be to ban death") achieved immediate nationwide notoriety when he offered to use his otherworldly powers to resurrect, at a cost of $1,500 a corpse, the children killed in the Beslan terrorist act. An article in the Mikhail Gorbachev-funded opposition Novaya Gazeta paper claimed Grabovoi had been used by the Kremlin to discredit the Mothers of Beslan pressure group and their attempts to uncover the truth behind the attack. If so, the authorities were guilty of abandoning their man – Grabovoi was jailed for 11 years on fraud charges in 2008.
"I doubt if he was as much a danger to Russia as the people who so cruelly punished him," Kashpirovsky says. "I don't believe the allegations against him."
Kashpirovsky declines to comment further. Still, I couldn't fail but be impressed by this touching show of unity among psychics.
"It is not for nothing Anatoly Kashpirovsky calls his DVDs and photographs his heavy artillery," an authoritative female voice announces over the concert hall's sound system as the clock ticks down to the big comeback show.
"They possess a universal and remote healing effect. Even when his stay in your town or city is over, by using his material, it is as if Anatoly is really with you, gazing into your eyes," she goes on. "Some people place the DVDs under their pillows at night and others, mainly those suffering from heart problems, wear his photo under their shirts.
"At least 16 people were healed of total blindness last year by staring at Kashpirovsky's photograph," she concludes, before the pre-recorded message starts over again.
Actually, I'm not sure I got that last part right. Surely I must have misheard? Or does Kashpirovsky have such a low opinion of his followers that he has taken to outright mockery?
In any case, the punters don't need much persuading to part with their cash. Sales are frantic, with grannies jostling each other for a place in the ever-expanding queue.
"Give me the latest show, the freshest, the best," a red-faced, overweight pensioner says, thrusting forward a 1,000-rouble (£22) note along with her superlatives.
"That will be the Vladivostok show," the woman at the stall replies. "We've got a good one from Donetsk [eastern Ukraine] as well."
Next to part with their cash is a middle-aged couple from one of the former Soviet Central Asian republics. They are with their teenage son, who is in a wheelchair, and are clearly counting on him walking home after Kashpirovsky is through. They buy all the discs on offer, plus a large selection of photos.
When the last person has been served, the show finally gets under way, some 30 minutes behind schedule. Straightaway there is a surprise as a pre-recorded up-tempo acoustic rock number featuring vocals by Kashpirovsky himself kicks things off.
"I'm no sorcerer… but I can replace a million doctors," the psychic growls in an unexpectedly competent, Johnny Cash-style performance –albeit sung in Russian with a strong Ukrainian accent. As the last note fades away, Kashpirovsky makes his entry. The crowd stands up and applauds as if greeting royalty. Our host for the evening, clad in a black jacket and a crisp white shirt, grimaces and gestures impatiently for silence.
"How should I address you?" he ponders, gazing into the crowd. "Spectators, friends… citizens? None of these seem quite right."
"The sick?" someone suggests, the voice coming from just behind me.
"Computers," he says, giving no sign that he has heard. "You are computers ripe for programming."
Around me, people close their eyes and start to trance out – the lecture itself is apparently part of the healing process. It's not the words that are so important, but rather, as Kashpirovsky puts it, "the movement at a molecular level" that is going on while he litters his talk with enigmatic yet essentially meaningless phrases such as: "Man is far from the stars, yet the stars are even further from man."
"The most powerful medicine can only be obtained through non-medical means," he announces. "For example, if we hear the sound of shattering glass, we're frightened. Is that medicine? No. And when the sun warms your body – is this medicine? No, this is biochemistry… We must awaken the medicine within.
"I don't need your belief," Kashpirovsky states, spitting out the words as his monologue finally comes to an end. "Why would I? Does the violinist need the violin to trust in him? Does the sculptor the sculpture? Do I need this piece of paper to believe in me before I crumple it up and throw it away?"
Satisfied he has made his point, Kashpirovsky then invites members of the audience to join him on stage, to submit to his magic touch. The security guards are nearly trampled in the rush. I think about becoming part of the throng, to experience whatever powers Kashpirovsky claims to possess at first hand, but something holds me back. To be honest, I'm still not sure what.
Given the prevalence of pensioners in the audience, there is a remarkably sexually charged atmosphere in the hall, and the trance techno that suddenly starts blasting out of the speakers only adds to the air of abandon. The pounding drums and bass hammer through me and I can only imagine what the music is doing to the rest of the crowd, most of whom will never have experienced such rhythms before. "Hardcore, funky bass," declares a robotic voice and the keyboards kick in. This is a long way from the Soviet ballads and stirring proletariat anthems the majority of people here grew up on.
The "computers" approach Kashpirovsky one at a time. Some are hesitant, taking tiny steps, while others stride joyously across the stage. Kashpirovsky touches them, stares into their eyes for a second and they slump to the floor.
"But they do not sleep!" he declares, and indeed they do not, one of the woman on stage taking care to adjust her skirt to make sure she doesn't inadvertently flash her knickers.
I glance over to the boy in the wheelchair. His parents are arguing furiously with a security guard who will not allow them on stage. On the other side of the hall, a woman attempts to lead her blind husband up the steps to Kashpirovsky.
"No, no, no!" the psychic shouts. "He could hurt himself when he falls. Take him away. I will deal with him remotely."
The woman, distraught, her hopes for the evening dashed, whimpers something in reply, but the music drowns her out. There will be no healing tonight for the lame and the blind.
Before long, the stage is almost covered in fallen bodies. The scene reminds me of nothing so much as a processing line at a slaughterhouse. A few members of the crowd rise from their seats and begin to dance waltzes with unseen partners, ignoring the techno that continues to shake the building.
What must it do to a man's ego, this ability to stir up hysteria at the flick of a hand? With Kashpirovsky, it appears to have hardened his contempt for the great unwashed masses. It strikes me that his popularity might have something to do with the Russians' well-known longing for an iron fist, for authoritarian leaders. Just as I start to scribble the thought down in my notebook, the techno subsides, and Kashpirovsky begins to walk among those members of the crowd still in their seats. Instinctively, with the speed of a schoolboy concealing notes passed in class from the teacher, I hide my pen and paper.
Two rows over, a pensioner is sobbing, tears streaming down her face as Kashpirovsky stops in front of her to offer some life advice. Curiously, this consists mainly of: "Go home and eat vegetables for supper tonight," but we are beyond language, the woman's face crumpling immediately in a mixture of joy and sorrow, passion and regret.
The next day, the newspapers will round on Kashpirovsky, publishing reports stating that his "odious" performance had led to a number of people seeking medical assistance for psychosomatic illnesses ranging from intense headaches to ulcer pains.
The madness continues. A woman in her twenties, the one who concealed her knickers from the crowd, rises from the stage and glides towards Kashpirovsky. The look on her face reminds me of footage I have seen of the Manson family girls at Charles's trial. Devoted, blissed out, confused. She stands next to him, waiting for the object of her undivided attention to turn away from the pensioner. Kashpirovsky brushes her aside, barely glancing in her direction as he passes. "That's not how we do things," he says.
And then, as if he has had enough of the insanity all around him, as if he has tired of being worshipped, he gives the signal for the fallen to rise. Which they do, a little shaky at first, but with massive smiles on their faces.
"We've had a good evening," Kashpirovsky says. "And we've got plenty of DVDs in stock. If you do buy them, don't forget, never lend them to anyone."
And with that, he is gone.
The post-show atmosphere reminds me of the scene after the raves I attended in the early 1990s. Saucer-shaped eyes, streams of consciousness, strangers embracing one another. I half expect the loved-up pensioners to head off to a chill-out club.
I take the opportunity of all this comradeship to ask some questions. What I really want to know is as simple as this: were these people sick and, if so, do they now feel better?
"We were in a car crash six months ago," the overweight woman who wanted the "best" Kashpirovsky DVDs tells me, gesturing at her husband, a skinny fellow dressed all in black. "We suffered internal injuries," she goes on, an odd hint of pride in her voice.
"I felt my liver move in there," she says. "I'm going to get better, I'm sure."
I refrain from suggesting that the earth-shaking bass might have had something to do with that.
"It's bad that you are sceptical," her husband says, reading my expression. "Kashpirovsky is a wonderful man."
The girl whose undergarments just escaped public scrutiny is holding court a few feet away. "I just felt like I had to get up and go to him," she says. "He was like a magnet."
The grannies around her are hanging on her every word.
"Did he make me do that?" she wonders.
"Of course, love," one of the women whispers. "Everything he makes us do is for our own good."
I get in my questions.
"No, I'm not suffering from any illness," she says, not at all put out by my query. "My brother's schizophrenic though, so I thought I'd go and check out the show. To see if it could help him. I'm so glad I came."
The next people I talk to, a pair of middle-aged women who have the habit of finishing each other's sentences, are less enthusiastic.
"We have both been suffering from nasal problems for many years," the first says, sniffing as she speaks. "I can't say there has been a distinct improvement," the other adds. "But we will certainly watch the DVDs," her friend goes on, "and I'm sure that will do the trick."
I don't begrudge Kashpirovsky's followers their conviction that everything will turn out for the better, that their illnesses and pains will somehow miraculously disappear. This ability to believe passionately, for a short time at least, in the promises of charismatic figures is a very Russian trait.
From the Stalinist shockworkers who laboured in mines to hasten the dawn of communism to the Perestroika-era crowds who supported Yeltsin in his struggle against Kremlin hardliners, the Russians have always been ready to invest everything in the quest for a brighter day. But invariably their hopes have never lasted long, and the line between love and hate is so small here as to be barely discernible.
As I make my way to the exit, I pass the Central Asian couple and their disabled son. The mother is weeping openly, the father's face red with anger. The boy, a pile of Kashpirovsky products balanced in his hands, looks uncomfortable, bemused by all the commotion, as if he alone doubted all along that he would rise miraculously from his wheelchair.
A couple of pensioners comfort the mother, telling her that she must have faith, that the discs and the photos will eventually work their magic. She looks unconvinced, and her sorrow shows signs of turning to rage. Perhaps the warning that the public's inevitable disillusionment with Kashpirovsky.
I wonder where the conversation will go next and, simultaneously, where Russia's eternal passion for the paranormal and the occult will take it. But for now I have had enough and walk out into the Moscow night.
Marc Bennetts lives in Moscow and is a journalist and translator. He is the author of Football Dynamo (Random House, £8.99)
Sunday, June 6, 2010
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Malicious joy is a sordid garment which our spirit sometimes dons with great satisfaction. The very moment that you rejoice in the sinful fall of your brother you have also fallen to the joy of the devil who, with one hook, snared two fish.
Brotherhood, according to the flesh, is a great bond but brotherhood, according to the spirit, is even greater. When you are grieved by the sin of a brother according to the flesh, why then would not the sin of a brother according to the spirit grieve you? When you conceal the sin of a brother according to the flesh why do you, with malevolent joy proclaim the sin of your brother according to the spirit?
Who are your brothers according to the spirit? All Christians - all those who communicate with you from the one and the same Chalice, the one and the same life. O, how great were the saints in their brotherly love! O, how far away from them was malevolent joy!
The following is said about St. Bessarion: on one occasion all the monks were gathered in church for prayer. The abbot approached a monk who had committed a sin and ordered him to leave the church. The monk started to leave and Bessarion followed him saying: "And I, also, am the same kind of sinner!"
Archbishop Chrysostomos II and members of the Holy Synod welcomed "with love and respect" Pope Benedict XVI and those with him yesterday at the Archdiocese of Cyprus.
The Archbishop spoke of the significance of the Church of Cyprus as an apostolic See that received its autocephaly at the Third Ecumenical Synod in 431 AD. He also pointed out his hopes for further dialogue between the churches in the future.
The Pope responded by thanking the Archbishop for his hospitality and the recent ecumenical gathering between Orthodox and Catholics in Cyprus. He also called Cyprus a "piece of the Holy Land". He encouraged a relationship between Catholics and Orthodox in Cyprus to preserve its Christian past.
Following the meeting the Pope was escorted to the Byzantine Museum. The curator of the museum appealed to the Pope to help in the return of stolen treasures, of approximately 300 items, which for the past 13 years are still in Monoco. Because some of these treasures also belong to the Maronites of Cyprus, he requested the Pope contact the Archbishop of Monoco to help with this situation. The Pope showed much interest in this topic.
That evening a dinner was held at the Archdioce with the Pope and those with him by Archbishop Chrysostomos and the Holy Synod. Gifts were exchanged afterwards. The Pope gave the Archbishop a mosaic of Saint Kyriaki along with a portion of the Column of the Apostle Paul, while the Archbishop gave the Pope a silver disk which depicted the founders of the Church of Cyprus, the apostles Paul and Barnabas.
Metropolitans Athanasios of Lemissol, Paul of Kyrenia, and Barnabas of Trymithountos, as well as Bishops Nicholas of Amathountos and Epiphanios of Lydra did not attend any of the events of the day.
Before his departure the Pope celebrated Mass at Nicosia's Eleftheria Stadium. Across the road from the stadium 20 people gathered holding up signs which said "Papism is not a brotherly religion, but heresy". Besides this, no other dramatic happenings occurred throughout the visit, and the Pope left Cyprus today in peace
by Monk Moses the Athonite
The Holy Mountain during its history of more than a thousand years has always been a busy workshop of wisdom and virtue which has produced monks distinguished for their learning and sanctity.
From the mid 18th century down to our own times has been a period when the Holy Mountain has greatly flourished. Akakios Kafsokalyvitis († 1730), the extremely severe cave-dwelling ascetic, the imitator of St Maximus Kafsokalivitis; Ierotheos of Iveron († 1745), a wise teacher; Anthimos Kourouklis († 1782), the joyful missionary to the islands of the Aegean and the Ionian; Paisius Velichkovsky († 1794), the founder of the 'ascetic-literary' school; Sophronios Agiannanitis; Makarios Notaras († 1805), the bishop-ascetic; Georgios of Tsernika in Romania († 1806); Nicodemus the Athonite († 1809), a writer noted for his wisdom; Athanasios of Paros († 1813), a teacher of distinction; Sophronios Vratsis of Bulgaria († 1813); Arsenios of Paros († 1877), a renowned ascetic; Antipas of Moldavia († 1822); Siluan of Russia the Athonite († 1938), well-known from his fine biography; and Savvas of Kalymnos († 1948), the worker of miracles, form an important nucleus of enlightenment, education, and service to God and man. To these names we must add the glorious latter-day Athonite martyrs, who in the 18th and 19th century number as many as 60, of whom we could mention: Pachomios of the New Skete († 1730), Constantine the Russian († 1742), Damaskinos of Thessaly († 1771), Cosmas of Aetolia († 1779), that renowned teacher and founder of churches and schools, Loukas of Stavroniketa († 1802), Gerasimos of Koutloumousiou († 1812), Efthymios of the Skete of Iveron († 1814), Gideon of Karakallou († 1818), Agathangelos of Esphigmenou († 1819), Gregory V, Patriarch of Constantinople († 1821), Pavlos of Konstamonitou († 1824), and the renowned Athanasios of Lemnos († 1846).
The foundation of the Athonite Academy (1749) was an important point in this modern Athonite renaissance. The distinguished teachers who served there included Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis, its first principal, who was succeeded by Archimandrite Agapios of the Holy Sepulchre, slaughtered by the Turks outside Thessaloniki, Evgenios Voulgaris, that gifted techer, Nikolaos Zertzoulis of Metsovo, Panagiotis Palamas, and Athanasios of Paros, among others. Among those who served as the Academy's trustees and patrons were Gregory V, Nicodemus the Athonite, and Makarios Notaras. Among the Academy's students were the martyrs Cosmas of Aetolia, Constantine of Hydra, and Athanasios Koukaliotis; there were also leaders in the intellectual world such as Iosipos Moisiadax, Sergios Makraios, and Rigas Pheraios, who died for his country. It is an undoubted fact that for the Greek nation then enslaved to the Turks the Athonite Academy lit one more lantern of hope for its survival. The printing-press set up at the Great Lavra by Cosmas of Epidaurus (1755) and the school at the Vatopaidi Monastery also contributed to the awakening of the nation, but unfortunately these were short-lived.
The same period coincided with the lives and work of important men of letters such as Papa-Ionas Kafsokalyvitis, Dionysios Siatisteas, Neophytos Skourteos, Vartholomaios of Koutloumousiou, Pachomios of Tirnovo, Dionysios of Fourna († 1745), the icon-painter and author of the famous book on the art of painting, who lived at Karyes, Kaisarios Dapontes († 1784), a much-travelled writer and poet who was a monk of Xeropotamou, Dorotheos (Evelpidis) of Vatopedi, and Nikiphoros of Iveron.
In the mid 18th century a grave theological debate developed all over the Holy Mountain in connection with the issues of the holding of memorial services for the departed, frequency of Holy Communion, and other matters relating to the exact observance of Orthodox tradition. The starting-point for this prolonged controversy was the building of the kyriakon at the Skete of St Anne (1754). The question arose as to whether the commemoration of the founders and benefactors should be held on Saturday or Sunday, and with what frequency the monks should receive Holy Communion. The debate divided the monks, and those who insisted that the memorial services should be held on Saturdays were mockingly dubbed 'kollyvades'. It seems, however, that, behind their apparent obstinacy, they had a profound knowledge of church tradition and fought hard for its authenticity and for its purification from adulteration. Thus the name of 'kollyvas' became a title of honour and the movement was responsible for a profitable and beneficial regeneration and renewal. Indeed, this devout movement was led by three saints: Makarios Notaras, Nicodemus the Athonite, and Athanasios of Paros, and they numbered among their supporters and sympathizers distinguished scholars such as Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis, Christophoros Artinos, Agapios of Cyprus, Iakovos the Peloponnesian, Pavlos the hermit, Theodoritos of Esphigmenou, and a number of others. Some of them chose voluntary exile and took refuge in mainland Greece or the islands, where they founded scores of monasteries, of which a fair number survive today. Thus we see Makarios Notaras on Chios, Niphon on Skiathos, Dionysios of Skiathos on Skyros, Ierotheos on Hydra, with numerous disciples and friends of that Athonite tradition which has nourished monks and saints. The monasteries which they founded were noted for their vigour and service. The Ecumenical Patriarchate by decisions of the Holy Synod finally put an end to the 'kollyvades' issue, by ruling that memorial services could be held as circumstances demanded and that Holy Communion, with the proper preparation, could be received frequently, and that the life of the substance, and not the aridity of the form, was to be adhered to.
Sts Nicodemus the Athonite, Makarios Notaras, and Athanasios of Paros are the typical representatives of the renaissance on the Holy Mountain, and of the spirit which prevailed. They were the authors of widely circulating books which had their effect on the souls of the enslaved Greeks, and their works continue to be re-issued even today. The seal was set on the Athonite theological spirit of the time by the publication of the 'Philokalia of the Ascetic Fathers' (1785), a publication which was a landmark in theological literature.
In a difficult period such as that of Turkish rule, the Holy Mountain kept its lamp perpetually burning, and was able, moreover, to hand on the flame to the peoples of the Balkans and the North. Thus the exchange of visits and the sojourn of many on the Holy Mountain of Athos gave rise to an important spiritual and cultural movement. The quiet of Mount Athos acted as a school of superior philosophy in which not only asceticism and vigilance, but also study in its rich libraries, the translation of rare texts, concern for art, and the transmission of a spirit of service and self-sacrifice were cultivated. The work of the starets Paisius Velichkovski, the reformer of monasticism in Romania and Russia, after his departure from Athos, was particularly inspired. Similar work was carried out by his disciple the Blessed Georgios of Tsernika († 1806) in the monasteries of Moldavia, where hundreds of monks were his spiritual children, by the Blessed Sophronios Vratsis († 1813) in Bucharest, while the Blessed Antypas († 1882) from Moldavia went to Jassy and finally reached the Monastery of Varlaam in Finland. The Russian Saint Silouan the Athonite († 1938) continues to teach through his much-translated biography by Archimandrite Sophronius († 1993) even after his blessed death. Yet again the illuminating influence of the universality of the Holy Mountain is apparent.
The Athonite monastic community has never kept the fragrance of the blossoming of its virtues all for itself. In spite of the harshness of enslavement to the Turks, penury, the difficulties in travelling and the many perils, the Athonite monk in his humble cap went everywhere in the Greek world, to bring the sober preaching of salvation, of redemption, of consolation, of support, and of hope - fiery missionaries like Cosmas of Aetolia, who crowned his long preaching mission with martyrdom, the Blessed Anthimos Kourouklis, who travelled the islands and built churches and monasteries, the Blessed Makarios Notaras, who on the islands of the Aegean created real centres of refreshment and aspiration, while similar work was carried out by his companion Blessed Athanasios of Paros, Arsenios of Paros, and Savvas of Kalymnos, to name but a few. The Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V the Martyr and the company of glorious latter-day Athonite martyrs still teach more strikingly today after their martyr's end and strengthen the hearts of the people.
In our own century the Holy Mountain has continued its hidden service to mankind which makes known the lofty spirituality and life of Orthodoxy and its benign influence beyond its boundaries by continuing to produce ascetics and figures of great spiritual and theological stature. In a world which thirsts and seeks in anguish for authenticity, discipline and truth, it gives its testimony of the experience of the Orthodox spiritual life and the salvation of the soul. The many young pilgrims today may not always be fired with enthusiasm, but they are set thinking by this way of life of asceticism, abstinence, simplicity, and quiet of the monks. Thus often a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain is a turning-point in their lives. The humility and sanctity of Mount Athos play a role of spiritually alerting the Church and the people.
This spiritual portrait of Athos has to show in our own times many figures who vie with those of earlier eras, whose spirit they transmit, while at the same time providing a starting-point for the carrying on of their work in the future. Among those Abbots known for their great love for the Holy Mountain, for their monasteries, for their spiritual children, for the Theotokos and for God, lovers of virtue and hard work, were the now departed Archimandrites Symeon of Gregoriou († 1905), Neophytos of Simonopetra († 1907) - who were re-founders of their monasteries -, Kodratos of Karakallou († 1940), Athanasios of Gregoriou († 1953), Ieronymos of Simonopetra († 1957), Philaretos of Konstamonitou († 1963), who wore themselves out in the service of their monasteries and their monks, Seraphim of Agiou Pavlou († 1960), Vissarion of Gregoriou († 1974), Gabriel of Dionysiou († 1983), who successfully worked together to promote the common interests of the Holy Mountain, Haralambis of Simonopetra († 1970), and Ephraim of Xeropotamou († 1983).
Apart from these distinguished figures, the following, now at rest, were excellent and discreet spiritual counsellors and confessors in our own century: Savvas († 1908) and Gregorios of Little St Anne, Ignatios Koutounakiotis († 1927), Chariton Kafsokalyvitis, Kaisarios, and Mikhail the Blind († 1952) of the Skete of St Anne, Neophytos, Gabriel († 1967), Efstathios ( 1981) and Elpidios († 1983) the Cypriots, and Spyridon († 1990) of the New Skete, Gregorios of Dionysiou, Maximos of Karakallou, Nikodemos of Crete of the Koutloumousi Skete, among others.
Of widely acknowledged sanctity were the departed Elders Hatzighiorghis († 1886), renowned for the severity of his fasting, Daniel the Romanian, the cavedweller, of Kerasia, Avimelech of Crete and Gerasimos († 1991), the hymnographer of Little St Anne, Kallinikos († 1930), the ascetic and Hesychast and Daniel of Smyrna († 1929) of Katounakia, Gerasimos Menagias († 1957), the wise hermit, Avvakoum († 1978) the Barefoot, of the Lavra, Isaak († 1932), the best of coenobites, and Lazaros († 1974) of Dionysiou, Joseph the Cave-Dweller († 1959), the great ascetic, and Theophylaktos († 1986), the lover of the saints, of the New Skete, Gerontios († 1958) of St Panteleimon, Athanasios of Iveron († 1973), known for his humility and devotion to the Theotokos, Evlogios († 1948), the great faster, and Enoch († 1978), the delightful Romanian, at Karyes, Papa-Tychon († 1968), the great Russian ascetic of Kapsala, Porphyrios († 1992), an elder of Kafsokalyvia with pre-vision and insight, who for years carried the blessings of Athos into Attica, and Paisios († 1944) the Athonite, who gave rest to many who approached him with reverence. Many have written many worthy accounts of all of these.
The last two to be mentioned above were widely known for the grace which was given them. Elder Porphyrios was one of the most important figures of our times: he had the authority of authenticity, he had the experience of the Holy Spirit, he was truly humble, his simplicity was thoroughgoing; in him childlikeness was interwoven with holiness. He was a discerner of souls, a teacher and a guide to many, who, greatly moved, will tell of their meetings with him. Elder Paisios was also an experienced, patient and persistent physician of souls and a guide to a host of people with great needs. His joyful discourse, his example, his counsels reached people, and infected them with his peace, the joy of blessing, the refreshment of the spirit.
Amongst the men of letters of our time whom the Holy Mountain has produced are the priest-monk Theodoritos of the Lavra, Gerasimos of Esphigmenou (Smyrnakis), famed for his fine book on the Holy Mountain, the deacon-monk Cosmas of Agiou Pavlou (Vlachos), similarly, the priest-monk Christophoros of Docheiariou (Ktenas), the author of a host of works on the Holy Mountain, the Lavra Elders Paneleimon, Chrysostomos, Alexandros (Evmorphopoulos), Spyridon (Kambanaos), a doctor, Pavlos (Pavlidis), also a doctor, Alexandros (Lazaridis), Evlogios (Kourilas), subsequently Metropolitan of Korytsa, Ioakeim of Iveron, Theophilos, Nikandros, Iakovos and Arkadios of Vatopaidi, and the Xeropotamou Elders Pavlos, Chrysanthos and Evdokimos, Athanasios of Pantocrator, Zosimas of Esphigmenou, Neilos (Mitropoulos) of Simonopetra, Savvas of Philotheou, Varlaam of Gregoriou, Theodosios of Agiou Pavlou, and Ioakeim (Spetsieris) of New Skete.
The work of the saints, the abbots, the spiritual fathers, and the scholars of the Holy Mountain, of yesterday and today, radiates outwards and has a beneficial effect upon the world - because Athos, over and above its priceless material treasures, is the guardian of treasures of living virtue, which is of greater importance; it can provide a way of life to cope with the harshness of everyday life, its monotony and loneliness. Thus the Holy Mountain has been justly called by Prof. A. Stavropoulos "a school of spiritual fatherhood and counselling", through offering hospitality to many and through those monks who are able to go out into the world for confessions, conversation, and mission. The audience for their advice includes bishops, priests, monks, nuns, university and school teachers, and 'the least of the brethren'. As has been rightly said by J. Lacarriere "in the person of these few men who remain isolated in their kalyva or cave one can see the guardians, the trustees, the 'athletes' of a wisdom and a science of man which we hasten to admire when it comes from India or Tibet, but which we ignore when it is practised next door to us".
The words of Elder Paisios about Hatzi-Georgis, the subject of his biography, apply equally to himself and to many others of those whom we have spoken of and describe their noble fight for the well-being of the world. "He advises each one appropriately, with discretion, and comforts their souls and aids them with his prayers of the heart. His face is radiant with the holy life that he lives and brings divine grace to anguished souls. His reputation has spread everywhere and people hasten from every quarter to derive spiritual benefit. From morning till night he deals with the pain of the anguished and warms their hearts with his spiritual love, which is like the spring sunshine".
Elder Avimelech of Little St Anne used to say when asked what he was doing, "We are keeping alert". The blind Elder Leontios of Katounakia used to reflect that "now I see everything better, I experience everything better; God has given me more powerful light than that which I had when I had my health". Elder Mikhail of Kafsokalyvia with a perpetual smile on his lips used to converse with the saints. The Konstamonitou bibliophile Elder Modestos would say: "If we do not feel that all our brethren are ours and that we are theirs, the Holy Spirit will never dwell in our hearts. Our behaviour towards them should not be regulated by their spiritual quality". Elder Philaretos of Karoulia, a most strict ascetic, used to say: "My brethren, everybody strives for his salvation, except me, a sinner". A Koutloumousiou elder who suffered ill health for years on end would say that "it is the divine will and it is profitable that the body should be ill so that the soul should be saved". Another wise elder of our own times would often stress that "natural quiet helps towards inner peace. But if it doesn't exist, you must stick patiently to whatever you find before you, and God will give you the greater gifts. And look to see why you do not have peace". He also said, "you should be sad so that you may be glad", and "it's better to have difficulties than to think that you are doing fine; by means of difficulties you become more mature, more beautiful ...." In one of his books, Elder Mitrophanis of Hilandari says of the service which monks perform that it is "the heartfeltness of prayer, love which goes as far as sacrifice, forgiving humility, and the enthusiastic love of mankind".
It is a marvellous thing for holiness to be accompanied by skill with words. When on the Holy Mountain today there continue to be such figures, it is an unexpected blessing for the world.
Pray here the Canon to All the Saints of the Holy Mountain of Athos
For the history behind the Feast of All Saints of Mount Athos, see here and here.
by Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco
The feast of All Saints of Russia is not a feast of just righteous ones, but of saints. God is filled with holiness; "Holy is the Lord our God." But man is created in the "image and likeness" of God, and the Lord at creation blew into him the power to partake of the Divine essence and thereby come closer to God, and the closer a man is to God, the holier he is. Saints are those who have partaken of the Divine essence and made it their own; to God, they become "His own." The saints enjoy blessedness, for God is blessed. From them there is light for men. Through them the power of God is revealed. Saints retain all that is characteristic of the human condition; they know everything that is ours. They are near to God, but they are also near to us; they walked and dwelt among us. The people of Holy Russia venerated them, kissed their icons and holy relics, wanted to be as close as possible to the saints, touched holiness, and the Russian land was filled with it. Holy Prince Vladimir demonstrated the regenerating power of the Divine essence upon himself. Previously wild and passionate, he was completely reborn, so that he became a new person, radiating light and joy, and was called "beautiful sun." Do not think that contact with holiness is the fate of only the Russian nation. No! All peoples can live in the spirit that Holy Russia lived and lives in, and then they are close and comprehensible to each other. St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves and St. Anthony the Roman were men of different countries, but together they built the Russian Church, and they are equally near and dear to her. Until recent times we did not have martyrs, but there was a multitude of saints. They influenced the direction that the Russian people took; the people loved them and tried to follow them, and this determined the way of life. All of life was illuminated, until spiritual apostasy began, which led to a fall. But Holy Russia is alive. When the persecution began, strugglers were revealed, confessors, and now we have martyrs. The spirit of Holy Russia lives. Holy Russia is part of the Ecumenical (i.e., the entire) Church. Celebrating the saints, we desire to be together with them and to acquire the power of God through their holiness. They know us, our nature, our characteristics and spirits, and they know our souls, too-what is necessary for us. We are close to them as children are close to parents. The Apostle Peter prayed for his disciples. St. Demetrius of Thessalonica rushes to help the Greeks because this is his own nation. Sts. Boris and Gleb help their relatives (e.g., Alexander Nevsky), and their own Russian people.
On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.
Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God's promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us" and to "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians
Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints in nearly all of the six major categories of saints: Apostles (and Equals of the Apostles); Martyrs (and Confessors); Prophets; Hierarchs; Monastic Saints; and the Righteous. Prophets, of course, lived in Old Testament times and predicted the coming of Christ.
The first Divine Liturgy in what is now American territory (northern latitude 58 degrees, 14 minutes, western longitude 141 degrees) was celebrated on July 20, 1741, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, aboard the ship Peter under the command of Vitus Bering. Hieromonk Hilarion Trusov and the priest Ignatius Kozirevsky served together on that occasion. Several years later, the Russian merchant Gregory I. Shelikov visited Valaam monastery, suggesting to the abbot that it would be desirable to send missionaries to Russian America.
On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. St Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837.
Throughout the Church's history, the seeds of faith have always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. The Protomartyr Juvenal was killed near Lake Iliamna by natives in 1799, thus becoming the first Orthodox Christian to shed his blood for Christ in the New World. In 1816, St Peter the Aleut was put to death by Spanish missionaries in California when he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Missionary efforts continued in the nineteenth century, with outreach to the native peoples of Alaska. Two of the most prominent laborers in Christ's Vineyard were St Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and St Jacob Netsvetov (July 26), who translated Orthodox services and books into the native languages. Father Jacob Netsvetev died in Sitka in 1864 after a life of devoted service to the Church. Father John Veniaminov, after his wife's death, received monastic tonsure with the name Innocent. He died in 1879 as the Metropolitan of Moscow.
As the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, an event of enormous significance for the North American Church took place. On March 25, 1891, Bishop Vladimir went to Minneapolis to receive St Alexis Toth (May 7) and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the return of many Uniates to Orthodoxy.
St Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow (April 7, October 9), came to America as bishop of the diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska in September 1898. As the only Orthodox bishop on the continent, St Tikhon traveled extensively throughout North America in order to minister to his widely scattered and diverse flock. He realized that the local church here could not be a permanent extension of the Russian Church. Therefore, he focused his efforts on giving the American Church a diocesan and parish structure which would help it mature and grow.
St Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907, and was elected as Patriarch of Moscow ten years later. He died in 1925, and for many years his exact burial place remained unknown. St Tikhon's grave was discovered on February 22, 1992 in the smaller cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Don Monastery when a fire made renovation of the church necessary.
St Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, St Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to St Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. St Raphael reposed on February 27, 1915.
The first All American Council took place March 5-7, 1907 at Mayfield, PA, and the main topic was "How to expand the mission." Guidelines and directions for missionary activity, and statutes for the administrative structure of parishes were also set forth.
In the twentieth century, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, countless men, women, and children received the crown of martyrdom rather than renounce Christ. Sts John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. St John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in St Petersburg. St Alexander Hotovitzky, who served in America until 1914, was killed in 1937.
In addition to the saints listed above, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.
Apolytikion in Tone Eight
As the bountiful harvest of Your sowing of salvation, the lands of North America offer to You, O Lord, all the saints who have shone in them. By their prayers keep the Church and our land in abiding peace, through the Theotokos, O most Merciful One.
Kontakion in Tone Eight
Today the choir of Saints who were pleasing to God in the lands of North America now stands before us in the Church and invisibly prays to God for us. With them the angels glorify Him, and all the saints of the Church of Christ keep festival with them; and together they all pray for us to the Pre-Eternal God.
Onion Domes To Rise In Paris
The Sunday Times
June 6, 2010
RUSSIA has pulled off a spectacular coup by winning permission from President Nicolas Sarkozy to build an Orthodox cathedral next to the Eiffel Tower.
According to sources, the Russian government has paid about £60m for a site where it will build a gilded cathedral with “onion” domes like St Basil’s in Red Square, Moscow.
The building will dramatically alter the fabled Paris skyline. France’s agreement came only after intensive lobbying by Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev, who told Sarkozy how important the cathedral was to him, and Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.
It would be the first Russian Orthodox cathedral built in France since the days of the Romanovs.
Moscow went to extraordinary lengths when the site, headquarters of the French weather service, went on sale last year. It employed a French lobbying firm to get across the message: the Kremlin would consider a sale to anyone else an “unfriendly act”.
The building is expected to be in place by 2013.
It will no doubt highlight divisions in the orthodox flock. Many in France are descendants of white Russians who fled communism after the death of the last tsar and who are opposed to the patriarchy in Moscow because of its links to the Soviet-era KGB.
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".
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