We know very little of Saint Mark the Deaf (some calendars have him as Mark the Deaf Mute) other than what is written in the Synaxarion probably from the 13th century on his feast day of January 2nd:
"Saint Mark the Deaf was an ascetic that lived a righteous life and died in peace."
The following stanza is written as well:
"Mark did not hear an earthly word, and before he left the earth, his earthly ears were extracted."
In Rethymno, Crete there exists the only church dedicated to Saint Mark the Deaf not only in all of Greece, but in the entire world. It is located on the grounds of the Holy Monastery of Saint George Arsaniou. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited this chapel in 2003 and served here a Divine Liturgy, praising the fact that the Divine Liturgy was done in sign language.
Though Orthodoxy has many deaf saints, Saint Mark the Deaf has become the patron saint of the deaf. Among other saints who were deaf, there is St. Cadoc (Cadfan) Llankarvansky (+580), St. Drogo (Drew) (+12th cent.), St. Meriadoc (Meredith) (7th cent.), and St Owen Ruensky (Eugene) (+684). Other Orthodox churches in Greece and throughout the world also have services in sign language as well, especially in Russia. Among them is Simonov Monastery in Moscow.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
We know very little of Saint Mark the Deaf (some calendars have him as Mark the Deaf Mute) other than what is written in the Synaxarion probably from the 13th century on his feast day of January 2nd:
Question: Some say that Kazantzakis was religious. That he had spiritual concerns and inquiries...
Answer: And what of of that? What resulted? Do you know what he himself wanted written on his grave? "I have ceased to hope, I have ceased to fear, I am free!" And of course, it was written. Go to the cemeteries and read what is written on the graves of faithful people: "I await the resurrection of the dead" or "The dead are raised and have arisen from the tombs" or "Christ has arisen from the dead, first among those who sleep", and other such things.
Do you know what the last words of Kazantzakis were? "I'm thirsty". Fr. Theoklitos Dionysiatis has written very brilliantly in one of his writings: "Perhaps before his soul departed he tasted of the torturous flames of the furnace of fire like the rich man, and he wanted someone to refresh his tongue."
The Ascetic Makarios and Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis : The Last Temptation Of Christ : Always Thirsty
Kazantzakis: Prophet of Non-Hope
In the movie SALT, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt - a 20-year veteran of the CIA with a husband and a dull suburban life.
When she's accused of being a Russian sleeper trained to be a superspy, she fights for her life going from blond to brunette to escape detection.
SALT was filmed in New York, Washington D.C. and on the Volga River in Russia.
The location for the Russian orphanage in the movie was the OCA Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York (59 East Second Street). Filming took place in May of 2009 at the Cathedral and the film is due for release in July. See photos from the shoot here.
The Russian Orthodox Cathedral was first converted to a chapel in 1867 by the New York Mission Society, catering to immigrants with services in German, Hungarian, Italian and Russian. It was designed by renowned architect Josiah Cleveland Cady, who would later think up plans for the original Metropolitan Opera House.
The property was purchased by the Orthodox Church of America in 1943. It now has a religious school, a library on Orthodox Christian texts and regular liturgical services.
July 14, 2010
A Cave - Monastery of the eleventh century was discovered today in Moukesavo of southwestern Ukraine.
According to information, this monastery was founded by two monks, who came here with the blessing of Saint Anthony of the Kiev Caves.
Archaeologists in the next few days will clear the entrance to the Cave, and then migrate within which as stated to be full of labarynths.
Information also indicates that within the Cave there might be monks buried.
Finally, representatives of the Ukrainian Church heard the happy news, and stressed that there they will build a new monastery.
Karagöz Not Turkish, Greek Ministry Says
July 15, 2010
Hurriyet Daily News
A debate between Turkey and Greece is growing in the wake of a UNESCO decision to declare shadow puppet theater a part of Turkish cultural heritage.
Greece is against the decision and claims that the characters of Hacivat and Karagöz are not a Turkish tradition, the daily Radikal recently reported.
Even Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has become involved in the debate over the legendary characters.
After UNESCO’s decision became effective last September, it raised eyebrows in Greece, prompting Teti Hatzinikolaou, head of the Greek Cultural Ministry department, to write that “Karagöz is a Greek cultural figure.”
Greece is set to press its claim to the style of theater, the Foreign Ministry in Athens said Wednesday.
The developments drew the attention of the country’s Foreign Ministry and the Greek Culture Ministry, while Pavlos Gerulanos, Greece’s culture minister, sought to find more information regarding the UNESCO decision.
Several Greek newspapers have demanded a greater debate between Turkey and Greece on the matter.
When asked to comment on the incident, Papandreou smiled and said: “It is better for both countries to have their own Karagöz.”
"The UNESCO convention on intangible cultural heritage enables neighboring countries to access the same commodity," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a news briefing.
"Greece has tabled a statement that the same practice exists in our country and discussion ... regarding this issue will take place in Nairobi in October," he said, adding that the “Karagiozis” shadow theater, named after the main character, is an "inseparable" part of Greek culture.
Karagöz – Turkish for the Greek Karagiozis, meaning "black-eyed" – was a hunchbacked trickster who tried to make a living by hoodwinking and generally avoided all manner of honest work.
The setting is loosely placed during the occupation of present-day Greece by the Ottoman Empire from the mid-15th century to the early 19th century.
UNESCO last year placed Karagöz on its list of intangible cultural elements, associating it with Turkey where the character was originally born.
“Karagiozis” is also a common byword for “fool” in Greek.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Hospitality is respected in other faiths but Christianity emphasized hospitality as an obligation and responsibility. On the other hand, gratitude for hospitality is no less an obligation and responsibility for Christians. He who learns to be grateful to men for hospitality will know how to be grateful even to God for hospitality. For what are we here on earth except as guests of God? What are angels in heaven except as guests of God?
The story is told about Emperor Philip of Macedonia, how he severely punished one of his courtiers for ingratitude. The emperor sent his courtier overseas to fulfill a task for him. The courtier accomplished this task and returned by boat. A tempest destroyed the boat and the courtier found himself in the waves. Fortunately, it was not too far from the shore. A fisherman saw the man drowning, hurried to his assistance with his small boat and brought him ashore. After he recovered and rested, the courtier returned to the emperor and related the misfortunate incident about the tempest on the sea. The emperor wishing to reward the courtier asked him what does he wish the emperor to give him? The courtier mentioned that fisherman and said to the emperor that he would like most of all if he would grant him the property along the sea belonging to the fisherman. The emperor granted the courtier his wish. When the courtier settled on the estate of his greatest benefactor [the fisherman], then the fisherman in great despair went to the emperor, related all and complained. He said that he saved the life of the courtier and now he ousted him from his home. Upon hearing this, the emperor became furious with the ungrateful courtier and ordered that he be branded on his forehead with the words: "Ungrateful Guest."
She taught him up to the age of three, with exceeding care and diligence, but particularly by her example of faith in, and love for, our Lord Jesus Christ, which she expressed in prayer, a holy and virtuous life, partaking of the Holy Mysteries, and the confession of His Holy Name.
When the victims of the persecution against Christians multiplied, St. Julitta took her little and much-loved Kyrikos and sought refuge in Seleucia, Cilicia. But there, too, the flame of persecution raged. Thus, the Saint fled to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations.
There, the governor of the city, Alexander by name, a ferocious and bestial man, learned of the Saint and summoned her to defend herself. Seeing the love which she nurtured for her little, Grace-filled Angel, Kyrikos, he attempted to conquer her Faith by threatening her and her child with death. But the Saint remained steadfast and undaunted, and was ready to offer herself as a living and blameless sacrifice, together with her young son, rather than deny the true Faith.
So, the governor angrily snatched little Kyrikos from his mother’s arms and began to wheedle, caress, and kiss him, in order to sway his mother and to attract the boy to his side. However, our Lord, Who grants wisdom and enlightenment to infants, bestowed, through the Holy Spirit, “a mouth and wisdom” (St. Luke 21:15) upon Kyrikos, who was small in age but great in confession.
The Divinely-illumined infant began to invoke the Name of Christ with a stammering voice and to cry: “I am a Christian! ...Let me go to my mother!” Indeed, in order to escape from the tyrant, he began to strike him and kick him in the stomach, saying clearly and persistently: “I love Christ!”
Alexander the Governor, unable to endure the blows of young Kyrikos and, in particular, the defeat and the disgrace occasioned by the child’s confession, blew up in rage and with ferocity and inhumanity threw the infant down the steps of the tribunal, kicking him with all his might. The blessed infant received a mortal blow to his head and surrendered his holy and innocent little soul to Christ the Master. In this way, he was counted worthy to receive with glory the crown of confession and suffering.
At this sight, the thrice-blessed mother of the Child-Martyr, overcoming nature by her faith in Christ and giving thanks to God, said to the tyrant: “Even as you crushed the head of my child, so will your false religion be crushed, you harsh and pitiless ruler.”
After experiencing fearsome tortures, and yet not denying our sweetest Jesus, St. Julitta, the mother and Martyr, was beheaded in the year 304, receiving the crown of martyrdom, that she might rejoice with her three-year-old lamb, St. Kyrikos, and be glorified together with him in Heaven by the Angels and on earth by men.
Our Holy Orthodox Church celebrates their memory on July 15.
The Life, Confession, and Martyrdom of Sts. Kerykos and Julitta are truly a powerful reproach for Christians of our age and a constant reminder of our duty and responsibility to emulate them, since our Faith is founded on the blood of such exemplary persons, who sacrificed even their very lives for the love of our Savior.
May our Lord Jesus Christ grant Orthodox Christians the Grace to confess His Holy Name and to put His saving commandments into practice for their eternal salvation. Amen!
The relics of Sts Kyrikos and Julitta were uncovered during the reign of St Constantine the Great (May 21). A monastery was built near Constantinople in honor of these holy martyrs, and a church was built not far from Jerusalem. The relics of Saints Kyriakos and Julitta, even today, are miracle working. Part of the relics of these saints is to be found in Ochrid in the hospital chapel of the Holy Birth-giver of God.
In the 6th century the Acts of Kyrikos and Julitta were rejected in a list of apocryphal documents by the pseudo-Gelasius, called as such since the list was erroneously attributed to Pope Saint Gelasius I.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Blessed Julitta, Christ God's rational ewe-lamb, with holy Kyrikos, her three-year-old offspring, stood at the judgment seat and with authority and great boldness they proclaimed the true Faith of the Christians. In no wise were they afraid of the threats of the tyrants; and now in Heaven, wearing precious crowns, they both rejoice as they stand before Christ our God.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
As the Martyr of Christ God, the chaste Julitta, in her arms bare Kyrikos, she cried out in the stadium with manful courage and boundless joy: Thou art the strength of the Martyrs, O Christ my God.
by Ellen Myers
There are special, blessed moments of joy in the study of history. They occur when we meet in the distant past, unexpectedly and in awe, a people and a spirit to which we find ourselves related in fundamental kinship and faith. As a Christian believer in the Bible as God's inerrant self-revelation, and hence in biblical creation, I found such kinship and common faith with the people of Kievan Russia (eleventh and twelfth century A.D.) within their first generations after conversion to Christ (ca. 988 A.D.).
I am greatly drawn, for example, to Kievan church architecture. These clusters of whitewashed or wooden buildings with their narrow window slits, their curved roofs and their helmet-shaped domes embody for me the earth-bound, homely, humble and awkward, yet also "vertical," other-worldly, joyful and reverent communion of man with the Triune God of the Bible which we call Christian worship. The warmth, variety, "irregularity" so to call it, and vitality of the personhood of our God, and also of each uniquely created human being and uniquely created national personality (a recurring theme in Russian literature to our own day) is irrepressibly evident. For example, Kiev's Hagia Sophia cathedral, built 1036-46,
"appears to rise like some great natural growth... the Kievan Hagia Sophia's accord with its setting is the earliest example of the irresistible effect which the Russian environment and Russian taste exercised over the foreign architects and artists who found employment there... even the fully formed artists produced from the start works which... differ completely from everything that these artists had created in their native lands before going to Russia."
The multitude of churches built in Kiev within a few decades after the country's conversion (Thietmar of Merseburg who visited Kiev in 1018 A.D. said their number ran to almost four hundred) shows the eagerness of princes and people "not just to profess the faith but to testify in deeds their devotion to the living God... not for decorative effect, but for Christian witness." Yet the "decorative effect"—the splendor and beauty of church worship—is everywhere sought after, from cathedral to the Russian peasant's icon corner in his poor izba (peasant hut). This splendor and beauty actually was the decisive factor in prince Vladimir's, and hence Kievan Russia's, adoption of Byzantine Christianity in the late 980s. We went on to Greece," Vladimir's envoys sent out to examine various religions told him, "and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty... We know only that God dwells there among men... "
God dwelling among men—here, I believe, we see the fundamental faith and reality of Christian blessedness motivating Kievan Russia. The emphasis in communal worship lay on making God's person and Real presence visible and touchable. "The same desire to see spiritual truth in tangible form" is embodied in Kievan Russia's icons or paintings of Christ, His blessed mother, and the saints. Protestant Christians rightly fear and proscribe the idolatry incipient in man-made images of holy things and human "saints." Yet among a people converted but recently from serving pagan "nature gods," as were eleventh-century Kievans, their Christian art including icons probably did an indispensable service of Christian nurture. We must remember that "there were no complete versions of the Bible, let alone independent theological syntheses, produced in early Russia." Some early Kievan art nurtures and even converts human hearts and minds in our own time. What Christian, what student of the Bible can look at the early twelfth-century icon of the Virgin of Vladimir and not be touched by Mary's tenderness toward her Holy Child Jesus? Is not the lesson at hand —that we, too, should thus tenderly care for Jesus conceived and growing in our hearts after we have been visited by the Holy Ghost and overshadowed by the power of the Highest (Luke 1:35)?
Tenderness is one prominent strand of Kievan Russian Christianity; another such strand is kenoticism, or humility. We already encounter it in Russia's first canonized saints, the princes Boris and Gleb, who refused to take up arms against their elder brother Sviatopolk and were put to death for their non-resistance in 1015. This was "the first instance in Eastern and Western medieval ecclesiastic tradition of the imitation of Christ as a humble martyr dying for the sins of men." This humility is also an outstanding trait in the lives of St. Antonios, the founder, and St. Theodosios, the first abbot, of the Crypt Monastery, founded near Kiev in the eleventh century. Monk Nestor, Theodosius' biographer, tells us repeatedly how Theodosius spoke and acted "with humility." A monastic novice was called a "poslushnik" (obedient listener), a reminder that humility was to be his greatest virtue.
The people of Kiev, after having newly come to Christ and having been inspired by the vision of God dwelling among men to worship Him in splendor and humility in "right praise" ("pravoslavie"—the Russian word for orthodoxy), also excelled in civilization and education. As a matter of fact they were further advanced in these two respects than the Western European countries of their time. The ruling princes of Kiev intermarried with the ruling houses of Western Europe. After the English king Harold Godwinson was killed in the battle of Hastings in 1066, his family took refuge at the court of Kiev. Prince Vladimir took the children of the best families, and sent them to schools for instruction in book learning shortly after his conversion. We are told that by the time of Vladimir's son Yaroslav (1019-1054) there were already numerous schools, hospitals, and libraries. Despite the physical hardships of long, deadly cold winters, immense wild forests, and the rigors of subduing the northern land in an attempt to wrest a living from it, the people loved this hard and seemingly inhospitable land as their "mother." In their closeness to "mother earth" or to the Volga River as their "native mother," Kievan as well as modern Russians maintain man's ties to all God's creation so often mentioned in the Bible. These ties are expressly acknowledged in the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church from the very earliest recorded times at Kiev, as shown, for instance, in the beautiful Sermon on the First Sunday After Easter by Bishop Cyril of Turov. We also find awareness of these ties in Kievan Russian epics and heroic tales. An example is the conversation of prince Igor with the Donets River in The Lay of Igor's Campaign, written about Prince Igor's unfortunate campaign against the heathen Kumans in 1185 A.D. We find this awareness in the Ode on the Downfall of the Russian Land, written between 1237 and 1245 and lamenting the conquest of Russia by the Mongols. Its opening lines are not about battles or "human events," but rather about the land itself:
"O Russian land, brightest of the bright,
most beautifully adorned,
thou art marvelous to us, with thy many beauties.
Marvellous are thy numerous lakes,
thy rivers and venerated springs,
steep mountains, high hills,
oak forests, beautiful fields,
many beasts and countless birds."
Only after this eloquent praise of the land itself and its plant and animal inhabitants does the thirteenth-century author speak of the
"great cities, wonderful villages, and monastery gardens,
honorable boyars and countless lords,
Christian churches and stern princes.
Thou, Russian land, art rich in wealth
and in the Orthodox Christian Faith."
Kievan Russia was eventually invaded and conquered by the Tatars under the heirs of Ghengis Khan in 1237-40. There had been earlier raids upon Kievan territory in the south by various Mongol tribes such as the Pechenegs and the Kumans (or Polovtsians). But the disunity among Kievan Russian princes after the death of Vladimir Monomakh in 1125 A.D. was perhaps the deepest contributory cause for Kievan Russia's shortness of existence. Frequent warnings against this disunity occur in the chronicles, epics and stories of the time, and we may suppose that the people writing these warnings did what they could. It was not enough.
Seen across many centuries, Kievan Russia seems like a lost paradise 'where the people were one integrated whole with their land, their rivers, their animals - wild animals almost as much as tame ones - and their God Who dwelled among them as Creator, Sustainer and Lord.
 Tamara Talbot Rice, A Concise History op Russian Art (Praeger. New York 1963. Fourth Printing 1974) pp 18- 19.
 Ibid. p 26
 James H Billington, The Icon and the Axe (Random House New York First-Vintage Books Edition. September 1970) p. 11.
 Serge A Zenkovsky, Medieval Russia s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales (E. P Dutton. New York 1963. Second Edition 1974). p. 67
 Billington. op cit . p 9
 Ibid. p. 7
 Zenkovsky. op cit . p 37.
 Billington. op cit . p 8.
 Humility towards unjust and godless oppression has been the unbiblical reverse of godly humility.
 Zenkovsky. op cit . p 5.
 Zenkovsky op c~t . pp. 90-92
 Ibid pp 169-190: cited passage is on p. 188
 Ibid p 196
 Ibid . p 197
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
by Scott Cairns
July 10, 2010
I have just returned from five weeks in Greece, where, with my colleagues from the University of Missouri, I led a group of 19 graduate and undergraduate students on a "study abroad" venture in Athens and on the unspoiled island of Serifos. We spent our days reading and writing, strenuously ingesting Greek life in general, and Greek literary life in particular.
Students worked on modern Greek in the mornings and collaborated in writing workshops -- poetry, fiction, travel writing, or playwriting --in the afternoons. Our program (MU Summer Seminars in Greece) takes a group every year, so if any of that sounds interesting to you, you should plan to join us in June 2011, when Pam Houston will lead our fiction workshop, Christopher Bakken will lead our travel writing/food writing workshop, Aliki Barnstone will lead a translation workshop, and I'll lead the poetry group.
In any case, I've been making my way to Greece for many years, and this past trip was my eleventh. In a surprising way, however, as satisfying as this trip was, it feels oddly incomplete in retrospect. I'm supposing that this is because each of my previous ten visits to Greece included pilgrimages of varying lengths, from five days to four weeks, among the monks of Mount Athos, a unique region of northern Greece known also as Agion Oros, "the Holy Mountain."
Summer teaching duties here in Missouri didn't leave me any time for my customary journey to the monasteries this year. In fact, I was obliged to return to the States on the Monday after our Greece program ended, and taught an early afternoon class on Tuesday. I won't let that schedule crunch happen again, for it feels very strange to have been in Greece for weeks without at least touching base with the fathers on the Holy Mountain.
In any case, I continue to think of my visits there as pilgrimages, expeditions into something of a new world, even if the world of Mount Athos may seem to be the odd vestige of a very old world. As I say, I have journeyed to that amazing enclave 10 times to date; I hope to make that pilgrimage a recurrent practice.
Initially, I journeyed to the Holy Mountain for guidance toward what is traditionally called interior prayer, or the prayer of the heart. That is to say, so I might better learn to pray, and -- not to put too fine nor too grand a point on it -- to do so ceaselessly.
While I may have picked up a thing or two about the practice of prayer during my time with the monks and their mountain, I learned something else as well; I like to think of it as a bonus.
I learned, from firsthand encounter with contemporary ascetics, a little bit about affliction. And I learned an additional bit about its unexpected benefits.
Moreover, I realized -- experienced, even -- at long last, that "the Body of Christ" is a good deal more than a figure of speech; it is an appalling truth and mystery, uniting us beyond our knowing with one another, and uniting us with an ever greater mystery, the perichoresis ("circling dance") of the Holy Trinity Who is our One God.
I do not expect to comprehend, much less ever to explain, the particular mystery of, as I come to speak of it, the One Holy Essence whose mystery is expressed in relational, interpersonal terms, but I do hope to share something glimpsed among the struggling monks on their holy mountain, something gleaned from their ongoing written tradition, and something I have labored to acquire as my own.
I have spoken the words "the Body of Christ" for decades without thinking much about what those words demand. Lately, I have seen how our greater awareness of and our intentional performance as the mystical Body of Christ might assist in our apprehension of suffering's purpose, as well as its end.
St. Simeon the New Theologian, writing in the tenth century, offers his own first-hand experience of one amazing aspect -- one face, we might say -- of our neglected mystery when he writes of Christ:
"He was suddenly completely there, united with me in an ineffable manner, joined to me in an unspeakable way and immersed in me without mixing as the fire melds as one with the iron, and the light with the crystal. And He made me as though I were all fire. And He showed me myself as light and I became that which before me I saw and I had contemplated only from afar. I do not know how to express to you the paradox of this manner. For I was unable to know and I still now do not know how He entered, how He united Himself with me."
Through the mystery of the God's hidden agency, we are united with Christ, and, according to Saint Simeon, we are united with him quite literally; this is not, it would appear, a mere intellectual solidarity, nor is it merely an agreeable affiliation. As Saint Paul writes, mystically we "put on Christ," adopting His holiness as He adopts our humanity.
This is astonishing, this is appalling, though these are words that many of us have no trouble affirming.
From what I have gathered over the years, we generally have so little trouble affirming it that we seldom bother even to think of it, much less to consider its vertiginous implications. As oblivious as fatted cattle munching a numbing cud, we are likely to squander an inestimable gift, unawares.
We are, in no uncertain terms, called to be like Christ, and if we will choose to allow it, we will grow into His holy likeness, increasingly and forever. The fact that His holiness is unending and inexhaustible means that each of us has an exhilarating and endless journey ahead.
Even so -- and more to the point of the difficult moment -- we often neglect how, if this delicious mystery should apply to our own beloved persons, it necessarily must apply to other persons as well, which is why, as I indicated in an earlier post, we must understand every failure as "an important failure," every occasion of human suffering as our own.
900-year-old Byzantine Church Unearthed in South Turkey
July 14, 2010
A 900-year-old Byzantine church has been unearthed in south Turkey, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.
Professor Engin Akyurek from Istanbul University's Art History Department said that this well-preserved Byzantine church had been found 6 meters below ground level at the Myra ancient city located in Demre town of the Mediterranean province of Antalya.
Akyurek said the 5-meter wide and 10-meter high temple's dome had been partially destroyed; however, tiles at its roof were in good condition.
"The church most probably belongs to 12th century AD, but we will be able to determine its exact period once we enter the building," Akyurek said.
Akyurek added that all Byzantine period buildings that had managed to survive until today had either gone through a restoration process or their roofs had been changed; however, the Byzantine church unearthed at Myra had maintained its original structure.
Myra was a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia. Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today's Demre, on the Kas-Finike road.
The date of Myra's foundation is unknown. There is no literary mention of it before the 1st century BC, when it is said to be one of the six leading cities of the Lycian Union (the other five were Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara, Patara and Olympos).
This past summer, due to the fact that my son John received the degree of Doctor of Civil Engineering at the University of Akron in Ohio of the USA, I had the opportunity and joy to visit with my wife the United States and Canada from June 18, 2009 until August 18, 2009.
Along with this, as I desired much to do so, I visited some Greek Orthodox monasteries as a pilgrim, which were founded by Elder Fr. Ephraim, who is 83 years old these days, the former abbot of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou on the Holy Mountain.
First I visited the Monastery of Saint Anthony which he established first in Arizona in the town of Florence, between the cities of Phoenix and Tuscon, within the desert, in which this ever-venerable and beloved throughout the world Elder Ephraim lives.
As a visiting pilgrim I was amazed and marveled at his divine works, but in particular their deep spiritual life and the numerous miracles they accomplish.
His perpetual smiling face, his child-like purity, his radiant eyes, radiate and strike one with love, boundless goodness and holiness!
His good reputation has spread throughout all of America and Canada and everybody travels to him for confession, to receive advice, and to tell them their problems so that they will be released of them. He is another Paisios and Porphyrios!
This Monastery of Saint Anthony and Saint Nektarios is found in the middle of the Arizona desert with temperatures which can reach 40-45 degrees celcius in the summer, where only cacti can survive among the different species, which are being preserved and protected as a state tree.
Within this desert there now stands this wondrous Monastery of Saint Antony, a virtual oasis which shades, cools, refreshes, relaxes, decorates and fragrances the surrounding region with its 2,000 species of flowers and trees, but is first and foremost a SPIRITUAL OASIS with Elder Ephraim to refresh and bring peace, calm, rest, and healing to the sick, broken, and suffering hearts of our fellow-men.
Everyday there is a line of people which anxiously waits to see him, to talk with him, and to receive his blessing and a prayer.
The desert has truly transformed into a "Hospital" for the suffering hearts of our fellow-men and he leads them to the Divine and to salvation.
In 1995 Elder Ephraim miraculously began the foundation and building of the Monastery of Saint Anthony, despite the uninhabitable environment, with no water, no roads and electricity, and especially with the presence of wild animals of prey and poisonous snakes. Many wondered and told the Elder what he was doing there.
The place where the monastery was founded in the middle of the wild and inhospitable desert, however, was revealed from on high in a miraculous manner by Saint Anthony.
In truth, many people of the area would hear bells ringing every evening at that place, which was confirmed by the Elder, though there is no reasonable explanation for something like that to happen in the area.
Furthermore, in a miraculous manner, St. Anthony, the teacher of the desert, showed him the spot where there was precious water in the desert at a depth of 980 meters and now produces about 300 liters of drinkable water per second.
With this large amount of water they planted 3,000 olive trees, vine gardens, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, fruit-bearing trees, figs, palm trees, a greenhouse with all the vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, etc., pine trees, cypress trees, and many other multi-colored flowers which altogether are fragrant throughout the area. Everything is of course irrigated twice a day during the summer months, due to the heat.
The monastery is now run with 45 monks, who work hard and tirelessly taking care of the gardens, the thousands of trees, and the multitude of visitors with hospitality, and the abbot is Fr. Paisios who came from Mount Athos.
The monks are of various nationalities and races who have received our Orthodoxy, they were baptized Christians, and now serve the Church with zeal. They are from different parts of America, with one of African descent and a Japanese monk. Out in the desert there are wild animals like snakes, vipers, deer, lions, hares, partridge, and squirrels.
At the beginning of the building activities the vipers and other snakes and animals presented a great danger to the workers, to clean the area and build the churches and plant the gardens and flowers, but Fr. Ephraim in a miraculous manner dispersed them from the area of the monastery and in this way they continued their wondrous work.
The monastery has 2,000 stremma [a ¼ acre or 1,000 square meters is 1 stremma] and is visited by many pilgrims daily, where they can be accommodated in separate building complexes for women and for men, with very clean and comfortable rooms.
The monks follow and apply the Byzantine traditions, sacred services, vigils, prayers and life with the horos of the Holy Mountain, naturally in the Greek language.
The Monastery of Saint Antony is a coenobium with five churches: Sts. Anthony and Nektarios and St. Nicholas which are built of stone and are exquisite, and St. Demetrios, St. Seraphim of Sarov in the Russian style and St. George which amaze the visitors with their architecture.
Also, near the monastery, up on a hill, there is the very beautiful Church of the Prophet Elijah, of the same type found in Santorini with blue and white colors, which oversees the desert with a wonderful view.
Many sick and suffering people run to Elder Ephraim, who with the help of the Elder, their faith and the grace of God, are healed. People receive courage, peace, calm and hope in God and a joy that is indescribable. Indeed, many contemporary miracles occur!
There are innumerable stories of sick people becoming perfectly well and are grateful to the Elder and take him to be their spiritual father, and he advises them and leads them along the heavenly road of salvation and theosis.
Furthermore, Fr. Ephraim has founded 19 operating monasteries which he oversees and guides, 17 of which are in the United States and 2 are in Canada, with the goal of establishing 20 like on the Holy Mountain.
He has also begun to establish an old age home which will very soon take in many needy and poor elderly.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
by Bishop Klemes of Gardikion
Exactly two hundred years ago, at dawn on July 14, 1809 (Old Style), a truly multi-faceted diamond of Grace, the great and never-silent Teacher of Orthodoxy and the Greek Nation, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, reposed in the Lord on the Holy Mountain, at the age of some sixty years.
A Grace-endowed teacher, who benefited and continues to benefit monastics and laypeople in both word and deed, the Saint avails us of the essential wisdom of the Holy Fathers.
Every teacher is first a pupil. Thus our Saint, who was born on Naxos in 1749 (his original name being Nicholas Kallibourtzes), was educated at a school on his native island and subsequently at the Evangelike School in Smyrna. Owing to his astounding acumen, love of learning, diligence, and boundless memory, within a short time the classical education of that era became his inviolable possession.
At the age of twenty-six, he was secretary to the Bishop of his island, with a brilliant future in the Church marked out for him. Yet, it was precisely then that he began to receive instruction in the true philosophy according to Christ. He became acquainted with the Athonite Fathers Gregory, Niphon, and Arsenios, who had taken refuge on Naxos, and through them he came into direct contact with the sacred activity of wakefulness (νῆψις) and unceasing prayer. His heart, athirst for God, was burning with the love of God. Thus, he sought refuge in Hydra with the Kollyvades Saint Macarios of Corinth and Elder Sylvester, who had been exiled from the Holy Mountain, so that he might drink of the Living Water. They initiated him into the meaning of authentic ecclesiastical Tradition and the true Hesychastic and Eucharistic life.
The future teacher could no longer be held back. He withdrew in 1775 to Holy Athos, the Garden of the Panagia, in order to combine—initially at the Dionysiou Monastery—cultivation of the inner man through ascesis with communion in the Holy Spirit through the Church’s cycle of worship.
After only a few years, now as the Monk Nikodemos and still under instruction, the Saint began to teach others through writing. At the urging of Saint Macarios of Corinth, he edited the celebrated and classic works of Orthodox spirituality, the Philokalia, the Evergetinos, and Concerning Frequent Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ.
Although the Divine teacher became distinguished as a writer while still very young, he had, at the same time, an ardent desire to be taught by God. He was aware, from all that he had read and all that he had been taught, that such instruction could not be attained save through true obedience and mental prayer. Although he had tasted of these, he yearned for perfection. For this reason, when he learned that the Russian Starets, Saint Paissy (Velichkovsky), had a distinguished reputation in Moldavia as an unerring Elder to thousands of monks and a consummate teacher of mental prayer, he hastened with unrestrained zeal to meet him, so that he, too, might be numbered among the Elder’s elect Synodeia and might enjoy the wisdom of his spiritual experience, a wisdom informed by the Philokalia.
However, after encountering obstacles on this journey, he returned to his life of ascesis, study, and writing on the Holy Mountain. By means of his prodigious literary oeuvre, which encompasses at least a hundred well-known works, he engaged in hermeneutics, theology, hagiography, and hymnography, codified the Sacred Canons, refuted heresy—especially that of the Latins—guided, admonished, and taught.
This blessed man became a magnet for clergy and laity, and yet he was disquieted, as he was impeded thereby both from writing and from mental prayer. Concerning this blessed and divinizing activity, he taught that which he himself put into practice:
"Therefore, my brother Christian, when you withdraw your mind from all the things of this world—I mean pleasures, glory, and money—and bring it into your heart, and when, after finding there what is called the inward speech in the heart, you utter therewith this single-phrased prayer with fervent faith, hope and love—that is, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me’—holding your breath a little; then you attain to the guarding of the mind. For that warmth, which is engendered by frequent repetition of the Holy Name of Jesus, scourges and mows down the demons like a two-edged sword and does not allow them to put their unseemly thoughts into your mind. Hence, St. John of the Ladder said: ‘Scourge your enemies with the Name of Jesus’."1
In Saint Nikodemos, love for God functioned at all times in a harmonious and inseparable combination with love for the edification of his brother Christians—not only his contemporaries, but also those of future generations—through his precious writings.
Love, however, is put to the test. According to the Saints, Our Lord shows clearly, by the very structure of His Beatitudes, that when we attain to the perfection of virtue (see the first seven Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-9), harsh external persecutions, reproaches, and temptations unfailingly follow as a test (see the final two Beatitudes: Matthew 5:10-11).
Since the Saint was a genuine Hesychast, who lived and breathed Christ, he could not but yearn to be united with the Lord unceasingly in the Divine Eucharist. Consequently, he could not but strive with all of his might to suggest what is fitting, in general, for the plenitude of the Church and be solicitous to kindle the love of Christians for the Divine Mysteries. He wisely teaches that:
"Although Confession and satisfaction [the fulfillment of a rule (kanonas) given by a spiritual Father or Confessor—Trans.] can forgive sins, nonetheless Holy Communion is necessary for the remission of sins. Just as one first extracts the maggots from a malodorous wound, then cuts off the rotten parts, and subsequently applies ointment to heal it, since, if he leaves it, it reverts to its former state, so the same thing happens with sin: Confession extracts the maggots, satisfaction cuts off the rotten parts, and subsequently Divine Communion acts as an ointment and heals the wound of sin. For, if he does not receive Divine Communion, the wretched sinner reverts to his original state, and ‘the last state of that man is worse than the first.’"2
Likewise, he teaches that:
"If someone deprives us for just one day of eating bodily foods, we become upset and impatient and it strikes us as being a great evil; but if we deprive ourselves of the spiritual and heavenly fare of the Divine Mysteries once, or twice, or for whole months, we do not consider it a bad thing. O the great lack of discrimination which today’s Christians make between bodily and spiritual things! For they embrace the former wholeheartedly, but for the latter they have no desire whatsoever."3
However, the ignorance, lack of education, evil habits, and also the animus of many who were opposed to the aforementioned Divinely-wise words of the Saint became the occasion for a great deal of harassment, slander, and persecution for him. Nonetheless, the Holy Nikodemos, forgiving, enduring, and praying, did not give way. On the contrary, he defended himself through his outstanding Confession of Faith — a confession of truth — thereby curbing the censorious attitude of his accusers.
After suffering further tribulations from false brethren, and also from illnesses, Saint Nikodemos reposed in the Lord with the beloved Bridegroom Christ on his lips, in his breath, in his mind, in his heart, and in the whole of his sanctified and Christified being. He continues to instruct and chasten us, in order to make us partakers of Christ’s Heavenly Glory and Kingdom. Let us study him, heed him, and obey him. Amen.
Monday, July 14/27, 2009
Commemoration of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
1 Heortodromion [Commentary on the Great Feasts] (Venice: 1836), p. 19.
2 Concerning Frequent Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ, translated in Hieromonk Patapios and Archbishop Chrysostomos, Manna from Athos: The Issue of Frequent Communion on the Holy Mountain in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2006), pp. 125-126.
3 Ibid., p. 131.
Cult of Celebrity Addictive
July 12 2010
In the early years of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase played an inept, sometimes fatuous news anchor who would blithely flit from a report on “4 million die in China earthquake” to a segment on “Arlene visits the zoo.”
Today, we lump together news of the latest rant from Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan’s meltdown, and LeBron James updates with stories of environmental disaster, new wars brewing, and economic peril — with the latter at times struggling to wrest away some of the attention many devote to the former. The cult of celebrity apparently brings on an addictive element, with fans requiring a daily fix.
Dostoevsky’s cynical Grand Inquisitor got it right with his insight about the masses craving “bread and circuses.” For “bread,” read the steady appeal of junk food and the resulting epidemic of obesity among young and old alike.
Orthodox Church Denies Seeking To Prosecute Russians For Heresy
by Tsvetelina Miteva
July 14, 2010
The Russian Orthodox Church has never pushed to make heresy a criminal offense and described media reports about this as a part of "smear campaign" against the Church, a source from the Church's press department said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, several online editions reported that the Russian Criminal Code would soon be amended. They quoted Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church's press office, as saying the new article would punish heresy with imprisonment of up to six years.
The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church has risen dramatically over the last decade. Opposition journalists and non-Orthodox religious groups criticize the Church for actively implanting its ideology in schools and universities as well as for lobbying government business interests.
"Even when the power of the Orthodox Church was at its peak and the Church persecuted dissidents, even in those medieval times, introducing criminal prosecution for heresy was impossible," the source told RIA Novosti on condition of anonymity.
"This report is absolutely untrue, Mr. Chaplin could have never said such things," the source said, calling the report "part of a smear campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of the Russian Orthodox Church."
The source suggested Chaplin's words might have been seriously distorted in order to misrepresent the Orthodox Church amid heated debates over the controversial Forbidden Art-2006 exhibition scandal, the source said.
Religious groups accused the show's curators of defacing religious symbols and fueling national hatred. Many of the exhibits featured blasphemous images of Jesus Christ. In one, he had a Mickey Mouse head and in another his head had been replaced by an Order of Lenin medal.
The exhibit organizers were fined a total of $11,000.
Art Censorship in Russia
Reactions to the “Forbidden Art 2006” Verdict
Moscow Court Passes Guilty Verdict To Forbidden Art-2006 Exhibition Organizers
Forbidden Art-2006 Exhibition Organizers To Pay Fine
Images of the "Forbidden Art"
Demanding a Miracle: The "Russian Soul"
By Andrei Zolotov
July 9, 2010
The Need for Faith Is a Key Characteristic of the Russian Soul
RussiaProfile.Org, an online publication providing in-depth analysis of business, politics, current affairs and culture in Russia, has published an unusual Special Report on the mysterious "Russian soul". Fifteen articles by both Russian and foreign contributors examine this concept, which has been used by Russia watchers for some 150 years, from a contemporary perspective. The following article is part of this collection.
On a weekday afternoon in mid-June it took one hour of standing in a quiet line at the Convent of the Protection of Our Lady in east-central Moscow to reach the Russian capital’s most popular shrine—the relics of the Blessed Matrona of Moscow. On weekends and holidays the line may take several hours to get through.
“All, all, come to me, and tell me, as if I were alive, about your sorrows. I will see and hear and help you,” say the golden letters above the silver neo-baroque shrine on the ground floor of the church. Here lies the body of the illiterate clairvoyant Matrona Nikonova, who was born without eyes in 1881 in a peasant family in the Tula region. She started to perform miracles as a girl, had her legs paralyzed at the age of 16 and, from 1925 until her death in 1952, moved from home to home in Moscow while speaking in parables and reportedly healing people and helping them to find spouses, avoid prison or occasionally defend a dissertation.
In 1998, when pilgrimage to her grave became more popular and books were published about her miracles, the church authorities exhumed the body. The following year Matrona was canonized by Patriarch Alexy II on a fast track, despite the timid grumbling of church intellectuals, while particularly dubious, occult-like episodes were edited out of her now official hagiography.
People come here, in thousands, daily, most carrying fresh flowers, as Matrona is believed to have requested. It is enough to look at the line to realize that most are not regular church goers. About four fifths are women, and most of them are wearing pants and ill-fitting headscarves. People make the sign of the cross, kiss the coffin, and get the flowers, now cut in pieces, to take with them. What for? “To put under your pillow, to cure insomnia,” the answer was.
Whether one subscribes or not to the concept of the Russian soul, religiosity, which is considered a substantial element of that soul, is alive and well among Russians. It is largely shaped by the Orthodox Church but not only so, as evident from Russia’s non-Orthodox and non-Christian religions, various “New Age” phenomena, an evident atheistic streak and pagan rudiments scattered all over. “Russia knew neither Reformation nor Counterreformation with their explanations, symbolic interpretations and the uprooting of medieval idol-worshiping,” famous Russian Christian scholar George Fedotov wrote in his 1946 classic “The Russian Religious Mind.” “The Russian peasant, even in the 19th century, lived as if in the Middle Ages. Many foreigners have written that this people is the most religious in Europe. But in essence, it is more about various degrees of maturity rather than about substantial peculiarities of spirit and culture. The same historical factors have preserved the religious perceptiveness of the Russian people in the era of rationalism, while not touching the many pagan customs, cults and even the pagan worldview both within the church and outside it.”
In the 20th century the tragedy of the revolution led to a short-lived religious revival, drowned in the blood of martyrdom on par with the first centuries of Christianity. Religious thought flourished in émigré circles. But at the mass level in Russia, the near-uprooting of church organization and educational system, as well as rapid forced urbanization, have led to a further perpetuation of this medieval mix of Christianity and paganism—a situation that is particularly difficult to rectify in the postmodern age with its pluralism and syncretism of fragmented value systems. Nineteenth century writer Nikolai Leskov’s statement that “Russia was baptized but not enlightened” continues to be cited in church circles to describe the state of mass religiosity, despite evident progress in the growth of religious education, social outreach and the emergence of noticeablly active laypeople in various strata of society over the past 20 years of religious freedom.
It has become commonplace in political science and journalism to say that religion has “filled the vacuum” left in the place of communist ideology. But following Russian religious philosophers of the first half of the 20th century, such as Nikolai Berdyaev or Sergei Bulgakov, one can equally argue that communism took root in Russia as a result of the Russians’ religious striving for the absolute, for the Divine Kingdom that they so vainly tried to build on earth. With the red-bannered processions filing past the “relics” of Lenin and the “Red Corners” in every school, office or factory, the Soviet Union ended up as one of the most ritualistic societies in the world. “The Soviet people lived in the culture of religious forms,” modern theologian and social philosopher Alexander Kyrlezhev said in an interview.
A wider church
An often cited poll shows a wide gap between the 60 to 80 percent of Russians who identify themselves with the Orthodox Church and the tiny single-figure percentage of those who are “churched,” i.e. try to adhere to a Christian way of life as prescribed by the Orthodox Church. There are few places like the Convent of the Protection that give the picture of this “wider church” of 60 to 80 percent, and perhaps bigger. “I am a Muslim, but I come here every week,” said 31-year-old Ravil Subkhangulov, who sat on a bench in the monastery’s court. “I don’t go to any other church, because it’s a sin for me as a Muslim.” Ravil said that for ten years his Christian wife couldn’t get pregnant, and no doctors could do anything about it. Last August the couple came here, having heard from a colleague that Matrona helps in such circumstances, and spent 12 hours waiting in line.
“In November, what we had expected so eagerly, happened,” he said. Now he is buying icons of Matrona and giving them out to relatives and friends. “I work in Lubyanka,” he said, referring to the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, “and after all the nightmares at work I come here, and my soul rests, and I leave with tears in my eyes.”
Reproductive health appears to be one of the main issues that draw people to the Blessed Matrona. Angelina Zvereva, a surgeon, said that she first came to Matrona after a friend was cured here from repeated miscarriages. “People cannot live without faith,” Zvereva said. “People believe in whatever—some in the [Communist] party, others—in God.”
A stately middle-aged woman dressed according to church etiquette, in a long skirt and an elegantly matching headscarf, was sipping tea in a small cafeteria outside the convent walls together with Anna Suloeva, a petite retail buyer with an elaborate, multicolored pedicure, clad in jeans. Suloeva said she has been coming here every month for the past four years. “People come to Matrona when they are forced into a corner, when they have nowhere else to go and have no faith left in their own devices,” she said. When was the last time she took communion—the centerpiece of the Orthodox Christian faith and practice? “Never,” she answered. “You know, it’s not enough to just come here, you should stand through the services, make a confession, take communion,” said Zvereva, who appeared to be mentoring Suloeva in church ways. “I know, but I am not good at it,” Anna said.
In his 2004 article “Why People Go to Church,” the social philosopher Alexander Morozov singled out six motivations. One group he described as driven by “loyalty.” “Government officials go to church, just as they go to Luciano Pavarotti concerts, because that is a manifestation of their loyalty to their system,” he wrote. These people don’t connect their worldview with the church, but demonstrate, through the church, their “corporate identity,” as was the case in prerevolutionary Russia. The second motivation is communal. Parishioners, mostly women, “drink tea” together, like they used to in the Soviet workplace. The third are those for whom “belonging to the long historical tradition” is central. These people, mostly men, are more likely to immerse themselves intellectually in doctrinal and historical issues, and most Russian religious nationalists also belong here. There is the “core of the Church”—those for whom “salvation and attaining the Holy Spirit” is the only goal. Finally, there are those who “work in the Church.”
One of the largest groups are those drawn to the church by miracles. “After a long period of atheism, when everything miraculous was excluded from people’s lives and could only be manifested in the form of UFOs, the time has come when the possibility opened up for the legitimate existence of a ‘second reality’,” Morozov wrote. “Thousands of people visit the holy sites, relics heal, icons weep, and testimonies of miracles multiply. That is, there is a vast number of people who participate in church life only because miracle-making has been manifested to them in one form or another: they witnessed it, or heard about it, or never saw it but live in anticipation of seeing it.” Morozov describes the group as “problematic,” because a genuine religious experience coexists here with “treacherous distortions of religiosity”—forgeries, mental illnesses and ideological speculations.
Most experts agree that the quest for miracles and pious veneration of the holy objects and sites are the two most distinctive characteristics of modern Russian religiosity. Kyrlezhev spoke about “religious materialism” as one of the main characteristics of Orthodox religiosity—with all of its holy water, oil, lamps, candles and sand from the saints’ graves. Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, a professor of the Moscow Theological Academy and the rector of Moscow University’s St. Tatiana Chapel, sees “superstition” as the negative side of strength—the ability to sanctify the entirety of daily life. “The negative side is that material things and near-church practices become central instead of the Gospel,” he said.
But church historian Alexei Beglov believes that this combination is more characteristic of the traditional religiosity of the first half of the 20th century—the time of the Blessed Matrona, when millions of Russian peasants moved into the cities. Modern mass urban religiosity, Beglov said, “Is mutating even further, acquiring a consumerist character—you come, light a candle—and get a result without any effort.”
In an extreme manifestation of this attitude, the chairman of a consumer protection group in Yekaterinburg, Alexei Konev, attempted to sue the local diocese in 2008 for what he saw as an improper funeral service for his relative. The church is a service provider, “just like the dry cleaner’s or a dental clinic,” Lenta.ru quoted Konev as saying.
The switch from the rural to the urban is likely the greatest transformation underway in the Russian Orthodox Church. On the positive side, this urbanization has led to the emergence of a visible educated class within the church, which largely constitutes its active group. The general trend is: the bigger the city, the more universities it has and the more active church life there will be.
A smaller church
It is no wonder that Patriarch Kirill came to his post last year with mission and education as his central goals. But this is no easy task, and not only because of the lack of resources. There is a strong isolationist movement within the church which sees freezing the forms of religiosity and preventing any dialogue with the outside world as its main goal. The wide movement in the 1990s for the canonization of Tsar Nicholas II and the royal family reflected not only repentance for the Soviet period, but, to a much greater degree, nostalgia for the lost empire. It is not that unusual today to meet people who venerate the tsar and endorse the Soviet era—and sometimes personally the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin—at the same time. Some members of this group are likely to profess a degree of “Orthodox anti-globalism”—a refusal to accept tax identification numbers, new passports, bank cards or mobile phones.
But even beyond strictly fundamentalist circles, it is typical for the “churched” community to idealize some past period or look elsewhere in search for their ideal. While the idealization of the 19th century is the most widespread phenomenon, some communities try to imitate 14th century Muscovy, or Greek practices. “There is a trend to look for an outside ideal,” Beglov said.
At the turn of the 1980s and 1990s the liberation of the church, as well as other religions, from the Soviet ghetto took place under the slogan that the church would “install morality” into the people. That has not happened—certainly not at the level of mass religiosity, but also, to a large degree, among the “churched” society. “The church shows a way of life that is full of problems, and not what’s good and what’s bad,” Kyrlezhev said. But Kozlov countered that although it is wrong to reduce Christianity to ethics, “when it doesn’t grow even to ethics, it is also bad.”
Analyzing Russian religiosity in the first half of the 20th century, Russian religious thinkers, most of whom were Marxists converted to Christianity, dedicated a great deal of time to deducting Russia’s messianism and love of social justice from Christianity, and considered it one of the central parts of Russian religiosity. Surprisingly, it is hard to find it when observing Russian religiosity today. Most likely, the failed communist experiment has served to dampen this streak and channeled sentiments of social justice away from the Church.
But Beglov said that it may come back. “It is too difficult to say how the social aspect is going to develop—in a political or in a mystical way,” he said. “But the question is out there.”
The thought of death is like a downpour of cold rain, which extinguishes the fire of passions. The Psalmist David says: "For when he dies he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him" (Psalms 49:17).
Who would not be ashamed when he sometimes sees, even among the unbelievers, a better comprehension of our earthly nothingness than with some Christians?
When Caliph Saladin died, a crier [Telal] went before his coffin with a spear in his hand and, on the spear one of the emperor's shirts, and he cried out: "O great Saladin who conquered all of Asia and because of that caused many nations to tremble before him and who conquered emperors: behold of all his glory and of all his subjects he takes nothing with him except this miserable shirt."
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Patriarch counsels the priests how to build up the church in the entire region: to visit and meet with people of the next village where there may not be any church building; to go to the village beyond that, and the village beyond that, etc. He tells the priests should do this on a regular basis -- and then delicately reminds the bishop, as overseer, to follow-up with the various villages himself.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
“Eastern peoples are more religious”, an ancient writes, wishing to say that Easterners are more religious than people in the West, in Europe. Note that East is also the Balkans together with Russia.
To an Easterner feeling is more intense than reasoning, while the opposite happens with a European; and since faith regards heart and not reasoning, Easterners are more religious than Europeans, and thus religions were born in the East, none of them in the West.
Westerners are rationalists, which is why they were devoted to positive knowledge, to sciences, and made a progress there, today leading the whole world to their way. Those among them that make a difference and they don’t believe only in their senses, turn to the East, because they discover there a spring to drink, who are thirsty for mysteries beyond the investigation of reasoning.
How intensely the western man is tied with rationalism, is evident by the distortion Christianity suffered in Europe, where she became little by little a system of worldly knowledge, having as a purpose earthly happiness and not salvation of the soul, which the Christ taught. In the West even theology was subdued to rationalism, and became herself a science like all sciences.
In the East religion remained religion. Even Mohammedanism, what is called Islam, an inferior perception of religion, with some crude commands, yet kept pure its religious character, away from innovations and adaptations to each epoch, that is, away from rationalization. The material means by which the religion of Koran is expressing herself, the mosque, the hodga, chanting, decoration, vestments of the clergy, ceremonies, all remained totally unchanged, as they were when Islam started.
At a time when the Christian religion was distorted by innovations dictated by a rationalistic worldly spirit, where from the Papacy was born, and also Protestantism and the rest of their branches, something that did not happen with Orthodoxy, which remained unchanged, being the Christianity of the East, Mohammedanism stands always as it was from the start, that is, it remained a “religion”.
From this aspect our Orthodox Church is partly closer to Mohammedanism than to the so-called Christians in the West, because Mohammedanism did not cease to be a religion and remained unspoiled by the spirit of the world, the utilitarian spirit. This explains why we see Arabs kissing in deep reverence the cloth or the beard of our priests, and Mohammedans to be baptised Christian Orthodox and some times to become martyrs for Christ, while none, not one, Papist or Protestant is among the new martyrs that were beheaded or hanged at the times when Turks reigned over us. Christians who were tortured and became martyrs for the name of Christ in Persia are countless.
I heard a priest from Damascus saying that the king Abdullah told the Patriarch of Antioch these words: “You, Orthodox, the way you look, make us Muslims respect you as men of religion, while those western priests seem like agents of suspect affairs.”
Western Christianity lost its ecumenical, global, character, because, as we said, it was reduced to a worldly system by the wish to be adapted every time to every epoch, so that nothing remained there immovable, nothing of “religion”, while Mohammedanism, although Koran is a crude variation of the Gospel, kept until today its ecumenical character.
Everywhere a hodga has the look that reminds him of his prophet, while the priests and pastors of the West have no external resemblance with the leader of their religion, and sometimes, you think that they aim not to be like Him at all, but to resemble their pagan ancestors. As an example I mention the two leaders of Eastern and the Western Christianity, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul, who met with each other in Jerusalem.
Look at the photographs and you will see that these two persons are different in everything, despite they say that they are archpriests of the same religion. Observe their appearance and you will know how true this is: the one, the Patriarch, has a priestly look, with beard and long hair, as the Christ had, he wears wide cloth, eastern, as were, more or less, the clothes that they had at the places where Christ appeared, while the Pope is shaved like the ancient Romans and wears a tiny scull-cap and his clothes are made-up, in a word, nothing of his exterior is such, that when you see him you remember the Christ or the holy Apostles - and yet these two priests say they are archpriests of the same religion.
It is true that we Orthodox Christians suffered much from Muslims, especially Turks. This happened because their religion too was distorted by racial passions, although even Mohammed started to spread Koran by war. Note that Arabs, the patriots of Mohammed, do not recognise the Turks, who took religion from them, as genuine Muslims, and they don’t like them. ...
Mohammed, the founder of the new religion in the East, was an illiterate camel driver. At his years, as before, his country Arabia had for religion a mixture of idolatrous superstitions about a big black rock they called Kaaba, which the patriots of Mohammed worshipped and still worship.
At that time in Arabia, Jewish merchants dominated, but also Christians existed even in Mecca. Mohammed realised that his race was far below these religions, the Jewish and the Christian, and wanted to help her, to open her eyes, because, although illiterate and unhewn, he was clever. He was greatly impressed by the life of Christians, especially in monasteries, he admired the monks, that they were devoted to God paying no care to the vanities of the world, and besides their denial of property, that they held fast, they prayed, they were hospitable, they loved the other people. This is why he had many relations with Christian monks.
He also had a close relation with some Jewish woman, very wealthy, Chatitze, with whom in the end he was married. Chatitze was very learned, and she had always learned people in her company, among them a wise astrologer named Varakas, who had been baptised Christian and had translated to Arabic numerous fragments of the Old Testament. Mohammed was very much helped by his wife, because with her he was talking about all he had learned on the religious situation of the East during his trips from Mecca to Damascus, when he was a driver to caravans. His name and his knowledge spread to Mecca and the rest of Arabia. Despite his admiration for Christians, he saw that they were divided by heresies and weakened by that. Along with this, he saw that the weakness of the Christian religion was that it was teaching virginity, or no more than monogamy, while these races were from the creation of the world used to polygamy.
Therefore, after he had thought on all these, at the age of forty he presented himself as a Prophet sent by God, saying he was seeing the Angel Gabriel, who told him the will of God in order to preach it to the world. Some of these he put and wrote in the Koran.
In his country, Chentza, lying near the Red Sea, people were in a semi-wild condition. Christians there were not. By his preaching he didn’t manage to gather more than a few faithful followers. But when he urged Arabs to holy war, allegedly to spread the Koran, his patriots obeyed and followed him with fanaticism and thus the new religion was spread, yet, as we’ll see, this was accomplished less by Arabs and more by other peoples of the East, more clever, as Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Persians, and others.
The greatest part of the Koran was written after Mohammed died, who didn’t know how to write or read. The Koran was written by others, more literate, and maybe not Arabs.
Mohammed and the others, who completed the Koran, were building upon the Christian religion and their admiration for Christianity is not hidden. Yet their holy book is full of undigested and crude elements of the Old and the New Testament, which is why the Koran was accepted more easily than the Gospel by those barbaric peoples.
The Koran praises the Church of Christ, “where unceasingly the name of God is honored”, and this Church is the Orthodox Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, which is why Mohammed gave to his religion the name “Islam”, that means “Orthodoxy” in Arabic.
Besides these [elements belonging to Christianity] there are in the Koran the most diverse things, in a way that in it a great hiatus reigns, not felt by the simple and unhewn followers of the Koran. It is full of incomprehensible things, of flashy words with no meaning. It says again and again many times the same things, it speaks vaguely about prophecies in a manner extempore and disorderly.
There are in this book the most contradictory things. God is here “merciful and compassionate”, elsewhere “cruel and vengeful”. The same happens with all that Mohammed says about himself: here he praises himself, elevating himself to the peak, and elsewhere he calls himself a sinner. And in his life, where he is a saint and sees Angels and visions, there he is abandoned to women and pleasures.
As he understood that his preaching was not enough, he grasped the sword, which is more effective. This is why he wrote: “Whoever preach my faith, let them not lose time with preaching. Let them kill”. When he felt himself strong, he started war and bloodshed. While in the start he flattered the Jews, in order to gain their support, later, when he had no need of them, he chased and killed them. The same happened later on with Christians, by his heirs. He gives his word, he signs with his hand inked, and afterwards he doesn’t keep his word, when his interest demands so. He is becoming a politician and a diplomat.
Arabs had no writing to write in their language, and Mohammed himself says in the Koran that he doesn’t know how to write or read. Until today, the inhabitants of Arabia are (almost all of them) illiterate. How then, one thousand and three hundred years from then, did they manage to make the so-called Arabic culture, Islam? How did they become suddenly philosophers, mathematicians, poets, artists, astronomers, geographers, historians, - people who were drifting around like gypsies on their camels in a waste land?
This phenomenon can not be explained by any other way, but only if we admit that those who practiced the sciences and the arts were not the people of the wild Arabia, but men from other nations of the East, who had embraced the new religion, that is, Mohammedans of Syria, Egypt, Persia, Asia Minor, and most of all Greeks... Most of the Muslims came from races which changed their own faith, as are those that we said and also others…
That Islam was created not by Arabs but by ancient peoples of the East, having from before a spiritual growth dating back to the times of Alexander the Great, was supported with erudition by a wise French scholar named Rimbaud, who lived for many years in Arabia and the East and studied well and in place the Arabs. To the preface of his book “Hellenism In the First Ages of Islam” he writes:
“It seems to be verified and proved true by the facts, that all those various works the spirit of the East produced at the dawn of the medieval times, were the last gleam of the ancient civilizations before they were darkened by Islam… The works of art and thinking of that important epoch, when Mohammedanism culminated, are works made by the Greeks”.
Truly, how could they reach Spain, on the one hand, and on the other Persia, India, Sumatra and Java, even China, people like the indigenous of Arabia, who never traveled and didn’t know what the sea is? Persons from other races, and especially Greek sea-men or land travelers and merchants were going to those far places, and by them there were written also the imaginary traveling stories, as is Halima, which is the Arabic Odyssey. Sebah the sea-man is the new Ulysses. During this time there was a bloom of learning in Persia, Syria and Egypt, while Arabia was sunk in ignorance and superstition, having no idea of Aristotle and algebra. Rimbaud writes that “when Romans conquered Syria and Egypt, stayed very little in these countries and their influence was insignificant. The basis of the population of Asia Minor and Egypt remained Hellenic. Sciences, arts and merchandise stayed in the sure hands of the Greek race.”
Source: Photis Kontoglou, Works, v. 6 (Mystical Flowers), Athens 1992, 4th edition, pp. 31-42.