The Intolerance of Tolerance
Probably no concept has more currency in our politically correct culture than the notion of tolerance. Unfortunately, one of America's noblest virtues has been so distorted it's become a vice.
There is a modern myth that holds that true tolerance consists of neutrality. It is one of the most entrenched assumptions of a society committed to relativism.
The tolerant person occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each person is permitted to decide for himself. No judgments allowed. No "forcing" personal views. Each takes a neutral posture towards another's convictions.
This approach is very popular with post-modernists, that breed of radical skeptics whose ideas command unwarranted respect in the university today. Their rallying cry, "There is no truth," is often followed by an appeal for tolerance.
For all their confident bluster, the relativists' appeal actually asserts two truths, one rational and one moral. The first is the "truth" that there is no truth. The second is the moral truth that one ought to tolerate other people's viewpoints. Their stand, contradictory on at least two counts, serves as a warning that the modern notion of tolerance is seriously misguided.
Three Elements of Tolerance
Many people are confused about what tolerance is. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, the word tolerate means to allow or to permit, to recognize and respect others' beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked.
Tolerance, then, involves three elements: (1) permitting or allowing (2) a conduct or point of view one disagrees with (3) while respecting the person in the process.
Notice that we can't tolerate someone unless we disagree with him. This is critical. We don't "tolerate" people who share our views. They're on our side. There's nothing to put up with. Tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong.
This essential element of tolerance--disagreement--has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays, if you think someone is wrong, you're called intolerant.
This presents a curious problem. One must first think another is wrong in order to exercise tolerance toward him, yet doing so brings the accusation of intolerance. It's a "Catch-22." According to this approach, true tolerance is impossible.
Three Faces of Tolerance
Adding to the confusion is the fact that tolerance could apply to different things--persons, behaviors, or ideas--and the rules are different for each.
Tolerance of persons, what might be called "civility," can be equated with the word "respect." This is the classical definition of tolerance: the freedom to express one's ideas without fear of reprisal.
We respect those who hold different beliefs than our own by treating them courteously and allowing their views a place in the public discourse. We may strongly disagree with their ideas and vigorously contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect for the persons in spite of the differences.
Note that respect is accorded to the person, here. Whether his behavior should be tolerated is an entirely different issue. This is the second sense of tolerance, the liberty to act, called tolerance of behavior. Our laws demonstrate that a man may believe what he likes--and he usually has the liberty to express those beliefs--but he may not behave as he likes. Some behavior is immoral or a threat to the common good. Rather than being tolerated, it is restricted by law. In Lincoln's words: There is no right to do wrong.
Tolerance of persons must also be distinguished from tolerance of ideas. Tolerance of persons requires that each person's views get a courteous hearing, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth. The view that no person's ideas are any better or truer than another's is irrational and absurd. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly does not violate any meaningful standard of tolerance.
These three categories are frequently conflated by muddled thinkers. If one rejects another's ideas or behavior, he's automatically accused of rejecting the person and being disrespectful. To say I'm intolerant of the person because I disagree with his ideas is confused. On this view of tolerance, no idea or behavior can be opposed, regardless of how graciously, without inviting the charge of incivility.
Historically, our culture has emphasized tolerance of all persons, but never tolerance of all behavior. This is a critical distinction because, in the current rhetoric of relativism, the concept of tolerance is most frequently advocated for behavior: premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, use of pornography, etc. People ought to be able to behave the way they want within broad moral limits, the argument goes.
Ironically, though, there is little tolerance for the expression of contrary ideas on issues of morality and religion. If one advocates a differing view, he is soundly censured. The tolerance issue has thus gone topsy-turvy: tolerate most behavior, but don't tolerate opposing beliefs about those behaviors. Contrary moral opinions are labeled as "imposing your view on others."
Instead of hearing, "I respect your view," those who differ in politically incorrect ways are told they are bigoted, narrow-minded, and intolerant.
A case in point was an attack made in my community paper on Christians who were uncomfortable with the social pressure to approve of homosexuality. I wrote the following letter to the editor to show how the modern notion of tolerance had been twisted into a vice instead of a virtue:
I am consistently amazed to see how intolerant South Bay residents are to moral views other than their own. Last week's letters about homosexuality were cases in point. One writer even suggested that your publication censor alternate opinions!
This narrow-mindedness and self-righteous attitude about sexual ethics is hypocritical. They challenge what they view as hate (it used to be called morality) with caustic and vitriolic attacks. They condemn censure by asking for censorship (there's a difference). They accuse others of intolerance and bigotry, then berate those same people for taking a view contrary to their own.
Why is someone attacked so forcibly simply for affirming moral guidelines about sex that have held us in good stead for thousands of years?
Not only that, the objections are self-defeating. The writers imply that everyone should be allowed to do and believe what they want and that no one should be permitted to force their viewpoint on others. But that is their viewpoint, which they immediately attempt to force on your readers in an abusive way. Those with opposing beliefs were referred to in print as bigots, lacking courage, disrespectful, ignorant, abominable, fearful, indecent, on par with the KKK, and--can you believe it--intolerant.
Why don't we abandon all of this nonsense about tolerance and open-mindedness? It's misleading because each side has a point of view it thinks is correct. The real issue is about what kind of morality our society should encourage and whether that morality is based on facts and sound reasoning or empty rhetoric.
Most of what passes for tolerance today is not tolerance at all, but rather intellectual cowardice. Those who hide behind the myth of neutrality are often afraid of intelligent engagement. Unwilling to be challenged by alternate points of view, they don't engage contrary opinions or even consider them. It's easier to hurl an insult--"you intolerant bigot"--than to confront the idea and either refute it or be changed by it. "Tolerance" has become intolerance.
The classical rule of tolerance is this: Tolerate persons in all circumstances, by according them respect and courtesy even when their ideas are false or silly. Tolerate (i.e., allow) behavior that is moral and consistent with the common good. Finally, tolerate (i.e., embrace and believe) ideas that are sound. This is still a good guideline.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
The religious center of Astypalea is the Monastery of Panagia Portaitissa which was established by the blind ascetic and missionary St. Anthimos of Kefallonia in 1762. It took nine years to build, during which time many miracles are reported to have occurred, such as the time St. Anthimos rid the island of an infestation of snakes by his prayers. The icon of Panagia Portaitissa in Astypalea is a copy of the same miraculous icon in Iveron Monastery on Mount Athos. St. Anthimos had travelled to Iveron Monastery in order to receive this copy, which an old monastic iconographer named Luke accomplished for him despite his old age, yet could not finish the face. St. Anthimos then buried the icon and they prayed all night, and when morning came they uncovered the icon and the face was finished. One of the special features of the church in Astypalea is its cobble-stoned courtyard. A major feast takes place here on August 15th. St. Anthimos is one of the most important Orthodox religious figures of the 18th century and his feast is celebrated on September 4th.
In the video above, during the first minute a government official explains that the street they are walking on has a church for every house and is taken care of by each family. On the feast of the church a Divine Liturgy takes place, and it is said there are 365 such churches to a family on the island, corresponding to the amount of days in the year; this is the tradition for each family on the island. They consider this tradition as important to the spiritual and physical health of each family. At the 1:20 mark they are entering the Monastery of Panagia Portaitissa and the priest soon begins to chant the hymn in honor of Panagia Portaitissa. At the 3:47 mark there is depicted the icon of St. Anthimos and the history of the monastery is given. At the 5:35 mark they proceed to the monastic Cell of St. Anthimos. They show his prayer rope (komboskini), his priestly stole (epitrachelion), and an original copy of The Rudder (Pedalion). At the 7:00 mark the priest begins to explain that St. Anthimos was the victim of slander on the island where he was accused of have illicit relationships with the nuns. At the 7:35 mark the priest shows a peach tree before which St. Anthimos was brought to trial for this. To show the people his innocence he climbed on top of a table and took off his clothes. When it was seen how shrivelled up and emaciated his body was due to his severe asceticism, his innocence was clearly seen. The people sought his forgiveness, but the Saint was upset and decided to leave the monastery. He tried to take the icon of Panagia Portaitissa with him, but after attempting three times the icon would not move; by this he judged it was the will of the Panagia for the icon to stay. At the 9:30 mark it is explained how St. Anthimos prayed that snakes would not exist on the island. Even when snakes have been brought from other places to the island, the snakes do not survive till this day.
Read also: Saint Anthimos Kourouklis, the Blind Ascetic of Kefallonia and Enlightener of Greece
The Monastery of St. Onouphrios (Onuphrius, Onufry) is in the village of Jableczna, between Terespol and Koden, near Bug river. St. Onouphrios Monastery in Jabłeczna was built in the 15th century and is dedicated to the Egyptian hermit living in the 4th century. It has been the only Orthodox monastery in the area of the diocese. It played a significant role during the time of the Union of Brest, being an important centre of the Orthodox faith. In the first half of the 17th century the Bishop of Chełm was residing here. This monastery, as one of very few, has always been Orthodox. The beginning of the 20th century was the greatest in the monastery’s history, where there were 80 monks, 5 schools, a patient’s clinic as well as a farm was operating there. The major feast is on June 25th - in honor of St. Onouphrios. Today there are 10 monks in the monastery and is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland.
Read more here and here.
September 19, 2010
The first Armenian Orthodox ceremony in nearly a century at a church in eastern Turkey was overshadowed on Sunday by a partial Armenian boycott because of the Turkish authorities' refusal to place a cross on the roof of the building.
Nearly a thousand Armenian Orthodox worshippers out of the expected 5,000 people attended the service at the Church of the Holy Cross, which the government has hailed as a sign of growing religious tolerance in the predominantly Muslim country, which is a European Union candidate.
The church, which has been closed for services since the 1915 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops, has become a symbol of Turkey's troubled past with its Armenian minority and a painful process of reconciliation.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Muslim ally Azerbaijan over its war with Armenia, but in recent years the two nations have sought to normalize relations.
Last October there were a series of accords, but the process fell through after both sides accused the other of trying to rewrite the agreements and setting additional conditions.
Turkish authorities said a 200-kilogram cross made for the 1,000-year old church was too heavy for the roof, sparking outrage among some Armenians.
Earlier this year Turkey agreed to open the site, which sits on the island of Akdamar in Van Lake, for services once a year.
"I am so happy to be here. I want to thank the government for letting us be here at this historic moment," one elderly woman, who identified herself as part of the Armenian community in Turkey told Turkish television.
The church was opened officially as a museum in 2007 following a $1.5 million restoration by the government.
Many people canceled plans to make the 20-hour bus trip from Armenia, through Georgia, after news that the cross would be placed at the door of the church.
Armenia, backed by many historians and world parliaments, says some 1.5 million Armenians died during the upheavals that accompanied World War I and labels the events as genocide.
Ankara rejects the term genocide and says large numbers of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks were killed.
In Armenia, hundreds attended an alternative religious service held at the Armenian Genocide Memorial on a hill overlooking the capital, Yerevan. They denounced the service on Lake Van as a publicity stunt.
The Armenian Church in Yerevan had planned to send two bishops to the Lake Van service but reversed the decision in protest at the failure to mount a cross on the church.
September 19, 2010
Hurriyet Daily News
Sorrow marked the historic ceremony at Surp Haç [Holy Cross] Church in Van, as the cross that was set to be placed atop the dome of the church before the service had not yet been erected.
As the dome remained without a cross, the bell tower also remained without a bell. Bell chimes were broadcast through a sound system around Akdamar Island where the church stands.
Following a decision to not send spirituals to the service if the cross was not erected, the Armenian Apostolic Central Church of Armenia wanted to erect a cross weighing 100 kilograms late Friday with the help of four experts from Armenia, leading local officials to intervene in the situation.
According to local officials the Central Church did not have the appropriate permission from the Van Chamber of Commerce and Industry to erect the cross. While the Central Church considers the Turkish Patriarchate responsible for the erection of the cross, the exclusion of the Armenian experts from participating increased tensions.
The Turkish Armenian Patriarchate blessed the church Saturday evening according to the Armenian Apostolic Church, under the auspices of the Van Governor’s Office. The blessing ceremony was held quietly, with neither local nor foreign press informed.
A meters-long sacred table made by Turkish Armenians from Istanbul bearing a depiction of the Virgin Mary was placed as the altar. The sacred table was to be removed from the church after the ceremony and placed in the Van Museum, to be returned to the church for the next ceremony.
The first service to be held in the Church after 95 years started Sunday around 11:00 a.m. under the blessing of Archbishop Aram Ateşyan. Around 3,500 people came to the island for the service, according to official data. The atmosphere was quiet despite security measures.
At the opening of the church in 2007 after its restoration, a huge Turkish flag was hung on the front of the church. This time, however, the flag was nowhere to be seen.
At the 2007 opening, then Minister of Culture Atila Koç was present. However no high-level officials attended the 2010 historic service. The Deputy Gov. of Van, Atay Uslu, Mayor of Van’s Gevaş district Nazmi Sezer, and provincial head of Van Museums and Cultural assets Osman Fırat Süslü were present at Sunday’s ceremony and together they hosted the U.S. Consul to Adana Daria Darnell, Germany’s Ambassador to Ankara Eckart Cuntz, Netherlands ambassador to Ankara and diplomats from Sweden and France. Murat Akyüz, head of the German Armenians Chamber of Commerce, also attended the ceremony.
No crane for cross
The Istanbul choral group Feriköy Surp Vartananzs Armenian Acappella Chorus sang at the ceremony as visitors were transported to the island early Sunday morning. Both domestic and foreign media paid intense attention to the service with more than 200 reporters following the event.
As the church was not sufficiently large, only high-level participants were allowed inside while others watched the ceremony on screens outside.
“The cross was too heavy and we could not bring a crane here,” Sezer told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review before the ceremony.
“It is diffcult to bring the cross up without a scaffold. It was obvious that the work to place the cross on the dome would not be finished before the service,” he said.
Sezer said the base was not appropriate for the cross the Patriarchate brought as it was made to support the original cross.
Regarding questions as to why the issue of the cross had still not been solved since 2007, Sezer said Armenia needed to contribute more to dialogue with Turkey. “Armenia does not respond to Turkey’s positive steps,” Sezer said, adding that if Armenia had accepted Turkey’s conditions and took positive steps for dialogue, the cross would possibly already have been erected.
From Diaspora and Armenia
Despite the pressure of tours to Van for the ceremony being canceled, some groups came from Armenia, the U.S. and Beirut. Verjin Mermerciyan, who came from California, said it was an emotional day. Mermerciyan said no one in the local Armenian diaspora wanted to miss the historic occasion, but there were still perhaps more pressing concerns facing Turkey and Armenia and Armenian Turks in particular. “The reality of genocide cannot be rejected, but dialogue is what is needed now,” she said.
A group calling themselves “Muslim Armenians” also attended the event. “We could not live in our true identities for generations. Although my grandfathers turned to Islam to save their lives during the painful events of their times, they secretly kept their identities as Armenians,” said Hacı Mehmet Ali, a spokesperson of the group.
The ceremony was led by Domingo Fringo, who came from France specifically for the event. “Although permission to hold an annual ceremony has been given for the first time in 95 years, it is a great deficiency that the cross has not been erected,” he said.
Read also: `At least they cannot forbid me to pray silently,' Father Anno
September 19, 2010
Russia's Orthodox Church priests will soon appear in the Russian army and navy to serve as military chaplains as Russian servicemen especially need spiritual support, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said on Sunday.
"By decision of the Russian president, the institution of military clergy is beginning to develop in Russia. So far we are making the first steps... But since a legal foundation has been laid, I hope that priests will soon appear in the army and the navy," Patriarch Kirill said.
The patriarch met on Sunday with the personnel of the 16th squadron of Pacific Fleet submarines in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East.
According to the patriarch, servicemen need spiritual support.
"This is because risks linked with military service are so great that they cannot be compensated by any material benefits," he said.
According to the Russian defense ministry, two thirds of the country's servicemen consider themselves religious. Some 83% of them are Orthodox Christians, about 8% are Muslims, and 9% represent other confessions.
The Holy Martyr Zosimas the Desert Dweller lived during the fourth century. Once, while hunting with his servants through the mountains and deserts, Dometian, the impious governor of Cilicia, saw the Elder calmly and amiably conversing with many animals around him.
Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. Thinking he was a sorcerer, they then interrogated the Elder, asking who he was. The Elder answered that he was a Christian called Zosimas. Upon hearing this, they arrested and questioned him in the city.
When Zosimas was asked by the governor why he dwelt in the wilderness and by what magic and sorcery he enchanted the wild beasts and conversed with them as if they were men, he answered: "I do not live in the wilderness because I work sorceries. I am a Christian, and I cannot bear to dwell in the city with unbelievers. And so I went into the wilderness, preferring to dwell with beasts rather than with evil men, the enemies of my Lord Jesus Christ. I have as examples other Christians, our holy fathers, who forsook the world to live in the desert, and such men I have sought to emulate as much as possible. God, who knows those who labor for Him and helps them, has in His goodness cared for me, and for my consolation He has made the wild beasts submissive to me. And so I live with them and am comforted by the Lord, in Whom I have set all my hope."
Then Dometian said threateningly: "If you worship the Nazarene, I shall subject you to fierce tortures at Nazareth, and you will renounce Christ."
At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the Elder head downwards, with a large stone around his neck, and they began to lacerate his body with iron hooks. Dometian would demand that Zosimas admit he was a wizard, but the Elder would respond: "Christ my God sent the beasts to console me in the wilderness."
The torturers taunted the sufferer: "If the beasts do listen to you, tell one of them to come here, and then we will believe in your God." The holy martyr turned to God in prayer, and suddenly a huge lion came forth.
Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the Elder, and began to lift the stone around the martyr's neck with its paw in order to ease the suffering of the saint. The governor implored the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, and to bring him to the emperor, but Saint Zosimas was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God. The Christians took the body of Saint Zosimas and buried it reverently, and the lion departed into the wilderness.
Saint Zosimas is honored by the Church on September 19th.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Martyr Zosimas the Hermit
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
To the arid wilderness, far from men,
Early in life, St. Zosimas had fled.
In solitude he conversed with God,
And spent his life in many labors -
In prayer, fasting, all-night vigils,
And in salvific contemplation of God.
He was like an angel in vigil, like a giant in faith.
Even the beasts sensed his innocence.
The beasts, despisers of cruel men, loved the saint,
And obeyed him as children obey their father.
The merciful saint tamed them with mercy,
And the beasts responded with goodness to goodness,
Since beasts remember goodness, and repay it in kind,
With gratitude to their benefactors.
Persecuted by men, but dear to the beasts,
Among the beasts Zosimas took up his habitation.
But the beastly men discovered his home
And killed his body by cruel torture.
Now St. Zosimas rejoices in heaven;
In Paradise, he exults with the saints.
He prays for us, that we may overcome our hardships
And rejoice with him in Paradise.
In summary, Elder Joseph talks about the times before the coming of Antichrist. He speaks of political upheavals and an economic crisis. Greece will be impoverished and in hunger. Turkey will take advantage of Greece's weakness and attack. Russia will in turn attack Turkey and gain control of Constantinople and the surrounding area. Though Russia will want to keep Constantinople for themselves, they will not be able to and instead will give it over to Greece after two or three months. He mentions that the Americans and Israelis will make their move to attack Russia and push them back. The Japanese are also mentioned. Then a miracle will happen: An angel will appear in the heavens and the armies will temporarily lose their minds, turning against each other. A slaughter of three days will result in 700 million dead. These will be 700 million men/soldiers, not women and children. This will take place near Constantinople and will leave Constantinople in ruins, save for Hagia Sophia. After three days an angel will appear to stop this fighting, then all will return to their homeland. At this time this angel will arouse a Roman/Byzantine emperor of old who was pious and godly to rule from Constantinople and he will usher in a period of peace for three or four decades. When the Church becomes strengthened and is better organized, then the events spoken of by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation will take place.
When asked if these events will take place in our generation, he answers that he doesn't think so. When asked if it may be the next generation, he answers "probably".
See also: Prophecy of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi (Video)
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The great renown of the Romanian elder Paisius (Olaru) (1897– 1990) resulted paradoxically from his struggle to live in obscurity: in meekness, simplicity, and humility. As one writer has stated, “One cannot say precisely what the specific gift of Fr. Paisius is. He does not work miracles. He does not preach; no one has heard him preach in church. Neither is he a good chanter; as a celebrant he is not gifted…. And yet, he has something which captivates. He has grace.”1 And this grace attracted thousands of the faithful to flock to him for counsel and comfort. His direct and unembellished teachings strengthened Romanians, including many of the country’s great spiritual fathers, during the dark years of Communism.
Fr. Paisius was born on June 20, 1897 in the Romanian village of Stroesti and was baptized with the name Peter. He grew up in a pious family in the region of Bucovina, renowned for the deeply rooted piety of its people. His father, John, was a forester and provided a comfortable life for his wife Catherine and five children. John Olaru was well known for his honesty, and the local men would often seek his counsel. His youngest child, Peter, was sent to the village school, where he completed the three grades available. In his youth, Peter was deeply moved with love for the monastic life through reading the Lives of the Saints. He was particularly affected by the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified. Peter served in the First World War and was at the front in Hungary.
In 1921 he was released from the army and entered a monastery close to his home village, Cozancea Skete. According to Elder Cleopa (Ilie), “The monks loved him greatly because he took care of all the sick and the elderly with complete love —visiting their cells, taking them food, bringing the priest to commune them, and staying by their side at the hour of death.”
He was tonsured a monk at the age of twenty-five and given the name Paisius. After becoming a monk, he visited the monasteries in the Neamts region, and at that time conceived the desire to become a desert-dweller in the Carpathian Mountains. Once, while praying in a meadow a few hundred yards from Cozancea Skete, he heard a heavenly choir beautifully singing church hymns. With a blessing from the Metropolitan of Moldavia, at the spot he built a chapel dedicated to the Holy Great-martyr Menas and, later on, cells.
During the day he carried out his obediences in the monastery— working in the church, the vineyard, and the garden—and at night he withdrew to his place of solitude. Fr. Paisius lived there for eighteen years as a simple monk. He was clothed in the great schema in 1933 at the age of thirty-six with the intention ofwithdrawing further into solitude. Fr. Paisius was ordained a deacon in 1943 and a priest in 1947. When he was ordained to the priesthood, he was also appointed abbot of Cozancea Skete. Due to some misunderstandings in the community, he was abbot for only six months.
In 1948 Fr. Paisius requested a blessing to move to Sihăstria Skete. Fr. Cleopa was then the abbot of Sihăstria, and went himself to Iasi to request this transfer before the bishop, and it was granted. Fr. Cleopa appointed Fr. Paisius to be the confessor both for the monks and for the faithful who would visit Sihăstria Skete. In August of 1949, Fr. Paisius and about thirty other monks moved with Abbot Cleopa to Slatina Monastery, where he continued to be the confessor for the community. During this time he lived for six months at Rarău Skete, a dependency of Slatina Monastery, before returning to Sihăstria Skete in about 1953. He considered these years at Sihăstria to be the most fruitful period of his life.
According to Elder Cleopa, “Next to silence, he greatly loved his spiritual children, whom he would receive for Confession at any hour of the day or night, and for whose salvation he took great care. He was not very harsh in applying the canons, for he kept account of the spiritual state of each one.… With his forgiveness, his patience, and his meekness, he won many thousands of souls, sacrificing himself for others.”
With the desire for greater quiet and solitude, Fr. Paisius moved to Sihla Skete, a dependency of Sihăstria, in 1972. However, great numbers of people made the effort to ascend the mountain to Sihla in order to receive his blessing and counsel. In 1985, due to illness, he moved back down to Sihăstria, where he could more easily receive care. He was confined to bed from September 1986 until his repose, still receiving and blessing those who came to him, though to a much lesser degree than before. At dawn, on October 18, 1990 at the age of ninety-three, Fr. Paisius reposed in the Lord, and on October 20 he was buried in the cemetery at Sihăstria.
1 Bishop Anthony Plamadeala, in Tradition and Liberty, pp. 216–18.
By Matthew W. Dickie
Introduction: The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how difficult even the most highly educated and sophisticated Christians of the late fourth and early fifth centuries found it to rid themselves of the idea that envy lends a malign power to men’s eyes. The idea at issue is that the eyes of envious men are able, unaided, to inflict injury at a distance. This is the belief called the “evil eye” by speakers of English and other modem European languages, though that significantly is not the way in which most men in pagan and Christian antiquity would have referred to it. The difficulty that such fathers of the church as Basil, Jerome, and John Chrysostom had with freeing themselves from the idea is some indication of how deep-seated it must have been in the general population.
I shall also try to show that these church fathers, who do attack belief in the evil eye, address only one aspect of a much larger constellation of beliefs. They leave unquestioned the assumption that there are envious supernatural forces out there eager to destroy prosperity, virtue, and beauty. Their failure to deal with this larger issue is a further indication of just how much a part of men’s mental make-up must have been the conviction that life was beset by unseen envious forces. We see evidence of that fear in the many amulets that survive from this period. It is important to bear in mind that the fear reflected in these objects is not directed specifically at the evil eye as the fathers of the church construe it but at a much wider spectrum of dangers. In the case of Basil and John Chrysostom, and perhaps to a lesser extent Jerome, there is a further factor that has affected their thinking about the evil eye: the influence of pagan philosophy has made them concentrate their attention on a severely restricted conception of the evil eye to the exclusion of other related beliefs.
Click here to read/download this article from Dumbarton Oaks
Byzantine Magic, edited by Henry Maguire (Dumbarton Oaks, 1995)
by William Carroll
September 8, 2010
Scientists have begun to doubt whether there was a “Big Bang.” But in claiming that this disproves the existence of a Creator, they confuse temporal beginnings with origins.
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God . . . to set the Universe going.” Such is the affirmation of Stephen Hawking found in his newly released book, The Grand Design. It is not unusual to hear a distinguished scientist make the claim that the universe and everything about it is, at least in principle, exhaustively explicable in terms of contemporary science. In his famous book, A Brief History of Time (1988), Hawking did admit that perhaps a god was needed to choose the basic laws of physics and that, accordingly, if a grand unified theory of scientific explanation were at hand we would come to know “the mind of God.” Now Hawking thinks that, more broadly, we can do away with an appeal to a creator, at least as he understands what ‘to create’ means. Citing a version of contemporary string theory, known as “M-theory,” Hawking tells us that the “creation” of a great many universes out of nothing “does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.” Rather, these multiple universes “arise naturally from physical law.” Ultimate questions about the nature of existence which have intrigued philosophers for millennia are, so he claims, now the province of science, and “philosophy is dead.”
Hawking’s new book invites us to think again about what it means “to create” and what, if anything, the natural sciences can tell us about it. The assertion—which is broadly philosophical and certainly not scientific—that the universe is self-sufficient, without any need for a Creator to explain why there is something rather than nothing, is the result of fundamental confusions about the explanatory domains of the natural sciences and philosophy. What is often being affirmed is a kind of “totalizing naturalism” that eliminates the need for any appeal to explanations which employ principles that transcend the world of physical things. Whether we speak of explanations of the Big Bang itself (such as quantum tunneling from nothing) or of some version of a multiverse hypothesis, or of self-organizing principles in biological change (including appeals to randomness and chance as ultimate explanations), the conclusion which seems inescapable to many is that there is no need to appeal to a Creator, that is, to any cause which is outside the natural order.
Many cosmologists who now routinely speak of what happened “before the Big Bang” think that to reject some original Big Bang is to eliminate the need for a Creator. They deny the need for a Creator because they think that “to be created” means to have a temporal beginning. In such a scenario, accepting or rejecting a Creator is tied to accepting or to explaining away an original Big Bang. You might remember Hawking’s famous rhetorical question: “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”
What place, indeed? Creation, as a metaphysical notion, affirms that all that is, in whatever way or ways it is, depends upon God as cause. The natural sciences have as their subject the world of changing things: from subatomic particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be something that changes. Whether these changes are biological or cosmological, without beginning or end, or temporally finite, they remain processes. Creation, on the other hand, is the radical causing of the whole existence of whatever exists. Creation is not a change. To cause completely something to exist is not to produce a change in something, is not to work on or with some existing material. When God’s creative act is said to be “out of nothing,” what is meant is that God does not use anything in creating all that is: it does not mean that there is a change from “nothing” to “something.” In the quotation cited at the beginning of this essay we find Hawking telling us that it is not necessary “to invoke God . . .to set the Universe going.” But creation does not mean “to set the Universe going”—as though some change occurred at a putative beginning. To deny such a change, as Hawking does, is not to deny creation.
Cosmology, evolutionary biology, and all the other natural sciences offer accounts of change; they do not address the metaphysical questions of creation; they do not speak to why there is something rather than nothing. It is a mistake to use arguments in the natural sciences to deny creation. But it is also a mistake to appeal to cosmology as a confirmation of creation. Reason can lead to knowledge of the Creator, but the path is in metaphysics, not in the natural sciences.
To avoid confusion, we need to note different senses of how we use the term “to create.” We often speak of human creations, especially with respect to the production of works of art, music, and literature. What it means for God to create is radically different from any kind of human making. When human beings make things they work with already existing material to produce something new. The human act of creating is not the complete cause of what is produced, but God’s creative act is the complete cause of what is produced. This sense of being the complete cause is captured in the expression “out of nothing.” To be such a complete cause of all that is requires an infinite power, and no creature, no human being, possesses such infinite power. God wills things to be and thus they are. To say that God is the complete cause of all that is does not negate the role of other causes which are part of the created natural order. Creatures, both animate and inanimate, are real causes of the wide array of changes that occur in the world, but God alone is the universal cause of being as such. God’s causality is so different from the causality of creatures that there is no competition between the two, that is, we do not need to limit, as it were, God’s causality to make room for the causality of creatures. God causes creatures to be causes.
Already in the 13th century the groundwork was set for the fundamental understanding of creation and its relationship to the natural sciences. Working within the context of Aristotelian science and aided by the insights of Muslim and Jewish thinkers as well as his Christian predecessors, Thomas Aquinas provided an understanding of creation and science which remains true. The distinction between creation and change—and hence between the explanatory realm of the natural sciences and creation—to which I have already referred, is a key feature of Thomas’ analysis. As he wrote: “Over and above the mode of becoming by which something comes to be through change or motion, there must be a mode of becoming or origin of things without any mutation or motion, through the influx of being.”
Creation is not primarily some distant event. Rather, it is the ongoing, complete causing of the existence of all that is. At this very moment, were God not causing all that is to exist, there would be nothing at all. Creation concerns the origin of the universe, not its temporal beginning. Indeed, it is important to recognize this distinction between origin and beginning. The former affirms the complete, continuing dependence of all that is on God as cause. It may very well be that the universe had a temporal beginning, but there is no contradiction in the notion of an eternal, created universe, for were the universe to be without a beginning it still would have an origin; it still would be created. This is precisely the position of Thomas Aquinas, who accepted as a matter of faith that the universe had a temporal beginning but also defended the intelligibility of a universe simultaneously created and eternal.
Thomas also thought that neither science nor philosophy could know whether the universe had a beginning. He did think that metaphysics could show us that the universe is created, but he would have warned against those today who use Big Bang cosmology, for example, to conclude that the universe has a beginning and therefore must be created. He was always alert to reject the use of bad arguments in support of what is believed. The “singularity” in traditional Big Bang cosmology may represent the beginning of the universe we observe, but we cannot conclude that it is the absolute beginning, the kind of beginning which would indicate creation.
The crucial point here is that to offer a scientific account of the Big Bang is not to say anything about whether or not the universe is created. Those contemporary cosmological theories which employ a multiverse hypothesis or an infinite series of big bangs do not challenge the fundamental feature of what it means to be created, that is, the complete dependence upon God as cause of existence. An eternal universe would be no less dependent upon God than a universe which has a beginning of time. For one who believes that the universe has a temporal beginning, any theory of an eternal universe would have to be rejected, but a believer should be able to ask what kind of universe God creates (e.g., one with or without a temporal beginning) while remaining secure in the fact that whatever kind of universe there is, God is its Creator.
When it came to how to read the opening of Genesis, Thomas Aquinas observed that what is essential is the “fact of creation,” not the “manner or mode” of the formation of the world. Questions concerning order, design, and chance in nature refer to the “manner or mode” of formation of the world. Attempts in the natural sciences to explain these facets of nature do not challenge the “fact of creation.” God causes things both to be the kinds of things which they are and to exercise the kind of causality which is properly their own. Even the reality of chance and contingency depends upon God as cause. God transcends the created order in such a radical way that He is able to be active in the world without being a competing cause in the world.
The interconnected, and one might say horizontal, world of changing things ought not to be confused with the vertical dimension of creation: a vertical dimension upon which the horizontal continues to depend for its very existence. Order, design, chance, and contingency all concern the horizontal realm, whereas it is the very reality of all things that depends upon the vertical dimension. We ought not to think that to create, in its primary sense, means to produce order. To explain order and design in terms of processes within nature does not eliminate the need for a Creator, a Creator who is responsible for the existence of nature and everything in it. Hawking thinks that modern arguments about design, especially those which refer to the remarkable coincidence of the initial conditions of the universe (the so-called strong anthropic principle), do not lead us to the existence of a Grand Designer. Rather, “the fine-tunings in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes.” We just happen to live in that universe (among perhaps an infinite number of other universes) which has the right environment for us. Indeed, he notes, “just as Darwin . . . explained how the apparently miraculous design of living forms could appear without intervention by a supreme being, the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.” The Grand Designer rejected by Hawking is not the Creator, at least not the Creator which traditional philosophy and theology affirms.
In The Grand Design, Hawking grants a near omnicompetence to the natural sciences and writes: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” But there would be no gravity, indeed there would be nothing at all, were God not creating all that is as it is. God’s creative power is exercised throughout the entire course of cosmic history, in whatever ways that history has unfolded. God creates a universe in which things have their own causal agency, their own true self-sufficiency: a nature which is susceptible to scientific analysis. Still, no explanation of cosmological or biological change, no matter how radically random or contingent such an explanation claims to be, challenges the metaphysical account of creation, that is, of the dependence of the existence of all things upon God as cause. When some thinkers deny creation on the basis of theories in the natural sciences, they misunderstand creation or the natural sciences, or both.
Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra
September 2, 2010
The Rev. Bob Times
Christianity is commonly held to be the predominate religion in the United States. According to the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA), 82.3 percent of Americans identify themselves as being Christian. The next largest group is Agnostics and Atheists at 11.6 percent.
However, when surveys are made that collect religious data, the pollsters never drill down to find out how religious the respondent really is. As it turns out, most people who identify themselves as a particular religion may not actually adhere to the tenets of their self-proclaimed belief.
In April 2003 the Barna Research Group did ask the deeper questions and determined that only 4 percent of American teenagers are “Bible believing” Christians.
Despite the fact that the percentage of teen Christians in the U.S. is close to that of the national average, Barna was able to come up with just 4 percent because, although many more teens identified themselves as Christians, they didn’t follow the tenets of Christianity.
The conclusion is that the vast majority of Christians do not follow Biblical law and other rules in order to ensure their salvation, or generally be a good Christian in the eyes of God.
This is an example of societal norms eroding religious doctrine. It’s not just Christianity that is affected either. The erosion can clearly be seen in American Islamic and Hindu (Brahmanist) communities as well.
Simple Biblical laws are broken by virtually everyone. Men who cheat on their wives aren’t stoned to death, and no one looks at the tag to check that their clothing isn’t made of two or more kinds of fibers. Mormons, who aren’t supposed to drink coffee or beer often do. Sen. John Kerry, who is a practicing Catholic, was famously denied communion for his belief in a woman’s right to choose. American Muslims seldom find themselves in a position to pray at the required times.
Western culture is simply not compatible religious doctrine.
So, who are all of these Christians identifying themselves as such but they really aren’t? They’re part of a growing group of society; the Egonovists.
The concept of fairness in America has been a moral driving force at every major point in history, from the Revolution, to the Civil War, both World Wars, the civil rights movement, and even in Iraq, and everything in between. Unfair punishments and nonsensical crimes don’t make sense in the mind of the average westerner, so they ignore them, and in the process, they become an Egonovist.
Egonovism is the belief in a god and/or a religious structure that is not determined by holy text, organized religion, or religious leaders. It is the Egonovists themselves who determine the religious doctrine. Essentially, they make up the rules, and they decide how to follow them. It is likely that a statistically large number of self-identified Christians fall into the Egonovism category.
They may not even be aware of it, but they’ve reconstructed Christian doctrine in a way that makes sense to them. Ignoring some parts deemed bad or irrelevant, embracing other areas containing relevant wisdom, and then filling in the blanks with their own ideas. It’s not just Christians who do this; people from every major religion living in Western society do the same thing.
What is Egonovism?
The term “Egonovism” comes from the latin “ego,” meaning self, and “novo” to make new, rewrite, or invent. And it fits perfectly. The individual develops their own personal religions system and borrows ideas from established religions that they’re familiar with. Many Egonovists include the Christ figure in their religion, and hence they self-identify as Christians.
To better understand the concept, I sat down to interview an Egonovist who identified her religious preference as “Christian/Other.” She agreed to allow her age and location to be published, but not her real name. We’ll call her Sally Jones. She’s 28 years old from Phoenix, Arizona.
Rev. Rob Times (RRT): Describe for me how you define your religious belief of “Christian/Other.”
Sally Jones (SJ): Well, I really believe that all of gods known to man are the same god, just that he isn’t active in our lives today.
RRT: What is the virtue of believing in a god who you don’t feel is willing to intervene?
SJ: Well, what if I don’t believe and there’s an afterlife, and I don’t get in for not believing in him?
RRT: You understand that in every major religion, let’s take the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for example, you have to make certain sacrifices and believe specific things to get into the “good” version of the afterlife.
SJ: Well, I believe they’re all one god, and as long as I’m a good person and I believe then he’ll help me get into the afterlife. I’ll be allowed in.
RRT: Is the point of the god to simply create the universe and then preside over the afterlife then?
SJ: I believe in science, and I think that science and god don’t need to be in any kind of conflict…
RRT: So, you believe in human evolution and the big bang theory?
SJ: Yes, but I also believe that he (god) had a guiding hand in that process, and just wants us to be good people now.
RRT: If you don’t believe that the god you describe created the universe or all life in it, then why is he worth believing in?
JS: Because to me it’s better to have faith in something than noting.
RRT: Thank you for your time.
The Rev. Rob Times had conversations with twenty other Egonovists, ten of whom described themselves as Christians, three identified themselves as Mormon, one Muslim, two agnostics, and the remaining four classified themselves as simply “other.” Even in the case of the “others,” their religious beliefs are mostly constructed on Judeo-Christian religious concepts, because those are what they’re more familiar with.
Surprisingly, of the 21 people interviewed, most of them held the same, near-identical beliefs. A system where there is a god, who is not actively interfering in human lives, who oversees an afterlife, and will admit all who are good people.
Eighteen of the respondents indicated that god used known scientific theories, such as evolution and the big bang, as tools to create the life and the universe. The remaining respondents believed that the universe already existed through natural causes.
The idea that god will let people into the afterlife if they are essentially good people” is a reflection of fairness concepts from Western society. After all, it doesn’t sound fair for someone to be a good person only to suffer for not having accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savoir.
Furthermore, it’s telling that the concept of an afterlife is universal in Egonovistic beliefs. Like all humans, Egonovists are aware of their own mortality and desire an afterlife that’s better than the current world, one where deceased relatives await them, and one where they can await the arrival of those whom they left behind.
The Egonovist Scale
We have discovered that there are varying degrees of Egonovism as illustrated by the chart below. (The comparison is made to Christianity only because that is the predominate religion in the United States. The term “Christian” can be easily replaced with “Muslim” or any other religion.)
As the chart indicates, the number of actual Christians (position 1 on the chart) in the United States may be significantly less than the number of people who merely self-identify as being Christians (positions 3 and 4 on the chart). Some position 1 Christians even argue that position 2 Christians aren’t true Christians at all.
Unfortunately, without a proper national survey the likes of which have only ever been conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and one with accurate scientific questions, we’ll never know the difference between the numbers of people in the United States who follow their religion’s doctrine and those who are in actuality Egonovists.
As the country becomes more diverse, more educated, more connected to other cultures through the internet, and as religious leaders abandon en masse doctrines that are not compatible with Western idealism, more and more “religious” people are becoming true Egonovists every day, no matter if they personally chose to identify as a Christian, Muslim, Mormon, or as just “other.”
Frescoes from the island of Crete depicting scenes of Hell and the punishments of the damned are the focus of a new research project led by historians in England and Germany.
Angeliki Lymberopoulou of The Open University, and Vasiliki Tsamakda, from the University of Mainz, aim to place and assess these representations within a wider geographical and cultural context involving both Greek-Orthodox and contemporary western examples (the Balkans, Cyprus, Cappadocia and Italy). The material will be accessible to scholars and will provide a stepping stone for future research in key iconographic subjects for understanding their social and historic context.
Dr Lymberopoulou, Lecturer in Art History, said: “The island of Crete was ruled by the Venetians from 1211 until 1669. This extended period was culturally very prolific and provides one of the most prolonged case-studies in cultural interaction between two different groups – the native Greek Orthodox population and the Venetian colonists. One of the lasting monuments to this thriving era is formed by the surviving churches with fresco decorations. No fewer than 77 of these fresco cycles contain representations of Hell and these will form the basis of our study.”
The subject has a wide range of cultural connotations, since it reflects religious and moral beliefs, social structure and expectations and the most common illegal activities (e.g. live stock theft). Moreover, while customarily depictions of Hell and of the sufferings of the damned form part of the wider context of the Last Judgement, this is not always the case on Crete. Hell and the punishment of sinners can be depicted independently on the island – a fact which underlines the importance that such representations had for patrons and the faithful. Furthermore, the scenes of Hell reflect more than anything the complex interaction between (Byzantine) East and (Venetian) West that took place on Crete during its Venetian occupation, especially since they often include Orthodox as well as western sinners burning in the eternal flames. Therefore, the choice of this iconographic subject carries a wider appeal and interest for cross-cultural studies in general, including the way different cultures influence each other today.
Around 750 Byzantine and Post-Byzantine frescoes survive in Cretan churches, but the majority remain unpublished or appear in general surveys but with no intention or space for in-depth analysis. The research team has received £176,600 from The Leverhulme Trust to photograph, catalogue, examine and publish all frescoes with representations of Hell within these churches.
Dr Lymberopoulou writing in the Leverhulme Trust newsletter, states, “our team aims to create a corpus of material accessible to scholarship. We will provide a stepping stone for future research in key iconographic subjects for understanding their social and historic context by studying the examples in depth in order to determine the intentions behind their commission, the religious and political aspirations and the moral and legal parameters in contemporary cross-cultural Cretan society. Equally important is the aim to place and to assess these representations within a wider geographical and cultural context involving both Greek- Orthodox and contemporary western examples (the Balkans, Cyprus, Cappadocia and Italy).”
The original icon known as "Tselitel'nitsa," or "The Healer" was from the Tsilkan church in Kartali, Georgia. It was painted at the time of St Nino (January 14).
There is another icon with the same name in the Alexeev women's monastery in Moscow, and many miracles took place before it at the end of the eightheenth century. St Demetrius of Rostov (September 21 and October 28) relates a story about this icon in his book "The Bedewed Fleece".
A cleric of the Navarninsky church, Vincent Bulvinensky, was in the habit of venerating the icon of the Mother of God whenever he entered the church. He would also recite the following prayer before the icon: "Hail, Virgin Theotokos full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed is the womb which bore Christ, and the breasts which nourished the Lord God, our Savior."
In time, he found himself suffering from a dreadful affliction. His tongue began to putrefy, and he passed out from the pain. When he came to himself, he prayed his usual prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos.
As soon as he had finished his prayer, he saw a handsome young man at the head of his bed. The sufferer realized at once that this was his guardian angel. The angel looked at him with pity, calling on the Mother of God to heal him. Suddenly, the Theotokos appeared and healed the sick man who was so devoted to Her. He got out of bed and went to church, taking his place on the cliros for the service. Those present were astonished to see his recovery.
This miracle inspired the painting of "The Healer" icon depicting the Mother of God standing at the bed of the sick man.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
From your holy icon, O Lady Theotokos, salvation and healing is granted abundantly to all those who come to you with love and faith; visit also my infirmity and show mercy to my soul, O Good One, and heal my body by your grace.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Lord said: "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40).
Similar things happen in almsgiving and in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we receive the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of bread and wine; in almsgiving we give to the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of the poor and needy.
A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: "Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn't believe it, for I thought, `How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?' However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ's face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can."
Friday, September 17, 2010
It is told of this 14th century icon that it was damaged by the knife of a malcontent deacon-monk who was also the ecclesiarch, that is, he was in charge of preparing the church for services. Often this monk would arrive late to the common meals in the trapeza (refectory), and this would disturb the trapezaras (the person responsible for the refectory).
On one of these occasions, the trapezaras was angry and refused him food. The monk became furious and began to fight with the doorkeeper. The disturbed and enraged thoughts of the ecclesiarch then turned against the Theotokos. Going up to her icon, he said: "Every day I light your oil lamps, but you don't help me. I can't even get my food. I don't believe in you anymore!" After saying this he plunged a knife into the icon, into the right cheek of the Panagia.
From the wound which he inflicted, blood flowed and the face of the Virgin is said to have turned pale. The deacon was immediately blinded and fell to the ground, beating himself and driven out of his senses. According to the monks, he was possessed by demons. He remained in this state for three years. Then thanks to the prayers of the Abbot and the brotherhood, the Theotokos appeared to the Abbot and told him that the monk was cured.
The ecclesiarch spent the rest of his life in a stall opposite the icon bewailing his terrible sin, but before he died after seven years of this he received forgiveness from the Theotokos herself, who told him, however, as she had the Abbot previously, that his sacrilegious hand would suffer exemplary punishment after his death. It is kept today, uncorrupted and completely black, near the icon, which is in the narthex of the Chapel of St Demetrios.
by St. Dimitri of Rostov
During the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Hadrian, a widow of Italian ancestry called Sophia, whose name means "wisdom", lived in Rome. She was a Christian, and in accordance with her name, she lived wisely, showing that wisdom praised by the Apostle James, who says, "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." This wise gentlewoman, Sophia, while living in honorable wedlock, bore three daughters, whom she named after the three great virtues. The first was named Faith, the second Hope, and the third Love, for to what does Christian wisdom give birth other than to God-pleasing virtues?
Soon after the birth of her three daughters, Sophia was widowed. Living piously, she pleased God by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. She reared her three daughters in a manner befitting a wise mother so that they, being the namesakes of virtues, might in truth acquire those traits, the names of which they bore. As they matured, they increased in virtue, and they learned well the books of the prophets and the apostles. They became accustomed to listen to the words of their teachers and earnestly occupied themselves with spiritual reading, prayer, and household chores. Moreover, they submitted themselves in all things to their holy mother, who was filled with divine wisdom. Thus, going from strength to strength, they were successful in all things. As they were exceedingly fair and perfect in wisdom, the eyes of all were soon upon them.
Word spread throughout Rome of the wisdom and beauty of the three sisters, and even the Eparch Antiochus wished to see them. When they were brought before him, Antiochus learned that they were Christians, for they did not hide their faith in Christ. Hoping in Christ, they did not doubt or falter in their love for Him, but before all they glorified Christ, showing disdain for the idols, hateful to God.
Antiochus related all these things to the Emperor Hadrian, who immediately sent his servants to bring the virgins before him. When the servants arrived at Sophia’s house, they found the mother occupied with instructing her daughters. They told her that she was to come, together with her daughters, to the Emperor. Realizing the purpose of this summons, they arose to pray and said, "0 Almighty God, do with us according to Thy holy will, and forsake us not, but rather grant us Thy holy aid, that our hearts be not frightened by the proud tormentor, that we be not terrified by his fearful tortures nor terrorized by bitter death, and that nothing might separate us from Thee, our God."
After praying and bowing down before God, all four martyrs, the mother and her daughters, took one another by the hand, forming as it were a plaited garland. They went forth, frequently looking up to the heavens, committing themselves with sighs and silent prayers to the help of Him Who commanded us to "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." When they arrived at the Emperor’s palace, they signed themselves with the sign of the Cross and said, "Help us, 0 God our Saviour, for the sake of the glory of Thy holy name!"
They were then led before the Emperor, who sat proudly upon his throne. They rendered him fitting honor but stood before him without fear, their faces radiant, their hearts steadfast, their eyes gazing gladly upon all as though they had been summoned to a banquet. Such was their joy with which they came to suffer torment for their Lord!
Seeing their honorable, fair, and fearless countenances, the Emperor questioned the mother as to their lineage, names, and faith. She, being most wise, answered so sagaciously that all were amazed at her prudence. Having spoken but briefly of the maidens’ ancestry and names, she began to tell of Him Whom she confessed and before Whose name every knee should bow. Having confessed her faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, she called herself His handmaiden and gave praise to His name. "I am a Christian," she said, "and in that honorable name I rejoice." She added that she had betrothed her daughters to Christ so that they might preserve their chastity for the incorruptible Bridegroom, the Son of God.
The Emperor, seeing that Sophia was a wise woman, did not wish at that time to speak further with her or pass judgment on her. He laid the matter aside for a time and sent all four martyrs to a certain noblewoman named Palladia, whom he charged to watch over them and to present them on the third day to be judged.
Staying in Palladia’s house, Sophia had sufficient time to instruct her children. She confirmed them in the faith day and night, teaching them with words inspired by God and saying, "My beloved daughters, the time has now come for you to contend for Christ; the hour has arrived for you to be betrothed unto your immortal Bridegroom. In accordance with your names, may you display firm faith, undoubting hope, and unfeigned and neverfailing love. The hour has come for you to rejoice, for you shall be crowned with the crown of martyrdom by your most beloved Bridegroom and will enter with gladsome voices into His bridal chamber.
"My daughters, for the sake of the honor in which you will be held by Christ, Who is more comely than the sons of men, do not spare your flesh. For the sake of life eternal, pity not the bloom of your youth nor hesitate to suffer the deprivation of this fleeting life, for your Beloved, Jesus Christ, Who dwells in the heavens, is eternal well-being and beauty inexpressible. When your bodies have been tortured to death for His sake, He will robe them in incorruption, and the wounds which you bear on your flesh will shine like the stars in heaven.
"When you have been deprived of your beauty for His sake, He will adorn you with heavenly beauty, such as the eye has not beheld. When you have laid down your souls for your Lord and suffered the loss of your temporal lives, He will grant you life eternal, and He will glorify you unto the ages before His heavenly Father and before His holy angels. You will be called Christ’s brides and His confessors by all the hosts of heaven; all the holy monastics shall praise you, and the wise virgins will rejoice over you and will receive you into their company.
"My sweet children, do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the enemy’s allurements, for the Emperor will entice you greatly and promise you rich presents, offering you glory, wealth, honor, and all the beautiful and sweet things of this corruptible and vain world. But love none of these things, for they all vanish like smoke and are scattered like dust by the wind and like a flower or grass wither and return to the earth. Neither be daunted by the prospect of grievous tortures, for having suffered them but a short while and having overcome the foe, you will rejoice forever.
"I believe that my God, Jesus Christ, will not forsake you should you resolve to suffer for Him, for He said, 'Even if a woman should forget her offspring, yet I shall not forget thee'. He will remain with you throughout all the tortures you will suffer, looking upon your struggles, strengthening your infirmity, and preparing a plaited crown for your reward.
"My good daughters, remember the pains which I underwent in bearing you! Remember the labors I endured in rearing you, remember my words by which I taught you the fear of God, and comfort your mother in her old age with your good and brave confession of Christ. When I am deemed worthy to be called the mother of martyrs and will behold you suffering bravely for Christ, confessing His holy name and dying for Him, I will have more happiness, joy, honor, and glory than any of the faithful. My soul will be magnified and my spirit will rejoice and I will be strengthened in my old age. Having obeyed the instructions of your mother you will truly be my daughters, if you contest for your Lord even unto the shedding of your blood and with fervor submit to death for Him."
Having hearkened with compunction to their mother’s words, the daughters were stricken in heart, and they rejoiced in spirit, awaiting the time of their martyrdom as though it were the hour of their nuptials. Being the holy branches of a sacred root, they desired with all their heart that which their most wise mother Sophia had taught them to thirst after. They stored her words in their hearts and prepared themselves for the contest of martyrdom as though they were to enter a bridal chamber. Girding themselves with faith, bolstering themselves with hope, and kindling in themselves the fire of love for the Lord, they strengthened one another and promised their mother that with Christ’s help they would translate into deeds her edifying words to them.
When the third day had come, the saints were brought to judgment before the impious Emperor. Thinking that they were but young maidens who could easily be brought to obey his deceptive words, he began to speak to them thus, "I see, children, that you are fair, and I feel pity for your youth. I advise you as a father to worship the gods who rule the universe. If you obey me and do what I command, then I shall call you my own children. I will summon the eparchs, governors, and all of my counselors and shall adopt you in their presence, and they all will hold you in the highest respect and praise you. But if you do not obey me and do not submit to my ordinance, then much evil will befall you, and you will bring much grief to your mother in her old age. You will yourselves perish at an age when you should be happy and dwell amid the sweet, good things and the joys of this world. I will cause you to perish miserably and will cast out your severed limbs to be food for dogs, and you will be despised by all. Therefore, obey me, that it might go well with you. I care for you and do not wish to destroy your beauty and to deprive you of this present life; rather, I desire to have you as my children."
The holy virgins answered the persecutor as though with a single voice, saying, "God, Who dwells in heaven, is our Father, Who takes care for our life and has mercy on our souls. His love we desire, and we wish to be called His true children. We keep His commandments, and we spit on your gods. Your threats do not frighten us, for we wish to suffer and bear bitter torments for the sake of our sweet God, Jesus Christ."
The Emperor, having heard them answer thus, questioned their mother Sophia as to their names and ages. She replied, "My eldest child is named Faith and is twelve years old. The second is Hope, who is ten years of age. My third child’s name is Love, and she is nine years old."
The Emperor marvelled at the maidens’ spirit, intelligence, and ready answers, especially since they were so young. He then began to attempt to force each of them to submit to his impiety, beginning with Faith, the eldest sister, to whom he said, "Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!"
But Faith would not agree to submit. Therefore, the Emperor had her stripped naked and ordered that she be beaten severely. The torturers thrashed her mercilessly, saying, "Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!" She remained silent, however, as though it were another’s body which bore the suffering. Since the tormentor accomplished nothing by flogging her, he had her virginal breasts cut off. Seeing milk instead of blood flow forth from her wounds, the people shook their heads and secretly reproached the Emperor for his foolishness and cruelty, saying, "In what has this fair maiden transgressed? Why does she suffer thus? What a pity! Such is the mindlessness of the Emperor and his beastly cruelty that he not only tortures to death the aged but young children as well!"
Then a metal gridiron was brought, which was placed on a great fire which had been kindled. When it had been heated red hot, giving forth sparks, the holy martyr Faith was placed upon it. She lay there for two hours, calling out to her Lord, but she was not burnt at all, to the astonishment of everyone present. Then she was cast into a cauldron filled with boiling pitch and oil, but there too she remained unharmed, sitting as though she were in cool water, singing to God. The persecutor, not knowing what else to do with her to weaken her faith in Christ, pronounced upon her the sentence of death by the sword.
When Saint Faith heard this, she was filled with joy and said to her mother, "Pray for me, Mother, that I may complete my course and arrive at the end which I desire, to behold my beloved Lord and Saviour and be filled with the vision of His divinity."
Then Faith said to her sisters, "You know, my dear sisters, to Whom we have promised ourselves and to Whom we have been betrothed. You know that we have been signed with the holy Cross of our Lord to serve Him to eternity. Therefore, let us endure unto the end. A single mother has borne us and has reared and instructed us, so let us accept a common death since we are sisters and share a single will. May I be an example to you, that you both might follow me to our Bridegroom, Who summons us to Himself."
Having said this, Faith kissed her mother, and embracing her sisters, she kissed them and then submitted herself to the sword. Her mother did not sorrow for her daughter, for her love for God overcame her maternal love and pity for her children. She only feared that one of her daughters might renounce the Lord, so she said to Faith, "My daughter, I bore you and on this account endured suffering. But you will redeem my suffering if you die for Christ’s sake, confessing Him and shedding the blood which you received in my womb. Go to Him, my beloved offspring, stained with your blood, as if clothed in crimson. When you appear most fair before the eyes of your Bridegroom, remember before Him your lowly mother and pray to Him for your sisters, that He strengthen them so that they might have the same patience which you possess."
And so Saint Faith’s honorable head was cut off and she departed to Christ God her Master. Her mother took her much-suffering body, and as she kissed it, she rejoiced and glorified Christ God, Who had received her daughter Faith into the heavenly bridal chamber.
Then the impious Emperor had the second sister, the holy virgin Hope, brought before him, and he said to her, "Good child, I appeal to you as a father who loves you. Heed my advice and worship the great Artemis so that you might not perish as your elder sister did. You have seen her bitter death. Do you wish to suffer likewise? Believe me, child; I pity your youth and would have you as my daughter if you would agree to obey my command."
But Saint Hope replied, "0 Emperor, was it not my sister whom you put to death? Were we not born of the same mother? Were we not fed with the same milk? Did I not receive the same Baptism as my holy sister? I grew up with her, and from the same books and the same maternal instruction I learned to know the one God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to believe in Him and to worship Him alone. Therefore, 0 Emperor, do not imagine that I shall reason, think, or desire other than as did my sister Faith. I am ready to follow her path; therefore, do not delay or weary yourself with much speaking, but begin that which you have resolved to do. You will see that I am of the same mind as my sister who has gone before me."
When the Emperor heard this reply, he handed Hope over to the torturers. His henchmen stripped her as they had Faith, and they beat her so long and mercilessly that they grew weary. But she remained silent as though she suffered no pain. She only gazed upon her mother, the blessed Sophia, who stood nearby and who valiantly looked on as her child underwent torment, fervently praying to God that He grant her daughter firm patience.
Then the wicked Emperor commanded that Hope be cast into fire, but she remained unharmed, praising God like the Three Youths. After this, she was suspended and scraped with iron claws. Her flesh was torn off, streams of her blood gushed out, and a wondrous fragrance came forth from her wounds. Her countenance shone with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and she mocked the persecutor because he was unable to overcome even a young maiden. She said, "Having Christ’s help, I fear no torments; rather, I desire them as I desire the sweet things of paradise, so sweet is my Lord to me. But unending fiery torments and the demons which you regard as gods await you in Gehenna."
These words greatly angered the tormentor, who ordered that a cauldron be filled with pitch and oil and heated over a fire and that the saint be cast into it. When the cauldron had come to a boil and the Emperor’s servants were preparing to hurl the saint into it, the kettle suddenly melted down like wax, and the hot pitch and oil poured forth from it upon all who stood nearby.
Such was the wondrous power of God which guarded Saint Hope. Although the persecutor saw all these things, he did not wish to know the true God, for his heart was ensnared by demonic darkness and pernicious error. Thus, seeing himself put to shame by a young maiden and not wishing to bear further humiliation, he condemned the saint to beheading.
When the maiden heard that she was to be put to death, she hastened joyfully to her mother and said, "Peace and salvation to you, mother: remember your child!"
Her mother embraced and kissed her, saying, "My daughter Hope, you are blessed by the Lord God on high in Whom you trust and for Whose sake you have not spared your blood. Go now to your sister Faith, to stand in the presence of our Beloved."
Hope then kissed her sister Love, who had been watching her torture, and she said to her, "Do not linger here, sister, but hasten, that we might enter the presence of the Holy Trinity together." Then she went to the headless corpse of her sister, Saint Faith, and kissed it lovingly. Nature compelled her to shed tears, but love for Christ turned her tears into joy. Then she bowed her head beneath the sword, and thus Saint Hope was beheaded. Her mother took her body and glorified God, rejoicing over the courage of her two daughters. She then inspired her third daughter with sweet words and wise counsels to contest in like manner.
The persecutor summoned Love, the third maiden, seeking to entice her to abandon the Crucified One and to worship Artemis, but the deceiver labored in vain. For no one has so desired to contend for our beloved Lord as did Love, even as it is written, "Love is as strong as death; many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
The many waters of the world’s temptations did not quench the fire of love for God in that maiden, neither was it drowned in the floods of misfortunes and sufferings. Her great love was made manifest in that she was prepared to lay down her soul for her beloved Jesus Christ, for "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for another."
The persecutor, realizing that he was unable to accomplish anything with his flatteries, began to torture Love, hoping by various torments to separate Love from the love of Christ. But she replied with the words of the Apostle, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Nay, in all these things, I am more than a conqueror through Him that loved me."
The persecutor began her torture by ordering that she be stretched out upon a wheel and beaten with rods. The saint’s young body was stretched in such a way that her members were pulled from their sockets, and she was beaten until she had been dyed as red as scarlet by her blood, which watered the earth like rain.
The tormentor then showed the saint a furnace which had been heated white hot, and he said, "Maiden, say only that the goddess Artemis is great, and I will release you. But if you will not, you will without delay be burnt in the fiery furnace."
The saint said, "Great is my God Jesus Christ, but may you perish, together with Artemis!"
The persecutor became enraged, and he ordered those standing nearby to hurl Love into the furnace. The saint did not wait for another to cast her into the furnace, but she hastened to enter it herself. She walked into the furnace but was not burned, and she rejoiced as though she were in a cool place, singing and blessing God. And at once fire shot forth from the furnace, consuming the unbelievers standing nearby, burning some to ashes and scorching others. The Emperor himself was singed, and he fled far from the furnace. Within the furnace other radiant persons could be seen rejoicing together with the martyr. Thus the name of Christ was magnified while the impious were put to shame.
When the furnace was extinguished, the saint, Christ’s fair bride, emerged radiant and unharmed as though from a bridal chamber. The torturers, in accordance with the Emperor’s command, seized her and bored through her members with drills, but God’s help strengthened the saint as she endured these torments so that she did not die. For how could she otherwise bear such torments and not perish immediately? Her beloved Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, strengthened her so that the impious might be filled with shame and so that she might receive a greater reward and that God’s mighty power might be glorified in a frail vessel.
Finally, the persecutor, stricken with pain from being burned by the fire, commanded that the saint be beheaded by the sword. When she heard that she was to be beheaded, she rejoiced and said, "I sing to Thee, and I bless Thy much-hymned name, 0 Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast loved Thy handmaiden Love! Number me together with my sisters, and count me worthy to suffer for Thy name, even as they suffered."
Her mother Saint Sophia did not cease praying to God for her third daughter, that He grant her patience to the end. She said to Love, "My third offspring, my beloved child: endure to the end! You are travelling along the path which is good, and a crown has already been woven for you. The bridal chamber has been prepared and stands open for you. The Bridegroom awaits you, looking down from on high on your contest so that when you have bent your head beneath the sword, He might receive and embrace your pure and immaculate soul and grant you repose together with your sisters. Remember me, your mother, in the kingdom of your Bridegroom, that He might be merciful to me and not deprive me of an inheritance and portion with you in His holy glory."
At that moment Saint Love was beheaded by the sword. Her mother took her body and laid it in a beautiful coffin, together with the corpses of Faith and Hope, adorning their bodies as was fitting. She placed them in a chariot, took them several miles outside the city, and reverently buried her daughters there upon a lofty hill, weeping for joy. She sat by their grave, praying with compunction to God for three days, after which she slept the sleep of death in the Lord and was buried by the faithful in that same place, together with her daughters. She was deprived neither of an inheritance with them in the heavenly kingdom nor of a martyr’s crown, inasmuch as she suffered for Christ, not in the flesh but rather in her heart. Thus the most wise Sophia wisely finished her course, having brought as a gift to the Trinity her three virtuous daughters, Faith, Hope, and Love.
O holy and righteous Sophia! What woman hath been thus saved through childbearing as thou, who bore children who were betrothed to the Saviour and suffered for Him and now reign and are glorified together with Him? In truth thou art a wondrous mother, worthy of remembrance, for having beheld the cruel and bitter torments which thy beloved children underwent and their death, thou hast not, as is the custom with mothers, suffered grief, but thou dost rejoice, comforted by the grace of God. Thou didst encourage them to accept martyrdom and to pray, that they might not weaken and preserve their fleeting lives but that they should instead resolutely offer to shed their blood for Christ. And now exulting in the vision of His most radiant countenance, together with thy holy daughters, do thou enlighten us, that we may be preserved in the virtues of faith, hope, and love and be deemed worthy to glorify and stand in the presence of the most holy, uncreated, and life-bestowing Trinity, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Relics of Saint Sophia of Rome
Ἑορτή τῆς Ἁγίας Μάρτυρος Σοφίας & τῶν τριῶν θυγατέρων αὐτῆς, Ἀγάπης, Πίστεως καί Ἐλπίδος στήν Πάτρα
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The Church celebrates and rejoices in the feast of the three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love and their Mother Sophia, named for her wisdom: for in them she gave birth to the three godly virtues. Now they eternally behold their bridegroom, God the Word. Let us rejoice spiritually in their memory and cry: O our three Heavenly Protectors, establish, confirm and strengthen us in Faith, Hope and Love.
Apolytikion in the Fifth Tone
You blossomed in the courts of the Lord as a fruitful olive tree, holy martyr Sophia; in your contest you offered to Christ the sweet fruit of your womb, your daughters Faith, Hope, and Love. Together with them intercede for us all.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Since Faith and Hope and Love were in truth sacred branches of ven'rable Sophia, the namesake of wisdom by grace they have shown all men that Greek wisdom is foolishness, and in contest they proved to be prizewinning victors; wherefore, they received a crown that never shall perish from Christ God, the Lord of all.