Saint Onuphrius of Gareji (Otar Machutadze in the world) lived and labored in the 18th century. He was a Kartlian aristocrat famed for his wealth, hospitality, and charity.
Longing for the ascetic life, Otar wore a hair shirt under his distinguished raiment and unceasingly prayed to God for the strength to lead the monastic life. He revealed his will to his wife: “I thirst to turn from this world and draw nearer to Christ,” he said. “Therefore, I beg your forgiveness for all my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary.”
His faithful wife consented and permitted him to go in peace. Otar traveled with his two eldest sons to Tbilisi, blessed them, and bade them farewell for the last time. Then he set off for the David-Gareji Monastery, which at that time was led by the kindhearted superior Archimandrite Herman.
Archimandrite Herman received Otar with great joy, and after a short time he tonsured him a monk with the name Onuphrius.
Blessed Onuphrius was a peaceful, humble and obedient man and a tireless ascetic. He would keep vigil through the night, and after the morning prayers he would go down to the ravine and continue to chant psalms, shedding tears over his past transgressions. He ate just one meal a day of bread and water, after the hour of Vespers. Once the Dagestanis attacked the David-Gareji Monastery, plundered the church, and took captive several monks including Onuphrius, the priests Maxime and Ioakime, and four deacons. Onuphrius was the oldest among them. The unbelievers planned to stab him to death, but the Lord protected him from their evil scheme.
According to the will of the All-mercifulGod, Onuphrius was freed and returned to the monastery.
The brotherhood was impoverished after the invasion, so Archimandrite Herman sent St. Onuphrius on a mission to solicit alms. It was difficult for St. Onuphrius to depart from the monastery, but he unquestioningly obeyed the will of his superior: the former aristocrat began to walk from door to door, begging for charity. At Tskhinvali in Samachablo St. Onuphrius attracted the attention of a crowd of people leading a young, demon-possessed man. The saint approached them and discovered that they were bringing the young man to a fortuneteller for help.
With love and great boldness St. Onuphrius addressed the crowd, saying, “My children, such behavior is not fitting for Christian believers. Bring the young man to me!”
The young man’s mother fell on her knees before him, begging for help, but St. Onuphrius raised her up and proclaimed: “I have come bearing earth from the grave of St. David of Gareji. This will help your son!” He dissolved a pinch of the earth in water and gave it to the young man to drink, and he was immediately healed.
St. Onuphrius took with him his youngest son, John, and returned to the monastery with a great quantity of provisions.
Once a certain Arab with a wounded eye came to the monastery seeking help. St. Onuphrius washed his eye in water from the holy spring of David-Gareji, and he was immediately healed.
Later St. Onuphrius desired to be tonsured into the great schema. The superior was hesitant, and told Onuphrius to remain for twenty or thirty days at the grave of St. David praying and supplicating God to reveal His will. The saint remained there in prayer, and after thirty days God revealed to the abbot that Fr. Onuphrius was truly worthy of this honor. Then Schemamonk Onuphrius gave a vow of silence and began to sleep on a tattered mat. Under his clothing he wore a heavy chain, and he left his cell only to attend the divine services.
Soon Blessed Onuphrius became so exhausted that he was no longer able to stand. The brothers begged him to lie on a bed and rest his head on a pillow, but the blessed Onuphrius opened his mouth for the first time since taking the vow of silence and said, “I vow to end my days on this mat.”
St. Onuphrius endured his infirmities with thanksgiving and repeated the Jesus Prayer incessantly. When people came to receive his blessing, he would welcome them, saying, “Let me kiss the edge of your garments and wash your feet with my tears!”
Sensing that the end of his days was approaching, St. Onuphrius partook of the Holy Gifts and, eighteen days later, on the Feast of Theophany, fell asleep in the Lord.
St. Onuphrius was buried on the south side of the grave of St. David of Gareji, near the altar window.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Saint Onuphrius of Gareji (Otar Machutadze in the world) lived and labored in the 18th century. He was a Kartlian aristocrat famed for his wealth, hospitality, and charity.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death.
Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied: "I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness."
And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it.
God had even done for him according to the man's will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world - so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance!
Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied: "In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God." Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied: "I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that." But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age.
One of the most intense and disturbing (mainly in a positive way), performers of Avante Garde Jazz and Blues (if you can categorize her as such an artist), in the past few decades is Diamanda Galas. A San Diego native of immigrant Greek parents, she often speaks about the role of her culture in her music as well as religion. In 2005 I had the opportunity to see her perform live Defixiones, Will and Testament, an 80-minute memorial tribute to the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian victims of the Turkish genocides from 1914-1923, in New York City. Her voice penetrates the soul like few others are able to, and one of the most memorable and emotional scenes of the concert was when she was surrounded as if by fire and while burning alive she screamed "I was born a Roman and I will die a Roman" in the Greek language, in imitation of the many martyrs of the Asia Minor Catastrophy.
Despite this, Diamanda is not a devout Greek Orthodox by any means, but she made an interesting comment in an interesting interview that I thought is worthy of reflection and speaks much unfortunate truth about many Greeks as well as other Orthodox cultures. She was asked the following and responded in turn:
H.D.: You use a lot of religious imagery in your music. Did you come from a religious household?
Diamanda: Absolutely not. I come from an agnostic family, but at the same time, it’s Greek Orthodox, so there’s a combination of that. A lot of Greeks would agree with me when I say to be a Greek Orthodox atheist is to have the certainty of the Devil with no hope in God. And I’ve said that to a lot of Greeks in Greece, and they just laugh and say, “That’s it! Right on the money, Diamanda.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
Her official site can be viewed here.
On various Greek blogs it is being reported that Elder Paisios the Athonite has recently predicted that Greece will be in war in three months. This was first reported in late August when a certain monk from Mount Athos was reportedly in a hospital in Thessaloniki, and released this information he heard from other monks on Mount Athos.
Basically the monk said that Elder Paisios was walking outside the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos two weeks prior. There he met three young monks who approached the Elder and went to receive his blessing, but as they moved forward to do this the Elder pulled back and said: "Go to your Elder and tell him to buy large barrels of oil and flour because in three months from now we will have war in Greece and the people will be in hunger. Tell your Elder to inform the other monasteries about this."
The report which mentions this (see here) goes on to say that in the past week from when this was reported monks were seen at the Super Markets of Thessaloniki gathering oil and flour. He also mentions that this may be due to a recent prophecy of St. Kosmas Aitolos which may have been fulfilled with the recent Patriarchal Liturgy at Panagia Soumela in Trebizond (see here).
A few days ago, however, the new brotherhood of Esphigmenou Monastery officially addressed this issue and reported that it is a false rumor and it should not be taken seriously by Orthodox Christians. They wrote the following:
"NEVER did the holy Elder advise to gather foods! If I had stored foods all those in a time of hunger will kill me! If I don't have anything, then I will survive with some grass. Elder Paisios, a genuine voice of the monastic spirit, would have given his life in order for others to live! BE CAREFUL! Some are preaching catastrophies! Let us not do them a favor! The Elder would say that God shockingly loves Greece! These days we have the Holy Administration, and we have had no monk come forward to tell of this event, in accordance with the command of the Holy Elder Paisios. Neither the Holy Administration nor the Holy Community of Mount Athos has received knowledge of these events." (Source)
In the Greek Orthodox calendar there is no official feast day of St. Isaac the Syrian. Traditionally, however, he has been celebrated on January 28th together with the other great Syriac father of the Church, St. Ephraim the Syrian. The Slavic Churches celebrate St. Isaac officially on January 28th.
Not too many years ago Elder Paisios (+1993) sought to change this fact due to his great veneration for St. Isaac. He commissioned a Service to be written in his honor and chose to celebrate his feast on September 28th. The Service was written by the eminent hymnographer Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanites (+ 2002). Today the feast of St. Isaac is celebrated on Mount Athos on September 28th.
Furthermore, the first church dedicated to St. Isaac was built on Mount Athos, in the cell of a monk of the brotherhood of Elder Paisios in Kapsalis.
Elder Paisios, who would read the Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac beneath the icon of the Saint, would say of St. Isaac: "If anyone went to a psychiatric hospital and read to the patients Abba Isaac, all those who believed in God would get well, because they would recognize the deeper meaning of life."
He also said:
"First you must read the Gerontikon, Philotheos History, and Evergetinos. All these books are practical not theoretical. Their simple patristic spirit and holiness will help you remove secular logic from your mind. Next, you should read Abba Isaac, and this way you will not see him as a philosopher, but as a man illumined by God."
It should also be noted that before the establishment of September 28th as the feast of St. Isaac by Elder Paisios, when he heard rumors that scholars accused St. Isaac of being a Nestorian, he prayed about this situation. Through divine revelation it was revealed to him that in fact St. Isaac was Orthodox and he wrote in his Menaion for January 28th the following words after the description of the feast of St. Ephraim the Syrian: "...and Isaac the Great Hesychast and much unjustly accused."
Below is the text of the Service in honor of St. Isaac commissioned by Elder Paisios. It is distributed by the Kalyva of the Resurrection of Christ in Kapsala on Mount Athos, where lived Fr. Isaac of Lebanon, a spiritual child of Elder Paisios. His ascetical tradition is maintained by Fr. Euthymios and his brotherhood.
Read also: Ὁ Ἀββᾶς Ἰσαάκ ὁ Σύρος, στό στόχαστρο τοῦ Οἰκουμενισμοῦ (pdf)
Thanks to the popular carol, "Good King Wenceslas," we have traditionally come to associate this saintly monarch with Nativity; the 19th century English verses relate an incident which took place "on the feast of Stephen," celebrated by the Church on December 27. If the incident is legendary, the hero most certainly is not. Outside of his native Czechoslovakia, however, few know the true story of this young Orthodox royal martyr, whose statue today dominates one of the principal squares in his nation's capital.
During the missionary journeys of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Czech Prince Borivoy and his wife Ludmilla were converted. But their baptism was by no means followed by that of their subjects. Many powerful Czechs were opposed to the introduction of Christianity, as it threatened the privileges and powers of their own idolatrous religion.
The son of Borivby and Ludmilla, Prince Vratislav, married a nominally Christian woman, Drahomira, the daughter of a pagan tribal chief, who held tenaciously to the ancient beliefs. Their first son Vaclavor, as we know him, Wenceslas, [in Russian, Vyacheslav] was born near Prague in 907, and his father began his rule of Czechia in 915. Four daughters and another son, Boleslas, were also born to them.
When Wenceslas was thirteen, his father was killed in a battle. Drahomira took advantage of the confusion and religious animosity to garner the support of the powerful pagan nobility while Wenceslas awaited his majority. During that time, Grandmother Ludmilla arranged to bring up the boy; carefully she formed in his heart the love of Christ and His holy Church with the help of her priest, himself a disciple of St. Methodius. After Vratislav's death those same nobles encouraged Drahomira's jealousy of St. Ludmilla by sly suggestions. "Just look at what this interfering woman has accomplished: your own son is now better fit for a monastery than a throne," Between them they conceived and executed a plan to eliminate the Grandmother's gentle influence. They had her strangled [commemorated as a martyr by the Church on Sapt. 16].
Feeling herself now exempt from all Christian duty, the mother reclaimed her son, including him in her idolatrous ceremonies. Secretly, however, Wenceslas continued to celebrate his Christian faith in private services, receiving the Holy Mysteries in the deep of night. His own crops of wheat and wine were contributed for their preparation. Soon, God saw fit to bring the goodness of the young Prince to light, at the same time rewarding Drahomira in kind for her evil accomplishment. Murder, even by a regent., was severely punishable, and an uprising deposed and banished her. Gaining the throne shortly at the age of eighteen, Wenceslas recalled his mother to the castle, heeding the commandment to honor one's father and mother.
His was a well-formed soul and he cherished the peace and safety of his subjects sacrificially: once, to stop continuous murderous raids by his most pernicious enemy, he volunteered to meet him in hand-to-hand combat and let the outcome be the end of the dispute. Ever steadfast in the Faith, he was zealous in good deeds--clothing the naked, giving shelter to pilgrims, and buying freedom for those sold into slavery. His generous love extended to rich and poor alike. To encourage the Christians he undertook the planning and building of churches and was dauntless in his opposition of the nobles who oppressed them. The troubles between the Christian Prince and his pagan nobility were soon to erupt again in earnest.
In addition to his Holy Faith, the nobles resented his friendship with King Henry I, "the Fowler," of Germany. Prince Wenceslas preferred to be ruled by the "suzerainty of the empire", believing King Henry to be the rightful heir of Charlemagne, than to see his country crushed by the Germans if he rejected their rule. King Henry in turn admired the Czech Prince's devotion to the Church, offering to give whatever he might have of interest to the Prince. Wenceslas requested. a relic of St. Vitus. Upon receiving it he built a church (now a cathedral) to shelter. The Bohemian nationalists :were irritated by this friendship, and chafed at the influence of clergy in their Prince's counsels.
Although Wenceslas was reconciled to his mother, his younger brother Boleslas now began to be troublesome. Having grown up with his mother rather than St. Ludmilla, Boleslas had been more strongly influenced by pagan ideas. Now he fell easy prey to the evil suggestions of the same rebels among the nobility as had encouraged Drahomira to murder her mother-in-law. This wicked band used the occasion of the birth of Wenceslas' first son to stir up jealousy in Boleslas, hissing that should he not act quickly he would lose forever his opportunity for succession to the throne. Some say that the fire of this jealousy was fueled by the lie that Wenceslas was already plotting the murder of Boleslas. In any case, the band of Judases made haste to rise up against their lord.
Knowing the religious fervor of his brother, Boleslas invited him to the feast of Ss. Cosmas and Damlan. Though warned of danger, Wenceslas put his trust in God and went, as his custom was, to the church dedicated to the feast at hand--the castle chapel of Boleslas.
After Liturgy the Prince prepared to return home. But his scheming brother dissuaded him: "Why leave, brother? Let us join my knights for a hearty drink!" Still trusting in God, Wenceslas joined the men and stayed the day. At some point he was probably told of his brother's intent. But either he did not believe the wickedness of it or he determined to rest in the will of God. That night as he slept, the shameless brother and his band of infidels charted their course. When bells for matins awoke him, Wencelas gave thanks for his life and health and started for church. Boleslas caught up with him at the gate and they exchanged a few words. Then Boleslas drew his sword. "What has gotten into you, my brother?" cried Wenceslas. One of the henchmen wounded his right arm, and the near-martyr ran for the church. There on the Steps of the holy refuge he was beaten to death by two others; then a fourth pierced his side. Strangely, his blood did not yet sink into the ground. A priest covered his body with a cloth, and his mother was told. One can only faintly imagine the chaotic mixture of grief, terror and remorse that assailed Drahomira then. She ran, crying, to the body of her first-born, gathered him to her, and took him to the priest's house to wash and dress for burial. Then, fearing the duplicity of her younger son, She ran away to Croatia.
Three days after the murder, the blood of the holy martyr gathered itself together and stood above his body in the church in full view of many of the faithful. After his burial, many of his grateful subjects, feeling themselves orphaned, went to his grave to pray. Sources agree that miracles soon began in answer to these prayers, although they differ on the reason for Boleslas's decision to move the body to the church containing the relics of St. Vitus: some say the murderer feared reprisals from the faithful and hoped to hide the miracles behind St. Vitus's name; but others say that he repented of the killing of his Prince and brother, and moved the body to honor St. Wenceslas.
In any event, St. Wenceslas was embraced by the hearts of his subjects as their Patron, and his grave became a popular and fruitful place of pilgrimage. Of the many miracles wrought before the Saint's tomb, we cannot pass over the following:
A certain pagan, who was imprisoned, made a promise to the Lord, saying: “if the Lord helps me for the sake of the good deeds of blessed Wenceslas, I will believe in Christ and give my son into His service.” Straightway all of his shackles fell from him. Again and again the guards fastened him down, and again as before his shackles fell from him. Thus he was released and, fulfilling his vow, he studied and was baptized in the Faith, and lived for many more years.
There was in the city a poor woman who was blind and crippled. She went into the church, fell on the ground before the grave of blessed Wenceslas, and prayed until she regained her sight and the use of her arms.
In the Frankish territory there was a certain lame man. He saw in a dream a man dressed in white who woke him, saying: “Rise and go to the city of Prague to the church of St. Vitus; there you will regain your health.” When he ignored this, the same man again came to him in a dream and said: “Why did you not carry out my order?” The lame man answered: “I am going, Lord,” and he got up and went limping to some merchants and paid them to take him on their cart to the above-mentioned church. There he began to pray and fell on the ground before all present; and by God’s grace his knees, ankles, and feet were healed. He rose and gave thanks to God and blessed Wenceslas, for the sake of whose good deeds it pleased the Lord God to help him.
Through the tender-hearted prayers of St. Wenceslas, this young father of many, O Christ our God, release us from our shackles of sin, heal our souls , and save us!
Source: Compiled by Agafia Prince using material from a 10th-century Slavonic manuscript translated by Antonia and Kyril Janda.
Reflection By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Vatslav (Wenceslas) was the grandson of St. Ludmilla. As king, he labored in the Faith like the great ascetics, and strengthened the Orthodox Faith among his people. He was strict in ensuring that no innocent person suffer in the courts. In his zeal for the Christian Faith and in his love for his fellow man, St. Vatslav purchased pagan children who were being sold as slaves, and immediately baptized them and raised them as Christians. He translated the Gospel of St. John into the Czech language, and transported the relics of St. Vitus and St. Ludmilla to Prague. His brother Boleslav invited him to be his guest, and then killed him in his court. Immediately after this, Boleslav brought in German priests and had the services celebrated in Latin. St. Vatslav suffered in the year 935 and his relics repose in Prague.
A faithful and God-fearing ruler is a true blessing for all people. King Vatslav of the Czechs was such a ruler. His zeal for the sanctity of the Faith and his steadfastness remind us of the ancient ascetics. During the day he devoted himself to the affairs of the state, and at night to prayer. In winter, he often walked barefoot to the church for Matins with his old servant Podivoi. He often prepared and baked prosphora himself, especially when he desired to receive Holy Communion. Because of his care for the Faith, many churches were built, in which daily services to God were celebrated. He especially concerned himself with the poor and needy. He was a lover of peace, yet also a great and fearless hero. When the neighboring Prince Radislav attacked the Czech lands, Vatslav sent him a letter asking why he was waging war. The proud Radislav replied that he wanted Vatslav to cede all the Czech lands, and his throne, to him. Vatslav promptly amassed a large army and confronted his enemy. Yet, pondering on the two powerful armies, he mourned that so many men would die, and sent a message to Radislav: "The quarrel is between you and me; you desire to rule the land of the Czechs and I will not yield. Agree to resolve this matter with a duel between the two of us. Why shed so much blood in a battle between two armies?" Prince Radislav agreed to this duel, and was defeated by Vatslav. On his knees, he begged him for forgiveness.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Martyr Vatslav, King of the Czechs
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
From a wicked mother, good fruit was born:
St. Vatslav, who pleased God.
His wicked mother gave him only a body,
But his grandmother-light and faith and hope.
The glorious grandmother, pious Ludmilla,
Nurtured Vatslav's soul.
As a white lily, Vatslav grew,
And adorned himself with innocence.
As the king reigned, the people rejoiced,
And with their king they honored God.
Yet the adversary of man never sleeps or dozes,
Laying sinful snares for every soul,
And he incited Boleslav against Vatslav.
"For what, my brother, do you want my head?"
Vatslav asked, but was still beheaded!
But the evildoer did not escape God.
The soul of St. Vatslav went
Before the Most-high God, the Just,
The One he had always adored,
And with Ludmilla, Vatslav now prays
For his people, that they be strengthened in faith.
St. Vatslav, beautiful as an angel!
Good King Wenceslas: LIFE & THE CAROL
Wikipedia: St. Vitus Cathedral
St Wenceslas Chapel
September 28, 2010
The Moscow Patriarchate has denied media reports claiming that a breakthrough has been accomplished in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue at a meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue in Vienna last week.
"Contrary to media reports, no 'breakthroughs' were accomplished. The entire meeting was devoted to the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium. The Coordinating Committee had drafted a report, which was discussed in Cyprus last year. The raw copy of this document was leaked to the media and was published," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Department of External Church Relations, said in a statement.
"It was thought that the discussion of this document would be finished in Vienna," he said.
"But this did not happen and much time was spent on a discussion of the status of this text. The Orthodox participants had been arguing from the start that the 'Cretan document' (updated later in Cyprus - I.F.) cannot be officially published on behalf of the commission, or signed by its members. In our opinion, this document is in need of thorough editing. But even after editing, it may only have the status of a 'working' document. i.e., the status of 'instrument laboris' which can be used to prepare subsequent documents. But by itself it cannot have any official status," he said.
Metropolitan Hilarion said that the document drafted in Crete is of "purely historical character," which, while elaborating on the role of the Bishop of Rome, almost does not mention bishops of other local churches in the first millennium, which creates a wrong understanding of how powers were distributed in the ancient Church, he said.
In addition to this, the document carries no clear assertion that the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium did not extend to the East. Metropolitan Hilarion said that these blank spaces would hopefully be filled in the edited text.
Following a long-lasting discussion, the commission agreed that the draft needs to be edited and that the decision on its final status will be announced at the next plenary meeting, in about two years. A new document, which will look at the same problem from a theologian point of view, is expected to be drafted by the same time.
It is clear for the Orthodox participants that the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome only extended to the West in the first millennium, Metropolitan Hilarion said. In the East, the territories were divided between the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antiochia and Jerusalem.
The Bishop of Rome "had no direct jurisdiction over the East," even though in individual instances Eastern hierarchs would turn to him as an arbiter in theological disputes, he said.
"These instances were not systematic and cannot in any way suggest that the Bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the possessor of supreme authority over the Universal Church," the Metropolitan said.
The Catholic side will hopefully accept this position at subsequent sessions - a position which is being confirmed by numerous historical evidence.
September 27, 2010
Los Angeles Times
If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.
Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term "blind faith."
A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn't identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church's central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.
Atheists and agnostics -- those who believe there is no God or who aren't sure -- were more likely to answer the survey's questions correctly. Jews and Mormons ranked just below them in the survey's measurement of religious knowledge -- so close as to be statistically tied.
So why would an atheist know more about religion than a Christian?
American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.
"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."
Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.
The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.
Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't," served as an advisor on the survey. "I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people," he said.
He said he found it significant that Mormons, who are not considered Christians by many fundamentalists, showed greater knowledge of the Bible than evangelical Christians.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister from Leawood, Kan., and the author of "When Christians Get it Wrong," said the survey's results may reflect a reluctance by many people to dig deeply into their own beliefs and especially into those of others.
"I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it's already accepted to be true, they don't examine other people's faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith," he said.
The Pew survey was not without its bright spots for the devout. Eight in 10 people surveyed knew that Mother Teresa was Catholic. Seven in 10 knew that, according to the Bible, Moses led the exodus from Egypt and that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
The question that elicited the most correct responses concerned whether public school teachers are allowed to lead their classes in prayer. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents correctly said no. However, 67% also said that such teachers are not permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, something the law clearly allows.
For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote "Moby Dick."
Monday, September 27, 2010
One day the Saint’s father quarreled and wrestled with a Turkish neighbour (since both Christians and Turks lived side by side in this place). By the Evil One’s collaboration he struck and slew the Hagarene. Whereupon he was arrested by the local authorities, who led him to the pasha of Thessalonica to have him condemned. Now he was terrified of death and sought acquittal, so he offered to become a Muslim. (Alas, his fall!) Therefore, they did not execute him. At that time Akylina was an infant nursing on her mother’s milk. After the passage of some time, the Turks enjoined her father that he must have his daughter become a Muslim. He told them:
"Do not be concerned about my daughter. She is under my authority and I will convert her when I want."
However, Akylina’s mother remained anchored in the Faith of Christ and never ceased every hour to exhort her child to stand firmly in the Faith of Christ and not to ever deny Jesus Christ.
When the maiden reached 18 years of age, the Turks once again spoke with her father concerning the conversion. At this point he summoned Akylina and said:
“My child, other Turks have approached me daily on the matter of your accepting Mohammedanism. Therefore, either now or a little later, you will become a Muslim, only make the decision in a day or two, so the Muslims will not harass me.”
Yet the Saint, who was ignited and enflamed with the love of Christ, with great courage declared:
“Perhaps you think that I have the same little faith as yourself to deny my Maker and Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ Who submitted to the cross and death for our sake? I refuse. I am prepared to undergo the woeful torment, even death, for the love of Christ.”
By these superb and admirable statements she was not the daughter of the thrice-miserable father, but truly the daughter of Christ the Heavenly King!
Observing the Saint’s unswerving belief, the father went before the Turks and divulged to them:
“I am unable to induce my daughter to change her beliefs; you do with her whatever you will."
Upon hearing this they went into a flurry, and immediately dispatched men of the court to apprehend the Martyr. Seeing them approaching, the Saint’s blessed mother took hold of Akylina, and gave her this final instruction:
“Lo, my most beloved child and my sweetest daughter, Akylina. Behold, fruit of my womb, the hour has arrived of which I have warned you. Therefore, my girl, attend and obey my admonition. Display courage in the torments which you will face and do not renounce Christ.”
Likewise, Akylina replied:
“Have no fear, my mother, for I have this intention. The All-kind God will be my help. Pray for me.”
Thus, they bid each other farewell with tears.
The servant of the judge bound the Saint and led her to the tribunal. The compassionate mother followed after her beloved daughter to the place of condemnation, since motherly feelings could not conceive of being separated from her dear child. However those that had taken her intocustody, locked her outside the courtyard. Akylina was taken inside into the presence of the judge, who in a coarse manner blurted out to her:
“Eh! You, become a Muslim.”
The Saint exclaimed:
“No, I will not become one. Never will I forsake my belief and my Master Christ!”
Hearing this, the judge became incensed. Therefore he commanded that the Saint be undressed and be left wearing only her chemise. Then they tied Akylina to a column and two servants beat her with rods for many hours. Notwithstanding, the Martyr underwent this torture bravely.
Afterwards the judge and other Turks had the Martyr brought forward again before them. They began to flatter Akylina and promise her expensive gifts if she would renounce the faith. But the bride of Christ possessed in her heart love towards her sublime Bridegroom Christ and would not even consider their offers. Furthermore, since he was extremely wealthy, he brazenly proposed to her:
“Akylina, become a Muslim and I will make you my son’s bride.”
Christ’s Martyr replied with an immense daring:
“You and your son go to perdition.”
With these words the judge’s wrath was kindled. They tied her again as before and flogged her for many hours. When they unfettered her for a third examination, the judge asked her:
“Hapless one, are you not embarrassed to be beaten naked in front of so many men?”
He said this because from the countless blows her slip was in shreds and she was exposed. The judge continued:
“Either you become a Muslim or have your bones shattered before all.”
In refutation she declared:
“And what attraction does your faith have for me to deny my Christ, or what miracle of your religion shall I believe, since you have filthy and indecent lives?”
O fearless testimony! A noble reply worthy of heavenly praise, not from a gentle and delicate young girl, but from a valiant giant!
All within earshot were disgraced, essentially by the brilliancy of her truthful speech. They were at a loss at how to deal with her. In their rage they scourged the Saint mercilessly a third time, leaving her as dead. The earth was reddened by her blood and her flesh fell in pieces to the ground. Next they untied the Martyr and had her carried by a Christian who was present to her mother’s home. Whereupon the mother embraced her daughter who was breathing her last, and asked:
“My child, what have you done?”
As she came to herself slightly, the Martyr exerted much effort to answer, and opening her eyes, beheld her mother:
“O my mother, what else could I do except that which you instructed me? Behold, according to your command I have preserved my confession of faith inviolate.”
Akylina’s mother raised her arms and eyes towards heaven and glorified God. After conversing with her mother, the Martyr surrended her soul into the hands of God on September 27, 1764 and received the martyr’s crown.
St. Akylina’s most venerable and sacred relics straightaway emitted a marvelous fragrance so divine that all the streets which they traversed with her martyric relics for burial were filled with scent. At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star. All the Christians who observed this phenomena praised God, to Whom is due glory and power unto endless ages. Amen.
Source: This Life was written by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite and was translated in New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, Translated by Leonidas J. Papadopoulos, Georgia Lizardos & others St Nectarios Press, Seattle, Washington 1985.
Today no one knows where the holy relics of St. Akylina rest. The Turks took her remains and buried them in the Muslim cemetery to inflate their ego by claiming her as their own despite their failed attempts at converting her. But as it says above: "At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star." When the Christians saw this they took her body and buried it in a secret place. According to tradition, the three men who had the courage to do this were named Tsoplas, Kalimeris and Bouklas, and they promised each other that they would never reveal the location of the remains of St. Akylina so that they never fall into the hands of the Turks again. And despite the fact that there is large church dedicated to the Saint in that area, her relics still remain secretly hidden, until the Saint decides to reveal herself for the great blessing of the faithful.
Since 1957 the memory of St. Akylina is celebrated on September 27th, the day of her martyrdom. Before that her feast was on April 24th. The reason for the transfer of the date of the feast has to do with the decision of the locals of the village of Zagliverion who wanted to combine their two primary feasts, that of St. Akylina and St. George (Apr. 23) - to whom their central church was dedicated -, at the same time. The transfer was made in 1957, but firmly established after 1984 when a large church in St. Akylina's honor was built in the village.
A Service in honor of St. Akylina was discovered in the Church of St. George in 1969. This book was authored by the monk Polycarpos A. Giakoudis of Pantokratoras and contains the Vespers, Matins, Liturgy and Life in honor of the Saint. In September of 1969 the hymnographer Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis wrote a Service in St. Akylina's honor and since then it has been chanted. In 1980 a Salutation and Lamentation Service were added.
The first icon depiction of the Saint dates back to 1858 by Hierodeacon Hierotheos of the Holy Monastery of Loggavardas (Longovarda). The icon depicts all the New Martyrs under the Turkish yoke, and St. Akylina is one of them. Also in the Church of St. George are the three oldest icons of St. Akylina. The first dates to 1903 and depicts the Saint whole-bodied with scenes of her life on her left and right, and Christ blesses her from above. The second is also whole-bodied and has the following dedication: "Polycarpou Athanasiou Giakoudi Zagliverinon Pantocratorino of Mount Athos on 1 September 1904", that is, it was dedicated from the monk who first composed a Service in her honor. The third icon is by Panagioti Anagnostou from 1913 and St. Akylina is depicted with St. Kyranna. All three icons are Athonite in origin.
The home of St. Akylina as well as the site of her martyrdom still exist till this day and can be visited, though they are run down. The feast of St. Akylina is known by the locals as Akylineia.
Ἀπολυτίκιον Ἦχος πλ. α’. Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Ἀκυλίναν τὴν θείαν ἀνευφημήσωμεν, οἴα θεόφρονα κόρην καὶ Ἀθληφόρον Χριστοῦ, τὴ ἀγάπη γὰρ αὐτοῦ πίστει ἠνδρίσατο, καὶ καθεῖλε τὸν ἐχθρόν, δι' ἀγώνων ἱερῶν καὶ δόξης τυχοῦσα θείας Χριστῷ τῷ Λόγῳ πρεσβεύει, ἐλεηθήναι τᾶς ψυχᾶς ἠμῶν.
Ἕτερον Ἀπολυτίκιον Ήχος πλ. α'. Τον συνάναρχον Λόγον
Ζαγκλιβέριον χαίρει εν τη αθλήσει σου, η σε βλαστήσασα κώμη ως άνθος εύοσμον, Ακυλίνα του Χριστού καλλιπάρθενε· συ γαρ ενήθλησας στερρώς, και εδέξω εκ Θεού το στέφος της αφθαρσίας, εκδυσωπούσα απαύστως, ελεηθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.
By Gordon Stein
Some hoaxes are harmless and can be considered for their humor alone. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax (hereafter called the Protocols) is another matter altogether. This hoax had serious, even deadly consequences. Lives were lost as a result because of this hoax, although it is impossible to estimate how many.
The Protocols have a tangled and mysterious history. Many scholars have worked to untangle this history, but the greatest credit goes to Norman Cohn, author of Warrant for Genocide. Other major contributions were made by Herman Bernstein and Philip Graves, each of whom identified one of the two novels that were major sources for the Protocols.
While not all the steps by which the Protocols arrived in final form are known, it appears that production started in Russia in about 1895. However, The true origin of the Protocols lies in Paris, 1864. In that year, a political satirist named Maurice Joly published his book. Although the book was actually published in Brussels, its title page said it was published in Geneva. Joly's book, Dialogue aux Enfer entre Montesquieu et Machiavel (A Dialog in Hell Between Montesquieu and Machiavelli), openly criticized Emperor Napoleon III -- which, at the time, was criminal. The author put the emperor's words into the mouth of political philosophers Machiavelli and Montesquieu, using the latter to present the case for liberalism. The book was smuggled into France, but was seized at the border. Joly was arrested and tried. On April 25,1865, he was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment. The book was banned and copies confiscated, making it a rare work. This rarity has helped hide the fact that large sections of the imagined dialog have been lifted and grafted on to the work that became the Protocols. [My wife, who speaks French, has personally verified this. -Birdman]
In Berlin, during 1868, Hermann Goedsche, a minor official in the German Postal Service, who wrote under the pseudonym of Sir John Retcliffe, published a novel called Biarritz. The novel contained a chapter called "In the Jewish Cemetery in Prague." In this chapter, he tells of a secret nocturnal meeting held in the cemetery during the Feast of Tabernacles. There the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel gather to meet with the Devil. The leaders report on their activities during the century that has elapsed since their last meeting. The reports assert that the Jews are making great progress towards taking over the world, since they have accomplished such things as putting all the princes and governments of Europe into their debt by means of the stock exchange. They discuss a scheme for getting all land in the hands of Jews, and outline plans to undermine the Christian Church. A plea to gain control of the press is presented, as well as schemes to obtain high governmental positions. They renew their oath and agree to meet again in 100 years. Although Biarritz is fiction, this chapter summarizes many of the fears that anti-semites have exhibited for hundreds of years.
Another Protocols conspirator, Pyotr Rachkovsky, was the head of the foreign branch of the Russian secret police from 1884 to 1902. The Okhrana (secret police) had its overseas headquarters in Paris. Rachkovsky organized the overseas operations in Paris, Switzerland, London, and Berlin. He also spearheaded the transformation of the two fictional works by Joly and Goedsche into the Protocols. In 1887, he planted a forged letter in the French press, claiming that the majority of the terrorists then active in France were Jews. In 1892, Rachkovsky published a book in Paris entitled Anarchie el Nihilisme, telling how the French Revolution made the Jew "the absolute master of the situation in Europe, governing by discreet means both monarchies and republics." The one remaining goal of the Jews was domination of Russia, the book claimed, and this was being planned. The book urged the creation of a Franco-Russian league to combat the power of the Jews. In 1902, Rachkovsky tried to create such a league, but failed.' In 1905, he created the Union of the Russian People, that would later help circulate the Protocols and conduct other anti-Jewish activities.
In 1902, Rachkovsky was involved in a court intrigue in St. Petersburg with Sergey Nilus. Nilus was a former landowner, who had lost his entire fortune while living in France. He wandered in Russia from monastery to monastery. In 1900, Nilus published a book explaining how he had been converted from an atheist to an Orthodox Christian. The book was called The Great in the Small.
At this point, it is speculated that Rachkovsky sent Nilus a manuscript version of the Protocols. They may have planned to use it in a continuation of their St. Petersburg court intrigue. In 1905 Nilus published a second edition of The Great in the Small, containing an addendum of the Protocols. Nilus apparently believed a worldwide Jewish conspiracy was taking place, but the materials comprising the "documentation" of that conspiracy, namely the manuscript of the Protocols, was evidently supplied to him by Rachkovsky. Evidence also suggests that copies of the Protocols in manuscript or in mimeograph were circulating in Russia in the late 1890s, although no copies seem to have survived. Whether Rachkovsky was also the source of these copies is unknown.
Author Norman Conn feels "practically certain" that the Protocols were fabricated sometime between 1894 and 1899 in Paris. That would correspond with the time of the Dreyfus Affair, when a Jewish army captain was accused of treason in an anti-semitic incident. The copy of Joly's book in the Bibliotheque Nationale bears markings that indicate that it was the copy used to lend information to the Protocols. The fabrication was undoubtedly done by a Russian.
Once Nilus' version of the Protocols was published in 1905, the work took on a life of its own. The Protocols were widely circulated in right-wing circles in Russia. Tsar Nicholas II read and accepted the Protocols as genuine. An investigation later showed that the work was fraudulent, however, and Nicholas ordered that they no longer be used for anti-Semitic propaganda. When the Tsar was overthrown in the Russian Revolution, the situation changed, and the Protocols were widely read by the "White" army that lost to the "Red" army during the revolution. The losers blamed the revolution on the Jews and used the Protocols as the document explaining their motivation. Thus was started the myth of the Jewish-Communist conspiracy that helped fuel the German campaign of anti-Semitism.
Translations of the Protocols began to circulate in Europe around 1919. Publication in Germany began in 1920, although the earliest title page is dated 1919. The first edition was called Die Geheimnisse der Weisen von Zion (The Mystery of the Sages of Zion). Sales quickly reached 120,000 copies. The assassination of German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in 1922 was motivated by the idea that Rathenau, a Jew, was one of the "Elders of Zion."
An English translation, entitled The Jewish Peril, was published in 1920 by Eyre & Spottiswoode, publishers of the Authorised Version of the Bible and Anglican Prayer Book. Most reviewers accepted the work as authentic, although the newspapers published letters from readers to the contrary. In America, the work was also published in 1920. Henry Ford's newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, published a long series of articles in 1920, justifying the authenticity of the Protocols. These were republished as a book, The International Jew. Hitler later had copies of this book translated and circulated throughout Germany.
Back in Germany, the German National People's Party (DNVP) used racist propaganda -- including the Protocols -- in its election campaigns beginning in 1920. The "Jewish World Conspiracy" was allegedly due to an inborn destructiveness in all Jews, who were conspiring to destroy the "Aryan," or Germanic race. A combination of the "volkisch-racist" (nationalist) tradition in Germany and the Protocols produced an inflammatory combination that reinforced the kind of attitudes that led to the Holocaust. Alfred Rosenberg, propagandist of Nazi anti-Semitism, was apparently influenced by the Protocols when writing his Myth of the Twentieth Century, which became known as the source-book of Nazism. Hitler's explanation of the great economic inflation of 1923 was that "According to the Protocols of Zion the peoples are to be reduced to submission by hunger. The second revolution under the Star of David is the aim of the Jews in our time."
Therefore, what started out as a hoax, probably for Russian political reasons, became perhaps a key piece in the genocide of the Jews. The Protocols are still in print, and still being issued as genuine documents in some places. This was certainly the most deadly hoax ever conceived.
Bernstein, Herman. The Truth About "The Protocols of Zion"; A Complete Exposure. New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971.
Cohn, Norman R. C. Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Graves, Philip. The Truth About "The Protocols": A
Literary Forgery. London: Times Publishing Co., 1921.
Gwyer, John. Portraits of Mean Men: A Short History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1938.
[Nilus, Sergey, ed.] The Protocols and World Revolution, Including a Translation and Analysis of the "Protocols of the Meetings of the Zionist Men of Wisdom". Boston: Small, Maynard & Co, 1920.
Wolf, Lucien. The Myth of the Jewish Menace in World Affairs, or The Truth About the Forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: Macmillan, 1921.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Hoaxes
The 'Protocols of Zion' in Orthodoxy and Its Unfortunate Distribution
The 'Protocols': A Forgery of Plagiarized Fiction
Raphael G. Satter
September 27, 2010
One of the world's most important caches of Greek manuscripts is going online, part of a growing number of ancient documents to hit the Web in recent years.
The British Library said Monday that it was making more than a quarter of its 1,000 volume-strong collection of handwritten Greek texts available online free of charge, something curators there hope will be a boon to historians, biblical scholars and students of classical Greece alike.
Although the manuscripts — highlights of which include a famous collection of Aesopic fables discovered on Mount Athos in 1842 — have long been available to scholars who made the trip to the British Library's reading rooms, curator Scot McKendrick said their posting to the web was opening antiquity to the entire world.
McKendrick said that London could be an expensive place to spend time poring over the Greek texts' tiny, faded script or picking through hundreds of pages of parchment.
"Not every scholar can afford to come here weeks and months on end," he said. The big attraction of browsing the texts online "is the ability to do it at your own desk whenever you wish to do it — and do it for free as well."
Although millions of books have been made available online in recent years — notably through Google Books' mass scanning program — ancient texts have taken much longer to emerge from the archives.
They don't suffer from the copyright issues complicating efforts to post contemporary works to the Web, but their fragility makes them tough to handle. They have to be carefully cracked open and photographed one page at a time, a process the British Library said typically costs about 1 pound ($1.50) per page.
The library has moved aggressively to put large swathes of its collection online, from 19th-century newspapers to the jewels of its collection — The Lindisfarne Gospels, a selection of Leonardo da Vinci's sketches and the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest surviving complete copy of the Christian Bible.
The library's Greek manuscript project was funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which supports Greek-related initiatives in arts and culture.
Another batch of about 250 documents are due to be published online in 2012.
The British Library: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation: http://www.snf.org
In Istanbul, Christopher Howse views an angel unseen for 160 years.
September 26, 2010
I’ve just seen the face of an angel that no one had set eyes on for 160 years. I travelled 1,500 miles, saw the angel and then came home. It was worth it.
The angel – a seraph, most likely, since it has six wings – is depicted in mosaic high on the wall of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The position is incomparable, for this church dedicated to Holy Wisdom by the Emperor Justinian nearly 1,500 years ago leaves an exhilarating impression of vast space enclosed by walls that let in streams of light.
Above a nave 100ft wide, the central dome is high enough to accommodate the Tower of Pisa. Where the square of supporting piers meets the hemisphere of the dome there are curving triangular surfaces known to architects as pendentives. Filling these, in each of the four corners, were four images of seraphim.
When the basilica (by then a mosque) was restored in the late 1840s, the faces of the seraphim were covered with golden plaques, out of Islamic sensitivity about graven images.
Hagia Sophia has been a museum since 1934, and in the most recent restorations, after 16 years of scaffolding, in time for Istanbul’s role as a European capital of culture, 2010, one of the faces has been revealed.
The face itself is about three feet across, though from the floor of the building it is almost lost in the feathery wings that frame it.
Curiously it reminded me of medieval versions of the face of the moon (often depicted in the sky next to the crucified Christ). It has a serene air. Once, it would have drawn the worshipper’s eye toward the centre of the high dome above, where Christ the Pantocrator reigned in mosaic.
The present image of the seraph must date from the mid 14th century, after the mending of damage to the dome from the earthquake of 1344. The glory of the golden mosaics, which by then had already covered the walls and domes for centuries, was expressed by the 10th-century emissaries to Byzantium of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, who exclaimed: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty.”
That glory is not entirely departed, for the firmament remains on which the shining tesserae were set. The effect of such mosaic vaults is visible in miniature at the church of St Saviour in Chora (now a museum) near the western city walls.
St Saviour’s narrative mosaics recall those in St Mark’s, Venice, and the church also boasts an astonishingly vigorous mural of the risen Christ pulling Adam and Eve by the wrists out of their graves. At St Saviour too, an angel cloaked in wings stands at the gates where St Peter leads the righteous into heaven.
In Hagia Sophia some details bring home its antiquity. A piece of graffiti cut in runes on a marble balustrade of the southern gallery records the name of Halfdan, no doubt a member of the Varangian Guard that undertook to serve the Emperor in days before England had been conquered by the Normans.
At this upper level too, the most beautiful mosaics survive, such as the Deesis (the Greek convention of Christ enthroned with supplicating saints), where the tranquil face of Christ and the bowed heads of the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist gaze from a background of gold.
The older glowing tesserae are cubes of glass backed by gold leaf or colour. Some abstract patterned mosaics to be seen here date from the sixth century, and exploratory patches of more have been uncovered under some of the arches.
I was lucky enough to travel to Istanbul with the help of the Turkish Tourism Office and to stay in the peaceful comfort of the Four Seasons hotel in the Sultanahmet district, just next to Hagia Sophia. But it is perfectly easy to catch a plane to Istanbul and potter about the city under your own steam. There is plenty to see apart from Hagia Sophia, but what can equal it?
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
All our riches, glory and honor are as a brief repast that ends at death. No one takes a single crumb of this meal into the other world. Blessed is the one who understands that the soul is his only possession that is not diminished by anything, not even by death. Such a one thinks only of three realities: death, the soul, and God the Judge.
Abba Evagrius teaches: "Hold your approaching death and the Judgment constantly in your mind, and you will preserve your soul from sin."
All our bodily cares in this life are like cares about a meal which must soon be cut short.
St. Isaiah the Solitary says: "Have death before your eyes every day: think constantly about how you will separate from the body, how you will pass through the region of the powers of darkness who will meet you in the air, and how you will present yourself before God. Prepare yourself for the Dread Day of answering to the Judgment of God, as though you already behold it now."
One day, John, a rich merchant, came to St. Sabbatius of Solovki (Sept. 27) and brought him many alms. Sabbatius did not accept any of it, but rather told the donor to distribute all of it to the needy. John became very sad at this, and the saint, in order to comfort him and make everything clear to him said: "John, my son, stay here and rest until tomorrow, and then you will see the grace of God." John obeyed. The next day, John entered the cell of Sabbatius and saw the elder in final repose, and sensed a wonderful fragrance in the cell.
He who foresees the end of his life does not think of worldly goods.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovish
"That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee" (John 17:21).
Brethren, God's mercy is great. When a righteous man feels it, he weeps; but when a sinner feels it, he is ashamed.
By the mercy of God, we are cleansed, illumined, saved, adopted and united with God Himself. However, no one should construe that, by this unity with God, we become of the same Essence with God and equal to God. We will never be of one Essence with God, nor equal to God, in the way in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of one Essence and equal in being.
"That they all may be one" the Savior says to His Father on behalf of His disciples, "as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee", and here He is thinking of the unity of love and not of the unity of nature. From love flows mutual obedience, mutual help, mutual mercy, meekness, humility, goodness, good will and sacrifice.
And when the Lord says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), He does not mean that men can be equal to God, but means to show them the supreme example of perfection in every good thing. For many teachers of men have pointed to examples of perfection in some thing or some person, but not in God. Often enough, they have taught men evil, and pointed to it as an example of perfection. That is why the Lord teaches men to take the Heavenly Father as an example of every perfection, and to labor and strive for that true perfection, and not some other.
By the grace of God, we are all adopted of God and become one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). However, we do not become gods; we do not become equal with the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Do not forget that it is said in the Scriptures: "The heavens are not clean in His sight" (Job 15:15). The majestic powers of the heavens are not even equal to Him, so what then of man? However, by the grace of God, and because of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, the faithful are raised up into unity with God, in love and spirit. Therefore, let us make an effort to do the will of God, that we in truth may be raised up to such majestic heights.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who art the God of every mercy and goodness; uphold us in Thy mercy to the end, and be not angry with us, but rather forgive us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Pamphlets and booklets
The following Eastern Orthodox Missionary Publications have been written and compiled by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes. Our purpose is to help spread more information about the great poetry of our Holy Orthodox Christian faith to those who share with us the great need for spiritual nourishment.
The income of these publications helps fulfill the special needs of the homeless in the region and, as well, to support the Decani Monastery Relief Fund. We also require support for the St. Nektarios Benevolent Fund and we need to keep up with the expenses of reprinting our publications.
These publications are now available. If you are interested in any of these materials, please make a donation of your choice make payment out to Father Nektarios Serfes and send to the following address:
Father Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, Idaho 83702 USA
12 Sayings of Elder Porphyrios (pamphlet)
The History of Mt. Athos and a Pilgrim’s Guide (booklet)
The Royal Martyr Sisters Empress Alexandra & Grand Duchess Elizabeth (booklet)
The Life & Sayings of Elder Thaddeus of Serbia (pamphlet)
The Life of St. Helena Equal-to-the Apostles (pamphlet)
Are we the last Christians? (pamphlet)
Canon to Guardian Angel (pamphlet)
Brief life of St. Herman of Alaska (pamphlet)
Life of St. David of Thessalonica (pamphlet)
Canon to Guardian Angel (pamphlet)
Selective Writings of St. Raphael of Lesvos (pamphlet)
The Christian Parthenon and St. Paul (pamphlet)
Life of St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki (pamphlet)
Salutations to Great-Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki (booklet)
On Salvation and Paradise by Geronda of Arizona (pamphlet)
Divine Liturgy by Elder Ephraim of Arizona (pamphlet)
Our Living Mystical Church (pamphlet)
Preparations for Holy Confession (pamphlet)
Prayers before Holy Communion (booklet)
What is the Orthodox Church and what does it believe (pamphlet)
Canon of Repentance by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (pamphlet)
Prayers to the Royal Martyrs of Russia (pamphlet)
Selective writings of Elder Paisios of Holy Mt. Athos (pamphlet)
The Immortality of the Soul by St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (booklet)
Selective writings of St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (pamphlet
Sacred Catechism by St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (pamphlet)
The Life of St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (pamphlet)
The Wings of Prayer by St. Theophan the Recluse (pamphlet)
Introduction to the Jesus Prayer (pamphlet)
Guidelines for fasting in the Orthodox Church (pamphlet)
The Beheading of Father Hariton, Monk & the Missing Hieromartyr Stefan New Martyrs of Kosovo (pamphlet)
Morning Prayers for Orthodox Christians (pamphlet)
Evening Prayers for Orthodox Christians (pamphlet)
Except for Christ I have nothing The Venerable Mother Stefanida of Skadar and Bitol (pamphlet)
Are we the last Christians? (pamphlet)
Words of Comfort and Guidance for all Orthodox Christians (pamphlet)
Parents & Prayers (pamphlet)
Prayer of Children for their parents (pamphlet)
Prayer of spouses for each other (pamphlet)
Lessons of an unknown Elder to Christians living in the World (pamphlet)
The Meaning of Christian marriage (pamphlet)
Role and obligations of Orthodox Godparents (pamphlet)
Life of St. Elizabeth of Russia (pamphlet)
A monk asked an elder:
“Father, to what does the Prophet refer when he says, ‘There is no salvation for him in his God’ (Psalm 3:3)?”
The elder gave the following response to the brother’s inquiry:
“He is referring to thoughts of despair, which the demons place before the sinner, saying: ‘Neither now nor hereafter is it possible for God to save you.’ With such counsel they try to cast the sinner into despair. But a person must contrast these thoughts with the words of the Holy Scriptures: ‘Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare’ (Psalm 24:15).”
Evergetinos, Hypothesis 1(E)
The passage below is from Way of the Ascetics, by Tito Colliander. This selection is the chapter titled, "On Times of Darkness," those times of spiritual depression and abandonment that we all experience from time to time.
The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain; thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that "God has left them" in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.
The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.
On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: "Hasten, O God, to deliver me! Makes haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so deep in prison that I cannot get out (Psalm 88:8)," and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head; now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: "I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks."
An old theory that the Exodus story occurred because of natural winds has surfaced again. It seeks to provide a purely natural explanation for what the Old Testament records as a miracle.
Two atmospheric scientists from Boulder, Colorado, Carl Drews and Weiqing Han, referenced a theory by Doron Nof (see his website) that briefly made a splash in 1992 on TV with model demonstrations of high winds blowing back the waters off a submerged sandbar. Some believers tended to think this might give a plausible explanation for the Exodus story, while unbelievers tended to discount the Exodus story as elaboration of a natural phenomenon. Drews and Han drew from Nof’s idea, which was elaborated on by Russian scientists Naum Voltzinger and Alexei Androsov, with new models and experiments: “A suite of model experiments are performed to demonstrate a new hydrodynamic mechanism that can cause an angular body of water to divide under wind stress, and to test the behavior of our study location and reconstructed topography.” They also pointed to a new site for the crossing on the western Sinai Peninsula rather than the Gulf of Aqaba. Between the Lake of Tanis and the Nile, they calculated, a land passage 5 km wide might have opened up for 4-7 hours under winds of 28-33 m/s (62-74 mph), but they admitted, “these stronger winds may render walking too difficult for a mixed group of people.” Their theory was published in PLoS One.1
As to whether this provides a plausible natural explanation for the Red Sea crossing, Drews and Han were restrained in their paper: “Wind setdown is the drop in water level caused by wind stress acting on the surface of a body of water for an extended period of time. As the wind blows, water recedes from the upwind shore and exposes terrain that was formerly underwater. Previous researchers have suggested wind setdown as a possible hydrodynamic explanation for Moses crossing the Red Sea, as described in Exodus 14.”2 But in the popular press, they drew the connection more directly. Drews was quoted in Live Science saying, “People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts. What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws.” Similar, in Science Daily, the subtext was that the Biblical miracle can be explained naturally: “Computer Modeling Applies Physics to Red Sea Escape Route” was its headline; Live Science titled its story, “Parting of Red Sea Jibes With Natural Laws.” Indeed, Brett Israel in his write-up was ready to exchange Gods: “Mother Earth could have parted the Red Sea, hatching the great escape described in the biblical book of Exodus, a new study finds.”
1. Carl Drews and Weiqing Han, “Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta,” Public Library of Science: One, 5(8): e12481. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012481.
2. See Exodus 14 (ESV) at www.BibleGateway.com.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The larger part of St. Andrew's remains were apparently stolen from Constantinople in 1210 and these were transported to Amalfi in Southern Italy where they still lie. In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of the Saint's shoulder blade from the Amalfi relics to the re-established Roman Catholic community in Scotland.
On 11 April 1462 the governor of the city of Patras Thomas Palaiologos, the last ruler of Morea and brother of the last Roman Emperor Constantine Palaiologos, left Patras and went to the West, due to the fact that the Turks took over Peloponnesos in 1460. Thomas Palaiologos took with him the Precious Skull of the First-Called Apostle in order to protect it from not falling into the hands of the Turks, and there he handed it over to the Latins to ensure its safety. In return, Thomas was given the Golden Rose, a palace in Rome and an annual allowance of 6,000 ducats. Pope Pius II promised to keep the skull and Thomas safely "as long as danger threatened".
The relic was received with ostentatious signs of devotion. Cardinal Bessarion and two other members of the sacred college received it at Narni and conveyed it to Rome. The pope, accompanied by the remaining cardinals and the Latin clergy, went out to the Ponte Molle to give it welcome. After falling prostrate before the Apostle's skull, Pius delivered an appropriate address in which he congratulated the fragment upon coming safely out of the hands of the Turks to find at last, as a fugitive, a place beside the remains of its brother Apostles. The address being concluded, the procession reformed and, with Pius borne in the Golden Chair, conducted the skull to its last resting-place. The streets were decked in holiday attire, and no one showed greater zeal in draping his palace than Rodrigo Borgia. The skull was deposited in St. Peter's, after, as Platina says, "the sepulchres of some of the popes and cardinals, which took up too much room, had been removed."
The ceremonies were closed by Bessarion in an address in which he expressed the conviction that St. Andrew would join with the other Apostles as a protector of Rome and in inducing the princes to combine for the expulsion of the Turks. In 1462 Pius erected a monument on the site of the Milvian Bridge where the initial ceremonies had taken place: the Tempietto di Sant'Andrea a Ponte Milvio.
While Thomas lived in Rome, he was recognized throughout Christian Europe as the rightful Emperor of the East.* After all, he was the youngest surviving son of the Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and his wife Helena Dragaš. After the desertion of his older brother to the Turks in 1460, Thomas Palaiologos became the legitimate claimant to the Roman throne in Byzantium. To create greater support for his situation Thomas changed his religion to Catholicism in his last years of life. The skull of St. Andrew became enshrined in one of the four central piers of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Five hundred years passed. In 1962 the Metropolitan of Patras and the Mayor of Patras made a request to the Pope to have the "treasure of the people of Patras" returned back to them and the place of his martyrdom. Pope Paul VI, in a gesture of good-will, decided to fulfill their request. Removing the skull and a finger of the Apostle Andrew from Saint Peter's Basilica, they were brought to Patras and given over to Metropolitan Constantine of Patras at Trion Symmachon Square (Three Allies) on September 26, 1964. This was a huge celebration for Patras, where thousands attended, including 20 archbishops and President George Papandreas of Greece. A procession brought the Precious Skull to the Church of Saint Andrew where a Doxology was chanted.
Metropolitan Nikodemos of Patras later wrote the history of this event together with the Service of Praise in its honor. This was included in the periodical Ekklesia (15 October 1964, no. 20). In attendance also was the then Archimandrite, later Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese of America, Demetrios Trakatellis, who translated the sermon for the occasion by Metropolitan Constantine of Patras from Greek to French.
A portion of the encyclical of Metropolitan Constantine reads: "Συγκίνησις δυσπερίγραπτος πληροί τας ψυχάς. Παλμοί ιεροί διατρέχουν την πόλιν. Δάκρυα κυλούν εις τους οφθαλμούς. Επανέρχεται μετά 500 έτη από την Βασιλικήν του Αγίου Πέτρου Ρώμης εις την Βασιλικήν του Αγίου Ανδρέου Πατρών η Τιμία Κεφαλή του Πολιούχου ημών. Ουδέποτε άλλο άγγελμα συνήγειρε βαθύτερον την πόλιν ημών. Εις το βάθος του ορίζοντος εμφανίζονται τα οράματα των Παλαιολόγων, διαγράφει κύκλους ο Βυζαντινός δικέφαλος αετός. Κυματίζει εις την αύραν του Πατραϊκού η σημαία της πόλεως με τον χιαστόν Σταυρόν. Νεανίσκοι και παρθένοι, πρεσβύτεροι μετά νεωτέρων, άρχοντες και πάντες λαοί αινέσωμεν το όνομα Κυρίου. Άσωμεν αυτώ άσμα καινόν."
* In ORTHODOXY ON SALE: THE LAST BYZANTINE, AND THE LOST CRUSADE by Silvia Ronchey of the University of Siena, Italy. Ronchey provides evidence to support a theory that Pius and the Greek leaning cardinals had decided that after a successful Crusade against the Turks, Thomas Palaiologos was to be placed as the legitimate ruler of the re-conquered New Byzantium which was to be under the control of the West. Excerpts can be read here.