Regarding these 99 Holy Ascetics, what little we do know about them comes primarily from a manuscript of Church Services printed in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos by Monk Joseph Kapetanakis Gavala and the copies made of this by an Athonite monk named Daniel. In 1879 the Church Services were published in Herakleion.
By tradition what we do know of these Saints is that they most likely lived in the 14th century (though some sources go as far back as the 11th while others go up to the 16th) and were associated with what is now known as the Monastery of Holy Fathers. "Narrow is the gate and full of sorrow is the road which leads to life" is written on top of the gate of this holy monastery.
The story of the 99 Holy Fathers tells that the 99 fathers came from Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey under the leadership of St. John to Azogires. St. John was born and grew up in Egypt. Along with 35 other pious men he went to Cyprus to live in asceticism. There they became known for their abilities to cure sicknesses. The stories of St. John and his men reached the other ascetics on the island, and 39 of these joined the group. After a while all of them went on to Attaleia (Antalya) in the present Turkey, where another 24 ascetics joined them.
The ascetic community, now consisting of 99 men, prayed to God to show them a place in which they would be able to live a secluded life. God told them to go to Crete, and so they sailed from Turkey towards Crete. Because of a violent storm they turned around to put into port on the island of Gavdos. When the storm had died down after 24 days, the ascetics set out again. But, according to tradition, when they were about to board the ship, God had made John invisible to their eyes, so by mistake they left without him. On their arrival in Crete the ascetics found that John was not among them. They realized that he must still be on Gavdos, and from the beach they called for him to come. On the island John heard their call. He said a prayer, threw his tunic into the water and sailed - standing on the tunic - to Crete in three hours.
In Crete the ascetics now went up into the land, and they settled in the caves of Zoures and Characas near the village of Azogires, a little north of Paleochora. The first place where they settled was under a large plane tree. They wished that the plane tree would always remain green, in summer and in winter, and its branches should form into crosses. Both had actually occurred. Moreover, they said, the tree should not die before it has 99 crosses. St. John also built a church, which eventually came to be known as the Monastery of the Holy Fathers.
In the beginning, the holy fathers slept in the cave near the plane tree, while John stayed in the cave above the village. One day, he decided to go north to the remote peninsula Akrotiri near Chania in order to live as a hermit. The holy fathers settled down in the cave in which their leader had stayed. Before John left, they swore when one of them dies, the others should die too.
At Akrotiri John survived by eating fruits and vegetables from gardens. To protect against the cold he wore a sheepskin. He knelt so much in prayer that he was not able to walk, and had to move about on his knees. One of the farmers spotted him in a crawling position one day when he was out picking herbs and thought that it was a wild animal that ate his stocks. The farmer took a bow and arrow and shot the supposed animal. John crawled, seriously wounded, back into his cave. The next day the farmer followed the blood traces. In the same moment in which he entered the cave, a bright light began to shine. He saw John dying on the ground, and realized that he had hit a holy man. He asked John to forgive him. John forgave him, but only on the condition that the farmer go to Azogires to tell his 98 brothers that he was dying and they should die with him. The man did so, but when he arrived in Azogires, the 98 holy fathers had died all together the day before.
The Patriarchal Seal of their recognition as Saints was accomplished in 1632 by the Cretan Patriarch Cyril Loukaris with 21 Synodical Hierarchs. The following is what we officially know about them:
"In the most well-governed island of Crete, Devout John the Hermit shone in asceticism; and the 98 lived ascetically with the same zeal and way of life together harmoniously. And the Lord glorified their lives with wonderful miracles."
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
The great island of Crete rejoices that in its mountains the supremely divine Fathers defeated their crafty adversary with tears, fasting, prayers and supplications. Therefore your spirits rejoice with the angels, and with your sacred relics grant healing to those who are suffering.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Today Crete is joyously celebrating the most brilliant of the God-bearing Fathers, and invites every city and country to this commemoration. For Crete rejoices that she possesses a great treasure in its sacred reliquaries. O Fathers, the pride of Crete.
Let all the faithful praise the Holy Fathers who shone so wonderfully; for we have these ardent protectors before the Creator, and we honor them with faith. The ever-vigilant guardians of Crete are her saints. They stood on the top of her mountains like immovable towers, and from these heights protected the people of Crete with her hundred cities. They guarded Crete's citizens both day and night. Their caves were their bases of operation; and in their caves their relics nurtured the countryside. And since then, Crete has been fertile with roses and lillies of the wilderness - our very own saintly fathers.
The Plane Tree of Azogires
It’s interesting that the Holy Fathers founded their monastery in a lush area with its own spring and stream marked by an astonishing centuries-old plane tree (platanos) that continues to flourish to this day.
It is a mutation of Platanus orientalis - one of 50 such plane trees in Crete. Azogires is blessed to enjoy its evergreen glow; it never loses its leaves. They cling to their gnarled branches throughout the entire year.
Uniquely wondrous are the 99 crosses that appear in this Azogires plane tree. The tree’s gnarled branches form a criss-cross pattern.
The Holy Fathers' Monastery in Azogires and the Feast of the Saints
St. John the Hermit built a church near the caves that eventually became the Monastery of the Holy Fathers. It was however destroyed during the rebellion against the Turks, but was later rebuilt. The Historical Museum of Azogires – once the Monastery of the Holy Fathers - houses memorabilia pertaining to Cretan resistance against the Turks and the Germans with explanation in Greek only.
Every year on the 7th of October the memory of Sts. John and the 98 Holy Fathers is celebrated according to a ruling by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Loukaris, in 1632. Though the Saints were said to have died on October 6th, the celebration is delayed one day, otherwise it would coincide with the Orthodox holiday of Thomas the Apostle.
Elder Gabriel Papagrigorakis
The Holy Fathers' Monastery in Azogires, once dormant after the Holy Fathers arrival, continued to flourish under the humble guidance of Father Gabriel Papagrigorakis (1875-1930) from the village of Rodovani.
He managed to restart the monastery, populating it with nuns and monks. He moved into its meter-thick stone walls and for the next several years, he worked putting Azogires back on its feet. He started an olive oil factory - still in situ near the monastery, as well as two flour mills.
He was a tireless giver who fed others before nibbling on his own meager pieces of bread. He fought the Turks also, and was wounded in his groin.
His saintliness accounted for saving the monastery when a huge rock over its roof tumbled and swerved into the air thereby missing the people praying inside.
One nun who was particularly close to the holy Elder stated she wished to die on his 40th memorial anniversary, if – she said- this miraculous event of saving the people in the monastery was a sign from him. Her life came full circle, meeting its end the day of Father Gabriel Papagrigorakis 40th memorial anniversary.
His marble tomb lies next to one of the monastery’s external walls. Father Gabriel Papagrigorakis is deemed the guardian of the monastery, and among villagers he is at the top of the list of saintly people as confirmed by his countless miracles.
The Church of St. John the Hermit
The church behind the Alfa Hotel is the Koukoutsakis family private burial ground and is built on the cave of St. John the Hermit, part of which is actually inside the church.
Originally the church had mosaics inside; beautiful frescoes depicting the 99 Holy Fathers and much more, but unfortunately, during the 2nd World War, the church committee thought to make the church prettier so they white washed the walls, destroying the frescoes.
Today all branches of the Koukoutsakis family have one John in the family named after the Saint. They protect the Church of St. John and in turn they ask for his help. One member of this family has a blog here in which he writes of a few miracles associated with this church.
The Cave of the 99 Holy Fathers
The original cave of the holy fathers is situated below today's cave. Twenty years ago the last inhabitant, who knew the entrance of the cave, died.
People said, some a hundred years ago, there was a table-shaped stone in front of that entrance. In a radius of the table other stones were arranged like chairs and the skeletons of the holy fathers were said to be sitting on them with walking sticks and all their belongings. For fear of the Turks, the entrance had been closed.
Until today the cave system is not fully explored.
To reach this cave, go to Azogires, a small village about 6km northwest of Paleochora. There you’ll find a sign Spileo/Cave. Follow the sign up the concrete road about 2km. The first few meters are very steep, but the rest gets better. Park your car at the end of the road. The path will guide you to the mouth of the cave. It takes about 30 minutes walking at a slow safe pace to reach the cave area.
But accessing this cave has its own obstacles. Only the most determined will attempt to enter the cave. There are no stairs to assist you towards its rocky, steep opening, but if you do manage to arrive at its entrance, you may turn around and head back.
Interestingly, it said today 99 pigeons inhabit the cave.
Below is a map of the cave.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Regarding these 99 Holy Ascetics, what little we do know about them comes primarily from a manuscript of Church Services printed in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos by Monk Joseph Kapetanakis Gavala and the copies made of this by an Athonite monk named Daniel. In 1879 the Church Services were published in Herakleion.
October 6, 2010
In an interview to Patriarhia.ru, the head of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, sums up the work of the Joint Commission of Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue meeting in Vienna and the Inter-Council Presence’s commission for opposing and overcoming church schisms, and speaks about the state of inter-Christian dialogue today.
In the interview he was asked the following question regarding the recognition of schismatic Sacraments and he answered in turn:
- Did you discuss the recognition of ‘sacraments’ administered by schismatics? What is your attitude to this issue?
- This issue has been repeatedly discussed both in private talks of the Commission members and at the meeting. The Church does not recognize and cannot recognize as grace-giving and salvific any ‘sacraments’ including Baptism administered in a schism. This is a common point of view confirmed by many testimonies of the church Tradition. ‘Recognition of schismatics’ sacraments’ is an altogether improper expression which can be only misleading. The point here is not a diplomatic manifestation of politeness but attempts to impose on the Orthodox the recognition of a real presence of saving grace outside the Church. For the Church, the authenticity of Sacraments is a matter of salvation. It is impossible and senseless to speak of ‘recognition of sacraments’ administered by schismatics who stay outside the Church and have no communion with her.
However, as His Beatitude Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, has stressed, ‘the schismatics’ return to the saving fold of the Church can put life into their graceless actions’. When schismatics come back to the Church, it is a normal practice to embrace holy Baptism. But if the Church deems it necessary and if it is helpful for healing a schism, she can in some cases provide a different procedure, as was the case on repeated occasions in history.
The Church will never recognize schismatics’ ordinations, and all the clergy who come back from a schism should be ordained, though it is not at all necessary to make it in public. As far as the Sacrament of Baptism is concerned, it is impossible to administer it to all the laity coming back from a schism. Indeed, some of them do not even remember in which church they were baptized, canonical or schismatic.
Besides, there are situation where, for instance, a schismatic priest comes back to the Church together with his parishioners. The subsequent ‘re-baptism’ of the parishioners he had baptized earlier cannot be stipulated for his return, just as a ‘re-marriage’ of those whom he had married earlier or ‘re-funeral’ of all the dead over whom the burial service had been said before. It is impossible to force a priest who was now ordained in a canonical Church to return to their parishioners and say to them: ‘Everything I have done here for ten (or twenty) years was a deception, and only now I will begin doing everything in the real way’. People will not understand it and will not believe him. For all I know, they can think he decided to get the money for the second time for the sacraments he had already administered.
It is about such situations that it is stated that the Church can breathe a grace-giving power into the graceless actions of the schismatics and to inform with grace what had been only an empty and graceless form. In other words, the question of recognizing schistatics’ sacraments is not posed at all out of context of their return from the schism. But the question of a procedure of acceptance form a schism can and must be posed. And here, depending on the situation, various approaches can be applied.
- We hear sometimes the voices of the so-called ‘zealots of the purity of Orthodoxy’, whose favourite theme is criticism of ‘ecumenism’ based on conjecture. What does inter-Christian cooperation consist in today?
- The Supreme Authority of the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly explained what is understood as inter-Christian cooperation, what aims this cooperation pursues, what results it has brought and can bring to our Church in the future. I believe there is no sense in repeating all that has been said about it, for instance, in the Russian Orthodox Basic Principles of Attitude to Non-Orthodoxy, an official document of the 2000 Bishops’ Council.
I would like to mention a different thing. Today, millions of the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church including Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Moldovans, have gone to live outside their historical Motherland. It is a sad development in many ways as it involves assimilation, brain drain, etc. But it is a reality existing regardless of its emotional assessment. One can grieve over it as much as one wants but the Church is obliged to help her children to remain Orthodox in an alien milieu.
I wonder whether anyone of the ‘zealots’ has ever been concerned for the problems of pastoral care of the Russia diaspora? Do the critics of our cooperation with the Catholic Church know who actually provides our compatriots abroad with facilities necessary for services, Sunday schools and for creating an Orthodox environment for fellowship? Many newly-established Orthodox communities abroad use church buildings which have been provided by the non-Orthodox, in the first place, Catholics. When Catholics give the Orthodox an opportunity to pray in the churches which belong to them and do it often gratis, what does it show?
And how many of former Catholics and Protestants have become Orthodox Christians and members of our communities abroad, among other things, as a result of mixed marriages? Do the authors who claim to be the voice of ‘conservative church public’ know how difficult it is in Western Europe, for instance, to obtain permission for building a church and to negotiate its design with local authorities? And what assistance do Catholic parishes and sometimes even Protestant communities give to our new parishes? And how many of our compatriots who have found themselves in the West in a situation of illegal migrants have managed to obtain the necessary papers and jobs with the help of Catholic and Protestant charities on the request of Russian Orthodox parishes?
Read the complete interview here.
October 7, 2010
In the land where Jesus lived, Christians say their dwindling numbers are turning churches from places of worship into museums.
And when Christian pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the places of Christ's birth, death and resurrection, they find them divided by a concrete wall.
Members of the Abu al-Zulaf family, Palestinian Christians, have left the hills and olive groves of their village near Bethlehem for Sweden and the United States, seeking a better life than that on offer in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Ayman Abu al-Zulaf, 41, moved to France in 1998. But he returned to Beit Sahour, the village where he was born, a year later. "I needed to be here, not in France," he said. "Without Christians, the Holy Land, the land of Jesus, has no value."
That's his message to Christian pilgrims he meets through his work as a tour guide. "Christians have a very major mission here in Palestine. We are the bridge to the West," he said.
Today, Christians make up just 1 percent of the mainly Muslim population of the Palestinian territories, said Hanna Eissa, who is in charge of Christian affairs in the Palestinian Authority's religious affairs ministry.
In 1920, they were a tenth of the population of Palestine -- land where today Israel exists alongside the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians remain stateless.
Decades of conflict, shifting borders and occupation are the root causes of the poor economic situation that is forcing Christians to seek better lives abroad, Eissa said.
Rising Muslim fundamentalism, a trend across the Middle East, concerns some. But most cite Israeli occupation as the prime cause of emigration and the decline of their community.
"If there was no political problem, the economic situation would be good, so the problems are linked," Eissa said.
In Bethlehem alone, the Christian population has slumped to 7,500 from 20,000 in 1995. Then, the Middle East peace process had created hope that a Palestinian state would emerge alongside Israel. Some Christians who had left came back.
Sandra al-Shoumali, Abu al-Zulaf's sister, and her husband were among those who invested at the time. They thought peace was imminent and saw a prosperous future in a new state. But talks collapsed in 2000 and several years of violence ensued.
POLITICS AND PILGRIMAGE
"There was no work, no way to live," she said. "Our family has been scattered," she said. They moved to the United States. She is visiting Beit Sahour for the first time in two years.
Abu al-Zulaf knows personally of 50 people who have left Beit Sahour in the last decade. "When I talk to them, they say: 'We want to come back, but there is no work there'."
He holds Israel responsible for the departure of Christians. "The occupation is menacing everyone's existence," he said.
His tours take in Palestinian refugee camps as well as conventional pilgrimage places, such as the Church of the Nativity, revered as the site of Jesus's birth. "Our resistance is through staying here and sensitising people," he said.
The economy has improved since the Second Intifada, or uprising, abated. Tourists have returned, but their path to Bethlehem from Jerusalem has been complicated by the West Bank barrier Israel has constructed on the grounds of security.
Abu al-Zulaf has not been to Jerusalem since he was 19 years old. He was jailed by Israel two decades ago because of activism in a previous uprising. "Jerusalem is the core of Christianity and as a Christian you are deprived of going there," he said.
"I am lucky to have seen Jerusalem," he said. "There are people here who have never been."
"I am not optimistic because I don't think things are going to change. I don't trust the leadership on either side."
October 6, 2010
America's Eastern Orthodox parishes have grown 16 percent in the past decade, in part because of a settled immigrant community, according to new research.
Alexei Krindatch, research consultant for the Standing Conferences of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, said the 16 percent growth in the number of Orthodox parishes is "a fairly high ratio for religious groups in the United States."
The number of Orthodox parishes has reached 2,370, and the Orthodox community in America consists of more than 1 million adherents across 20 different church bodies, according to the 2010 U.S. Orthodox Census.
The top five largest Orthodox churches in the U.S. are Greek Orthodox (476,900), Orthodox Church in America (84,900), Antiochian Orthodox (74,600), Serbian Orthodox (68,800) and Russian Orthodox (27,700).
Two of these church bodies--the Bulgarian Orthodox Eastern Diocese and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese--experienced a growth rate of over 100 percent. Both churches began with a small number of parishes in 2000 and are supported by a community of established Eastern European immigrants.
"It takes immigrant communities a little while to establish a religious community," Krindatch said. "They settle, then begin to think about their religious lives."
Even though the majority of Orthodox church bodies grew, some lost parishes. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic Church of America all experienced a slight decrease in the number of parishes.
The study, which was part of the national Religious Congregations and Membership Study 2010, also shows that just 27 percent of members attend Orthodox churches regularly.
Krindatch said the definition of each of the groups affected this statistic. Church "adherents" was the most inclusive category, consisting of anyone who occasionally participated in church life, while "regular attendees" are those who attend church on an almost weekly basis.
More information on the survey can be found at http://www.orthodoxreality.org.
October 7, 2010
Minarets and church towers mingle on Cairo's skyline, but tensions mar Egypt's record of religious coexistence and a perception of growing intolerance is leading some Christians to shun their Muslim compatriots.
Amira Helmy, from a middle-class area of the capital, was brought up by a Muslim neighbour after her mother died and attended a state school alongside Muslim children.
"Most of my friends were Muslims. We used to go on outings together and some would call to me from below my house so we could walk to school," recalls Helmy with a smile.
Now a housewife in her 40s, she sends her daughter Christine and son Kirollos to a private Christian school and forbids them from mingling with Muslim children to protect them from insults.
"I do this out of fear for my child. Not because she's a girl. Kirollos is also prohibited from going out with Muslims."
Helmy said she had stopped speaking to most of her Muslim neighbours after one of them called her housekeeper the daughter of a 'blue bone', a pejorative name for Coptic Christians.
Around a tenth of Egypt's 78 million people are Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts -- descendents of Christian communities that founded monasticism in the early centuries after Jesus.
Christians are found in all social strata, from rubbish collectors living in old Cairo graveyards to top businessmen, doctors and government ministers, although Copts say they are under-represented in the security forces and public office.
Official rhetoric after independence in 1952 called for religious unity around the national cause, shown in the slogan "The Crescent and The Cross" often chanted at patriotic events.
"We did not hear of this 'Muslim-Christian' labelling until 15 or 20 years ago when religious slogans arose for political reasons," said Helmy's husband Salah Shafiq, a gold worker.
Christian and Muslim clerics stress sectarian harmony, but communal tensions can erupt into criminality and violence, usually sparked by land disputes or cross-faith relationships.
Such spats could multiply if the state ignores Christian grievances on issues such as an Islam-focused school curriculum and laws making it easier to build mosques than churches.
Some Egyptians blame sectarian intolerance on the media for sensationalising trivial incidents involving religion.
In July, when a 26-year-old Christian from Upper Egypt fled her priest husband, an image of her veiled like a Muslim woman appeared on the Internet, prompting a fevered media debate over whether she had converted to Islam.
Last month, Pope Shenouda, head of Egypt's Orthodox Church, said on television he regretted any hurt to Muslims over remarks by a Coptic archbishop that some took as an attack on the Koran.
The killing of six Christians in southern Egypt on Coptic Christmas Eve in January may have fuelled fears of religious strife. The persecution of Iraqi Christians by Muslim militants after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq also provoked unease here.
Yet deaths from religious violence in Egypt remain extremely rare. Most Egyptian Christians say their biggest concerns are discrimination and occasional teasing and insults from Muslim neighbours, especially in poorer neighbourhoods.
"In the streets, I do feel discrimination when a Christian walks by and then a Muslim person says 'May God forgive me' (for the sin I see before me)," said Helmy's daughter Christine.
Shafiq blamed what he called growing Muslim intolerance on economic hardship that prompts its victims to seek a scapegoat. Despite an economic growth rate of near 6 percent, many Egyptians complain the benefits are not trickling down.
"So far, moderate Muslims seem to be the majority but may God protect us because economic conditions are worsening and the fundamentalists are offering people money to join them."
President Bill Clinton attended an anti-AIDS rally held in Kiev on Sunday, October 3, 2010.
On Monday, 4 October 2010, the 42nd President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton met with Ukrainian students, as part of the “Public Lectures” project of the Victor Pinchuk Fundation. The Victor Pinchuk Foundation regularly invites internationally renowned economists, politicians and public figures to Ukraine to discuss today’s challenges facing Ukraine and the world.
On Wednesday, 6 October 2010, President Clinton visted the Kiev Caves Lavra and was welcomed by Archbishop Paul. The former President showed much enthusiasm on visiting the Lavra and on hearing the stories of the Saints who lived there in the past. He was also told by the Archbishop of the incorrupt relics of these Saints which the President had a chance to see. The Archbishop gave Mr. Clinton a jar of honey from the Lavra as a gift.
October 5, 2010
Nuns of a large Greek Monastery are convinced that believers can pray to priest Daniil Sysoyev as to a saint.
"It' high time you prayed not for Father Daniil, but to Father Daniil," Sister Prosdoki from the Annunciation Monastery in Ormylia, Halkidiki Peninsula, told an Interfax-Religion correspondent.
She also wonders why Father Daniil is not widely venerated in Russia.
According to the nun, many Orthodox Greeks honor Father Daniil alongside with many Greek saints martyred for Orthodox faith by Turks.
The interviewee of the agency believes Father Daniil's tomb can become one of most beloved places for Greek pilgrims. Relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov have been such a shrine so far.
Priest Daniil Sysoyev was known for his missionary work among the Muslims. He conducted public disputes with representatives of Islam and preached to guest workers at Moscow building sites and markets.
On November 19, 2009, Fr. Daniil was shot dead in St. Thomas Church where he was a rector. Soon on December 1, suspected in his murder Kyrgyz citizen was killed in Makhachkala at the attempt to arrest him.
October 6, 2010
The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned the decision to award British embryologist Robert Edwards, the man who came up with the fertility treatment IVF, the Nobel Prize for medicine.
"The Church considers all these IVF methods involving the stockpiling and further destruction of so-called excessive 'embryos' as morally unacceptable," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, told Interfax-Religion.
The Church's position is based on the belief that "an embryo is a future human being and not just an accumulation of cells or a part of a mother's body," and the Church "defends the dignity of human life from the moment of its conception until the natural demise of a human," the priest said.
IVF often involves the use of the so-called donor genetic material, which "creates moral problems for the person born as a result of such procedure," he said.
"Theoretically, the child can have two fathers, a biological one and the one who raised him, and two mothers, a biological one and the one who bore him during the pregnancy," the spokesman said.
As in the case of the so-called "surrogate motherhood," the use of such methods could "question the identity of the human being, his self-understanding," he said.
"Based on these considerations, the Russian Orthodox Church finds itself unable to justify the use of the technologies questioning the uniqueness of a human personality and the perception of a human life as God's gift," he said.
Childless couples suffering from the inability to produce offspring should be recalled that "childlessness can also be in certain cases a special vocation from God, with scores of children who would be happy to find a caring family queuing up at Russian children's institutions for adoption," the priest said.
Similar condemnation of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Edwards was voiced earlier by the Catholic Church.
The prize committee said his achievement had made it possible to treat infertility. Edwards began his research at Cambridge University in the late 1950s. He worked alongside physician Patrick Steptoe to create the IVF treatment, with the first "test tube baby" born in 1978.
October 5, 2010
Russian lawmakers on Tuesday backed a bill banning the country's faith healers, witches and assorted sorcerers from advertising their services in a potential blow to the booming business.
Faith healers and the like cause "moral and physical harm to the people and economic harm to the country," wrote lawmakers proposing the bill, which was passed in an initial reading.
Russians often turn to folk healers and fortune-tellers to solve problems and tabloid newspapers fill pages with ads for "psychics", who promise to return cheating husbands, cure alcoholism and bring business success.
Advertising of esoteric services in the mass media means that "charlatans attract a lot of clients without giving any guarantees, and sometimes engage in fraud," the bill's authors said.
The Duma needs to vote for a draft in three readings before it is signed by the president and becomes law.
Esoteric healers outnumber doctors in Russia, and the annual turnover of the business is close to two billion dollars, said Duma deputy Tatyana Yakovleva, who sits on the parliamentary health committee.
"The number of healers has reached 800,000 people, while there are only 620,000 medical doctors," Yakovleva said in a statement, calling claims by some to cure cancer and AIDS 'criminal'."
"It's ridiculous to treat toothache by dangling a rat's tail near your cheek," she said.
A survey carried out by Levada independent polling agency in August found that 20 percent of Russians have visited alternative healers for their problems and only 10 percent have ever seen a psychotherapist.
Televised psychic sessions were prevalent in Russia in the 1990s, with some of the more popular psychics even running for legislative offices around the country.
One of Russia's national channels, TNT, runs a popular Friday primetime show "Battle of the Psychics" where contestants use alleged psychic abilities to solve various puzzles.
Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
Stephen M. Barr
Professor of Physics, University of Delaware
Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute
Watch video or listen to the audio here.
October 4, 2010
Is ignorance bliss for Georgians? In a way, yes, according to the country's highly revered spiritual leader, Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II.
With the domestic education system still in mid-reform, many young Georgians are seeking knowledge in the West, but, away from home and the mother church, their impressionable minds run the risk of cultural indoctrination, the patriarch warned in an October 3 sermon.
Georgia’s young are not “strong spiritually, culturally” and may easily drift away from their traditional moorings and also lose respect for parental authority, Ilia II posited.
Just look at what is going on over in Canada, he continued. When "lightly slapped" by their parents, Canadian youngsters can call the police on mom and dad, he fumed. “So he (she) is a whistle-blower, [a] betrayer of [his or her] parents.” To make sure that Georgian kids do not do the same, Georgian families should avoid sending them for studies abroad, he deduced.
Could His Holiness be worrying that his parish is thinning, amidst an onslaught of Western liberalism? Recent statistics do not suggest so. According to a 2008 poll, over 94 percent of Georgians, who are overwhelmingly Georgian Orthodox Christians, believe that Ilia II is the nation’s most trusted figure. The Church is widely seen as synonymous with Georgia's cultural identity.
Nonetheless, the patriarch's previously sacrosanct authority has faced a sporadic yet strong challenge of late. Some believe that a recent series of scandals hints at under-the-surface turf wars between the Church and the passionately Western-oriented government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.
In a bid to raise the level of education and mold a new, Western-minded breed of Georgian, Saakashvili first launched a state-run student exchange program, and then brought 1,000 teachers from English-speaking countries -- including alleged miscreant Canada -- to teach English in Georgian schools.
But certain limits likely exist for how far the patriarch will take his criticism of studying abroad. Saakashvili himself studied outside Georgia -- in the US, France and Ukraine. In the past, both Church and government have tried to avoid a heads-on confrontation over policy matters.
Perhaps with that goal in view, the patriarch admonished listeners that Georgia should not shut "itself up in its own shell," but "know the world."
Nonetheless, he drew the line at the word "cosmopolitan."
“For a cosmopolitan, it does matter is it Georgia, Russia, America or Europe. His homeland is wherever he lives," he said. "One man said that home is where the money is…We do not need such thinking. . . .This is why, once more, I want to convince you that there is only one homeland, just as there is only one God.”
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Occasionally, some people critically assess the theological works of the blessed professor Fr. John Romanides, and they express some views, especially recently, over his perception of theological and spiritual issues. It is weird that such assessments are being made after his repose, when he himself is no longer able to reply to the assumptions made on his theological works.
In addition, he is being judged by people who either did not know him personally or have only partly studied his work, without examining it in its entirety. It is obvious that all those people interpret some of his theological views from their own point of view and they misapprehend them. They may possibly think that if they interpret the works of a great theologian they may become ‘great’ themselves.
I have had the extraordinary honor to get to know him after he received his pension from the university, and especially during his stay in Athens. We had been talking almost daily on various matters involving the Church and Theology. He also used to send me some of his work and would explain over the phone his views. He would do the same thing with professor Fr. George Metallinos and the theologian Athanasios Sakarellos. He had also asked me to register him in the hieratical lists of my Diocese, without of course receiving any remuneration, because he had only wanted to belong to an ecclesiastical body. This eventually took place after he supplied to me his certificate of leave from the Holy Archdiocese of America, as I had asked him to. Therefore, I am his last Bishop.
I did get acquainted with his personality and his theological views. I was once very impressed when I had visited him at the intensive care unit in the hospital. He had been connected to various tubes and I had asked him how he was. He paid no attention to my question but started referring to various issues about the Church and Theology. This shows how important ecclesiastical theology was to him so that he had been ignoring his ill health, even the possibility of his death. Theology was his entire life, even to his last breath.
From all that which I have ever written about Fr. Romanides and what will later be published, I would like to mention two ‘phases’ of his theological thought process, if one may speak about the existence of such phases.
It refers to the first phase of his theological creation, which centers on his treatise on “The Ancestral Sin”. The second phase refers to the neptic-hesychastic teachings of the Apostles, especially that of Saint Paul. Naturally, as one may suspect, I will not deal with history here, but mainly with theology, even though he regarded these two faculties as interchangeable.
“The Ancestral Sin”
He dealt with this issue because of the surrounding environment in the States and his quest for an ecclesiastical theology on the creation of the world and the fall of man. It is well known that Fr. John grew up in the States and studied in Catholic and Protestant schools. He was very versatile with their theology, like that of Thomas Aquinas and of other crucial Protestant theologians. The Protestants were denying the patristic tradition and were only studying the Scriptures, while the Catholic theologians were relying on Thomas Aquinas - who had been interpreting Augustine - and other scholastic theologians. This contradiction between the two Christian traditions intrigued Fr. John to look into the so-called Apostolic Fathers – those who succeeded the Apostles but preceded the great Fathers of the fourth century.
This was a most clever move, since he had recognized that the Apostolic Fathers were the connecting link between the Apostles and the great Fathers of the Church. This link was unbreakable. It is through the Apostolic Fathers that the teachings of the Apostles have been conveyed to future generations.
When we are talking about the Apostolic Fathers we refer to Saint Clement of Rome, the authors of the works “The Shepherd of Hermas” and the “Epistle of Barnabas”, Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer, Saint Polycarp of Smyrna and Papias of Hieropolis. Saint Irenaeus of Lyon and Hyppolytos of Rome are connected with the above mentioned Fathers.
Therefore, he had studied extensively the Apostolic Fathers in the ‘spirit’ of the teaching of the Apostles, and compared them on the one hand with the Orthodox Fathers and on the other with the Western Scholastic and Reformation theologians. The whole progress of his theological thought is revealed in the subtitle of his thesis which had the theme of “The Ancestral Sin”.
In a handwritten notebook, which I possess and in which he was making notes while he was studying for the issue before formally expressing his views in his well-known thesis, there is the following title and subtitle: “The Ancestral Sin: The Cosmological and Anthropological Preconditions of the Fall in the Early Church, Compared with the Preconditions Set By Later Greek Patristic Theology and Western Scholastic Theology, Especially That of Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas”.
This is the first draft of this work. In this notebook he cited paragraphs from the New Testament, which he had distinguished by theme, showing that he had obviously read the entire New Testament as part of this study as well as the patristic works of the Apostolic Fathers and the Fathers of the fourth century: namely Saint Athanasios, Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint John Chrysostom and others, as well as Saint Dionysius the Aeropagite, Saint Maximus the Confessor, etc.
In his typed thesis, which again came into my possession, there are also handwritten corrections and interventions with several additions to the first draft, as well as notes in the margins, etc. Obviously this constitutes the first draft; he has given the title and the subtitle to this one as: “The Ancestral Sin: The Cosmological and Anthropological Preconditions of the Fall From the Time of the New Testament Up To the Period of Saint Irenaeus”. In a handwritten note however, he altered the title to: “Contributions to the Teachings on the Ancestral Sin: The Preconditions for the Teachings of the Early Church Up To the Time of Saint Irenaeus in Comparison with the Orthodox and Western Teachings Up To That of Thomas Aquinas”.
In the final version which was published by Pournaras Publications, the title and the subtitle of his thesis have been designated as: “The Ancestral Sin: Contributions to the Research on the Preconditions of the Teachings on the Ancestral Sin in the Early Church Up To Saint Irenaeus in Comparison With the Comprehensive Direction of Orthodox and Western Theology Up To That of Thomas Aquinas”.
It is clearly obvious from the changes which the author had made to the subtitle that he was trying to express in the best possible way the difference between the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and the views of Scholastic theologians on the issue of the ancestral sin. He was always relying on the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers up to Saint Irenaeus as the basis for his theological thinking.
Therefore, this first phase of the research by Fr. John Romanides relies on the Scriptures and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church in contrast with the works by Augustine and Scholastic theologians. This attempt shows a serious researcher and a scholar who is interested at this stage to perceive the ‘spirit’ of the views of the Church Fathers and, in my opinion, to prove that the Orthodox Church is the “Historic Church” which has preserved Apostolic tradition as it passed with authenticity from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers and from them onto the later Fathers. The Catholics and Protestants not only have misinterpreted these teachings, but they have also significantly changed them.
His Neptic-Hesychastic Teaching
After this basic research, Fr. Romanides proceeded deeper into the issue which relates to the cosmological and anthropological preconditions of the ancestral sin, in order to examine the consequences of man’s fall, which are the darkening of his nous and his withdrawal from God’s Light. He also went on to examine the way in which man returns to God, resumes communion with Him and participates in Him. That is, how man is able to reach illumination and deification through purification. He was immensely supported in this second phase of his creative work by certain interpretations of some parts of the New Testament, especially by the interpretations of Saint Paul’s teachings.
As one may determine from his studies into “The Ancestral Sin”, as found in his notebook, he had assembled all the passages of the New Testament which refer to the Devil, to the creating energy of God, to man’s sin, to spiritual death, to the meaning of the heart as ‘nous', to divine justice, to the “freedom from death and corruption”, to the "self-preservation instinct”, and to Christ’s crucifixion, etc.
One may discern by studying these pericopes, especially those of Saint Paul’s, that Fr. John had been collecting all the passages of the New Testament which refer to the neptic-hesychastic life of man as a precondition for his salvation. This work is the groundwork of his intention to support the view that the neptic-hesychastic tradition was indeed the way the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers lived. This study of the New Testament helped him later on to support his views against the Protestants when he had been appointed as Greece’s representative at their joint discussions.
Several times he told me that the Protestants are denying the teachings of the Fathers, cannot comprehend the conceptions of personhood, hypostasis, the essence or the energy of God. They regard these as examples of the influence of Greek philosophy which has corrupted apostolic tradition. He also mentioned to me that the prominent Protestant theologian Harnack was convinced that Orthodoxy is an idolatrous form of Christianity. Thus, when the Protestants were listening to Orthodox theologians using terms familiar within Greek philosophy, they would become upset, would not understand anything, and they would reject the entire teaching. Therefore, it was not easy for an Orthodox theologian to use terms used in patristic theology, because the Protestants could not understand such terminology.
This would make Fr. John to constantly use passages from the New Testament in his dialogues with the Protestants, especially passages from Saint Paul, in order to put them on the spot.
In his discussions with the Jews he would also expand on passages from the Old Testament regarding the revelation of the bodiless Word, of the Great Angel of Yahweh, in relation to patristic tradition, and this would amaze them. Fr. John would of course never give arbitrary interpretations to Saint Paul's passages, but had always in mind the teachings of the Apostolic Fathers and of the great Fathers of the Church. Usually he would not refer to any specific passages. This means that he comprehended the ‘spirit’ of the Fathers, but he would more often use passages from the Apostles. Thus, he used Apostolic terminology on matters of spiritual life, as for example on issues regarding the heart, the nous, glorification, perfection, etc.
Because I knew him personally and I studied his works diligently and got acquainted with his verbal prose, I believe that he was not arbitrarily interpreting passages from the New Testament and especially of Saint Paul’s, but was relying on two important exegetical keys, two basic traditions.
One such tradition was the teachings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, on whom he was very versatile, had studied his teachings from the original, and was linking them to those of Saint Paul’s.
I have also studied diligently and have deciphered all the works by Saint Symeon. I have come to accept this connection in the works of Fr. John.
He would several times admit this openly. At other times this connection was evident. In the future, I will try to do this myself. To try, that is, to link Fr. John’s interpretation of Apostolic passages with the teachings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian.
The second tradition with which he used to interpret Saint Paul’s epistles was the living testimony of the hesychasts of Holy Mount Athos, with whom he had been discussing issues pertaining to the purification of the heart, to the illumination of the nous, to the Lord’s Prayer [the so-called 'Jesus Prayer'] and to contemplation, that is, the vision of the Uncreated Light.
He had also been impressed by the book “The Way Of A Pilgrim”, by the writings of Saint Silouan the Athonite and of course by the works of the Fathers in the "Philokalia". Thus, Fr. John’s neptic-hesychastic teachings are inexorably connected to those of Saint Paul, Saint Symeon the New Theologian and the modern hesychasts whom he had directly or indirectly met. In my opinion, he also relied on his own personal experience, but I am not certain what level did he reach. The truth is that one cannot insist on certain issues unless he has personal experience.
One blessed experienced Spiritual Father told me that he was impressed by Fr John’s insistence on certain issues and that this prompted him to pay special attention to them as well.
We must add to this the teachings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, which he had distinguished from the Neoplatonic tradition with strong arguments; the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas whom he had meticulously studied and whose teachings he was regarding as the essence of the hesychastic tradition of the Church; and the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers. He boasted about the latter since they had the same origins [in Cappadocia].
His insistence on the neptic-hesychastic tradition was based on the fact that this way of life was the one espoused by the Prophets, the Apostles and the Saints as it is demonstrated in the Scriptures and in the whole tradition of the Church: the Holy Canons, the Hymns, the patristic works. He believed that this was particularly demonstrated in the discussion between Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam and later on in the discussion between Saint Gregory, Akindinos and Gregoras.
Fr. John attached a great significance and importance to the neptic tradition because this is the place where one may find not just the dogmas of the Church but also the differences between Orthodox Tradition and that of the Catholics and Protestants. He pin-pointed this difference in the terms "the analogy of being" (analogia entis) and "the analogy of faith" (analogia fidei) which has to do with the different ways one comprehends God’s revelation. The analogy of being refers to the fact that there is a relation between the created and the uncreated being; that God created the world from archetypes and that man’s salvation rests on the return of his soul to the uncreated world of ideas. This is the area of classical metaphysics which Franco-Latin theology was influenced from. According to this theory one can perceive the essence of God if he perceives the essence of created beings, using human rationality. This was the view expressed by Barlaam and that’s why Saint Gregory Palamas objected to this, the so-called “scholastic analogy”.
The analogy of faith refers to the relationship between man and God through faith, as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This tradition says that God is not revealed by philosophical concepts but through the Holy Scriptures, which is the word of God. Thus, when one studies the Scriptures one comes to the knowledge of God and into communion with Him, since God’s revelation has been given in the Holy Scriptures.
Fr. John was insisting that these two traditions (analogia entis - analogia fidei) describe western Christianity and are foreign to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
The Orthodox Church says that if one is to meet God he has to rely on his personal participation with the uncreated purifying, illuminating and deifying energy of God, which is experienced in the Church, by the Holy Mysteries and through personal struggle (asceticism). Personal struggle is the neptic-hesychastic tradition, which is the pre-condition for the comprehension of dogmas and the path in which man meets with God.
Thus, knowledge of God is not related to philosophy, nor to just reading the Holy Scriptures, which is nevertheless important because it gives an account of the experience of deification, but it is connected with the experienced neptic-hesychastic tradition and by living a full life in the Church.
Fr. John was describing this neptic tradition as ‘therapeutic’. We come to meet this term in all the writings of the Fathers. It is only through purification and illumination that man can reach deification and communion with God and regain his health.
It is important to note that Saint Gregory Palamas used the Virgin Mary as the prototype of a hesychast, since she lived in the Holy of Holies by using the method of quietude. Therefore, he says, that once man reaches the stage where he has a vision of God, then “she is the only example of a truly healthy soul”. For this reason, "theoria is the fruit of recovery, whose end and form is deifying". At the same time, man is deified "not through reflecting on analogies," but through silence, with which he is healed.
This ecclesiastical tradition was the foundation of Fr. John’s theology and it was the practical consequence of his theological research into the ancestral sin. That’s why he believed that if one does not comprehend the divergence of analogia entis and analogia fidei from the theology of the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers, one cannot understand the western heresies or the value of the neptic-hesychastic tradition of the Orthodox Church.
Fr. John’s Contribution
The two phases of his theological beliefs (the ancestral sin and the neptic tradition of the Church) are not independent from each other, but they are closely connected: the latter phase is a continuation of the former.
Some people believe that Fr. John began as an excellent hopeful theologian, with an important contribution to theology, but he lost his bearings on the way and did not facilitate the theological renaissance of the country. I think that those who interpret Fr. John’s work in this way do him injustice. The same injustice is done by those who believe that he was influenced by either the Protestants or the Origenists.
Fr. John was an intelligent man with an inquisitive mind. He remained steadfast to Orthodox Tradition and was expressing the authentic experience of the Church.
Of course he was versatile with the theological views of his time and was expressing the authentic view. Some of his linguistic expressions cannot by themselves attribute to him an influence from other beliefs. Besides, Saint Basil and Saint Gregory the Theologian studied Origen, they accumulated some of his ideas and created the so-called "Philokalia", but are not regarded as Origenists. (Here we are not talking about the much later “Philokalia" compiled by the Saints Makarios Notaras and Nikodemos the Hagiorite.)
As a human Fr. John may have made some mistakes in his life, for example in his expressions and the explanations he gave to his theology, but he was a great theologian and a teacher who helped to rejuvenate the hesychastic tradition of recent years. It is not right for him to be dismissed or misinterpreted by people who select some of his wording, without comprehending it and without understanding the whole ‘spirit’ of his teaching.
A great teacher is only interpreted by a great disciple or reader and not by people who inadvertently express their critical mindset.
I consider very important the testimony and confession offered by Fr. George Metallinos, the renowned theologian of our times; the intelligent and charismatic and tireless researcher. According to him, when as a postgraduate student in Cologne in Germany in 1973, he came across a typed manuscript of Fr. John’s "Dogmatics", he regarded it as a “gift of God’s grace”. He writes: “I threw aside all the German-Catholic and Protestant manuals and systematic theological works (I have had enough of those!), and I began hungrily to study the true patristic dogmatics of the Greco-American priest and professor, whom I had not yet had the blessing to meet”.
Later on he writes that after studying this work he “recognized that this unknown to me Fr. Romanides had become my most important teacher in dogmatic theology, but also in ecclesiastical history... so that I could be described as and feel like being his disciple. I am especially happy when I am being ‘accused’ of clearly exhibiting his influence on me”.
In his speech at Fr. Romanides’ funeral he stresses: “We must designate the period ‘before' Romanides and 'after’ Romanides. His work is regarded as instructive and as the task of a writer with a fighting spirit. He has really severed our theology from our Scholastic past, which has so far been acting as the Babylonian captivity of our theology”.
As I have already mentioned, Fr. George Metallinos is a leading teacher of theology, a highly valued researcher and a scholar; a cleric with Orthodox views, but mostly he is an authentic and untainted man without inner complexes. That is the reason why he does not detest anyone, but recognizes the work of the pioneers in theology, like Fr. John.
For this reason, in my opinion, his confession/testimony is vital and substantial, and therefore it cannot be dismissed.
Finally, whoever wants to get acquainted with Fr. John’s teachings must distinguish the two phases in his teachings. Namely, his book on the ancestral sin, which was based on the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers, as well as what he had written and verbally supported regarding the neptic-hesychastic tradition, which he was examining through Saint Paul’s epistles in relation with the teachings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas, the Cappadocian Fathers, and the hesychasts whom he had personally met.
The Church is the Body of Christ. Just as each material body keeps the nutrient it needs to feed its parts and discards the rest, the same way the Church safeguards authentic teachings and discards all the poisonous and indigestible concepts which rely on philosophical thinking and ‘theological’ fantasies.
I believe that the Church will safeguard the ‘spirit’ of Fr. John’s teachings just because it is in harmony with the Apostolic and Patristic tradition, which constitutes the deeper ‘spirit’ of Orthodox teaching. This teaching leads man to theosis and salvation.
Fr. John Romanides’ teaching is not “a sophisticated myth” (2 Peter 1:16). But it is the path which leads to Mount Tabor and the experience of Christ. That is the reason why it is authentic and comforting to the soul.
Read original Greek version here.
Source: Translated by Olga Konnaris-Kokkinos and Edited by John Sanidopoulos
Hidden near the altar area of the katholikon of the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on the island of Patmos is a room which contains many holy relics. The most treasured relic of this Monastery dedicated to the Apostle John, however, is none other than the skull of the Apostle Thomas.
The skull of St. Thomas is kept in a large embossed silver goblet with a lid of silver; all is covered with a very rich Venetian table rug. Emperor Alexios Komnenos had the relic bound with silver strips both lengthwise and over the top and, where the silver ribbons cross, fastened together with precious stones, and the ends held in like manner. Soon after the completion of the Monastery it was presented to St. Christodoulos, the founder.
In the olden days Greek captains, as they sailed passed the Monastery of Saint John, would fire their guns in its honor. Often they would drop anchor in Skala and go up to the Monastery to request of the monks the relic of the skull of St. Thomas to be brought aboard their ship for a blessing to keep them safe as they travelled the dangerous sea.
Today the Apostle Thomas is very much celebrated in Patmos on his primary feast day of October 6th as well as the Sunday of St. Thomas which is eight days after Pascha.
According to the American explorer William Edgar Geil, in his book The Isle That Is Called Patmos published in 1896, the following miracle attributed to the skull of the Apostle Thomas took place:
"Recently this skull was taken by four monks aboard a vessel which set sail and finally landed the five monastery skulls* upon the island of Samos, from which much wine comes. My vessel touched there on the way out from Smyrna, and I saw a large tank ship have wine pumped into it, just as oil is. Information was given me that it is transported to a foreign port where, after being put up into packages with a famous name on it, it is sold at a high price. Well, the worms had gotten into the vineyards, destroying the crop, and in some instances making life miserable for the vines; hence the skull of St. Thomas was invited to 'come over and help us'. The five Patmos skulls remained on Samos a month. They carried the relics in procession, the four monks did; they took them into the vineyards, they marched from village to village, the people following in great crowds, singing hymns and praying. It is said that when the worms saw the silver-bound, gem-bestudded skull coming, they decamped precipitately.
The citizens of the wine island so appreciated this visit of the worm-chasing skull that they took up a collection and presented to the monks three hundred pounds sterling for their visit. One thousand five hundred dollars a month is pretty good pay out there in the Aegean Sea, but the people were happy that the worms were gone."
Geil, being a devout Protestant and not understanding the importance of holy relics, goes on to make the following comment: "It is passing strange that an old skull is needed to help get a blessing from the living God. But thus their superstitions teach them."
With little reverence yet much respect Geil proceeds in his account to describe another miracle attributed to the holy skull of the Apostle Thomas:
"Some fifteen years ago the grasshoppers overran Smyrna; they leaped into everything and gave the place a desolate appearance. When the people's patience was well-nigh exhausted, the monks of St. John came over from Patmos with the uppermost portion of St. Thomas. When St. Thomas arrived there was at once much singing and kneeling and praying and kissing of the skull. Then a procession was formed, and the relic got down to business. The grasshoppers, as soon as they turned themselves and saw (so the the story goes, which is given in Patmos to this day, and I heard an account also at Smyrna) the worm-chasing skull of the saint after them, they fled in great haste. It is declared that grasshoppers were never known to hop such long hops, such fast hops, such high hops, as those Grylli hopped when they saw what was coming. On this occasion the insects jumped into the sea, and so great was the number that the small boats could go about with difficulty. The stench from their decaying bodies necessitated the making of a great festival, besides the carting of them beyond the city limits, where trenches were dug and the obnoxious creatures buried. On Patmos the monks told me that no grasshoppers have since visited Smyrna: yet in the latter place the information reached me that several times since they have made their appearance there, but in small numbers. The holy men out on the island, where news is scarce, had not heard about the calls the Grylli had made on Smyrna."
The first photo of the relic of St. Thomas was taken by Geil and can be seen in his book here (p. 41).
Read also the miracle of the skull of St. Thomas on the island of Simi where grasshoppers were expelled there as well. It can be read in Greek here.
* These skulls likely include those of St. Philip the Apostle and St. Antipas the Martyr. Others could also be those of St. Pachomios the New Martyr, the Apostle James the Brother of our Lord, St. George the Great Martyr, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, St. James the Persian, etc. According to Geil, the monastery had over one hundred relics.
In a climate of deep reverence a Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the first time at the place St. Michael Paknanas, the New Martyr of Athens, was beheaded for his faith and for his refusal to embrace Islam.
St. Michael is celebrated on July 9th, but the Divine Liturgy took place on Tuesday 5 October 2010 at the historical site of the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was conducted by Archimandrite Maximos Kappas, parish priest of the Holy Church of Saint Photini in Ilissos. Fr. Maximos spoke of the life of St. Michael and the difficulties faced by Athenians in those days of Ottoman occupation.
The managers of the Temple of Olympian Zeus have requested that a Divine Liturgy be celebrated in honor of St. Michael annually. It should also be noted that following the Divine Liturgy a Memorial Service was held in honor of all Greeks killed by the Turks during the Ottoman period.
Saint Michael Paknanas the Gardner from Athens
The Home and Garden of Saint Michael Paknanas
Below are two documentaries in Greek concerning the beautiful and holy Monastery of St. Dionysios of Olympus, divided by a short history of the Monastery.
Ιερά Πατριαρχική και Σταυροπηγιακή Μονή Αγίου Διονυσίου του εν Ολύμπω
The Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus
The Holy Monastery was founded as Patriarchal and Stavropegic and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, following a Divine Revelation given to St. Dionysios. Later on, the name of its founder predominated. St. Dionysios created a monument of rare architectural and aesthetic beauty, ideally integrated into the natural environment; built as a fortress, from stone and wood, on a natural fortified plateau.
Thanks to St. Dionysios΄ blessings, despite the numerous destructions, the Monastery has been enjoying continuous life and a monastic presence for about 500 years. Due to St. Dionysios΄ personality, it soon became widely known and developed great spiritual activity, in line with its founder΄s pattern.
Centuries ago, the reputation of the old Monastery surpassed the boundaries of the Greek territory reaching Tsarist Russia.
Even today, thousands of people, coming from both neighboring and distant areas, come to worship and pray to the Saint.
The Monastery of St. Dionysios became an integral part of Greece΄s long history, society and education. There was an organized icon painting workshop and manuscript transcription center, in which many old texts have been preserved. The Monastery΄s school was attended by many pupils, including the areas΄ great chieftains, perhaps even Rigas Fereos.
The Monastery however was destined to be afflicted, suffer the price for its contribution to the education of the faithful, to the protection of traditions. In 1821, it was set afire by Veli Pasha, son of Ali Pasha. After a three-day battle, Abbot Methodios Paliouras was hanged along with another 12 monks at the central square of Larissa.
During the Olympus Revolt in 1878, the Monastery took an active part by providing shelter to the women and children of Litochoro; it disrupted for the first time the entrance prohibition for women. The Metochion of Skala was used as a replenishment and disembarkation station for the Greek fighters. During the Macedonian Struggle, it constituted again shelter for the fighters and a replenishment station.
Despite all the successive natural or volitional destructions and the ceaseless pillages, the Monastery kept on protecting the inhabitants of Mt. Olympus under its sacred shadow.
Because the Monastery is in disrepair, in the 1950's a new Monastery was built nearby where the monks live today. The feast of St. Dionysios is January 23rd.
Read more about St. Dionysios and his Monastery here and here.
October 5, 2010
The head of the İstanbul-based Islamic Research Center (İSAM), Professor Mehmet Akif Aydın, has suggested that Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) be opened to Muslim worshippers on weekdays and to Christians on Sunday. A former Byzantine church and then Ottoman mosque in İstanbul, Aya Sofya is currently open as a museum.
Aydın said that as a Muslim he is disturbed to see that Aya Sofya is still closed to worshippers. “I believe the continuation of the culture of coexistence at Aya Sofya, which I hope will improve in Turkey, is more important and acceptable than its remaining as a museum. I’d like it, as a Muslim, to become a mosque. But if Aya Sofya is supposed to be opened to Muslim worshippers on weekdays, then it should be opened to Christians on Sunday. Aya Sofya was built as a place of worship. It served people in this way for more than a thousand years, both as a church and mosque. It is neither a church nor a mosque now. It disturbs me to see that Aya Sofya has become a museum and a tourist destination,” he added in an exclusive interview with the Zaman daily.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry has been under growing criticism both in Turkey and abroad for not allowing worshippers inside Aya Sofya. Aydın also said Aya Sofya would stand as the first example of religions coexisting in one space if his proposal is realized.
“I think it would be better for Aya Sofya to be a place of worship for the two religions rather than remaining a secular museum. If we can re-open a church in Van why not open Aya Sofya to worship? This would contribute to the willingness of Muslims and Christians to coexist,” he noted.
The Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on the island of Akdamar in the eastern province of Van hosted a historic service on Sept. 19, a first in 100 years. Similarly, a historic mass at the Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea coastal province of Trabzon -- a first in republican history -- was marked by peace in mid-August. Aydın had high praise for the re-opening of Akdamar for religious services.
“I’d never want a church, which has a congregation, to remain in ruins or as a museum. For this reason, I believe the re-opening of Akdamar for religious services was an extremely positive decision. This has shown that Turkey is re-gaining its historic disposition. It is once again accepting coexistence with other religions,” he noted, adding that Akdamar could be permanently open for religious services. The Akdamar service was marked by a controversy over the placement of a cross, which emerged after Turkish authorities failed to erect a cross on top of the church by the day of the service; the cross was installed on the church on Sunday. Aydın expressed hope that a growing tolerance between nations and religions will become more pronounced in the years to come.
No obstacle to re-opening of Greek Seminary
In response to a question about whether the Greek Orthodox Seminary on Heybeliada should be re-opened, Aydın said, “There is no obstacle to its being re-opened.” The seminary was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control. There have been growing calls on the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to re-open the seminary.
According to Aydın, Turks lost their “culture” of coexistence with Christians in the early years of the republic because the republic did not act in a secular way toward Christians. “In this sense, the republic was a bit ‘Islamist’ towards them,” he said. “We can learn to coexist with other religions and faiths if we allow all circles in Turkey, let them be Muslims, non-Muslims, Sunnis, Alevis and followers of other religions, to learn about their own faiths and see that every member of a faith group learns and lives his faith without fears and reservations,” Aydın added.
Continued from Part Four
THE PROTOCOLS AND THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
From 1905 onward, anti-Semitism took a decidedly different turn; no longer was it confined to religious circles; it had clearly burst those old bounds and had begun to flow in new and much more dangerous channels - so much so that agents of the government began to find it convenient to invent Jewish names for all the Autocracy’s opponents. From any kind of a factual standpoint, this was nonsense; to be sure, Jews were involved in the revolutionary movements of the time, but they played no greater role than many other minorities who were likewise persecuted by the hated Autocracy.
The Protocols were republished in 1911 and 1912; but it was not until 1917 (at the time of the Revolution) that they really took off under a new title: He is Near, at the Door ... Here Comes Antichrist.
The 1917 version was distributed as a pocket-sized pamphlet to the soldiers of the "White Armies" during the Revolution; most, therefore, came to believe that the Revolution had been the product of a Jewish conspiracy; and that Lenin, Trotsky, and the Red Army were nothing more than puppets in this vast plot, an intrigue which was - like the French Revolution before it - ultimately under the control of the "Illuminati."
After the defeat of the "Whites," thousands of them fled as expatriates to Western Europe, carrying with them their pocket-sized Protocols - and it was this rendition of the Protocols - with the imprimatur of the Czarist government on it's cover - which found itself onto the pages of the Times of London and other newspapers and magazines in the West; and more, it was this version which Russian émigrés carried with them to America after the final collapse of their forces in the Crimean Peninsula in 1922. TO THESE EMIGRES, THE WAR IN RUSSIA HAD BEEN A CONTEST WHICH HAD PITTED "CHRISTIAN RUSSIA" AGAINST THE POWER OF SATANIC ILLUMINISM, and it was this mindset, along with their pocket-sized copies of the Protocols, which they brought to this country - and it is precisely this myth which Pat Robertson and others are using today as a means to galvanize Christians into political action aimed at taking back the country for "Christ and the church." To be sure, the references to the Jews have been dropped and "code words" adopted (i.e., "secular-humanism," "liberals," "Illuminists," etc.), but the myth is the same - and there, lurking in the background, are still the Jews.
Some Christians, no doubt, will have a difficult time believing that their leaders could have "hooked into" such a deadly mythology - that certainly the story which Robertson has described in the pages of The New World Order is different from that which Hitler used to bewitch the German people. The sad answer is, it’s not! And it's not just that there exists a good deal of evidence which suggests the parallel nature of the two mythologies [i.e., Hitler's and Robertson's (minus the naked references to the Jews and the overt racism which characterized German fascism)] - but the fact is, it's relatively easy to prove the relationship between the two (i.e., Robertson's version and Hitler's version) by tracing the trail of the original mythology from Russia - where it first surfaced as a full-blown story - to Germany and ultimately to the United States. From there, it is not particularly difficult to follow its path up through the years straight to Pat Robertson and others in the Christian Right today. Many have done so. For example, take Professor Donald S. Strong of the University of Texas. As early as 1941 he wrote,
"... it is important to note here that the ideology spread by ... (enthusiasts of the Illuminati Myth) in the United States is the same as that which accompanied certain political developments in Russia before World War I, in Poland and Hungary shortly after that war, and more recently in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy (and finally here in the United States)." [Donald Strong, Organized Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941), pg. 1.]
THE TORTURED PATH OF THE ILLUMINATI MYTH
"The appearance of this ideology (i.e., the Illuminati Myth) in postwar Hungary is of interest because, before World War I, anti-Semitism was almost unknown there ... It was during the crushing of the short lived ... (Communist) regime (in Budapest) that the anti-revolutionary, anti-Semitic ideology made its (first) appearance. Here, as in postwar Russia, the ideology was not used as a means of elite defense; instead an old elite (i.e., the aristocracy and the large landholders) temporarily dislodged (by Bela Kun and the socialists), employed it as a means of discrediting the new revolutionary (i.e., communist) elite and justifying its (i.e., the aristocracy's) own return to power. Thus, in the name of this anti-revolutionary, anti-Semitic ideology, the White Terror was directed not only against the ... (communists) in general and the few Jewish Bolsheviks (who were connected to them), but against all the half million Jews in Hungary. The speedy association of (the Jews ... with the) Bolsheviks in the (Illuminist) ideology came about partly from the spread of the ideology from the White Russians and partly from the fact that Bela Kun and several other leaders of the revolution actually were Jews." [Donald Strong, Organized Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941), pg. 6.]
From Hungary, the myth then spread into Germany. Like Russia, there had been a history of anti-Semitism in the Reich; but like Russia again, the anti-Semitism which had manifested itself prior to the First World War was more religious than it was political. Moreover, the anti-Semitism which had taken hold in Germany prior to the war had existed principally only in the lower classes. The middle and upper classes were relatively free of the scourge. Indeed, Bismarck, an aristocrat, had been responsible for launching a campaign in the latter part of the nineteenth century which had aimed at the full integration of the Jewish community into all aspects of German life. There was, of course, some resistance: in 1871 Professor August Rohling, a theologian, produced Der Talmudjude which represented Judaism as a devilish doctrine; in 1878, Adolf Stocker, the court preacher, founded the anti-Semitic Christian Social Labor Party; and finally - in connection with the Kulturkampf - the Catholic Church initiated a crusade which aimed at blaming the Jews for its troubles with Bismarck. But all in all, the population embraced Jewish assimilation as a measure whose time had come - modernity seemed to demand it. Nonetheless, despite this history of toleration, Germany - like Russia, Poland and Hungary before it - succumbed quickly to the allure of the Illuminati Myth and the political anti-Semitism which the myth inevitably unleashed; and in this respect, the German experience differed from the others only insofar as the "Communist Revolution" never really took hold in Germany.
While the Spartacists - a radical group of German Socialists under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxumburg - threatened the government in Berlin for three months in the winter of 1918-1919, and Socialists seized power in Munich for a brief period, they were all quickly swept away. Unlike Poland, Hungary and Russia, no real military threat ever materialized in Germany. The catalyst in Germany was profound economic distress. Strong writes,
"The more menacing the ... (economic situation) became, the stronger the Nazis grew, ever professing to be defenders of the existing social order against revolutionary chaos." [Donald S. Strong, Organized Anti-Semitism in America (Washington, D.C.: American Council on Public Affairs, 1940), pp. 83-108.]
The Protocols are such a transparent forgery that one may wonder how it was that they spread so fast throughout the Christian West. The fact remains, however, that multitudes of people who were by no means insane took them very seriously at the time - after all, the government of one of the greatest nations in the world, Imperial Russia, had attested in unequivocal terms to their authenticity. Indeed, the Times of London editorialized, "What are these Protocols? Are they authentic? If so, what malevolent assembly concocted these plans and gloated over their exposition? ... Have we by straining every fiber of our national body escaped a Pax Germanica only to fall into a Pax Judaica?"
But shortly thereafter, the myth began to unravel. On August 18, 1921, the Times of London, which had done so much to spread the myth, took the lead in unraveling it by devoting a resounding editorial admitting its error. The Times had just published in its issues of August 16, 17, and 18 a lengthy dispatch from its correspondent in Constantinople, Philip Graves, which revealed the fact that the Protocols were nothing more than a clumsy forgery copied from Maurice Joly's play, Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavel.
THE RAISON D'ETRE BEHIND THE MYTH'S MAGNETISM
Still, countless numbers of people continued to feel irresistible drawn to the myth - the facts of the matter notwithstanding. Professor Strong also noted this phenomenon back in 1941 and was puzzled by it - and he refused to write off those who were drawn to it as uneducated buffoons - certainly Ford, DuPont, the Pope, Churchill and countless others like them could not be so easily dismissed. There had to be something more behind the myth's "drawing power."
To get a more precise idea of why people were drawn to the myth, Strong undertook a study of more than 121 organizations which were involved in one way or another with the Illuminist Myth during the years 1933-1940. Strong wrote,
"To understand precisely how and why ... the (Illuminist Myth) has circulated in America ... it is necessary to examine the character of the proponent organizations. What are the personality types, occupations, and affiliations of the leaders? What is the class status, religion, and geography ... of the membership? How are funds raised? What sort of propaganda is used and through what channels? To what extent do the groups cooperate? What objectives have they in common? These are the key questions to be answered." [Donald Strong, Organized Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941), pg. 15.]
Strong chose 9 groups out of the 121 as representative; he then proceeded to subject these groups to a minute examination. He found that they could be grouped broadly into three different categories:
- Christian groups (the National Union for Social Justice, the American Christian Defenders, and the Defenders of the Christian Faith);
- Antilabor and business groups (the Industrial Defense Association, the Edmondson Economic Service, the American Vigilant Intelligence Service, and James True Associates);
- Political and patriotic groups (The Paul Reveres and the Order of ’76).
AND IT'S PRECISELY HERE THAT STRONG BEGAN TO DISCOVER THE REAL REASON BEHIND THE "STAYING POWER" OF THE ILLUMINIST MYTH: IT WAS THE GLUE WHICH WAS HOLDING TOGETHER THIS RATHER POLYGLOT ALLIANCE OF OTHERWISE UNRELATED CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL GROUPS WHICH WAS STANDING IN THE WAY OF SOCIALIST FORCES WHICH THREATENED THEIR UNDOING. The myth (whether expressed as the "Illuminist Plot," the "Communist Conspiracy," and/or "Secular-Humanism") gave the alliance the raison d'etre necessary to hold it together. It provided an enemy against which they could rally their forces and make "common cause." Without it, the alliance would fall apart.
The myth stimulated -
Businessmen and antilabor groups because it portrayed communism and the business community's hated advesaries, the labor unions, as tools of Illuminism;
It galvanized Christians in as much as it painted a dire threat against Christianity; and finally
It excited national and patriotic groups as a response to the "one-worldism" of Illuminism.
Thus, it was (and is) in the interest of all three communities [Big Business and antilabor groups); Christians; and the various nationalist and patriotic groups (i.e., the John Birch Society, the American Security Council, etc.)] to fan the flames of Illuminism, and - if only unwittingly and unintentionally - the underlying anti-Semitism that goes along with it. Thus, it is a matter of pure fact - even today - that one cannot involve himself in this alliance without someday involving himself in anti-Semitism! - and this is as true for Christians as it is for Big Business, and the various nationalist and patriotic groups.
PLAYING WITH FIRE
What is it about American Christians which makes them think that they can play with such fire (i.e., the Illuminist Myth) and not get burned? Over twenty million people - from the White Terror which so gripped Europe after the First World War to the ovens of Auschwitz during the Second World War - have perished directly as a result of this myth.
Christians are being hustled, and its not "Minnesota Fats" who’s doing the hustling, but experts at the game of politics who would pimp their own mothers as prostitutes if it could achieve their goal of worldly political power. Thinking we are wise, we have become fools and are playing with the same fire which consumed the White Russians and the German people. American Christians think to use the political process for their own ends, but in the final analysis it may be the political process which will use them for its ends.
1. Much of this information comes from two sources: Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide and Donald Strong, Organized Anti-Semitism in America.