By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
On this day we commemorate the translation of the relics of St. George, from Nicomedia, where he suffered at the time of Emperor Diocletian, to the city of Lydda in Palestine. The suffering of this wonderful saint is described on April 23.
Anticipating his martyrdom, St. George begged his servant to take his relics to Palestine, where his mother had been born, and where he had distributed his large estate to the poor. The servant did so. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, pious Christians built a beautiful church to St. George in Lydda and, upon the consecration of that church, the relics of the saint were interred there. Innumerable miracles have occurred from these miracle-working relics of St. George, the great-martyr of Christ.
Related Article: Dedication of the Temple of the Holy Great Martyr George in Lydda (Photos)
A Miracle of St. George the Great Martyr
Among the countless miracles of St. George, this one is recorded:
On the island of Mytilene there was a church dedicated to St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer. All the inhabitants of the island would come to this church on the annual feast of their patron saint.
Knowing of this, the Saracens of Crete once attacked this island on its feast day, pillaged the island, and enslaved its inhabitants, taking many of them back to Crete. Among the enslaved was a handsome young man, whom the pirates gave to their prince. The prince made him his servant. The young man's parents were overwhelmed with great sorrow for their son.
After a year had passed and St. George's day came again, the grieving parents, following the ancient custom, prepared a table and entertained many guests. Remembering her son, the poor mother went to the icon of the saint, fell to the ground and began to pray that he somehow deliver her son from slavery. The mother then returned to her guests at the table. The host raised a glass and drank a toast to the honor of St. George. Just then their son appeared among them, holding a decanter of wine in his hand. In amazement and fear, they asked him how he had managed to come to them. He replied that as he was about to serve his master wine in Crete, a knight on horseback appeared before him, pulled him up onto the horse and carried him instantly to his parents' home.
All were amazed, and glorified God and His wonderful saint, George the Commander and Victory-bearer.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Great Martyr George
O George the martyr,
O George the victor:
Through suffering, you conquered,
And through death you have been glorified.
You held all things to be of less value
Than truth, O George.
You gave up earthly power and honor,
And stood beside the Living Christ.
O George the martyr,
O George the victor:
Pierced and broken with horrible tortures,
You were sustained by God's hand.
All your pains were as nothing-
By the power of God's mighty hand.
We all bow down before you
And glorify your name.
O Martyr George,
O Victor George:
Have mercy on us now,
By your prayers, protect us
Before the throne of Christ God,
Our Almighty Savior;
And pray that we not fear torture,
And that, by patience, we conquer!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
November 1, 2010
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov opened a special exhibit for November 1, Bulgarian Enlighteners' Day, dedicated to the first Slavic alphabet known as Glagolitsa.
The Glagolitic alphabet, or Glagolitsa, was the original alphabet drafted by Byzantine monks St. Cyril and St. Methodius in 855 AD in their mission to spread the Christian word among the Slavs, even though the term for its name was not coined until the late Middle Ages – from the verb glagoliti meaning "to speak".
The Glagolitic alphabet was based on the three major symbols in Christianity – a cross, a circle, and a triangle.
St. Clement of Ochrid, the most important Bulgarian disciple of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, while serving the Bulgarian king Boris I later modified the Glagolitic alphabet in the late 9th century because he found its letters were too hard to write.
Based on it, he created the Bulgarian alphabet that he named "Cyrillic" after his teacher St. Cyril, which was introduced by the First Bulgarian Empire, and was then also adopted by other Slavic states in the south and east, including Serbia and Russia.
"The most real Bulgarian alphabet is the Glagolitic. It combines in itself a new beginning for Bulgaria and the Balkans and in many monasteries this alphabet is still kept alive. Each letter in this alphabet has a name of its own, and there is an idea enshrined in each of those names," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mladenov said at the opening of the Glagolitic exhibit at the Cultural Institute of the Foreign Ministry before foreign diplomats.
Mladenov believes that Enlighteners' Day, November 1, and the Day of the Slavic Script and Bulgarian Culture, and of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, May 24, are the two most genuine Bulgarian holidays.
Another exhibition about the Glagolitic alphabet was opened on Monday in Plovdiv by the Union of Plovdiv Artists.
By Metropolitan Philaret (+1985)
Question: “If the Orthodox faith is the only true faith, can Christians of other confessions be saved? May a person who has led a righteous life on earth be saved, while not being a Christian?”
Answer: “For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that struggles, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16). In the Orthodox Church we have the most direct and complete path of salvation indicated to us, and we are given the means by which a person may be purified and have a direct promise of salvation. In this sense St. Cyprian of Carthage says, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” The Apostle Peter writes exclusively to Christians saying: “According as His divine power He has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceedingly great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:3).
And what should one say of those outside the Church, who do not belong to Her? Another apostle provides us with an idea: “For what have I to do with judging them that are without? You judge them that are within? But them that are without, God judges” (1 Cor. 5:12–13), having “mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom 9:18). The question, “Can the non-Orthodox, i.e. those who do not belong to Orthodoxy — the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church — be saved?” has become particularly painful and acute in our days. In attempting to answer this question, it is necessary, first of all, to recall that in His Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ Himself mentions but one state of the human soul that unfailingly leads to perdition — i.e. blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:1–32). The Holy Spirit is, above all, the Spirit of Truth, as the Savior loved to refer to Him. Accordingly, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the Truth, conscious and persistent opposition to it. The same text makes it clear that even blasphemy against the Son of Man — i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God Himself, may be forgiven, as it may be uttered in error or in ignorance, and subsequently may be covered by conversion and repentance. (An example of such a converted and repentant blasphemer is the Apostle Paul. See Acts 26:11 and 1 Tim. 1:13.) If, however, a man opposes the Truth which he clearly apprehends by his reason and conscience, he becomes blind and commits spiritual suicide, for he thereby likens himself to the devil, who believes in God and dreads Him, yet hates, blasphemes, and opposes Him.
Thus, man's refusal to accept the Divine Truth and his opposition to it makes him a son of condemnation. Accordingly, in sending His disciples to preach, the Lord told them: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16), for the latter heard the Lord's Truth and was called upon to accept it, yet refused, thereby inheriting the condemnation of those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12).
The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Savior Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8–9), threatening them with eternal condemnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold.
It is self-evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth. The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church. They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox. In their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “who desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation in His own way.
An inquirer once asked St. Theophan the Recluse if the non- Orthodox would be saved. The blessed one replied, “You ask, will the non-Orthodox be saved? Why do you worry about them? They have a Savior who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins.”
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6 (Nov.–Dec., 1984), pp. 33–36.
Other Quotes To Ponder:
St. Theophan the Recluse: "Why do you worry about them? They have a Savior, Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your sins.... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox, and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever."
Elder Nektary of Optina: One of Elder Nektary's spiritual children then inquired: "But what about the millions of Chinese, Indians, Turks and other non-Christians?" The elder replied:
"God desires not only that the nations be saved, but each individual soul. A simpl...e Indian, believing in his own way in the Creator and fulfilling His will as best he can, will be saved; but he who, knowing about Christianity, follows the Indian mystical path, will not." [Ivan Kontzevitch, Elder Nektary of Optina, p. 181].
by Father John Romanides
In their mudslinging campaign, the opponents of the hesychast revival have now called the supporters of this tradition 'conservative.' But what does the word 'conservative' mean in the West? In the West, a conservative is someone who still identifies the Bible with God's revelation to mankind and the world, because in the old days Protestants and Roman Catholics believed in the literal inspiration of Holy Scripture. In other words, they believed that Christ dictated the Bible word for word to the prophets and writers of the gospels by means of the Holy Spirit, so that the writers of the Bible were like scribes who wrote down whatever they heard the Holy Spirit say.
But now Biblical criticism has come along and discredited this line of thought, dividing those in the Protestant world into conservative and liberal camps. For example, the Lutherans are divided into conservative and liberal factions. In America, there are separate Lutheran churches – one church for liberals, and the church of the Missouri Synod for conservatives. One faction does not accept the Bible as revelation on absolute terms, while the other faction does. One can also observe the same phenomenon with the Baptists. The liberal Baptists do not accept the Holy Scripture as literally inspired revelation, while the others embrace it as revelation that is inspired word for word. You can also find the same division among the Methodists. In fact, this split between liberals and conservatives over the issue of Holy Scripture can be seen in all the Protestant denominations in America.
Now, ask yourself whether this division can be applied to Orthodox tradition. Are there conservative Fathers and liberal Fathers with respect to the Bible? Is there a single Church Father who teaches the literal inspiration of Holy Scripture? Is there a single Church Father who identifies the Holy Scripture with the experience of theosis itself? No, there is not one, because God's revelation to mankind is the experience of theosis. In fact, since revelation is the experience of theosis, an experience that transcends all expressions and concepts, the identification of Holy Scripture with revelation is, in terms of dogmatic theology, pure heresy.
Can someone who accepts this Patristic teaching on theosis be characterized as conservative, based on the split over Scripture in the Protestant world? When liberal Protestants hear about this Patristic principle, they say, "Oh yes, that's liberalism!" while conservative Protestants say, "No, it's heresy!" In other words, when we follow the Fathers, we Orthodox are heretics as far as conservative Protestants are concerned.
You may well ask, "who are the Orthodox liberals and the Orthodox conservatives?" They are those who do theology in a way that corresponds to the theology of Protestant liberals and conservatives. This is the reason why certain theologians in Greece have been divided into liberal and conservatives camps. The liberals follow liberal Protestants on these subjects while the conservatives follow their conservative counterparts.
But can we classify Patristic tradition using such characterizations and buzzwords? Of course not. Nevertheless, a hesychast theologian of the Eastern Church will be viewed as a liberal in the West, because he refuses to identify the written text of Holy Scripture, including its sayings and concepts, with revelation.
Since revelation is the experience of theosis, it is beyond comprehension, expression, and conceptualization. This means that the labels 'conservative' or 'liberal' should not be applied to those who adhere to Orthodox tradition. Based on what is meant by revelation, the Fathers are neither liberals nor conservatives. Simply put, there are Church Fathers who are saints of the Church who have only reached illumination and there are saints of the Church who have also reached theosis and are more glorious than the former class of saints.
This is the Patristic tradition – either you attain to illumination or you attain to theosis once you have already passed through illumination. Orthodox tradition is nothing other than this curative course of treatment through which the nous is purified, illumined, and eventually glorified together with the entire man, if God so wills. Therefore, is there such a thing as an illumined liberal or an illumined conservative in this context? Of course not. You are either illumined or you are not. You have either reached theosis or you have not. You have either undergone this treatment, or you have not. Apart from these distinctions, there are no others.
From Patristic Theology - The University Lectures of Father John Romanides (Thessaloniki, Greece: Uncut Mountain Press, 2008), pp. 108-111.
By Stephen K. Ryan
November 2, 2010
Christopher Hitchens warns of the rising influence of Christianity in Russia in matters of State.
Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev go to Church frequently, kiss precious icons of the Virgin Mary and seek political and moral counsel from the Russian Orthodox Clergy. Furthermore, to the surprise of many Americans, particularly Evangelical Christians, Vladimir Putin wears a Christian cross with him at all times. On ABC Good Morning America' Anchor George Stephanopoulos recently interviewed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you, the American public doesn't know all that much about you personally. But I was fascinated to be-- in reading your biography to learn many of the details. You were brought up in Soviet Russia, without religion. Yet, at the age of 23, you walk into a church to become baptized. Why?
MEDVEDEV: I did feel that I needed it. I wanted to do it. Why do people go to church? They come because they feel a need, except if they're sightseeing. So at 23 I felt I needed it. I believe it's good for me, because afterwards my life changed. You don't really talk aloud about something like that because the religious feelings should be somewhere deep inside of you. If someone is displaying it, it's not really honest. It's more PR for yourself. But I believe religion is important for every person.
Soon after this interview, President Medvedev marked the adoption of Christianity in 988 with a new public holiday. This is the latest demonstration of the Kremlin's support for an Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.
The only person who seems to be paying attention to this phenomonon of the rising influence of Christianity in Russia is ironically Christopher Hitchens, author of "The God Delusion"
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently invited brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens to address the question of whether civilization needs God.
Here is what Mr. Hitchens had to say about Religion in Russia today:
"The second of the two empires that took part in this hecatomb of civilization in the name of their own religion, I mean the Russian one, shows real signs also of imperial nostalgia. No one here, I suppose, will have forgotten the moment when George Bush first met Vladimir Putin, who had chosen for the day to decorate his chest with his grandmother’s ornate Russian Orthodox crucifix, enough for the president to be convinced and to say that just to look into those beautiful limpid eyes was enough to see that he was a person of deep spirituality and sensitivity.
I think, by the way, in a fairly strong field, that’s one of the stupidest things any president has ever said. But now you don’t have to use much of your imagination when you see at the inauguration — when Putin wants to make someone prime minister, and when he says, how can he make himself czar again down the road — all these inaugural ceremonies are attended by black-cowled patriarchs swinging their incenses, demanding and getting in return privileges over other churches and other religions in Russia, restoring the same political and clerical balance, roughly, that did underpin Russian absolutism and autocracy until the great catastrophe of 1914.
And that’s coming back, too, and I think we don’t pay anything like enough attention to this fusion of traditional great Russian chauvinism and police regime with the clerical bodyguard and prop and stay and ally that it’s appointed for itself. But now it goes without saying that I’m speaking to the question of, how compatible is civilization with religion?
But so far, those are the only two empires that do show this sign of religious revival. It’s equally true to say that in huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people, in effect, live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue, I think, that they lead conspicuously less-civilized lives than their predecessor generations, than the ones of 1914 or 1939."
Read the entire debate here.
Is Russia more Christian than the United States? Medvedev might just say Yes!
November 1, 2010
The Moscow News
For many it’s all hocus-pocus, but a growing number of Russians are turning to spiritual healers of every stripe.
And the trend has reached the point where Russia has more sorcerers and wizards than medically trained doctors.
Andrei Yurevich, of the Russian Academy of Science, told a RIA Novosti press conference: “According to World Health Organisation data there are some 800,000 sorcerers and wizards in Russia.
“As for professional doctors there are around 640,000.”
To combat the rising numbers of unlicensed magicians, whose efforts to cure often do more harm than good, occult advertising faces a crackdown.
Individuals or companies offering faith healing, fortune telling or folk remedies must have a license from the Federal Scientific Clinical Centre for Traditional Methods of Diagnosis and Healing, which has been issuing permits since 2008.
However, as befits its clumsy title, the organisation offers authorisation to a wide range of what it calls “traditional medicine”, which can include anything from folk medicine to psychic healers.
Interest in the paranormal really took off in the final years of the USSR, when psychic healers Anatoly Kashpirovsky and Allan Chumak became huge stars and drew TV audiences of millions as they demonstrated their sixth senses.
And even today shows like "Bitva Ekstrasensov" (Battle of the Extra Senses) enjoy prime time slots on Russian TV.
But the roots of these traditions often lie in folk remedies handed down from generation to generation – typified by a wide-held belief in the curative powers of tea for almost any ailment.
And a survey from the Levada agency in August found that 20 per cent of Russians have used some sort of occult service.
Russia’s Esoteric Underworld
Shamans and Sorcerors Booted Off Russian TV
Could 90% Of What Doctors Tell You Be Wrong?
David H. Freedman explores the work of Dr. John Ioannidis, whose survey of the medical literature shows most of it being poorly tested, unduly influenced, and falsified in short order.
Read: Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science
If science can provide so little confidence about things we can see and feel and test in the present, how can scientists’ confident pronouncements about the unobservable past, with all its untestable unknowns, be trusted?
Monday, November 1, 2010
Your writings and godly teachings have gone out to all the world; you have revealed the way of repentance.
(Vesperal Stichos to St. John Chrysostom)
Fr. John reposed in Athens at the age of 74 from a heart attack, which came during his morning walk to the churches and marketplace of Athens, just as he was entering the 6th century Church of Saint Kyriaki on Athinas Street.
His funeral took place on Tuesday November 6th, in the Cathedral Church of Athens. Officiating were Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Metropolitan Panteleimon of Tyroloe together with many clergy, students, family, his two daughters, his sister, his nephew, and many friends. Chanting the funeral service were the Association of Music Lovers of Constantinople.
In the journal Parembasis (Nov. 2001, Issue 70) a tribute was made to Fr. John that I will be translating to honor his memory for the great impact he played in my own personal life. He was a progressive and traditional theologian, pervasive and discerning, sharp and therapeutic, patristic and Orthodox.
May his prayers be with us and his memory be eternal.
By Protopresbyter George Metallinos,
Dean of the Athens University School of Theology
One of the most significant Orthodox theologians of the 20th century and a revivalist of our theology who strived to restore it to the genuineness of Patristic tradition, the Protopresbyter Father John Romanides was escorted by all of us - his friends, his colleagues and his students - to our eternal and true Homeland.
On behalf of the Department of Theology of the Athens University School of Theology and its President Mr. Demetrios Gonis, I was given the honor of offering a few words of love, respect and honor to the Great Colleague, who was en route to the “higher realms”.
The deceased himself had revealed in one of his rare self-introductions the following:
"My parents came from the Roman city of Kastropolis of Arabessus of Cappadocia, birthplace of the Roman Emperor Mauritios (582-602), who had appointed Saint Gregory the Great (590-604) as Pope of Rome, who in turn appointed Augustine as the first Archbishop of Canterbury (597-604).
I was born in Piraeus on 02/03/1927. I left Greece and migrated to America on the 15th of May 1927 (just 72 days old) with my parents and was raised in the city of New York, in Manhattan, on 46th Street, between Second and Third Avenue.
I am a graduate of the Hellenic College of Brookline, Massachusetts, the School of Theology of Yale University, a Doctor of the School of Theology of the National Capodistrian University of Athens, the School of Philosophy of Harvard University (School of Arts and Sciences); Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki and Visiting Professor of the Theological School of Saint John the Damascene of the Balamand University of Lebanon since 1970."
To these we will add that he also studied at the Russian Seminary of Saint Vladimir in New York; the Russian Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris and Munich, Germany. He was ordained a presbyter in 1951 and from then on, was ministering in various dioceses of the United States of America. Between the years 1958 and 1965 he served as a professor in the Theological School of the Holy Cross, but resigned in 1965, protesting against the removal of Father George Florovsky from the School.
His appointment to the Seat of Dogmatics in the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki took place on June 12th 1968, but he was not finally assigned there, because he was accused of being a “communist”! His assignment finally took place in 1970. In 1984 he resigned for personal reasons, was given full pension, but it was not deemed appropriate to award him the title of Professor Emeritus - something that comes to reveal the dysfunctions of our theological comrades.
He had written a plethora of studies, many of which are still unpublished and should be published altogether, in a series of volumes. These relics must be safeguarded, because they have much to offer and reveal.
His doctorate dissertation on the "Ancestral Sin" which was a literary revolutionary treatise, opened new paths in our theology, followed by his equally significant books on Romanity in the area of History. Father John revived both these areas - of research and of understanding.
His work and his contribution to science have been systematically scrutinized in the doctorate dissertation of Andrew Sopko, “Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy – The Theology of John Romanides”, Canada, 1998.
Equally important was his participation and contribution in our Church, with his participation in the Theological Dialogues with heterodox participants, especially Anglicans, but with other religious representatives also (Judaism, Islam). The fact that his native tongue was American (English) provided him the ease that he needed to expound with precision the positions of our Church. In the Dialogue with the Worldwide Lutheran Federation (1978), I had the opportunity to become better acquainted with him, and become close friends with him, and, more importantly for me, to truly become his student, beyond the extensive and continuous study of his works. In those Dialogues, his broad knowledge of the Patristic tradition became very apparent – along with the forgeries it had suffered both in the East and the West - and especially his knowledge of the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas – the cornerstone of Orthodox tradition.
Father John was a supporter of the association between theology and experience in the Holy Spirit, and the stages of the Saints’ spiritual course of purification, illumination and theosis as prerequisites of the Ecumenical Synods and the wholehearted acceptance of them –something that has been discarded in the West - but also in our own, westernizing theological thought. This turn toward patristic mentality as a form of ecclesiastical genuineness was the continuation and the supplementing of the respective movement by Father George Florovsky, whose course he pursued in ecumenical dialogue, himself likewise becoming an annoyance and not easy to converse with. Some day, all of this will be put in writing, so that the outstanding character of the deceased will become apparent, along with his true contribution towards the international and ecumenical presence of Orthodoxy, even though he often kept to himself.
THE PERIOD BEFORE AND AFTER ROMANIDES
When reviewing his theological opus – educative, literary and militant – we are naturally compelled to refer to a pre-Romanides and post-Romanides era. Because he introduced a real section and a rift in our scholastic past, which resembled a Babylonian captivity for our theology. His dissertation decisively sealed this revivalist course, to the degree that even those who for various reasons criticized or ideologically opposed him, betrayed in their writings the influence of Father John in their theological thought. Specifically, Father John:
a) Reinstated the priority of patristic empirical theologizing in the academic theological arena, pushing aside the intellectual-meditative-metaphysical way of theologizing.
b) He linked academic theology to worship and the patristic tradition of the "Philokalia", proving the inter-embracing of theology and spiritual living, and the poemantic-therapeutic character of dogmatic theology.
c) He discerned and adopted in his theological method the close link between dogma and history, thanks to which, he was able to comprehend -as few could- the estrangement and the demise of theology in Western Europe, which came about with the Frankish occupation and imposition. Besides, his capable knowledge of history, Frankish and Roman (he was destined to be a History professor at Yale), helped him determine and analyze the diametric difference between the Frankish and the Roman civilizations with the introduction of Roman criteria for examining our history and civilization.
d) He thus assisted in the comprehensive research of Hellenism as well, beyond the manufactured western scenarios, with his upright-to-absolutely-justified use of our historical names, their significance and their potential in the course of our history.
It is a fact, that the heterodox acknowledged – more than we did - the personality of Father John and his significance to Orthodoxy. He was considered the blessed Augustine’s finest Orthodox researcher, who even assisted western theology in comprehending him, and was characterized as "most assuredly the greatest of the living Orthodox theologians, whose works comprise a critical study of Augustine’s work in the light of Patristic Theology". And it must be said, that we are indebted to Father John for his weighty assertion that the teachings of Barlaam of Calabria on the prophets’ god-perceiving experiences being "natural phenomena, that can be done and undone" are derived from the blessed Augustine’s treatise "On the Trinity".
Respected and beloved Father John, your friends, your colleagues and co-spokesmen all express our gratitude, for everything that by the grace of God you gave us. As do the thousands of direct or indirect students also. We hold on to the theological trust that you left us, to be our rod in the darkness that calculation, ignorance, indifference and profit have spawned. You have united us with the patristic element within the realm of academic theology, by constantly urging us towards worship and ascetic exercise, where true theology is cultivated. We thank you!
May your remembrance be everlasting, until we meet again at the celestial altar, my beloved Colleague and Co-Minister.
By Monk Lazarus Dionysiatis
The things written below are dedicated to the glory and honor of the Holy Anargyroi [Unmercenaries] doctors Kosmas and Damian.
1. "Wondrous Is God In His Saints"
For two years (1943-1945) I was sick with "vertigo". When I would wake up I had to sit motionless for 3-5 minutes on the bed and then get up, get dressed and make my first steps with great care so as not to fall down because of a headache. If I turned my gaze suddenly to the roof of the room or at a higher point it seemed that everything was spinning and I was in danger of falling down on the floor losing my balance.
Many times the dizziness turned my stomach causing aches so as to vomit. When this happened two times a day I was in a state of sluggishness.
I applied various treatments and asked doctors about it, and after the implementation of their advice I did not see improvement. This situation continued for two years.
During the vigil of November 1, 1945 for the Holy Anargyroi which takes place at the monastery, I chanted as much as I could. During the Divine Liturgy, I went to the Chapel of St. Anargyroi, which was in my custody, to light the candles. Noetically I prayed for the help of the Holy Doctors, and miracle of miracles! After this my disastrous illness ceased, which I discovered after a week.
From then until today, I write these lines, 4 December 1954, and the disease has never returned. For this reason I thank and bless the Saints and Doctors who treated me, Kosmas and Damian, to the ages of ages. Amen.
2. Another Miracle of the Holy Anargyroi
I will tell of another miracle which happened to me recently (1954). In the year 1916 I contracted malaria. I was a novice monk and then worked in the cellar of a dependency of the monastery, called Develikia, in the region of Gomati Halkidiki.
My body weakened so much, that I ended up almost in paralysis. Over the years I became well, but suffer from rheumatoid poly arthritis in the shin of my right leg, on which were formed varicose veins. My situation day by day was getting worse, the pain multiplied and the tibia was ruddy from internal inflammation. It interrupted more than a month of church services for me, because I could not even stand upright or be seated; only lie in bed which relieved my hurt.
The feast of Sts. Anargyroi arrived on 1 November 1954, during which I took courage and went to the katholikon to attend the vigil. Throughout the duration of the service the pains continually disturbed me. There was strong tingling from the knee to the bottom of the leg and around it.
After Matins, the spiritual father Papa-Dionysios served the Liturgy in the Chapel of St. Anargyroi with great devotion and celebration, and the brothers Joachim and Theoklitos sang with great devotion and cheerfulness.
Then followed a festive treat with the usual: cognac, donuts, coffee, boiled wheat. Then, with God's help, we retired for three hours in our cells to rest until meal time.
"Wondrous is God in His Saints" I must cry out loud! The Holy Anargyroi, because of their great compassion and love, invisibly visited and healed me completely. From the time the Divine Liturgy started, I was not even in the minimum of pain anymore. The usual tingling disappeared, my foot came to its natural state, the redness left, the veins unswelled and returned again to the previous healthy state with the help of the visit of my Holy Doctor's, Kosmas and Damian, to whom from my heart and soul I thank.
In their honor I composed the following Megalynarion, which I often sing in front of their holy icon with reverence and gratitude as often as I light their lamps.
From deep within my soul, the poor supplicant, gratefully thanks you, our Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian, for the healings which you give us.
Από των εγκάτων μου της ψυχής, ο πτωχός οικέτης, ευγνωμόνως ευχαριστώ, υμάς τους Αναργύρους Κοσμάν Δαμιανόν τε, διά την θεραπείαν ην μοι παρέσχετε.
Source: Λαζάρου Μοναχού Διονυσιάτου, Διονυσιάτικες Διηγήσεις, έκδ. Ιερά Μονή Αγίου Διονυσίου, Άγιον Όρος.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Priest Miladin Mitrovich
November 1, 2010
It is an open secret that the Church recognizes only one form of close relationship between a man and a woman - legal marriage. A growing number of people believes nowadays that tying the knot is not a necessity at all, because two people can love each other and live together without paper formalities. Will marriage become a prerogative of religious couples only some time in the future?
According to Church teachings, marriage and love in marriage lay the foundation of family relations. All other forms of family love spring from this foundation: the love of parents to their child, the love of a child to their parents and the love between siblings. If there is no marriage, then there is no family.
A Christian marriage is peculiar for its purity, perfection, spirituality and holiness. A Christian marriage, as a unity between two people, is a union between a man and a woman. If God had wanted a man to change his wives, he would have created one man and many women. Marriage curbs desire and lust. A husband and wife comprise one living organism. A dissected organism dies just like the conjugal union loses life and its significance if contracted for polygyny and polyandry.
Christian marriage commits husband and wife to pure Christian love, which is more than just a feeling. It is a deep union, and two people in the union have to take efforts to keep it alive.
French philosopher and author Gabriel Marcel once said: "To say 'I love you' is to say 'For me, you will never die.'" For Christians, marriage is not a piece of social structure. It is a state when two become one - not just for some time, but for good. According to Christian teaching, marriage cannot be terminated because it is God himself who ties husband and wife together.
These days, people tend to simply live with each other without contracting marriage. From the Christian point of view, this trend jeopardizes the existence of institute of family and contributes to the universal degradation of the society. Living in sin is considered absolutely normal and acceptable in many countries today.
Those, who choose to live together without marriage, prefer not to restrict their freedom and independence. It gives rise to instability of family life and affects the relationship between partners and their children.
Outside marital unions, children may often be born incidentally, by mistake. Many of such children suffer from the lack of parental affection throughout their lives. Moreover, pregnancy often leads to abortion with unmarried couples. For married couples, the birth of a child is a fruit of their love.
The growing number of unlegalized unions means that more and more people share negative attitude to marriage nowadays. Many think of marriage as something old-fashioned, a burden that deprives them of their freedom. In addition, modern-day people tend to share positive attitude towards the freedom of sexual communication outside marriage.
However, despite the above-mentioned situation, one has to admit that it is only marriage that pushes the development of morally healthy relations in the union of two people. Marriage and family make the foundation of healthy society. Those, who do not understand the meaning of marriage, risk both their own happiness and the future of their nation.
Halloween is a good time to start debunking some of the myths about witchcraft.
30 October 2010
Witchcraft attracts attention, especially at this time of year; everyone "knows" something about it. As a historian, I'm interested to see my subject, the past, being put to all kinds of uses in the present. Here are some ideas about witch-hunting that are distinctly dodgy.
It's sometimes suggested that witch-hunting was a more or less conscious male device for repressing women. In fact, although there is a relationship between women and witch-hunting, it's a complex one. Witch-hunters didn't target women as such, they targeted witches – and about 25% of witches were men. Witch-hunting certainly functioned as an encouragement to conform to patriarchal values, but witch-hunting wasn't a cynical male conspiracy.
So what about the "wise women", the midwives and healers? In fact, midwives were hardly ever accused of witchcraft. Traditional, magical healers (men as often as women) were sometimes prosecuted, but only if they were seen to have misused their powers, harming instead of helping. Healers sometimes even encouraged witch-hunting, helping clients to identify the person who had bewitched them.
It's also often said that witches were accused for profit. Usually the authorities themselves are said to have profited, but sometimes it's neighbours who coveted the alleged witch's property. In truth, while some courts did confiscate the accused's goods, many did not, and most witches were too poor to have possessions worth coveting anyway. This idea fails to take witchcraft itself seriously. People tend to think that witchcraft is not (and was not) real, so they conclude that witchcraft accusations were "really" about something other than witchcraft. The idea of accusations for money is readily grasped because we, today, take money seriously.
Another idea worth debunking is the "swimming test". The theory goes that witches were detected by dropping them in water: the guilty floated and were executed, while the innocent sank (and drowned). In fact, ropes were tied to suspects to pull them out – and the swimming test itself was rare.
I'm sometimes told that witches practised a pagan religion that had gone underground with the coming of Christianity. This idea was popularised in the 1920s and had some scholarly credibility until about 1975, but has been recognised as a myth ever since. Most witches were executed in the 16th and 17th centuries (about 50,000 of them – not nine million, by the way). There were still survivals from paganism (a few traditional charms had pre-Christian origins), but witches and witch-hunters alike were Christians.
Many of these myths are attractive because they enable people to sympathise with the victims of witch-hunting. However, we historians wish to extend the same understanding to all the people we study – witch-hunters as well as witches. There's little evidence that witch-hunters were considered wicked; many were considered pious. And although "wickedness" may be a plausible description of an activity, it cannot explain causation. When someone asks why someone did what they did, historians don't reply: "Because they were wicked"; instead we look for the real causes of their deeds. The moral certainties that lead people to break off ties of human kinship with their enemies for the greater good can be seen in action now, as much as then. Thus we learn that witches were people much like us – and so were witch-hunters.
October 29, 2010
Biblical Archaeology Review
Ehud Netzer, a top Israeli archaeogist noted for discovering King Herod’s tomb, died at age 76 yesterday as the result of a fall at Herodium, the site of Herod’s tomb. On Monday, Netzer suffered serious skull and neck fractures after a wooden railing he had leaned on collapsed, allowing him to fall down a six-meter drop.
Netzer had been excavating at Herodium since 1972 in search of the burial site of King Herod, and found the tomb in 2007. Since the discovery, Netzer actively continued to participate in excavations at Herodium. Herod’s tomb, the object of Netzer’s 35-year search, had been hidden intentionally by rebels during the Jewish rebellion agains the Romans in the first century A.D.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statment in memory of Netzer: “Netzer’s tragic death is a loss for his family, for research into the heritage of Israel and for archaeology.”
Further details on the death of Ehud Netzer, the archaeologist who discovered Herod’s tomb.
Read BAR’s online report on Netzer’s discovery of Herod’s Tomb.
October 24, 2010
Following a meeting in the Vatican, Roman Catholic Bishops have urged Israel to stop displacing Palestinians, saying that religion is not a basis for settlement building.
The bishops were attending a summit on the plight of Christians in the Middle East and the statement will strike a chord in Gaza, which has one of the oldest Christian communities.
The Greek Orthodox Church conmmunity in the territory is just one of several Christian communities in the Gaza Strip that are less obvious than their counterparts in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reports.
The Mystical Goes Mainstream
Creepy creatures aren't just for Halloween anymore. For those looking for an escape from reality, the paranormal genre has never been more popular.
By Molly Guthrey
October 30, 2010
If you want to pitch a book idea to editor Brian Farrey about teenage ghosts or vampires, you'll have to wait until 2011.
Farrey, an acquisitions editor for a local publisher of teen fiction, is haunted by a steady stream of vampires, angels, aliens, werewolves, fairies and other fantastical or supernatural beings.
'In the past month, I'd say about 60 (percent) to 70 percent of what I'm seeing is paranormal or fantasy,' Farrey said of the incoming queries and manuscripts he handles for Flux, a new imprint of Llewellyn, the New Age and fiction publishing house based in Woodbury.
'I'm oversaturated, so I'm not reading any more paranormal or fantasy through the end of the year,' Farrey said. 'Right now, I'm looking for something realistic.'
The rest of us, though, can't get enough of escaping reality: Fantasy and the paranormal have so enchanted American pop culture, it might be difficult to tell Halloween apart from any other day.
Even Animal Planet, which used to focus on cute pets, now offers up shows on all sorts of "creatures," from poltergeists to werewolves to viruses. Spooky segments like "Terror at Maple Dale Farm" on the paranormal series "The Haunted" and "Lair of the Lizard Man" on the supposed docudrama "Lost Tapes" might serve a need.
"People feel so saturated with news and facts these days, they want to believe that some things are still mysterious," said Keith Hoffman, executive producer of "Lost Tapes."
It also feels good to just scream sometimes.
"We're on our computers and our phones all day, we sit behind desks," Hoffman said. "Sometimes, we want more primal experiences."
Our affection for the dark side is apparent at the Twin Cities Magic & Costume Co.
"Zombies lead the way, followed closely by vampires," said Jim Berg, general manager and co-owner of the St. Paul shop.
The zombie boom doesn't surprise Berg.
"A month ago, the annual zombie pub crawl had its largest participation ever," he said.
The "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer, of course, has made vampires fashionable for a few Halloweens.
"Fangwear now comes in metallic fashion colors, like hot pink," Berg said.
Werewolves, though, could be the new vampires.
"A girl who was about 10 or 11 years old came in yesterday and was ecstatic to find a werewolf costume," he said. "She was going to wear it to school."
Eleven-year-old trendsetters are one thing, but even scientists are showing more interest in the supernatural.
Radio personality Ian Punnett of St. Paul has seen more acceptance of the unexplained in the 13 years since he began hosting weekend shifts of "Coast to Coast AM," a nationally syndicated, overnight talk radio show that explores topics such as UFOs, life after death and other strange occurrences.
"When I first started hosting 'Coast to Coast,' the discussions about a subject like near-death experience were very anecdotal," Punnett said. "Thirteen years later, there are now vast amounts of academic peer-reviewed research on this topic being done in hospitals around the world. ... Some of it has to do with the failure of science to be able to prove all of its claims, like this causes cancer or this doesn't cause cancer. We now realize that science doesn't have all the answers. People, including doctors and scientists, are more open to ideas and possibilities."
In the midst of a shaky economy and all its repercussions — struggles to keep homes, access to affordable health insurance, coping with pay cuts and layoffs — it's a time when people are seeking direction in alternative ways, said Pam Marko of Gentle Healing Hands, a provider of intuitive readings and energy balancing.
"Everybody is in a place of fear, and when you start to lock into that fear, you don't see any possibilities," Marko said. "When things get crazier, I get busier, because people are looking for a new direction. As a healer, it is my job to be present with you, to keep the space around you open, to keep you open to the infinite possibilities that are in front of you."
Veteran author Brent Hartinger certainly was open to the possibilities: Now that paranormal romance is a hot genre, he dusted off an award-winning astral projection teen love story he wrote as a screenplay in 1999. At the time, his attempts to pitch it to Hollywood fell flat.
"I put it aside and then took it out a year or two ago because of what's going on in publishing," Hartinger said.
The story, "Shadow Walkers," will be published by Flux in February. It should have plenty of company.
"If you go into a bookstore into the teen section, that's all you see anymore: fantasy and paranormal books," Hartinger said. "There's a whole section on vampires alone."
November 1, 2010
The popular Mongolian rock singer Sunderia made a social video "My Way" using the image of an Orthodox church.
Thus, she aimed to show the contrast between truth and deception, good and evil, and express humanity striving to make the right choice in life.
The singer used the church image as a vision of light and truth in the midst of lies and violence, the Orthodoxy in Mongolia website reports.
The Virgin-Martyr of Christ, St. Helen, was the daughter of the pious Bekiary family and lived in the eighteenth century in beautiful Sinope, the oldest city of Pontos.
Her parents brought her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and implanted in her pure heart a fervent love for Jesus Christ.
She was especially influenced in her upbringing by her uncle — her father’s brother — who was then teaching in a secret Greek school in Sinope.
Physically most beautiful, her purity lent a special grace to her face, which shone with the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
She was distinguished for her obedience to her parents and the fervent love of her soul for Christ, our Savior and Bridegroom.
She was fifteen years old when her mother sent her one day to buy embroidery thread from the shop in Kryonas.
On the way lay the house of Ukuzoglu Pasha, Governor of Sinope, who saw Helen from his window. Her beauty attracted his licentious soul and he thought to defile her.
The Pasha ordered that she be brought to him. Having learned who she was, he tried two or three times to defile her, but an unseen force pushed him back!
An invisible wall was protecting the girl: it was the wall of prayer. Throughout the entire duration of this ordeal, Helen prayed mentally, continuously reciting the Six Psalms.
The Turk did not lose hope. He ordered his soldiers to keep her at his house, hoping that he would be able to carry out his execrable plan later.
During her imprisonment, the pure girl managed, with God’s help, to escape the attention of the guards and to return to her anxious parents, to whom she recounted all that had come to pass.
Shortly thereafter, upon becoming aware of her escape, the Pasha flew into a rage and threatened everyone and everything!
He summoned the Sinope Council of Elders and demanded that they bring Helen to him. Otherwise, a general massacre of all of the Greeks in the city would follow.
The elders came together to deliberate the matter at the Greek School of Sinope.
They called for Helen’s father and asked him to hand over his daughter to the Pasha for the sake of the others.
Dissolving into tears, her father finally submitted, like the Patriarch Abraham, and agreed that his daughter be sacrificed in order to avoid a general massacre.
He returned home and, having sufficiently fortified Helen, took her — stifling his fatherly pain — and handed her over to the Pasha, in order for her to offer herself not, of course, to the Turk’s lustful desires, but as fragrant incense to her Bridegroom Christ.
The Despicable Ukuzoglu Pasha received the beautiful Helen with unspeakable delight, hoping that he would fully satisfy his lustful desires.
Thus, he attempted again many times to defile her, but again the same surprise: an invisible wall around the girl was impeding the Pasha, while an unseen force was driving him back.
The holy maiden was praying fervently, secretly reciting the Six Psalms, which she had learned from her uncle.
The next day, the Pasha again attempted to carry out his despicable intention, but yet again met with the same strange obstacle. Vexed and wrathful, he ordered that she be locked up in the frightful, damp prison of Sinope.
The ill-intentioned Pasha’s heart growing ever stonier, his eyes did not see the living miracle; his impure soul did not regain consciousness, but rather the opposite: possessed by a satanic force, he wanted without fail to defile the pure virgin.
Thus, the next day he went to the prison, determined finally to succeed in gratifying his passion.
But again the invisible wall! And again Divine Grace drove him back!
Exceedingly wroth, the Pasha ordered that Helen be tortured and put to death, which is indeed what came to pass.
Her holy body was put in a sack and thrown into the sea. But instead of sinking, the Martyr’s Relics floated, while a heavenly light beamed down upon them.
The Turks were terrorized and cried out: “The Greek girl is on fire! The Greek girl is on fire!”
Her holy body continued to float until it reached the locality of Gai, where, on account of the great depth of the sea, the water is black. There, it sank.
Several days later, a Greek ship dropped anchor at Gai. On the third night, the ship’s guard noticed that a light was coming up from the bottom of the sea, and he thought that there must be a great treasure of gold in that spot.
He immediately informed the Captain that they should send divers to hoist up the treasure; but instead of gold they brought up the sack containing the holy Relics of the Holy Virgin-Martyr Helen.
In the precious sack was the venerable head of the Saint, cut off from the rest of the body. In the crown of the head was a nail. There was also another hole made by a nail. It was evident that, having tortured the Saint, the Turks drove two nails into her head and decapitated her.
Two of the Turkish divers knew about the martyrdom and that the Saint had been cast into the sea, but they had been afraid to tell of it earlier.
The Captain then secretly took the precious head of St. Helen to the Church of the Panagia in Sinope, and placed the venerable Relics on another ship that was leaving with Greeks on board for Russia.
At the spot in the sea where her Relics sank, a fountain of fresh water sprang up, and from that time on the area has been called “Agiasmata” or “Holy Waters.”
Many miracles were worked in Sinope by means of the precious head of the Holy Virgin-Martyr Helen.
In particular, whoever was suffering from headaches would call the Priest, who would bring the holy head, chant a Canon of Supplication, sprinkle Holy Water, and the pain would go away.
During the exchange of populations before 1924, the President, Christos Kapharopoulos, took the holy head of St. Helen and placed it in the Church of the Holy Great Martyr Marina in Ano Touba, Thessaloniki, where it is kept to this day, giving off a fragrance and working miracles, to the glory of our Lord and God Who is glorified in His Saints.
Through the holy intercessions of the Holy Virgin-Martyr Helen of Sinope, Pontos, O Christ God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen!
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
The most-fragrant flower of purity and the boast and divine offspring of Sinope, Virgin-martyr of Christ Helen most-pure, who struggled steadfastly, and cast down the enemy with the power of faith, and entreats for everyone, to have mercy on our souls.
As an undefiled virgin in the power of Christ you cast down the much-contriving enemy, and you are arrayed in martyrdom, O Virgin-martyr Helen the all-praised.
Related Link: The Skull of St. Helen of Sinope in Slovakia
- Margaris, Athanasios G. (editor) Synaxarion of the New Martyrs (1400-1900 A.D.)(Thessaloniki: “Orthodoxos Kypseli, 1984), pp. 119-122.
- Hieromonk Nikephoros of Small St. Anna’s Skete, Service, Canon of Supplication, and Salutations to the Holy Virgin-Martyr Helen the New of Sinope, Small St. Anna’s, Holy Mountain, Athos, 1985.
- Hieromonk Macarios of Simonos-Petras, Synaxarion, Vol. II, November-December, (Ormylia, Halkidi: Holy Monastery of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, 1999), pp. 10-12 (in English).
By St. Gregory Dialogos (Dialogues, Bk. 3, Ch. 31)
Not long since, as I have learned of many which came from Spain, King Hermenegild, son of Leovigild, king of the Visigoths, was from Arian heresy lately converted to the Catholic faith by the most reverent man Leander, Bishop of Seville, with whom I was not long since familiarly acquainted; which young Prince, upon his conversion, his father, being an Arian, labored both by large promises and terrible threats to draw again to his former error. But when most constantly his son answered, that he would never forsake the true faith which he had once embraced, his father in great anger took away his kingdom, and beside deprived him of all wealth and riches; and perceiving that, with all this, his mind was nothing moved, he committed him straight to prison, laying irons both upon his neck and hands. Upon this, the young king Hermenegild began now to contempt his earthly kingdom, and to seek with great desire after the kingdom of heaven. And lying in prison fast bound, he prayed to almighty God in hair-cloth to send him heavenly comfort. And so much the more did he despise the glory of this transitory world, by how much he knew himself in that case that he had now nothing that could be taken from him.
When the solemn feast of Easter was come, his wicked father sent unto him in the dead of the night an Arian Bishop, to give him the communion of a sacrilegious consecration, that he might thereby again recover his father's grace and favor. But the man of God, as he ought, sharply reprehended that Arian Bishop which came unto him, and giving him such entertainment as his appetite required, utterly rejected him; for albeit outwardly he lay there in bands, yet inwardly to himself he stood secure in the height of his own soul.
The father, at the return of the Arian prelate, understanding this news, fell into such a rage that forthwith he sent his officers of execution to put to death that most constant confessor, in the very prison where he lay. The unnatural and bloody commandment was performed accordingly. As soon as they came into the prison, they clave his brains with a hatchet, and so bereaved him or mortal life, having only power to take that from him which the holy martyr made small account of.
Afterward, for the publishing of his true glory to the world, there were no few miracles from heaven. For in the night time singing was heard at his body. Some also report that, in the night, burning lamps were seen in that place. For this reason his body, as he was a martyr, was worthily venerated by all Christian people. But the wicked father and murderer of his own son, albeit he was sorry that he had put him to death, yet was not his grief of that quality that it brought him to the state of salvation. For although he knew very well that the Catholic faith was the truth, yet, for fear of his people, he never deserved to be a professor thereof.
At length, falling sick, a little before his death, he commended his son Reccared, who was to succeed him in the kingdom, and was yet an heretic, unto Bishop Leander, whom before he had greatly persecuted: that by his counsel and exhortation, he might likewise make him a member of the Catholic Church, as he had before made his brother Hermenegild; and when he had thus done, he departed this life. After whose death, Reccared the king, not following the steps of his wicked father, but his brother the martyr, utterly renounced Arianism, and labored so earnestly for the restoring of religion, that he brought the whole nation of the Visigoths to the true faith of Christ, and would not suffer any that was a heretic in his country to bear arms and serve in the wars. And it is not to be admired that he became thus to be a preacher of the true faith, seeing he was the brother of a martyr, whose merits did help him to bring so many into the lap of God's Church.
We have to consider that he could never have effected all this, if King Hermenegild had not died for the testimony of true religion; for, as it is written: "Unless the grain of wheat falling into the earth doth die, itself it remaineth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit" (Jn. 12:24). This we see to prove true in the members, which before was verified in the head: for one died amongst the Visigoths that many might live, and of one grain that was sown for the faith, a great crop of faithful people sprung up.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
In 1227 Sultan Jalal al-Din of Khwarazm and his army of Turkmen attacked Georgia. On the first day of the battle the Georgian army valorously warded off the invaders as they were approaching Tbilisi. That night, however, a group of Persians who were living in Tbilisi secretly opened the gates and summoned the enemy army into the city.
According to one manuscript in which this most terrible day in Georgian history was described: “Words are powerless to convey the destruction that the enemy wrought: tearing infants from their mothers’ breasts, they beat their heads against the bridge, watching as their eyes dropped from their skulls.…”
A river of blood flowed through the city. The Turkmen castrated young children, raped women, and stabbed mothers to death over their children’s lifeless bodies. The whole city shuddered at the sound of wailing and lamentation. The river and streets of the city were filled with death.
The sultan ordered that the cupola of Sioni Cathedral be taken down and replaced by his vile throne. And at his command the icons of the Theotokos and our Savior were carried out of Sioni Cathedral and placed at the center of the bridge across the Mtkvari River. The invaders goaded the people to the bridge, ordering them to cross it and spit on the holy icons. Those who betrayed the Christian Faith and mocked the icons were spared their lives, while the Orthodox confessors were beheaded.
One hundred thousand Georgians sacrificed their lives to venerate the holy icons. One hundred thousand severed heads and headless bodies were carried by the bloody current down the Mtkvari River.
Every year on this feast a litany is held on the Metechi Bridge lead by the Patriarch of Georgia to honor the 100,000 Holy Martyrs. 16 photos can be seen here from the feast in 2009.
By Theodoret of Cyrus
A young man who was a priest's son, and brought up in impiety, about this time went over to the true religion. For a lady remarkable for her devotion and admitted to the order of deaconesses was an intimate friend of his mother. When he came to visit her with his mother, while yet a tiny lad, she used to welcome him with affection and urge him to the true religion.
On the death of his mother the young man used to visit her and enjoyed the advantage of her wonted teaching. Deeply impressed by her counsels, he enquired of his teacher by what means he might both escape the superstition of his father and have part and lot in the truth which she preached. She replied that he must flee from his father, and honour rather the Creator both of his father and himself; that he must seek some other city wherein he might lie hidden and escape the violence of the impious emperor; and she promised to manage this for him. Then, said the young man, “henceforward I shall come and commit my soul to you.”
Not many days afterwards Julian came to Daphne, to celebrate a public feast. With him came the young man's father, both as a priest, and as accustomed to attend the emperor; and with their father came the young man and his brother, being appointed to the service of the temple and charged with the duty of ceremonially sprinkling the imperial viands.
It is the custom for the festival of Daphne to fast for seven days. On the first day the young man stood by the emperor's couch, and according to the prescribed usage aspersed the meats, and thoroughly polluted them. Then at full speed he ran to Antioch, and making his way to that admirable lady, “I have come,” said he, “to you; and I have kept my promise. Do you look to the salvation of each and fulfil your pledge.” At once she arose and conducted the young man to Meletius the man of God, who ordered him to remain for awhile upstairs in the inn.
His father after wandering about all over Daphne in search of the boy, then returned to the city and explored the streets and lanes, turning his eyes in all directions and longing to light upon his lad. At length he arrived at the place where the divine Meletius had his hostelry; and looking up he saw his son peeping through the lattice. He ran up, drew him along, got him down, and carried him off home. Then he first laid on him many stripes, then applied hot spits to his feet and hands and back, then shut him up in his bedroom, bolted the door on the outside, and returned to Daphne. So I myself have heard the man himself narrate in his old age, and he added further that he was inspired and filled with Divine Grace, and broke in pieces all his father's idols, and made mockery of their helplessness.
Afterwards when he bethought him of what he had done he feared his father's return and besought his Master Christ to nod approval of his deeds, break the bolts, and open the doors. “For it is for Your sake,” said he, “that I have thus suffered and thus acted.” “Even as I thus spoke,” he told me, “out fell the bolts and open flew the doors, and back I ran to my instructress. She dressed me up in women's garments and took me with her in her covered carriage back to the divine Meletius. He handed me over to the bishop of Jerusalem, at that time Cyril, and we started by night for Palestine.”
After the death of Julian this young man led his father also into the way of truth. This act he told me with the rest. So in this fashion these men were guided to the knowledge of God and were made partakers of Salvation.
1. A son of a pagan priest.
2. During the reign and persecution of Emperor Julian the Apostate (331/332 – 26 June 363).
Source: Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter X.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Last year I wrote a controversial piece about Halloween titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". I want to make it clear that I am not out to defend Halloween or promote its celebration by Christians, though I do find it important to separate fact from fiction regarding this holiday, and leave each individual to observe the day as their conscience determines. Personally I prefer to keep Halloween and Christianity separate outwardly and coherent in my heart. The fictional fundamentalist folklore and mythology surrounding Halloween is in my opinion the darkest aspect of the holiday, and it is the truth that I seek to bring to light lest Christianity be undermined, as it so often irresponsibly is in society. However, I also understand it is not within everyone's taste to celebrate Halloween, so mutual respect plays a large role in how I present the topic to Christians.
Though I am a proud celebrant of Halloween and very much enjoy many aspects of it as a cultural and seasonal celebration separate from the Church, it has become unfortunate that some things associated with the holiday must be avoided if we wish to celebrate with a clean conscience.
How did Halloween come to be as dark and sinister as it appears in our days? It's all quite simple really if one looks at the history honestly and carefully. Halloween has its origins in the Christian Church. The mythology that Halloween has its origins in pagan times prior to Christianity arose in the 19th century among Celtic scholars who had their own personal agendas in falsifying history. The demonization of the holiday began among Christians, especially in the 1960's as part of the counter-cultural movement in the United States. This demonization was based on the falsified history advocated by 19th century Celtic historians. However, since Neo-Paganism was on the rise in the 1960's, Pagans and New Agers took advantage of this falsified history by claiming Christians took the notion of All Hallow's Eve from the ancient Celts, whom they falsely claim an association with. This started an ideological war between the two factions ever since, and both were based on false ideas and information. The absurdity of the Christian arguments soon gave way to the secular overtaking of the holiday. And since Christians wanted nothing to do with Halloween, the Neo-Pagans were more than happy to come in and reap all the benefits.
Where does this leave us as Christians? Well, thankfully there are still many aspects to Halloween that leave us room to have enough fun and enjoyment without being a burden to our Christian conscience. Yet, there are still things we must avoid. And this should not alarm us nor should it cause extreme reactions, since Christians are called to weed things out in their daily lives in a secular environment. This is no different other than it is in a different context.
I cannot speak for every individuals conscience in presenting my own personal list of ten things I do not do on Halloween. But I offer this as a guide for those who are caught up in the confusion of the season.
This is my personal list of "Ten Things I Won't Do On Halloween", in no particular order:
1. I will not wear an unseemly costume.
I am not against Christians wearing costumes, but sometimes things can go overboard and we need to keep this in mind when choosing our costumes. For example, the Orthodox Church has specific canons that will not allow a man to wear women's clothing nor a woman men's clothing. This is rooted in Scripture. So no "sweet transvestites from Transylvania", for those who can catch the cultural reference. I would also avoid evil personifications of real figures, such as demons or serial killers, though I personally have no problem with fictional characters or even monsters. Deities or religious figures is something I would avoid too, as well as overly sexual provocative outfits.
2. I will not participate in Occult activity.
This includes such things as going to a psychic, a seance, or anything rooted in the New Age Movement or Neo-Paganism. It also includes paranormal games, such as playing with a Ouija board, which can cause much spiritual harm. I personally enjoy haunted houses and ghost tours, but sometimes occultic activity is implemented playfully; I will not participate in this either and will keep silent or stand back. If I find it overly offensive against my personal beliefs, I will mention it to the operators, though this all is very rare. I also am interested in visiting and investigating real haunted locations, but we should not invite communication with spirits of any kind as one often sees among paranormal investigators.
3. I will not attend a party that invites temptations.
Though I don't consider myself much of a party person, over the years I have been invited to a few parties on Halloween. And like many parties, temptations could be involved either with drugs, alcohol, sex, paranormal games, etc. I personally don't like those types of atmospheres, so I avoid them.
4. I will not subscribe to common Secular or Neo-Pagan beliefs promoted on Halloween.
The beliefs I have most in mind here concern spiritual matters regarding ghosts and energies and death. The occult deals with the manipulation of energy in the universe to bring about positivity in one's life, though it can also be used for evil. The New Age mentality also, for the most part, considers ghosts to be the souls of dead people who have not been able to pass on to the next realm of existence and practices are used to communicate with them or help them get to "the other side". These are beliefs that run in contradiction to Christian beliefs and should not be subscribed to. The manipulation of energies is in fact demonic activity, while ghosts are often demons who may be masquerading as innocent victims to establish their presence in our lives. This is often encountered today on paranormal TV shows, movies and ghost tours. Though I enjoy all three for different reasons, I will not subscribe to their beliefs.
5. I will not participate in pranks, vandalism or wild behavior.
Being in my 30's, I am way past this type of behavior, but when I was younger I participated in some minor mischievous behavior. However, it was all in fun and between my friends and I. Some however go a bit too far and start throwing eggs at moving cars and house windows, toilet papering the houses of enemies (also called TP'ing), spraying whip cream and foam string on cars which leave permanent damage, vandalizing graveyards, etc. This and similar such things I would not participate in and I plead others do the same as well. (If you happen to be a victim, here are a few tips to get you through on November 1st.)
6. I will not become fascinated with the dark side.
Interest in the macabre and the grotesque is a part of some people's nature. I would include myself in that category, so I understand where such people come from. However, people could bring it to a whole other level when they enter into total fascination with such things. I admit that I appreciate the beauty, art and history of such things, but it does not form who I am or fog my opinion or thinking so as to call good evil or evil good. Everything must be approached with moderation, and we must also realize that such allurements have their temptations as well.
7. I will not paganize Halloween.
Halloween is not a pagan holiday. Such notions are only born out of ignorance. It is a cultural and seasonal holiday that can be celebrated either for good or for evil, whatever one chooses. We are not bound by any ritual of the day that inevitably forces us to paganize it, nor does everything about it have to contradict our moral and spiritual principles. I would even consider it less confusing than Thanksgiving, which basically encourages us to break our Nativity Fast with a lot of non-fasting foods. There are some Christians who give up amidst the confusion and just hand the day over to the Devil. I am not that type of person if I don't have to be. With knowledge comes much freedom, and research into the deeper meaning of the holiday and all its aspects is a very liberating task.
8. I will not Christianize the holiday.
Halloween was originally a Christian holiday dating before the Great Schism, but for Orthodox Christians it is no longer the case. Our days dedicated to the dead come weekly, when every Saturday is dedicated to our loved ones who have passed on and we pray for them, as well certain special Saturdays throughout the Christian year. Also, our All Saints Day is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, which usually is celebrated in the Spring. Therefore, as I said above, we ought to keep Halloween, if we choose to keep it, as a cultural and seasonal holiday that has spiritual aspects in so much as they are natural and inspired of God, since in the autumn death permeates the atmosphere giving us much to contemplate about. For a Christian, such an atmosphere can aid in one's contemplation of death, for example, which is encouraged by the Church Fathers as an aid in one's spiritual life, as well help one to contemplate fallen creation and human nature which awaits future glory. My pet peeve however is when I hear Orthodox people bringing in a Christianized version of the holiday to replace the seasonal and cultural, thinking instead they are replacing it with the occultic aspects of the holiday. This to me shows a level of fear and vulnerability brought about by ignorance and possibly even lack of faith. I also don't like ideas using Halloween as an Orthodox enculturation tool to have children light candles before icons prior to being awarded with a piece of candy or any other such innovation. To me, it is not the proper response to the festivities.
9. I will not participate in any blasphemy on Halloween.
Blasphemy against God, the Church and the sacred is among the worst of sins and I will not take part in anything that encourages such things. Because of certain aspects of Halloween being paganized and secularized, and thanks to the ignorance of Christians who come out fully swinging against the holiday, it should not surprise us that the holy will be blasphemed. Last year on Halloween I saw a street preacher in Salem being harassed for preaching against the "evil's" of Halloween, but this invited only blasphemy from certain jokesters in the crowd who were willing at least to listen. It basically was not the proper atmosphere nor the right approach. There are many ways this can take form on Halloween, just like it can on Christmas or Easter, so great care should be taken to not be a part of it.
10. I will not judge those who participate in Halloween to either a greater or lesser extent than I do.
Though I do have a gripe with extremists who I believe undermine Christianity, I do not have any problem with those who choose to either abstain from the celebrations or take it in head deep. Though Orthodox Christians should watch out to a certain extent for their brethren, for we are each other's keepers, we should be much more lenient towards non-Orthodox who are not bound by the same responsibilities we have as being guardians of the truth of the gospel of Christ. Our kindness and Christian representation should always show forth in a secular environment so that we do not undermine the hope that lies within us.
A pleasant Halloween to all!