Righteous Anna the Virgin was born in 1896 in Argyroupolis, Pontus of pious parents, Savva Karslides and Sophia. Her brother, the future Elder George Karslides, was born in 1901 and baptized with the name Athanasios. When Anna was a young child and Athanasios an infant, both parents died and they were left orphans. Their father was killed in battle and when he was brought home dead their mother also died in her grief; both were buried in the same tomb.
Their only educator was their most pious grandmother, mother of their father, who implanted in their delicate hearts a piety and love for liturgical life. She herself had three sons among whom, the one had died, the other had been killed and the third had been lost, without her knowing if he were alive or dead. As young Anna and Athanasios grew physically, their grandmother rejoiced in their spiritual progress as well.
Sensing her demise, the grandmother called the two small siblings to her side to counsel them for the last time and to give them her blessing. To Athanasios she gave as an heirloom and protection a small icon of the Panagia. She entrusted to Anna to be raised by their good neighbors. Thus the pain of the grandmother lessoned for her two orphaned children, and soon thereafter she entered into blessed rest.
For an unknown reason Anna also entered into blessed rest at the age of fourteen in 1910. She was about to enter an engagement with her neighbor's son when she got ill and died. Three years after her repose a good Turk who lived in Argyroupolis would often walk near the Christian cemetery. Every night he would see a light coming from one tomb in particular. Muslims gathered to find out from whose tomb this light was coming from, and they discovered it was that of Anna Karslides. The Imam of the area notified the Christian bishop.
All the Christians gathered with prayers and petitions around their bishop and their priests at the exhuming of her relics after three years of repose. It was then discovered that the heart and the right hand of young Anna were incorrupt and covered in gold, while the rest of her bones had a yellowish color as is often seen on the relics of saints. The bishop took her relics and placed them in the church. When Anna's fiance saw this, he requested of the bishop a portion of her relics and travelled to the Holy Land where he became a monk. Her brother Athanasios also requested a portion of her relics, which he kept with him always and brought with him later on to Greece. The bishop had given him a piece of her heart, but years later Elder George would return to Argyroupolis to gather the rest.
Today Saint Anna's relics are kept in a silver ark before the icon of the Panagia in the Monastery of the Ascension of Christ in the village of Sipsa, which is in Drama, Greece.
In 2008 St. George and his sister Anna were officially acknowledged to be Saints by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Righteous Anna the Virgin was born in 1896 in Argyroupolis, Pontus of pious parents, Savva Karslides and Sophia. Her brother, the future Elder George Karslides, was born in 1901 and baptized with the name Athanasios. When Anna was a young child and Athanasios an infant, both parents died and they were left orphans. Their father was killed in battle and when he was brought home dead their mother also died in her grief; both were buried in the same tomb.
An Encyclical of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Anthimos, by the grace of God Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.
Reverend priests, venerable hieromonks, pious governors, esteemed merchants, and blessed Christians, comprising the Orthodox community of Capella in Vienna; beloved children of my mediocrity, may you have grace and peace from God, and prayers, blessings, and forgiveness from us.
Some time ago, the Holy Church of Christ was informed unexpectedly with no small grief that you, the blessed Orthodox Christians dwelling there, true children of our common Mother, the Holy Eastern Church, though raised on the milk of piety by your forefathers, have fallen into a sinful mistake by rejecting from your holy church the ancient ecclesiastical music handed down by the Fathers, and have introduced in its place a foreign four-part music, which you have adapted to the holy services following some foreign lead.
This news troubled us and grieved us justifiably, not only because the alteration of an ancient holy tradition without ecclesiastical permission reveals arbitrary meddling in a matter regarding the Church, and having done so, it furtively leads the few Orthodox who are amongst so many heterodox to other dangerous opportunities, especially since the reform is related to other foreign customs, but also because of the nature of the matter, since it is evident that this newly appeared tetraphonic music is unbecoming to ecclesiastical propriety due to its enervating melody, and consequently its introduction into the sacred services goes against the sacred Canons of the Church, which has inherited the tradition of praising God in spiritual odes and contrite, decorous hymns, in the manner of the hymns composed by our Holy Fathers in our ancient ecclesiastical music which are so God-pleasing and salvific.
We are at a loss to explain how it could have seemed permissible to you to estrange yourselves from their holy footsteps by pushing aside the venerable hymnody sanctified and established by these inspired men which Christians are accustomed to hearing, and which — along with other patristic traditions — characterizes all Greek Orthodox people, and how you could have followed foreign and alien examples, without realizing that in doing so, you also become guilty of sinning with reference to the Canons and the holy Church of Christ, the common Mother of the pious, which in no way tolerates any change whatsoever of the ancient Christian customs and order, and that you will thus scandalize and bring grave sorrow to the other Orthodox Christians.
For these and other substantial reasons, both we and our Holy Synod of holy hierarchs, unanimously agreeing we published in print our ecclesiastical encyclical letters proclaiming our ecclesiastical reckoning and decision regarding this matter, namely the abolition of four-part music in the sacred services of Orthodox churches everywhere and the unthwarted use of our ecclesiastical music, which has been instituted for canonical reasons as you will be informed more precisely by what is written in these encyclicals.
In writing you this patriarchal and synodical letter of ours, we paternally advise and ecclesiastically urge you, who by God’s grace comprise the Orthodox community there, that you “remove not the eternal boundaries, which thy fathers placed” nor divide the unity of the Church in regards to her sacred services and prayers, nor remove the best ornament of the Greek Orthodox race, but as genuine children of our holy Church remain firm in keeping her patristic, sacred customs and venerable traditions, and put an end to the foreign melodies of tetraphonic music in both of the holy churches there, and in its stead bring in once again the ancestral, ancient, traditional music, and thus disagreeing in no way from the rest of the Greek Orthodox churches and avoid becoming the cause of a scandal and stumbling to the pleroma in Christ through such a novelty, but by imitating with a keen sense of honor the ever-memorable, God-loving founders of this sacred church of Capella, who were exact guardians of the sacred and ancestral ecclesiastical customs and champions of the ethnic character, so that you may leave to posterity models and examples of Christian virtues and God-pleasing zeal.
We have advised these things to you out of ecclesiastical solicitude and presented them to you, awaiting the results of our paternal exhortations from your filial and Christian eagerness, so that we may adorn you with our wholehearted synodical prayers and with well-deserved praise and commendation. May the grace and infinite mercy of God be with you.
November 5, 1846
1. Translated from: «Ἐπίσημος Καταδίκη τῆς Τετραφωνίας», Κιβωτός, Ἰούλιος, 1952, σελ. 302-303.)
2. In one such encyclical, in November of 1846 the Holy Synod wrote among other things the following:
“This sinful innovation... is a grave mistake and dangerous and will cause greater transgressions and novelties to be introduced. It grieves our heart, as it leads to other unforeseen dangers, especially since it approaches the customs of the foreigners and heterodox...
Besides all this, since almost all of our Church’s sacred hymns and songs were composed as a whole along with the words of this ecclesiastical music, it is evident that they cannot be sung modified and adapted in another foreign manner, without altering their melodic rhythm to something else strange, chaotic, and cold, bare of any compunction... Four-part harmony seduces the ears, charms the senses, and enfeebles the soul, and is not the music of those who pray and glorify God with piety and fear, but the music of those who are relaxing and amusing themselves, thus mixing the angelic doxologies of sacred prayers with passionate melodies, profaning the spiritual songs with foreign novelties in singing...
These sensual and unbecoming melodies are alienated from the salvific purpose of prayer done through sacred psalmody, which should be an entreaty to God to propitiate for sins, which admittedly requires both an ethos and a heart and a hearing that are entirely spiritual and compunctious, and as such, free from worldly ideas and causes...
Our holy Church tolerates no innovation or novelty regarding this sacred music of hers... and through this patriarchal and synodical letter the Church proclaims the infiltration, introduction, and use of any foreign and strange music whatsoever in church services to be unacceptable and reprehensible... If any people out of ignorance or for some other reason have introduced into their holy churches the aforementioned unsuitable tetraphonic music, they should remove it immediately.”
(Taken from Παπαδόπουλος, Γεώργιος, Ἰστορικὴ Ἐπισκόπησις τῆς Βυζαντινῆς Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Μουσικῆς, Ἀθῆναι, 1904, pp. 275-283.)
3. Prov. 22:28
The Armenians, I have understood, were the first to embrace Christianity. It is said that Tiridates, then the sovereign of that nation, became a Christian by means of a marvelous Divine sign which was wrought in his own house; and that he issued commands to all the subjects, by a herald, to adopt the same religion. I think that the beginning of the conversion of the Persians was owing to their intercourse with the Osroenians and Armenians; for it is likely that they would converse with such Divine men and make experience of their virtue.
When, in course of time, the Christians increased in number, and began to form churches, and appointed priests and deacons, the Magi, who as a priestly tribe had from the beginning in successive generations acted as the guardians of the Persian religion, became deeply incensed against them. The Jews, who through envy are in some way naturally opposed to the Christian religion, were likewise offended. They therefore brought accusations before Sapor, the reigning sovereign, against Symeon, who was then archbishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, royal cities of Persia, and charged him with being a friend of the Cæsar of the Romans, and with communicating the affairs of the Persians to him. Sapor believed these accusations, and at first, ground the Christians with excessive taxes, although he knew that the generality of them had voluntarily embraced poverty. He entrusted the exaction to cruel men, hoping that, by the want of necessaries, and the atrocity of the exactors, they might be compelled to abjure their religion; for this was his aim. Afterwards, however, he commanded that the priests and conductors of the worship of God should be slain with the sword. The churches were demolished, their vessels were deposited in the treasury, and Symeon was arrested as a traitor to the kingdom and the religion of the Persians. Thus the Magi, with the co-operation of the Jews, quickly destroyed the houses of prayer....
About this period they arrested Akepsimas the bishop, and many of his clergy. After having taken counsel together, they satisfied themselves with the hunt after the leader only; they dismissed the rest after they had taken away their property. James, however, who was one of the presbyters, voluntarily followed Akepsimas, obtained permission from the Magi to share his prison, and spiritedly ministered to the old man, lightened his misfortunes as far as he was able, and dressed his wounds; for not long after his apprehension, the Magi had injuriously tortured him with raw thongs in forcing him to worship the sun; and on his refusal to do so had retained him again in bonds. Two presbyters named Aethalas and James, and two deacons, by name Azadanes and Abdiesus, after being scourged most injuriously by the Magi, were compelled to live in prison, on account of their opinions. After a long time had elapsed, the great Arch-Magi communicated to the king the facts about them to be punished; and having received permission to deal with them as he pleased, unless they would consent to worship the sun, he made known this decision of Sapor's to the prisoners. They replied openly, that they would never betray the cause of Christ nor worship the sun; he tortured them unsparingly. Akepsimas persevered in the manly confession of his faith, till death put an end to his torments. Certain Armenians, whom the Persians retained as hostages, secretly carried away his body and buried it. The other prisoners, although not less scourged, lived as by a miracle, and as they would not change their judgment, were again put in bonds. Among these was Aethalas, who was stretched out while thus beaten, and his arms were torn out of his shoulders by the very great wrench; and he carried his hands about as dead and swinging loosely, so that others had to convey food to his mouth. Under this rule, an innumerable multitude of presbyters, deacons, monks, holy virgins, and others who served the churches and were set apart for its dogma, terminated their lives by martyrdom. The following are the names of the bishops, so far as I have been able to ascertain: Barbasymes, Paulus, Gaddiabes, Sabinus, Mareas, Mocius, John, Hormisdas, Papas, James, Romas, Maares, Agas, Bochres, Abdas, Abdiesus, John, Abramins, Agdelas, Sapores, Isaac, and Dausas. The latter had been made prisoner by the Persians, and brought from a place named Zabdæus. He died about this time in defense of the dogma; and Mareabdes, a chorepiscopus, and about two hundred and fifty of his clergy, who had also been captured by the Persians, suffered with him.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
You were pillars of the Church, O servants of godliness, and you humbled the proud worshippers of fire. Much afflicted hierarch Akepsimas, Joseph the presbyter and Aethalas the deacon, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
You celebrated the mysteries blamelessly, O wise one, and became yourself an acceptable sacrifice, O divinely blessed one! You gloriously drank of the cup of Christ, Holy Aethalas. Together with your fellow sufferers you are praying unceasingly to Christ God for us all.
The brutal bombing of a church in Baghdad may be the final straw for this 2,000 year old minority community.
By Eden Naby, Jamsheed Choksky
November 2, 2010
Screaming "kill, kill, kill," suicide bombers belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant organization connected to al Qaeda in Iraq, stormed a Chaldean church in Baghdad on Sunday. A spokesman for the group subsequently claimed they did so "to light the fuse of a campaign against Iraqi Christians." The assailants' more immediate grievance seems related to a demand that two Muslim women, allegedly held against their will in Egyptian Coptic monasteries, be released. When Iraqi government forces attempted to free approximately 120 parishioners who had been taken hostage, the terrorists -- who had already shot dead some of the churchgoers -- detonated their suicide vests and grenades, slaughtering at least half the congregation.
But the massacre in Baghdad is only the most spectacular example of mounting discrimination and persecution of the native Christian communities of Iraq and Iran, which are now in the middle of a massive exodus unprecedented in modern times as they confront a rising tide of Islamic militancy and religious chauvinism sweeping the region.
Christians are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in both Iraq and Iran, with roots in the Middle East that date back to the earliest days of the faith. Some follow the Apostolic Orthodox Armenian Church. Others subscribe to the 2,000-year-old Syriac tradition represented mainly by the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq and by Aramaic speakers widely known as Assyrians in both Iraq and Iran.
Iraqi and Iranian Muslim leaders claim that religious minorities in their countries are protected. In September, former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani reassured the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East that religious minorities are respected and safeguarded in Iran. Yet members of Iran's Christian denominations, like their Jewish, Zoroastrian, Mandean, and Baha'i counterparts, don't feel safe. A member of the National Council of Churches in Iran, Firouz Khandjani, lamented in August, "We are facing the worst persecution" in many decades, including loss of employment, homes, liberties, and lives, he said, "We fear losing everything."
In Iraq, Chaldean and Assyrian Christian communities have witnessed increasing violence by militant Muslims against their neighborhoods, children, and religious sites since the U.S. invasion. Even pastors are not safe -- two died in the recent Baghdad bombing; many have been killed by Sunni and Shiite Iraqis since 2003. In Iran, other clergymen, including members of the Armenian, Protestant, and Catholic churches, have been arrested, kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, or even summarily executed, over the past three decades.
"Many Christians from Mosul have been systematically targeted and are no longer safe there," said Laurens Jolles, a UNHCR representative, in 2008, after Chaldean women were raped while their men, including Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, were tortured and killed in warnings to Christians to abandon their homes and livelihoods. In Iran, Christian clerics have been targeted -- Tateos Mikaelian, senior pastor of St. John's Armenian Evangelical Church in Tehran was assassinated in 1994, as was Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, who headed the evangelical Assemblies of God Church.
Why Christians? Of the many justifications offered by al Qaeda and other fanatical groups in Iraq, and by hard-line mullahs in Iran, one is repeated most often: These indigenous Christians are surrogates for Western "crusaders." As early as 1970, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa accusing Christians in Iran of "working with American imperialists and oppressive rulers to distort the truths of Islam, lead Muslims astray, and convert our children." Fearing a backlash against their institutions and lives, Christians have often made efforts to prove their loyalty, as when Iranian Assyrians wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September denouncing American Christians who wished to burn Qurans as "enemies of God."
But the roots of Christian decline in the Middle East actually date back centuries. In Iran, intolerance toward all non-Muslim minorities took a sharply negative turn from the 16th century onward with the forced Shiification of Iran by the Safavid dynasty. The early 20th century saw pogroms against Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians in the Ottoman Empire and northwestern Iran. Under the Pahlavi shahs, Assyrians, Armenians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Baha'is regained some of their rights and came to represent the modernizing elements of 20th century society. But the Islamic Revolution of 1979 undercut all those advances. Prejudice and oppression now occurs with impunity.
The numbers speak for themselves: The population of non-Muslims in Iran has dropped by two-thirds or more since 1979. From Iran, these groups flee to Turkey and India -- often at risk to life and limb through the violence-ridden border regions of Iraq and Pakistan. The number of Assyrian Christians in Iran has dwindled from about 100,000 in the mid-1970s to approximately 15,000 today, even as the overall population of the country has swelled from 38 million to 72 million people over the same period. In Iraq, Christians are fleeing in droves. U.N. statistics indicate that 15 percent of all Iraqi refugees in Syria are of Christian background, although they represented only 3 percent of the population when U.S. troops entered in 2003. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that between 300,000 to 400,000 Christians have been forced out of Iraq since 2003. And Christians have left because the message from Sunni militants and Shiite ayatollahs is crystal clear: You have no future here.
There is now an alarming possibility that there will be no significant Christian communities in Iraq or Iran by century's end. Christian schools, communal halls, historical sites, and churches are being appropriated by national and provincial governments, government-sponsored Muslim organizations, and radical Islamist groups. Economic and personal incentives are offered to those who adopt Islam. Last month, the Vatican convened a major summit to find ways of mitigating this crisis, noting that "Christians deserve to be recognized for their invaluable contributions ... their human rights should always be respected, including freedom of worship and freedom of religion."
There is a faint glimmer of hope. On Aug. 5, the U.S. Senate adopted Resolution 322 expressing concern for religious minorities in Iraq. The quick, though unsuccessful, attempt by the Iraqi government this weekend to rescue the Christian hostages appears to have been in response to such American pressure -- no official Iraqi interventions had occurred in previous attacks.
In Iran, however, the persecution of Christians continues unabated. Two Protestant pastors, arrested in post-presidential election crackdowns, face the death penalty. An Assyrian pastor was arrested and tortured in February 2010 and faces trial too.
The Senate resolution noted that "threats against the smallest religious minorities … jeopardize … a diverse, pluralistic, and free society," words applicable in full measure to Iran as well. Will Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government heed this call? It's doubtful. But one thing's for certain: If the world doesn't champion religious freedom openly and vigorously, he won't have to.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
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!
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).