The fatherly arms of our Lord are always open to the return of every prodigal human soul that in its deception goes off to “a far country,” so as to satisfy its unquenchable desire for salvation. The outstretched palms of our Lord on the Cross hold all of humanity within them, just as they held the repentant thief, who was the first to dwell in Paradise.
This miracle is a recurrent one in history. Great sinners have become great Saints and left us a perpetual example of repentance, return, and hope for all of us.
One such astonishing model of repentance is that of St. Barbaros, who, from being a fearsome corsair and pirate, reached such an extraordinary height of sanctity that he proved to be a Wonderworker and Myrrh-gusher after his death.
His life in brief is as follows, in accordance with the most reliable account: the narration by the Byzantine savant, Constantine of Acropolis, Grand Logothete in the thirteenth century.
The Saint lived in the ninth century during the reign of King Michael the Stutterer (820-829). He came from among the heathen of the Barbary Coast of North Africa and was a member of a fearsome band of pirates which ravaged the coastlines of Palestine, Sicily, and Crete, the Aegean islands, and Epiros.
At one point, having passed through the Ambracian Gulf, the pirates set ashore in the land of Acarnania in a spirit of destruction. The Acarnanian people engaged in battle at Dragamesti (present day Karaïskaki, Astakos), and, fighting heroically, checked their incursions and defeated them. Barbaros was the only one among them who survived, and he hid himself in a vineyard.
Thereafter, he gave himself over to brigandage and murder, becoming the terror of the Xeromeros region.
Once, he went to plunder a Chapel dedicated to St. George on Mt. Nysa, near Tryphos, in an area with springs. Divine Liturgy, however, was being celebrated at the time, and he found himself before a marvelous sight. God opened the eyes of his wretched — yet, it seems, well-disposed — soul, and he saw the serving Priest, surrounded by light, being supported in the air by Holy Angels! He saw the Divine Infant being sacrificed, being partaken of, and ascending whole and in ineffable glory into the Heavens!
Barbaros was astounded and fell at the feet of the pious Priest, Father John of Nikopolis, who received him, like a good shepherd, comforted him, catechized him, Baptized him, and became his spiritual Father and guide. By the Saint’s own request, he was given the name “Barbaros” (barbarian) to remind him of his former behavior and way of life.
The Saint’s repentance was so profound that he was tonsured a Monk and remained there, in the place of his spiritual rebirth, living like the Venerable Forerunner in the desert. He even wore chains strapped around himself, to wear out his flesh and bring it into subjection.
By the cultivation of humility and self-reproach, as well as by putting into practice all of the holy virtues, the Saint unwittingly became known to the inhabitants of the surrounding regions, who hastened with fervor to be blessed by the strange holy ascetic, this former pirate and robber-chieftain.
Certain hunters from Nikopolis, while passing through the area of Tryphos where the springs were, saw the Saint in the twilight and took him for game. Thus, they shot their arrows at him. But horror soon overcame them when they realized their fatal mistake!
The Saint, as he lay dying, gathered up his strength and called out: “Drink, O Barbaros, of the cup which you offered to others!” And he gave thanks to God, Who had led him out of the darkness of deception and led him to the light of the Truth by means of his spiritual Father and benefactor, the Priest John. Thus, in prayer and thanksgiving, his soul passed into eternity.
St. Barbaros was buried in the place of his asceticism. God immediately glorified him in return with signs and miracles and also by the flow of myrrh from his grave!
Many centuries later, in 1571, an officer from Venice named Sklavounos, who was taking part at that time in the naval battle of Navpaktos, fell seriously ill and saw the Saint in a dream, telling him to go to his grave to be healed. Indeed, as soon as the officer venerated the tomb, he was miraculously healed and took the holy Relics of the Saint with him as he departed.
While traveling to Venice, he set ashore at the village of Potamos in Kerkyra. There, the Saint healed a paralytic, and for this reason a Church dedicated to him was erected, in which he is honored to this day. There is also a Church dedicated to the Saint, in addition to one at the site of his asceticism, in a village in Levkada.
It is surmised that his wonderworking Relics, which ended up in Italy, are preserved to this day in a village in Northern Italy which bears the Saint’s name: San Barbaro!
May they one day be discovered and brought back to the place of his sanctification, for the blessing and comfort of the Faithful.
Through the holy intercessions of St. Barbaros, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!
Source: Agios Kuprianos, No. 302 (May-June 2001), pp. 35, 38.
Read also: Saint Barbarus the Myrrh-Gusher
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The fatherly arms of our Lord are always open to the return of every prodigal human soul that in its deception goes off to “a far country,” so as to satisfy its unquenchable desire for salvation. The outstretched palms of our Lord on the Cross hold all of humanity within them, just as they held the repentant thief, who was the first to dwell in Paradise.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Though I've managed to stay afloat since then venturing along unforeseeable paths and exploring new career choices, things have fallen beyond flat once again and its time I establish myself in a new career that I have experience in from prior to my lay off. It is thus a personal urgent matter that I must attend to, and I only prolonged it because I wanted to complete the Pentecostarion period with regular posts. After all, posting here has always been the most relaxing and enjoyable period of my day for the past two years. And its probably been the best learning experience I have ever had, and this comes from a guy with a few graduate degrees.
Hopefully daily postings will resume sooner than later when things are resolved and settled in my personal life. I'm aiming for a week, but it may take longer. Changes and updates to the site will continue, and will be announced on Facebook and Twitter only until my return to regular postings.
If you are looking for new reading materials, you can always visit my bookstore to financially support the future of this ministry. For those who have made orders, though most have already been mailed out, a few are still in the process of preparation and will be mailed out by the end of the month.
Thank you for your generous prayers and support.
Over the past two years I have received a lot of encouraging email from my readers. Though I have kept this private until now, I think my average reader would be surprised to learn how many changed lives have resulted through my humble ministry. This has fueled me to want to do more, and will do in the near future, God willing. Yet along with these encouraging emails I get personal questions that I promise to answer at some point, but rarely take the time to do so. Therefore, I will now answer the last five questions I received, as I continue with my ramble. Because they can be answered in a chronological way, this is the way I will arrange them.
Question 1: How did your journey to Orthodoxy begin?
I liked the way this question was phrased, since the person who asked it knew I was born into an Orthodox Christian family. For me Orthodoxy was indeed a journey of many years which I trace to my early childhood. My story is a long and complicated one that I hope to one day write down in full, so I will only hit on a few things here that basically overviews my pre-teen years without giving too much away. Since "cradle" stories are rarely told, I'll begin from the beginning.
In fact my earliest memory comes from when I was just an infant of less than a year old when something that seemed paranormal happened to me. I was sitting in my high chair next to a table as my mother was doing something behind me in the kitchen. Over the table was a hanging light that lit the room. As I looked up suddenly I saw a man in what looked like 18th century attire with a humorous smile staring at me upside down as he walked around the light on the ceiling. I believe he even put his finger in front of his mouth and told me "shhhh" so as not to make a fuss about it. I just stared at the man on the ceiling in awe, and it was ingrained into my memory ever since. Whether it was in fact a paranormal experience I don't know, but it was certainly not the last paranormal experience I would have in my life.
In many ways I had a normal first generation Greek-American childhood, with a father who never went to church and a mother who took her children to church maybe once or twice a month. The only truly pious person in my entire family was my grandmother on my father's side, but she lived in Greece and I only saw her a few times in my early childhood. She would tell me fascinating stories of Saints like that of St. George and St. Demetrios, and of ancient Greek hero's like Hercules, and whenever she finished one I would beg her for more. Later in my teenage years she would continue to play a significant role in my Orthodox formation.
When I would go to church in those days, especially before the age of seven, I would just drift off staring into the stained-glass windows imagining other worlds and dimensions. My bedroom was the only room in my house that had an icon corner with a perpetual red electrical light bulb in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary. I would lie down in bed at night and wonder if they could see me, since they seemed to always be staring right back at me. At 5 or 6 years old I was sent to Sunday School, which really only meant no more church services, and all we did was put together puzzles of icons and draw crosses, which was fun but mindless. I only received Holy Communion once a year on Holy Thursday morning, but always when the Divine Liturgy had already been over for about an hour. The most exciting thing about that was tasting the delicious wine, then afterwards going with the family to IHOP for a breakfast to break our one or two day fast, which we would then continue again of Good Friday. On Good Friday morning my mother always made sure we drank a spoonfull of vinager to taste a little bit of the suffering of Jesus. Easter was about the food, but we went every year to the midnight service, though always only stood outside with the crowd for about 10 or 15 minutes until "Christ is risen!" was chanted, then we would immediately book it for the car to get home and begin the feast. It took many years for me to realize that something was actually happening inside the church during that time.
Probably the wisest thing my mother did for me at that time was at the age of seven she took me out of Sunday School and asked my parish priest if I could stay behind the altar area as an altar boy, even though I was technically too young in those days. As an altar boy you're forced to learn something about the services and had to pay some attention, so at least my mind didn't wander as much. And in my parish the altar area was sort of an exclusive club where the older "cool" kids hung out, and even though most of them were punks and used the altar area as a hang out, my priest bore with them patiently to make sure to keep them coming to church and not turn them off forever. In those years I would be an altar boy maybe one or two Sunday's per month (when school vacation started in the summer so did vacation from going to church until school started again in the Fall), but the other two or three Sundays my dad would take me to a local soccer field to play soccer with his friends. When I was younger I would play somewhere by myself or with another kid a father dragged along, but as I got a little older they let me play in the game which only made me anxious since some of them were semi-pro's in Greece and their kicks were as fast as lightning. They would take the game so seriously however that every time I made a mistake I would literally get physically and mentally abused by men three times my age, including my dad. By the time I was a teenager I stopped going and decided I would be better off going to church more.
My first of many existential crisis' hit me at about the age of seven when I was confronted with the reality of death. I had two older sisters who had their own friends, so often I was left alone conjuring up imaginary friends to play with. One day my mom mentioned that she had had a miscarriage with her first child, who would have been a boy. From that time on for many months all I did was think about the reality of death and my imaginary friend that I played with was the older brother that had died in the womb of my mother. I would lie down in bed every night wanting to die in order to understand the mystery. Eventually I came to the conclusion at that time that life was nothing but a dream within a dream and all that I saw was nothing but an illusion I was conjuring up in my brain as the real me floated somewhere in outer space. One night I even asked my mother about this as I sat in between my two sisters in the back of our car and my dad was driving and she sat in the passenger seat. I leaned forward and desperately asked her: "Ma, doesn't life seem like a dream? Is it a dream?" She thought my question was cute and that I was smart to ask it, but left it at that and this only left me frustrated. So I concluded that life was indeed a dream and an illusion...somehow...though not "really".
It would not be until about a decade later when I was in high school that I came across the famous line of Edgar Allen Poe somewhere in the 1,000 page biography of Fr. Seraphim Rose I was reading at the time, which said: "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?" This quote from the poem "Dream Within A Dream" forever formed a bond between me and the Master of the Macabre, let alone the fact that we were both born and suffered in Boston.
It was during these days that I first became fascinated with Bible stories. I never read them, but every morning the highlight of my day was to wake up at 7:00AM before school and watch a cartoon series called "Superbook". This was an excellent series of two modern day children traveling back in time to live out different stories of the Bible while meeting the characters of the Bible. I was absolutely fascinated and in love with this show, and years later when I first started reading the Bible, the stories were familiar to me from watching the "Superbook" series every weekday for a couple of years.
Things slowly began to change for me by the fifth grade at the age of ten. By this time in many ways I was an angry kid and somewhat of a punk. If my parents punished me, I would hate them. If anyone bothered me, I'd hate them. It came to the point that my parents decided to move us to the richer town next to the one we lived in with a better school system. It was either this, or I would be sent to boarding school. This made me even more angry. But there was one light in my life at this time, and that was my fifth grade Greek school teacher named John. I had gone to Greek school since the first grade and absolutely hated it and everything about it. In the fourth grade I even orchestrated to have my teacher fired because she was the closest thing to the devil I had ever met, so going into the fifth grade did not give me high expectations. But if my fourth grade teacher was a devil, my fifth grade teacher was a saint. He was a seminarian from Holy Cross School of Theology who came from Greece to study theology in Boston. In class, which was twice a week, one day he would fully devote to teaching Greek, the other day he fully devoted to teaching us about Christianity. With my background in being fascinated with "Superbook", I actually would always look forward to going to class on the day he would teach about Christianity; and by this time I hated school.
My teacher John was a great man, and to this day I am moved every time I think about him. First of all, he was the first teacher I had and ever did have that not only was kind, loving and possessed a gentle smile, but I never even knew his last name as he would insist that we called him by the name "Yianni" (Greek for "John"). Till this day, he may be the closest image I have in my mind of a Christ-like figure that I have ever met. At a time I felt despised and agitated by everyone, he was just so full of love that you sensed absolutely no judgment from him. And when he taught about Christianity, he did it with a gentle passion that was infectious. Nothing over the top, but certainly heartfelt. The other students hated the days he would teach about Christianity thinking them a waste of time, but I was absolutely glued to every word. I was always too shy to tell him, but I always knew he sensed my fascination because I would listen to what he said and look right at him while everyone else was falling asleep. At the end of the school year he even took us for a field trip to visit Holy Cross School of Theology where he lived and studied, which was my first visit (my second was a few years later when my father took me to see Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios). He took us for a tour around campus, showed us his apartment, and ended the day in the chapel where he gave a final little talk. For some reason, as he was talking, he mentioned me by name in front of everyone to emphasize a point he was making about the importance of keeping our faith alive. If only he knew that less than a decade later I would be entering that same school as a student.
One particular day in Greek school I most remember that forever changed my life. And who would have thought it would happen to me in Greek school, the one thing in my life I had most hated. Here was this seminarian in his early twenties talking to a bunch of ten year olds about love and forgiveness, a topic he always tried to drive home with us. And he always did this in the context of imitating the love and forgiveness of Christ. After confessing to us how when he came to America from Greece and settled for a few years in the Dakotas he became very racist against black people, he said that as a Christian he came to realize the evils of hate and prejudice. Then he explained to us how Christ on the cross forgave his murderers and the thief crucified next to him, and if Christ could do something like that, then what prevents us from not forgiving our friends or family or anyone. With raised arms in a crucified position he repeated the words of Christ on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". Then he explained to us the victory of Christ over death through his resurrection. These were things I never heard before. I had always assumed Jesus died on the cross and that was it. This was the first I heard of a resurrection from the dead, or at least took it to heart. Up to this time, death was very hopeless to me and made me view everything as vanity.
At that moment, like the Grinch who stole Christmas, my small heart grew three sizes. The love of Jesus melted any hate I ever had in my heart. It was a tremendous load off my back to no longer be burdened with hate and resentment. It was literally a taste of freedom.
He then had all the students sit in a circle and asked each of us one by one if there was anyone in the world we hated. Everyone thought this exercise was stupid, and everyone said one by one that of course there were people they hated. Almost everyone said they hated murderers and rapists and bullies, etc. As I listened to them, I only thought how stupid they were being for saying such a thing, even though I felt the same way not too long before. Then my turn came and John asked me if there was anyone I hated, and the only thing that could come out of my mouth was "no". It was the only logical answer to my ten year old mind.
A few months later I was put to the test. I did something bad and my mom punished me by sending me to my room. I became angry and inside myself I said "I hate her". Now this was something I had said before without remorse, but this time guilt ran throughout my being. I immediately thought of Jesus on the cross and the lesson I had learned about forgiveness. I vowed on that day that I would never hate anyone ever again for any reason whatsoever as long as I lived, nor even say the word in anger, even if I were a victim of hate. So far, at the age of 35, I have kept that promise after many trials.
The next stage in my journey didn't come for a few years, when the movie "The Seventh Seal" came out in 1988, starring Demi Moore. I had gone to the theater with my aunt and sisters to watch a movie, but my aunt didn't want to see a kid movie, so she decided to take us all to an R-rated movie she wanted to see. I was twelve years old, so of course I said yes. The movie was sort of freaky, but biblical prophecies about the end of the world were a central theme. It made me curious to the point that when I got home I stole my sisters KJV Bible which she received as a gift from someone, and began to search for the verses cited in the movie, since this was the first I heard of an end of the world and biblical prophecies. I found the verse and was blown away.
Soon thereafter I was watching TV on a Sunday morning and saw some show put out by a cult group on biblical prophecies, and they were describing how the Bible prophecied things like helicopters in the Book of Revelation. This also fascinated me and made me curious enough to search out those Bible passages.
That same year I also decided to watch the six-hour mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" on TV, since it was a year Catholics and Orthodox celebrated Easter together and I always loved getting as much into the spirit of various holidays as I could. One of the great things about this movie, besides the fact that it depicted the best "Jesus" in film history who took the role seriously, was its unashamed use of quoting various Old Testament prophecies which foretold the coming of Jesus. I had never known or heard before this that even the coming of Jesus was foretold hundreds of years before his birth. I was blown away once again and realized that Christianity is a religion of many great and pleasant surprises. It was the first great Holy Week I had in church that year and made everything very real to me. Around this time my grandmother also visited us in America and brought me a Greek children's Bible as a gift. One day at a store I found the same book in English and begged my mom to buy it for me, since the KJV Bible was a little difficult for me. This is when I really started to take Christianity seriously, as I entered my teenage years, reading almost every day my children's Bible full of interesting illustrations.
But this is only where my journey and the trials begin.
Question 2: Who is your primary theological influence?
Besides the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, my primary modern day theological influence is the person who most opened up to me the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, and that person is Fr. John Romanides. Here is a brief history of how this came to be.
Interestingly I first came across Fr. John Romanides working with my father as an electrician. I was a freshman in Hellenic College at the time and my dad called me telling me he was working in the house of a Catholic old woman, and in her basement there were a bunch of old Christian books she was willing to give me. So I went to work with him and took the books, which were mainly old Catholic missals and catechisms and spiritual works published in the early 20th century. As I went through one of these books I came across a cut-out from the Boston Globe in the 1950's by a Greek Orthodox professor at Holy Cross named Fr. John Romanides on the topic of an Orthodox perspective on UFO's and alien life. Shortly thereafter I was discussing the topic with an Orthodox priest at the seminary and told him about the article, but also mentioned I was a little troubled by it because it said that man does not have an immortal soul. I was suspicious also that his picture in the article showed him as shaven and wearing a collar, which at the time made me think twice about how Orthodox this really could be. The priest explained to me that in Orthodoxy we do not believe we possess an eternal soul by nature, but by grace. Then he also said something that resonated within me: "You can't go wrong with Romanides." Struck by the concept of having an immortal soul by grace and not nature, I decided to one day look further into the writings of Fr. Romanides.
After I graduated college in 1998 I immediately got married and decided to move to North Carolina, where I would attend an Evangelical Seminary and get a Philosophy of Religion degree, being taught by some of the biggest names in the Evangelical world at the time with a specialty in apologetics. I was there for three years and fully immersed in the life of the school, but in the end not allowed to get my degree because it was required I sign a Statement of Faith which was a bit too Calvinistic for my tastes.
It was about a year into my education in North Carolina that I really got deep into studying writers like Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and every major Western thinker and philospher into the 20th century up to Derrida. I was also taking classes on Christian doctrine that was taught from a scholastic perspective, as my teacher was big fan and follower of Aquinas, and I wondered how strange it all sounded compared to what I had read in Orthodox Patristic texts. As much as I tried to reconcile the two, I just couldn't, and I was left dazed and confused, on the border of possibly abandoning certain key Orthodox doctrines because the arguments of Aquinas just sounded clearer and better to me in some ways. We spent a lot of time talking about the nature of God, and found it strange how little I was taught about this in my classes at Hellenic College. But deep down I always knew there was something wrong, especially with the doctrine of God as Actus Purus and the concept of Divine Simplicity and the vision of the Divine Essence.
I looked everywhere in my library and on the internet for an Orthodox response to Aquinas, but could not find anything anywhere that was convincing and rational enough. Then I looked into a book by Andrew Sopko titled "Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy: The Theology of Fr. John Romanides" which had just been published and I purchased hoping to begin my studies of Fr. Romanides. When I read the first chapter which contained a summary of the debate he had with his professor Panagiotis Trembelas, I was once again blown away. All the things that troubled me about Aquinas, represented by Trembelas in the debate, was clearly answered by Fr. Romanides in such a convincing way that I could not have imagined. I had come to the point of losing hope in having my questions answered, and every one of them was answered in that first chapter. When I completed that book I truly felt that I had only just then become an Orthodox Christian. A new world opened up to me. And since then I have acquired every writing of Fr. John in both Greek and English, published and unpublished, and read them all over and over again. Without Fr. Romanides, I feel almost as if today I would not be Orthodox nor even alive.
3. Question: What inspired you to begin your weblog?
Many things inspired me. It would be difficult to list them all, so I won't. I will say that my initial inspiration was my bitter separation from my wife after nearly seven years of marriage and the eventual divorce a few years later. It was one of the darker periods of my life, and I saw more evil being put out into the world after my separation than I cared to witness. For three years I fought a battle of whether or not to return evil for evil, or return good for all the evil unwillingly heaped on me continuously during that period. I could easily write a book about all the lessons I learned in those days, and probably will. After over three years of this I felt like I had wasted a lot of time fighting this battle, and any attempt I would make to return good for evil fell on unfertile ground. In a moment of isolation I decided to start something which eventually became this blog, though at first I didn't know the direction I wanted to go with it. Essentially it still has that spirit, pretty much covering a wide range of topics, not all of which are purely of an Orthodox theological nature.
I never thought I would have any readers. I simply did it to see what it would be like and where it would lead me organically. I've had to erase some of my initial posts because a lot of them covered subjects that would probably scandalize my easily scandalized readers. My range of interests carry wide expanses and vast depths for most people in the world to handle. In fact, many of my posts right now scandalize a lot of people, but I had to draw a line somewhere. After all, this is purposefully titled "the weblog of John Sanidopoulos" and I purposefully made sure the address for my page was my name to state that everything here is an expression of my interests and do not aim to please anyone but myself.
Eventually I had to narrow it down to more important topics mainly of an Orthodox Christian nature. Till this day I'm still trying to narrow it down. I was always frustrated how truly little there was on the internet that contained a spirit of authentic Orthodoxy that I have come to learn over the years, in all its simplicity, beauty and purity. I couldn't think of one website that represented this the way I wanted to see it. I was also frustrated that there was so much on the internet by schismatic Old Calendarists and their propaganda which was taken for truth by the gullible and unread, by the vast amount of opinionated bloggers with nothing but vitriol being produced, and by the lack of a Pan-Orthodox unity and spirit on news sites. Very few if any a few years ago represented Greek traditions and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a positive light. But I also wanted to include things in the Russian tradition, the Serbian, the Romanian, the Bulgarian, the Georgian, etc etc. I believe I have created a more positive spirit here where people don't have to feel guilty for belonging to the canonical Church, as many websites at that time by so-called "Orthodox" made you feel, and which put all critics of the Church on the defensive rather than the offensive. I havn't really even begun to tackle the heavy subjects and present the Orthodoxy that I have come to love over the years, but eventually, God willing, I'll get to it. Much work needs to be done, but first a lot of misinformation on the internet needs to be addressed.
This was basically what inpired me to begin this blog, but this is only the beginning of a long journey.
4. Question: Which of the hundreds of posts you have made would you consider the most important?
That is really difficult to answer. But since I'm getting personal, I will go with one in which I provided a quote from a section of St. Peter of Damascus contained in The Philokalia titled "We Should Not Despair Even If We Sin Many Times". Very few people have read The Philokalia these days, so even fewer were aware of this powerful chapter of St. Peter. No passage from the fathers struck a chord for me as much as this one when I first came across it. This was during college when I came to a point that I fell into the sin of despair headlong, to the point where I lost touch in many ways with reality and my humanity. It was a terrible time, even darker than that of my divorce which really hit me hard, but St. Peter helped pull me through in those days. I was pleased after I posted it the positive responses it received, and in many ways I think I started my blog just to post this passage for the whole world to read. Another one I loved from back then was titled The Afflicted Should Be Guided Slowly To Repentance. These are the two that mean the most to me personally.
5. Question: Last year you listed your top ten favorite films for the first half of the year. What are they this year?
Finally an easy question. Since people get scandalized by my interests I decided to not do it this year, but hopefully I'm helping to lead people along a greater path of maturity and non-judgmentalism to list my top ten here. As anyone that knows me knows that I am a great lover of the arts and especially cinema, here are my top ten movies of the first half of 2011 that I have seen. In reverse order they are:
10. Insidious (my favorite horror movie of the year so far, though I also liked Paranormal Activity 2)
9. The Conspirator
7. X-Men: First Class
4. Win Win
3. Jane Eyre
2. Super 8
1. Midnight In Paris
Sorry, but "Tree of Life" and "Of Gods and Men", while both very good movies in many ways, were overrated in my humble opinion. "Sanctum" was probably the most underrated. Also, there are three movies I have not seen that may enter my top ten list after I see them within the next few weeks - "Rubber", "13 Assassins" and "Incendies". Probably most of these will be forgotten come Oscars time, since the next six months have a list of very interesting titles that I am really looking forward to.
In the district of Pronoia in Nafplio (Nauplio) there is a natural cave which has been converted into the small Church of All Saints. This was the first cemetery church of Nafplion until 1856. It dates from the second Venetian rule, though an exact date is unknown. Later, during the Turkish rule, it was the only church that was allowed to operate in the area, maybe because there was also a Muslim cemetery nearby. Around it the old cemetery of Nafplio was located, where fighters of the Revolution were buried, like Staikos Staikopoulos, Nikitaras, Paleon Patron Germanos. Though no longer an occupied cemetery, tombstones can still be seen on the floor of the church.
Near the Cave Church of All Saints is the sculpture known as the Lion of the Bavarians. It is an amazing sculpture of the 19th century (1840-1). It was made by the German sculptor Siegel, after the order of King Ludwig of Bavaria, the father of King Otto, the first king of Greece. The lion is lying down and asleep, depicted with an obvious sadness. It is devoted to the Bavarian soldiers from the escort of King Otto who died from the typhus epidemic in Nafplio in 1833-34. The Bavarians were originally buried in the area, but the bones were later transported to the crypt of the Catholic Church of Nafplio.
The Church of All Saints operated as a parish church until 1890, at which time it became a chapel of Holy Trinity Church in Nafplio.
A large crowd gathers in the evening before the feast of All Saints every year to celebrate, and the miraculous icon of All Saints is carried throughout Pronoia.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
For what, brethren, did our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit? Because, we are purchased at a price. The Lord Jesus purchased us with His cares, labors, sufferings and death. Because of this price we were made worthy to become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
But, someone will say that price was paid a long time ago and we live twenty centuries later! It is all the same: the price was not paid for one time and for one generation but rather for all times and for all generations from Adam to the Dreadful Judgment. And if there would be billions and billions of human beings born on earth, the price is paid for all of them. The price is so great and rich that if all the sand in the sea were changed into men, the price would be sufficient.
Brethren, from what moment do our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit? From the moment of our baptism. Although the price is paid for all men only those who are baptized become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, what is the consequence that the Holy Spirit lives in us? The consequence is this, that we are not our own anymore. When the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our bodies, then He becomes the Master over us and not us over it [the body] nor over ourselves. Then, brethren, we are the possession of God the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, what does it mean at the Mystical Supper [Last Supper] when the Lord washed even the feet of Judas and when Judas received a piece of bread from the Lord, it says: "Satan entered him" (John 13:27). O what dreadful words! O what a horrible punishment upon the traitor of God! Brethren, does that not mean that when we reject God, Who washes and feeds us, the Spirit of God departs from us and, in His place, Satan settles in? O what a stern meaning! O what a terrible reminder to all of us who are baptized! The Holy Spirit settled in us during our baptism and made us a temple for Himself. But, the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us by force but rather according to our good will. If we transgress against Him, He departs from us and in place of Him, Satan enters and our physical temple is transformed into a pigsty.
O All-Good Holy Spirit do not leave us. Have mercy on us and forgive us.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (Romans 5:5).
Love is joy and love anoints the heart of man with joy. Brethren, love is power and love anoints the heart of man with power. Love is peace and love anoints the heart of man with peace. And from joy, power and peace, courage is born and love anoints the heart of man with courage.
The love of God, as a fragrant oil, is shed abroad in our hearts by no other than the Holy Spirit, the All-gentle and All-powerful Spirit. Completely undeserved by us, the Spirit of God is shed abroad in us: the love of God in our hearts in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation. However, in time we neglect this love and by sin we alienate ourselves from God and fall into the disease of spiritual paralysis. And the Holy Spirit unwilling to abide in an impure vessel, distances Himself from our heart. When the Holy Spirit distances Himself from us, then joy, power, peace and courage also departs from us immediately. We become sorrowful, weakened, disturbed and fearful. But the All-good Spirit of God only distances Himself from us but does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us but He offers to us who are sick remedies through the Mystery of Repentance and the Mystery of Holy Communion. When we again cleanse ourselves through the Mysteries [Sacraments] of Repentance and Communion then He, the Holy Spirit of God, again abides in us and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We fall, we rise, we fall and we rise! When we fall, the Spirit of God stands by us and raises us if we desire to be raised. However, when we are raised, the Spirit of God stands within us all until we, by sin and foolishness, do not desire to fall. Thus, we in this life interchangeably become a fertile field and a wilderness, sons of repentance and prodigal sons, fullness and emptiness, light and darkness.
O All-Good Holy Spirit of God, do not depart from us either when we want You and when we do not want You. Be with us all the time until our death and save us for life eternal.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, where by you are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).
Brethren, "The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" is recited over all of us who are baptized by water and Spirit. The Spirit of God is given to us not because of our merits, no one should ever think that, but according to the mercy of the Living God. Even in normal relations between men, happy is the one who gives the gift and happy is also he who receives the gift. Giving is joy on both sides. The greater the gift, the greater the joy. God rejoices when He gives the Grace of His Holy Spirit: why then should men not rejoice who receive Him? The needy one who receives usually rejoices more than the rich man who gives; why then should not miserable men rejoice who receive this enormous gift from the rich God?
In what way do men grieve the Holy Spirit? The apostle who commanded that we not grieve the Spirit of God immediately adds, by what means is the Spirit grieved: "All bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking (swearing) and all malice. All of that is to be put away from you" (Ephesians 4:31), says the apostle. In other words, the Spirit of God is grieved by our every sin. Let every sin be put away from us and the Spirit of God will be joyful and by Him we will be rejoicing. When we have an important guest in our home we endeavor to do everything that is well pleasing for that guest. Can there be a greater guest than the Holy Spirit of God? Since He is our greatest and most desired guest, we need to invest the utmost effort to please Him. We know with what we please the Spirit of God - with the same with which we please Christ the Lord. The Lord said: "If you love me, keep my commandments" (St. John 14:15). He who, therefore, keeps the commandments of Christ has love toward the Son and toward the Holy Spirit. He who pleases the Son, keeping His commandments, also pleases the Father and the Holy Spirit. The apostle especially recommends: "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:32). If we are kind, if we are tenderhearted [merciful], if we forgive one another, by this we please the Spirit of God Who is a guest in our hearts. The Spirit of God then rejoices in us and our entire being trembles from certain inexpressible joy.
O my brethren, let us take care that we not grieve our Most High Guest Who comes to us with the richest gifts.
O God the Holy Spirit, forgive our negligence toward Your Immortal Majesty and do not leave us empty and worthless without You.
By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos
SUNDAY of All Saints
On this day, the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints who shone forth throughout the inhabited earth, in Asia, Libya, and Europe, North and South, East and West.
All the friends of my Lord do I hymn.
If any would, let him make mention of them all.
The reason for the present Feast is, as our Lord Jesus Christ said, before His Suffering, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (St. John 12:32)—which was the whole purpose of His descending to earth, taking flesh, and becoming perfect Man, while Himself remaining perfect God, namely, to save human nature and exalt it to Heavenly blessedness.
The nature, therefore, that He assumed in His Divine Hypostasis He raised up to the Heavens through His Divine Ascension and made it sit at the right hand of God the Father. But even so, the promise that He gave when He said, “I will draw all men unto Me,” was not fulfilled. For this reason, He sent the All-Holy Spirit to His Holy Apostles, so that they might go and preach the one Godhead to all the nations through His power, and gather the elect into the Kingdom of Heaven, which His good and faithful servants did with all zeal, with all their soul and heart, and unto the shedding of their blood. In this way, the world above, from which the apostate angels had fallen, was replenished. This is what we celebrate today, that is, the fruit of the Apostolic preaching.
It is said that there is another reason for this common Feast: that many, very many, and almost innumerable persons have become sanctified in different places and regions, whom, on account of their multitude and anonymity, it was not possible for us to honor individually. Therefore, in order to honor them appropriately and to gain their help and succor, our Mother, the Church, decreed that we should observe a common Feast of all the Saints in general, and that at the same time this Feast should be celebrated also for those who would hereafter either suffer martyrdom or in general be sanctified. It is also said that Leo VI, that most devout emperor (886-912), who is surnamed “the Wise,” wished to honor his first wife, Theophanó, as a Saint, but that the Church did not assent to his desire; hence, he built a very beautiful Church of All Saints and said: “If Theophano is a Saint, let her be numbered with All the Saints.”
The most important reason for this Feast, as for any Saint that we celebrate, is the exhortation of ourselves, the living, to emulate those being celebrated. That is, we should compel ourselves to attain to the praiseworthy life of those blessed and renowned servants of our true God. The Prophet-King David says, with reference to this: “Thy friends, O God, are exceedingly honored by me” (Psalm 138:17, LXX). The Divine Apostle, enumerating the exploits of the Saints, and putting forward their memory to us as an example of turning aside from earthly affairs and sin, and of imitating their patience and courage in the contests of virtue, says: “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Guided by the teaching of the Divine Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition, we, the Faithful, honor all the friends of God, the Saints, as keepers of God’s commandments, as shining examples of virtue, and as benefactors of the human race. We honor each of the known Saints specially on one particular day of the year, as is evident from the Menologion; but since many are unknown, as we said previously, and since their number has multiplied from time to time, is still multiplying, and will not cease increasing until the end of the world, for this reason our Mother, the Church, has ordained that we should hold, once a year, a general commemoration of all the Saints, which is the present Feast.
It should be known that we celebrate today all whom the Holy Spirit has munificently sanctified: that is, the most sublime and sanctifying Intelligences— namely, the Nine Orders of Angels—, the Forefathers and Patriarchs, the Prophets and the Holy Apostles; the Martyrs and the Hierarchs; the Hieromartyrs and monastic martyrs, the Ascetics and the Righteous, and all the choirs of holy women, and all of the other anonymous Saints, including those to come. Above all and in all and with all, we celebrate the Saint of Saints, her who is Most Holy and beyond compare superior to the Angelic Orders, our Sovereign Lady the Theotokos, Mary the Ever-Virgin.
By the intercessions of Thine Immaculate Mother, O Christ God, and of all Thy Saints from all ages, have mercy on us and save us, as Thou alone art good and lovest mankind. Amen.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
As the first-fruits of our nature to the Planter of created things, the world presenteth the God-bearing martyred Saints in off'ring unto Thee, O Lord. Through their earnest entreaties, keep Thy Church in deep peace and divine tranquillity, through the pure Theotokos, O Thou Who art greatly merciful.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
St. John Chrysostom answers this question briefly when he writes:
They say: 'We can pray at home.' Thou art deceiving thyself, O man! Of course, one can pray at home. But it is impossible to pray there as in church, where such a multitude of hearts are uplifted to God, merging into one unanimous cry. Thou wilt not be so quickly heard while praying to the Master by thyself, as when praying together with thy brethren, for here in church there is something greater than in thy room: Agreement, unanimity, the bond of love, and finally here are the prayers of the priests. The priests stand before us, then, so that the prayers of the people, being weak, would be united to their more powerful prayers and together with them ascend to heaven. The Apostle Peter was freed from prison, thanks to the common prayers offered for him.... If the Church's prayer was so beneficial for the Apostle Peter and delivered such a pillar of the faith from prison, why, tell me, dost thou disdain its power and what kind of justification canst thou have for this. Hearken unto God Himself, Who says that the multitude of people who pray to him with fervor moves Him to have mercy. He says to the Prophet Jonah: 'Shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which dwell more than 120 thousand people.' He did not simply mention the multitude of people but that thou mightest know that prayer together has great power.
St. John of Kronstadt adds:
Here in church is the one thing needful; here is a refuge from vanity and the storms of life; here is the calm harbor for souls seeking salvation; here is incorrupt food and drink for souls; here is the light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world; here is pure spiritual air; here is the well of living water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14); here the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed; here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and singing in church are performed in a sacred language; all Orthodox Christians must learn it, in order to comprehend the sweet sayings of their mother, who is preparing her children for heaven, for eternal life.... Here in church, a man will come to know the true nobility of his soul, the value of life and its aim or his assigned path; here he dispels the fascination of worldly vanity and worldly passions by acquiring sobriety in his soul; here he comes to know his destiny, both temporal and eternal; here he comes to know his bitter, profound fall and seduction by sin; here the Savior is to be found, ;particularly in His holy and life, creating Mysteries, and His salvation; here a man comes to know his true relationship with God and his neighbor or with his family and the society in which he lives. The church is an earthly heaven, the place where the closest union with the Divinity occurs; it is a heavenly school which prepares Christians for heavenly citizenship, teaching them about the ways of heaven, about the dwellings of heaven; it is the threshold of heaven; it is the place for common prayer, for thanksgiving, for glorifying the Triune God, Who created and preserves everything; it is unity with the angels. What is more precious and more honorable that the church? Nothing. During the divine service, as on a chart, the whole destiny of the human race is depicted, from beginning to end. The divine service is the alpha and omega of the destiny of the world and of men.
June 18, 2011
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Varna Bishop Kiril have exchange warm niceties and praises, with the bishop going as far as comparing Borisov with the ruler who christianized the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister spoke in the village of Padina in Eastern Bulgaria Saturday where he delivered a lecture on the future of the country.
In his speech, Borisov emphasized the construction of new churches saying that new Orthodox temples are being opened or existing ones are being repaired every week across Bulgaria since religion plays a bigger role in people's lives in the event of an "economic and moral crisis."
"I witness how after each opening of a new church people's faces change, and they start seeing the future with more optimism," the PM declared.
The Bishop of Varna and Veliki Preslav (Veliki Preslav was Bulgaria's first Christian capital – 893 AD-971 AD) Kiril in turn praised the Borisov Cabinet for lending support to the construction and restoration of new churches.
Bishop Kiril even said the government was continuing the mission of Knyaz (Slavic title equal to "King") Boris I (r. 851-889 AD), the ruler who in 864 AD christianized the First Bulgarian Empire making Eastern Orthodox Christianity the official religion of Bulgaria.
The bishop expressed confidence the Borisov Cabinet will continue its policies in support of religious temples.
Leontios was born in Nafplion in 1520. At 17 years of age in 1537 he abandoned family and friends in the world and went to Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos. He spent 68 years here as a monastic without ever leaving the confines of the Monastery. Living in a small cell within the Monastery, Leontios became a bearer of the gifts of clairvoyance and foreknowledge. With these gifts he was able to read the thoughts and actions of all those who came to him for spiritual guidance. When spiritual children saw that he knew what they were thinking and doing in private, they would immediately turn to repentance.
On March 16, 1605 St. Leontios foresaw his own death after a minor illness and he fell asleep in the Lord peacefully. Following the translation of his relics, the monks witnessed that they were gushing fragrant myrrh.
The author of his life is unknown, but it was written shortly after St. Leontios' death, and the manuscript survives in Dionysiou Monastery. The intellectual priest Nikolaos Malaxos, protopapas of Nafplio in the 16th century, wrote of him.
The island of Milos has been important Christian land since the early days of Christianity. This is especially evident in the Catacombs of the island discovered by Ludwig Ross in 1840, where the early Christians buried their dead and likely sought refuge in times of persecution.
This weekend, 18th and 19th of June 2011, Archbishop Ieronymos together with the President of the Democratic party and the Ministry of Culture, were scheduled to consecrate the beautiful island of Milos in the Cyclades a "Sacred Island", after the Holy Synod passed a bill in 2009. However due to a recent fall of the Archbishop where he hurt his leg, and recent political upheavals, the consecration is being transferred to the Fall.
The Catacombs of Milos, in Milos Island, dating from the 1st - 5th century, are among the three most important of the 74 discovered worldwide, together with the catacombs of Rome and the Holy Land. It is possible that the Catacombs of Milos are older than the ones of Rome.
Perhaps only a small part of a sizable necropolis at the foothills of the village of Tripiti, the Catacombs of Milos were used by the early christians first as a burial site and later also as a place of worship and a refuge after persecution by the Romans became widespread. The Catacombs of Milos are considered to be the most important early Christian monument of worship in all of Greece.
Excavations commenced in 1843 by professor Ludwig Ross, 3 years after the discovery of the monument, but after it had been already ransacked by tomb raiders. Thus far, 3 sections have been unearthed, spanning a total length of 183 meters in several passages. It is estimated that upward of 2,000 christians were buried in the 291 arcosolia and floor tombs used as family graves containing 5-7 dead each. Currently, access to the monument is limited to the main chamber of section B, the Chamber of the Presbyters (Elders) as well as the main chamber of section A, plus a small section of the northwest passage.
Still visible to the visitors of the Catacombs of Milos are inscriptions on the walls including the Monogram of Christ and the ecumenical Christian symbol "ΙΧΘΥΣ", hollows used for lamps and votive gifts to the departed, and a couple of graves of infants.
There is ample evidence that most of the first converts to Christianity in Milos were Jews. There was a substantial Jewish community on the island, as well as indications that St. Paul himself, was shipwrecked in Milos on his way to Athens from Crete. Consequently, when St. Paul encountered his own ethnic element in Milos, according to professor Adolph von Deissman, "...his teachings fell like a seed on fertile soil".
Official Website of Milos Catacombs
The Catacombs of Milos Greece, Cyclades
"From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis" (Acts 16:11).
Though St. Paul anchored in Samothrace for a night on his second missionary journey in 49 A.D., we are not told any further details. Yet this island has great significance for Christianity, for it is on the shores of this island that St. Paul first stepped into Greece and Europe. It was thus the entrance of Christianity not only in Greece but in Europe as well.
Since many Christians from throughout the world visit Samothrace in their attempts to trace the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, it was decided to erect a monument of this significant event. On 4 May 2008, near the town of Palaiopoli (where the most ancient church on the island exists in honor of the Apostle Paul's landing), Metropolitan Anthimos of Alexandroupolis consecrated a site of veneration known as "the Seat of the Apostle Paul". An all-night vigil takes place here every year on June 29th, which is the feast of the Apostle Paul.
The Seat of the Apostle Paul has an altar surrounded by mosaics of the Apostle Paul's ministry, together with the passage of Acts 16:11 in various languages. All materials that went into building this shrine came from the island.
2011 being the centenary of the death of Darwin’s cousin eugenicist Francis Galton (pictured above), Geneticist Steve Jones points out that we are just not finding the genes headline writers need. He offers some interesting comments, especially on the role of popular media in creating an impression of genetic determinism which he says just ain’t there. Yet far more people read headlines about the gay gene, the fat gene, and the “vote conservative” gene than read genetics papers. He goes on to note that, contrary to the breathless hype, geneticists are not finding the “genes” that control everything. It seems that the people who used to believe “it’s in the stars” now think “it’s in the genes,” and those people are just as wisely governed as ever.
Francis Galton: The Man Who Drew Up the 'Ugly Map' of Britain
One hundred years after the death of Francis Galton, the "father of eugenics", geneticists are increasingly baffled by the nature versus nurture debate, writes Professor Steve Jones.
June 16, 2011
Type the phrase "scientists find the gene for" into Google and 68,000 results appear. Most of the hits are about human beings - which is a pretty impressive number, given that we have only 20,000 genes altogether.
The hits include genes for depression, religiosity, insomnia, marital failure and, perhaps surprisingly, premature ejaculation.
Does what we are born with make us what we will become, or is it the way we live? Newspapers tend to believe in nature - DNA, while sociologists go for nurture - the environment.
As they learn more, geneticists are finding that they have less and less of an idea about which is more important, or whether the question means anything in the first place.
Charles Darwin had an equally brilliant, but less well-known, cousin. He died 100 years ago in 1911.
This year is Galton year - a celebration of Francis Galton, a genius - but a flawed genius. He did many surprising things. He was the first person to use fingerprints in detective work and the first to publish a weather map, in the Times newspaper in 1875.
Galton is best known for his interest in inheritance. His book Hereditary Genius is sometimes said to have founded human genetics, and Galton founded the science (if that is the right word) of eugenics.
Its main aim was "to check the birth rate of the Unfit and improve the race by furthering the productivity of the fit by early marriage of the best stock".
At his death, he left the then enormous sum of £45,000 to found the Laboratory of National Eugenics at University College London (UCL).
The term was soon abandoned by UCL, although we still have a Galton Professorship. Even so eugenical ideas of good genes, bad genes, and all the rest is still very much in the public mind.
In fact, the most important part of Galton's work had nothing to do with eugenics, for he was one of the first to realise that science - biology as much as physics - needs maths rather than words. He was one of the founders of the science of statistics, and he measured many things.
He made statistical inquiries into the efficacy of prayer - he got into trouble for that for he found that those people frequently prayed for, like monarchs, lived no longer than anyone else.
He even made a beauty map of Britain, based on a secret grading of the local women on a scale from attractive to repulsive (the low point was in Aberdeen).
In a letter to Nature in 1879 entitled The Average Flush of Excitement, Galton recounts a visit to the Derby. He noted that while he was there he was able to assess what he called "the average tint of the complexion of the British upper classes" by observing the distant crowd through his opera glass.
He observed that after the race started, the crowd became "suffused with a strong pink tint, just as though a sun-set glow had fallen upon it". Galton found that he could work out the mood of a mass of people even without being able to distinguish one person from the next.
Some of his work has a strong resonance in modern science. Everyone knows that tall parents tend to have tall children, but Galton was the first to do some measuring.
He noted that the children of two six-footers tended to be tall, but not quite as tall as their parents. He called that "regression to the mean" and we now know that it happens because lots of genes are involved, with some hidden by others.
Sex is a way of mixing those genes - of reshuffling the genetic cards - and the child tends to inherit a more average kind of hand than that received by either of their exceptionally tall parents.
Of course, the environment is involved too. Food, exercise, good health, all are important in deciding how tall one will become. For height, and for almost anything else, nature and nurture always work together. It makes no sense to try to separate them.
That has not percolated into the public mind, as the Google search for "scientists find the gene for" shows. The three letter word for - the gene FOR something - is the most dangerous word in genetics. As Galton did not realise and as headline writers still do not, it is almost entirely ambiguous.
A few months ago, the press reported with impressive unanimity that "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is genetic". To the rolling of publicists' drums (and geneticists' eyes) came the news that some children behave outrageously because they inherit damaged DNA.
The Daily Mail came out with a hand-wringing piece entitled "Are some children just born bad?", which claimed "previous thinking was flawed and that some children, through no fault of the parents, are simply bad seeds".
That's an outrageous statement. Geneticists need to remind the public how little the word "genetic" actually means. One gene can do very different things, and the same thing can be under the influence of many genes - and nurture nearly always gets a look-in.
With all the fantastic technology now available, within a year we should be able to read a whole human genome in 15 minutes. But the biggest problem faced by geneticists is that we are not finding the genes.
Take height. As Galton noticed, height is highly heritable. We can now reach the scene of crime - the DNA - with the greatest of ease. The mappers have used their molecular tape measures on about 30,000 people.
They have found more than 50 different genes associated with being tall or short but altogether they account for only one-twentieth of the total variation needed to explain the similarity of children to their parents.
Where are the missing genes? We do not know.
Take adult diabetes, now a major health problem, and one that certainly runs strongly in families. Genome scans reveal scores of different bits of chromosome as possible culprits but together they explain just one part in 20 of the overall inherited liability to the disease.
The chance of being born with a predisposition to a common illness such as diabetes or depression is a gamble with huge numbers of cards.
So many small cards can be shuffled that everyone who falls ill fails in their own fashion and no gene says very much about whether or not you will get the gene (although the number of cheeseburgers you eat certainly does).
Steve Jones is a professor of genetics at University College London
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).
He who has the Spirit of God in himself - only he has the witness that he is the child of God. Without the Spirit of God there is no such witness. Not even the entire universe can give this witness. The universe, alone, without the Spirit of God - what else does it witness to us other than that we are its slaves, its victims, which it unmercifully swallows? In essence, the pagans thought that also.
The opponents of God today, do they not think likewise? They do think so. For indeed, it is difficult to take that thought away from man who did not recognize the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Witness of Heaven. The same apostle says: "For you have not received the spirit of bondage" (Romans 8:15). What is this spirit of bondage? It is every other spirit except the Spirit of God, Who Christ the Lord sends to those who love Him. The spirit of bondage is the spirit of materialism, the spirit of fortune-telling, the spirit of naturalism, the spirit of pessimism, the spirit of despair, the spirit of vice. Only the Spirit of God is the All-Holy Spirit of adoption and freedom.
O what happiness, O what peace, O what joy when the Spirit of God cuddles in the cleansed heart of man as a sparrow does in its nest! Then our hope opens hundreds of doors in the prison of the universe and our embrace, wider than the universe, stretches out to the One Who is greater and more merciful than the universe. To Whom? To the Father! And then we cry out: "Abba, Father!" (Romans 8:15).
The witness of God, which comes through the eyes, can even lead us to doubt that we are the children of God. But, the witness which comes to us from the heart, from the Spirit of God, does not leave even the slightest doubt. God witnesses about God. What kind of doubt can there be? God the Holy Spirit caresses us in the heart of our very being. Can there be any kind of doubt there? No; for then we know and feel completely confident that God is the Father and we, the children of God. No one's servants, no one's slaves, rather the children of God.
O Lord God, Holy Spirit come abide in us and remain with us as a Witness of the Trinity and the Kingdom, as a Witness of the immortal Paradise. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Two new books are available through Mystagogy Bookstore:
1. THE SACRED CATECHISM OF THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH
I.E. OF THE ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH
By Saint Nektarios of Pentapolis
45 pages; $7.00
2. THE DIVINE COMFORTER AND ORTHODOX THEOLOGY ACCORDING TO SAINT NIKODEMOS THE HAGIORITE
35 pages; $6.00
Of the Holy Martyr Isauros and those with him: Basil, Innocent, Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinos
As is well known, the Church of Athens was founded by the Holy Apostle Paul in 36 A.D. during the course of his second missionary tour (Acts 15:40 – 18:22).
After his famous speech on Mars Hill, “certain men joining themselves to him believed, among whom was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:34).
At the end of the third century, members of the Apostolic Church of Athens included Isauros, “Deacon of the Mysteries,” Basil, and Innocent.
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Numerian (283-284), they departed from their native city of Athens and went to Apollonia of Illyricum, which was an ancient colony of Corfu on the shores of present-day North Epiros.
There, after a revelation by a Holy Angel, the Saints entered into a cave and found Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinos, who were Christians in hiding.
St. Isauros strengthened them in the Faith and taught them not to love temporal, transitory things, but to desire the incorruptible and eternal.
Having been nourished by these spiritual teachings, Saints Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinos nourished, in their turn, St. Isauros and his companions in a bodily way by bringing them food and, having distributed their belongings to the poor, remained with them.
After a short while, an opportunity arose to prove that the words of the Athenian Deacon and teacher of the Faith had not been in vain, but had fallen “on good ground.”
The relatives of Felix and of his companions tried to wean them from their fellowship with Isauros, but they were unsuccessful because the Saints turned away from them since they were idolaters.
The relatives then denounced them to the Proconsul of Apollonia, Tripontios, who, when he was unable to separate them from the Holy Faith of Christ, ordered that they be beheaded.
Thus did Saints Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinos receive the unfading crowns of martyrdom.
In the meantime, the Proconsul Tripontios also arrested Saints Isauros, Basil, and Innocent, and he handed them over to his son, Apollonios, to revert them to idolatry.
Apollonios attempted to force them to deny the Christian Faith with excruciating tortures, through fire and water, but he was unsuccessful. On the contrary, indeed, the Saints became even more faithful to the Lord, as they were marvelously and miraculously preserved unharmed by Divine Grace.
This was the occasion for many idolaters to be drawn to the Holy Faith of Christ, among whom included notables of the city of Apollonia, the Senators Rufos and Roufianos, who were brothers.
In the end, since the three Saints from Athens remained firm in their Christian Confession, it was ordered that they be beheaded.
Thus, having prayed, the valiant athletes of Christ drenched the land of Epiros with their holy blood, and their blessed souls ascended victoriously to the heavenly abodes of Paradise and were counted among the glorious choir of Martyrs for our Holy Faith.
On Sunday, 7 September 1992, Mrs. Marianthy Grammenou gave us the following interesting information about the Church of St. Isauros.
1. I resided next door to the Church of St. Isauros in a semi-underground house. Living there, I was upset because I was very poor.
Quite a number of times, I saw St. Isauros in my sleep without knowing who he was, and he would say to me: “My child, do not be upset. I will look after you.” And he would give me a piece of bread.
The next day, when I would go to take a certain woman’s clothes to wash them, she would put rusks and a kilo of bread in a bag for me.
I also saw the Saint giving me food, and the next day the woman for whom I washed put food in a bag for me.
When there was bad weather, that house would often be flooded, but the water would not reach the spot where there were Icons or my bed. The Saint’s protection was evident.
2. Yet another evening, I heard a Liturgy being celebrated….
I opened the door to the courtyard and asked the neighbors: “Are you listening to a Liturgy on the radio?” “No,” they told me.
Approaching the door to the Desilla factory (facing it was the small window of the Altar), I saw the entire Church illuminated, and the Liturgy could be heard being chanted by Angelic voices for an hour and a half.
This would occur every fifteen days for about three and a half years.
3. One evening, I saw the Saint in the hallway burning paper, and he said to me: “Come and warm yourself.”
I answered him: “You are burning paper. You aren’t burning wood so that I can warm myself.”
He answered: “I am burning the witness of my martyrdom. ”
I then understood that St. Isauros was a Martyr, because until then I had not known it.
4. All of these things took place when, for many years, the Church was abandoned.
When Liturgies began to be served there once more, I had a dream in which a hand was pulling me, and I heard a voice telling me: “Get up and come to my house.”
I fell asleep again because of my illness and heard the same voice a second time.
The next day, I went to the Church (on the Feast Day of St. Marina), and for the first time, I saw an Icon of St. Isauros, just as I had seem him so many times in my sleep.
5. I have dedicated a small song to him as a token of my love for him.
O Holy Father Isauros,
thou art my protector.
I have thee ever in my thoughts
and in my mind.
I am an orphan in the world
and I have no one.
For a Father, I have God,
and for a brother, thee.
Come down my path.
As a shelter for my head
I shall have thee, O St. Isauros,
protector of my life.
Historical Facts About the Church
1. The Eighth Department of Byzantine Antiquities of Ioannina, in its document with the protocol number 2585 (29/10/93), gives us the following historical facts about the Church of St. Isauros in the Garitsa quarter of Corfu:
The Church is an Ionian Island basilica of modest dimensions with a three-sided apse which projects eastward and a low bell-tower in the NE corner. The Church is mentioned for the first time in the catalogue of Churches of 1693 compiled by the great Protopresbyter Avlonites. The Church thus already existed before the end of the seventeenth century.
Inside the Church, there was a wooden Templon with wood-carved ornamental elements, which was later replaced by another, newer one.
Among the Icons, there was a large Icon of St. Cyril of Alexandria, which was a copy of the great Icon of 1654 that is located in the Museum of Antivountiotissa, and which is the work of the painter Em. Tzane.
2. The following items have also been preserved from the old Church: a) an Icon of St. Spyridon, which has been kept in excellent condition; b) an Icon of St. Isauros, and c) four vigil lamps and a censer.
Inside the Church, towards the Beautiful Gates, there is a grave with the following inscription:
“THIS GRAVE COVERS/ THE BODY/ OF HIERODEACON IOANNIS MONASTIRIOTIS/ SON OF ANDREW/ 26 YEARS OLD/ REPOSED ON 11 NOV. 1867.”1
3. On 26 September 1988, a resolution was passed by the Ministry of Culture for the “characterization of the Church of St. Isauros in Garitsa, Corfu, as an historical monument”:
“We characterize the Church of St. Isauros, which is located in Garitsa, Corfu, as an historical monument. It is a one-room, rectangular building with an adjoining bell-tower on the east side: a characteristic example of Ionian Island Churches, which dates to the end of the seventeenth century and is mentioned in the catalogue of Churches compiled by the Great Protopresbyter Avlonites.”2
4. In 1754, the Great Protopresybter3 of the city and island of Corfu, Spyridon Boulgares, drew up an inventory of all of the island’s Churches and Monasteries, including, on 13 September 1754, the Church of St. Isauros in Garitsa. The contents of the inventory have been preserved at the Historical Record Office of Corfu.
Απολυτίκιο. Ήχος γ'. Την ωραιότητα.
Ως εννεάριθμον, του Λόγου σύνταγμα, εχθρών τας φάλαγγας, κατετροπώσαντο, Ίσαυρος Φήλιξ συν αυτοίς, Ερμείας και Περεγρίνος, άμα Ιννοκέντιος, Μανουήλ και Βασίλειος, Ισμαήλ ο ένδοξος και Σαβέλ ο μακάριος' διό και τα βραβεία της νίκης, εύρον ως Μάρτυρες Κυρίου.
1. For the custom of burying the dead inside the Church building (because cemeteries in the modern sense did not then exist in Corfu), see D. C. Kapadohou, Ναοὶ καί Μοναστήρια Κέρκυρας, Παξῶν καἰ Ὀθωνῶν στἀ μέσα τοῦ ΙΗ αἰῶνα (Athens: 1994) p. 47.
2. See ΦΕΚ 788/B/26 Oct. 1988, p. 11.
3. The “Great Protopresbyter” had the position of surrogate Bishop and exercised the rights of an eparchal Bishop (except for the performance of Ordinations), submitting directly to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Until 1799—at which time the Metropolitan’s Throne of Corfu was re-established (it had been abolished in 1267)—, he was regarded as the spiritual and political leader of Corfu.
Source: Written by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili