Saint Anthimos was born in Georgia, and his parents were called John and Mary. The child received the name Andrew in Baptism, and his parents raised him as an Orthodox Christian.
Andrew was captured by Turks who invaded Georgia when he was young, and he was one of many who were made slaves in Constantinople. There he learned to speak Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, and also became skilled in woodcarving, embroidery, and painting. After a few years as a slave, Andrew escaped and fled to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for refuge.
Around 1690, Andrew was invited to Wallachia by Prince Constantine Brancoveanu (August 16), who had heard of his talents. After a year or so, he became a monk and received the name Anthimos. Later, he was ordained to the holy priesthood. He was placed in charge of the royal print shop in Bucharest, and later set up a printing house in the Snagov Monastery. The monastery printed sixty-three books in Romanian, Greek, Arabic, and Georgian. St Anthimos was the author of thirty-eight of them. He was chosen to be the abbot of Snagov in 1696.
The saint was consecrated as Bishop of Rimnicu-Vilcea in 1705, and three years later he was made Metropolitan of Wallachia. As Metropolitan, he established schools for poor children, and built churches and monasteries. Since he was a woodcarver, he used his talent to beautify many churches.
St Anthimos was a zealous pastor who satisfied his flock's hunger for spiritual knowledge. Preaching in the Romanian language, he taught them the saving truths of Orthodoxy, and offered words of encouragement and consolation. His edifying books and sermons are part of the spiritual legacy of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Anthimos was arrested by the Turks in 1716 and sentenced to be exiled at St Katherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai, but he never arrived at his destination. On September 27, 1716, he was killed by the soldiers who were escorting him. They cut his body into little pieces and threw them into the Tungia River, south of the Danube. Thus, the faithful servant of Christ received the crown of martyrdom.
St Anthimos was a true shepherd of his flock, and a father to his clergy. He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.
For various videos having to do with St. Anthimos, see here.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Saint Anthimos was born in Georgia, and his parents were called John and Mary. The child received the name Andrew in Baptism, and his parents raised him as an Orthodox Christian.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Metropolitan John of Lagada and Exarch of Central Macedonia has called 2011 "the year of Saint Kyranna", which was inaugurated on the feast of the Saint on 8 January 2011. The center of the festivities has been in the village of Ossa, near Thessaloniki, where the Saint lived and where a magnificent church exists in her honor. To read about the life and martyrdom of Saint Kyranna, see here.
Following the heroic and martyric death of the young Saint Kyranna on 28 February 1751, the faithful took her precious relics and had her buried outside the city of Thessaloniki. At the same time portions of her clothes were cut into pieces and given to the faithful as relics for a blessing. The people of the village of Ossa had a church built in the village in her honor a few decades after this event and Christoforos Prodromitis had a Service of Praise written to be chanted on the annual commemoration of her martyrdom. Her life was recorded by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite in his New Martyrology.
Because St. Kyranna was martyred during the time of Turkish occupation, the only thing that was known about the location of her relics was that they were buried "outside the walls" of Thessaloniki. 260 years later St. Kyranna allowed the location of her relics to be discovered to the people who have honored her memory all this time. This all began when Metropolitan John of Lagada inaugurated 2011 as the year of Saint Kyranna, and he began to research her life in various sources. Thus on 12 September 2011, with the help of a monk from Mount Athos and the assistance of specialists and forensic experts, they confirmed that in the Holy Altar of the Church of the Archangels in Ossa, where St. Kyranna herself attended the Divine Liturgy, beneath the floor slabs a large portion of her relics were discovered.
Any questions generated by the investigation of the remains of the Saint were quickly put aside when a beautiful fragrance filled the church when the relics of the Saint were uncovered. With her bones there were also the leather shoes of the Saint, and forensic experts were able to determine the height, sex, age and year of burial of the Saint. Following this great discovery, Metropolitan John notified Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, then proceeded to have the public informed through a formal statement.
On Friday 23 September 2011 in an atmosphere of emotion and piety, the faithful of Ossa and the surrounding area gathered in the Church of the Archangels to celebrate the first all-night vigil with the presence of the relics of their patron saint. Metropolitan John was the officiant together with Bishop Demetrios of Thermes and a large number of priests from the Metropolis. The celebration will continue until October 10th with daily Supplication Services and all-night vigils, and will culminate on October 11th when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will visit the village and venerate the relics of St. Kyranna. At that time also the relics of St. Kyranna will be translated from the Church of the Archangels to the newer church dedicated to her honorable memory.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
September 24, 2011
"The number of Orthodox in the Czech Republic is increasing every day," said the Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech Republic and All Slovakia in an interview.
His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Czech spoke of increased faith compared to other denominations in the country, saying that "many people from the former Soviet Union come to live here. Many Czechs come to be baptized Orthodox; the Orthodox Church is a refuge for all."
Moreover, Metropolitan Christopher said that "all Orthodox churches are full, even on holidays the people fill the church even going outside of it. Meanwhile Catholic churches are empty."
Asked why this happening, since the Czech Republic is the most atheistic country in Europe, the Czech Metropolitan said: "About this I am asked very often. I answer that my much-suffering country, which received the baptism of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, for centuries was born with the persecution of the Popes and Cardinals."
"Catholicism was implanted by force, with almost the same methods as traditionally practiced by the Nazis and the communists. If you were disobedient they would take your property and send you into exile, and they may have even put an end to you," continued Mr. Christopher.
Then he added that "of the 150,000 rural families there are only 30,000 left. It seems clear that the Czechs do not like Catholicism. So Czechoslovakia soon became an independent country, with about one million people leaving the Catholic Church and the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia."
Also the Metropolitan of the Czech Republic and Slovakia said: "More and more people today in the Czech Republic and Slovakia prefer the Orthodox Church. We now need to boost their morale, especially among young people, and teach them the truth that they did not know."
In closing, Metropolitan Christopher was asked what the biggest problems today in the Church of the Czech Republic are, and he stressed that "the biggest problem is lack of space. Have you seen what's going on inside the churches? Believers can hardly fit, and many sit on the street."
"I want to thank the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, Bishop Hilarion and the Head-priest Nicholas Balasof who helped me purchase our offices and Sunday School," added the Metropolitan of Czech.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
September 20, 2011
An unusual phenomenon occurred in the village Rassivka in the Poltava region of Ukraine: the face of Christ and St. Nicholas appeared on planks after being moved from a burnt area to a home.
"Before the war, our farm belonged to the priest. The old house was bombed by the Germans, and we had to build a new home. About five years ago the shed of the priest was burned. When we started to dismantle the wreckage after the fire, we found two small planks with an image size 10 x 15. We were very surprised that it was not burned. My husband decided not to throw it away", said the 85-year-old Maria Nefortouna.
Now, her fellow villagers come to her home like they go to church to venerate the icons, according to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
In turn, the husband of the housewife, Basil Bouchanenko said, "It was initially impossible to see something on the boards, it was blurry, and it had a yellowish color, and was hit hard by the beetles."
The icons were moved to the summer kitchen and forgotten about until the grandchildren found them and started playing with them.
"Seeing it, I took a board in my hands and was shocked! On it seemed the face a saint. I went to church, had it sanctified, and then placed it in the most prominent location of the house, next to family photos. There was no doubt that this was an icon. In a few months there appeared the face and the hands of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and even details of his clothing. Some details appeared in just one week ", said Basil Bouchanenko.
The head of the church in Rassivka, Father Bogdan, recounted that "the emergence of these icons" took place before his eyes.
"I remember well how dull was the icon of St. Nicholas, when we sanctified this board, and how clear it is now. It is simply lit up! I have no doubt this was a miracle. To wash or clean the old icons is impossible. These experiments do not go along with that. Whether it is renewed or not. God's will is in everything. A large role was played by the atmosphere in the home and the faith of the people who live there", said the priest.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
By St. John Chrysostom
Inasmuch, then, as you have now shaken off despondency, we are desirous to recall you to the recollection of former matters; so that our discourse may be rendered the clearer to you. For what we said of the creation, that God not only made it beautiful, and wonderful, and vast, but also weak and corruptible; and moreover that He has established various proofs of this; ordering both these circumstances for our advantage; leading us on by its beauty to admiration of Him who framed it: and by its weakness leading us away from the worship of the creature; this we may see, take place also in the case of the body. For with respect to this too there are many among the enemies to the truth, as well as among those who belong to our own ranks, who make it a subject of enquiry, why it was created corruptible and frail? Many also of the Greeks and heretics affirm, that it was not even created by God. For they declare it to be unworthy of God's creative art, and enlarge upon its impurities, its sweat, its tears, its labours, and sufferings, and all the other incidents of the body. But, for my part, when such things are talked of, I would first make this reply. Tell me not of man, fallen, degraded and condemned. But if you would learn what manner of body God formed us with at the first, let us go to Paradise, and survey the Man that was created at the beginning. For that body was not thus corruptible and mortal; but like as some statue of gold just brought from the furnace, that shines splendidly, so that frame was free from all corruption. Labour did not trouble it, nor sweat deface it. Cares did not conspire against it; nor sorrows besiege it; nor was there any other affection of that kind to distress it. But when man did not bear his felicity with moderation, but threw contempt upon his Benefactor, and thought a deceiving demon more worthy of credit than God who cared for him, and who had raised him to honour, and when he expected to become himself a god, and conceived thoughts above his proper dignity, then—then indeed it was that God, to humble him by decisive acts, made him mortal, as well as corruptible; and fettered him with such varied necessities; not from hatred or aversion, but in care for him, and to repress at the very outset that evil and destructive pride; and instead of permitting it to proceed any further, He admonished Him by actual experience, that he was mortal and corruptible; thus to convince him that he must never again think or dream of such things as he had done. For the devil's suggestion, was, "You shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). Desiring then utterly to eradicate this idea, God made the body subject to much suffering and disease; to instruct him by its very nature that he must never again entertain such a thought. And that this is true, is really most evident from what befell him; for after such an expectation, he was condemned to this punishment. Consider also with me the wisdom of God in this matter. He did not allow him to be the first to die, but permitted his Son to suffer this death; in order that seeing before his eyes the body corrupting and decaying, he might receive a striking lesson of wisdom from that spectacle; and learn what had come to pass, and be duly chastened before he departed hence.
But why do you marvel if this has happened in respect to the body, when even with respect to the soul it is plain, that a similar thing has taken place. For God made it not mortal, but permitted it to be immortal; He constituted it however subject to forgetfulness, to ignorance, to sadness, and to care; and this, lest regarding its own nobility of birth, it might take up a conceit too high for its proper dignity. For if, even while the case stands thus, some have dared to aver, that it is of the Divine essence; to what a pitch of frenzy would they not have reached, if it had been devoid of these imperfections? What, however, I affirmed respecting the creation, I affirm also respecting the body, that both these things alike excite my admiration of God; that He has made it corruptible; and that in its very corruptibility, He has manifested His own power and wisdom. For that He could have made it of some better material, He has evidenced from the celestial and the solar substance. For He that made those such as they are, could have made this also like them, had He thought proper to do so. But the cause of its imperfection is what I before adverted to. This circumstance by no means lowers the admiration due to the Creator's workmanship, but rather increases it; for the meanness of the substance, manifests the resource and adaptiveness of His art; since He has introduced such a harmony of parts in clay and ashes, and senses so various and manifold and capable of such spiritual wisdom.
In proportion, therefore, as you find fault with the meanness of the substance, be so much the more astonished at the greatness of the art displayed. For this reason also, I do not so much admire the statuary who forms a beautiful figure out of gold, as him who, by the resources of art, is able, even in crumbling clay, to exhibit a marvellous and inimitable mould of beauty. In the former case, the material gives some aid to the artist, but in the latter, there is a naked display of his art. Would you learn then, how great the wisdom of the Creator is, consider what it is that is made out of clay? What else is there but brick and tile? Nevertheless, God, the Supreme Artist, from the same material of which only the brick and tile is formed, has been able to make an eye so beautiful, as to astonish all who behold it, and to implant in it such power, that it can at once survey the high aerial expanse, and by the aid of a small pupil embrace the mountains, forests, hills, the ocean, yea, the heaven, by so small a thing! Tell me not then of tears and rheums, for these things are the fruit of your sin; but consider its beauty, and visual power; and how it is that while it ranges over such an expanse of air, it experiences no weariness or distress! The feet indeed become tired and weakened even after going but a small distance; but the eye, in traversing a space so lofty and so wide, is not sensible of any infirmity. For since this is the most necessary to us of all our members, He has not suffered it to be oppressed with fatigue; in order that the service it renders us might be free and unfettered.
But rather, I should say, what language is fully adequate to set forth the whole excellency of this member? And why do I speak of the pupil and the visual faculty? For if you were to investigate that which seems the meanest of all the members, I mean the eyelashes, you would behold even in these the manifold wisdom of God the Creator! For as it is with respect to the ears of grain; the beards, standing forth as a sort of spears, repel the birds, and do not suffer them to settle upon the fruits, and to break the stalk, which is too tender to bear them; so also is it with regard to the eyes. The hairs of the eyelids are ranged in front, and answer the purpose of beards and spears; keeping dust and light substances at a distance from the eyes, and any thing that might incommode the sight; and not permitting the eyelids to be annoyed. Another instance of wisdom, no less remarkable, is to be observed in eyebrows. Who can help being struck by their position? For they do not project to an immoderate degree, so as to obscure the sight; nor do they retire farther back than is fitting; but in the same manner as the eaves of a house, they stand out above, receiving the perspiration as it descends from the forehead, and not permitting it to annoy the eyes. For this purpose too there is a growth of hair upon them, which serves by its roughness to stay what descends from above, and affords the exact protection that is needed, and contributes also much appearance of beauty to the eyes. Nor is this the only matter of wonder! There is another thing also which is equally so. How is it, I ask, that the hairs of the head increase, and are cut off; but those of the eyebrows, not so? For not even this has happened undesignedly, or by chance, but in order that they might not darken the sight too much by becoming very long; an inconvenience from which those suffer who have arrived at extreme old age.
And who could possibly trace out all the wisdom which is manifested by means of the brain! For, in the first place, He made it soft, since it serves as a fountain to all the senses. Next, in order that it might not suffer injury owing to its peculiar nature, He fortified it on every side with bones. Further; that it might not suffer from friction, by the hardness of the bones, He interposed a middle membrane: and not only a single one, but also a second; the former being spread out on the under side of the skull, but the latter enveloping the upper substance of the brain, and the first being the harder of the two. And this was done, both for the cause that has been mentioned, and in order that the brain might not be the first to receive the blows inflicted upon the head; but that these membranes first encountering them, might free it from all injury, and preserve it unwounded. Moreover, that the bone which covers the brain is not a single and continuous one, but has many sutures on every side, is a circumstance which contributes much to its security. For a ventilation of the vapours that surround it may easily take place outward through these sutures, so as to prevent it from being suffocated; and if a blow should be inflicted upon it, on any particular point, the damage does not extend to the whole. For if the bone had been one and continuous, the stroke even when it fell upon one part, only, would have injured the whole; but now, by its being divided into many parts, this can never happen. For if one part should chance to be wounded, only the bone that is situated near that part receives injury, but all the rest remain unhurt; the continuity of the stroke being intercepted by the division of the bones, and being unable to extend itself to the adjacent parts. By reason of this God has constructed a covering for the brain of many bones; and just as when one builds a house, he lays on a roof, and tiles upon the upper part, so God has placed these bones above upon the head, and has provided that the hairs should shoot forth, and serve as a kind of cap for it.
The very same thing also He has done with regard to the heart. For inasmuch as the heart has preeminence over all the members in our body, and that the supreme power over our whole life is entrusted to it, and death happens when it receives but a slight blow; He has fenced it about on every side with stiff and hard bones, surrounding it by the protection of the breast-bone before, and the blade-bones behind. And what He did with respect to the membranes of the brain, He has done in this instance also. For in order that it might not be rubbed and pained in striking against the hard bones which encompass it, in the throbbing and quick pulsation to which it is subject in anger and similar affections, He both interposed many membranes there, and placed the lungs by the side of it to act the part of a soft bed to these pulsations, so that the heart may break its force on these without sustaining injury or distress.
But why do I speak of the heart, and of the brain, when if any one will investigate even the very nails, he will see the manifold wisdom of God displayed in these; as well by their form, as by their substance and position. I might also have mentioned why our fingers are not all equal, and many other particulars besides; but to those who are inclined to attend, the wisdom of God Who created us, will be sufficiently clear from what has been said. Wherefore, leaving this department to be investigated with diligence by those who are desirous of the task, I shall turn myself to another objection.
From Homily 11 of On the Statues.
By Gil Dodgen
Everyone has a religion, a raison d’être, and mine was once Dawkins’. I had the same disdain for people of faith that he does, only I could have put him to shame with the power and passion of my argumentation.
But something happened. As a result of my equally passionate love of science, logic, and reason, I realized that I had been conned. The creation story of my atheistic, materialistic religion suddenly made no sense.
This sent a shock wave through both my mind and my soul. Could it be that I’m not just the result of random errors filtered by natural selection? Am I just the product of the mindless, materialistic processes that “only legitimate scientists” all agree produced me? Does my life have any ultimate purpose or meaning? Am I just a meat-machine with no other purpose than to propagate my “selfish genes”?
Ever since I was a child I thought about such things, but I put my blind faith in the “scientists” who taught me that all my concerns were irrelevant, that science had explained, or would eventually explain, everything in purely materialistic terms.
But I’m a freethinker, a legitimate scientist. I follow the evidence wherever it leads. And the evidence suggests that the universe and living systems are the product of an astronomically powerful creative intelligence.
Read also: Are Those Without Formal Academic Training in Evolutionary Biology Justified in Challenging the “Experts”?
Friday, September 23, 2011
3.93 & 27: The clean nous sometimes God himself comes into and teaches, sometimes the holy angelic powers suggest the right things, sometimes the vision of the nature of things.... But to participate or not in His goodness and wisdom, depends to the will of the creatures who have reason.
3.79: Do not dishonor your conscience, perfectly instructing you always. Because she suggests you the divine and angelic opinion, she sets you free from the hidden infections of the heart and she gives you uprightness before God when you depart.
3.80: If you've known yourself, you will understand many, great and wonderful things. Because, thinking that you know doesn't let you progress in knowing.
1.95: The sun of righteousness, rising into the clean nous, reveals himself and the reasons of all that He created and will create.
4.61: Love defeats those three: self-deception, because she is not proud; interior envy, because she is not jealous; exterior envy, because she is generous and serene.
4.70: All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are inside our hearts hidden.
1.31: Faith without love does not act in the soul the illumination of the divine knowledge.
3.97: When the nous receives the ideas of things, by its nature is transformed according to each and every idea. If it sees the things spiritually, is transfigured in many ways according to each vision. But if the nous becomes in God, then it becomes totally shapeless and formless, because seeing Him who has one face it comes to have one face and then the whole mind becomes a face of light.
From On Love.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
By St. Gregory of Nyssa
But what means the uprightness of man's figure? And why is it that those powers which aid life do not naturally belong to his body? But man is brought into life bare of natural covering, an unarmed and poor being, destitute of all things useful, worthy, according to appearances, of pity rather than of admiration, not armed with prominent horns or sharp claws, nor with hoofs nor with teeth, nor possessing by nature any deadly venom in a sting, - things such as most animals have in their own power for defence against those who do them harm: his body is not protected with a covering of hair: and yet possibly it was to be expected that he who was promoted to rule over the rest of the creatures should be defended by nature with arms of his own so that he might not need assistance from others for his own security. Now, however, the lion, the boar, the tiger, the leopard, and all the like have natural power sufficient for their safety: and the bull has his horn, the hare his speed, the deer his leap and the certainty of his sight, and another beast has bulk, others a proboscis, the birds have their wings, and the bee her sting, and generally in all there is some protective power implanted by nature: but man alone of all is slower than the beasts that are swift of foot, smaller than those that are of great bulk, more defenceless than those that are protected by natural arms; and how, one will say, has such a being obtained the sovereignty over all things?
Well, I think it would not be at all hard to show that what seems to be a deficiency of our nature is a means for our obtaining dominion over the subject creatures. For if man had had such power as to be able to outrun the horse in swiftness, and to have a foot that, from its solidity, could not be worn out, but was strengthened by hoofs or claws of some kind, and to carry upon him horns and stings and claws, he would be, to begin with, a wild-looking and formidable creature, if such things grew with his body: and moreover he would have neglected his rule over the other creatures if he had no need of the co-operation of his subjects; whereas now, the needful services of our life are divided among the individual animals that are under our sway, for this reason to make our dominion over them necessary.
It was the slowness and difficult motion of our body that brought the horse to supply our need, and tamed him: it was the nakedness of our body that made necessary our management of sheep, which supplies the deficiency of our nature by its yearly produce of wool: it was the fact that we import from others the supplies for our living which subjected beasts of burden to such service: furthermore, it was the fact that we cannot eat grass like cattle which brought the ox to render service to our life, who makes our living easy for us by his own labour; and because we needed teeth and biting power to subdue some of the other animals by grip of teeth, the dog gave, together with his swiftness, his own jaw to supply our need, becoming like a live sword for man; and there has been discovered by men iron, stronger and more penetrating than prominent horns or sharp claws, not, as those things do with the beasts, always growing naturally with us, but entering into alliance with us for the time, and for the rest abiding by itself: and to compensate for the crocodile's scaly hide, one may make that very hide serve as armour, by putting it on his skin upon occasion: or, failing that, art fashions iron for this purpose too, which, when it has served him for a time for war, leaves the man-at-arms once more free from the burden in time of peace: and the wing of the birds, too, ministers to our life, so that by aid of contrivance we are not left behind even by the speed of wings: for some of them become tame and are of service to those who catch birds, and by their means others are by contrivance subdued to serve our needs:. moreover art contrives to make our arrows feathered, and by means of the bow gives us for our needs the speed of wings: while the fact that our feet are easily hurt and worn in travelling makes necessary the aid which is given by the subject animals: for hence it comes that we fit shoes to our feet.
From The Making of Man, Ch. 7:1.
By St. Basil the Great
Love for God can not be taught. No one taught us to enjoy the light nor to want life, nor anyone else taught us to love our parents or those who raised us.
Similarly or rather much more, knowledge of divine love does not come from outside. But in the same time when man was composed, a seminal reason was deposited in us, which has by itself the causes of appropriating love....
Only the good is properly beautiful and lovable. God is good. Everything loves good, therefore, everything loves God.... To be alienated and to depart from God is unbearable, even more than the fire of hell....
From The Long Rules, Rule 2.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
Perhaps it was this Saint [Eustathios] to whom is addressed the saying which the divine Chrysostom wrote: "None of the grievous things which are in this present life can fix their fangs upon that lofty soul, which is truly philosophic, neither enmity, nor accusations, nor slanders, nor dangers, nor plots. It flies for refuge as it were to a mighty fortress, securely defended there against all that attack it from this lower earth" (Homily 3 On Phillipians). He also says: "For this too is a thing in which it behooves the Christian to differ from the unbelievers, the bearing all things nobly; and through hope of the future, soaring above the attack of human evils" (Homily 2 On the Statues).
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Read also: Holy and Great-Martyr Eustathios Plakidas With His Wife and Children of Rome
By Anna Kuksa
I once met a holy man in the Nyack church that I attended with my family. At the time, I was a little girl and did not realize it. Neither did a lot of people, not for another 30 years or so.
He was a Bishop and was visiting from San Francisco. After the liturgy, as customary, I kissed the cross and his hand. This in itself was a great blessing, a blessing that has been with me ever since. I distinctly remember the round, black glasses he wore and how his head tilted every so slightly to the right. He exuded an aura of peace and didn’t frighten me in the manner that most priests and bishops did.
Originally, the man’s name was Mikhail Maximovitch. He was born in Russia and moved to Belgrade after the Russian Revolution. Many Russians fled the Communist regime: some, as was the case of my family waited longer, others left sooner.
In Belgrade as a young man, Mikhail felt the pull to church life and he pursued and graduated with a degree in theology from the university. Soon after, he became a monk and took the name John. Eventually, he was transferred to China and assumed the role of the Bishop of Shanghai. Many Russian expatriates had fled to China and as a result, they needed a leader. In 1962, Bishop John came to America when he was assigned to San Francisco.
There was a lot of drama in church politics that I won’t mention, but suffice it to say that drama is a part of life.
Bishop John was a living saint, not eating or sleeping much, spending his time praying and doing good deeds. His fasting and prayer and worked miracles: there were many instances of healings by Bishop John while he was alive and even more miraculous events after his death. People witnessed how he appeared in two places at once, how he floated in the air and had a glowing light around his body, especially after Easter services.
By his own prediction, he died on July 2, 1966 and his body was entombed in a sepulcher in The Cathedral of the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow in San Francisco.
I visited this magnificent Russian cathedral on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco on a trip to California in 1988.
The tomb was underneath the church and even though it was below ground, the room was bright, lit by burning candles on the stands that stood around the sepulcher. The burning incense filled my lungs as I crossed myself and bent over to kiss the cold granite of his tomb. Silently, I said my prayer and asked the Bishop to intercede on my behalf with the Divine. My prayer was not for myself, and, I can assure you that to this day, it remains answered. Many other supplications were answered as well.
I was not the only one whose prayer was answered. Many Russian Orthodox persons, both here in America and abroad, petitioned the Russian Orthodox Church to consider sainthood for Bishop John. In 1994, after much study, the Church canonized him. His sepulcher was opened and it was discovered that his body was incorrupt, meaning that it had not decomposed despite the fact that the body had not been embalmed.
In 1994, I returned to San Francisco and witnessed the glorification along with hundreds of others. It was a glorious, once in a lifetime event. Although the services were long, I did not tire and afterwards, I paid my respects to wonderworker Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco. His body now rests in a glass tomb, in the Cathedral upstairs.
I realize that some don’t recognize saints and there are even fewer who are fortunate to meet one in their lifetime. All I can say is that some souls are more advanced than others in the spiritual sense and their life’s mission is devoted to prayer, helping and serving others. In serving others, they serve the Divine.
What you may not realize, either, is that all of us have the potential.
September 16, 2011
The new Very Short Introduction to Paganism (Oxford, £7.99) would be scarcely a pamphlet if it was confined to paganism lived as a religion in the modern world. Wicca, the most popular form, goes back as far as 1948.
In that year Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) turned his attentions from the magic of the Ordo Templi Orientis (represented by Aleister “The Beast” Crowley, pictured) and devoted himself to the witchcraft he claimed was the old religion of Europe.
He had, he said, been initiated into a witches’ coven in the New Forest one night in 1939. Details of their secret rituals were recorded in his manuscript copy of the Book of Shadows and published in his High Magic’s Aid (1949).
These witches, so Gardner said, kept alive the fertility religion described by Margaret Murray (1863-1963) in her Witch Cult in Western Europe. Margaret Murray was by training an Egyptologist, whose knowledge of the ancient language proved of value to the archaeologist she admired, Flinders Petrie. But it was her grand theory of the survival of witchcraft that proved popular.
Those tried for witchcraft in past centuries were indeed practitioners of a secret religion, she asserted. Even Joan of Arc and Thomas Becket had been sacrificed as part of a kingship ritual intended to ensure fertility. As Owen Davies, the author of the Very Short Introduction notes, “The fundamental flaws in Murray’s thesis and research methods were clearly evident to some at the time and are to any historian today, but The Witch-Cult in Western Europe was widely embraced for decades.”
No one embraced it closer than Gerald Gardner. He furnished the supposed religion with spells supplied by Aleister Crowley and by Samuel Liddell Mathers (1854-1918). Mathers was a founder in 1888 of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the first modern occult organisation dedicated to the practice of ritual magic in Britain. It established temples (dedicated to Horus in Bradford and Osiris in Weston-super-Mare). Aleister Crowley had joined the Isis-Urania temple in London and drove Mathers to distraction by pirating his magic text, the Lesser Key of Solomon in 1904.
“No matter the depth of Gardner’s deception and invention in creating Wicca,” writes Professor Davies, “he spawned the development of a vibrant new pagan religion that would, over the next few decades, generate numerous variants and pathways under the umbrella of 'witchcraft’.”
One might mention the internet’s role in propagating Wiccan notions of religious history. Professor Davies notes that television programmes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch “normalised the idea of Wiccan magic for tens of millions of viewers, though without really portraying Wicca as a pagan religion as distinct from a mere source of spells”.
A more alarming role for resuscitated paganism in nationalist movements is exemplified by the building of a pagan altar in Vilnius for the historically fanciful Romuva movement. Worse, in Serbia was the belief that St Vitus was merely a Christianised version of the war god Vid. St Vitus Day, also that of the emblematic battle of Kosovo in 1389, became a national holiday in 1914 under the name Vidovdan. By 1996, a report submitted to the Serbian Orthodox synod spoke of “the brutal and uncompromising re-paganisation of Serbia”. It was not a myth helpful to peaceful coexistence.
The backwaters of cult mysticism remain to me a fascinating chaos of currents, from the occult philosophy of Hermes Tismegistus to Madam Blavatsky, from the druidic wicker man to the induction of Dr Rowan Williams into the Gorsedd of Bards. Their importance depends on the myths they convey and whether those myths embody truth.
Monday, September 19, 2011
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
The Fathers, speaking of the Transfiguration of Christ and the partaking of divine glory, speak of the personal ascent on the mount of the vision of God. It is the constant cry of the Church: "Make Thine everlasting light shine forth also upon us sinners." And in a related prayer in the first hour we feel the need to ask Christ: "O Christ, the true Light, which illumineth and sanctifieth every man who cometh in the world! Let the light of Thy countenance be shown upon us, that in it we may behold the light ineffable." Continual ascent and evolution are needed.
In the Church we speak of man's evolution, not from ape to man, but from man to God. And this "ecclesiastical theory" of evolution which the Church has, gives an understanding of life and satisfies all of man's inner and existential anxieties.
St. Maximus the Confessor teaches that Christ is not shown to all in the same way, but to beginners he is shown in the form of a servant, while to those who are ascending the mountain of the vision of God He is shown "in the form of God".
From The Twelve Feasts of the Lord, Ch. 7:17
Paul's beloved disciple was a source of unity for Catholics and Russian Orthodox last Friday, as representatives from both Churches gathered around St. Timothy's relics in Termoli, Italy.
The Orthodox delegation included Archbishop Zosimo of Elista and Bishop Aristarh of Kemerovo.
The papal nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, also attended the event, recalling his long tenure as the nuncio in Russia. The local bishop, Gianfranco De Luca, welcomed the group.
The delegations are developing a plan for Bishop De Luca to take the Saint's skull to Russia for Orthodox Lent, while an Orthodox bishop will lead the delegation that will return the relic to Termoli. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will finalize the plan.
Bishop De Luca gave the Orthodox bishops two small relics of St. Timothy, while his Orthodox guests presented him with an icon and a relic of St. Seraphim.
St. Timothy's relics were discovered in 1945 during restoration to the Basilica Cathedral of Termoli.
For many years, the relics had been concealed to keep them safe, so much so that awareness of the saint's resting place was forgotten, even by local residents.
The small niche was discovered with a marble tile, reading "Here rests Blessed Timothy disciple of the Apostle Paul."
His skull had always been kept in a private chapel apart.
A 1977 book on the Diocese of Termoli relates that Timothy's relics were taken to the city by a count returning from the crusades. This information is not corroborated in historical texts, but what is known is that the relics were hidden in 1239 about three feet from the cathedral floor.
There are no documents that attest explicitly to the translation of the relics from the East to the Adriatic city, but it has not been disputed. In 1947, this account was upheld by the Historical Commission of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
We make a distinction between Clergy and laymen. That there is such a distinction and it belongs to the whole Tradition of the Church, no one can deny. But on this point too we cannot overvalue one category at the expense of the other. Nothing of the sort constitutes the Orthodox mindset. Nor can we consider that only the Clergy are obligated to keep all the Laws and Traditions of the Church, while the laymen have some mitigations. It is a fact that the Clergy have more duties and obligations in relation to salvation and other things, but all have the duty to keep God's Law.
We can say that the Church's system of government is synodal. This should not be interpreted in the sense of democracy. Some people say that the Church's system of government is democratic. This is not so, because there is a distinction of gifts and ministries. The Church's system of government is synodical, in the sense of hierarchy; that is to say, it is hierarchical. This is seen in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians. The Apostle says: "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28). Thus there is a hierarchy in the Church. Each person knows his gift, fulfills the service which God assigned, and all work together for the edification of the Body of Christ. The image of the Body of Christ is very characteristic!
The Clergy are ordained to serve and minister to the people. It is a gift from God for someone to shepherd, and it is a gift to be shepherded towards one's salvation. Moreover, the basis of the sacramental priesthood is what is called spiritual priesthood, which laymen too can have. Everyone can have spiritual priesthood, because it is connected with the whole spiritual life, which is experienced through both the Sacraments and asceticism. According to the Fathers, the person has spiritual priesthood who has developed his noetic energy, and of course, who prays for the whole world. And we know that this spiritual priesthood will make a man worthy of enjoying the Kingdom of God.
Thus there should be no quarrel between Clergy and laymen. The Clergy receive the priesthood as a ministry and a sacrifice on the cross and the laymen accept the Clergy as fathers in order to be reborn into a new life.
I shall not go on to mention further distinctions which, unfortunately, we make in our spiritual and ecclesiastical life. The malevolent man, who is split, splits up the united life of the Church. As far as a man is impure, so far he is also in pieces; as far as he is purified of passion so far he is catholic. He is made catholic when he knows and experiences the whole truth. The whole way of life, which we see in the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, is valid for all men. We can all attain deification.
We must make a constant effort to reach the catholic way of life, to experience the catholicity of the Church.
One of the best ways to interpret the Orthodox position on a matter is to see how it is depicted in its artistic and liturgical life. When it comes to certain Ancient Greek writers and philosophers, many are honored with iconographic depictions that are usually only allowed in the narthex of churches and depicted without halos of sanctification. These can be seen especially in northern Greece in places like Ioannina and even Mount Athos (Vatopaidi, Great Lavra, etc.). These frescoes were initially done during the Turkish occupation, and since Secret Schools gathered in the narthex of churches for the education of Greek Christians, ancient writers were portrayed to aid in their education.
One example of such iconography can be viewed in the frescoes adorning Great Meteoron Monastery in Meteora, Greece. They can be seen prior to entering the church. Depicted are Solon, Sybil, Socrates, Plutarch, Homer, Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle. Next to them is St. Justin the Philosopher with a halo, because he was a holy Christian and died a martyrs death in the second century.
Read also: Byzantine Frescoes of Ancient Philosophers
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
Unfortunately, we make a split between the grace-bearers, between monks and missionaries. Some think that the monks by their praying do not achieve any work in society, and others undervalue the missionary effort which other Christians make.
However, things are not so simple. Many are the gifts which the Holy Spirit gives for the building up of the Body of Christ. We must value and accept the gifts which are given by the Holy Spirit. To undervalue one gift is blasphemy, according to St. Symeon the New Theologian.
At another point in his teaching St. Symeon the New Theologian says that many people regarded the desert life as blessed, some the coenobitic life, and for others blessedness was to govern the people, to legislate, teach and establish Churches: "But I would not wish to give preference to any of these states or exalt one type of life and discredit another. In all walks of life, whatever our work and activities, blessed is the life lived for God and according to God".
It is not a matter of the work we do in the Church, but of whether we do it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whether we perform it in the fear of God and whether we are aiming at the glory of God. Then, whatever this work is, it is blessed and will have eternal results. Otherwise our work will be burned (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
We create a distinction between the Monasteries and the Parishes. Usually we create conflicts and splits between these two centres of life.
But in Orthodoxy we say that there is a relationship between the Parishes and the Monasteries. St. John Chrysostom urges his listeners to visit the Monasteries to see the earthly angels, as he calls the monks, so that then they can live a sound community and family life.
The Monastery and the Parish are the two centres of Christian life. The Monasteries are nourished by the Parishes, and then they help the Parishes in their way. St. Kosmas the Aitolian grew spiritually mature on the Holy Mountain and then became a great missionary. St. Nektarios of Pentapolis created a Monastery, and through this Monastery he helped the people. To honor St. Nektarios and criticize monasticism, in which he lived, does not constitute an Orthodox ethos; it is a splitting of the catholicity of the Church and a spiritual schizophrenia.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Historical Developments and Future Prospects
By Fr. Maximos, Monastery of Simonopetra
In 'Annual Report 2007' of the Friends of Mount Athos, pp. 17-34
It is the general consensus that those who are called to monastic life are not drawn to institutions, but rather to particular individuals in whom they sense the presence of God. In the words of a contemporary Athonite Abbot: 'Monastic life is a life lived with a particular person. It is not the acceptance of an ideology, or the gratification of certain longings; neither is it the application of principles found in a book. Monastic life means: I follow someone. And thus at the centre of monastic life is a particular person, and that person is the elder.' (1) In the words of Bishop Kallistos, it is the 'abba, rather than the abbey', that draws men to the Mountain. (2)
Our assessment of the past, then, and out thoughts about the future, will need to address the phenomenon of charismatic eldership, both as a factor in the revival of life on the Holy Mountain, and as the principal source of its ongoing vitality.
The Friends of Mount Athos will know that the recent revival of life on the Holy Mountain was the result of both internal and external factors. We associate the internal source of renewal with Elder Joseph the Hesychast, whose disciples, between 1972 and 1987 repopulated half a dozen monasteries. (3) Perhaps less well known are the external sources of revival, comprised of five elders and their disciples, who, between the mid-1960s and 1981, came from various places in Greece and repopulated five monasteries. (4)
My remarks in this paper will focus on one of these latter figures, namely Elder Aimilianos, abbot of Simonopetra from 1974 to 2000. I begin with a brief biographical sketch, after which my frame of reference will be the extraordinary religious experience that the elder had in the winter of 1961, shortly after his monastic tonsure and ordination to the priesthood. We are fortunate to possess a written account of that event, which we shall look at rather closely. As we shall see, this was an experience that transformed the elder personally and became the archetype for the innovative vision of monastic life that he put into practice at Simonopetra.
In recasting the framework of an Athonite monastery in the fire of mystical experience, the elder skillfully combined the communal, liturgically oriented monasticism of the great Athonite cloisters with the solitary hesychasterion, of the outlying sketes and cells. The result was a synthesis of personal prayer and corporate adoration that continues to give Simonopetra much of its distinctive character and feel. My paper concludes with some thoughts about the future of this synthesis, the survival of which depends on the choices we make in the present, and thus we will say a word about the elder's emphasis on the role of freedom in the spiritual life.
Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra
Elder Aimilianos (Alexandros Vapheides) was born in Piraeus, in October of 1934. (5) He took a degree in theology from the University of Athens in 1959, after which he considered ordination to the priesthood, with the intention of becoming a foreign missionary. He took the matter up with an old friend of his, Anastasios Yiannoulatos, (6) who was supportive, and urged the elder to prepare for such work by spending time in a monastery. Yiannoulatos told him to contact the new Bishop of Trikala, who, he believed, would be able to initiate the young man into monastic life.
Thus it was that Alexandros Vapheides was tonsured a monk on 9 December 1960 and given the name Aimilianos. Two days later, he was ordained to the diaconate, and, on 15 August of the following year (1961), he was ordained to the priesthood. After he had spent brief periods of time at various monasteries in the region of Meteora, the bishop finally placed him in the Monastery of St Vissarion, in the foothills of the Pindus Mountains. There he seems to have had a kind of spiritual crisis, followed by a profound religious experience,, which radically transformed him and left its mark on all his subsequent work.
Like the dramatic conversion of St Paul, the elder emerged from that experience a different man, supremely energized, and single-mindedly dedicated to the revitalization of monastic life. In the wake of that momentous event, the elder was appointed abbot of Meteora, and given additional duties as diocesan preacher and confessor. He was a brilliant, mesmerizing speaker, and soon took the region captive, especially its young people, who flocked to hear him in great numbers. Many of them were attracted to monastic life with the elder, and the first tonsures took place in 1963. Others followed in rapid succession, and the young abbot was soon the head of a large and dynamic community. The growing pressure of tourism, however, made life at Meteora increasingly difficult, and thus in 1973 the elder, along with all of his monks and novices, accepted an invitation from the government of Mount Athos to repopulate the Monastery of Simonopetra.
The character and meaning of all these events, however, only become clear in light of the elder's life-changing religious experience. Let us now turn to that decisive moment and consider it in detail.
To begin, it seems clear that the elder's sojourn at the Monastery of St Vissarion was a time of trial and testing. We can be fairly certain that he felt no great calling to monastic life, which for him was simply a stepping stone to ordination and missionary work. He was a bright, energetic young man with a future, and he was not about to spend the rest of his life in a run-down monastery in Thessaly. His monastic colleagues, moreover, offered him little inspiration, and it was not long before he was making plans to continue his studies in Germany. His bishop, however, would not hear of it, and told him that, for the foreseeable future, he was not going anywhere. This was, then, a difficult time, marked by increasing isolation, a sense of loss, and perhaps disillusionment. It was followed, however, by a life-transforming event of enormous magnitude. What exactly happened? The elder's disciple and successor, Archimandrite Elisaios, tells us the following:
"At the Monastery [of St Vissarion], Fr. Aimilianos was granted a revelation of the monastic life, or rather, a profound mystical experience of the light of God, which inundated him at the hour of the Liturgy. Henceforth, his every Divine Liturgy, prepared for by a long vigil, was a sublime experience of God's glory [...]. As a result, he resolutely made up his mind to partake of the ascetic tradition rather than to assume ecclesiastical duties in the world." (7)
A more detailed description of what happened is provided by the elder himself, in a story he told before a large, public audience in 1983. The story is allegedly about a 'certain monk he once knew', although it is in fact an account of the mystical experience that forms the central chapter in the elder's spiritual biography. As we shall see, it was an event that transformed a twenty-seven-year-old priest monk into a charismatic elder, and which would dramatically alter the structure and organization of life at Simonopetra. (8)
The 'Story of a Certain Monk'
Permit me to tell you [runs the story] about a certain monk I once knew. Just as all of us have moments of difficulty, he too was passing through a very critical period of his life. The devil had cast fire into his brain, and wanted to strip him of his monastic dignity, and make him a miserable seeker of alleged truth. His soul roared like breaking waves, and he sought deliverance from his distress. From time to time, he remembered the Prayer of the Heart, but it resounded only weakly within him, because he had no faith in it. His immediate surroundings were of no help. Everything was negative. His heart was about to break. How wretched man becomes when he is beset by problems! And who among us has not known such terrible days, such dark nights, and agonizing trials?
Our monk did not know what to do. Walks did nothing for him. The night stifled him. And one night, gasping for air, he threw open the window of his cell in order to take a deep breath. It was dark - about three o'clock in the morning. In his great weariness, he was about to close the window, hoping to get at least a few moments of rest. At that very moment, however, it was as if everything around him - even the darkness outside - had become light! He looked to see where such light might be coming from, but it was coming from nowhere. The darkness, which has no existence of its own, had become light, although his heart remained in the dark. And when he turned around, he saw that his cell had also become light! (9) He examined the lamp to see if the light was coming from there, but that one, small oil lamp could not become light itself, neither could it make all things light!
Although his heart was not yet illumined, he did have a certain hope. Overcome with surprise and moved by this hope, but without being fully aware of what he was doing, he went out into the back courtyard of the monastery, which had often seemed to him like hell. He went out into the silence, into the night. Everything was clear as day. Nothing was hidden in the darkness. Everything was in the light: the wooden beams and the windows, the church, the ground he walked on, the sky, the spring of water which flowed continuously, the crickets, the fireflies, the birds of the night - everything was visible, everything! And the stars came down and the sky lowered itself, and it seemed to him that everything - earth and sky - had become like heaven! (10) And everything together was chanting the prayer [i.e., of the heart], everything was saying the prayer. (11) And his heart strangely opened and began to dance; it began to beat and take part involuntarily in the same prayer; his feet barely touched the ground.
He did not know how he opened the door and entered the church, or when he had vested; he did not know when the other monks arrived, or when the Liturgy began. What exactly happened he did not know. Gone was the ordinary connection of things, and he knew only that he was standing before the altar, before the invisibly present God, celebrating the Liturgy. And striking, as it were, the keys of both his heart and the altar, his voice resounded above, to the altar beyond the heavens. (12) The Liturgy continued. The Gospel was read. The light was no longer all around him, but had built its nest within his heart. The Liturgy ended, but the song that had begun in his heart was endless. In his ecstasy, he saw that heaven and earth sing this prayer without ceasing, and that the monk truly lives only when he is animated by it. For this to happen, he needs only to cease living for himself.
1. Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Commentary on the Ascetic Discourses of Abba Isaiah (Athens: Indiktos, 2005), 2 (in Greek). In subsequent footnotes, the following abbreviations will be used: Arch. = Archimandrite; KL = Katecheseis kai Logoi, 5 vols (Ormylia, 1995-2003); SIAD = Elder Aimilianos, Spiritual Instructions and Discourses, vol 1 (Ormylia, 1999), followed by volume and page number(s).
2. Bishop Kallistos Ware, 'Wolves and Monks: Life on the Holy Mountain Todday', Sobornost 5.2 (1983): 64; cf. id., 'One thing at any rate is beyond dispute: a crucial factor [in the Athonite "reawakening"] has been the presence on the Mountain of elders endowed with gifts of spiritual fatherhood and capable of attracting and guiding disciples', in Elder Joseph the Hesychast (Mount Athos, 1999), 18; and Alexander Golitzen: 'Outstanding elders are certainly the sine qua non of the contemporary Athonite revival', The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 1996), 18.
3. As follows: (i) Fr Ephraim to Philotheou (1972; (ii) Fr Charalambos to Dionysiou (1980); (iii) Fr Joseph to Vatopaidi (1987); (iv) Fr Philotheos to Karakalou (1980); (v) Fr. Ephraim (+1984) to Xeropotamou (1980); (vi) Fr Agathon to Konstamonitou (1980).
4. As follows: (i) Arch. Vasileios of Stavronikita (1968; Iveron 1990); (ii) Arch. Aimilianos of Simonopetra (from Meteora, 1973); (iii) Arch. George of Gregoriou (from Evia, 1974); (iv) Arch. Alexios of Xenophontos (from Meteora, 1976); (v) Arch. Gregorios of Docheiariou (from Patmos [Kouvari], 1971). On the renewal of life on the Holy Mountain, see: Makarios of Simonopetra, 'Iosiph ;'Esicasta e il Rinnovamento Contemporaneo della Santa Montagna', in Atanasio e il Monachesimo del Monte Athos (Bose, 2005), 245-74; George Mantzarides, 'Joseph the Hesychast and the Revival of Athonite Monasticism', in id., Travelogue of Theological Anthropology (Mount Athos, 2005), 174-88 (in Greek); Graham Speake, Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); George Sideropoulos, 'Agin and Renewal of the Athonite Community during the Last Century', in id., Mount Athos: Studies in Human Geography (Athens: Kastaniotis, 2000), 145-55 (in Greek); and Golitzen, Living Witness, 13-20. For a detailed photographic documentary of the renewal, covering the period from 1972 to 1996, see: Douglas Lyttle, Miracle on the Monastery Mountain (Pittsford, NY, 2002).
5. To date, published material concerning the life of our elder is limited, but see the biographical sketch by Hieromonk Serapion, 'Outline of a Life', and the essay by Arch. Elisaios, 'The Monastic Ladder of Elder Aimilianos', in Synaxis Eucharistias: A Volume in Honor of Elder Aimilianos (Athens: Indiktos, 2003), 29-38; 17-28 (in Greek); 'Outlines of a Life' was reprinted in the magazine Pemptousia 14 (2004): 107-14, along with sixteen photographs of the elder taken at different stages in his career. See also Arch. Elisaios, 'The Spiritual Tradition of Simonopetra', in Mount Athos the Sacred Bridge: The Spirituality of the Holy Mountain, ed. Dimitri Conomos and Graham Speake (Bern: Peter Lang, 2005), 181-99 (previously published in Sourozh 90 : 1-14); and, in the same volume, Alexander Golitzen, 'Topos Theou: The Monastic Elder as Theologian and as Theology: An Appreciation of Arch. Aimilianos', 201-42. Further information concerning the elder's life and work as a monastic leader can be gleaned from the pages of Simonopetra: Mount Athos (Athens: Hellenic Industrial Development Bank, 1991); and Ormylia: The Holy Coenobium of the Annunciation (Athens: Indiktos, 1992).
6. Currently the Archbishop of Albania.
7. 'Spiritual Tradition of Simonopetra', 189.
8. The 'Story of a Certain Monk' has had a slightly complicated history of transmission and publication. It was first told in the context of a talk ('The Prayer of the Holy Mountain: Yesterday and Today'), given by Elder Aimilianos, on 24 April 1983 in the Metropolis of Drama. The English version of the story, which appears below, has been translated directly from the original 1983 recording. Note, however, that the 'Story of a Certain Monk' was not part of the elder's 1983 written text, but was delivered ex tempore, and thus it does not appear in the two earliest published versions of the talk, which were based, not on the recording, but on the written text, compare: (i) 'Le Mont Athos: écrin sacré de la prière de Jésus’, Le Messager Orthodoxe 95 (1984): 7-18; and (ii) ‘The Prayer of the Holy Mountain’, Hagioreitike Martyria 3 (1989): 123-32 (in Greek). The English translations of the talk, published in (i) SIAD 1:301-22l; and (ii) Arch. Aimilianos, The Church at Prayer: The Mystical Liturgy of the Heart (Athens: Indiktos, 2005), 45-63, are based on the 1995 Greek transcription (= KL 1:351-76), which, in certain instances, does not accurately represent the 1983 recording. A more accurate translation is available in: ‘La Prière de la Sainte Montagne’, in Le Sceau Véritable, Catécheses et Discours, vol 1 (Ormylia: Éditions Ormylia, 1998), 309-31.
9. Compare St. Gregory of Nyssa, Funeral Oration on his Brother Basil the Great: 'One night there appeared to Basil an outpouring of light, and, by means of divine power, the entire dwelling was illuminated by an immaterial light, having no source in anything material' (PG 46.809C).
10. The 'descent of the stars', and the subsequent union of heaven and earth (resulting in the 'celestialization' of the terrestrial), is a kind of hieros gamos (sacred wedding), which eliminates the distance between heaven and earth, and embodies definitively what was predestined and pre-existent within God, namely the Divine Word/Name uttered in the Prayer of Jesus, to which one may compare the 'holy city of Jerusalem' descending to earth 'out of heaven from God in the splendor of the glory of God' (Rev 21.10).
11. The main ideas in this paragraph bear comparison with Elder Aimilianos's 1973 remarks on Ps 18.1: 'The Heavens declare the glory of God (KL 3:210-11; 216-17; 224), which deal with the question of divine revelation in and through creation. In what seems an allusion to the courtyard experience, the elder notes that the 'awesome light, which reveals God as He is - the night which reveals the silent revelation of God - and the mystical "speeches and words" (o.e., the laliai and logoi of Ps 18.4) emphasized by Scripture: all of these things fill the world, and you think you're hearing a single voice which speaks about God.' In a related passage, the elder associates Ps 150 (i.e., the lauds of Matins) with mystical ascent: 'I see my mind rising again, even higher, to the summit of a great spiritual mountain, from where I'll call on all creation, on "everything that has breath" (cf., Ps 150.5), to hymn the Lord. With our arms raised aloft, we'll look around and shout: "Come you plants! Come you birds! Run you rivers! Come you seas! All together, the whole of creation, the whole of nature, praise the Lord!"' (KL 2:101-102).
12. On the 'altar of the heart', compare St Maximos the Confessor, Mystagogy: 'The nave is the body, the sanctuary is the soul, and the altar is the intellect (nous)' (PG 672BC); St. Isaac the Syrian: 'You have made my nature a sanctuary for Your hiddenness and a tabernacle for Your mysteries, a place where You can dwell, and a holy temple for Your divinity' (trans. S. Brock, The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life [Kalamazoo, 1987], 349); St Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines 112: 'To eat the Lamb of God upon the soul's noetic altar is not simply to apprehend Him spiritually or to participate in Him; it is also to become an image of the Lamb as He is in the age to come' (Philokalia, 4:237; cf. p. 213, no.7); St Nicholas Cabasilas, On the Life in Christ 5.9-10: 'Man is a type and image of the altar... and if he recollects himself and bends in on himself and bows down, that makes God truly dwell in the soul and makes the heart an altar. The ceremonies are signs of these things' (ed. M.-H. Congrourdeau, SC 361 [Paris: Cerf, 1990], 18; trans. C. J. deCatanzaro [Crestwood, 1974], 161-52).
Friday, September 16, 2011
The story of Mary Alexopoulou, a successful musician of the 1960's and who today is an abbess named Theonymphi (tr. Bride of God), can be divided into two parts: first as a singer until 43 years of age, and second with the life she lives now among the faithful in her monastery not far from Athens. As a servant of the Lord, she has chosen to serve Him forever.
The following are her own words from an interview, followed by videos of her as a singer and as a nun.
The Death of Her Daughter
"In the meantime I married, I had two children, two daughters, my Constantina and Eleutheria. My husband did not want me working in nightclubs so he prevented me. This was the time when I sang "Bampola" which everyone was singing and playing on the radio. After four years something went amiss with my husbands work and I had to go back out to work. This was painful for me, as I lost my flow. Further, with the money I made from the song, I started making healthy food shops that I wanted to make into a large chain. In 1984 my Constantina was 18 years old, shortly before leaving to study Political Science abroad. One morning she took the car from our house to go to the shop in Kifissia. At the turn of Agia Marina in Koropi she got into an accident with a truck. It was instantaneous. Then I realized that everything was vain. We are nothing. Only dirt."
When Mary Became Abbess Theonymphi
"In 1992 I created my hermitage. People come here from all over the world, Greeks from abroad and Cyprus. Miracles occur with children who have problems. Panagia the Theonymphi is everywhere and guards them. I do not want you to write exactly where the monastery is, because I do not open to anyone, except only on Sundays. Those who wish in their soul to come here and meet me and venerate should be sure, my child, that they will find me. As many nuns live here - novices or not - did so by their will. Half the monastery is avaton [prohibited to men]."
Life As A Singer
"My father never wanted me to have anything to do with dancing. Nor with singing. Some friends of my grandfather, who were musicians, finally convinced him. They told him: "Why do you prevent Mary? She has such a beautiful voice! Allow her to evolve through song." Eventually one of them, who played in an orchestra in the Village Taverna in Ekali, promised to take me there to sing and bring me home in the evening. My father trusted him and that's how I got started. After my first record, I went and sang at the Festival of Thessaloniki. I sang one song of Mavromoustaki with Cleo Denardou, called the "Feast". There I won, getting first prize. I also began to make a lot of money at night. Then I had little time to go to church, although I had learned to do so from my family. Inside me, however, I had great sorrow. Then I had success with a song by Katsaros at a song festival in Malta, where again we received first prize. It was a time when I heard a lot the song I sang, and everyone in the area knew me. Nonetheless, all my love songs I sang I dedicated to God, trying as much as I could to go to heaven. So much did I love Him."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Who contributed more to the saving of human lives than any other scientist? Who has been called the greatest biologist of all time? Who revolutionized medicine and public health with his discoveries? A creationist and a Christian – Louis Pasteur. Let no one claim that faith in God is detrimental to science; you need look no farther than to this great man who said, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”
Pasteur was a humble, godly Catholic who served God and his fellow man through science. If you enjoy milk that doesn’t spoil in a day, if you enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods, if you can take a quick shot and then live without fear of deadly diseases, if you enjoy a longer life than your ancestors did, you should thank the good doctor from France, because you owe much of your physical health and safety to him. But your ultimate thanks should go to the Great Physician, who taught the Israelites many principles of good health and sanitation in the Bible. Pasteur merely rediscovered and elaborated on two basic ideas from the Old Testament: (1) uncleanness causes disease, (2) life was created, and propagates after its kind. Pasteur’s discoveries sounded the death knell for centuries of evolutionary speculation.
Young Louis knew the smell of leather from his father’s tanning business. Though his father, who had fought in Napoleon’s army, sacrificed to give his son a better education than he had, Louis was considered a dull student, and vacillated between ideas for what to do with his life. According to John Hudson Tiner, who has written an excellent narrative biography of Pasteur for the Sowers Series, one of his teachers saw buried in him a spirit of determination and imagination that had the potential for greatness, and helped fan it into flame. He was sent to Paris at age 15, but his time had not yet come; his homesickness made him fumble, and he had some maturing to do. While dabbling in art and trying various subjects, he improved in determination and learned to trust God. He made it his goal to do better at the university, and the next time in Paris, honed on a dogged determination that would characterize his life, he rose to the head of his class. But when he heard a lecture on chemistry by J. B. Dumas, he found his calling. What followed was one of the most phenomenal series of major discoveries in the history of science.
Though best known for discoveries in medicine, Pasteur was a chemist. One of his early discoveries still baffles evolutionists today. While studying crystals under polarized light, he found that certain molecules come in left- and right-handed forms that are mirror-images of each other, a phenomenon now known as chirality. Even more remarkable, he found that living things use entirely one hand. Most natural substances are composed of fifty-fifty “racemic” mixtures of both hands, the “stereoisomers” of a given chiral molecule, but for some reason living things were 100% pure of one hand. Pasteur recognized this as a defining characteristic of life, and it remains a mystery to this day.
We now know that proteins, which are made up of 100% pure left-handed amino acids, could not function if they were racemic (mixtures of both hands), but how did life get started with just one hand, when both are equally probable? This appears to be a clear evidence of intelligent design, because the probability of getting just one hand in a chain of amino acids is vanishingly small, like flipping a coin and getting heads a hundred times in a row. Pasteur certainly considered this an evidence of a Creator, but today evolutionists are continuing to struggle with this observational fact, looking for some natural process that would yield even a hopeful majority to one hand or the other. To this day, none has succeeded. They know that close enough is not good enough; only a 100% pure chain would work. The problem is compounded by the discovery that RNA and DNA contain sugar molecules that are 100% right-handed.
Pasteur’s discovery of chirality is one of two major obstacles he erected in the path of evolutionary theory, obstacles that have only gotten higher over time. The early hopes of the Darwinians should have died in their tracks with discoveries of Pasteur and Mendel. Unfortunately, evolutionists persist in thinking that unguided natural forces can surmount these obstacles. Pasteur would feel at home today with the controversy over intelligent design vs naturalism, because he fought the skeptics of his day, and knew the difficulty of getting his critics to face the facts. His persistence, and the irrefutable nature of his findings, gave him eventual success. The other obstacle Pasteur raised to evolution was his law of biogenesis, the principle that only life begets life. Since the Greeks, and probably long before, philosophers and commoners believed that life could arise out of nonliving material. Is it not a common childhood observation that maggots and flies and all sorts of vermin seem to magically appear out of nowhere? The myth of spontaneous generation seems silly today, but was a common opinion throughout most of history. Leeuwenhoek opposed it with rigorous observations through his microscope, and the “macro” version of spontaneous generation eventually succumbed to the experiments of Redi and Spallanzani. (These are often used as textbook examples of the experimental method.)
In Pasteur’s day, however, a majority still believed that micro-organisms came from nonliving matter; for one thing, they seemed to proliferate rapidly even in distilled liquid; for another, there were so many varieties, they seemed almost chaotic and impossible to classify. Lastly, micro-organisms seemed very simple. It was easy to imagine them appearing without help; maybe some “vital force” gave rise to them. Experiments on both sides of the debate yielded equivocal results. Pasteur decided to enter the fray, against the advice of his peers that it would be a waste of time; but his persistence succeeding in delivering the knockout blow. He would say triumphantly, “Never again shall the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow that this one simple experiment has dealt it.” What was the experiment that gave him such confidence? It was a model of rigorous scientific method.
His opponents already knew that a sealed jar of nutrient broth would not generate life. They surmised that air contained a vital ingredient. Pasteur believed that microbes in dust, not the air itself, produced the swarms of living things. How could he create an environment open to the air, but prevent microbes in dust from getting to the broth? This problem led to his famous swan-necked flask experiment. He put a nutrient broth into a flask, then heated and shaped the neck into a horizontal S-curve open to the air. Dust containing the microbes became trapped in the curve and could not enter the broth, but the air could pass freely in and out. Pasteur demonstrated to his critics and skeptics that under these circumstances, the broth remained sterile, while flasks without the swan neck swarmed with microorganisms.
Some diehards still objected, however. They said that if the air were infested with microbes, it would form a dense fog. Pasteur responded with a series of experiments taking his flasks to a variety of environments, in the city and in the country, and even up high on Mont Blanc (where he had to endure a cold night in a miserable inn). The flasks in the city became clouded with microbes, but all but one on the high mountain were sterile. He concluded that microbe-carrying dust particles vary with elevation and pollution, but clearly it was microbes in airborne dust, not the air itself, was the source of the life that appeared to spontaneously generate in the broth. He publicly challenged his opponents to prove him wrong with rigorous experiments that excluded airborne dust, and they could not. The Academy of Sciences judged Pasteur’s observations to be “of the most perfect exactitude,”and in the end, even his bitterest critics and the most ardent advocates of spontaneous generation acquiesced. Pasteur said, “No– there is today no circumstance known in which it can be confirmed that microscopic beings have come into the world without germs, without parents similar to them. Those who maintain this view are the victims of illusions, of ill-conducted experiments, blighted with errors that they have either been unable to perceive or unable to avoid.” Yet they are with us today.
Today, believers in spontaneous generation are back with a vengeance. They are called astrobiologists and chemical evolutionists. Their slant is that spontaneous generation does not happen quickly, but can over millions of years, not from nutrient broth, but from primordial soup– organic molecules known to be formed naturally, like some amino acids. They believe that, given enough time and the right circumstances, life arose from simple molecules and evolved into every living thing, seahorses, giraffes, dinosaurs, roses, and humans. Do they have any evidence for this? Absolutely not. Pasteur’s Law of Biogenesis, that only life begets life, stands as firm as it did in 1862. Pasteur’s judgment on those who violate that law should be sternly proclaimed from the lecterns of today’s Astrobiology conferences as he proclaimed it in person: “Those who maintain this view are the victims of illusions, of ill-conducted experiments, blighted with errors that they have either been unable to perceive or unable to avoid.”
Pasteur Vallery-Radot wrote a brief biography of his famous grandfather in 1958, and claimed that Pasteur did not consider spontaneous generation altogether impossible. He even claimed Pasteur “had dreams about creating or modifying life.” But he provides no support for that claim, referring back only to an earlier time when, working with crystals, Pasteur appeared optimistic that if he could identify the forces that produced asymmetry, he would be at the threshold of life. But on the very next page, he quotes Pasteur as admitting defeat and saying, “After all, one has to be something of a fool to undertake what I did.” This was prior to his experiments on spontaneous generation, so Pasteur appears to have convinced himself even back then that Life was too extraordinary to explain with chemicals acting under natural forces.
After this unsupported assertion, Vallery-Radot went on to praise the Miller spark-discharge experiment: “In fact, only recently the ancient argument for the spontaneous generation of life has revived, on the basis of laboratory experiments. These revealed that the basic elements making up living matter can be synthesized out of simple chemicals, under conditions existing on this planet a billion years ago.” Thus Pasteur’s grandson became seduced by the neo-spontaneous generationists, unaware that the alleged conditions could not have existed on the early earth, and the products were useless, mixed-handed dead ends. Descendent regardless, it was a distortion for Vallery-Radot to assert that Pasteur was favorable to ideas of evolution. John Hudson Tiner said, “Pasteur rejected the theory of evolution for scientific reasons. He was the first European scientist to do so. He also rejected it on religious grounds” (History of Medicine, p. 81). He said, “My philosophy comes from the heart and not from the intellect, and I adhere to that which is inspired by the natural eternal sentiments one feels at the sickbed of a beloved child breathing his last. Something deep in our soul tells us that the universe is more than an arrangement of certain compounds in a mechanical equilibrium, arisen from the chaos of elements by a gradual action of Nature’s forces” (Vallery-Radot, p. 157). This is a clear rejection of Darwinian naturalism.
We may not know exactly how Pasteur would respond to today’s evolutionists and astrobiologists, but most likely he would not be impressed by “illusions, of ill-conducted experiments, blighted with errors that they have either been unable to perceive or unable to avoid.” Pasteur was a stickler for scientific proof and intellectual honesty. He summarized his lifelong attitude, “If I have at times disturbed the tranquillity of your academies by somewhat stormy discussions, it was only because I am a passionate defender of the truth.” He would not, therefore, have tolerated the unsupported speculations of the chemical evolutionists. He was also a creationist and a devout man of faith. He said, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the works of the Creator.” Despite the evolution that permeates today’s Pasteur Institute, evolutionists cannot claim Louis Pasteur as their own. We think he would be pleased at the progress in medicine but appalled at the evolutionary mindset.
But we digress; we have only begun to share the honorable achievements of this great scientist. Pasteurization: just the word suggests a benefit every one of us takes for granted but, without which, we would be cast backward into harsher and riskier times people coped with for most of history: times in which spoilage of food and drink were daily concerns. Through experiments with yeast in wine, Pasteur found that by heating the wine to a certain temperature after fermentation but before spoiling bacteria invaded, the wine could be preserved much longer without loss of taste. This discovery applied soon to milk, orange juice, and many other goods, and revolutionized food processing. Now, drinks could be carried on board ships without spoilage. Farmers and merchants did not have to rush goods to market so quickly, and risk great economic loss from spoilage due to delays in shipment. When combined with the refrigeration that came out of the work of Lord Kelvin and James Joule, pasteurization gave households the ability to enjoy good-tasting drinks for days and weeks without having to restock. The economic benefits of this simple lab discovery were enormous, and could have made Pasteur rich. But humble and unselfish man he was, believing science was for the good of the people, Pasteur promptly released his patent to the public domain and never benefited financially from it, though he was not a rich man by any means. (The term pasteurization was applied to the process later in his honor.) Today, Surebeam Corporation has extended the concept to “electronic pasteurization,” the use of electron beams for killing the bacteria that spoil food, and it is also being applied to protecting our mail from terrorist attempts that attempt to spread anthrax.
Which brings us to another of Pasteur’s monumental achievements, the germ theory of disease. It’s hard for us these days to fathom the mindset of doctors who, through most of history, attributed infectious disease to bad air, bad bodily fluids, comets and mystical forces. Pasteur was convinced that the microbes he studied were the agents of infection, and proved it with a series of remarkable, life-saving and industry-saving discoveries. His work is legendary and covered in detail in some of the books we recommend, such as John Hudson Tiner’s History of Medicine and Founder of Modern Medicine: Louis Pasteur, but we will touch on some of them briefly. One of the most famous experiments involved anthrax in livestock. Anthrax was economically crippling to farmers and ranchers who could only look on in despair as their sheep weakened and died. Pasteur isolated the microbe that caused the disease. In a remarkable stroke of luck and insight, Pasteur learned that a weakened form of the bacteria provided the same immunity without killing the animal. When he was convinced of his theory, he set out to prove it in a risky public demonstration that put his reputation on the line.
He took 50 sheep and inoculated 25 of them with weakened anthrax bacilli. Then, in a good controlled experiment, he exposed all 50 to the full virulent form. Critics were poised and ready to call him a crazy fool; would it work? With the whole countryside watching, Pasteur announced in advance that only 100% success would prove his theory right. Even he became a little uneasy in private. He spent a sleepless night waiting for word of the results. In the morning, a telegram: “Stupendous success!” All the inoculated sheep were doing fine; every one not inoculated died. Pasteur’s critics flocked to him like repentant sinners, and his celebrity skyrocketed. Ranchers were saved; anthrax now had a cure. His method of identifying the infectious agent, weakening it, and then using it to inoculate a host soon was applied to many other debilitating diseases, by Pasteur himself (on cholera) and others, saving millions of lives. Probably no other discovery in the history of science has saved more lives than Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, applied to immunization. Edward Jenner had applied a similar method to smallpox in 1796 without knowledge of the infectious agent; with Pasteur, vaccination had a theory and a methodology that could be applied to many diseases. Though a chemist and not a doctor, Pasteur is rightly considered a founder, perhaps the founder, of modern medicine. In his later years, one particular deadly disease was to give Pasteur the challenge of his life: rabies.
Rabies is a viral infection. The virus was too small to be seen by microscopes in Pasteur’s time. This lack of evidence threatened his germ theory, but Pasteur was convinced an unseen microbial agent caused the disease, and proceeded to follow his procedure of finding ways to weaken it. It was hard work, with many false starts and dead ends, but he eventually was successful inoculating dogs with a series of increasingly potent rabies shots that appeared to provide immunity. That’s when he had a knock at the door. A desperate mother with her son, Joseph Meister, who had been bitten by a mad dog, pleaded with Pasteur for help. He replied that he was not ready for human testing, but she and other doctors agreed that if nothing was done, Joseph would die. Rabies was always fatal. With nothing to lose, Joseph agreed to be a test patient, and the compassionate Pasteur, realizing there was only one chance, once again put his reputation on the line and began the sequence of inoculations. Pasteur was in anguish over his patient’s predicament and the fear of failure. After a month passed, Joseph Meister was healthy, with no symptoms—the first man in history to be cured of rabies. Patients, bitten by rapid animals, flocked to his lab, for the first time having hope to be spared an agonizing, painful, certain death. Pasteur was again a hero.
Pasteur’s germ theory also saved the silk industry and led to many other discoveries, both economically and medically beneficial. Today we know much more about infectious agents and the body’s amazing immune system, and many new techniques are available. Now scientists can target the very genes that code for genetic diseases, and are working on molecular “magic bullets” that can stop a particular toxin produced by a germ, but they owe much to the pathway Pasteur blazed for applying empirical science to the public good. He demonstrated the power of controlled experimentation, rigorous testing, and formulating hypotheses that can be tested. He had no use for empty speculations and grandiose stories that could not be observed and tested to be true or false. A maxim he liked to quote was, “It is the worst aberration of the mind to believe things because one wishes them to be so.” Prove it, he demanded. Much of modern science in the 21st century, unfortunately, rests on unproveable assumptions, unobservable causes, and wishful thinking. Classical empirical science, hard science that depended on controlled experimentation, a scientific method that harked back to Roger Bacon and Francis Bacon, practiced by great Christians through the centuries in many fields, reached one of its highest pinnacles in Louis Pasteur.
Some great scientists of the 20th century have been moral midgets and character cripples, but not Pasteur. He embodied the utmost in integrity and altruism. Despite a crippling stroke at age 46 that nearly ended his career, he rallied with even more zeal to apply science for human good, and that is when he many of his greatest discoveries. Though zealous for his causes, he attacked falsehoods but not men. His grandson described him: “This man, so intolerant against adversaries who refused to listen to the truth, was in his private life the gentlest, most affectionate and sensitive individual. As Emile Roux stated, ‘Pasteur’s work is admirable and proves his genius, but one had to live in his house to fully recognize the goodness of his heart.’” That goodness extended to the children inflicted with rabies who came to be healed, to his own family, and to his dear wife Marie Laurent, to whom he gave lifelong devotion. A more endearing team could hardly be found in the history of science. His wife recognized his genius and gave him every possible leeway and assistance to aid him and encourage him in his work; in turn, he loved her passionately and faithfully all his life and gave her all the quality time his busy schedule could allow. Though driven with an uncommon zeal for his mission in life, Louis Pasteur was a family man, a good father, a devoted husband.
Pasteur was showered with honors late in life. For decades, he endured harsh critics who considered him a crackpot, a charlatan, a villain, or just lucky. One opponent even challenged him to a duel. Others accused him falsely of giving people rabies, not curing it. Pasteur responded with honor and integrity and zeal. He could be blistering in his attacks, but never vituperative; he attacked falsehoods, not personalities, and defended truth, not his own prestige. In his heart, he knew he was right, and that confidence helped him endure hardship, his stroke, deprivation, anxiety, and character assassination. But wisdom knows its own; at age 70 he stood before a standing ovation of hundreds of academics, doctors and members of scientific societies from around the world who had come to pay him tribute. Joseph Lister, who had applied Pasteur’s germ theory of disease to antiseptics in the hospital and thus drastically reduced mortality rates, paid him tribute by saying, “Pasteur had lifted the veil that for centuries had hidden the infectious diseases.” These two men, who combined had done more to save human lives than any other, embraced on stage, resulting in thundering applause from the audience. Too moved to speak, Pasteur gave his son his address, which contained these self-effacing words,
"You delegates of foreign countries who have come a long way to show your sympathy for France, have given me the greatest joy a man can feel who believes that Science and Peace will prevail over Ignorance and War, that the nations will learn to understand each other, not for destruction but for advancement, and that the future belongs to those who have done most for suffering mankind. Young men ... Ask yourselves first: What have I done for my education? And as you gradually advance: What have I done for my country? – until the moment comes when you experience the tremendous gratification of knowing that in some measure you have contributed to the progress and welfare of mankind. More or less favored by the current of life as your efforts may be, you must have the right to say, on approaching the great goal: I have done all I could do."
His grandson wrote, “Pasteur’s health was undermined by a life overcharged with ideas, emotions, work, and struggles” (Vallery-Radot, p. 195). He suffered two more debilitating strokes and finally died holding his wife’s hand and a crucifix in the other. At his crypt are inscribed his words, “Blessed is the Man who Carries in his Soul a God, a Beautiful Ideal that he Obeys–Ideal of Art, Ideal of Science, Ideal of the Fatherland, Ideal of the Virtues of the Gospel.” Stephen Paget, a long time friend, who studied his life carefully, eulogized him after his death with these words: “Here was a life, within the limits of humanity, well-nigh perfect. He worked incessantly. He went through poverty, bereavement, ill health and opposition. He lived to see his doctrines current over all the world. Yet here was a man whose spiritual life was no less admirable than his scientific life” (Founder of Modern Medicine, p. 176).
Was Pasteur a Christian? His son-in-law said that “he believed in the divine impulse which has created the Universe; with the yearnings of his heart he proclaimed the immortality of the soul.” His grandson said, ”Pasteur respected the religion of his forefathers; he had profound Christian ideals, but he was not, as has been asserted, an observant Catholic” (Vallery-Radot, p. 159). John Hudson Tiner claims Pasteur “had devotions each morning, read the Bible and prayed before going about each day’s activity” (History of Medicine, p. 84). Henry Morris quotes him as saying, “Could I but know all, I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman” (Men of Science, Men of God, p. 62). In some quotes Pasteur sounds mystical or indefinite in his concept of God, portraying Him as an Infinity that might be embodied in various religions. We know, however, that people grow in faith and understanding at different times in their lives, so one quote might not fairly characterize the lifetime. Tiner quotes his son-in-law as stating that at the end, “The virtues of the gospel were very present to him. He came to his Christian faith simply and naturally for spiritual help in the last stages of his life” (Founder of Modern Medicine, p. 175). Clearly he was not a materialist, but it’s hard to say for sure if Pasteur fully understood and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ in its New Testament sense. Jesus did say that you will know men by their fruits, and Christian values and character traits were evident throughout his life. If nothing else, Pasteur stood squarely in the tradition of Boyle, Newton and Maxwell in seeing science as a godly calling for the worship of the Creator and the betterment of mankind. The fruits of the Christian world view in science were ripe and sweet in the life of Louis Pasteur, and we are all the better for it. Remember this great scientist whenever you open your refrigerator and pour from a container that says, pasteurized.
The rest of the story: At the Pasteur Institute today, some of Pasteur’s original swan-necked flasks remain open to the air, the broth still sterile after 140 years.