Wednesday, October 19, 2011
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.
They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word-what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures.
The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.
Monday, October 17, 2011
A spec trailer for a new documentary about a monk who hopes to live atop a 140ft rock outcrop in the central Imereti region of the Republic of Georgia. He would be the first in 600yrs. This trailer was cut from footage captured during our first research trip and a short documentary is coming soon. Join the growing international community around this project about a modern day Stylite and help us bring the feature length version to a theater near you.
Documentary On A Modern Day Stylite
Georgian Monk To Mount Katskhi Pillar As A Stylite
Sunday, October 16, 2011
On 11 October 2011 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Church of the Archangels in the village of Ossa in Lagada to venerate the recently discovered holy relics of the Holy New Martyr Kyranna. He was met by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, Metropolitan John of Lagada, many more bishops and priests, and a multitude of people who gathered for the Doxology.
After Metropolitan John spoke about the life and martyrdom of St. Kyranna, as well as the miraculous discovery of her holy relics in recent days, the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke about the mindset of St. Kyranna, and noted that she should be an example and model for our times. He supported this by quoting St. John Chrysostom, who said: "Those who honor the martyrs, should imitate the martyrs."
After this priests bore the relics of St. Kyranna in a larnax and began a procession to transfer the relics from the old church to the new church built in honor of the Saint. Women threw flowers before the relics on the way, while children ran to venerate the relics of the Saint or grab a blessing from a priest. When the relics arrived inside the church, they were placed in front of the Holy Altar where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew venerated them, followed by the Archbishop of Athens, the Bishops and all the people. Shortly afterwards the Ecumenical Patriarch was presented the manuscript of the Service to Saint Kyranna by Tryphon Tsombani, a professor of the Theological School of Aristotle University.
Saint Kyranna the New Martyr (+1751)
The Recent Discovery of the Relics of Saint Kyranna the New Martyr of Ossa
Photos: The Church Where the Relics of St. Kyranna Were Discovered
The parish of Saint John the Theologian in Terespol, a small town situated on the borders of Poland and Belarus, welcomed the icon of Panagia Gorgoepikoos on Saturday 8 October 2011 with great reverence and celebration. It was welcomed to the city by dozens of priests and hundreds of faithful upon its arrival from Greece. The icon arrived to the church after processing approximately 1 kilometer through the city, where it was received by Metropolitan Savvas of Poland. After bringing the icon into the church, Metropolitan Savvas went on to relate the miracle which inspired the commissioning of this icon to be painted for this church.
This icon of Panagia Gorgoepikoos was painted in the Monastery of Dochiariou on Mount Athos, where also is housed the original prototype. A boy from the parish of Saint John the Theologian in Terespol had a paper icon of Panagia Gorgoepikoos which began to flow myrrh. The paper myrrh-gushing icon was then brought to the church for veneration, on which is preserved the spot where the myrrh flowed from. To honor this miracle, the icon was painted from its original monastery and delivered amidst a great celebration.
Friday, October 14, 2011
By St. Basil the Great
They say: whom do I wrong by keeping my property? What, tell me, is your property? Where did you find it and brought it to your life? Just like someone in the theatre, who had a seat and then stopped those who entered, judging that what lies common in front of everyone to use, was his own: rich men are of the same kind. They first took possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. If one had taken what is necessary to cover one's needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.
Isn't it true, that you fell off the womb naked? Isn't it true, that naked you shall return to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don't believe in God, you don't acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.
Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of our life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn't it, if not for any other reason, in order for you to gain a reward for your kindness and faithful providence, and for him to be honored with the great awards of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the bosom of avarice which is always empty, do you think that you wrong no one, while you strip so many people?
Who is the greedy person? It's him, who doesn't content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think?
He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn't do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you could help.
From Homily On Avarice 7.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Zlata was born of poor peasant parents (who also had three other daughters) in the village of Slatina, in the province of Muglin. She was a meek and devout girl, wise in the wisdom of Christ and golden, not only in name but also in her God-fearing heart. Once when Zlata went out to get water, some shameless Turks seized her and took her to their home. When one of them urged her to become a Moslem and be his wife, Zlata fearlessly replied: "I believe in Christ and Him alone do I know as my Bridegroom. I will never deny Him, even though you subject me to a thousand tortures and cut me into pieces." When her parents and sisters found her, her parents said to her: "O daughter, have mercy on yourself and on us, your parents and sisters; deny Christ in words only, so that we can all be happy, for Christ is merciful. He would forgive such a sin, committed due to the necessities of life." Her poor parents, sisters and relatives wept bitterly. However, the noble soul of St. Zlata resisted such diabolical snares. She answered them: "When you counsel me to deny Christ the true God, you are no longer my parents or my sisters. I have the Lord Jesus Christ as my father, the Theotokos as my mother, and the saints as my brothers and sisters." The Turks then cast her into prison for three months, flogging her every day until her blood soaked the ground. Finally, they suspended her upside down and lit a fire, to suffocate her with the smoke; but God was with Zlata, and gave her strength in suffering. At last they hanged her from a tree and cut her into small pieces. Thus, this brave virgin gave her soul up to God, and went to dwell in Paradise in the year 1796. Pieces of her relics were taken by Christians to their homes for a blessing.
Read also: Saint Chryse (Zlata) the New Martyr by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Great-Martyr Zlata of Muglin
The Turks tortured St. Zlata of golden heart,
Tormented her to death for Christ the Living God.
Golden Zlata wept not, nor did she waver,
But surrendered her whole heart to the Lord of Heaven.
The tears of parents and sisters were in vain:
Zlata sought delight through sufferings, true delight-
The delight that Christ prepares for wise virgins,
The joy that the Bridegroom bestows upon faithful brides.
The cage of the body of Zlata the Golden was destroyed,
And her soul was freed from its fragile prison.
Zlata rose up to Paradise, joyful in soul,
Taking her place among the royal, holy angels.
St. Zlata, once a poor peasant girl,
Is now glorified in Paradise as a queen.
Father André Strebkov has transformed his bus into a mobile church to be used for missionary purposes - celebrating the Divine Liturgy and offering confession in the villages of Tatarstan of Russia.
On Tuesday 28 September/ 11 October 2011 the feast of St. Isaac the Syrian was celebrated in Qatar. Qatar is the place where St. Isaac lived his hard ascetic life, and for the first time the church dedicated to him celebrated an all-night vigil in memory of this great mystical teacher of the spiritual life. The day of September 28th to honor this Saint was established in recent times by Elder Paisios the Athonite, who also wrote hymns for the feast.
Source for Photos
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
We need a theology that will answer the atheist position about evil, about the process imputed to God since Jean Paul Richter, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky (think, for example, of the arguments presented by Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov). We must abolish once and for all that image of a "diabolical God" who, from all eternity, controls everything and thus appears as the only source of evil. Our God is the Theos pathon, the crucified God about whom the Fathers spoke long before Moltmann! The creation of other freedoms - that of man, and also of angels - implies an incredible omnipotence and, simultaneously, an extreme weakness. God, in a certain manner, must remove himself to allow space for these other freedoms. He enters into a tragic love story. Deep inside man is the memory of "paradise", but also of a break, of a departure along the paths of freedom, like that of the prodigal son in the parable. And this freedom is strengthened through opposition - through forgetfulness. The prodigal son moves away from his Father, and this separation brings death. Though the Father does not desire this separation, because he has no conception of evil, he accepts the son like so many blows to the face. Just think of the images of Christ attacked, bound, and struck on the face, both in eastern art: the icon of the totally humiliated Christ over the prothesis table in Greek churches of the 16th-18th centuries - and in western: that Christ painted by Fra Angelico in the convent of St. Mark in Florence standing blindfolded as hands emerge out of the abyss, out of nothingness, to strike him.
For man, fascinated by the death which he conceals within himself, bears as well the agony of crime: against the "other" or against the self. How many murders we commit in spirit! This is why the Fathers of the Desert used to say that slander, contempt of the "other", is the greatest of sins! Thus humanity - which is composed of infinitely intertwined relations - allows the world to slide toward the nothingness out of which it was drawn, in the aptly worded remark of St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Chaos returns, a chaos which the powers of darkness - which are at once within and outside us - pervert: the suffering of children, absurd wars, monstrous cosmic catastrophes. God - having become a king with no kingdom, in the words of Nicholas Cabasilas - supports the world from beyond, until the "yes" of a woman allows him to return to the heart of his creation to restore it sacramentally, to tear humanity away from nothingness and to restore to each of us our vocation of "created creator".
But the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected God can act, can bring light and peace, only through hearts that freely open to him. He is not the God of "holy wars", or even of supposedly "just wars". He is not the God of the Crusades, but of the life-giving Cross.
The experience of evil ultimately proves to humanity its meaningless. Through suffering - and the worst is to discover how much we make others suffer - man reaches repentance. And Christ - who is freedom itself - resurrects his freedom from within, without the least amount of restraint. Then man accedes not only to the good - for the good judges and condemns those who are "evil" - but to a kind of supra-good which allows the transforming power of God to shine, bringing pardon and opening up the future. "Woman, where are they?" Jesus asks the woman caught in adultery. "Has no one condemned you?" "No one, Lord", she answers. "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn. 8:10-11).
From Conversations With Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I by Olivier Clement, pp. 164-166.
By St. Symeon the New Theologian
Woe to those who say, "When shall the day of the Lord come?" and they don't care to know and understand that day. For the Lord's Presence in the faithful has already come, and is continuously coming, and to all those who wish for it, has arrived and is firm. Because, if He is indeed the light of the world (John 8.12) and to His Apostles has said, that with us until the end of time He will be (Matt. 28.20, cf. Matt. 1.23), how, being with us, will He come? Not at all. For we are not sons of darkness and sons of night, in order for the light to overtake us, but sons of light and sons of the Lord's day, hence and living in the Lord we are, and dying in Him and with Him will live, as Paul says (Acts 17.28).
About this also the Theologian thus speaks, Gregory: "What the sun is to sensible things, this exactly is God to spiritual things."
For He will be the future age and the eternal day and kingdom of heavens, bridegroom and bed and earth of the peaceful and divine paradise and king and servant, as He Himself has thus spoke: "Blessed are those servants, whom their Lord will come and find awake. Verily I say to you, He will lie them in comfort and He will be prepared to serve them" (Luke 12.37).
From the Ethical Homilies 10.
Confession of the Blind Woman
People, hear and pity me, for this, my situation,
and pray to God for me, to give my wretched soul salvation.
Believe me, all of you, my brethren, truly I'll explain,
in me is found abundantly the works I now will name.
If you would like to know which virtues I have called my own,
I'll tell you: naked is my soul of good in every form.
Utterly devoid of virtue, sentenced to be damned,
and by every purity most utterly abandoned.
Poverty past bounds is mine, and wounds and ill diseases,
and being lost forever in the folds of death's deep creases.
Severe insentitivity and stupor overcome me,
anger, pride, hard-heartedness and evil have undone me.
To virtue I am cold as ice, but warm to wickedness,
always ready for laughter's lure and for talkativeness.
Instead of being compunctionate I'm totally unfeeling,
instead of weeping constantly, I laugh, the wretched worldling!
But there is something yet, that hides so perfectly these evils.
How long will I so fool the world, though I am like the devils,
with my false piety, fake virtue and hypocrisy?
When the world regards me highly, I rejoice and boast,
but when they criticise me, even kindly, I am sad, and mope.
Whomever of you knows me, I exhort you to feel pity,
and when reminded of me, weep for my iniquity.
Beg our God that someday He enlightenment will send me;
and by your prayers, my brethren, I hope that He will save me,
and from my somber wickedness and evil, He will free me.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
In previous posts, I have looked at Dr. Anestis Keselopoulos's book, Greece's Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis from a variety of angles.
In the first post I discussed my impetus for translating the book. In the second post, I looked at Papadiamandis's biography and work, and considered why he is a seminal figure in both the Greek as well as the wider Orthodox world. In the third post I looked more closely at the book itself, what it contains, and many of the issues it touches upon. In this final post, I wanted to discuss in greater detail the significance of Papadiamandis for the West, in particular the example of Papadiamandis as an artist-evangelist, and as an example that can inform and instruct artists desiring to create faith-inspired work.
To begin, though, permit me to share a personal story that ties in with this topic. In previous posts on my blog, I have touched upon the important role that reading The Brothers Karamazov played in my conversion to Orthodoxy. I was studying academic theology at an Evangelical Protestant college, and was tired of dry Biblical interpretations and academic arguments. At the heart of the Orthodox understanding of theology is Evagrius of Pontus's celebrated saying: "The one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays." Without an active prayer/spiritual life one cannot be a theologian. It was not a surprise, then, that my conversion to Orthodoxy was largely influenced by the stories of others who had faith/prayer/spiritual lives and who experienced God's grace. I sensed that these were not simply fictional stories, but that they touched upon truths that I had personally never experienced.
I mention my story to underline the significance Papadiamandis (as Dostoevsky) has for the West and for Orthodox mission in particular. When it comes to religion, our society is largely jaded, fatigued by polemic and the hypocrisy of many religious people. It has always been true that it is not intellectual arguments, but encounters with love and grace that convert people to Christ. This has never been more true than today, when romantic notions of faith and holiness that make the spiritual life seem beautiful or easy ring particularly hollow. It is the realism of artists such as Dostoevsky and Papadiamandis that has the power to touch human hearts.
Papadiamandis's obvious affection for and championing of the weak, maligned, and downtrodden, and his refusal to pass judgment make him accessible to skeptical humanists. His obvious humanity is attractive, and makes reading his stories easier for modern sensibilities. Papadiamandis offers much more than this, however.
Because Papadiamandis's stories are set in a society that is both deeply and broadly Orthodox, the western reader is given insight into a profoundly Christian world, a world that (more or less) no longer exists in the West. Papadiamandis offers a vision of what a Christian society looks like, and of what a Christian in a Christian society looks like. In his Introduction to the book, Fr. Alexis Trader asks the question,
"Can an American living in such a complex society with people traumatized by a diversity of psychological disorders gain [the] honesty, [the] simplicity, and [the] humility [of the faithful of Skiathos]? If he has the opportunity to immerse himself fully in the life of the Church and if the wise precepts of the Fathers for the liturgical life and the life in Christ are implemented, all things are clearly possible through the grace of Christ. In fact, the point of Papadiamandis's narratives is that the downtrodden, wounded, and despised can be transfigured into the glorious people of God through the Church's divine worship."
Truly Christian art works in synergy with the grace of God to bring about healing and wholeness. Papadiamandis's descriptions of the Christians and the Christian society of Skiathos have the potential to engender this healing and to inspire this wholeness.
As I mentioned earlier, realism is an important characteristic of Christian non-liturgical art. Also, Christian art makes use of the "language" of Christianity (symbolism, language, history, etc.), even if it doesn't deal with overtly "religious" themes. Both Papadiamandis and Dostoevsky use this language, though neither one could be accused of writing "religious" literature. In a world where sentimental and simplistic pop "Christian art" is a market of its own, Papadiamandis offers another vision, another way of understanding both art and Christianity that has the potential to be profoundly redemptive. In the Translator's Foreword to the book, I go into more detail regarding the particularly "Christian" aspects of Papadiamandis's art.
[Learn more about Greece's Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis.]
Blog Post #1: September 30th, Byzantine, TX
Blog Post #2: October 4th, Eighth Day Books Blog
Blog Post #3: October 6th, Bombaxo
In 1353 he was made Patriarch of Constantinople; he stepped down after one year, but was recalled to the Patriarchal throne in 1364. He continued to be a zealous champion of undiluted Orthodoxy, writing treatises setting forth the theology of the Uncreated Energies of God and refuting the scholastic philosophy that was then infecting the Western church. Despite (or because of?) his uncompromising Orthodoxy, he always sought a true, rather than political, reconciliation with the West, and even worked to convene an Ecumenical Council to resolve the differences between the churches; this was rejected by Pope Urban V. In 1368 he led the synodal decision to proclaim St. Gregory Palamas a Saint and ordained the Second Sunday of Great Lent to be his feast. St. Philotheos composed the Church's services to St Gregory Palamas. This holy Patriarch was deposed in 1376 when the Emperor Andronicus IV came to the throne; he died in exile in 1379. His tomb at the Monastery of Akatalyptos Maria Diakonissa became a place of many miracles.
St. Philotheos is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent and on October 11th. He is a Protector of Orthodoxy alongside Sts. Photios the Great, Mark Evgenikos, and Gregory Palamas.
Monty Python star claims making satire now would be too risky following resurgence in religious belief.
October 10, 2011
Monty Python's Terry Jones has revealed that he would shy away from making the comedy Life Of Brian today, because of a resurgence in religious belief.
Jones directed and acted in the 1979 film, starring John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle, which sparked a religious storm and accusations of blasphemy.
Opponents of the comedy, which was a worldwide box-office success, claimed it made fun of Jesus.
But Jones told the Radio Times: "I never thought it would be as controversial as it turned out, although I remember saying when we were writing it that some religious nut case may take pot shots at us, and everyone replied: 'No'."
The 69-year-old said: "I took the view it wasn't blasphemous. It was heretical because it criticised the structure of the church and the way it interpreted the Gospels. At the time religion seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey. It has come back with a vengeance and we'd think twice about making it now."
Asked whether he would make a similarly satirical film about Muslims, he said: "Probably not – looking at Salman Rushdie [whose controversial book The Satanic Verses forced him into hiding for 10 years].
"I suppose people would be frightened. I think it's whipped up by the arms industry."
Jones was interviewed by the magazine to mark a BBC4 comedy drama, Holy Flying Circus, about the opposition to the film.
The BBC is also reconstructing the TV debate Friday Night … Saturday Morning, which took place between Cleese and Palin and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, and Malcolm Muggeridge, who thought the film was blasphemous.
Jones said of Monty Python's Life Of Brian: "I'm amazed we're still discussing it, and I don't know why. There's lots of other good stuff around. I suspect it's overrated although it's pretty good. Our aim was to make a funny film, but there's nothing wrong with giving a bit of offence as well.
"I've seen it a couple of times and probably enjoy it more now because of its celebrity. Personally, though, I prefer Buster Keaton." He added: "It was one of the first comedy shows made in colour. If it had been scheduled a month or two earlier it would have been in black and white."
He said of the BBC's new drama: "The programme is very funny, but it's a mix of fantasy and reality. The portrayal of BBC executives (as over-the-top and dim-witted) is probably the only realistic part."
October 10, 2011
There is not a single, public Christian church left in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.
This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime.
In the intervening decade, U.S. taxpayers have spent $440 billion to support Afghanistan's new government and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in that country.
The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the Statet Department's latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”
“There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March ,” reads the State Department report on religious freedom. “[Private] chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams], and at the Italian embassy. Some citizens who converted to Christianity as refugees have returned.”
In recent times, freedom of religion has declined in Afghanistan, according to the State Department.
“The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals,” reads the State Department report.
“Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity," said the report. "The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom.”
Most Christians in the country refuse to “state their beliefs or gather openly to worship,” said the State Department.
More than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in the decade-old Afghanistan war, according to CNSNews.com’s database of all U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. A September audit released jointly by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the State Department’s Office of Inspector General, found that the U.S. government will spend at least $1.7 billion to support the civilian effort from 2009-2011.
According to that report, the $1.7 billion excludes additional security costs, which the report says the State Department priced at about $491 million.
A March 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service showed that overall the United States has spent more than $440 billion in the Afghanistan war. Christian aid from the international community has also gone to aid the Afghan government.
Nevertheless, according to the State Department, the lack of non-Muslim religious centers in Afghanistan can be blamed in part on a “strapped government budget,” which is primarily fueled by the U.S. aid.
“There were no explicit restrictions for religious minority groups to establish places of worship and training of clergy to serve their communities,” says the report, “however, very few public places of worship exist for minorities due to a strapped government budget.”
The report acknowledged that Afghanistan’s post-Taliban constitution, which was ratified with the help of U.S. mediation in 2004, can be contradictory when it comes to the free exercise of religion.
While the new constitution states that Islam is the “religion of the state” and that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam,” it also proclaims that “followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law.”
However, “the right to change one’s religion was not respected either in law or in practice,” according to the State Department.
“Muslims who converted away from Islam risked losing their marriages, rejection from their families and villages, and loss of jobs,” according to the report. “Legal aid for imprisoned converts away from Islam remains difficult due to the personal objection of Afghan lawyers to defend apostates.”
The report does note that “in recent years neither the national nor local authorities have imposed criminal penalties on coverts from Islam.” The report says that “conversion from Islam is considered apostasy and is punishable by death under some interpretations of Islamic rule in the country.”
Also, in recent years, the death punishment for blasphemy “has not been carried out,” according to the State Department.
According to the State Department report, the United States continues to promote religious freedom in Afghanistan--even though the country no longer has even one Christian church.
“The U.S. government regularly discusses religious freedom with government officials as part of its overall policy to promote human rights,” according to the report.
According to the State Department report, more than 99 percent of the population, estimated between 24 and 33 million people, is either Sunni (80 percent) or Shia (19 percent) Muslim. Non-Muslim religious groups, including the estimated 500 to 8,000 strong Christian community in the country, make up less than 1 percent of the population. Other non-Muslim groups in the country are Sikhs, Bahais, and Hindus.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Ecumenical Patriarch Addresses Extremist Attitudes Among Some Athonite Monks In His Visit To Great Lavra
October 8, 2011
A stern message to schismatic monks and critics of the dialogue between the churches was sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos.
Mr. Bartholomew, citing the admonition of St. Athanasios the Athonite, founder of the oldest monastery of Mount Athos, noted the road which leads to the "perfection of the monk": the "first condition is obedience" which lightens the yoke of ascetic life, because the burden is lifted by the Abbot." He added that the "second condition" is "love and unity between the brothers" and "the avoidance of dissension and quarrels among you," which "unfortunately" exist "in the ego and ambition of certain monastics in the brotherhood" and lead "down dangerous and slippery paths in the salvation of the soul and its spiritual progress."
"The main danger lies in the fact that these monks are deceived thinking that they keep 'undefiled' the deposit of the faith, knowing God's command proclaimed clearly by the Apostle Paul: 'Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account'" (Heb. 13:17). The Ecumenical Patriarch continued:
"So we also are fully aware of the responsibility, which we wear with the hierarchical and patriarchal omophorion on our shoulders."
The Ecumenical Patriarch condemned the attitude of the deniers of the dialogue "with the heterodox", stressing that "holding the truth" in the Orthodox Church allows us to not fear "any deduction or counterfeiting of our holy faith," but he will continue the dialogue "to persuade the well-meaning of those who dialogue with us."
"On the whole, the dialogue may appear at a loss. Divine Grace however attracts to the truth those who are participating in it. Is it not worth a dialogue, even if only one soul approaches towards the truth?" asked Bartholomew.
The Ecumenical Patriarch said that he has repeatedly stressed in the past "the essential differences between Orthodoxy and other confessions." Referring especially to the dialogue with the Catholic Church he emphasized that the Orthodox Church always prays "for the union of all" and may not refuse herself when invited to a dialogue on the purpose of attaining this union, "as is desired by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself", but not without substantial conditions:
"Union is the ultimate goal, but before that there should be the identity in the faith."
"Speaking years ago to our Roman Catholic brothers I pointed out the path regularly followed by the Roman Catholic Church by accepting more and new doctrines, and in its journey towards our Church, instead of converging towards union, it has departed and driven further apart one another" (University Tzorztaoun, 21 October 1997), added Mr. Bartholomew. He said further:
"Furthermore, it is not true that we overlook the preconditions to the union of churches, nor is it true that we overlook the differences which prevent union."
The Ecumenical Patriarch noted in particular the responsibility of the "first in rank" Monastery of Mount Athos (in which resides a small number of zealot monks) on issues of Order, towards other smaller monasteries of "lower rank" which will "energize disruption of spiritual unity to its soul", emphasizing also that "the Sacred Monastery of Great Lavra is not warranted to be the steerer of other such monasteries of such a mindset."
"Great Lavra cannot and is not allowed to be the steerer of schismatic Esphigmenou. Great Lavra has the rank of being the first monastery of Mount Athos and must lead and be the flag-bearer of a sound Orthodox mindset and doctrine. Lavra should always be first to preach the implementation of unity, spiritual love and truth", said the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Closing his speech he cited a passage from the Epistle of James: "Brethren, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
October 10, 2011
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called the continued "occupation" of the complex of the Monastery of Esphigmenou from the schismatic former Esphigmenou monks "unprecedented violence" within the limits of the Greek Republic and a "dangerous drift" on the Holy Mountain.
During his visit to the delegation of new Esphigmenou (which was staffed by a new brotherhood of Katsoulieridon) in Karyes, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the occupying schismatic monks clarifying "the matter of ecclesiastical confrontation within the walls of the Monastery and other parts of it shall remain to be considered despite remaining fully closed, permanently."
He stressed that the same applies to the administrative and judicial ends, that the occupation is a "punishable" and "a criminal offense", as according to the Charter of Mount Athos it refuses settlement to schismatics in the monastic state.
Mr. Bartholomew said that the "Mother Church" with much sadness follows "organizations who speak of tolerating the phenomenon of occupation" and recommended that the monks of the new brotherhood be patient in the struggle until the restoration of "regularity and legality".
The Ecumenical Patriarch underlined that any disputes between the monks should be solved in a constructive exchange of views within the Church and not to lead to "schismatic division", recalling that the occupying monks, despite the efforts of his predecessors Athenagoras and Demitrios, but even till this day, denied the spiritual unity and cooperation with the other nineteen monasteries.
The abbot of the new Esphigmenou, Chrysostomos, speaking to the Ecumenical Patriarch asked that the "government restore order and lawfulness" and not allow the "arbitrary interference" and "anarchic logging" by the occupiers, who threaten the buildings and the natural environment around the historic Monastery.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
On 2 October 2011 Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited the orphanage Banchenskogo in the Monastery of the Ascension in the village Molnitsa.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
“But let a man examine himself,
and so let him eat of that bread
and drink of that cup.”
(I Corinthians 2:28)
Those well-known advocates of frequent communion of the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ, Saints Macarios of Corinth and Nicodemos the Hagiorite, in their famous book on the subject deal with the objection and doubts of those Christians who are well-intentioned in other respects, but who remonstrate and say, regarding all those who partake frequently: “Perhaps they, as human beings, are not bothered by the passions of gluttony, vainglory, laughter, idle talk, and the like? How, then, can they desire to commune frequently?”
The Saints respond to this objection by citing a marvelous text of St. Anastasios of Antioch, which they first quote verbatim and then in simplified language.
Let us pay special attention to this position of St. Anastasios, which concisely expresses a profound aspect of Orthodox spirituality: the distinction between “pardonable” and “serious” sins, the existence of “various sacrifices” which purify us in order to approach the Holy Mysteries, and the experience in our lives of continual repentance as the indispensable preconditions for frequent communion.
Many are they who, communing rarely, collapse into sins; but others again, partaking more frequently, guard themselves often from much evil, since they fear Holy Communion (“the condemnation of the Eucharist”).
Thus, if, being human, we should err by certain small and forgivable sins—for instance, should we be carried away by our tongue, our hearing, or our eyes; or, being deceived, should we fall into vainglory, sorrow, or anger, or other such things—, let us reproach ourselves and let us confess our sinfulness before God, and so let us partake, believing that Holy Communion is for the remission of our sins and our purification.
If, on the other hand, we should commit heavy sins that are evil, carnal, and impure, and we are resentful of our brother, let us not dare approach the Divine Mysteries until we have repented of those sins.
Thus, because we are carnal and weak people, infected by many sins, God has given us various sacrifices for the remission of our sins, the which, if we offer them to Him, cleanse us and make us fit to partake.
For this reason, almsgiving is a “sacrifice” which purifies man from sins. There is another salvific “sacrifice” for the remission of sins, about which the Prophet David says: “A pleasing sacrifice unto God is a man’s humble disposition and spirit; a heart that is humble and broken by compunction, God never despises.”
If we offer those “sacrifices” unto God, even should we have small failings as humans, we will be made capable of approaching Holy Communion with fear and trembling, compunction, and the confession of our sinfulness, just as the woman with an issue of blood approached Christ with weeping and trembling.
For there are sins unto death ("deadly" sins), and there are sins unto repentance ("pardonable" sins). And there are sins unto healing. But genuine repentance is able to heal all things.
For one is the forgiveness which he receives who approaches the Mysteries with fear and trembling, confessing his sinfulness, and, with contrition, partakes; and another is the punishment which he receives who partakes without fear and with contempt.
Unto those who partake unworthily and disdainfully, not only is the remission of sins not given, but the Devil pounces on them even more.
And all those who partake with fear not only are sanctified and receive the remission of sins, but the Devil is expelled from them.
His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos on Saturday 8 October 2011. While there he veneratd the relics of the monasteries founder, St. Athanasios the Athonite.
Friday, October 7, 2011
One day a hippie visited me. He was dressed in something colorful, strange clothes, and wore an amulet and jewelery, and he asked to see me. The nuns were worried, so they came and asked me, and I told them to have him enter. As soon as he sat across from me, I could see his soul. He had a good soul, but was wounded which was why he was a revolutionary.
I spoke to him with love and he was moved. "Elder", he said, "nobody until today has ever spoken to me like this." I had told him his name, and he was confused as if I knew him. "Well," I told him, "God revealed your name and that you travelled as far as India where you met a guru and you followed him." He was in even greater wonder. I told him other things about himself, and he left pleased. The next week he arrived with a group of hippies.
They all gathered together within my cell and sat around me. A girl was also with them. I liked them very much. They were good souls, but wounded. I did not speak to them about Christ, because I saw they weren't ready to hear of it. I spoke their own language about topics that interested them. When we were finished and they got up to leave, they told me: "Elder, we would like a favor: allow us to kiss your feet." I was embarrassed, but what could I do, I allowed them. After they gave me a blanket as a gift. I will call for it to be brought, so you can see it. It's very nice. After a time the girl visited me, the hippie, by herself. They called her Maria.
I saw that Maria was more advanced in her soul than her friends and she was the first I spoke to about Christ. She received my words. She has come other times, and has taken a good path. Maria also told her friends: "Hey naughty children, I would never have imagined that I would come to know Christ through hippie friends."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
To see more photos of this church, as well as photos of the church dedicated to St. Kyranna where her relics will be translated, see here.
Read also: The Recent Discovery of the Relics of Saint Kyranna the New Martyr of Ossa
October 7, 2011
The Ukrainian President's spouse, Lyudmila Yanukovych, is going to visit the church on her birthday, October 9.
"On this day there's a great church feast - the passing away of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian. So I want to go to church in the morning to confess and to take communion. After the church, if we have time, we'll have a family meal," Yanukovich said in her interview with the Ukrainian edition of the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.
She said she had 17 godchildren, not taking orphans in the account.
When asked if she has a charitable organization, Yanukovych said she preferred to help people directly.
"My mail box is always full, almost all ask for help. I answer all the letters myself - I can spend the night writing responses. If there are telephone numbers, I call and speak with people," she said.
"We have to find time for help. Father Zosima from Nikolskoye, I respect him so much, said: 'Be in a hurry to do good deeds.' I'm in a hurry. I afraid to be late," Yanukovych said.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956, and completed in 1962. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is one of Wright's last works; construction was completed after his death and had a building cost of $1.5 million dollars. Its shallow scalloped dome echoes his Marin County Civic Center.
In the last few years of his life he completed almost seventy works, several of which illustrate his interest in the circular form. (See, for example his Guggenheim Museum in New York City.) Wright's circular design uses two important elements from Greek Orthodox churches, the dome and the Greek cross. The shallow concrete dome (106 feet in diameter) is superimposed on a floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross; the Greek cross inscribed within a circle is a key design element in the details of the church as well.
See video here.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
By Elder Paisios the Athonite
Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if they ask a fly: "Are there any flowers in this area?" it will say: "I don't know about flowers, but over there in the heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want." And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to. Now, if you ask a honeybee: "Have you seen any unclean things in this area?" it will reply: "Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers." And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow. You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or the hyacinth is.
As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere. But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.
Once a high school student came to my Kalyvi and knocked on the metal knocker on the door. Even though I was reading a stack of letters at the time, I decided to go and see what he wanted. "What is it you want, my son?" I asked. "Is this the Kalyvi of Father Paisios?" he asked me, adding, "I want to see Father Paisios." "This is his Kalyvi, but he's not here; he went to buy cigarettes," I told him. "It looks like he must have gone to help someone," he responded with a good thought. "He went to buy the cigarettes for himself," I told him. "He smoked them all and was desperate for a cigarette. He left me here alone, and I don't know when he'll be back. If he takes too long, I'll just leave." The student's watery eyes gave away his emotion and again he said with a good thought: "We torment Father Paisios." "Why do you want to see him?" I asked. "I just want to receive his blessing," he said. "What blessing do you expect to receive from him, you fool! He's deluded; I know him well. There's no grace in him. Don't waste your time waiting for him to return. He'll be grouchy; he may even be drunk, because he drinks too." In spite of all this, the young man was still having good thoughts. Finally, I told him: "I will wait for him a little longer, what do you want me to tell him?" "I have a letter to give him," he said, "but I will wait so I can receive his blessing." You see? No matter what negative things I related, he took them all with a good thought. When I told him about the need for cigarettes, his eyes began to well up with tears. "Who knows," he thought, "he must have gone to help someone." Other people are well-educated and read a great deal, but they still don't have the good thoughts of that young student! You demolish his thought, and he immediately creates a better thought and draws an even better conclusion. I marvelled at him! It was the first time I saw such a thing!
From Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle, pp. 29-31.
Holy Hieromartyr Teodosie of Brazi was born in the first half of the seventeenth century, somewhere near Brazi Monastery. His parents were descendents of free peasants since the time of Saint Stephen the Great. They took him to the divine services celebrated there. At the age of 18, he entered as a novice in this monastery, but he became a monk in Bogdana Monastery. Being a pious and quite intelligent monk, and knowing the Holy Bible and some of the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church, he was ordained, in 1669, Bishop of Radauti. He often went to Putna Monastery to St. Stephen’s tomb, where a permanent candle was lit.
În 1671 he was sent to shepard the Roman Diocese, where he remained until 1674, when he was elected as Metropolitan of Moldavia (Metropolitan Dosoftei had left the country for Poland, as a refugee), as a recognition of his pastoral activity and his high spirituality. The historian Ion Neculce (1672–1745) wrote in The Chronicles of the Land of Moldavia that the ruler of Moldavia, Dumitrascu Voda Cantacuzino, was one of the worst personalities in our history. He brought the Tatars in Moldavia to maintain the throne, paying a huge sum of money, which he collected from the poor people and from the income of the monasteries. The Metropolitan Teodosie went to the ruler and said: “What is this, your highness? Are you the Antichrist?” Dumitraşcu got angry and sent him to seclusion at Saint Sava Monastery in Iasi. Coming back from Poland, Metropolitan Dosoftei let him free, and Metropolitan Teodosie retired to Brazi Monastery, which he loved very much from his youth.. There he built a beautiful church dedicated to Saint George (sfântului Gheorghe). He took care of Bogdana Monastery too. He gave to these monasteries lands, vineyards, orchards, forests and mills.
The historian Ion Neculce also wrote that the Tatars came, at this time, like locusts and robbed the Moldavians, taking away all their fortunes. În 1694 a band of Tatars entered the Monastery of Brazi and tortured Metopolitan Teodosie to give them the money and the ecclesiastical objects and, as he refused, they killed him, cutting off his head. It was after the Feast of the Holy Cross.
The monks and Christians nearby the monastery buried him in the Church of Saint George, built by him. This church fell into ruins because of the frequent earthquakes of Vrancea County. But the abbot of Brazi Monastery discovered by a miracle the remains of Metropolitan Teodosie and buried them again in a cave, where the first hermits of Brazi Monastery, Teofilact and Sava, lived.
So during a period of the turbulent history of Moldavia the holy relics of Metropolitan Teodosie were discovered in a miraculous manner, they were then lost, then were rediscovered again in our days.
The first discovery of the relics occurred, as we said, in 1842, as witnessed by St. Antipa of Calapodesti, who was a novice at the time. This is what he tells us of the discovery:
"Before Archimandrite Demetrios became abbot of the Monastery of Brazi he lived a hard ascetic life in a large forest, where in a miraculous manner he found buried a container with gold coins. In the container he also found a note which said that this money belongs to Teodosie, who hid this foreseeing his martyric end at the hands of the Tatars. It further said that whoever finds them is obligated to build a monastery and three sketes, and when the third skete is finished his relics will be found.
He informed Metropolitan Demetrios of Iasi of this miraculous event and received the blessing to fulfill the last wish of the blessed Metropolitan. He built a large church, and having completed the third skete he decided to have dug in the garden a pit to prepare his own grave. But because the pit he ordered to be dug was destroyed, he decided to be present when they dug it. While digging they found the coffin with the holy relics. I was found worthy to see them with my own eyes and to venerate them, though they exuded an exquisite fragrance."
On 6 May 1842 the relics of the Saint were buried in the basement of the chapel. The skull of the Saint was kept in the Holy Altar of the monastery until its closure by the communists. Locals recalled that on the east side they would see at night a blue light and they all thought that something valuable was hidden there.
After 1989 when the skete was reopened, while digging in the basement of the chapel on 30 March 2000, the relics of the Holy Hieromartyr Teodosie were rediscovered. He was declared a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Church in October of 2003 and his feast is celebrated on September 22.