Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
The following story was told by Elder Ephraim, Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery, in a talk he delivered in Bucharest in 2002, concerning a wondrous event in the life of Elder Paisios as it was related to him by the same:
One winter, just before sunset, I left the Stavronikita Monastery to go to my cell. At one hundred meters from the entrance of the Monastery, I met five students, who earlier were loking for me at my cell (it was close to the Monastery), and they had brought something to me from an archimandrite. Since they could not find me they left it at my cell and went to the Monastery.
When we met they asked me to talk with them for a bit. They showed great zeal for divine things. In this way, without realizing, the time passed. They would not unglue themselves from me. However it was getting dark and barely nothing could be seen, so I sent them to the Monastery before the doors closed on them. I hastened to go to my cell. It was very dark and I could not see the road. This is how I got lost. I had no flashlight.
Then I thought that with such cold and with one lung it was inevitable that I would die. Having no hope to live, I knelt and began to pray for my soul. As I was praying a light came out of me that was so strong that the sun of midday would appear to be dark. This light led me to my cell. As soon as I arrived at my cell the light was gone!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
1. The Grey (2012)
Story: In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Stars: Liam Neeson
Review: The Grey is based on the short story "Ghost Walker" by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers. The film was clearly inspired by similar horror tales such as Hitchcocks' The Birds, Spielburgs' Jaws and Scotts' Alien. Yet it is also an exciting though horrifying tale of survival with a surprising philosophical agenda. Promotion for The Grey in part targeted Christian groups by issuing a "film companion," which highlighted the spiritual value of the film. John Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a man who battles with despair throughout the film and topics such as love, death and faith and how they relate to despair are explored. One of the most interesting scenes comes toward the end when Ottway curses God and asks for his help in his deepest moment of despair, but receives no response. Ottway responds to God's non-responsiveness with a statement of individualism that encourages him to take matters into his own hands.
The greatness of this film is not only the horrifying elements that will surely make the viewer cringe, but also its philosophical and theological elements. It tied in with the Gospel reading from the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday the movie was released, which was the Sunday of the Canaanite Woman (Matt. 15:21-28). Whereas in the film Ottway, in his despair, quickly gives up on God after he asks for His help and gets initial silence, the Canaanite woman persists in her hope, despite her despair and Jesus' silence, and gains God's mercy. I was also reminded of a few stories from the lives of the Saints, among which was a story of Elder Paisios that I translated in the post following this one.
Warning: Do not watch this movie while on a plane flight.
Heads Up: Make sure you watch till the end of the credits, where there is an extra scene.
2. Albert Nobbs (2011)
Story: Glenn Close plays a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men's clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making.
Director: Rodrigo García
Stars: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska
Review: The screenplay is based on a short story by Irish novelist George Moore. Glen Close does a remarkable job portraying Albert Nobbs, an introverted "man" with a simple little dream, but in order to achieve this dream "she" must become a "he". In the written story Nobbs is 30 years old, but in the movie the character looks about 60 which causes some awkward moments to look at in the film, particularly when Albert is seeking to marry Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Overall however this was a moving film that is superbly acted. It is not a "gay film" as some would suspect, but it more reminded me of a secular version of certain saints lives when women fled to male monasteries to become monks as men. Usually these saints encountered great tragedy for their identity change and were only discovered to be men upon death. Spoiler alert: something similar happens in this movie.
3. The Iron Lady (2011)
Story: A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent
Review: The Iron Lady tells the story of a woman who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. The story concerns power and the price that is paid for power, and is a surprising and insightful portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman who refused to compromise. There is controversy about the film in how Margaret Thatcher's dementia is portrayed, and I would agree it goes a bit too far with this. The film should have focused more on her career, which it skims over like a news reel. But Meryl Streep seems to perfectly capture the voice and mannerisms of Thatcher in one of the best performances of 2011.
4. Man On A Ledge (2012)
Story: As a police psychologist works to talk down an ex-con who is threatening to jump from a Manhattan hotel rooftop, the biggest diamond heist ever committed is in motion....
Director: Asger Leth
Stars: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris
Review: I am typically not a big fan of over-the-top heist films, yet this one I found mildly entertaining for its intriguing premise. Like Tower Heist of last year, it is a contemporary parable of the "99 percent", but it fails to deliver any powerful message, and often comes off as absurd. I have no problem with suspending my disbelief to a certain degree, but Man on a Ledge has one too many bizarre moments to count. You're not going to find anything profound with Man on a Ledge, just simple mindless entertainment.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
In our day, you usually hear these words from parents: "We want to secure the life of our child." That is why they work very hard to amass wealth, often unjustly, to educate their child in the calling [vocation] which brings the greatest physical security and material benefit. This is done by so-called Christians! They do this because their concept of a real life and the real security of life is erroneous. See, how a true Christian mother prepares her son for a real life. At the time of her death, Blessed Euphrosyne spoke to her son Clement of Ancyra (Jan. 23):
"Do me the honor, O my son, and bravely stand up for Christ and confess Him strongly and without hesitation! I hope, in my heart, that the crown of martyrdom will blossom on you in my honor and for the salvation of many. Do not be afraid of threats, nor swords, nor pains, nor wounds, nor fire. Let nothing separate you from Christ, but look up to heaven and from there await your great, eternal and rich reward from God. Fear God's majesty; be afraid of His awesome judgment, tremble at His all-seeing Eye, for all those who deny Him will receive the punishment of unquenchable fire and eternally vigilant worm. Let this be my reward from you, my sweet son, for my pain in child-bearing and effort surrounding your education that I may be called a mother of a martyr. The blood that you received from me, do not spare but shed it that, from that, I can also receive honor. Submit your body to torture that I, too, may rejoice at that before our Lord as though I myself had suffered for Him."
December 6, 2011
The Huffington Post
Reading the results of the Pew poll about Mormonism, reminds me of what Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in "Strength to Love": "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
The fact that two thirds of mainline Protestants and Catholics believe Mormonism is a Christian religion is an unfortunate example of both.
The Mormon faith is not the same as the Christian faith. Examples abound. Consider these few.
The Ministry of Jesus
In the 2 Nephi 5:21, in the Book of Mormon, in 600 B.C., Lehi, a Jewish prophet from the tribe of Manassah, left Jerusalem with several others, sailed east and landed in South America. Two of Lehi's sons, Lamen and Lemuel, rebelled against God. God cursed them and gave them dark skin -- birthing the Native American race. In 2 Nephi 12:3-12, in A.D. 34, Jesus Christ descended from heaven, baptized the Native Americans, called and commissioned 12 disciples, instituted sacraments, and taught the message of the Sermon on the Mount.
According to the first four gospels of the Bible, Jesus Christ lived and ministered in the region of modern-day Israel. He never appeared in the Americas.
The Virgin Birth
The Mormon Church teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived Jesus through sexual relations with God the father. Brigham Young wrote in the Journal of Discourses 8:115, "The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood -- was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." Likewise, the Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, "Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pg. 547; Read also, The Seer, by Orsen Pratt; Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 1; or The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson).
The Bible teaches that Mary, a virgin, "was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). It is a miracle that is difficult for many to understand, but not one that occurred as a result of Mary having intercourse with a human or a spiritual being.
The Spirit World
Mormons believe that God, angels and humans are the same. BYU religion professor Robert Millet clarifies this concept in "The Mormon Faith: A New Look at Christianity" (1998, pg. 39): "Latter-day Saints believe that angels are men and women, human beings, sons and daughters of God, personages of the same type as we are. Parley P. Pratt, an early apostle wrote, 'Gods, angels and men are all of one species, one race, one great family.'"
Additionally, angels are created through sexual relations, better known as "celestial exaltation" between God and his heavenly wife in the spirit world. In the LDS Church manual, Achieving a Celestial Marriage, celestial exaltation "includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This our Father in heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children, born to them in the bonds of celestial marriage."
Spirits are gender specific, immortal and eternal: "Each [male and female] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," issued by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, 1995).
Brigham Young stated:
"Mankind are organized of element designed to endure to all eternity; it never had a beginning and never can have an end. There never was a time when this matter, of which you and I are composed, was not in existence, and there never can be a time when it will pass out of existence; it cannot be annihilated. It is brought together, organized, and capacitated to receive knowledge and intelligence, to be enthroned in glory, to be made angels, Gods -- beings who will hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds, or to extinguish suns by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This is what you and I are created for." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 48; see also Doctrines and Covenants 93:29-33)
The Bible teaches that angels (immortals) and humans (mortals) are to worship God (the sole eternal being) their creator (Hebrews 1). Angels have taken on anthropomorphic characteristics but they are not human. They bore messages to humans from God (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:11, 26, 2:9; Acts 8:26) and assisted Jesus (Matthew 26:53; Luke 22:43) and his people (Psalm 91:11, 12; Acts 5:19; Hebrews 1:14).
Jesus and Satan
The Mormon church explicitly teaches in the Pearl of Great Price in both the books of Moses (chapter 4) and Abraham (chapter 3) that Jesus Christ and Satan are both sons of God and are not only spirit brothers to each other but are spirit brothers to humans and angels as well. Brigham Young referred to "the Devil, the mighty Lucifer, the great prince of the angels, and the brother of Jesus" in the Journal of Discourses 6:207. In an Ensign magazine (a publication of the Mormon church) answer to a question from a reader, "How can Jesus and Lucifer be spirit brothers when their characters and purposes are so utterly opposed?" the magazine stated, "On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some--especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers....But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer's older brother" (1986, pg. 25).
The Bible teaches that God has only one son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 17) who came to destroy the work of the devil (I John 3:8).
Both Mormonism and Christianity make very different truth claims.
Christians must know what they say they believe otherwise their claim to faith is meaningless.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
By St. Gregory of Sinai
Here something must be said about delusion, so far as this is possible; for, because of its deviousness and the number of ways in which it can ensnare us, few recognize it clearly and for most it is almost inscrutable. Delusion manifests itself or, rather, attacks and invades us in two ways - in the form of mental images and fantasies or in the form of diabolic influence - though its sole cause and origin is always arrogance. The first form is the origin of the second and the second is the origin of a third form - mental derangement. The first form, illusory visions, is caused by self-conceit; for this leads us to invest the divine with some illusory shape, thus deceiving us through mental images and fantasies. This deception in its turn produces blasphemy as well as the fear induced by monstrous apparitions, occurring both when awake and when asleep - a state described as the terror and perturbation of the soul. Thus arrogance is followed by delusion, delusion by blasphemy, blasphemy by fear, fear by terror, and terror by a derangement of the natural state of the mind. This is the first form of delusion, that induced by mental images and fantasies. The second form, induced by diabolic influence, is as follows. It has its origin in self-indulgence, which in its turn results from so-called natural desire. Self-indulgence begets licentiousness in all its forms of indescribable impurity. By inflaming man's whole nature and clouding his intelligence as a result of its intercourse with spurious images, licentiousness deranges the intellect, searing it into a state of delirium and impelling its victim to utter false prophecies, interpreting the visions and discourses of certain supposed saints, which he claims arc revealed to him when he is intoxicated and befuddled with passion, his whole character perverted and corrupted by demons. Those ignorant of spiritual matters, beguiled by delusion, call such men 'little souls'. These 'little souls' are to be found sitting near the shrines of saints, by whose spirit they claim to be inspired and tested, and whose purported message they proclaim to others. But in truth they should be called possessed by the demons, deceived and enslaved by delusion, and not prophets foretelling what is to happen now and in the future. For the demon of licentiousness himself darkens and deranges their minds, inflaming them with the fire of spiritual lust, conjuring up before them the illusory appearance of saints, and making them hear conversations and see visions. Sometimes the demons themselves appear to them and convulse them with fear. For having harnessed them to the yoke of Belial, the demon of licentiousness drives them on to practice their deceits, so that he may keep them captive and enslaved until death, when he will consign them to hell.
Delusion arises in us from three principal sources: arrogance, the envy of demons, and the divine will that allows us to be tried and corrected. Arrogance arises from superficiality, demonic envy is provoked by our spiritual progress, and the need for correction is the consequence of our sinful way of life. The delusion arising solely from envy and self-conceit is swiftly healed, especially when we humble ourselves. On the other hand, the delusion allowed by God for our correction, when we are handed over to Satan because of our sinfulness, God often permits to continue until our death, if this is needed to efface our sins. Sometimes God hands over even the guiltless to the torment of demons for the sake of their salvation. One should also know that the demon of self-conceit himself prophesies in those who are not scrupulously attentive to their hearts.
Question: What should we do when the devil transforms himself into an angel of light (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14) and tries to seduce us?
Answer: You need great discrimination in order to distinguish between good and evil. So do not readily or lightly put your trust in appearances, but weigh things well, and after testing everything carefully cleave to what is good and reject what is evil (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21-2). You must test and discriminate before you give credence to anything.
You must also be aware that the effects of grace are self-evident, and that even if the devil does transform himself he cannot produce these effects: he cannot induce you to be gentle, or forbearing, or humble, or joyful, or serene, or stable in your thoughts; he cannot make you hate what is worldly, or cut off sensual indulgence and the working of the passions, as grace does. He produces vanity, haughtiness, cowardice and every kind of evil. Thus you can tell from its effects whether the light shining in your soul is from God or from Satan. The lettuce is similar in appearance to the endive, and vinegar, to wine; but when you taste them the palate discerns and recognizes the differences between each. In the same way the soul, if it possesses the power of discrimination, can distinguish with its noetic sense between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the illusions of Satan.
Source: "One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Texts", Philokalia, vol. 4.
Read more here.
The video above is actual footage from the glorification service of St. Nektarios on the island of Aegina on November 5, 1961.
Andrei Zolotov, Jr.
January 26, 2012
The Thirteenth Apostle was in town earlier this week. The Judge of the Whole Universe. I am not kidding. His name is Theodoros II, and he is the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.
His full title is a bit of a going joke among the knowing: His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, all the land of Egypt, and all Africa, Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, thirteenth of the Apostles, and Judge of the Œcumene (inhabited Greco-RomanUniverse). A bit too much for the head of the ever dwindling Hellenic community of Egypt and neighboring countries, not to be confused with the Coptic Pope, who bears a similar title but leads Egypt’s much greater indigenous Christian community, which broke away from the Greek Orthodox Church in the 5th century over Christological and political differences.
That could well be just one of those anachronistic tributes to the Golden Age, whenever one can find it, that people in the Orthodox Church are so fond of – after all Alexandria was indeed the second most important city in the Roman Empire. If it wasn’t for the remarkable missionary outreach into the black, sub-Saharan Africa that turned the Patriarchate of Alexandria into one of the fastest growing and most actively evangelizing churches in the world! And if the Western Christian mission in Africa has been vividly described, vastly romanticized on the one hand, and criticized as a part of the European colonialism on the other, the Eastern Christian mission, both by the Greeks and by the Copts, both taking place largely in the late colonial and post-colonial era and to a large extent based on indigenous quest by native Africans, remains tremendously underresearched and underreported.
Patriarch Theodoros was in Moscow to receive the prestigious award from the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, and the Foundation for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples, which he shared with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and the world’s number one tennis player – and apparently a church benefactor, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. He also presided over a glorious service last Sunday at the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Russian Patriarch Kirill made clear that he honors his “senior brother” in the unruly family of Orthodox patriarchs not only for his missionary efforts, but also as a token of solidarity with Christians in Egypt and elsewhere, who are suffering attacks from radical Muslims. “We are praying today for the Christians of Africa, especially Northern Africa, where Christian blood is being spilled now, but not only for them,” said Patriarch Kirill addressing Patriarch Theodoros. “We know that in the countries of Central Africa, Christians are being killed, sometimes whole villages are being annihilated because the very fact of a Christian preaching appears to someone untimely, superfluous and even dangerous… After visiting Moscow, you will go on a missionary trip to 14 countries, including those where Christians are being killed. We will be praying for you.”
The pomposity of the hierarchical liturgy somehow makes it hard to imagine Patriarch Theodoros playing the drum in a Madagascar village or surrounded by ritual dancers in Cameroon. But in his acceptance speech in Moscow, he made it all clear: “When I leave this world, I would like to be remembered as a missionary Patriarch,” he said.
It was only in the 20th century, and particularly since the 1950s, that the mission to Black Africa began in earnest. Both the first President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and the present Archbishop of Albania Anastasios spent time as missionaries in Kenya and Uganda – the countries with the largest Orthodox presence in sub-Saharan Africa. Another towering figure in this effort was Patriarch Petros VII (1996-2004) who increased the number of dioceses and spearheaded a major missionary campaign in areas previously untouched until his dramatic death, together with three bishops and his brother, in a helicopter crash en route to Mount Athos.
I remember interviewing Patriarch Petros in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare in 1998. When asked about the pompous ancient title, he appeared to have some weary embarrassment, as if he is often asked about it. “It is a tribute to an old tradition, and we only use it rarely in a liturgical context,” he said.
The numbers of Orthodox Christians in Africa is a big unknown. It is known that there are presently 21 archdioceses and 4 dioceses in the Church. Only two out of 27 active bishops are black. But the majority of clergy are native and locally trained in African seminaries. The total number of Orthodox Christians in Africa is estimated to have grown in the past 20 years from 200,000 to 1.5 million. Some sources speak of several million members, but it is impossible to verify any figures. What is important is that the growth is out there.
What is also remarkable is how this church combines in its worship the Greek, Russian and local cultural forms such as instruments and dance unheard of, if not to say an anathema in more traditional Orthodox cultures. The video of an Easter celebration in Ghana went viral last year among the world’s Orthodox Christians precisely for that reason – the dynamism and enthusiasm so long lost in our crystallized ritual. In a sign of a growing interest in Russia, a popular Russian Orthodox magazine Foma (Thomas) published a report about the life of a parish in Kenya which generated a large response from readers.
“In my view, this is probably the most interesting phenomenon within the 'Orthodox world' in the twenty-first century, and one that is very little known and even less understood,” Irina Papkova, the associate professor of political science at Central European University in Budapest said in an email interview. Papkova is also launching a research project on African Orthodox Christianity. “I think that it is important because of the ways in which Africans are adopting Orthodoxy. They are accepting the content of Orthodoxy, but they are transforming the form, which shows to us really that common images of Orthodoxy as a completely rigid, traditionalist religion are not accurate. There is plenty of space within the faith for creative transformation, at least as far as the form of outward worship is concerned. This is really important for us to remember, as Orthodox populations in Europe and Russia in particular are struggling with the question of how Orthodoxy fits with (post)modernity and whether it is heretical or not to adapt certain non-dogmatic aspects of worship (such as language) to contemporary cultural conditions.”
When one sees what is happening in Africa, it is impossible not to be inspired by the absolute purity of faith with which the people of Ghana, Kenya, etc. are accepting Orthodox Christianity. The joy that one sees in their liturgical celebrations is something quite different from the solemnity that tends to overwhelm congregations in other Orthodox contexts. You get the sense that the Africans are experiencing communion with Christ immediately, here and now, and that's a powerful experience we more ‘hereditary’ Orthodox should perhaps learn from."
January 26, 2012
Perhaps Father Stephen Weston took inspiration from the fact that Jesus was the son of a carpenter when he built Britain's smallest church in his back garden.
Father Weston, 63, constructed St Fursey's Orthodox Church in Norfolk with just an A-level in woodwork, earned 14 years ago, to his name.
The byzantine arches of the wooden shed, which is 18ft by 13ft wide, has become a local landmark in the middle of Father Weston's housing estate.
St Fursey's is so small the holy processions carried out during each service only take worshippers ten steps along and two steps across.
There is no room to sit and after services the congregation step through a door into the priest's living room for a cup of coffee.
But the Antiochian Orthodox church - very similar to the Greek Orthodox but English speaking - is an official place of worship after it was blessed by a bishop.
The regular congregation at the church has now grown to seven, including two pensioners and their walking frames, which means Father Weston now needs to upsize.
The clergyman said: 'When we do a Saturday liturgy we've had 18 people in the church and it really is a bit of a crush.
'We would like to see our congregation grow, a large part of orthodox services are sung not said and in bigger orthodox churches that is led by a choir and the congregation join in.
'At St Fursey's it not an option, everybody is in the choir and everybody is in the congregation.'
Father Weston served as an Anglican priest with the Church of England for 20 years before he became disillusioned with its ideals at the age of 50.
He says he was upset with the direction the Anglican Church was heading and admitted the ordination of women to the priesthood was 'the straw that broke the camel's back'.
Stephen switched to the Orthodox Church and short of an English-speaking venue, decided to build his own in the village of Sutton, Norfolk, in 1998.
A team of volunteers took just over six months to complete the structure complete at a cost of just £5,000 and started worshipping there while it was still a building site.
The church does not need to be consecrated because it is legally considered a private chapel.
However, it has been blessed by a bishop from the Orthodox church, making it an official place of worship.
Father Weston was ordained by the Orthodox church in May last year, in a ceremony in Paris.
He has already said he will be happy to pick up his tools and build another shed if that is the only option for getting hold of a bigger church in the neighbouring village of Stalham.
Father Weston said: 'Very likely people thought I was mad when I was building St Fursey's.
'I remember my next door neighbour sticking his head out of his window and asking what I was doing in the garden.
'I told him and he said "Oh great you can build a whole cathedral back there if you like".
'Although we love our little church it is very tucked away, we need another place of worship that is more public so that people can find us.'
St Fursey's is understood to be the smallest working church in Britain.
Both the Church of England and Catholic church, in Britain, were unable to name a smaller church.
Bremilhan church in Wiltshire is known to be the smallest church in the country, at 13ft by 11ft, however services are only held there once a year.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Read details of his ascetic life and martyric death at the following links:
Saint New Martyr Andrew from Georgia and Abkhazia
A Quiet Hymn, Full of Light: The Ascetic Life and Martyric Death of Hieromonk Andrew (Kurashvili) of Comana, Republic of Georgia
Vissarion Korkoliacos (1908–1991) was a Greek Orthodox monk of the Agathonos Monastery, close to Lamia, Central Greece. He became a monk in his teen years and was regarded by those who knew him as an especially good-hearted cleric with humanitarian spirit.
Vissarion (Bessarion) became famous after the opening of his tomb in March 2006, during which Monks and coroners found his body in pristine condition. The event caused sensation and amazement not only in the local Community of Fthiotida but also to the whole of Greece, especially after exposure of the event on Greek television. The relics of Vissarion were inspected for first time by the retired professor and famous Athens coroner Panayiotis Yamarelos, who spoke on television about an extraordinary and inexplicable event. More specifically, the phrases of Yamarelos about Vissarion's extremely well preserved body and his statement regarding the face being in such pristine condition that it "was ready to talk to you", caused a commotion.
The Bishop of Fthiotida, Nicholas, said that the Church should not be in a hurry to announce any kind of sanctity of the monk Vissarion, and that the issue should be discussed at the Iera Sinodhos (Holy Synod) of the Orthodox Church of Greece in Athens. However, after the publication of this extraordinary event by the Greek media, hundreds of believers from the area of Fthiotida and other parts of Greece, arrived at the Agathonos Monastery in order to venerate the body of Vissarion.
On January 22, 2012 a Divine Liturgy with a Memorial Service was celebrated in honor of Fr. Vissarion at Agathonos Monastery. Metropolitan Nicholas of Fthiotida, who celebrated the Divine Liturgy, noted:
"21 years have passed since the day Elder Vissarion reposed and 6 years since the uncovering of his relics and the grace of God preserves the body of the saintly spiritual father incorrupt as a witness to his holiness and as an affirmation to the conscience of the people, who in the years of his life honored him as a saint and now, after the wondrous events of the uncovering of his relics proclaim his virtuous way of life and his plenteous almsgiving. Despite the falsehoods of some Fr. Vissarion maintains the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in his body and is for the faithful a witness of faith and divine blessing."
DIOCESE OF BERLIN AND GERMANY: January 23, 2012
In 2007, the Diocese of Berlin and Germany of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia decided to canonize Alexander Schmorell, a member of the anti-fascist student organization “White Rose,” who was executed on July 13, 1943, in Stadelheim Prison in Munich for anti-fascist activities and confessing the Orthodox Christian faith. The act of canonization will be formalized on February 4-5 in Munich, according to the official website of the Orenburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Alexander Schmorell was born in Orenburg, Russia, in 1917. His mother was Russian, his father from a German merchant family. Despite the fact that his family moved to Munich in 1921, Alexander retained a spiritual bond with his faraway homeland for the rest of his life, and was a parishioner in the local Russian church. In 1942, while studying medicine, Alexander and his friend Hans Scholl began to write and disseminate anti-Hitler brochures. The Resistance group “White Rose,” known to every European schoolchild, included Schmorell and his high-school friend Chrisoph Probst, and another student friend Willi Graf and Hans’ sister Sophie Scholl. The group was exposed in 1943, and they were all sentenced to the guillotine.
In 2008, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate announced that Alexander Schmorell is the first New Martyr to be canonized after the reestablishment of canonical communion between the two Churches. On February 4-5, 2012, bishops from Russia and Ukraine, including His Eminence Metropolitan Valentin of Orenburg and Saraktash, as well as His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America will be present at divine services in Munich.
More on Alexander Schmorell can be found here, here and here. A video about The White Rose can be seen here.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
On January 25, 2012 Greek Orthodox Hieromonk Basilios Nassar was shot by an armed terrorist group in Hama, Syria on the second day of heavy fighting there. Fr. Basilios was at the Metropolis when he was informed by a phone call that a parishioner of his was shot and needed assistance. The Patriarchate of Antioch has reported that the 30-year-old priest was shot while giving medical aid to the wounded man who was previously shot. Fr. Basilios was shot in the chest and in the right armpit. Immediately another priest, Fr. Panteleimon Isa, who was with him dragged his bloody body to a nearby building to save him, but the martyr for Christ Father Basilios was dead within 30 minutes from hemorrhaging. His funeral took place today, January 26th, in the Church of Saint George in Hama. The blessed Father Basilios, known in the world as Mazin, was born in 1982 in the village of Kfarmpo in Hama and was a graduate of the Theological School of Balamand. He was also a teacher of Byzantine Music in the school Saint Kosmas the Melodist which he founded in the Metropolis.
Syria Chaos Claims Priest and an Aid Group Official
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The holy Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev was the first bishop to be tortured and slain by the Communists at the time of the Russian Revolution.
Basil Nikephorovich Bogoyavlensky was born in the province of Tambov of pious parents on January 1, 1848. His father, a priest, was later murdered. The young Basil graduated from the Theological Academy in Kiev in 1874, and taught in the Tambov seminary for seven years before he was ordained to the holy priesthood.
His wife died in 1886, and their only child died shortly thereafter. The bereaved widower entered the Kozlov Monastery in Tambov and was given the name Vladimir. In 1888 he was consecrated bishop of Staraya Rus, and served as a vicar bishop of the Novgorod diocese. In 1891 he was assigned to the diocese of Samara. In those days people of his diocese suffered from a cholera epidemic and a crop failure. Bishop Vladimir devoted himself to caring for the sick and suffering, inspiring others to follow his example.
In 1892 he became Archbishop of Kartalin and Kahetin, then in 1898 he was chosen as Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna. He served fifteen years in this position.
Metropolitan Vladimir was distinguished by his compassion for the poor, and for widows and orphans. He also tried to help alcoholics and those who had abandoned the Church. The Metropolitan was also interested in the education of children in school, especially those who were studying in the theological schools.
In 1912, after the death of Metropolitan Anthony, he was appointed Metropolitan of Petrograd, administering that diocese until 1915. Because he disapproved of Rasputin, Metropolitan Vladimir fell out of favor with the Tsar, and so he was transferred to Kiev. On November 5, 1917 he announced that St Tikhon (April 7) had been elected as Patriarch of Moscow.
The "Ukrainian Congress" was also calling for an autonomous Ukraine and for the creation of a Ukrainian Church independent from the Church of Russia. Metropolitan Vladimir suffered and grieved because of this question, warning that such a division in the Church would allow its enemies to be victorious. However, at the end of 1917, a Ukrainian Dominion was formed, and also a separate Ukrainian church administration ("rada") led by the retired Archbishop Alexis Dorodnitzin. This uncanonical group forbade the commemoration of Patriarch Tikhon during church services, and demanded that Metropolitan Vladimir leave Kiev.
In January 1918 the civil war came to Kiev, and the two forces vied for control of the city. Many churches and monasteries were damaged by the cannon fire. The Bolsheviks seized the Kiev Caves Lavra on January 23, and soldiers broke into the churches. Monks were taken out into the courtyard to be stripped and beaten. At six thirty on the night of January 25, five armed soldiers and a sailor came looking for Metropolitan Vladimir. The seventy-year-old hierarch was tortured and choked in his bedroom with the chain of his cross. The ruffians tortured the Metropolitan and demanded money.
When they emerged, the Metropolitan's cell attendant approached and asked for a blessing. The sailor pushed him aside and told him, "Enough bowing to these blood-drinkers. No more of it." After blessing and kissing him, the Metropolitan said, "Good-bye, Philip." Then he walked calmly with his executioners, just as if he were on his way to serve the Liturgy.
Metropolitan Vladimir was driven from the monastery to the place of execution. As they got out of the car, the holy martyr asked, "Do you intend to shoot me here?"
"Why not?" they replied.
After praying for a short time and asking forgiveness for his sins, Metropolitan Vladimir blessed the executioners, saying, "May God forgive you." Then several rifle shots were heard.
In the morning, some women came to the gates of the Lavra and told the monks where the Metropolitan's body could be found. He was lying on his back, with bullet wounds near his right eye and by his right collarbone. There were also several cuts and gashes on the body, including a very deep chest wound. The hieromartyr was carried into the Lavra church of St Michael, where he had spent his last days at prayer.
In Moscow, the All-Russian Church Council was in session when word came of Metropolitan Vladimir's death. Patriarch Tikhon and his clergy performed a Memorial Service for the New Martyr Vladimir. A commission was formed to investigate the circumstances of Metropolitan Vladimir's murder, but it was unable to carry out its duties because of the Revolution. The Council decided that January 25, the day of his death, would be set aside for the annual commemoration of all of Russia's martyrs and confessors killed by the Soviets.
The holy New Martyr Vladimir of Kiev was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Russia in 1992. On the Sunday closest to January 25 (the day of Metropolitan Vladimir's martyrdom) we also observe the Synaxis of Russia's New Martyrs and Confessors.