Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Remembers Elder Paisios


By Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

According to Orthodox practice, we cannot come to know our deeper passions or console the inner heart without the presence of another person. A spiritual guide, an elder or confessor, is mandatory for the nurturing of the virtues and the development of the soul. There is simply no other way. The elder can take your soul into his soul and lighten the burden that you carry. We all need such an advisor, a confessor, before whom we can share our inner thoughts and reveal our deepest concerns. For spiritual direction is not some oriental status or eccentric luxury. While people sometimes identify the spiritual director with the role of a "guru", it is not exactly the same, because the spiritual elder is part of a larger tradition and community in the Church. In the Orthodox Church, spiritual direction is a fundamental necessity for spiritual balance and health. It is required not only of lay aspirants to the treasures of the heart but of every person - male and female, young and old, lay and ordained, deacon and priest and bishop alike. This means that while the monks and the abbots of the Holy Mountain sought to hear a word of advice from me, I, too, was and am - like every Orthodox priest and bishop - obliged to turn to seek a word of comfort from a spiritual father.

One of the elders was Father Paisios (1924-1994), a simple yet profound monk. Born of pious parents in Cappadocia of Asia Minor, Father Paisios was one of those responsible for the rebirth of monasticism on Mount Athos, which was clearly waning - perhaps not spiritually, but certainly from the standpoint of physical resources and monastic population - when we celebrated its millennial anniversary in 1963. After a period of retreat on Mount Sinai, Father Paisios returned to the Holy Mountain, from where he directed numerous souls throughout the world. He would visit my predecessor, Patriarch Demetrios, when I served as his personal secretary; I was most impressed by his silence.

Anyone blessed to know a living saint knows the unique sense of stillness that characterizes such a person; a saint appears to live at once in this world and in the age to come. What was most surprising about Father Paisios was that he was utterly human, filled with spontaneity and far from any pretense. God's light seemed to shine through the veil of his soul in a splendor, which made his visitor feel totally at ease and warmly welcomed. Later, I recall visiting him in his cell, just as so many others have done over the years. He would offer spiritual counsel as he shared an apple or an orange that he had peeled. He was a genuine missionary and professor of the desert. An unordained monk hearing the inner life of an Ecumenical Patriarch! And he did so without the least self-consciousness. Spontaneity and sincerity are, sometimes, the humble context within which the Church functions most authentically.

From Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today By Bartholomew I (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople), pp. 64-66.

Why the Shroud of Turin is a Forgery


"All empirical evidence and logical reasoning concerning the shroud of Turin will lead any objective, rational person to the firm conclusion that the shroud is an artifact created by an artist in the fourteenth-century." -- Steven D. Schafersman

The historical records for the Shroud of Turin can be separated into two time periods: before 1390 and from 1390 to the present. The period until 1390 is subject to debate and controversy among historians. Prior to the 14th century there are some allegedly congruent but controversial references such as the Pray Codex. It is often mentioned that the first certain historical record dates from 1353 or 1357. However the presence of the Turin Shroud in Lirey, France, is only undoubtedly attested in 1390 when Bishop Pierre d'Arcis wrote a memorandum where he charged that the Shroud was a forgery. He said an official of the church at Lirey had, "falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb, ..." Bishop d'Arcis went on to explain how a predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers, had "discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, ..."

About 1900, a letter was found in a collection of documents owned by Ulysse Chevalier. The letter was written in 1389 by the Bishop of Troyes, Henri of Poitiers, Bishop to the Anti-Pope of Avignon, Clement the VII. The letter explained that an investigation had exposed the artist who had painted the Shroud and he had confessed. Many were disturbed that the cloth was being used for financial gain. The letter further pointed out:

“For many theologians and other wise persons declared that this could not be the real Shroud of our Lord, having the Savior’s likeness thus imprinted upon it, since the holy Gospel made no mention of any such imprint; while, if it had been true, it was quite unlikely that the holy evangelist would have omitted to record it, or that the fact should have remained hidden until the present time.”

The carbon 14 dating of the shroud to 1260-1390 A.D. brings us into the world of Francis of Assisi (who died in 1226), to his stigmata (the miraculous wounds on his hands, feet and side) and, especially, to the lay brotherhoods that his piety and his cult of self-mortification engendered. These Christians appreciated and understood Jesus' wounds in a very physical way.

Knowing both this and the shroud's carbon 14 dating of 1260 to 1390 A.D., it is worth returning, finally, to the place and time of the shroud's first appearance in historical documents. It is the year 1357, and the shroud is being exhibited publicly to pilgrims. It belongs to a French nobleman, Geofrey de Charnay, and is being displayed in his private chapel in Lirey, a village near Troyes, in northeastern France. The Bishop of Troyes, Henri of Poitiers, is upset because he believes the shroud is a fake; in fact, he has been told this by a man who claims to have painted it. Thirty years pass. It is now 1389, and Henri's successor, Pierre d'Archis, writes a long letter of protest about the shroud to Pope Clement VII. He recalls his predecessor's accusation and then goes on to state his own conviction "that the Shroud is a product of human handicraft ... a cloth cunningly painted by a man." He pleads with the Pope to end its public display. The Pope's written reply is cautious but clear; the shroud may still be displayed, but only on the condition that a priest be in attendance to announce to all present, in a loud and intelligible voice, without any trickery, that the aforesaid form or representation [the shroud] is not the true burial cloth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but only a kind of painting or picture made as a form or representation of the burial cloth.

Read more here.

Photos: The Return of Elder Ephraim to Vatopaidi Monastery


With tears in their eyes and candles burning, the monks of Vatopaidi Monastery and hundreds of pilgrims received back their spiritual father, Abbot Ephraim, to the Garden of Theotokos. As many ran to kiss his hand to receive his blessing, the Elder was clearly moved by such a reception. When he arrived at the entrance to the Monastery, Fr. Germanos gave back to Fr. Ephraim his staff and blessing cross. They then entered the katholikon where a Doxology and Supplication service took place.

"I love them and I forgive them. My imprisonment was a miracle of the Panagia." So spoke Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi with tears in his eyes to his spiritual children and the pilgrims who celebrated the Service of Supplication to the Theotokos upon his return to Mount Athos after three months imprisonment in Athens. He spoke about his life in prison which he spent in prayer, but he missed participating in the Holy Mysteries of the Church.







Photos: Where St. John Climacus Lived in Asceticism


According to tradition, the place where St. John Climacus lived in asceticism was in a desert cave located in Wadi Et-Tlah of Sinai, approximately 8 kilometers from the Holy Monastery of Saint Katherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. This is why St. John Climacus is also known as "the Sinaite".



Source

Friday, March 30, 2012

Illness, Cure and the Therapist According to St. John of the Ladder



By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos 
of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios

Today, there is a lot of talk about the cure of man, since we have realized that, by living an individualistic way of life, separated from community and reality, obliged to live in a tradition that has lost its communal character, where there is no communion and preservation of the person, man is sick. Naturally, when we talk of illness we do not mean its neurological and psychological aspect, but we mean illness as the loss of the true meaning of life. It is an illness that is first and foremost ontological (i.e. to do with our very being).

The Orthodox Church seeks to heal the sick personality of man and indeed this is the work of Orthodox theology. In the Patristic texts we see the truth that Orthodox theology is a therapeutic science and method: on the one hand, because theologians are those who have acquired personal knowledge of God, within the context of revelation, and thus all the powers of their soul have been already cured by the Grace of God; on the other hand because these theologians, who have found the meaning of life, the true meaning of their existence, go on to help others in their journey along this way, the way of theosis.

In attempting to study human problems we come to the realization that at their very depth these problems are theological, since man was created according to the Image and Likeness of God. This means that man was created by God to have and to maintain a relationship with God, a relationship with other people, and a relationship with the whole of creation. This relationship was successful for first-formed human beings, Adam and Eve, precisely because they possessed God's Grace. When, however, man's inner world became sick, when human beings lost their orientation towards God and consequently God's Grace, then this living and life-giving relationship ceased to exist. The result of this was that all his relationships with God, with his fellow man, with creation and with his own self were upset. All his internal and external strength was disorganized. He ceased to have God as his focus, and instead he replaced him with his own self. A self, however that was cut off from those other parameters became autonomous, resulting in him becoming sick in both essence and reality. Therefore, in all that follows health is understood as a real and true relationship, and illness, as the interruption of that relationship, when man falls away from his essential dialogue with God, his fellow men and creation, and sinks into a tragic monologue.

To use an example, we (could say that before the Fall man's center was God. His soul was nourished by God's Grace and his body by his grace-filled soul. This was something that had consequences for all creation, and in this sense man was the king of all creation. However, all this balance was disturbed by sin. The soul, having ceased to be nourished by God's Grace, now sucks at the body, and thus the passions of the soul come into being (egotism, pride, hate etc.). The body, having ceased to be nourished by the soul, now sucks at mate-rial creation; hence the bodily passions (gluttony, possessiveness, desires of the flesh etc.) are created. In this situation nature both suffers and is violated, since, instead of receiving God's Grace through the pure looking-glass that is man's nous, it is exposed to violence by man, because what man wants from it is to satisfy his passions. Hence, ecological problems are created. After the Fall, a complete reversal is noted in man's relationship with God, with other people, and with creation. This is and is called an illness, a serious sickness. The cure for this, as seen within the Orthodox Tradition, is the proper reorientation of those relationships, the rebuilding of human existence in a way that man's center is God once again and that man's soul is again nourished by God. When this happens the Divine Grace is transmitted to the body and from there it is conveyed to the whole of irrational creation.

In light of this, man's problems are not simply psychological, social and ecological, but problems of relationships and universal responsibility. They are ontological problems, i.e. problems pertaining to man's being and existence. It is within this framework that we have spoken about the illness and cure of man in the Orthodox Church and about theology as therapeutic science. The Orthodox Church does not reject medical science. On the contrary she accepts and uses medicine in many instances. At the same time she looks at the ontological dimension of man's problems and tries to bring man back to his right perspective and to his original ontological orientation. Hence, we can talk of spiritual psychotherapy and of essential psychosynthesis but not of psychoanalysis. From this standpoint, even someone who is healthy from a psychiatric point of view can be sick from a theological one.

The saints of the Church also worked within this framework. Amongst them is St. John of Sinai, the author of the well-known book The Ladder, which has this title because it has to do with the ladder of man's ascent to God. This ascent is in reality a reorientation of man's true relationships with God, with his fellow man, with creation and, naturally, with his very self. All that follows must be placed within this essential framework.

READ THE REST HERE

Aristotle University Professors Respond to Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus


Letter of Professors of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece

To the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
I. Gennadiou 14
115 21 Athens

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops. Be shepherds of the Church of God, which He bought with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)

Your Beatitude Holy President,
Your Eminences,

From many years the academic community has monitored the development of a peculiar controversy, which concerns the position of the administration of the Church of Greece to the inter-Christian and interreligious dialogues and organizations in which they participate. Most of us have participated in the past and continue to participate in these scientific dialogues, representing either the Church of Greece or the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other ecclesiastical administrations. For the results presented, detailed accounts of the relevant conciliar committees are available where venerable Prelates have the opportunity to learn in detail about the progress of these movements.

The Church of Greece, following the formula of the Church of Constantinople, decided synodically, from the first half of the past century, to send representatives to the bodies of inter-Christian and interreligious dialogue. The mission provided documents as a witness of the truth providing full guarantee for the correctness of participation while at the same time, the contemporary modern inter-Christian approach with the general decisions of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the years 1902 and 1904 confirmed the position of the Orthodox Church as responsible for the unity of the Christian world. For those seeking further hagiological documentation of the contemporary inter-Christian movement, it is present in the work of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, who wrote in mid-19th century of the need for treatment of injuries to the ecclesiastical body, the possibility of reunification of divided Christianity and a common Christological belief held after the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church split its branches. As was expressed by Saint Nektarios, Metropolitan of Pentapolis: "Dogma does not fight love and love graces dogma."

But while the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece has strongly advocated the participation in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, we see that some members engage in acts that undermine not only the course of these dialogues, but, also, create for the Inter-Orthodox unity conditions for schism within the Orthodox Church. Our concern is based on the fact that the Holy Synod to date has not checked its members, the hierarchs, for antisynodical and inappropriate behavior. The attitude of the Holy Synod compels us to send this letter by which we confer to the august body of the Holy Synod of Bishops the following comments and questions.

A member of the Hierarchy, His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy read out this year "new anathemas" against the Pope of Rome Benedict XVI "and those in communion with him." We wonder if the Greek Church observes a different attitude from that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which with synodic decision in the year 1965 lifted the anathemas of 1054 which had been unleashed by Patriarch Michael I against the envoys of Pope Leo IX. Because it is a logical inconsistency to anathematize the current Pope of Rome "and those in communion with him" by a Bishop, and at the same time for a Synod, to which he belongs, be in a theological dialogue with them. The same applies to His Eminence of Piraeus concerning Protestantism, which he also "anathemitized", ignoring that for four centuries now no Orthodox Synod wished to take similar action. The Pan-Orthodox rulings on the inter-Christian dialogue must be the canonical driver and the bacteria of the pastors of the Church and not to slander and to circumvent them.

The same Hierarch, also, has a habit of rudely criticizing the Muslim and Jewish religion along with their servants and their faithful. We are unable to discern or even to speculate what the spiritual or pastoral benefit is from this unprovoked, violent attack of one bishop against people of a different religion. Simultaneously, we are seriously concerned about the image of the Greek Church and the pastors inside and outside the country because of these actions, and many of us become partakers of bewilderment and indignation that they raise. Is it difficult to see by someone the damage and distress this can cause by the aforementioned on the mentality and behavior in ancient Patriarchates, whose seats are located in countries with a Muslim or Jewish majority? We do not need to convince by insults to evangelical truth, especially when our truth emanates from the God of peace, Who established the type and location of His Bishops and "when they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats" (1 Pet. 2:23). At this point it is necessary that the Holy Synod to answer if you accept blackmail or interference from any foreign religious center as denounced by the aforementioned Hierarch.

Together the Metropolitan of Piraeus as well as the Metropolitan of Cythera, like the first, is against the Serbian Orthodox Church accusing it of mistrial (due to the loss of Orthodox consciousness) in the case of the formerly deposed Bishop of Raska, Artemije the monk, who, indeed, both the aforementioned bishops of the Church of Greece characterize as the "canonical Bishop", "a Confessor" and "holy". The questions that arise in this case are obvious: Is there communion, Your Beatitude, of the Metropolitans of the Greek administration with a former bishop knowingly schismatic? Does the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece deny the jurisdiction and judgment of conciliar bodies of its sister Autocephalous Church? It is canonically and ecclesiologically unacceptable for an administration of Autocephalous bishops without authority to enter into canonical communion with schismatics, who act against the local Orthodox Church. So we would consider unacceptable the support of other Orthodox Bishops in communion with the Church in Greece with schismatics. Unless there are double standards for Their Eminences: "anathema" to the schismatics of the West and "communion" with the schismatics of the Balkans.

We know that a sufficient number of Hierarchs have expressed their concerns and requested the convocation of the Holy Synod to reaffirm or redefine the attitude of the Church of Greece regarding the inter-Christian and interreligious dialogue and the ecumenical movement. As Church members and therapists of the sacred science of theology we are aware of the holy Body of Hierarchs and our own observations and questions. With a clear synodical thoughtful reply on the matter we are sure you will restore the credibility of testimony in the Orthodox world.

With profound respect,

Ευαγγελία Αμοιρίδου, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια
Χρήστος Αραμπατζής, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Χαράλαμπος Ατματζίδης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Διονύσιος Βαλαής, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Πέτρος Βασιλειάδης, Καθηγητής
Μόσχος Γκουτζιούδης, Λέκτορας
Ηλίας Ευαγγέλου, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Αγγελική Ζιάκα, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια
Φώτιος Ιωαννίδης, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής
Δημήτριος Καϊμάκης, Καθηγητής
Ιωάννης Καραβιδόπουλος, Ομότιμος Καθηγητής
Άννα Κόλτσιου – Νικήτα, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια
Δήμητρα Κούκουρα, Καθηγήτρια
Αντωνία Κυριατζή, Λέκτορας
Μιλτιάδης Κωνσταντίνου, Καθηγητής
Νικόλαος Μαγγιώρος, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Γεώργιος Μαρτζέλος, Καθηγητής
Βασιλική Μητροπούλου, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια
Ιωάννης Μούρτζιος, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής
Παναγιώτης Παχής, Καθηγητής
Ιωάννης Πέτρου, Καθηγητής
Παναγιώτης Σκαλτσής, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής
π. Ιωάννης Σκιαδαρέσης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Χρυσόστομος Σταμούλης, Καθηγητής
Χρήστος Τσιρώνης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Στυλιανός Τσομπανίδης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Παναγιώτης Υφαντής, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής
Γλυκερία Χατζούλη, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Movie Review: "The Hunger Games"


The Hunger Games (2012)

Story: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.

Director: Gary Ross
Screenplay: Suzanne Collins
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson

Official Trailer
Official Website
IMDB

Review:

The Hunger Games is based on the best-selling Suzanne Collins dystopian novel of the same name. It is rated PG-13 mainly due to its brutal child-on-child violence and death. The film currently holds the record for the third best opening weekend box office sales of any movie ($152.5 million) in North America behind The Dark Knight ($158 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($169 million) and the biggest for a non-sequel. It was well received by critics, who praised Lawrence's performance and its themes and messages, whilst it was mildly criticized for its watered-down violence and its filming style. It has also been hailed as "darker than Harry Potter, more sophisticated than Twilight."

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem (as in panem et circenses, Latin for "bread and circuses") forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. They are living under the constant reminder that the Capitol obliterated District 13 for their rebellion, and for this they began the annual event. Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which 24 "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who enters the Games voluntarily to replace her younger sister, is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Entering the movie, I had not read the book but did have high expectations knowing how popular the book has become. I was not disappointed, as I found it to be a compelling, intelligent and action-packed film which is well-acted and entertaining. However, the quick, jumpy movements of the camera throughout was hard to handle at times. For the most part, I didn’t notice the jerky camera shooting, except during the action scenes. Perhaps this was a way to keep the movie PG-13 and not show the gore and violence going on, but at the same time it adds to the film a sense of danger since the book is written from the perspective of the main character Katniss, and one would think this is how she would view the events around her. I would have also liked the soundtrack to be more dystopian, with a song like "Disposable Teens" by Marilyn Manson about how teenagers are disposable in the dystopian society which Manson calls Holy Wood, which is an alternate dystopia of Hollywood where everything is taken to the extreme; but Taylor Swift is more palpable to younger audiences.

I have heard parents worry about their children viewing the movie. The movie does handle heavy subjects and issues and is violent, at least suggestively, so I would be cautious having any child under 10-years-old seeing this movie. Beyond that the film is careful to not dwell too much on the violence so as to make it viewable for younger audiences. The first time I saw it was opening day with my brother-in-law and he was strongly against having his 8-year-old daughter seeing it, but the second time I saw it was with my two 12-year-old nephews who loved the film and their only complaint was that it was a bit long. Personally I think the beloved children's movies I grew up with were much more frightening, like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Goonies, but the serious tone and the length of The Hunger Games is more designed for teenagers.

As far as the morality of the story, some caution could be made. I don't know what the books say, but Panem appears to be a godless society that has reduced itself to the pagan-like entertainments of barbaric times. Some would see this as a negative, but I more view it as a caution as to what we can become. The viewer knows that what he is seeing in this post-apocalytpic society is wrong and they are cheering for the victims. Altruistic sacrifices are made throughout the movie, and virtues are displayed as opposed to vices. The lack of public outcry against the barbarity of the Hunger Games is lacking severely however and one voice of reason would have been nice to see, but the end does have such a moment which I assume carries into the second book.

The Hunger Games is a postapocalyptic take on a familiar American myth. We have seen the gist of the story time and time again and everyone has been exposed to one form of the story in one way or another. When Shirley Jackson published "The Lottery" in 1948 it also had wide controversy, but today it is considered one of the best short stories in American literature. Similar things could be said for William Golding's Lord of the Flies and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Hunger Games is a bit of a combination of the three. I would also add in the dystopian movies Metropolis, Blade Runner, Death Race 2000, The Truman Show, Cube, Gattaca, Zoolander, The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man and even Spartacus. One also sees traces of television reality shows like Survivor and The Bachelorette. I was also amazed how similar this movie was to Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese film Battle Royale, but there are differences and the Japanese film, also based on a book, is much more violent and cut-throat. Equally I was amazed how similar the society created in The Hunger Games was similar to that of the mini-series Amerika, which also had America divided into twelve districts by the communists. Even in ancient literature and history we find the themes spoken of in The Hunger Games, such as in the story of Theseus, the goddess Diana, Robin Hood, the gladitorial games of Rome, the scapegoat of the Old Testament, and even the sacrifice of Christ. It is common for artists to borrow from and improve on many sources; after all Quentin Tarantino has built his career on this principle.

Rating:

Ecumenical Patriarch Encyclical On the Sanctification of Holy Chrism


To be read in Church during the Holy Services of the Akathist Hymn, on Friday March 30th, 2012.

PATRIARCHAL ENCYCLICAL

Prot. No. 217

+ BARTHOLOMEW

BY THE MERCY OF GOD
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE-NEW ROME
AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE HOLY CLERGY AND THE PIOUS PLENITUDE
OF THE ARCHDIOCESES
AND METROPOLISES OF OUR MOST HOLY APOSTOLIC AND PATRIARCHAL ECUMENICAL THRONE

Beloved children in the Lord,

Each person, created in the image and likeness of God, is a temple of the Lord. Much more so, those of us who have been baptized in Christ and chrismated with Holy Myrrh, grafted into the good olive tree of the Orthodox Church, are temples of the Holy Spirit that is within us, despite our various sins, both voluntary and involuntary, which alienate us from the Lord. “If we are faithless, yet He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2.13)

This grace is bestowed on us through the Holy Myrrh because, as St. Dionysios the Areopagite states, the service of myrrh perfects divine knowledge and understanding, whereby in a sacred manner our ascent to and blessed communion with the divinity is accomplished. The Myrrh grants the sanctification of the Spirit and is offered to the faithful as spiritual chrismation, a royal gift that sanctifies the soul and body.

Through the Myrrh we receive the pledge of the Spirit, from whom every good and perfect gift derive. Our God, who granted the Holy Spirit both in the law and to His Apostles, sanctifies all those who are anointed with holy myrrh and ranks them among the choir of those saved by grace, if only they preserve their garment of incorruption spotless from all defilement and struggle not to disappoint the Holy Spirit, which they received through Holy Chrism. For the myrrh renders the pious faithful familiar to and genuine servants of God; and when we are sealed with myrrh, we are known by the holy angels and by all heavenly powers, being conformed to these.

When we have holiness as the purpose of our existence in this life, we keep the commandments of God in order that the Holy Spirit, the good Comforter, may remain with us all and that we may inherit the heavenly Kingdom of God in accordance with the words: “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1.16)

Therefore, inasmuch as the periodical sanctification of the Holy Myrrh is a venerated institution of our Mother Church, our Modesty has, together with the Holy and Sacred Synod, decided that its consecration will be performed this year during the Holy and Great Week of our Lord’s Passion and will take place this coming Holy Thursday. The event will be preceded by the boiling of the Holy Myrrh from Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday, when we shall commemorate the sinful woman who anointed the Lord with precious fragrance and who was ultimately shown to be purer than everyone as a result of her great desire for Christ.

The sanctification of Holy Myrrh announced with this Patriarchal Encyclical constitutes a particular blessing for those of us performing, but also for all those who will attend and participate in this service. The Holy Myrrh will be distributed to other Orthodox Churches throughout the world, thereby becoming an unceasing source of sanctification, “a garment of incorruption and perfecting seal, marking those who receive the sacrament of Baptism with the sacred name of the Father and the only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit.”

We ask you, then, beloved children and brothers in the Lord, not to overlook this historical event of the Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh at our Sacred Center and to do your utmost to participate in prayer and spirit, contributing in any way but especially by your presence at the most holy Patriarchal Church from Holy Monday to Holy Thursday, when the inspiring services of the Sanctification will conclude, so that we may all receive the blessing and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as taste the benefits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

May His divine grace and boundless mercy be with you all.

March 16, 2012

† BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople

Fervent supplicant for all before God

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Ultimate Heresy: The Heartless God in "Parker's Back"


By Stephen Sparrow

"Parker's Back" was the last story Flannery O'Connor wrote. Caroline Gordon Tate recalled visiting O'Connor in hospital shortly before she died, and tells how O'Connor said she wasn't supposed to be working but then smiled and pulled from under her pillow a notebook in which she said she was putting the finishing touches to something. What she was touching up was "Parker's Back." I think it is easily her most profound short story, dealing as it does in a unique way with heresy3: the ultimate heresy if you like; viz. the idea that spirit and matter are separate and opposite manifestations of good and evil, and that Man is unable to approach God and God is unwilling to draw near to Man.

Such a heresy makes a mockery of the idea of a merciful Creator--i.e. that God is our Father and we are His children. It is a repudiation of Divine Providence, which if there is no such thing, makes a complete farce of the Incarnation (God entering His own creation). This world would then resemble nothing more than some bizarre experiment where the Creator watches and records the actions of free people the way science students observe laboratory rats in a maze.

"Parker's Back" centres on the marriage of O.E. Parker and Sarah Ruth Cates. O.E. (real name Obadiah Elihue Parker) cannot understand what made him marry Sarah Ruth, although he ruefully concedes that he could never have got her any other way. She must have been a challenge for him, but then we are left to mull over what attracted Sarah Ruth to O.E.. They both appear to have come from similar social backgrounds--i.e. short on education and money--but there the similarities stop. Sarah Ruth is a puritanical Christian who knows the bible backwards, and she's always quoting from it and warning O.E. of how poorly Judgement Day will go for him if he doesn't mend his ways, especially his penchant for blasphemy. Sarah Ruth is also a girl who, in the manner of most Old Testament women, expected some day to become somebody's wife, and in spite of O.E.'s naturally crude nature, for her there was a certain amount of attraction in that his name initials stood for two Old Testament characters. O.E. on the other hand professes to be irreligious and in addition has an unbridled sexual appetite, which he explains by muttering (to the reader) that Sarah Ruth was the first wife he had ever had, but by no means was she his first woman. Whenever he's away from Sarah Ruth he manifests pseudo toughness by ridiculing religion; trying to mask his insecurity with macho talk, and nowhere is this more noticeable than when he enters the poolroom and meets up with some old acquaintances straight after having the face of the Byzantine Christ tattooed on his back. O.E. like so many O'Connor characters is doggedly determined to resist God.

That Sarah Ruth is an unconscious Manichean4 heretic is never in doubt, and when it came to her marriage with O.E. she refused to go through with the ceremony in a church. "They were married in the County Ordinary's office because Sarah Ruth thought churches were idolatrous." Near the end of the story, when O.E. returned home after a two-day absence and with the Byzantine Christ covering his back, she yelled at him, "He [God] don't look. He's a spirit. No man shall see his face." And she kicked him out of the house screaming, "idolatry! I don't want no idolater in this house."

The tattooed Christ with its "all demanding eyes" is like a shrine complete with crucifix erected next to their little embankment house. For Sarah Ruth, so long as her marriage survives, there can be no escape now from awareness that Jesus Christ is both God and Man; and for O.E. there is the realisation that there is a God who must not be resisted. Everything Sarah Ruth feared about traditional and orthodox Christianity has come to haunt her, and O.E., despite the scorn for religion he expressed both to the Tattooist and the men in the Poolroom, has unwittingly stumbled and fallen over the very thing he didn't want to know.

Up until the day O.E. returned with the tattoo, Sarah Ruth has lived a life governed by biblical quotations. They're like the timber supports used in underground coalmines to prevent cave ins, but in this case they are supporting not a mine tunnel roof but a fear filled mind. Sarah Ruth has embedded in herself the off-putting and dismal prospect of a policeman God; a vengeful God. Banished from her mind is the God of the Gospels. Gone is the Good Shepherd, the Crazy Vineyard Owner, or the Prodigal Father who cannot resist loving the wayward son after his U turn. You have to wonder whether in Sarah Ruth's spiritual economy even thoughts about God would be idolatrous.

As for O.E., all his life he's been a dissatisfied man; he's been on a journey seeking perfection and trying to express that perfection with his tattoos. From the age of fourteen when he first saw the tattooed man at the fair, he was on a collision course with God. After that, everywhere he went he was confronted with the things of God--spiritual signposts of beauty, order, and harmony--all different and all in opposition to his own life so far. His collision course with God is symbolized by the collision between the tractor and the tree. Everything comes rapidly to a head after that. The burning tree, the burning tractor, and his burning shoes all signal the end for O.E.'s and Sarah Ruth's heresies. In the space of forty-eight hours, things will never be the same again. At the story's end both O.E. and Sarah Ruth are like two knots that slip together on the same string. The tattooed Christ is a revelation that in some mysterious way initiates the entry of God's grace into both their lives, if only they will accept it.

Sarah Ruth's faith had been grounded in the words of Scripture alone without any support from Tradition, which is in complete contrast to the oral tradition. Up until the 16th Century, Christianity had relied on the spoken word for both its spread and its practice; after all, Jesus Christ never wrote anything down, and neither did he instruct others to do so. These days the oral tradition of the past with its duty to dialogue and instruction has given way to the information culture, which with its discovery mindset has always tried to break with Tradition, but after two thousand years the words of Christ (as He promised in Mt 24:35) are still there, lighting up the way from the pages of the New Testament. In Catholic practice, images and imagery are part and parcel of Tradition. Crucifixes, pictures of the Sacred Heart and various saints, etc. are reminders of the mercy, the generosity and the humanity of God, and are no more to be feared or worshipped than pictures of family ancestors. Sacred Scripture allied with Tradition plays a vital role in illuminating Christian Doctrine, and certainly in the home of devoutly Catholic Flannery O'Connor, sacred images were not hidden away but were instead prominently and proudly displayed.

"Parker's Back" is dominated by images and imagery: the tractor crash; the scene in the tattooist's studio when O.E., with rapidly beating heart, is searching through the religious book for a design; the scene in the poolroom when O.E.'s shirt gets pulled up and a deadly silence follows before somebody exclaims, "Christ." What else could be said? And, at the end, the scene between O.E. and Sarah Ruth, and her violent reaction to the tattooed Christ on O.E.'s back. Those images dominate in the same way that Gospel narratives produce an effect on the mind; parables that leave lasting images. As Osbert Sitwell5 wrote, "the word itself, of which our works of art are fashioned, is the first art form, older than the roughest shaping of clay or stone. A word is the carving and colouring of thought, and gives to it permanence." If Sarah Ruth had understood her bible correctly, how could she have possibly misread Chapter 1 of St John's Gospel? "In the beginning was the word... The word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory." The orthodox mind boggles as to what she must have thought those words meant, but that is the effect heresy has on the mind.

When teased right out, fundamentalist style Christianity not infrequently morphs into just another theory of progress aimed at the elimination of evil and suffering, and in the process of morphing, it forgets that the essential element of Christianity is that without sinners, Christianity cannot exist. Conversely, without Christianity, people like Sarah Ruth Cates have little to complain about, since there could be no such thing as sin. It was God who was nailed to the cross on Calvary, not an idea or a theory, and in her typically pithy style, O’Connor pronounced evil as not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.6 But the Ultimate Heresy cannot coexist with that fact. Always busy cutting down human imperfection (the raw material of perfection), its abstract thinking style blurs the faculty to foresee that ultimately Christ Himself must be done away with, causing O’Connor to warn that its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labour camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.7 Even the most cursory study of history shows how right Flannery O’Connor is.

So what can the reader learn from "Parker’s Back" ? I suspect that it’s this. That if our perception of God is one of aloofness, heartlessness or of a Being lacking in trust; is it any wonder that we are left with no recourse except to express ourselves in rage to a world that is nothing more than a meaningless and pitiless absurdity? Without faith in a personal loving God who actively participates in our lives through divine providence, we are like small children who thinking themselves unloved angrily hurl their toys from the cot.

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1 Exodus 3: 2-3

2 Ecclesiastes 1:2

3 Heresy is simply taking out of context some aspect of a larger thing and claiming that it contains and explains more than the original thing it was subtracted from. In other words heresy is all about oversimplification. It is if you like, throwing the baby out with the bath water. As early as the fifth Century, the Bishop of Hippo (St Augustine) warned his listeners not to forget that, "all heresy does begin in being too holy." In other words heresy stems from a holiness that has become unbalanced. Authentic holiness is all about 'wholeness', which in turn is about balance. So it follows that heresies, if allowed to persist, can throw sensible things off balance. In the period between the establishment of Christianity in Europe and the 16th Century Protestant Reformation; Church and State were united in a strong bond. Hence the Catholic Church's traditional intolerance toward heresies, because of the threat they posed to the stability and the survival of the State and the moral chaos they can usher in.

4 Manicheanism: Manichean Heresy. Named after Mani, a religious teacher from Persia (c. 216-276 AD). Mani taught that Human life is a struggle between the divine light (God) and the evil darkness of material existence. Our destiny is to overcome material existence, and reunite with God. On Modern Manicheans, Father James Schall S.J. writes: The temptation to blame physical things for our problems is almost irresistible in the modern world. Or to put it another way, we are so reluctant to blame ourselves for anything that is wrong in us or in the world, we have such spiritual cowardice, that we are almost incapable of attributing anything to ourselves, even that we have a self to which we can attribute anything in the first place. And we hesitate to blame someone else for fear of violating his "rights", rights that allow us to become anything we "choose" to be. That leaves us with things to blame. We become Manicheans (who claimed that matter--this world--was evil) simply by adhering to the prevailing mores.

5 Sitwell, Sir Osbert, 1892 - 1969: English Novelist, Poet and Essayist and older brother to Poet Dame Edith Sitwell and writer Sacheverell Sitwell. The quote comes from vol. 4 of Sitwell's Autobiography, "Laughter In The Next Room."

6 Extract from Flannery O'Connor's lecture entitled "The Catholic Novelist In The Protestant South" published in Mystery and Manners: Noonday Press.

7 Extract from "Introduction To A Memoir of Mary Ann" by Flannery O'Connor: published in Mystery and Manners: Noonday Press

Source

Why the Shroud of Turin is Fake


By Stephen Wagner

A casual observation and a simple experiment can show that the shroud is quite probably a painting.

I have my own theory for why the much-revered and highly controversial Shroud of Turin is not the burial cloth of Jesus - or anyone else for that matter. The most casual observation of the full shroud shows, in my opinion, that it is almost certainly the work of an artist.

Now I am not an expert in forensics, medieval art, or even the New Testaments, but I don't need to be for this particular theory. I just need to be a guy with an ordinary body, just as Jesus is thought to have been in life.

I made this observation many years ago, the first time I saw a photo of the shroud that shows the full length of the body. One of my first reactions was along the lines of, "Wow... Good thing his hands are covering his private area." It would certainly embarrass many people if the shroud revealed the full nakedness of the man they think is Jesus - privates and all. He was fully human during his lifetime, but we needn't see his genitals.

And I think that was exactly the artist's intention when he made this clever painting. Out of respect for person who many believe to be the Son of God and the Savior of all Mankind, the artist discreetly covered the genital area. Otherwise, the shroud - which might have been created as an intentional hoax - might not get the sought-after attention. An image showing the privates of Jesus probably would have been locked away in the Vatican a long time ago. (Pope Julius II grudgingly allowed Michelangelo to paint a naked Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.)

AN EXPERIMENT TO TRY

I know what you're thinking: "That's just the way his body and arms were positioned when he was laid in his tomb."

I think not. And you can perform your own little experiment to demonstrate why not.

Lie on your back on a hard surface (such as the floor) as the figure is in the image, and just try to cover your privates with your hands. I am a person of average proportions and I had to stretch my arms with some effort to be able to barely cover them. Yet the figure in the shroud image seems to be accomplishing this with relaxed ease. The arms don't appear to be stretched out at all.

Now just relax your arms to the floor, like a corpse, and see where your relaxed hands cross on your body. For me, they don't cross at all. My fingertips barely cross around my navel - well above the private area. To be able to cross them at all in this position, I have to lift my arms somewhat off the floor, and they still to not reach the private area with any degree of relaxation. And no one is more relaxed than a corpse.

A tall man with very long arms might have a better chance of duplicating this image (hey, really tall guys out there, give it a try), but the figure on the shroud has been measured at 5 ft. 7 in. tall - about the height of an average man today.

Now unless the person in this image had disproportionately long arms, what we see is impossible. But not for the artist who painted the image with the proper respect for this revered man.

Could it be that the people who laid the body in the tomb purposely stretched out the body's arms to cover the genitals and somehow fastened them there before coving it with the shroud? Why would they do that? What would be the purpose? Answer: they wouldn't. And again, the arms do not look stretched out.

The legs also do not look relaxed like those of a dead body would be. Again, try it for yourself. In this highly relaxed state, the legs do not stay tightly together like those in the image; they naturally spread apart somewhat as the feet fall to either side. They would stay together if they were bound, but there seems to be no evidence of that in the image.

So just through observation and simple experimentation, I have to surmise that the Shroud of Turin is not an image miraculously created by the body of a crucified man, but an image painted by an artist who wanted to protect the modesty of his subject.

Source


For an alternative view: Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?

For more info: The Shroud of Turin: The Great Gothic Art Fraud — Because If It's Real the Brain of Jesus Was the Size of a Protohuman's!

The Shroud Controversy

Ecumenical Patriarch Addresses the "Anathemas" of Metropolitan Seraphim


In a recent letter to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the issue that certain hierarchs of the Church of Greece, mainly referring to Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, are shattering the unity of the Church of Greece and are aimed at challenging the Pan-Orthodox decisions on the participation of the Orthodox Church in bilateral and multilateral theological dialogues with the heterodox. He reminds the Archbishop of the close relationship between the Ecumenical Throne and the Church of Greece since 1850 and their mutual support in being ecumenical witnesses of Orthodoxy through dialogues with the heterodox. Specifically he addresses the addition of "anathemas" to the Synodikon of Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Seraphim as an "unacceptable" and "serious" action.

"Critical voices about ecumenism, long heard in the bosom of the church of Greece, have hitherto been limited in scope - but what has occurred recently has reached unacceptable levels," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

"Such opinions evoke anguish and sorrow by running counter to the Orthodox ethos. They risk unforeseen consequences for church unity in general, and the unity of our holy Orthodox church in particular," he wrote.

"I urge you to reject and act against these unjustified and dangerous statements," said Bartholomew. "They contradict the decisions taken jointly by Orthodox churches to participate in bilateral and multilateral theological dialogue with the heterodox," referring to those who are not Orthodox.

Read also: The "Anathemas" of Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus

The letter can be read below:

Η ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ ΤΟΥ ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΗ:

Μακαριώτατε Αρχιεπίσκοπε Αθηνών και πάσης Ελλάδος, εν Χριστώ τω Θεώ λίαν αγαπητέ και περιπόθητε αδελφέ και συλλειτουργέ της ημών Μετριότητος κύριε Ιερώνυμε, Πρόεδρε της Ιεράς Συνόδου της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, την Υμετέραν σεβασμίαν Μακαριότητα αδελφικώς εν Κυρίω κατασπαζόμενοι, υπερήδιστα προσαγορεύομεν.

Επικοινωνούντες δια των μετά χείρας αδελφικών ημών Πατριαρχικών Γραμμάτων προς την Υμετέραν λίαν ημίν αγαπητήν και περισπούδαστον Μακαριότητα και την περί Αυτήν Ιεράν Σύνοδον της Αγιωτάτης Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, επιθυμούμεν ίνα καταστήσωμεν Υμάς κοινωνούς της ην δοκιμάζει η Μήτηρ Εκκλησία αγωνίας και θλίψεως εκ των δηλώσεων, εκδηλώσεων και εν γένει κινήσεων εντός των κόλπων της Υμετέρας Εκκλησίας, καθ' ας εκφράζονται θέσεις και εκτιμήσεις και απόψεις ήκιστα συμβιβαζόμεναι προς το Ορθόδοξον ήθος και έθος, προκαλούσαι ευρυτέραν απορίαν, εγκυμονούσαι δε και κινδύνους και απροβλέπτους συνεπείας δια την ενότητα αυτής ταύτης της καθ' Υμάς Εκκλησίας, αλλά και της Αγίας ημών Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας εν τω συνόλω αυτής.

Ως γνωστόν και επιμεμαρτυρημένον ιστορικώς και μέχρι της σήμερον, η Μήτηρ Αγία του Χριστού Μεγάλη Εκκλησία περιβάλλει ανέκαθεν δια τιμής και αγάπης τους κατά καιρούς επί κεφαλής και τους Ιεράρχας της καθ' Υμάς Αγιωτάτης Εκκλησίας, μετά στοργής δε και γνησίας μητρικής αγάπης τον ευσεβή Ελληνικόν Λαόν, τον οποίον αύτη, η Κωνσταντινουπολίτις Εκκλησία, εγαλούχησεν εις τα νάματα της αμωμήτου ημών Ορθοδόξου πίστεως, εις ην ετήρησε τούτον εν καιροίς δισέκτοις και χαλεποίς δια το ημέτερον ευσεβές Γένος, ορθοτομούσα τον λόγον της αληθείας.

Η εκκλησιαστική, έτι δε και η θύραθεν ιστορία, μαρτυρούσιν αψευδώς περί της και εν τω τομεί τούτω της κυρίας και καιρίας ευθύνης του Αγιωτάτου Αποστολικού και Πατριαρχικού Οικουμενικού Θρόνου θυσιαστικής προσφοράς αυτού, ευρύτερον μεν εν τω στερεώματι της Αγίας Ορθοδόξου ημών Εκκλησίας, ιδιαιτέρως δε, εν καυχήσει ομολογούμεν και ημείς, προς τον ομαίμονα Ορθόδοξον Ελληνικόν Λαόν.

Της οφειλετικής ταύτης προσφοράς του καθ' ημάς Θρόνου ούσης αποδεδειγμένης και εκτιμωμένης υπ' αυτού τούτου του ανέκαθεν αφωσιωμένου τη Μητρί αυτού Εκκλησία ευσεβούς Ελληνικού Λαού, αλλά και υπό των αοιδίμων Προκατόχων Υμών, των Ιεραρχών και του κλήρου αυτού, ιδία από του έτους 1850 μέχρι της σήμερον, ένιαι γνωσταί ημίν τε και Υμίν ενέργειαι εις βάρος του κύρους του πανιέρου θεσμού του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου, ατυχώς οσημέραι αυξανόμεναι, τείνουσι, θα συμφωνήση ασφαλώς και η Υμετέρα Μακαριότης και η περί Αυτήν Ιερά Σύνοδος της καθ' Ελλάδα Εκκλησίας, ίνα δημιουργήσωσι κρίσιν εις τους κόλπους της Ορθοδόξου ημών Εκκλησίας, μη δυναμένην ίσως εν τω μέλλοντι ακινδύνως να αντιμετωπισθή και ελεγχθή, εάν μη από τούδε ληφθώσιν αι προσήκουσαι αποφάσεις, εκκλησιαστικαί και ποιμαντικαί, προς αντιμετώπισιν των τάσεων τούτων.

Ομολογούμεν ότι μεγάλως απασχολούσι την Μητέρα Εκκλησίαν, πεποίθαμεν δε και την Υμετέραν, αι κινήσεις και εκδηλώσεις ομαδοποιημένων προσώπων, ευτυχώς, το γε νυν, μικράς εμβελείας, στόχον έχουσαι την αμφισβήτησιν και την κριτικήν αποφάσεων πανορθοδόξως ληφθεισών, συμφωνούσης και προσεπικυρούσης και της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, περί συμμετοχής της όλης Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας εις τους διεξαγομένους μετά των ετεροδόξων διμερείς και πολυμερείς Θεολογικούς Διαλόγους και τας διαχριστιανικάς συναντήσεις εν τω Παγκοσμίω Συμβουλίω Εκκλησιών, τω Συμβουλίω Ευρωπαϊκών Εκκλησιών και άλλοις παρεμφερέσι διαχριστιανικοίς οργανισμοίς.

Αι κινήσεις και εκδηλώσεις αύται, περιωρισμέναι και αμελητέαι ίσως κατ' αρχήν, έλαβον προσφάτως απαραδέκτους διαστάσεις, ως συνέβη, μεταξύ άλλων, και εν τινι Ιερά Μητροπόλει της Αγιωτάτης Υμών Εκκλησίας εν οργανωθείση υπό του οικείου Μητροπολίτου λαϊκή συνάξει, ου μην αλλά και κατά την Θείαν Λειτουργίαν της Κυριακής της Ορθοδοξίας δια της εκφωνήσεως υπό του ιδίου Μητροπολίτου "αναθεματισμών" κατά ετεροδόξων και αλλοθρήσκων, ως και πάντων των μετεχόντων εις την λεγομένην Οικουμενικήν Κίνησιν.

Αι τοιαύται εκδηλώσεις δεν δύναται να υποτιμώνται η να τιμώνται δια της ενεργού παρουσίας και συμμετοχής και Ιεραρχών της καθ' Υμάς Εκκλησίας, δυστυχώς δε, μετά λύπης σημειούμεν, και εκπροσώπων της Υμετέρας Μακαριότητος, καθ' ότι εκφράζονται εν αυταίς θέσεις και απόψεις στρεφόμεναι κατά της ηγεσίας των Ορθοδόξων Εκκλησιών και των συνοδικώς ειλημμένων αποφάσεων αυτών, αλλά και εσχάτως δια πρώτην φοράν και κατά αυτού του πανιέρου θεσμού του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου, του δια του παραδείγματος και της θυσιαστικής μαρτυρίας και των ανά τους αιώνας αγώνων αυτού υπάρξαντος και υπάρχοντος κήρυκος, προασπιστού και φύλακος της Ορθοδόξου ημών πίστεως και μαρτυρίας και της κανονικής τάξεως εν τη Αγιωτάτη ημών Εκκλησία.

Μετ' ευλόγου εκπλήξεως δια τας αποδιδομένας κατά τας εν λόγω εκδηλώσεις μονομερείς και επιλεκτικάς αναφοράς και ερμηνείας, κατά της Ορθοδόξου μαρτυρίας της καθ' ημάς πρωτοθρόνου Εκκλησίας και της συμμετοχής αυτής εις τας εν λόγω διεκκλησιαστικάς και διαχριστριανικάς συναντήσεις, επί τω τέλει της εκπληρώσεως, άνευ ουδεμιάς υποχωρήσεως εκ των καιρίων της αμωμήτου ημών Ορθοδόξου πίστεως, της εντολής του καλέσαντος τους πάντας και μάλιστα τους Χριστιανούς εις ενότητα (πρβλ. Ιωάν. ιζ 11), υπογραμμίζομεν, και πάλιν, λόγω της σοβαρότητος του θέματος, και τας εκ των τοιούτων ευρυτέρων ενεργειών οδυνηράς συνεπείας δι' αυτήν ταύτην την Αγιωτάτην Εκκλησίαν της Ελλάδος, αλλά και δια σύνολον την Αγίαν ημών Ορθόδοξον Εκκλησίαν και τας διορθοδόξους σχέσεις.

Η καθ' Υμάς Αγιωτάτη Εκκλησία, Μακαριώτατε Αδελφέ, συνωδά και ταις προβλεπομέναις εν τω Ιδρυτικώ της Αυτοκεφαλίας αυτής Τόμω δεσμεύσεσιν αυτής, ιστορικώς ανέκαθεν συνεπορεύθη μετά του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου εν πάσι τοις κατά καιρούς αναφυομένοις ευρυτέροις και γενικωτέροις εκκλησιαστικοίς ζητήμασι, διορθοδόξοις, διαχριστιανικοίς και άλλοις, συμμετέσχε δε μάλιστα εις τας θεωρηθείσας και ομοφώνως πανορθοδόξως ληφθείσας αποφάσεις περί συμμετοχής εις τους εν λόγω διαλόγους και εν γένει εις την λεγομένην Οικουμενικήν Κίνησιν.

Δεν θα ηθέλομεν να αναφερθώμεν συγκεκριμένως εις τας υπολανθανούσας μέχρι σήμερον και εν τοις παρασκηνίοις, εν πολλοίς, δρώσας ειρημένας κινήσεις, αίτινες ασφαλώς τελούν εν γνώσει της Υμετέρας Μακαριότητος και της Ιεράς Συνόδου της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος, εκ των οργανουμένων εν τοις ορίοις των διαφόρων Ιερών Μητροπόλεων συγκεντρώσεων, αλλά και εκ του ηλεκτρονικού και ευρύτερον εκκλησιαστικού και θύραθεν τύπου και των μέσων γενικής ενημερώσεως.

Απλώς οφειλετικώς επισημαίνομεν τον υφιστάμενον σοβαρόν κίνδυνον εκ των συνεπειών των εκδηλώσεων τούτων και των εκφραζομένων και διατυπουμένων προφορικώς και εγγράφως ουχί υγιών Ορθοδόξων θέσεων και υπογραμμίζομεν την ευθύνην και το χρέος ημών, των ταχθέντων υπό της Θείας Προνοίας Ποιμένων και ταγών του Ορθοδόξου λαού του Θεού εν τοις ορίοις εκάστης αδελφής αυτοκεφάλου και αυτονόμου Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας, προς διατήρησιν της ενότητος αυτής και της μη δημιουργίας περαιτέρω διασπαστικών εστιών, εγκυμονουσών, ως εικός, απροβλέπτους συνεπείας.

Μετ' αγωνίας δε σημειούμεν ότι η ανοχή των τοιούτων ενεργειών υπό της ηγεσίας των Εκκλησιών υπερβαίνει τα τυπικά όρια ενός μονοσημάντου ζητήματος και αξιολογείται ως πολυσήμαντον ουσιαστικόν ζήτημα δια την εύρυθμον λειτουργίαν της κανονικής τάξεως εν τη Ορθοδόξω Εκκλησία, δυνάμενον να επιφέρη σύγχυσιν και αναταραχήν εν τω πληρώματι αυτής.

Υπό την έννοιαν ταύτην η Μήτηρ Εκκλησία, εν τη οφειλετική μερίμνη αυτής δια την προστασίαν του τε γράμματος και του πνεύματος της Ορθοδόξου παραδόσεως και δια την ευστάθειαν και ενότητα των κατά τόπους Ορθοδόξων Εκκλησιών, ηξιολόγησε το ζήτημα τούτο επί τη βάσει των ομοφώνων πανορθοδόξων αποφάσεων και έκρινεν ότι θα έδει όπως εκάστη Εκκλησία τοποθετήται μετά της επιβαλλομένης ευθύνης και του χρέους αυτής έναντι του λαού του Θεού, προς διατήρησιν ακλονήτου της εμπιστοσύνης αυτού έναντι των ποιμένων αυτού.

Μακαριώτατε,

Γνωρίζοντες τα ανωτέρω οφειλετικώς τη Υμετέρα Μακαριότητι και τη κατ' Αυτήν Αγιωτάτη καθ' Ελλάδα Εκκλησία, παρακαλούμεν Υμάς αδελφικώς, εξ ομοφώνου Συνοδικής αποφάσεως, όπως εν τη διακρινούση την Υμετέραν Εκκλησίαν συνεπεία εις τας εκάστοτε λαμβανομένας πανορθοδόξους αποφάσεις και ενεργείας, οφειλετικώς ως θυγάτηρ το πάλαι και νυν προσφιλεστάτη Αδελφή Εκκλησία, έχουσα υπ' όψει τα ανωτέρω περί των εν πάση αδρότητι περιγραφεισών εν λόγω κινήσεων και τας εξ αυτών προβλεπομένας ουχί ευχαρίστους συνεπείας, τοποθετηθήτε συνοδικώς επί τούτω και απορρίψητε και καταδικάσητε ταύτας επισήμως ως ανεδαφικάς και επικινδύνους, λάβητε δε και ως εκκλησιαστικόν σώμα τας προσήκουσας αποφάσεις προς ευρυτέραν καταδίκην και απόρριψιν των ενεργειών τούτων και των εκφραζομένων αστηρίκτων εν πολλοίς, ανορθοδόξων και ερχομένων εις αντίθεσιν προς τας συνοδικάς αποφάσεις των Αγιωτάτων Ορθοδόξων Εκκλησιών θέσεων των εν λόγω ομάδων.

Ούτως, η Μήτηρ Εκκλησία, σταθμίζουσα τας οδυνηράς συνεπείας δια την εσωτερικήν ενότητα της καθ' Υμάς Αγιωτάτης Εκκλησίας και ευρύτερον της Ορθοδοξίας, επιφυλάσσεται, μετά την αναμενομένην απόκρισιν και επίσημον τοποθέτησιν της Υμετέρας Εκκλησίας, ίνα οφειλετικώς προβή και αύτη εις τας δεούσας πανορθοδόξους ενεργείας δια την έγκαιρον πρόληψιν επαπειλουμένων απευκταίων καταστάσεων.

Επί δε τούτοις, εν αναμονή της αποκρίσεως της Υμετέρας Μακαριότητος, περιπτυσσόμεθα Αυτήν αδελφικώς μετά βαθείας και αναλλοιώτου αδελφικής αγάπης και πάσης τιμής.

‚βιβ’ Μαρτίου ις’
Της Υμετέρας σεβασμίας Μακαριότητος
αγαπητός εν Χριστώ αδελφός

Do You Seek A Heavenly Vision?


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Spiritists of our day accept every manifestation from the spiritual world as though sent by God, and immediately they boast that God has been "revealed" to them. I knew an eighty year old monk whom everyone respected as a great spiritual director. To my question: "Have you ever in your life seen anything from the spiritual world?", the monk answered me, "No, never, praise be to God's Mercy." Seeing that I was astonished at this, he said, "I have constantly prayed to God that nothing appear to me, so that, by chance, I would not succumb to pride and receive a fallen devil as an angel. Thus far, God has heard my prayers." This recorded example shows how humble and cautious the elders were. The devil, clothed in the light of an angel, appeared to a certain monk and said to him: "I am the Archangel Gabriel and I am sent to you." To that, the brother responded, "Think! Were you not sent to someone else, for I am not worthy to see an angel?" The devil instantly became invisible and vanished.

Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi To Be Released From Prison


March 29, 2012
Romfea

The Athens Court of Appeal changed the measure of restraint for Archimandrite Ephraim, abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos.

He will be released on bail of 300,000 euros, and is subject to the prohibition to not leave the country and the Monastery Vatopaidi. Also he must report to the police regularly.

As reported earlier, from December 28, 2011 the Abbot of Vatopaidi was imprisoned in Korydallos.

Putin, Punk Rock and Russian Orthodoxy


Leonid Bershidsky
March 28, 2012
Bloomberg

It took slightly more than a month for Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to react to the “punk service” held on Feb. 21 in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior by a group calling itself Pussy Riot.

Members of the radical feminist band choose all sorts of unlikely locations to play shrill protest songs with a hardcore punk sound: A subway station, a posh boutique, Red Square, the roof of a detention center. The performances are filmed, edited, overlaid with a studio-recorded soundtrack and published on YouTube.

This time they arguably went too far. In the majestic cathedral where the Patriarch himself holds services on major holidays, several young women got into the ambo area where only priests are allowed. Wearing their trademark brightly-colored balaclavas and tights, they danced, genuflected, crossed themselves and chanted: “Virgin Mary, please chase away Putin.” Two of the women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were detained after the performance and faced charges of “group hooliganism,” carrying a possible sentence of two to seven years in prison.

The church's immediate reaction was in the spirit of Christian charity. “Had I been the senior priest of that church, I would have fed them some pancakes and invited them to come back for a prayer of repentance,” well-known missionary Deacon Andrei Kurayev wrote in his blog. “This is, of course, an outrage, but a legal one during maslenitsa [the Russian Mardi Gras], a time of clowning and playacting.... In the time of Peter the Great foolishness of this kind was the order of things, or rather part of the maslenitsa lack of order.”

Almost immediately, true believers heaped invective on Kurayev. He quoted a letter he received from the head of a Christian foundation saying he would burn in hell with “those bitches.” Father Vsevolod Chaplin, official spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, called on Kurayev to repent.

Orthodox believers and priests filled the social networks with strong words of indignation. Father Vitaly Utkin, a well-known church conservative, cited a 17th century Russian law prescribing the death penalty for sacrilege. Many agreed with him, and others called for the harshest punishment possible under modern law. Vasily Boiko, owner of a milk business and a vast amount of land outside Moscow, offered a reward of 50,000 rubles ($1700) for the name of each participant in the Feb. 21 performance, so he could hand all of them over to the police.

There were other voices, too. Lidia Moniava, head of a Christian charity organization helping hospices, wrote the Patriarch a letter condemning the “punk service” but calling for mercy for Pussy Riot members. “Your Holiness, we ask you to show a Christian attitude and call on the court to close the criminal case,” Moniava wrote. Several thousand people signed her petition.

President-elect Vladimir Putin saw fit to apologize to churchgoers and priests for what Pussy Riot perpetrated. His apology was neutrally worded, but the two detained women remain in jail pending trial despite the fact that they both have small children. A poll of 1633 Russians in 130 cities, taken by the Levada Center in mid-March, showed that 46 percent of those who had heard of the “punk service” believed two to seven years in prison to be a proper punishment for the women. Only 35 percent considered it too harsh.

The Patriarch could have ended the whole affair by calling for clemency, but in a sermon he delivered on March 24, he weighed in on the hardliners' side. “There are those who would justify and minimize this sacrilege, who would try to present it as some kind of funny joke, and it makes me sad, it makes my heart bleed with sorrow that among these people there are those who call themselves orthodox Christians,” he said.

Patriarch Kirill might have had a personal motive in slamming the women in his sermon. Pussy Riot's Feb. 21 “prayer” had a message for him, denouncing the church leadership's close ties to the Kremlin. According to the lyrics the women chanted, Kirill “believes in Putin, though the bastard ought to believe in God.”

Few Russian judges would dare be lenient after the Patriarch's angry sermon. A very recent case involving Kirill shows that the courts have a special regard for him. In an ongoing battle made public by the news site Rosbalt, a Moscow court ordered former health minister, practicing surgeon and Orthodox priest Yuri Shevchenko to pay an astronomical 20 million rubles ($690,000) to the keeper of an apartment owned by Kirill. Shevchenko's transgression, according to the lawsuit: Dust from the renovation of his apartment had drifted upstairs and ruined expensive books, furniture and carpets in the Patriarch's flat, which is located in one of Moscow's most prestigious buildings, the House on the Embankment, across the Moskva River from the Kremlin. By court order, Shevchenko's apartment will be sold unless he pays up.

The Patriarchate has declined to comment on the affair. A spokesman said it was “unethical” to discuss Kirill's private life.

The dust case offers a clear indication of church leaders' true power in Russia. Officially, the constitution denies the church the status of a branch of government, which it enjoyed before the 1917 revolution. In fact, the church is a pillar of the state. Kirill openly backed Putin in the recent election, and the Patriarch's support meant a lot for the winner, who based his strategy on appealing to the most conservative part of Russian society.

To liberals, Kirill, with his taste for expensive watches, cars and other goodies, is another corrupt official of the Putin regime. The Pussy Riot members who remain at liberty have posted a reply to the Patriarch's sermon in their blog, saying that their performance had been a prayer, not a sacrilege: “Like millions of Christians, we are deeply saddened by the fact that you have allowed the church to become the tool of dirty electioneering, calling on believers to vote for a man whose actions are far removed from God's truth.”

It is unlikely that Patriarch Kirill will allow himself to be drawn into a discussion with “blasphemers.” He has spoken, and the two arrested women will now face an uphill battle to avoid a heavy prison sentence for a couple of minutes' prancing in front of a church altar. Putin has won the presidency, and the darker, traditional side of Russia is again ascendant.

Bulgarians Untouched by Hierarch's Communist Spy Past


March 5, 2012
Novinite

The opening of the files of Bulgarian senior clergy and their exposure as agents and collaborators of the former Communist State Security, DS, failed to impress or outrage the majority of Bulgarians.

According to a poll of the Alfa Research Agency, only 17% are deeply scandalized by the files, while another 36% answered they did not like the fact, but did not find the revelations important anyway.

14% of the respondents have not even heard the news and 33% state that it does not interest them at all.

Among those who describe themselves as deeply religious, 36% felt outraged; 19% said they are ready to refuse having church services for their families performed by a priest, who has been exposed for ties with DS, and 34% would close their eyes for his past if they knew well and trusted the said priest.

In mid-January, Bulgaria's so-called Files Commission – a panel investigating the Communist era secret files, revealed that eleven out of a total of fifteen Bulgarian Metropolitan bishops were former DS agents.

So far, only Vratsa Metropolitan Kalinik has asked his congregation for forgiveness, if they felt affected. Ruse Bishop Neofit said he does not feel guilty because he had been forced to collaborate.

Turkish Minister: Greece Hinders Halki's Opening


March 28, 2012
Sedmitsa.Ru

Turkey's Minister on EU matters, Egemen Bagis, commented on yesterday's statement by U.S. President Barack Obama's promise to P.T. Erdogan to open, in the near future, the theological school on the island of Halki.

It turns out that Greece is to blame for the the delay in returning the Halki School. Turkey expects Greece to take synchronous steps in respecting the religious rights of Muslim minorities -- whereas the Turkish government returned to the Patriarchate of Constantinople an orphanage on Prinkipos and a schoolin Galata and now expects reciprocal steps [from Greece].

On March 27, Urash Karim, the new Turkish Ambassador in Athens visited the Archbishop Hieronymous II of Athens and all Greece. The 40-minute meeting "was held in a friendly atmosphere", reported "Romfea."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Elder Paisios and the Alcoholic Monk


Once on Mount Athos there was a monk who lived in Karyes. He drank and got drunk every day and was the cause of scandal to the pilgrims. Eventually he died and this relieved some of the faithful who went on to tell Elder Paisios that they were delighted that this huge problem was finally solved.

Father Paisios answered them that he knew about the death of the monk, after seeing the entire battalion of angels who came to collect his soul. The pilgrims were amazed and some protested and tried to explain to the Elder of whom they were talking about, thinking that the Elder did not understand.

Elder Paisios explained to them: "This particular monk was born in Asia Minor, shortly before the destruction by the Turks when they gathered all the boys. So as not to take him from their parents, they would take him with them to the reaping, and so he wouldn't cry, they just put raki* into his milk in order for him to sleep. Therefore he grew up as an alcoholic. There he found an elder and said to him that he was an alcoholic. The elder told him to do prostrations and prayers every night and beg the Panagia to help him to reduce by one the glasses he drank.

After a year he managed with struggle and repentance to make the 20 glasses he drank into 19 glasses. The struggle continued over the years and he reached 2-3 glasses, with which he would still get drunk."

The world for years saw an alcoholic monk who scandalized the pilgrims, but God saw a fighter who fought a long struggle to reduce his passion.

Without knowing what each one is trying to do what he wants to do, what right do we have to judge his effort?

* Raki is a Turkish unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink that is popular in Turkey, Greece, Albania, Serbia, and other Balkan countries as an apéritif.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Trailer: "Meteora" (2012)


"Meteora" follows an illicit romance between a Greek Orthodox monk and a neighboring nun.

Director: Spiros Stathoulopoulos
Cast: Theo Alexander, Tamila Koulieva
Duration: 83 min.

Read a review from The Hollywood Reporter here.

On Riches and Vanity


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

You will hear this kind of justification from many who pursue riches: "When I become rich, I will be able to perform good works!" Do not believe them, for they deceive both you and themselves. St. John Climacus knew in depth the most secret motives of men's souls when he said, "The beginning of love of money is the pretext of alms giving and the end of it is hatred of the poor" (Step 16). This is confirmed by all lovers of money, the rich or the less rich. The average man says, "If only it were that I had money, I would carry out this and that good work!" Do not believe him. Let him not believe himself. Let him look at himself, as in a mirror, at those who have money and who are not willing to do this or that good work. That is how he would be if he acquired some money. Again, the wise John says, "Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; so that through and by this you give help to them, in order to gain the kingdom; remember, for two mites the kingdom was purchased" (Step 16) - (St. Luke 21:2). Truly, the Gospel widow purchased it for two mites, and the rich man, before whose gates Lazarus lay, could not purchase it for all of his countless riches. If you have nothing to give to the poor, pray to God that He will give to them and, by this, you have performed almsgiving and purchased the Heavenly Kingdom. When St. Basil the New prophesied to the empress, the wife of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that she will first give birth to a daughter and then a son, the empress offered him much gold. The saint refused it. The empress implored the name of the Holy Trinity that he should take the gold. Then, St. Basil took only three pieces of gold and gave it to the needy Theodora, who served him saying, "We do not need too much of these thorns, for they prick much."

HYMN ON VANITY

What is the worth of man, O Lord, You said,
That the whole vast world as his property, he acquires,
When, either today or tomorrow, he must die,
And the accumulated wealth outlive him will.
What worth is it that upon his head, a crown he sets,
When behind him, he must leave it?
To him, what good is gold and a pile of silver,
When through his withered ribs, grass grows?
What good is silk, pearls and food,
When, upon him alive, the sun does not gaze?
Of what help is the world, if he loses his soul.
Without the soul, the body is lowered into the grave.
His body and soul, both have died,
And to its grave, each of them hurries.
Two lifeless ones, then men, do bury,
For neither of them, do men bitterly mourn.
Anyone who has a mind, over his soul, let him guard,
You gave to all a reminder clear:
The soul is the only thing that can be saved,
All else in the world, and even the world itself will perish.
When we know Your counsel, O dear Lord,
Still, Your power and help we need.
Help our sinful soul, O Good One,
That the smoke of vanity suffocate it not.

The Grave of Fr. Georges Florovsky and His Wife Xenia


Rev. Georges Florovsky (1893-1979
Xenia I. Florovsky (1893-1977)

Saint Vladimir's Russian Orthodox Christian Cemetery
Trenton, New Jersey
Monday – Friday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Source

Was There Global Warming In Medieval Times?


Ted Thornhill
March 26, 2012
DailyMail.co.uk

Current theories of the causes and impact of global warming have been thrown into question by a new study which shows that during medieval times the whole of the planet heated up.

It then cooled down naturally and there was even a 'mini ice age'.

A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York state, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.

In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions.

At present the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the Medieval Warm Period was confined to Europe – therefore that the warming we’re experiencing now is a man-made phenomenon.

However, Professor Lu has shown that this isn’t true – and the evidence lies with a rare mineral called ikaite, which forms in cold waters.

‘Ikaite is an icy version of limestone,’ said Lu. ‘The crystals are only stable under cold conditions and actually melt at room temperature.’

It turns out the water that holds the crystal structure together - called the hydration water - traps information about temperatures present when the crystals formed.

This finding by Lu's research team establishes, for the first time, ikaite as a reliable way to study past climate conditions.

The scientists studied ikaite crystals from sediment cores drilled off the coast of Antarctica. The sediment layers were deposited over 2,000 years.

The scientists were particularly interested in crystals found in layers deposited during the ‘Little Ice Age,’ approximately 300 to 500 years ago, and during the Medieval Warm Period before it.

Both climate events have been documented in Northern Europe, but studies have been inconclusive as to whether the conditions in Northern Europe extended to Antarctica.
Lu’s team found that in fact, they did.

They were able to deduce this by studying the amount of heavy oxygen isotopes found in the crystals.

During cool periods there are lots, during warm periods there aren’t.

‘We showed that the Northern European climate events influenced climate conditions in Antarctica,’ Lu says. ‘More importantly, we are extremely happy to figure out how to get a climate signal out of this peculiar mineral. A new proxy is always welcome when studying past climate changes.’

The research was recently published online in the journal Earth And Planetary Science Letters and will appear in print on April 1.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Contextual or Post-Patristic Theology


Letter of Metropolitan Pavlos of Glyfada to the Holy Synod of Greece

September 28, 2010

Protocol: # 1037

“CONTEXTUAL”, “POSTPATRISTIC”, AND OTHER "THEOLOGIKAL QUESTS” AT THE CONFERENCE OF THE THEOLOGICAL ACADEMY OF VOLOS

The "Academy for Theological Studies" of the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias, Volos, organized and hosted a theological conference with the following topic:

“NEOPATRISTIC SYNTHESIS OR POST-PATRISTIC THEOLOGY. THE QUEST OF CONTEXTUAL THEOLOGY IN ORTHODOXY.”

This conference was a "radical theological surprise” in the negative sense, for the listener who had not been adequately prepared to listen to a highly “distorted" neotheological language. And it was not difficult for this "language" to be heard by many, since the conference was broadcast on the internet TV station www.intv.gr with parallel translation in English and Greek. Some of these unorthodox distortions heard during the course of this conference will be presented a bit further down. It is necessary however to initially offer our observations on two key conditions that lead this “theological gathering” to a “theological shipwreck”.

First, the term "Contextual Theology."

The conceptual content of this term seems vague and not easily understood. Perhaps it can be seen as a glossy lingual neoplasm in order to express some concepts that arise from the need of formulating some new social realities. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The term "Synafeiaki Theologia" is known for at least forty years in inter-Christian literature and expressed in English as “Contextual Theology” or “Cohesive Theology”. The term became widely known by the "World Conference on Mission and Evangelism" which was organized in 1972 in Bangkok. The dominant trend in this conference was for the various Christian confessions to work against being seen divided, before non-Christians, as a result of doctrinal differences, and to further show unity by placing a priority on issues of social justice and oppression of social classes. This would steer the missionary and preaching effort to give first priority to the formulation of methods of restoring social injustice as opposed to spreading the truths of the Gospel. No one can deny the need for social justice, but this can only become a reality by living the truths of the Word of God as expressed through the doctrines of the Ecumenical Synods of the God-bearing Fathers of the Church. The basis and the prospect of “Contextual Theology” was "the conversion of missions into a community of churches in mission” (http://www.mission2005.org).

In Orthodox theology however, we do not have "community of churches" but "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." The appearance of Christian missions emerging from a “community of churches” degrades the “One Church” to a group of denominations that does not reveal the only Truth and further degrades missionary work to a sociological instead of a soteriological perspective. The “contextual theology” introduced in Bangkok has greatly expanded its horizons according to the internet site
(http://www.blogtalkradio.com/empowermentsanctuary/blog/2008/04/15/about-holistic-theology-empowerment-sanctuary):

"The goal of contextual theology is to enrich the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical experience of life, by exploring various teachings and concepts found in spirituality, metaphysics, in quantum physics, religion, the advisory of life, secular trends and scientific understanding, and then to synthesize all these together in a flowing and dynamic contextual sum ... we offer to provide you with a variety of tools designed to help you in your personal growth and development ... and all these regardless if you are involved with Angelic Support, Universal Law, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Christianity, or any secular, scientific or intellectual experiences in spirituality."

Here arises a crucial question: Did the organizers of this conference have any knowledge of the history of the term “contextual theology”? If they did not, why did they use it? To make an impression or to pioneer modernism? But if they knew, then we can rightly speak of an attempt to "distort theology."

Second, the term "Post-Patristic Theology."

This term, outside of being novel, is also unbiblical and unorthodox. Unbiblical, because it contradicts the very basis of the patristic theology of our Church. The Lord Himself has said:

"And the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26).

"But when the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The Holy Fathers are the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The Fathers therefore are called God-bearing, because they are the vessels and the organs of the Holy Spirit. With persistent ascesis and strenuous neptic struggle, they subjugated the spirit of the flesh to the will of God. In Orthodoxy there cannot be Theology without ascesis and Theology without Fathers. The Fathers with their theology fulfill the aforementioned words of our Lord. The Fathers do not say anything novel, nor do they write new philosophical theories, but because they are spirit-filled and live in the Light of God, they interpret the truths revealed by Christ, empowered by His light.

The Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, leads the Fathers of the Church "to all truth." This means that there can be no period in the life of the Church that Fathers do not exist. This would mean that the Paraclete stopped "holding fast" “the entire institution of the Church" (Vespers of Pentecost). All this leads to the obvious conclusion that the term “post patristic” theology is totally baseless. It is impossible to have a period after the Fathers, since the Church will always grow theologically with the Grace of the Holy Spirit through the God-bearing Fathers. We do not deny the term "neo-patristic theology" because new Fathers will always emerge over time. But we reject the term "post patristic theology" because it leads us straight to Protestantism. The Church without Fathers would be a "falsified Christian Protestant formulation" without any relation to the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

Were the organizers of this "theological" conference not aware of the fundamental and basic principles of Orthodox Theology?

If that is true, how do they dare organize “theological” conferences under the auspices of a carrier bearing the grandiose name "Orthodox Academy," while the prefix/title suffers from theological unorthodoxy? But if they were aware, then we have every reason to speak about a sinister willingness to corrupt and distort the basic structures of Orthodox Theology.

Apart from these basic directives set by the conference and expressed by the general title, there were in the course of meetings a plethora of problematic points posited by the speakers which created deep concern regarding their Orthodox content.

We herein quote some of these troublesome positions:

- "The juxtaposition between East and West must stop” (Marcus Plested, Second Session 4/6/2010 and deacon Pavel Gavrilyuk, Fifth Session 06/04/2010).

- "In their scholastic approach to Scripture that is so dear to fundamentalists, they believe that every sentence of the Bible is inerrant" (John Fotopoulos, Fourth Session 06/04/2010).

- "Thanks to Jung we can finally understand the dual theory of the Cross" (George Dimakopoulos, Fifth session 04/06/2010).

- "The contextual method helps us to compare the Fathers with the non-Orthodox" (Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, Third Session 06/04/2010).

- "The focus of Fr George Florovsky on the minds of the Fathers reveals a weakness in his methodology and interpretation” (John Behr, Second Session 06/04/2010).

- "A view that claims the only truth is imperialist" (George Dimakopoulos, fifth Session 06/04/2010).

“Theology must conform to liberal ways of thinking so it can depart from the patristic tradition" (Alexei Nesteruk, Fifth session 06/04/2010).

- "Trembelas is ignorant of all three volumes of the Dogmatics of Barth” (Father Dimitrios Bathrellos, Fifth Session 06.04.2010). Comment: It is certainly true that in the Dogmatics of Trembelas there are omissions, but the omission or ignorance of the Protestant system of dogmatics can hardly be held as a serious critical evaluation [in a supposedly Orthodox conference].

- "Tradition can not be a guarantor of truth. If the interpretive [method] of Gadamer could be accepted it would help Orthodoxy to not hold tradition as a fortress of truth” (Assaad Katan, Sixth Session 05/06/2010).

- "We must search for the seeds of post-patristic theology in the Fathers themselves" (Deacon John Manousakis, Sixth Session 06/05/2010).

- "It is time to do away with stereotypes and myths from theology” (Daniel Ayuch, Fourth Session 04/06/2010).

- "From the eighth century [Orthodox] theology lacks originality and theological production” (Daniel Ayuch, Fourth Session 04/06/2010). Comment: Mr. Ayuch seems to be uninformed about [several theologians, especially] St. Gregory Palamas.

- "Church is all the other Christians" (Father Emmanuel Clapsis, Tenth session 06/06/2010).

- "It is necessary to go above and beyond the Fathers since they compromised with the spirit of the world" (Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Tenth Session 06/06/2010).

- "We need to go beyond the Fathers" (Deacon Pavel Gavrilyuk, Fifth session 04/06/2010).

- "The Orthodox [theological] schools should invite non-Orthodox theologians to teach" (Deacon Pavel Gavrilyuk, Fifth session 06/04/2010).

- "We must see the western fathers such as Thomas Aquinas as co-workers worthy of our attention" (Deacon Pavel Gavrilyuk, Fifth session 06/04/2010).

- "We must attempt to move toward an Orthodox theology of religions" (Father Emmanuel Clapsis, Tenth Session 06/06/2010).

- "Spouses should be able to receive Holy Communion without spousal abstinence on the eve of Divine Liturgy" and "Holy Communion should be offered to women during the period of menstruation" (Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Tenth Session 6/6/2010 and Helen Kasselouri-Chadjivassiliadis, Sixth Session 5/6/2010). Comment: We emphasize here that St. Timothy of Alexandria has adequately responded to these issues in his canonical questions and answers, as recorded in the Rudder and validated by the Fourth, the Sixth and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod.

- "There must be a reinterpretation of our dogmatic tradition" (Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Tenth Session 06/06/2010).

- "The theory of evolution does not conflict with the doctrine of creation" (Father Andrew Louth, Seventh Session 06/05/2010).

- "The Fathers have transcended the Archaic Christian theology ... and we must now transcend [go over and above] the Fathers" (Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Tenth Session 06/06/2010).

- "Every birth has birth pangs, but out of it will come something new" (His Eminence Metropolitan of Demetrias and Almyros Ignatius, Conference closing remarks , Tenth Session 06/06/2010). Comment: It must be emphasized here that the dogmas of the Church were, in fact, a result of a painstaking ascetic, neptic and theological process, and as every child is born only once likewise the dogmas do not need not be reborn or, as it was stated many times in the Conference, to be "redefined".

All of the above [highlighted] selections of some of the positions of the speakers at this conference are in need of thorough explanations.

We do not deny freedom of speech in the field of Orthodox theology, but we can not accept freedom of reasoning to end up as Protestant reasoning. The organizers of the conference are required to come up with adequate explanations in order to avoid unnecessary clashes for fruitless "births."

Our Theology needs to increase in the Grace of the Holy Spirit. And this can be done through the Saints, who are always present in the Church.

Awaiting the Hierarchy to intervene accordingly regarding this scandalous offense against the flock of Christ, I remain yours,

With the deepest respect,

The lowest among the bishops

† Metropolitan of GLYFADAS PAVLOS

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