Friday, May 31, 2013

Help Support - Improve - Expand Mystagogy!


Dear Reader:

Christ is Risen!

We are currently in the process of a fund-raising drive to support and improve Mystagogy, as well as expand it into a full-time ministry. If this website has been of value to you and you would like to be part of this exciting venture, could you consider giving a donation?

Every week Mystagogy reaches readers from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Greece to Russia, China, Argentina and South Africa. They use it as a balanced source of Orthodox Christian information, from news and opinions on cutting edge topics to spiritual texts that have never been translated into English, and much in between. It is a unique site that fills an essential gap and has wide outreach.

Yet this is only the beginning. Mystagogy will be under the umbrella of a much larger ministry and institute. Currently, in our initial goal, we are seeking funding to dedicate more time to this much needed ministry in order to build a better and more user-friendly website, translate a number of never-before-translated Orthodox texts and books, establish a publishing house and research center, initiate an Orthodox journal, and provide an overall expansion of this ministry in many various ways.

We are relying primarily on donations to cover our costs. For the time being, we aren't supported by anyone else but you. Please consider a donation and be part of the realization of the vision mentioned above. Thank you!

Click on the DONATE button to make a one-time donation:





Click on the SUBSCRIBE button to make regular monthly donations:



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To send in your donation, please do so to the following address:

John Sanidopoulos
PO Box 320284
West Roxbury, MA 02132

With love in the Risen Lord,

John Sanidopoulos


NOTE: Though this fund-raising campaign is an ongoing process, we are currently seeking donations of at least $60 from all of our readers, if possible, or $5 a month. Of course, whatever amount you can give is helpful. Posting here will resume at that time, beginning with an update on this campaign.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Update On the Future of Mystagogy

♫ All I ever wanted was to bring them something great. ♫

Probably very few of my readers have seen Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it's one of my favorite holiday movies and soundtracks. For those unfamiliar, it is the tale of poor Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, who has grown tired of the same routine year after year in trying to bring fright every Halloween. One day he discovers by himself the bright happiness of Christmas Town. He doesn't quite understand Christmas Town, but he is fascinated by it, and tries to zealously share his fascination with his subjects imprisoned by the macabre and grotesque, but fails at every turn because everything he tries to describe about Christmas they can only relate to Halloween, and this leaves him isolated and misunderstood. There are many themes in this tale I personally find to be relateable.

Rereading my last post and some of the many messages in response to it sort of had me singing certain songs from the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Reactions to my previous post were for the most part very positive, and yes, I did read every message and comment. Yet, it seemed not everyone understood the message I was trying to convey. Instead of seeing a bright new future, many focused on the things they found to be most relateable. For example, some focused on the fact that I was disappointed or frustrated. Others focused on my own personal financial needs. While others related to my personal story that I presented and they related to it so much that they were psychoanalyzing me and sending me encouraging words. Many responded with cries of "NOooo!" as I announced the possibility of it being my last post. As I read some of these emails I began to wonder if I properly conveyed the message that was in my heart. If it wasn't for the fact that about half of the messages I received did indeed appear to get what I was trying to convey, then I would have been filled with more self-doubt. Instead, I just realized that many of my readers are empathetic individuals who related to some of the things I had to say on an emotional level. So for those who sent me those empathetic messages, know that I appreciate your concern and encouraging words. However, that was far from my primary intention.

My primary intention was to make my readers hopeful and excited about a bright future, not despairingly sad. I wasn't proposing something less than what I am doing, but something more. When I spoke of my disappointment and frustration, it was over the fact that in my current situation I could not move forward in what I was doing and grow the ministry in the way I desire. This is also why I spoke about my financial situation, not because I'm looking to profit from my work here, but because I'm looking to devote my time to its expansion and growth. As for my personal story, I only mentioned the few things related to the message I wanted to convey, so if you think you know my story or understand where I am coming from, I guarantee you that you don't. My story has never been told here or anywhere on the internet. And for those who thought this was the end, though I am touched that you don't want this website to go away, know that I never intended it to end, but I was proclaiming a new beginning.

Many of the messages moved me with how much the little work I do here has impacted lives around the world, in places and in ways I never could have imagined. The financial responses, though far from my goal to make the significant initial changes I was looking to make, are enough to touch my softened heart that I will continue with my daily postings on a six-month trial. This six-month trial will introduce a few updates to the website and I will put in significantly more time into all this here, but at the same time I will be looking to garner further financial support not only from the rest of my readers who have not yet contributed, but through other means as well.

When I asked for financial support in my last post, many did not have the faith that things would continue. Personally, I did. I had no intention of stopping. I knew my readers would make some effort and step up to support this ministry. Like I said, I am far from achieving my initial financial goal, but I believe those who have yet to contribute will see some value in this little work I do to want to contribute something with a joyful heart, as the Lord moves them. Initially I gave till June 5th to reach my goal. This still leaves us with a little over a week to succeed in our goal.

At this time I also wanted to address some questions that kept showing up in messages.

Isn't the proposed $60 donation too much to ask from some people?

For some people, I suppose it would be too much. The reason I proposed at least $60 is because I know how I personally frivolously spend $60, and when I give to a cause I believe in that is about the average I would give, and I am not a man of significant wealth by any means. For example, this past October I donated $100 towards the erection of a statue of Edgar Allan Poe in Boston, at a time when I did not have the money to spare. I contributed however because it is something I fervently want to be a part of, by properly honoring an individual who was born in the city I was born in and had a great influence in my life through his writings. I know there are many out there who also hold dear this little website of mine and want to be a part of its growth, and it surprised even me when a few unemployed individuals contributed $60 to the future of this ministry, even though I would have discouraged it otherwise. To make it easier on peoples pockets, I offered the $5 a month option, which by years end would total $60. Furthermore, I received many donations under $60, which I received with the same level of gratitude as I did with a $500 donation. The smallest donation I received was $2.00. The way I look at it, if one thousand people could only afford to send me $1, then that equals $1000 I would not have had anyway. So I encourage all levels of donations according to what you can afford and spare. I'm pretty sure everyone can afford at least $1. Even for those who contribute $1, I will offer their names to to be commemorated during the Divine Liturgy at monasteries throughout the world.

Why don't you allow advertising on your website?

Personally, I don't like advertising on my site, and I always thought most people would not like it either. I think its distracting and makes a page look too busy. My original idea was to first reach out to my readers. I wanted to see if my readers placed any value on my work and this website and my vision for a future ministry. This is not just about me making money. Ministries should primarily be supported by the people it benefits and has value for. Plus, I believe there are many misconceptions about advertising, as if it will bring in a significant amount of money. This is not a website with a large readership to make advertising as profitable as one would think. However, since so many of my readers suggested that I do advertise, I am willing to give it a try within this six-month trial period, especially if we fail to achieve our goal on June 5th.

Are you interested in partnering with other websites, ministries, parishes, etc.?

I am willing to listen to any proposals.

Have you considered approaching the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek or Antiochian Archdioceses, or your local Metropolis for additional funding and aid?

Though I have considered it, it is not something I plan on doing any time soon. My primary goal is to establish myself and this ministry before I even begin to further consider something along those lines. Typically it is extremely difficult to receive financial support from such sources, if not impossible, as far as my experience with them go. Also, I don't believe an idealistic proposal of a vision will get me far. This would be more like a gamble than an investment. A presentation of a visible and tangible ministry is more realistic in garnering support at that level, and right now I am nowhere near that level. With help from my readers, this can be achieved.

Why don't you become a non-profit?

In time, this is something I plan on, however right now I don't think I meet the qualifications. Plus, even if I did qualify, it is an expensive and long process I would not be able to fulfill at the moment.

Are you against ministries by converts or Russians?

Not at all. In fact, I encourage them. Converts offer a perspective on things I could never have, and the websites with a more Slavic perspective are very important in the holistic presentation of universal Orthodoxy, which is what I am all about. The only thing I was trying to say in my last post was the extreme lack five years ago, and still today, of translated Greek material on the internet and the entire Romaic/Greek perspective. In fact, I would encourage many more ministries to show up, especially those who can offer unique perspectives from Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc. We still have a long way to go.

Thou shalt not profit off of this website. Trust God.

A statement like this does not deserve to be respected with an answer, but I offer it here to show how silly some people can be. If people in full-time ministry never got paid for their time and work, and initiate some sort of fundraising when there is no other means of making the money to support the work, then no one would ever be in ministry, but they would need to be ministered to, because they would be homeless. Even monastics in monasteries and ascetics in the desert profit off their work in order to sustain themselves and aid in their own ministries if they have any. Anyone that ever makes statements like these I consider to be enemies of the mission of the Church, even if they appear to be "pious members".

To conclude, this fundraising campaign is to bring awareness that ministries should and must be supported by all who benefit from them, and/or are moved by the fact that they benefit others. Protestants are aware of this, Catholics are aware of this, Muslims are aware of this, the Jews are aware of this, those in fringe groups and cults are aware of this. For these reasons Orthodox Christians should be the most aware of this.

Below I once again offer my readers the opportunity to contribute. I will return on June 5th with a final update on the future of Mystagogy.

How can you donate?

Right now, I only have two ways you can donate: either through Paypal or by sending a payment to my PO Box. My PO Box address is:

John Sanidopoulos
PO Box 320284
West Roxbury, MA 02132

As for Paypal, you do not have to be a member to donate if you wish to do so online with a credit or debit card. All you have to do is click on the DONATE button below, and on the bottom left corner you will see where it says "Don't have a PayPal account?", click on "Continue" and follow the instructions. It's very simple.

For those who do have a Paypal account or are willing to open one, you can make a donation of any amount by clicking on DONATE. If you would like to contribute a monthly amount that will be automatically deducted once a month, you can click on SUBSCRIBE and choose the amount you can afford.

Thank you in advance very much for your support, and God bless you all abundantly.

With love in the Risen Lord,

John Sanidopoulos







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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Last Post?


"It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating."
- Oscar Wilde

Dear readers, Christ is Risen!

Recently I've been trying to re-acquire a mind for business. Perhaps I've been watching too many episodes of Shark Tank, or browsing too many of my friends campaigns on Kickstarter.com, or maybe it was my recent third-time read of Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People. The truth is, I need a better source of income than what I currently have, or it seems all is lost.

After spending eleven years in higher education towards the goal of initially entering the priesthood and then becoming a professor, due to life circumstances, among other things, these no longer became an option for me. Instead, I got into Sales to make money in order to pay the bills. Over the course of five years in Sales at various jobs, I burned out. I realized that I could only be a "go-getter" for so long when it comes to personal gain. I've been on many dozens of interviews for Sales jobs, and one of the most common questions has been: "Why do you want to get into Sales?" There's only two words in your answer they want to hear - "Make Money!". In Sales, if your primary goal in life is not your personal gain, you will burn out. Few really can handle the "dog eat dog" mindset, which is why there is such a high turn-around in Sales and why I could never last more than a year in any given position. If you think Alec Baldwin's Glengarry Glen Ross speech was over-the-top, I can assure you that it is real, and I've heard it many many times from my Managers and CEO's of companies, often word for word (see here).

Yet, I did have one Manager who was really nice to me and gave me the single best advice I probably ever received. This particular job was the one I made the most money in, but it was also the most difficult and competitive. One day we were driving around looking to close some deals, and he asked me the following: "John, you're the smartest person I know, yet you chose to hustle around in the most mind-numbing job there is. If you could do anything besides this, what would you really want to do?" I proceeded to tell him what I went to school for and the circumstances that led me where I was, which is something I usually hid for fear that it would expose my weaknesses, and he insisted that I pursue something along those lines I mentioned. He knew I was burned out at this point, and I no longer had the heart to hustle, so when I would report to him once a week to review why I was no longer reaching my goals, he would often advise me: "John, you got to give yourself a chance." Though simple and meaningless to most people, till this day this is probably the single best advice I've ever received, and I still often repeat it to myself in various circumstances. Yet in that particular circumstance, I could not apply it. I was done.

It was soon after I left this job that I began my Mystagogy weblog. I won't get into the complete dark and sad story behind why I started this weblog (perhaps one day but not now), but one reason was to get my creative and intellectual wheels rolling again, and use it as a tool in my own personal spiritual journey. In the beginning it was nothing like what it has become, and it even went by a different name. I was mostly posting movie reviews, music reviews and book reviews in the beginning, as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on. I wanted it to be a personal weblog where I could talk about my personal interests in various creative ways. But this became a bit tedious quickly, as my heart was more into posting about my primary interest and passion, which is Christ and His Church. I ended up removing all of those previous posts, and took another path that over the years has become more and more focused, which is what it is sort of today. This started about five years ago.

Though Mystagogy is still a personal site to me, the content I came to realize was soon filling a major gap on the internet when it comes to Orthodox websites. To be clear, I don't necessarily consider Mystagogy an Orthodox website, but rather it is a website by an Orthodox Christian. Five years ago most Orthodox websites were run by converts to Orthodoxy, who had something to say about their journeys, experiences and what they were learning as they were studying Orthodoxy. Many other Orthodox websites I found to be extremely problematic in their approach to Orthodoxy. In fact, at the time I would say there were maybe only a handful of decent Orthodox websites around in the English language, and the best of these were more geared towards the Russian side of Orthodoxy and not as Greek and universal as I would have preferred.

At the same time I was reading something completely different on the Orthodox websites in the Greek language. Though many of those had their problems as well, I also noticed a more mature Orthodox mindset that instead of troubling me every time I visited them, they actually moved me and inspired me. It was more in tune with the Orthodoxy I knew from my experiences having been raised in the Church, of having known its most authentic expression, and having struggled with the Church and its teachings growing up till I decided to devote my life to it. They were presenting an Orthodoxy that most Orthodox in America have either forgotten or just never heard of. It was an Orthodoxy that I struggled long and hard to know with much blood, sweat and tears, and knew that most would not give even a percentage of their time to get to know as I had. Eventually, my personal website, though remaining personal, also began to provide small morsels of a presentation of Orthodoxy that I could be much more comfortable with, and hope in turn people will wake up to begin accepting these truths and ideas. This is why I called my weblog "Mystagogy" - this is the type of Orthodoxy I'm interested in presenting, for those familiar with what the word encompasses.

I believe I have been somewhat successful, though I have also failed in many respects. People throughout the world know this website and visit it often. I never thought I would get more than 20-30 visits a day, but now I have about 5,000 people reading my content daily from every country and city and even village you can imagine. When I started getting hits from isolated islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, that's when I realized I had a pretty powerful tool. Though I am happy and grateful for what I have, I am still not satisfied. I have friends that put half the time into their own websites than I do, and they have over 100,000 visits a day. These aren't Orthodox or even Christian websites, but to me that makes it even harder to swallow, as I consider my content much more interesting most of the time. But what makes it harder to accept is that in the great scheme of things, to get only 5,000 people a day interested in my content among all English-speaking Orthodox in the world is actually pretty pathetic, and I place the majority of the blame on myself.

I know people are going to think I'm crazy for thinking this way, but it is what it is. The reason I blame myself is because I have allowed myself to get stuck in a rut of doing pretty much the same thing every day, without giving myself the chance to grow and expand as I had intended. Of course, what I do is not for my glory. There is no glory in what I do. Ultimately my goal is to point the world towards Christ, and this has been my primary desire since my youth. Yes, I can boast over the fact that my website has helped bring many to Christ and drawn many back to the Church. I have dozens of correspondences to prove this if I wanted, but I decide not to. That's not what I'm about. I'm not out to prove to my readers how successful my website has been in other peoples lives and boost my own ego, but I want them to evaluate it for themselves and see how it moves their own spirit. Yes, here and there I post some very controversial things that I know will provoke many of my readers, but I do this mainly for two reasons: first, to weed out the readers who are not willing to learn and be provoked, and second, to provoke my readers to think a bit more deeply than what they are used to and accept the fact that things are often more complicated than they seem. Though I highly value and promote simplicity, sometimes things aren't always as simple as a simpleton would think it is.

Yet this is part of my problem. I am not presenting things with the completeness I desire to present them. About a year ago I made a decision that I would not put more than 2-3 hours of work a day into this website. I made this decision because I wanted to only put the time into it that I believed equaled the value my readers put into it. At one point I came very close to shutting it down, but then someone graciously donated $200 and I decided to hang on a bit longer. When the time came again for me to shut it down and take another path, someone anonymously gave me $1000 to keep up the good work. So I did.

I don't want anyone to think that I have lost any zeal for the little work I do here. Just the opposite. In fact, I'm zealous to do much more than what I am currently doing. But considering some of the things I have written above so far, among other things, my desire is to grow in a way I can't possibly grow on my own. Now I am calling on my readers to place value on my website and help me to grow the way I desire and envision. What do I mean by this?

As I said in the beginning, I'm trying to re-acquire a mind for business. James Altucher, an interesting writer I have come across online recently, wrote a post on TechCrunch titled “10 reasons why 2013 will be the year you quit your job.” In it Altucher advises his readers to turn into entrepreneurs to save themselves. He makes some terrific points to support his case, but I wonder if it’s realistic to expect that everyone can become an entrepreneur? Someone has to be at the bottom of the foodchain and even if someone dares to do something on his own, the big daddies will give them sleepless nights. Also in an open economy where everyone has equal opportunities, it is the big corporations that have the maximum leverage. Everyone else is just part of the crowd. Do I really want to go back into the business world? Absolutely not! But his basic premise is similar to what I have been thinking for a few years now. And now that I am in a position in life where I can decide on a new path, I realize that it may be possible to actually do what I most desire to do. What I most desire to do is expand this little ministry I have going and establish an Orthodox Christian ministry or institute unlike any other.

What do I mean by "expand"? As any regular reader of my website knows, I often touch upon many topics and translate a lot of material. However, this is only a very small portion of the work I do now and wish to do in the future. I am currently in the process of translating eight books and I have started a few of my own books. For example, one of these books was written some centuries ago and in Greece it has for centuries been the most popular Orthodox text which inspired Christians in the darkest times, and it is often referred to as being the last book read by martyrs under the Turks. I believe this book is among the most important Orthodox text for Christians today, and I'm determined to get it done. Part of expanding my ministry would be to publish these books and get them out to the people as soon as possible. I have also desired for a long time to build a better and more user-friendly website. I have made over 6000 posts, but they are very difficult to find and access, so I would like to make this easier and provide even better content that what I have. Currently I have over 2000 fascinating pieces of content waiting to be posted, that I would love people to read and learn from and be inspired by just as I have been. I have no desire to keep these things stored away in the attic of my personal folders, but my great desire is to share these and many other things in the coming months and years. Also, instead of only putting 2-3 hours a day into this work, my desire is to put more like 10-12 hours a day into this website and into my expanded ministry. What people also do not know is how many emails I respond to pretty much every day, and these take a portion out of my 2-3 hours. Currently I am many days behind in answering some of these emails. With the start-up of a new website and a new publishing house, translation center and institute, my other desire is to start going out to the people and perhaps go on a speaking tour, start a podcast, produce videos, work closer with parishes to make their own ministries more successful, and many many other things. If you sort of like what I have done so far, imagine it many times better, and that is what I mean by "expand". To go into further details now would make this post much longer than it already is, so I hope to present more details soon.

What do I mean by "value"? In 1998 I took a break from my studies at Holy Cross School of Theology and decided to move to Charlotte, North Carolina where I attended a Protestant school for three years, completing the requirements for a Masters in Philosophy degree. Being a Protestant seminary with an emphasis on Philosophy, all the students and staff there were very passionate and united in their love for apologetics. Since an apologetic ministry usually entails being independent by nature and not really a part of any specific parish, we would often be advised to place our own personal value on our ministries and live up to that value so that the people can also place value on it and thus help support and expand our ministry. This advice was put forward not only for apologists, but for pastors and anyone else who wanted to work in ministry. For someone to support their own ministry is pretty much impossible if it is to be effective, unless they are rich. But even then, it means that the people who may be benefiting from your ministry are not putting the value they should be putting on it. Without value, ministries die. And the way people place value on something is not by simply supporting it by taking from it what it offers, or even just praying for it, but it primarily comes through financial support.

Aren't our local parishes enough? Absolutely not. If one visits any country where there is an Orthodox majority, they will come across ministries that work together with their local parishes to fill the gaps in ministry that parishes usually are not equipped to provide and focus on. People in America often talk about monasteries filling this need, but monasteries, though essential in their own part, are not able to fill this void either. Lay ministries are just as essential for the Church as parishes and monasteries, and if you go to Greece or Russia or elsewhere you will see how parishes and monasteries often rely very much on these ministries to help in the holistic work of the Church. We are a bit familiar here with charitable organizations that work with the Church, but hardly at all familiar with what I am proposing and is fairly common elsewhere. Yesterday I posted an address from last week by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in which he mentions this very thing. Speaking to the graduates of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology this past Saturday, he said among other things:

It is obvious that those who will not become clergymen are also called to labor in the Lord’s vineyard as lay theologians. Nothing of what I mentioned earlier can be put into practice by the bishop or the priests without the sacrificial presence of the lay staff of pastoral work, where theologians should have a leading part. Today, maybe more than ever before, activities such as catechism, the study of theological literature, the staffing of pastoral activities and the presence of the Church in every aspect of social life, at school, in hospitals, in charitable works, but also in arts and culture more broadly, create high requirements and the adequately trained representatives and laborers of the Church are not only more than valuable but absolutely indispensable. (Source)

I don't want to make this longer than it should be, so I will withhold further details for the time being. I think I have stated my case enough for now. Will you invest in the future of Orthodoxy in America and beyond as well as my vision for my minstry? Freely you have thus far been given, now freely give to make this vision a reality. Without your support, this will be my last post. I believe five years has allowed me to build enough trust that I will do what I say, and more so I hope it has established a zeal within you to learn and be inspired more with the riches of Orthodoxy that I can help bring to the table.

What am I asking from you?

I am asking from you to place value on my ministry and support it that it may continue and become bigger and better, to God's glory. This online ministry will no longer continue unless I receive this financial support. I say this with both sadness and hope. Sadness because there is nothing more that I want than to continue and expand, and hope because I do believe that Orthodox Christians are willing and able to support such ministries. It is rare that I will receive a donation from the United States. Most often, when I do get some show of support, which is not often enough but accepted with much gratitude, it is usually from either Australia, Western Europe and Canada. I am hoping this will expand, as most of my readers are in the United States and Greece.

What I am asking for specifically is just a mere $60 from each of my readers. Now I know that this sounds like a lot of money for some, but let me explain why I am asking for this amount. Personally, I am about as frugal as they come. Yet, I often find myself spending an average of $60 on things I don't really need, but enjoy having. For example, I spend about $60 a month at Dunkin Donuts and another at the movies. I recently spent about $60 for a concert ticket as well. Most will spend $60 just to take their family to a movie, or to buy one ticket to a sporting event, at least. Dinner for two at a local inexpensive restaurant is about $60, and if you have a vending machine at work you are probably spending about $60 on that every few months. I am not asking for $60 a month, but $60 a year. This equals to $5 a month and about 16 or 17 cents a day to support a ministry that you not only receive personal benefit from, but one that helps literally thousands.

I believe that Orthodox Christians should at least give two or three of their weekly paycheck amounts to ecclesiastical ministries that they benefit from and where they can benefit others. This can be divided by giving one paycheck at Christmas, one at Easter, and another some time in the Summer. One can ideally go to your parish, one to the ministries you believe bring benefit to you and others, and another to an ecclesiastical charity of some sort. This may not be possible for everybody, but I do recommend looking into it.

A few things to further consider. First, this would not only support me to do the work I desire to do, but it will also help me expand and become more professional, as I've stated already. But this also includes bringing in people to help bring my vision to reality, where a small sum can be paid to ensure I get quality work from all. Also, it will initially help me get a new computer that I desperately need. My current computer is very slow and frustrating to work with, so this is the first thing your support will help me get in order to be more effective in both my time and work. Also, the website I envision will cost thousands of dollars. These I hope to accomplish in a fairly immediate amount of time, depending on the support.

I understand that many of my readers may not be financially able to give what I ask for. This is why I am also providing other options. $5 or more a month may help alleviate the pressure. If this is even too much, then your prayers are appreciated. I'm not looking to bring anyone to financial ruin.

Also, for those feeling more generous than the $60 I ask for, please feel free to give what you can. My vision is very costly. What I hope to accomplish in the short term will be a struggle with only $60 from everyone. If you wish to expand your gift by ordering something from my Mystagogy Webstore, please do by clicking here. I have about five more books I want to add to this list, which may be done within the next few weeks.

I know some will think that 5000 people giving me $60 is a lot of money. Not for my goals. Also, I don't think even half of that amount will support me with even a penny, to be honest. That half is the casual reader coming to my site probably just looking for information on something. And half of the 2500 will probably not believe in my vision to support it. Then another half of the 1250 people will probably sit idly by waiting for others to step up. In the end, I can only hope that probably 625 people will be willing to step up. Of those who will, I have no idea. To keep this website and ministry alive, with little initial expansion, at least 500 people will have to step up and give $60.

I will initially wait and see what will happen until June 5th. If my goal is not reached, I will close this website and give people the option of having their funds returned. I don't plan on stopping to do what I am doing if my goal is not reached, but anything that comes from me in the future will only be acquired by paying for it and the online ministry will no longer exist.

As a thank you gift for your $60 support, I will send you a booklet I am just finishing to translate on the Resurrection of Christ that contains some never before translated and valuable material that will be of much interest. I have not given it a title yet, but it will be ready next week at the latest to be sent out. Anyone that has donated to my ministry in the past couple of months will also receive this.

As a further thank you, all who donate will have their names submitted to about five monasteries I am connected with in order to be prayed for and blessed for your contribution.

I have no interest in fundraising. Your continued support is appreciated, and of course I will do what I must. My desire is to expend my energy on the things I have mentioned, and I have much energy to give. If you have further questions, please submit them to mystagogy@aol.com. I ask that you not send me comments regarding this post, positive or negative, but only send in questions that will help you to support this ministry.

How can you donate?

Right now, I only have two ways you can donate: either through Paypal or by sending a payment to my PO Box. My PO Box address is:

John Sanidopoulos
PO Box 320284
West Roxbury, MA 02132

As for Paypal, you do not have to be a member to donate if you wish to do so online with a credit or debit card. All you have to do is click on the DONATE button below, and on the bottom left corner you will see where it says "Don't have a PayPal account?", click on "Continue" and follow the instructions. It's very simple.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Big Announcement Today! A New Day Dawns!


"As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house." - Ezekiel 12:3

Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan: 1700 years later


Keynote Address of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the opening of the Edict of Milan Seminar 2013

(Conrad Hotel, May 17, 2013)

“Behold how good and pleasing it is for brothers [and sisters] to dwell together” (Ps. 132), especially in the risen Lord.”

We too, echo the words of the Psalmist, beloved brothers and concelebrants in the risen Lord, representatives of the Holy Orthodox Churches throughout the world, brothers in Christ from other Christian Churches, distinguished and esteemed seminar participants. We are delighted to have you with us in our city, in the courtyard of grace and history, the truth of faith and the experience of wonder, in this sacred place of our glorious Lord, who suffered, was crucified, buried and rose from the dead for our salvation.

This seminar, whose deliberations we now proclaim open in Christ’s name, marks the turning of a new page. It is not simply a new record, but a new reality. Sadly, for many people, it is the pages of ephemeral reality that provide the record of history.

Nonetheless, we who are of Christ – through whom and by whom and for whom all things came into existence, in periods of persecution and sorrow for the truth, up until 1700 years ago, with the declaration of the renowned Edict of Milan by Constantine the Great, through whom freedom was granted to the Church for worshipping the Lord and publicly confessing our faith in Him as the only true God and Savior – record history through the presence of God in various times and periods as well as in diverse ways and forms in the worldly arena. These pages of history are certainly influenced by human freedom but ultimately defined by the Lord of life and death.

We glorify the risen Christ and express our gratitude to all of you as delegates of the holy Orthodox Churches and to our venerable brother First-Hierarchs for your participation in this celebration, which is a tribute of honor to the divinely-crowned Emperor Constantine, who is truly one of very few Great Saints – for “whoever among you wishes to be great must be servant of all” (Matt. 20:26-27), according to the scripture. He was the first to grant freedom to the Church and to the world, the first to put an end to the ruthless persecutions against the Church. We confess that this page of history, from the earliest times to this day, is filled with bitter experiences and events, surrendered to oblivion and vivid only in the impassioned memory of some. At the same time, this historical page “has a name inscribed on his robe and his thigh, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16), who “makes all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

***

The anniversary that we are celebrating and honoring provides occasion for us to ruminate on these events, considering and reflecting on the development of the contemporary world 1700 years after the divinely-inspired Emperor established in action and legislation the fundamental principles, on which modern Christian societies – and by extension and analogy, the entire world – are based to this day.

In our time, we observe various nations and countries mimicking one another, especially in this age of so-called “globalization,” when the velocity and quantity of information and misinformation, of truth and fabrication – to the point of distortion for some trivial or ephemeral “interest” in events as well as the relentless slander of people and circumstances – of justice and injustice, are broadcast “in a split second” throughout the world; we observe a tendency for all things to be permeated by only a secular spirit.

We sadly ascertain as contemporary human beings, and particularly those of us “called to a sacred vocation,” another reality, beyond the expected and surely desirable “good transformation.” More specifically, traditions are increasingly abandoned; faith is regarded as an individual affair and people endeavor to marginalize it within society; ideals and values – namely, the forces which have constituted and conserved nations through the centuries – are scorned; education is assaulted and secularized; legislation is estranged from its religious basis, which always – and especially from the time of Constantine to this day – comprised the theoretical foundation of all law; sin is no longer conceived as “evil” and adopts the garment of variation, that is to say merely of personal choice; immorality is accompanied and concealed by the scornful pretext or complex of fleshly weakness, while the morality of Christ is trivialized; in other words, people overlook the penitential cry: “Lord, have mercy,” which is the very content of faith and life.

Despite this disappointing development in human affairs, which is all the more apparent in the secularized Western society and civilization, the same Western world retains – in its heart and mind, as well as in its fabric and structure, its governance and legislation, its arts and values – the ethos and spirit of the Church, of Constantine the Great, and of the Gospel. Whatever good and righteous remains in today’s secularized society in fact derives from the Gospel and the Church.

The basic human rights, for which all peoples and societies strive, but which are frequently perceived in a sense of retribution that does not resemble the spirit of the Gospel or Christianity (“an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”), comprise spiritual values, which the Emperor Constantine planted within the governance and structure of his empire because he discerned and predicted that this was the only way of securing progress and preserving peace. It is essentially the same values that the modern world has inherited, except that the titles have been altered, while humanity now formally declares that it does not believe in God and the hour of Christianity has passed.

Nevertheless, despite these cries, Christianity and the Truth are not only not outdated, but in fact have increasingly matured, affirming on a daily basis the words of St. Paul: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more; so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20-21)

***

Despite frequent and dangerous reformations, which sometimes destroy the very foundations of society, such as a lack of respect for the sacred institution of family and marriage, the legal recognition and regulation of serious mortal sins or unnatural conditions (see Rom. 1:25-32), contemporary state institutions are deeply permeated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blood of the Church Martyrs.

Constantine the Great colored his empire with the dye of Christ in order that this might not be extinguished with the passing of time. Have we ever asked ourselves why?

We judge one another, yet we ignore the words of Christ: “Do not judge in order that you not be judged.” We believe that, in our human frailty, everything comes and goes and is forgotten, although we know that God “sees all things” and “rules hearts and minds.” All things human are vain (St. John of Damascus); indeed, “the present pleasures resemble the flow of a river, shadow and smoke, a dream and blade of grass.” (St. Andrew of Crete) Nonetheless, the dye of Truth is “stronger than death.” Moreover, the dye of Christ through Constantine the Great could not be permanent unless it was preceded by the dye of “the indelible ink” of this sacred City and the whole world through the blood of the countless and great holy Martyrs, many of whom lived anonymously “in mountains and caves and the holes of the earth” (Heb. 11:38), as well as on cemetery gravestones, but also the countless and great heroes of the faith, through whose sacrifice the Church increases and is nurtured, reconciled and stabilized.

The blood of the Martyrs, their cross and sacrifice; the renunciation of the world and of the things of the world; the notion of solidarity and friendship (according to the words of Christ: “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from the Father” [John 15:15]); the love that “casts out [every] fear” (1 John 4:18) and especially the fear of death; all these things brought peace to the Church, which was in turn visibly and tangibly articulated in the Edict of Milan. The suffering of the holy Martyrs and of those unjustly assaulted through the centuries to this day, all of which were modeled after the martyrdom of Jesus Christ Himself, who was covered with myrrh and who suffered for us “in order that we may follow in His footsteps” (1 Peter 2:22); these same sufferings of the Martyrs also granted to the Church mercy, salvation, peace after three centuries of horrible persecutions.

***

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:29)

The Orthodox Church is perfected in suffering, through the martyrdom of its children, who reveal the sincerity of their love for God precisely through suffering. Thus, the blood of the Martyrs comes first and the freedom to worship, which was proclaimed by Constantine the Great, follows. The suffering of the holy Apostles comes first and the rights provided by the emperors follow. The tears of the holy myrrh-bearing women come first and the absurdity of the Resurrection follows. The Lord invites St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, in order to warn him “about all the things that he would suffer in His name” (Acts 9:16), while St. Constantine is called by the triumphant and brilliant sign of the precious cross.

***

Truly, Constantine the Great, “as the Apostle of the Lord among emperors beheld the sign of the cross in heaven and, like Paul, received his vocation from above.”

When Constantine the Great encountered in the “Italian” skies the precious cross shining, he was transformed. And together with him, the entire world of the Empire and of humanity was also transformed. This tangible vision of the ever-present sign of the cross, silently and constantly calling him, is similar to the sign witnessed by St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, on his way to Damascus, “so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2) Can it not also be said about us, that we too “persecute” those who hold views contrary to ours, whom we simply endure and tolerate, wishing that they would be “bound” to the cross – although not the cross of Jesus Christ, which would be desirable for their and our salvation, but rather the cross of our human weakness and evil?

Saul the persecutor was converted into the most zealous disciple of Christ and transformed the whole world through his preaching. Through the vision by daylight of the sign of the cross, the Emperor Constantine reformed the entire world. Not only did he put an end to the unjust persecutions against the Church and humanity as the image of God in the world; but his actions managed to attract the Christian doctrines and Gospel commandments into the ideology and lifestyle of the empire and the world, thereby introducing a profound division into world history without either planning or striving for it. So he did not receive his calling from below; nonetheless, behold, he was proclaimed an Apostle among emperors. A human paradox; yet, a divine gift.

In order to believe, human beings always require a sign. (Matt. 16:4) However, we ignore the fact that we shall not receive any sign, except the sign alone of Jonah the Prophet, who survived in the belly of the beast and foreshadowed the resurrection. In this sign, which shines more brightly than the sun, we are able to see and celebrate. And we should never forget that every sign is given as a gift, received and never planned; it is a calling, charisma, grace, mercy, commission, and constant journey.

***

With Constantine the Great and his genuinely radical service, the Lord our God entered the very heart of the worldly empire and gave life to what was previously corrupt and foul. He proved that the persecutors “became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being.” (Rom. 1:21-23) Finally, he taught us that the Lord alone gives life to the dead, and to all forms of death, by “calling things from non-being into being.” (Rom. 4:17)

It is noteworthy that the former kingdom of corruption, in the secular rule “of Augustus who was monarch of the world,” received the infant Jesus with the slaughter of thousands of innocent infants.

While, from the incarnation of the Lord, “deceit is overcome” and divine grace, love and justice reign, we cannot say with conviction that, despite human progress, everything under the sun has been transformed. Today, two thousand years after the incarnation of Christ and the murder of Herod, who thought of himself as “universal ruler,” unfortunately the murder of thousands of infants is legally recognized in most “Christian” countries.

Just like Abraham the Patriarch, Constantine the Great “patiently endured and obtained the promise.” (Heb. 6:15) The Neros, Diocletians and Herods, the “worldly rulers” of every generation dress up in glory and purple robes,” like the rich man in the Gospel passage, and persecute people. They do not endure; instead, they forget and in the end mercilessly murder the poor Lazarus, who is starving and consuming the crumbs that fall from their table, just like the splendid icon of the Annunciation Church of Tataoula in our city depicts so characteristically. This is why they do not obtain the promise that is acquired by those, to whom it is given, who do not practice truth with injustice. (Rom. 1:19)

Constantine the Emperor rejected the “right” to claiming the status of a god, to which he was entitled by his office and the ideology of his time. Nevertheless, he gained the One who alone is necessary (Luke 10:42) and inherited the kingdom of God.

***

Beloved brothers and sisters in God,

We find ourselves in the city of Constantine. And we are justifiably exploring the condition today of the most Christian of cities, which was established and honored by Constantine the Great with his own name. Yet, the historical page and sign witnessed 1700 years ago overcomes any pessimistic and negative consideration. For the fact is that the Church contains the entire world through the cross; the fact is that faith is not a social phenomenon or mere ideology It is the sanctifying grace, which descends upon us and visits us eternally and silently, accompanying us like “fire,” “a gentle breeze,” something “unknown among known and unknown,” something discernible among those who obey God’s will but also recognizable among those who disobey his commandments, something that comforts the fearful disciples in the upper room of Jerusalem and the doubtful disciples of all ages – namely, the abiding grace of the risen Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Christians “find themselves protected in the world, yet at the same time holding the world together. (Epistle to Diognetus 6 PG 2. 1176) This is why we Christians are not dragged down and do not despair. We know that people make mistakes in their judgments, thoughts, programs, ideologies and considerations. However, the Church does not; the Church is not abolished, even when Christian nations are dissolved, even when the Church lives and exists in (sometimes harsh) captivity, even when the Church is persecuted. The Church is in the world and serves the world, but it is not controlled by the world, which is the reason why evil does not affect it. The spirit conquers the flesh. Christ reigns forever. The Lord is victorious over all.

With this experience and sense of the Church’s power, we are called to imitate the virtuous work of the Emperor Constantine, the saint and peer of the Apostles, in order that we, too, may leave behind a profitable legacy and favorable memory, which will precede us before the Lord on the great and awful day of judgment, which begins here, concludes when we die and is perfected with the Lord’s voice: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34)

In the inscrutable will of the Lord, which has deemed us worthy of being “laborers in His vineyard” and of continuing the work of the Apostles and Hierarchs, we are invited in His name, without human plans and programs that are foiled on a daily basis, to labor for the transformation and reformation of society, whether in a smaller or larger community, while also advancing and converting ourselves into sons and daughters of the light of Christ.

It is true that contemporary social structures sometimes unfortunately distract us – and especially us as shepherds of Christ’s flock, and those of us inside His divine care – to a sense of pessimism due to the state of the world, which is alienated from the source of life. As a result, our passion is diminished and our heart is weakened in our love for Christ.

Yet, we believe that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, will never abandon us. The Lord celebrates our life mystically, profoundly and sacredly, invisibly transforming us.

With these thoughts, then, we declare open the deliberations of this seminar and beseech the Lord to grant us all, to our churches and our religious communities, and to the whole world a sign for our good so that we may record new pages of history and service in order that He may be magnified and honored, through the intercessions of the Lady of angels, the Martyrs and the great pillars of our faith and history, such as Constantine the Great and Basil the Great, while, through the work of the Church, Christ may be glorified as our resurrection and life. Amen.


Read more here.

What It Means To Be An Orthodox Clergyman and Theologian Today


The following excerpt is from the address of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece at the Graduation Ceremony of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on 18 May 2013.

What does it mean to be an Orthodox clergyman or an engaged theologian in our times? What does it entail and what does it take to serve the Church and Theology in modern America? And even if you choose a way other than that of priesthood or of ministration to theology, what does that choice mean? How is it binding on you and what does being a graduate of this blessed and thriving Theology School entail?

These are crucial and essential questions, no longer mere ideas or theoretical problematics, and are indeed such that directly concern your very lives. They are challenges not confined to the limits of personal concerns but primarily pertaining to the shared responsibility and to the personal participation in the developments and the shaping of tomorrow’s Ecumenical Orthodox Church and, also, of the future of the Diaspora Hellenism.

We come from afar and may not be the most competent to speak to you of the affairs of the land where you live and work.

I hope, nonetheless, that you will allow me to share with you some thoughts and preoccupations which transcend national or local frontiers.

So what does it mean to be a priest or a theologian today?

At this point of transition in your lives, where the calling to take up an active and responsible part in the life of the Church and of the world in which you live peals joyously and dynamically, you are invited to respond to God’s precept that it may no longer be you who live but Christ who lives in you[2]. You are invited to serve the Church in the awareness that we, its members, exist and fare in the world and in history but we are not of this world[3]. Even so, we have the duty and the responsibility to receive this world and to transform it; to overthrow it creatively and with our love so that the world may be Church[4].

In this struggle the danger has cut both ways through the centuries. At times, taking sides with an ideological or political choice against another would lead to secularization. At other times, obsessing or getting engaged in individual truths at the expense of the whole would be the danger; in other tems, deviation from the agreement of the Fathers (consensus patrum), a fact which would lead to schisms and heretical departures from the wholeness of the truth, which we are constantly invited to revisit[5]. We should not forget that the truth we are called to witness to and the way we ought to indicate to people is not some abstract religious or ideological proposal but Christ himself, because He is “the way, the truth, and the life”[6].

In the course of the centuries unity of mankind has been threatened or even destroyed in the name of ideological or selfish interests giving rise to rivalries, enmity and intolerance. Against this trend of the world towards destruction, which is expressed in various ways, we must oppose ourselves in word and in deed, strengthened by Christ; strengthened by the Son and Word of God, who, in every Divine Liturgy, is broken on the Altar but not divided. And in this manner, He offers man the possibility, in deed and in essence, of recovering the unity lost because of the Fall.

He, Christ “broken and distributed; broken but not divided […] forever eaten yet […] never consumed, but […] sanctifying those who partake of Him”[7] offers all communicants partaking of His Body and Blood the possibility of becoming one Body[8]. In this manner, partaking of one chalice, “we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another”[9]. All of us who receive the Holy Eucharist, where “the sacramental rite is not a mere representation but a reality of sacrifice”[10] and the Risen Christ is “invisibly present among us”[11], realize the truth and the significance of the fact that He stretched out His hands on the Cross and united what had previously been divided[12]. He descended “into the nethermost parts of the earth” and shattered the gates of Hades[13], “having resurrected the fallen Adam along with the whole of the human race, as the lover of mankind”[14].

Our duty as clergy and laity is to witness, in word and in deed, to the fact that the Church exists by uniting mankind, even at the price of our own sweat too becoming “like great drops of blood”[15], if need be; and to the fact that Christ came to His Passion voluntarily so that all men “may be one”[16]. It is this unity that we are called to promote, not with grandiloquence or theorizing but with sacrifices of an ethos worthy of the Cross, illuminated by the unsetting light of Resurrection.

Those therefore who have accepted or will accept the call to priesthood are invited to live up to the requirements of the ministration entrusted to us by the Great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, “who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire”[17].

We are called to minister to the Altar in the awareness that the Lord is always “the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed”[18]. It is not our task to put forward just another religion among many or to become a religious organization of social welfare. Our task is the sanctification and the salvation of man, the offer of the possibility of constantly defeating death through the Sacraments. Our social part consists in being first and foremost, by Grace and by obligation, bearers and advocates of the prophetic charism of priesthood, in other terms in the Holy Spirit to reveal all that which hurts and obscures truth at the present time and undermines the future and the quality of people’s lives, thus obstructing their salvation in the end.

Against the roar of the religious and ideological confrontations of all kinds the Orthodox clergyman extends an austere invitation. He invites everyone to meet around the Altar and to take part in the greatest of sacraments; so that people may be one, there; so that they may join their forces in order for love and unity in Christ to become a way of life; so that, from then on, the Divine Liturgy may be extended over our everyday lives and become a source of consolation through priesthood and through our sacrificial succour to the sufferings of each and every one of our ailing brethren.

This means that we, clergy and laity together, should live the developments of the Church. However, the people’s essential participation in the life of the Church presupposes living parishes. Amidst the confusion of our times what needs to be made clear is that parishes are not like branches for delivering religious services but the centres and the points of reference of our lives. This is where life begins. This is where it finds its meaning, is sanctified, brightened and distinguished. This is where life finds its way to eternity.

The parish is the place, and parish life is the way where, through Holy Communion, worship and partaking of the mystical Body of Christ, survival is transformed into life and death is defeated.

Wherever each faithful lives, the parish is his or her greater family and the priest is the father. And what parent who wishes a holy and virtuous life for his or her child will ever remain indifferent if he or she sees that child sick or starving or taking the wrong way?

Similarly, in our ministration too we should never lose the balance between the sanctifying work and charity. Personally, I do not know of a single saint of our Church who was not charitable or who remained indifferent to human suffering.

Worship is the driving force which cultivates and nourishes love; which makes us turn to our fellow human being and generates charity. It is therefore of vital importance that the life of worship, our charitable and, more widely, cultural and social works should exude an ecclesiastical ethos and Orthodox spirituality. Let me insist on this point, because some of you have been born and grown up within environments of other religious traditions and must now, as Orthodox clergymen and theologians, constantly cultivate the awareness of the Orthodox identity and self-consciousness and of the uniqueness of the Orthodox theological tradition.

This last remark directly brings us to the importance of the virtue of discernment in the Orthodox tradition. Indeed, the Fathers of the Church emphasize that discernment is a virtue of the highest value. Of course, its cultivation presupposes constant and intense spiritual struggle. However, nowadays, and particularly for those of us who are called to work for the Church within alien environments and in times of uncritical and untempered syncretism and cultural confusion, the virtue of discernment should be one of the sine qua non structural elements of our ministration. During the difficult transitional period of world history which we are currently going through, the precept “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught”[19] is one of grave and fundamental importance. Unfortunately, the effort to observe this precept without the filter of the virtue of discernment sometimes leads to fundamentalist mindsets, to behaviors characteristic of religious authoritarianism or fanaticism, which, in turn, breed untested critique and foment a spirit of division. This is why our pastoral presence is primarily in need of discernment, love and a spirit of sacrifice and understanding.

Modern reality is highly demanding and divisive, and extreme phenomena of this kind are a superfluous luxury, to say the least. In the spiritual desert of modern life it is a fundamental priority that there should be genuine, living Orthodox parishes, so that the young, in particular, may enjoy a small oasis; that young couples may find a refuge; that today’s afflicted family may find a quiet corner; that “all ye that labour and are heavy laden” may have a warm nest; a hearth, where the fire of spiritual quest will be burning ceaselessly; an altar whence all will begin and where all will end.

The greatest offer of the Church to the modern world is Its constant care so that there may be living parishes and monasteries everywhere, where it may be manifest in every way that Christ has risen; that death has been defeated. And this is why we can still bring our lives to the Eucharist and there to find joy, hope, consolation, meaning, and lead our fallen everyday lives in the certainty that, beyond and above any pain and any grief, life will in the end defeat death; because “Christ is risen, and life reigns”[20].

May I emphasize that what I have said thus far does not solely regard the clergy but also the pleroma of the Church. It is obvious that those who will not become clergymen are also called to labor in the Lord’s vineyard as lay theologians. Nothing of what I mentioned earlier can be put into practice by the bishop or the priests without the sacrificial presence of the lay staff of pastoral work, where theologians should have a leading part. Today, maybe more than ever before, activities such as catechism, the study of theological literature, the staffing of pastoral activities and the presence of the Church in every aspect of social life, at school, in hospitals, in charitable works, but also in arts and culture more broadly, create high requirements and the adequately trained representatives and laborers of the Church are not only more than valuable but absolutely indispensable.

This is also true of the graduates who may take paths other than those of priesthood or theology. Even then, they too are still equally invaluable to the life and the pastoral work of the Church and their contribution to the common spiritual struggle will always be important and essential.

In the end, no matter what rampart one fights from, the responsibility remains shared. Besides, in the Orthodox Church there is no separation of powers but of charismata and ministrations[21] and, consequently, when it comes to the life and the work of the Church, no one is redundant.

Certainly, the Orthodox people respects and honors its clergy very highly. Not because the latter hold some kind of administrative power but because the people recognizes them as having accepted God’s and their brethren’s calling to minister to the Altar and to the people of God in place and as a type of Christ. The bishop is in charge of a local Church not as a religious monarch or a secular governor but as president of the Eucharistic Synaxis in place and as a type of Christ. By extension, Presbyters preside over the parochial Eucharistic Synaxis in place and as a type of their bishop. In this manner, the Orthodox clergyman does not stand for a power as a representative of God on Earth but serves the Church as a representative of his flock to God.

The Orthodox clergyman is a leading figure and the first in the consciousness of the faithful because, as minister to the Church, he is “last of all”. He is glorified by ministering to and by manifesting the ethos of the sacrifice on the Cross and is respected not solely as a man per se but as man’s sacrifice in the service of his brethren. It is such clergymen, it is theologians of this kind of ethos that the Church needs urgently today, so that these may be living models of life and holiness and authentic examples of ecclesiastic mentality.

I am deeply conscious of the fact that the task of ministration to the Church and to our brethren and the devotion of our lives to such holy and admirable causes is no easy path. Those who choose the way of ministration and sacrifice consciously take the narrow and difficult way. Of course they rejoice with those who rejoice but more often they weep with those who weep. They choose to become the Cyreneans of every man around them who carries a cross, no matter how small or heavy. They decide to answer the question “lovest thou me?”, addressed to each one of them personally by the Lord, with Peter’s words: “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee”[22], to receive the same summon: “Feed my sheep”[23].

Here is how a modern-day theologian comments on this dialogue:

Feed my sheep: In other terms, place your whole life within the Divine Liturgy and make it a way of life for your brethren’s lives too.

Feed my sheep: In other terms, learn to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. Love the uniqueness of each and every man. Love the meaning and the contents of his freedom. Place the specific, the individual, the locally and temporally determined events of his life within the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist so that everyone’s work and creative activities may become a vital function of the body of the Church.

Feed my sheep: In other terms, become perfectly transparent so that it may be evident where 'all ye that labour and are heavy laden' can find rest[24]. Eucharistically offer on the Altar everything true that each one offers to the other, so that all those partaking of one chalice may share it, meaningful and enhanced.

Feed my sheep: In other terms, serve them in my way and with my authority: the authority of the one who 'took upon him the form of a servant' and utterly 'humbled himself.' Be servant of all as last of all”[25].

And the answer remains unchanged through the centuries: “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee”, “thy will be done”.

However, I should stress one further point. No matter how tough and sometimes even painful the life of a clergyman may occasionally become, he nevertheless preserves a unique prerogative: namely, the priest always has the occasion and the possibility of depositing all his torments and temptations on the Altar. This is his consolation, his support and the source of his joy, because it is there that he always meets with the invisibly present Lord.

All this may seem difficult and it is only natural that we should wonder how we shall succeed. Nonetheless, there is no reason for us not to be optimistic. “Divine grace, which always heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking”[26] will see to it.

-----------------

[2] Cf. Gal. 2,20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

[3] Cf. John 15,18-19: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”.

[4] Cf. Ad Diognetum (Epistle to Diognetus), in Sources Chr√©tiennes, vol. 33, H. I. Marrou (ed.), Paris 1965, pp. 52-84: “Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world”, p. 66.

[5] Cf. Gregory the Theologian, Oration XXX, PG 36, 125: “our best Theologian is he who has, not indeed discovered the whole, for our present chain does not allow of our seeing the whole, but conceived of Him to a greater extent than another, and gathered in himself more of the Likeness or adumbration of the Truth, or whatever we may call it”.

[6] Cf. John 14,5-6: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”.

[7] Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

[8] Cf. 1 Cor. 10,16-17: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread”.

[9] Cf. Rom. 12,5.

[10] Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 32, PG 150, 440.

[11] Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

[12] Triodion, Holy Saturday, Orthros, Ode 3 of the Canon: “Thou hast stretched out Thy hands and united what before had been divided”.

[13] Cf. The Paschal Canon: “Thou did descend into the nether regions of earth, O Christ, and did shatter the eternal bars which held the prisoners captive; and like Jonah from the sea-monster, after three days Thou did rise from the grave”.

[14] Apostichon at Vespers of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

[15] Cf. Luke 22,44: “and being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”.

[16] John 17,11.

[17] Psalm 103 (104 KJV),4.

[18] Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

[19] 2 Thess. 2,15.

[20] Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom.

[21] Protopr. G. Metallinos, Parish: Christ in our midst, Apostolic Diakonia, Athens 1990, pp. 21-23.

[22] John 21,15-17: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep”.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Cf. Matth. 11,28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.

[25] Protopr. A. Avgoustidis, Theology of Consolation, Domi, Athens 2008, pp.101-102.

[26] “Order for the Ordination of a Presbyter”, in P. Trebelas, Small Prayerbook, “The Saviour” Fraternity of Theologians, Athens 1988, p. 231 (=Archieratikon, Apostolic Diakonia, Athens, s.d., p. 84).

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