Sunday, June 30, 2013

Aspiring To Be Saints


By St. Silouan the Athonite

The Saints were people just like all of us. Many of them started with grievous sins but through repentance they attained to the Kingdom of Heaven. And everyone who reaches the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance, which the Merciful Lord granted us by His sufferings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven where dwell the Lord and His most pure Mother, abide all the Saints. There live our Forefathers and Patriarchs who valiantly carried their faith before them. There dwell the Prophets who received the Holy Spirit, and by their exhortations called the people to God. There dwell the Apostles who died that the Gospel might be preached. There dwell the Martyrs who gladly gave their lives for love of Christ. There dwell the holy Prelates who followed the Lord's example and took upon themselves the burden of their spiritual flock. There dwell the holy Fathers who lived lives of prayer and fasting, and those who assumed folly for Christ's sake, all of whom fought the good fight and thereby overcame the world. There dwell all the Righteous who kept God's commandments and vanquished their passions.

Thither aspires my soul - to that wondrous holy assembly which the Holy Spirit has gathered together. But woe is me! Inasmuch as I lack humility, the Lord does not grant me the strength to fight, and my feeble spirit flickers out like a tiny candle, whereas the spirit of the Saints burned with a bright flame, which the wind of temptation not only failed to extinguish but set burning more fiercely than ever. They trod the earth and worked with their hands but their spirits continued with God, of Whom they were ever mindful. For the love of Christ they endured every affliction on earth, and feared no suffering, and thus glorified the Lord. Wherefore the Lord loved them and glorified them, and granted them the eternal Kingdom with Him.

From Saint Silouan: The Athonite, By Archimandrite Sofroniĭ, p. 398.

Panagia Megalomata in Skiathos


The Church of the Panagia was built between the 16th and 17th century, from which has survived the icon of Panagia Megalomata (Large-eyed) which was housed therein. This church is described in Alexandros Papadiamandis' short story "The Impact". It traditionally celebrated its feast day on the Saturday of the Akathist Hymn.

Unfortunately this church had the fate of the other forty chapels of the Castle. When the fortress was abandoned in 1830 and the Skiathians returned to the old Byzantine township which is today the town of Skiathos, the chapel collapsed and turned to ruins. An exception to the fate of these chapels are the four parish churches which have been sustained till our day.

In the winter of 2010 the church was cleaned of its silt. In this work was revealed the surviving floor of the chapel, the entrance, the delineation of the altar area, and traces of wall plaster. Small items were also found.

Following this discovery many Skiathians came to the Castle in 2011 and held an all-night vigil outside, which was also done a few years prior at the other ruined chapel of the Castle known as Panagia of Prekla, whose feast is celebrated on the Dormition of the Theotokos, and whose ruins were discovered at that time.

In this way was established the annual Vigil that is celebrated on the last Sunday of June, which also gives people an opportunity to visit the Castle. From April to August there is at least one chapel at the Castle celebrated per month.

The Vigil begins with the Matins of the Akathist Hymn, to commemorate the fact that its original feast day was on the Saturday of the Akathist Hymn which falls during Great Lent.

The holy icon of Panagia Megalomata is currently housed in the Cathedral Church of the Three Hierarchs in Skiathos.








The Slaughter of Christians By Turks and Kurds in Diarbekir in 1895


The Commemoration of the Brutal Slaughter of Orthodox Christians Under Kurdish Hordes in Diarbekir of Asia Minor was established by the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1896, to be remembered on June 30th.

Because of its territorial losses in the Balkans due to the Russian intervention and the rise of Armenian nationalism, Turkey began a policy of systematic extermination of its Christian citizens between 1894-1896. Though many refer to this as the "Armenian Genocide", in reality a great number of Assyrian and Greek Christians equally suffered at the same time.

On October 20 in 1895, Turkish and Kurdish gangs began the slaughter of Christians in Diarbekir (Amid/Amida/Diyarbakır). This region was mainly made up of Armenians and Assyrians, yet many Greeks lived there as well. At this time. the Assyrian Church of the Holy Mother of God gave refuge to many Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks. Here a revealing exchange occurred when several Assyrians suggested to their priest that the Armenian refugees be expelled from the building so as not to aggravate Turkish sentiment. The Assyrian cleric replied: "The people who cross themselves will stay in church to the end. Should we be killed, we will be killed together." In the end, 119 villages in Diarbekir were scorched and ruined; 6000 Christian families - about 30,000 people - were killed. In October 1895, the Turkish army and Hamidiye regiments entered Urfa and killed 13,000 Assyrians. The massacre in Diarbekir city was one of the most violent and bloody massacres in the period, extensively reported on by the French Consul in the city, Gustave Meyrier.

In a letter from Paul Cambon to his mother on November 4, 1895: "At Diarbekir they have been killling and looting since Friday. Our consul is locked in his house with 500 refugee and from his window, he watches policemen take up arms with groups of savage Kurds from outside the city and Muslims from within. They are massacring all Christians without distinction." (Sebastien de courtois, translated by Vincent Aurora, "The Forgotten Genocide" Gorgias Press p. 106.)

In a later report on December 18, 1895 Gustave Meyrier wrote: "That day at sunrise the carnage started and lasted until Sunday night." Armed Turks were divided into groups going systematically from one house to another making sure not to disturb the Muslims. "They kicked the doors, looted evrything, and if the people were home, they slit their throats. They killed everyone they could find, men, women, and children, the girls were kidnappped." (Sebastien de courtois, translated by Vincent Aurora, "The Forgotten Genocide" Gorgias Press p.105.) The massacres continued way into 1896.

Sultan Abdul Hamid's anti-Christian pogroms had disastrous consequences for his Christians as up to 300,000 Armenians and 55,000 Assyrians died. Many Christians were forcibly converted to Islam or murdered. About 100,000 people from 245 villages were Islamicized and countless Assyrian women were forced into Turkish harems.

The decline of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the coming to power of the Young Turks who saw World War One as another opportunity to rid Turkey of its Christian population, the indigenous people of the country. The massacres spilt over into the mountains north of Mosul and Urmia's province in northwest Iran. About 750,000 Assyrians in the three regions lost their life along with more than a million Armenians and an unspecified number of Greeks.


St. Kosmas Aitolos on the Holy Apostles


By St. Kosmas Aitolos

Just as a ruler who has fields and vineyards hires workers, so our Lord Jesus Christ has us as a vineyard. He took twelve Apostles and blessed them and sent them to the whole world. And if men wish to live well and in peace here in this vain world, the most gracious God will have compassion on them and put them in paradise. He counseled them to believe and be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and to keep our God's commandments. In whatever land the holy Apostles went, the Lord said for them to bless that land. And in whatever land the Apostles went and were not received by men, the Lord said for them to shake the dust from their shoes and to depart.

Receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit, they ran as lightning, and with that grace of the Spirit they cured the lame, the crippled, the blind and those possessed by demons. And with the command of our Christ, they raised the dead. It is meet and proper, brethren, for me, the unworthy and sinful servant, to have a clean heart like that of the pure Apostles and to have that grace of the All-Holy and masterful Spirit, I who have been found worthy to come to your land. But because I am a sinner and I don't have the grace of the Holy Spirit, I beg our Lord Jesus Christ to send his grace from on high and to bless your land and your possessions and the work of your hands. And first, to have compassion on us, to forgive us our sins, and to make us worthy, my children, to live here well and in peace and to put us in paradise to glorify the Holy Trinity. And in whatever land the Apostles went, they ordained bishops and priests. They blessed that land and it became an earthly paradise: joy and gladness, a residence of angels, a residence of our Christ. And in whatever land they were not received, it became a curse and not a blessing, a residence of the devil and not of our Christ. It is meet and proper, my brethren and fellow Christians, to begin my teaching and to thank God when we finish.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Apostle Paul as Preacher and Orthodox Ecumenist


Below is the homily of His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortinos and Megalopolis, delivered in the Holy Church of Saint Paul in Psarron during the celebration of the festive multi-hierarchical Liturgy, on 29 June 2013.

1. Today our Holy Church has a great feast and celebration. Today we celebrate the memory of the foremost Apostles, Peter and Paul. Particularly we Greeks revere very much the Apostle Paul and we are grateful to him, because with much labor, even with much risk, he came to our country and preached here the Gospel of Christ, at the same time establishing churches in various cities. He is the founder of our Greek Church.

The Apostle Paul, my beloved, was an "obsessed lover" of Christ, as Chrysostom says, and, motivated by this divine eros, he went everywhere preaching the Holy Gospel. He was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1) and he has a commonality with the characterization of the Patriarch Jacob, when he blessed his son Benjamin. He said to him prophetically: "Benjamin, you are a wild wolf, who in the morning comes to catch and in the evening divides his prey." This was Paul, my beloved, in a figurative sense. He was a strong lion and "a lion with all boldness", according to divine Chrysostom, who all day, from the morning went out "to catch" the spoils of the enemy and give them to Christ, and in the evening he was planning his work for the next day!

In this humble and short sermon, which I will offer with the command and blessing of His Beatitude our Archbishop and the Holy Synod of our Church, I want to present the great Apostle we celebrate today, as a preacher of the Gospel, who must become the model and example of all sacred preachers.

2. First, my beloved, I want to say that the Apostle Paul had the conditions that made him a worthy and successful preacher of the Gospel. He had the divine calling for this work. He was not self-chosen, but God-chosen. He was like the prophets of the Old Testament, who, before taking on their prophetic work, had a vision of God and heard the voice of God, Who invited them to become preachers of His word to the people. So also the Apostle Paul, as he was traveling to persecute Christians, heard the voice of God, which told him to stop this destruction of his own work, because "it is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 9:5; 26:14). 

Second, the Apostle Paul, before his divine call, acquired a great education, which is also necessary for the preaching of the Gospel. He had a rich education and even a Greek education, which he received in his youth in Tarsus of Cilicia, where he was from. "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city," (Acts 21:39) he boasted. Tarsus rivaled Alexandria which rivaled Athens as the first in education. Yet the Apostle, as a Jew, had theological knowledge, because he studied very well the Old Testament at the feet of the great teacher of the Law Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), grandson of the famous Hillel. 

Third, as a necessary condition for divine preaching, the Apostle passed through the school of hesychasm. For after his calling he did not go to the capital, Jerusalem, nor did he consort with people, but he went to Arabia for prayer, for contemplation and for study. There in Arabia, as the interpreters say, Paul studied the Old Testament Christologically, reviewing what he had learned up until then of the Jewish interpretation, which said the coming Messiah would be a secular leader, to bring back the fallen house of David. And this Christological interpretation of the Old Testament, which Paul did by himself with the illumination of the Holy Spirit there in the desert of Arabia, we see pervasively in his sacred letters.

3. I come now, my beloved, to this preaching of the Apostle Paul. His sermon, as we see from his journeys, had two types, depending on his audience. His first type of preaching was aimed towards an idolatrous audience, and the other type for a Jewish audience. Both sermons however centered on Christ, on the Crucified and Risen Christ, who is the only Savior and Redeemer. This is the Gospel of Paul, my beloved. But it was shameful, even for that particular era, to preach about a God and Savior who hung on the wood of a Cross.

But Paul was not ashamed of this preaching, which is why he said: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Rom. 1:16), the preaching, that is, of the Crucified Christ. However, for the idolaters such preaching was "foolishness", nonsense, and for the Jews it was a "scandal" (1 Cor. 1:23). It was a strange teaching, because it showed the Messiah to be weak, having been nailed to a Cross. Paul however, antithetical to both, said firmly: "I do not want to preach anything else, but Jesus Christ and Him Crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). This preaching of the Apostle he believed to be the "power of God" and the "wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). Paul did not preach things he "made up" with human wisdom, in order not to lose the significance of the crucified death of Christ.

He did not preach a "truncated" Gospel. I "preach the gospel, not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Cor. 1:17). For the truth of his preaching, the Apostle Paul underwent battles, fierce battles, with the Judaizing Christians who taught, also strongly, that the Sacrifice of Christ was not enough, but, together with it, implementation of the Law of Moses was needed. The issue was serious, because this teaching of the Judaizers presented the salvation wrought by the crucified death of Christ as weak. Paul took this issue to a Synod, in which he conquered, because everyone recognized his preaching (Acts. 15). He went on to oversee for himself, to determine whether or not the decisions of the Synod were implemented (see Gal. 2).

He was anxious that the truth of the Gospel not be distorted. With this preaching, my beloved, our Apostle Paul taught that our preaching also should have the same content. In today's world, which is lost and drowning in sin, which is "pouring forth" on the earth according to the prophet (Hosea 5:9), for the salvation of mankind from this drowning, we must preach a simple but powerful message that Christ was crucified for us. That the Blood of Jesus Christ washes and erases our sins. To the agonizing questions of today's people, we must proclaim the salvific message of the Apostle Paul: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

4. For the evangelization of the people the Apostle Paul was very tired, night and day, because his journeys were not easy. But for this "obsessed lover" of Christ, who wanted to make many believe in Christ, nothing was difficult. He, out of love for his preaching, dared to pass with discomfort over two or three months the Taurus Mountains. The Taurus is only for merchants out of fury for profit, and thieves with a predatory passion, and only Paul passed it out of his desire and passion to preach Christ to the inhabitants beyond the mountains in Galatia.

What did he eat, where did he sleep, where did he rest? Apart from these difficulties, of those times especially, the preaching of the Apostle had a polemic against pseudo-brethren. These preached an anti-Gospel, an anti-Orthodox message, as we would say today, a sermon "seasoned" with human sophistry, which is why it took hold. Against these Paul attacked vehemently, and wherever in his epistles he writes of the distortion of the correct preaching by these pseudo-apostles and pseudo-prophets, there is thunder and lightning. He writes: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which you have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9).

The journeys of the Apostle Paul were not comfortable, but this preaching of his, which brought him so many difficulties, was blessed by God, but it was a correct and right sermon. It is noticed, my brethren, even from the Old Testament and the entire history of the Church afterwards, that the correct preaching is not delivered with comfort, but it is persecuted. Saint John Chrysostom said it clearly: "A sermon delivered for everyone's comfort, is not a sermon." Hence the correct and right preaching, as Chrysostom says again, "is given by brave men, who can endure pain and are ready for death." Such was the Apostle Paul: brave, pain enduring, and willing to die for Christ and His Gospel.

5. Finally, I want to present the Apostle Paul as an ecumenist, an Orthodox ecumenist and a model for us, so that we also may preach an Ecumenism like his. This "obsessed lover" of Christ and the Gospel, my beloved, motivated by divine eros, "soared throughout the ecumene, running about everywhere", according to divine Chrysostom.

The world then was made up of Gentile and Jewish people. The Apostle Paul went to both and even attended their places of worship, because there he would see them assembled. He went to these places however in order to speak with them of their falsehood and their delusion and to preach the truth clearly: the truth that the redemption they sought would be found in the Crucified and Risen Christ alone. They would find this only in the Churches he himself and the other Apostles established, that is, in the Orthodox Church. As some passages in the divine writings tell us, both the Gentiles and Jews expelled the Apostle Paul from among them with shouts and cries, and even with beatings, for what he said (Acts 13:45; 14:4). But what of this?

Paul had the joy of preaching even to those afar the correct Gospel, without distorting or camouflaging or hiding it. This, my beloved, is Orthodox Ecumenism. For this Paul was blessed richly by God for his movements and dealings with those found outside the Church. He became the Apostle to the Nations. He truly united East and West and brought to realization the prophecy of the Lord: "Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11).

This Ecumenism is accepted by our Orthodox Church and for such an Ecumenism we pray in our divine worship, saying: "And for the union of all." The other kind of ecumenical movement, that is, the approaching of heretical Papists and other faiths who are outside our Orthodox faith and religion, without telling them clearly that they are heretics and deluded, but instead we embrace them with great love and pray with them and even call them "Holiness", these movements, I say, do not create unity, but bring division and turbulence to our House. Our House, which is the Church of the Living God, "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), as the Apostle Paul beautifully calls it, the founder of our Greek Church, whom we celebrate today. 

O holy Apostle Paul, you are so great, you dwell in the heavens, who can reach you! We beg you, however, to supplicate Christ, that we may be like you, even to a small degree. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Paul, the Christian Equivalent to Muhammad


By Theodore Riginiotis, Orthodox theologian.

In the history of religions, Christ is not the Christian counterpart of Muhammad; He is the Christian counterpart of Allah. According to Islam, Allah “sends his apostle” Muhammad to the people, while Christ sends His own Apostles to the nations. Christ gives commandments; He teaches the people and is their God and Savior.

Where Christ differs from the Muslims’ Allah is that Christ is the Only-begotten Son of God: He is God, Who exists within a loving Trinity of Godhood – something entirely impossible and unacceptable for Muslims to embrace – and He is also the God who condescended to become an incarnate, weak human, by temporarily “vacating” Himself of His divine vastness and omnipotence in order to save mankind, who would become united to Him - and through Him, to God the Father – thus making mankind “communicants of divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Unlike Christ, the Muslim God never leaves heaven, never “vacates” himself nor sacrifices himself for the sake of mankind, never allows himself to be defeated (an inconceivable idea for Islam, which is a religion with a belligerent mentality) and never becomes united with mankind.

These are the reasons why it is inappropriate to compare Muhammad to Christ. The former is the “apostle and prophet of God/Allah”, whereas the latter is God Himself, Who sent forth His apostles and prophets into the world (as clearly stated by Christ Himself, in Matthew 23:34 – “Behold, I will send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city.”)

***

Christ had many apostles who could be compared to Muhammad. And there have indeed been many, throughout all the following generations, who had lived (and still live) as saints, perfectly united “in Christ” with the Triadic God, who could compare just the same. Not by comparing the more superficial events of their lives, but their relationship to God, their calling by God, the revelations that they received from God, their labors for the dissemination of God’s word to mankind (in which they did not resort to shedding human blood, but instead gave their own blood as offering), and their miracle-working charismas.

I have chosen the Apostle Paul as the most outstanding example – in my opinion – who can be compared to the more obvious and collective analogies to Muhammad (the way that Islam sees him). To a Christian, the Apostle Paul is everything that Islam ascribes to Muhammad: i.e., an Apostle of God (the greatest of all, who was personally called upon by God), who saw God’s divine Light (which Muslims cannot see and thus assert that it is not visible in this life); and who actually spoke with God (Acts of the Apostles 9:1-7). Paul’s direct conversing with God (Christ) continued throughout his entire life (Acts 22:17-21; 2 Cor.12:8-9). God had also sent him to spread His word among the nations:

God’s witness regarding Paul, as spoken to Saint Ananias in Acts 9:10-16: “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

And in Acts13:2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.'”

Also in Acts 13:47: “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you (Paul) as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’"

Also in Acts 22:21: “Then He said to me (Paul), ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’”

We note that God spoke to the saints about Paul, referring to him as “the light of nations” and a “chosen vessel”.

Paul had also ascended to the “third heaven” where he heard “ineffable words” – words that cannot be expressed by human lips – and was bestowed with revelations of breathtaking magnitude, which he humbly reported in his Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:1-10): “It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man (Paul humbly implies himself) in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For, though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He also prophesied about the outcome of mankind, in 2 Thess. 2:1-2: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”

And he also spoke of the resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming of Christ according to the will of God and the revelations that he received from God, in the entire Chapter 15 of his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, also in Chapter 4 of his 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

And in Chapter 5 of the same Epistle : “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.”

He was granted a tremendous miracle-working charisma: raising a dead person, expelling demons (Acts 16:16-18; 19:11-12; 20:9-12). Sorcerers publicly burnt their books of witchcraft and believed in God, after listening to Paul’s teachings (Acts 19:19).

Paul travelled throughout the lands of the Mediterranean, disseminating the word of God in many places, among dangerous idolaters, and he brought thousands of people to the true Faith, in an expanse stretching from Cyprus and as far as Spain. He suffered whipping, stoning, imprisonment; he was stabbed, he was shipwrecked (Acts 21:14-44; 2 Cor.11:24-32 – see Notes below also) and was finally decapitated by the Romans.

Many of his disciples are saints and teachers of Christianity – such as Titus, Timothy, Luke, Aquilas, Priscilla, Apollos, Onesimus, Dionysius the Areopagite, Stachys, Apelles, Flegon, Phoebe and many others. Several of them were also martyred, thus offering their life for their “in Christ” love of God. There is absolutely no evidence or indication whatsoever that any of these persons had fought any wars or had prompted people to fight or to take human lives – either in the name of God and “divine law”, or for any other reason.

Paul founded dozens of Christian communities, even in the most dangerous of places, where he himself had suffered beatings, imprisonments, and in many instances, near death - for example, at Lystra (Acts 14:8-22), at Philippi (Acts 16:19-34); at Ephesus (Acts 19:23-30) – communities which he guided with love and caring, like a father (1 Cor. 4:14-15; Gal. 4:19-20), during his entire lifetime (see Philippians chapter 1), both with his oral teachings as well as with his Epistles, which contain everything that man needs for his salvation. This is what makes his Epistles equivalent to the Koran – the way that Muslims regard it of course – except that the Epistles do not have the form of a political and social law with Old Testament style punishments and stipulations like the Koran does, because the content of Paul’s Epistles originates from God’s direct revelation to him (a divine inspiration). Wherever Paul refers to his own views and not to a revelation by God, he always mentions it clearly.

For example:

In 1 Cor.7:10-12: “I command - yet not I, but the Lord… but to the rest I, not the Lord, say…”

In 1 Cor.7:25: “…I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.”

In Cor.11: 23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…”

Unlike Muhammad, Paul was well aware that the devil can “transform himself into an angel of light” in order to fool people (2 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 1:18), but he himself was not fooled (Acts 16:16-18), and he taught the people not to be fooled either.

Paul never resorted to wars, nor did he ever receive any instruction by God to fight His enemies – instead, he was instructed to love them. He never armed anyone, nor did he ever lead anyone into battle. Instead, he taught only love and non-violence, thus keeping faithfully to the teaching of Jesus Christ and all the Apostles. This is the same path that was followed by all those who were faithful to the true God. They were martyred by the thousands, thus offering their own blood as sacrifice, without killing anyone.

Furthermore, Paul did not establish any terrestrial state or empire, like the one that Muhammad and his successors had created in the name of Allah, which had murders as an inevitable consequence – a thing entirely different (or more correctly, opposite) to the kingdom of heaven that Christ and His successors-disciples had established among mankind. (Refer also to Christ’s response to Pilate in John 18:36, but also to the reason that Christianity could not be an earthly kingdom – as mentioned by Paul himself in his Epistle to Hebrews 13:14: “For we do not have here a permanent city, but we seek the one that will be”).*

In spite of all the above, Paul was victorious. The Christian faith spread throughout the Mediterranean basin, at its European, its Asian and its African sides. And, three centuries later, the Emperor of Rome himself became a Christian.

Paul’s teaching is of course devastating for the teaching of the Koran. God’s triadic reality and Christ’s Divinity, His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, as well as all the other elements of the Christian Faith, are confirmed by God’s Apostle in a manner that does not leave any margins for doubt. This was not a teaching fabricated by the Apostle Paul (as some entirely arbitrarily claim); it is a teaching that agrees in every detail with all of the Apostles, with all of the writers of the New Testament, i.e. the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James and Jude Thaddeus. However, we also discern the agreement in the teachings of the other holy apostles, in the concordance of faith in the Christian communities of the 1st and 2nd century A.D., from Britain as far as India – regardless which apostle had founded the faith in those lands.

These are the reasons the Apostle of Nations – Paul – is being constantly defamed by the enemies of the true God, the way that Muslims feel that Muhammad is being defamed. However, no Christian spiritual struggler who is faithful to the teaching of Christ, Paul, and all of the Apostles of Christ the Lord, has ever aggressively attacked the Lord’s defamers (not even when He was still living among us, nor during the pursuant history of Christianity); they only confined themselves to words for a verbal defense of the Faith, with the sole interest of leading the sycophants to their salvation, and continuing to act towards them with love, the way that Christ the Lord loves them and all of mankind.

***

I would venture to say that the last hope of our Muslim brothers in their attempts to debunk the validity of the Apostle Paul’s testimony regarding the truth of the Christian Faith, is to assert that the New Testament contains falsehoods as regards Paul’s conversation with Christ, or the miracles he performed and the revelations that he had received throughout his Christian labors – in the same way that has been observed with the Apostle Peter’s testimony. I have no doubt that attempts will likewise be made to mar his person also – an action that has already occurred in the past.

Nevertheless, the undeniable facts of his life remain, and they can reveal to any well-meaning researcher of the truth all the other details, such as: the fact that Paul had initially been a dedicated persecutor of Christians and had suddenly and miraculously converted to Christianity, but without ever ceasing to feel guilty for those actions for the rest of his life (1 Cor. 15:8-11); that he had abandoned his home and the honorary status that he held in the leadership of the Hebrews (Gal. 1:13-14); that he had dedicated his life to the dissemination of God’s word throughout the Mediterranean – ever homeless and always a stranger wherever he went, reaping only toils, wounds, insults, arrests, pains and dangers (by idolaters, Jews and fanatic Judeo-Christians); and that he was finally put to death for Christ, without gaining any worldly benefits, or riches, or authority, or triumph in military victories, or respite,; nor did he secure any “holy book” that would impose a “faith in God and His apostle, Paul” - by which he would actually command any “holy war” that must kill by the sword anyone who betrayed that faith.

When Paul defends his apostolic status and enumerates his labors for Christ’s sake (2 Cor. Ch.11-12), he does so in response to the frightful treachery of the Judeo-Christians who were hindering the very salvation of the faithful and yet – take note – he does not draw a knife, nor does he command the followers of the true God to kill his sycophants. (Not to mention that he had already stressed to the recipients of the Epistle that he considered himself an insignificant individual, thus refusing to be regarded as the leader of a religious group: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” – 1 Cor. 3:5-7). The matter of the Judeo-Christians was resolved, not through violence, but by the Council of the Apostles at Jerusalem, with the participation of ALL the Apostles and the Elders, in which Council Paul had no leading role whatsoever, whereas in the introductions by the major Apostles Peter and James, one can see the consequences of Paul’s teaching with the spiritual inheritance of Christ.

Who, then, is the true Apostle of God - Paul or Muhammad? Let each interested party reach his own conclusions, by searching the historical facts with sincerity.


NOTES

* This is why regardless what excuses the contemporary Muslim missionaries may give to justify Muhammad’s war enterprises and his successors’, Islam will always be a vast difference from Christianity, as vast as the difference between the heavenly kingdom and the terrestrial Arab empire – in other words, as far off as the sky is from earth.

To be fair, however, it suffices to compare only the first 4 Muslim caliphs – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (note: before Islam had begun to become secular, according to Muslim tradition, during which periods however, the entire Persian empire and vast expanses of Christian Romaic lands had already been conquered: the conquest of Alexandria, raids against Cyprus, Rhodes and Asia Minor, with the capital Constantinople also in danger, if the Arab fleet had not been destroyed by a tempest on the shores of Chalcedon in 653, while there were also invasions in Iran, Afghanistan and Armenia) with the first three centuries of Christianity. They were centuries of martyrs, prior to the first Christian Roman emperor, after whom the Muslims could assert that Christianity had turned into a theocratic empire which acted in the name of God – the way that the Islamic Caliphate did.

But even this assertion would not be true, because during Byzantium, the imperial authority was always different compared to the leadership of the Church, and quite often, there had been unjust or heretical emperors who had exiled or taken the lives of ecclesiastic leaders and a host of saints.

“Byzantium” was not a theocracy; it was a political State, with political laws. It did NOT use its Holy Bible to lead throngs of warriors and exhort them to acts of war – as the Koran does. This is what Papism resorted to at a later date, which is why it constitutes a devastating heresy that stained people’s hands with Muslim and Christian blood.

To read about the war operations and conquests of the first 4 Caliphs, you can browse this article:

"The Rashidun Caliphate expanded gradually, with the time span of 24 years of conquest a vast territory was conquered comprising North Africa, the Middle East, Transoxiana, the Caucasus, parts of Anatolia, the whole of the Sassanid Persian empire, the Greater Khorasan, the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes and Sicily, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded, and Baluchistan was conquered, the empires eastern frontiers reaching the lower Indus river in the Indian subcontinent and western frontiers to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Islamic Invasion of Sassanid Persia resulted in the conquest of the whole Sassanid Persian empire, after the Persians declined to submit and continued to strive to re-capture their lost territory. Unlike the Sassanid Persians, the Byzantines after losing Syria, retreated back to western Anatolia and as a result, also lost Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, Cyprus and Rhodes to the invading Rashidun army, although the civil wars among the Muslims halted the war of conquest for many years and this gave time for the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire to recover."

Despite the peaceful tradition of the large populations of Egypt and Syria, we note on account of their opposition to Byzantine administration, a history of audacious and continuing wars in the name of Allah with significant exhortations by the Koran. Regardless of the pretext that supported those wars (for example, if they had to do with deception by the enemy or for reasons of defense – which are the excuses given by Muslims), that behavior is an entirely materialistic and unacceptable one in the eyes of the true God, and far below the teaching of Christ, Who called upon Christians to forgive their enemies and prefer to be martyred – NOT to resort to bloodshed, and clearly NOT to found and expand a State.

It should be noted that Byzantium – despite the many civil wars (a totally unacceptable thing of course) – did not aspire to expansionist wars, only defensive ones, and it did not secure conquered peoples for itself; it provided equal terms for all the ethnicities that lived within the Empire. Even the renowned recapture of the West by Justinian was a defensive war, for the liberation of the Western peoples from the various German tribal conquerors. However, even that cannot be regarded as a part of the Christian religion, nor was it guided by the Bible or the holy Fathers and teachers of Christianity.

Just one quote here, as regards the Crusades: "We note, finally, that the 'soteriological' aspect of the Crusades, which guaranteed the absolution of sins for those who had participated in them – a practice that has always been repelled by the Orthodox Church despite the persistence of strong-willed emperors like Nicephoros Phocas – had surprised the Byzantines, who were not in the least moved by the eschatological spirit that reigned in the West at the time." (Helena Glykatzi-Arveler, The Political Ideology of the Byzantine Empire, Psychoyios Publications, Athens 1988, p.92).

A brief examination of the Orthodox Church’s stance with regard to war:

Basil the Great – Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader during the second half of the 4th century A.D. – a very few years after Rome’s reconciliation with Christianity had drafted the renowned Canons regarding war. Those canons were also validated by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council in 692 A.D.

Canon 8 of the Quinisext Council “On Murder and Murderers” (which, like his Canons 56 and 13, was validated by the Quinisext Council as a Canon of an Ecumenical Council) includes the “wittingly murdering” – those who murder during war offensives: “Entirely wittingly and without any doubt are the instances of robbers and war offensives. Because the former will murder for money while avoiding to be checked, whereas the latter come to wars to commit murders; not to intimidate, nor to rehabilitate, but to kill the opponents, with intent to be obvious.”

Consequently they fall under Canon 56 for the witting murderer, and as such are subject to an excommunication of 20 years, the first four years of which he must stand outside the church confessing his crime and asking for the Christians’ prayers.

Canon 13, "On those who have murdered during wars", pertains clearly to defensive wars, and calls for the Christian to abstain for three years from Holy Communion if he has taken the life in a defensive war.

Furthermore, Apostolic Canon 66 defrocks the clergyman and excommunicates the layperson (denies him Holy Communion) who kill during a war: “Should any clergyman strike someone in battle and after one strike unwittingly kills him, let him be defrocked for his precociousness. If he be a layperson, let him be excommunicated.”

According to the 5th Canon by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, even the one who kills unwittingly is barred from priesthood: “Even if unwittingly one becomes a miasma on account of murder, having thus become sacrilegious according to the saints, the Canon declares him as exempt of the gift of priesthood.”

“That is, whosoever murders – even if pressured and unwittingly – if he be a layman he cannot become a priest, and if a Priest, he is defrocked” - according to the comment by Saint Nikodemos in the Pedalion (Rudder), pp.657-658.

It is very clear that no honor is reserved for killing during a war against any unfaithful, nor any promises of sainthood for the warrior who loses his life therein. The manner in which national anniversaries are celebrated in our country is a secular one – human of course, but not Christian by nature. Christianically speaking, a defensive or liberation war is tolerated with sorrow (simply because the Church cannot force anyone to become a martyr); however, it is not the warriors who are saints and martyrs – it is the lambs.

The implementation in practice of the Church’s view against war can be seen in the Book of Saints:

Α) Those killed in war against the unfaithful are not honored as martyrs and saints (this was requested by Nicephoros Phocas, but the Patriarch at the time and the Council had rejected the request, by invoking Canon 13 by Basil the Great); instead, only those who were put to death during various persecutions, without having fought. For the slain warriors, the Church offers Her prayers for the repose of their souls, because it is not certain that they were indeed saved.

Β) The military saints are also martyrs as a general rule – that is, they have washed away the blood of the enemy (even if they had spilled it during defensive wars) with their own blood. Even Nicephoros Phocas, who is a saint, had died by stabbing – is not honored because he liberated lands from the cruel Arabic occupation, but was honored for his piety, which was expressed by an intensely ascetic way of life and incessant prayer. And yet, he died of a knife wound in his conjugal bed (and not in the “glorious” fielf of battle)! Was that just a coincidence?

C) Apart from the thousands of martyrs of the persecutions, there are other saints who had refused to fight, having understood their spiritual inheritance’s view regarding war. Saint Boniface – the Enlightener of the Germans – in 754 AD had refused to defend himself when he was attacked by barbarians in the forests beyond the Rhine, and simply covered his head with a manuscript of the Gospel. He was killed and thus earned the crown of martyrdom and sainthood.

The Russian holy princes Boris and Gleb, in 1015 when their elder brother Sviatopolk invited them to his palace had understood that he intended to kill them, and yet they still went there, and in fact separately, one month apart, having considered it contrary to their Christian belief to make their own soldiers fight for their sake.

In 452 AD, when Rome had been besieged by Attila the Hun, the holy Pope Leo the Great had averted to occupation of the city by going out to meet him, unarmed, and together with the priests of Rome. This feat was repeated by the holy Pope Gregory II (717-731 AD), in order to avert the occupation of Rome by the Lombard king, Liutprand.

Saint Sigbert, king of East Anglia in 637 AD, was, under pressure, forced to lead his army into battle, although he had resigned from his throne and become a monk. He went there, unarmed, holding only a staff, and was of course killed. We do not know if he had prayed for his soldiers (that they may be forgiven for the enemies that they would kill), or even if he had come forth unarmed to offer himself as sacrifice for his soldiers.

There are many more similar cases.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Didactic Sayings of St. Raphael of Lesvos


The following teachings come from St. Raphael, the newly-revealed martyr of Lesvos, through revelations of his various appearances to residents in Lesvos.

- Donors to churches have the blessing of God. A donor to the house of God becomes a recipient of God's gifts.

- Work is a great precaution against temptations.

- Greed is a terrible sin.

- Temperance of the tongue always brings peace.

- Great evil to the person who lives with contaminated thoughts.

- Goodness of the soul is worth more than the beauty of the body.

- Beware of the condemnation of your fellow man.

- O man, protect yourself from sin in order to gain Paradise.

- Christian, all mornings are yours, but Sunday morning belongs to God. Do not forget this.

- Without Holy Communion there does not exist, there does not exist eternal life for man.

- The Holy Spirit is an air of love. He is the light that burns. He is a cool and cheerful breeze.

- Worldly glory does not lead God's children to heaven.

- Humility is a blessing that protects the soul from sin.

- The protection of God is the true assurance of man.

- Obedience to the words of the Gospel will give the soul eternity.

- If man does not suffer in life on earth then it is not easy to enter the gates of Paradise.

- Whatever happens to man in his life, it is because of his naughty life.

- When man prays, the evil one plummets.

- The study of the Divine word, matures the thought of man.

- Fasting should be accompanied by a virtuous life.

- Spiritual formation is higher than anything.

- Do not hurt your fellow man, neither in word nor deed.

- Despair is the work of the evil one.

- Without affliction the Christian people cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

- Money does not bring rest to the soul, but sinks it into darkness.

- Repentance resurrects man.

- When God blesses all is delightful, beneficial and prosperous.

- The medicines of the soul, are the Divine words of the Gospel.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

The Recipe of Salvation According to Elder Paisios


- Seek for a lifeline near to God. Contain your material needs, because they create huge burdens and anxieties.

- Do not envy people that have money, comforts, fame and power, but rather those who live with virtue, reason and piety.

- Do not ask God for things that only support your body, but especially what is good and beneficial for your soul.

- Change your life, discover the meaning of life, gain the time lost in this process so far on earth.

- Do not trust the mindset of secular people.

- Be healed of the illnesses that dominate the lives of people that did not learn to fast, to be chaste, to pray, to hope.

- Do not despair. God is omnipresent and loves humanity.

- Cut off every relationship with evil, live freely, according to the will of the Lord.

- Prove your faith with works of love toward your neighbor.

- Decide what you want most: the sympathy of the world or a return near to God?

- Almost all problems start from the mouth (what you say) and, likewise, by the amount you depend on your passions.

- Love your wife more than yourself. With works, not with words. And do not ever talk to her badly, because sometimes the tongue kills and destroys love. Also, be careful, because some parents spoil their children very much and always do them favors. And when a child is too spoiled, they will become selfish and take a crooked path. Many parents care more about providing material things for their children. This is wrong. The body has many material desires, but a short life. The soul continues along another course. The soul does not end up in the dirt, but with God. Today everyone deals with their body, not with the needs of their soul.

- The needs of the soul are different. The joys of the soul are different from the joys of the body. The body is easily managed, not the soul. If you have money and enter a big store, the body is all set. But what can you find in a, what do you call those big stores, yes, a supermarket, for your soul? The soul needs other things. The soul has need of peace, quiet, communion with God. To sustain the body, you need silver and daily bread. To sustain the soul, divine talents and heavenly Bread are needed.

From the book Four Hours With Fr. Paisios (Τέσσερις ώρες με τον π. Παίσιο). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Byzantine Chapel Featured in "Before Midnight"


The 2013 movie Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Celine) was entirely shot in the Southern Peloponnese of Greece (see here for popular locations), a perfect location to end the beloved globetrotting trilogy. It is a sequel to Before Sunrise (1995; filmed in Vienna) and Before Sunset (2004; filmed in Paris), all shot nine years apart to show how the romance between Jesse and Celine develops over eighteen years.

In one scene of Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine come across an old Byzantine chapel which Jesse had previously visited and now wants to show Celine. As they enter we see a small chapel with very old wall-to-wall frescoes, which Jesse explains is dedicated to a saint who is the patron of eye problems. Ironically, most of the figures in the frescoes have their eyes scratched out, which Jesse explains, as he was told by a local, that this was done by the Turks to dishonor the images. It is almost a sacred moment, but as anyone who has watched the trilogy knows, Jesse and Celine like to talk about spirituality but they are not Christians, and they proceed to make sexual jokes to get themselves out of having that sacred moment some viewers would perhaps like to see.

The chapel itself is located in the outskirts of the village of Platsa in Greece and dated to 1412 according to the plaque above the entrance, though the actual construction may be from the 13th century. It is in fact dedicated to St. Paraskevi, the patron saint of eye problems. Inside the cross-shaped church there are a variety of frescoes, possibly not all of the same period and all likely to be much later than the date of construction. The earliest are dated to the early 15th century.




A Psychological Perspective on Homeopathy and Alternative Therapy


By Father Antonios Stylianakis,
Child Psychologist and Psychotherapist for Children and Youth

This presentation will attempt to answer the following questions:

1. What is it about today's world that makes people look to alternative therapies all the more and more?

2. Is it possible to give a psychological explanation of the therapies in this domain and under what conditions?

3. Can an (Orthodox) Christian try these therapies without experiencing danger?

Approximately a year ago, some parents came to my Clinic with their eight-year-old daughter who was suffering from spastic paralysis and profound mental retardation/developmental delay. She had virtually no meaningful communication with the environment beyond visual contact. They had just returned from Germany where they had visited a center for alternative therapies and had been seen by a Chiropractor. They told me that he examined their child and told them that there was a fluid-build up on her right side, and so he performed some therapeutic manipulations. I asked the parents how the chiropractor discovered this (fluid build-up), and they said by grabbing hold of her head! I asked myself how he found this fluid by simply touching the surface of the child's head, something which medical doctors only find with specific tests. And so I clearly stated (to the parents) that I did not espouse these magical ways! The parents looked at me in a perplexed manner and left quite dissatisfied. They never came back! They had placed all their hopes for their child's improvement on chiropractic care and were unable to understand what I was trying to tell them: that in order for us to observe improvement in the child, a great deal of continuous hard work and effort would be needed, along with intensive physical and occupational therapy, and afterwards, perhaps speech therapy. They were just waiting for a miracle!

And there you have one category of people who seek out alternative therapists. Those who become discouraged with the status of their illness and believe that the help that (traditional) medicine gives is too narrow. It isn't by chance that many cancer patients and those diagnosed with AIDS, seek refuge in a wide range of alternative therapies in hopes that they will be cured/helped.

If one were to study these theories and the promises these therapies make, we would ascertain two things: According to their claims, they address the whole person (the holistic approach), his body, mind, and psyche! One can appreciate what an impact such a notion that one pill can heal the soul has on the world-at-large, since the treatment is holistic. In other words, we're talking about a demonic device of the first order! That they speak about forces which essentially perform miracles, whether they are of universal origin (worldly power) or from the human being (the vital force).

Recently, I was having a conversation with a Homeopathic Doctor and expressing criticism of the methods utilized. When he experienced difficulty in explaining the methodology, he responded that what interests him most of all is the end result; and accordingly, he is happy to see that cures and the alleviation of pain with the use of homeopathic remedies, are taking place on a regular basis.

It is necessary, now, to comment on this subject, to offer some responses on our topic. It has been set forth by previous speakers that Homeopathy places particular emphasis on its scientific base; however, I often ask myself why the water from a stream or waterfall, which flows naturally , and contains certain necessary elements for survival, such as iodine, isn't considered power imbued!

Nevertheless, I do not wish to get involved in occultism which is so outspoken in many cases, but rather I wish to look at those (therapies) which claim that they stay clear of such (occult-like) minglings and ways of thinking. Is this feasible?

I will address homeopathy, primarily, because it appears to be the most harmless/innocent and has been widely disseminated, and because it is practiced by medical doctors who don't need other credentials in order to practice without disturbance/interference.

WHO USUALLY TURNS TO HOMEOPATHY

I believe it is obvious from the presentations of the previous speakers that Homeopathy is quackery/charlatanism with few medical, psychiatric or thought-provoking features.

In any case, one only has to think on the fact that G. Vithoulkas, founder of Homeopathic Medicine in Greece, had no background in medicine, as he was a Civil Engineering Assistant (it is recorded, as well, that he never obtained his degree!).

In principle, the individuals most likely to turn to homeopathy have a certain psychological make-up or else are under certain pressures in life; I do not, however, wish to imply that they are not from the mainstream of society. Most often, they have tested out many different kinds of medically based therapies without experiencing significant results, usually because their condition has many psychological parameters which, of course, are not eliminated by taking medication! In fact, the presence of chronic pain syndromes is often the case (headaches, lumbago, chest pains, etc.). They refuse, however, to accept or else ignore the existence of psychological problems, and they find it "convenient" to believe that one pill is going to make them well. For this reason, they turn to a homeopathic doctor and not to a psychiatrist!

Furthermore, they may be individuals who like to involve themselves in the prevention aspect of unpleasant health conditions. They consider it necessary to be involved in some kind of treatment, such as that of homeopathy, albeit on a preventive basis! It is the insecure who, for a variety of reasons, may even go to their General Practitioner, to ask to be treated with vitamins or tonic, on a preventative basis. If the Internist tells them they are okay and doesn't pay particular attention to them or their request, these same individuals may very well continue their health search in the direction of alternative therapies. It is obvious that there are deeper psychological issues for this.

THE MAGICAL SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM, NAMELY, REPRESSION OF THE PROBLEM

Sometimes clients will come requesting medication, and although I will explain to them that psychological healing comes about by changes in one's way of thinking and behaving which results from working together in psychotherapy, they will refuse this and ask for medication, which in some magical way will cure them. And, in fact, sometimes, (a therapist) may succumb to the temptation (the client's request), and prescribe the medication, in which case we see amazing results, at least at the beginning, a phenomenon known as the placebo effect!

I, personally, never do this, and consider it totally unnecessary (if not completely unethical, for the patient not to be aware exactly what treatment he is undergoing, although there are patients who are, in fact, indifferent to this!).

A few years ago I remember talking to a veteran psychiatrist, when psychiatry was still in its early stages, and he was commenting on a particular situation that occurred in his clinic, whereby he was administering an injection of plain water (that is, distilled water like that in homeopathy) to a few clients and observed really amazing results every time. Both the doctor and patients remained satisfied with (the results of) this treatment which took place more or less monthly!

Which is what happens in homeopathy. You get well, and they tell you, "Come back in two or three months for preventive measures or else for maintenance!"

It's a shame, however, that the medical profession is reduced to such a level by some of its professionals, because the latter don't make the effort to examine the deeper needs/concerns of a person and thus to administer treatment that will address the problem at its roots. Unfortunately, Psychiatry as a profession here in Greece has been drawn, like Hector, into the arena by Neurology for so many years and now very timidly is coming into its own, that is, recovering from this identity crisis.

Homeopathic medicine usually acts in a similar way. Perhaps, the senior physicians remember the Kamaterou "curative" water which many years ago claimed to cure even cancer! (The cured patients would go public and be interviewed!). Initially, patients would get enthusiastic and claim results even before the medication had a chance to get to the stomach. After a certain period of time though, days to years, they would revert back to the same (state of affairs).

At bottom, some people are aware of this. But they still want to believe in the "magical" cure-all remedy, €œthrusting aside their other problems, psychological or otherwise. It's much easier to swallow a pill than to talk about current or childhood traumatic experiences. The first solution will make you a satisfied customer of alternative treatment; the second (solution) may, perhaps, help you to understand why you (tend to) avoid certain things in your life and why you continue living miserably in a vicious circle.

So, this is how the homeopathic practitioner takes on the role of a psychiatrist, unwillingly and supposedly treats "all illness" (phobias, depression, neuroses, and even schizophrenia), although he has not specialized in any area of medical science! And this is really paradoxical if one stops to think about it!

HOW (STANDARD) MEDICINE WORKS

Quite often, the people who resort to medical intervention are those with chronic pain, such as headaches, heart condition, muscle aches and pains, and lumbago. Unfortunately, what many Internists only know how to do each time to prescribe a particular pain medicine depending on the condition.

Sometimes, if they don't find what the problem is by examination in the clinic, they may say, "There's nothing wrong with you," or "ust forget about it,"or else "It's all in your head."

There's nothing worse than for someone who is waiting for help to encounter this kind of response. He is being told, more or less, that he is imagining his illness! So he will turn to an acupuncturist or a chiropractor or homeopathic doctor who will surely heal him. In this way he will prove indisputably that he was right about feeling pain, but you Mr. Internist/General doctor, weren't able to treat him.

And if you don't have the time or the energy to set aside an hour or so to discuss with your client his emotional problems, the best thing that you can do, at the least, is to make a referral, to a competent psychiatrist or psychologist, without fear and obsession.

I received such a referral from an Internist, of a young man, a few years ago.

His problem was that he suffered from disturbing headaches for which he had undergone acupuncture, but with only temporary relief. Later, he had chest pains that resulted in him visiting seven different specialist doctors since his private insurance covered the visits and he didn't have to pay-out-of-pocket. He made his health problem the center of his life.

He had undergone all the most expensive examinations and testing (NMR) without there being anything pathological. What was left was psychiatric care (which in fact wasn't covered by his private insurance), and so he ended up in my office. He wondered how (in the world) he was going to be treated, without medication to relieve him from pain, and I asked him to entrust himself to me for a period of three months' treatment at least.

We began by examining together in a psychoanalytical manner, discussing all the issues from this point on and back to his childhood years. All his pains disappeared during the first month, but our working together extended to six months, without him complaining of other symptoms. What was more significant, was this: there were problems in his relationships which had not been mentioned initially, and which were now being resolved, and one might wonder how this came about. By delving deeply and analytically into his interpersonal relationships, especially early childhood experiences, which revealed quite a lot, as he had grown up essentially with his grandmother and without his mother around, who had to work day and night. Our discussion brought to light shady areas in his personality, which helped him to start a process of maturing which he had denied up to this point for his own emotional reasons.

Another thing which impressed me, is that this young man had literally gone to every available therapist seeking advice. And although he was not a church-going person, he had even made it to the Holy Mountain to meet Elder Paisios, whose meeting, however, did not stop him from taking refuge in witchcraft and mediums, and applying what they would tell him!

Perhaps you have been wondering what was the meaning, symbolically speaking, of all the untreatable pain experienced by this 20 year old young man. From my "analysis" of him, I believe that (the pain) was significant for the following reason: He had been deprived of "the maternal hug", when he desperately needed it, and so now he was trying to replace it with continual care of and attention to his body, that he sought by going to the doctors, who were incapable of curing him, exactly because it is impossible to replace a mother's caress which he had been deprived of.

I don't know if you remember the scene in your (own) childhood when you had fallen down and hurt yourself, and your mother said to you, "Come here, so I can kiss it and make it well, mwaaa." And oh, miracle of miracles, that mother's kiss, what unrivaled curative power!

That is how "alternative" therapy works today. Not only that! Even every medication a person gets from the doctor.

And as long as doctors don't know how to talk to the sick person and to discuss with him his problem, so also the medications will not do their job, despite the fact that new and proven-to-be-better (medicines) are put on the market day after day.

You are aware that physicians write prescriptions for most of the psychotropic medications: I, personally, have reached the point where, many times, I don't even remember the names of the drugs, because I so rarely prescribe them. The reason is that I allocate a lot of time for talking with my "€œclients" about their difficulties and their emotional needs, and the solution is met with at its source, on a psychological level, and so the symptoms disappear on their own, without having to ask (the patients) to come back for "maintenance"!

A while ago a young mother came to my office, having lost her husband in an auto accident. She was asking for advice on how to break the news to her child of the death of his father, and furthermore, she begged me to tell the child the news. The woman was in a state of depression from the unexpected loss of her husband with whom she had a very loving relationship. Suddenly, however, she had lost all hope for him (for she didn't believe in life after death) and so she got rid of all his pictures in the house. Of course, I discussed with her in detail all the events and her emotional reactions, something which caused her, several times, to burst into tears, but which also caused her to become aware in the end of how she had been handling the situation wrongly.

When she left my office, it had not been necessary for her to get on medication nor for me to see her child, because she was persuaded that now she could tell him everything that she had come to accept well enough within herself.

Why did I refer to this case? Because, here is someone who could have easily gone to a homeopathic practitioner (as in the cases that have come to my attention). She would have taken some miracle pills which would have helped her to overcome her grief, but only after a few months, something which would have happened on its own (with the passage of time). However, this would not have helped her in the least to become aware (of the fact) that she perceived the death of her husband wrongly, and in turn this would have not been at all beneficial to her child, who might have then developed various phobias and disorders.

So the issue here with respect to medical care, is not just the avoidance of doing harm (to a patient), but also that (the medical profession) must help when and wherever feasible, and utilize as much as possible all the scientific knowledge one has. Even the slightest delay in treatment of someone, can have earth-shattering consequences in the life of an individual.

HOLISTIC VERSUS CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE

The practitioners of Alternative Therapies proclaim that they view the person totally and not just his symptoms. On closer examination, however, of how certain situations are dealt with, what is shown? That the person is seen as the sum total of his symptoms, which are treated by administering a pill that is quite individualized (a cure-all). In short, the remedy (term used by Homeopathic practitioners for the medicines they use) becomes the end-all, possessing divine powers.

Whatever problems and emotional needs the person may have are not as significant for them as finding the remedy "that one and only medicine “that suits him (the patient)," they say with smugness. "From the moment we have found it, we have cured him! And we are then indebted to this mystical power."

Tell me now, if it isn't any wonder that little by little and unwillfully, the person enters into an occult-like path, even if his doctor is Christian Orthodox!

And in this manner are phobias treated even at a distance and by a phone call prescription! Isn't it a known fact, even among the least informed, however, that a phobia is preeminently, a psychological phenomenon and can't be treated without at least engaging the phobic person in dialogue in order to see what the problem is? And this is the primary job of the psychiatrist. So, they (the alternative therapists) are usurping, and harmfully so, the practice of psychiatry, which they have no knowledge of (they haven't studied it).

Of course, it can be said that, as a result of a personal experience, someone was able to cure his own phobia. I don't doubt that this may happen at times! But what needs emphasizing here is the psychiatrist's goal, which is to treat the individual disturbance, and not just to cure the symptoms.

What often happens is that just as one symptom is cured, another one pops up, as in the case of a patient who was cured of his fear of heights only to acquire a phobia of electrical currents. And from there he went on to experience a phobia of sharp objects, and so forth.

An individual disturbance is (the result of) an internal conflict which may be attributed to a dilemma over a (very) serious decision, which needs to be looked into by the psychiatrist; and when the person has seen it for what it is (through analysis), then the symptoms will disappear immediately.

Administering medication, at this point, is like prescribing aspirin to a cancer patient. And it's a fact that many cancer patients have taken refuge in alternative treatments, initially, which promised miracles, thus losing precious time. And after having grown weary from (trying) the various potions, fractions, and other (remedies), they went to a physician and began cancer cell treatment and other therapies, but then it was (too) late. Had they gone earlier, they might have been cured.

So here you see how the practice of new medical treatments (I should say here, anti-medical care!) cannot be viewed as harmless, as they proudly teach. If only because of the precious time lost, the expense incurred and the (loss of) trust in a physician, and because with the disappearance of a symptom, which is the body's way of giving off a warning sign, the wrong signal is given instead, that is to say, the mechanism of safety is neutralized/eliminated without there being a warding off of danger.

It is not enough to say that the person is seen holistically; you have to know what you're doing and alternative therapy is not able to do this, simply because it doesn't have the knowledge.

THE ROLE OF THE THERAPIST

The issue here is not that the medical profession is losing its clientele! And perhaps it's good at this point to make reference to the fact that medicine, as it is practiced today in Greece, is tending more and more, in recent years, to lose its human face and is becoming a career of prescription writers. And here is definitely the delicate point, giving more accountability, that is to say, the reason for why homeopathy and alternative therapies are gaining ground.

If we glance at the medical profession, we'll often observe that we can't "see the forest for the trees." I believe that overspecialization in the medical field is to blame for this phenomenon. Also to blame is the inadequate education of doctors, at a basic level, who learn a lot about the illnesses, but (they learn) little or nothing about the sick person as a psychosomatic entity!

I have heard of cases where clients undergoing homeopathic treatment were cured in just one interview, which they described as wonderful. But in fact, what is happening here is that, because the interview takes two hours and the practitioner asks many detailed questions about the client's personal life, they feel that the doctor really cares about them; and this fact alone produces powerful therapeutic results, albeit temporary. And what are the questions asked? "What side of the bed do you sleep on?" "Do you like fatty foods, coffee?" "What kind of dreams do you have etc.!"

In psychiatry, where about 400 methods of psychotherapies exist in America alone, a repeated subject for discussion is whether the therapeutic outcome isn't, many times, as dependent on the personality of the therapist as on the method of therapy practiced. It isn't by chance that Hippocrates happened to become the father of medicine. The same can be said about the gifted Hanneman, whose writings, if you read them, are both entrancing and impressive for his times, with his breadth of knowledge and systematic way of conveying what he has to say.

If one reads homeopathic literature, he will find more theory and dogma than scientific research.

SPIRITUAL RAMIFICATIONS

The phenomenon, of course, has psychological ramifications primarily, but becomes spiritual, as well, from the moment that a Christian becomes aware or simply suspects, or albeit subconsciously he imagines, that he is taking a drink of water (with powerful effects from having been stirred up!) rather than medication and that he is waiting for some mysterious powerful potion to cure him.

However, it is quite common/natural, even if a person hasn't thought of it in this way, subconsciously, to wait for help from some unknown source, which is neither connected to (traditional) medicine nor to faith in God (and thus windows of opportunity are left for the crafty one to penetrate) and then here comes the big trap, which, I think, quite a few spiritual fathers have missed, and so have ended up encouraging their spiritual children in the direction of homeopathy, having been misguided by a humanistic mask.

A few months ago when I was on the Holy Mountain, I was gratified to learn from a reliable and learned monk, that even Elder Paisios characterized homeopathic remedies as demonic substitutes for holy water and that he was against these kinds of therapies. I was impressed with the appropriateness of this comparison, because this is exactly how this medicine affects people in wider circles, psychologically. It is also of note and characteristic of him, that the saintly Elder Porphyrios would only accept traditional medicine and not the so-called alternative therapies. (He said of homeopathy that some of the remedies that were imported from abroad were under a spell that had been exposed to witchcraft). I say this because often the argument is used that the Holy Mountain is accepting of homeopathy. Those who accept it do so out of ignorance and tell themselves that they are harmless, and make use of natural preparations, just as our grandfathers and many grandmothers in the villages used products from nature.

Today we are being served/presented with the myth of the New Medical field. However, the science of medicine is forever young as a science, for it does away with every kind of anachronism and end result, and accepts whatever is considered better, based on scientific research. And subsequently, there are not many medical fields; there is but one science of medicine.

IN SUMMARY

It should be absolutely apparent that in any particular treatment relationship, there is the patient as the focal point, but also the therapist and his personality; and also there is the unbiased therapeutic method (Medicine, intervention). It is not by chance that a particular patient undergoes a particular medical treatment, since he (the patient) chooses the therapist/doctor. I know doctors who have become objects of worship, more so because of their personality rather than their scientific ability. And it often happens, that is, there's a tendency for the patient to idealize his therapist, because, after all, he'€™s expecting to receive more help from him.

At this point here, there are two challenges:

One refers to the physician and the unequivocal power he has in his hands. Will he make use of it in conjunction with the rules of medical etiquette and without conveying a sense of personal conceit and all-powerfulness? If yes, then he will offer his best to the patient, and simultaneously, he will leave open, the path for God'€™s help/intervention, the source of all and from which the patient can always have as a reference/source (for help).

The second challenge relates to the patient. Will he convey to the doctor the attributes which fit his situation, so as to benefit from the treatment, psychosomatically, or will he seek more things which may be related to his need for an affectionate father or mother but also to (his search for) filling the metaphysical emptiness inside? Then there is the possibility that he will get entangled/involved in unforeseen extenuating circumstances and consequences.

The (larger) issue here, however, is for us not to risk reverting back to the times when there were witch-doctors, which, of course, still exist among the primitive tribes of Africa and which, in addition, are openly making their appearance in Europe and America, under the official cloak of Medicine of the New Age. This is my great concern, which merges with the struggle and watchfulness of the Church.

Bibliography (suggested)

Vithoulka, G. Homeopathy, Publisher: Homeopathic Medical Center, 1985.

Tamtakos, Z. Homeopathy today, Thessaloniki 1990.

Diamantidis, S. Homeopathic Medicine, Estias Bookstore, Athens.

Stylianakis, Father Antonios, "Homeopathy from a Psychological and Spiritual point of view",  Issue 1995 ? (intellectued)

David Sneed, A Critique on Medical care in the New Age, Stereoma Thessaloniki.

Samuel Pfeifer, Homeopathic Practice, Publisher: Pergamos 1992.

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