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December 31, 2009

Greek PM Papandreou Speaks on "Global Governance"

Greek PM, Bilderberger, at Copenhagen: “We are Observing the Birth of Global Governance”

Jurriaan Maessen
December 20, 2009

Addressing the COP 15 summit last Thursday, 5-time Bilderberg attendee, president of the Socialist International, and current prime minister of Greece, George Papandreou, stated that “at this time, we are observing the birth of global governance.”

After this statement we continuously hear parroted by members of the Bilderberg Group, he added: “We must, however, agree to an obligation and be committed to carrying this out.”

The interesting thing is that Papandreou published a version of the same speech on his own website, but with an altered -but certainly more revealing- text:

“This is global governance in the making. But we must agree, and agree to a binding commitment.”

He also admitted he was not there only as Prime Minister of Greece:

“The Socialist International, which I also represent here, has proposed, among other measures, funding through an international carbon tax, green bonds or transaction taxes, transforming foreign debt into equal funds to be used by poor countries for climate change adaptation.”

Papandreou attended the Bilderberg conferences of 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005. So it may not come as any surprise that the Papandreou calls for global governance to “stop climate change”- which is of course as absurd as calling for the planet to stop turning. It’s interesting to note here that earlier this year Papandreou authored an article for The Nation titled "The Challenge of Global Governance” in which he openly stated: “While I am pleasantly surprised that socialism is back in vogue, I am also mindful that it must be reinvented, too.”

“(…) we are calling for greater financial transparency, more robust regulation, the closing of tax havens, and the creation of a World Finance Organization to enforce global standards.”

In between Bilderberg meetings, on May 8, 2003, the Prime Minister showed us a glimpse of the master plan, namely:

“Creating a new Europe, means creating a new concept of identity for Europe itself, for all the countries in it and to a certain extent for the world too. Europe has a unique dimension here. What is happening in this globalizing world. We are seeing the difficulties of integration into the world system, into a global village. We are seeing a difficulty in creating global governance.”

The plan of the Socialist International as well as their sugar-daddies, the Bilderbergers, is to remove any difficulties they may encounter while setting up their world government.

That We Ought To Be Obedient to the Church

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Why is it necessary to listen to the Church and not listen to one man who thinks against the Church, even though he might be called the greatest thinker? Because the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, and because the Church is guided under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Because the Church represents the realm of the Holy, a grove of cultivated fruit trees. If one rises up against the realm of the Holy, it means that he is unholy and why then listen to him? "The Church is an enclosure," says the all-wise John Chrysostom. "If you are within, the wolf does not enter; but if you leave, the beasts will seize you. Do not distance yourself from the Church; there is nothing mightier that the Church. The Church is your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is higher than the heavens. The Church is harder than stone. The Church is wider than the world. The Church never grows old but always renews itself."

December 30, 2009

Ecology, Civilization and Christmas

Ecology by Process of Elimination…and Christmas

By Christos Yannaras

The author Christos Yannaras with his familiar, meaningful expressiveness locates the root of humanity’s problems in the social, political, environmental and religious spheres.

The so-called “ecological” problem is but the organic offspring of a specific civilization, that is to say, of a generalized way of life - the consumer’s way of life. “Consumerism” does not merely imply a bulimic behavior; it represents a “stance” towards life. The person who has a consumer’s “stance” usually identifies life with the need and the demand for misappropriation, for possession, for domination. He does not know how to commune or to share; he is totally unsuspecting of the joy that can spring from self-transcendence, from self-offering, and from amorous selflessness.

Consumerism is the manifestation and the consequence of self-centeredness. Self-centeredness is a term with a broader inference; it implies that the individual is the center of life, and not the joy of community relations; it means to buttress one’s ego and to not risk any self-sacrifice. A product of self-centeredness – even before consumerism – is the absolute and self-evident priority of an individual’s rights.

Nowadays, we think, we speak, we comprehend (co-apprehend) amongst ourselves on the basis of individual rights; it seems unthinkable and unrealistic to regard relations as a primary need, and as a first priority the participation in a community, the constituting of a “polis”[1].

When speaking literally, we should never use the expression “a civilization of self-centeredness” – “civilization” and “self-centeredness” are two incompatible and contradictory meanings. “Civilization” (poli-tismos) is the offspring of a “city”[2], whereas self-centeredness is to be trapped in one’s innate instincts.

“Polis” (city) does not merely imply an expanded settlement of inhabitants; it is actually the by-product of a common feat, where each individual transcends his personal self-interest in lieu of the pleasure derived from community relations. An entrapment in one’s innate instincts denotes the direct opposite, i.e., the armoring of the ego by each individual, and the prioritizing of one’s self-preservation, one’s domination and one’s pleasure. Self-centeredness is a phase of primitivism; it is a perseverance to primitive irrationality, whereas “civilization” means to be liberated from one’s subjugation to his instincts and to prioritize logical relations.

When an achievement known as “polis” has been realized, and “politics” have produced civilization (politismos), people will no longer be content to merely share common needs; they will no longer co-exist to merely serve their personal interests through the apportioning of labor. They will proceed to place goals of truth – i.e., goals that pertain to existential veridicality – and they will also aspire to the evaluating of qualities; they will then commonly share a culture (education) as an uppermost necessity. They will therefore never deign (as there will be no need) to armor any individual rights. The honor of being a citizen (politis) - of participating in the “feat of upholding truth” which is politics - more than amply covers the security promised by collective “contracts” – by that primitivism called “individual rights”.

The ancestry of today’s ecological menace will surely be wanting, if we were to ignore the religious source of the consumerist self-centeredness that gave birth to the ecological nightmare. This religious ”womb” has specific historical coordinates: it is located in the utterly underdeveloped “barbaric” tribes who, from the end of the 4th up to and including the 6th century, overran the Western Roman Empire and disintegrated it, thereafter creating the meta-Roman Europe with its rearranged populations.

These tribes hastened to become “Christianized”, because at the time, to become Christian was tantamount to entering civilization. However, the invaders’ degree of illiteracy and underdevelopment was such that did not allow for a reliable assimilation of Christianity (much like our own time, with the “urbanization” of first or second-generation “nouveaux riches“, who abandoned their rural lives). The barbaric tribes altered the ecclesiastic event; they turned it into a natural religion that catered to the instinctive demands of the natural persona’s religiosity.

Self-centeredness is the typical characteristic of every natural religion; it was also the typical characteristic of the “Christianity” cultivated by the new denizens of Europe. Faith, from the feat of self-transcendence and loving self-surrender that it is, was re-shaped, into individual “convictions”, thus buttressing the ego by means of intellectual concessions and psychological certainties. Ascesis[3], from the feat of self-denial for the sake of participating in the ecclesiastic communion of life that it is, was changed into a moralistic, personal discipline towards laws and coded commandments, for the sake of armoring the individual with the certainty of “merits”.

Salvation lost its etymological meaning[4]; It came to be perceived as an eternal safeguarding of one’s ego. Personal faith, personal morality, personal salvation….the Church ceased to signify an event of any sort – a “eucharist”[5] congregation, a mode of existence, or a body whose members partake of life, in the likeness of the Triadic God Who is “love per se”.

The Church became a religion - an ideology, complete with institutions designed for effectiveness and enforcement, with dogmas and a legalistic monitoring of the fidelity of the individual’s adherence to the dogma and a faithful observance of its codified morality through the individual’s behaviour. Total oblivion is displayed to the fact that in the Church, the pioneers who show the way are those who have forsaken their ego: robbers, prodigals, tax-collectors, whores…. and that the Saints of the Church are an open embrace for everyone. They are never censuring prosecutors who inspire guiltiness.

The new world of the European West eventually spurned the distorted, tyrannical-to-man Christianity, after a painful historical series of revolts and protesting. Except that the revolts were against the superficial symptomatology of a tyrannical religiosity – they never actually sought (nor did they detect) its central axis, which is none other than the primitivism of “atomocracy”[6]

Thus, within the new (the innovative) “model” of a generalized way of life that the West gave birth to, amazing achievements of technology, of effectiveness in institutions, of progress in knowledge were established (or, more correctly, hovered) atop the precariousness of atomocracy’s primitivism.

A civilization (politismos) that is “pre-political” (ignorant or unsuspecting of the achievement of a “polis” and the “feat of truth” of politics) will subjugate every pursuit to impressiveness, to hedonism, to a deceptive languor in the individual. In place of individual faith is an idealogicalized, primitive atomocracy; in place of individual morality is a self-destructive utilitarianism; in place of individual salvation is a frosty “hope” for a nihilism of individuality.

This “politismos” (civilization) celebrates Christmas by reversing the terms and the reasons behind the Feast – in exactly the same way that it is striving to solve the ecological problem: without reversing the terms and the reasons that gave birth to the problem…


[1] Polis : the original, ancient Greek term denoting a polarization, a concentration of citizens (polites) in one place. Latin: civis, civitas - civilian.

[2] Civilization (=Greek, “politismos”), is a product of the term for civilian (=Greek , “politis”), which is derived from the term for city (=Greek, “polis”)

[3] Ascesis (= Greek, personal labors aspiring to spiritual profit)

[4] Salvation, in Greek “sotiria”, from the root verb “sozo” (to save-salvage) and “sozomai” (to be saved-salvaged), which means to become whole, integral; to attain the fullness of my existential possibilities.

[5] Eucharist, in Greek “efharistia” = thanks, offering of thanks

[6] Atomo-cracy (in Greek, “atomo”= the individual, “-cracy” = the rule of)

Source: Newspaper “KATHIMERINI - SUNDAY EDITION” 23-12-2007

Muslims Take Responsibility For Murder of Fr. Daniel Sysoyev

On December 26th a Russian agency informed the public that an Islamic extremist group has taken responsibility for the murder of Fr. Daniel Sysoyev, who was killed inside St. Thomas Church in Moscow on November 19th with a bullet to the head. However, this information has not been verified by other sources.

Fr. Daniel, it should be remembered, preached to Muslims and helped convert dozens of Muslims to Orthodoxy. For this he received death threats from Muslims daily, including those publicly displayed on his blog.

There is a reward out for one million rubles leading to the arrest of the murderer of Fr. Daniel.


Controversy Over Pope's Christmas Message in the "Macedonian" Language

Metropolitan Ambrose of Kalavryta has expressed his deep sadness over the fact that Pope Benedict XVI gave Christmas greetings in the "Macedonian" language (see video above).

"Who will inform him that there DOES NOT exist a Macedonian country, a Macedonian nation, or a Macedonian language?" the Metropolitan asked.

His sadness lies in the fact that the Pope undermines the principles and beliefs and history of the Greek nation when he does such things, and further laments that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Holy Synod of Greece have been silent about it.


327 Catechumens Baptized in Zimbabwe

Through the blessing of Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All of Africa, Metropolitan George of Zimbabwe conducted today, December 30th, three hundred and twenty-seven baptisms for catechumens in the parish of St. Nektarios in Harare.

The majority of the converts were youth and young adults who had completed a catechism class over the past 12 months.

Following the lengthy baptismal service, clothes and shoes were distributed to over a thousand men, women and children who belong to the parish.

Those attending the baptismal service were Protopresbyter George Saganis from Athens, and the African priests Fr. Raphael Gada, Fr. Augustine Moketsi, and the newly-ordained Deacon Demetrios Nyandebvu.


See also: The Holy Archbishopric of Zimbabwe

More on Byzantine Lycanthropy

A new article explores how Byzantine doctors treated people suffering from lycanthropy, a mental disorder where a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, a wolf and behaves like one. This disease is the basis for the legendary werewolves.

In "Lycanthropy in Byzantine Times (AD 330–1453)", four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.

Oribasius, a fourth century physician to Emperor Julian the Apostate, described lycanthropy in his work Synagogae Medicae as follows:

"On Lycanthropy. Persons affected by lycanthropy go out at night time and wander among the tombs. You can recognize them from the following signs: they are pale with dry, dull and hollow eyes, without tears, the tongue extremely dry and without saliva. They are very thirsty and their legs are covered with scars from frequent stumbling. You must know that lycanthropy is a type of melancholy that must be treated by bloodletting until fainting, and offering an appropriate diet and baths with sweet water. Purgation by the hiera of colocynth must be applied twice or three times, and then use the viper theriaca and the other healing methods for melancholy. When the disease is approaching, you must sedate the patient by the use of wet compresses and administration of opium, rubbing the ears and the nostrils, a somniferous method."

Other medical writers also give similar symptoms to this disorder. Michael Psellus, an important 11th century Byzantine philosopher and historian, briefly describes the illness in verse in his work Carmen de Re Medica:

"Lycanthropy is a status of melancholy
Meaning at the same time misanthropy.
You recognize the affected man
Running around the tombs at night time
Pale, dry, sad and careless of his appearance."

Even the 14th century writer Johannes Actuarius has a similar description of the disease:

"Lycanthropy is a kind of melancholy making the affected persons wander at night-time, visiting the tombs and the deserts like wolves, and come back in the morning as their human figure and stay at home. In any case, they have ulcerated legs and feet because of falls on stones and thorns; they have dry eyes and tongue and feeble vision. Some patients fear death while others desire it. Some patients avoid speaking and remain silent and sad while others try to converse with people."

The writers of the article note that these Byzantine physicians saw lycanthropy as a type of melancholy or mania, and that change into an animal was the patient's delusional fantasy. Byzantine medical writers often dealt with mental disorders in their works, including epilepsy, frenzy, dementia, melancholy, mania, lethargy, insomnia, depression and paranoia.

The article also compared these views with those from Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods, where it was seen as some kind of divine curse or demonic possession, and reacted by killing people who acted like wolves. Others believed they were heretics like witches, leading some authorities to go on campaigns to arrest and execute them. One sixteenth century French judge was responsible for burning over 600 witches and werewolves.

The article notes that a Byzantine emperor, Justin II (AD 565–578), may have suffered from this mental disorder. From the first years of his reign, Justin showed signs of a severe psychiatric illness, which included walking around the palace barking or mewing, and imitating dogs’ and cats’ behavior. The emperor also threw objects out of the palace windows during his explosions of wrath and on one occasion demanded that the Orthodox Patriarch wear a woman’s hat.

The article "Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453)", by E. Poulakou-Rebelakou, C. Tsiamis, G. Panteleakosi and D. Ploumpidis, is found in Volume 20, Issue 4 of the journal History of Psychiatry (2009).


Mount Athos in the 1940's

MOUNT ATHOS: Failing Light

Monday, April 28, 1941
TIME Magazine

The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos. The motorized Nazi hordes rumbled across the Salonikan peninsula, but they did not invade its 40-mile-long eastern cape where the holy and historic Mount towers in misty beauty above monasteries perching like fabulous castles on crags above the sea. Surrounded by flower-scented glens and gorges, veiled with pine and cypress and chestnut, are great Lavra Monastery, Vatopédi, Simöpetra, bastioned Dionysiou (which proudly possesses the brain and right hand of Saint John the Baptist) and many others, each with its fusty library and gilded Byzantine church.

Last week Adolf Hitler gave no hint of what he proposed to do about this great religious prize which was his for the taking—the autonomous ecclesiastical republic of Mount Athos, 1,000-year-old capital of Greek Orthodoxy, governed by a council consisting of one monk from each of its 20 stony retreats.

The 5,000 bearded, black-robed Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Rumanian monks who live on Mount Athos arrived there for many reasons—religion, disappointment in love, political conspiracy, seeking sanctuary against political or criminal punishment. They include several former Greek lunchroom proprietors who fled the clatter of U.S. civilization. They live in two kinds of monasteries: cenobite (communistic) and idiorrhythmic (allowing private property, which reverts to the monastery). Many of them lead a truly monkish life of prayer and Church scholarship, a shabby life without bathing or toothbrushing, with a meatless diet and only brief snatches of sleep, because "sleep inflames the body." They live on contributions and on the making and selling of wine, farm products, religious paintings and trinkets. Some are so ignorant or unworldly that they have heard only vaguely of Adolf Hitler—"a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews—a fulfillment of prophecy."

But in recent years the world has been altogether too much with Mount Athos to please its pure in heart. For one thing, the world's sad economy has impoverished the religious life even more than need be. Joseph Stalin has stopped the steady flow of Russian funds into Mount Athos, and war and world depression have sharply cut all other income. The ancient sins of luxury have been increasingly apparent both outside and inside the holy ground. Vigorous young monks are rare. "We need young men today more than ever," one Athonite has said, "but they prefer to fatten their ephemeral bodies and clothe them in silk shirts and ties."

On the Mount itself, one of the wealthier monasteries has permitted itself all manner of worldly indulgences—central plumbing, mirrors, electric lights, newspapers, motorboats, wine-pressing machinery (instead of the industrious barefoot method). An alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole "Great Academy of the Greek Clergy." The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.

Today many Greek laymen regard Mount Athos as a senile, decadent, insufferable vestige of its past. If Adolf Hitler decides to dim this "Lighthouse of the Aegean," this greatest of world monastic experiments, he may well be doing only what the Greek Government would presently have done itself.

GREECE: Flight from Mt. Athos

Monday, July 13, 1942
TIME Magazine

Peter the Athonite came first to Mount Athos in the 9th Century and lived there for 50 years, battling devils and beasts in a cave high above Homer's wine-dark sea. Then came Euthemius and Joseph, who sought eternal bliss by moving about on their hands and knees eating grass. All this was centuries after Xerxes' legions invaded Greece, and, of course, centuries before Nazi Panzer divisions.

From the time of Peter the Athonite to Adolf the paper hanger, the great rocky promontory of Athos, jutting into the Aegean like a prong of Poseidon's three-forked scepter, has been a place of refuge -for men only. No woman has knowingly been allowed to desecrate by her presence the huge cluster of monasteries atop the Holy Mountain, where bearded, black-cowled priests withdraw from worldly pleasures in the spiritual home of the Greek Orthodox Church. Even female cats and dogs and beasts of the field are barred, "so that their mating may not furnish an outlandish spectacle to souls which detest all forms of indecency. . . ."

Last week, from three priests who fled to an even more ancient home of Christian religion, there came the first account of what Europe's new barbarians had done to the cloistered life of Mount Athos. For some 90 days & nights the priests had navigated nearly 1,000 miles of island-cluttered seas, and at last beached their 15-ft. open boat on the sands near Haifa in Palestine. There they told how ruck-sacked Nazi youths in peacetime had accepted the monasteries' humble hospitality and returned as soldiers to pillage and defile. Great iron bells that for centuries sounded matins and vespers had been carried away, to be melted down for the Nazi war machine. Priceless icons, illuminated manuscripts handed down from Byzantine emperors, and religious treasures* had been gathered as loot and shipped to Berlin. These things had driven them, sick at heart, from beloved mountain valleys thick with arbutus and carefully laid out for the husbanding of vineyards and olive groves within sight of the slopes of Mt. Olympus and the plains of Troy. At the islands where their boat touched, peasants fed them and gave them shelter.

Greek Orthodox Church officials, believing the perilous voyage of the priests was divinely guided, ordered that their fragile boat be taken overland and placed as a shrine in the waters of the river Jordan, a trumpet's blow from Jericho.

But German bombs last week struck in Haifa and there was a clash of great armies in the land of Egypt.

Possibly these were omens that the new shrine might soon, in 1942, have no more power to stop warring men than had the words of Him who, some 1,900 years ago, had gone up from the multitude and proclaimed: "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."

*Most famed of Mount Athos' religious relics: the camel-hair girdle which legend says the Virgin gave to doubting Thomas; pieces of the True Cross; the skull of St. Basil the Great; the brains of St. John the Baptist; the three gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

December 29, 2009

Is the Virgin Mary Appearing in Egypt?

Here is the link to the full coverage from this past month:

If I were to rely on my own sensibilities, I would say this is not the Theotokos and is more likely a deceiving spirit or something else that an investigation could probably uncover. Purposeless visions of the Holy Virgin are against Holy Tradition and according to the Saints of Orthodoxy are rare and solely reserved for those who can accept such visions in the utmost humility. Why would Christians undermine the unique nature of such true visions by claiming that so many thousands of people can have visions of the uncreated glory of the Virgin? Plus, why would the Virgin want to become a Youtube celebrity anyway?

I personally lean towards this supposed "vision" as being a hoax, mainly by observing the video posted above which allows for it to be recreated. Towards the end of the video the light dissolves into a singular point as if it has its origins in that point which seems to be attached to the top of part of the church through a rod (view this at the 4:32 mark). I think this just may be an interesting case of laser or some other light technology.

Also, if this "vision" were authentic, why then doesn't the Holy Virgin walk around the roof and bless people from all four corners or something. She just stagnantly remains in that single space and dissolves into a point that is attached to the building by a rod.

Such things make Christians lose their credibility, and I have to side with the Muslim and skeptic opinion here, unfortunately, that it is a hoax.

December 28, 2009

Turkey Wants Relics of Saint Nicholas Back

Turkish Archaeologist Makes Seasonal Plea for Santa Claus

December 28, 2009

Archaeologist Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeologicial research in the Turkish town of Demre, has asked his government to demand the return of the bones of St Nicholas to his home town.

The 3rd century saint, on whom the tradition of Santa Claus was modeled, gained a reputation for performing miracles and for his acts of charity when he was the bishop of the Greek city of Myra.

On his death he was canonized as St Nicholas, and his remains were buried in thee Mediterranean town of Demre. In the 11th century, Italian sailors took the remains to the port town of Bari, where they are still kept.

Professor Cevik maintains that Nicholas had made it clear during his lifetime that he wished to be interred in his home town, and that the Turkish government should negotiate with its Italian counterpart to honor the saint’s wishes.

Relics of St. Nicholas in Italy

‘Santa Claus’s bones must be brought back to Turkey from Italy’

28 December 2009, Monday

A scholar from Akdeniz University has called for the return of the bones of St. Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, from the Italian city of Bari, where his bones were taken after being stolen, to Antalya’s Demre district, where the saint died and was buried.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Professor Nevzat Çevik, who leads archeological research in Demre, said St. Nicholas is a well-known Christian saint and that he has become very popular in Europe, adding that many churches have been built in Europe in his honor.

“The saint was born and spent his life in Anatolia,” Çevik said. Historical sources say St. Nicholas were born in Patara, a previous name of Antalya, and died in 343 in Demre. The saint’s bones were stolen by Italian craftsmen in 1087 and brought to Bari, where they were interred in a church dedicated to him.

Çevik reiterated St. Nicholas’s remarks in which he said, “I was born here, raised here and I will be buried here.” The professor added that “we should respect the wish of St. Nicholas. The bones should be brought back to his grave in Demre.”

Çevik has also urged state authorities to take steps to contact their Italian counterparts. “The ministries should work to move the bones back to Turkey.” The scholar also emphasized the significance of St. Nicholas’s grave in terms of tourism and said that the number of tourists visiting the church in Demre will drastically increase when the bones are returned.

Antalya Museum Director Cumali Ayabakan told Anatolia that Christians visiting the church in Demre have complained about the absence of Santa Claus’s bones and said an empty grave means nothing to them. “If the bones can be brought to Turkey, they will be returned to the original grave,” he added.

What New Discoveries in Nazareth Tell Us About Jesus

Christmas Decoded? What New Discoveries in Nazareth Tell Us About Jesus

December 22, 2009
Bruce Feiler
Huffington Post

Just in time for holiday deadlines, Israeli archaeologists announced Monday they had uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.

Digging not far from Basilica of the Annunciation, where tradition says the angel Gabriel visited Mary, archaeologists found remains of a wall, a hideout, and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof.

Researcher Yardena Alexandre also found clay and chalk vessels used by Galilean Jews of the time -- an indication the home belonged to a simple Jewish family.

The findings suggest Nazareth was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.

"From the little written evidence available we know that first century Nazareth AD was a small Jewish village located in a valley," Alexandre said, adding that "until now a few Jesus-era graves were revealed, but never have we unearthed the remains of contemporary residences."

So what does this new discovery tell us about Jesus?

The answer is not very much. We still have no evidence that Jesus was ever in Nazareth or in Bethlehem, the two towns featured in the Christmas story. In fact, one of Alexandre's statements is classic archaeological hyperbole fed to a gullible press: "It was likely Jesus and his childhood friends would have known the house." Oh, really? Based on what?

If anything, this new discovery shows how minor a place Nazareth was and draws new light to a central paradox of the Christmas narrative: Why would a pregnant mother from the Galilee travel as far south as Bethlehem to have a child? The given reason of a census is hardly persuasive. (The most logical answer is that King David is from Bethlehem and since the Hebrew Bible states the messiah should come from the line of David, a Bethlehem birth would bring the new baby into David's home region.)

While this week's findings tell us little about Jesus, they do highlight a number of often overlooked features of Jesus' world.

1. Jesus was a Jew, and his life story makes sense only when understood in the context of Jewish ritual. Two of the more striking finds in Nazareth this week were clay and chalk vessels, which were used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.

2. The Jesus story was deeply political. The hideout at the Nazareth house, for example, is likely related to the growing tension between Jews and Romans in the late first century B.C.E., a showdown that colors Jesus' birth story -- and especially his death narrative.

3. The Bible is grounded in the history and landscape of the Ancient Near East. The Bible is full of details of time and place that would have resonated deeply to people at the time, but are often lost on us today.

Discoveries like the one in Nazareth titillate the press because they promise something they can't deliver: If one feature of the Bible is true, the entire thing must be true. The real truth is that even if we found a house in Nazareth with the names Mary and Joseph on the mailbox and a birth announcement of a baby Jesus carved into a wall, we'd still never find proof that God spoke to Mary, conceived a child, and sent forth a messiah into the world.

That's not a subject for science. That's a matter of faith.

And that's exactly as it should be.

On the Incarnation of the Son of God (Bishop Theophilos of Campania)

By Bishop Theophilos of Campania[1]

1. The Mystery of the Incarnation. God who is All-Powerful could have liberated the human race from the hands of the Devil by a single command. Had he done that, however, we would have known only his All-Powerfulness, which we already knew. We would not have known his Compassion and Love in spite of the fact that we are hostile to him.

The Incarnation (literally Ensarkosis = “En-flesh-ment”) of the Son of God is called such because of his extreme condescension and because it was out of love that He who is not separated from the Father came down to the lowest point, i.e. to the “flesh,” although when we speak about “flesh” here we understand the whole man who is denoted by the partial element of the “flesh.”

The Incarnation of the Son of God is the supreme dogma of the Christian Faith, because it was by these means that we were saved “by grace.” The whole Son of God became Man, personally (literally hypostatically = existentially). In other words, he was perfect God and perfect man, with two natures, Godhead and manhood, and one person (hypostasis), the divine.

This mystery, says Dionysios (the Areopagite) remains ineffable, although we denote it with words. It is also unknowable, although we put it in our mind. God Himself said to Moses: “Go down and solemnly charge the people, lest at any time they draw nigh to God to gaze, and a multitude of them fall” (Ex. 19:21), i.e., those who try to investigate God’s nature and mysteries fall into perplexity. This is why Gregory the Theologian says, “Before you grasp Him run away, and before you put Him in your mind escape”. Indeed he goes on to call those who try to investigate the mysteries babblers, imprudent, uncontrollable and chatterers.

2. Why Did the Incarnation Take Place at That Time? No one should examine why the Incarnation took place then, and not earlier or later, because only he knows it. He was incarnated “from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” because there was never before, nor will there appear again, such a Virgin in the human race as immaculate as the Virgin Mary, sanctified in the flesh and worthy to be united with the Godhead of the Son of God, the Son of God who assumed the entire man from her pure and immaculate blood.

As she conceived without a sperm, so Christ was born without corruption. In other words, the Holy Mary and Theotokos, who was a Virgin before the birth, remained a Virgin even after the birth. Thus Christ came out of her womb in an ineffable manner, just as he entered into her in a manner, which involved no passion and cannot be explained.

This is exactly what Ezekiel’s prophesy stresses: “Son of Man, this Gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened; and no one shall pass through it, for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it and come out of it and the Gate shall remain shut” (Ezekiel 44:2).

3. This Mystery of the Incarnation is inconceivable according to the prophet Jeremiah who says: “And he is a man, and who shall know Him?” (Jer. 17:9). The great Paul also declares the same: “And without doubt the Mystery of our piety is Great: God appeared in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Through communion with the Godhead the entire man was deified “in Christ.” The humanity of Christ enjoyed all the charismas and benefits of the Godhead, since Christ is perfect God and perfect man after the union. This is similar to the initial light, which God created and which fell on the sun’s disk and the entire disk became full of dazzling light.

This Mystery of the Incarnation is inconceivable both to Angels and human beings. God Himself revealed it to Moses, when he showed him through an opening his back parts, namely His Incarnation. He did not show him his person, i.e. His Godhead, which no man can ever see, not even an angel. At the Incarnation, then, God did not change what he was, since he is unchangeable; rather he assumed what he was not because he is a lover of man.

One may ask, how did the humanity receive the Godhead without being burnt out? But is this not also the case with the burning Bush, which was not burnt out? Where God is at work whatever is impossible becomes possible. The burning iron receives the entire nature of fire, and yet the iron remains iron and the fire, fire. It burns like fire, and like iron it undergoes changes, which an iron undergoes and has a cutting edge when it is used.

4. The Godhead deified the Human Nature, which is now deified together with its soul, which is endowed with mind, reason, will and energy. As a man, Christ was exposed to the so-called natural but blameless passions. In others words, he felt pain, thirst, weariness, even faintheartedness in a natural way. He did not display, however, any blameworthy passions, i.e. those deriving from evil choice. This was the case because he was united with God, who was the leader of his rational soul and preserved Christ sinless.

Some of the Fathers say that the babe was perfect already inside the belly of his mother. Others, however, say that he grew gradually like all babes. This is a matter of opinion and not a heresy that has an effect on the Mystery. The point is that just as Adam was made from the soil, so Christ was made from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the soul of Christ while his flesh was made from the blood of the Virgin.

5. The Manner of the Incarnation. Saint Maximus says that the Angels knew the impending Incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of human beings. What however, escaped their perception were the unthinkable Conception and the manner of the Incarnation. How he could be entirely in the Father and entirely inside all things which he fulfilled, and also entirely inside the belly of the Virgin!

Nevertheless, Christ’s becoming man differs from that of all other human beings. He is substantially a perfect man, yet he differs because he is seedless, and because he falls under a different law from that which pertains to the nature of composite beings. The Word of God was conjoined with the flesh by means of assuming it in an ineffable manner.

Thus, only when Christ was born was the message heard, “Peace on earth and good will among men” (Luke 2:14). God had granted his peace many times and had called many human beings his sons. There was only one Person, however, in whom he “was well-pleased” and only one Peace that was perfect and saving for all human beings along with his perfect good-pleasure.

6. The Name “Jesus” and the Greek Alphabet. The Name Jesus, which is “the Name above every other name” (Phil. 2:9), means Savior for the Jews and healer (iomenos) for the Greeks. And indeed, Christ is the Healer of our souls and of the bodies of those who believe in him. The curious point here, however, is that this great and divine Name was indicated before hand through the Greek Alphabet, which consists of 24 letters!

As is known, the first eight letters of this Alphabet from A to Θ specify 8 monads. The following eight letters from I to Π specify 8 decades, and the following eight letters from P to Ω specify 8 hundreds. If we add them all up we form the number 888. The same applies, however, if we add the numbers which are specified by the letters of the Name JESUS: I(=10)+ Η(=8)+ Σ(=200)+ Ο(=70)+ Υ(=400)+ Σ(=200)=888. Τhis is exactly what the following verse stresses: “For if eight monads are to be added to eight decades and these to eight hundreds they will denote to the human unbelievers the Name of their Savior” (Oracula Sibyllina).

7. Witnesses of the Gentiles about the God-Man. Witnesses to Christ being God and Man are also found among many Gentiles:

a) Josephus. The Jewish historian Josephus says this about Christ: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works –a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and other wonderful mysteries concerning him; and the tribe of the Christians, so named from him are not extinct at this day” (Antiquitates Judaicae, Book 18,64.2). In other words, Josephus wonders whether Jesus was only a man, since he did so many incredible things and taught in such a way that he made many Jews and Greeks believe in him. Also, when the leaders of the Jews delivered him to Pilate to be crucified, his disciples did not reject him, for he was resurrected on the third day and appeared to them according to the predictions of the prophets who had spoken about this and many more mysteries concerning his person. Indeed his followers took his name and came to be called Christians and their race has not ceased to exist to this day.

B) The Roman Emperor Augustus. Eusebius of Pamphilos (Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine) reports that the Roman Caesar Augustus went to the Oracle of Delphi and offered sacrifice there as a Greek in order to ask Pythia who gave the oracles to tell him who would reign after him. Pythia gave him the following oracle: “A Hebrew child, who will reign over the blessed gods, orders me to leave this altar and return to Hades again. Depart, therefore, silent from my altars” (Oracula, or Suda, Lexicon alpha). When Caesar Augustus heard these things, he returned to Rome and erected an altar on which he inscribed: “An Altar to the firstborn God” (Johannes Malalas, Chronographia or Suda, Lexicon, alpha). It is truly amazing to think that the demon was forced by the divine power to witness to the Gentiles the divine birth of Christ the God-man!

C) Porphyry. The opponent of the Christians Porphyry says the following: “But now [the Gentiles] marvel how the disease has befallen the city for so many years and there has been no intervention either from Asclepius (the god of health) or from any other gods. Because the honor offered to Jesus did not leave room for any common help from the gods” (Porphyrius, Contra Christianos 80.3, or Eusebius, Preparatio Evangelica V.1.10).

Their oracles ceased and their divinations from their false gods, the demons. What else did the thoughtless and blind gentiles wish to see in order to understand that the mighty power of the Lord and God Jesus Christ? But the sages of the Greeks had proclaimed Christ even before his incarnation.

D) Orpheus. Orpheus says: “Voice, I attest you, of the Father, which he uttered first. When he established the world on his own will” (Justin Martyr, Cohortatio ad Gentiles, 16). And the next verse says: “and when you look at the divine word, attach yourself to him” (Ibid. De Monarchia, and Clement Alexandrinus Protrepticus and Stromata).

Just as the birth of Christ was seedless, so also the divine generation was without birth pangs. It is a mistake to speak of the birth pangs of the holy Virgin, i.e. that the feast on the day after Christmas is connected with greeting the mother that recovers from the birth pangs.

8. God Became Man in order to Conquer the Devil as Man. Since he was born in an ineffable manner, and received the homage of the Magi, and that unusual star appeared in the sky, and he was fed with human milk, and grew up, and went to the desert and fasted for forty days, the Devil thought that he was only a man and could fall if tempted with hunger and so he started tempting him hard. But Christ rebutted the enemy, putting forth the light of Scripture, not using the power and authority of his Godhead, but following the natural sequence of humanity. It was as a man, then, and not as God that Christ conquered the Devil, because the Devil had conquered the first man at the beginning not as God but as man. It was necessary, then, that the Devil should be conquered by man. This is why the divine Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory the Theologian say, that “Christ conquered the Devil not by power but by right judgment and righteousness” (Dionysius, De ecclesiasticae Hierarchia). Luke the Evangelist says that Christ sustained all temptations, because he scored victories over the three capital ones, gluttony, vainglory and avarice, which give birth to all others. Thus He put the Devil to shame.

9. The Public Ministry of the God-Man and its Conclusion in the Resurrection. When Christ came down from the desert and gathered together his disciples, he preached to the world for three years and produced many miracles, having first completed the thirtieth year of his age. After all these things his disciple Judas sold him by treachery, and Christ accepted it, because he wanted to redeem us, human beings, who had been sold to the Devil through sin. He deliberately handed Himself over to those who pursued him, because he wanted to complete the divine economy and redeem the human race. He was crucified, died and buried, and the Third Day he rose and appeared to his disciples and to the women. Then, forty days later he blessed his disciples, and having taught them about peace, he ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father having fulfilled all things and having deified man.

Before the Resurrection of Christ took place, three human beings appear in the Old Testament to have been risen from the dead. The first one is the son of the widow from Zarephath or Sarepta (cf. Luke 4:26) who was raised by Elijah. The second was the son of the Somanite woman who was raised by Elisha (cf. 4 Kings 4:32ff). And the third is the case of the soldier who was buried near the tomb of Elisha and was raised from the dead (4 Kings 13:21). In the New Testament there are four cases of human beings who were raised from the dead by Christ: the daughter of the leader of the synagogue (Luke 8:49ff), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11ff), Lazarus who had been buried for four days (John 11:43f) and those who arose at the resurrection of Christ (cf. Matth. 27:52f). All of these died again. Christ, however, who is the eighth case of a man that rose from the dead, is the only one who does not die again because death has no dominion over him. We too will rise again, on that Eighth Day, which has no end, without dying again.

10. Epilogue From the Words of Dionysius the Areopagite. We shall let Dionysius the Areopagite to close this chapter. And first of all we shall recall what he says about the darkness, which occurred when Christ was crucified. There is, he says, the witness of the Greek astronomer Phlegon who said: “In the second year of the 202nd Olympiad a major eclipse of the Sun occurred, the like of which had not been seen earlier,” so that the stars appeared in the sky” (Johannes Malalas, Chronographia). This is one additional witness of the Greeks, which is connected with the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is in this way, then, that we should believe in and worship Jesus Christ, as God who became man, because the Son and Word of God remains inseparable from his humanity. As God He is other than the Flesh, but also as Flesh He is other than the Word. Since, however, the Word of the Father, who is from God, Himself became man as well, this is not the case of “an other and an other” because of the indescribable union and summit. Thus, the Son is called: One and Only, both before the summit of the Incarnation and after His union with the Flesh. It is exactly for this reason that he said to the man who had been previously blind and was healed by Him: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” (John 9:35). And he answered, “And who is he Lord, that I might believe in Him” (John 9:36). And then, Christ said to Him, “And you have seen Him and He who is speaking with you, He is the one” (John 9:38). He speaks as man, He appears as man, and He is believed to be a God-Man, God’s Son Himself!

Truly, how incomprehensible and lofty is this Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ! Yet it is an absolute confirmation and revelation of God’s infinite love for us human beings.


[1] Bishop Theophilos of Campania (1749-1795) was one of the brightest figures of the Church in the 18th century; distinguished for his theological and canonical expertise. He was born in Ioannina and became a Bishop in Campania, the area to the west of Thessaloniki and opposite Chalkidiki. He was probably a sytudent of the famous teacher Eugenios Voulgaris and is particularly known for his book Tameion Orthodoxias, which run through eight editions from 1780 to 1939.

[2] References to the texts cited by the author were not included in the original edition and were provided by the translator.

Translated and annotated[2] from the original Greek by Fr GEORGE DION DRAGAS PhD, DD Protopresbyter

December 27, 2009

The Sunday After Christmas - Jesus Christ: The Eternal Victor

The Gospel Reading is from Matthew 2:13-23

When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more." But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."


The Gospel reading of this Sunday describes the flight of the infant Jesus to Egypt, the slaughtering of the infants by Herod and the return of Jesus to the city of Nazareth. This briefly says that the story of the God-man is tragic from His first days. What is more tragic, however, is the condition of the chosen people who give chase to their Savior. Nevertheless, God interferes and directs the steps of Joseph. Does this alleviate human responsibility? Of course it doesn’t.

The position of Joseph is that of every spiritual person

The beginning of the life of the Lord on the earth teaches us many things. It teaches us that we must expect temptations and plotting from the beginning. What does this mean? It simply means that when someone is deemed worthy of undertaking a spiritual ministry, he should expect tragedies and perils. He should not, however, be upset. He must accept everything courageously, knowing that this is exactly the course of the spiritual life. It has temptations conjoined to it, because these “good” temptations weave the life of the righteous.

St. John Chrysostom says that the temptations are not met with the strength of the body, but with the disposition of the soul. This is why the sky is not as bright with its captivating reflections and colors, as the souls of those persons who endure their temptations by the grace of their Lord and transform them into joy and spiritual life experiences. The road towards sanctity is not inhibited by any temptation or human obstacle. This is because we are not alone, but have God inside us and around us, who opens the way of Divine knowledge. This is the road that leads to the beautiful Gate of Paradise.

The position of Herod is that of every unjust person

St. John Chrysostom, interpreting the rage of Herod on account of the mockery of the Magi, says that when a soul is ungrateful and incurable, she does not retreat before anything and especially does not accept that she seeks after unfeasible things. Human beings, when they reject the faith and remove from their souls the fear of God, not only dare, but put to practice everything. An ungodly human being becomes a wild beast, and for this reason, woe to them who may fall into the hands of ungodly persons.

Since Herod acted unjustly, why did God allow this? In the Old Testament, Israel is the son of God, whose position has now been taken by Jesus Christ. In the last analysis the chosen people of God is now restricted to the one and unique Person, Jesus Christ. It is from Jesus Christ that a new people will be born, whom God will lead out of Egypt, according to the prophesy of Hosea, which now finds its full meaning. God, then, allowed this because the plan of the Divine Economy is never aborted.

When the righteous is treated unjustly, then, we ask, why does God allow this? The answer is given by St. John Chrysostom: “Whatever we may suffer unjustly in the hands of another, God will count this injustice either to cover some of our sins or to give us a reward.” In other words for all the injustices which we endure, we either wipe out sins, or earn brighter rewards if we have no sins. This is why we never put such questions to God, especially if we want our faith to be like that of Abraham, and to have the privilege to serve actively the will of God.

In the Person of Christ there is everyone who is treated unjustly

Jesus Christ was pursued from the very beginning and he had to flee from his place because of the murderous fury of Herod. The one who left was He who would save His people according to the order that Joseph received from the Angel. What does this mean for us? It means that we must never be anxious, when what is done to us is contrary to what we expect. God often fulfils His plans by contradictory events, giving us in this way the greatest proof of His power. Let us never forget the saying, “Mine is the retribution. I will recompense, says the Lord.” In other words, to God belongs both the retribution and the recompense (Heb. 10:30).

Our Lord Jesus Christ, by becoming man and going through all the events of the Divine Economy “came out as a victor to accomplish victory.” In other words, He was given the crown of victory, and departed as a victor in order to accomplish new victories. One of these, which is the most substantial, will be the one in which God will come to dwell among the people for ever, and will wipe out every tear from their eyes (Rev. 21:3-4). “O Lord may Your kingdom come.” AMEN!

Translated from the “Voice of the Lord” of the Apostolic Ministry of the Church of Greece, by Fr. George Dion. Dragas

What Shall We Offer Thee, O Lord

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ,
Who for our sakes hast appeared on the earth as a man?
Every creature which Thou hast made offers Thee thanks.
The angels offer Thee a song;
The heavens, their star;
The wise men, their gifts;
The shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave;
The wilderness; the manger;
And we offer Thee a virgin mother.
O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

Τί σοι προσενέγκωμεν Χριστέ, ότι ώφθης επί γης ως άνθρωπος δι’ ημάς; έκαστον γαρ των υπό σού γενομένων κτισμάτων, την ευχαριστίαν σοι προσάγει· οι άγγελοι τον ύμνον, οι ουρανοί τον αστέρα, οι μάγοι τα δώρα, οι ποιμένες το θαύμα, η γη το σπήλαιον, η έρημος την φάτνην· ημείς δε μητέρα Παρθένον· ο προ αιώνων Θεός ελέησον ημάς.

Homily On St. Stephen the Protomartyr by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

This sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe for the feast of St. Stephen (Sermo 3, 1-3, 5-6: CCL 91A, 905-909) dates from around the year 500 AD and demonstrates the ancient tradition in the West of remembering the first martyr on the day immediately following the solemn celebration of the nativity of Christ. This ancient tradition is still practiced in the West, though in the East the feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on December 27th.

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.

Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the Virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
For the struggles you endured for Christ God, a royal diadem crowns your head, O First Champion of Martyrs. For you refuted the folly of the Jews and beheld your Savior on the right of the Father. Ever beseech Him, therefore, for our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Yesterday the Master arrived in the flesh, today the servant departs from the flesh. Yesterday He who reigns was born. Today the servant dies for Him by stoning, the Protomartyr, the divine Stephen.


December 26, 2009

St. Proclus' Homily For December 26th

On the Incarnation of the Lord

By St. Proclus of Constantinople

Many different festivals brighten our manner of living, transforming by festive cycles the pain of the hardships of life. For just as those who come from stormy seas rejoice in harbors as if in the arms of life, so too do we, distressed by many circumstances, rejoice in a festival as if it were a mother who frees us from care.

For a feast is the forgetfulness of sorrow, the sleep of cares, the cultivation of joy, the cause of delight, the season of prayer, a harvest for the poor, the adornment of the Church, the festival of cities, the shipwreck of hatred, the dawn of friendship, and heaven upon earth. And why say all this? A feast is the fruit of the resurrection, according to the prophet who says: "O Judah, celebrate thy feasts, for the One who breathes upon your face has risen from the earth" (Nah. 1:15, 2:1).

Although there are, as I have said, many different festivals, not every feast is of equal value. For while some have been established by God, others were concocted by the devil. Some festivals threaten the soul with calamity, while others celebrate satiety in the stomach. But there are others which traffic in the salvation of human nature. The Greeks keep festivals, but having disgracefully deified their lusts they defiled themselves with the filth of shame. The Jews also keep festivals. However, they confuse God with their stomach and so turn their feasts into gluttonous occasions for sin. While they were keeping festival in the wilderness they worshipped the golden calf. During times of "quarrels and strifes" they kept a fast (Is. 58:4). Keeping festival in Jerusalem, they set up a cross for the Lord. O Jewish feast days, whose merriment is but a deception, and whose delight ends in death!

The festivals of the Christians, on the other hand, are divine and wondrous, truly fountainheads and treasuries of salvation. For the first of our feasts proclaims the advent of God among men. The second represents the sanctification of the waters and the womb of baptism. The third joyfully announces the destruction of death, the trophy of the Cross, the gift of the resurrection, and the liberation of our fathers. The fourth proclaims both the ascension and the first fruit of humanity into the heavens and its seat at the right hand (of the Father). The fifth heralds the descent of the Holy Spirit and the thunderous rain of a thousand graces. These are the feasts "which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in them" (Ps. 117:24).

Among the things celebrated at yesterday's feast, was there anything which was not miraculous and wondrous, or awesome and glorious? What was the marvel of yesterday's feast day? But first, I beg you, listen with forbearance, for a tongue of clay is trying to convey the mysteries of God. What, then, was the marvel of yesterday's feast? The inexplicable mystery of divinity and humanity; a birth pang without pain; an enfleshment giving form to the one without shape; an inconceivable birth; a beginning, but not the beginning of the One who was born. For even though it was the beginning of His humanity, His divinity remained beginningless; one form assumed another form, but the Trinity did not increase to a quaternity, for (this was) a union of two natures, the birth of one Son, and the unconfused union of the Word with the flesh. He who was born according to the flesh is God from the Father, and man from me. O awesome and wondrous mystery! Who ever saw a king take on the appearance of a condemned man? Or when did the eye ever take in the sight of the entire sun? And when was human flesh ever essentially united without change to God, if not yesterday? When the Virgin was heavy with child, (when) the Word entered in through her sense of hearing, (when) the Holy Spirit fashioned the living temple of the body, (when) the Most High emptied Himself into the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7), (when) the womb of a virgin contained within herself the mystery of the divine dispensation. O womb wider than the heavens! O birth that bears salvation! O womb of clay and bridal chamber of the Creator! O birth, a ransom for the sin of the world! O mystery, the manner of which I am unable to explain! O birth, not the beginning of God's existence, not a change of nature, nor a diminishing of power, neither a separation from the beginningless progenitor, but the essential union of God and flesh; the blessing of birth; the advent of God; the wonder hidden by God from the ages; the indivisible mystery of (divine and human) natures; the abolition of the curse; the overturning of the sentence which stood against us; (the birth) of the one and only Son, (His) beginningless existence, (His) birth in the flesh from the Virgin and veneration by all creation, joyfully announced and freely given to all! To Him be glory and dominion, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Panagia's Judgment On My Great-Grandmother

The earliest member of my family to emigrate to America was my great-grandfather Haralambos Boustris, who arrived in the first decade of the twentieth century when he was only fourteen years old. It was in America that he met and married my great-grandmother Christoula, and they settled initially in Connecticut. While in Connecticut they had three children who survived - Penelope the oldest, followed by Fotoula (who told me this story) then Andoni. They also had about ten other children, but they all died as infants from polio. Unable to bear the grief of losing so many children any further, they moved back to Greece to the village of Vryna near Olympia when Andoni was seven months old.

When in Greece my great-grandmother Christoula prayed to the Panagia in her grief to bless her with another child that would survive. The Panagia then appeared to her in a vision and told her that her request would be granted, on the condition that the child be dedicated to her from birth, wear only black clothing, become a monk, and be named Panagioti. Christoula was granted a child and was obedient to the request of the Panagia for a couple of years, however it came to the point where she got tired of dressing the child in black everyday. One day she dressed Panagioti in other colors, breaking the covenant she had with the Panagia, and within 24-hours the child was dead.

Soon thereafter my great-grandparents were granted another child. He survived and his name was Vasilios, my grandfather. He emigrated with my mother to America in 1970 to cure his tuberculosis.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in the Orthodox Church

By John Sanidopoulos

The Twelve Days of Christmas, known in Greek as Dodekaemeron ("Twelve Day"), are a festive period linking together two Great Feasts of the Lord: the Nativity and Theophany. During this period one celebration leads into another. The Nativity of Christ is a seven day celebration: the formal title of the first day is "The Nativity According to the Flesh of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ", and celebrates not only the Nativity of Jesus, but also the Adoration of the Shepherds of Bethlehem and the Veneration of the Magi from the East. The second day is referred to as the "Synaxis of the Theotokos", and commemorates the role of the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation, as well as the flight into Egypt of the Joseph, Mary and Jesus to escape the slaughter of the infants by Herod the Great. The third day is known as the "Third Day of the Nativity", and is also the feast day of the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen. The 29th of December is the Orthodox Feast of the Holy Innocents, which honors the children slaughtered by Herod.

The Afterfeast of the Nativity (similar to the Western octave) continues until the 31st of December (that day is known as the Apodosis or "Leave-taking" of the Nativity).

The Saturday following the Nativity is commemorated by special readings from the Epistle (1 Tim 6:11-16) and Gospel (Matt 12:15-21) during the Divine Liturgy. The Sunday after Nativity has its own liturgical commemoration in honor of "The Righteous Ones: Joseph the Betrothed, David the King and James the Brother of the Lord".

The 1st of January, at the center of the festal period, is another feast of the Lord (though not ranked as a Great Feast): the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. On this same day is the feast day of Saint Basil the Great, and so the service celebrated on that day is the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil.

The 2nd of January begins the Forefeast of the Theophany.

The Eve of the Theophany (5th of January) is a day of strict fasting, on which the devout will not eat anything until the first star is seen at night. This day is known as Paramoni ("Preparation"), and follows the same general outline as Christmas Eve. That morning is the celebration of the Royal Hours and then the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil combined with Vespers, at the conclusion of which is celebrated the Great Blessing of Waters, in commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. There are certain parallels between the hymns chanted on Paramoni and those of Good Friday, to show that, according to Orthodox theology, the steps that Jesus took into the Jordan River were the first steps on the way to the Cross. That night the All-Night Vigil is served for the Feast of the Theophany.

26 Russian Priests Murdered Since 1990

Twenty-six Orthodox Priests Murdered Since 1990, Including 39-year-old Alexander Filippov on Tuesday

Peter Fedynsky
23 December 2009
VOA News

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (center) conducts the funeral service for slain priest Daniil Sysoyev in a Moscow church, 23 November 2009

The second murder of a Russian priest in as many months has prompted a call by the Orthodox Church for Russians to think about their country's spiritual and moral condition. The killings follow more violence this year directed against Muslim clerics in Russia's troubled Caucasus region.

Tuesday's shooting death of 39-year-old priest Alexander Filippov is alleged to be the act of two intoxicated men in the village of Satino-Russkoye near Moscow. His widow is quoted as saying Filippov had reproached the suspects for relieving themselves at the entrance of their apartment building.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, called Filippov a bright and clean-living individual who leaves behind three daughters.

Kirill says the priest was killed because he was not indifferent to disgusting human behavior and took a principled stand against it in accordance with his calling.

The Interfax News Agency says a total of 26 Orthodox priests have been murdered in Russia since 1990. Many others have been assaulted. They include Vitaly Zubkov, who was kicked and beaten last month, just days after the murder of his friend, Father Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow. Sysoyev had received death threats for his outspoken criticism of Islam and attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity.

News reports quote Orthodox Church Spokesman Vladimir Legoida as saying that recent events show Russians must think of the spiritual and moral situation they live in.

The head of the Religion and Law Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, told VOA many Russians call themselves Orthodox Christians but have no idea about the obligations required by organized religion. He says Russian spiritual leaders themselves often set the wrong example by mixing church-state relations.

Lunkin says church leaders send a signal that to call oneself an Orthodox, it is enough to maintain close ties with the state or government officials and to participate in official ceremonies. He says this reveals an absence of true faith, adding that priests often begin with the construction of a church building, instead of first organizing a community of believers.

Lunkin says communism stripped many Russians of religious faith, and with it any respect for priests and churches.

Lunkin recalls an incident several years ago when a priest began building a church in the Ivanovo region north of Moscow and arrived one morning to find that local residents had dismantled the structure for its bricks because there was no organized community in that village and no one knew what Orthodoxy was. He adds that local hooligans who killed the priest considered themselves to be Orthodox.

Russia's Islamic community has also been rocked this year by several high-profile killings of Muslim clerics in the Caucasus. They include Akhmed Tagayev, deputy mufti of Dagestan, and Ismail Bostanov, rector of the Islamic Institute in the southern Karachai-Cherkessia region.

Some observers link those murders to Islamic militants who are fighting pro-Kremlin authorities. The deputy head of Russia's Mufti Council, Damir Khazrat Gizatullin rejects any connection. He told VOA he attributes the violence to incivility throughout Russia stemming from 70 years of communist rule.

Gizatullin says people in Russia do not know how to listen to one another, to give others the right away on the road, or to understand the foundations of spirituality and religion. This, he concludes, leads to current situation, which follows 70 years of alienation from the spiritual roots and traditions of Russia. He says people now fail to realize that members of the clergy and all others are protected by the Almighty and by the law.

He says Communists also made the mistake of focusing on the construction of buildings at the expense of community.

Gizatullin says Soviet authorities wanted to construct more living space for people, but toilets and other communal structures were forgotten. He says there was no time, no energy, and no resources for such things, and now Russia is reaping those elements of Soviet life.

Murders of prominent Russians are not limited to the clergy. Investigative journalists and political activists have also been victims. Most of the killers remain at large.

Bulgaria Joins Christian World in Celebrating Christmas

December 25, 2009

Bulgaria joins Friday Christians around the world in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus. When she asks how this can be, since she is a virgin, he tells her that the Holy Spirit would "come upon her" and that "nothing will be impossible with God".

At the time that Mary is due to give birth, she and her husband Joseph travel from their home in Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census of Quirinius. Because they were not able to find a room in the inn, when Mary gives birth to Jesus she places the newborn in a manger.

An angel of the Lord visits the shepherds guarding their flocks in nearby fields and brings them "good news of great joy". The angel tells them they will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The shepherds hurry to the manger in Bethlehem where they find Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They repeat what they have been told by the angel, and then return to their flocks.

In Bulgaria, the celebration begins in the evening of December the 24th – Christmas Eve, known as "Badni Vecher." It is one of the most honored family holidays when relatives gather together in expecting the birth of Jesus.

The symbolic Christmas Eve meal is the last vegan meal of the fasting during the 40 days of Advent. Regional Christmas traditions in Bulgaria vary slightly, but in many parts of Bulgaria, a piece of silver is inserted into a loaf of bread. This may also be done with a kolak, or ring-shaped cake, that is an almost essential part of the Christmas season. Good fortune is said to come to the person who finds the piece of silver.

The meal includes an odd number of dishes – 7, 9 or 11. The tradition says that the greater the number the better and fertile the next year will be. Traditional food includes peppers stuffed with rice, lentil, beans, baked pumpkin.

In addition, a common belief in Bulgaria is that Mary bore Christ on Christmas Eve, but only announced the birth the following day, on Christmas (which is celebrated December 25th). Folk tradition follows this belief – new mothers announce the birth of a new child to the world the day following the birth.

Christmas in Bulgaria, called Koleda begins at midnight on the 24th with Koleduvane. This an annual ritual koledar where young men go door to door to spread Christmas cheer around the village by dressing in costumes and singing songs. People give them gifts such as food and money.

Bulgarians named Hristo, Hristina, Radomir, Radoslav, Radostin, Mladen celebrate their name day on Christmas.

The Christmas holidays end on the Day of St. Stephan, on December 27.

December 1989 Massacre in Romania Remembered

As Romania’s Dictator Fell, I Saw the Bullet Holes Everywhere

Russell Leadbetter
24 Dec 2009
Evening Times

Twenty years to the month after it happened, Maria Skinner can still remember seeing innocent people gunned down in the streets in Romania.

More than 1,100 people died in December 1989 as the hated dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, pictured, and his wife Elena were overthrown. He was confident he could cling to power.

His countrymen were aware that the Berlin Wall had come down and that other Communist regimes in eastern Europe had collapsed – but Ceausescu, who was backed by the feared Securitate, his secret police, believed he had no reason to worry.

The revolution in Maria’s country began on December 17, in the Transylvanian city of Timisoara, where 60 people were shot dead amid protests over the government’s treatment of a local priest.

On Thursday, December 21, in the capital, Bucharest, Ceausescu stage-managed a nationally televised public meeting. But he faltered badly when parts of the crowd began chanting “Timisoara” – and his reaction encouraged the crowd.

Within hours, riots broke out in the city. About 35 people were killed by police and the Securitate. The following day, the army turned against the dictator, who fled in a helicopter. Romania suddenly had to create an interim “government”, the National Salvation Front – but first it had to contend with a bloody fight-back by diehard members of the Securitate.

Ceausescu and Elena were captured and briefly put on trial, where they faced charges including genocide. They were found guilty and executed by firing squad on Christmas Day.

It’s a long way from Romania to Glasgow’s Old Shettleston Parish Church. But it’s here, where the Romanian Orthodox Church holds its services, that Maria and other expats are happy to talk.

Maria, 41, who is from Bucharest, has been in Scotland for more than two years, and said: “At the time, I was 21, and married to a Romanian. We had a small business selling handcrafted goods. My husband came in and said there was something in the air. He felt it was dangerous, because we had heard what had happened in Timisoara a few days earlier. After a while I saw people running, screaming, ‘Go, go, Ceausescu!’. I couldn’t sleep all night because my house was just a few yards from the unrest. We stayed up until midnight when they started to shoot. We saw people dying around us.”

In the morning, Maria and a colleague went to the TV station, where they heard something had happened. “We stood from midday until the next morning and it was an amazing feeling. There was so much energy in the air. But then trouble broke out, and I saw people dying. It was like a movie ... it was so bad. Then we heard Ceausescu had left in his helicopter.

“I remember going home. It was six in the morning, as daylight was breaking. We could see bullet-holes in the walls everywhere.”

Mihai Motoiu, 41, also from Bucharest, has been in Scotland for seven years and has four daughters. He said the events of late December 1989 “showed something about our Romanian mentality, culture, attitude ... it didn’t happen in the Czech Republic or Poland, or in any other countries. It happened just in Romania.

“One thousand one hundred people died on the street ... and for what? Ion Iliescu, who came after Ceausescu, tried to create another world based on the previous one, to create a democracy on a Communist platform. He didn’t change anything. He was forced by the people, but his mentality, his attitude, is still the same today. He still talks and thinks as a Communist.”

Maria, who is now married to Kenneth, a 52-year-old Glaswegian, is studying English at Cardonald College.

Mihai, like Maria, is happy to be in Scotland, but insists he is still drawn to his homeland. “I may have left Romania but it will be my country forever,” he says. “It is important to remain

connected: even if I am not there, I want to do something for it.”

Maria and Mihai both recall the food shortages under Ceausescu that often made life difficult for ordinary people.

“We had just one kilo of sugar per family per month, one litre of oil, something like that,” says Mihai. “I remember seeing oranges in the shops only a few times in my childhood, and we were so happy to be able to buy them.”

Mihai describes communism as a “poison in the world” but says it made him stronger: “No-one around the world, with some exceptions, is happy with life in the Communist period. But I am very happy to have had this experience. From that period of history, you learn to live life. You learn to love your children more than just putting them in front of the television or computer.”

Corruption, Mihai says, remains a big problem in Romania, and was the reason he and his family decided to move.

“You can’t be happy, be professional, be what you wish to be, in a country where every day, if you want to buy something, you have to give money under the table – paying the police to sort out a case, paying money to a doctor in a hospital.”

Maria Skinner, here with her Glaswegian husband Kenneth

Priest who ended up moving to city

Father Marcel Oprisan, 31, who lives in Bishopbriggs with his wife and two young children, is a priest with the Romanian Orthodox Church.

One of a family of six, he is from Maramures, a mountainous region on the border between Ukraine and northern Romania. Two of his brothers and one of his sisters are now monks.

Fr Marcel was 11 at the time of the revolution. Two of his older brothers had been in Ceausescu’s army.

“When we heard on the television there had been a revolution, everybody just came on the streets,” he said.

“A lot of people were standing talking, but they were so afraid - people were always afraid to say anything. If they said something bad about Communists, they would end up in prison.

“My grandfather had been in prison for a time, though not for any crime. My godfather, who had baptised me and who had been a teacher in my primary school, had also been in prison, but no-one ever talked about it.

“I remember how we used to go to primary even on Saturdays, and the children all protested that they wanted the day off.”

Fr Marcel said the Communists’ biggest mistake lay “in wanting all the power and wanting to control everything ... anything that once had a share of power in Romania was destroyed, stripped of that power and sent into prison.

“There was a best-selling book in Romania last year about people who had been in prison for 30 years, half of their life, under the Communists. There were doctors, teachers, priests, bishops, poets, politicians, all intellectuals. They were beaten and tortured – unbelieveable. Most died in jail.

“I have given copies of that book to lots of people here. They may not have been particularly religious before but they are a lot more religious now they have read the book – they have read that all the prisoners became religious when they were in jail.

“This book shows what happens to some people who did not have freedom – freedom is something we have today.”

Millions of ordinary Romanians were glad to see the back of Ceausescu and Elena 20 years ago, and many celebrated their executions – but Fr Marcel was not among them.

“I was not happy about that, either at the time or even now, because a human died,” he said. “This is not something that you can be happy about, ever. They did not have to be killed, even for what they did.”

Fr Marcel was almost 25 when he finally left Romania.

He ended up in Cambridge in 2002, where he took orthodox Christian studies, and was eventually ordained as a priest in London. He came to Glasgow a year ago.

“Our Archbishop, who is based in Paris, had a meeting in London and asked me if I wanted to go to Scotland, once or twice a month. I did that for a while, and I moved here at the end of December 2008 to be here permanently.”

The result was that Shettleston Old was consecrated in January this year as the first place of worship for the Romanian Orthodox Church.

“The Church of Scotland has been really helpful towards us,” he said.

“I like the city and the people are very friendly. The Rev Adah Younger is amazing – she is just one of the greatest people I have met.”

See also: Trial and Execution: The Dramatic Deaths of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu