June 30, 2011

The Twelve Apostles: Timid Men Who Conquered the World

By St. John Chrysostom

It was clear through unlearned men that the cross was persuasive, in fact, it persuaded the whole world. Their discourse was not of unimportant matters but of God and true religion, of the Gospel way of life and future judgement, yet it turned plain, uneducated men into philosophers. How the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and his weakness stronger than men!

In what way is it stronger? It made its way throughout the world and overcame all men; countless men sought to eradicate the very name of the Crucified, but that name flourished and grew ever mightier. Its enemies lost out and perished; the living who waged a war on a dead man proved helpless. Therefore, when a Greek tells me I am dead, he shows only that he is foolish indeed, for I, whom he thinks a fool, turn out to be wiser than those reputed wise. So too, in calling me weak, he but shows that he is weaker still. For the good deeds which tax-collectors and fishermen were able to accomplish by God’s grace, the philosophers, the rulers, the countless multitudes cannot even imagine.

Paul had this in mind when he said: "The weakness of God is stronger than men". That the preaching of these men was indeed divine is brought home to us in the same way. For how otherwise could twelve uneducated men, who lived on lakes and rivers and wastelands, get the idea for such an immense enterprise? How could men who perhaps had never been in a city or a public square think of setting out to do battle with the whole world? That they were fearful, timid men, the evangelist makes clear; he did not reject the fact or try to hide their weaknesses. Indeed he turned these into a proof of the truth. What did he say of them? That when Christ was arrested, the others fled, despite all the miracles they had seen, while he who was leader of the others denied him!

How then account for the fact that these men, who in Christ’s lifetime did not stand up to the attacks by the Jews, set forth to do battle with the whole world once Christ was dead - if, as you claim, Christ did not rise and speak to them and rouse their courage? Did they perhaps say to themselves: “What is this? He could not save himself but he will protect us? He did not help himself when he was alive, but now that he is dead he will extend a helping hand to us? In his lifetime he brought no nation under his banner, but by uttering his name we will win over the whole world?” Would it not be wholly irrational even to think such thoughts, much less to act upon them?

It is evident, then, that if they had not seen him risen and had proof of his power, they would not have risked so much.

Source: PG 61:34-36

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostles, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offenses.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive the steadfast and divinely voiced preachers, the pinnacle of Your disciples, unto their rest and the enjoyment of Your blessings. You received, above every offering, their labors and their life. You alone know what the heart holds.

Ecumenical Patriarch Blesses "The Great Orthodox Christian Encyclopedia"

This past week an Orthodox Christian encyclopedia was announced for publication in Greece and blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch. It is titled The Great Orthodox Christian Encyclopedia and will consist of 12 volumes. They will cover the following topics:

1. History of the Orthodox Church
2. Theology of the Orthodox Church
3. History of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
4. History of the Primary Patriarchates
5. History of the Church of Greece and other Atocephalous Churches
6. History of Metropolis' and Holy Monasteries of Orthodox Lands and Missions
7. All Orthodox Theological Schools
8. Lives of Saints and Contemporary Elders
9. Lives of Hierarchs, Abbots and Theologians
10. The Works of the Fathers and Ecumenical Synods
11. Encyclopedia of Holy Scripture
12. Interpretation of Liturgical Life
13. General religios, ethical, communal, non-Orthodox, and non-Christian subjects
14. History of Ecclesiastical Art
15. Issues of Spiritual Guidance
16. Ecclesiastical and Religious Philology
17. Basic works of Modern Greek regarding the Church
18. Orthodox publications, magazines, periodicals, both Greek and foreign
19. Guide to Orthodoxy on the Internet

These volumes will be rich in photos, icons and maps. 20,000 topics will be covered in 8,000 pages. The first volume will be issued this Pascha.

Read more here and here.

The Glorification of 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa

On Sunday 26 June 2011 at the Metropolis Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Naousa, the 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa who were brutally massacred in the region of Kioski in 1822 were officially canonized. Representatives of the Patriarchal and Autocephalous Churches were in attendance and officiated, joining Metropolitan Panteleimon of Beroia, Naousa and Kampania. These men, women and children were massacred by the Ottoman Turks from Thursday of Bright Week to the Sunday of Thomas in 1822. It began with the martyrdom of five priests from the Church of Saint George and the destruction of the church with those in it. The people of Naousa had sought to defend the church from destruction, but were killed in return. 

Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris Celebrated By Patriarchate of Alexandria

In June of 2009 the Holy Synod of the Alexandrian Patriarchate declared Hieromartyr Cyril Lucaris (Kyrillos Loukaris) a Saint of the Orthodox Church. His memory is celebrated annually on June 27th. On 27 June 2011 Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and All Africa celebrated the Divine Liturgy in his honor at the Patriarchal Church of Saint Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria.

To read more about St. Cyril Loukaris, a short life can be read on the official site of the Ecumenical Patriarchate here.

For a short clarification regarding the controversy over St. Cyril Lukaris, read The Myth of the "Calvinist Patriarch".

Pan-Orthodox Consensus on Same-Sex Marriage

In light of recent events, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America reminds the faithful of the very instructive statement issued already in 2003 by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), which was at the time the Pan-Orthodox representative body in the Americas. The same statement, which follows, still stands today.

SCOBA Statement on Moral Crisis in Our Nation

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

As members of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), representing more than 5 million Orthodox Christians in the United States, Canada and Mexico, we are deeply concerned about recent developments regarding “same sex unions.”

The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex.

Holy Scripture attests that God creates man and woman in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-31), that those called to do so might enjoy a conjugal union that ideally leads to procreation. While not every marriage is blessed with the birth of children, every such union exists to create of a man and a woman a new reality of “one flesh.” This can only involve a relationship based on gender complementarity. “God made them male and female… So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8).

The union between a man and a woman in the Sacrament of Marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). As such, marriage is necessarily monogamous and heterosexual. Within this union, sexual relations between a husband and wife are to be cherished and protected as a sacred expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such was God’s plan for His human creatures from the very beginning. Today, however, this divine purpose is increasingly questioned, challenged or denied, even within some faith communities, as social and political pressures work to normalize, legalize and even sanctify same-sex unions.

The Orthodox Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions. Whereas marriage be-tween a man and a woman is a sacred institution ordained by God, homosexual union is not. Like adultery and fornication, homosexual acts are condemned by Scripture (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This being said, however, we must stress that persons with a homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed by our Lord Jesus Christ upon all of humanity. All persons are called by God to grow spiritually and morally toward holiness.

As heads of the Orthodox Churches in America and members of SCOBA, we speak with one voice in expressing our deep concern over recent developments. And we pray fervently that the traditional form of marriage, as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman, will be honored.

August 13, 2003

† Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

† Metropolitan HERMAN

Orthodox Church in America

† Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

† Archbishop NICOLAE

Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America America and Canada

† Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary

Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

† Metropolitan JOSEPH

Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

† Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer

Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

† Metropolitan CONSTANTINE

Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

† Bishop ILIA of Philomelion

Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

Previously published on the web: http://www.scoba.us/articles/2003-08-13-moral-crisis.html

Documentary Shows Violation of Civil Liberties Through Same-Sex Marriage

Sarah Hamaker
June 23, 2011
The Christian Post

The Family Research Council has fired another salvo in the debate on legalizing same-sex marriage with the release of a new documentary that details the harm same-sex marriage can inflict upon a society.

“The Problem with Same-Sex Marriage: How It Will Affect You and Your Children” brings in marriage, family and homosexual experts to talk about what happens when marriage is redefined.

“This DVD answers the question, How same-sex marriage would affect society, in particularly how it would affect children,” says Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Washington, D.C.-based FRC.

While some Christians might think same-sex marriage would not infringe upon their personal lives, the documentary shows just how the legalization of homosexual marriage would hurt everyone.

“Some immediate harms involve a loss of freedom for people who disapprove of homosexuality, and the threat to religious liberty for religious nonprofit groups, such as Christian adoption agencies,” says Sprigg.

Also, businesses and governments would be forced to provide benefits to same-sex married couples. The harms extend to the must vulnerable in our society – our children. Legalization of same-sex marriage would mean schoolchildren would be indoctrinated to support homosexuality – something that’s already begun in states that recognize same-sex marriage. One Massachusetts family interviewed for the documentary talk about how their kindergarten son brought home a children’s book from school that advocated homosexual marriage.

Other changes same-sex marriage would bring about would be modifications in family structure.

“Because marriage exists to encourage a traditional family structure, redefining it would mean that fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father, more children would grow up fatherless and birth rates would fall – that’s our prediction if same-sex marriage becomes legal in all 50 states,” says Sprigg.

A further set of harms relates to the nature of homosexual relationships.

“Because homosexuals are less likely to enter a committed relationship, less likely to be sexually faithful, and less likely to remain committed for a lifetime, we believe that those behaviors would spread to the heterosexual community if same-sex marriage is legalized and you would see fewer marriages, fewer people being monogamous and faithful, and fewer people remaining married for a lifetime,” he says.

The final reason same-sex marriage would not be good for America is that it could mark the beginning of a slippery slope toward other redefinitions of marriage, such as the legalization of polygamy.

“If we can’t limit a person’s choice of marriage partners based on gender, why should we limit the number of marriage partners?” says Sprigg.

“The Problem with Same-sex Marriage” will be broadcast on a number of Christian television networks in the fall. FRC is also heavily promoting it to churches, hoping that pastors will use it to educate and mobilize their congregations on this issue.

The film’s true stories of people who have had their freedom of speech and religious liberties violated as a result of same-sex marriage brings the issue home because “these are real-life stories, not hypothetical situations,” says Sprigg.

Additionally, FRC has sent DVDs to New York to help block passage of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire State. The Senate had not put the measure on the agenda, which means the legislative session could end without a vote on the issue.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama asked the Department of Justice to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act against lawsuits that test its constitutionality. The 1996 law bans federal acknowledgment of same-sex marriage. Since 2010, six places have allowed same-sex marriages: Washington, D.C., Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut.

The documentary calls on viewers to defend traditional marriage by either opposing their state’s attempt to legalize same-sex marriage or by supporting their state in amending its constitution to add the traditional definition of marriage.

Thus far, 30 states have defined marriage as between one man and one woman by amending their constitutions. Only Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island have no statutes or constitutional provisions banning same-sex marriage. However, the high courts in Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, while New Hampshire and Vermont legalized same-sex marriage through legislation.

“The advocates of same-sex marriage say, ‘what harm could it do?’ And they think the answer is, obviously, nothing,” says Sprigg. “This documentary is our response to that challenge by outlining what harm same-sex marriage will actually do.”

The documentary can be ordered by visiting frc.org/marriage.

Siberian Wildfires Combatted By Crosses and Icons

June 28, 2011
Asia News

Russian Orthodox Church's initiative to protect the country from the usual threat of summer fires. Alarm from Emergencies Ministry: compared to 2010, area affected by fires have tripled.

To combat the summer fires that once again threaten to devastate the territory of Russia, the Ministry for Emergency Situations has decided to also try religious ‘weapons’.

According to reports by Ria Novosti agency, the ministry’s Krasnoyarsk department has decided to install in Siberia’s parishes 25 giant crosses, donated by the local Russian Orthodox Church. The crosses were sent on June 24 and placed in areas most affected by the flames: the districts of Boguchansky and Kezhemsky. Since the beginning of the dry season, Siberia is the region most devastated by the fires. Each cross carries a reproduction of the Russian icon of Neopalimaya Kupino, also known as Lady of the Burning Bush, said to protect against fires. The website NewsLab.ru also reports that four icons at the four cardinal points, and a fifth at the center, will be placedin every town.

As announced by the Ministry for Emergency Situations, the initiative was launched by the Church who contacted the authorities and an agreement was signed in 2010, when Russia was hit by the worst fires in its recent history: 62 dead in two months and thousands of displaced people across the country. "Any proposal of our citizens, even those that are not scientifically proven, will be welcome," said Yelena Smirnykh, a ministry spokesman in Moscow.

Compared to the same period last year, the area affected by fires this year has tripled. The Ministry of Emergency Situations has warned about the possibility of a hot summer like 2010, with wildfires across the country. "Since the beginning of the risk period for fires in Russia in 2011, 13,440 fires have developed naturally", it announced in Moscow. "In 2010 there were 12,900, showing an increase of 1.05 times, while the total area as of today is of 833,570 hectares. In 2010 it was 273,330 hectares. This marks an increase of 3.05 times". In addition to the region of Krasnoyarsk, the most serious fires were reported in Zabaikalsky, Irkutsk and in the republics of Komi and Buryatia.

Mormon Image Campaign To Be Run Across America

Mormons’ Image Campaign

Ads coincide with church’s greater visibility in 2012 race

Lisa Wangsness
June 20, 2011
Boston Globe

In the fall of 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened focus groups across the country as part of a major market-research study to learn more about anti-Mormon sentiment in America.

The researchers found that the most common negative associations with Mormonism included being “pushy,’’ “cultish,’’ “secretive,’’ “controlling,’’ “sexist,’’ “antigay,’’ and “polygamist.’’ There was scant interest among those surveyed in learning more about Mormon doctrine, but they did display curiosity about Mormons as people.

“I’ll never forget this one woman,’’ said Stephen B. Allen, managing director of the church’s missionary program. When participants were asked how they would feel about doing community service with Mormons, “She said’’ — Allen adopted a stage whisper — “if you are serving alongside them, you can ask them the questions you always wanted to ask.’’

The result of the research was the “I’m a Mormon’’ ad campaign, a major rebranding effort.

The effort overlaps with a political campaign that, for the first time, includes two Mormons who are presidential contenders — former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who is in the race, and Jon Huntsman of Utah, who plans to announce his candidacy tomorrow.

Both men will have to over come the same unease about Mormons the ads seek to diminish. At the same time, pop-culture forces like “The Book of Mormon,’’ an irreverent Broadway musical hit about of two naive Mormon missionaries who are sent from Utah to Uganda to proselytize, have driven public interest in Mormonism to new heights.

The ad campaign features self-narrated video portraits of young, energetic Mormons with diverse backgrounds and eye-catching interests like surfing and violin-making. Tested in nine markets last summer, the campaign popped up on an electronic billboard in Times Square last week, days after “The Book of Mormon’’ cleaned up at the Tony Awards. The ad campaign is scheduled to run in 24 to 29 markets nationwide this fall.

Read the rest here.

June 29, 2011

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the Holy Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul

Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles (Feast Day - June 29)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Peter was the son of Jonah and the brother of Andrew, the First-Called. He was of the Tribe of Simeon from the town of Bethsaida. He was a fisherman and, at first, was called Simon but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas or Peter: "And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonah: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a rock" (John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to clearly express faith in the Lord Jesus saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). His love for the Lord was great and his faith in the Lord gradually strengthened. When the Lord was brought to trial, Peter denied Him three times but after only one glance into the face of the Lord, Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter appears as a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. Following one of his sermons in Jerusalem, three-thousand souls converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, throughout Illyria and Italy. Peter worked many powerful miracles; he healed the sick, resurrected the dead; the sick were healed even from his shadow. He had a great struggle with Simon the Magician who proclaimed himself as god but in reality Simon was a servant of Satan. Finally, Peter shamed and defeated him. By order of the evil Emperor Nero, Simon's friend, Peter was condemned to death. Installing Linus as Bishop of Rome, counseling and comforting the flock of Christ, Peter proceeded joyfully to his death. Seeing the cross before him, he begged his executioners to crucify him upside down for he considered himself unworthy to die as did his Lord. Thus the great servant of the Great Lord reposed and received the wreath of eternal glory.

Paul was born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin. At first he was called Saul, studied under Gamaliel, and was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christianity. He was miraculously converted to the Christian Faith by the Lord Himself Who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, was called Paul and numbered in the service of the great apostles. With a fiery zeal, Paul preached the Gospel everywhere from the borders of Arabia to Spain, among the Jews and among the Gentiles. He received the title "Apostle to the Gentiles." As horrible as his sufferings were, so much more was his super-human patience. Throughout all the years of his preaching Paul, from day to day, hung as one on a weak thread between life and death. Since he fulfilled all days and nights with labor and suffering for Christ, since he organized the Church in many places and since he attained such a degree of perfection he was able to say: "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero at the same time as the Apostle Peter.

Saint Leo the Great on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Blessed Augustine's Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Saint Gregory Palamas' Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul


Unlearned and learned but equal in spirit
And in the love of God, as strong as angels,
Peter a simple man, Paul educated
Both illumined, by the grace of the Spirit,
Two flaming candles, unquenchable candles,
Towering and beautiful, two brilliant stars.
Traversed the earth and spread the light
Nothing did they take, to men they gave all,
Completely poor, the world they enriched,
Prisoners and servants, conquered the entire world,
With the teaching of Christ, enriched the world,
With a new weapon, conquered the entire world:
By humility and peace and meekness blessed,
Prayer and fasting and mercy powerful.
When to them, that stormy day, arrived the stormy night
Bloodthirsty Nero, their life cut short.
But when the ruler of the world, a command issued
And to suffering, gave over Peter and Paul
The world was theirs and not his [Nero's] anymore,
By death, the apostles gained the Kingdom.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Foremost of the Apostles and teachers of the world, intercede ye with the Master of all that He grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive unto the enjoyment of Your good things and Your rest, the steadfast preachers of Godly words, the pinnacle of Your Disciples. Receive their pain and death above every sacrifice, for You alone know the hearts of men.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor the rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles, together with Paul and the company of the twelve, whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith, giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

Sixth Century Fresco of St. Paul Discovered In Roman Catacomb

A 1,400-year-old fresco of St Paul has been discovered in an ancient Roman catacomb.

Nick Pisa
June 29, 2011
The Telegraph

The fresco was found during restoration work at the Catacombs of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) in the southern port city of Naples by experts from the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Art.

The announcement was made on the feast day of St Peter and Paul which is traditionally a bank holiday in Rome and details of the discovery were disclosed in the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

A photograph released by the Vatican shows the apostle, famous for his conversion to Christianity from Judaism, with a long neck, a slightly pink complexion, thinning hair, a beard and big eyes that give his face a "spiritual air."

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who is Pope Benedict's Culture Minister, wrote in L'Osservatore Romano:"The image of St Paul has an intense expression, philosophical and its discovery enriches our imager of one of the principal apostles."

The figure is dressed in white and beige robes and with the letter 'I' on the hem, which may stand for 'Iesus' (Latin for Jesus) and it shows him approaching a dead person.

Details on the right hand side of the fresco have crumbled away but nevertheless it still remains a striking image which Cardinal Ravasi described as "sensational."

Father Antonio Loffredo, director of the catacombs in Naples, said: "We hope that many locals and tourists will come and look at this fresco which has been wonderfully restored."

Last year another fresco of St Paul was found in another Catacomb in Rome and that was dated to the 4th century AD and is believed to be the oldest image of him in existence.

St Paul was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, who started out persecuting Christians but later became one of the greatest influences in the Church.

He did not know Jesus in life but converted to Christianity after seeing a shining light on the road to Damascus and spent much of his life travelling and preaching.

He was executed for his beliefs around AD65 and is thought to have been beheaded, rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen.

June 27, 2011

Little Known Yet Interesting Facts

1 in 8 Americans has worked in a McDonald’s restaurant.

An amendment to the US Constitution in 1893 was proposed to change the name of the nation to the “United States of Earth.”

All pilots speak English.

If you could fold a piece of paper in half 50 times, its thickness will be 3/4 the distance from the Earth to the Sun (71 million miles).

A group of geese on the ground is a gaggle, but a group of geese in flight is called a skein!

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD.

The universe is beige-colored!

If you dig a straight hole down in the United States, you’ll come out the other side not in China, but in the Indian Ocean. Only in parts of Argentina or Chile would a straight hole emerge in China.

A small child could swim through the veins of a blue whale.

Cooling the brain can help treat insomnia!

The volcano in Iceland that erupted and ground planes last year is called Eyjafjallajökull.

The world's largest s'more ever made weighed 1,600 lbs.

The original story of Aladdin takes place in China.

Male seahorses are the ones who give birth.

A woman once tried smuggling snakes into sweden by carrying them in her bra.

A girl required surgery after swallowing a wire that had come loose from a barbeque grill cleaning brush and was cooked into a hamburger.

Even numbered primary interstates run east-west, and odd numbered primary interstates run north-south. (Primary = 1-2 digits)

Paul Winchell, famous for the voices of Gargamel on "The Smurfs" and Tigger on "Winnie the Pooh," also invented the artificial heart.

Fans traditionally throw octopuses onto the ice at Detroit Red Wings games!

Mark Twain was born in the month of the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1835, and died the day after its next appearance in 1910.

Weird Al Yankovic was the valedictorian of his high school class.

The longest bout of sneezing lasted 978 days!

Girls have a better sense of taste than boys do!

A married couple each won the lottery by playing numbers found inside a fortune cookie!

Starbucks offers a secret drink size that isn’t listed on its menu!

Uncle Phil (James Avery) from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, played Shredder's voice in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

Hedy Lamarr, woman who did one of the first nude scenes in movies, also co-invented a technology for frequency hopping radio transmissions.

Kermit the Frog is left-handed.

Mosquitoes hibernate.

The first text message was sent on December 3rd, 1992. It said: "Merry Christmas"

Most active credit cards owned by one person: 1497

The ears of an African elephant can weigh up to 110 pounds each.

Finland has 179,584 islands.

Thomas Edison proposed to his second wife by Morse code.

The Statue of Liberty's waist size is 35...feet.

The Pentagon has 284 bathrooms.

The first Rolls-Royce sold for $600 in 1906.

The country of Tonga once issued a stamp shaped like a banana.

Jupiter is large enough to fit all the planets of the solar system inside of it.

In some areas of Oklahoma: People who make “ugly faces” at dogs may be fined and/or jailed.

General Electric's Schenectady, New York facilities are assigned the ZIP code 12345.

In 1898, all cheerleaders were male. Females started participating in 1923.

Evelyn Marie Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice in 4 months. That's about a 1 in 17 trillion chance.

In 1992, the governor of Hawaii received a 30,000 signature petition to change Maui's name to Gilligan's Island.

Three presidents have died on Independence Day. John Adams/Thomas Jefferson (1826) and James Monroe (1831).

With a properly shuffled deck of cards, the order of the cards has most likely never existed before ever in history.

Graffito is the singular for graffiti.

A winged penis was the city symbol of Pompeii, the ancient Roman resort town destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius' eruption.

Any speaker can in principle act as a microphone, and vice versa.

A mickey is the smallest movement of a mouse that your computer can detect.

A flock of crows is known as a "murder."

Saddam Hussein wrote romance novels. 4 of them.

A can of Diet Coke floats, while a can of regular Coke sinks.

The #1 invention by a woman is Kevlar, the strong fiber material used in body armor.

During 1518, in Strasbourg, about 400 people danced so hard that they died from it.

Only female mosquitoes suck blood.

In Uganda, 50% of the population is under 15 years of age.


June 23, 2011

Saint Barbaros the Myrrhgusher and Wonderworker

St. Barbaros the Myrrhgusher (Feast Day - May 15 and June 23)

The fatherly arms of our Lord are always open to the return of every prodigal human soul that in its deception goes off to “a far country,” so as to satisfy its unquenchable desire for salvation. The outstretched palms of our Lord on the Cross hold all of humanity within them, just as they held the repentant thief, who was the first to dwell in Paradise.

This miracle is a recurrent one in history. Great sinners have become great Saints and left us a perpetual example of repentance, return, and hope for all of us.

One such astonishing model of repentance is that of St. Barbaros, who, from being a fearsome corsair and pirate, reached such an extraordinary height of sanctity that he proved to be a Wonderworker and Myrrhgusher after his death.

His life in brief is as follows, in accordance with the most reliable account: the narration by the Byzantine savant, Constantine of Acropolis, Grand Logothete in the thirteenth century.

The Saint lived in the ninth century during the reign of King Michael the Stutterer (820-829). He came from among the heathen of the Barbary Coast of North Africa and was a member of a fearsome band of pirates which ravaged the coastlines of Palestine, Sicily, and Crete, the Aegean islands, and Epiros.

At one point, having passed through the Ambracian Gulf, the pirates set ashore in the land of Acarnania in a spirit of destruction. The Acarnanian people engaged in battle at Dragamesti (present day Karaïskaki, Astakos), and, fighting heroically, checked their incursions and defeated them. Barbaros was the only one among them who survived, and he hid himself in a vineyard.

Thereafter, he gave himself over to brigandage and murder, becoming the terror of the Xeromeros region.

Once, he went to plunder a Chapel dedicated to St. George on Mt. Nysa, near Tryphos, in an area with springs. The Divine Liturgy, however, was being celebrated at the time, and he found himself before a marvelous sight. God opened the eyes of his wretched — yet, it seems, well-disposed — soul, and he saw the serving Priest, surrounded by light, being supported in the air by Holy Angels! He saw the Divine Infant being sacrificed, being partaken of, and ascending whole and in ineffable glory into the Heavens!

Barbaros was astounded and fell at the feet of the pious Priest, Father John of Nikopolis, who received him, like a good shepherd, comforted him, catechized him, Baptized him, and became his spiritual Father and guide. By the Saint’s own request, he was given the name “Barbaros” (barbarian) to remind him of his former behavior and way of life.

The Saint’s repentance was so profound that he was tonsured a Monk and remained there, in the place of his spiritual rebirth, living like the Venerable Forerunner in the desert. He even wore chains strapped around himself, to wear out his flesh and bring it into subjection.

By the cultivation of humility and self-reproach, as well as by putting into practice all of the holy virtues, the Saint unwittingly became known to the inhabitants of the surrounding regions, who hastened with fervor to be blessed by the strange holy ascetic, this former pirate and robber-chieftain.

Certain hunters from Nikopolis, while passing through the area of Tryphos where the springs were, saw the Saint in the twilight and took him for game. Thus, they shot their arrows at him. But horror soon overcame them when they realized their fatal mistake!

The Saint, as he lay dying, gathered up his strength and called out: “Drink, O Barbaros, of the cup which you offered to others!” And he gave thanks to God, Who had led him out of the darkness of deception and led him to the light of the Truth by means of his spiritual Father and benefactor, the Priest John. Thus, in prayer and thanksgiving, his soul passed into eternity.

St. Barbaros was buried in the place of his asceticism. God immediately glorified him in return with signs and miracles and also by the flow of myrrh from his grave!

Many centuries later, in 1571, an officer from Venice named Sklavounos, who was taking part at that time in the naval battle of Nafpaktos, fell seriously ill and saw the Saint in a dream, telling him to go to his grave to be healed. Indeed, as soon as the officer venerated the tomb, he was miraculously healed and took the holy relics of the Saint with him as he departed.

While traveling to Venice, he set ashore at the village of Potamos in Kerkyra. There, the Saint healed a paralytic, and for this reason a church dedicated to him was erected, in which he is honored to this day. There is also a Church dedicated to the Saint, in addition to one at the site of his asceticism, in a village in Leukada.

It is surmised that his wonderworking relics, which ended up in Italy, are preserved to this day in a village in Northern Italy which bears the Saint’s name: San Barbaro!

May they one day be discovered and brought back to the place of his sanctification, for the blessing and comfort of the faithful.

Through the holy intercessions of St. Barbaros, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

Source: Agios Kuprianos, No. 302 (May-June 2001), pp. 35, 38.

Read also: Saint Barbarus the Myrrhgusher

June 19, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Well, the time has come for me to take a short vacation from this blog. Actually its not really a vacation, since I will not really be leaving my home or enjoying myself. I guess I should call it an isolation, though I would much rather be on a vacation. In fact, I haven't been on a vacation in almost three years, but that was merely the result of being laid off from my job in New York as the economic crisis launched and having nowhere to go but explore New York for a month until my lease ran out. Afterwards I drove down to Orlando, Florida to attend Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios as well as visited every place associated with Edgar Allen Poe along the east coast as I waited for a place to open up for me in Boston to stay at. As much as I enjoyed my exploration then, it was not really a vacation, but a depletion of every last penny in my bank account.

Though I've managed to stay afloat since then venturing along unforeseeable paths and exploring new career choices, things have fallen beyond flat once again and its time I establish myself in a new career that I have experience in from prior to my lay off. It is thus a personal urgent matter that I must attend to, and I only prolonged it because I wanted to complete the Pentecostarion period with regular posts. After all, posting here has always been the most relaxing and enjoyable period of my day for the past two years. And its probably been the best learning experience I have ever had, and this comes from a guy with a few graduate degrees.

Hopefully daily postings will resume sooner than later when things are resolved and settled in my personal life. I'm aiming for a week, but it may take longer. Changes and updates to the site will continue, and will be announced on Facebook and Twitter only until my return to regular postings.

If you are looking for new reading materials, you can always visit my bookstore to financially support the future of this ministry. For those who have made orders, though most have already been mailed out, a few are still in the process of preparation and will be mailed out by the end of the month.

Thank you for your generous prayers and support.


Over the past two years I have received a lot of encouraging email from my readers. Though I have kept this private until now, I think my average reader would be surprised to learn how many changed lives have resulted through my humble ministry. This has fueled me to want to do more, and will do in the near future, God willing. Yet along with these encouraging emails I get personal questions that I promise to answer at some point, but rarely take the time to do so. Therefore, I will now answer the last five questions I received, as I continue with my ramble. Because they can be answered in a chronological way, this is the way I will arrange them.

Question 1: How did your journey to Orthodoxy begin?

I liked the way this question was phrased, since the person who asked it knew I was born into an Orthodox Christian family. For me Orthodoxy was indeed a journey of many years which I trace to my early childhood. My story is a long and complicated one that I hope to one day write down in full, so I will only hit on a few things here that basically overviews my pre-teen years without giving too much away. Since "cradle" stories are rarely told, I'll begin from the beginning.

In fact my earliest memory comes from when I was just an infant of less than a year old when something that seemed paranormal happened to me. I was sitting in my high chair next to a table as my mother was doing something behind me in the kitchen. Over the table was a hanging light that lit the room. As I looked up suddenly I saw a man in what looked like 18th century attire with a humorous smile staring at me upside down as he walked around the light on the ceiling. I believe he even put his finger in front of his mouth and told me "shhhh" so as not to make a fuss about it. I just stared at the man on the ceiling in awe, and it was ingrained into my memory ever since. Whether it was in fact a paranormal experience I don't know, but it was certainly not the last paranormal experience I would have in my life.

In many ways I had a normal first generation Greek-American childhood, with a father who never went to church and a mother who took her children to church maybe once or twice a month. The only truly pious person in my entire family was my grandmother on my father's side, but she lived in Greece and I only saw her a few times in my early childhood. She would tell me fascinating stories of Saints like that of St. George and St. Demetrios, and of ancient Greek hero's like Hercules, and whenever she finished one I would beg her for more. Later in my teenage years she would continue to play a significant role in my Orthodox formation.

When I would go to church in those days, especially before the age of seven, I would just drift off staring into the stained-glass windows imagining other worlds and dimensions. My bedroom was the only room in my house that had an icon corner with a perpetual red electrical light bulb in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary. I would lie down in bed at night and wonder if they could see me, since they seemed to always be staring right back at me. At 5 or 6 years old I was sent to Sunday School, which really only meant no more church services, and all we did was put together puzzles of icons and draw crosses, which was fun but mindless. I only received Holy Communion once a year on Holy Thursday morning, but always when the Divine Liturgy had already been over for about an hour. The most exciting thing about that was tasting the delicious wine, then afterwards going with the family to IHOP for a breakfast to break our one or two day fast, which we would then continue again of Good Friday. On Good Friday morning my mother always made sure we drank a spoonfull of vinager to taste a little bit of the suffering of Jesus. Easter was about the food, but we went every year to the midnight service, though always only stood outside with the crowd for about 10 or 15 minutes until "Christ is risen!" was chanted, then we would immediately book it for the car to get home and begin the feast. It took many years for me to realize that something was actually happening inside the church during that time.

Probably the wisest thing my mother did for me at that time was at the age of seven she took me out of Sunday School and asked my parish priest if I could stay behind the altar area as an altar boy, even though I was technically too young in those days. As an altar boy you're forced to learn something about the services and had to pay some attention, so at least my mind didn't wander as much. And in my parish the altar area was sort of an exclusive club where the older "cool" kids hung out, and even though most of them were punks and used the altar area as a hang out, my priest bore with them patiently to make sure to keep them coming to church and not turn them off forever. In those years I would be an altar boy maybe one or two Sunday's per month (when school vacation started in the summer so did vacation from going to church until school started again in the Fall), but the other two or three Sundays my dad would take me to a local soccer field to play soccer with his friends. When I was younger I would play somewhere by myself or with another kid a father dragged along, but as I got a little older they let me play in the game which only made me anxious since some of them were semi-pro's in Greece and their kicks were as fast as lightning. They would take the game so seriously however that every time I made a mistake I would literally get physically and mentally abused by men three times my age, including my dad. By the time I was a teenager I stopped going and decided I would be better off going to church more.

My first of many existential crisis' hit me at about the age of seven when I was confronted with the reality of death. I had two older sisters who had their own friends, so often I was left alone conjuring up imaginary friends to play with. One day my mom mentioned that she had had a miscarriage with her first child, who would have been a boy. From that time on for many months all I did was think about the reality of death and my imaginary friend that I played with was the older brother that had died in the womb of my mother. I would lie down in bed every night wanting to die in order to understand the mystery. Eventually I came to the conclusion at that time that life was nothing but a dream within a dream and all that I saw was nothing but an illusion I was conjuring up in my brain as the real me floated somewhere in outer space. One night I even asked my mother about this as I sat in between my two sisters in the back of our car and my dad was driving and she sat in the passenger seat. I leaned forward and desperately asked her: "Ma, doesn't life seem like a dream? Is it a dream?" She thought my question was cute and that I was smart to ask it, but left it at that and this only left me frustrated. So I concluded that life was indeed a dream and an illusion...somehow...though not "really".

It would not be until about a decade later when I was in high school that I came across the famous line of Edgar Allen Poe somewhere in the 1,000 page biography of Fr. Seraphim Rose I was reading at the time, which said: "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?" This quote from the poem "Dream Within A Dream" forever formed a bond between me and the Master of the Macabre, let alone the fact that we were both born and suffered in Boston.

It was during these days that I first became fascinated with Bible stories. I never read them, but every morning the highlight of my day was to wake up at 7:00AM before school and watch a cartoon series called "Superbook". This was an excellent series of two modern day children traveling back in time to live out different stories of the Bible while meeting the characters of the Bible. I was absolutely fascinated and in love with this show, and years later when I first started reading the Bible, the stories were familiar to me from watching the "Superbook" series every weekday for a couple of years.

Things slowly began to change for me by the fifth grade at the age of ten. By this time in many ways I was an angry kid and somewhat of a punk. If my parents punished me, I would hate them. If anyone bothered me, I'd hate them. It came to the point that my parents decided to move us to the richer town next to the one we lived in with a better school system. It was either this, or I would be sent to boarding school. This made me even more angry. But there was one light in my life at this time, and that was my fifth grade Greek school teacher named John. I had gone to Greek school since the first grade and absolutely hated it and everything about it. In the fourth grade I even orchestrated to have my teacher fired because she was the closest thing to the devil I had ever met, so going into the fifth grade did not give me high expectations. But if my fourth grade teacher was a devil, my fifth grade teacher was a saint. He was a seminarian from Holy Cross School of Theology who came from Greece to study theology in Boston. In class, which was twice a week, one day he would fully devote to teaching Greek, the other day he fully devoted to teaching us about Christianity. With my background in being fascinated with "Superbook", I actually would always look forward to going to class on the day he would teach about Christianity; and by this time I hated school.

My teacher John was a great man, and to this day I am moved every time I think about him. First of all, he was the first teacher I had and ever did have that not only was kind, loving and possessed a gentle smile, but I never even knew his last name as he would insist that we called him by the name "Yianni" (Greek for "John"). Till this day, he may be the closest image I have in my mind of a Christ-like figure that I have ever met. At a time I felt despised and agitated by everyone, he was just so full of love that you sensed absolutely no judgment from him. And when he taught about Christianity, he did it with a gentle passion that was infectious. Nothing over the top, but certainly heartfelt. The other students hated the days he would teach about Christianity thinking them a waste of time, but I was absolutely glued to every word. I was always too shy to tell him, but I always knew he sensed my fascination because I would listen to what he said and look right at him while everyone else was falling asleep. At the end of the school year he even took us for a field trip to visit Holy Cross School of Theology where he lived and studied, which was my first visit (my second was a few years later when my father took me to see Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios). He took us for a tour around campus, showed us his apartment, and ended the day in the chapel where he gave a final little talk. For some reason, as he was talking, he mentioned me by name in front of everyone to emphasize a point he was making about the importance of keeping our faith alive. If only he knew that less than a decade later I would be entering that same school as a student.

One particular day in Greek school I most remember that forever changed my life. And who would have thought it would happen to me in Greek school, the one thing in my life I had most hated. Here was this seminarian in his early twenties talking to a bunch of ten year olds about love and forgiveness, a topic he always tried to drive home with us. And he always did this in the context of imitating the love and forgiveness of Christ. After confessing to us how when he came to America from Greece and settled for a few years in the Dakotas he became very racist against black people, he said that as a Christian he came to realize the evils of hate and prejudice. Then he explained to us how Christ on the cross forgave his murderers and the thief crucified next to him, and if Christ could do something like that, then what prevents us from not forgiving our friends or family or anyone. With raised arms in a crucified position he repeated the words of Christ on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". Then he explained to us the victory of Christ over death through his resurrection. These were things I never heard before. I had always assumed Jesus died on the cross and that was it. This was the first I heard of a resurrection from the dead, or at least took it to heart. Up to this time, death was very hopeless to me and made me view everything as vanity.

At that moment, like the Grinch who stole Christmas, my small heart grew three sizes. The love of Jesus melted any hate I ever had in my heart. It was a tremendous load off my back to no longer be burdened with hate and resentment. It was literally a taste of freedom.

He then had all the students sit in a circle and asked each of us one by one if there was anyone in the world we hated. Everyone thought this exercise was stupid, and everyone said one by one that of course there were people they hated. Almost everyone said they hated murderers and rapists and bullies, etc. As I listened to them, I only thought how stupid they were being for saying such a thing, even though I felt the same way not too long before. Then my turn came and John asked me if there was anyone I hated, and the only thing that could come out of my mouth was "no". It was the only logical answer to my ten year old mind.

A few months later I was put to the test. I did something bad and my mom punished me by sending me to my room. I became angry and inside myself I said "I hate her". Now this was something I had said before without remorse, but this time guilt ran throughout my being. I immediately thought of Jesus on the cross and the lesson I had learned about forgiveness. I vowed on that day that I would never hate anyone ever again for any reason whatsoever as long as I lived, nor even say the word in anger, even if I were a victim of hate. So far, at the age of 35, I have kept that promise after many trials.

The next stage in my journey didn't come for a few years, when the movie "The Seventh Seal" came out in 1988, starring Demi Moore. I had gone to the theater with my aunt and sisters to watch a movie, but my aunt didn't want to see a kid movie, so she decided to take us all to an R-rated movie she wanted to see. I was twelve years old, so of course I said yes. The movie was sort of freaky, but biblical prophecies about the end of the world were a central theme. It made me curious to the point that when I got home I stole my sisters KJV Bible which she received as a gift from someone, and began to search for the verses cited in the movie, since this was the first I heard of an end of the world and biblical prophecies. I found the verse and was blown away.

Soon thereafter I was watching TV on a Sunday morning and saw some show put out by a cult group on biblical prophecies, and they were describing how the Bible prophecied things like helicopters in the Book of Revelation. This also fascinated me and made me curious enough to search out those Bible passages.

That same year I also decided to watch the six-hour mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" on TV, since it was a year Catholics and Orthodox celebrated Easter together and I always loved getting as much into the spirit of various holidays as I could. One of the great things about this movie, besides the fact that it depicted the best "Jesus" in film history who took the role seriously, was its unashamed use of quoting various Old Testament prophecies which foretold the coming of Jesus. I had never known or heard before this that even the coming of Jesus was foretold hundreds of years before his birth. I was blown away once again and realized that Christianity is a religion of many great and pleasant surprises. It was the first great Holy Week I had in church that year and made everything very real to me. Around this time my grandmother also visited us in America and brought me a Greek children's Bible as a gift. One day at a store I found the same book in English and begged my mom to buy it for me, since the KJV Bible was a little difficult for me. This is when I really started to take Christianity seriously, as I entered my teenage years, reading almost every day my children's Bible full of interesting illustrations.

But this is only where my journey and the trials begin.

Question 2: Who is your primary theological influence?

Besides the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, my primary modern day theological influence is the person who most opened up to me the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, and that person is Fr. John Romanides. Here is a brief history of how this came to be.

Interestingly I first came across Fr. John Romanides working with my father as an electrician. I was a freshman in Hellenic College at the time and my dad called me telling me he was working in the house of a Catholic old woman, and in her basement there were a bunch of old Christian books she was willing to give me. So I went to work with him and took the books, which were mainly old Catholic missals and catechisms and spiritual works published in the early 20th century. As I went through one of these books I came across a cut-out from the Boston Globe in the 1950's by a Greek Orthodox professor at Holy Cross named Fr. John Romanides on the topic of an Orthodox perspective on UFO's and alien life. Shortly thereafter I was discussing the topic with an Orthodox priest at the seminary and told him about the article, but also mentioned I was a little troubled by it because it said that man does not have an immortal soul. I was suspicious also that his picture in the article showed him as shaven and wearing a collar, which at the time made me think twice about how Orthodox this really could be. The priest explained to me that in Orthodoxy we do not believe we possess an eternal soul by nature, but by grace. Then he also said something that resonated within me: "You can't go wrong with Romanides." Struck by the concept of having an immortal soul by grace and not nature, I decided to one day look further into the writings of Fr. Romanides.

After I graduated college in 1998 I immediately got married and decided to move to North Carolina, where I would attend an Evangelical Seminary and get a Philosophy of Religion degree, being taught by some of the biggest names in the Evangelical world at the time with a specialty in apologetics. I was there for three years and fully immersed in the life of the school, but in the end not allowed to get my degree because it was required I sign a Statement of Faith which was a bit too Calvinistic for my tastes.

It was about a year into my education in North Carolina that I really got deep into studying writers like Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and every major Western thinker and philospher into the 20th century up to Derrida. I was also taking classes on Christian doctrine that was taught from a scholastic perspective, as my teacher was big fan and follower of Aquinas, and I wondered how strange it all sounded compared to what I had read in Orthodox Patristic texts. As much as I tried to reconcile the two, I just couldn't, and I was left dazed and confused, on the border of possibly abandoning certain key Orthodox doctrines because the arguments of Aquinas just sounded clearer and better to me in some ways. We spent a lot of time talking about the nature of God, and found it strange how little I was taught about this in my classes at Hellenic College. But deep down I always knew there was something wrong, especially with the doctrine of God as Actus Purus and the concept of Divine Simplicity and the vision of the Divine Essence.

I looked everywhere in my library and on the internet for an Orthodox response to Aquinas, but could not find anything anywhere that was convincing and rational enough. Then I looked into a book by Andrew Sopko titled "Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy: The Theology of Fr. John Romanides" which had just been published and I purchased hoping to begin my studies of Fr. Romanides. When I read the first chapter which contained a summary of the debate he had with his professor Panagiotis Trembelas, I was once again blown away. All the things that troubled me about Aquinas, represented by Trembelas in the debate, was clearly answered by Fr. Romanides in such a convincing way that I could not have imagined. I had come to the point of losing hope in having my questions answered, and every one of them was answered in that first chapter. When I completed that book I truly felt that I had only just then become an Orthodox Christian. A new world opened up to me. And since then I have acquired every writing of Fr. John in both Greek and English, published and unpublished, and read them all over and over again. Without Fr. Romanides, I feel almost as if today I would not be Orthodox nor even alive.

3. Question: What inspired you to begin your weblog?

Many things inspired me. It would be difficult to list them all, so I won't. I will say that my initial inspiration was my bitter separation from my wife after nearly seven years of marriage and the eventual divorce a few years later. It was one of the darker periods of my life, and I saw more evil being put out into the world after my separation than I cared to witness. For three years I fought a battle of whether or not to return evil for evil, or return good for all the evil unwillingly heaped on me continuously during that period. I could easily write a book about all the lessons I learned in those days, and probably will. After over three years of this I felt like I had wasted a lot of time fighting this battle, and any attempt I would make to return good for evil fell on unfertile ground. In a moment of isolation I decided to start something which eventually became this blog, though at first I didn't know the direction I wanted to go with it. Essentially it still has that spirit, pretty much covering a wide range of topics, not all of which are purely of an Orthodox theological nature.

I never thought I would have any readers. I simply did it to see what it would be like and where it would lead me organically. I've had to erase some of my initial posts because a lot of them covered subjects that would probably scandalize my easily scandalized readers. My range of interests carry wide expanses and vast depths for most people in the world to handle. In fact, many of my posts right now scandalize a lot of people, but I had to draw a line somewhere. After all, this is purposefully titled "the weblog of John Sanidopoulos" and I purposefully made sure the address for my page was my name to state that everything here is an expression of my interests and do not aim to please anyone but myself.

Eventually I had to narrow it down to more important topics mainly of an Orthodox Christian nature. Till this day I'm still trying to narrow it down. I was always frustrated how truly little there was on the internet that contained a spirit of authentic Orthodoxy that I have come to learn over the years, in all its simplicity, beauty and purity. I couldn't think of one website that represented this the way I wanted to see it. I was also frustrated that there was so much on the internet by schismatic Old Calendarists and their propaganda which was taken for truth by the gullible and unread, by the vast amount of opinionated bloggers with nothing but vitriol being produced, and by the lack of a Pan-Orthodox unity and spirit on news sites. Very few if any a few years ago represented Greek traditions and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a positive light. But I also wanted to include things in the Russian tradition, the Serbian, the Romanian, the Bulgarian, the Georgian, etc etc. I believe I have created a more positive spirit here where people don't have to feel guilty for belonging to the canonical Church, as many websites at that time by so-called "Orthodox" made you feel, and which put all critics of the Church on the defensive rather than the offensive. I havn't really even begun to tackle the heavy subjects and present the Orthodoxy that I have come to love over the years, but eventually, God willing, I'll get to it. Much work needs to be done, but first a lot of misinformation on the internet needs to be addressed.

This was basically what inpired me to begin this blog, but this is only the beginning of a long journey.

4. Question: Which of the hundreds of posts you have made would you consider the most important?

That is really difficult to answer. But since I'm getting personal, I will go with one in which I provided a quote from a section of St. Peter of Damascus contained in The Philokalia titled "We Should Not Despair Even If We Sin Many Times". Very few people have read The Philokalia these days, so even fewer were aware of this powerful chapter of St. Peter. No passage from the fathers struck a chord for me as much as this one when I first came across it. This was during college when I came to a point that I fell into the sin of despair headlong, to the point where I lost touch in many ways with reality and my humanity. It was a terrible time, even darker than that of my divorce which really hit me hard, but St. Peter helped pull me through in those days. I was pleased after I posted it the positive responses it received, and in many ways I think I started my blog just to post this passage for the whole world to read. Another one I loved from back then was titled The Afflicted Should Be Guided Slowly To Repentance. These are the two that mean the most to me personally.

5. Question: Last year you listed your top ten favorite films for the first half of the year. What are they this year?

Finally an easy question. Since people get scandalized by my interests I decided to not do it this year, but hopefully I'm helping to lead people along a greater path of maturity and non-judgmentalism to list my top ten here. As anyone that knows me knows that I am a great lover of the arts and especially cinema, here are my top ten movies of the first half of 2011 that I have seen. In reverse order they are:

10. Insidious (my favorite horror movie of the year so far, though I also liked Paranormal Activity 2)

9. The Conspirator

8. Bridesmaids

7. X-Men: First Class

6. Thor

5. Submarine

4. Win Win

3. Jane Eyre

2. Super 8

1. Midnight In Paris

Sorry, but "Tree of Life" and "Of Gods and Men", while both very good movies in many ways, were overrated in my humble opinion. "Sanctum" was probably the most underrated. Also, there are three movies I have not seen that may enter my top ten list after I see them within the next few weeks - "Rubber", "13 Assassins" and "Incendies". Probably most of these will be forgotten come Oscars time, since the next six months have a list of very interesting titles that I am really looking forward to.

The Cave Church of All Saints In Nafplio

In the district of Pronoia in Nafplio (Nauplio) there is a natural cave which has been converted into the small Church of All Saints. This was the first cemetery church of Nafplion until 1856. It dates from the second Venetian rule, though an exact date is unknown. Later, during the Turkish rule, it was the only church that was allowed to operate in the area, maybe because there was also a Muslim cemetery nearby. Around it the old cemetery of Nafplio was located, where fighters of the Revolution were buried, like Staikos Staikopoulos, Nikitaras, Paleon Patron Germanos. Though no longer an occupied cemetery, tombstones can still be seen on the floor of the church.

Near the Cave Church of All Saints is the sculpture known as the Lion of the Bavarians. It is an amazing sculpture of the 19th century (1840-1). It was made by the German sculptor Siegel, after the order of King Ludwig of Bavaria, the father of King Otto, the first king of Greece. The lion is lying down and asleep, depicted with an obvious sadness. It is devoted to the Bavarian soldiers from the escort of King Otto who died from the typhus epidemic in Nafplio in 1833-34. The Bavarians were originally buried in the area, but the bones were later transported to the crypt of the Catholic Church of Nafplio.

The Church of All Saints operated as a parish church until 1890, at which time it became a chapel of Holy Trinity Church in Nafplio.

A large crowd gathers in the evening before the feast of All Saints every year to celebrate, and the miraculous icon of All Saints is carried throughout Pronoia.