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June 30, 2012

How The Lord Chose His Twelve Apostles (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

By St. Cyril of Alexandria

"And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve, whom He also named apostles." (Lk 6: 13)

Choosing the Twelve Apostles

Our Lord Jesus Christ spent the night in prayer, conversing with His Father and God in heaven in a way indescribable and beyond our powers of understanding, a way which is solely known to Himself. He thus makes Himself an example to us of that which is necessary for salvation, for He taught us in what way we too may rightly and blamelessly offer our prayers. He then came down from the mountain, and appointed those who were to be the world’s teachers, according to the words He spoke, "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5: 14) Of this appointment of the holy Apostles, the blessed David also makes mention addressing himself, as it were to Christ, "You shall make them princes in all the earth; I will make Your name to be remembered in every generation." (Ps. 45:16) For truly, while they were in the body, they make mention of the glory of Christ, telling His mystery both in cities and villages. Now that they have been called to the mansions that are above, they still converse with us about Him, by the most wise history which they have written concerning Him.

Gifts given to the Apostles

Indeed, those who were appointed priests according to the law of Moses, even Aaron and his company, were made beautiful to the senses by vestments suitable to their priestly dignity. But the divine disciples, being adorned with spiritual gifts, had entrusted to them the ministry of the Gospel oracles. For it was said to them, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons." (Matt. 10:8) Being thus invested with Christ’s power, they filled the whole world with astonishment. But notice the extreme moderation of the Evangelist. He does not simply say that the holy Apostles were appointed, but rather, by introducing the record of these chief ones each by name, takes care that no one should venture to enroll himself in the company of those that were chosen. For as Paul said, "No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God." (Heb. 5: 4) Though the holy Apostles were called by name to this great and splendid dignity, yet from time to time, some men have gone to such a pitch of madness and audacity, as even to name themselves Apostles of Christ, and to seize an honor not granted unto them. Of these the divine disciples made mention, for they said, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder; for Satan even transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness." (2 Cor. 11: 13-14) However, we neither acknowledge nor will receive any one, except those only so named in the Evangelic writings, and also the one who was appointed after them, the most wise Paul. The Savior Himself bore witness to him saying, "He is a vessel of Mine, to bear My name before all the gentiles." (Acts 9: 15)

Symbols of the Holy Apostles

The law pointed them out before in type, and the prophets also proclaimed them. As for instance, it is written in the Mosaic record, "And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes with it; and you shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial." (Lev. 24: 5-6) Who else can be the bread that came down form heaven and gives life to the world, except Christ, the Savior of the universe? In a similar manner the blessed disciples also are named loaves. Having been made partakers of Him, Who nourishes us unto life eternal, they also nourish by their own writings those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. As the Savior is the true light, He also called His disciples, "You are the light of the world."(Matt. 5: 14) Also being Himself the bread of life, He has bestowed upon His disciples to be ranked as loaves. Please, observe the marvelous art of the law: for you shall put, it says, upon the loaves of frankincense and salt. Now the frankincense is the symbol of a sweet odor; and the salt that of understanding and good sense. Both of them existed in the highest degree in the holy Apostles. Their life was one of a sweet savor, as they also said, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ." (2 Cor. 2: 15) More over, they were also full of understanding, so that the prophet David sang of them in the Psalms, "There is Benjamin, their leader, the princes of Judah and their company, the princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali." (Ps.68: 27) The blessed disciples were chosen out of almost every tribe of Israel, and were the bearers of light to the world, holding up the word of life. Indeed, the wonder is that the sages of the Greeks possessed eloquent speech, and an admirable beauty of language, but the disciples of our Savior were mere artificers (skilled craftsmen), boatmen, and fishermen, having no boast of words and no fluency of picked phrases. In expression they were indeed simple men, but rich in knowledge. The literature of the Greeks, with it eloquent phrases, is silent, while the power of the Evangelic preaching has possession of the world. God also make mention of them by the voice of Jeremiah, say of the enemy of all, Satan, "Woe to him who increases. What is not his-how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges? Will not you creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty." (Hab. 2: 6-7) Satan gathered unto him all the inhabitants of the earth, though they were not his, and had caused them to be his worshippers, making his collar heavy. But those who were to plunder his goods woke up; for the net of the apostolic teaching caught all those that were in error, and brought back unto God the whole world.

How To Win Over An Atheist

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"For such is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Peter 2:15).

Brethren, it is difficult to argue with an atheist; it is difficult to talk with an unreasonable man; it is difficult to convince an embittered man.

It is difficult to convince the atheist, the unreasonable man and the embittered man with words. You will convince them easier by deeds. "They may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12).

Do good deeds to those who wish to argue with you and you will win the argument. One deed of compassion will bring the unreasonable man to his senses and will pacify the embittered man quicker than many hours of conversation.

If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire.

Always remember the holy apostles and their successful methods of behavior with men. If an atheist provokes you, the man does not provoke you but the devil provokes you: man by nature is religious. If the unreasonable man scolds you, the man does not scold you but the devil scolds you: man by nature is reasonable. If the embittered one persecutes you, then it is not the man who persecutes you but the devil who persecutes you: for man by nature is good. The devil provokes you to lengthy arguments and unfruitful conversations and flees from good deeds. Do good work in the Name of Christ and the devil will flee and only then will you have dealings with men, with true men; religious, reasonable and good men. Therefore whatever you do, do in the Name of the Lord.

O All-Good Lord, help us to do good and by good to conquer in Your Name. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

June 29, 2012

Sts. Peter and Paul, Foremost of the Holy Apostles

The divinely-blessed Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Andrew the First-called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.

Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at that time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damascus bearing letters of introduction from the high priest. His intention was to bring the disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city, and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias (see Oct. 1), he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway- O wondrous transformation! - beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21). As for his zeal in preaching the Gospel after these things had come to pass, as for his unabating labors and afflictions of diverse kinds, the wounds, the prisons, the bonds, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the journeys, the perils on land, on sea, in cities, in wildernesses, the continual vigils, the daily fasting, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and all those other things that he endured for the Name of Christ, and which he underwent before nations and kings and the Israelites, and above all, his care for all the churches, his fiery longing for the salvation of all, whereby he became all things to all men, that he might save them all if possible, and because of which, with his heart aflame, he continuously traveled throughout all parts, visiting them all, and like a bird of heaven flying from Asia and Europe, the West and East, neither staying nor abiding in any one place - all these things are related incident by incident in the Book of the Acts, and as he himself tells them in his Epistles. His Epistles, being fourteen in number, are explained in 250 homilies by the divine Chrysostom and make manifest the loftiness of his thoughts, the abundance of the revelations made to him, the wisdom given to him from God, wherewith he brings together in a wondrous manner the Old with the New Testaments, and expounds the mysteries thereof which had been concealed under types; he confirms the doctrines of the Faith, expounds the ethical teaching of the Gospel, and demonstrates with exactness the duties incumbent upon every rank, age, and order of man. In all these things his teaching proved to be a spiritual trumpet, and his speech was seen to be more radiant than the sun, and by these means he clearly sounded forth the word of truth and illumined the ends of the world. Having completed the work of his ministry, he likewise ended his life in martyrdom when he was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, at the same time, some say, when Peter was crucified.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
First in prominence among the Apostles, and teachers to the Universe, intercede to the Master of all for peace in the world and for our souls great mercy.

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.

From the Synaxarion, by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Brookline, MA).

An Introduction to the Epistles of the Apostle Paul

By St. John Chrysostom

As I keep hearing the Epistles of the blessed Paul read, and that twice every week, and often three or four times, whenever we are celebrating the memorials of the holy martyrs, gladly do I enjoy the spiritual trumpet, and get roused and warmed with desire at recognizing the voice so dear to me, and seem to fancy him all but present to my sight, and behold him conversing with me.

But I grieve and am pained, that all people do not know this man, as much as they ought to know him; but some are so far ignorant of him, as not even to know for certainty the number of his Epistles. And this comes not of incapacity, but of their not having the wish to be continually conversing with this blessed man. For it is not through any natural readiness and sharpness of wit that even I am acquainted with as much as I do know, if I do know anything, but owing to a continual cleaving to the man, and an earnest affection towards him.

For, what belongs to men beloved, they who love them know above all others; because they are interested in them. And this also this blessed Apostle shows in what he said to the Philippians; "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:7). And so ye also, if ye be willing to apply to the reading of him with a ready mind, will need no other aid. For the word of Christ is true which saith, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 8:7).

But since the greater part of those who here gather themselves to us, have taken upon themselves the bringing up of children, and the care of a wife, and the charge of a family, and for this cause cannot afford to all events aroused to receive those things which have been brought together by others, and bestow as much attention upon the hearing of what is said as ye give to the gathering together of goods. For although it is unseemly to demand only so much of you, yet still one must be content if ye give as much. For from this it is that our countless evils have arisen -- from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this that there are negligent lives; from this labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must needs be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking the worst darkness.

And that this fall not be, let us hold our eyes open to the bright shining of the Apostle's words; for this man's tongue shone forth above the sun, and be abounded more than all the rest in the word of doctrine; for since he labored more abundantly than they, he also drew upon himself a large measure of the Spirit's grace (I Cor. 15:10). And this I constantly affirm, not only from his Epistles, but also from the Acts. For if there were anywhere a season for oratory, to him men everywhere gave place. Wherefore also he was thought by the unbelievers to be Mercurius, because he took the lead in speech (Acts 14:12). And as we are going to enter fully into this Epistle, it is necessary to give the date also at which it was written. For it is not, as most think, before all the others, but before all that were written from Rome, yet subsequent to the rest, though not to all of them. For both those to the Corinthians were sent before this: and this is plain from what he wrote at the end of this, saying as follows: "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints: for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem" (Rom. 15:25, 26). For in writing to the Corinthians he says: "If it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me" (1 Cor. 16:4); meaning this about those who were to carry the money from thence. Whence it is plain, that when he wrote to the Corinthians, the matter of this journey of his was in doubt, but when to the Romans, it stood now a derided thing. And this being allowed, the other point is plain, that this Epistle was after those. But that to the Thessalonians also seems to me to be before the Epistle to the Corinthians: for having written to them before, and having moved the question of alms to them, when he said, "But regarding brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren" (I Thess. 4:9, 10): then he wrote to the Corinthians. And this very point he makes plain in the words, "For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago, and your zeal hath provoked very many" (2 Cor. 9:2): whence he shows that they were the first he had spoken to about this. This Epistle then is later than those, but prior to those from Rome; for he had not as yet set foot in the city of the Romans when he wrote this Epistle, and this he shows by saying, "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift" (Rom. 1:2). But it was from Rome he wrote to the Philipians; wherefore he says, "All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cæsar's household" (Phil. 4:22): and to the Hebrews from thence likewise, wherefore also he says, "all they of Italy salute them" (Heb. 13:24). And the Epistle to Timothy he sent also from Rome, when in prison; which also seems to me to be the last of all the Epistles; and this is plain from the end: "For I am now ready to be offered," he says, "and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6). But that he ended his life there, is clear, I may say, to every one. And that to Philemon is also very late, (for he wrote it in extreme old age, wherefore also he said, "as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner in Christ Jesus") (Philem. 9), yet previous to that to the Colossians. And this again is plain from the end. For in writing to the Colossians, he says, "All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, whom I have sent with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother" (Col. 4:7). For this was that Onesimus in whose behalf he composed the Epistle to Philemon. And that this was no other of the same name with him, is plain from the mention of Archippus. For it is he whom he had taken as worker together with himself in the Epistle to Philemon, when he besought him for Onesimus, whom when writing to the Colossians he stirreth up, saying, "Say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received, that thou fulfil it'" (Col. 4:17). And that to the Galatians seems to me to be before that to the Romans.

But if they have a different order in the Bibles, that is nothing wonderful, since the twelve Prophets, though not exceeding one another in order of time, but standing at great intervals from one another, are in the arrangement of the Bible placed in succession. Thus Haggai and Zachariah and the Messenger prophesied after Ezekiel and Daniel, and long after Jonah and Zephaniah and all the rest. Yet they are nevertheless joined with all those from whom they stand so far off in time.

But let no one consider this an undertaking beside the purpose, nor a search of this kind a piece of superfluous curiosity; for the date of the Epistles contributes no little to what we are looking after. For when I see him writing to the Romans and to the Colossians about the same subjects, and yet not in a like way about the same subjects; but to the former with much condescension, as when he says, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations; for one believeth that he may eat all things, another, herbs" (Rom. 14:1, 2): who is weak, eateth weak. But to the Colossians he does not write in this way, though about the same things, but with greater boldness of speech: "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ," he says, "why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not, taste not, handle not), which all are to perish with the using, not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col. 2:20-23); -- I find no other reason for this difference than the time of the transaction. For at the first it was needful to be condescending, but afterwards it became no more so. And in many other places one may find him doing this. Thus both the physician and the teacher are used to do. For neither does the physician treat alike his patients in the first stage of their disorder, and when they have come to the point of having health thenceforth, nor the teacher those children who are beginning to learn and those who want more advanced subjects of instruction.

Now to the rest he was moved to write by some particular cause and subject, and this he shows, as when he says to the Corinthians, "Touching those things whereof ye wrote unto me" (1 Cor. 7:1). And to the Galatians too from the very commencement of the whole Epistle writes so as to indicate the same thing; but to these for what purpose and wherefore does he write? For one finds him bearing testimony to them that they are "full of goodness, being filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish others" (Rom. 15:14). Why then does he write to them? "Because of the grace of God," he says, "which is given unto me, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ" (ib. 15, 16). Wherefore also he says in the beginning: "I am a debtor; as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also; for what is said -- as that they are able to exhort others also" (Rom. 1:14, 15), -- and the like, rather belongs to encomium and encouragement: and the correction afforded by means of a letter, was needful even for these; for since he had not yet been present, he bringeth the men to good order in two ways, both by the profitableness of his letter and by the expectation of his presence.

For such was that holy soul, it comprised the whole world and carried about all men in itself thinking the nearest relationship to be that in God. And he loved them so, as if he had begotten them all, or rather showed a greater instinctive affection than any father; for such is the grace of the Spirit, it exceedeth the pangs of the flesh, and displays a more ardent longing than theirs. And this one may see specially in the soul of Paul, who having as it were become winged through love, went continually round to all, abiding nowhere nor standing still. For since he had heard Christ saying, "Peter, lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep" (John 21:15); and setting forth this as the greatest test of love, he displayed it in a very high degree.

Let us too then, in imitation of him, each one bring into order, if not the world, or not entire cities and nations, yet at all events his own house, his wife, his children, his friends, his neighbors. And let no one say to me, "I am unskilled and unlearned." Nothing were less instructed than Peter, nothing more rude than Paul, and this himself confessed, and was not ashamed to say, "though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge" (2 Cor. 11:6). Yet nevertheless this rude one, and that unlearned man, overcame countless philosophers, stopped the mouths of countless orators, and did all by heir own ready mind and the grace of God. What excuse then shall we have, if we are not equal to twenty names, and are not even of service to them that live with us? This is but a pretence and an excuse -- for it is not want of learning or of instruction which hindereth our teaching, but drowsiness and sleep (Acts 1:15; 2:41). Let us then having shaken off this sleep with all diligence cleave to our own members, that we may even here enjoy much calm, by ordering in the fear of God them that are akin to us, and hereafter may partake of countless blessings through the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ towards man, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, now, and evermore, and to all ages. Amen.

The Apostle Peter, A Greater Philosopher Than Plato

By St. John Chrysostom

Why then, it is asked, did not Christ exercise His influence upon Plato, and upon Pythagoras? Because the mind of Peter was much more philosophical than their minds. They were in truth children shifted about on all sides by vain glory; but this man was a philosopher, one apt to receive grace.

If you laugh at these words, it is no wonder; for those aforetime laughed, and said, the men were full of new wine [Acts 2:13]. But afterwards, when they suffered those bitter calamities, exceeding all others in misery; when they saw their city falling in ruins, and the fire blazing, and the walls hurled to the ground, and those manifold frantic horrors, which no one can find words to express, they did not laugh then.1 And you will laugh then, if you have the mind to laugh, when the time of hell is close at hand, when the fire is kindled for your souls.

But why do I speak of the future? Shall I show you what Peter is, and what Plato, the philosopher? Let us for the present examine their respective habits, let us see what were the pursuits of each. The one wasted his time about a set of idle and useless dogmas and philosophies, as he says, that we may learn that the soul of our philosopher becomes a fly. Most truly said, a fly! Not indeed changed into one, but a fly must have entered upon possession of the soul which dwelt in Plato; for what but a fly is worthy of such ideas! The man was full of irony, and of jealous feelings against every one else, as if he made it his ambition to introduce nothing useful, either out of his own head or other people's. Thus he adopted the metempsychosis from another, and from himself produced The Republic, in which he enacted those laws full of gross turpitude. Let the women, he says, be in common, and let the virgins go naked, and let them wrestle before the eyes of their lovers, and let there also be common fathers, and let the children begotten be common. But with us, not nature makes common fathers, but the philosophy of Peter does this; as for that other, it made away with all paternity. For Plato's system only tended to make the real father next to unknown, while the false one was introduced. It plunged the soul into a kind of intoxication and filthy wallowing. Let all, he says, have intercourse with the women without fear. The reason why I do not examine the maxims of poets, is, that I may not be charged with ripping up fables. And yet I am speaking of fables much more ridiculous than even those. Where have the poets devised anything so portentous as this?

But (not to enter into the discussion of his other maxims), what say you to these — when he equips the females with arms, and helmets, and greaves, and says that the human race has no occasion to differ from the canine! Since dogs, he says, the female and the male, do just the same things in common, so let the women do the same works as the men, and let all be turned upside down. For the devil has always endeavored by their means to show that our race is not more honorable than that of brutes; and, in fact, some have gone to such a pitch of (κενοδοξίας) absurdity, as to affirm that the irrational creatures are endowed with reason. And see in how many various ways he has run riot in the minds of those men! For whereas their leading men affirmed that our soul passes into flies, and dogs, and brute creatures; those who came after them, being ashamed of this, fell into another kind of turpitude, and invested the brute creatures with all rational science, and made out that the creatures — which were called into existence on our account — are in all respects more honorable than we! They even attribute to them foreknowledge and piety. The crow, they say, knows God, and the raven likewise, and they possess gifts of prophecy, and foretell the future; there is justice among them, and polity, and laws.

Perhaps you do not credit the things I am telling you. And well may you not, nurtured as you have been with sound doctrine; since also, if a man were fed with this fare, he would never believe that there exists a human being who finds pleasure in eating dung. The dog also among them is jealous, according to Plato. But when we tell them that these things are fables, and are full of absurdity, "You do not enter (ἐ νοήσατε) into the higher meaning," say they. No, we do not enter into this your surpassing nonsense, and may we never do so: for it requires (of course! ) an excessively profound mind, to inform me, what all this impiety and confusion would be at. Are you talking, senseless men, in the language of crows, as the children are wont (in play)? For you are in very deed children, even as they.

But Peter never thought of saying any of these things: he uttered a voice, like a great light shining out in the dark, a voice which scattered the mist and darkness of the whole world. Again, his deportment, how gentle it was, how considerate (ἐ πιεικὲς); how far above all vainglory; how he looked towards heaven without all self-elation, and this, even when raising up the dead! But if it had come to be in the power of any one of those senseless people (in mere fantasy of course) to do anything like it, would he not straightway have looked for an altar and a temple to be reared to him, and have wanted to be equal with the gods? Since in fact when no such sign is forthcoming, they are forever indulging such fantastic conceits.

And what, pray you, is that Minerva of theirs, and Apollo, and Juno? They are different kinds of demons among them. And there is a king of theirs, who thinks fit to die for the mere purpose of being accounted equal with the gods. But not so the men here: no, just the contrary. Hear how they speak on the occasion of the lame man's cure. "You men of Israel, why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made him to walk?" [Acts 3:12]. "We also are men of like passions with you" [Acts 14:14]. But with those, great is the self-elation, great the bragging; all for the sake of men's honors, nothing for the pure love of truth and virtue (φιλοσοφίας ἔνεκεν). For where an action is done for glory, all is worthless. For though a man possess all, yet if he have not the mastery over this (lust), he forfeits all claim to true philosophy, he is in bondage to the more tyrannical and shameful passion. Contempt of glory; this it is that is sufficient to teach all that is good, and to banish from the soul every pernicious passion. I exhort you therefore to use the most strenuous endeavors to pluck out this passion by the very roots; by no other means can you have good esteem with God, and draw down upon you the benevolent regard of that Eye which never sleeps.

Wherefore, let us use all earnestness to obtain the enjoyment of that heavenly influence, and thus both escape the trial of present evils, and attain unto the future blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and to all ages. Amen.


1. Refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.

From Homily 4 on the Acts of the Apostles

June 28, 2012

"How I Came To Know Christ" - Metropolitan Meletios of Nikopolis

His Eminence Meletios (Kalamaras), who was Metropolitan of Nikopolis and Preveza in Greece, passed from death to life on 21 June 2012 (see here). Metropolitan Meletios, who had lately faced several serious health issues, was 79.

His Eminence was born in 1933 in Alagonia, Kalamata, and was a graduate in theology and in classical literature-philosophy from the University of Athens. He was chosen and ordained Metropolitan of Nikopolis and Preveza in 1980, having been ordained both deacon and priest by the Metropolitan of Messenia, His Eminence Chrysostomos (Daskalakis).

Metropolitan Meletios was especially well known for his transformative work in the Metropolis of Messenia, which was captured in the book, Beauty for Ashes: The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community, by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett (SVS Press, 2009).

The book covers the political history and religious character of the region of Nikopolis, from time of the Apostle Paul in AD 63 to the arrival of Bishop Meletios in 1980. 
With great sensitivity, the book deals with the issue of sexual misconduct within the church, the restoration of the local church to spiritual health, and the renewed trust between church leaders and the laity. The book recounts how Bishop Meletios, along with the local monastic community, applied his ancient faith in a modern context to bring about social and religious change.

His Eminence was also well known for his preaching in the Holy Metropolis of Messenia, and, in a broader ecclesial context, he served as secretary to the Holy Synod on matters of Interchurch Affairs. He himself authored several books, and he received an award from the Theological Academy of Athens for his book The Fifth Ecumenical Council.

Below is testimony in his own words of how he came to embrace Christianity:

By Metropolitan Meletios of Nikopolis

A. The Problem

1. When I was a teenager, I always wanted to be happy. I wanted to be the happiest person in the world! Still I wanted my life to have meaning! I looked for answers to the following questions:

• Who am I?
• Why was I born?
• Why am I live?
• Where is the path of my life leading me?

At the same time I always wanted to be free. Even the most free person in the world! For me freedom was not about doing whatever I wanted (this is something we can all do, and most people do this.) I wanted to have the strength to do what I was indebted to do. Because many people know what they have to do, but they do not have the strength to do it, that is, they do not have the strength of will to say no to irrational tendencies, which pushes them into "other things". For an addict knows how tragic is his situation. He wants to correct it. But an internal tendency makes him into a wreck! The same happens with various other passions of the "flesh".

2. What a terrible thing, for a young person to be totally free, to have a philosophy of absolute freedom, and ultimately determine that he is a slave - indeed, in chains!

B. The Crooked Path

1. So I started looking for an answer to this issue of internal freedom. And what do you say I found? I found that all (or almost all) those who had some inner freedom, also had some religiosity. So I had a big decision. I too took a similar step: I went to church! But I did not like it. There I found nothing to comfort my soul. Instead I felt very constricted!

I am a very practical man. So when I see something that does not suit me, I put a full stop! In the matter of "religion" I did something more. I not only put a full stop, but something more. I put on a cross (. - +)!

2. Then I thought that the most important thing is to succeed in life. To strive. To become famous. To become a leader....

At university I realized that the presidency of different years had many means, and played an important role in the lives of university students and its life. So I decided to be a candidate. I became president of the first year! I became an agent! Everyone knew me! I organized Speeches, Lectures, Games, Sit-ins, Strikes. I participated in meetings. And what was the benefit? After a while I began to get bored.

One Monday I awoke with a terrible headache. Sunday I had gone to bed too late. I thought: Five days on the treadmill! I'm waiting for Friday to come! Why was "pleasure" the three "free" nights: Friday, Saturday and Sunday! And "ptooey" from the beginning!

3. Until then all the young men thought of me as the "personification" of determination and joy! But things were not so. I knew that I was like a boat on the ocean waves. Circumstances, situations and emotions, not being in control of them at all, were taking me where they wanted. And my life was hell! And the worst? Then I did not know anyone who could give me beneficial words. And even if there was, his words would not benefit. They would not suffice! Because more than nice words I needed the strength (which is needed!) to put them into practice. And this strength I could not find anywhere.

In this situation, I began to think to myself:

"Is there a more honest man than me trying to find the right way, trying to find the truth?"

C. A New Finding

1. One time it caught my eye that in our university there is another "circle": Few students and two teachers. It was a "Christian circle." They stood out from the others. Because their members appeared to know: what they believe and why they believe it. They had peace. And consistency.

I decided to approach them. I was not bothered if they agreed with me. I learned to have "understanding." To calmly watch the beliefs of others. And to respect them. I was working in harmony and friendship with: leftists, anarchists, rightists and others.

2. But - as I said - this group was somewhat different. This forced me to work with them seriously. And what I found! What they said was more little than they needed. They spoke of nothing but love. They had love. And, unlike everyone else, they were not bothered by the circumstances. They did not victimize their authorities. They were not boats that were tossed by the waves. They looked as if they had a deep joy. Not coming from outside pleasant circumstances: games, fun, love, etc. They had the joy within. A deep joy. They were happy to an extent, which made me angry. They had something that I did not have.

May we all be jealous of what we do not have. In this way I was jealous of their inner joy. And I made the decision to join with them.

"I will have benefit!" I thought.

3. And after a few days, I was in their company. We were six students and two teachers. And the debate began. About God.

Until then, every time I heard talk about God, the yelling began. To show how I was somehow "smart". As you know in such cases, a "smart" person yells as hard as he can.

"Just think, my child! He is Christian! Ha-ha-ha ... And he runs behind the priests! ... Ha-ha-ha ... As an old lady! ... A young man! ... A student of the positive sciences! ..."

And it took a long time until I realized that the more one yells, the more empty-headed one is!

The debate did not attract my interest. I was devoted to looking at a beautiful girl, who was on their team. Until then I had the idea that Christians are all foul. I found that I had this wrong. And wanting to hide my thoughts, I began to squirm in my chair. And then I asked, as if desiring to have her words capture my interest wholeheartedly.

"You had the goodness to tell me what it was that brought the greatest influence on your life. Why is your life unlike other students and teachers?"

The female student which I spoke about, must have known what she believed. She looked at me in the eyes with a quiet seriousness and said only two words, which I did not expect to hear.

"Jesus Christ!"

I replied somewhat angry:

"Oh, in the name of God! Let these things go! I'm sick of religion! I'm sick of the Church! I'm sickened of religious books! Because everything that is related to religion causes wilting! ..."

"But I was not talking about religion! I said: Jesus Christ! ..."

This distinction I had not heard!

And the girl went on:

"Christianity is not a religion. Religion is the attempt made by man to find the way to God. Christianity is not a religion! Christianity tells us to the opposite: Of the attempt God makes to find man."

I had not heard this before. The views circulating are tragically simple. And usually with its fixed-form simplistic simplifications we imagine they solve scientific problems!

Lastly I came to know a professor of the university, who said seriously:

"Everyone who goes to Church is a Christian!"

I could not hold it in, but said:

"According to this reasoning, every man who goes to the garage is a car! What does the physical presence of a person in church have with the Christian faith? A Christian is one who believes correctly in Christ!"

D. Great is the Truth!

1. Once, while in this circle, they instructed me to say a word about Christ. Namely: How did He become man? How was He crucified? Why was He crucified? How was He buried? How was He resurrected? And what can this offer a youth in the twentieth century?

I thought of all these things then as stupidities. I had the idea that people who were involved in these things were whacks, cretins. In student gatherings until then I lurked furiously to hear anyone say something about religion and Jesus Christ, to rush on him, to pulverize him, to dust him away! My opinion was: To be a Christian believer, one should not have a stone, nor a molecule of gray matter. But the time came and I realized that this was for me!

I tried to avoid it. "What business did I have in such matters?" I would say to myself. But I could not. The young people of the Christian circle would not let me! And so I took on the matter. But with a selfish attitude. With the thought: "I will dust them off! I will thunder at them! And then I will go!"

But things did not evolve that way.

2. When I set about the matter, I heard something mentioned about evidence, which I took to study, to appreciate their seriousness. Why would I risk becoming the laughingstock in their eyes, immediately after the young people would have made me dust! So I threw myself into the study of this "evidence" with the sole objective in warding it off. But I did not succeed. I concluded that the books used by believers give the most accurate picture of the person of Christ. This finding terribly impressed upon me.

I understood that the question of our relationship with Christ is the greatest issue of our lives. I sacrificed everything. And I paved my way to study. I read all kinds of atheistic and all kinds of Christian apologetic books that I could find. And my conclusion was always the same:

The truth is in the books of the Church. Christ is the one of Whom the Church says: our God and Savior.

3. And I became a Christian.

Source: From the book, What Is Christ? Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

The Phanar Readies To Take Action Regarding Halki

Vercihan Ziflioğlu
June 28, 2012

The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is preparing to take the issue of the reopening of Halki Seminary, located on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, to the legal platforms, sources have told Hürriyet Daily News.

The Greek minority in Turkey has long awaited the opening of the seminary, which was the main center of Orthodox Greek theological education for more than a century before Turkish authorities closed it in 1971, under a law designed to bring universities under state control. The issue was also on the agenda when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met U.S. President Barack Obama in Seoul on March 25. Obama congratulated Erdoğan for “the efforts that he has made within Turkey to protect religious minorities.”

However, having yet to receive a decision on the reopening despite the government’s positive stance, the patriarchate has decided to take the issue to legal platforms. According to information gathered from patriarchate sources, if the Halki Seminary has still not officially been reopened by the end of the year, steps will be taken to pursue the issue at the court. There is no legal obstacle to the seminary’s being reopened, sources say. The patriarchate will first apply to the Ministry of Education next term, and if they still receive no positive answer on the reopening, a lawsuit will be filed.

Tired of hearing only words

Stating that they were being deprived of the right to education, even though they are citizens of the Turkish Republic, patriarchate sources said they were disturbed that the issue of mosques in Greece has been brought up often recently.

“To demand the opening of a mosque revives reciprocity. We are humiliated; they are trying our patience. We are also the citizens of this state and we are sick and tired of friendly words and promises,” sources said.

In his latest statements about the Halki seminary, Patriarch Bartholomew said he had “become tired and had run out of patience … They are constantly making promises, creating the impression that the seminary is about to open, but there is no progress. The [Justice and Development Party] AKP government has returned some of our foundations, and some of our clergymen have been given Turkish citizenship without any trouble. That’s okay. But still, I would like to ask these questions: Is it really that hard to reopen the Halki Seminary? Why do they let politics interfere with this issue?”

“We haven’t filed a lawsuit before, even though we could have, because we believed in solving our problems on more friendly terms with Turkey. But unfortunately no progress has been made. Until the end of this year, we will fight for our rights with all our patience,” said patriarchate sources. The reopening of the Halki Seminary is critical in order for Turkey to gain international prestige, sources added. “This step will also be a sign of [Turkey’s] commitment to the democratization process.”

In 1971, with the introduction of the Higher Education Law, the Halki Seminary was taken under state supervision. The Fener Greek Patriarchate did not accept this decision, so the theology department of the seminary was closed. After continuing to provide education at the high school level for a while, the seminary was shut down by the patriarchate.

Documentary on the Romanian Gulag of Pitesti

The Pitesti prison (Romanian: Închisoarea Pitesti) was a penal facility in Pitesti, Romania, best remembered for the brainwashing experiment carried out by Communist authorities in 1949-1952 (also known as Experimentul Pitesti - the "Pitesti Experiment" or Fenomenul Pitesti - the "Pitesti Phenomenon"). The latter was designed as an attempt at violently "reeducating" the mostly young political prisoners, primarily supporters of the fascist and anti-semitic Iron Guard, as well as former members of the National Peasants' and National Liberal parties or Zionist members of the Romanian Jewish community.

The experiment's goal, compliant with the regime's take on Leninism, was for prisoners to discard past political and religious convictions, and, eventually, to alter their personalities to the point of absolute obedience. Estimates for the total number of people passed through the experiment range from 1,000[2] to 5,000. It is considered the largest and most intensive brainwashing torture program in the Eastern bloc.

Read more here.

A Difference Between Philosophy and Theology

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Hellenes and the Christian Faith is that the entire Hellenistic philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words and even less comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary.

When Patriarch Photios read the words of Mark the Ascetic concerning the spiritual life, he noticed a certain unclarity with the author for which he wisely said: "That [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from that truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice and that cannot be explained by words only." And, the great Patriarch adds, "It is not only the case with these homilies nor only with these men, but rather with all of those who attempted to expound the ascetical rules, passions and instructions, which are better understood from practice alone."

Truth and Ecumenical Dialogue

Thomas C. Oden (Ph.D., Yale University), an American United Methodist theologian, is an executive editor of Christianity Today and author or editor of many books, including After Modernity--What? and Classical Pastoral Care.

Oden, formerly a liberal theologian, is best known as a proponent of paleo-orthodoxy, an approach to theology that often relies on patristic sources. He has published a series of books, titled Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, that he says are tools for promoting "classical Christianity." Oden suggests that Christians need to rely upon the wisdom of the historical Church, particularly the early Church, rather than on modern scholarship and theology, which is often, in his view, tainted by political agendas.

He has written, "The term paleo-orthodoxy is employed to make clear that we are not talking about neo-orthodoxy. Paleo- becomes a necessary prefix only because the term orthodoxy has been preempted and to some degree tarnished by the modern tradition of neo-orthodoxy" (Requiem, p. 130).

Oden says his mission is "to begin to prepare the postmodern Christian community for its third millennium by returning again to the careful study and respectful following of the central tradition of classical Christianity" (After Modernity...What?, p. 34).

In his book Turning Around the Mainline, Oden offers a critique of mainline liberal Protestant denominations, and chronicles the roots and history of evangelical and orthodox renewal movements. Below are a few excerpts on what he has to say about modern Ecumenical dialogue.

By Thomas C. Oden

When Dialogue Avoids Truth

Lowercase orthodox believers are not seeking a debating society that would aspire to be a religious version of the United Nations. They do not see organic union as the final objective, especially if that objective is reduced to rhetorical evasion and organizational tinkering. What they want to see is the living confession of Jesus Christ transforming human, personal, and social experience. Wherever they see that, they know instantly from the heart their deep affinity with it. Wherever they don’t hear that, they know inwardly how alien and distant are these temptations.

The seductions of dialogue typically draw believers toward subjective feelings, mutual congratulation, and institutional horse-trading. They thrive on negotiation or arbitration models of interaction. They thereby draw us far away from the truth that is declared in Jesus Christ in whom all believers are called to participate by faith. So it should not be surprising that classic Christian believers tend to regard undisciplined dialogue as a temptation…

Confessing Christians have a long history of experience with the frustration and futility of such undisciplined dialogue not ordered under the written Word. It less often leads to the question of truth than to the question of how we “feel,” and how we can accommodate or negotiate our competing interests. That is different from the question of truth announced in the gospel, which alone engenders the unity of believers.

If the central question of Christian unity for classic Christian believers is the truth of the gospel, then the apostolic testimony made known in Jesus Christ is the first step toward unity. All other dialogue, however altruistic it may appear, is truly a diversion, a pretension of searching for truth, a ruse that substitutes narcissistic talk for integrity. What seems an innocent and generous invitation to dialogue actually amounts to a disposed predetermination to replace the truth question with what we “feel” about our own experience. In this way dialogue becomes an instrument of manipulation already shaped by the wrong premises. Global orthodox believers seek unity in the truth, not unity apart from truth, not unity as a substitute for the truth, but unity in the truth of the revealed Word. (Turning Around the Mainline, 66-67).

Unity in Truth

Oldline ecumenical debate and planning are prone to misfire through a fundamental misunderstanding of the relation of unity and truth: They do not seek unity based on truth.

Four modern ecumenical arguments in particular misfire, as shown by David Mills. They even make Christian disunity more likely. These four following arguments have prevailed in liberal ecumenism, each unintentionally eliciting disunity. Each is a mistake “if-then” correlation:

1. If we can just get together on some common ethical standards, then we will therefore achieve the unity of believers.

2. If we could have the same open ecumenical feelings or experiences, then we would feel our unity.

3. If we could just be open to dialogue, then we would grow toward unity.

4. If we merge the separate institutions based on different memories created by the Spirit, then we would experience our unity through an institution, and thus we now must renew our commitment to the institutional vestiges of ecumenism.

All these attempts are alike in one way: they put unity ahead of truth. They squander the truth to achieve a superficial unity. All are mistaken. All spawn disillusionment with efforts at Christian unity. Together they have resulted in the ecumenical turbulence that now buffets us.

All misfire for the same reason: they base unity on something other than the truth, by avoiding the only basis from which Christian unity can emerge—that is the revealed Word whose hearing is enabled by the Holy Spirit and received through faith. (Turning Around the Mainline, 111)

June 27, 2012

Sts. Anthony and Theodosius, Founders of the Kiev Caves Lavra

According to the Primary Chronicle, in the early 11th century, Anthony, an Orthodox monk from Esphigmenon Monastery on Mount Athos, originally from Liubech of the Principality of Chernihiv, returned to Rus' and settled in Kiev as a missionary of monastic tradition to Kievan Rus'. He chose a cave at the Berestov Mount that overlooked the Dnieper River and a community of disciples soon grew. Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev ceded the whole mount to the Antonite monks who founded a monastery built by architects from Constantinople. This was the Kiev Caves Lavra. Saint Theodosius' greatest achievement has been the introducing of the monastic rule of Saint Theodore the Studite in the Monastery of the Caves whence it spread to all the monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the Orthodox Church, their names are often listed together and they are commemorated together on September 2, while each has his own feast day as well (July 10 for St. Anthony and May 3 for St. Theodosius).

Saint Cyril Loukaris, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1638)

St. Cyril Loukaris (Feast Day - June 27)

By Athanasios Paliouras

The entire life of the Patriarch Cyril I Loukaris (Lucaris) is characterized by ceaseless activity and constant concern for the integrity and safety of the Orthodox Church.

Cyril Loukaris was born in 1572 in Heraklion, Crete, and had the chance to be a pupil of Meletios Vlastos, the learned monk who taught at the School of the Sinaitic Metochion of St. Catherine's Monastery. After attending courses of general education, he continued his studies under the eminent scholar, writer and preacher Maximos Margunios Bishop of Kythira (1549-1602). He completed his studies in Venice (1584-1588) and later enrolled as a student in the University of Padova (1589-1593).

In 1593, at the age of 21, he was ordained deacon and, later, presbyter by the celebrated Patriarch of Alexandria Meletios Pegas (1549-1601), who perceived the young man's qualities and encouraged him in many ways.

Cyril's association with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and, particularly, with the great Patriarch Jeremias II Tranos gave him the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the problems facing the Orthodox Churches. Later, he travelled throughout SW Russia, especially the Ukraine, to boost the morale of the Orthodox and strengthen their resistance against the proselytizing propaganda of the Uniates.

In 1601, at the age of 30, Cyril was elected to the Patriarchal throne of Alexandria, succeeding Meletios Pegas. As Patriarch of Alexandria (1601-1620), he re-organised the Patriarchate's finances, repaired churches, devoted time to preaching and kept a running correspondence with the Churches of Jerusalem, Cyprus and SW Russia. In 1612 he acted as locum tenens of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a short period. But all the time, the problems created by the Uniate Church in SW Russia and Constantinople were among his main concerns. In an attempt to normalize the relations between the other Churches and the Patriarchates of the East, he made contacts with the Church of England and his efforts were readily supported by the English and Dutch Ambassadors to the Porte. Later, this policy was continued with the Calvinist divines of Geneva. Among the results of these inter-Christian approaches was the invitation of young Greeks to study in England. One of them was a youth from Macedonia, Metrophanes Kritopoulos, who became, later, Patriarch of Alexandria (1589-1639). Cyril presented King James I with a very fine manuscript of the Holy Bible, known as Codex Alexandrinus, and sent a valuable manuscript of the Pentateuch, with Arabic translation, to Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 4 November 1620, the Holy Synod of Constantinople elected "Cyril Loukaris, renowned for his virtue and wisdom", Ecumenical Patriarch. From 1620 to 1638 Cyril reigned five times (1620-23, 1623-33, 1633-34, 1634-35, 1637-38), and found himself at the centre of the acrimonious dispute between the Papacy and the Reformists, while the Churches of the East, especially that of Constantinople, experienced the stifling and infuriating propaganda of the Jesuits.

State diplomacy took an active part in the conflicting actions and counteractions of the Jesuits and the Reformists. France and Austria offered their services to Rome, where the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide was organizing a scheme against Cyril. Part of the plan was to discredit the Patriarch with the clergy and laity by spreading the rumour that he was a Calvinist. At the same time, the Ambassadors of France and Austria were pressing the Porte to depose Cyril.

Indeed, Cyril was deposed five times and each time he was re-elected to the Patriarchal throne by the clergy, with the support of the Orthodox population. Anglicans and Protestants (the English, Dutch, Germans, Swedes) also supported the return of Cyril to their own advantage. In the swirl of conflicting political and religious rivalries and the resulting dangerous climate, Cyril Loukaris tried to steer a course that, in his opinion, would serve best the interests of the Orthodox Church. He was fully aware of the critical state of affairs and of the pervasive influence of the Jesuits. He wrote: "They (the Jesuits) seek our destruction and the ruin of the Patriarchate and of the entire Church of the Greeks."

The Calvinists, from their side, used political influence, diplomacy, money and every other means to win the Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church over to their views. Cornelius Van Haag, the Dutch Ambassador, made use of all his influence in this unrelenting struggle, assisted by the Calvinist divine Antoine Leger. The latter, through theological discussions, fiery sermons and friendly approaches eventually swayed the Patriarch's entourage, which included Nathaniel Conopios Metropolitan of Smyrna, Meletios Pontogalos Metropolitan of Ephesus, Theophilos Corydalleus Metropolitan of Arta, and John Caryophyllos.

At about that time, the Calvinists of Geneva arranged to print and publish the Holy Bible translated into modern Greek by Maximos Callipolitis. Cyril found himself obligated to sanction Callipolitis's translation, though it contained Calvinist views that could cause confusion to the common people. This confusion became chaotic when, in 1629, the Calvinists of Geneva published the first Latin edition of the so-called "Lucarian Confession", in which the Patriarch appeared to accept the Calvinist doctrines and betray the Orthodox faith. From 1629 to 1633 the "Eastern Confession of Christian Faith" was published under the name of Cyril Loukaris in Latin, Greek, French, German and English. J. Karmiris writes: «This inelegantly worded "Confession" roused great commotion and indescribable agitation throughout the Church and caused preoccupation not only to the ecclesiastical theologians but also to the politicians and the diplomats. In the beginning almost everyone believed it to be a forgery, not a true work of the Patriarch." More than 350 years have elapsed since the first publication of the so-called "Lucarian Confession". Eminent historians, theologians and researchers have tried to clarify whether Loukaris was the actual author of the "Confession" attributed to him by the Calvinists. The Patriarch himself verbally denied it on several occasions and proclaimed his Orthodox faith with his attitude and in his letters. To the end, however, Cyril did not disavow the "Confession" in writing. Successive Synods of the Orthodox Church have condemned the "Confession" as heretical and alien to the Orthodox faith of the Fathers.

The tragic figure of Cyril Loukaris stood in the midst of opposing religious currents. On the one side the Protestants tried hard to win over the Orthodox in their struggle against the Roman Catholics, going so far as to involve the Patriarch himself with the "Lucarian Confession" in order to promulgate their novel doctrines. On the other side the machinations of the Jesuits reached unheard of extremes. The Ecumenical Patriarch, alone, unprotected and betrayed, was judged and condemned. On 27 June 1638, he was strangled and his body was flung into the Bosporus. Manuel Gedeon writes that after some time "the sea out of compassion for this outstanding champion of Orthodoxy washed ashore his body on the island of Halki". Cyril's body was buried with all honours by the Patriarch Parthenius I (1639-1644) in the precinct of the historical Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa on Halki.

In the course of his difficult patriarchy "the much famed and very wise" Cyril Loukaris issued a large number of decrees on many ecclesiastical matters. A few of the synodical resolutions, patriarchal decisions and sigils are noted below:

1. A synodical resolution in July 1622 canonized St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia.

2. A special patriarchal encyclical appealed to all the Orthodox to make donations for the rebuilding of the Monastery of Simonopetra, Mount Athos, which had been destroyed by fire.

3. In 1627, Cyril set up a patriarchal printing-press for the publication of Orthodox works that would invigorate the faith of the sorely tried Orthodox world.

4. Cyril appointed as Director of the famous Patriarchal Academy "Theophyllos Corydalleus, celebrated erudite and expounder of Aristotle's writings".

5. In 1628, Cyril instituted the dating of patriarchal documents from the Birth of Christ and not from the Creation of the World, as was the practice until then.

Note: Hieromartyr Patriarch Cyril Loukaris, immediately after his martyric death, was honored by the Church as a Saint and Martyr. Saint Eugenios the Aitolos (Aug. 5) composed a Service in his honor in order for him to be commemorated. The official canonization took place by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on October 6, 2009.

See also: Hieromartyr Cyril Loukaris Celebrated By Patriarchate of Alexandria

For services to St. Cyril, see links here.

Rejoice, delightful flower of the island of Crete, and all-famed Chief Shepherd of Alexandria; Rejoice, Patriarch, wise man of the city of Constantine, and pillar of the Church, glorious Cyril.

Podgoria Copou Monastery in Iasi, Romania

The Podgoria Copou Monastery, dedicated to Saints Athanasius the Great and Cyril of Alexandria, is a Romanian Orthodox monastery, located in the Copou Hill neighborhood in Iaşi, Romania. It celebrates its feast on January 18th.

The Monastery was built by Moldavian Prince Vasile Lupu in 1638 and put under the Athonite Monastery of Karakalou. Cyril Loukaris, Patriarch of Constantinople, consecrated the Monastery on 30 April 1638. Greek abbots oversaw the Monastery until 1838.

There is a legend that during an invasion of Iasi by the Tatars, Mrs. Tudosca (Theodosia), wife of Vasile Lupu, ran into the woods and hid in a hollow tree. Once past the danger, the Prince looked on these hills and found her with his hunting dog, Copou. The Prince cut the hollow tree, and out of gratitude that he found his wife unharmed, decided to build a monastery.

After the overthrow of Vasile Lupu in 1653, the church was burned and demolished, and rebuilt several times over the years, so that one cannot even recognize anything original in the church style.

A white marble inscription with a coat of arms, located on an outside wall of the church, contains an inscription in Greek which says that the church was restored in 1702 by Prince Constantin Duca (1693-1695, 1700-1703).

In 1809, Seraphim, Abbot of the Three Hierarchs Monastery in Iasi (also built by Vasile Lupu) restored this church, then a third inscription was placed. In 1850 the church was done with the iconography.

In December 1863, following the adoption of the Law secularizing monastic estates, the monastery was disbanded, but her church is still used as a parish church.

After 1960, the church was included in the perimeter of the Botanical Garden of Iaşi, the largest in Romania at that time. As a result of her neglect, the church began to collapse and required extensive restoration.

Between 1983-1986, by the perseverance of Fr. Vasile Vaida, restoration was done to the interior and exterior building, and it was adorned with frescoes, chandeliers and furniture by voluntary contributions of the faithful and the support of the Metropolitan of Moldova and Suceava. The iconography was done by painters Basil and Violet Carp in Bucharest.

After nearly 150 years, on April 20, 2001, Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea of Moldavia and Bukovina restored the Monastery of St. Athanasius into a convent belonging to the Monastery of Galata in Iasi. Originally three nuns came from Galata Monastery. The nuns work in embroidery, sewing and painting churches. In April of 2009 there were fourteen nuns.

Rollerblading 'Priest' Stirs Controversy in Georgia

Giorgi Lomsadze
June 26, 2012

A bearded Orthodox priest solemnly gliding by on rollerblades is not a usual sight in Georgia. Or elsewhere, for that matter. Yet along a bridge and into Tbilisi's downtown area a priest in flowing robes did glide the other day. Granted, the Bible chronicles stranger things, but several alarmed local priests promptly appeared on the scene and ordered the holy roller to give up his sinful ways.

In fact, the coasting reverend was an actor and the miraculous sight was part of a movie project, but the real clerics declared that the scene ridiculed the Georgian Orthodox Church and demanded a halt to production. Police had to intervene between the film crew and the priests, who were backed up by seminary students. In the end, the movie-makers beat a retreat, reported the news site.

Back in the Soviet era, parodying priests in movies was frequent and keenly encouraged by the state. A confrontation between a rotund, gluttonous priest and a relentless anarchist ("Jesus was slim. What made you gain weight?") is a trademark of the 1970s classic, The Adventures of Lazarus. One of the best known Georgian movies from the same period, The Wishing Tree, features a frivolous village priest with a taste for the bottle.

But those days are long gone. Now, Georgia is in the midst of a cultural war between those who push for Western-European-style secularism, and those who view the 1,675-year-old Georgian Orthodox Church as the very essence of national identity.

The Georgian Orthodox Church, widely viewed as the country's most trusted institution, has taken on the Harry Potter series, Halloween celebrations and any sacrilegious work of fiction -- a tendency that liberal critics say amounts to encroachments on freedom of expression.

The confrontation between the faithful and the liberals mostly rages online, but sometimes it spills into the streets. In comments to Netgazeti, Levan Ghlonti, the director of the film with the skating priest, essentially reiterated the point made by The Adventures of Lazarus anarchist.

Georgian priests make no bones about driving fancy SUVs, but make a big deal out of rollerblades, he said.

Israel Honors Greeks Who Saved Jews

People who risked their lives to save Greek Jews from Nazi persecution during WWII were honored in a special event that took place on 25 June 2012, hosted by the city of Veria, in northern Greece, in cooperation with the embassy of Israel in Greece.

Giorgos and Panagiota Lanaras and Fr. Nestoras Karamitsopoulos posthumously received the title of “Righteous among the Nations” for rescuing Greek Jew Yosef Danielli, his wife Buena and their 10 children from the Nazi occupiers. The awards were received by the Lanaras and Karamitsopoulos families. Yosef’s son, Shimon Danielli, now in his 80s, traveled to Veria from Israel especially for the event.

Shimon Danielli was only 13-years-old in 1942 when he and his parents and nine siblings sought refuge in the home of Giorgos and Panagiota Lanaras in the village of Sykia. The village protected 50 Greek-Jews, and when the Nazis came they questioned Fr. Nestoras Karamitsopoulos on their whereabouts. He refused to give them up. The Nazi's proceeded to search the homes, and in eight houses they found Jews. The Nazi's proceeded to burn those houses down and cut off the beard of the priest and tortured him. The Danielli family survived and eventually made it back to their home in Barbouta, yet they sadly learned that 450 fellow residents were killed in the ovens of the concentration camps.

Shimon Danielli has visited his home town often over the years, and fondly remembers his childhood: "I was young when the Germans came and spread death, but I always maintain gratitude and love for our three heroes."

The honorees received a diploma and medal from Yad Vashem, the Institute and Museum established in Jerusalem by the State of Israel to perpetuate the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The names of the “righteous” are engraved on a plaque at the premises of the museum in a ceremony held in Jerusalem.

Roughly 300 Greek citizens have been honored by Yad Vashem, among them, the late Archbishop of Greece Damaskinos, the chief of Greek Police during the Nazi occupation Angelos Evert, the late Metropolitans of Zakynthos and Dimitriada Chrysostomos and Ioakim, respectively, and the former mayor of the island of Zakynthos Loukas Karrer.